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Title: History of English Literature - From 'Beowulf' to Swinburne
Author: Lang, Andrew
Language: English
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A Preface to a book on the History of English Literature is apt to
be an apology, for a writer must be conscious of his inability to
deal with a subject so immense and so multiplex in its aspects. This
volume does not pretend to be an encyclopædia of our literature; or
to include all the names of authors and of their works. Selection has
been necessary, and in the fields of philosophy and theology but a few
names appear. The writer, indeed, would willingly have omitted not a
few of the minor authors in pure literature, and devoted his space
only to the masters. But each of these springs from an underwood, as
it were, of the thought and effort of men less conspicuous, whom it
were ungrateful, and is practically impossible, to pass by in silence.
Nevertheless the attempt has been made to deal most fully with the
greatest names.

The author's object has been to arouse a living interest, if it may
be, in the books of the past, and to induce the reader to turn to them
for himself. Scantiness of space forbids the presentation of extracts;
for poetry there is perhaps no better selection than that of the
Oxford Book of Verse by Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch.[1] For prose, the
Anthologies of Mrs. Barnett and Mrs. Dale may be recommended.[2]

It is unhappily the fact that the works of a majority of the earlier
authors are scarcely accessible except in the publications of learned
societies or in very limited editions; but from Chaucer onwards the
Globe Editions are open to all; and the great Cambridge "History of
English Literature" is invaluable as a guide to the Bibliography. It is
better to study even a little of the greatest authors than to read many
books about them. If the writer should perchance succeed in bringing
any readers to the works of the immortals his purpose will be fulfilled
But readers, like poets and anglers, are "born to be so"; and when born
under a fortunate star do not need to be allured or compelled to come
into the Muses' paradise.

That sins of commission as well as of omission will be discovered the
author cannot doubt, for through much reading and writing they that
look out of window are darkened, and errors come.

[1] University Press.

[2] Longmans, Green & Co.


Preface v

List of Authors xi


I. Anglo-Saxon Literature: The Anglo-Saxon Way of
Living--Minstrels, Story-Tellers, and Stories--Beowulf--The
Wanderer--The Plaint of Deor--The Seafarer--Waldhere--The
Fight at Finnsburg

II. Anglo-Saxon Christian Poetry: Cædmon--Cynewulf
--Andreas--Dream of the Rood--Elene--Riddles--Phœnix

III. Anglo-Saxon Learning and Prose: Latin among the
Anglo-Saxons--Bede--Alcuin--Alfred--The Anglo-Saxon
Chronicle--The Monks and Learning--Ælfric

IV. After the Norman Conquest: Latin Literature--Walter
Map--Changes Since the Conquest

V. Geoffrey of Monmouth: The Stories of Arthur

VI. Layamon's "Brut": Ormulum--Ancren Riwle--The Owl
and the Nightingale--Lyrics--Political Songs--Robert of
Gloucester--Cursor Mundi--Devotional Books--Minot

VII. The Romances in Rhyme: Tristram--Havelok--King
Horn--Beues of Hamtoun--Guy of Warwick--Arthur and
Merlin--The Tale of Troy--The Story of Troy from Homer to
Shakespeare--King Alisaundre

VIII. Alliterative Romances and Poems: Gawain and the Green
Knight--Pearl--Huchowne 72

IX. Chaucer: Early Poems--The Dethe of the Duchesse--Other
Early Poems--Troilus and Criseyde--The Canterbury Tales 78

X. "Piers Plowman," Gower

XI. The Successors of Chaucer: Lydgate--Occleve--Hawes

XII. Late Mediaeval Prose: Wyclif--Chaucer's
Prose Style--Trevisa--Mandeville--Pecock: "The
Repressor"--Capgrave--Lord Berners

XIII. Malory

XIV. Early Scottish Literature: Barbour--Wyntoun--The
Kingis Quhair--Henryson--Dunbar--Blind Harry--The Buke of
the Howlat--Gawain Douglas--Sir David Lyndsay

XV. Popular Poetry. Ballads

Professional Poetry: Skelton--Barclay

XVI. Rise of the Drama: Heywood--Ralph Roister
Doister--Gammer Gurton's Needle--"Gorboduc"

XVII. Wyatt and Surrey. Gascoigne. Sackville: The Earl of
Surrey--Tottel's Miscellany--Gascoigne--Sackville

XVIII. Prose of the Renaissance: Elyot--Ascham--Lyly's
Euphues--Sidney--Sidney's "Defence of Poesie" Spenser

XIX. The Elizabethan Stage and Playwrights: John Lyly
--The Sonnets--Later Plays--Jonson--Jonson's Prose

XX. Other Dramatists: Beaumont and Fletcher--Chapman--John

XXI. Elizabethan and Jacobean Prose Writers: Hooker--"Martin

XXII. Late Elizabethan and Jacobean Poets: Minor
Lyrists-- Drayton --Daniel--Davies--Giles and Phineas
Fletcher--Corbet--Sir John Beaumont

XXIII. Late Jacobean and Caroline Prose: Burton--Herbert of

Caroline Prose: Milton--Jeremy Taylor--Thomas
Fuller--Hobbes--Izaak Walton--John Bunyan--Clarendon

XXIV. Caroline Poets:
--Waller--Marvell--Milton--Samuel Butler

XXV. Restoration Theatre: Congreve--Vanbrugh--George
Farquhar --Otway--Nat Lee--Dryden

XXVI. Augustan Poetry: Alexander Pope--Prior--Gay--Ambrose

XXVII. Augustan Prose: Steele--Addison--Swift--De Foe

XXVIII. Georgian Poetry I.: Edward Young--James
Thomson--William Collins--Thomas Gray--The Wartons--John
Dyer--William Shenstone

XXIX. Georgian Poetry II.: Thomas Chatterton--William
Cowper--Literature in Scotland (1550-1790)--Robert
Burns--Charles Churchill--George Crabbe

XXX. Georgian Prose I.: The Great
Novelists--Richardson--Henry Fielding--Tobias Smollet

XXXI. Georgian Prose II.: Samuel Johnson--Oliver
Goldsmith--Edmund Burke--Horace Walpole--Laurence
Sterne--David Hume--Robertson--Edward Gibbon--Richard
Brinsley Sheridan--Lady Mary Wortley Montagu--Junius

XXXII. The Romantic Movement: Coleridge--Walter
Scott--William Wordsworth--Robert Southey--Shelley--Byron
--Keats--Walter Savage Landor

XXXIII. Later Georgian Novelists: Frances Burney-- Mrs.
Radcliffe--Maria Edgeworth--Charles Brockden Brown--Jane
Austen--Walter Scott, the Novelist--James Fenimore
Cooper--Washington Irving.

Magazines and Essayists: Charles Lamb--Leigh Hunt--William
Hazlitt--Thomas de Quincey

XXXIV. Poets after Wordsworth: Philip Freneau--William
Cullen. Bryant--John Greenleaf Whittier--Henry Wadsworth
Longfellow--Alfred Tennyson--Robert Browning--Edgar Allan
Poe--Ralph Waldo Emerson--James Russell Lowell--Matthew

General Writers: John Ruskin

XXXV. Late Victorian Poets: Edward FitzGerald--George
Meredith--Elizabeth Barrett Browning--Christina
Rossetti--Dante Gabriel Rossetti--William Morris--Swinburne.

Poetic Underwoods

XXXVI. Latest Georgian and Victorian Novelists: Dickens--
Thackeray--The Brontë Sisters--Nathaniel Hawthorne--Oliver
Wendell Holmes--Charles Kingsley--George Meredith--Anthony
Trollope--George Eliot--Robert Louis Stevenson--Minor

XXXVII. Historians: Thomas Babington Macaulay--Thomas
Carlyle--James Anthony Froude--Edward Augustus
Freeman--William Hickling Prescott--John Lothrop Motley--J.
S. Mill--Cardinal Newman--W. E. H. Lecky

Index (not included in this text ed.)


    Adamnan, Abbot (_c._ 625-704)
    Addison, Joseph (1672-1719)
    Ælfric (_c._ 955-1020)
    Ailred (_c._ 1109-1166)
    Ainsworth, William Harrison (1805-1882)
    Alcuin (735-804)
    Aldhelm, Bp. (_c._ 640--709)
    Alexander, Sir William, Earl of Stirling (_c._ 1567-1640)
    Alfred, King (849-901)
    Andrewes, Lancelot (1555-1626)
    Arbuthnot, John (1667-1735)
    Arnold, Matthew (1822-1888)
    Ascham, Roger (1515-1568)
    Asser, Bp. (_fl. c._ 900)
    Atterbury, Francis (1662-1732)
    Austen, Jane (1775-1817)
    Ayton, Sir Robert (1570-1638)
    Aytoun, William Edmonstoune, (1813-1865)

    Bacon, Francis (1561-1626)
    Baillie, Lady Grizel (1665-1746)
    Bale, John (1495-1563)
    Bannatyne, George (1545-1608)
    Barbour, John (_c._ 1316-1396)
    Barclay, Alexander (_c._ 1475-1552)
    Barnfield, Richard (1574-1627)
    Barrow, Isaac (1630-1677)
    Baxter, Richard (1615-1691)
    Beattie, James (1735-1803)
    Beaumont, Francis (1584-1616)
    Beaumont, Sir John (1582-1628)
    Beckford, William (1759-1844)
    Beddoes, Thomas Lovell (1803-1849)
    Bede (673-735)
    Behn, Mrs. Aphra (1640-1689)
    Bentley, Richard (1662-1742)
    Berkeley, George (1685-1753)
    Berners, Lord (1467-1533)
    Besant, Sir Walter (1836-1901)
    Black, William (1841-1898)
    Blackwood, William (1776-1834)
    Blair, Robert (1699-1746)
    Borrow, George (1803-1881)
    Boswell, James (1740-1795)
    Bowles, William Lisle (1762-1850)
    Braddon, Mary Elizabeth (1837-    )
    Brome, Richard (_fl. c._ 1623-1652)
    Brontë, Anne (1820-1849)
    Brontë, Charlotte (1816-1855)
    Brontë, Emily (1818-1848)
    Broome, William (1689-1745)
    Brougham, Henry, Lord Brougham (1778-1868)
    Brown, Charles Brockden (1771-1810)
    Browne, Sir Thomas (1605-1682)
    Browne, William (_c._ 1591-1643)
    Browning, Elizabeth Barrett (1806-1861)
    Browning, Robert (1812-1889)
    Bryant, William Cullen (1794-1878)
    Bunyan, John (1628-1688)
    Burke, Edmund (1729-1797)
    Burnet, Gilbert (1643-1715)
    Burnett, James, Lord Monboddo (1714-1799)
    Burney, Charles (1726-1814)
    Burney, Frances (1752-1840)
    Burns, Robert (1759-1796)
    Burton, Robert (1577-1640)
    Butler, Samuel (1612-1680)
    Byron, George Gordon, Lord (1788-1824)

    Cædmon (_fl. c._ 670)
    Campbell, Thomas (1777-1844)
    Campion, Thomas (_fl._ 1581-1619)
    Canning, George (1770-1827)
    Capgrave, John (1393-1464)
    Carew, Richard (1555-1620)
    Carew, Thomas (_c._ 1598-1639)
    Carlyle, Alexander (1722-1805)
    Carlyle, Thomas (1795-1881)
    Cartwright, William (1611-1643)
    Caxton, William (_c._ 1422-1491)
    Chambers, Robert (1802-1871)
    Chapman, George (_c._ 1559-1634)
    Chatterton, Thomas (1752-1770)
    Chaucer, Geoffrey (_c._ 1340-1400)
    Chillingworth, William (1602-1644)
    Churchill, Charles (1731-1764)
    Churchyard, Thomas (_c._ 1520-1604)
    Cibber, Colley (1671-1757)
    Clarendon, Edward Hyde, Earl of (1607-1674)
    Coleridge, Samuel Taylor (1772-1834)
    Collins, Wilkie (1824-1889)
    Collins, William (1721-1759)
    Colman, George (1762-1836)
    Congreve, William (1670-1729)
    Constable, Henry (_c._ 1560-1613)
    Cooper, Anthony Ashley, Earl of Shaftesbury (1671-1713)
    Cooper, James Fenimore (1789-1851)
    Corbet, Richard (1582-1635)
    Cotton, Charles (1630-1687)
    Coverdale, Miles (1488-1568)
    Cowley, Abraham (1618-1667)
    Cowper, William (1731-1800)
    Crabbe, George (1754-1832)
    Cranmer, Thomas (1489-1556)
    Crashaw, Richard (_c._ 1613-1649)
    Creighton, Mandell (1843-1901)
    Cross, Mary Ann:  "George Eliot" (1819-1880)
    Cudworth, Ralph (1617-1688)
    Cynewulf (_fl. c._ 750)

    Dalrymple, Sir David, Lord Hailes (1726-1792)
    Daniel, Samuel (1562-1619)
    D'Arblay, Madame, _see_ Frances Burney.
    Darwin, Charles (1809-1882)
    Davenant, Sir William (1606-1668)
    Davies, Sir John (1569-1626)
    Day, Thomas (1748-1789)
    De Foe, Daniel (1661-1731)
    Dekker, Thomas (_c._ 1570-1641)
    De la Ramée, Louise (1840-1908)
    Denham, Sir John (1615-1669)
    De Quincey, Thomas (1785-1859)
    Dickens, Charles (1812-1870)
    Disraeli, Benjamin, Earl of Beaconsfield (1804-1881)
    Donne, John (1573-1631)
    Douglas, Gawain (_c._ 1473-1522)
    Drayton, Michael (1563-1631)
    Drummond, William, of Hawthornden (1585-1649)
    Dryden, John (1631-1700)
    Dunbar, William (_c._ 1460-1520)
    D'Urfey, Thomas (1653-1723)
    Dyer, John (_c._ 1700-1758)

    Edgeworth, Maria (1767-1849)
    Edwards, Jonathan (1629-1712)
    Edwards, Richard (_c._1523-1566)
    Eliot, George, _see_ Mary Ann Cross.
    Elliot, Jean (1727-1805)
    Elyot, Sir Thomas (_c._ 1499-1546)
    Emerson, Ralph Waldo (1803-1882), 579-82.
    Etherege, Sir George (_c._ 1635-1691)
    Evelyn, John (1620-1706)

    Fairfax, Edward (_fl. c._ 1600)
    Farquhar, George (1678-1707)
    Fenton, Elijah (1683-1730)
    Ferguson, Rev. Adam (1723-1816)
    Fergusson, Robert (1750-1774)
    Ferrier, Susan (1782-1854)
    Fielding, Henry (1707-1754)
    FitzGerald, Edward (1809-1883)
    Fitzneale, Richard (_fl._ 1169-1198)
    Fletcher, Giles (_c._ 1549-1611)

    Fletcher, John (1579-1625)
    Fletcher, Phineas (_c._ 1582-1650)
    Florence of Worcester (_d._ 1118)
    Florio, John (_c._ 1553-1625)
    Forbes, Bishop Robert (1708-1775)
    Ford, John (_fl. c._. 1613-1633)
    Fordun, John (_d. c._ 1384)
    Forster, John (1812-1876)
    Fox, George (1624-1690)
    Francis, Sir Philip (1740-1818)
    Franklin, Benjamin (1706-1790)
    Freeman, E. A. (1823-1892)
    Freneau, Philip (1752-1832)
    Froude, James Anthony (1818-1894)
    Froude, Richard Hurrell (1803-1836)
    Fuller, Thomas (1608-1661)

    Galt, John (1779-1839)
    Gardiner, Samuel Rawson (1829-1902)
    Gascoigne, George (_c._ 1525-1577)
    Gaskell, Elizabeth (1810-1865)
    Gay, John (1685-1732)
    Geoffrey of Monmouth (_c._ 1100-1155)
    Gerald of Wales (_c._ 1147-1217)
    Gibbon, Edward (1737-1794)
    Gildas (_c._ 516-570)
    Giraldus Cambrensis, _see_ Gerald of Wales.
    Glanvill, Joseph (1636-1680)
    Godric, St. (_c._ 1065-1170)
    Golding, Arthur (_c._ 1536-1605)
    Goldsmith, Oliver (1728-1774)
    Googe, Barnabe (1540-1594)
    Gosson, Stephen (1554-1624)
    Gower, John (_c._ 1325-1408)
    Gray, Thomas (1716-1771)
    Green, J. R. (1837-1883)
    Green, Matthew (1696-1737)
    Greene, Robert (_c._ 1560-1592)
    Griffin, B. (_fl._ 1596)
    Grimald, Nicholas (1519-1562)
    Grote, George (1794-1871)
    Gwynne, Talbot (_fl. c._ 1862-1865)

    Habington, William (1605-1654)
    Hales, John (1584-1656)
    Hall, Joseph (1574-1656)
    Hallam, Henry (1777-1859)
    Hamilton, William, of Bangour (1704-1754)
    Hamilton, William, of Gilbertfield (_c._ 1665-1751)
    Harington, Sir John (1561-1612)
    Harry, Blind (_fl. c._ 1480-1492)
    Harvey, Gabriel (_c._ 1545-1630)
    Hawes, Stephen (_c._ 1475-1523)
    Hawthorne, Nathaniel (1804-1864)
    Haywood, Eliza (_c._ 1693-1756)
    Hazlitt, William (1778-1830), 555-7.
    Henley, W. E. (1849-1903)
    Henry of Huntingdon (_fl._ 1125-1154)
    Henry son, Robert (_fl. c._ 1462)
    Herbert, Edward, Lord Herbert of Cherbury (1583-1648)
    Herbert, George (1593-1633)
    Herrick, Robert (1591-1674)
    Heywood, John (_c._ 1497-1580)
    Heywood, Thomas (_fl. c._ 1596-1650)
    Higden, Ranulf (_d._ 1364)
    Hobbes, Thomas (1588-1679)
    Hogg, James (1770-1835)
    Holland, Philemon (1552-1637)
    Holland, Sir Richard (_fl. c._ 1450)
    Holmes, Oliver Wendell (1809-1894)
    Home, Henry, Lord Kames (1696-1782)
    Home, John (1722-1808)
    Hood, Thomas (1799-1845)
    Hook, Theodore (1788-1841)
    Hooker, Richard (_c._ 1553-1600)
    Horner, Francis (1778-1817)
    Howard, Henry, Earl of Surrey (_c._ 1517-1547)
    Howell, James (1594-1666)
    Huchown (_fl._ 1342-1377)
    Hume, David (1711-1776)
    Hunt, James Henry Leigh (1784-1859)
    Hutcheson, Francis (1694-1746)
    Huxley, T. H. (1825-1895)

    Irving, Washington (1783-1859)

    James I of Scotland (1394-1437)
    James, G. P. R. (1799-1860)
    Jeffrey, Francis (1773-1850)
    Jocelin de Brakelond (_fl._ 1173-1202)
    Johnson, Samuel (1709-1784)
    Jonson, Ben (_c._ 1573-1637)
    "Junius" (_fl._ 1768-1773)

    Keats, John (1795-1821)
    Kingsley, Charles (1819-1875)
    Kingsley, Henry (1830-1876)
    Kirke, Edward (1553-1613)
    Knox, John (_c._ 1505-1572)
    Kyd, Thomas (_c._ 1558-1594)

    Lamb, Charles (1775-1834)
    Landor, Walter Savage (1775-1864)
    Langland, William (_c._ 1332-1400)
    Lawrence, G. A. (1827-1876)
    Layamon (_fl. c._ 1200-1220)
    Lecky, W. E. H. (1838-1903)
    Leighton, Robert (1611-1684)
    Leslie of Ross, Bishop (1527-1596)
    Lever, Charles (1806-1872)
    Lingard, John (1772-1851)
    Locke, John (1632-1704)
    Lockhart, George, of Carnwath
    Lockhart, John Gibson (1794-1854)
    Lodge, Thomas (_c._ 1558-1625)
    Longfellow, Henry Wadsworth (1807-1882)
    Lovelace, Richard (1618-1658)
    Lowell, James Russell (1819-1891)
    Lydgate, John (_c._ 1370-1446)
    Lyly, John (_c._ 1554-1606)
    Lyndsay, Sir David (1490-1555)
    Lytton, Edward George Bulwer (1803-1873)

    Macaulay, Thomas Babington (1800-1859)
    Mackenzie, Sir George (1636-1691).
    Macpherson, James (1736-1796)
    Malory, Sir Thomas (_c._ 1400-1471)
    Mandeville, Sir John (_fl. c._ 1322-1357)
    Map, Walter (_c._ 1137-1200)
    Marlowe, Christopher (1564-1593)
    Marryat, Capt. Frederick (1792-1848)
    Marston, John (_c._ 1575-1634)
    Marvell, Andrew (1621-1678)
    Massinger, Philip (1583-1640)
    Mather, Cotton (1663-1728)
    Mayne, Jasper (1604-1672)
    Meredith, George (1828-1909)
    Meres, Francis (1565-1647)
    Middleton, Thomas (_c._ 1570-1627)
    Mill, James (1773-1836)
    Mill, John Stuart (1806-1873)
    Milman, Henry Hart (1791-1868)
    Milton, John (1608-1674)
    Minot, Laurence (_c._ 1300-1352)
    Montagu, Lady Mary Wortley (1689-1762)
    Montgomery, Alexander (_c._ 1556-1610)
    Montgomery, Robert (1807-1855)
    Moore, Thomas (1779-1852)
    More, Henry (1614-1687)
    More, Sir Thomas (1478-1535)
    Morris, William (1834-1896)

    Nairne, Carolina, Lady (1766-1845)
    Napier, Sir William (1785-1860)
    Nash, Thomas (1567-1601)
    Nennius (_c._ 800)
    Newman, John Henry, Cardinal (1801-1890)
    Nicholas of Guildford (_fl._ 1250)
    Nicolls, Thomas (_fl._ 1550
    North, Christopher, _see_ John Wilson.
    North, Roger (1653-1733)
    North, Sir Thomas (_c._ 1535-1601)

    Occleve, Thomas (_c._ 1368-1450)
    Oliphant, May Margaret Wilson, (1828-1897)
    Ormin (_c._ 1200)
    Otway, Thomas (1652-1685)
    Ouida, _see_ De la Ramée.
    Overbury, Sir Thomas (1581-1613)

    Painter, William (_c._ 1540-1594)
    Palgrave, Sir Francis (1788-1861)
    Parnell, Thomas (1679-1718)
    Pater, Walter Horatio (1839-1894)
    Payn, James (1830-1898)
    Peacock, Thomas Love (1785-1866)
    Pecock, Reginald (_c._ 1395-1460)
    Peele, George (_c._ 1558-1598)
    Pepys, Samuel (1633-1703)
    Percy, Thomas (1729-1811)
    Phaer, Thomas (_c._ 1510-1560)
    Philips, Ambrose (1675-1749)
    Poe, Edgar Allan (1809-1849)
    Pope, Alexander (1688-1744)
    Praed, Winthrop Mackworth (1802-1839)
    Prescott, William Hickling (1796-1859)
    Prior, Matthew (1664-1721)
    Prynne, William (1600-1669)

    Radcliff, Ann (1764-1822)
    Raleigh, Sir Walter (_c._ 1552-1618)
    Ramsay, Allan (1686-1758)
    Randolph, Thomas (1605-1635)
    Reade, Charles (1814-1884)
    Reeve, Clara (1729-1807)
    Reynolds, John Hamilton (1796-1852)
    Rich, Barnaby (_c._ 1540-1620)
    Richard, Prior of Hexham (_fl._ 1138-1154)
    Richardson, Samuel (1689-1761)
    Ritson, Joseph (1752-1803)
    Robert of Gloucester (_fl. c._ 1260-1300)
    Robertson, William (1721-1793)
    Robynson, Ralph (_fl. c._ 1551)
    Rogers, Samuel (1763-1855)
    Rolle, Richard (_c._ 1290-1349)
    Rossetti, Christina (1830-1894)
    Rossetti, Dante Gabriel (1828-1882)
    Rowe, Nicholas (1674-1718)
    Rowley, William (_c._ 1585-1642)
    Ruskin, John (1819-1900)

    Sackville, Thomas (1536-1608)
    St. John, Henry, Viscount Bolingbroke (1678-1751)
    Savile, Sir Henry (1549-1622)
    Scott, Alexander (_c._ 1525-1584)
    Scott, John (1783-1821)
    Scott, Michael (1789-1835)
    Scott, Sir Walter (1771-1832)
    Sedley, Sir Charles (_c._ 1639-1701)
    Shadwell, Thomas (1642-1692)
    Shakespeare, William (1564-1616)
    Shelley, Percy Bysshe (1792-1822)
    Shenstone, William (1714-1763)
    Sherburne, Sir Edward (1618-1702)
    Sheridan, Richard Brinsley (1751-1816)
    Shirley, James (1596-1666)
    Sidney, Sir Philip (1554-1586)
    Simeon of Durham (_fl._ 1130)
    Skelton, John (_c._ 1460-1529)
    Smith, Horace (1779-1849)
    Smith, Captain John (1580-1631)
    Smith, Sydney (1771-1845)
    Smith, William (_fl._ 1596)
    Smollett, Tobias (1721-1771)
    South, Robert (1634-1716)
    Southerne, Thomas (1660-1746)
    Southey, Robert (1774-1843)
    Spencer, Herbert (1820-1903)
    Spenser, Edmund (_c._ 1552-1599)
    Stanley, Thomas (1625-1678)
    Stanyhurst, Richard (1547-1618)
    Steele, Sir Richard (1672-1729)
    Sterne, Laurence (1713-1768)
    Stevenson, Robert Louis (1850-1894)
    Still, John (1543-1608)
    Strachey, William (_fl._ 1609-1618)
    Stubbs, William (1825-1901)
    Suckling, Sir John (1609-1642)
    Swift, Jonathan (1667-1745)
    Swinburne, Algernon Charles (1837-1909)
    Symonds, John Addington (1840-1893)

    Talfourd, Sir T. N. (1795-1854)
    Tautphœus, Baroness (1807-1893)
    Taylor, Jeremy (1613-1667)
    Temple, Sir William (1628-1699)
    Tennyson, Alfred (1809-1892)
    Thackeray, William Makepeace (1811-1863)
    Thomas of Ercildoune (_d. c._ 1299)
    Thomson, James (1700-1748)
    Tickell, Thomas (1686-1740)
    Tourneur, Cyril (_c._ 1575-1626)
    Trevisa, John (_c._ 1326-1412)
    Trollope, Anthony (1815-1882)
    Turner, Sharon (1768-1847)
    Tusser, Thomas (_c._ 1524-1580)

    Udall, Nicholas (1505-1556)
    Urquhart, Sir Thomas (1611-1660)
    Ussher, James (1581-1656)

    Vanbrugh, Sir John (1666-1726)
    Vaughan, Henry (1622-1695)
    Villiers, George, second Duke of Buckingham (1627-1688)

    Wace (_fl._ 1170)
    Waller, Edmund (1606-1687)
    Walpole, Horace (1717-1797)
    Walton, Izaac (1593-1683)
    Wardlaw, Elizabeth, Lady (1677-1727)
    Warton, Joseph (1722-1800)
    Warton, Thomas (_c._ 1688-1745)
    Warton, Thomas (1728-1790)
    Watson, Thomas (_c._ 1557-1592)
    Webster, John (_c._ 1580-1625)
    Whetstone, George (_c._  1544-1587)
    Whittier, John Greenleaf (1807-1892)
    Whyte-Melville, George John (1821-1878)
    Wilkie, Prof. William (1721-1772)
    William of Malmesbury (_c._ 1095-1143)
    William of Newburgh (1136-1198)
    Willoughby, Henry (_c._ 1574-1596)
    Wilson, John (1785-1854)
    Wither, George (1588-1667)
    Wodrow, Robert (1679-1734)
    Wood, Mrs. Henry (1814-1887)
    Wordsworth, William (1770-1850)
    Wyatt, Sir Thomas (1503-1542)
    Wycherley, William (_c._ 1640-1716)
    Wyclif, John (_c._  1329-1384)
    Wyntoun, Andrew (_fl. c._ 1413

    Young, Edward (1683-1765)


The literature of every modern country is made up of many elements,
contributed by various races; and has been modified at different times
by foreign influences. Thus, among the ancient Celtic inhabitants of
our islands, the peoples whom the Romans found here, the Welsh have
given us the materials of the famous romances of King Arthur, and from
the Gaelic tribes of Ireland and Scotland come the romances of heroes
less universally known, Finn, Diarmaid, Cuchulain, and the rest. But
the main stock of our earliest poetry and prose, like the main stock
of our language, is Anglo-Saxon. The Anglo-Saxon tribes who invaded
Britain, and after the departure of the Romans (411) conquered the
greater part of the island, must have had a literature of their own,
and must have brought it with them over sea.

For all early peoples, even the least civilized, possess the germs of
literature. They have their hymns to their Divine Father above the
sky, and to gods and spirits; they have magic songs, to win the love
of women, or to cause the deaths of men; they have love-songs, and
songs of feats of war. They possess fairy-tales, and legends in prose
concerning gods and fabulous heroes; they have tales of talking birds
and beasts; and they have dances in which the legends of old heroes are
acted and sung. These dances are the germ of the drama: the songs are
the germs of lyric poetry; the beast-stories are the sources of books
like Æsop's Fables and Ovid's "Metamorphoses"; and the fairy-tales are
the earliest kind of novels.

The Anglo-Saxon invaders were, of course, on a very much higher level
than that of savages. They were living in the age of iron; they did
not use bronze for their swords, spears, and axes; much more remote
were they from the period of stone axes, stone, knives, and stone
arrow-heads. They could write, not in the Roman alphabet, but in
"Runes," adapted at some unknown time by the Germanic peoples, probably
from the Greek characters; and there is no reason why they should not
have used this writing to preserve their poetry, though it is not
certain that they did so at this early, period.

One early Anglo-Saxon poem, indeed, "The Husband's Message," professes
to be written in runic characters on a staff or tablet of wood. Even
more ancient poems may have been written and preserved in this way, but
the wood, the _bóc_ (book) as it was called, has perished, while brief
runic inscriptions on metal and on stone remain.

The Anglo-Saxon Way of Living.

The society of the Anglo-Saxons, as described in the oldest surviving
poems, was like that of the early Irish about A.D. 200
as depicted in their oldest romances, and like that of the early
Icelanders as painted in the sagas, or stories of 1100, and later. Each
free man had his house, with its large hall, and a fire in the centre.
In the hall, usually built of timber, the people ate and passed their
time when not out of doors, and also slept at night, while there were
other rooms (probably each was a small separately roofed house) for
other purposes. The women had their "bower," the married people had
their little bedclosets off the hall, and there were store-rooms. The
house stood in a wide yard or court, where geese and other fowls were
kept; it was fenced about with a palisade, or a bank and hedge. Tilling
the soil, keeping cattle, hunting, and war and raiding, by sea and
land, were the occupations of the men; the women sewed and span, and
kept house.

A group of such homesteads, each house well apart from its neighbours,
made the village or settlement: there were no towns with streets, such
as the Romans left in Britain.

A number of such villages were united in the tribe, each tribe had
its king, while the other chief men, the richest and best born,
constituted a class of gentry. Later, tribes were gathered into small
kingdoms, with a "Bretwalda" or "Over-Lord," the most powerful of the
kings, at the head of all.

This kind of society is almost exactly the same as that which Homer
describes among the Greeks, more than a thousand years before Christ.
As in Homer, each Anglo-Saxon king had his Gleeman (_scop_) or
minstrel, who sang to his household and to the guests in hall. The
songs might be new, of his own making, or lays handed down from of old.

We shall see that the longer Anglo-Saxon poems, before Christianity
came in, were stories about fabulous heroes; or real kings of times
past, concerning whom many fables were told. Most of these tales, or
"myths," were not true; they were mere ancient "fairy stories," in
which sometimes real but half-forgotten warriors and princes play their
parts. The traditions, however, were looked on as being true, and the
listeners to the gleemen thought that they were learning history as
well as being amused. Meanwhile any man might make and sing verses for
his own pleasure, about his own deeds and his own fancies, sorrows, and

There was no lack of old legends of times before the English invasion
of Britain, or of legends quite fabulous about gods and heroes. We
know from Roman and early Christian authors, that the other Germanic
peoples, on the Continent, had abundance of this material for poetry:
thus the Germans sang of Arminius, the Lombards sang of Alboin, or
Ælfwine (died A.D. 573), and the Scandinavians and Germans
had legends of Attila, the great Hun conqueror, in the fifth century,
and of Sigurd, who slew Fafnir, the Snake-Man; of the vengeance of
Brynhild, and all the other adventures of the Volsungs and Niblungs; in
Germany fashioned, much later, into the famous "Nibelungenlied".[1]

The Anglo-Saxons, too, knew forms of these legends; and mention the
heroes of them in their poetry. Thus there is no reason why the
Anglo-Saxons should not have produced poems as magnificent as those of
the early Greeks, except that they, like all other peoples, had not
the genius of the Greeks for poetry, and for the arts; and had not
their musical language, and glorious forms of verse. They were a rough
country folk, and for long did not, like the Greeks, live in towns.

But even if they had possessed more genius than they did, much of
their old literature would probably have been lost when they became
Christians; and when the clergy, who had, most to do with writing,
generally devoted themselves only to verses on Biblical or other
Christian subjects, or to prose sermons; and to learned books _in
Latin._ While plenty of Anglo-Saxon _Christian_ poetry survives, of
poetry derived from the heathen times of the Anglo-Saxons there is
comparatively little, and much of it has been more or less re-written,
and affected by later changes and additions, in early Christian times.

The fragments of old poetry enable us to understand the poetic genius
of our remote ancestors as it was before they had wholly adopted
Christianity, or come under Latin, French, and Norman influences. From
the descendants of the Britons whom they had conquered, or who survived
as their Welsh neighbours, they seem, at this time, to have borrowed
little or nothing in the way of song or story.

Before beginning to try to understand the Anglo-Saxon literature, we
ought to set before our minds two or three considerations. Though the
language of these very old poems is the early form of our own English,
we cannot understand them except in translations, unless we learn
Anglo-Saxon. However well a translator may render the ideas of a poem,
he cannot give the original words of it in another language. Now the
poet's very own words have a beauty and harmony and appropriateness
which a translation cannot reproduce. The ideas remain, but the essence
of the poem is lost: gone is the vigour, the humour is weakened; the
harmony is impaired. Once more we are accustomed to _rhyme_, and to
certain forms of versification in our poetry. The early Anglo-Saxons
did not employ rhyme; the peculiar cadence, with alliteration, of
their verse cannot easily be reproduced; and there is much difference
of opinion as to the prosody or scansion of Anglo-Saxon verse. Thus,
till we can read Anglo-Saxon easily, and while we only read its poetry
through translations, we are apt to think less highly of it than it

Again, the ideas and manners of the Anglo-Saxons were not like our own
in many details. Their poets did not write for us, but for men of their
own time, whose taste and ways of thinking and living were in many
respects very different from ours.

If many people cannot now take pleasure in the novels of Fielding,
Scott, Miss Austen, Thackeray, and Dickens--the novels of
1745-1870--because these seem "so old-fashioned," they will certainly
be unable to admire the poetry of 500-800. Yet it may be excellent
poetry, when we put ourselves as far as we can in the place of the
hearers for whom it was composed. If we fail to do this we may read
Anglo-Saxon poetry as a matter of history, but, as poetry, we cannot
enjoy it.

Minstrels, Story-tellers, and Stories.

Perhaps the oldest of the Anglo-Saxon poems is that called "Widsith,"
after the name of the far-travelled minstrel or gleeman who sang it
before the people in the hall of a prince or noble. This short poem
tells us what kind of tales the people liked to hear. It begins:--

    Widsith spoke
    His word-hoard unlocked,

that is, he opened his treasure of stories as a travelling pedlar opens
his box of goods. He says that he has wandered, gathering songs and
tales, all over the world from the German Ocean to Egypt and India. He
means that he knows all, stories; he is merely giving his hearers their
choice of a tale about any king and people in the known world.

Let us suppose that they choose to hear about Ælfwine, or Alboin, king
of the Longobards or Lombards, whom Widsith says that he had visited.
We know what tales were told of Ælfwine. One of these is a fair example
of the rest; it is probably not true. Ælfwine had killed the father of
his wife Rosamund, and had a cup made out of the skull, and he made
Rosamund drink out of it at a feast. She determined to be revenged for
this cruel insult, and took counsel with the king's shield-bearer and
guardsman. By his advice she entrapped Beartheow, a very strong man, by
a trick, so that he became guilty of high treason. He was now at her
mercy, for she threatened to inform against him, and thus compelled
him to murder her husband, Ælfwine, in his bed. After that, the king's
shield-bearer tried to win the kingdom. But Rosamund gave him poisoned
wine, and he, when he knew that it was poisoned, made her drink out the
cup, and they two died in the same hour.

This makes a noble tragic song, but the story is only a form of a much
older Greek tale which Herodotus, 1000 years earlier, tells of King
Candaules of Lydia, of his wife, whom he insulted, and of the Captain
of his guard, whom she induced to kill King Candaules.

Probably an Anglo-Saxon minstrel would recite the poem called
"Widsith," and then the listeners would ask him for any of the stories
which he had mentioned, perhaps for one about Ælfwine; or Alexander the
Great; or Sigurd of the Volsungs, who slew the Serpent-Man, Fafnir;
or of Hygelac (who is believed to have been the man named, in Latin,
Chochilaicus, a real king of about 520); or of Hrothgar, whom Widsith
mentions. This king is befriended by Beowulf, in the great Anglo-Saxon
poem of that name, the noblest and most famous of all these old songs.
The minstrel makes requests for gifts of rings and bracelets; and
speaks of his desire to meet generous princes. In the same way Homer
loves to tell how golden cups and beautiful swords were given by
princes to the minstrels in Greece. The last verses of "Widsith" run
thus, in modern English, and are a fair example of early Anglo-Saxon

    Swa scrithende             So wandering on
        gesceapum hweorfath        the world about,
    glee men gumena            gleemen do roam
        geond grunda fela;         through many lands;
    thearfe secgath            they say their needs
        thonc word sprecath,       they speak their thanks,
    Simle suth oththe north    sure, south or north
        sumne gemetath,            some one to meet,
    gydda gleawne              of songs to judge
        geofam unhncawne           and gifts not grudge.[2]

There are few early Anglo-Saxon poems that can be called "lyrics"; they
are rather narratives, as in the case of the songs of war, the battles
of Brunanburh and Maldon; or "elegiac," and reflective, as in "The
Ruined City," though personal emotion, a characteristic of the lyric,
often appears in the Christian poems and elsewhere as we shall see.

"Beowulf" the chief poem may be called a brief "epic," a narrative of
over 3000 lines, on great heroic adventures. Such a poem would be sung
in hall, to beguile more than one long winter night.


It is impossible to be certain about the date when the original form
of this great old poem, "Beowulf," was first composed, because it
contains, on the one hand, descriptions of the ancient heathen way
of living, thinking, manners, and customs; and, on the other hand,
has many allusions to Christian doctrine, which the Anglo-Saxons knew
nothing of till after they had quite conquered this country. The poet
of "Beowulf" as it now exists, had read the Bible, or knew part of its
contents. We must look first at the poem as it stands, and the story
as it is told, or rather at the stories, for there are several.

One Beowulf, not our hero, was the son of Scyld. Scyld died, and,
in place of Christian burial, was placed in his ship, with arms and
treasures, and so sailed out to sea at the wind's will. Not so, when
his time came, was _our_ Beowulf buried; that is, Beowulf the hero of
the poem, for the earlier Beowulf, son of Scyld, was another man.

The grandson of Scyld was Hrothgar (whose name becomes Roger in later
times), and Hrothgar was a Danish king, builder of Heorot, a princely
hall. His happiness awoke the envy of Grendel, a fiend of the wilds.

The Christian author of the poem, as it stands, thinks that Grendel and
other monsters are descendants of Cain!

The nobles slept in the great hall, whither Grendel came and caught
away thirty of them. Men sought other sleeping-rooms, but Grendel still
came and slew them. The house was empty, and men promised sacrifices
to their false gods all in vain: "they knew not the true God," yet
the poet often forgets their ignorance, and makes them speak like

There was a king of Gothland named Hygelac, a real king living at the
beginning of the sixth century. The king's nephew, Beowulf, heard of
the evil deeds of Grendel, and set sail with some of Hygelac's men to
help the unhappy Hrothgar. They all wore shirts of mail made curiously
of interlaced iron rings, they had spears with iron heads, and helmets
crowned with the figure of a boar made in iron; some of these shirts of
chain-mail and helmets still exist. Coming into the great hall, built
of timber plated with gold, the heroes explained their errand, and
were well received. As Grendel cannot be harmed with stroke of steel,
Beowulf will carry neither sword nor shield, but be slain by Grendel;
or slay him with his hands. If Grendel eats him, Hrothgar will not need
to give him due burial--burning his body, and burying the bones in a
mound of earth; the custom is that of the _unconverted_ German tribes.
Hrothgar accepts the offer, the warriors sit at their ale (they had not
much wine), and listen to the clear voice of the minstrel as he sings
of old adventures. But Hunferth, a thane of Hrothgar, out of jealousy,
taunts Beowulf with having been beaten in a swimming match that lasted
for seven nights. Beowulf replies that Hunferth "has drunk too much
beer": he himself swam better than his opponent for five nights, and
slew nine sea-monsters with his sword; Hunferth, on they other hand,
dare not face Grendel, and has been the destroyer of his own brothers.
Yet Hunferth does not draw his sword, after these insults, which is
strange; and the feast in hall goes on merrily.

Such scenes of boasting and quarrelling were, no doubt, common over the
ale cups, but Waltheow, Queen of Hrothgar, "the golden-garlanded lady,
the peace-weaver," enters the throng, and bears the cup of welcome
to Beowulf, thanking God that she has found a helper to her heart's
desire. Then she takes her place by her lord Hrothgar.

Night fell, Beowulf, committing himself "to the all-knowing God,"
takes off his armour and lays his head on the bolster--the word is the
same in Anglo-Saxon. Grendel arrived, burst in the iron-bolted door,
and laughed as he saw the sleeping men. One warrior he tore to pieces
and devoured; but Beowulf, who had the strength of thirty, gripped
the fiend, and the hall echoed with their wrestling and stamping up
and down; the clamped benches were torn from the floor. Men smote
at Grendel with swords, but the steel did not bite on his body.
Beowulf tore his arm and shoulder clean away, and Grendel, flying to
a haunted pool, described as a terrible place, dived down through the
bloodstained water, and "hell caught hold of him".

In Heorot men now made merry, and the minstrel sang a new song of the

After, the rejoicings, eight horses and princely armour are given
to Beowulf. The minstrel sings of the hero Finn, with a pleasant
description of the coming of spring after a long winter. The poem is
not all about fiends and fighting; the descriptions of wild rocks
and seas, and of happy nature, are beautiful. Then the gracious wife
of Hrothgar bids Beowulf farewell, giving him a cup of gold. Other
presents are offered, and on so happy a day, wine, not ale, is drunk in

But Beowulf s adventure is not ended. That night he slept, not in
hall, but in a separate room, and the mother of Grendel, a creature
more terrible than himself, came to avenge her son, and slew a warrior.

Next day Hrothgar described to Beowulf the home of the fiends; they
abode in dark wolf-haunted places, windy "nesses," or headlands, wild
marshlands, where the hill-stream rushes through black shadows into a
pool or perhaps sea-inlet, under the earth. The boughs of trees hang
dense over the water, and at night a fire shines from it. Even the stag
that ranges the moors, when he flies from the hounds to the lake, dies
rather than venture there to take the water. This is a fine example of
the descriptions of nature in the poem. Beowulf is not alarmed; we must
all die at last, he says, but while we live we should try to win glory.

So they all rode to the haunted pool, Beowulf in his iron armour and
helmet. The man who had insulted him now repents, and gives Beowulf
the best of iron swords, named _Hrunting_; for famous swords in these
days had names, like King Arthur's blade, _Excalibur_, or Roland's
_Durendal._ "I will gain glory with _Hrunting_, or death shall take
me," says Beowulf.[3]

Beowulf dived into the black water, the fiend strove to crush him, but
his iron shirt of mail protected him, and she dragged him into the
dreadful hall, her home, where the water did not enter. A strange light
burned; Beowulf saw his hideous foe and smote at her with _Hrunting_;
but the edge did not bite on her body. He threw away the useless sword,
and they wrestled; they fell, Beowulf was under her, and she drew her
short sword. She could not pierce his armour, but he saw and seized a
huge sword, made for a giant in times long ago. With this he cut her
down from the neck to the breast-bone, and his friends on shore saw the
pool turn to blood; all but his own men had believed that Beowulf was
dead, and had gone home.

Meanwhile the blade of the great sword melted away in the poisoned
blood of his foe, and he swam to shore with the hilt, and with the
heads of the two monsters, Grendel and his mother. With these he came
gloriously to Hrothgar, who wondered at that sword hilt, covered with
plates of gold, engraved with a poem in Runic letters; for the poet is
fond of describing beautiful swords and armour.

Hrothgar now made a long speech about the goodness of God, which,
of course, is a Christian addition to the poem. Beowulf gave back
_Hrunting_ to Hunferth, saying no word against the weapon though it had
been of no service. Then they all departed in high honour, and their
swift ship under sail cut the sea into foam as she flew homeward.

In time Hygelac and his son fell in battle, and Beowulf was for fifty
years "the shepherd of the people". The last adventure of his old age
was a fight with a fiery dragon which dwelt among the golden treasures
in an ancient burial mound. In the tomb, says the poet, "there is no
sound of swords or harness, no joy of the harp; the good hawk flits
not through the hall; the swift horse does not beat the ground at the
gate". Anglo-Saxon poetry is full of the melancholy of death, and of
mournful thoughts awakened in presence of the ruined homes of men long

In his last fight and his best fight, Beowulf, with a young prince to
aid him, slew the Fire Drake, but he was mortally hurt by its poisonous
flaming breath, and spoke his latest words: "Bid the brave men pile up
a mound for me, high and far-seen on the headland, that seafaring men
in time to come may call it Beowulf's mound". These are almost the very
words of the ghost of the dead oarsman, Elpenor, to Odysseus in Homer.

So much has been said about the poem of "Beowulf," because it is by far
the greatest poem that the Anglo-Saxons have left to us, and best shows
how they lived. From "Beowulf" we learn that our ancestors lived almost
exactly as did the ancestors of the Greeks, in Homer's poems, made
perhaps 1600 years before the making of "Beowulf". Both these ancient
Greeks and our own ancestors had, and expressed in poetry, the same
love, of life and of the beauty of the world; and the same belief that,
after death, hope was hopeless, and joy was ended. Both had the same
sense of the mystery of existence, and, when they took time to think,
had the same melancholy. Our poetry thus began like that of Greece,
and, in the end, became the rival of the greatness of Greece.

We know from broken pieces of these old songs which have come down
to us that the Anglo-Saxons, like their German neighbours on the
Continent, had even better stories than "Beowulf". But they have been
lost, and "Beowulf" was perhaps saved by the Christian parts of it,
which must have been put in by some one who wrote it over again after
the Anglo-Saxons were converted: the language is like what was spoken
and written about 750. One beautiful poem is "The Ruined City". The
minstrel, beholding the desolation of the towers and baths of some
Roman town which the Anglo-Saxons have overthrown, laments its fall
and the perishable state of human fortunes. Other poems may be briefly

The Wanderer.

In "The Wanderer" there is abundance of gloom, but it is a less noble
poem than "The Ruined City," for the speaker is in sorrow, not for
the griefs of all mankind, but for his own. He is an exile, homeless,
in fact a tramp, _Eardstapa._ He has lost his lord, his patron; and
dreams of his kindness, in the old happy days; and wakens, an aged man,
friendless, to see the snow falling in the ocean, and the seabirds
flitting with their white wings through the snow. The house where he
had been young has fallen, and he laments over the ruins.

The Plaint of Deor.

This complaint is also rueful, but it is manly. The poet calk to mind
old heroes and heroines, such as Weland (remembered still as Wayland
Smith, in Scott's "Kenilworth"), who suffered many misfortunes, but
endured them bravely. The poem is in stanzas; each ending with the
burden or refrain,

    _That evil he overcame_,
      _So may I this!_

It is like the often repeated word of Odysseus in Homer:--

    _Endure my heart_,
      _Worse hast thou endured!_

One sorrow of the poet is that his lord has taken from him the land
which he held as a minstrel, and given it to another singer. Now he is
in new trouble.

    _That I surmounted_,
      _So may I this!_

Probably there were many other poems with refrains, or recurring lines
at the end of each stanza; this is a very old poetic device; originally
the refrains were sung in chorus by the listeners as they danced to the
music of the minstrels.

The Seafarer.

In this poem, as in "Beowulf," the sea is spoken of as it would be by
men who knew its wild moods; cold, tempest, biting salt water, danger,
and grey waves under driving rain, yet the seafarer loves, it. The poet
says that (like

    The gentlemen of England
        Who live at home at ease,)

many a one knows not the dangers of the deep, while the minstrel has
heard the swan sing through the ice-cold showers of hail and the
spindrift. But the coming of spring and the cuckoo's cry, admonish
the brave man to go seafaring, despite the distresses; they are more
inspiriting than life on land. He is a Christian, but he falls back on
the old melancholy for the passing of kings and gold-givers. Though he
preaches over much, he still thinks of the bale-fire as the mode of
burial, as if Christian rites of earth to earth were not yet adopted.


Of this poem only some sixty lines exist. They were found at
Copenhagen, written on two pieces of vellum which had been used in
binding a book: it is common to find fragments of early printed books
or manuscripts in the bindings of books more recent. One page of
"Waldhere" contains a speech by the heroine of the tale, Hildeguthe,
urging Waldhere to fight Guthere; the other fragment has portions of a
dialogue between the two combatants.

The names of the personages show that the poem was one of which we have
other versions, the most intelligible is a Latin form in verse.[4]
The story deals with an adventure, real or romantic, in the wars of
Attila with the Franks. Waldhere, an Aquitanian hostage, brought up
in Attila's court, with his betrothed lady, Hildeguthe, daughter of
the King of the Burgundians, is now keeper of Attila's treasures;
he and his friend Hagen escape; Hagen, who first fled, reached the
court of Guthere, King of the Franks, and hearing there that a lady
and a knight, with a treasure, are wandering about, he recognizes
his friends, and follows them with King Guthere (who mainly wants
the treasure), and with eleven other warriors. Hildeguthe sees them
coming, and Waldhere, who will not give up the treasures, slays the
eleven companions of Guthere, who are chivalrous enough to "set him
man for man," as the Scottish ballad says, in place of overpowering
him by numbers. Hagen, of course, does not want to fight his friend
Waldhere, but Fate, the Anglo-Saxon _Wyrd_, is too strong: Waldhere has
to encounter both Guthere and Hagen, for Hagen is Guthere's man, or
thegn, and may not disobey him; moreover, he _must_ avenge his nephew,
whom Waldhere has already slain. All three men receive terrible wounds,
and then they make friends; and Waldhere keeps both his lady and the

This version of the story is more like a later romance than the other
Germanic epics. In these, as in this tale, there is usually a tragic
conflict of passions and duties, as when the law of blood-vengeance
compels a woman to avenge a slain father or brother, or her husband or
her lover. The end is always tragic, but the Latin poet has probably
contrived "a happy ending," while retaining the many good fights, and
the conflict of friendship and duty to a hero's lord, which make the
interest of the story.

In the Anglo-Saxon fragments, Hildeguthe, encouraging, her lover to
fight, praises the swordsmith, the old German hero, Weland, the Tubal
Cain of the race. He made the sword Miming, the best of all swords,
which never fails the fighter. Hildeguthe has never seen Waldhere
flee the fight; now he must not be less noble than himself. The other
fragment is like the dialogues of the heroes in the Iliad before they
come to blows.

The whole of "Waldhere" must have been, when complete, a poem much more
complex, and even more interesting (at least to modern readers) than
"Beowulf". It had "love interest," a brave heroine, good duels, and
the tragic conflict of duties, while it was full of allusions to other
ancient epics of the Germanic peoples.

The Fight at Finnsburg.

In a song of the gleeman at Hrothgar's house in "Beowulf," there are
obscure references to the slaying of Hnæf, brother of Hildeburh, wife
of the Frisian King Finn, and the slaying of Hildeburh's own sons by
the men of Hnæf, in a fight within the royal hall of Finn. They are all
burned together on the funeral pyre, while Hildeburh weeps for sons
and brother. A fragment of an Anglo-Saxon epic on this affair exists
only in one copy, the original is lost. It is a complicated story of
slayings and revenges among folk akin by marriage, and the interest
clearly lay in the tragic situation of Hildeburh, who owes vengeance
against her husband, Finn, and also against the family of her brother,
who have slain her sons. As Hildeburh returns to her own people, the
Danes, after her husband is killed, she probably preferred her own
blood kindred to those of her husband.

[1] The best versions for English readers of these splendid stories are
to be found in "The Volsungs and the Niblungs," translated by William
Morris and Magnusson, and in "The Corpus Poeticum Boreale," with
translations by F. York Powell and Vigfusson.

[2] This form of verse has been described thus by Prof. Saintsbury:--

"The staple line of this verse consists of two halves or sections, each
containing two 'long,' 'strong,' 'stressed,' 'accented' syllables,
these same syllables being, to the extent of three out of the four,
alliterated. At the first casting of the eye on a page of Anglo-Saxon
poetry no common resemblance except these seem to emerge, but we see
on some pages an altogether extraordinary difference in the lengths
of the lines, or, in other words, of the number of 'short,' 'weak,'
'unstressed,' 'unaccented' syllables, which are allowed to group
themselves round the pivots or posts of the rhythm, that is, round the
syllables on which strong stress is laid."

The eye and ear of the reader soon find out the essential facts of
the measures; the strong pause in the middle of each verse, the
alliteration, the accent, and the great variety in the number of the
syllables which are slurred, or not dwelt upon, in each case. The
poetry avoids rhymes, except in "The Rhyming Poem," later than King
Alfred's time, and in two or three Other instances.

[3] The words are:--

               Ic me mid Hruntinge
dóm gewyrce, otthe mec death nimeth.

I (Ic, German _Ich_) with (German _mit_) _Hrunting_, glory will win,
otherwise (_otthe_) me (_mec_) death taketh (_nimmeth_), German
_nehmen_ ("to take").

[4] Translated from a lost German form; the Latin is of the tenth
century, by Ekkehard of St. Gall.



When the Anglo-Saxons became Christians (597-655) they took the Gospel,
and the rules of the Church, in the North, from the Irish missionaries
who, under St. Columba of Ireland, settled in the Isle of Iona: in the
South from Roman teachers, such as Theodore of Tarsus, who had studied
at Athens, and, in 668 became Archbishop of Canterbury. Both in the
South, and North, in Northumberland, great schools were established, in
connexion with the monkish settlements: in the monasteries Greek was
not unknown, and the language of Rome, Latin, was taught and was used
in writing all learned works, and hymns. With the language of Rome,
almost dead as a living speech, came knowledge of ancient history, and
of the great Roman poets, especially Virgil. The seventh and eighth
centuries were thus a new epoch, a century of learning, and of division
between the educated and the unlearned. The learned, mainly priests, no
longer cared much for making songs and stories about fighting, love,
and the adventures of their heathen heroes. They were occupied with
the history of Rome and of the old world; and still more with their
new religion, and the stories of apostles and saints and Hebrew kings
and patriarchs, and with the making of sermons and hymns. Thus the old
heathen tales and poems were lost or half forgotten.


The first sacred poet of whom we hear is Cædmon. His tale is told by
the great and learned Bede, born at Wearmouth in Northumberland in
673, and trained in the new monastery there. Says Bede: "There was in
the monastery of St. Hilda at Whitby, a Brother who, when he heard the
Scriptures interpreted, could instantly turn the lesson into sweet
verses." Just so the minstrel of Hrothgar, when he heard the nobles
talk about Beowulf's defeat of Grendel, turned the story _at once_ into
a song. This was "improvisation," and Cædmon "improvised" religious
poems; no man has equalled them since, says Bede. But he began when he
was far from young, and was not yet a priest. Till then he had not been
a poet; indeed, if he were at a feast where every man sang in his turn,
when the harp was brought to people near him at table, he arose and
went home.

One night he ran away from the harp into the stalls of the cattle, and
there fell asleep on the straw. In a dream One appeared to him, and
bade him sing. He answered that he had left the feast because he could
not sing.

"You must sing."

"About what am I to sing?"

"The beginning of things created."

Cædmon then made in his sleep a poem about the Creation, and when he
awoke he remembered it, as Coleridge made "Kubla Khan" in a dream, and
remembered part of it until he was disturbed by a person on business
from Porlock. After this Cædmon made sacred poems, doing Scripture into
verse, with perfect ease, and he became a monk.

Now there exist long Anglo-Saxon poems on parts of Genesis, Exodus,
and Daniel, and it has been very naturally supposed that these are the
poems of Cædmon, which, as Bede thought, had never been equalled in
the Anglian tongue. Nothing is known for certain, and only one short
hymn has a good chance to be by the poet Cædmon. The ideas of the poet
singing of the war in Heaven, so closely resemble those of Milton, in
"Paradise Lost," that Milton has been supposed to have known something
of the Anglo-Saxon poem.[1] No lines in "Paradise Lost," are more
familiar than those which describe a land of fire,

             Yet from these flames,
    No light, but rather darkness visible,
    Served only to discover sights of woe.

The old Anglo-Saxon poet says:--

    They sought another land,
    That was devoid of light,
    And was full of flame.

The speech of Satan, too, in Anglo-Saxon, the speech in which he blames
the justice of God; his threat of what he would do, were he free for
but one winter; his design to avenge himself on Adam and his posterity,
are all like Milton, whose

    Fairest of her daughters, Eve,

is exactly like

    The fairest of women,
    That have come into the world.

In the fighting scenes of these Anglo-Saxon Biblical poems, the poets
appear to enjoy themselves most and to feel most at home. They have
only to write in the manner of their own old battle songs, about the
howling of wolves and crying of ravens to whom the victor gives their

Indeed Anglo-Saxon poetry reminds us of an ancient casket of whalebone
in the British Museum, with its scenes from the heathen story of Weland
or Weyland Smith, the adoration of the Magi, Romulus and Remus and the
wolf, and a battle between Titus and the Jews: such is the mixture of
Christianity, heathenism, and learning in the Christian Anglo-Saxon

Thus in the long fragment "Judith," based on the well-known story
of Judith and Holofernes in the Apocrypha, there is vigour in the
descriptions of the intoxicated roaring Holofernes; and of the cries of
wolf, raven, and eagle; and of the clash of swords and shields.


The best Christian poem, called "Crist," is full of the happiness
bestowed by the new religion. The verses are by a poet named Cynewulf
of whom nothing is known but his name, recorded in a kind of acrostic
written in the Runic alphabet. He took his matter from sermons and
hymns in Latin, but Cynewulf makes the poetry his own. He is joyously
religious. After all the melancholy of the heathen or half-heathen
minstrels, their wistful doubts about the meaning and value of our
little life, the author of the "Crist" comes as one who "has seen a
great light". He rejoices like the shepherds who heard good tidings
of great joy at Bethlehem on the first Christmas night. It is as
when spring comes to the world and the thrushes cannot have enough
of singing: the night and the darkness are over: the grave has lost
its sting and Death his victory. The poet is as happy as the birds
in March. To him the message of Christ is no old story, but a new
certainty; he has no doubt, no fear, and this gladness of faith is all
his own, whether he sings of Our Lord or of Our Lady. That is the charm
of Cynewulf; his fresh delight in his work.

    Thou to us
    The bright sun sendest,
    And thyself comest,
    That thou may'st enlighten
    Those who long ago
    With vapour covered,
    And in darkness here
    Sat, in continual night.

The legends of "St. Guthlac" and "St. Juliana," on the other hand, are
not, it must be confessed, such spontaneous bursts of song.


In the "Andreas" the poet, whoever he was, sings of what he has heard,
adventures of St. Andrew and St. Mark. St. Matthew has fallen into the
hands of the cannibals of old Greek legend, the Læstrygonians, the poet
calls them the "Mermedonians".[3]

The cannibals have caught, and are about to eat St. Matthew, but the
Lord appears first to him, in his dungeon, and then to St. Andrew,
who is living among the Achæans, in Greece. The voyage, the fighting,
are in the old heathen style, and the Deity appears with two angels,
all three disguised as sailors. It is impossible to give the whole
tale, which appealed to the natural man as a great story of adventure
in waves and war, while it introduced religion. The adventures are
many, and much more startling and wild than any that survive from the
Anglo-Saxon poetry of heathen times.

Dream of the Rood.

There is a singular poem "The Dream of the Rood," which with many other
"masterless" poems, some critics assign to Cynewulf, on account of the
style, and the deep personal feeling which we admire in the "Crist":
others attribute it to Cædmon. This opinion was partly based on a
curious set of facts. The followers of the great Reformer, John Knox,
in Scotland (1560) destroyed almost all the "monuments of idolatry" as
they called works of Christian art. But they forgot to break to powder
a tall ancient cross of red sandstone, beautifully carved, and marked
with Runic characters, in the church of Ruthwell, near Dumfries. Some
eighty years later (1642) when the Covenanters were in arms against
Charles I, the preachers began a new war against works of Christian
art, and ordered the Ruthwell Cross to be destroyed. It was broken
into several fragments, which have now been pieced together, and the
Cross stands in an apse-shaped building adjoining the church. The Runic
characters record a part of the poem styled "The Dream of the Rood,"
and give the inscription "_Cædmon me made"_, probably Cædmon was really
the artist who made and carved the stone cross: indeed the name is
rather hard to read.

The poem speaks of the author's wonderful dream of the gold adorned
and jewelled True Cross, and, in "Elene," Cynewulf also speaks of the
revelation to him of the light of the Truth of the Cross. Conceivably,
then, Cynewulf really had a dream or vision, and became devout after a
life of war and minstrelsy.


It would, in that case, be in old age that Cynewulf wrote, in the
"Elene," a poetic version of the legend of the discovery of the True
Cross by Helena, mother of the Emperor Constantine. This poem, probably
based on a Latin legend, has been very highly praised. But before we
can take any pleasure in it, we must try to think ourselves back into
the state of mind of England when the heathen poetry of war was still
popular, and Christianity, with many mediaeval legends, was a fresh
inspiration. Even when we have done that as well as we can, the "Elene"
awakens only an historical kind of rapture. The natural man is much
more at home with "Beowulf" and "Waldhere" than with "Elene".

The poet begins with an imaginary battle: allied Franks and Huns attack
the Emperor Constantine. The motive of Cynewulf is to introduce plenty
of fighting: probably he never fought himself, but like other men of
peace, he loves to sing of war. His treatment of war is conventional;
he introduces the usual cries of wolf, eagle, and raven. Constantine is
encouraged by a dream of a bright being who urges him to trust in God;
he also sees a vision of the Cross, gay with jewels (as in "The Dream
of the Rood") and letters making the words "In this sign conquer".
Then the battle is described, with more zest than originality, and
the heathen are routed; many are converted. Helena next takes a large
force, and sails to Palestine to look for the True Cross. The usual
formulæ descriptive of a seafaring are employed.

Helena preaches to the Jews in the mediaeval way, and they, naturally,
reply, "We know not, lady, why you are so angry with us". A crafty
Jew, Judas, guesses that she has come to demand from them the True
Cross, which he is reluctant to give up. Helena threatens to burn the
Jews, and does put Judas in a pit, without meat or drink, for seven
days. Broken in spirit at last, he says that he will do his best; he
prays; a miraculous vapour arises from the spot where, twenty feet
underground, three crosses are discovered. Another miracle points out
which of the three is the Holy Rood; Judas is baptized, and the shining
nails of the Cross are discovered. Then follow the verses in which the
poet describes his own old age, and his beholding the true light that
lighteneth all men.


Among other poems vaguely assigned, in part, to Cynewulf are Riddles.
The Sword describes itself, so do the byrnie, or shirt made of iron
rings, the helmet, the shield; and there are many other riddles, some
derived from late Latin. The best are really poetical. In addition to
the Riddles there are several curious magical songs, or charms, for
curing diseases, and removing spells of witchcraft. In these there are
remains of the old heathen magical songs.


The "Phœnix," assigned to Cynewulf as usual, is based on a late Latin
poem attributed to Lactantius (290-325) and ends as an allegory of
Christ. It is interesting to observe in the "Phœnix" a description of
an ideal land of peace "where comes not hail or rain or any snow," the
picture is borrowed from Homer's lines on Olympus, the home of the
gods, and Elysium, the abode reserved for Helen of Troy and Menelaus,
in the Odyssey. Anglo-Saxon poetry, without knowing it, came in touch,
through Lactantius, with the most beautiful verses in the most ancient
poetry of Greece, verses paraphrased in Latin, by Lucretius, and in
English by Tennyson, twice ("Lucretius," and the "Morte d'Arthur"),
and in "Atalanta in Calydon," by Mr. Swinburne. The golden thread of
ancient Greek poetry thus runs through Roman, Anglo-Saxon, and English

[1] First published in his time (1655) by Francis Junius (of course not
the Junius who has been identified with Francis).

[2] find that Mr. W. P. Ker has made the same comparison.

[3] Apparently he has confused the _Læstrygonians_ who devoured some of
the companions of Odysseus, with the _Myrmidonians_ (Myrmidones) the
Greeks who followed Achilles to Troy.



Latin Among the Anglo-Saxons.

Books written on English soil in the Latin language are no part of
English literature. It is necessary, however, to notice them, because
they testify to the knowledge and taste of the educated; while the
ideas expressed in Latin reached the less instructed people through
sermons and in conversation, and through the translations into
Anglo-Saxon which were directed and in part executed by King Alfred.

Though written by a native of our island we may omit the Latin book
of Gildas, of about 516-570, for he was a Briton of the Romanized
sort, who fled to Brittany. His book, where it does not contain mere
lamentations, gives a kind of history, very vague, of events in the
country, and of the sins and crimes of the British princes down
to about 550. Such as the information was, Bede, the great early
Anglo-Saxon historian, used it, as did the author of "The History
of the Britons" attributed to Nennius (say 800), who, like Gildas,
mentions the battle of Badon hill, but, unlike Gildas, brings in King
Arthur. As we shall see later, Bede does not mention Arthur.

Leaving these vague British writers in Latin, we come to Bede.


When we think of the time in which Bede, the greatest of our early
scholars, lived and worked, it seems amazing that he had such a wide
knowledge of books and so comparatively clear an idea of the way in
which history should be written. Born in 673 (died 735), he was in his
thirteenth year when his king, Egfrid of Northumbria, was killed by the
Piets (practically Gaelic-speaking Highlanders), in the great battle
of Nectan's mere (685), in Angus beyond the Tay, for so far into what
is now Scotland had English Northumbria pushed her conquests. Great
part of these was lost, and in the eighth century, there came an age of
anarchy and civil war, as fierce as the contests of the old times of
heathendom. To us the Anglo-Saxons of these ages seem barbarous enough,
but Bede speaks of the Piets of Scotland as "barbarians". He constantly
deplores the greed and ignorance of the clergy, in terms much like
those used by the Protestants before the Reformation. In an ignorant
age Bede wrote unceasingly and copiously about such natural science
as was within his reach, especially using that popular and fanciful
book of Pliny, mere fairy-tales of natural (or unnatural) history.
He wrote much and usefully on chronology in relation to history; and
on theology, of course, he wrote abundantly. Most important is his
"Church History of the Race of Angles," without which we should know
little indeed concerning the Anglo-Saxon invasions of Britain, and the
development of events both in England and Scotland. His tale of the
reception of Christianity by Edwin is very commonly quoted: it is of
much literary interest, and proves that the sense of the mystery and
melancholy of the world, so often expressed in Anglo-Saxon poetry,
weighed heavily on men who were not poets.

A council or _Witanagemot_ was held to consider the Christian doctrines
preached by Paulinus. One noble, Coifi, said, in jest or earnest, that
the heathen religion was useless, "for no man among your people does
more to please our gods than I, but many are more favoured by you
and by fortune". Coifi, therefore, voted that Christianity deserved
consideration. But another noble, agreeing so far, added, "Human life,
oh King,... seems to me to resemble the flight of a sparrow, which
flits into your warm hall at a feast in winter weather. The bird
flies into the bright hall by one door, and out by another, and after
a moment of quiet, slips from the wintry darkness into the wintry
darkness again. Such is the life of man, that is for a moment, but what
went before, and what comes after, as yet we know not." The practical
Coifi then proposed to destroy the old temples of the old gods; rode
off, and threw his spear into a shrine.

Coifi's idea was merely to "change the luck," and to enjoy the
pleasures of destruction; he was of a common type of reformers;
while the other speaker desired intellectual satisfaction, and the
understanding of the mystery of existence.

Latin and even Greek learning, we have seen, found footing in southern
England with the arrival of Archbishop Theodore and Abbot Hadrian at
Canterbury in 669. Latin had never been quite extinct. A non-English
writer in Latin, in Scotland, is Adamnan (died 704), author of a Life
of the Irish St. Columba, who brought Christianity to the Picts of
Scotland, while later from his little holy Isle of Iona missionaries
reached Northumbria. Adamnan's book may be read with more pleasure than
any other of the time; it is so rich in pictures of Highland life and
sport on sea and land, and in tales of magic and the second sight. This
was one of the works used by Bede in writing his "History".

The numerous books which were within the reach of Bede were brought,
in five journeys, by Benedict Biscop, Abbot of Wearmouth, from Rome to
Northumberland. Before Bede, such books had been studied by Aldhelm
(Bishop of Sherborne, died 709). He wrote poetry in the native
language, which King Alfred greatly admired, but none of the extant
poems are attributed to him. His Latin would have surprised Cicero; he
delighted in strange words, and in strings of alliterations. He wrote
edifying treatises on Christian virtues as exemplified by Biblical
characters and by saints, some of them rather fabulous personages. He
knew many early Christian authors, and Virgil, Cicero, Ovid, and Lucan,
but his own style was as absurdly bombastic as that of many of the
ancient Irish romances. He had disciples in style, who manufactured
acrostics in Latin verse.

The Latin literature of the southern Anglo-Saxons thus fell for a
time into full decadence; very different was the learning of the
northern Bede. His taste was uncorrupted by the sudden arrival of
ancient literature among a people almost barbarous. He wrote in plain
Latin without affectation concerning things worthy to be known and
remembered: he gave us a frank and charming picture of the great St.
Cuthbert; he had, no doubt, too great a love of miracles, and rather
exaggerated some which he found in earlier lives of early English
saints, such as the said Cuthbert, the saint of the Border, whose body
sleeps in Durham Cathedral. The authors whom he quotes are mainly
Christian, including many of the chief Fathers of the Church, and he
is not certain about the propriety of studying the heathen classics,
though he cannot abstain from Virgil, who, it was fancied, predicted
the coming of Christ. He had Greek enough to read the Greek New
Testament, but this learning was lost, in England, in later times. The
translation of Bede's "History" into Anglo-Saxon under King Alfred was
not the least of his gifts to his people.


Alcuin (735-804), a pupil of the school of York, lived at the worst
period of the savage attacks made by the still heathen Danes on
England. What the Anglo-Saxons had done to the Britons, the Danes
after 780 did to the Anglo-Saxons, slaying, plundering, torturing, and
burning, wherever they came. Happily for Alcuin he passed most of his
life abroad, aiding the great Emperor Charlemagne in founding schools
and fostering education. Charlemagne collected the old war-songs of
his people, little dreaming that in three centuries he would become
as fabulous a hero, in the French epic poems of the eleventh to the
thirteenth century, as Beowulf or Alboin had been in Germanic lays.
Alcuin had far more influence as a lecturer and as a writer of letters
than as an author; in a poem he preserves the names of the books in the
libraries of York and Wearmouth, beautiful manuscripts that would now
be almost priceless, but the Danes burned them all. Other Latin writers
there were, they mainly dealt with religious themes, and their works
are of very little importance.


Not till the kingdom of the West Saxons, Wessex, became the most
powerful state in England, and made successful resistance to the
Scandinavian invaders, who had destroyed monasteries everywhere, were
learning and literature able to raise their heads again. It was the
most famous of English kings, Alfred (849-901), that, among all his
other labours as warrior and ruler, restored education.

It is unfortunate that so many matters of interest in Anglo-Saxon times
are veiled in obscurity. The "Life of Alfred," by Asser, a Welshman,
Bishop of Sherborne, is a confused record.

Alfred was certainly taken to Rome by his father at a very early age,
but all that is told on this subject is most perplexing. He is said to
have been untaught in the art of reading till he was 12 years old, but
he heard Anglo-Saxon poems repeated by others, and knew many of them by
heart. The famous tale that his mother offered a book of Anglo-Saxon
poems to the first of her sons who should "learn it," and that Alfred
was taken by the beauty of the illuminations, learned to read, and
won the prize, is absolutely unintelligible in Asser's Latin. But
Asser says, and Alfred, in his Preface to an Anglo-Saxon translation
of Pope Gregory's "Pastoral Care" himself avers, that learning was
almost or quite extinct south of the Humber, when his reign began,
while in Northumbria matters were little better. But his father's
second wife, Judith, was daughter to the Emperor, Charles the Bald, and
though Judith, a young girl, was far from being sedate and erudite,
the connexion with the Continent enabled Alfred to bring over Frankish
scholars, such as Grimbald, while from Wales came Asser, who, for part
of each year, lived with Alfred as his tutor.

The king wrote a Handbook, or commonplace book, of Latin extracts,
which he translated into his own native tongue; and later he
translated, or caused to be translated, the "Pastoral Care" of Pope
Gregory; the very popular work on "Consolation" by Boëthius, a
philosopher who was slain about 524; the "Church History" of Bede;
and a kind of "History of the World" by Orosius, a Christian writer
of the fifth century. Of these books, the "History" by Bede was of
the greatest value for Englishmen; the "Consolations" of Boëthius are
at least as consolatory as any others, and were long popular; while
whoever reads Orosius will learn many things, though he will learn
them wrong, about the whole history of the human race. Still, the
Anglo-Saxon reader became aware of the elements of geography, and
of the existence of the powers of ancient Assyria, Egypt, Crete, and
Athens, while much space is devoted to the empire of the Amazons.[1]
"It is shameful," says Orosius, nobly, "to speak of such a state of
things, when such miserable women, _and so foreign_, had subdued the
bravest men of all this earth," a conquest which the women repeated, he
says, during the Peloponnesian war!

When Orosius reaches Roman history he is much more copious, and
not so amusingly incorrect. Alfred, as a rule, paraphrased rather
than translated his originals, omitting and adding at pleasure, and
amplifying the geography of the North, by information received through
Otthere and Wulfstan, contemporary voyagers.

He found learning on its deathbed and he restored and revived it,
saving erudition from the natural contempt of men by the royal example
of a great statesman, sportsman, and warrior. It was plain to the world
that, in spite of the human tendency to despise books, learning was
not merely an affair for shavelings in cloisters, for the great king
himself loved reading and writing.

The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle.

To the influence of Alfred is attributed, with much probability, the
organization of the earlier parts of the "Anglo-Saxon Chronicle," which
briefly tells the history of the country from year to year. There were
several versions of these annals, containing the most notable events
of each year. It seems that copies of one manuscript, containing the
remotest events, beginning with the invasion of Britain by Julius
Cæsar, and going on to Alfred's own age, were given to several
monasteries. In each the scribe afterwards continued to make, as it
were, a diary of the chief occurrences, and, later, various additions
about _past_ events would be inserted in various religious houses, so
that the dates are not always to be trusted. After the year of Alfred's
birth, the records become more full. In his "Life of Alfred," Asser
turned much of the "Chronicle" for Alfred's reign into Latin: the
materials of the "Chronicle," therefore, existed in his day (an early
part of it was by a Northumbrian writer). The "Chronicle" now exists
in several versions, done by various hands in various monasteries.
Some "Chronicles" are lost, such as that of Kent, whence much matter
has been borrowed by that of Peterborough, which is the longest, and
reaches the year 1154.

The early entries in the "Chronicle" are very short: here is the
history of the year 774.

"In this year a red Cross appeared in the heavens after sunset; and in
this year the Mercians and Kentish men fought at Otford, and wondrous
serpents were seen in the South Saxons' land."

This reads like a journal kept by a child. In later days events are
recorded at more length, such as fights with the Danes; meetings of
the _Witanagemot_, or great Council of the Wise; slayings of Kings and
Earls; even foreign facts of interest about Popes and Emperors. But
as late as 1066, the chronicler is brief enough, when he tells how
William, Count of Normandy, sailed to Pevensey on Michaelmas Eve.

"This was then made known to King Harold, and he gathered a great army,
and came to meet Count William at the hoar apple tree. And William came
against him unawares, ere his people were in battle order. But the
king, nevertheless, fought boldly against him with those men who would
follow him, and there was a great slaughter made on each side. There
were slain King Harold, and Earl Leofwine his brother, and Earl Gyrth
his brother, and many good men; and the French held possession of the
place of carnage, as to them God granted for the people's sins." We who
write long books about a single battle, such as Waterloo, are surprised
by the brevity of the "Chronicle".

Some seventy years later, just before it ends, the "Chronicle" has
a long and famous passage about the cruel oppressions in Stephen's
reign (1137). By that date the language has changed so much, that
the meaning can easily be made out, even by readers who do not know
Anglo-Saxon. The style of the "Chronicle" is always extremely simple,
and the good monks are usually more interested in events affecting
their own monasteries, than in matters which are of more importance to
the history of the country. Nevertheless, there are records of periods
in the "war-age" when the Danes were burning, plundering, and slaying
through England, and there are characters of great interest among the
kings, earls, and counsellors, lay or clerical, of whom we should know
little or nothing if the monks had ceased to make their entries in the
"Chronicle". To students of language, with its dialects and changes,
the "Chronicle" is priceless, and a few poems and ballads are contained
in its pages.

The most famous poem in the "Chronicle" is on the battle of Brunanburh
(937), when the English, under Æthelstan, defeated the Scots and Danes.
This song, translated by Tennyson, does not so much describe the
fighting as the triumph after the battle.

    Five lay
    On that battle-stead,
    Young kings
    By swords laid to sleep:
    So seven eke
    Of Olaf's earls,
    Of the country countless
    Shipmen and Scots.

Olaf fled in his ship over the barren sea, the aged Constantine, King
of the Scots, left his son dead on the field. As usual the raven, wolf,
and eagle have their share of the corpses: an Anglo-Saxon poet could
not omit these animals. This poet boasts that there has been no such
victory since first the Anglo-Saxons "the Welsh overcame". Perhaps the
enthusiasm of English students rather overrates the poetical merits of
this war-song.

There is more poetry, and more originality in "Byrhtnoth," a song of
a defeat at the hands of the Danes. The warrior entering the field of

    Let from his hands his lief hawk fly,
    His hawk to the holt, and to battle he stepped.

He haughtily refuses to accept peace in exchange for tribute which the
Danes demand. The armies are divided from each other by a tidal river,
and Byrhtnoth chivalrously allows the heathen to cross, at low tide,
and meet him in fair field. There are descriptions of hand to hand
single combats; and of the wounds given and taken, and the boasts of
the slayers, who throw their spears, piercing iron mail, and shields
of linden wood; and strip the slain of their armour and jewels. The
friends of the fallen fight across the corpses. Byrhtnoth falls, some
of his company flee, the rest make a ring of spears about the hero, one

    The more the mood, as lessens our might,

that is,

    The braver be we, as our strength fails.

The whole poem might be translated, almost without a change, into "the
strong-winged music of Homer," or the verse of the old French "Song of
Roland". The song is not conventional, it is a noble war-poem. For some
reason the best war-poems are inspired by glorious defeats, at Maldon,
at Flodden, at Bosworth, at Roncesvaux, at Culloden.

The Monks and Learning.

The "Anglo-Saxon Chronicle," running from Alfred's day to King
Stephen's, and thus surviving the Norman Conquest, is the earliest
historical writing in English prose. As we have seen, it was the work
of the monks, _regular_ soldiers of learning, living together under
strict rules. On the other hand the secular clergy, parish priests and
others, were the irregular levies against ignorance. The monks were
fallen on evil times for learning and literature.

During the long cruel wars against the Danish raiders and settlers
(900-960) many monasteries were overthrown; others, like Abingdon,
became poor neglected places; into others the kings and nobles placed
their younger children, to live comfortably on the rents and revenues
of the Church, and neglect prayer and books. Under Eadwig the Fair,
St. Dunstan (born 925) appeared as a reformer, making the rule of the
Church respected, and being therefore at feud with Eadwig, as Thomas à
Becket was with Henry II. Under Edgar (957-975), peace was restored,
and Dunstan could carry out reforms as Archbishop of Canterbury. He
brought back from Flanders the new rule-of the Order of St. Benedict
(which the monk in Chaucer despises as not up to date) for the strict
living of monks, and was backed by Bishops Oswald and Æthelwald, men of
learning and reformers of education.

New monasteries, which often had schools attached to them, were built,
and old monasteries were restored. Dunstan was an artist (a picture of
him as a monk is still preserved, and is said to have been drawn by
himself). He was skilled in music and metalworking, and fond of the old
Anglo-Saxon poetry. He has left no books of his own writing, but there
are curious early Lives of him in Latin. As a boy he climbed in his
sleep to the roof of a church; he used to see visions of people at the
time of their deaths; a large stone is said to have flown at him of its
own accord; and, before his death, his bed, with him in it, was slowly
raised up in air, and softly let down again. According to these tales,
Dunstan must have been a "medium"; there is nothing saintly in such
prodigies. Like many people of genius who were not saints, he was of a
visionary nature, though a thoroughly practical and energetic man.

Thus he, with Oswald, Bishop of Worcester, later Archbishop
of York; Abbo; Æthelwold; Byrthferth; and others, introduced
"regulars"--Benedictine monks--in place of married priests into the
cathedrals, and encouraged schools and learning of all kinds. Æthelwold
himself taught Latin to boys at Winchester, and had the Latin book
of the rules of the Benedictine monks done into Anglo-Saxon. A set
of Anglo-Saxon sermons survives from this age called "The Blickling
Homilies" (from Blickling, a house of Lord Lothian, where the
manuscript has been preserved). Homilies are simple statements of
Scriptural facts for simple hearers. The preacher already addresses the
congregation as "my dearest brethren" (_mine gebrothra tha leofostan_).
"Bethlehem," says the preacher, "means being interpreted, the House
of Bread, and in it was Christ, the true bread, brought forth." "The
Divine nature is not mingled with the human nature, nor is there any
separation: we might explain this to you by a little comparison, if
it were not too lowly; see an egg, the white is not mixed with the
yolk, yet it is _one_ egg." The sermons (these quoted are by Ælfric)
are all plain teaching for plain people, but there is a famous address
by Bishop Wulfstan, encouraging the English, by Biblical examples
of Hebrew fighting patriots, to defend themselves against the cruel
heathen Danes (1014).


In the school at Winchester Ælfric was trained (born 955?) and thence
went to instruct the young monks in the abbey of Cerne in Dorset,
where he preached homilies; he wrote them both in English and in
Latin. His sermon on the "Holy Housel," that is the Holy Communion,
contained ideas which the Protestants, at the Reformation, thought
similar to their own, and they printed this homily. "All is to be
understood spiritually." "It skills not to ask how it is done, but to
believe firmly that done it is." The style of the prose is more or less
alliterative, and a kind of rhythm is detected in some of the sermons,
as if they were intended to be chanted.

The Latin grammars written by Ælfric do not concern English literature;
his Dialogue (_Colloquium_) between a priest and a number of persons
of various occupations, throws light on ways of living. He wrote
Latin "Lives of Saints," and edited part of an English translation or
paraphrase of the Bible, suitable as material for homilies. He produced
many other theological works, and died about 102-(?) being Abbot of
Eynsham in Oxfordshire.

The interest of Ælfric, Wulfstan, and the rest, for us, is that they
upheld a standard of learning and of godly living, in evil times of
fire and sword, and that English prose became a rather better literary
instrument in their hands.

The "Leechdoms," and works on herb-lore and medicine of the period,
partly derived from late Latin books, partly from popular charm songs,
are merely curious; they are full of folk-lore. After the Conquest,
Anglo-Saxon prose, save in the "Chronicle," was almost submerged,
though, in poetry, there were doubtless plenty of popular ballads, for
the most part lost or faintly traceable as translated into the Latin
prose of some of the writers of history. There would be songs chanted
among the country people about the deeds of Hereward the Wake and
other popular heroes; minstrels, now poor wanderers, would sing in the
farmhouses, and in the halls of the English squires, but not much of
their compositions remains.

We have, however, a few famous brief passages of verse, like the poem
of "The Grave," familiar through Longfellow's translation, and probably
earlier than the Conquest. It is written on the margin of a book of
sermons, and the author's mood is truly sepulchral. The "Rhymed Poem"
is celebrated only because it is in rhyme, which was a novelty with
a great future before it; it is older than 1046, its muse is that of
moral reflection.

The one verse of a song of King Canute is handed down by a monkish
chronicler who lived more than a century later. The king in a boat on
the Ouse, near a church, bids his men row near the shore to hear the
monks sing:--

    Merie sungen the munaches binnen Ely,
    Tha Cnut ching rew therby:
    "Roweth cnihtes neer the land,
    And here we thes munches sang."

This contains a kind of rhyme, or incomplete rhyme, of the vowel sounds
only (assonance) in Ely, ther_by_, "_land_", "_sang._"

St. Godric (died 1170) also left a hymn to Our Lady, in rhymed
couplets, with the music.

Of about the same period is a rhymed version of the Lord's Prayer; the
number of syllables to each line varies much, as in Anglo-Saxon poetry,
contrary to the rule in the poetry of France.

There are other examples all showing the untaught tendency of the songs
of the people towards rhyme and towards measures unknown to the early

[1] The Amazons appear to have been the armed priestesses of the
Hittite empire in Asia Minor, about 1200 B.C.



At the time of the Norman Conquest (1066), the invaders possessed
a literature in their own language, poems on the adventures of
Charlemagne, and of Roland and the other peers and paladins. But
perhaps none of the French poems on Charlemagne, or only one, the "Song
of Roland," now exists in a form as early as the date of the Conquest,
and they did not then reach the English people.

On the other hand the Norman clergy, many of whom obtained bishoprics
and abbeys in England, were much more learned than they of England;
and Lanfranc, the Conqueror's Archbishop of Canterbury, threatened to
depose Wulfstan, the English Bishop of Worcester, for his ignorance
of philosophy and literature. Yet Wulfstan excelled "in miracles and
the gift of prophecy". Many new monasteries were founded by the Norman
kings, homes of learning, each with its _scriptorium_ (writers' room),
in which new books were written, and old books were copied, almost
all of them in Latin. St. Albans became a specially learned monastery
and home of historians, while Roman law, medicine, and theology were
closely studied, and books were lent out to students from the monastic
libraries, a pledge of value being deposited by the borrower.

Latin Literature.

The books of the age which most interest us are the histories written
in Latin, by various authors of known names, who often were not
cloistered monks, but clergymen who lived much at court, and knew the
men who were making history, kings and great nobles.

Of all of these authors the most important in the interests of
literature, not of history, is Geoffrey of Monmouth, a Welshman, whose
"History of the Kings of Britain" is really no veracious chronicle,
but a romance pretending to be a history of Britain, especially of
King Arthur. The name of Arthur spells romance, and Geoffrey's book is
almost the first written source of all the poems and tales of Arthur
which fill the literature of England and the Continent. But it is more
convenient to discuss Geoffrey when we reach the age of the Arthurian

It is not necessary to speak here of all the writers of Latin histories
in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. In the North were Simeon
of Durham, and Richard, Prior of Hexham, who wrote "The Deeds of
King Stephen," and Ailred, whose account of the defeat of David I of
Scotland at the Battle of the Standard (1138) is very well told and
full of spirit. In reading Ailred we find ourselves, as it were, among
modern men: he speaks as a good English patriot, yet as a friend and
admirer, in private life, of the invading Scottish king and prince.
Florence of Worcester attempted a history of the world, compiled out of
other books, called "Chronicon ex chronicis". The habit of "beginning
at the beginning," namely with the creation, took hold of some of these
historians, whose books are of little use till they reach their own
times (if they live to do so), and speak of men and events known to

Eadmer, on the other hand, wrote of what he himself knew, a "History
of Recent Times in England," down to 1122, and especially about the
Archbishop of Canterbury, Anselm, and his dealings with William Rufus
and Henry I (Henry Fairclerk, a patron of learning).

William of Malmesbury (1095?-1143?) like Geoffrey of Monmouth, was
patronized by Robert, Earl of Gloucester, to whom they dedicated books.
William understood, and said that there were two Arthurs, one a warrior
of about 500-516 (?) the other a hero of fairy-land; but, as time went
on, people began to confuse them, and to believe as historical the
stories of Arthur which Geoffrey had written as a romance. William
wrote the "History of the Kings of England," with several lives of
saints and books on theology. The "History of the Kings" begins with
the coming of the Anglo-Saxons, and ends in 1127, the reign of Henry;
towards the close of its sequel, the "Historia Novella," his patron,
Robert of Gloucester, an enemy of Stephen, is his hero. The book
contains a history of the First Crusade.

William sometimes treats history in almost a modern way, he quotes his
sources of information, chiefly Bede and the "Anglo-Saxon Chronicle".
He refuses to vouch for the exact truth of events before his own time:
he throws the responsibility on earlier authors, his authorities.
Later, he speaks of what he has seen, or learned from trustworthy
witnesses. When he reaches the time of the British resistance to the
Anglo-Saxons, he mentions "warlike Arthur, of whom the Bretons fondly
tell so many fables, even to the present day, a man worthy to be
celebrated, not by idle tales, but by authentic history".

Happily for his readers, William is not above telling anecdotes like
the romance of the statue at Rome, with an inscription on the head,
"Strike here". How this was misunderstood, how at last a wise man
marked the place where the shadow of the fore-finger of the statue fell
at noon, and what wonderful adventures followed when men dug there,
and found a golden palace lighted up by a blazing carbuncle stone, is
narrated in a captivating way, but is not scientific history. (Bk. II,
Ch. X.) William mingles real letters and other documents with miracles
and ghost stories: indeed, he is determined to amuse as well as to
instruct, and he succeeds. In describing the enthusiasm stirred by
the preaching of the First Crusade, he falls into the very manner of
Macaulay. "The Welshman left his hunting, the Scot his fellowship with
lice, the Dane his drinking-party, the Norwegian his raw fish."

Certainly William was not a wholly scientific historian. He is never
uninteresting. If he finds any set of events tedious, he says so
plainly, and passes onwards. He is very fair, is learned in the manner
of his age, and his love of digressions and good stories reminds us of
the Greek Herodotus, "the Father of History," and the most entertaining
of historians.

Among the names of other Latin chroniclers is that of Henry of
Huntingdon (writing in 1125-1154). The author of the "Deeds of King
Stephen" is unknown: the work of William of Newburgh in the reigns of
Henry II and Richard Cœur de Lion, is well remembered for his attack
on the "lies" of Geoffrey of Monmouth. The assault on Geoffrey's
truthfulness was not so superfluous as it seems, because his romance
won the belief of many generations.

Richard Fitz Neale, who was Treasurer of England and for nine years
Bishop of London (1189-1198), wrote the Dialogue "De Scaccario,"
"concerning the Exchequer," which is still studied as the best
authority on mediaeval national finance in England, and on our early
constitutional history.

Jocelin de Brakelond left a "Chronicle" (1173-1202) much concerned with
life in his own monastery at St. Edmundsbury, and with the wise rule of
Abbot Sampson. This book forms the text on which Carlyle preaches in
his "Past and Present": it proves sufficiently that the monks were not
the lazy drones of popular tradition and abounds in vivid pictures of
men and of society.

Gerald of Wales (Girald de Barri, called Cambrensis, "the Welshman,"
1147-1217?) was of royal Welsh and noble Norman birth, his family,
the de Barris, were among the foremost Norman knights who took part
in the invasion (it can hardly be called the conquest) of Ireland,
under Strongbow; and he himself was a great fighter in the disputes
of churchmen. There was not much schooling to be had in wild Wales,
then very rebellious, but he probably learned Latin from the chaplains
of his uncle, a Bishop, before he went to the University of Paris, to
study law and science. Gerald was more like a modern literary man than
a mediaeval chronicler. He never ceased from travelling, now following
the Court, now rushing to Paris, now to Rome. When Archdeacon of St.
David's, which the Welsh wanted to make a Canterbury of their own, with
their own Archbishop, he stood up against the Bishop of St. Asaph; when
the Bishop threatened to excommunicate him, he had bell, book, and
candle ready to excommunicate the Bishop, whom he frightened away.

But Henry II would not permit Gerald to be Bishop of St. David's,
thinking him certain to stand up for Wales against England. In 1184,
Gerald went to Ireland with Henry's son, Prince John, who cannot be
better described, as an insolent ribald young man, than he is in
Scott's "Ivanhoe".

Gerald wrote a "Topography of Ireland," which is really "A Little
Tour in Ireland". His chapters on the "Marvels of Ireland" lead us
to suppose that the natives hoaxed him with strange stories, for
example the tale of a church bell that wandered about the country of
its own will: the innumerable fleas at St. Nannan's in Connaught is
more credible, but the tale of the wolves who asked to receive the
Holy Communion was not believed in England. One miracle was only a
beautifully illuminated manuscript of the kind decorated by Irish
artists 400 years earlier. The art had been lost, and the artist was
supposed to have copied the designs of an angel.

Gerald found the Irish very ignorant, lazy, dirty, and ferocious. Every
man used a battle-axe in place of a walking stick, and man-slayings
were frequent. The Irish clergy were devout and chaste, but drank
too much. On the wild beasts and birds of Ireland Gerald wrote like
a naturalist and a sportsman, though he supposed that salmon, before
leaping a fall, put their tails in their mouths, and letting go, fly
upward by the spring thus obtained.

His "History of the Invasion of Ireland" is valuable, but he
introduced, in the manner of some Greek and many Roman historians, long
speeches which were never made. He also, after an energetic wandering
life, always fighting to be made Bishop of St. David's, wrote his own
autobiography, an amusing conceited book, full of adventures of travel.
He wrote, too, on the natural history and the inhabitants of Wales, a
book very valuable to this day. He died after reaching the age of 70.

Walter Map.

Among his friends was a native of the Welsh border, Walter Map,
Archdeacon of Oxford. "You write much, Master Gerald," said Map to him,
"and you will write more; and I deliver many discourses. Your books
are better than my speeches, and will be remembered longer; but I am
much more popular, for you write in Latin, and I speak in the vulgar
tongue," meaning _French._ Poor Gerald confesses that he made nothing
by his books, and looked for his reward, not in vain, to the applause
of future ages.

But Map has had his own share of praise, more than he should get, if,
as he said, he wrote little. He was born about 1137, studied at Paris,
was one of the king's judges who rode on circuit, and, in 1197, was
made Archdeacon of Oxford. One book which he certainly wrote, "On
Courtly Trifles" ("De Nugis Curialium," in Latin) is a collection of
anecdotes clumsily told, and of reflections, with stories of the Welsh,
historical jottings, folk-lore, tales, and attacks on the clergy of the
Cistercian Order. As a judge he said that he was fair, except to Jews
and Cistercians, "who did not deserve justice, for they gave none".
Satirical Latin poems against Golias, a type of a noisy licentious
Bishop, are also attributed to him. In the confession of this Bishop
occur the famous lines, thus translated by Leigh Hunt,

    I devise to end my days--in a tavern drinking;
    May some Christian hold for me--the glass when I am shrinking;
    That the Cherubim may cry--when they see me sinking,
    God be merciful to a soul--of this gentleman's way of thinking.

The lines, in rhyming Latin, became a drinking catch, conceivably
they were that before, and were merely put into the Bishop's mouth
as a proof of his bad character. The word "Golias" as a nickname
for a ribald "Philistine" priest was hundreds of years older than
Map's time. A long romance in French, on Launcelot, the Holy Grail,
and the death of Arthur, is attributed to Map in some manuscripts,
and as a contemporary romancer says that Map "could lie as well
as himself"--that is, like himself wrote romances of love and
tournaments--he may possibly have been the author of "the great book
in Latin which treats openly of the history of the Holy Grail". But no
copy of that Latin book is known to exist, nor is it certain that it
ever existed, while Map, as we know, said that he did not write much of
any sort, especially not in Latin.

Changes Since the Conquest.

It is plain that, within a century from the battle of Hastings, new
influences of many kinds were working in England, and changing the
national character and intellect. There was the learning from Paris
University, and from the Continent in general; there was the clearer
intellect and energy of the Normans; the vivacity of such Welshmen or
men from the Welsh marches as Geoffrey of Monmouth, Gerald, and Map.
Anglo-Saxon literature had never been vivacious.

There were the new topics, "the matter of Britain," the Celtic legends
of Arthur, whether derived from Wales or from Brittany--matter most
romantic, and suited to the coming poets who, unlike the Anglo-Saxons,
were to glorify love. There was, too, the constant excitement and
variety that came from travel, whether in the Crusades, in pilgrimages,
or to France and Rome on public or private business, or in search of
books and teachers. In various ways knowledge of Saracen science and
learning, translations of Aristotle from the Arabic into the Latin,
and romantic ideas derived from the fables and tales of far-off India,
filtered into England.

These things were for priests and book-loving lords and courtiers.
Their wits were sharpened by knowledge of several tongues. All educated
men knew Latin; "all men of this land," said Robert of Gloucester
(about 1270) "who are of Norman blood, hold to French, and low men hold
to English," but high men of English blood would talk in English to
their farmers and servants. All who learned Latin learned it through
French books, but country priests would preach in English.

The Anglo-Saxon language and grammar were slowly changing, though very
few new words from French or Latin had yet come into common use. Cow,
sheep, calf, and swine were Anglo-Saxon words, as Gurth the swineherd
says in "Ivanhoe". Englishmen herded the animals, but the meat of them
was called by French names derived from Latin, like beef, mutton,
veal, and pork. From the Conquest (1066) to 1200, learning, Latin, and
knowledge of French books would filter slowly into the native English
mind, partly through sermons; and rich Franklins, and Englishmen in
the service of the conquering race, and English priests would be
Anglicizing French words.



The Stories of Arthur.

Of all these Latin chroniclers by far the most important was Geoffrey
of Monmouth, Bishop of St. Asaph, who finished his "History of the
Britons" about 1147. Geoffrey, as has been said, is not a real
historian, but something much more interesting. He introduced to the
world the story of King Arthur, which at once became the source and
centre of hundreds of French romances, in verse or prose, and of poetry
down to Tennyson and William Morris. To Geoffrey, or to later English
chroniclers who had read Geoffrey, Shakespeare owed the stories of
his plays, "Cymbeline" and "King Lear". Though Geoffrey did not write
in English but in Latin, he is one of the chief influences in the
literature, not only of England, but of Europe, mediaeval and modern.

All readers of the "Morte d'Arthur" of Sir Thomas Malory (about 1470),
and the "Idylls of the King," and William Morris's short poems about
Arthur and Guinevere, are naturally curious to know if ever there were
a real fighting Arthur, and to trace the sources of the countless
French and English romances about him and his Court. Where did Geoffrey
of Monmouth get his information about this island, from the days of the
fabulous Roman who settled it (Brut, or Brutus), to King Arthur's time?
We must look at what is known or reported about Arthur.

Bede, the historian, writing about 700-730, _says nothing about
Arthur_, but he does speak briefly about the period (500-516) in which
Arthur, if there were such a prince, must have existed. Bede takes
from the Welsh writer in Latin, Gildas (about 550) the fact that,
up to the date of the siege of Badon Hill (516), forty-four years
after the Anglo-Saxons came into Britain, "the British (Welsh) had
considerable successes under Ambrosius Aurelianus," perhaps the last of
the Romans. "_But more of this later_," says Bede, who never returns
to the subject. He may have expected to get more information, and that
information might have included some account of Arthur, of whom Gildas
makes no mention. Bede says nothing of the fable of Brut, which may not
have been invented in his time, or, if known to him, was regarded by
him as fabulous. Next we have a book attributed to the Welsh Nennius, a
"History of the Britons," which is really a patchwork of several older
records, and there is the "Annales Cambriæ," annals of Wales. Nennius
(about 800?) makes Arthur ("the war-leader" _not the king_) win twelve
great battles, ending with Badon Hill.

The names of the battles are given, the first is on the river Glein.
Now one Glein is in Northumberland, the other in Ayrshire. Four battles
are "on the Douglas water in the country called Linnuis"; if "Linnuis"
is the Lennox, there are two Douglas waters there, which fall into Loch
Lomond, between them is _Ben Arthur._ The sixth battle was "by the
river Bassas," a "Bass" being a hill shaped like an artificial mound,
for example the isle called "the Bass" in the Firth of Forth. There are
two Basses on the river Carron, in Stirlingshire, and here may have
been the sixth battle. The seventh was "Cat Coit Celidon," "the battle
(_cat_) of the wood of Celyddon," that is Ettrick Forest, perhaps the
fight was on the upper Tweed. The eighth battle is thought to have been
waged at Wedale, in the strath of Gala water, a tributary of Tweed,
which it reaches at Galashiels; the ninth at Dumbarton, which means
"the castle of the Britons"; the tenth near Stirling, where a very late
writer says that Arthur kept the Round Table; the eleventh at "Agned
Hill"; that is Mynyd Agned--Edinburgh Castle rock; and the twelfth was
"the siege of Badon Hill," perhaps a hill on the Avon, near Linlithgow,
which has remains of strong fortifications, and is called "the Buden
Hill," or "Bouden Hill". (It is not easy, however, to see how the _a_
in Badon became the _u_ in Buden.) Finally the great battle of Camlon,
where Arthur fell, is taken to be at a place long called Camelon on the
Carron, in Stirlingshire, where Arthur met Saxons, Picts, and Scots,
under Medraut, (Modred), son of Llew, or Lothus, to whom Arthur had
granted Lothian. On the other side of the river was an ancient building
called, as far back as 1293, "Arthur's Oven"; it was destroyed by a
laird at the end of the eighteenth century.

If all these conclusions, drawn by Mr. Skene from legends, Nennius, and
place-names, be correct, Arthur was a real war-leader, fighting for
the Britons, that is the Welsh of Strathclyde, whose country stretched
from Dumbarton down through Cumberland. Even Geoffrey of Monmouth makes
Arthur fight between Loch Lomond and Edinburgh, and give Lothian to
King Lot, that is Llew, whose son, Medraut (Modred), turns traitor to
Arthur. Bede places the battles at a time when the Picts had made an
alliance with the Saxons, and these two peoples were in contact with
each other not down in Cornwall, where later writers place "the last
battle in the west," but exactly where Arthur seems to have fought,
in the fighting place of Edward I and the Scots--from Carlisle to
Dumbarton and Falkirk, and in Ettrick Forest and round Edinburgh, a
region where several hills bear Arthur's name.

We need not, then, give up Arthur as a fabulous being, though legends
far older than himself came to be told about him. In the oldest Welsh
poems that survive he is mentioned among scores of other old heroes,
now forgotten, and is always named as a great war-leader, "Emperor and
conductor of the toil".

One mention is important. In a long Welsh poem on the graves of many
heroes now forgotten, we read:--

    The grave of March, the grave of Gwythar,
    The grave of Gwgwan Gleddyvrudd,
    _A mystery to the world_, _the grave of Arthur._
    (_Or_ "not wise to ask where is the grave of Arthur.")

Thus it appears that, even in very early Welsh poetry, the Grave of
Arthur (like that of James IV, slain at Flodden), was unknown; hence
he was believed, like King James, not to be dead; he was in "the island
valley of Avilion," and would come again to help his people, when he
was healed of his grievous wound.

Several of his companions in the later French and English romances,
such as Geraint, Kay, and Bedivere, were also known to these very early
Welsh poets. Moreover, there exist in the Welsh "Mabinogion" ("Tales
for the Young"), very ancient stories of Arthur which do not resemble
the ordinary later romances about him, but are infinitely older and
more poetical: such are "Kulhwch and Olwen" and "The Dream of Rhonabwy".

Probably about 1066 there were many tales of Arthur surviving in
Brittany, a Brython (Welsh) country from which the exiled prince of
South Wales returned home in 1077. If he brought these tales back
and if the Welsh poets took them up, there would be plenty of Welsh
Arthurian literature between 1077 and 1140, or thereabouts, when
Geoffrey of Monmouth produced his "History of the Britons". He says
that he has had the advantage of using a book in the Breton tongue,
which Walter, Archdeacon of Oxford, brought out of Brittany; this book
he translates into Latin.

No such book can be found. It is probable that Geoffrey used Welsh and
Breton traditions, and the patchwork book, parts of it very early,
called the "History of the Britons," attributed to Nennius (about 796).
In this we have a mixture of the real fighting Arthur of about 520,
and the fabulous Arthur, a wonderful, powerful being, like all the old
heroes of fable, who goes down to the mysterious land of darkness, like
Odysseus and the Finnish Waïnamoïnen.

The patchwork book of Nennius derives the name of Britain from that
person of pure fantasy, "Brut," "Brutus," great-grandson of Æneas; who
sailed to the Isle of Albion. Now "Brut" was invented merely to explain
the name "Britain," and to connect the Britons, or Welsh, with the
Trojans. In the same way the Scots had framed false histories of their
ancestress Scota, who came from Scythia to Ireland, by way of Egypt,
Athens, and Spain.

All these legendary and fictitious materials, and others, were used by
Geoffrey in what he called a "History"; and his "History," in spite of
criticism, became the most popular book of the age. He begins with
the flight of Æneas from Troy, and the flight of the great-grandson
of Æneas, Brutus, to the Isle of Albion, "inhabited by none but a
few giants". Brut builds New Troy (London) on the Thames, and so the
romance runs on, a mere novel of adventures, those of Shakespeare's
"King Lear" and "Cymbeline," for example, mixed up with history from
Bede, till we come to Merlin the Enchanter, and Uther Pendragon, and
the mysterious birth of Arthur, who is crowned king, and slays 900
Saxons with his own sword in one battle, conquers all Northern Europe
and France, and defeats the Romans, all of which is sheer mediaeval
fable. At home, in a great fight ("the battle of Camlan" it is called
in older books than Geoffrey's) he kills Modred, and is carried to the
Isle of Avallon or Avilion, to be healed of his wounds.

Geoffrey ends by requesting historians, his contemporaries, such as
William of Malmesbury, "to be silent concerning the "History of the
Britons," since they have not that book written in the British tongue,
which Walter, Archdeacon of Oxford, brought out of Brittany". This is
mere open banter. Geoffrey was not likely to show them that book!

Even in the old Welsh tale of the great boar-hunt, a story far earlier
than Geoffrey's time, Arthur is surrounded by many fabulous heroes,
really characters of fairy-tale, like them who followed Jason in the
search for the Fleece of Gold. All of them can do miraculous feats,
like the heroes of "the dream-time," "the dark backward" of unknown
ages. These companions of Arthur become, at least some of them do, the
Knights of the Round Table in the later romances, but we do not yet
hear of Launcelot, or of the Holy Grail.

From Geoffrey's book come the French poetical and adorned version
of Wace (1155), many French romances, and finally a vast throng of
chivalrous and romantic fancies cluster round the great name of Arthur.
Geoffrey's was a book that gave delight to every one, ladies as well
as men, for in the marriage of the traitor Modred with Guinevere the
wife of Arthur, and in Arthur's revenge, was the germ of a world
of romances. The conquest, too, by Arthur, of Gaul and Aquitaine,
inspired, and, to their minds, gave an historical excuse for the
ambition of English kings to recover these old dominions of Britain.
Caxton, our first printer, long afterwards wrote that not to believe in
Arthur was almost atheism.

Geoffrey also translated into Latin out of Welsh the prophecies
attributed to the enchanter Merlin. If they had any meaning in Welsh,
in Latin they have none. Hotspur, in Shakespeare's "Henry IV," is weary
of Owen Glendower's talk

    Of the dreamer Merlin and his prophecies,
    And of a dragon and a finless fish,
    A clip-wing'd griffin and a moulten raven,
    A couching lion, and a ramping cat,
    And such a deal of skimble-skamble stuff.

Nevertheless, three centuries after Geoffrey wrote, men who thought
themselves wise and learned believed that not only Merlin but Bede were
true prophets, who foretold the victories of Joan of Arc (1429).

It must be kept in mind that Geoffrey says nothing about these great
characters in later Arthurian romances, Launcelot, Galahad, Tristram
and Iseult, and nothing about the mysterious Holy Grail, and the Quest
of the Grail. How and whence these parts of the Arthurian legend arose,
how much of them comes from ancient Celtic legend, how much from the
invention of French romancers, is still a mystery. Geoffrey, however,
made Arthur, Merlin, Guinevere, and Modred familiar to all his readers.
All Englishmen were proud of Arthur of Britain, though, of course; in
his life he was the deadly foe of the English.



Thanks to Geoffrey, at last, some time about 1200-1220, came an English
poet, Layamon, a true poet (now and then), whose work reminds us
occasionally at once of the Greeks whom he had never read, of masters
whom he did not know; and of the things most romantic in the verses of
the last great poet of England. Layamon, the author of "The Brut," had
no ambition; he had no hope of gain; the king and the courtiers would
never hear of him.

Layamon was an English priest in a quiet country parish, not far from
the Welsh Border, at Ernley, near Radestone, on the Severn, as he tells
us. Yet the new French culture had reached him and inspired him; he
gave it to Englishmen in their own English language and he is therefore
readable: is more than a mere name. It "came into his mind" to tell
the history of England, in verse, and he says that he travelled far
to get the books of Bede (in Anglo-Saxon), "the fair Austin and St.
Albin," in Latin, and the book made in French by a French clerk, Master
Wace, "who well could write". "Lovingly he beheld these books," but, in
fact, he only used one of them, namely Wace's _French_ version (1155)
of Geoffrey of Monmouth's romance. Wace had altered Geoffrey as he
pleased, and Layamon took the same liberty with Wace; his book is twice
as long as that of the French clerk; he also inserted many things not
to be found in the text of Wace as now printed, but derived partly from
still unprinted manuscripts of Wace, partly from other sources; perhaps
from Welsh legends known to this priest who dwelt beside the Severn.
Wace added to Geoffrey's account of Arthur, the story wherever he found
it, of "The Table Round," so shaped that the knights could not quarrel
about the highest place. Layamon adds that the Fairy ladies came to
Arthur's birth--as in a very old belief, found in ancient Greece and
ancient Egypt--and that they later carried him away to Avalon, there to
be healed of his wounds.

He calls the fairy Queen "Argante," possibly a French corruption of
a Breton name. His account of the birth of the enchanter Merlin, "No
man's son," is romance itself. Merlin's mother, who had become a nun,
knew not who was her child's father, only that in her dreams there came
to her "the fairest thing that ever was born, as it were a tall knight,
all dight in gold. This thing glided before me and glistened with gold.
Oft me it kissed, and oft embraced."

What can be more romantic than this tale of the golden shadow of love
that glides through the darkling bower--told by a nun with bowed head,
shamefast! We are reminded of the lines in which Io, in Æschylus, tells
of the shadowy approaches of Zeus, the king of gods; and the voice that
spoke to her in dreams.

The Greeks had another such tale of the gold that fell in the tower of
Danaë before the birth of Perseus. The origin of Layamon's story may be
in some ancient Celtic myth of the loves of gods and mortal women, and
of Merlin, son of a god.

From his shadowy nameless father, Merlin received his gift of prophecy,
and, from the first, foretold the Passing of Arthur.

In Layamon's poem we find what does not occur in the older Anglo-Saxon
poems, such as "Beowulf," the use of similes in the manner of Homer,
whose warriors charge like lions, hungry, and beaten on by wind and
snow. Thus, too, in Layamon's verse,

"Up caught Arthur his shield, before his breast, and he 'gan to rush as
doth the howling wolf when he cometh from the wood, flecked with snow,
and thinketh to seize what beasts he will."

Arthur defeats the Saxons, and drives them from the ford of the river,
through the deep marshland,

"And as the wild crane in the fen, when the falcons follow him through
air, and he wearies in his flight, but the hounds meet him in the
reeds; as _he_ can find no safety whether in field or flood, even so
the Saxons were smitten in ford and field, and went blindly wandering."

These similes give clear, vivid pictures of life in fen and forest, and
enliven the poem in the true epic way, and Layamon gives, perhaps, the
first English picture of an English fox-hunt. In his poem, Guinevere
does not love Launcelot, but the traitor Modred, and when Modred is
defeated by her husband, Arthur, she flies to Caerleon, where "she
hooded her and made her a nun," and her end is unknown.

In the last great battle in the west, both hosts fall--it is a field
of the dead and dying. Arthur bears fifteen wounds. He is alone with
Constantine, to whom he entrusts his kingdom. "But I will pass to
Avalun, to the fairest of all maidens, to Argante the Queen, an elf
most beautiful, and she shall make my wounds all whole with draughts of
healing. And afterwards I will come again to my kingdom....

"Then came floating from the sea a little boat, and two women therein,
shaped wonderfully; and they took Arthur anon, and bore him to that
boat, and laid him softly down, and went their way. Bretons believe
that he liveth yet, and wonneth in Avalun, with the fairest Queens of

Do we not already seem to hear the voice of Tennyson's weeping queens,
as the king floats into the night?

Romance has come to England, and from the mingling of races and
tongues--Celtic, French, English--an English poet has been born: a man
who sees with the eyes of imagination, and who can make us share his
visions of the golden shadow that was father of Merlin; of the wolf
with the snow caked on his matted hide as he rushes from the wood; of
the hawking party in the fens; of the battle by the tidal waters of the

Layamon is full of promise of good things to come, as in his
description of Goneril and her husband, when she begins to grudge to
her father, King Lear, the expensive service of his forty knights;
while her husband feebly opposes her unnatural avarice. (The story
of Lear is also in Geoffrey of Monmouth, and is based on a common

Again, when Layamon's Arthur laughs over the slain Colgrem, "...Lie
there, now, Colgrem; high hadst thou climbed this hill, as if thou
wouldst win heaven, now shalt thou fare to hell, and there find thy
kinsfolk,..." we are carried back to the boasts over the dead that
Greeks and Trojans utter in the Iliad. But these great touches are rare
in the 30,000 lines of Layamon, the mass of his poem "is blank enough".

Layamon thought himself a chronicler in rhyme, a historian; in his book
he has many tales, not that of Arthur alone; he has dull passages in
plenty, none the less the good priest had many qualities of the great

The verse of Layamon is sometimes of the old Anglo-Saxon sort already
described, with alliteration and without rhyme; and in other parts
consists of rhyming couplets varying in length, all intermixed. A
rhyming couplet is

    _Thet avere either other_
    _luvede alse if brother_.

    That ever either other
    Loved as if brother.

In the words the tendency is to drop the old inflections, the language
is shaking off its original grammar and approaching modern English. In
the later of two manuscripts of the poem this tendency is much more
strong. Thus the older manuscript has

    He wes a swithe aehte gume
    And he streonde (begat) threo _snelle_ sunen.

The later copy has

    He was a strong gome
    And he streonede threo sones.

The word "snell" in the older version still survives in Scots,

    "There cam a wind out o' the East
       A sharp wind and a _snell_,"

_snell_ meaning "keen".


Layamon was too great a poet to mingle sermons with his song. The
pulpit was his preaching place, he scarcely ever preaches in his poem.
On the other hand the worthy brother Ormin or Orm did nothing but
preach in his versified book "The Ormulum". He was an Augustinian canon
of the North Midlands who, about 1200, paraphrased the Gospels read on
each day, and the homily which followed, often drawn from Bede (for
Orm was not an advanced theologian), in a kind of blank verse. Nothing
could be more simply edifying to plain congregations, but edification
is not the aim of literature. Orm is best known for his determination
to have English properly pronounced. A vowel, in English is, and
was, sounded short before two consonants, and Orm was bent on making
the reader pronounce the vowels thus and not otherwise. He therefore
_wrote_ the two consonants after every short vowel, and explained
himself thus, the lines also give the metre of his verses:--

    And whase wilenn shall thiss hoc
        Efft others sithe writenn
    Him bidde Icc thatt het write rihht
        Swa summ thiss hoc him teachethh....
    And tatt he loke wel thatt he
        An bocstaff write twiyess
    Eyywhaer thaes itt upo thiss boc
        Iss written o thatt wise.

By using some Scots words we may translate this in the original metre.

    And whasae willen shall this book
        Another time be writing
    Him do I bid that he write richt
        Even as this book him teacheth.
    And that he do look well that he
        Ane letter writeth twice
    Aye there where it upon this book
        Is written in that wise.

The metre is very like that of the Scottish rhymed version of the
Psalms, though Orm (as in the second verse above) only uses rhyme by
accident. The "Ormulum" is not to be "read for human pleasure," though
it is interesting to students of the language and versification while
in a state of transition.

The same may be said of a number of works in prose or verse which are
to be found by students in editions published by learned societies. It
is necessary to say something of them, because it is a kind of duty
to be aware of their existence, though few but specialists can be
enthusiastic over their merits, save in one or two cases. They show
how the language and the modes of versifying were going forward, and
becoming such as a great poet like Chaucer could improve; or, on the
other hand; language and verse were going backwards, deserting rhyme
and depending (as in Anglo-Saxon) on alliteration, or alliteration
mixed with rhyme.

Ancren Riwle.

Among the works of this period which were useful or pleasant in their
day, the longest book in prose is the "Ancren Riwle," or "Rule of
Anchoresses," ladies who were not exactly female solitaries, but lived
together religiously, each with her maid. The author, whoever he may
have been, bids them say, if any one inquires, that they are "of the
Order of St. James". There was no such Order, but St. James bids us
visit the widow and the orphan, and keep ourselves unspotted from
the world. _This_, says he, is true religion. The three ladies dwelt
together at Tarente in Dorset. The language is of the same period as
Layamon's "Brut," very early in the thirteenth century. The style
is simple and free from decoration, the dialect is that of western
England. The advice to the ladies is excellently pious; no severe
austerities are recommended, except silence at meals. An anchoress
"should not speak with any man often or long," and should have a
witness (probably out of ear-shot), even when she confesses, since
"the innocent are often belied for want of a witness". Flirting, and
belief in luck and in dreams and witchcraft, are severely reprobated.
Scepticism is attributed to intellectual pride. "Wear no iron" (James
IV wore an iron girdle under his clothes), "nor hair cloth, nor
hedgehog skins"; the ladies are not to flog themselves, unless their
confessor permits, and their shoes are to be thick and warm. The author
remarks that, God knows, he would rather set out on a voyage to Rome
than write his book over again: he may have feared that the ladies
would lose their copy.

Other religious books of the time are the "Poema Morale," in lines of
fourteen syllables ending in a double rhyme, as _lorè, morè, deedè,
redè_, and a new metrical paraphrase of Genesis and Exodus. The story
is told with some vivacity, in rhyming couplets of eight syllables.

    The drempte pharaoh king a drem
    That he stod by the flodes strem
    And the then ut come VII neat
    Everile wel swithe fet and gret,
    And VII lene after the.

In places the metre of Coleridge's "Christabel," which was the model
of Scott's "Lay of the Last Minstrel," is recognized in the casual
couplets, thus:--

    For sextenè yer Joseph was old
    Quane he was into Egypte sold.

But it is a far cry from this to

    The feast was over in Branksome tower;

and the metre, when Scott's "Lay" appeared, seemed to be a novelty.

The Owl and the Nightingale.

in rhyming eight-syllable couplets, seems to have been written about
1250 (?). The theme is a _debate_, in the fashion of French poetry,
between the owl and the nightingale, as to the comparative merit of
their songs. The nightingale, deserting her art, rather feebly asserts
the moral influence of her own music, and attacks the owl in a very
personal strain of invective, reflecting on his want of good looks,
and on his taste in food. We are far indeed from Keats's "Ode to
the Nightingale", "If you are so great a teacher," replied the owl,
"why do you not sing to men in Ireland, Norway, and Galloway?" La
Fontaine might have made a witty poem on the dispute of the owl and the
nightingale, but the poet was not a wit, and made a poor use of his
opportunities. He is supposed, but not with certainty, to have been
Nicholas of Guildford, who is credited with being neglected by the
Bishop in the distribution of patronage.

The owl quotes the "Proverbs of King Alfred," of which there is a
thirteenth century collection in rhyme; there are also the "Proverbs
of Hendyng": the latter in stanzas of six lines each, the first two
rhyming with each other, as do the last two, while the third line
rhymes with the sixth: a very popular jingle.


Far more interesting than these things, whether moral or religious,
are the rhyming songs, the voice of the English people, laymen, not
priests, the love lyrics (1300?), for example, one on Alison, beginning

    Bytuene Mershe ant Averil
        When spray biginneth to springe,
    The lutel fowl hath hire wyll
        On hyre lud to synge,

each stanza ending

    From alle wymen mi loue is lent
        Ant lyht on Alisoun.

This is the first sweet English love-song that has escaped the ruins of
time. Everyone knows by heart

    Sumer is icumen in;


    Blow, northerne wynd,
    Send thou me my suetyng,

reminds us of

    O gentle wind that bloweth south
        From where my love repaireth.

There were all the sounds and scents of spring in the hearts and songs
of the poets:--

    Lenten is come with love to toune,
    With blosmen ant with briddes roune,
        That all this blisse bryngeth.

This metre came to be used in telling stories in verse, a purpose
for which it is not well fitted. But truly English poetry, with rich
re-echoing rhymes and many forms of verse, is awake at last.

Political Songs..

To politics as well as to love and the delights of spring the Muse
of the people was alive. The popular hatred of Richard of Cornwall,
brother of Henry III, expressed itself thus after the battle of Lewes
(1264). The English is here but slightly modernized:--

    Be thou lief, be thou loth, Sir Edward,
    Thou shalt ride spurless on thy lyard
    All the right way to Doverward
    Shalt thou never more break forward,
    Edward, thou did'st as a shreward,
    Forsook thine uncle's lore,
    Richard, though thou be ever trichard
    Trick shalt thou never more.

(A lyard is a grey, spoken of a horse,

    The Dinlay snaws were ne'er so white
    As the lyart locks o' Harden's hair,

says the ballad of "Jamie Telfer".)

The English view of Wallace, the patriot knight of Scotland, cruelly
executed, is thus set forth:--

    To warn all the gentlemen that be in Scotland
    The Wallace was drawn, thereafter hanged,
    Beheaded alive, his bowels burned,
    The head to London Bridge was sent,
                       To abide
    After Simon Frysel,
    That was traitor and fickle
           And known full wide.

(Frysel or Fraser; a later Simon Fraser, Lord Lovat of 1745, was
traitor and fickle enough.)

Robert of Gloucester.

By no means so lively, though useful in its day, is the very long
metrical chronicle (about 1300) of Robert of Gloucester, whether it
be by two hands or by one. One, at least, named Robert, was living at
the dates of a great Oxford town and gown row, which he describes, and
of the battle of Evesham (1265). He was fortunately not nearer than
a distance of thirty miles from that stricken field, and records his
own fear of a dense darkness which prevented the monks from reading
service in church. Robert dwelt in Gloucester, as his minute local
allusions prove. He began his chronicle by versifying the fabulous work
of Geoffrey of Monmouth, but put into it not a glimmer of the poetry of
Layamon. For the rest, till he reached his own time, he copied Henry of
Huntingdon, William of Malmesbury, and "Lives of the Saints".

Robert's learned modern editor, Mr. Aldis Wright, outworn by all the
tediousness which the poet bestows on us, says "as literature, the book
is as worthless as twelve thousand lines of verse without one spark of
poetry can be". But Robert's praises of England, "a wel god loud," and
of English folk, so clean and handsome, have a sound spontaneous note
of patriotism, and there is a swing in what Mr. Wright cruelly styles
his "doggerel verse in ballad metre," which is not to be despised. To
be sure he has, without knowing it, several different sorts of verse,
and is nearly as irregular as Layamon himself, in his measures. His
readers would not be offended by these defects, and they learned from
him, with a great deal of inaccurate history, a sense of pride in their
country, and to speak English, though the nobles and gentry, he says,
spoke French.

  Cursor Mundi.

  A book in verse about twice as long as the lengthy
  world-chronicle of Robert is the "Cursor Mundi," "the Over-Runner
  of the World". The author, like the makers of many pretty lyrics
  on religious subjects, perceived that people preferred songs to
  sermons, and romance to homilies. To modernize his language

    Men yearn jests to hear
    And romances read in divers mannere.

  He gives the themes of the romances, "Matter of Rome"--which
  includes all antiquity, Troy, and Greece as well as Rome--"Matter
  of Britain," the stories of Arthur and his Knights--and "Matter
  of France," concerning Charlemagne, and his Twelve Peers. Nothing
  is in fashion but love and lovers: but this poet will sing of Her
  whose love never fails, namely Our Lady. He begins before Satan
  and his angels fell, and goes on endlessly, yet, to his readers,
  perhaps not tediously, for he enlivens the Biblical narrative
  with legends to the full as fantastic as could be found in any
  romance. There is the story of how Moses found, through a dream,
  three wands that grew from three pips placed under Adam's tongue.
  David, through another dream, found these wands in the grave of
  Moses, which, like that of Arthur, "is a mystery to the world".
  The wands turned ugly black Saracens into handsome white men:
  the branches grew into a tree, and round that tree were thirty
  circles of silver. The wood was made into the True Cross, and
  Judas received the thirty pieces of silver. The most absurd tales
  are told of the boyhood, by no means exemplary, of our Lord,
  variegated by miracles not wholly beneficent.

  Thus the "Cursor Mundi" may have been found amusing enough in
  its day, when the ceaseless octosyllabic rhyming couplets were
  not reckoned tedious (they are sometimes varied), and adventures
  wholly unknown to the authors of the Gospels occur in every page.

  Devotional Books.

  Books more purely devotional are "The Ayenbite of Inwyt" ("The
  Biting of Conscience") and "The Pricke of Conscience". The
  former states itself to be written "in English of Kent," by "dan
  Michelis of Northgate," and to be in the library of St. Austin's
  of Canterbury. The author, or rather translator from a French
  book of 1274, finished his writing in 1340. The author of "The
  Ayenbite" classifies sins and virtues in the allegorical manner:
  his moral advice, for example, as to the duty of giving alms
  promptly, gladly, and without the discourtesies with which too
  many accompany them, is excellent. But nothing, he says, is to be
  given to minstrels, he "calls their harmless art a crime". The
  dialect is uncouth and rather difficult.

  "The Pricke of Conscience" is in octosyllabic rhyming couplets,
  about 10,000 lines in all, and is the work of a singular person,
  Richard Rolle, who, after being a wandering hermit, settled at
  Hampole, and died in 1349. A Latin biographer of Richard states
  that he was born at Thornton in the diocese of York, was well
  educated by the care of his parents, was sent to Oxford by
  Thomas Neville, Archdeacon of Durham, and made good progress
  in his studies, especially in theology. In his nineteenth year
  he left the temptations of Oxford, went home, and turned two
  dresses of his sister's, one white, one gray, into what he
  thought the appropriate costume of a hermit, covering his head
  with his father's rain-hood. His sister fled from before him,
  thinking him insane: he took Lady Dalton's seat in church, was
  allowed to preach a sermon, and was kindly received by the
  lady's husband, Sir John. In a cell provided by the knight he
  had unspeakable raptures, and felt as if he were being burned by
  a physical fire, which proved to be that of Divine love. Some
  ladies found him writing at a great pace, while he simultaneously
  discoursed to them for two hours. It seems to follow that either
  his writing or his preaching was "automatic". He wrought some
  miracles of healing, and he must have written rapidly indeed if
  he produced all the works attributed to him, His prose treatises
  of religion are as fervent as the Letters of Samuel Rutherford,
  the Covenanter: his anecdotes of his own temptation by the
  phantasm of "a full, fair young woman" who loved him dearly; and
  of a repentant scholar, who wrote out a list of his own sins
  which vanished from the paper, are interesting. He allows that
  the brains of eagerly pious people sometimes "turn in their
  heads," thereby causing empty hallucinations, and the hearing
  of wonderful songs that are merely subjective impressions. This
  strange being, with the ardour of Crashaw, had something of
  Crashaw's poetic fire.


  The verses of Laurence Minot, celebrating events from 1333 to
  1352 are of almost no literary merit. The Muse of Laurence is
  the patriotic; he crows, for example, over the defeat of the
  Scots by English archers at Halidon Hill, in 1333, but he merely
  babbles in the vague, and does not give a single detail as to the
  fighting. When he promises to tell of the battle of Bannockburn,
  in place of doing that he glories in the recovery of Berwick by
  Edward III.

  The best praise we can give him is that he loved to celebrate the
  victories of his countrymen; and had at his command many metres
  that were ready for some better poet to use. It must also be
  admitted that there are very few successes in our British essays
  in patriotic poetry, and that an enemy of the Scots, as Minot
  was, may be not impartially judged by a critic of that race.



When romance "is in," and, after Geoffrey of Monmouth, romance _was_
in, every other kind of literature "is out"; is unfashionable and
little regarded. The English rhyming chroniclers, and even religious
writers such as the author of the "Cursor Mundi," felt constrained to
make their works resemble fiction as nearly as possible; owing to the
supremacy of French romances and English translations and adaptations
of French romances, in the late twelfth, thirteenth, and fourteenth

Many of these productions grouped themselves round the Table of King
Arthur, "matter of Britain"; others dealt with "matter of Rome," that
is all the ancient world; others with "matter of France"; others
with legends or fancies, English or foreign. Their subject was often
the chivalrous theory and practice of love, as a kind of religion, a
fantastic semi-idealized devotion to the beloved, who, as a rule, was
another man's wife. This breach of recognized religion and morality was
often set down to fate, to the power that the Anglo-Saxons named _Wyrd._

The two greatest cycles of romantic love are found in the lives of
Tristram and Iseult (the wife of King Mark of Cornwall, and aunt by
marriage of Tristram), and of Lancelot and Guinevere, the wife of King
Arthur. Tristram (whose name seems to be altered from the Welsh name
Drysdan), has but little original connexion with the Court of Arthur,
though he is a mythical hero of a very old Welsh "triad". He and Iseult
love each other because they have by mischance drunk together of a
love potion intended for Mark and his wife; their love is fatal and
inevitable, and immortal.

Lancelot, on the other hand, has been sent to bring the bride
Guinevere to Arthur, and they fall in love before the lady has seen
her lord. Every one knows their joys and sorrows, from Malory's "Morte
d'Arthur," (1470)--a prose selection and compilation of "the French
books," which excels them and supersedes them--and from the poems of
Tennyson, Matthew Arnold, and Mr. Swinburne.

The romances of love and tournament are pervaded and darkened by the
influence of the Celtic Merlin, the enchanter and prophet whom men call
Devil's son; he represents Destiny. A wide circle of romances, "Merlin"
and the "Suite de Merlin," attributed to Robert de Borron, at the end
of the twelfth century, are concerned with him.

As if to counteract the fanaticism of love which, in the romances,
becomes a non-moral counter-religion, the mysterious story of the Holy
Grail came into literature, French, German, and English. The Grail is
perhaps originally one of the many magical things of Celtic legend,
a vessel as rich in food inexhaustible as the purse of Fortunatus in
gold, but conceived by the romance writers to be a mystic dish or cup,
used by our Lord before His passion, and still existing, but only to be
seen by the pure of heart, such as Sir Percival, and Sir Galahad, the
maiden son of Lancelot.

By accident or design the romances fall into a tragic sequence: the
youth of Arthur, and his unconscious sin; the mysterious birth of
Merlin; the fatal loves of Lancelot and Guinevere; the coming of the
Grail and the search for the Grail by many knights; the failure of
all but Galahad and Percival; the falling of Lancelot and Guinevere
to their old love again; and the sorrows and treacheries that precede
and lead up to the king's last battle in the west, and his passing to

France and Ireland, like England, have their own romances on the
adventures of knights under the feudal sway of a chief king; in France,
Charlemagne; in Ireland, Conchobar or Fionn; in England, Arthur, and
in all these cases the king becomes much less interesting than his
knights, such as Roland and Oliver in France; Cuchulain and Diarmaid
in Ireland; Lancelot, Tristram, Gawain, and Percival in England.
Yet Arthur, at first and at the last, is the supreme as well as the
central figure in the epic, or cycle, of romances. These are a great
treasury of brilliant imaginations, rising from Celtic traditions of
unknown antiquity, and then transfigured, first by the chivalrous
counter-religion of love; next by the reaction to celibacy, and the
yearning after some visible and tangible Christian relic and sign, "the
vision of the Holy Grail". From this hoard of mediaeval fancies later
poets have taken what they could, have placed the jewels in settings of
their own fashioning.

The romance writers were by no means restricted to "matter of Britain,"
with Celtic traditions; or to "matter of France," the epics of
Charlemagne and his peers, or even to "matter of Rome," ranging through
all antiquity. Material came in from popular tales of all countries,
and from recent historical events, as in the romance of Richard Cœur
de Lion. In the fifteenth century there was a romance of Jeanne d'Arc,
as fantastic as any; the matter of it survives partly in the prose of
the "Chronique de Lorraine," and has drifted into "Henry VI," Pt. I. In
France the most famous and fashionable novelists of the late twelfth
century were Chrétien de Troyes and Benoît de Ste.-Maure, author of
the great romance of Troy, whose manner, long-winded and elaborately
courtly, was strangely revived by the French romancers of the years
preceding Molière.


The earliest English romances, or novels of chivalrous adventures, are
couched in metre. Among the first is "Sir Tristrem" (usually spelled
Tristram); certainly this has been the most popular in modern times.
Sir Walter Scott edited it, from the copy in the Auchinleck Manuscript
(a collection of early poems once in the possession of Boswell of
Auchinleck, father of Dr. Johnson's Boswell).[1]

Sir Walter was persuaded that "Sir Tristrem" was written from local
Celtic tradition, by the famed Thomas of Ercildoune, called the
Rhymer. Thomas, who dwelt at Ercildoune (Earlstone on Leader water),
was a neighbour, as it were, of Scott at Abbotsford; he died between
1286 and 1299, and he had great though obviously accidental fame, as a

The poem on Tristram begins with the words,

                             I was at Erceldoune
                          With Thomas spake I there,
                       There heard I rede in roune
                          Who Tristram gat and bare,
    (that is, "I heard who the father and mother of Tristram were")
                       Who was King with croun;
                          And who him fostered yare;
                       And who was bold baroun.
                          As their elders ware,
                                Bi yere:--
                          Thomas tells in toun,
                       This auventours as thai ware.

The English poet uses this difficult stanza in place of the simple
rhymes of a French original which knew nothing of Ercildoune. In
similar stanzas, of French origin as usual, the whole romance is told.
Throughout "Tomas" is mentioned as the source of the story--"as Tomas
hath us taught".

There are fragments of an earlier French romance in which Tomas is
also quoted as the source, and an early German version, by Godfrey of
Strasbourg refers to Thomas of Britanie.

Scott was well aware that the story of Tristram was popular in France
long before the time of Thomas of Ercildoune, but he liked to believe
that Thomas collected Celtic traditions of Tristram from the people of
Leaderdale and Tweeddale, though they, by 1220-1290, were English in
blood and speech.

In the romance, Tristram is peerless in music, chess-playing, the fine
art of hunting, and of cutting up the deer; and his main virtue is
constancy to Iseult, wife of his uncle, King Mark. This unfortunate
prince is not the crafty avenger of his own wrongs, as in Malory's
"Morte d'Arthur," but a guileless, good-natured being, constantly and
ludicrously deceived. Iseult is treacherous and cruel, but everything
is forgiven to her, and, as the manuscript, is defective, we do not
know how the poet handled the close of the tale, the episode of the
other Iseult "of the white hands". Scott finished the tale in the
metre and language of the original. Tristram is dying in Brittany,
only Iseult of Cornwall can heal him, as only Œnone could heal Paris.
Tristram sends for her, the vessel is to carry white sails if it bears
her; black, if it does not. The idea is from the Greek saga of Theseus.
The second Iseult, wife of Tristram, falsely reports that the sails of
the vessel are black. Tristram dies, and Iseult of Cornwall falls dead
when she beholds him.

    "Swiche lovers als thei
    Neer shall be moe,"

concludes Sir Walter.


In "Havelok" we naturally expect, thinking of our historical hero
Havelock, to find a true English romance. The scene is partly in
England, the tale is of a Danish king's son kept out of his own by
one of the most fearsome guardians of romance (who chops up the
hero's little sisters), is saved by the thrall Grim, who was ordered
to murder him, and, after adventures as a kitchen lad, marries an
English princess who is in the hands of another usurper. The story
is truly English in sentiment and style. The poet curses Godard, the
murderous oppressor of Havelok, in a thoroughly satisfactory fashion.
The noble birth of the hero is recognized by the "battle-flame" of the
ancient Irish romances; the flame with which Athene crowns Achilles
in Homer shines round Havelok. This light warns Grim not to drown
Havelok, and teaches the oppressed lady whom he wins that her wooer
is no kitchen-knave but a prince in disguise. The story has abundance
of spirit, and may be read with more pleasure than the romance of the
perfidies of Iseult. It is written in no affected and entangled rhymes,
but in rhyming couplets.

King Horn.

In "King Horn" we have a novel that must have been reckoned most
satisfactory. The course of true love is interrupted by accidents which
caused the utmost anxiety to the readers, who probably looked at the
end to see "if she got him". "He" was Prince Horn, son of Murry, King
of Saddene; the realm is "by west," and is invaded by Saracens. They
spare Horn, for his beauty's sake, but launch him in a boat with his
friends, Athulf and Fikenhild; his land they overrun, and disestablish
the Church, being themselves professors of the Moslem religion. Horn
drifts to the shore of the realm of Westerness, under King Aylmar. Here
the king's daughter Rymenhild, falls in love with Horn, but cannot have
an opportunity of declaring her passion. In the romances the lady, as a
rule, begins the wooing. By Athelbrus, the steward, Athulf is brought
to her bower, apparently in the dark, for she addresses him as Horn.

    "Horn" quoth she, "well long
    I have thee loved strong."

Athulf undeceives her; Horn is brought, in the absence of King Aylmar:
Rymenhild again speaks the secret of her heart, and when Horn alludes
to their unequal ranks, she faints away--one of the earliest faints
executed by any heroine in English fiction. Horn kisses her into
consciousness, and she devises that he shall be knighted. The king
consents, giving him a ring which secures him from "dread of dunts,"
sends him to win glory. Horn at once kills a hundred Saracens. But
Fikenhild, his false friend, finds Horn consoling Rymenhild for a dream
of a great fish that burst her landing net. Fikenhild, in jealousy,
warns King Aylmar, who discovers Horn and his daughter embracing. Horn
is exiled, and bids Rymenhild wait seven years, and then marry if she
will. Like the daughter of "that Turk," in "The Loving Ballad of Lord
Bateman," she "takes a vow and keeps it strong".

At another court Horn, now styled Cutberd, not only slays giants, but
encounters and routs the very Saracens who had invaded his father's
dominions. The king of the country offers Horn his daughter and
realm: he, however, is true to his vow, but, at the end of seven
years, Rymenhild is betrothed to a king. She sends a boy to Horn with
a message. In returning with Horn's reply the boy is drowned; the
princess finds his dead body. Disguised as a palmer, like Ivanhoe,
Horn returns to Westerness, and, like Odysseus, sits on the ground at
the palace, as a beggar. Rymenhild does not recognize him, asks him
if he has met Horn, and is shown her own ring. Horn, she is told, is
dead. She had secreted a knife to kill her bridegroom, like the Bride
of Lammermoor. Then Horn reveals himself, the pair are wedded, but he
has still to recover his own kingdom. This he does, but Fikenhild has
carried off Rymenhild. Disguised as minstrels, Horn and his friends
surprise him in his new castle, and all ends happily.

"Horn" is a fair example, happily short, of the novels of the period,
which, in essence, are like all good novels that end well. Assonance
(rhyme of vowels but not of consonants) occurs in the verse:--

    He lokede on his rynge,
    And thogte on Rymenhilde.

It is not necessary to analyze the plots of all the romances: two or
three enable us to estimate the kind of fiction that was popular with
ladies in bower.

Beues of Hamtoun.

"Sir Beues of Hamtoun" is another English romance, concerning the son
of the Earl of Southampton and his wife, a princess of Scotland. The
Earl is old, and his bride proposes to the Kaiser to kill the Earl and
wed herself. The Emperor promptly invades England and cuts off the head
of the good Earl. The Scottish traitress orders the murder of her son,
Beues, but is deceived by her agent, and Beues knocks down the Kaiser.

The boy is sold and sent to Armenia, where he refuses to worship Apolyn
(Apollo). The pagan king has a fair daughter, Josian, who becomes the
mistress of Beues, while he has a conquered giant, Ascopart, for page.
After a thousand adventures, Beues and Josian, being true lovers, make
a good end, and die together. The English writer, prolix as he is, has
shortened his French original, in places, made additions in others, and
generally writes with freedom.

Guy of Warwick.

The same happy end, simultaneous death, rewards the hero and heroine
of "Guy of Warwick". The hero's unexplained forgetfulness of his lady,
Felice, is borrowed from the ancient popular tale in Scots, "The Black
Bull of Noroway," where the forgetfulness is explained. Many stock
incidents of the romances come from popular tales ("Märchen") of
unknown antiquity. Felice is a very learned and rather hard-hearted
maiden, and Guy, when in love, faints frequently. The romance contains
every kind of adventure with dragons, lions, and human foes, and as
much religion as devout damsels could desire, or even more, for Guy, in
a devout mood, deserts the learned Felice for a life of chastity and
military adventure. As usual he returns in the guise of a palmer.

Arthur and Merlin.

The "Arthour and Merlin," a rhymed romance of the old story, from the
Auchinleck manuscript, about 1320, has not the gleams of true poetry
that shine in Layamon's "Brut," and is verbose and incomplete--the
tragedy of Arthur is absent. We find, however, the story of how Arthur
won the sword Excalibur, thereby proving himself a true prince, for
no other man could pluck it from the stone into which it was driven.
King Lot (Llew, a historical personage apparently), could not draw
forth Excalibur. Sir Kay, one of Arthur's companions in the oldest
Welsh tales, appears, with Sir Gawain, whose character, as in the Welsh
romances, is far above that which he displays in the "Idylls of the
King"; Merlin continually exercises the art of glamour, appearing in
various forms, and Arthur loves Guinevere, but the poet wearied of his
toil long before the last battle in the west.

He professes that, as many gentlemen know not French, and as

    Right is that Inglische understand
    That was born in Inglond.

he sings in English of the glory of England, Arthur. The final
English-form of the great Arthurian tale may best be considered when we
arrive at the date of Sir Thomas Malory and Caxton. In Malory's "Morte
Arthur" the long dull wars of the king against the Anglo-Saxon invaders
are much compressed, while the epic, tragic, and mystic elements, the
great character of Lancelot, the mournful victory of the winning of the
Grail, and the end of all, are handled with genius.

The Tale of Troy.

The story of Troy had a hold on the mediaeval mind only less strong
than the story of Arthur. In early English, at the end of the
fourteenth century, we find the romance in _the revived Anglo-Saxon
alliterative form_; it is the "Geste Hystoriale" concerning the
Destruction of Troy, and the story is told once more in the rhyming
couplets of the "Troy Book". The manuscript of the "Troy Book" is
marked "Liber Guilielmi Laud, Archiepiscopi Cantuar et Cancellarii
Universitatis Oxon 1633". (The book of William Laud, Archbishop of
Canterbury and Chancellor of the University of Oxford.)

The author of the alliterative romance begins by saying that learned
men wrote the history in Latin, but that poets have corrupted it by
fables and partisanship. Homer, he says, was notoriously partial to
the Greeks; moreover, he introduced incredible gods fighting like men.
Ovid, on the other hand, was "honest"; Virgil was true to the rightful
cause, that of Troy; but the best authority is Gydo (Guido de Colonna).

Such was the nature of historical criticism as understood by the
mediaeval romancer. For love of lost causes, and, as descendants of the
Trojans through the Brut of mediaeval myth, the romancers detested the
Achæans, the conquering Greeks.

The Story of Troy from Homer to Shakespeare.

The history of the development of the "Tale of Troy," as Chaucer and
even as Shakespeare knew it, is very curious. Homer himself, perhaps
living about 1100-1000 B.C., tells, in the Iliad and Odyssey,
parts of the "Tale" as it was known to his own people, the conquering
Achæans, who were to the older dwellers in Greece what the Normans
were to the English. They finally melted into the older population,
who, about 800-700 B.C., wrote poems of their own about the
"Tale of Troy," altered the facts, and blackened the characters of
Homer's greatest heroes. Later, again, the great Athenian tragedians,
of the fifth century B.C., wrote dramas more on the lines of
the conquered population of Greece than on those of Homer, and they
still more deeply degraded some of the heroes of Homer. The Romans,
looking on themselves as descended from the Trojans, persevered in
the same course, and a Greek, after the Christian era, wrote a prose
version of the "Tale of Troy," pretending that it was a manuscript
by Dictys of Crete, who was a spectator of the Trojan war. A similar
prose book was attributed--to another spectator, Dares of Phrygia.
These books tell the story of Troilus and Cressida, of Palamedes, and
many other tales unknown to Homer. But, in Western Europe, Homer was
unread, and unknown in England till Chapman translated him: and all the
romancers about Troy--Lydgate, Chaucer, Caxton, and the rest, down to
Shakespeare,--depend on the false tales whose growth we have described.

Probably the first romancer who expanded the bald prose narratives of
Dares and Dictys, was Benoît de Sainte-Maure (1160) in a long French
rhyming poem. He unites the fates of Briseida (Briseis, daughter of
Calchas, the Greek priest who is made a Trojan), and Troilus, son of
King Priam. Briseida, through a confusion with Homer's "Chryseis,"
daughter of Chryses, the Phrygian priest of Apollo, later becomes the
"Cressid" of Chaucer and Shakespeare. Meanwhile "Gydo" or Guido de
Colonna, did the French of Benoît into Latin prose (1287) and Guido is
the source of the English authors of the alliterative and the rhyming
romances of Troy. The pedigree of the story is

        Benoît de Sainte-Maure
          Guido de Colonna
       The English Romances.

Through Caxton's printed "Book of Troy," the story continued popular, a
cheap edition appeared in the eighteenth century.

Each of Homer's poems, the Iliad and the Odyssey, deals but with the
adventures of a fortnight, or six weeks, but the mediaeval readers
wanted, and from the romancers received, the whole history of the ten
years' siege, and more, with Christian legends thrown in, with minute
descriptions of all the characters--Cassandra "gleyit a little," had a
slight cast of the eye like Mary Stuart. The heroes fight as mounted
knights, not in chariots; they use cross-bows as well as long-bows; and
Hector kills men by the thousand, with more than Irish exaggeration. As
Hector _must_ be killed, Achilles suddenly charges him in front, while
his shield is slung behind. Had a Trojan poet left an epic on the war
he would not have told the story otherwise. The poet of the Laud "Troy
Book" bids God curse Æneas as a traitor, forgetting, apparently, that
the British are descendants of Æneas.

King Alisaundre.

The history of Alexander with all manner of romantic and fabulous
additions, under the name "King Alisaundre," is in rhyming couplets
of eight syllables to each line; the couplets are often irregular, as
in Coleridge's "Christabel," and the story, like most of the English
romances of this period, is borrowed through the French, from a late
fabulous Greek work.

This kind of versified romance endured till Chaucer thought it
tiresome, and parodied it, in "Sir Thopas". These _rhyming_ English
romances, in various forms of verse, were made for ladies and
gentlemen who, already, were not able to read the more artistic and
elaborate French romances for themselves; but were very well able to
take pleasure in stories of true love and miraculous adventures. The
romances set a fashion which was continued in the endless heroic novels
in prose, French, and English, down to the end of the seventeenth
century. The Middle Ages had no taste for novels of ordinary life,
about people of their own time. These, in England, do not begin to
appear till the reign of Queen Elizabeth, and then nearly a century and
a half passed before they became really popular.

If much has been said about these old romances it is because they have
so powerfully impressed themselves on the fancy of all later English
poets, from Shakespeare and Milton, who dreamed of an epic on Arthur,
and delighted in the sonorous names of Arthur's knights, to Tennyson
and William Morris.

The romances, composed of fancies from so many sources and times,
Greek, Celtic, Roman, and French, and English, are like that Corinthian
bronze composed of gold and silver, copper and lead, all molten
together at the burning of Corinth. In this rich metal poets of later
times have moulded figures in their own fashion.

[1] Scott's edition of 1819 is the fourth, while other romances in
verse are to be read in the volumes of learned societies. No doubt
people bought the book for the interesting essays and notes of Sir
Walter; few of them would look at the old romance itself.



Though English poets, in the fourteenth century, had a full command
of rhyme, and of many forms, simple or complicated, of rhyming verse,
there began a return to the old Anglo-Saxon alliterative verse,
sometimes combined with rhyme. Chaucer, later, makes his parson say,

               I am a Southren man,
    I can nat geste--_rum, ram_, _ruf_--by lettre;
    Ne, God wot, rym holde I but litel bettre.

The parson's Opinion is his own, not that of Chaucer, who certainly
"liked rhyme," whether he liked alliterative rhythm or not.

Gawain and the Green Knight.

A famous and really amusing alliterative romance, with a rhymed close
to each passage, is "Gawain and the Green Knight". This tale is found
in a manuscript which also contains two devout poems, "Patience,"
and "Cleanness," with an elegy of remarkable merit, "The Pearl". All
four poems are attributed by several critics to the same author,
and some of the Scottish learned believe that author to have been a
very prolific and accomplished Scot. A few words may be said on this
question later, meanwhile "Gawain and the Green Knight" has the merit
of being readable. Though Gawain is best known in modern times through
Tennyson's "Idylls of the King," in the romance he was by no means
the "false, fleeting, perjured" knight of the great Laureate. In the
Welsh Triads and other early Welsh versions, he is one of the three
"golden-mouthed heroes," one of the three most courteous. He was the
eldest son of King Llew, Loth or Lot, a contemporary of Arthur, from
whom he received Lothian. In Geoffrey of Monmouth, Gawain appears as
Walwainus. The figure of Lancelot comes later, as we saw, into romance,
and Lancelot and Gawain then become foes. When Tristram (or Tristan)
was introduced into the circle of Arthur, later, the authors of the
Tristan (under Henry II and Henry III) had, for some reason, a bitter
spite against King Lot and all his family; and calumniated Gawain
on every occasion. This vein of detraction pervades Malory's "Morte
Arthur," where Tennyson, looking for a false fleeting knight, found the
Gawain of the "Idylls".

In "Gawain and the Green Knight," Arthur's friend displays great
courage, courtesy, tact, and chastity under severe temptations, while,
if he falls for a moment short of heroic virtue, he redeems his
character by frank confession. The story is too good to be spoiled by a
brief summary: grotesque as is the figure of the gigantic Green Knight,
who suffers no inconvenience from the loss of his head, the trials of
Gawain are most ingeniously invented, and he overcomes them like the
Flower of Chivalry. He is rewarded by the magical "green lace" which
may, it has been suggested, symbolize the Order of the Garter (about
1345), though the ribbon of the Garter is now dark blue.


In the manuscript volume containing "Gawain and the Green Knight,"
is the singular poem, "Pearl," which has been described as the "In
Memoriam" of the fourteenth century. It is, indeed, an elegy by one who
has lost a "Pearl," probably a Margaret, who dies before she is two
years old. The poet bewails his loss, and speaks, in a vision, with
his Pearl, concerning religion and the future life. The poem (edited,
paraphrased, and annotated by Mr. Gollancz) was praised by Tennyson as
"True pearl of our poetic prime".

"Pearl" is written in stanzas of twelve lines, with some resemblance
to the form of the Italian sonnet (in fourteen lines), with which the
author may have been familiar. The system of rhyming may be roughly
illustrated thus,

    Pearl that for princes' pleasure may
    Be cleanly closed in gold so clear,
    Out of the Orient dare I say,
    Never I proved her precious peer;
    So round, so rich, and in such array,
    So small, so smooth the sides of her were,
    Whenever I judged of jewels gay
    Shapeliest still was the sight of her.
    Alas, in an arbour I lost her here,
    Through grass to ground she passed, I wot,
    I dwine, forsaken of sweet love's cheer,
    Of my privy Pearl without a spot.

The same rhymes persevere through the first eight lines, as in a
sonnet, the rhyme of the second, fourth, sixth, and eighth lines
continues in the ninth and eleventh; a new rhyme appears in the tenth
and twelfth lines: and throughout there is much alliteration. In
stanzas 1 to 5, "pearl withouten spot" comes always as a "refrain" at
the close, and other refrains end each set of five or six stanzas, as
in the old French _ballade._ The form is thus difficult and highly
artificial, the making of the poem was, as Tennyson says, "the dull
mechanic exercise" to deaden the pain of the singer.

The poet, fallen on the grassy grave of the lost child, lies entranced,
but his spirit floats forth to a strange land of cliffs and woods,
where the leaves shine as burnished silver, and birds of strange hues
float and sing. He comes to a river crystal-clear, whose pearls glow
like sapphire and emerald, but that river has no ford, and may not
be crossed by living man. On the farther shore he sees a maiden clad
in white and in pearls, fresh as a fleur-de-lis; she is the Blessed
Damosel, the Lady Pearl. Her locks are golden, and her crown is of
pearls and gold. She tells the dreamer that she is not lost: his Pearl
is in a coffer; safely set in the garden of Paradise. She comforts him
with the hope and comfort of Christ. Henceforward her discourse is
religious: he strives to cross that River, and to reach the shining
city of the Apocalypse; but he wakes on the grave of his child; and
consoles himself with the promise of the Communion of the Saints. The
machinery of the Dream, and the River, are borrowed (as all poets then
borrowed), from the famous French "Roman de la Rose" (1240) with its
allegorical characters. This fashion of poetry, always beginning with a
dream, in which the dreamer has visionary adventures with allegorical
personages, became a kind of literary epidemic, terribly tedious and
conventional, as time went on.

The poet has given to his lay the charm of sorrow not without hope, and
a dainty grace of artifice that is not insincere; "of his tears are
pearls made".

As to the author of "Pearl," there is much difference of opinion.
Nothing in the two edifying poems in the same manuscript, "Cleanness"
and "Patience," makes it improbable that he wrote them. "Gawain and the
Green Knight" is a very different composition, yet of lofty character;
the author of "Pearl" may have written it, just as the author of "The
Lotus Eaters" wrote "The Northern Farmer," and "The Charge of the Light


With a number of other poems, "Pearl" has been claimed for a Scot,
Huchown, Sir Hugh of Eglintoun, an Ayrshire laird, known as a fighting
man, a diplomatist, and a judge, in the reign of David II of Scotland;
he "flourished" between 1342 and 1377. Or perhaps Huchown was a priest,
nobody knows.

The process of argument is this; some forty-three years after Sir
Hugh died, in 1420, a Scottish writer of history in rhyme, Wyntoun,
produced his "Orygynale Cronykil" (his spelling is original enough).
He says that "Huchown of the Awle Ryale," wrote learnedly, on the
Brut and Arthur themes, in his "Geste Hystorialle," that is a rhymed
romance named "Morte Arthur". Wyntoun also says that Huchown made the
"Gret Gest off Arthure" (apparently the "Morte Arthur"), the "Awntyre
off Gawaine" (perhaps "Gawain and the Green Knight," or perhaps the
"Awntyrs of Arthur"), and the "Pystyll of Swete Susane" (a poem still
extant, on Susannah and the Elders, the story in the Apocrypha).

Some claim for Huchown not only these pieces, but "Pearl," "Cleanness,"
and "Patience," and long poems on Alexander the Great, and the Tale
of Troy, and much more. Huchown, on this theory, must have been a
professional poet, yet he has been identified, we saw, with Sir Hugh of
Eglintoun, a soldier, diplomatist, and man of affairs.

It is certainly improbable that a man so busy as Sir Hugh of Eglintoun
wrote such a huge mass of poetry unless he were as energetic as Sir
Walter Scott.

The great alliterative "Morte Arthur" wanders from the true way,
pointed out in the ancient Welsh verses on "The Graves of Heroes," and
by Layamon. "The Grave of Arthur" is no mystery to honest Huchown; of
the King it cannot be said "in Avalon he groweth old," he does not
dwell with "the fairest of all Elves": he is buried at Glastonbury, a
fable invented late, in the honour of that beautiful and desolate home
of old religion.

Huchown shows that he was intimately familiar with minutiæ of English
law, which Sir Hugh of Eglintoun was more likely to know than an
obscure parish priest. Many other curious arguments in favour of Sir
Hugh of Eglintoun as author of the "Morte Arthur" have been set forth
(by the learned ingenuity of Mr. George Neilson, who also claims for
him "Pearl"), but we still marvel how a busy man like Sir Hugh, living
in a rough age, found time for all his labours.

The "Pistyl of Susan" adds little, save in one passage, to the laurels
of Huchown. It is a tale of Susannah and the Elders, told in stanzas,
both alliterative and rhyming, of eight lines, followed by one short
line of two syllables, then come three, rhyming lines of three feet,
and a fourth rhyming to the first in this set: thus,

             And told
    How their wickedness comes
    Of the wrongous dooms
    That they have given to gomes (men)
    These Judges of old.

The garden of Susan is described in a manner both copious, florid, and
inconsistent with botanical science, but there is a touching scene
between the falsely-accused Susan and her husband.

Huchown is also credited with the "Awntyrs (Adventures) of Arthur";
which contains a curious appearance of the ghost of Guinevere's mother
to Sir Gawain and "Dame Gayenour," Guinevere. This is certainly "the
gryseleste gaste,"--the grisliest of ghosts, but she has all of
Huchown's delight in theology and edification, prophecy, heraldry, and
hunting. The metre is not unlike but is not identical with that of

By Scottish critics the "Morte Arthur" and "Susan," at least, are
claimed for the Ayrshire bard, Sir Hugh, and, if they are right,
Scotland was civilized enough, and fortunate enough, to have a
considerable poet before Barbour, author of "The Brus" (1376), a rhymed
history of King Robert Bruce, the great hero of his country. But the
literature of Scotland is more conveniently to be treated in a separate



Hitherto we have known scarcely anything about the lives, and usually
have not even known the names, of the writers in English verse and
prose. About

    The Morning Star of Song who made
        His music heard below,

about Geoffrey Chaucer, we know more than we do of Shakespeare.

Chaucer is the earliest English poet who is still read for human
pleasure, as well as by specialists in the studies of literature,
language, and prosody. A few of his lines are part of the common
stock of familiar quotations. Coming between two periods of literary
twilight--the second saddened rather than cheered by notes more like
those of the owl than of the lark and nightingale,--Chaucer is himself
the sun of England during the age of the glory and decline of the
Plantagenets. His "Canterbury Tales" show us the world in which he
lived, or at least part of that world; his pilgrims are personages in
that glorious pageant which Froissart painted--kings, ladies, nobles
and knights in steel, or in velvet and cloth of gold; tournaments
glitter in all the colours and devices of the heralds--while the
horizon is dim with the smoke of burning towns and villages.

It is not really possible to say what conditions produce great
poets: they may arise in times of peace or war; in times quiet or
revolutionary; at prosperous Courts or in the clay-built cottages
of peasants. At least Chaucer lived a long time in an age eagerly
astir, lived through the light cast by the great victories of Edward
III,--Crécy and Poitiers,--the years when London knew two captive
Kings, John of France and David of Scotland; the years when Edward
turned away from the all-but conquered Scotland to fight the France
which he could not conquer. Chaucer knew the Court triumphant, and the
Court overshadowed by the discredited old age of Edward III, the fatal
malady of the Black Prince, the troubles of the minority of Richard II,
and the peasant rising of Wat Tyler. He had his part in the patronage
of that art-loving King, by character and fate more resembling a Stuart
than a Plantagenet; and he was in friendly relations with the rising
House of Lancaster. He marked the dawn of the religious and social
revolution in the doctrines of Wyclif and of the Lollards, the hatred
of the rich and noble, the scorn of priests and monks and friars. He
felt the poetic influences of France and Italy, and, if not in Italy,
certainly in France, had poetic friends. He bore arms in France: in
Italy and France he fulfilled diplomatic duties; at home he held a
courtly place; he sat in Parliament; he was a complete man of the
world and of affairs, as well as a man of learning and of letters. He
was always of open, kind, and cheerful humour; still, when nicknamed
"Old Grizzle" by his friends, dipping a white beard contentedly in the
Gascon wine; still "not without the lyre," not a deserter of the Muse.
His portrait, as Old Grizzle, white-bearded and white-haired, a rosary
in his hand, shows a face refined, kindly, and humane.

The father of the poet, John Chaucer, was a citizen of London, a
prosperous vintner, or wine-merchant. The date of the poet's birth is
unknown, that he died an old man in 1400 is certain. His birth year
was for long given as 1328, when his father was scarcely 16, and was
unmarried. The date 1328 for the poet's birth must be wrong, and the
year 1340 is uncertain. In a trial of 1386, to decide whether the
Scropes or Grosvenors had the better right to blazon the famous "Bend
Or," Chaucer was described as "of the age of forty years and more,
having borne arms for twenty-seven years". "And more" is vague, we
cannot be certain that it means "just over forty years of age," though
that (as far as I have observed) is the usual meaning in old records
of ages of witnesses. In some cases, on the other hand, they are given
most incorrectly. Chaucer's own remarks about his "eld" in late poems,
tell us little; at 40 Thackeray wrote of himself as if he "lay in
Methusalem's cradle".

As, in 1386, Chaucer had borne arms for twenty-seven years, that takes
us back to 1359, when he went, under the standard of Lionel, Duke of
Clarence, on a far from triumphant expedition of Edward III against
France. He is unlikely, at that date (1359) to have been under 15 years
of age; he may have been born as late as 1343, or anywhere between 1340
and 1343. The household accounts of the wife of the Duke of Clarence
prove that Chaucer was a member of her household, and, in 1357, she,
and Chaucer, were staying with John of Gaunt, at Hatfield, in Yorkshire.

In the campaign of 1359, when Chaucer bore arms, Edward III failed to
take Rheims and Paris: he wasted the country vainly, and made peace, at
Bretigny, in 1360. Somewhere and somehow Chaucer was taken prisoner by
the French, whether in a skirmish, or while foraging, or when visiting
his lady, or absorbed in a book, or meditating the Muse, and contending
with the difficulties of rhyme. His captors thought that there was
money in his case, or they would have knocked him on the head. There
_was_ money. Edward III paid, sixteen pounds, whether as the whole or
as part of his ransom (1 March, 1360). The sum (equivalent to our £200)
was not then insignificant for a youth not of noble birth, though, in
1368, an Esquire.

Account books show Chaucer (1367) as a valet of the Royal chamber,
like Molière (and Shakespeare!) in France during the time of war in
1369; salaried by the King; a married man; pensioned by John of Gaunt
in 1374, and receiving a daily pitcher of wine, commuted for money
in 1378. In 1372-1373, he went on a mission to Genoa and Florence.
Whether he then met the famous poet Petrarch or not, is uncertain: in
his "Clerk's Tale," the Clerk says that _he_ met Petrarch; it does not
follow that Chaucer was so fortunate. In 1374 he got a good place in
the Custom House, in the wool department, and, 1375-1376, had valuable
gifts from the King. In 1377 he went on a mission to Flanders, and on
another to France. Froissart the delightful chronicler mentions him in
this connexion. In the following year he went on a mission to Visconti
in Milan, and to the celebrated English commander of mercenaries, Sir
John Hawkwood.

His experiences made Chaucer equally fit to sing of "the Court, the
camp, the grove": his various posts in the Civil Service brought him
acquainted with merchant-men, architects, all sorts and conditions of
men. In 1386 he sat in Parliament for a division of Kent. Parliament
made an attack on the Court, and Chaucer lost his offices, which he
had for some time performed by deputy. Later he received valuable
appointments, but by 1398 he needed and obtained royal protection from
his creditors; probably he was never a frugal man, he was not in the
best circumstances towards the end of his life, but neither Richard II
or Henry IV let Old Grizzle starve. Henry was no sooner on the throne
(30 September, 1399) than (3 October) he gave the poet a pension of
forty marks and ratified a pension given by the ill-fated Richard
five years previously. If Chaucer's wife, Philippa, was the sister of
Catherine, mistress and (1396) wife of John of Gaunt, father of Henry
IV, the poet had a friend in the Lancastrian party. But the fact is
uncertain, unimportant, and a great cause of the spilling of ink.
Chaucer died on 25 October, 1400.

We only know, as regards Chaucer's children, that he had a little boy,
Lewis, whom, in his prose work on the astrolabe, he addresses in a
style that makes us love him. He gives him, at his earnest prayer, an
astrolabe and writes for him, in English, a little treatise on its use,
"for Latin can'st thou but small, my little son". The poet, the friend
of that less charming minstrel, "moral Gower," left a fragrant memory.

When we open Chaucer's works at the Prologue to the "Canterbury Tales,"
usually placed in the forefront, and when we remember the wilderness
of long romances through which we have wandered, the happy change of
scene, the return to actual human life, is surprising.

Chaucer is by no means free from the blemishes of "middle English"
literature. If he is not to be called prolix in his narratives, "when
his eye is on the object"--the main object,--he is none the less
profuse in digressions. His mastery of verse was not born fully armed;
he had to acquire it by effort, by experiment; he had to feel his way.
An unusually large number of his poems are unfinished: some he seems
to have abandoned, like the "Legend of Good Women," because he felt
that he was on the wrong path; that his task was no longer pleasant
to himself, and therefore certainly could not give pleasure to his
readers. He was, at first, eager to impart information, as the early
_scops_ conceived it their duty to do. Gathering his materials from all
sources, Latin, French, and Italian, he, in "The Book of the Duchess"
(about 1369), makes the bereaved husband not only allude to many
classical tales of sorrow, but actually give his authorities for each
case; "And so seyth Dares Frights," or "_Aurora_ telleth so". Even the
old habit of preaching at great length, the habit of edifying, clung to
Chaucer. He was a man of the world, the last man to risk martyrdom for
any advanced theological ideas which he might be inclined to entertain;
and not the first to suppose that any set of opinions contained the
absolute truth. In his day a fierce attack was made against the wealth
of the Church and the luxury into which many members of the Regulars,
of the various monkish Orders, had fallen. The curse of a parson was
no longer so much feared as it had been. The exhibition of saintly
relics for money, the arrival of pardons "hot from Rome," could safely
be derided. The friars had been the butts of the French authors of
_fabliaux_, tales of coarse popular humour, for two centuries.

Such censures were not heterodox, they did not assail matters of
faith, and the satire of Chaucer is always as good-humoured as it is
humorous. To him the Pardoner and Summonour of the "Canterbury Tales,"
and the rest of the riff-raff of the Church are amusing knaves: he has
Shakespeare's smiling tolerance for such a rogue as Parolles. He is
earnestly sympathetic in his famous portrait of the good and gentle
parish priest, a man of "true religion and undefiled," a man of "the
Order of St. James," like the ladies in the "Ancren Riwle".

It were much more pleasant, perhaps more profitable, to linger over
and lovingly enumerate the charms of Chaucer at his best, than to
trace him through his early experiments to such masterpieces as the
blending of old Greek romance and manners with the manners and romance
of chivalry in "The Knight's Tale," and in "Troilus and Criseyde". But
it is customary to trace the "making" of Chaucer, not only through his
experiences of Court, and camp, and grove, and city, but through his
literary work. It is certain that in youth he translated that great
popular French poem, the "Roman de la Rose," for he says so in his
prologue to his "Legend of Good Women". The French poem was begun by
Guillaume de Lorris about a century before the birth of Chaucer, as an
allegory on the refinements of the doctrine of Love, as taught in the
Courts of Love. Guillaume says that he has the warrant of Macrobius,
in his "Dream of Scipio," for supposing that dreams are not wholly to
be neglected: so he dreams, of course in May, of how the birds sang,
and how he walked beside that very stream which the author of "Pearl"
borrowed, and converted into the River that sunders the living and the
dead. He encounters allegorical works of art, representative of all
things evil, outside the walls of a beautiful garden, within which are
Love and all things good. The ideas have a sweet vernal freshness, on
their first presentation, but by repetition become as artificial as
those of the "Carte du Tendre," the map of Love's land which amused the
"Précieuses," the affected literary ladies, in the youth of Molière
(1650-1660). The dreamer desires a lovely Rose, watched by a squire
"Bel Accueil" (Fair Welcome) and the adventures, and fables from Ovid,
are of a kind so taking to mediaeval readers that henceforth every poet
had his May dream, birds, river, Love, Venus, allegorical personages,
and the rest of the "machinery". De Lorris left the lover in despair,
but Jean de Meung continued the poem at enormous length, and in a
spirit far from chivalrous: he introduced every kind of new heresy
against the feudal ideals, and so began a controversy in which Gerson,
who lived to befriend the cause of Jeanne d'Arc (1429) took up his pen
in defence of Christianity and chastity.

This "Roman de la Rose," or much of it, Chaucer assuredly did
translate, but on the question as to whether the "Romaunt of the Rose,"
printed in his works, is wholly, or only in part, or is not at all
from his hand, scholars dispute endlessly. It is not possible, here,
to follow the mazes of the dispute, which turns on the quality of the
work, the closeness or laxity of the translation in various parts, the
presence or absence of traces of the northern dialect (Chaucer wrote
Midland English), the correctness or incorrectness of the rhymes,
and other details. The opinion that the first 1700 lines or so are
Chaucer's, that his manuscript was defective, that the later portions,
some 6000 lines, were filled up from manuscripts by other hands, is not
certain, but is not improbable. Many other views are defended.

Early Poems.

Though we do not often know the dates of Chaucer's poems, the
development of his genius can be traced with much probability.
Roughly speaking, in his first period he is mainly inspired by French
influences; in his second are added Italian influences; he was always
reading such Latin authors as he could procure; he was suppling his
style by experiments in French measures demanding much search for
rhymes; and finally, in the "Canterbury Tales," his best work is purely
English in character, though he still introduces translations from
other languages when it suits his purpose.

The Dethe of the Duchesse.

is of 1369-1370, for it deplores the decease of Blanche, wife of John
of Gaunt (Lancaster), and the lady departed this life in 1369. Here
Chaucer works in accordance with the usual formula of the "Roman de la
Rose". He begins with a dream, but his sleep is a respite in a period
of eight years of insomnia, described so pitifully that the passage
seems autobiographical. He cannot tell, he says why he is unable to

    I holdë hit be a siknesse
    That I have suffred this eight yere.

Perhaps his nerves were shattered by the circumstances of his capture
and durance in 1360, for prisoners of war were treated with great
cruelty, placed in holes under heavy stones, or locked up in wooden

Unable to sleep, Chaucer has Ovid's story of Ceyx and Alcyone read to
him. He says elsewhere that in youth he made a poem on this tale; now
he probably utilized his old material in the poem on the Duchess. In
the Ceyx tale, Alcyone prays to Juno for the grace of sleep and dream,
and Chaucer, humorous always, vows that he will even risk the heresy
of presenting gifts to heathen gods, Morpheus and Juno, if they will
give him slumber. His prayer is heard, and this prologue is by far the
best part of "The Dethe of Blanche the Duchesse". It is personal, it is
touching, and the story is charmingly told.

In his sleep comes the usual dream of the chamber decorated with works
of mythological art (a stock feature, as in the "Roman de la Rose"),
there is a hunting scene, with French terms of venery, and then Chaucer
meets a mourner, John of Gaunt, whose long plaint and narration of
similar sorrows in fable, with due reference to authorities, is prolix
and pedantic, to a modern taste.

This piece is in rhymed octosyllabic couplets.

Other Early Poems.

"The Compleynte unto Pite" (Pity) is the earliest of Chaucer's poems in
"Rhyme Royal" (so called, some think, because James I of Scotland used
it much later in "The King's Quhair," a far-fetched guess). The poet
seeks Pity, and finds her dead; he adds the petition which he meant
to have presented to her, that of a despairing lover. The ideas are
hackneyed, and the piece is a mere exercise. The metre, later much used
by Chaucer in narrative runs thus:--

    This is to seyne, I wol be youres ever;
    Though ye me slee by Crueltee, your fo,
    Algate my spirit shal never dissever
    Fro your servyse, for any peyne or we.
    Sith ye be deed,--alias! that hit is so!--
    Thus for your deth I may wel wepe and pleyne
    With herte sore and fill of besy peyne.

The "A.B.C." is a hymn of prayer to Our Lady, each stanza beginning
with each successive letter of the alphabet. It is an exercise in
translation from a French original; the stanzas are shorter than in the

"The Compleynte of Mars" tells of the wooing of a mediaeval Mars and
Venus, interrupted by Apollo "with torche in honde"; the original
source of the story is the song of the Phæacian minstrel in the
"Odyssey," but that is humorous, while Chaucer is sympathetic; Mars
asks poets not to make game of his passion,

    take hit noght a-game.

The Phæacian singer did "take it a-game".

"A Compleynte to his Lady" is of the conventional kind, and an exercise
in metres.

"Anelida and Arcite" is also scholar's work, but the scholar has now
learned Italian, during his Italian mission of 1372; has read and in
places translates the "Teseide" of Boccaccio, which he often utilized.
He had also Statius, a late Latin poet, and other models, or he dealt
in his own inventions. As in the "Knight's Tale," Theseus returns from
conquered Scythia, with his bride, Hippolyta, Queen of the Amazons, and
her sister, Emily, the heroine of the "Knight's Tale". The unpopular
tyrant, Creon, is ruling in Thebes, where Anelida loves Arcite, who
is a true lover, in the "Knight's Tale," but here "double in love,"
a follower of Lamech, in Genesis, the first man who loved two ladies
at once. His second love holds him tightly "up by the bridle," so
Anelida despairs, expressing her woe in a kind of ode, strophe and
anti-strophe, in stanzas of eight, and next of nine lines, with
complicated rhymes, finally with rhymes in the middle as well as at
the end of each line. The poem, more interesting than the previous
experiments, and not without passion, is unfinished: ends abruptly.

"The Parlement of Fowls" appears to be a kind of Laureate's Ode on
the marriage (January, 1382) of Richard II with Anne of Bohemia, who
previously had two other wooers, a Prince of Bavaria, and the Margrave
of Meissen. When the Birds hold their Parliament, the Formel Eagle
represents Anne, Richard is the Royal Tercel Eagle, the two other
tercels are the German wooers. Chaucer was always a most literary
poet, and was still an adaptive poet. As he must begin with a dream,
he versifies the contents of Cicero's "Dream of Scipio": he takes a
little from Dante, a little from Claudian, the whole Pageant of Birds
he borrows from Alain Delille's "Plaint of Nature," greatly improving
on it, while, in the debate of the birds on St. Valentine's Day, as
to which tercel shall win the formel tercel, he gives way to his own
sense of humour. The verses are _vers de société_, designed not for
our taste, but for that of the society of his time. Chaucer himself
perceived the tediousness of the love-pleading of the tercels: like the
Host in the "Canterbury Tales," when bored by Sir Thopas and the Monk's
tragedies, the jury of birds cry to be released,

    The noise of foules for to ben delivered
    So loude rong, "have doon and let us wende!"

In giving their verdicts the Goose is remote from sentiment, saying to
the unsuccessful wooer,

    But _she_ wol love him, lat him love another!

The turtle-dove blushes, and gives her word for immortal hopeless love.
The poem, in the seven line stanza, ends with a rondel, confessedly
translated from the French, and the poet wakens from his dream and
returns to his dear books, on the look-out for new material. He has
shown his mastery of style, and his knowledge, but he has not yet "come
to his kingdom".

Troilus and Criseyde.

Not to linger over other minor pieces, we may say that, in "Troilus
and Criseyde," Chaucer does come to his kingdom, and proves himself a
Master, granting the taste and conditions of his age, while, in many
beautiful passages, he attains to what is good for universal taste, to
what is universally human.

The subject is an episode in the mediaeval legend of the Siege of
Troy, as it was embellished on the lines of the pseudo-Dares and the
pseudo-Dictys, by Benoît de Sainte-Maure, then by Guido de Colonna,
and then by Boccaccio in the "Filostrato". The last gives Chaucer his
starting-point; out of 8239 lines, 2583 are reckoned to be translated
from Boccaccio, while there are borrowings from Petrarch, and much
moralizing is rendered out of the prose of Boëthius, whom King Alfred
translated into Anglo-Saxon, and Chaucer into the prose of his own
time. Chaucer uses his materials as he pleases, greatly expanding,
transposing, and omitting. Almost all his own is the character of
Pandarus, who, in Homer, is merely notable for having broken a solemn
truce by wounding Menelaus with an arrow. Boccaccio made him a young
cousin of Criseyde, who, in the mediaeval legend, stays shamefaced
in Troy, while her father, Calchas, deserts to the Greeks. Troilus,
scarcely mentioned by Homer, is the brother, and in battle almost the
equal of Hector. Troilus, though he had scoffed at love, is smitten by
the eyes of Criseyde, and is on the point of dying without avowing his
passion, when Pandarus, whom Chaucer makes the uncle of Criseyde, acts
vigorously as go-between, and saves the life of Troilus by bringing
the pair together. Pandarus is a good-natured but the reverse of a
scrupulously delicate friend and uncle. Nevertheless, a conscience he
has, in his way, and lectures Troilus at length on the infamy of men
who boast of their victories in love, and of men who play his own part
from any lower motive than kindness and pity.

            For thee am I becomen,
    Betwixen game and ernest, swich a mene
    As maken wommen unto men to comen:
    Al sey I nought, thou wost wel what I mene.

Pandarus has a conscience, to this extent, and it is to be presumed
that he did not go beyond the mediaeval idea of what a gentleman might
do to help a friend in love. Yet "he will be mocking," and his conduct
is as remote from our ideas of honour, as from those of the heroic
Greeks and Trojans themselves. Shakespeare has debased the Pandarus
of Chaucer in his treatment of the same character in "Troilus and

Criseyde herself, granting the ideas of Chaucer's time about love, is
an honourable and most winning lady, the soul of honour (she wears
widow's weeds for her father's shame), but she has not the faintest
idea of marrying her lover.

In the beautiful, the magical story of "The Vigils of the Dead,"
in the mediaeval "Miracles of Our Lady," we meet a most devout and
pious damsel, whose views are precisely those of Criseyde. No modern
novelist could treat the struggle of Criseyde with her passion more
psychologically and more delicately, and none so charmingly as Chaucer
has done.

We all see Criseyde, so young, gay, and winning, with the eyes of
Troilus; and Troilus, brave, gentle, courteous, and modest, with the
eyes of Criseyde. She, learning his love from Pandarus, and deeply
pitying him, sees him ride past from the battle, his helmet hewn, his
shield shattered with sword strokes, the people welcoming him, and
her love outruns her pity. It must be confessed that the manœuvres of
Pandarus are told at very great length. The poet has all our sympathy
when he cries:--

    _But flee we now prolixitee best is,_
    _For love of God; and lat us faste go_
    _Right to th' effect._

When he does come to the point it is in a scene where delicacy tempers

    Considered alle thinges as they stode,
    No wonder is, sin she dide al for gode,

trapped by Pandarus, and yielding to love and pity. Assuredly Criseyde
seemed so true a lover that, like Queen Guinevere, she should have
"made a good end". But as she must pass to her father in the Greek
camp, being exchanged for Antenor, the end came which all the world
knows, and which she foreknew.

    Allas, of me, unto the worldes ende,
    Shal neither been y-writen nor y-songe
    No good word, for thise bokes wol me shende.
    O, rolled shal I been on many a tonge!

Destiny and Diomede prevailed, but Chaucer speaks of false Criseyde as
tenderly and chivalrously as Homer speaks of Helen.

    Ne me ne list this sely womman chyde
    Ferther than the story wol devyse.
    Hir name, alias! is publisshed so wyde,
    That, for hir gilt it oughte y-now suffyse.

Had Chaucer left to us nothing but "Troilus and Criseyde," he would
have given assurance of a poet so much greater than any English
predecessor that the difference is one of kind, not of degree. Chaucer
is our first poet of great and various genius.

Space being limited, we can only say that "The House of Fame" (1383) is
much influenced by Dante, while, even in modelling himself on Dante,
Chaucer gives play to his natural jollity and humour. Dante was never
jolly. The poem in rhyming couplets of eight syllables shows Chaucer
borne heavenwards by an eagle, like a middle-aged Ganymede, to Jove's
House of Fame. He addresses the eagle with charming banter, and the
bird tells him that he is to have a holiday, for all day he sits "at
his reckonings" in the Custom House, and, when he returns home

    also domb as any stoon
    Thou sittest at another boke.

This was just before the spring of 1385, when Chaucer was allowed to
have a deputy. This may have been granted at the request of the Queen,
Anne of Bohemia; and, if she did not ask Chaucer to write his next
work, the "Legend of Good Women," as counterbalancing the naughty
Criseyde, he may have chosen the subject in gratitude. It concerns
ladies who were true lovers; and this book Alcestis, who gave her life
for her lord's, bids Chaucer present to the Queen. If he meant to
celebrate nineteen of St. Cupid's Saints, he tired of his work, and
tells only of ten, of whom Cleopatra and Medea are less than saintly.
Boccaccio's book "On Famous Ladies," and Ovid, on Heroines, gave him
hints and materials; he also uses Ovid's "Metamorphoses," the "Æneid,"
and other sources of information. He is extremely severe on male flirts.

    Have at thee, Jasoun I now thyn horn is blowe!

but, far from being prolix, he merely gives the briefest summary
possible of Medea's case, and leaves out almost the whole of the
wonderful romance. He bids Theseus "be red for shame," as the deserter
of Ariadne, but here again he is very brief, and leaves Ovid to tell
the tale.

As all the stories are of man's cruelty and all the complaint of the
women (who usually die forsaken), is

    Oh, do not leave me!

the poet felt that the thing was like the tragedies of his monk in the
"Canterbury Tales"--was becoming stereotyped, and he left off in the
middle of a story. The poem is in "heroic" measure, and Chaucer's
command of this practically new instrument is perhaps the main merit of
the book.

The Canterbury Tales.

Chaucer's aim, in the "Canterbury Tales," in which most readers begin
to study him, though a great part of the book belongs to his late
maturity, was to be universal: to paint all his world, to appeal to
every taste, from that of the lovers of the broadest and coarsest
humour (as in the Miller's and the Reeve's Tales), to that of devout
students of saintly legends (the Man of Law's, the Second Nun's, and
the Prioress's Tales). In the Prologue to the "Canterbury Tales," and
in the discourses of the Pilgrims, he is entirely English, the mirror
of his own people. We are in a throng of Shakespearean variety, while
their talk is dramatically appropriate; each speaks in character,
though the "Wife of Bath's Tale," for example, is far more philosophic,
being a reply in part to St. Jerome's praise of celibacy, than
anything that we are to expect from Dame Quickly, or from Scott's Mrs.

The Prologue and the conversations of the pilgrims are the thoroughly
English work of Chaucer, in the maturity of his genius. So are the
humorous pieces, the Wife of Bath, the Reeve, and the Miller, and
that striking contrast with all these, the Knight's Tale, a noble
masterpiece of true chivalry, which was composed in another form, in
stanzas, and was again refashioned in couplets of ten syllables, before
the idea of the pilgrimage occurred to the poet.[1]

Several of the Tales had been first undertaken earlier, and were later
fitted into the general scheme of Pilgrims to Canterbury telling their
stories as they ride. Chaucer supplies his own criticisms, often in
the rough banter of the Host, who cannot endure the sing-song romance
of "Sir Thopas" (a parody of the form of many romances), or the dismal
"tragedies" of the lusty Monk.

The Prologue and conversations and some tales are thus the work of
the very Chaucer, in accomplished maturity of power, but he is giving
examples of many tastes and fashions older in literature than his own
free, humorous, and ironical view of life. He professes, in his art, to
be all things to all men, he must rehearse

    tales alle, be they bettre or werse,

and whosoever does not like the humour of the Reeve or the intoxicated
Miller may "turn over the leaf and tell another tale".

The modern reader, for one good reason or another, may "turn over the
leaf, and choose another tale," whether the Reeve, or the Monk, or the
Parson, or Chaucer himself be narrating. Like all old poets he wrote
for his own age, not for ours; but in him, as in all great poets,
however old, much is universally human and is immortal.

The scansion, in the so-called "heroic couplet," practically Chaucer's
own conquest and bequest to our literature, gives little trouble,
especially if, as in the Globe edition, the final ès which are to be
sounded, are marked by a dot over the letter. The spelling repels the
very indolent, but no attempt hitherto made to modernize the spelling
has been successful, though the task does not seem to pass the powers
of man.

The device of setting stories in a kind of framework, so that the
variety of each narrator, according to his kind, lends dramatic
interest, is very old. Chaucer is especially happy in his idea of
making thirty pilgrims, of all sorts and conditions, meet at the
ancient Inn of the Tabard in Southwark and agree to journey together
to the tomb of St. Thomas a Becket. This was a favourite shrine of
pilgrims, the road led through a smiling landscape, the Saint had
always been popular and a great worker of miracles; and the pilgrimage
was dear to an England still merry. In less than a century and a half
after Chaucer's death, Henry VIII seized the wealth of the Saint, the
gold and jewels given by noble pilgrims, and destroyed this pleasant

Chaucer's Prologue with his description of the Pilgrims, is the most
kind, genial, and jocund of his works, a perfect picture of a mixed
multitude of English folk of many classes, and with no awkwardness
caused by a keen sense of distinction of class.

The Knight is a flower of chivalry; he has sought honour everywhere,
in the dangerous crusade against the barbarians of Pruce (Prussia),
against the Moors, against the Turks: he is a fighting man who speaks
no evil and bears no malice. His tale is from the old Romance of Thebes
and Athens, and has its root in ancient Athenian literature, though its
flowers are derived from mediaeval fancy, and mainly from the Italian
poem, the "Teseid," or poem of Theseus, by Boccaccio. It is written
in the rhyming couplets of five feet apiece which are practically the
great metrical gift of Chaucer to English poetry: he took to them late
in life, about 1385-1386, and his tales in this measure were made later
than his stories in stanzas.

The jolly Host of the Tabard, who directs the tale-telling of the
Company, next asks, out of respect, the Monk to follow the Knight; but
the rude Miller is drunk, and insists on being heard.

    For I wol speke or elles go my wey.

Thus the noble tale is followed by a "churl's tale" for the sake of
contrast, and Chaucer warns his readers that a coarse story it is, and
that whoever does not want to hear it must turn the pages over and pass
on. The Miller begins decorously enough with a description of a pretty
young musical scholar of Oxford, that could read the stars and predict
the weather, and lodged with an old carpenter that had a pretty young
wife, and had never read Cato who would have advised him to mate with
an older woman. The Miller's description of the pretty young woman is
more delicate than we expect from this noisy drunkard. A parish clerk,
not more godly than the scholar, is next introduced; and a peculiarly
broad piece of rural pleasantry finishes the story of the Miller.

The listeners laughed at "this nice case," all but the Reeve, who was
a carpenter by trade, and did not like a carpenter to be mocked. He
therefore tells a tale against a Miller, a proud and dishonest Miller,
who suffers loss and infinite dishonour and has his head broken, at the
hands of two young Cambridge men. This tale also may be judiciously
skipped: the fourth is that of the Cook, and is only a fragment:
manifestly it was to be matter of rude, mirth, but Chaucer dropped it.
The Host calls in The Man of Law, whose story is told in stanzas; The
Man of Law was himself told it by merchants. It is an early piece of
work by Chaucer, fitted into this place. He had plenty of short stories
of many kinds, written by himself at various dates, and he placed them
into the mouths of the pilgrims; not always quite appropriately. The
Man of Law's tale of fair Constance, daughter of an Emperor of Rome,
herself a pearl of beauty and goodness, persecuted by elderly ladies
professing the Moslem or heathen religion, and driven from Syria to
pagan Northumberland, is partly based on a widely diffused fairy-tale.
It is pure and tender, and more fit for the ears of the Prioress than
several of the coarse comic stories. In these days, as Chaucer would
learn from the "Decameron" of Boccaccio, ladies listened to very
strange narratives.

The Host next bids the Parish Priest to tell a story, and swears in a
style which the good parson resents. The Host "smells a Lollard," or
Puritan heretic, in a clergyman who objects to swearing, which suggests
that the orthodox priests were very indulgent!

The sailor, or shipman, a rough brown man and "a good fellow," cries

         _heer_ he shal nat preche,
    He shal no gospel glosen heer ne teche,

he is a heretic, a sower of tares among the wheat; and, to check heresy
tells a story far from creditable to the morals of a monk. This is in
the "heroic" verse, rhymed couplets of ten syllables each, like the
coarse stories of the Reeve and the Miller. As this measure was adopted
late by Chaucer, in place of the earlier stanzas, it appears that his
taste did not grow more delicate with his advance in years.

The dainty Prioress, as becomes her, now tells, in stanzas, the legend
of a miracle of Our Lady: how a little boy used to sing her praises
through the Jewish quarter of a town; how the Jews slew him and cast
him into a pit, and how he nevertheless continued to sing his hymn like
"young Hugh of Lincoln, who cursed Jews," slain also in 1255, if ever
the thing occurred: it was a common fable of the Middle Ages.

The poet himself is called in next, and recites "Sir Thopas"; a parody
of the rhymed romances of chivalry. It bores the Host, "No more of
this," he cries, "you do nothing but waste our time," so the poet tells
"a litel thing in prose," the Story of Melibeus. It is not so very
"litel," and is freely translated from the French of Jean de Meung.
There are about twelve thousand words in Melibeus, which is full of
quotations from all sorts of learned books and moral lessons: the Host,
however, thought it would have been very edifying to his ill-tempered
wife, a fierce woman.

The Monk now "tells sad stories of the deaths of Kings," and of the
miseries of celebrated persons from Lucifer, Adam, and Hercules to
Nero, and Croesus, and Julius Cæsar. Chaucer borrowed from the Bible,
Boccaccio, Boëthius, the "Romance of the Rose": in fact he seems to
have begun the collection while he was young, taken it up again after
his visit to Italy, and finally wearied of the long series of miseries;
so he makes even the courteous Knight rebel, and cry, "Good sir, no
more of this". He wants more cheerful matter. The Host is of the same
mind, and calls one of the three priests that ride with the Prioress.
Since the Monk is described as a jolly hunting clergyman, it is not
clear why Chaucer put old work about mortal tragedies into his mouth.
The Priest tells a form of the tale of the Cock, his Hens, and the Fox,
which includes a ghost story, a good deal of learning and morality, and
a great deal of humour and of brilliant description. The tale is in ten
syllabled verse; and in Chaucer's late manner, as is the Physician's
Tale, the Roman story of Virginia, (as in Macaulay's "Lays of Ancient
Rome"). Chaucer in part translates the version of Jean de Meung in the
"Romance of the Rose". The tale is told with sweet pitifulness and

The Pardoner, with his wallet

    Bret-ful of pardoun come from Rome al hoot,

"pardons hot from Rome," and with a large collection of spurious relics
of Saints, is an odious kind of sacred swindler, but his tale is
pointed against avarice. It is derived from a very old story found in
Asia as well as in Europe. The Pardoner begins by a satirical account
of his profession and of his practices, his greed and lust, his
spoiling of the poor, before he preaches his moral tale of the evils of

    For, though myself be a ful vicious man,
    A moral tale yet I you telle can,

and a terrible tale of murder it is. The Host himself is sickened by
the cynicism of the Pardoner, but the tolerant Knight makes peace
between them: in the nature of things the Knight would have ridden
forward out of his odious society. It has been said that the tales
"display the literary and artistic side" of Chaucer's genius; and
many of them were not made for their places in the Pilgrimage, while
Chaucer's "observing and dramatic genius" appears in the prologues
and places where the characters converse together. These passages are
often, to us, the most curious and interesting, for they are dramatic
and humorous pictures of actual life and manners. But the tolerance of
the Pardoner by the Knight, is almost too great a stretch of gentleness.

The rich, business-like, proud, luxurious Wife of Bath who has had as
many husbands as the Woman of Samaria, begins with a long Prologue
about her own past life and her distaste for the mediaeval exaltation
of virginity; she prefers the example of the much married King Solomon.
She boasts herself to be a worshipper of Venus and Mars, love is not
more her delight than domestic broils and domineering. Her prologue and
tale are in Chaucer's best later style of verse: the tale is like that
of courteous Sir Gawain, and his bride, the Loathly Lady, in a romance,
and the Friar, or Frere, justly says that she deals too much "in school
matter of great difficulty," and in learned authorities.

The Frere and the Summoner next tell tales gibing at each other's
profession. They are of the coarser sort, and are relieved by the
Clerk's tale in stanzas; it is a form of the famous legend of Patient
Griselda, whose patience is like that of Enid in "The Idylls of the
King". The Clerk says that he learned the story from Petrarch, the
great Italian poet, in Padua. The story, like most of those which are
serious, is given in stanzas: Boccaccio wrote it in Italian; Petrarch
in Latin. The poet would not wish wives be as meek as Griselda; there
is a happy mean between her invincible patience and the tyranny of the
Wife of Bath.

The Merchant's Tale continues the debate on Marriage, started by the
Wife of Bath, and carried into clearer air by the modest Clerk of
Oxford. Chaucer had Latin sources for the discussions, and the humorous
laxity of the story of January and May is based on an old popular
jest-story of which Boccaccio's version, in the "Decameron," seems
nearest to the original form--the Tree, as in Asiatic versions, is
enchanted. A more pleasant variety of Asiatic tale, that of the Flying
Horse (as in the "Arabian Nights"), is "left half-told" by the Squire,
the son of the Knight: as good a man as his father. Chaucer either
never finished the story, or the conclusion was lost.

The story told by the Franklin is, after those of the Knight and the
Prioress, perhaps the most poetical of all. It is a romance in which
the problem of marriage and the supremacy of husband or wife is once
more touched on and happily settled by the steadfast love of the knight
and lady. They are separated for years, a new lover is rejected by the
lady, and, to win her, makes a magician cause by "glamour" (something
in the way of hypnotic suggestion) the apparent disappearance of the
black rocks of Britanny. But loyalty is stronger than magic. This
charming tale is based on a Breton original; but the handling is
entirely Chaucer's, and is done in his best and gentlest manner.

The Second Nun's Tale is the legend of the marriage and wooing of St.
Cecily; it was composed in stanzas, and is put into its place without
the removal of lines which show that it was written separately before
Chaucer thought of his framework. Among the latest additions are the
Prologue and Tale of the Canon's Yeoman,--neither yeoman nor canon
is among the original characters of the General Prologue. The story
contains a satire of the golden dreams, self-deceptions, and impostures
of the Alchemists, with their search for the Philosopher's Stone.

The Tale of the Manciple, or kitchen servant, is really a "Just so
Story" explaining why the crow is black, and is taken from Ovid, who
took it from an old Greek fable.

Finally, the honest country Parson has his chance. He announces that
being a man of Southern England, he likes not _rum_, _ram_, _ruf_
(alliterative verse), nor cares for rhyme, and he preaches in prose at
very great length. His sermon is a free translation, with alterations
of all sorts, from a French source, the same as the source of the
"Ayenbite of Inwyt" (Remorse).

The immense variety in character of the Tales, covering all the tastes
of the time, is now apparent. For the gay and the grave, the lively and
severe, Chaucer has provided reading.

[1] This is manifest for (line 1201) he dismisses the story of
Perithous and Theseus la Hades,

But of that story list me nat to _wryte._



Contemporary with Chaucer, and in perfect contrast with Chaucer,
whom he probably never met, was the author of the alliterative "rum,
ram, ruff," poem "Piers Plowman". This author is generally supposed
to have been named William Langley or Langland. By piecing together
many detached pieces of evidence the conjecture is reached that
William first saw the light at Cleobury in Shropshire or at Wychwood
in Oxfordshire, about the year 1332, was well educated, was in minor
orders, and a married man. But if everything that the author of "Piers
Plowman" makes his dreamer say about himself is also true of the
author, he must have been a strange and unhappy character.

His poem, following the convention of dreams and allegories, is the
record of dreams into which he fell, first on the Malvern hills;
later, wherever he chanced to be. The poem exists in three forms (A,
B, C), and, from the allusions to contemporary events (such as the
peace of Bretigny, with France (1360), and a great tempest of January,
1362), the A version may have been composed in 1362. The B version,
much altered and enlarged, is dated, from its allusions to events, in
1377; and the C version, also enlarged, from its references to the
unpopularity of Richard II, must be later than 1392.

If the poet drew his dreamer and narrator from study of his own
character, he must have been, in some ways, not unlike Mr. Thomas
Carlyle. Though he had a noble appreciation of the dignity and duty
of manual labour,--the honest and pious ploughman was his favourite
character,--he never did toil with his hands. In reply to the
remonstrances of Reason, he says:--

    I am too weak to work with sickle or with scythe.

Over-education in youth has sapped his manhood: and, since his friends
who paid for his schooling died, he has never joyed. He praised the
country, but, as Dr. Johnson said, "hung loose upon the town," a man of
a modern type.

"Ich live _in_ Londone, and _on_ Londone both," he writes. The
instruments of his craft are not sickle and scythe, but the
_paternoster_, the psalter, "and my seven psalms," that "I sing
for men's souls". In return for such services he picks up a bare
livelihood. Clerks like himself should "come of franklins and freemen,"
not of bondmen. The sons of serfs, he thinks, should do manual labour,
and should not be admitted to Holy Orders. This was the view of the
English House of Commons, under Richard II, and it may be that the poet
is rather satirizing their exclusiveness, and the hand-to-mouth lazy
life of poor clerks, than describing himself. The narrator, after the
sermon preached at him by Reason, goes to Church in a penitent mood,
and beats his breast, but does not change his course of life.

The poem (or, as some think, the series of poems by various hands)
represents in the most vivid way, the unrest, discontent, and doubt
which came over Western Europe towards the end of the fourteenth
century. The cruel and endless wars, the brigands, the ravages of the
Black Death (which caused demand for higher wages because so few were
left to work) drove the poor into revolts like that of Wat Tyler.
There were frightful cruelties and terrible reprisals. The wealth
and licentiousness of the regular Orders of clergy caused them to be
hated and despised. The people called Lollards advocated a kind of
evangelical Protestantism, and something very like modern Socialism.
All these things Chaucer passed by or treated lightly, but whoever
wrote "Piers Plowman" threw into his picture of the age his vivid
and fiery but lurid and confused genius. He paints himself as poor,
discontented, powerless, and always angry.

The dreamer states that he went about London,--a tall lonely
discontented man,--"loath to reverence lords and ladies," and never
saluting the great, and the well clad, nor doing any courtesy, so that
"folk deemed me a fool". He describes taverns full of bad company, as
if he were familiar with them. He states the doubts that arise in
clerkly minds. Why should the penitent thief have been allowed to go
straight to Paradise? "Who was worse than David, or the Apostle Paul,"
when he breathed out threatenings against the earliest Christians?
Beset by such questionings, and by the scepticism which haunted the
Ages of Faith, clerks may curse the hour when they learned more than
their creed.

The narrator seems to know a good deal about law, and despises men who
draw up charters ill, and in bad Latin; he speaks as if he may have
eked out his livelihood as a scrivener. He says that he dresses like
a "Loller" (however they may have dressed), but he is _not_ a Loller,
which may mean either an idle loiterer or a heretical Lollard, who was
apt to be a kind of evangelical socialist, entertaining advanced ideas
about property.

The poet himself, in the spirit of the contemporary House of Commons,
denounces the foreigners who obtain benefices in England, and the
Englishmen who buy them from Rome. He would not throw off all
allegiance to the Pope, but the Pope ought to follow the example,
not of St. Peter, a very human character, but of the divine Master
of St. Peter. He hates the Friars as much as John Knox did, who
called them "fiends, not freres". He denounces the lawless rapacity
of "maintained," the liveried followers of great lords; in fact his
poem is often an alliterative rendering of the complaints of the House
of Commons preserved in the Rolls of Parliament: For Parliamentary
institutions he has the highest respect and admiration, he is the warm
advocate of peace with France, and opposes the idea of settling the
Eastern Question by a Crusade. If he is the author of "Richard the
Redeless," he gave good advice, in a severe tone, and too late, to
Richard II, when that Prince set himself, like Charles II and James
II, to govern England without a Parliament, and was near his fall. The
dreamer, or the poet, was no friend of Revolution, but his works were
quoted by John Ball, priest and agitator, who was hanged some time
after Wat Tyler was done to death.

Chaucer was a poet who did not write on political, social, and
ecclesiastical reform. Langley or Langland, wrote about little else:
he is for reforming a world full of inequality and injustice. In his
time the Revolution stirred in its sleep, as it were, like the great
subterranean reptile of Australian mythology, and caused the crust of
society to tremble, and the spires of the Church to rock. He professed
that a reforming King is to come

    And thanne shal the Abbot of Abyndoun
        And all his issue for evere
    Have a knokke of a Kynge, and
        Incurable the wounde.

The prediction was fulfilled by Henry VIII, but the poor, in whose
interests Langland wrote, were none the better but much the worse for
"The Great Pillage" of the Tudor King.

We cannot, let it be repeated, feel certain that the dreamer's
description of himself, as a moody, idle, discontented clerk, spoiled
for work by much study, and unable to find a market for his science;
striding angrily and enviously through the London streets where he
has not a friend, is the poet's description of himself, a satire on
himself; or whether it is a dramatic study of an imaginary character.
We cannot be certain that he has lived much at or near Malvern; where
the hills, overlooking the vast plain, form the natural scene for his
Vision of the "sad pageant of men's miseries"; of poverty and toil,
of wealth and injustice and oppression. Of the poet we really learn
nothing, even his name,--whether Langley or Langland, or neither,--is
matter of conjecture. We only know that his heart burned within him at
the many evils which he was impotent to cure, and that he had a kind of
apocalyptic faculty for visions of good and evil. As readers usually
take the narrator and preacher in the poem to be a portrait of the
poet himself, he appears as a character neither happy nor the cause
of happiness in others. He is not so much a poet as a prophet in the
Hebrew sense of the word; the world owes to him no such gratitude and
love as it owes and pays to the kind, happy Geoffrey Chaucer.

The Visions of Langland are visionary; now the dream is luminous and
distinct; now it merges, as dreams do, into shadowy shapes of things
half-realized. In sleep the poet first sees a vast plain; on the
eastern side is a tower, westward is the den of Death. In a field full
of folk some laboured; others, gaily clad, took their ease; some were
hermits in cells, others were merchants, and there were minstrels
who hate work, "swink not, nor sweat," but make mirth. The poet, like
the author of the "Cursor Mundi," detests minstrels. There were sham
hermits with their women; pilgrims with leave to lie, from Rome;
pardoners who took money from men for remission of their sins; parish
priests who seek gold in London as the Black Death has impoverished
their people. To them all Conscience preaches at great length,
denouncing idolatrous priests in the manner of John Knox. Then follows
a version of the fable of "belling the cat," told with some vigour and
political point.

Holy Church now appears as a stately lady, explaining that Truth dwells
in the tower to the east; and _she_ preaches at much length on the
functions of Kings (which were not fulfilled in any godly sense by
the aged Edward III), and on the nature of Conscience, and the duty
of "having ruth on the poor". Now appears a magnificent lady, "Meed,"
that is Recompense. In the poet's opinion, some people get far more
than their due recompense; others do not get half enough, like the
poor labourers; and Meed, or Reward, on the whole, is won by bribery
and corruption. Meed is to be married to Falsehood: Simony, Liar,
Civil Law, and so forth, are of the wedding party, with the Count of
Covetousness, the Earl of Envy, the Lord of Lechery, and the rest of

All this, we must remember, was written by the poet for his own age,
which was insatiably fond of allegory devoid of the human merits of
Bunyan's immortal dream.

How Theology forbids the banns between Falsehood and Meed; how Meed
goes to town, and wins all hearts; how she is taken to Court, and
offered as a bribe to Conscience, who refuses her hand; all this the
poet narrates. He is very firm on the iniquity of writing the names of
the donors on windows in churches: _now_ the historian would be glad to
know who the donors were.

The King, who has Meed's marriage to arrange, listens to Reason, and
so ends the first Vision. How Reason, later, admonishes the narrator
for this way of life, has already been described. The Deadly Sins make
their confessions, and Repentance gives them good advice: as does Piers
the Plowman, who describes to these rude pilgrims the nature of the
road which they must tread; here there is a considerable resemblance to
the "Pilgrim's Progress". Piers directs the industry of the pilgrims,
aided by the Knight; and always and every day Piers preaches without
stint. A realistic picture of the life of poor laborious women in
cottages is drawn (C. Passus X. 1. 77):--

    Al-so hem-selve suffren muche hunger,
    And we in winter-tyme, with wakynge a nyghtes
    To ryse to the ruel, to rocke the cradel,
    Bothe to karde and to kembe, to clouten and to washe,
    To rubbe and to rely, russhes to pilie,
    That reuthe is to rede, othere in ryme shewe
    The we of these women that woneth in cotes.

It is an old over-true tale, a tale not told by Chaucer. Pity for
the poor, earnest, clear-sighted, not to be controlled, is the most
admirable point in the nature of Langland. He returns to his complaint
that men give gifts and gold to minstrels, while the poor suffer cold
and hunger, and "lollers" (idle "loafers"), gain money in the abused
name of Charity. Yet the poet is not so revolutionary as to attack the
Game Laws! In irony or in earnest, he bids Lords to hunt every day in
the week but Sunday, to hunt foxes, wolves, and other beasts. That
is what Lords are fit for; it amuses them, and is of service to the
farmer. Bishops are the cause of most of the mischief: "their dogs,"
the priests, "dare not bark". With Knox, two centuries later, the
bishops themselves are the "dumb dogs".

The dream ends, another begins about Do-well, Do-better, Do-best.
Do-well (good conduct) is better than Indulgences, as Luther preached
later. The poet sets off on the quest of Do-well, who has a castle
somewhere. The poet rather leans to heresy when he introduces the
Emperor Trajan, boasting that, though a heathen, he was saved "without
singing of Mass To Trajan he keeps returning. "Reason rules all beasts,
but not men, and why not?" Reason declines to answer.

Finally, after giving a summary of Christian morals, the Plowman
vanishes away: he returns later, but, whoever comes or goes, the
sermons and the satire go on for ever with the same illustrations. The
friars are drubbed from end to end, and when at length the narrator
awakes, he finds things just as they were, while Conscience goes off to
seek Piers Plowman.

Probably the most famous and singular part of the poem is the
reappearance of Piers Plowman, or of One like him, riding on an ass,
barefoot, without spurs or spear, but looking like a knight. Faith
peers forth from a window, and cries, "Ah, son of David!" as heralds do
when knights ride to tournaments. Jesus is to joust with Satan: then
the crucifixion is described, and the terror of Satan, who calls his
forces out, places his bronze guns, and orders calthrops to be thrown
on the ground under the walls of his castle.[1] The idea of the guns
was used by Milton, in a lapse of his genius, in "Paradise Lost".

The conclusion is that Righteousness and Peace kiss each other; the
dreamer awakes, for the last time, and with Kytte his wife, and
Kalote his daughter, creeps to the Cross, and gives thanks for the

It may be remarked that the style of "Piers Plowman" could be easily
imitated; any man who chose could prolong a poem so lacking in
organization and plan. Consequently, in compliance with the habit of
contradicting all tradition and denying to authors the books with which
they have from the first been credited, efforts are made to prove that
much of "Piers Plowman" is the work of other hands; not of the author
of the shortest and earliest version A. In this case critics discover
"differences in diction, in metre... in power of visualizing objects
and scenes presented, in topics of interest to the author and in views
on social, theological, and various miscellaneous questions".[2]

The other, the usual theory, is that the author kept adding to and
altering his poem through some thirty years. In that time new topics
would interest him; his views on all questions would change with his
moods; his alterations, meant for the better, might turn out for the
worst (as in the case of Wordsworth and other poets); and his powers,
of course, would not always be at the same level.

It is true that the first eight _passus_, or cantos, or books of
version A are more distinct, better organized, more consecutive, more
brilliant than the rest of the book; while _passus_ IX-XII, are perhaps
more allegorical and less orderly; more vague, more controversial,
and one John But is said "to have made this end, because he meddles
with verse-making". The author of B is supposed to be a new hand,
working over and altering the A version of his predecessor, and often
misunderstanding him, while C misunderstands B. It is quite certain
that in some MSS. of the fifteenth century the whole poem is attributed
to William Langland (or Langley?), and also that the whole poem at
its longest, was composed between 1362 and 1392 and was very popular
because it turned over and over, in every light, all the political,
social, and theological problems that vexed the minds of men. Whether
it is all by one hand or not' is a question of very little importance.
Many men could have written various parts of it.

    Most can raise the flowers now,
    For all have got the seed.

The poem retains an historical value which would not be diminished if
much of it were cut out. In style it led nowhere; the rather careless
versification, the ancient unrhymed alliterative rhythm were doomed
to disappear. The moral advice was wasted on Lancastrian England,
which rushed into the madness of the fifteenth century; the burning
of Lollards; the attempt to conquer France--as vain as unjust,--the
burning of Joan of Arc; the twenty years of defeat and disgrace which
followed and avenged that crime; the fury of the Wars of the Roses, the
butcheries, the murders, and, accompanying all this, the dull prolix
stuff that did duty for poetry and literature.


Chaucer's other prominent contemporary "the moral Gower," in Chaucer's
own phrase, was a far more commonplace character than Langland. John
Gower was entitled to write himself Esquire, and owned lands in Norfolk
and Suffolk; he died in 1408, and his tomb, with his three great books
under his head, exists in St. Saviour's church, in Southwark. Chaucer
was a friend of Gower and, during one of his missions abroad, left
Gower in charge of his affairs. At the close of "Troilus and Criseyde"
he writes:--

    O moral Gower, this book I directe
    To thee, and to the philosophical Strode,
    To vouchen-sauf, ther nede is, to correcte.

Strode is unknown, and we need not examine conjectures about him.
Gower was not ungrateful for Chaucer's compliment, and in the earlier
version of his "Lover's Confession" ("Confessio Amantis") he repaid
it, very prettily. Venus bids Gower's poems greet Chaucer well "as my
disciple and my poet, who, in his youth filled the land with ditties
and glad songs which he made for my sake". This passage was later
omitted by Gower: who, it has been suggested, was annoyed by some words
in the Prologue to the Man of Law's Tale (in Chaucer's "Canterbury
Tales"). At the same time, Gower may have removed the compliment to
Chaucer merely to make room for more matter. If not, literary people
have quarrelled bitterly over smaller things than the criticism by the
Man of Law.

With Gower's French and Latin poems we have little to do. His Fifty
Ballades, in French, to his lady, are very pleasing examples of
that old formal verse, with its difficult rhymes; and but for the
grammatical liberties which the Anglo-French writer took, would secure
for Gower a high place among the French versifiers of his age.

In French he wrote "Le Mirour de l'Omme," "Man's Mirror," which has a
curious history.[3]

The "Mirour," in French, and the "Speculum" in Latin, deal
allegorically with virtues, vices, and the way of salvation; they
contain many stories from all quarters, which are retold by Gower in
English, in his immense "Lover's Confession".

In his Latin "Vox Clamantis" (1381) ("The Voice of one crying") and in
his "Mirour de l'Omme," but especially in the former, Gower had given
his testimony against the sins of the age, and had impartially rebuked
all sorts and conditions of men. He described the peasant rising,
under Wat Tyler and others, of 1381, exculpating King Richard, who was
only a brave boy. But, as time went on, and dissatisfaction increased,
Gower turned from Richard, and, very early, to the son of John of
Gaunt, later Henry IV. Gower transferred his affections so early to
Henry, that it would be unfair to call him a venal turncoat: he saw no
hope for English liberty except in the Lancastrian cause.

Probably about 1390, and at the suggestion of Richard II himself, Gower
abandoned unmitigated sermonizing in verse: renounced the ambition
to reform the world by rhyme, and mingled, as he says, pleasure with
morality in the endless "Lover's Confession," the work on which his
reputation as an English poet rests. He professes his desire to make a
work for England's sake, and, in early versions, declares that Richard
II called him into his barge on the Thames, and set him to the task.
It was to be "some new thing" readable by his Majesty. After a moral
prologue Gower tells how he met Venus, in May of course, and how she
gave him her chaplain, Genius, as a confessor. To Genius Gower makes
his confessions as a lover, and Genius preaches to him, illustrating
every homily with a tale. It is by the tales, and by some pretty
passages descriptive of true love, that the poem survives. Most of
the stories are borrowed from Roman literature. The Greek reader is
surprised to find that the Sirens had fishes' tails, a fact unknown
to Homer, or to Greek art; which usually represented them as birds
with the heads of women. The Trojan horse is of bronze, whereas it
was notoriously of wood. The tale of Alboin and Rosamund, and the cup
made of her father's skull, is told pleasantly, but the truly tragic
situation is slurred over and lost; and the tale of Hercules and
Deianira, and the fatal garment of Nessus the Centaur, is also far from
worthy of the tragic Greet theme; of the pity and terror of the legend.

Perhaps Shakespeare admired Gower's "Pyramus and Thisbe," which the
Athenian craftsmen dramatize in "A Midsummer Night's Dream". The "Jason
and Medea" is one of the best tales; but Gower did not know the Greek
version by Apollonius Rhodius, or the "Medea" of Euripides; and his own
genius rises to no such picture of a maiden's love as Apollonius draws,
to no such tragic passion as Euripides conceives, while he has little
or none of the humour of Chaucer.

None the less here was a book of many thousand lines, full of the
material of old romance, mediaeval or classical: here the verse ran
easily, copiously, and sweetly, for Gower was a master of the rhymed
octosyllabic couplets, through his knowledge of and practice in
versification both French and English. Indeed his style, soon to be
lost by English versifiers, is his main virtue.

At last he confesses to Venus that he knows not the true nature of
Love. She gives him a black rosary of beads--like that which Chaucer
holds in his portrait,--with the motto in gold, _por reposer_, "Take
thy rest". He is to write of Love no more, no more to come to Venus's
Court, so, in 1398, the foolish veteran did make love, and married
Agnes Groundolf! He survived this unseasonable wooing for ten years,
when Agnes came into his property.

The reputation of Gower, for long, was very high; people spoke of
Chaucer and Gower as we speak of Browning and Tennyson, or of Shelley
and Keats. But no longer with Chaucer is Gower "equalled in renown,"
and his most enduring monument is Shakespeare's introduction of him in
"Pericles, Prince of Tyre".

[1] Calthrops, used at Bannockburn, were iron sets of spikes; Joan of
Arc was wounded by a calthrop at the siege of Orleans.

[2] Professor Manley of Chicago, in "Cambridge History of English

[3] It was lost, but, in 1895, when Mr. G. C. Macaulay was editing
Gower's enormous English poem, "Confessio Amantis" ("The Lover's
Confession") he remarked to Mr. Jenkinson, Librarian of the Cambridge
University Library, that if ever Gower's French "Speculum Meditantis"
("The Contemplative Man's Mirror") were found, it would probably be
under the Latin name, "Speculum Hominis" ("Man's Mirror"). Now Mr.
Jenkinson had just bought and presented to the Library, a French
manuscript, "Mirour de l'Omme," "Man's Mirror". This was proved to be
Gower's lost French poem. It had lain in some farm-house, in 1745,
and had been scribbled on by a rustic hand, while a manuscript of the
Ballades had been given, in 1656, by a very old man, Charles Gedde, of
St. Andrews, to Lord Fairfax; at the time of the English conquest of
Scotland by Cromwell.



After Chaucer and Gower, English poets wandered back into the
wilderness. They are most valuable to students of the development of
the language, they were popular in their own time and for more than a
century later. Specialists find in them some literary merits, oases in
the sandy desert, but it would be false to say that they are generally
entertaining and attractive.

John Lydgate, the Monk of St. Edmundsbury, would have obliged us had
he written prose Memoirs of his own life, for he came in contact with
some very interesting persons, and knew London and Paris as well as
his cloister. Born (1370) at Lydgate near Newmarket (where good drink
was hardly to be come at, he tells us), he was, before the age of 15,
received into the great Edmondsbury monastery school, where he was a
reluctant pupil, and, later, a not very willing monk. He proceeded
to Oxford, it is thought to Gloucester Hall, now Worcester College,
and, by 1397, was a priest in full orders. He speaks of Chaucer as his
Master; but probably he means his master in the spirit: probably he
never sat at the feet of the great poet.

In 1423 Lydgate was made prior of Hatfield Broadoak. In 1426 he was
in Paris, and, by order of the Earl of Warwick, the cruel jailer of
Jeanne d'Arc, he translated a French poetical pedigree by Laurence
Callot, a French clerk in English service. Laurence is notorious for
having called the Bishop of Beauvais a traitor, when he accepted the
abjuration of Jeanne d'Arc (May, 1431), and for being very busy in the
tumult which then arose. Lydgate returned to his cloister at Bury in
1434, and we last hear of him, in connexion with a pension which he
held, in 1446.

The dates of his poems are not certainly known, as a rule. "The Flower
of Curtesie," "The Black Knight," and "The Temple of Glass," may be
between 1400 and 1403. The "Troy Book," made from Dares, Dictys, Benoît
de Sainte-Maure, and, mainly Guido de Colonna, is of monstrous length,
and is dated 1412-1420. This poem has some fine passages in which
Lydgate, for example, when describing the penitence of Helen, seems to
be translating the actual words of the Iliad. The "Story of Thebes"
followed (1420), then came "The Falls of Princes," and a translation
of Deguileville's "Pilgrimage of Human Life," made for the Earl of
Salisbury. "The Legend of St. Edmund" was written for the devout Henry
VI; the date of "Reason and Sensuality" is earlier (1406-1408).

About forty works are attributed to Lydgate, all, or almost all, being
marked by "his curious flatness". His lines have, for the ordinary
mind, the unpleasant peculiarity that you may read many of them several
times before you discover, if you ever do, how he meant them to be
scanned. It is not to be found out when he meant the final _e_ to be
sounded, and when he did not. His poems may have been badly copied,
or badly printed, or both, but the bewildering result remains. When
we add that Lydgate is usually a translator, and is always a copyist
of all the old formulæ of spring and dreams, and that he is as prolix
as an Indian epic, it must be plain that he cannot be said to hold a
high place in living literature. "The Book of the Duchess," a thing
of Chaucer's immaturity, is not one that a young poet of the next
generation would sedulously ape, yet Lydgate imitated it in "The Black

The best-known piece of Lydgate is a short satiric poem, "London
Lickpenny," describing the misadventures of a poor countryman who finds
that in London he can get nothing, neither law, nor food, nor any other
commodity--for nothing. His hood is stolen in the crowd.


Occleve is not merely a less voluminous Lydgate. He is a character, or
assumes to be a character not unlike the French poet, Francois Villon,
but with little of Villon's genius. Occleve was born about 1368; about
1387 he got a little post in the Office of the Privy Seal; in 1406, in
a poem "La Male Règle," he petitions for payment of a pension: he has
wasted his youth, his health is lost, and no wonder,

    But twenty wintir passed continuelly
    Excesse at borde hath leyd his knyf with me.

The great number of public-houses excite people to drink,

    So often that man can nat wel seyn nay.

He would have drunk harder if there had been more money in his pouch:
had Occleve been a richer man there would be less of the rhymes of
Occleve. He liked the society of gay girls, which is expensive,

    To suffre hem paie had been no courtesie.

He abstained from discourteous language,

    I was so ferd with any man to fighte.

The tapsters said that Occleve was "a real gentleman," "a verray gentil
man". He was too lazy to walk to his office; this indolent civil
servant, he took a boat, and the oarsmen knew and flattered him. He is
rather impudent and impenitent, but he seems to ask for no more than
was his due in the way of money. The picture is drawn from the life,
whether dramatically studied, or only too truly told of Occleve.

Being what he calls himself, Occleve wrote over 5000 lines of good
moral advice to "the mad Prince," the friend of Poins and Falstaff
(1411-1412). He acts as his own "awful example". He asks for money, and
his poem is a compilation from various musty sources; but he is always
laxly autobiographical, a loose, genial, familiar knave. Conceivably
he may have met the Prince in a tavern; it is a pity that Shakespeare
did not think of bringing this shuffler, in Falstaff's company, to take
purses at Gadshill. He bids the Prince to burn heretics, and, in the
interests of peace with France, to marry Katharine, daughter of the mad
Charles VI. Henry took both pieces of advice, but the marriage brought
not peace, but the sword in a Maiden's hand.

Like Villon, Occleve wrote a poem (more than one), to the Blessed
Virgin: he is always very orthodox. He had an interval of darkened
mind, but recovered and went on versifying, a pathetic figure, for he
was a married man, and his wife must have endured things intolerable.
Occleve was very human: as a poet his versification is as loose as that
of Lydgate. He died about 1450.


Stephen Hawes was the last of the English followers of Chaucer who
deserves notice. Between him and the genuine Middle Ages a great gulf
exists. The art of printing is familiar to Hawes. Writing of Chaucer he
says of the poet's many books

     He dyd compyle, whose goodly name
    _In printed bokes doth remayne in fame_,

where the jostling vowels of "name," "remayne" and "fame" prove Hawes
to be a careless author. In his own time, he says, writers "spend their
time in vainful vanity, making balades of fervent amity, as gestes and
trifles without fruitfulness". Hawes alone "of my Master Lydgate will
follow the trace".

Hawes is all for allegory and moral instruction in his long poem,
misleadingly entitled "The Passetyme of Pleasure". All the old formulæ
of the Romance of the Rose are retained, and the castles of Rhetoric,
Logic, and the whole curriculum of Learning are not much more joyous
than the den of Bunyan's Giant Despair. Even combats with seven-headed
monsters fail to excite pity and terror, for Hawes has seen, in a work
of art, his own future, and we know beforehand that Grand Amour married
La Bel Pucell.

Hawes was born about 1475, was over-educated at Oxford, and was
Groom of the Chamber to Henry VII. He made the words of a ballet
for the Court in 1506 (ten shillings) and, for Henry VIII. (1521)
a play, now lost, (£6 13s. 4 d.). He also wrote "The Example of
Virtue," and several poems, some of which have not been found in
print or manuscript. The "Passetyme of Pleasure" is of 1506. It is
in rhyme royal, with more or less humorous interludes concerning the
facetious Godfrey Gobelive, a dwarf who tells tales against women, in
rhyming "heroic" couplets. "The Example of Virtue," another moral and
allegorical poem, is in the same measures. Spenser may have known the
works of Hawes, there are coincidences in the allegorical details of
both which can scarcely be all accidental. Hawes, in a sense, would
"have raised the Table Round again," if he could I He knew Malory's
great prose work, the "Morte d'Arthur," and would fain have restored
ideal chivalry.

But chivalry died at the burning of Jeanne d'Arc, under the eyes of
"the Father of Courtesy," the Earl of Warwick. The Flower of Chivalry
was sacrificed like Odin, "herself to herself" (1431).

Hawes was a chaotic versifier: it is not easy to guess how he scanned
many of his own lines. In the "Passetyme" the words of the hero's
epitaph are probably a versified proverb,

    For though the day be never so longe,
    At last the belles ringeth to evensonge.

Long were the poems, and long the day of the followers of Chaucer. Now
for its even song the bells were rung.



As far as literature is concerned the poetry of the period which we
have been considering is infinitely more important than the prose.
For most prosaic purposes, Englishmen still wrote in Latin: Richard
Rolle, that eccentric hermit, and Wyclif, the premature Reformer, were
even more prolific in Latin than in English. Prose was used in writing
of science, as in Chaucer's treatise concerning the Astrolabe; for
translation out of Latin, as in Chaucer's translation of Boëthius,
and Trevisa's rendering of Higden's chronicles; in sermons, and by
Wyclif and his followers for their tracts against the rich; against the
Friars; against the endowments of the Church (constantly threatened in
Parliament); and against the Catholic doctrine of the Eucharist; and
for their translations from the Latin Bible.


John Wyclif (born about 1329) was a man of great influence in his day;
and the Reformation, when many of his ideas revived, probably found the
embers of the fire which he had tended still glowing. He is said to
have been born at Hipswell, near Richmond in Yorkshire, and certainly
was of the Diocese of York. He was Master of Balliol College, Oxford,
in 1361. In 1372 Wyclif took the degree of Doctor in Theology: he had
already written not a few Latin treatises on philosophical subjects.
As a philosopher he was a believer in predestination (on which much
might be said), but averse to the theory of the disintegration of
matter; indeed his views on this subject controlled his theory of the
Eucharist. His desire to reform the Church by reducing her endowments
endeared him to a political party in the State; and when he was
summoned before Convocation in 1377, he was supported by John of Gaunt,
uncle of Richard II.

The affair ended in a brawl; and in a later examination his ideas
were not pronounced heretical. The London mob as well as some persons
of high rank were on his side, and when one Pope, Urban, proclaimed
a crusade against the other Pope, Clement, Wyclif opposed it in
manuscript pamphlets. He had, about 1378, started a kind of order
of "poor priests" who spread his doctrines, and, in regard to the
unlawfulness of owning private property, went beyond him.

The Bible, not the tradition of the Church, was the centre of Wyclif's
inspiration: it would be a mistake to suppose that the Bible was then
generally ignored, the literature of the time is full of quotations
from Scripture. There was no authorized translation of the Latin Bible,
but many separate books of Scripture were circulating in English. There
is much controversy as to whether or not Wyclif translated, or caused
to be translated, the entire Bible, as a chronicler declares that he
did: certainly he made much of it known in English tracts and sermons.

In 1382 he was suspended from teaching at Oxford; he retired to his
rectory at Lutterworth, continued to write, and died on Old Year's Day,

It is impossible, here, to enter into theological details, but Wyclif
anticipated many of the great multitude of ideas which flooded Western
Europe at the beginning of the Reformation. If we open his sermons at
random, we find him preaching on Lazarus and Dives, "how richessis
be perilouse, for lightli wole a riche man use hem unto moche lust,"
that is, luxury. Words of Latin origin are nearly as common in his
style as in that of Chaucer or Piers Plowman. In his Englishing of
the Bible, Wyclif uses "And" at the beginning of many sentences, just
as Mandeville does in his amusing and fabulous "Travels". The sermons
have the double merit of being very short, and very plain, with no
rhetorical flowers. The tracts can scarcely be called amiable: the word
"stinking," for example, is not thought by Wyclif too strong to apply
to "proud priests of Rome and Avignon".

All these brave and earnest men, the Wyclifite pamphleteers and "poor
priests," and Piers Plowman, with their socialism and their doubts,
their "New Theology," were rehearsing in mediaeval costume the drama of
to-day; while Chaucer was arraying the heroes of the Fleece of Gold,
of Troy, and of the Achæans, in the armour of the men who fought at
Crécy and Poitiers. What remains as a gain to literature is the art of

Sweet reasonableness and urbane irony are not to be expected from
men full of righteous indignation, and in great danger of being
burned alive; for by this penalty did the Church and State suppress
the preachers of doctrines which were apt to cause dangerous popular
tumults. The Wyclifite Biblical translations look like a canvas later
embroidered on by the authors of King James's authorized version, that
immortal monument of English prose.

Chaucer's Prose Style.

It was not in the nature of these Reformers to follow the counsel of
Chaucer's good Parson in the "Parson's Tale" (the spelling may here be
modernized, as an example of the poet's prose).

"Certainly chiding may not come but out of a villain's heart, for after
the abundance of the heart speaketh the mouth full often. And ye should
understand that I Look ever when any man shall chastise another, that
he beware of chiding and reproving, for truly, unless he be wary, he
may full lightly kindle the fire of anger and of wrath which he should
quench, and peradventure slayeth him whom he might chastise with
benignity.... Lo, what saith saint Augustine, 'there is nothing so like
the Devil's child as he that often chideth'. Now cometh the sin of them
that sow and make discord among folk; which is a sin that Christ hateth
utterly, and no wonder it is; for he died to make concord. And more sin
do they to Christ, than did they that him crucified; for God loveth
better that friendship be among folk than he did his own body, which he
gave for unity."

Chaucer's country-priest, not the chiding Wyclifite Sons of Thunder, is
the true Christian. There is more of the spirit of the Master in the
caressing words of Chaucer's address to "little Louis my son... pray
God save the king that is Lord of this lande, and all that him faith
beareth and obeyeth, each in his degree, the more, and the less," than
in torrents of bitter chiding, and a hail of unpublishable vituperation.

The English of Chaucer's treatise of "The Astrolabe," despite its
difficult astronomical matter, is pellucid, and there is a charm of
rhythm in his prose translations of the verses in Boëthius.


The English prose of John Trevisa, a Cornish priest, educated at
Oxford, and a traveller on the continent (died 1412), was entirely
given to translation from the Latin. He is said, by Caxton, to have
translated the Bible: he certainly made an English version of the
"Polychronicon" of Ranulf Higden, the monk of Chester, which begins
with the Creation, and is rich in geographical and social information.

Trevisa occasionally inserts notes of his own. His versions of Higden,
and of the mythical popular science and prodigious fables contained in
the "De Proprietatibus Rerum" ("Concerning the Properties of Things")
of Bartholomæus the Englishman, were very popular, as their amusing
nature deserved, and the "Polychronicon" was printed by Caxton. Trevisa
himself tells us that in his day English boys in grammar schools were
ceasing to learn French, and there was a public for English books
supposed to be educational.


The most famous and by far the most interesting of these adapters of
foreign books is the so-called Sir John Mandeville, with his "Voiage
and Travaile". The author of this book was not an Englishman, at least
he did not write in English, and did write in French, at Liège, about
the end of the fourteenth century. It is impossible and unnecessary
to discuss here the fables about Mandeville. The author of the book
declares that he himself is "Sir John to all Europe," is an Englishman
born at St. Albans, that he passed the sea in 1322, that he travelled
in Tartary, Persia, Armenia, Lybia, Chaldæa, the land of the Amazons,
India, and so forth. In fact he resembles Widsith in the ancient
Anglo-Saxon poem--he has been almost everywhere and knows almost
everything. He especially writes for pilgrims to Jerusalem; he first
wrote his book in Latin, then translated it into French, and finally
into English. There are countries that he has not seen; and he says
that he could not play a part in the deeds of arms which he beheld. Now
he suffers from arthritis, "gowtes artetykes," and he amuses himself by
writing his adventures in 1357.

Another version of Sir John's career is given by Jean d'Outremeuse,
a writer of histories, who had the felicity of hearing from an old
man with a beard in 1472, that _he_ was the genuine Mandeville: but
that the author was really Jean d'Outremeuse is not so certain. The
author, whoever he was, stole from a manuscript of the time of the
First Crusade, and from the book of Odoric, a Franciscan missionary,
and the Itinerary of William of Boldensele, (1332-1336) from a History
of the Mongols, from a forged letter of Prester John--from every
source whence he could pick amusing stories. He fabled with a direct
and honourable simplicity which is comparable to that of Defoe, and
to the straightforward and moderate statements of Swift's Captain
Lemuel Gulliver. With the spelling modernized it is thus that the good
knight tells the story of the Pygmies who were known to Homer for their
battles with the cranes.

"The folk be of little stature, but three span long, and they be right
fair and gentle, after their quantity, both the men and the women. And
they marry them when they be half a year of age, and get children. And
they live not but six or seven years at the most. And he that liveth
eight years, men hold him there right passing old.... And they have
often war with the birds of the country that they take and eat. These
little folks labour neither in lands nor in vineyards. But they have
great men among them of our stature that till the land and labour
amongst the vines for them. And of the men of our stature have they a
great scorn and wonder as we would have among us of Giants if they were
amongst us."

Mandeville speaks as calmly about the ants, known to Herodotus, which
guard the hills of gold, and are as large as hounds; and of the
devil's head in the valley perilous, through which the knight and
his company travelled in great fear, "and therefore were we the more
devout a great deal". Thence he reached an isle where men are from
twenty-eight to thirty feet in stature, "and they eat more gladly
men's flesh than any other flesh," being indeed the Læstrygonians who
devoured the men of Odysseus, or the Mermedonians of the Anglo-Saxon
poem of "St. Andreas," who meant to devour St. Matthew. Mandeville
enjoyed and deserved great popularity, being a follower of Lucian's
"True History," and a predecessor of Gulliver.

Pecock. "The Repressor."

A writer of English prose even more interesting, though much less
popular and amusing than Mandeville, is Reginald Pecock (1395-1460),
the deposed Bishop of Chichester, author of "The Repressor of overmuch
blaming of the Clergy". The clergy blamed Pecock, and repressed him.
This remarkable man, born shortly before the date of Chaucer's death,
in North Wales, was a Fellow of Oriel College, Oxford (1417), was
patronized by Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester, obtaining the Mastership of
Lord Mayor Whittington's school in London (1431), became Bishop of St.
Asaph (1444), and passed his life in attempts to convert the Lollards
by persuasion, not by the stake. "The clergy shall be condemned at the
last day," he writes, "if by clear wit they draw not men into consent
of true faith otherwise than by fire, sword and hangment; although I
will not deny these second means to be lawful, provided the former be
first used." In the opinion of the Lollards, nothing in ecclesiastical
matters was defensible that was not positively inculcated in the Bible
as interpreted by the average Christian man, however unlettered. Pecock
defended Episcopacy, and even defended non-preaching Bishops, on the
score that they had to discharge more important duties. Even the much
abused friars he stood up for, arguing that, whatever their offences,
they and the world would be worse rather than better if there were no
religious orders. His arguments in support of the begging Franciscans
who, in counting up money, touched it with a stick, not with the hand,
are certainly even more sophistical than ingenious.

He wrote many pamphlets still in manuscript; the "Repressor" is of
1455, and is a most remarkable book in all ways. Pecock became vastly
unpopular, because he was too clever, and, in his dislike of religious
persecution, as well as in the nature of his arguments, was in advance,
not only of his own age, but of the age of the Reformation. He was
thought to give far too high authority to reason, and to the natural
faculties of man in the way of developing unrevealed morality and
unrevealed religion. "No virtue or governance or truth into which the
judgment of man's reason may sufficiently ascend or come to, to find,
learn, and know it without revelation from God, is grounded on Holy

This conclusion arrives at the end of a sentence of thirty lines, a
fair example of Pecock's logical and legal style, by him first used in
English. It is not possible, here, to discuss Pecock's ideas, which are
concerned with questions that still divide the Church and the world,
Anglicans, Catholics, Nonconformists, and Agnostics. The "Repressor"
has been described as "the earliest piece of good philosophical
disquisition of which our English prose literature can boast"; it may
still be read with interest, especially by students of the Reformation.
Pecock was opposed to the unjust and brutal war of conquest and of
disaster waged by England in France.

In 1450 he became Bishop of Chichester, and shared the unpopularity
of the Duke of Suffolk, who was blamed for the disasters in France.
His "Book of Faith" (1456) practically abandoned the infallibility of
the Church in 1457; he was as unpopular with the clergy as with the
mob; twenty-four doctors reported unfavourably on his works: he was a
defender of "drowsy reason" and of "unrevealed morality": he was found
guilty of heresies which were no heresies, and, with no choice except
that of being burned alive, he signed a confession and abjuration of
sins which he had not committed: he was consigned to close confinement
in the Abbey of Thorney, was deprived of his bishopric--and of writing
materials--and died obscurely.

The source of his misfortunes was this: he was not only clever but he
knew it, and wrote that whatsoever man did not agree with an argument
of his "is duller than any man ought to be". As few agreed, most were
dull, and they did not like to be told it.


John Capgrave (1393-1464), a Norfolk priest, and Augustinian canon,
author of many scriptural commentaries and of a work on "Illustrious
Henrys," wrote in English a "Chronicle of England," beginning with the
Creation and ending in 1417. Capgrave reminds us that Adam "was made on
a Friday, in the field of Damascus"; the date was unlucky. He is nearly
as brief as the Anglo-Saxon "Chronicle," his account of Agincourt is no
longer than the "Chronicle's" description of Hastings. Here is a sample
of his style. "In the same yere III beggeres stole III childyr at
Lenne, and of on thei put oute his eyne, the othir they broke his bak,
and the thirde thei cut off his handis and his feet, that men schuld
of pite give hem good. Long aftir the fadir of on of hem, wheech was a
marchaund, cam to London, and the child knew him and cried loude 'This
is my fadir.' The fadir took his child fro the beggeris and mad hem to
be arrested. The childirn told alle the processe, and the beggeris were
hangen, ful well worthy." Such is Capgrave's work, described by himself
as "a short remembrance of old stories."

Lord Berners.

Later by two generations, John Bourchier, Lord Berners, was born
about the time of Capgrave's death, and while Malory was writing his
"Morte d'Arthur" (born 1467, died 1533). As Captain of Calais, the
last spot of land held by England in France, Lord Berners had leisure
enough, which he spent in translating Froissart, and the French romance
of "Huon of Bordeaux" and Oberon the fairy king, "Arthur of Little
Britain," and Guevara's Spanish "Dial for Princes," with the "Carcel
de Amor" and the "Libro Aureo," books which more or less anticipate
the antitheses of "Euphuism". In his translation of Froissart, Berners
follows the style of the original, his language is much akin to
that of Malory: in his prefaces he is more rhetorical and "aureate,"
and has a habit, like Sir Robert Hazlewood in "Guy Mannering," of
treble-shotting his verbs. "Histories show, open, manifest, and declare
to the reader by example of old antiquity, what we should inquire,
desire, and follow, and also what we should eschew, avoid, and utterly
fly." This mannerism is tedious, but the translation itself is in
admirably simple and expressive English.



Much the most important novelty in the literature of this period is the
"Morte d'Arthur," finished by the author, Sir Thomas Malory or Maleor,
in 1469, and published in 1485. Malory is believed to have been the
Squire of Newbold Revell in Warwickshire, born about 1400 (?) and a
retainer of that Richard Beauchamp, Earl of Warwick, who was called
"the Father of Courtesy" by the Emperor Sigismund, and was the cruel
jailer of Jeanne d'Arc at Rouen (1430-1431), where she was burned.
Malory appears to have joined the Lancastrian party in the Wars of the
Roses; he, or a man of his name, was left out of a general amnesty
granted by Edward IV, in 1468; he may have fled to Bruges and there
made the acquaintance of Caxton, and Caxton, in his Preface to the
"Morte," says that the book is printed "after a copy unto me delivered
which Sir Thomas Malory did take out of certain books of French, and
reduced it into English". Malory died in England, and was buried in the
Grey Friars, near Newgate, in 1471.

As we have seen already, the true first sources of the immense body
of Arthurian romance are obscure: the fountain-head is certainly
Celtic, but the affluents are mainly French--without France the legend
would have been but a small thing. Malory constantly refers to "the
French book" for his statements, to what book he does not say, but the
learned industry of Dr. Sommer has detected that, for the youth of
Arthur, Malory used French romances of Merlin the Seer; used French
authorities for the tales of Sir Tristram and Lancelot, and also freely
employed an English metrical romance, "Morte Arthur," attributed to the
mysterious Scot, Huchown. There are other sources, and Malory treats
his authorities with much freedom, omitting, adding, and introducing
confusions. His great romance has a definite beginning; it has a middle
in the fatal revival of Arthurian chivalry in the search for the Holy
Grail; and thence turns towards its end with the falling of Lancelot
to his old sinful love of Guinevere, wife of Arthur, the decadence,
the rebellion of Mordred, the passing of Arthur, and the penitence of
Lancelot and Guinevere.

Malory's book may be called a work of true genius, so simple yet so
noble is the prose style; so fine, loyal and chivalrous the temper,
while even the confusions add to the element of mystery and to the
expectation and curiosity of the reader. Malory purges away the stupid
monkish fables about the birth of Merlin by a machination of a devil:
he does not linger over the long dull fables of Arthur's wars against
the Anglo-Saxon invaders; he gathers the flower of the chivalry of the
fourteenth century, while true love is his theme, with no palliation of
the guilt of sinful love. His Lancelot deserves the Douglas motto of
"tender and true," though

    His honour rooted in dishonour stood,
    And faith unfaithful kept him falsely true.

Hence comes the inevitable tragedy, the greatest in romance.

"Herein," says Caxton, rising to the height of Malory's own style,
men "shall find many joyous and pleasant histories, and noble and
renowned acts of humanity, gentleness, and chivalry. For herein may
be seen noble chivalry, courtesy, humanity, friendliness, hardiness,
love, friendship, cowardice, murder, hate, goodness, and sin. Do after
the good, and leave the evil, and it shall bring you to good fame and

Many recent critics of Tennyson's "Idylls of the King," which is mainly
derived from Malory, appear to think that Malory's "Morte d'Arthur"
is a violent, brutal, licentious book, and that Tennyson invented the
noble courtesy, chivalry, humanity to suit the middle-class morality
of 1860. This opinion is merely stupid. "The Morte," it has been well
said, "assumes the recognition of a loftier standard of justice, purity
and unselfishness than its own century knew.... The motive forces are
the elemental passions of love and bravery, never greed, or lust, or
cruelty,"--except of course in traitors like Meliagraunce and Mordred.
The knights have the strongest sense of fair play: Sir Lancelot bears
no spite against Sir Palamedes, a pagan knight, who, from ignorance
of the rules, deals a stroke in a tournament which the rules forbade.
Their sense of honour is crystal-clear, and, as in Tennyson's Idylls,
this honour and loyalty make the tragedy; the struggle between
Lancelot's love of Guinevere, and his friendship for and loyalty to
King Arthur. His sin brings its own punishment, he cannot win the
vision of the Grail, that Holy thing: "blessed are the pure in heart
for they shall see God".

Arthur himself, after the wars of his youth, is but faintly drawn: it
is not for the King to seek adventures, but to hear the suits of his
people who come to him for help and justice. A mystery of Fate hangs
over him: he is smitten by the sins of his knights, and passes away,
sorely wounded but alive, as strangely as Œdipus in the tragedy of
Sophocles: perhaps, who knows, to come again. "In Avalon he groweth
old," in the peaceful hidden land of apples and apple-blossom.

The scenes all pass in a world where colours are magically soft and
bright. There is an old song of the fourteenth century which gives the
kind of colour that abounds in Malory.

_Lully, lulley, lully, lulley_
_The fawcon hath borne my mate away!_
_He bare him up, he bare him down,_
_He bare him into an orchard brown._
_In that orchard there was a hall_
_That was hanged with purple and pall._
_And in that hall there was a bed,_
_It was hung with gold so red._
_And in that bed there lieth a knight,_
_His wounds bleeding day and night._
_By that bedside kneeleth a may,_
_And she weepeth both night and day._

This is like a song made on some scene in the Quest for the Grail.

Malory's world is "an unsubstantial fairy place," yet there is no
fairy non-morality. There is the loftiest ideal among the knights
who follow the gleam and fragrance of the Holy Grail. That all do not
attain to their ideal is but the failing of human nature, the ideal is
among them, they aspire to reach "the spiritual City". For Guinevere,
Malory has the chivalrous compassion of Homer for Helen; of Chaucer for
Criseyde, but while Helen wins, with light penance, to her home by the
Eurotas, and her translation to Elysium, the Avalon of Greece, it is
through many years of penance that Guinevere comes to her rest. What
Shelley said of the end of the Iliad may be said of the last chapters
of the "Morte," they die away "in the high and solemn close of the
whole bloody tale in tenderness and inexpiable sorrow".

The prose with all its simplicity has rhythm and charm. Thus,
"Therefore all ye that be lovers call unto your remembrance the month
of May, like as did Queen Guinevere, for whom I make here a little
mention, that while she lived she was a true lover, and therefore had
she a good end". The words spoken by Sir Ector over the dead body of
Lancelot are one of the noblest passages in English prose.

The very titles of the chapters call us into the realm of romance,
like a blast blown on Arthur's horn. "How Sir Lancelot came into the
Chapel Perilous, and gat there of a dead corpse a piece of cloth and a
sword." "How the damsel and Beaumains came to the siege, and came to a
sycamore tree, and there Beaumains blew an horn, and then the Knight of
the Red Lands came to fight him." "How Sir Lancelot, half-sleeping and
half-waking, saw a sick man borne in a litter, and how he was healed
with the Sangreal." Who can read the titles, and not make haste to read
the chapters? The beautiful close of Tennyson's "Morte d'Arthur" is
merely done into verse from the fifth chapter of Malory's twenty-first
book,--the casting of Excalibur into the mere, and the coming of the
barge with the elfin ladies, "many fair ladies, and among them all was
a Queen, and all they had black hoods, and all they wept and shrieked
when they saw King Arthur".

But for Malory, the old Arthurian romances would be known only to a
few of the learned. Malory "made them common coin," his romance was
neglected only in the eighteenth century. It has been the inspiration
of many poets, but none can "recapture the first fine careless
rapture," to which Tennyson comes nearest in the best of his "Idylls of
the King," and in "Sir Galahad," and "The Lady of Shalott".

Next to Chaucer's poems, Malory's romance is the greatest thing in
English literature from "Beowulf" to Spenser. To boys, and to men
who retain the boy, the "Morte" is an inestimable treasure, which
has not to be sought for in the seldom-visited shelves that hold the
publications of learned Societies, but is within the reach of all.[1]

[1] In the Globe edition, edited by Sir Edward Strachey. Macmillan &



For purposes of convenience the development of "Ynglis" literature
north of the Tweed and Esk, may be treated in this place.

Originally the "Scots" or Scottish tongue was Gaelic, the language
of the Irish Scots who, landing in Argyll about A.D. 500,
finally gave a dynasty and its existing name, to "Scot" land. When the
dynasty acquired the Anglicized Lothian and much of Cumberland, it
adopted the English speech, consequently the writers of the thirteenth
and fourteenth centuries in Scotland used a form of northern English
or "Ynglis," and knew not Gaelic. They called their speech "English"
till the long wars with England led them to draw a distinction and
patriotically style it "Scots" or "Scottis". Thus by 1562, Ninian
Winzett upbraids John Knox for "knapping English" in his writings, and
forgetting the "Scots" that he learned at his mother's knee. Gaelic
was no longer reckoned "Scots," it was Ersch, Yrisch, or Erse. Even
before the days of Edward I, the town seal of Stirling, on the Forth,
describes the Gaelic-speaking men north of Forth as _Scoti bruti._ The
Scottish writers did not know, and therefore despised Gaelic, from
which they have scarcely borrowed anything. Latin and French they knew,
and enriched their tongue by borrowing from these sources.

The one verse of Scottish poetry that may have survived from the end
of the thirteenth century, the lines on the death of Alexander III,
are charming, but, if they were written at the time, or shortly after,
they must have been modernized, more or less, when Wyntoun, the rhyming
chronicler, quoted them about 1420, twenty years after the death of


Setting aside the enigmatic Huchown already discussed, John Barbour,
author of "The Brus," a history of King Robert Bruce in rhyming
octosyllabic couplets, is the first poet of English speaking Scotland.
He remains one of the most spirited and readable; the most like Sir
Walter Scott, who used his book in poetry and in prose historical

By 1357 Barbour was Archdeacon of Aberdeen: he was probably born at
least ten years before Chaucer. In 1357 he went, with others, to study
at Oxford, probably at the Scottish college, Balliol. He also visited
France, for studious purposes; he held a position in the Exchequer,
and, after finishing "The Brus" in 1376, received a pension from
Bruce's grandson, Robert II: other pensions he received: he died in
1396. He had written other works, lost or disputable, and a romantic
genealogy of the Stuarts, who were really Fitz Alans, and of ancient
Breton origin, not, as was fabled, of the old Scoto-Irish dynasty. "A
Buik of Alexander" (the romance of Alexander the Great), is attributed
to Barbour with much probability.

Barbour possesses, unlike most of the narrative poets of the Middle
Ages, one supreme advantage. He is not telling, for the twentieth time,
the Tale of Troy, of Alexander the Great, of King Arthur, or of any
dim mythical hero. The events in the history of Scotland which his own
father witnessed, make one of the best stories in the world. Bruce was
far from a faultless hero, but his adventures are picturesque facts,
not inventions: though sometimes Barbour tells the same story twice,
with variations. His many defeats, his wanderings in the heather, with
a little company or with a single attendant; his flight over sea; his
crossings of perilous lochs in frail boats; his single combats; the
desperate chivalrous valour of his brother Edward; his own sagacity
as a strategist and tactician; his kindness of heart; his love of the
romances; the sufferings of his loyal friends, men and women; all his
days of almost desperate warfare; all his escapes when surrounded
in the hills of Galloway and of Argyll, are matters of historical
fact, and can often be traced in English documents of the time. His
"crowning mercy" Bannockburn, is as historical as Marathon or Waterloo.

When we think of the wild scenes in which Bruce warred and wandered,
Loch Trool, Loch Awe, the whole of the Lennox, the uplands of Don and
Dee; when we remember the blending of English armed knights, and of the
plaided clans in the ranks of his enemies; his own combination of the
Islesmen with "the dark impenetrable wood" of the Lowland spears; the
many-hued silks of the standards; the cowled friars who prayed while
the warriors fought; the fair ladies who shared the hero's dangers, we
see that Barbour has a theme fresh, brilliant, and unique for his poem.
He has a true story which is more thrilling than any invented romance.

Barbour notoriously, perhaps in the interests of poetic perspective,
rolls up three Bruces, the grandfather, the father, and the hero
himself, into one personage. Yet his statements of the numbers of the
English engaged are sometimes corroborated by the English muster rolls.
Before he has written three hundred lines he strikes the sonorous
keynote of his narrative in that praise of Freedom which is worthy of
the poet who fought at Marathon.

"Ah! freedom is a noble thing!"

In what other mediaeval romance can these lines be equalled? What
wearies us in Barbour is the common defect of mediaeval poets, the
occasional display of learning, references to what Cato did, or
Hannibal, or Scipio, and the like, but Barbour is not tedious when,
after giving a minute portrait of the good Lord James of Douglas, he
compares him to Hector, though, for valour,

    To Hector dare I none compare
     Of all that ever in world were.

The story never drags, adventure follows adventure, and there is
none of the weary exaggeration of romance. Bruce does not slay his
thousands, like Arthur. When he, a mounted man in armour, Ms the better
of three plaided clansmen, MacNaughton, who is of the hostile party,

    Surely, in all my time,
    I never heard, in song or rhyme,
    Tell of a man that so smartly
    Displayed such great chivalry.

But Bruce is soon obliged to give his horse to one of the ladies, and
go on foot, like Prince Charles, living on such venison as his arrows
may procure. Barbour has to invent no fanciful dangers; he knows the
racing tides and dangerous shoals of Argyll--

    The waves wide that breaking were,
    Weltered as hills, here and there.

Unlike Chaucer, Barbour has a scorn of astrology: no man ever (he
says) made three correct prophecies, by knowledge of the stars! He is
far from scrupulous, and does not blame Douglas when, like Achilles,
he slays prisoners of war: apparently because he could not take them
with him in his retreat, and secure their ransoms. Barbour has not,
of course, the genius of Chaucer; but he has a touch of the genius
of Scott, he has spirit, and a true sense of loyalty, chivalry, and
patriotism; these, with his subject, place him beside Chaucer in so far
as that he may still be read with unaffected enjoyment.


Between Barbour and the first true Scottish disciple of Chaucer, James
I, comes the author of a Chronicle in rhyming octosyllabic couplets
"The Orygynale Cronykil". This is Andrew Wyntoun, who was a canon of
St. Andrews Cathedral, and prior of St. Serfs on a little island in
Loch Leven, the loch of Queen Mary's captivity. Wyntoun appears to
have been an old man when, in 1413, the first Scottish university
was founded at St. Andrews, by a bull of the Anti-Pope, Pedro de la
Luna. The place must, with its Augustinian canons, have been a seat of
learning before 1413, but the new university was very poor, and a thing
of small beginnings.

Wyntoun's book commences with Adam and Eve, and is at fifth hand and
fabulous till the author approaches his own time.

Mythical as is his work when he approaches his own date he, with
Fordun, the really industrious author of the prose "Scotichronicon"
(died about 1384), is one of our few sources of information about
Scottish affairs. Wyntoun is amusing, but does not pretend to high
poetic merit.

The Kingis Quhair.

To people who only know King James I of Scotland in history, his poem,
"The Kingis Quhair" (book) must be rather disappointing. Fortune was
his foe, as he says in the poem, and the foe of his House.

Born in July, 1394, young James was made prisoner in March, 1405-1406,
and, for about eighteen years was a captive in England, or was led with
the army of Henry V against his natural ally, Charles VII, the Dauphin
of Jeanne d'Arc. The ransom demanded from James when released, in 1423,
was ruinous; of his hostages, noblemen, some died in England; he found
his country full of anarchy and treason; the disorders he suppressed
with illegal vigour; he seized earldoms to which he had no right, he
made powerful enemies, and, in 1437, he was slain by Robert Graeme and
a band of Highlanders, at the Black Friars' in Perth. In England he had
married Joan Beaufort, daughter of the Earl of Somerset, who lived to
avenge him on his murderers with unheard-of cruelties.

When a man of James's intellect, character, and experiences writes
a poem on his own taking at sea by faithless foes, his own long
captivity, and his own love-story, we naturally expect something of
poignant personal interest. But we expect what his time, his taste, and
his rank forbade him to give. Never was poetical tradition so crushing
to originality as the tradition of the "Roman de la Rose".

For centuries each mediaeval poet aimed at saying just what his
forerunners had said, and in much the same style: Barbour, of course,
is an exception; _he_ does not open with a sleepless night; a book read
in bed; a dream of a May morning; a walk to a pretty river, a palace
near the river, and all the rest of it. Barbour writes "like a man of
this world".

But King James follows the fashion of allegory. He cannot sleep; he
reads Boëthius in bed, Boëthius "full of moralities". He lies thinking
over his sorrows when (this is original), the bell for matins rings, and

    Ay me thought the bell
    Said to me, tell on, man, quhat the befell.

He did not think that the Voice was a real Voice, "impression of my
thought causes this illusion," said he, and though he had "spent much
ink and paper to little effect," he sat down, made a mark of the
cross, and set to work at his tale, first comparing his life to a ship
in perilous seas, and then briefly mentioning his capture when about
three years past the age of innocence (which was seven, he was, when
taken, four years past seven). Birds, beasts, and fishes, he says, are
free, why does Fortune make me thrall? He looks out of his window into
a green garden; the nightingales sing; he sees, and describes very
prettily, a fair lady walking with her two maidens, and falls in love.
In all probability this is a mere imitation of the first sight of Emily
by Palamon and Arcite, in Chaucer's "Knight's Tale". James would meet
Jeanne in society: he was not a close prisoner, we are told that he
knew many English ladies, and the course of his true love ran smooth
enough. But the description is charming, as is the address to the
nightingale which follows.

After this long and excellent passage of true poetry, fashion compels
the King to visit the Palace of Venus and see the lovers of old times,
converse with Venus and with Pallas, and visit Fortune with her Wheel,
and take his place on it; then he awakes not "seeing all his own
mischance". A white turtle-dove brings him flowers, and a glad message
in letters of gold; and he blesses birds and flowers and even his
prison wall, and

           the sanctis marciall
    That me first causit hath this accident.

The poem ends with an invocation of the shades of his "masters dear,"
Gower and Chaucer.

The manuscript, of about 1488, ascribes the poem to King James, so
does Major or Mair, a not too trustworthy historian. The language is
northern English, mixed with Scots, with many borrowings from Chaucer.
The story indicated is true of James and of no one else, but the usual
attempt has been made to deprive him of the authorship--wholly without
success. The measure is the "rhyme royal" of Chaucer's "Troilus and
Criseyde". The scansion is remarkably correct, and the lines have a
melody not common in the works of Chaucer's followers. There is a
strong moral element in the reflection and discourses.


Not a King like James I, nor a courtier priest, like Dunbar, his
junior, but a schoolmaster of the Benedictine Abbey-school at
Dunfermline, Robert Henryson had, among Scottish poets of his day, the
greatest share of the spirit of their master, Chaucer. He may be the
Robert Henryson who, already a Bachelor of Arts, joined the University
of Glasgow in 1462, but nothing is certainly known of him. He wrote his
"Morall Fabillis of Esope"

        by request and precept of a lord,
    Of whom the name it needs not record,

to he apparently had a patron destitute of vanity, and not ambitious
of publicity. Henryson regarded Æsop, the mythical Greek slave, as "a
noble Clerk," and made his own use of the tales of talking beasts,
birds, and fishes, which are told among savages in most wild countries,
and reached him, some of them by way of India, filtered through Latin,
French, and English authors.

The animals are perfectly human in character, and give to Henryson, as
later to Prior and La Fontaine, the opportunity to show his own wit,
humour, and tolerant gentle nature. The tales are told in the seven
line stanza, rhyme royal, of Chaucer's "Troilus and Criseyde". Even
to-day they may be read with unfeigned pleasure, for their humorous
and human studies of character, for their unostentatious pictures of
nature, of the little nest of the field mouse, the moors, the stubble
fields, the warm storeroom of the burgess's house, where the town mouse
has her hole, and for the unaffected sympathy with our wild kindred of
fur and feather. The chatter of the hens, the widows of Chanticleer,
when the fox, who has claimed old family friendship with the cock,
flatters his vanity and carries him away, is far more pleasing than
Dunbar's satire on his revolting Widow and two married women. One hen,
Pertok, makes bitter moan for the cock, the common husband of them all,
but Sprutok declares her intention to sing, "Was never widow so gay";
she enumerates the faults of the dear deceased; Pertok comes into her
way of thinking; and Toppok speaks of the faithlessness of their late
Lord. Heaven has punished Chanticleer, who, after all, cheats the fox,
and returns to his harem.

"The Two Mice" is especially humorous, and as sympathetic as Burns's
poem "The Twa Dogs". The tale is so vivid that we feel the keenest
anxiety when Gib, or Gilbert, "our Jolly Cat," pounces on the country
mouse; the town mouse knows her hole, and has fled thither. The horror
of the town mouse when she has rural dainties placed before her by the
country mouse, her mincing airs of patronage, are delicately touched;
in short, with the Fox's confession to the priestly Wolf, and the Trial
of the Fox; and the strained law which the Wolf administers to the
Lamb, the fables are animated and delightful poetry in their kind: the
Morals, as when the hard lot of the poor husbandmen is described, are
far from contemptible. Had Henryson left nothing else we must recognize
in him a true son of Chaucer.

His "Testament of Cresseyde" begins from a bitter winter night, when
alone and snug in his warm room, he mends the fire, takes a drink,
lays down his Chaucer, and ends the tale of fair false Cresseyde,
whom Chaucer pitied. Chaucer was not the man to have created, like
Thackeray, that other Cresseyde, Beatrix Esmond in her matchless bloom
of triumphant beauty, and later to have drawn her as the old Baroness
Bernstein. What Chaucer held his hand from,--the mediaeval tale of
the punishment of false Cresseyde,--Henryson, not without a passion
of pity, undertook. The gods sent on Cresseyde's beauty the plague of
leprosy, a terrible malady scarcely known by name to the Greeks, but as
common in the Middle Ages as in ancient Israel.

Diomede deserts Cresseyde; she becomes the common "spoil of
opportunity," and returns to her father Calchas, priest of Venus. But
"into the Kirk" Cresseyde is ashamed to go. In a trance she comes into
the presence of Saturn, a frozen god, and of the other old deities.
Saturn then condemns her. The lady awakes and sees in her glass that
she is a leper. She goes to the lazar-house, she dwells and begs with
the lepers: Troilus rides past, and knows her not, but, in some faint
way, memory of his love for Cresseyde wakes in him, and for his lost
love's sake he gives to the leper lordly alms, "a purse of gold and
many a gay jewel".

    And nevertheless not are are uther knew.

But another leper recognized Troilus, and Cresseyde, smitten to the
heart, made her moan and her Testament, leaving to Troilus the royal
ring and red ruby that he had given her long ago. So she died, and
Troilus raised a tomb of marble to

          Cresseid of Troyis toun,
    Sumtyme countit the flour of Womanheid.

In the poem of this adventure there are but 616 lines; and it contains
the poignant essence of romance; all passion and pity. Nothing in the
poetry of Scotland excels, perhaps nothing but here and there the cry
of a ballad, or of Scott's "Proud Maisie," approaches in excellence
this work of the schoolmaster of Dunfermline.

His "Robene and Makyne," or love-dialogue between a lad and lass,
the girl first wooing and repulsed; then wooed and scornful, is
in a charming measure, and may have imitated some ancient French

The "Orpheus and Eurydice," that sad and beautiful tale--told by
Maoris in New Zealand, and by Iroquois in America--of the man who
seeks his dead wife in Hades, has merit in Henryson's version. The
passage of Orpheus to and through Hades, where his music consoles
Tantalus and Theseus, and wins the grace of Persephone, is excellent;
the tragic close is not successfully handled, and the long Moral is
tedious. A number of moral poems do not transcend the common course of
those things, and Henryson lives by his "Fables," his "Testament of
Cresseid," and "Robene and Makyne".

These, with the sympathetic kindliness of his unrepining nature place
him, if an individual opinion may be given, high above his more famous
contemporary, Dunbar.


William Dunbar, whom Scott declared to be the greatest poet of Scotland
prior to Robert Burns, took the degree of Bachelor of Arts at St.
Andrews in 1477. Much later, lads of seventeen or even of fourteen,
graduated, so Dunbar may have been born (in East Lothian) so early as
1460. His language, with some southern English tincture, is that of
the most Anglicized part of Scotland. The Earls of Dunbar were a great
shifting power on the Border, and Dunbar's name, at least, was noble,
he may have come of Cospatrick's line (Earls of March).

A favourite Scottish form of verse was the "Flyting" (scolding) or
humorous raillery, and Dunbar's opponent, Walter Kennedy, represented
a very old Celtic clan of Galloway and Ayrshire: Dunbar banters him on
his "Irish" dress and accent. Dunbar was brought up to be a Churchman,
and was a novice in the Order of St. Francis, "begging with a pardon in
all Kirks". From 1479 to 1491, he was travelling abroad, preaching and
begging in France, far from honestly, he says:--

"I wes ay reddy all men to begyle," like Chaucer's Pardoner, but
perhaps Dunbar was merely copying Chaucer. He is thought to have been
attached to the Scottish Embassy in Paris, and he may have read, in
print, the works of the famous burglar poet, Francois Villon. His
recognized Masters, however, were Chaucer, Gower, and Lydgate.

From 1500 to the great defeat of Flodden (1513) and the death of James
IV, Dunbar was a priest and poet at the Court of that magnificent
prince, in whose days Scotland was peaceful, comparatively rich,
and addicted to letters and the arts. Her poets, a century after
Chaucer, and eighty years after their Royal leader, James I, were
all Chaucerians, but were confessedly more vigorous, tuneful, more
original in genius, and much less prolix and pedantic than the English
Chaucerians, Lydgate, Gower, and Hawes. But what Dunbar lacks in
length, he more than makes up for in breadth. He made Court poems on
the Royal marriage of "The Thistle and the Rose" (Margaret, the Rose,
was really as prickly as the Thistle). He was but thriftily rewarded,
and emitted many rhymed petitions for money. Benefice he got none.

Probably, like Dean Swift, he was thought no credit to his cloth, even
in days far from respectable. As Chaucer was styled "Old Grizzle,"
so the Scot speaks of himself as "this gray horss, Auld Dunbar". At
about 48, and in sickness, he wrote his "Lament for the Makaris," the
dead "makers" or poets, including Chaucer, Gower, and Lydgate, with
the recurring burden, _Timor mortis conturbat me_, "Fear of Death
disturbeth me". In 1511 he was with the Queen at her reception in
Aberdeen, which he celebrated, as he had already made immortal the
filth and stench of Edinburgh, a town famous for its dirt till after
Dr. Johnson's time. His humorous poems, his satires on society and
clergy, are coarser than the English poetic attacks. His Three Wanton
Wives, "Two Married Women and the Widow," is inspired by Chaucer's
"Wife of Bath's Tale," or rather by the prologue.

Historically, these poems are full of matter, with their pictures of
a society not more pure than that to which Piers Plowman preached,
but they have not the gentle and humane wit of Chaucer. Like all the
poets following Chaucer, Dunbar shines in descriptions of gardens and
woods in spring, though May, in Scotland, is not always what his fancy
painted it, indeed these vernal glories are borrowed from the verse of
sunny France--

    The sun rises fair in France,
        And fair sets he,
    But he has tint the bonny blink
        He has in my ain countrie,

writes the Jacobite exile, accustomed at home, only to a "blink" or
gleam of the sun through clouds. After 1520, or thereabouts, Dunbar saw
no more of the sun.

Dunbar, with his satires, "flytings," Court poems, allegories of the
usual kind, rhymed petitions, poems of penitence and faith, and the
rest, was versatile enough, and wrote in many forms of verse, even in
the old unrhymed alliterative cadences ("The tua Mariit Wumen and the
Wedo"). To his glory be it said that this, his longest piece, is only
of 530 lines. He also used the heroic rhymed couplet, "Riding Rhyme,"
and the rhymed octosyllabic couplet, strophes of various arrangements,
and even the tripping French triolet.

One allegorical poem, "The Golden Targe," full of classical mythology
and the usual praise of May, contains the lines

    O reverend Chaucere, Rose of rethoris all,
    As in our tong are flour imperiall,

"rethoris," being masters of rhetoric.

Dunbar escapes from Venus and other gods, and from a crowd of
allegorical people--including Danger, of course,--at the end of 278
lines. Apparently Scotland did not love the long-winded style. The
"flyting" combines with rhyme copious alliteration.

For wealth of strange coarse terms of abuse Dunbar may compare with
Urquhart, the translator of Rabelais. A poem to the young Queen is
unspeakably nauseous. In short to be plain, it is not easy to see why
Dunbar has been reckoned above James I and Henryson; while Barbour,
with a chivalrous heart and a spirited story, is infinitely more
agreeable and profitable than the Court-haunting priest of James IV. In
Scotland, Dunbar at no time has been so popular as the poets already
mentioned. He praises Chaucer, but the lesson of Chaucer he never fully

Blind Harry.

Blind Harry, or "Henry the Minstrel," is a mysterious personage. Who
was Harry? John Mair or Major (1469-1550) (?) is not an accurate
historian; the Antiquary, in Scott's novel, calls him "a pillar of
falsehood". Major says that, in his own infancy (say 1480) a man blind
from his birth wrote "Schir William Wallace," and supported himself by
chanting it to the nobles. The manuscript is of 1488. A few entries of
small sums paid to "Blind Harry" occur in the Royal accounts, ending
in 1492, and Harry was dead when (1508) Dunbar printed his Lament for
poets dead and gone. Harry may have become blind, but can hardly have
been blind from his birth. Though he calls himself "a borel man," an
unlettered man, he had some education; he was not a ballad maker, but
produced a romance of nearly 12,000 lines. He says that he had a Latin
source, a narrative written by Wallace's chaplain, John Blair, of which
nothing is known.

He is full of anachronisms, and tells long adventures of Wallace
with Edward I and his Queen which never occurred. Tradition, already
mythical, is his chief source, his Wallace is but little more
historical than Grettir in the Icelandic Saga, and like him has
dealings with a ghost, that of a slain man, which appears with its
head in its hand. Wallace, whose wife, it is said, was slain by the
English, is a very bloodthirsty hero; his manslayings and burnings of
houses are many. Harry has not too high an opinion of Bruce. His hero,
Wallace, has always been, thanks mainly to Harry, the most popular of
Scottish heroes. Harry tells his tale with abundant energy; he hates
the English infinitely more than the chivalrous Barbour did, and he
is perfectly free from the influence of the "Roman de la Rose". His
verse is not wholly correct; eight consecutive lines have the following
rhymes,--"been, keen, saw, mean, seen, raw, knaw, teir, faw," indeed
some passages have a kind of stanza formation, in the Second Book
(lines 260-360).

We must not look on Harry as an unlearned maker of Border ballads.
He had read Wyntoun, and Chaucer (though he does not make Chaucer
his model), and he borrows from the alliterative romance of "Arthur"
ascribed to the mysterious Huchown. Moreover, it has been proved, and
anybody can see it, that he stole adventures of Robert Bruce from
Barbour's poem, and made Wallace, not Bruce, their hero. Harry takes
some of Bruce's battles and transfers them to Wallace. "Harry nearly
uproots Barbour." Whereas Bruce, on the eve of Bannockburn, cut down
Sir Henry Bohun, as he charged, with a blow of his axe, Harry declares
that Wallace dealt this very stroke on Bruce's spear and horse's neck.
To Wallace he attributes the famous campaign in which Bruce drove
Edward II within the walls of York (1322).[1]

Harry is, in short, a mystery, and his book, wholly worthless as
history, is a colossal perversion of Barbour "The Bruce," with other
matter from pure fancy or from unknown legend, while great parts are
played by men of Harry's own time, English in-evading knights of 1483.

The Buke of the Howlat.

Sir Richard Holland, or de Holand, a cleric, and a partisan of the
House of Douglas during its encounters with the Crown, and its fall
under James II, wrote, to please his patroness, the Countess of Moray,
and to flatter the Douglas, "The Buke of the Howlat," the Owl. The
poem, in stanzas of thirteen lines, rhyming and alliterative, begins
with the usual dream and leads up to a kind of allegorical "Parliament
of Fowls". The allegory is entangled, the poet's real desire is to
glorify his patrons with their motto,

    O Dowglas, O Dowglas,
        Tendir and Trewe!

"Trewe" they had been, to Bruce and to Scotland, but they became
the allies, against king and country, of Edward IV and Henry VIII,
while "tender" the Douglases never were. The most interesting passage
describes the voyage of the good Lord James towards the Holy Land,
with the heart of Bruce. In Spain he meets the Saracens in battle, and
throws among them the Heart, in its jewelled case--

    Amang the hethin men the hert hardely he slang,
    Said, "Wend on as thou was wont,
    Throw the batell in front,
    Ay formost in the front,
    Thy foes amang."

There fell the Douglas, above the heart of his king, that was rescued
by Logan and Lockhart, and brought back to Scotland; a noble feat of
chivalry, nobly told. Here Holland "stirs the blood like the sound of a

It may be said of these Scottish poets that while, in initiative and
in models they owe almost all to England, their long and desperate war
with that country gives them a martial fire and spirit to which the
English poetry of the time furnishes no rival. Laurence Minot does not
stir the blood!

Gawain Douglas.

Gawain Douglas was of the family of the Red Douglases, Earls of Angus,
who rose on the ruin of the turbulent Black Douglases, of the House
of Bruce's good Lord James, when they failed in their alliance with
England against the Crown of Scotland. The Red Douglases also rose
high, and had their own feud with the Crown and alliance with or
servitude to Henry VIII and the Protestant cause. Gawain was a younger
son of the Earl of Angus called Bell the Cat, who hanged the artistic
favourites of James III. As an old man he was present at Flodden
(1513) where James IV died so gallantly, and his grandson, now Earl
of Angus, married Dunbar's "Rose," Margaret Tudor, widow of James IV.
Gawain himself, born about 1473 or 1474, was educated at St. Andrews
University, took orders, and, being of a powerful House, received rapid
clerical promotion.

His poems were written in the peaceful and prosperous years of James
IV, between 1501 and 1513, the date of Flodden and of the completion of
Gawain's translation of the "Æneid" of Virgil. His earlier works "The
Palice of Honour" and "King Hart," are merely rhymed allegories after
the manner of the unceasing "Roman de la Rose," and have no special
interest. What is true about one of these belated last allegories
is true of another: they are no longer to be read for mere literary
pleasure. In his "Æneid," Douglas introduces original prologues to
the books of the "Æneid," rather in the manner of Scott's poetical
epistles between the cantos of "Marmion". He describes winter, spring,
and summer in Scotland. He criticizes, not unfavourably, the theology
of Virgil, whom the Middle Ages regarded, now as a magician (like
Ovid among the Italian peasantry to this day), and now as an inspired
prophet of the coming of Our Lord. He attacks Caxton for printing a
translation of Virgil, not from the original Latin, but from a French
version. His criticism of Caxton is full of detail, and severe. He
himself is "bound to Virgil's text," and he does not treat it, as a
rule, with the licence of Chapman when rendering Homer into English
verse; but Gawain remarks, truly, that sometimes of one word he
must make three, must occasionally expand in exposition, and add, in

    Sum tyme I follow the text als neir I may,
    Sum tyme I am constreinit are uther way.

His remarks on the task of the translator show considerable reflection.
On comparing the poem with the Latin it seems more close in sense to
the great untranslatable original than might have been expected in an
uncritical age and country. It is the first attempt in our language at
the rendering of a great ancient classic, and, as such, looks forward
to the new times, and to the Renaissance which, in Scotland, was mainly
confined to Biblical criticism.

After Flodden, Gawain was immersed in politics, and in a long and
futile struggle to obtain, through English influence, the Archbishopric
of St. Andrews. For this he fought a triangular duel (nor were the
weapons of the flesh unused), with Hepburn, the Prior, and Forman, a
clerical diplomatist, who was successful. Gawain obtained the petty
Bishopric of Dunkeld, on the Tay, and died when on a political mission
to London (1522). Gawain is almost the only Scottish example of a
nobleman and a Churchman, in his age, distinguished for devotion to
literary scholarship. There are a number of Scots poems, of this
date, such as "Christ's Kirk on the Green" and "Peebles at the Play"
(the best of them), which show much command of lively metre and rude
descriptive powers where rustic merriment and horseplay are to be
painted. But their dialect is usually uncouth, and they are only
appreciated by special students.

Sir David Lyndsay.

The most popular of the old Scottish poets was not so poetical as
Henryson, but gave pleasure by his genial character, his extremely
coarse humour, and his attacks on the Churchmen and on abuses in the
State. This author, Sir David Lyndsay, was born, perhaps at his family
place, the Mount, in Fife, about 1490. His name "Da. Lyndsay" (if it be
his) appears in the register of St. Andrews University besides that of
the man whom he hated so much, and attacked in verse after his murder,
the great Cardinal Beaton. By 1511, Lyndsay was a page at Court,
and acted in a play at Holyrood. In 1512, Lyndsay was Master of the
Household, or chief attendant of the infant Prince, later James V. He
was present when the apparition described in "Marmion" gave a warning,
in church, to James IV, just before Flodden, and told Lyndsay of
Pitscottie, the amusing chronicler, that he tried to arrest the figure
"but he vanished away as if he had been a blink of the sun or a whiz of
the whirlwind". Till 1522 his chief business was to teach and amuse the
boy, James V;

    I bore thee in mine arm
        Full tenderly,

and, later, told him fairy tales such as the story of the Red Etin, or
disguised himself as "the grisly ghost of Guy".

About 1528 Lyndsay wrote "The Dreame" (the usual allegorical dream),
in 1529 he was made chief herald, "Lord Lyon King of Arms," and as
such went on many foreign embassies. In 1539-1540 his great play, "The
Satire of the Three Estates," was acted before the Court; it is the
only early Scottish drama that survives. There are two Parts, and three
interludes full of matter wonderfully coarse. The play is all in favour
of reforms, and is full of the satire of the Churchmen and pleadings
for the poor which ensured its popularity. There are some seventy
characters, most of them allegorical personages. The King delighted
in the satire, and as Lyndsay attacked the vices of the clergy and
the Pardoners, not the doctrines of the Church, he ran no risk of
martyrdom. The verse is in many forms and different sorts of stanzas,
in rhyming couplets of eight syllables, or of ten or more.

After James's death and the murder of Cardinal Beaton, Lyndsay wrote a
poem, "The Tragedy of the Cardinal" in which his ghost accuses himself
of many sins and crimes, and is sure that Boccaccio would write "my
tragedie," if Boccaccio were still alive. Lyndsay died early in 1555.
His most popular poem, probably, was a good-humoured romance, "Squire
Meldrum," about the fighting adventures, at home and abroad, of a
young Fife laird of the period. He wrote many other things, humorous
or grave, admonitions to the King, and a reply to a "Flyting" or
scolding, of the King against him, in verse; unluckily the Royal
lampoon is lost. A Lament for James's first wife who died young; a
very humorous set of verses on the King's dog; and a "Dialogue between
Experience and a Courtier," with shorter pieces, grave or gay, make
up Lyndsay's contribution to the literature of his country. They are
full of historical hints, but, merely as poetry, are now seldom read,
as Henryson may be read, for pleasure. The Reformation, breaking out
in 1559, distracted men's minds from secular literature, to which, for
more than a century, Scotland contributed nothing of real importance
except the "History of the Reformation" by John Knox, the Reformer.
This work is written in such English (not Scots) as Knox could command,
for in origin it was meant to be read in England, and to justify the
proceedings of the Reformers. It is partly derived from memory of
the events and the memory is sometimes strangely inaccurate. Public
documents are inserted at full length, in one case with some lack of
candour, and actions are denied which, later, were acknowledged. The
book, as history, needs to be cautiously studied, but as a picture
of the men and women of the age, especially of Knox himself and
Queen Mary, it is most vivacious, and may be read with interest and
amusement. Knox's other works, theological, epistolary, and political,
were written to meet the needs of the moment, and are of little value
except to historians and students of the career and character of the

[1] See proofs by Mr. George Neilson, in Blind Harry's "Wallace,"
"Essays and Studies," by Members of the English Association, 1910.



The fifteenth and sixteenth centuries in England and Scotland were
rich in popular poetry and in ballads. We must define the meaning of
"popular" and "ballad" poetry, as used in this chapter.

  Much confusion and much controversy exist regarding this matter
  of ballads and popular poetry. To understand the subject it is
  necessary to be acquainted with the results of research in the
  _orally transmitted_ verse of peoples in every stage of culture;
  for till elementary instruction in reading and writing become
  universal, the untaught rural classes retain, in their songs, the
  literary methods of the quite uncivilized races of Australia,
  North America, Africa, and so on.

  Taking the, peoples lowest in civilization, we find that the
  Australian blacks and the American Red Indians have several
  kinds of songs, usually sung in dances, whether festive or
  religious or magical. They have magic chants, and even hymns,
  often unintelligible to those who sing them in the dance, either
  because the language is obsolete, or because the songs have been
  borrowed from tribes of alien speech. It is clear that in Europe,
  too, the ballad was originally a dancing song ("ballad" is from
  _ballare_, to dance), and where a story was told, that was given
  in recitative, while the dancers followed each line of narrative
  with a chorus or refrain, such as

    There were three ladies lived in a bower,
      _Oh wow! bonnie._
    And they went out to pu' a flower
      _On the bonnie banks o' Fordie._

  The story told in the recitative, in surviving examples, was
  probably, at first, composed by one author, versifying a popular
  tale, of unknown antiquity, or narrating some recent event.
  Even now in the remoter isles of the Hebrides, various singers,
  each in turn, improvise and chant verses, and thus a kind of
  ballad is made collectively. But it is plain that for each of
  our oldest surviving narrative ballads there must have been one
  original author, whether his theme was an old story or a recent
  occurrence,--on the Borders usually a cattle raid, the escape
  of a prisoner, or a battle. There would be no _professional_
  poet, as Queen Mary's ally, Bishop Leslie of Ross tells us,
  in his "History of Scotland," "the Borderers themselves make
  their own ballads, about the deeds of their ancestors, or crafty
  raids or forays". Such unwritten songs would be altered by every
  singer, as time went by, so that these ballads as they stand are
  thoroughly popular and "masterless," many hands have combined to
  bring them into their present state.

  The Robin Hood ballads, or songs about Robin Hood, are mentioned
  by Piers Plowman as popular among the peasants at the end of the
  fourteenth century. They would be sung in connexion with the very
  ancient festivities of May Day, held in England and Scotland,
  when money was collected, rather roughly, from spectators and
  passers-by. Now Wynkyn de Worde, the successor of Caxton as a
  printer, published a "Lytil Geste" of Robin Hood (about 1490).
  But we are not obliged to suppose that the songs known to Piers
  Plowman were borrowed from the "long Geste" of Robin Hood; more
  probably the "Geste" was derived from the popular traditions and
  rhymes of the May Day show of Robin Hood. How far these ballads
  as they now exist have been organized and improved upon by a
  professional minstrel it is hard to say. In any case the older
  ballads are worthy of merry England.

  The ballads of King Arthur are manifestly popularized and reduced
  to the simple ballad form from the long literary romances, and
  are probably the work of lowly professional minstrels.

  The long ballad of "Flodden Field" is the work of a partisan of
  the Stanley family, it is far too long (over 500 lines), and too
  full of historical detail, for a ballad made by the Borderers
  themselves. "Scottish Field" (Flodden) is another piece of the
  same sort, in alliterative measure.

  The class of ballad which was made as a narrative of current
  events, or a satire on contemporaries (of such ballad-satires
  Henry VIII complained to James V) was usually, in England, the
  work of a versifying journalist of the humblest sort, and was
  printed. John Knox tells us that ballads were made on Queen
  Mary's Four Maries (Mary Livingstone, Mary Fleming, Mary Beaton
  and Mary Seaton), and these, it is plain, were satirical. But the
  only survivor of these ballads, "Mary Hamilton," is romantic,
  and in all its many various forms transfers, to a non-existent
  Mary, the misfortunes of a French waiting-maid of the Queen,
  who, with her lover, an apothecary, was hanged for the murder of
  their child. In only one text is the lover an apothecary: the
  lady is sometimes not an apocryphal Hamilton, but a Campbell,
  daughter of the Duke of Argyll; or a daughter of the Duke of
  York, or even "Mary Mild" (or Mile) which is the name of our Lady
  in old carols. For the lover, the poet chooses Henry Darnley,
  husband of Queen Mary, or that old offender, "Sweet Willie," or
  any one; and this is a good example of the changes which popular
  ballads underwent in recitation. As they stand, the multitude has
  collaborated in them, reciters have altered the original in many

  Such ballads differ much from "Lady Bessy," with its 1080 lines,
  probably written by Humphrey Brereton in honour of the House of
  Stanley and of Lady Bessie's revenge on Richard III. Some verses
  are as spirited as those of "Kinmont Willie," a Border ballad
  to which Scott lent the vigour of the last and greatest of the
  Border makers, for probably the finest verses in the song are by
  Sir Walter himself: at all events he improved what old verses he

  At Bosworth Field, when all is lost, Sir William Harrington says
  to Richard III:--

    "There may no man their strokes abide,
        The Stanleys' dints they be so strong,
    Ye may come in another time;
        Therefore methink ye tarry too long."

  As lion-hearted as his namesake Richard I, Richard III replies:--

    "Give me my battle-axe in my hand,
       And set my crown on my head so high,
    For by Him that made both sea and land,
       King of England will I this day die.

    "One foot of ground I will not flee
       While the strength abides my breast within,"
    As he said so did it be,
       If he lost his life he died a king.

  The early history of our purely romantic ballads, such as "Clerk
  Sanders," "The Douglas Tragedy," "The Dowie Dens o' Yarrow,"
  "Young Beichan," "The Wife of Usher's Well," "Fair Annie,"
  "Tamlane," and many more, is obscure. They have analogues in all
  European countries, from Greece to Scandinavia, and in popular
  tales, the oldest things in literature. Their extraordinary
  charm, their touch of supernatural terror, their simplicity,
  their recurring formulæ of words, their brevity and pathos, make
  them things apart. The heart of humanity is their maker, though
  in each country where they exist local allusions and local colour
  have been given to them by the singers. When such ballads have
  been worked over by some hack of the early Press they are often
  worthless; the best have been collected from oral recitation, or
  old written copies.

  There can be no universal theory of the origin of ballads; each
  ballad must be examined by itself before we can say whether it
  is a popularized shape of a literary romance, or a versified
  "Märchen" worked over by many hands in many ages, or a mere
  mythical news-letter, like "King James and Brown"; or the work,
  like "Otterburne," of a humbler poet than the minstrels of the
  Stanleys, but a better poet; or one whose work has been improved
  by the modifications of later singers; or whether the thing is
  a dance song, contributed to by each dancer in turn; or a brief
  and beautiful lament like "The Bonny Earl o' Murray". The best
  traditional ballads have the colour and fragrance of wild flowers.

  Curious and very ancient traits of popular usages may be gathered
  from the songs of merrymaking, for example in the songs of Ivy,
  the badge of the women, and of Holly, the badge of the men.
  Girls and lads bring ivy and holly into halls and a fight ensues,
  the girls are thrust out into the cold.

    "Nay, nay Ivy it may not be, I wis,
    For Holly must have mastery, as the manner is."

  The girls burned the "Holly boy" of the men, the men burned the
  "Ivy maid" of the girls. This ancient feud of the sexes, and of
  their patron birds, exists among the tribes of South-Eastern
  Australia, the men killing the bird of the women, the women the
  bird of the men, and an amorous kind of combat follows.

  The old ballad of "Chevy Chace," a form of the older ballad
  on the battle of Otterburn (1388) was warmly praised by Sir
  Philip Sidney. Later Addison took delight in ballads: they
  began to be collected and printed in volumes towards the end of
  the seventeenth and early in the eighteenth century. In 1765
  Bishop Percy printed many ballads and other early poems from a
  manuscript, the "Folio" which he found, tattered and mutilated,
  in the house of a friend. Percy, in his "Reliques," omitted,
  altered and modernized the contents of the Folio, but it was very
  popular. In 1803 and later Sir Walter Scott published "The Border
  Minstrelsy," containing many excellent old ballads, in places
  modified by himself, from manuscripts, recitations, and printed
  copies. It is in "The Minstrelsy" that we find the "classical"
  versions of the ballads; there are many other collections.

We have put into smaller type a short account of the probable origins
and development of the ballad, because a study of these subjects is
mainly based on folk-lore and on research into the unwritten poetry
of backward races. The reader of poetry who is not concerned about an
obscure and difficult subject, is best advised if he takes up Scott's
"Border Minstrelsy" and reads it "for human pleasure". He will find
endless variety of strong, simple, passionate poetry, seldom made
difficult by obsolete words, for the ballads are, however old, far less
Scots in language than the poems of Burns. Another good collection is
the abridgement by Professor Kittredge, of the late Professor Child's
vast collection of ballads in five volumes, a work indispensable to the
special student.

Though it is not a ballad, the most beautiful and loyal piece of
masterless poetry of this age is "The Nut Brown Maid," already old when
it was published in 1502. This is a defence of woman's faithfulness in
love, the maid will follow her outlawed lover to the greenwood, ay,
even if he have another lady there. Her lover replies:--

    Lo yet, before, ye must do more,
        Yf ye wyll go with me:
    As cut your here up by your ere,
        Your kyrtel by the kne;
    With bowe in hande, for to withstande
        Your enemyes, yf nede be.

Scott's song, "Greta Banks," in "Rokeby," repeats the sentiment and
metre of this beautiful poem, with its music and mastery of changing
refrains and various measures. Some of the carols too, such as "I
sing of a Maid," are the earliest notes in the bird-like music of the
lyrists under Elizabeth and Charles I.


  Skelton. Barclay.

  Meanwhile professional poetry of society and the Court was
  sinking to the lowest depth. The verse of the prolific priest and
  scholar, John Skelton (born 1460? died 1529?), leads nowhere,
  and though it is full of historical and personal interest, must
  not detain us. Skelton had honours of a sort, as Laureate, from
  Oxford, Cambridge, and Louvain. He translated parts of Cicero and
  other classics, and, in 1500, was highly praised by the famous
  Erasmus, who later brought the study of the New Testament in
  Greek to England, and was the wittiest of scholars in the Revival
  of Learning and of Greek literature. Skelton had Latin enough,
  of Greek not much, and about 1500 was tutor of the future Henry
  VIII. His profuse poetry is mainly in long but lively stretches
  of doggerel; very short rhyming verses, generally satirical,
  poured from him ceaselessly. He had a "flyting" or scolding match
  like that of Dunbar and Kennedy, with Sir Christopher Garnesche;
  he lamented at terrible length the death of "Philip Sparrow,"
  slain by "our Cat Gib"--nothing can be less like Catullus's dirge
  for Lesbia's sparrow, but some graceful compliments to young
  ladies are intermixed with the doggerel. He owed the Rectory
  of Diss, Norfolk, probably to his patron, Wolsey, but for some
  unknown reason he later pursued Wolsey with libellous satires.

  In "The Bowge of Court," when he relapses into stanzas and the
  outworn allegorical verbiage, he satirizes Court life. In "Colyn
  Clout," his hero is a tramp, as vehement in attack on all sorts
  and conditions of men as Piers Plowman. Wolsey was attacked as
  a despot in "Colyn Clout," and much more bitterly assailed in
  "Why come ye not to Court": after writing this piece Skelton fled
  from his foes and creditors to sanctuary in Westminster. He wrote
  a long "Morality," "Magnificence," with the usual personified
  vices and virtues. In very bad taste he hurled doggerel at "King
  Jimmy," James IV, after his glorious death at Flodden, and, more
  deservedly, attacked the Scots who deserted the Duke of Albany
  and the French when the Duke wished to lead them across the

  A brief sample of Skelton when most Skeltonical is his reply
  to the alleged boast of the Scots that they won the battle of

    That is as true
    As black is blue
    And green is grey
    Whatever they say
    Jemmy is dead
    And closed in lead,
    That was their own king:
    Fie on that winning!

  Even in his own country, as he admits, the execrable taste of
  Skelton was reproved. He had a rude kind of vigour, but his
  verses make it manifest that a new strain of blood, as it were,
  was needed in English poetry: old forms, such as the allegorical
  form, were outworn quite, and verse resembling the poem of
  Aramis, in lines of one syllable, could not endure, while
  Skelton's "Crown of Laurel" mixes his own blusterous humour
  with the stale learning, and pompous allegory of the fifteenth
  century; and "The Tunning of Eleanor Rummyng" (an ale-wife), in
  doggerel, is as offensive as the Scottish song, "There was a
  haggis in Dunbar," and extends to 620 lines. Very truly quoth

    I have written too mytche
    Of this mad mummynge
    Of Elynour Rummynge.


  Alexander Barclay (died 1552) was probably not a Scot, though
  his name is spelt in the Scots not the English way (Berkeley).
  His high praises of James IV of Scotland, however, scarcely
  indicate an English author, and he was very early regarded as
  a Scot. He was a priest, a monk of Ely; he dwelt long at St.
  Mary Ottery in Devon, and was a copious translator. His "Ship of
  Fools" (1508-1509) is from the German "Narrenschiff" of Sebastian
  Brandt: his "Castle of Labour," from the French of Gringore was
  an earlier work. His "Eclogues," in part translated, are very
  unlike those of Virgil, and their contents are growls in the
  style of "Colyn Clout".

  Barclay used French and Latin versions of the "Narrenschiff,"
  as well as the original "Dutch". He altered and added to his
  original as he pleased, and he prolongs the cry against abuses
  raised by Piers Plowman. A writer who takes all follies and
  vices for his theme, from the frauds of friars, the wickedness
  of heretics, the oppressions of knights, to the peevishness of
  the patient who kicks over the table on which the physic bottles
  stand, can never want matter, and Barclay's matter is exceeding

  But the clever contemporary woodcuts that illustrate his satire
  are better than his two thousand irregular stanzas in rhyme
  royal, and if Barclay quarrelled with Skelton the affair is
  like a feud between Bavius and Maevius. The two writers are
  characteristic of their rude and chaotic age, which, as regards
  all but popular poetry, was the dark hour before the dawn.



In one shape or another, the drama, acting with or without written
words, is always in existence, at least in the form of pantomime, even
among the rudest peoples. The Church permitted a kind of half-ritual,
half-dramatic representation of sacred scenes at a very early period:
but we have no earlier relic of English written plays than the very
brief "Harrowing of Hell" of the first half of the fourteenth century.
There are a few speeches between our Lord and Satan, and our Lord
and the released Hebrew patriarchs. A good idea of the plays of the
fifteenth century may be obtained from the set called the "Townley
Plays" because the manuscript belonged at one time to the old Jacobite
family of Townley. It is thought to have been originally the property
of the Abbey of Woodkirk or Widkirk near Wakefield, and one play, the
second play representing the Shepherds at the birth of Christ, contains
allusions to the country scenes near Woodkirk. The plays were acted
on movable wooden stages, by the members of the various trade guilds,
such as the Glovers, the _Barkers_ (Tanners, "There is brass on the
target of _barkened_ bull's hide," says Scott in "Bonnie Dundee"), the
Grocers, and so forth.

The plays of one town are sometimes the basis of the plays of another
town, some of those of York follow those of Wakefield, and in places
Wakefield borrows from York. The authors are unknown; if they were
priests, these clerics had much more of broad humour than of reverence
as we understand it. No doubt the plays informed the spectators on
points of the scriptural story, but the religion was highly recreative.
Nothing can have been more amusing to the crowd than the spectacle of
their neighbours playing all manner of highly laughable pranks by way
of illustrating the gross, grumbling, reckless, impudent Cain; or the
rustic waggeries of the local shepherds of Bethlehem. Even now the
words of the plays make a man laugh aloud, in the comic parts, as he
reads them. They are of the broadest farce, yet our mirth rises more
from the character displayed than from mere practical buffoonery and
clowning. The Tanners enacted the "Creation"; the Glovers, the "Death
of Abel". Many Old Testament stories were played, the unaccomplished
Sacrifice of Isaac, the story of Abraham, and so on, with the Birth,
Crucifixion, and Ascension of our Lord, and the soliloquy and suicide
of Judas, a fragment.

Whoever the authors may have been, they took pains to represent the
most unearthly characters as very human, though the opening soliloquy
of the Deity at the Creation is orthodox and majestic. The Cherubim
then take up the tale, praising the Works, especially praising Lucifer,
"He is so lovely and so bright!" Lucifer enters and, accepting the
praise, proposes to be Lord of all and says that the Throne becomes
him rarely, taking his seat on it! The bad Angels approve in the most
colloquial style; the good dissent, and the bad, sent down below,
express their lively regrets.

The slaying of Abel is introduced by Garcio, not a scriptural
character, in an impudent speech; and then Cain enters, ploughing,
cursing his horses, and wrangling with his boy, who offers to fight
him. Abel enters, full of human kindness, but Cain insults him in the
coarsest rustic manner, "Go to the Devil and say I bade". Abel insists
that Cain should offer a burnt-sacrifice of a tenth of his corn, but
Cain loves paying tithes no more than any other farmer. He grumbles in
the true natural tone of the depressed agriculturist,

    When all men's com was fair in field,
    There was mine not worth a held.

The weather is such, says Cain, that the farmer owes no gratitude to
providence, no tithes. He selects his worst sheaves, as pay tithe he
must. The Deity intervenes, but Cain treats him with the most serene
insolence, kills the remonstrating Abel with the jaw-bone of some
animal, and, in short, is no more edifying than Mr. Punch, whose
lawless and irreverent behaviour in the popular street drama is a
survival of the humour of Cain.

The "Rejoicing of the Shepherds," the second play, is much more
human and various: the shepherds are full of the complaints of their
condition with which Piers Plowman has made us familiar, but the
provisions at their picnic are rich and various, and the adventure of
Mak, the sheep stealer, is of the best comedy. Hospitably entertained
by the shepherds, Mak steals a sheep, flays it, and takes it home to
his wife. They put it in a cradle, and cover it with blankets, next
Mak hies to the shepherds again, grumbling that his wife has a new
baby. They suspect and follow him; he denies his theft, and will eat
the child in the cradle, if the sheep can be found on his premises. It
_is_ found. This child, says a shepherd, has too long a snout. Mrs.
Mak, with much presence of mind, admits the fact, but declares that her
child is a fairy changeling: fairies stole the baby at midnight, and
left this ugly substitute. The shepherds forgive Mak, for the joke's
sake, after tossing him in a sheet.

The same story is told of Archy Armstrong, the border reiver and
jester. When the shepherds go back to their flocks, the Angel sings
_Gloria in excelsis_; and the shepherds criticize the music learnedly,
"there was no crochet wrong," and imitate the air. The sacred part
of the play, the Adoration, and offering of balls and toys to the
new-born babe, is very brief. The play is a most humorous and lively
representation of "our liberal shepherds," the sacred narrative merely
affords a pretext for the gambol. England was merry England in the
fifteenth century, in spite of defeats in France, murder and civil war
at home, preachings and burnings of Lollards, and all the grievances of
Piers Plowman, the cruelty of the great, and the greed and cunning of
the Friars.

The play of "Lazarus," on the other hand, is not only solemn, closely
following the words of the Gospel, but is as full as the Anglo-Saxon
poem, "The Grave," of sepulchral horrors.

Of the costumes we may judge by that of St. Paul on the road to
Damascus, in "The Digby Plays"--the Apostle is "dressed like an
adventurous knight," and is mounted. In place of scene-shifting the
audience shifted from one open-air stage in the street to another.
There were dances between the scenes. Paul's servant has a scene of
banter with an ostler. He maintains that he is a gentleman's servant,
a superior person. Says the ostler: "I saw such another gentleman with
you, a barrowful he bare of horse dung... and such other gear".

There are forty characters and a crowd in the play of "Mary Magdalene,"
and much skill in stage management must have been needed. In this
play of more than two thousand lines allegorical characters abound,
including the Seven Deadly Sins; much of the Gospel story of the
Magdalene is introduced, with lively scenes from the unconverted career
of the Lady of the Castle of Magdala, and there is a long passage of
sheer romance; we have a storm at sea; the abandonment of the King's
wife and child on a rock; their discovery later, alive and well--in
fact the story is akin to that in Shakespeare's "Pericles".

We see that the secular entertainment, the drama of romance, is
ousting its religious occasion and pretext. In "Mary Magdalene," too,
we observe that the "Miracle Play" on sacred subjects, is combined
with the "Morality," the drama with allegorical characters (as in the
"Romance of the Rose"), presented in flesh and blood, and therefore
more entertaining than they are in the endless allegorical poems. The
Morality of "Everyman" has been revived with much success in our own
time. In all these plays the verse takes many rhyming forms, mainly
lyric. The chief collections are the Townley, York, Chester, Digby,
Coventry, and a Macro (named from an owner of the manuscript). In the
Macro play, "Mankind," the actors make collections of money from the
audience: they must have belonged to a professional strolling company,
not to an honourable and disinterested trading guild. The piece is a
gross burlesque of morality, full of blatant jests and dog-Latin rhymes.

There is a scientific Morality, an "Interlude," "The Four Elements," in
which Nature, Humanity, Studious Desire, Sensual Appetite, Experience,
and Ignorance play their parts. Much novel information about the
dimensions of the earth and meteorology is given; Studious Desire is
an apt pupil, but Sensual Appetite and the Taverner offer instruction
more palatable to "the Man in the Street". They introduce

              little Nell
    A proper wench, she danceth well,
    And Jane with the black lace,
    We will have bouncing Bess also.

and Humanity slinks out of the lecture room, being more concerned

                to see a pretty girl,
    It is a world to see her whirl
        Dancing in a round,

than to observe the gyrations of the terrestrial globe.

In "Hickscorner," an interlude of the same kind, the hero has been in
as many places as Widsith himself, including

    the land of Rumbelow
    Three mile out of hell.

Hickscorner and Free Will are worse roisterers than Humanity, and their
rude waggeries make the mirth, though Free Will speaks of forswearing
sack and living cleanly.


John Heywood is one of the few known authors of these things; he was of
what is now Pembroke College, Dr. Johnson's College, in Oxford, and was
an acquaintance of Sir Thomas More, who frankly admits that by nature
he was "a giglot," a gay fellow, though, by grace, devout. Heywood
was merry in mournful times, when Henry VIII began to make martyrs of
Protestants, and of Catholics who were not, at any moment, of the same
shade of belief as himself. The anecdotes say that Heywood saved his
skin by his jests, that after Henry's death he amused Mary Tudor, who
was not easily amused, and that he fled from persecution under Edward
VI, and died abroad in the reign of Elizabeth.

His best-known piece is "The Four P's," a Pothecary, Pardoner, Palmer,
and Pedlar. Why, asks the Pardoner, should the Palmer visit hundreds
of remote shrines, while the Pardoner, at his very door, can sell him
forgiveness of sins at the lowest figure? He can cleanse a thousand
souls for as small a sum as the Palmer spends on one voyage. All four
men are impudent rogues, and all, in the spirit of the Morality, are
rapidly converted; the Pedlar becoming as pious as Piers Plowman. There
is no action, and the great jest is that, in a lying competition, the
Pedlar says that he has never seen "a woman out of patience". The
diversion must have been derived mainly from the antics of the players
on the stage.

Heywood's "Thersites" (the impudent orator in the "Iliad") was written
about 1537, to make mirth for the birth feast of the Prince of Wales,
afterwards Edward VI. Thersites asks Mulciber (Hephæstus) to make him a
helmet (sallet) as he made the arms of Achilles. This enables Mulciber
to vent many puns on salad; they look like the very first puns ever
devised, and occupy two pages. The pun seems to have been a novelty in
Tudor England. Thersites is a rough-hewn predecessor of Shakespeare's
Pistol. There is much mockery of sacred relics and some buffoonery by
way of action. Telemachus brings a letter from Ulysses (such a thing,
said J. J. Rousseau, very foolishly, would have been useful in the
"Odyssey") and Miles, the Knight, ends all with a pious speech.

In early Tudor England the drama had sunk many fathoms below the level
of the Miracle Plays, such as that of the Shepherds. The rise of the
drama, under Elizabeth, is a kind of miracle, like the sculpture of
Phidias appearing after the rude art of the artists who worked at
Athens before the victories of Marathon and Salamis.

In "Jack Juggler," however, we find the influence of Roman comedy
faintly dawning, for the play is Plautus's comedy of "Amphitryon,"
"without Amphitryon," the hero, and with the mischievous and
much-beaten Jack Juggler as the source of the fun.

The infant drama had wandered out of Biblical and allegorical subjects
into touch with actual ancient Roman comedy, and, with Bale's "King
John," was preluding to Shakespeare's Chronicle Plays. In the dawn
of the Reformation, disputants on both sides addressed the people in
Interludes, just as to-day a person "with a purpose" puts it into
a novel, in place of writing a sober and reasonable treatise which
would not be read. Among the plays with a purpose none is more absurd
than the "King John" of John Bale (1495-1563). Bale, whose best work
is a kind of history of English literature in Latin, was a fiery hot
gospeller; he had to leave the country under Mary Tudor. In "King John"
that profane and licentious but astute prince appears as a kind of
Protestant martyr. Attacked by Stephen Langton, he says that the Church
hates him because he does not found abbeys, and is in favour of an open
Bible. So he is poisoned by the wicked priests!

In the interests of History no less than of her Church, Queen Mary
issued proclamations against plays with a Protestant purpose, while
Elizabeth was equally severe against Catholic Interludes.

We must think of these Interludes, whether moral, religious,
scientific, or amusing, being played from the reign of Henry VIII
till the middle of the reign of Elizabeth. Till 1575 or 1576 there
were no theatre-houses; stages were erected in halls of palaces,
castles, colleges, and in open spaces of towns. The King or Queen had
Interlude players in their service, as they had musicians. Companies
calling themselves "the Servants," and wearing the liveries of nobles
and gentlemen, strolled about the country, protected by their more
or less nominal masters, and supporting themselves by their skill
in their profession. The "children," that is the boys, of various
schools, especially of St. Paul's, acted under the managership of
their teachers. The undergraduates of the Universities also acted,
at first in Latin, before Queen Elizabeth, who did not conceal her
distaste for what did not amuse her. The language of the plays was cast
into all sorts of rhyming measures, and "the Vice" or lively buffoon
of the Interludes was the germ of the Shakespearean Clown. There was
abundance both of writers and players, but the plays had little merit
as literature.

Ralph Roister Doister.

Among the unforgotten of these dwellers on the threshold of the
Elizabethan drama is "Ralph Roister Doister," by Nicholas Udall
(1505-1556) (of Corpus Christi College, Oxford, later headmaster of
Eton, and next of Westminster; he died in the reign of Mary Tudor).
The Vice, so to speak, or clever buffooning parasite, of the piece is
Matthew Merrygreek, who in a long rhyming prologue describes his own
way of life and his intention to befool the braggart Ralph Roister
Doister. Ralph enters melancholy, he is in love: he has met the lady at
supper, but forgets her name. She is rich (says Matthew), a widow, and
betrothed to another man. Ralph is a fatuous ass, like Malvolio, and
thinks all women in love with him. Merrygreek fools him to the top of
his bent, and presents the lady with a forged love-letter from Ralph,
who is drubbed by the maid-servants and generally disgraced, while the
true love of the heroine returns from a voyage to be happy with her.
There is plenty of noise, singing, and beating, and some intrigue in
the case of the genuine wooer and his suspicious jealousy.

Gammer Gurton's Needle.

The equally renowned "Gammer Gurton's Needle," was acted sixteen
years after "Ralph Roister Doister," at Christ's College, Cambridge.
It is usually attributed to John Still (born 1543) a member of
Christ's, Master of Arts in 1565, and later Master of that College,
Vice-Chancellor of the University, and finally Bishop of Bath and
Wells (died 1608). As Vice-Chancellor, Still was a stickler for Latin
plays at Cambridge, which were more educational but not so popular as
dramas in English. The plot turns on the loss of a needle by old Gammer
Gurton, the suspicion, raised by a wag, that another old woman has
stolen it; the search for the needle; combats about the needle, and
the final discovery of that implement in the seat of a man's breeches.
A sturdy beggar, Diccon, is "the Vice," and sets Gammer Gurton and
another gammer to a scolding match. Hodge, a servant, with his broad
dialect, and insistent demand for the needle, that a large and unseemly
hole which ventilates his breeches may instantly be patched, has
perhaps the most comic part, and when somebody slaps Hodge and drives
the needle (which had stuck in his breeches), into a safe part of his
person, the joy of a Cambridge audience knew no limits. The play is
thoroughly rustic, the language is of an amazing breadth, and no doubt
the drama made abundant mirth among the Cantab wits. Members of the
sister University, where poets have been rare in comparison with these
glories of Cambridge, need not covet Still, unless he wrote the famous
drinking song in the Second Act, "Back and Side go bare, go bare!"

The Bishop of Bath and Wells probably looked back with mingled feelings
on the jolly, noisy achievement of his youth, which has made him
immortal, for all have heard of "Gammer Gurton's Needle". It is written
in rhyming lines of from fourteen to sixteen syllables.


"The Gammer," though low, is lively; not so is "Gorboduc"; it is a
tragedy of unspeakable dullness composed in blank verse which has no
merit except that of regularity, the sense usually, though not always,
ending at the close of each line. The author, Thomas Sackville, later
Lord Buckhurst and Earl of Dorset, and High Treasurer under James VI
and I, was born at Buckhurst, Sussex, in 1536. His grandmother was
aunt of Anne Boleyn, so he was a second cousin of Queen Elizabeth. At
the Inner Temple, as a young man, he met Thomas Norton, and the pair
composed "Gorboduc," which was acted in the Inner Temple in 1561.
The authors were inspired by no other Muse than that of Seneca, the
moral philosopher, Roman tragedian, and tutor of the Emperor Nero. The
play tells how Gorboduc, a mythical King of Britain, abdicated, and,
dividing his realm into two parts, gave the country north of the Humber
to the younger, and the portion south of the Humber to the elder of
his two sons, Ferrex and Porrex. Each had a kind of tutor, and each
had a favourite. They were both discontented, the younger slew the
elder son, and the mother of both avenges the elder on the younger of
her children. The result was national ruin, in which "Fergus Duke of
Albany" (apparently King of Scotland is meant) took an active part.
There are very long speeches, no action; a messenger brings the news of
the distressing occurrences, and a Chorus moralizes on them. Carried
away by grief when his wife murders his surviving boy, Gorboduc
pronounces the name of Eubulus with the penultimate syllable short, and
expires with decency behind the scenes. Eubulus then utters a political
forecast in more than a hundred lines, and the drama concludes.

"Gorboduc" was printed in 1565: translations of Seneca's plays were
also being written: George Gascoigne translated a piece named "Jocasta"
(the wife of Œdipus) from the Italian, and a prose comedy, "The
Supposes" from Ariosto. This great Italian poet and his countrymen
adapted to Italian manners the plots and characters which the ancient
comic dramatists of Rome, Terence and Plautus, derived from late Greek
comedy of everyday life. Thus an element of orderliness in comedy
was introduced in England from adaptations of Italian adaptations of
Roman copies of late Greek plays. Such stock characters as the austere
father, the spendthrift son, the cunning servant, the boastful soldier,
the nurse, soft of heart and loose of tongue, invaded the comedy of
France, and, to a slighter degree, that of England.

Meanwhile Richard Edwards produced a curious Interlude of a classical
nature, "Damon and Pythias," the characters being Greek, Sicilian and
English--a dash of buffoonery is mixed with very lamentable matter.
The Drama was formless, unable to attain definite shape, till some
twenty-five years had passed when we reach the date of the immediate
predecessors of Shakespeare, such as Marlowe, Greene, Lyly, Peele,
and the other University young men about town. The influences of the
old waggish or controversial Interludes, of the Senecan school of
stiffness, and of translations or imitations of Italian comedies, were
seething in the cauldron of the age.



The names of Sir Thomas Wyatt (1503-1542) and of Henry Howard, Earl
of Surrey (1517-1547), are for ever memorable in English poetry, not
so much for what they actually achieved as for what they attempted.
They abstained from allegory, still lingering in its unlovely dotage,
and from doggerel. They wrote of themselves and their own loves, joys,
and sorrows, but though their verse is concerned with their personal
emotions, these are treated in a conventional way, borrowed from
continental poetry. They turned to the Italian sonneteers, especially
to Petrarch, and saw afar the dawning of the "Pléiade," the company of
French reformers of poetic style and language, Ronsard, du Bellay, and
the rest, or at least of Mellin de Saint-Gelais, their predecessor.
But both Wyatt and Surrey died young, Wyatt by an unfortunate chance,
Surrey as a victim of the jealous tyranny of Henry VIII. The two young
poets thus live together in men's memories like the Bion and Moschus of
Greece: theirs is "unfulfilled renown".

Wyatt, of a Yorkshire family, was son of Sir Henry Wyatt, of Allington
in Kent, a man who had strange vicissitude of fortune in the reigns
of Richard III and Henry VII. Thomas went very early to St. John's
College, Cambridge, married at 17, was a glory of the Court of Henry
VIII, went on diplomatic missions to Italy (Venice, Ferrara, Bologna,
Florence, and Rome), studied Italian literature, was now in favour and
now in prison, and made love, with more or less of earnestness, to
Anne Boleyn, being fortunate in escaping from the doom of her admirers
when Henry VIII took her life. Favoured by Henry's minister, Thomas
Cromwell, but detested, and accused of diplomatic misdeeds by Bishop
Bonner, Wyatt defended himself with a success then very rare, retired
from Court and wrote satires and poems on the advantages of retirement;
paraphrased the Seven Penitential Psalms, and died of a fever caught
from fatigue and travel, in October, 1542, lamented in verse by Surrey.

The reader of his sonnets, the earliest in English, is amazed to find
that we have travelled through so many centuries of the life of English
poetry, and only reached lame lines that can scarcely be scanned. Since
Chaucer the art of verse had become very dim, perhaps in consequence
of the transitional state of the language, the obsolescence of the
sound of the final _e_, and the Anglicizing of the sounds of borrowed
French words by throwing back the accent (as in hōnour for honōūr,
virtue for vīrtūe). Wyatt, when he began to write sonnets, put accents
in strange places, and counted syllables on his fingers, content if he
could reckon ten of them, in a line. To rhyme "aggrieved" to "wearied,"
is like the tramp's effort to make "workhouse" rhyme with "sorrow".
The young student in a novel of Henri Murger's reads only the rhymes
in sonnets. If we study in that way Wyatt's sonnet "The Lover Waxeth
Wiser," we find that the last words in the first eight lines are


He usually tried to keep to the Petrarchian arrangement of rhymes in
the first eight lines _a b b a a b b a_, but, contrary to Italian rule,
his last two lines were always a rhyming couplet, as in Shakespeare's
"Sonnets," in which the Petrarchian model is wholly disregarded. The
sonnet thus ends with an emphatic clench, usually moral, while in the
Italian sonnet the last six lines resemble the withdrawal of the wave
of the first eight lines.

The sonnet, with its concision and its technical difficulties, afforded
excellent practice to poets who endeavoured to bring delicacy and
order into the chaos and coarseness of verse as written by Skelton
and his contemporaries. But a good sonnet is among the rarest of good
things, and the mere technical difficulties once overcome, men's minds
may turn out sonnets of no value with the rapidity of machine work. The
stock character of this kind of poetry, the Lover, with his strange
far-fetched conceit in his almost metaphysical refinements, is apt to
become as tedious as the old figures of allegory; however, he was a
novelty. Wyatt improved with practice in sonnet-making, though such
rhymes as "mount_ains_" "fount_ains_," "pl_ains_," "rem_ains_," are a
stumbling-block to the modern reader. But his "And wilt thou leave me
thus?" and "Forget not yet the tried intent," with their brief refrains
are immortal lyrics, heralding the music of the age of Elizabeth.

His epigrams are not the stinging wasps of verse commonly called
epigrams, but are brief poems in the manner of the epigrams of the
Greek Anthology. The satires on the Court, based on Italian poems, and
including a form of the "Town and Country Mouse," are not in Skelton's
violent way, but the work of a gentle man, and the poems in rhyme
royal, seven line stanzas, with six syllables to the line, are charming

The Earl of Surrey.

The date of Surrey's birth is uncertain: it was four or five years
after the battle of Flodden (1513), in which his grandfather--"an auld
decrepit carle in a chariot--" was victorious over the fiery James IV.
The title Earl of Surrey is a courtesy title, borne by the poet as son
of the Duke of Norfolk. He was at least a dozen years younger than his
friend Wyatt, and was a lively young courtier, who was made a Knight
of the Garter in 1541. He married very early, in 1532, and his famous
passion for fair Geraldine may have been merely poetical--the usual
story about Geraldine and the magic mirror is derived from a novel of
1554. About 1542 he was imprisoned for a matter of a duel, a challenge
at least, and in 1543 went about London at night breaking windows with
a stone-bow. He wrote a poem in which he gravely maintains that he was
merely punishing the wicked city for her sins. Again released from
prison he saw some fighting in France, and, returning, patronized a
poet named Churchyard, who later wept unmelodiously above his early
tomb. Early in 1546 Surrey had the worse of a battle with the French
near Boulogne, was superseded by the Earl of Hertford, and, in January,
1547, was accused of a sort of heraldic high treason (quartering the
arms of Edward the Confessor, who, of course, had never heard of
armorial bearings), and executed, shortly before the death of the
tyrant, Henry VIII.

Surrey's versification, especially in the sonnet, is much superior to
that of Wyatt, but he is less apt to keep to the rules of rhyme, in
the first eight lines; indeed he writes in the form of Shakespeare's
sonnets. His "Prisoned in Windsor" is a pleasant picture of a young
gallant's life, who takes his eye off the ball at Tennis to watch the
ladies in the _dedans_: hunts, tilts, and makes friends. The moral
poems in lines of fourteen feet are of no great merit, but Surrey's
translation of the Second Book of the Æneid is the first English
example of blank verse, borrowed from Italian practice. The lines are
stiff and hard; and the main merit is the novelty, the first birth of
the measure that was to become, in forty years, "Marlowe's mighty line".

Tottel's Miscellany.

The poems of Wyatt and Surrey were not published till long after the
deaths of the authors, when they appeared, with many other pieces, in
"Tottel's Miscellany". Other writers represented there are Nicholas
Grimald, with his jog-trot metre, the "poulter's" or poulterer's
measure of from twelve to fourteen syllables to the dozen--so were
eggs sold by a custom of the trade. Surrey's retainer, Thomas
Churchyard, a man very busy with sword and pen, was also a writer in
the "Miscellany"; and indeed was a literary hack-of-all-work. There
came, after the brief gleam of sunshine that fell on Wyatt and Surrey,
another generation of wooden versifiers and translators, with whose
names, Tusser the bucolic, Phaer, Golding, Googe, and Whetstone, it is
hardly necessary to fill the page and burden the memory. They may be
studied by the curious, but they wrought no deliverance. To generations
which possess superabundance of versifiers and no great poets, these
barren years are a kind of consolation. For reasons not to be
discovered there are such periods in the literary life of all nations,
as in England between Pope and Cowper.

The versifiers in "Tottel's Miscellany" keep harping unmelodiously on
the strings of Surrey and Wyatt, many of their pieces are complimentary
addresses to ladies, or laments on the deaths of friends. Poor conceits
are twisted and tormented; there is hardly any promise of advance; we
scarcely hear any of the bird-like musical notes with which the later
part of the reign of Elizabeth sang so wondrously.


George Gascoigne (1525 (?)-1577) was an interesting character. He was
a Cambridge man, a member of the Society of Gray's Inn, a poet who,
like Scott, composed his verses in the saddle: a Member of Parliament
who was opposed as "a common rhymer... noted for manslaughter... a
notorious Ruffian," and even a spy, certainly he owed debts, and was
disinherited by his father. He wrote on woodmanship, but was apt to
forget to shoot at the deer that came within range of his cross-bow.
As a captain in the Low Countries he and his command were surprised
and taken by the Spaniards: he came home, published his Posies (1575)
and, he says, got not a penny by the venture: he then wrote "The Steel
Glass," a kind of satire, the mirror of the age, in blank verse, and
next wrote in common ballad measure the long and amazingly prosaic
"Complaint of Philomene".

In 1572 Gascoigne published "A Hundred Sundry Flowers, bound up in one
small Posy". The long title sets forth that some of the flowers were
culled in the gardens of Euripides, Ovid, Petrarch, and Ariosto, others
are from English orchards. The native flowers are the sweeter and more
fair. While our poets were turning into stiff measures the sonnets
of Italy, Gascoigne could write so naturally and melodiously his own
English, as in his "Lullaby of a Lover".

    Sing lullaby, as women do,
      Wherewith they bring their babes to rest,
    And lullaby can I sing too,
      As womanly as can the best.

Beneath the stiff borrowed phrases and metres there was always this
native and tuneful spirit of unsophisticated song.

In 1575 he was a maker of words for the Masques at Leicester's famous
reception of Elizabeth at Kenilworth (see the novel of that name, where
Scott calmly introduces Shakespeare as already a successful dramatist).
He satirized drunkards: we have already seen that he translated a
tragedy, "Jocasta," from the Italian; he wrote a love story in rhyme of
a personal kind, and his brief "Instructions" is the earliest English
work, in no way indebted to Aristotle, on the Art of Poetry. As he
also translated, we have seen, a comedy from the Italian, and a prose
tale, a kind of work later fashionable, Gascoigne may be regarded as
an intrepid explorer in many fields of literature. "He first beat the
path to that perfection which our best poets have aspired to since
his departure," says Nash (1589). "He brake the ice for our quainter
poets that now write," says Tofte (1615). But the path as trodden by
this pioneer continued to be rough. Gascoigne was an example of the
versatility and literary ambition which many young gentlemen displayed
in the age of Elizabeth; mingling poetry and study and serious thought
with their gallant adventures in love, diplomacy, war, and travel.

His "Certayne Notes of Instruction concerning the making of Verse in
English" is a very brief pamphlet. He quotes "my master, Chaucer"
against alliterative "thunder in _Rym, Ram, Ruff_," but mentions no
other poet. Be original, he says, if you sing of a lady do not applaud
her "crystal eye" or "cherry lip," which Spenser did not disdain, for
these things are trite and obvious. The great matter is "to avoid the
uncomely customs of common writers," says this "common rhymer". Do not
use "obscure and dark phrases in a pleasant sonnet". Do not wander out
of your "Poulters measure" metre into lines of thirteen syllables.
Give every word its natural emphasis: do not make _treasure_ into
trea_sure._ Chaucer is to be followed as a master of prosody. You
should write:--

    "I understand your meaning by your eye,"


    "Your meaning I _under_stand by your eye",

"The more monosyllables that you use, the truer Englishman you shall

There follows advice on the caesura, and all this counsel shows that,
in the early years of Elizabeth, versification was at a very low ebb.

In practice, Gascoigne did not always shine. There are few passages of
interest in the stiff blank verse of his "Steel Glass" (the mirror that
does not flatter). The best passage, and it is very good, describes the

    Behold him, priests, and though he stink of sweat,
    Disdain him not, for shall I tell you what?
    Such climb to heaven before the shaven crowns,

because the labourers

    feed with fruits of their great pains
    Both king and knight and priests in cloister pent.

It would be cruel to quote "Philomene," no stall-ballad creeps more
tardily on a longer road than Gascoigne in his tale of her who sings,
in a later poet's words,

    _Who hath remembered thee, who hath forgotten?_
    _They have all forgotten, oh summer swallow,_
    _But the world shall end when I forget._


The poetry of Thomas Sackville (1536-1608) is not to be found in his
dull tragedy, "Gorboduc," but in his contributions to a vast and once
popular collection, "The Mirror for Magistrates". This work is intended
to admonish men in power by rhymed histories of the falls of English
peers and princes. This was the plan of Chaucer's Monk, in "The Monk's
Tale," which that sound critic, the Host, could not long endure. The
model was Boccaccio's work on "The Falls of Princes," Englished by
Lydgate. The enterprise started by Baldwin and others in 1554-1559,
suggests a dread lest English verse should return to Lydgate in the den
of Giant Despair, and take up with sepulchral solemnity the tale of
tragedies from the darkest days of the unfortunate ancient Britons. A
mammoth compilation was gradually evolved, for doleful matter was not
far to seek, but Sackville's two contributions, the "Induction," and
the "Complaint of Buckingham"--the Buckingham executed under Richard
III,--alone concern us.

In the "Induction" the poet describes the gloom of winter, and, in the
mediaeval way, dwells long on the constellations. As he muses, he is
met by a very deplorable female form--

    With doleful shrieks that echoed in the sky.

She proclaims herself to be Sorrow, a goddess, and guides Sackville "to
the grisly lake" of Avernus, over which no fowl may fly and live. A
number of rueful figures of allegory are encountered, Dread, Revenge,
Misery, Care, Old Age, and Sleep, and these are drawn with abundant
vigour and variety. The stanza on Sleep gives the measure of the
versification, which is rapid, concise, various, sustained, and in its
music heralds the arrival of Spenser.

    The body's rest, the quiet of the heart,
    The travail's care, the still night's frere was he,
    And of our life on earth the better part,
    Reiver of sight, and yet in whom we see
    Things oft that tide, and oft that never be,
    Without respect, esteeming equally
    King Croesus' pomp and Irus' poverty.

One stanza in the description of the home of the dead seems to have
been suggested by famous lines in the Eleventh Book of the "Odyssey".

The "Induction" ends with the appearance of the spirit of Buckingham,
who not only tells his own tragedy at great length, and in full
historical detail, but introduces several other ancient tragedies,
those of Cyrus, Cambyses, Brutus, Cassius, Besseus, Alexander the
Great, Clitus, Phalaris, Pheræus, Camillus, and Hannibal. From these
fallen princes we drop to

    One John Milton, Sheriff of Shropshire then,

who arrested Buckingham, and to

    A man of mine, called Humphrey Banastaire,

who betrayed his master. Banastaire is then cursed in eleven stanzas.
"May Banastaire live to the age of eighty, and then be tried for theft.
May his eldest son expire in a pig-sty; his second son be strangled in
a puddle, and his daughter be smitten by leprosy."

It cannot be denied that this tragedy, including as it does the murder
of the Princes in the Tower, is rather too rich in terrible components,
and does not, especially when Banastaire is being dealt with, affect us
in the same measure as Dante's pictures of the Inferno. On the whole
it is the manner, not the matter, of Sackville that contains more than
mere promise: his management of the stanza and of the music of the line
is far in advance of anything that had come from an English pen since
the death of Chaucer. As for the gloom and horror, these were congenial
to a people which, since the burning of the Maid of France (1431), had
seen an endless sequence of violence, murder, martyrdoms, and massacres
of peers, Princes, Queens, Bishops, and humble folk.



A great, indeed an inestimable influence in literature at this
juncture, was that of the long-forgotten Greek language, Greek poetry,
and Greek philosophy. When Erasmus, who then had little Greek, arrived
in England and visited Oxford (1499), he found there Grocyn, Linacre,
and Colet, who had acquired Greek on the continent; and, with Sir
Thomas More, were already competent classical scholars. But their Greek
learning was mainly turned into the channel of theology, the study
of the sources of Christian doctrine, the New Testament, the Greek
Fathers; and they were attracted by the philosophy of Plato which
appeared to "utter a Christian voice" much more clearly than do the
writings of the idol of the Middle Ages, Aristotle.

Greek, however, does not visibly affect the poetic literature of
England much, before the date of Spenser, about 1580. The violent times
of Henry VIII and Mary Tudor were not favourable to severe study and
exquisite appreciation of the Greek genius, a most desirable corrective
of the prolixity of mediaevalism, and of the English passion for
horrors in stage plays. To most people knowledge of the contents of the
Greek classics came through translations, and these translations, as in
the case of the historian Thucydides, were done from French versions,
while Plato was read through Italian commentators, much influenced by
Plato's disciples in early Christian times, the Neoplatonists, dreamers
of beautiful dreams concerning things that cannot be uttered.

Study produced also a very wide acquaintance with Greek
mythology--Shakespeare's humblest characters have heard of many
a Grecian fable--yet the spirit, the exquisite balance, and the
refinement of the Greek genius, hardly affected our authors. We may
detect it in More's (1478-1535) "Utopia," where the adventurers carry
with them to "Nowhere" a "pretty fardel," or parcel, of the cheap
neat Greek books printed by Aldus. The fancied State of Utopia, with
its comfortable communism and perfect freedom in religion, is derived
from the "Republic" of Plato, and in religion is more liberal than, in
his later work, "The Laws," he would have permitted it to be. But the
"Utopia," written in Latin, was meant for the learned.

Though the "Utopia" was published in 1516, and became famous in Europe,
it did not reach unlearned English readers till an English translation,
by Ralph Robynson, appeared in 1551. They now had More's eloquent
advocacy of communism before them as regulated in his imaginary state,
with a Six Hours' Day, universal training of men and women for war,
and habit of assassinating the leaders of hostile nations. There is
tolerance of all religions which accept a deity and the immortality of
the soul: atheists are disqualified for public offices.

In his English works on religious and social controversy, which are
little read, More is not only a Catholic and a Conservative, but
in discussion is given to abusive and violent language which would
have horrified the courteous Plato, the urbane Aristotle, and that
model of a devout and ardent student, and perfect gentleman, Pico
della Mirandola, whose Life More gave in English. On both sides the
controversialists of the Reformation delighted in violent personal
abuse, in some Greek orators they found examples of that art. The first
effect of Greek in England, by producing a new Biblical criticism and
an attack on the foundations of the mediaeval Church, was to "bring not
peace but a sword," the wars of religion.


No man did more for the intelligence of Greek than Sir Thomas Elyot
(1499 1546)1 author of "The Governour," a long treatise, on the
education of a gentleman, and on the nature of forms of government.
Elyot bubbles over with Greek, and translates such passages of Homer as
he quotes into English verse, the alternate lines rhyming. He is of
the Greek opinion that a gentleman should be taught, if he has a taste
for art, to draw, paint, and execute works in sculpture, not as a base
professional artist, but as an amateur.[1] Elyot would have a boy, at 7
years old, begin with Greek, learning it through Latin, which he picks
up, with French, in conversation. Grammars of Greek are now almost
innumerable. Grammar, he says with much truth, "if it be made too long
and exquisite to the learner, in a manner mortifieth his courage. And
by that time he cometh to the most sweet and pleasant reading of old
authors, the spark of fervent desire of learning is soon quenched
with the burden of grammar." Elyot would start his pupil as early as
possible with what will interest a child, Æsop's Fables in Greek, and
then pass to Lucian, who is amusing as well as elegant. "But I fear me
to be too long from noble Homer, from whom as from a fountain proceeded
all eloquence and learning." Throughout, Elyot wishes first to interest
the pupil; but where, he asks, is he to find qualified schoolmasters?
They were as cruel as in the days of St. Augustine, and while Elyot's
system of education, in sports as well as in books, is free and joyous,
like that of Gargantua in Rabelais, little boys were suffering the
horrors described by Agrippa d'Aubigné in his Memoirs. Elyot translated
works of Isocrates, Plutarch, and others, wrote a medical work "The
Castle of Health," was clerk of the Privy Council, and went on various
diplomatic missions. Elyot was not a professional instructor of youth:
he was, it seems, educated privately, and of neither university;
what pleases us in him is his unstaled zest for learning, his fresh

The best English of the age and the most durable is that of Thomas
Cranmer (1489-1556) as we read it in the Liturgy of the Church of
England, while much of the merit of King James's Authorized Version
of the Bible rests on the foundation of Miles Coverdale's translation
(1488-1568). How easy it is to translate the Bible into English which
is not a marvel of diction and rhythm, we are too frequently reminded
by the Revised Version.


Roger Ascham (1515-1568) was a Yorkshire man of the middle classes,
who lived by his learning, and did not find that it paid him as well
as he wished. Going early to St. John's College, Cambridge, he was a
pupil of the famous Sir John Cheke, who introduced the English way
of pronouncing Greek. It is certainly wrong--no people pronounce
the vowels as we do; but if Cheke resisted the pronunciation of the
modern Greeks, perhaps he is not much to be blamed. Ascham obtained
a Fellowship and a Readership in Greek, the Fellowship he lost when
he married: he did not long retain his tutorship to the Princess
Elizabeth; as secretary to an ambassador in Germany he continued
to teach Greek to his chief; and in his letters, Latin or English,
we find him often in straits for money and begging for assistance.
Camden, writing under James I, says that he lost money at dicing, and
in his attack on gambling, in his "Toxophilus," a dialogue on Archery
(1545), Ascham shows a rather unholy knowledge of all the tricks on the
dice-board. Probably he had paid for his education. He contemplated a
work on the noble sport of cock fighting, on which, of course, there
was betting, and perhaps Ascham was not in all respects so severe a
Puritan as in his unworthy attacks on that noblest of romances, "The
Morte d'Arthur". Sir Lancelot is a better gentleman than many who were
to be met at a cock fight. Ascham had little sympathy with the Italian
influences that were so potent in Elizabethan literature. Italy was
certainly profligate and luxurious,

    An Englishman that is Italianate
    Doth quickly prove a devil incarnate,

was an English translation of an Italian proverb. Ascham, like his
contemporaries, was nothing if not patriotic. The bow of yew and the
grey goose shaft had won many a victory over Scots and French, as in
"Toxophilus," Ascham reminds these peoples; therefore he desired that
archery should be universally practised. But the harquebus, a musket
lighter than the heavy hand gun of the fifteenth century, was already,
in disciplined hands, more than a match for the bow.

"Toxophilus," to our age, appears pedantic. We have endless classical
examples, and learn that the Trojans drew the bow-string only to the
breast, not the ear (which is true), while they used iron arrow-heads
as against the bronze arrow-heads of the Greeks, a fact not so certain.
When he does come to practice, Ascham's teaching in archery is reckoned
sound and good. His ideas are summed up in the prayer that the English

    Through Christ, King Henry, the Book, and the Bow
    May all manner of enemies quite overthrow.

In writing English, Ascham was all for plain English. Foreign words
Anglicized make such a mixture "as if you put malmsey and sack, red
wine and white, ale and beer, all in one pot". Yet he advocates in
his "School Master," published after his death, a yet more unhallowed
blend, the use of Greek measures in English verse. "Our English tongue
in avoiding barbarous _rhyming_ may as well receive right _quantity_ of
syllables as either Greek or Latin." (He means "quantity" as opposed
to accent, as if one said car_pen_ter.) As an example he quotes Mr.
Watson's rendering of the third line of the "Odyssey" into two English

    All travellers do gladly report great praise of Ulysses,
    For that he knew many men's manners and saw many cities.

Obviously if we are to say "men's man_ners_," making "man" in "manners"
long, we must not make "vellers" in "travellers" short, as Mr. Watson
does. We are reduced to

    Gladly report great praise of Ulysses do the tra_vellers._

This absurd manner of imitating Greek measures in English was
upheld, twenty years later, by Gabriel Harvey, who, for a moment,
nearly corrupted the practice of Spenser, the most naturally
musical of poets. Ascham's own prose style is unaffected, not
corrupted by eccentricities, but not harmonious. A new perfection,
a false perfection, was to be sought later, through the antitheses,
alliterations, and pedantic wit of Lyly's "Euphues!"

Lyly's Euphues.

The prose of Ascham was clear and was plain, disdaining decoration and
far-fetched gorgeous phrases. But for the gorgeous and the exotic, the
taste of the Elizabethan Age was pronounced, as we see in the strange
over-gaudy costumes of the period, the various ruffs, the jewelled
velvets and silks, worn by men and women. A like dressing for thoughts
was demanded, and the supply was provided by John Lyly, whose plays are
to be mentioned later. Lyly was born a Kentish man (1554?); Magdalen,
in Oxford, was his college; his plays, acted by the boys of the Chapel
Royal and St. Paul's, are of 1584-1594. But he made his mark earlier,
as a prose writer, in his "Euphues, the Anatomy of Wit" (1579), and
the sequel, "Euphues and his England" (1580). The style became a
fashion, a fashion which affected even those who, like Sidney, were in
would-be revolt against it. Lyly, like all writers of the periods just
before and after him, was copious in classical allusions. He was not
the first to hunt in all directions, especially in fictitious natural
history, for similes, and needless decorations; but he hunted further
and more assiduously: emphatically his style is that of the unresting
Bird of Paradise. Every sentence is a thing bristling with points and
antitheses and alliterations. The first part of the book was a kind
of novel; two friends, at Naples, woo the same woman, quarrel, write
long letters, and the question of education, in the wide sense in which
the Renaissance understood education, is always prominent. There is
endless conversation and discussion of life, love, and learning, always
in the same style of fantastic decoration and allusion: all continued
when Euphues arrives in England, all conveying general information not
verified by experiment. "I have read that the bull, being tied to a fig
tree, loseth his strength; that a whole herd of deer stand at the gaze
if they smell a sweet apple"; facts on which the cattle-breeder or the
hunter would not, if well advised, rely. This was the kind of science
against which Bacon uprose. But Lyly appealed, in his Dedication, and
with success, "To the Ladies and Gentlewomen of England," who found in
the book a kind of love-story, much philosophizing on that dear theme;
and a pleasurable example of a new way of being witty and romantic.
Lyly was the chief cause of the difficulty in telling a plain tale
plainly which besets the minor writers of the age of Elizabeth.

Before approaching the chief prose writers of Elizabeth's time, we must
turn aside to her greatest poet, and his friend, to Spenser and Sir
Philip Sidney, and to the Drama.


Spenser did not more surely attain immortality by his verse than Sir
Philip Sidney (1554-1586) by his life, writings, and character. He was
one of those who, as Plato says, are born good, exemplars of natural
charm and excellence. He is the ideal gentleman of the type which
Spenser professed to educate by the examples of his virtuous knights,
brave, pious, courteous, and just. The son of Sir Henry Sidney and
nephew of Elizabeth's Leicester, Philip Sidney was born into the Court,
but was not of it; his heart was set on other things than pleasure,
splendour, flattery, and promotion. Educated at Shrewsbury School,
he went to Christ Church at 14, being already the friend of the noble
Fulke Greville, who, however, went from Shrewsbury to Cambridge. In
1572 he was attached to the English embassy in France, and, on the
night of the Bartholomew massacre was sheltered in the house of his
future father-in-law, Walsingham. Till 1575 he travelled, chiefly
in Germany, and made the acquaintance of his constant correspondent
and adviser, Languet, whom he celebrates as a shepherd of the Ister,
and as his own religious Mentor. In Venice his portrait was painted
by Veronese; at Vienna he perfected himself in horsemanship under
Pugliano, whose enthusiasm he describes so amusingly in his "Defence
of Poesie". For a man so earnest as Sidney was, he had a fine sense of

Returning to England in 1575, he, like Gascoigne, was with Elizabeth
at the famous pastimes at Kenilworth, now best known through Scott's
novel, "Kenilworth". Afterwards, at the house of the Earl of Essex, he
met the Earl's daughter, Penelope, later Lady Rich, the Stella of his
sonnets. Essex desired their marriage, but fate decided otherwise. In
1577 Sidney went, a young diplomatist, to the Emperor and the German
Princes, and later, was obliged to attend the Court, while his mind was
set on adventures beyond the Atlantic; on failing in that, he trifled
with the idea of introducing Greek metres into English poetry. In 1579,
he quarrelled with the Earl of Oxford in the tennis court. A duel was
not permitted, but as Sidney also gave Elizabeth his opinion about her
distasteful flirtation with the odious Duc d'Anjou, the worst of the
bad Valois Princes, he retired to Wilton, the house of his sister, Lady
Pembroke, and there wrote the pastoral romance, "Arcadia".

He was recalled to Court, sat in Parliament for Kent, and in 1583
parried a daughter of Walsingham. He was forbidden to join Drake's
American expedition of 1585, in fact he was always thwarted in his
desire for action and for such deeds of chivalry as the conditions of
his age permitted--they leaned somewhat to piracy and filibustering. At
length, as Governor of Flushing, while Leicester commanded the forces
engaged against Spain in the Low Countries, he fell in a cavalry charge
against a superior force at Zutphen. His leg was broken by a musket
bullet from the Spanish trenches: it was now that he handed the cup of
water that was at his lips to the soldier whose need was greater than
his. He lingered for some weeks, and died on 17 October, 1586.

The beautiful character of Sidney cannot be more strongly attested
than by the agony of grief exhibited, at his death, by the handsome
and wicked Master of Gray. He was about to be sent on the Scottish
embassy to plead for the life of Mary Stuart, while his desire was to
be fighting under Sidney's banner. He expresses, in a touching letter,
the sudden revulsion of his nature from his wonted treacheries; and,
contrary to the falsehood of tradition, he did not betray, but, to his
own loss, did his best to save the Queen whose cause he had previously

As a poet, Sidney, whose works were all published after his death,
is best remembered for the sonnets of Astrophel to Stella, Lady
Rich. There is a controversy as to whether these are mere exercises
in gallant but "platonic" love-verse, or whether they reveal a true
passion, as Charles Lamb maintained. The sonnet in which he says that
he has found his fortune too late, and has lost what he had unwittingly

    O punisht eyes
    That I had been more foolish or more wise,

seems to set forth a truly tragic situation. Perhaps only poets can be
the critics in such a case as this of Sidney.

The sonnets vary much in poetic value; some are written in
Alexandrines, a metre not consonant with the traditions of the English

_Sidney's_ "_Defence of Poesie._"

Readers who fail to find brilliant merit in English literary poetry
between Chaucer and Spenser may not be ill-pleased to note that Sir
Philip Sidney was strong on their side. Acquainted as he was with
the poetry of Greece, Rome, Italy, and France, he could see nothing
to admire in the efforts and experiments of such writers as Occleve,
Lydgate, Hawes, Googe, Churchyard, and Turbervile. His "Defence of
Poesie" (or, according to the title of the first edition (1595), his
"Apologie for Poesie") was elicited by the unauthorized dedication
to himself of Stephen Gosson's "School of Abuse". Gosson was a young
Oxford man who had tried his hand as a playwright, and been disgusted,
he says, by the disorders of the playhouses, where his comedy and
morality may have been hooted. He therefore tried to make himself
notorious, or he expressed his penitence, by assailing poets who deal
in the silly conceits of Lyly's "Euphues".

"The scarab flies over many a sweet flower and lights in a cow-shard...
it is the manner of swine to forsake the fair fields and wallow in
the mire: and the whole practice of poets, either with fables to show
their abuses, or with plain terms to unfold their mischief, discover
their shame, discredit themselves, and disperse their poison through
the world". Gosson chooses Virgil as one of his terrible examples, and
whether he is a genuine or a hypocritical puritan, or a mere fribble
in search of notoriety, he made a mistake when he thought to find a
patron or a butt in Sidney, who does not advertise Gosson's name in the
"Defence of Poesie".

After a general defence of poetry furnished with precedents drawn from
every quarter, even from the respect paid to their minstrels by the
Irish, Sidney defines the final end of poetry as being "to lead and
draw us to as high a perfection as our degenerate souls, made worse
by their clay lodgings, can be capable of...." If poetry does not
always attain this end, "it is not the fault of the art, but that by
few men that art can be accomplished". He quotes Aristotle's "Poetics"
to the effect that poetry is more philosophical and more serious than
philosophy. Nothing in history is so noble but that "the poet may, if
he list, make it his own, beautifying it both for further teaching, and
more delighting, as it please him, having all, from Dante's heaven to
his hell, under the authority of his pen". Here Sidney seems to differ
from Scott, who regarded some examples of human fortunes, for example
in the case of Mary Stuart, as beyond the range of the poetic art. But
Sidney, foreseeing the objection, adds, "I speak of the art, not of the
artificer". Sidney then discusses the various Kinds of poetry. As to
the Comedy, "naughty play-makers and stage-keepers have made it justly
odious,"--so far he sides with the Puritans of his time. In speaking
of the lyric, he says: "I must confess mine own barbarousness; I never
heard the old song of Percy and Douglas" ("Chevy Chase"), "that I found
not my heart moved more than with a trumpet". Indeed the true spirit
of poetry did dwell, disregarded by wits and courtiers, in the popular
poetry and the ballads. But poetry, he knows not why, finds, in our
time, a hard welcome in England: "I think the very earth laments it,
and therefore decks our soil with fewer laurels than it was accustomed,
for heretofore poets have in England also flourished". If poets are
not esteemed it is because they do not deserve esteem, for we are
"taking upon us to be poets in despite of Pallas," _invita Minerva._
Our would-be poets are destitute of genius--which was very true.
"Chaucer undoubtedly did excellently in his 'Troilus and Cressida': of
whom truly I know not whether to marvel more either that he, in that
misty time, could see so clearly, or that we, in this clear age, go so
stumblingly after him."

What ailed Sidney's age was lack of terseness and clearness. Most
poets did not know what they would be at; they were confused by the
tumult of religion, the loss of old ideals, the language in transition,
the tyranny of the misunderstood classics, the constant effort to
imitate Greece, Rome, France, and Italy. They could not yet see life
and literature steadily, and see them whole. Sidney found little that
"had poetical sinews," except in Chaucer; parts of "The Mirror for
Magistrates," the Earl of Surrey's lyrics, and Spenser's "'Shepherd's
Calendar' hath much poetry in his 'Eclogues,' indeed worthy the
reading, if. I be not deceived. That same framing of his style to an
old rustic language I cannot allow..."

Sidney then banters the absurdities of the lawless stage, of the
alliterative writers, of the seekers after unnatural history, like Lyly
in his "Euphues," and of the love poets. "If I were a mistress never
would they persuade me that they were in love, so coldly they apply
fiery speeches," "swelling phrases" learned from books.

It was poetry, not the English poets of his age, that Sidney defended,
and he might well marvel at our modern zeal which devotes time and
scholarship to a chaos of tentative experiments by men who wished to be
poets without possessing the poetic genius.

Sidney's best poems and his "Defence of Poesie" retain their freshness;
but that book of his which was most popular suffers from the changes
of time and taste. At most periods prose fiction is more welcome to
human nature than poetry or criticism. Sidney's book "The Countess
of Pembroke's Arcadia," is a novel, written by the author at Wilton,
when, as we saw, he was neither in favour at Court nor permitted to
risk himself in adventures on sea or land. The book was to Sidney what
"The Faery Queen" was to Spenser, a wilderness of delights of his own
creation, a retreat into a world of fantasy. He wrote it in sheets
read, or sent as soon as finished, to his sister, the Countess of
Pembroke; the book was meant for her, not for the world. Not long after
his death, an unauthorized copy was published (1590), and unauthorized
edition followed, and the general delight in the romance is attested by
its constant reissues.

The author did not construct any regular plot, he allowed his fancy
to wander among the shipwrecks and piratical adventures of the late
Greek romances; and in an Arcadia which never existed, and a Laconia
most unhistorical. But the high and chivalrous ideals of the author,
in his rural prose idylls, as in his battles and combats; the truth
and constancy of his lovers; the beauty of his descriptions, made this
mixture of the Spanish heroic romances that infatuated Don Quixote with
the Arcadian pastorals, the delight of four generations. Milton blamed
the captive Charles I for copying the beautiful and appropriate prayer
of the captive Pamela, long after Shakespeare had interwoven with the
story of King Lear, Sidney's tale of the blind King of Paphlagonia.

In its new mode "The Arcadia" was to four generations what Malory's
"Morte Arthur" had been in its day. As late as 1660, we find Sir
George Mackenzie imitating the "Arcadia" in his heroic and historic
romance, "Aretina," where Argyll and Montrose play their parts. Indeed
the "Arcadia" was a fruitful parent of the interminable heroic French
romances which Major Bellenden laughs at in "Old Mortality," and from
which Scott did not disdain to borrow a description in "Ivanhoe". It
is indeed curious to compare Sidney's description of an Amazon (Book
I, Chap, XII.) with an actual representation of a genuine Amazon by a
Hittite artist, discovered on the stone work of a gate at Boghaz Keui.
That lady-warrior wears a corslet of scale armour, while Sidney's has
a doublet of sky-coloured satin, covered with plates of gold. Her feet
are shod in crimson velvet buskins, while the massive legs of the
real Amazon are naked. The contrast of fact and fancy are violent,
of course, throughout the romance. The style is less conceited than
that of "Euphues," and is always noble, but the long sentences and
overabundance of parentheses are not in accordance with modern taste.
The profusion of love-passages and of martial adventures, "with notable
images of virtues, vices, or what else," and the poetic if uncurbed
fancies, were what the world demanded from a novel, and what Sidney
gave in the Arcadia, with many lyrics, and imitations of the amœbean
verse of the shepherds of Theocritus.


After two centuries of verse that was tuneless or tentative, the second
great English poet came, Edmund Spenser (1552?-1599). We know from his
"Prothalamion" that Spenser was born in London--

               my most kyndly Nurse,
    That to me gave this Lifes first native sourse,
    Though from another place I take my name,
    An house of auncient fame--

that is, the House of the Spencers of Althorp who are in the ancestry
of the Duke of Marlborough's Churchills.

Spenser was certainly their kinsman, in what degree is unknown, but his
own family must have been poor. He was educated at Merchant Taylors'
School, was aided by the munificent Robert Nowell, and obtained a
Sizarship (corresponding to the old Oxford servitorship), at Pembroke
Hall, Cambridge (1569). Here he made two friends, Gabriel Harvey, a
true friend, if a rather pedantic don (the Hobbinol of his "Shepherd's
Calendar"), and E. Kirke, the E. K. who furnished the notes explanatory
of old English words in that poem. Spenser also gained the good graces
of Grindal, then Bishop of London, later Primate, a puritan, who fell
into Elizabeth's disgrace, and is applauded as Algrind by Spenser in
the "Shepherd's Calendar".

Spenser's youth was passed in an England disturbed by the claims of the
captive Mary Stuart to the Crown; by the rebellion of her adherents
in the North; by the papal excommunication of Elizabeth, and by the
pretensions of the extreme puritan exiles who, driven abroad by the
Marian persecution, had imbibed at Geneva the doctrines of Calvin.
In their attacks on the English Bishops they out-wearied even the
successors of Calvin in Geneva, who regarded them as men not to be
satisfied by any concessions; "a sect of perilous consequence who
would have no king but a presbytery," said Elizabeth. Here were all
the elements which caused Elizabeth's cruel persecution of Catholics,
the long struggle of the puritans under Elizabeth and James I, the
wars under Charles I, and the strife with Spain and Catholic Ireland.
In the words of James VI, it was "a world-wolter," and Spenser, as
a poor young man, eager to make his fortune, had to swim as best he
might in the cross-currents of this troublesome world. He never enjoyed
the peaceful leisure of a Tennyson or a Wordsworth; he had to play an
active part in strenuous and most unhappy affairs.

His nature, too, was divided. With all his love of pleasure and of
beauty he leaned, though not virulently, towards the puritan party,
and, as a good patriot, loathed and detested Rome.

It is probable that, when a freshman at the age of 17, he contributed
to a Miscellany, Van der Noodt's "Theatre of Worldlings" (1569),
translations in blank verse of certain sonnets of the French poet
Joachim du Bellay, and of Petrarch. These, re-cast into the form of
sonnets, recur in a volume of Spenser's, of 1591.

After taking his Master's degree (1576) Spenser visited Lancashire,
and if his words as Colin Clout in the "Shepherd's Calendar" be
autobiographical, lost his heart to a lady whom he calls Rosalind,
"the widow's daughter of the glen". According to Gabriel Harvey she
"christened him her _Signior Pegaso_," though neither his poetry nor
his wooing won her from her cruelty. Many years later he still writes
of her with chivalrous affection, so, like Scott, he had his heart
broken and cleverly pieced again.

By 1579 Spenser was in London, a literary retainer or _protégé_ of
Elizabeth's favourite, the Earl of Leicester; while he also enjoyed
the friendship of Leicester's nephew, Sir Philip Sidney, the Flower of
Chivalry, himself a poet, and the best beloved man of his time. Now
(1579) Spenser published, and dedicated to Sidney, his "Shepherd's
Calendar," a set of twelve eclogues or pastoral poems, one for
each month. The pastoral had wandered far from the rural beauty of
Theocritus, and, in the hands of Mantuan and Clement Marot, had become
a vehicle for allegory, and even of Protestant argumentation. Spenser
does not stray far into party and puritanic politics, but they are not
unknown to his shepherds. In January, as Colin Clout, he bewails the
coldness of Rosalind,

    She laughs the songs that Colin Clout doth make,

which is carrying cruelty very far. February is occupied with a rustic
dispute between youth and age: the metre is one of the measures of the
"Lay of the Last Minstrel":--

    Who will not suffer the stormy time,
    Where will he live tyll the lustry prime?
                (_Shepherd's Calendar_, Feb., 11. 15, 16.)
    They burn'd the chapel for very rage
    And cursed Lord Cranstoun's Goblin-page.
        (_Lay of the Last Minstrel_, C. II., Stanza, 33).

March, with the dialogue of Willie and Thomalin about the strange
bird, Love, is adapted from the Greek of Bion in a most pleasant
manner, and April contains a melodious song of fair Eliza, a Maiden
Queen; which probably procured Spenser's presentation to Elizabeth.
The great variety of melodious verse of which Spenser was already a
perfect master is, for us, perhaps the chief merit of his pastorals.
Through life Spenser keeps up the shepherd's mask, and Raleigh, in his
verse, is "The Shepherd of Ocean". The rival Protestant and Catholic
clergy also appear as shepherds, good or bad, while in another eclogue
the perfect poet, Cuddie, complains, like Theocritus, of public
indifference, and is advised to sing of redoubted knights: and, indeed,
Spenser had already conceived the idea of his knightly romantic poem
"The Faery Queen," and was ambitious to excel his model, Ariosto. In
this Harvey discouraged him; "Hobgoblin" must not "run away with the
garland from Apollo".

Fortunately Spenser followed his own genius, and, though he dallied
with the fashion for wedding Greek measures to English words, as in the
English hexameters of Watson and Harvey, he dropped many projects at
which he had glanced, and was constant to his "Faery Queen".

The manuscript of that great poem must have been the companion of
Spenser in many strange wanderings,

    In savage soil far from Parnassus Mount,

as he says. He was attached, as we have seen, in 1578, to the household
of Leicester, and may have gone on a mission of his to France. To
be patronized by Leicester was to risk incurring the enmity of
Burleigh. The long rivalry between Elizabeth's brilliant and wavering
favourite--who once so nearly brought her into a plight almost as bad
as that of Mary Stuart--and her sagacious counsellor, Sir William
Cecil (Lord Burleigh)--who now and again saved his Queen "as by
fire"--might have furnished Spenser with a high theme for a poetic
allegory. But chance had made him Leicester's man, not Burleigh's man,
so that he never won the fortune for which he sought. Who, indeed,
would seek fortune in Ireland? Spenser did, accompanying Lord Grey of
Wilton to an isle more than commonly distressful.

To the natural hatred between the Irish and their English invaders was
now added the fury of religious rancour. Rebellion after rebellion was
punished by horrible reprisals. Lord Grey is notorious for his massacre
of six hundred disarmed Italian and Spanish filibusters at Smerwick
(November, 1580), and the poet of the "Faery Queen" was present at
this abominable deed. It was neither without precedent nor imitation.
Seventy years later David Leslie, urged on by a preacher, massacred
the remnant of Montrose's Irish contingent at Dunaverty. Spenser
himself in his most Interesting "View of the Present State of Ireland"
says concerning the foreign prisoners, "there was no other way but
to make that short way with them which was made". He defends Grey's
ruthless policy; he had made Ireland "ready for reformation" when he
was recalled, on the charge of being "a bloody man" who had left the
country in ashes (1582). Grey was pursued by the clamour of a horrified
people, that is, he was Spenser's Sir Arthegal, molested by the Blatant
Beast, the public. The idea of the public is a Blatant Beast is
borrowed from Plato.

It was in the service of Grey, and in a land laid waste, that Spenser,
acting as Grey's secretary during the horrors of the war in Munster,
wrote part of the "Faery Queen". He held public posts, was Clerk of
Decrees, and Clerk of the Council of Munster, he received 3000 acres of
land, and a ruinous castle of the Desmond family, Kilcolman, between
Mallow and Limerick (1586).

Unhappy was his fortune, but, in absence from London, he had the
advantage of being beyond the influences of the critical literary
society of the capital with its reviews in form of pamphlets, its
satires, jealousies, and quarrels. There is a record of a conversation
of 1584 (published in 1606) in which Spenser described to his friends
the aim and scope of the "Faery Queen". Each virtue was to be
incarnate in a knight, whose adventures should teach it by example.
In a letter to Raleigh, whom he met in Ireland, Spenser says that
Prince Arthur (as in the first Canto) is to be a perfect exemplar
of "the twelve private virtues". The Faery Queen herself is, first,
Glory in general and next Gloriana, the royal and "most virtuous and
beautiful" Queen Elizabeth, who also appears as Belphœbe. He is to
begin in the middle, before telling how knights, ladies, dwarfs, and a
palmer bearing an infant with bloody hands came seeking adventures to a
festival of the Faery Queen. "Many other adventures are intermeddled."

The "Faery Queen" is not, and does not aim at being an epic. It is
without beginning, middle, or end, for the last six books were not
written, or the manuscript perished when Spenser was driven from

The original scheme is that of the "Morte d'Arthur," moralized, and
intermingled with allegory. The poem is an allegorical romance adapted
to the state of England, Ireland, and the Continent under Elizabeth,
and to the war of the Reformation against the dragon of Rome and the
Scarlet Woman of the Seven Hills, the seeming fair and inwardly filthy
Duessa, who is occasionally meant for Mary Stuart. Such unity as the
poem possesses is given by the conflict of Good, as Spenser understood
it, against Evil, private and public, the vices, and the Church of
Rome. The Red Cross Knight wears the armour which St. Paul describes,
and in which Bunyan equipped Christian and Greatheart.

There are people, says Spenser, who prefer to have Virtue "sermoned
at large, as they use". But while Spenser insists on being taken as
a moral preacher in his way, his true ideal is Beauty, and it is
the gleam of Beauty that he follows as he wanders with knights and
ladies through enchanted forests, and "awtres dire". Like the knights
in the "Morte d'Arthur" he "rides at adventure"; in every page a new
adventure opens, and leads to others endlessly, through conflicts
with Saracens,--_Sansfoy, Sansloy, Sansjoy_,--with the wily Magician,
Archimage, and his glamour; with Despair, in a wonderful passage;
with dragons and dragonettes, with Acrasia and all the charms of her
abode of wanton bliss, which is depicted with great enthusiasm (Book
II, Canto XII). This canto is remote indeed from the puritan taste,
despite its moral ending

    Let Gryll be Gryll, and have his hoggish mind,
    But let us hence depart, whilst weather serves and wind.

The whole is derived, in the last resort, from the palace of Circe
in the Tenth book of the "Odyssey," and it is curious to compare the
severe and classic charm of the Greek with the boundless luxury of the
Italian Renaissance in Spenser.

The "Faery Queen," indeed, despite the moral intention, which is
perfectly sincere, is the very Lotusland of poetry. It is a garden of
endless varieties of delight, endless but not prolix, for there is a
perpetual change of scene and of characters and nothing is constant but
the long and ever-varying music of the verse, Spenser's own measure, in
which each stanza is a poem, while the strong stream of melody carries
the half-dreaming reader down the enchanted river, and forth into the
fairy seas.

The Spenserian measure with the Alexandrine that ends the stanza may
not be the best vehicle for narrative. But Spenser's stream does flow
from the mountains of Lotusland, and the air of Lotusland occasionally
lulls the vigilance of the poet as well as of the the reader. The
stanza (Book VI, Canto X) which opens

    One day, as they all three together went
    To the greene wood to gather strawberries,
    There chaunst to them'a dangerous accident:
    A Tigre forth out of the wood did rise,

narrates an accident as unexpected as dangerous! We cannot but be
reminded of the "Swiss Family Robinson," and when Spenser makes Sir
Calidore kill the tiger and cut off its head with a shepherd's crook,
he is plainly overcome by "drowsihead".[2]

It is true that Spenser soon lost hold of his main allegory, and
allegorized the moving events and some of the personages of his time.
The gods, in Euripides, make a false Helen of clouds and sunbeams and
for her the Trojans and Achæans war and die. So, in Spenser's poem, the
witch makes a false Florimel of snow, informed by "a wicked spright"
with burning eyes for the destruction of mankind, and the false
Florimel is another form of the white witch, Mary Stuart. The affairs
of Ireland, France, "Belge," and Spain appear in knightly or magical
disguise in the procession of dissolving views; a pageant of the rivers
of Ireland and England anticipates Drayton's "Polyolbion": the romance
becomes, like "Piers Plowman," a farrago of all that is in the poet's

Of Spenser, Ben Jonson might have said, as of Shakespeare,
_Sufflaminandus erat_, "he needed to have the drag put on". Like Pindar
in youth, "he sowed from the sack, not from the hand". His archaic
words and unsuccessful imitations of archaic words annoyed the critics
of his time more than they vex us. If he "writ no language," "writ the
language of no time," as Ben Jonson said, the "Iliad" and "Odyssey,"
too, are in the language of no time, represent no one dialect that ever
was actually spoken. But Spenser was writing about no actual time: his
own age is confused with the fairy age of chivalry, and the ages of
the "Morte d'Arthur," and of Greek mythology. With Spenser we are "out
of space, out of time," and of his adoration of Chaucer, his ancient
words keep us in mind. That great and noble effort towards perfection,
the spirit of chivalry, was his ideal; and in Sir Philip he saw the
last of the gentle and perfect knights. To the flattery of Elizabeth we
must submit: she needed it all if to her subjects she was to, stand for
England and their love of England.

Spenser's blemishes are of his age; no pure and perfect work of
immaculate art could arise in a poetry which was only emerging from
a kind of chaos, too much learning being the successor of too much
ignorance, and a divine genius being left at large with no control from
sane and temperate criticism.

Somewhat eclipsed by the new star of Elizabeth's fresh favourite,
Essex, Raleigh visited his Irish lands in 1589, met Spenser, read the
"Faery Queen" in manuscript, and brought "Colin Clout Home again".
The poem of that name (1591) while full of sugared compliments to
Elizabeth, is also touched with satire of her new courtiers. Sidney was
dead, Leicester was dead, Burleigh "hated poetry and painting". The
first part of the "Faery Queen" (1590) had made Spenser famous, but
had won him no prize of Court favour save a small pension.

His "Mother Hubberd's Tale of the Ape and the Fox" may have been
written earlier and now was published; in this the satire is much more
keen; the poet finds even "the Comic Stage defaced and vulgarized, in
his 'Tears of the Muses,' where "our pleasant Willy that is dead of
late," cannot conceivably be Shakespeare--the silence of John Lyly may
be intended.

When Spenser returned to Ireland a collection of his miscellaneous
poems was published, containing, among other things, "Mother Hubberd's
Tale," "The Tears of the Muses," "The Ruines of Rome" (sonnets from the
French of Joachim du Bellay).

The "Ruines of Time," dedicated to "Sidney's sister, Pembroke's
mother," Lady Pembroke, begins with a vision of the genius of the
ruined Roman city, Verulam, and in a far-off way reminds us of the
Anglo-Saxon poem on the Ruined City. There is a lament for the fall of
ancient empires, and the sorrows of the House of Dudley.

Spenser's mood was that of melancholy and disappointment, presently
cheered by his marriage with Elizabeth Boyle. From his love came his
sonnets, and his matchless "Epithalamion," his "love-learned song".
If the "Faery Queen," and all else that Spenser did were lost, the
"Epithalamion" and the "Prothalamion" would win for him the crown of
the chief of English poets before Shakespeare. The marriage occurred
in June, 1594: then troubles with the Irish whom he had supplanted,
or some other cause, sent him to England, with the last three books
of his romance. The affair of Duessa's treatment caused James VI
to remonstrate through Bower, the English ambassador to Holyrood,
and though the poet was not punished, his designs may not have been
advanced. He now published his Hymns to Love and Beauty, Earthly
and Heavenly, the latter under the influence of Plato, and his
"Prothalamion" for the Ladies Elizabeth and Katherine Somerset. These
splendid poems were his swan-song; Ireland called him, and in October,
1598, the natives whom he had despoiled drove him from Kilcolman, which
they burned. Spenser died, a ruined man, in Westminster (16 January,
1599), Essex paid for his funeral, he lies in Westminster Abbey.

As Hephæstus, when he fashioned the arms of Achilles, melted bronze
and gold and silver in his furnace, so Spenser combined the wealth of
Greece and Italy, France, Rome, and England in the great crucible of
his genius. In the "Epithalamium," for example, we find a translation
of four lines from a sonnet of Ronsard, mingling with notes from
Theocritus and the Song of Songs, with all the beautiful things of
all the creeds. It would, perhaps, be unfair to call the style of
Spenser, as it appears in the "Faery Queen," "Corinthian". Yet the
metal in which he works is like that "Corinthian bronze" formed, at the
conflagration of the city, from the molten gold and silver and copper
of the sacred vessels and images of the gods. The spoils of all old
poetry are mingled with his own. He has been called "the poets' poet";
his successors have taken from him his very tones. As has been said
well, when Spenser writes--

    Scarcely had Phœbus in the glowing East
    Yet harnessëd his fiery-footed team,

that is Shakespeare, the Shakespeare of "Romeo and Juliet".

    And taking usury of time forepast
    Fit for such ladies and such lovely knights,

that is Shakespeare again, the Shakespeare of the Sonnets.

    Many an Angel's voice
    Singing before the eternal Majesty
    For their triune triplicities on high:

that is the younger voice of Milton.

    And ever and anon the rosy red
    Flasht thro' her face,

one might fancy the unmistakable note and accent of Tennyson.[3]

English poetry fell with the neglect of Spenser, who was buried and
forgotten from the middle of the seventeenth century till Thomson
revived his measures in the middle of the eighteenth, and English
poetry came fully to her own again when the magic book of Spenser was
opened by Keats.

[1] A well-known diplomatist of Queen Elizabeth, Harry Killigrew, is
said to have been "a Holbein in oils".

[2] On this and on the more than mediaeval size of "The Faery Queen,"
see Mr. Mackail's "Springs of Helicon," pp. 132-28.

[3] Mackail, "Springs of Helicon," pp. 90, 91.



The rejoicing age of Elizabeth was fond of "variety entertainments".
The Court Masques, such as those of Lyly, and George Peele's
"Arraignment of Paris," abounded in songs, music, and dancing, and
were expensively furnished. The Universities had their own amateur
authors and performers. The "children" of St. Paul's and other schools
acted so naturally that, as we read in "Hamlet," they became serious
rivals of the professional actors.[1] "An aery of children, little
eyases, that cry out on the top of question, and are most tyrannically
clapped for it, these are now the fashion". Polonius indicates the
many sorts of plays, "tragedy, comedy, pastoral, pastoral-comical,
historical-pastoral, tragical-historical, tragical-comical,
historical-pastoral, scene individual, or poem unlimited. Seneca cannot
be too heavy or Plautus too light." From authors of the heavy Senecan
school came blank verse: "the light people" continued, when Shakespeare
wrote "Love's Labour's Lost," to employ rhymes in many measures; till
Peele, and above all Marlowe, introduced a more free and varied and
accomplished blank verse. The general taste turned from many imitations
of the ponderous Seneca to plays of more freedom, but even moralities
and interludes of the old sort continued to be played in the age of the
Shakespearean drama.

There were countless troops of players, vagabonds in the eyes of
the law--those who held no licence from a noble (as "the Earl of
Leicester's men," "the Admiral's men," and many others), "hardly
scaped whipping". In "Ratsei's Ghoaste" a company of strollers, Bottoms
and Snugs, stage-stricken, are licensed by a highwayman. They acted
where they could, mere "barnstormers," mainly in the yards of inns,
under the galleries.

The City was puritanic, or, at all events, was adverse to the nuisance
caused by crowds of roisterers and hangers-on of the theatre, and by
1577 James Burbage built his theatre beyond the municipal bounds,
in Shoreditch. The Curtain and the Fortune were in the same region.
Southwark, south of the river, a noisy quarter, gave hospitality to the
Rose, and, in 1599, to the Globe, built by Burbage's son, the famous
Richard, Shakespeare's friend.

The Diary of Philip Henslowe, who financed players and authors, among
his other enterprises, contains the jottings of this avaricious and
uneducated patron. There were many small "private theatres," which had
a scrambling existence.

The pit was unseated, and open to the rain and sun, the galleries above
were less uncomfortable. The noble and wealthy sat in galleries round
the pit, or on the stage, which was covered over or partly covered from
the air. The arras, or tapestry hangings, concealed the prompter--and
Polonius in "Hamlet". Scenes in bedrooms were at the back, and
when such a scene closed, the hangings fell over it. There was no
scene-shifting, as with us, pasteboard rocks and trees were easily
moved about. A painted frame with a name over it in large letters,
stood for town-gate, and for the town.[2]

There were no women actors, boys took women's parts till the

Such clowns, dancers, singers, and practical jokers as Tarleton and
Kemp, and such actors as held shares in their theatres, made good
livelihoods. The authors, who sold them dramas for a sum down, and had
no more profit from them in any way, were paid sums ranging from £6 to
£20: according to modern rate of purchasing power from £50 to £160.
The play then became the property of the speculator, like Henslowe, or
manager, or company of authors, which had paid for it. Robert Greene,
the celebrated literary man of whom we have to speak presently, was
accused of selling a copy of a play to one company, and then, when that
company went "on tour" through provincial towns, of selling another
copy to another company. "He was very capable of having it happen to
him." When any speculator or company had once bought a play, they could
hand it over to any author with orders to alter it as he pleased. This
was annoying to the first author or authors, for sometimes two men,
sometimes three, sometimes five or six would combine to make a play.
The consequence is that modern critics spend much time and ink in
trying to discover which author wrote each part of a comedy or tragedy,
and how much of the original work of the first author, or authors, was
kept in a play which, perhaps, Shakespeare himself took up and re-wrote.

We have no space for such discussions, which seldom lead to any certain
conclusions, but we must remember that the actors much objected to the
printing of any plays which they owned, for, once printed, it was not
easy to prevent other companies from acting them. But publishers sent
shorthand reporters to take down the words during the performance,
and wild work they often made of it. These printed plays, small cheap
square volumes or "quartoes," may be very correct or very incorrect
copies of the author's words; some of Shakespeare's quartos are good
texts, some are execrable.

The playwrights were usually young men who had been at one of the
Universities, and had picked up all that they could learn of the
newest French and Italian literature, ideas, and manners. They were
very scornful of play writers who, like Kyd, Shakespeare, and even
Ben Jonson, far more learned than any of them, had not been at Oxford
or Cambridge. The pamphlets of the University men tell us much of the
little we know about their rivals, often their betters, who had not
studied at Oxford or Cambridge.

John Lyly.

From the University wits whose plays preluded to Shakespeare, John
Lyly (?1554-1606) of Magdalen, Oxford, stands a little apart. He
wrote dramas to be acted before the maiden Queen by the boy singers
of the Chapel Royal and of St. Paul's. Unlike some of his brethren,
he remembered the reverence due to boys and virgins, and his pieces
are remarkable for delicacy of tone, while the refined and romantic
sentiment, the pure and hopeless passion of his "Endymion," for
example, and the style of the prose in his dialogue, are all in the
manner of his "Euphues". When he aimed at broad mirth, he was not broad
enough or facetious enough to be amusing. His characters usually, as
in "Endymion" and "The Woman in the Moon," are the gods, goddesses,
heroes, and heroines of classical mythology, but their manners are
those of the Court of Elizabeth, though more refined.

Allegory on events of the day is suspected of lurking in the plays:
Cynthia, for example, has always some complimentary reference to
Elizabeth. "Mother Bombie" is not a successful essay in low comedy:
"Campaspe," a love story of the Court of Alexander the Great (where
Plato finds himself, somehow), is quite a pretty approach, as is
"Galatea," towards the romantic comedy; but in Shakespeare's early
"Love's Labour's Lost" we see that, at the first attempt, he far
surpassed his predecessor. Puns, alliteration, and anecdotes of
unnatural history are nearly as prevalent in the plays as in the
"Euphues" of Lyly. Several of his songs are pretty; some of his scenes
of love-making when the lady, though coy, is willing to be won, are
graceful, and the prose of the dialogue, conceits apart, is lucid and
in good taste. His blank verse in "The Woman in the Moon," is not
specially characteristic.


George Peele would have a far better claim than Kyd to the title of
"sporting" if there were even a little truth in the tract about him
called "Merrie Conceited Jests of George Peele, Gentleman"; while to
the title of "gentleman" he would have no moral pretensions. The jests
are rough and far from honest practical jokes, but the author had some
knowledge of Peele's position as a director of pageants and masques.
There is no smoke without fire, and the contemporary stories of the
"Bohemian" life of pranks and poverty led by young poor University
wits connected with the stage, may be exaggerated but can scarcely be
baseless. George Peele is thought to have been of Devonshire: he was
born about 1558, was a member, in 1574, of Broadgates Hall, now Dr.
Johnson's college of Pembroke in Oxford, took his Bachelor's degree
about 1577, his Master's in 1579.

His "Tale of Troy," in rhymed heroic couplets (published 1589),
he probably wrote at Oxford. It is a pocket epic, and summary of
the Trojan war--based partly on the "Iliad," partly on the later
Ionian legends, as of Palamedes, and the love of Achilles for
Polyxena, daughter of Priam. By 1581 Peele was in London. In 1584 his
"Arraignment of Paris" was published; it was acted in that year before
Elizabeth by the "children" of the Chapel Royal. It is strange sport
for ladies, and Mrs. Quickly might have said, "You do ill to teach the
child such words". The piece in which Paris is arraigned for giving the
apple to Venus, is a pastoral written in a variety of rhymed metres,
with some speeches in creditable blank verse: there is a pretty song,

    Fair, and fair, and twice as fair,
    And fair as any may be.

At the close Diana presents the famous apple, with the assent of Venus,
Juno, and Pallas, to Queen Elizabeth. Peele also arranged pageants for
the Lord Mayor, and wrote (1593) a "Chronicle History of Edward I,"
a play based on an absurd ballad about the profligacy and fabulous
cruelty of Eleanor, the worthy Queen of "Longshanks". Friar David ap
Tuck provides a comic part, in prose. John Baliol, King of Scotland,
brags and submits in blank verse: the best of the blank verse is
assigned to the wicked Eleanor: the lines are not usually "stopped" in
the stiff old style.

In 1593 Peele also wrote his "Honour of the Garter," a poetic vision
of "lovely knights" of old days. The Prologue contains a lament for

              the Muses' darling for thy verse,
    Fit to write passions for the souls below.

"The Old Wives' Tale" is thought to have suggested a poem very unlike
it, Milton's "Comus". The date of Peele's "David and Bathsheba," "a
remain of the fashion of Scripture plays," is uncertain (published in
1599). This is the best of Peele's extant work, and the blank verse is
not unworthy of Marlowe. David says of the dead Absalom--

                  touch no hair of him,
    Not that fair hair with which the wanton winds
    Delight to play, and love to make it curl,
    Wherein the nightingales would build their nests,
    And make sweet bowers in every golden tress,
    To sing their lover every night to sleep.

With Peele and Marlowe we are coming close to the perfection of the
verse of Shakespeare. Peele died in 1597(?); two years earlier he was
poor and in sickness. Probably some of his plays are lost; the "Battle
of Alcazar" is but doubtfully assigned to him. Peele cannot have taught
Shakespeare much: though he greatly improved blank verse, he only
proves that spectators were not intolerant of real poetry in plays.


Robert Greene was a Norwich man (born about 1560), the son of parents
of substance; at St. John's College, Cambridge, he graduated in 1578.
Norwich was a puritan town, but the indulgence of Greene's mother, as
he tells us, enabled him to make the Italian tour, probably between
1578 and 1580,

    An Englishman that is Italianate
    Doth quickly prove a devil incarnate,

said the proverb, and Greene, a man greatly given to fits of
repentance, describes his dissipations much as St. Augustine describes
his own. At all events he learned Italian and could borrow from novels
in that language. He lived among "wags as loose as myself," both in
Italy and London. Neither the effects of a rousing sermon nor an early
marriage (1585, 1586) to a wife with whom he soon parted company could
withdraw Greene from the bottle and his wild comrades. He was the
conventional "gentleman of the press," living by a very rapid pen,
"yarking up a pamphlet" with unprecedented speed, says Nash, and his
wares, we learn, were well paid. He had also many noble patrons, at
least he dedicated his "love pamphlets," romances in the manner of
Lyly, to many ladies. They are pure in tone, and his favourite female
character is a chaste and long-suffering Patient Grizel, like Enid in
the Welsh "Mabinogion," and Enid in the "Idylls of the King". Between
1583 and 1589 he wrote at least eight of those love stories and
pamphlets, including "Euphues, his Censure to Philautus," and, as five
were dedicated to ladies of rank, they were probably of the sort which
women enjoyed. Later he was either remorseful, or affected remorse, for
his way of living, and turned his experience of the town to use, in
tracts on "Cosenage" and "Cony-catching," exposures of the devices of
courtesans, usurers, and other harpies.

His "Repentance," and his "Groatsworth of Wit" (1592), with the
notorious allusion to "Shake-scene" were among his last efforts. The
"Groatsworth of Wit" describes the jealousies between the playwrights
and the actors, who, then as always, gained most of the popularity,
and then gained most of the money yielded by the stage. It is almost
impossible for unbiased readers to avoid detecting in Greene's
"Johannes Factotum," "the only Shake-scene in the country," an allusion
to Shakespeare. Whether he partook too freely of pickled herrings and
Rhine wine, as gossip averred, or not, he fell into a fatal illness,
and died in debt to his landlord and landlady, in September, 1592.

Harvey attacked and Nash defended his memory, but, even according to
Nash he was a "ruffler". "Penning of plays," Greene says, was his
"continual exercise," but at what date he began it is uncertain. He
appears to have been stung by some comment in a play by two other
authors on the unfashionable character of his own dramas, "for that I
could not make my verses jet upon the stage in tragical buskins"; that
is, apparently, he did not try to write the sonorous blank verse of
Marlowe; or tried and failed to produce in Nash's words "the swelling
bombast of a bragging blank verse".

If "Alphonsus, King of Arragon" be his first play, as it gives
Tamburlaine on a small scale it may have been suggested by Marlowe's
drama: however Alphonsus, after Napoleonic victories, marries his own
true love, the daughter of the Sultan and Greene's play, like the
tragedies preferred by Charles II, "ends happily". The blank verse is
inferior to that of the Ninevite play in which Lodge took part, "A
Looking Glass for London and England".

"Orlando Furioso" is a strange medley; there is prose, blank verse,
and even a speech in Latin: the materials are drawn, of course, from
Ariosto; the Paladins deal enormously in classical allusions.

In "Friar Bacon and Friar Bungay," the Prince of Wales, afterwards
Edward I, falls in love with a gamekeeper's daughter, and describes her
charms in blank verse, and in a very pretty pastoral manner. By the
old trick of novels and of the stage he sends Lacie, a courtier, to
woo for him (as in "Much Ado about Nothing," "Twelfth Night," and "Two
Gentlemen of Verona"), and the usual consequences follow.

The Friars Bacon and Bungay are shown at their pranks, with a devil,
and Lacie, "in country apparel," flirts with the keeper's daughter in
talk of Apollo's courtship of Semele (mother of Dionysus by Zeus). The
king beholds their courtship by dint of crystal-gazing; while they are
also on the stage.

The plot becomes extremely complicated, and poor Margaret, the keeper's
daughter, has to play the patient Grizel to Lacie. She is cruelly
treated, but marries Lacie in the end, while Edward pairs off with
Eleanor. The servant of Friar Bacon, Miles, and a devil provide some
comic matter. The blank verse is now much more accomplished, and
imitates the cadences of Marlowe.

The play of "James IV" is so absurdly unhistorical (it transfers
the plot of an Italian novel by Cinthio to the Court of Holyrood),
that it can hardly be read with patience, but Greene's sweet,
patient, long-enduring heroine, Dorothea, appears again, in the part
historically filled by a very different person, Margaret Tudor, whose
passion for being alternately married (finally to "Lord Muffin") and
divorced, was rebuked by her brother, Henry VIII, himself no model of
constancy. Greene introduced and Shakespeare continued the practice
of taking plots for romantic comedies, (such as "As You Like It")
from Italian novels; and, like Shakespeare, he is the poet of good
women, "the Homer of women," as his friend Nash said with hyperbole of


The Memoirs of Thomas Lodge, had he left them to us, would be of more
interest than are his writings. He "had an oar in every paper-boat,"
says the Cambridge satirist in the play, "The Return from Parnassus,"
but he had oars in other boats that were not of paper. Born about 1558,
he was the second son of Sir Thomas Lodge, an eminent grocer. He was
educated at Trinity College, Oxford, being by one academic generation
junior to Lyly. Going to the Inns of Court, London, he answered
Gosson's attack on poetry, "The School of Abuse," in an abusive style
very unlike that of Sir Philip Sidney's "Defence of Poesy". He and
Barnaby Rich (the supposed author of a most vivacious translation of
two books of Herodotus), were friends, and wrote commendatory verses,
each for the other's work (1581).

If in his "Alarum against Usurers" (1584), Lodge is speaking from
his personal experience, he already knew "the ignoble melancholy of
pecuniary embarrassment," thanks to the expensive acquaintance of "Mrs.
Minx," and long bills due to his tailor. He warns the young against the
temptations of the town, at tedious length and with overabundance of
classical allusions. In an unreadable romance (1584) (Lyly's "Euphues"
being the model), "Forbonius and Prisceria," he inserts many not
unreadable verses.

"Glaucus and Scilla" is a work of the same _genre_ as Shakespeare's
"Venus and Adonis," a classical tale told in stanzas of six lines.

    "Delayes in tragic tales provoke offences"

says Lodge, and his tale is too prolix, verbose, and full of "delayes".
There are harmonious cadences, and pretty descriptions, but Lodge's
poetic vein is best in his brief lyrics. He found time, on sea or land,
to write "Rosalynde: Euphues' Golden Legacy". This contains the tale
which Shakespeare made immortal by transfiguring it in "As You Like
It". The vagrant and affected prolixity of this kind of story had a
popularity that endured for a century, and surprises us as much as our
popular novels will doubtless astonish future generations. Such as the
style was, Lodge had mastered it, and redeemed it by the intercalated
verses. "Rosalynde" had vogue, and Lodge, who had set forth on a
freebooting expedition with young Thomas Cavendish, wrote probably
the only novel, "A Margarite of America" (1596), ever composed in the
frosty Straits of Magellan. His next novel was "Euphues's Shadow," the
euphuism of the shadow is equal to that of the substance. His play, "A
Looking Glass for London and England," written in collaboration with
Greene, was acted in 1592. We are introduced to Rasni, King of Nineveh,
with three Kings of Cilicia, Crete, and Paphlagonia, returning from the
overthrow of Jeroboam, King of Jerusalem..

Greene and Lodge are magnificently disdainful of local colour. The
Cilician King, in very sonorous blank verse, proclaims the Assyrian
monarch to be more beautiful than Hyacinthus and Endymion, personages
of Greek mythology. Oseas the prophet, brought in by an angel, listens
to an angelic harangue of some thirty lines, and tersely replies: "The
will of the Lord be done!" To him enter "Clown and a crew of Ruffians,"
and we have several pages of humours in prose; mainly the talk is of
ale and horses. After a prolonged and chaotic performance, Nineveh
repents under the preaching of Jonah, and these amiable moralists,
Greene and Lodge, bid London go and do likewise. That the blank verse
is not bad, and that the satire of Rasni's flatterers _may_ be a hit
at the adulators of Elizabeth, is the best that can be said for this
Scriptural drama. After all it is not so tedious as Lodge's play from
Roman history, "The Wounds of Civil War".

It is needless to speak of such mere hackwork as his books on William
Longbeard and Robert the Devil, but his "Fig for Momus," satires in
rhyming heroic couplets, accredit him, contrary to the boast of Joseph
Hall, as the first English satirist.

Not popular in literature, Lodge (1600) turned physician, taking his
M.D. degree at Avignon. Now he really flourished, and was in good
practice, till his death in 1625. His reputation rests on his lyrics;
for the advance of the drama he did nothing.


With no special gifts except reckless fluency, Thomas Nash, or Nashe,
made his name one of the most frequently quoted in the history of
Elizabethan literature. The son of "William Nash, minister" (not
improbably a Puritan preacher) Nash was born at Lowestoft in Suffolk
in November, 1567. The Christian names of his brothers and sisters,
Nathaniel, Israel, Martha, Rebecca are of the Biblical sort favoured by
"the Brethren".

Nash made no claim to the title "gentleman" then used in the heraldic
sense. He was (1582) either a "sizar" (at Oxford "servitor") or Lady
Margaret's Scholar of St. John's College, Cambridge, and was in
residence for nearly seven years. By 1589 he was in London, a literary
hack, employed, for example, to write an "Introduction" to Greene's
"Menaphon". He addresses the students of both Universities in his
irrepressibly rattling way, and it is hardly possible to doubt that
in a long passage he rails at the unfortunate Kyd in his capacities
as playwright and translator from the Italian. He rapidly reviewed
contemporary literature and mocked at English hexameters, the darlings
of Gabriel Harvey.

With him Nash later had a war of pamphlets, the best known is "Have
with You to Saffron Walden," containing a full answer to the eldest
son of the Halter-maker (1596). The pamphlets are only of interest
for their personal hints: the feud arose from a slighting allusion by
Greene to Harvey's parentage ("Quip for an Upstart Courtier"). Nash
took up the cudgels (as his weapons of wit may be called) for Greene;
Harvey pursued Greene's memory beyond the tomb, and Government at last
put an end to the publication of the pamphlets.

Nash and Marlowe worked together at the play of "Dido," mainly based on
the "Æneid" of Virgil, with an opening scene in un-Virgilian bad taste,
and highly unedifying to the players, "the Children of her Majesty's
Chapel The play is in blank verse, usually better than Nash's own in
his "Summer's Last Will and Testament". Much of this is in Nash's hasty
prose; a blank verse tirade in praise of dogs is amusing:--

    To come to speech, they have it questionless,
    Although we understand them not so well,
    They bark as good old Saxon as may be.

In 1597, Nash was imprisoned for a play "The Isle of Dogs".

It is impossible to enumerate his tracts, of which his turbulent
prose satire, "Pierce Penniless, His Supplication to the Devil," is
the most spirited. His "Unfortunate Traveller, or The Life of Jack
Wilton" (1594) is a crude anticipation of "Gil Blas," and the novel
of unscrupulous wandering adventurers, and contains the feigned
story of the loves of Surrey and his Geraldine, which was taken to
be historical. Nash lived a scrambling life, a bookseller's hack,
destitute of patrons, and died about 1601. For the advance of the
drama, despite his play-writing, Nash did nothing.


Christopher Marlowe is happily on the right side of the line which
separates poets who may be read from poets who must be written about.
He was born on 6 February, 1564, being the son of an eminent shoemaker
at Canterbury. He was educated at the King's School of that city,
where he held a little scholarship of a pound, quarterly, and went to
Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, with one of the scholarships founded
there for Canterbury boys by Archbishop Parker (1581). In 1584 he took
his Bachelor's degree, being a contemporary of Nash and Greene, and
three years later put on his Master's gown. His translations of Ovid's
"Amores" may have been executed at Cambridge; he did not publish them.
His first public work was the first part of the play of "Tamburlaine,"
acted in 1587 or 1588. The drama, in both parts, is destitute of
construction; the hero, Tamburlaine, "the scourge of God," merely
overruns a vast extent of country, subduing kings, massacring maidens,
and glutting his unbounded rage for universal conquest. His only human
weakness is his passion for "divine Zenocratê," his wife, and he might
be called a martyr to "megalomania," trampling on divine names no less
than on the backs of Emperors. The scene in which he enters in his
chariot drawn by the Kings of Trebizond and Soria, bit in mouth, and

    Holla, ye pampered jades of Asia!

was matter of constant jest and parody, a proof of the popularity of
the drama.

In his youth, if we may interpret his nature by his early plays,
Marlowe was "a desirer of things impossible," intoxicated with the
thought of what man may achieve. "Nature," he makes Tamburlaine say,

    Doth teach us all to have aspiring minds:
    Our souls whose faculties can comprehend
    The wondrous architecture of the world,
    And measure every wandering planet's course,
    Still climbing after knowledge infinite,
    And always moving as the restless spheres,
    Wills us to wear ourselves and never rest,
    Until we reach the ripest fruit of all...

but after this scientific prelude, worthy of Bacon, Tamburlaine sinks
to finding felicity in "an earthly crown".

The genius of Marlowe, which was great, but scarcely dramatic, places
in the lips of his ferocious monster these astonishing lines on the
aspiration of the poet towards the beautiful:--

    If all the pens that poets ever held
    Had fed the feeling of their masters' thoughts,
    And every sweetness that inspired their hearts,
    Their minds and muses on admired themes,
    If all the heavenly quintessence they still
    From their immortal flowers of poesy,
    Wherein, as in a mirror, we perceive
    The highest reaches of a human wit;
    If these had made one poem's period,
    And all combined in beauty's worthiness
    Yet should there hover in their restless heads
    One thought, one grace, one wonder at the least,
    Which into words no virtue can digest.

This is the vision of beauty which haunts and evades Marlowe, as the
shadow of the mother of Odysseus in Hades fades away from his embrace.
Sometimes it appears to him

           like women or unmarried maids,
    Shadowing more beauty in their airy brows
    Than have the white breasts of the Queen of Love.

Again, in "Dr. Faustus," a new Tamburlaine who seeks the impossible in
magic, not by arms, and sells his soul to the Adversary, the vision
arises in the form of Helen of Troy, that ancient symbol of the World's

    Was this the face that launched a thousand ships
    And burnt the topless towers of Ilium...
    Oh, thou art fairer than the evening air,
    Clad in the beauty of a thousand stars.

In this absolute perfection of the magic of verse, we see the true
conquest of Marlowe: as in the agonies of the last hour of Faustus,

Cut is the branch that might have grown full straight
And burned is Apollo's Laurel Bough.

The last act is full of pity and of terror.

The dagger-thrust that slew Marlowe in a Deptford tavern, at the end of
May, 1593, robbed English poetry of a genius whose future performance
cannot be measured, nor can the form which it might have taken be
guessed. The comic prose scenes in "Faustus" are very stupid and may
perhaps be by another hand, but nothing in Marlowe indicates the gift
of humour.

In "The Jew of Malta" Barabas, on a scale less disproportionate than
Tamburlaine, represents immeasurable desire of wealth, not of royalty.
In the earlier scenes the speeches of Barabas, with the recurrence
of romantic and sonorous names, in a way remind us of Milton. The
Jew, ill-treated as he is, is not allowed to be sympathetic, and
the monstrosity of his crimes reminds the modern reader of Aytoun's
"Firmilian": with a touch of the story of the Hunchback in the "Arabian
Nights". Though Barabas has a beloved daughter, rapidly converted
to Christianity, though his ducats and his daughter are all that he
loves, he lags very far behind Shylock. The play was well calculated
for popularity, but, save Barabas, it contains no character of marked

"Edward II" has been much praised in modern times, and even preferred
to the "Richard II" of Shakespeare. Neither King was a good subject
for tragedy, though both endured the extremes of misfortune. But in
Richard there were noble elements, debased by a long struggle with
some of his uncles, and undermined by a period of absolute power. In
Edward II we know nothing estimable, save a moment of princely valour
when he was all but taken at Bannockburn. His doting devotion to Piers
Gaveston, who is well sketched by Marlowe, his intolerable insults
to his Queen, place him quite beyond sympathy, till his awful last
hours and appalling end. The instantaneous change of the Queen from a
loving, forgiving, and intolerably wronged woman to a monster of cruel
hypocrisy cannot be called artistic; and though the play, compared with
Marlowe's other dramas, is "regular," and opens the path to what we
may call the legitimate drama, without the monstrosities of "The Jew
of Malta," it does not contain such surprising excellencies as occur
in "Tamburlaine" and "Faustus". The noblest passage, the speech of the
fallen King to Leicester, could scarcely come from the Edward of the
earlier acts. The "Massacre of Paris" (the Bartholomew massacre of
1572) is of no importance among Marlowe's works.

If we could agree with his too fond biographer that Marlowe wrote the
passages of "Henry VI," in which Jeanne d'Arc is worthy of herself, and
that Shakespeare contributed the scandalous scenes of her debasement,
we might regard Marlowe as a wonder of clear-sighted appreciation.
But nothing in their works confirms this conjecture. What share, if
any, Marlowe had in "Henry VI" and "Titus Andronicus," and precisely
what Shakespeare did for both of these dramas is unknown. Marlowe's
beautiful lyric, "Come live with me and be my Love," is for ever
fragrant, and his "Hero and Leander" (stiffly finished by Chapman,
it is said at Marlowe's own dying request) is at least the equal of,
and may even be preferred by many readers to, the first fruits of
Shakespeare's invention, "Venus and Adonis".

Shakespeare's "dead shepherd" did not die unlamented by his brother
poets: he had patrons in Raleigh and Sir Thomas Walsingham, and it is
not necessary to criticize here certain horrible libels on his life and


The irony of chance, by a freak of Ben Jonson's, has attached to the
most ill-fated of authors the name of "Sporting Kyd". Born about 1558
the son of a scrivener in the City, Kyd was educated at Merchant
Taylors' School. He was not a member of either University. It is by a
piece of luck, for his biographers, that he was satirized by Nash as
one who stole from a French translation of Seneca's tragedies; and so
produced a play, "Pompey the Great, his fair Cornelia's Tragedie," one
who "will afford you whole Hamlets," and who took up the business of
translating from the Italian. By pursuing these and other sarcastic
hints of Nash's, Kyd has been identified as the author of the most
truly popular of early Elizabethan plays "The Spanish Tragedy"; of
what the Germans call the "Ur-Hamlet," the oldest English Hamlet play;
and the translator of "The Householder's Philosophic," in prose; while
he is thought guiltless of the first part of "Jeronimo," a prelude,
meant to be humorous, to his "Spanish Tragedy". To that work, again,
additions were made, and Ben Jonson was paid for making them, though
they are thought not to resemble his manner, and he frequently girds
in his own later dramas at the popular "Spanish Tragedy". It is a long
tissue of horrors and revenges in blank verse, old Hieronymo slowly
pursuing the slayers of his son, Horatio, and contains, like "Hamlet,"
a play within a play, in which the actors in a fencing scene slay
each other in earnest, to glut Hieronymo's revenge. As in "Hamlet"
there is a ghost, but ghosts were common in the dramas of Seneca and
his English imitators. Hieronymo, when apprehended, bites his tongue
out, and stabs himself and a Duke who happens to be convenient in his

If Kyd were really the author of the first play of "Hamlet," based on
a Danish story which English actors who played in Germany in 1587 may
have brought home, the fact would be interesting. If we only possessed
a copy of this first "Hamlet," we should know how much, if anything at
all, Shakespeare retained from the original play. Kyd is credited with
being the first to show the change and development of characters under
the sway of the events of the drama, though this can scarcely be proved
save by a long comparison of all the characters in the plays of other
writers. Grotesque as are his horrors, when we compare those of "Titus
Andronicus" and of successors of Shakespeare who ought to have known
better, we wonder at his moderation.

Kyd's end was lamentable. He was arrested, and tortured, in May, 1593,
on suspicion of having written a placard threatening a massacre of
undesirable aliens in London, who interfered with home industries.
In his papers was found part of a perfectly serious though heterodox
discourse on a theological topic, apparently intended to be submitted
to a Bishop. He cleared himself of the placard, and, in a letter to
Puckering, the Lord Keeper, said that he had the theological piece from
Marlowe, that it was among his papers by accident, and that Marlowe,
then just dead, was an evil man, and no friend of his.

Kyd now lost the patronage of a peer, unnamed, and by December in the
following year he was dead; his family renounced the administration
of what possessions he may have left behind him. He has of late been
the subject of minute English and German research, like every one who
had, or may have had, the faintest connexion with Shakespeare. The
indecision of Hieronymo (Act III. scene 12) in revenging himself on
Balthasar for slaying Horatio, Hieronymo's son, and hanging him up in
Hieronymo's summer-house, has other motives than the indecision of
Hamlet. But this indecision, and the play within the play, and Kyd's
supposed authorship of the "Ur-Hamlet," which lies behind the First
Quarto of "Hamlet," make Kyd interesting to critical specialists.

These predecessors of Shakespeare need to be mentioned, though perhaps
only Marlowe's dramas are now commonly read by lovers of poetry. Though
these men wandered in the wilderness, so to speak, they pointed out the
way to Shakespeare, and made the world familiar with rude forecasts of
the forms of the romantic comedy, the historical play, and the tragedy.
Several wrote blank verse well, occasionally; Marlowe brought blank
verse, not precisely dramatic, but rather reflective, to the highest
beauty. Almost all the early dramatists also graced their plays with
charming songs.

All of these early dramatists had that sweet and birdlike English note
of song, "woodnotes wild," which (to an English ear) is rare in all but
the early poetry of France. We have observed this note in the lyrics of
the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. Time did not stifle the music,
it is prolonged in the fashionable love-romances and in the early
dramas. Thus even Nash, the least poetical of his associates, has his

    Adieu, farewell earth's bliss
    This world uncertain is,

which, with its refrain,

    Lord, have mercy on us,

recalls Dunbar's lament

      _Timor Mortis conturbat me._
    Dust hath closed Helen's eye,
      Worms feed on Hector brave.

Where are the lovely knights and the ladies of old time?

    Autumn hath all the summer's fruitful treasure,

written in a time of pestilence, is another lament of Nash's, and

    Go not yet away, bright soul of the sad year.

Peele has

    His golden locks hath time to silver turned,

and the beautiful song of Bethsabe at the bath,

   Hot sun, cool fire, tempered with sweet air.

Greene has his

    Ah, what is love, it is a pretty thing,
    As sweet unto a shepherd as a king,

which is in the spirit of Burns's best songs of rural love; and his
courtly love song with the French refrain,

    _N'oserez vous, mon bel ami!_

and his Lullaby

    Weep not my wanton, smile upon my knee,
    When thou art old, there's grief enough for thee.

This has the charm of the folk-songs,

    Old and plain,
    And dallying with the innocence of love.

It may also be said that, at the opposite pole, Greene's snatches of
English hexameters are the best of their kind then written.

If nothing else Of Lyly's existed his

    Cupid and my Campaspe played
    At cards for kisses--Cupid payed,

would keep his memory green.

Lodge has been blamed as a common plagiary because he translated so
many of his lyrics, not always or often with due acknowledgment, from
Des Portes and Ronsard. But in some cases he improved the land which
he conquered, and his "Love in my bosom like a bee," "Down a down!"
"Thus Phyllis sung," and "Pluck the fruit and taste the pleasures," are
genuine additions to English song, and prelude to Shakespeare's, and
the music of the coming generation.

All of the treasures of his predecessors are not equivalent or nearly
equivalent to the small change of Shakespeare's genius. But the best
things in his predecessors' work indicate that, in a favourite phrase
of Aristotle, "Nature was wishing to make" a Shakespeare. Yet was the
birth of his genius none the less a miracle. He did much more than
combine all that was good in all the others. He added that which is
universal and eternal.


Concerning the life of William Shakspere (as he signed it), or
Shakespeare (as his name was usually spelled), only a few essential
facts are known from records of his own time, mainly documents
concerning the legal affairs of himself, his family, and the
theatrical company with which he was connected. Unlike many of the
contemporary playwrights he was not a member of either University, and
so college records about him are necessarily absent: and there is no
contemporary roll of names of pupils at the school of his native place,

Again, he was not a pamphleteer or journalist, like Nash, Greene, and
others, and so he left no account of his friendships and enmities; no
prose books about his opinions on art and literature, like Ben Jonson;
he wrote no satirical plays, as Ben did, full of angry, contemptuous,
and envious attacks on his rivals, and on the actors. As he was no
learned scholar, the Universities never dreamed of making him, like
Ben Jonson, a Master of Arts. People who wrote criticisms of poetry in
prose or verse always spoke highly of him: one, John Davies, remarks
that, in the opinion of some, had he not been an actor, he would have
been fit company for Kings. But anecdotes of him were not sought for
till all who had known him had long been dead. His own dramas contain
a few topical allusions, and his sonnets appear to be more or less
autobiographical, though to what degree, as in the case of Sidney's
sonnets, is matter of dispute. He took almost no part in any public
services, and in these circumstances little is known of his life,
despite the painful researches of many learned students, and the
wildest modern conjectures.

Concerning even the paternal grandfather of the poet, presumed to have
been Richard Shakespeare, a farmer at Snitterfield, within four miles
of Stratford-on-Avon, we have little more than probable presumptions.
Richard's son John, father of the poet, in 1551 set up in business
at Stratford-on-Avon, then a town of some 1500 inhabitants. He was a
dealer in agricultural commodities; Aubrey, the antiquary, a century
later, heard that he was a butcher. But the trade of a butcher in a
tiny town is not lucrative, yet by 1556 he could buy two tenements,
one in Henley Street, next door to the so-called "Birthplace". He held
a succession of municipal offices, and was one of two chamberlains of
town accounts. In 1557 (?) he married Mary Arden, a daughter of a far
away branch of a good family; she inherited fifty acres of land and
a house at Wilmcote, and other property. After the birth of children
who died young, came William, baptized on 26 April, 1564. His father,
still prospering, was chief magistrate in 1568: that year came licensed
play-actors to Stratford--"The Queen's," and "The Earl of Worcester's".
But after 1572 the affairs of the father turned gradually to the worse;
he mortgaged the property near Wilmcote in 1578; he fell into debt, and
in 1586 ceased to be an alderman. His family had increased while his
fortunes declined.

As there was a free Grammar School at Stratford, it is natural to
suppose that William was educated there from his seventh or eighth to
his thirteenth year. If so, he would learn Latin grammar, and read more
or less in the popular classics, including, "old Mantuan"--not Virgil,
but a writer of the Italian Renaissance. Supposing Shakespeare to have
left school at thirteen, he was at the age of Bacon when he went up
to Cambridge. Books have been written about the learning or want of
learning of Shakespeare. In all probability he could make out most
of the meaning of a Roman writer of comedies, like Plautus, or of a
philosopher like Seneca. But his use of English translations, whenever
he could get them, does not look as if he read Latin with ease: he
could ask a friend or pay a poor scholar to help him when he had no
translations; and to Ben Jonson his Latin seemed "small," because
Ben had so much scholarship, and was so proud of it. All general
information Shakespeare acquired as easily as he drew breath. Of
schoolmasters, judging from allusions in the plays, he entertained the
same opinion as Sir Walter Scott. The classics are most in view in his
early plays, in some of which he worked over an earlier manuscript by
a more scholarly hand. Moreover classical allusions, mythological and
historical, lay loose on the surface of all contemporary literature;
and abounded in the conversation of the wits.[4] No man ever cared less
for historical accuracy and correct "local colour" than Shakespeare: he
piled up anachronisms, making Aristotle live before the Trojan war.

When not yet 19 years of age, at the close of 1582, Shakespeare married
Anne Hathaway, who had the same dowry, in money (£6. 13s. 4d.) as
his mother. She was seven or eight years older than he: their first
child was born at the end of May, 1583, and the circumstances did not
promise domestic happiness. Twins, Hamnet (who died young) and Judith,
were born in 1585, and whether Shakespeare did, or did not get into
trouble for poaching on the lands of Lucy of Charlecote (against whom
his heraldic ridicule, in "Merry Wives," Act I, Scene I, indicates
a grudge), it was time for him to seek his fortune. Perhaps he made
ventures near home (Aubrey, who knew an old actor that had traditions,
says he was a schoolmaster), but by 1587 he was probably "hanging loose
on the town" in London. Here he had a fellow townsman, Field, who later
printed his "Venus," and his "Lucrece". The story that Shakespeare held
the horses of playgoers outside the doors of a theatre comes late into
literary anecdote.

By 1594 (perhaps by 1592) Shakespeare was a member of the Company of
Actors known successively as "Leicester's," "Derby's" (died 1592)
"Hunsdon's" (Carey) and, at the accession of James VI and I (1603)
"The King's". With him were the great Richard Burbage, John Heminge,
Henry Condell, and Augustine Phillips. By this Company all his plays
were first acted. By 1592 they used the Rose Theatre, and others, and
in 1599 the Globe. There is no proof that Shakespeare ever played in
Scotland (he could not pronounce Dunsinane, and accentuated the final
syllable) or abroad.

From the moment of his departure from Stratford nothing is certainly
known of Shakespeare, till the dying Greene apparently alludes to
him in "A groat's worth of wit, bought with a million of Repentance"
(1592). Adjuring his comrades (Nash, Peele, and Marlowe?), to forswear
sack and the stage, Greene seems to remind them of a hardship in their
professional position: the rewriting of plays, once sold, by other
hands. A new hand might alter it for the owners, the hand might be that
of an actor, one of the "puppets," says Greene, "that speak from our
mouths.... There is an upstart Crow, beautified with our feathers, that
with his 'Tyger's heart wrapt in a Player's hide' supposes he is as
well able to bombast out a blank verse as the best of you, and being
an absolute 'Johannes factotum'" (jack-of-all-work) "is, in his own
conceit, the only Shake-scene in a countrie.... It is a pity men of
such rare wit should be subject to the pleasures of such rude groomes."

If, as has been suggested (there is no certainty), a piece called
"Henry VI" (part I), played by Shakespeare's company in March, 1592,
was an older drama "bombasted" by Shakespeare, and if his conduct
was one cause of Greene's wrath, we can only regret that Shakespeare
set his hand to a work that rejoiced English patriots. The author or
authors represent Jeanne d'Arc in two totally different characters,
now as a patriot, equally brave, self-sacrificing, and eloquent; now
as a loose woman who denies her father, and asserts her pregnancy by
one or other of several lovers. History is strangely treated, and the
materials must have been taken from Anglo-Burgundian scandals, and from
a curious French prose chronicle romance, obviously done into prose out
of verse, the "Chronique de Lorraine". This appears to have been the
source of the scenes in which Jeanne fights at Rouen, many years after
her martyrdom in 1431.

Shakespeare may have "written in" the scenes where Jeanne acts and
speaks like herself; the others (let us hope so!) may be by a baser
hand. The second and third parts of "Henry VI," were later much
altered, probably by Shakespeare; the scenes with Jack Cade are
entirely in his manner.

As we have not the original manuscripts, we are often unable to
distinguish, in Shakespeare's earlier works, between what is his own
and what belongs to a play by an earlier hand, or by a collaborator.
The tendency of criticism is to attribute the best passages to
Shakespeare and to guess at the authors of what is not so good.

The dates especially of the early plays are far from certain. But we
can hardly be mistaken in thinking "Love's Labour's Lost" a very early
example of the poet's play-writing. He has not mastered blank verse:
the sense usually ends with the end of each line; much of the play
is written in rhymed verse of various metres: prose is comparatively
little used. Some of the personages, as Biron and Longueville, are of
the contemporary Court of Henry of Navarre, a most unlikely person to
contemplate seclusion from female society! The play, of which the plot
seems to be Shakespeare's own,[5] is full of promise of good things
to come. Biron will blossom into Benedick, Costard and Jaquenetta
into Touchstone and Audrey; the ladies are predecessors of the poet's
many ladies, as Beatrice and Rosalind, who are merry when in love. We
have the stock figure of the pedant schoolmaster in Holofernes, of
the fantastic talker in Armado, and the songs, "On a day, Alack the
day," and "When daisies pied and violets blue," prelude to all the
enchantments of Shakespeare's lyrics. The play was revised and worked
over in 1598 (?).

"Titus Andronicus" (certainly extant in 1594) is the play which Burns
and his brothers, in boyhood, declined to listen to; it is as full of
horrors as an Assyrian bas-relief of the torturing of prisoners of war.
Tortures were familiar, in practice, to the subjects of Elizabeth,
and the horrors are not worse than those of ancient Athenian and
other Greek legendary histories. But neither these things nor the
over-abundance of pedantic classical allusions are in Shakespeare's
mature taste. Much of the play has been guessed at as the work of
"Sporting Kyd," and a fairly old tradition (published in 1678) says
that Shakespeare only touched it up. Long ago Hallam remarked that
criticism might come to be as dubious as to Shakespeare's precise
share in the plays, as, after Wolf (1795) she has been uncertain about
Homer's part in his epics. It is clear and certain that plays, when
Shakespeare came to the town, were often altered and added to by others
than the original authors. Though "Titus Andronicus" was, in 1598,
assigned to Shakespeare by Francis Meres, and was included in the first
collected edition, the Folio, in 1623, he may, perhaps, have been the
last and, as the most popular, the titular _bearbeiter_, or worker-over
of the drama.

"Richard III" could scarcely be made to feed more full of horrors on
the stage than that prince actually did, as reported by Holinshed,
and the play, if inflated, is less so than Marlowe's "Tamburlaine".
Marlowe's "Edward II," again, had its influence on "Richard II," a
perilous play to be concerned with, from the scene of deposing the
king, under the irritable Elizabeth. Acted by order of the Essex
conspirators, in 1601, it brought Shakespeare's company under the
momentary displeasure of the Queen.

The third Richard has all the elements of popularity. He is as hideous
as the second Richard was effeminately beautiful, as resolute as his
predecessor was weak. It is well that a dramatist should make himself
plainly understood, but Shakespeare seems to play with his own art when
the splendid rhetoric of Richard III reveals (he soliloquizes more than
Hamlet) the cause why he is "determined to prove a villain"--his spite
against the world for his own deformity,--and why he is determined to
be a hypocrite,

    With odd old ends stolen forth of Holy Writ.

The scene of the wooing of the Lady Anne, and the dream of Clarence,
are among the most familiar passages in English poetry, and the second
is rich in the magic of Shakespeare's blank verse. The wavering
character of Richard II, ever in extremes of confident arrogance and
of sudden dread, like that of Agamemnon, would not have seemed to
Aristotle fit for a hero of tragedy. But in memorable passages of
poetry, single lines that, once read, can never be forgotten, the play
is rich, and such lines are the mark and sign manual of Shakespeare's
genius. "The real Shakespeare cannot help showing himself here and
there; and then we are in the presence of something new--of a kind of
English poetry that no one has hit upon before...."[6]

It is in "Romeo and Juliet," and the "Midsummer Night's Dream," both
relatively early pieces, even more than in the chronicle plays, that
this ever-present magic of genius, the unequalled command of beautiful
fresh phrases, the hurrying rush of exquisite ideas, first shines out
most conspicuously: the youth of passion in the Romeo, and the soul of
romance, are accompanied by the gay wit of glorious Mercutio and the
lax humours of the Nurse and the servants. Shakespeare was compelled
to kill Mercutio by Tybalt's sword, otherwise a character so congenial
to him would have run away with the play, and turned the tragedy into
comedy. Shakespeare, says Ben Jonson, "had an excellent phantasy"
(fancy), "brave notions and gentle expressions, wherein he flowed with
such facility that sometimes it was necessary he should be stopped."
Mercutio could only be stopped by a sword thrust! The "Midsummer
Night's Dream" is the enchanted consummation of the world-wide fairy
belief, relieved against the rustic comedy of Bottom and Snug.

"The Two Gentlemen of Verona," like "Love's Labour's Lost," is a bud
full of promise. Launce is as delightfully humorous as Silvia is gay
and charming, and Julia is the first of the ladies in page's guise and
deep in love; but "Romeo and Juliet," and "A Midsummer Night's Dream"
are already nonpareils, full-blown roses that time cannot wither.

The "Comedy of Errors," based on Plautus, with the farcical errors
of indistinguishable identities in the masters, reduplicated in the
servants, would add by its broad farce to Shakespeare's popularity,
though not to his fame. But in "The Merchant of Venice" the blending
of moral tragedy in the sombre character of the outraged Jew, Shylock,
combined with the delightful and tender romance of the lovers, proved
the multifarious versatility of the poet, his power in the delineation
of the most various moods and passions, and also the unequalled magic
of his verse.

                On such a night
    Stood Dido with a willow in her hand
    Upon the wild sea-banks, and waft her love
    To come again to Carthage.

Here Virgil is equalled or surpassed in the province where Virgil was
greatest; in the use of words that by some inexplicable art suggest
more than they seem to say, filling the mind with vague and potent
emotion, and a longing not to be appeased, as does the beauty of
twilight and moonlight.

         Look how the floor of heaven
    Is thick inlaid with patines of bright gold;
    There's not the smallest orb which thou beholdest
    But in his motion like an angel sings,
    Still quiring to the young-eyed cherubims;
    Such harmony is in immortal souls;
    But, whilst this muddy vesture of decay
    Doth grossly close it in, we cannot hear it.

In this passage, whether he knew it or not--and _we_ know not how he
knew things,--Shakespeare soars to the heights of Plato's dreams, in
the "Phædrus" and the "Symposium". Did he go beyond the appreciation of
"the groundlings" in such passages? Did they find mirth in the passion
of the Jew, and fail to fathom Shakespeare's deep sympathy with the
oppressed? Probably he gave them more and other things than he seemed
to give; to them Shylock's may have appeared as a comic part, but
indeed we cannot judge that strange Elizabethan audience. Shakespeare
knew what they wanted, horrors, ghosts, revenges, manslayings. He
gave them these things in "Lear" and "Hamlet," but gave with them the
deepest and subtlest thoughts, the most magical poetry, treasures of
wit, and all this they could enjoy, as they could follow every point,
pass, and parry in the wit-combats.

It seems probable that Shakespeare's fame as a poet rested, for a
while, rather on his verses, "Venus and Adonis" (published 1593) and
"Lucrece" (1594), than on all the treasures of his plays. The two
poems, the only works of Shakespeare's which he himself saw through
the press, are dedicated, in brief terms, to Henry Wriothesley, Earl
of Southampton, then a lad of twenty, fond of pleasure, art, and
letters. The dedications are not fulsome, when we consider the manner
of addressing patrons in that age. The second address, of some ten
lines, says "the love I dedicate to your lordship is without end....
What I have done is yours; what I have to do is yours; being part in
all I have, devoted yours." It seems that Southampton had behaved with
generosity to the poet, and it looks as if the poet's "love" were more
than the trick-phrase of a person obliged.

The poems themselves, "Venus and Adonis" in a six line stanza,
"Lucrece" in a seven line stanza, are remarkable for fluent mastery
of verse and rhyme, for lusciousness of description of physical
beauties, and for the compassionate passage on the poor hunted hare,
and the vigorous description of a horse. Shakespeare manifestly loved
a good horse, and probably felt compunctions about riding to harriers.
But as to the poetry; it certainly is not superior to the luscious
descriptions in Spenser; the verse is by no means superior to, nor, to
some tastes, equal to Spenser's; and, if we lost Marlowe's "Hero and
Leander," the misfortune would be as great as if we lost "Venus" and
"Lucrece". The two compositions show us Shakespeare exercising himself
on a fashionable class of themes, and with an overflow of fashionable
conceits; _sufflaminandus erat_, says Ben Jonson; "the drag needed to
be put on". Had we nothing else of Shakespeare's, we could make no
guess at his greatness.

Indeed his contemporaries could hardly do so, till his plays were
pirated and printed, because all their innumerable merits could not
be fully appreciated till the plays were meditatively and frequently
perused. By 1598, Francis Meres, comparing English with ancient poets,
names Shakespeare and others with Homer, Æschylus, Sophocles and
Aristophanes, also Ausonius and Claudian. But he places Warner in the
same good company (in "Palladis Tamia," or "Wit's Treasury," 1598).

The plays named by Meres are "Two Gentlemen of Verona," "Comedy of
Errors," "Love's Labours Lost," "Love's Labour's Won" (?), "Midsummer
Night's Dream," "Merchant of Venice," both "Richards," "Henry IV," "King
John," "Titus Andronicus," and "Romeo and Juliet". "The soul of Ovid
lives in mellifluous and honey-tongued Shakespeare, witness his 'Venus
and Adonis,' his 'Lucrece,' his sugared sonnets, among his private
friends." (Not published till 1609.)

Gullio, in the Cambridge comedy, "The Return from Parnassus" (about
1599-1602) is a farcical ignorant braggart who says "let this
duncified world esteem of Spenser and Chaucer, I'll worship sweet Mr.
Shakespeare," for his "Venus and Adonis". He also quotes "Romeo and
Juliet," and the University wits manifestly despised Shakespeare, as no
scholar and not a University man. They bade Ben Jonson go back to his
brick-making; _he_ was not a University man!

Meanwhile Shakespeare, with his share in the company and what he
received for his written plays, and from patrons, was thriving, while
his father struggled with debt and difficulties. None the less,
probably aided pecuniarily and advised by Shakespeare, he applied
to the College of Arms for a grant of armorial bearings (1596). A
memorandum exists in which John Shakespeare is said to have "lands
and tenements of good wealth and substance". The grant was not made
till 1599, and the heralds appear to have been very good-natured in
permitting these Shakespeares to write themselves gentlemen. The
financial basis, however, was supplied when, in 1597, Shakespeare
bought New Place, a large house in the town of Stratford, and two
gardens. Sir Sidney Lee reckons his income, allowing for the altered
values of money, at £1040 in our currency.

In short, like Scott, Shakespeare lived to found a family of
gentility, though Scott naturally inherited the gentility and heraldic
quarterings, which Shakespeare did not. He prospered continually; he
held, later, shares in the Globe theatre, and there is abundant proof
that in money, acres, and goods he throve to an extent that denotes
careful living. He appears as a strict exactor of debts: in nothing
was he careless and indifferent except as regarded the immortal works,
which, after his death, his 'stage friends, Heming and Condell,
published as best they might (1623, the first folio).

Shakespeare seems, in fact, to have had even more than Scott's
indifference to his literary fame, unless we suppose him to have been
firmly persuaded that his works, once given to the stage, must secure
their own immortality. Even so, he might have employed the leisure of
his last years in preparing a correct text for the press.

Yet who knows that Shakespeare did _not_ dream of doing what was
unprecedented, of revising and collecting his plays for publication?
Playwrights seldom printed their dramas, for reasons already given.
But, in 1616, the year of Shakespeare's death, Ben Jonson published
his "works" (he was laughed at for calling them "works") in a tall
and stately folio. It may have been in Shakespeare's mind to do the
same thing: but "to-morrow and to-morrow and to-morrow"! He may have
contemplated the difficult task, he may even have made fair copies
of some of his manuscripts of his many unprinted plays,--the papers
which his friends, the actors, say had "scarce a blot". But his older
manuscripts may have been tattered and worn, and altered for better or
worse. To collect and revise all was a serious labour for a retired,
perhaps a weary man. He was but 52 when he died; he may, we repeat,
have dreamed of a task which he put off from day to day: there is no
mystery in delays so natural when the custom of play writers was not to

The Sonnets.

It is difficult or impossible to date Shakespeare's Sonnets. As we know
from Meres, "sugared sonnets" of his were circulating in manuscript
in 1598: the book of Sonnets was (piratically?) published in 1609
with a dark dedication to "Mr. W. H.," by the pirate, or procurer of
piracy, Thorpe, "To the only begetter of these sonnets Mr. W. H. all
happiness and that eternity promised by our ever-living poet wisheth
the well-wishing adventurer in setting forth T.T.". T.T. did not wish
to be understood. The two most popular theories are that Mr. W. H. is
William Herbert, in 1601 Earl of Pembroke; before his accession to the
Earldom, he was known by "courtesy title" as Lord Herbert. To him then,
about 1598-1601, the Sonnets to a man are addressed.

The second theory lays stress on Shakespeare's known devotion to the
Earl of Southampton; certainly his patron, and assured of his love in
the dedications of "Venus" and "Lucrece," in 1593, 1594. The Sonnets
are therefore dated about 1594, whereas, by the Pembroke theory, they
are dated about 1598-1601.

It is not possible, in this place, to criticize the two theories.
The matter is of no importance in itself, but some partisans of the
Pembroke theory represent Shakespeare as embittered almost to madness
by the affair, constantly alluded to in the Sonnets, of a double
betrayal by his mistress, the Dark Lady, and by his adored friend
the Earl of Pembroke. Henceforth we are to suppose, he revealed his
passions in his tragedies, and was a fevered creature, dreaming of
"bloody vengeance".

There is not a shadow of proof for the hypothesis that the Dark Lady
of the Sonnets was a Maid of Honour, Mary Fitton, whose portraits
demonstrate that she was of a fair complexion, with grey eyes and brown
hair. We have not the slightest reason to believe that, in 1597-1601,
when he was building up an estate, Shakespeare was mad with love of
Mary, and jealousy of her lovers who, after 1601, are unknown, till,
in 1606, she committed a fault, in the country. Of the two Earls,
Southampton, rather more probably than Pembroke, was, if either of them
was, the beloved friend of the Sonnets.[7]

The Sonnets are not in the Italian or Petrarchian form of recurring
rhymes, but are in three verses of four lines, with a rhyming couplet
to conclude. In many respects they resemble the sonnets fashionable
at the time, with praise of a patron whom the poet loves and who is
the inspiration of the poet. The accustomed conceits of Petrarch
and his French followers, des Portes, Ronsard, and many others, are
transfigured by the poet's genius. It was usual to applaud the beauty
of the patron, and to exaggerate the love of the poet.

This was matter of common form, but the sonnets of Shakespeare reflect
the actual passion of love, or of friendship "passing the love of
women," yet always respectful. People wrote thus to Elizabeth in her
old age, but Shakespeare conveys an impression of sincerity, whether
because he felt what he expresses, or whether his genius makes real and
glowing that which was, with other writers, mere matter of compliment.
He may be "unlocking his heart," in either case, for he must have
known, for some one, the passion which, on the second theory, he
dramatically employs to glorify his young inspirer. Yet again, he could
imitate and express "all thoughts, all passions": his "sweetest nature"
can scarcely have known the emotions of Shylock!

However we may try to distinguish between what is conventional and what
is _felt_ in the Sonnets, they apparently refer to real persons and
real situations. Sonnets I-XVII urge marriage on the beautiful young
patron and friend: his beauties and virtues must live in his children
as well as in verse. Sonnets XXXIII-XXXVI hint at some measure of
estrangement, some wrong done to the poet by the friend.

    No more be grieved at that which thou hast done.

Sonnets XL-XLIII suggest that the friend has drawn away the poet's

    I do forgive thy robbery, gentle thief,
    Although thou steal thee all my poverty.

Such are

    The pretty wrongs that liberty commits.

The suffering poet appears to bear no malice, it must be admitted.
Thenceforward there are regrets for the absence of the friend,
beautiful reflections, promises of immortality in verse, till (LXVII)
the poet hears that the friend keeps bad company, and though (LXX) this
may be an envious slander, the poet has his doubts. In LXVIII-XCIII the
poet feels that the patron is preferring other minstrels, and one of
these he applauds for

    the proud full sail of his great verse.

This singer is inspired by

           that affable familiar ghost
    Which nightly gulls him with intelligence.[8]

Here are personal allusions to some facts, or jests, which we cannot
hope to discover: the rival poet has been guessed at as Barnabe Barnes
("Parthenope and Parthenophil," 1593), who certainly wrote a sonnet
on the inspiration of Southampton's eyes. Others think that George
Chapman, the translator of Homer, is the rival whom Shakespeare writes
of admiringly. In XCV-XCVI the poet recurs to the stories which "spot
the beauty of thy budding name". In CIV he has loved his friend for three

    Three April perfumes in three hot Junes burned.

Yet he goes on in the old strain of love and praise, though

    What's new to speak, what new to register?

In CX-CXI he perhaps laments his own profession as a player; perhaps
he refers to changes in his affections. Taking the whole of this and
the preceding sonnet together, the second seems the more natural
interpretation. In Sonnet CXI, Fortune is blamed

    That did not better for my life provide
    Than public means which public manners breeds,
    Thence comes it that my name receives a brand.

The name of actor was, indeed, branded as no better than that of
vagabond, while the play-writers constantly called the players "apes,"
and "mimics". Here Shakespeare does seem to speak of his profession:--

    I have gone here and there
    And made myself a motley to the view.

With CXXVII begin Sonnets addressed to a woman, a dark lady, but (CXXX)
not very beautiful.

    My mistress' eyes are nothing like the sun.

This may be a mere criticism of the absurd hyperboles of admiration
by contemporary sonneteers. In CXXXIII the poet seems to upbraid the
lady for taking his friend from him, and through three sonnets this
plaint is poured out with obscure puns on "will" and "Will," his name,
and--some think--his friend's name. The poet is (CXLIV) placed between
"two spirits that suggest me still", One good, is a man; one evil, a

    To win me soon to hell, my female evil
    Tempteth my better angel from my side,
    And would corrupt my saint to be a devil.

In addressing the woman, the poet is much more outspoken than when
addressing the man on

    The pretty wrongs that liberty commits.

The poet, like Catullus with Lesbia, loves against his reason and his
knowledge of the woman's true nature (CXLVII),

    Past cure am I, now reason is past care,
    And frantic-mad with evermore unrest;
    My thoughts and my discourse as madman's are,
    At random from the truth vainly expressed;
    For I have sworn thee fair, and thought thee bright,
    Who art as black as hell, as dark as night.

If all this be in earnest, we have a tragedy of the heart, whether
in 1594, or in 1598-1601, or in neither. Again and again, in his
plays, Shakespeare mocks at sonnets and sonneteers; and though _his_,
in parts, are personal, the depth of their significance, and the
persistence of his emotions, must be left to the literary instinct of
the reader. We cannot reconstruct Shakespeare's self out of his works,
lyrical or dramatic. Had the sonnets been recognized as reflecting a
scandalous episode in society, it could scarcely have followed that
"no sequence of such poems was received more coldly". Those of Sidney,
Daniel, Drayton, and Constable, were often reprinted. Shakespeare's had
not even a second edition till 1640.[9]

It is unfortunate that literary history can scarcely pass by, leaving
these strange guesses about a strange matter unnoticed. The sonnets in
themselves are a book of golden verse, shining with gems of beautiful

    The stretched metre of an antique song.

    Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?
    Thou art more lovely and more temperate.

    The painful warrior famoused for fight,
    After a thousand victories once foiled.
    Full many a glorious morning have I seen
    Flatter the mountain-tops with sovereign eye.

    When in the chronicle of wasted time
    I see descriptions of the fairest wights
    And beauty making beautiful old rhyme
    In praise of ladies dead and lovely knights.

    Not mine own fears, nor the prophetic soul
    Of the wide world dreaming on things to come.

This beautiful poem (CVII) most manifestly refers to Shakespeare's
forebodings about "my true love," who was "supposed as forfeit to
a confined doom" (Southampton, in 1601, was sentenced to captivity
for life). But "The mortal moon hath her eclipse endured," that
is Elizabeth, Cynthia, is dead, "Luna's extinct," as contemporary
versifiers said. "In this most balmy time," Peace "proclaims olives
of endless age," that is the accession of James VI and I put an end
to fears of wars of a disputed succession. On 10 April, 1603, James
released Southampton.[10] The Sonnets, like "the floor of heaven," are
"thick inlaid with patines of bright gold,".never to be dimmed by mists
of conjecture, or nonsense about Shakespeare as a sensual sycophantic
snob, mad with jealousy and foiled desire.

Later Plays.

Returning to the plays, we find, between 1597 and 1601, Shakespeare
in his second period, with "Henry IV," "The Merry Wives of Windsor,"
"Henry V," "Much Ado about Nothing," "As You Like It," "Twelfth Night,"
and "Julius Cæsar". Such was the astonishing harvest of five years.
Probably "Henry IV" is the play which we would retain, could we keep
but one, so delightful is Falstaff, the fat knight, the embodiment of
the richest humour. He "has given us medicines to make us love him,"
and even the delightful characters of Hotspur, the Mercutio of the
history, and of Lady Percy, take a far lower place. We would banish
all, and keep honest Jack. Many cannot bear to see Falstaff have much
the worse of the jest, as in "The Merry Wives of Windsor," said to have
been composed in a fortnight, at the desire of Elizabeth, who wished
to see that impossibility, Falstaff in love. The characters of Shallow,
Slender, Sir Hugh, even the transient Anne Page, and all the broad
humours of life in an English country town, do not console us for the
defeat of the hero.

It is in "Henry V" that Shakespeare not only emphasizes his love of
England, nobly expressed by John of Gaunt in "Richard II," but makes it
the mainspring of the drama. The yeomen soldiers in the play frankly
tell the disguised king that they doubt the justice of his cause--and
well they may, for no man ever had a worse, and Shakespeare must have
known it,--but "our country, right or wrong," must be the motto of the
playwright, and he puts into Henry's mouth the speeches that still stir
the blood like the sound of a trumpet. Much has been written on Henry's
hardness to Falstaff, whose heart he broke,--but Henry at least acts
in accordance with his actual character, a brave, able, ruthless, and
hard man, always convinced of his own righteousness. Pistol's braggart
humour is as good as ever, and that learned man of the sword, Fluellen,
is a forerunner of Scott's Dugald Dalgetty.

"Much Ado about Nothing," "As You Like It," and "Twelfth Night"
(1599-1600) are the three central stars in the crown of Shakespeare's
comic Muse. More humorous than "Henry IV" they cannot be, but in them
is no admixture of history, and the women in the three are ladies,
whereas in "Henry IV" Lady Percy is the chief contrast with Falstaff's
Mrs. Quickly, and her crew. Shakespeare cannot, we may suppose, have
lived in the intimate society of the ladies of Elizabeth's Court; he
must have divined and created Beatrice ("a star danced, and under
that was she born") and Hero, sweetly bearing the accusations of her
intolerable lover, Claudio:--

                   I have marked
    A thousand blushing apparitions
    To start into her face, a thousand shames
    In angel whiteness beat away these blushes,
    And in her eye there hath appeared a fire
    To burn the errors that these princes hold
    Against her maiden truth.

The mirth and high spirit of Beatrice, the humours of Benedick, endear
the comedy to every reader, yet the end is "huddled up," like the ends
of many of the plays; Claudio is lightly taken back into favour, with
Shakespeare's almost limitless tolerance. He can scarcely ever bring
himself to punish one of his rogues, such as Lucio and Parolles, and is
as clement to the less deserving Claudio.

The mirth of "Twelfth Night" might border on the farcical, if Sir Toby,
Maria, Sir Andrew Aguecheek, and the rest of the light people, were
not so delightfully human and living, like their butt, Malvolio; and
did not Viola and Olivia lend their exquisite grace. Meanwhile, in "As
You Like It," we fleet our time carelessly as they did in the golden
world, under the greenwood tree, in the enchanted company of Rosalind,
Touchstone, the greatest of Shakespeare's clowns, and the melancholy
and humorous Jaques, the contemplator.

Returning to historical drama, and using North's translation of
Plutarch as his material, fusing North's prose into blank verse, he
now produced "Julius Cæsar," in which the chief personages are Brutus,
Marcus Antonius, and the Roman populace. Brutus appears as the virtuous
and irresolute man, slave to a pedantic conscience which pushes him on
to the slaying of great Cæsar. All readers note Shakespeare's way of
placing a man of nature more or less noble, but irresolute, in a crisis
which demands decision. Hamlet, Brutus, and Macbeth are the great
examples. It does not follow that Shakespeare himself was irresolute,
and that, when he thought of a man who is obliged to take a constant
part, he felt that, had he been that man, he would have wavered. He
simply, chose to illustrate that tragedy of a soul. Where would be the
interest in a play of Hamlet had the prince gone straight to his mark
and slain the king "at sight"? There would have been no play! How could
we endure a Brutus who, in his relations with Cæsar, mobbed and stabbed
the greatest of mortals, in a forthright business manner, with no
hesitations? If there were not enough of nobility in Macbeth to unman
him, he would be a vulgar usurper. When he chose, Shakespeare could
design men as true to their single aim as Richard III and Iago. Tragedy
requires in the chief sufferer, as the Greeks saw, greatness with a
fatal blemish; this idea runs through their poetry from Achilles to the
Aias and Œdipus of Sophocles. The purpose of Brutus, a deed, to reverse
his own words, "to make whole men sick," when in contemplation, would
not let him eat, nor talk, nor sleep; but, once resolved, his heart is
steeled, nor does the ghost of Cæsar fright him, as the spectres of his
fancy appal Macbeth.

The other great character is the fickle Roman crowd, played on by the
rhetoric of Antony. Shakespeare was not hostile to the people, but the
mob he knew, and drew it relentlessly again and again.

"Hamlet" (1602) is believed to have been based on a lost drama of 1589,
perhaps by Kyd; the original source is the "History of the Danes" by
Saxo Grammaticus, and there was a French version by Belleforest. Of
Shakespeare's play there are three versions, a hopelessly imperfect
text in a pirated quarto of 1603; abetter, "enlarged to almost as much
again" (1604); and the Folio edition of 1623. None of these is good, as
a text; and the inconsistencies of the play may in part be due to an
admixture of the old piece, and to tamperings with the manuscript.

Of "Hamlet" it is vain to speak briefly, and more than enough of
speaking at large has been done by a myriad of commentators. The young
prince, full of good qualities, is bound with knots which a real Dane
of the Saga time would have cut with the short sword. But Hamlet has
"the prophetic soul of the wide world, dreaming" of life, and death,
and love, and contrary duties. Thus he, like Œdipus in the Greek
tragedy, becomes as fatal to all around him as if he bore the Evil
Eye; and while, like David at Ziklag, he is playing the madman, actual
madness hangs over him like the sword of Damocles. Thus Shakespeare
has left to the world a marvel of subtle and penetrative thought, of
tenderness, of humour; to the critics a wrangle over psychological

The same unparalleled powers, the same universality, the same gloomy
vision of life, and, in "King Lear," another study of true and of
feigned madness, inspire "Lear," "Macbeth," and "Othello," the last the
most piteous of all. For in Othello it is not the error of a wavering
hero, or the ambition of a man tempted, like Macbeth, by portents and
prophecies, but the sheer inborn devilry of a creature in human form,
Iago, that "breaks, and brings down death" on the most innocent of
victims, Desdemona. "The pity of it" is too awful: the sense of _wyrd_,
of masterful destiny, is too cruel.

Yet, if Shakespeare were to write tragedies, and to write them on
the traditional materials which are the bases of these plays, it was
inevitable that, as he wrote, he should have regarded life as he does,
and human fortunes as the spoil of wayward and cruel fate. Æschylus
could not make pretty melancholy pieces out of the materials of the
"Agamemnon" and "Eumenides". He, to be sure, tried to justify the
ways of the gods to men, and Shakespeare makes no such effort. His
characters, in the immortal words of Nicias to his doomed Athenian
army, "have done what men may, and endure what men must". "The rest is

Of Troilus and Cressida (1603), printed 1609, we can only say that
Shakespeare when he wrote it "was for one hour less noble than
himself". The piece makes mockery--save for Odysseus,--of the heroes of
Homer, and of Cressida, whom Chaucer treats with such fine chivalry.
Thersites is merely loathsome, Aias a fool, Achilles a treacherous
procurer of the death of Hector. Shakespeare made an impossible
blend of Homer (of whom he clearly knew a little),[11] of Ovid, and
of the mediaeval forms of the Tale of Troy. The elements are wholly
incompatible, and the mood of the poet, whether he wrote the play early
or late, was unenviable.

"Unpleasantness" is also the not undeserved charge against "Measure
for Measure"; but Cinthio's Italian tale, on which it is founded, was
"a sordid record of lust and cruelty". Shakespeare, altering the plot,
redeemed it by the figure of Isabella, and by the sad Mariana in her
"moated grange".

It cannot be denied that when Shakespeare added "Timon of Athens,"
the tragedy of a misanthrope, to "Troilus," and then produced the
extremely unpleasant scenes in "Pericles" (which is not in the Folio
of 1623, the first edition of his collected plays) he was selecting
topics that encourage the belief in his own bitterness of spirit, while
in "Antony and Cleopatra" the magnificent study of "the serpent of old
Nile," and of the ruin she wrought, he continues his vein of thought on
the accidents that bring courage and greatness to the dust.

In "Coriolanus" he contrasts the fickleness of the mob with an heroic
soul ruined by its relentless exaggeration of its own merits and
overweening greatness; the tragedy of Napoleon is a modern instance.
Dating the play in 1608-1609, critics derive the character of the
mother of Coriolanus from Shakespeare's thoughts of his own mother, who
died in 1608. Of her character, of course, we know absolutely nothing.

The "tranquillity" of "Cymbeline" so rich in poetry, and so recklessly
constructed; of the "Winter's Tale," where the poetry is yet more
divine, and the plot is as heaven pleases; and of "The Tempest" (1613),
where much of the "local colour" is derived from the adventures of
English sea-men in the Bermudas (1609-1610), is explained by the
resignation of increasing years.

We cannot reason thus with much confidence. Shakespeare could only have
produced "The Tempest" in the plenitude of his genius, but he might
have created it as it stands at any date after 1596, when he happened
to take up the materials.

"Henry VIII" was being played in 1613 when the Globe Theatre was
burned. That parts are by Shakespeare, parts by Fletcher, is a theory
resting on the elusive internal evidence of style and quality.

From 1611 till his death in 1616, Shakespeare is thought to have lived
mainly at home, at Stratford, where his daughters married men in their
own situation of life. Shakespeare died on April 23, 1616. By 1623 his
monument in Stratford Church had been erected.

Ben Jonson wrote, "I loved the man and do honour his memory, on this
side idolatry, as much as any. He was indeed honest, and of an open and
free nature."

Shakespeare, in accordance with Greek and Roman wisdom, had chosen
the _fallentis semita vitæ_; in his private course he was studiously
obscure. His all-embracing and unparalleled genius was exhibited only
in his art, and in his profession by which he lived and prospered. He
had carried blank verse from the point at which Marlowe left it to a
never equalled pitch of various perfection; while his lyrics are worthy
of "all the angels singing out of heaven". His creations of character
are in number, variety, and excellence, unrivalled; he touched with the
surest hand every chord in the human heart; he explored every height
and depth, and despite the inevitable stains left by his age, and the
haste necessitated by his profession, his work attains the high-water
mark of human genius.


Ben Jonson (born 1572-73) is believed to have been descended from the
Annandale border clan of the Johnstones. His father, after suffering
troubles under Mary Tudor, became a Protestant preacher. Ben was a
posthumous child, his mothers second husband was a bricklayer or
builder. The boy was educated at Westminster school, under Camden, the
antiquarian and historian, to whom he more than once expressed his
gratitude. His name as an undergraduate is not found in the records
of either Oxford or Cambridge. Jonson did not long practise his
stepfather's useful art: he served through a campaign in Flanders,
and told Drummond of Hawthornden that he slew, in single combat, a
champion of the enemy. He had more than a literary acquaintance with
the fencing terms which his Captain Bobadil uses with so much gusto.
Returning to England he fell among actors and playwrights, is mentioned
as a tragedian by Meres ("Palladis Tamia") in 1598, was challenged by
an actor, Gabriel Spencer, whom he slew in fair fight; was imprisoned;
turned Catholic, not for long; and, on his release, married. By 1596
he had worked with very minor playwrights at forgotten plays, and
had tinkered at "The Spanish Tragedy ". He now wrote "Every Man in
His Humour," an early form of the play, which he revised; removing
the scene from Florence to London, for its repetition in 1598, when
Shakespeare's company were the players. In the Prologue he ridiculed,
as Sidney had done, the reckless early dramas, in which the hero lives
a long life on the stage, while "three rusty swords" furnish forth a
stage army, and squibs and stage thunder delight the audience. He aims
at good-humoured comedy of everyday life, laughs at "such errors as
you'll all confess," and in Master Stephen draws a shadowy Shallow,
a predecessor of Bob Acres, while that stock-figure, the poltroon
bragging copper-Captain Bobadil, survives in loving memory as an
excellent study in a familiar "character-part," the "Miles Gloriosus,"
of the Roman comedian.

The personages are citizens of the day, the anxious father; the
downright squire; a "Town Gull," or dupe, Master Matthew, to match the
country gull, the melancholy and gentlemanlike Master Stephen; while
Kitely illustrates the humours of jealousy. The characters are types,
each with his "humour," or ruling passion of foible, and the standing
butt is Hieronymo in Kyd's "Spanish Tragedy". As the author parodies
forgotten plays, and makes use of forgotten catch-words, it may
justly be said that "much of his humour still remains in obscurity".
In Shakespearean humour, with its sweet tolerance, enduring quality,
and sympathy and gentle melancholy, Ben is totally deficient. His
"humours" are idiosyncrasies or "fads" or "ruling passions" carried
into ludicrous extremes.

The success of "Every Man in His Humour" prompted "Every Man out of
His Humour," acted in 1599, by Shakespeare's company, and printed,
"Containing more than hath been publicly spoken or acted," in 1600.
Jonson was as eager to print his plays as Shakespeare was indifferent.
The comedy was much too long, and had been "cut" severely by the
players. It has a kind of chorus of spectators and critics, and is
an exhibition of "humours" (the word was then a piece of popular
slang), or types. Sogliardo is an amusing _bourgeois gentilhomme_,
who, like Shakespeare, "lacks" what he calls a "cullisen" (scutcheon)
and will stick at no expense to purchase one. The romantic and
euphuistic humours of Puntarvolo and his lady are excellent fooling;
Macilente, the bitterly envious, suggests, in a more tragic style,
his contemporary, Scott's Sir Mungo Malagrowther (in "The Fortunes
of Nigel"); the coxcomb, Fastidious Brisk, is an agreeable rattle,
especially in his account of his duel and his dresses, boots, hat, and
jewellery; and the compliment by Macilente to the Queen is charmingly
courtly, coming from that blustering mountain of a man, the author. But
the play was not a success. For this, or for any other reason (perhaps
because they cut down his plays into manageable size), Ben quarrelled
with the actors, Shakespeare's company, and began to write satirical
plays on the players, and on the poets who were more successful than
himself, or who had theories that were not his about how plays should
be written, about "art," in his favourite phrase. In different moods
he spoke differently about Shakespeare's "art," now saying that he
had none; now that without art and labour Shakespeare could not have
produced his "true-filed" phrases.

"Cynthia's Revels" (1600) was acted by "the children of the Royal
Chapel," and printed in 1601. (New scenes were added in the Folio
edition of 1616). A lively prologue is acted by the boys, who quarrel
for the privilege of speaking it. One of them mimics a coxcomb
spectator, with three sorts of tobacco to smoke on the stage. Among the
humours of the Court, Crites is taken to represent the author himself,
"this Crites is sour". The exquisite song (_ex forti dulcedo_) "Queen
and huntress, chaste and fair," outlives the humours, and the satire,
which was personal, for the gentlemen of the press and stage, then, as
now, liked personal controversy, "it is such easy writing".

The "Poetaster"(1601) runs amuck against actors. "They forget that they
are in the statute" (against vagabonds) "the rascals; they are blazoned
there... they and their pedigrees; they need no other heralds, I wis."
This was an anachronism, at the Court of Augustus, the scene of the
play, but appropriate to Shakespeare's new scutcheon. The loves of
Ovid and Julia, Virgil reading the "Æneid" to Augustus, are mixed with
contemporary satire to which Dekker replied in "Satiro-Mastix, or the
untrussing of the Humorous Poet" (acted by Shakespeare's company, 1602).

Marston (Crispinus) was also assailed, and war raged on the lower
slopes of the Muses' hill. Since the beginnings of the theatre,
play-writers have parodied and mocked each others' works, as
Aristophanes caricatured Euripides, as ancient Pistol parodied
Marlowe's "jades of Asia," and Molière made mirth of the tragedies
played by the company of the Hôtel de Bourgogne. But Ben, though a
huge, noisy, and truculent adversary, was placable, and he and Marston
became friends. Much ingenuity has been spent in detecting hits at
Shakespeare in Ben's plays and epigrams; very probably some of his
cutting allusions are aimed at his successful rival, but it needs two
to make a quarrel.

When James VI of Scotland came to the English throne, and lived no
longer on the allowance of £3000 a year from Elizabeth, he spent very
largely on elaborate masques, courtly entertainments, not unlike the
ballets in which Louis XIV later danced his parts. The hosts of Greek
mythology were let loose on the stage, all the sea-nymphs, daughters
of Oceanus, for example, floating in a shell of mother-of-pearl, among
Tritons better schooled in their parts than honest Mike Lambourn in
"Kenilworth". The dresses scenery, and decorations, "the bodily parts,
were of Master Inigo Jones his design and act" (see "The Masque of
Blackness," 1605). The Queen and the Court ladies acted, or at least
appeared as sea-nymphs, and Ben produced the words, which were deeply
learned, and the exquisite songs. Unrefined as he was, he became
intimate with hospitable and generous lords and ladies. Their gifts and
his payment from the Royal coffers in pensions were of more profit to
him than his plays, for which he said that he received only £200. It is
hardly necessary to add that he had bitter quarrels with Inigo Jones.

Jonson's Roman tragedy, "Sejanus" (1603) on the fortunes and fall
of that favourite of the Emperor Tiberius, is deeply learned. The
author, in the printed version, gave references in footnotes, to his
authorities, Tacitus, Juvenal, Suetonius, and many others, as if he
had been writing a severe work of history. Nothing can be less like
Shakespeare's Roman tragedies, with his free handling of North's
translation of Plutarch, with his wild mobs, and murder done openly.
Ben was classical and accurate; his Romans speak a stately blank verse:
his Tiberius, slow, formal, hypocritical, and deceitful above all
things, is the Tiberius of Tacitus; his all-daring Sejanus is a less
candid Richard III; and though Ben admitted that the ancient Chorus,
with its chants, was impossible on the English stage, he was, in other
respects, conscientiously classical. The whole heavy air of Rome, the
terror, the duplicity, the political influence of women, their passion,
the servility and the discontent, live in the somewhat ponderous blank
verse, of which Ben first wrote the matter in prose, an uninspired

The "Catiline and His Conspiracy," acted 1611, "did not please the
populace," nor the Court much, as Ben admits in a quotation from
Horace: in these "jig-given times" he asked Pembroke's patronage for "a
legitimate poem". In fact Jonson with all his amazing energy, vigour,
and appreciation of character--that of Cicero is excellent--was too
pedantic, and the orations of his Cicero were too long for the stage.
The odes of the Chorus were not apt to increase the pleasure of the

Ben's recognized comic masterpieces were "The Fox (Volpone)" first
acted at the Universities, then at the Globe, 1605; "The Silent Woman"
(1609), "The Alchemist" (1610), and "Bartholomew Fair" (1614). Both in
"The Fox" and "The Alchemist," there is something that reminds us of
Marlowe. The Fox, Volpone, a Venetian magnifico, a childless man, for
years pretends to be dying, surrounded by his little court of obscene
depravities, and aided by his parasite, Mosca, gulls men who, each in
his degree, is an incarnation of cruel greed.

Volpone is a voluptuary in his devilish delight in human corruption.
The aged Corbaccio he tempts to disinherit his son; the madly jealous
Corbino he tempts to prostitute his wife, from the avaricious Volt ore
and from all of them he wrings rich presents. It is a masque of the
Deadly Sins, and behind them stands Murder, hesitating between poison,
the dagger, and the smothering pillow, for all the fortune-hunters
would slay their tormentor if they dared.

The scene with the English Lady Would-be, an affected literary lady,
who tires Volpone to death with literary chatter, is more than the rest
in the true spirit of comedy. Celia, the suffering wife of Corbino, and
Bonario, the young son of the evil dotard, Corbaccio, alone represent
the soul of good in things evil. The plot is ingeniously entangled
and untied, and justice can scarcely add to the torments which the
characters owe to their own insatiate greed.

In "The Alchemist," three scoundrels, occupying by connivance of a
servant an empty house, and captained by Subtle, an alchemist, play
on the greed and lust of many "coneys". These each, in Jonson's way,
represent a "humour". Sir Epicure Mammon, the City Knight, is all for
unlimited lust, secured by the Elixir of Life and the Philosopher's
Stone. He is as eager as Faustus for the unlimited, and as learned
in his gloating discourses as Jonson himself, who, in Subtle,
displays all his knowledge of the jargon of alchemy. Dol Common,
the decoy, the Fairy Queen, has an extensive and peculiar knowledge
of Billingsgate; Abel Drugger, the tobacconist, hopes to prosper in
his trade by magical spells; the gamester, Pertinax Surly, strong in
his own marked cards and loaded dice, has a salutary scepticism; and
the two puritans, Ananias and Tribulation Wholesome, are ready for
anything which will supply finance for their godly crew of Anarchists
at Amsterdam. Ben well understood these extreme fanatics, "a sect of
dangerous consequence that will have no king, but a presbytery," said
Queen Elizabeth. They were soon to put an end to "merry England,"
and, when we look at the quality of much of the mirth in the later
Jacobean plays, we are not enamoured of either party in the conflict.
The play, with its constant bustle was and long remained popular. So
did "Bartholomew Fair," a colossal exhibition of a London festival,
with all the humours of the joyous populace, interrupted by Rabbi Busy,
the fanatic, who has eaten more roast pig than any one, and rushes
about denouncing all the other "Dagons" and "idols," like a bloated
English Tartuffe, _le pauvre homme._ The stocks do not daunt him, his
tongue remains as free as Mause Headrigg's. In an introduction to this
enormous burlesque Jonson throws scoffs at "The Tempest" of Shakespeare.

"The Silent Woman" is truly a roaring farce on a singular subject,
Morose, a gentleman as impatient of noise, and as certain that all
silence except his own was golden, as the Sage of Chelsea. How he
is saddled with a wife who, from being "mim as a mouse" becomes the
most vociferous of Roaring Boys, and, indeed to the confusion of
some boastful gallants, _is_ a boy pranked up for the practical jokes
whereby Morose's nephew extracts Morose's money, may be read, with much
other mirthful noisy matter, by the curious.

"The Devil is an Ass" (1616) is a satire on conjurers, crystal-gazers,
projectors, or, as we say, "promoters" of bubble enterprises, and their
gulls and "coneys".

A walking tour to Scotland (1618-1619), where Jonson was entertained
by Drummond of Hawthornden, had for its fruit Drummond's brief
notes of his conversation and literary opinions. He did not care
much for Drummond's Petrarchian sonnets, "cross-rhymes"; and, as to
Shakespeare (whom Drummond himself does not seem to have appreciated),
merely said that "he wanted art," and that, in his geography, he was
wrong when he gave Bohemia a sea-coast. Happily Ben left splendid
tributes other-where (in verses attached to the first collected
edition of Shakespeare's plays, "The Folio" (1623), and in prose),
to Shakespeare's genius and character. Drummond's estimate of Ben as
a braggart about himself, and a contemner of others, as jealous and
vindictive, is only true in part. No man had more or more admiring
friends; at taverns he reigned, among the great wits "Sealed of the
Tribe of Ben," like an earlier Dryden.

His last plays "The New Inn," "The Magnetic Lady," and "The Tale of a
Tub," were badly received: in an Ode he

               left the loathèd stage
    And the more loathsome age;

he lost his place of Masque-maker in 1632, but was still befriended
by Charles I. He died on 6 August, 1637, before the troubles of the
Covenant came to a head.

His great collection of books and his treatise on the "Poetics" of
Aristotle and the "Art of Poetry" of Horace had already been destroyed
by a fire. Many of his beautiful lyrics exhibit that grace, delicacy,
and, in the best sense, _poetry_ which are not conspicuous in his
plays. "His throne is not with the Olympians but with the Titans,"
and Tennyson could not endure the gloom which he found in Jonson's

Scott, on the other hand, seems to have known them almost by heart,
and constantly quotes them, and, indeed, the whole host of minor
Elizabethan playwrights. The learning of Jonson, in Greek no less than
in Latin, is a marvel,

    Which is a wonder how his Grace should glean it,

in his prodigious activity of production. His immortal lyrics attest
the delicacy and grace which seldom inspire his plays, and, indeed, are
most noted in the lover; "a scholar and a gentleman," of his incoherent
play "The New Inn" (1629). Ben's drama is the work of a "made" writer,
the fruit of reflection on what the stage ought to be, and of ponderous
industry and diligent observation. We feel that the plays, despite
their richness and vigour, their masculine energy, are somewhat
prolix, rather pedantic, and they do not hold the stage, like those of
Shakespeare, at whom Ben scratched so often, without moving the master
to reply in kind.

Jonson's Prose.

It is not easy to sympathize with the sweet enthusiasts who place
Ben Jonson's "Timber, or Discoveries made upon Men and Matter,"
above Bacon's Essays. These sayings, maxims, and very brief essays
were mainly written when Ben was old, and not yet wise enough to be
contented. He appears as a contemner of times present, when the poet
is no longer taken at his own estimate, which, in Jonson's case, was
rather high. Many of the "Discoveries" had, not infrequently or of
recent date, been discovered before. Thus of Fortune, "That which
happens to any man, may to every man. But it is in his reason what he
accounts it, and will make it." This has been put more briefly and
better: "Nothing is good or bad but thinking makes it so". Nothing
can be more trite than this of waste of time, but the expression
is admirable, "What a deal of cold business doth a man" (and do
most women) "mis-spend the better part of life in! In scattering
compliments, _tendering visits_, gathering and venting news, following
feasts and plays, making a little winter-love in a dark corner." But
Jonson was not profuse in venting compliments, and, with his enormous
reading, can hardly have spent much time in paying calls. The sentences
on the decay of taste are passed by elderly men of letters in all
ages on "railing and tinkling rhymers, whose writings the vulgar more
greedily read..." "Expectation of the vulgar is more drawn with newness
than goodness," yet a poet is nothing if he has not something new in
manner if not in matter.

Jonson says that his memory was once excellent, till he was past 40.
Certainly it had ceased to be trustworthy: he attributes to Homer
what Homer never said, and to Orpheus what Homer did say. Ben finds
the new poems in his old age so bad that a man "never would light his
tobacco with them". We all remember his sentences on Shakespeare: and
"how there was ever more in him to be praised than to be pardoned".
He had three ways of viewing Shakespeare: one when he had well drunk,
and was magnificent, as Howell tells us, about himself and his Muse.
Thus he said to Hawthornden that Shakespeare "wanted art," and did not
know that Bohemia lacks a sea-coast. The second way is that of his
"Discoveries". The third and excellent way is in his poem, in which he
speaks of Shakespeare as the mind of the great world does,

    He was not for an age but for all time,

was greater than

                              the comparison
    Of all that insolent Greece or haughty Rome,
    Sent forth, or since did from their ashes come.

To the oratory of Bacon he gives the same praise in the same noble
measure. "I have and do reverence him for the greatness that was only
proper to himself..." Against Machiavel's "a Prince should exercise his
cruelty by his ministers and not by himself," Jonson nobly replies,
"But I say he puts off man, and goes into a beast, that is cruel,"
though indeed beasts are not wittingly cruel, and the man that is cruel
goes into a devil. Jonson is always manly: his thoughts are ponderous
and just rather than remarkable for novelty; they do not cling, like
Bacon's, to the memory of the race, nor shine in so many facets with
such imperishable colours.

[1] They also ran every chance of becoming desperately wicked dogs,
according to Charles Kingsley in his essay, "Plays and Puritans".

[2] See an interesting discussion in Mr. Darrell Figgis's "Shakespeare"
(1911), Chap. III.

[3] Marlowe was summoned before the Privy Council, and "entered his
appearance" on 20 May, 1593. The Council had heard of a "school of
Atheists," and Marlowe appears to have been named among them. There
is no hint of atheism in the fragmentary paper which Kyd said that
he had from Marlowe, who was at liberty in the end of May, but was
killed at Deptford, and buried on 1 June. On Whitsun Eve, 2 June, a
horrible libel against Marlowe was brought to the Privy Council. The
circumstances are mysterious. _Cf._ Mr. Boas, "Works of Thomas Kyd,"
1901, and Mr. Ingram, "Christopher Marlowe and His Associates," 1904.

[4] The curious, almost verbal coincidences, between passages in
Shakespeare and passages in the Athenian tragedians are probably due to
parity of genius, not to imitation. On the other side see Mr. Churton
Collins's "Studies in Shakespeare," p. 72, _et sqq._

[5] Shakespeare's other plays are based either on actual chronicles
and histories; or on legends, as in "King Lear" and "Cymbeline"; or on
tales, mainly Italian, founded as a rule on old traditional stories,
and sometimes done by others into English novels. Earlier plays, of
similar origin, are also employed. Such, too, were the usual sources of
Molière, and almost all Greek tragedy rests on Achæan or Ionian myths,
current in older epic poems.

[6] Saintsbury.

[7] Mr. Tyler, in his edition of the Sonnets (1890), Dr. Brandes, in
his "William Shakespeare," and Mr. Harris, in "The Man Shakespeare,"
support the Pembroke theory. Sir Sidney Lee's "Life of William
Shakespeare" contains the arguments in favour of Southampton.

[8] Ben Jonson was something of a visionary.

[9] Jusserand, "Literary History of the English People," Vol. III, p.

[10] Lee, pp. 147-150.

[11] Shakespeare could read parts of Homer in Chapman's translation
of Books I, II, VII, VIII, IX, X, XI, published in 1598. But certain
touches indicate his acquaintance with Book XXII, 320, 321, 391-393.
The drama begins with the situation in Book VII.



Beaumont and Fletcher.

John Fletcher was born at Rye in December, 1579; being the son of that
Dean of Peterborough who troubled the last moments of Mary, Queen of
Scots, and later was bishop, successively, of Bristol, Worcester, and
London. Very early, aged about 12, the son entered Benet College,
Cambridge, but before he was 17 the death of his father, in poverty,
caused him to leave the University. We hear no more of him, on sound
authority, till he began to write plays with Francis Beaumont, born in
1584, the third son of Sir Francis Beaumont of Grace-Dieu, a judge.
In 1597 Beaumont entered Pembroke College, Oxford, then known as
Broadgates Hall; three years later he entered the Inner Temple. In
1605 Beaumont wrote some prefatory verses to Jonson's play "The Fox
(Volpone)" as also did Fletcher. "Philaster" (1610?) is believed to
have been the first play composed in their prolific partnership, but it
was also attributed to Beaumont alone. Beaumont died in March, 1616,
the death-year of Shakespeare; Fletcher in 1625.

One need not be a Charles Lamb to discover that "after all, Beaumont
and Fletcher were but an inferior sort of Sidneys and Shakespeares".
But perhaps only a reader who is himself a poet can discover, with Mr.
Swinburne's certainty, in Beaumont "the gifts of tragic pathos and
passion, of tender power and broad strong humour"; in Fletcher "a more
fiery and fruitful force of invention, a more aerial ease and swiftness
of action, a more various readiness and fullness of bright original

Others cannot pretend to assign to each author, or to their various
allies, their own contributions to each of the fifty-two dramas, which
Mr. Swinburne suspected Coleridge of "never having really read".
Whether Coleridge did or did not carefully peruse the fourteen stout
volumes of Weber's edition, it is certain that very few people are more
industrious. A French critic, M. Jusserand, affirms that a friendly
hand could make a pleasing selection of scenes, displaying tragical
vigour, eloquence, poetry, wit, and that the selection would give "the
falsest idea of their work," for "the lugubrious and the ribald were
their chief domain".

At all events other qualities than ribaldry will win their readers at
present, and it is unnecessary to direct readers to a play in which
a woman "makes the very satyrs blush at her sight." Coleridge thought
it would be interesting to settle a question of statistics, "how many
of these plays are founded on rapes, how many on incestuous passions,
and how many on mere lunacies". Mr. Swinburne provided the statistics,
_Plays_ 52, _Rapes_ 2, _Incestuous Passions_ 0, _Lunacies_ 2.

In the throng of plays by Beaumont and Fletcher (of which a folio
edition was published in 1647; an uncertain amount of the writing was
ascribed to Massinger), it must suffice to speak of but a few. The
bald analysis of any of these Jacobean dramas cannot do justice to
its merits. The plots of the greatest dramas, those of the Athenian
stage and of Shakespeare, rest, now on history, now on inventions
of prehistoric antiquity, myths and legends. The story of Lear has
elements as impossible, and as primitive, as the stories of Œdipus
or of Thyestes. The events are monstrous--"people don't do these
things,"--but they afford to the dramatist great situations, and they
were already familiar in tradition.

The events in "The Maid's Tragedy," on the other hand, could not have
occurred, and have no traditional source. There have been callous and
profligate kings, but Charles II, who declared that "in my reign all
tragedies must end happily," and for whom Waller later made "The Maid's
Tragedy" end happily, did not seduce innocent girls, hand them over as
brides to courtiers who were already betrothed to other ladies, and
retain his victims as his mistresses.

The king in "The Maid's Tragedy" does these things, and is a moral
monster. Amintor being in love with Aspatia, and she with him, the king
forces him--for loyalty and passive obedience are his guiding stars--to
reject Aspatia, and wed Evadne, whom nobody suspects of being the royal
mistress. At Courts, however, these graces are not hid.

The bridal eve is not much enlivened by a masque of Neptune and Æolus,
and is saddened by the wails and prophecies of the forlorn Aspatia.
Other bridesmaids talk ribaldry enough, but the bridegroom, whose heart
is with Aspatia, feels

    A grief shoot suddenly through all my veins;
    Mine eyes rain: this is strange at such a time.

The bride receives him coldly. A man has wronged her, will he slay that
man? She names the king: "To cover shame I took _thee_" she says.
The situation,--with the horror-stricken loyalty of Amintor; his
heart already a chaos of remorse, regret, and desire; the implacable
resolution of Evadne; "the murderess-Magdalen, whose penitence is of
one crimson colour with her sin--" is undeniably tragically great.
Ribaldries as of Pandarus in "Troilus and Cressida" greet the happy
pair in the morning. The secret reaches Melanthius, brother of Evadne
and the king's bravest captain. Evadne binds the sleeping king in
his bed, wakens him, taunts him, and stabs him for her husband, her
brother, and herself. Aspatia disguises herself as her own avenging
brother, challenges Amintor who has deserted her, strikes him, kicks
him; at last he draws, and she falls by the hand of the man she loves.
Evadne enters, red-handed from regicide,

                  Am I not fair?
    Looks not Evadne beauteous with these rites?

The seeming dead speaks,--

    I am Aspatia yet--

and takes farewell. Amintor stabs himself, but not before Evadne has
set him the example. Had Ophelia fallen by the sword of Hamlet the
tragedy would not have been "deeper".

"Philaster," again, is a romantic comedy, that deserves its second
title "Love lies a'bleeding". Philaster is kept out of his royalty by
the king, who is wedding his daughter, Arethusa, beloved by Philaster,
to Pharamond, prince of Spain, a random debauchee. His intrigue with
the audacious wanton Megra, a Court lady, and the besetting of him
by the armed burgesses, devoted to Philaster, yield the grim comic
material. Philaster gives his page, Bellario (really the disguised
Euphrasia, who loves him), to Arethusa. She is accused of an intrigue
with the page, who is the soul of loyalty to her and to Philaster. He,
in jealousy, rejects both his lady and his page: they meet in a forest:
he dismisses Bellario, and bids Arethusa stab him, or he will stab her.

             We are two
    Earth cannot bear at once.

He does stab her, and is attacked by a country fellow, who wounds him;
he then flies from some of the Court who are approaching. Finding
Bellario asleep in a glade, Philaster wounds her; so that the pursuers,

    Have no mark to know me but my blood,

may suppose Bellario to be the assailant of Arethusa! "Oh, my heart,
what a varlet's this, to offer manslaughter upon the harmless
gentlewoman," we may cry, with the grocers wife in "The Knight of the
Burning Pestle". We "could hurl things at him," at Philaster: whose
jealousy does not palliate his cruelty and treachery.

Through many complications the plot winds its way; Bellario, who is
about to be tortured, proves to be a woman; both she and Arethusa
survive; Philaster, of whom nobody thinks the worse, marries Arethusa;
Pharamond is mobbed; all ends happily except for that most pathetic of
patient Grizels, Bellario, who remains contented in the happiness of
the others. The purity and sweetness of Arethusa, the loyalty of the
loving Bellario, and her beautiful speeches, cannot enable this play to
escape the blame of being unnatural and repulsive.

The naked analysis of the plays of this age, is, of course, no fair
criterion of their merit. A bare exposure of the plot of "Cymbeline"
would deter a man from reading it. The authors are protected by the
magic of their poetry, which conveys them off in a golden cloud as
Aphrodite saved Æneas. A bare analysis of "A King and No King" (1611),
with the alternate valour and nobility, brag, and unintelligible
clemencies and ferocities of Arbaces, King of Iberia, who has defeated
and captured Tigranes, King of Armenia, would move the most austere
to mirth. But there is a method in the apparent madness of Arbaces;
and Bessus, the braggart poltroon, is an officer worthy to fight under
the same standard as Parolles and Bobadil, while virtue and happiness
are kept for Arbaces and Panthea, Tigranes and the faithful Spaconia,
through the sudden revelation of Gobrias, the Lord Protector, that
Arbaces is a warming-pan pretender, and neither son of Queen Arane (who
unceasingly tries to have him stabbed or poisoned), nor the brother of

The last tragedies are "The False One," and "Valentinian". Concerning
"Thierry and Theodoret" it is not pleasant to speak out, and it
is not honest to be silent. "Derived," we are told, "from the
French chronicles of the reign of Clotaire the Second," the play is
rancid with the humours of the lowest London haunts; marked by wild
anachronisms--the Merovingian troops carry muskets,--and crammed with
impossible crimes. For a contrast we have the eloquence of Thierry
(poisoned by a handkerchief that robs him of sleep, after he has been
drugged to deprive him of offspring), and the spotless virtues of his
wife Ordella, whom Thierry has been on the point of sacrificing to the
gods. The blank verse almost uniformly moves with a loose superfluous
foot; as

    The most remarkable thing in which kings differ,
    From private men,

and so on, is a specimen. There is a pearl to be found on this
dust-heap, the stainless Ordella, "the most perfect idea of the female
heroic character," says Lamb; but she is found after we have passed
through a malodorous labyrinth of "unnatural and violent situations".

Plays like this, or even like "The Spanish Comedy," which opens
pleasantly and humorously, and in the cure and his sexton suggests the
influence of Cervantes, but closes in a mist of evil passions, give
some show of reason to the opinion of our French critic. "A friendly
hand selecting with care" might give all of Beaumont and Fletcher's
that can please readers not specially devoted to the study of the
Drama. Even in the beautiful scenes of "The Faithful Shepherdess," in
poetry worthy of Spenser's pastoral vein, the author, quite needlessly,
introduces a shepherdess who resembles the Brunhault of "Thierry and
Theodoret" as Brunhault may have been in girlhood.

"The Knight of the Burning Pestle," on the other hand, with the
grocer-critic who insists on a play in which a grocer shall "do
admirable things"; with the humours of the grocer's wife, and the
Quixotic adventures of Ralph, the apprentice, is lively, and, says the
Prologue, "has endeavoured, to be far from unseemly words to make your
ears glow". Yet, in the jail delivery of the Barber, the authors go out
of their way to find ugly ribaldries. Famous among the comedies are
"The Scornful Lady," "The Humorous Lieutenant," "The Wild-goose Chase,"
and "The Little French Doctor". The lyrics and songs are especially
beautiful, even in the Elizabethan wealth of song.

A peculiarity of Fletcher's blank verse is his fondness for redundant
syllables at the close, and indeed anywhere in the line. This manner
was gaining on Shakespeare in his latest plays, and, in authors after
Fletcher, led to the decay, almost to the death, of blank verse.
Yet Fletcher's lines, as before Marlowe and Shakespeare, were often
"end-stopped": the sense closed with the close of each line; this
is not the manner of Shakespeare, or of Beaumont. In his later days
Fletcher went for his plots to Spanish tales and romances.


The date of the birth (near Hitchin) of George Chapman, conjecturally
placed in 1559, is unknown. He was at Oxford in 1574. The exactness
of his scholarship must not be estimated by his translation of Homer;
translations, whether in prose or verse, did not then aim at precision.
In 1594 he published "The Shadow of Night," containing verses which
have been used to support the theory that he was the poet concerning
whose favour Shakespeare expresses uneasiness in his Sonnets. He
wrote a conclusion to Marlowe's "Hero and Leander"; attempted the
luscious (which did not suit his genius), in Ovid's "Banquet of
Sense"; celebrated Henry, Prince of Wales, in "The Tears of Peace," is
mentioned as a dramatist by Meres in 1598, and in that year published
his version of "Seven Books of the 'Iliad'" (not the first seven),
while he finished his "Iliad" in 1611, his "Odyssey," some years later.

Thanks mainly to the perfect sonnet of Keats, Chapman's Homer is the
work by which his memory is kept green except among special students
of the Elizabethan drama. To have made Homer "common coin" was a great
benefit to the English public, that had known only the mediaeval
romances based on Ionian (700 B.C.), Athenian, and Roman
perversions of the poet. The "Iliad" he did into "fourteeners," a
jigging old measure,--[1] "a splendid swinging metre," says Saintsbury,
"better able than any other English metre to cope with the body as well
as the rhythm of the English hexameter". Tastes differ! Here are four
lines ("Iliad" XV, 596-600). The poet speaks of Zeus,

    For Hector's glory still he stood, and ever went about
    To make him cast the fleet such fire as never should go out;
    Heard Thetis' foul petition, and wished in any wise
    The splendour of the burning ships might satiate his eyes.

"The last line alone would suffice to exhibit Chapman's own splendour
at his best," says a critic, and this may be the best of Chapman. But
it does not express the meaning of Homer, who says nothing about the
"foulness" of the prayer of Thetis, and whose Zeus does not desire to
satiate his eyes with "the splendour of the burning ships," but to see
_one_ ship set on fire; as, on that signal, he intends to cause the
instant rout of the Trojans. It will be observed that Chapman here
compresses four Greek hexameters into four English "fourteeners";
and that the movement of his verse is as rapid as the nature of the
"fourteener" permits. He is, however, rugged and obscure and overloads
the simplicity of Homer with Elizabethan conceits of his own invention.
The "Odyssey" he rendered into heroic couplets with a free movement,
and, had he been more sparing of his own conceits, the version would be
more satisfactory. Unhappily no English measure represents the Homeric

In 1604-5, Chapman with Marston was imprisoned for a very faint piece
of satire on the Scots, in "Eastward Ho"; and Ben Jonson, who had been
no partner to the passage, as a collaborator in tie play magnanimously
insisted on sharing the punishment.

Chapman's comedy, "All Fools" opens with an imitation of a play of
Terence (followed by Molière in "L'École des Pères"). We have the
sensible and indulgent, and the severe and deceived father. But the
plot becomes painfully involved, and jokes on cuckolds are no longer
so delightful as they were for two centuries to English taste. His
other comedies are not below the level of his contemporaries, excluding
Shakespeare and Jonson.

Among Chapman's plays on contemporary French history, the two on Bussy
d'Amboise vary much from "Byron's' (Biron's) Conspiracy," and "The
Tragedy of Charles, Duke of Byron". "Bussy d'Ambois" has all the faults
of fustian, obscurity, bloodshed, torture exercised on the stage, and
great palpable ghosts. A friar is the go-between of _le brave Bussy_
and Madame de Monsoreau, Chapman's "Tamyra, Countess of Mountsurry". He
appears and disappears through a trap door, and when he dies "_Umbra_
Friar" (the ghost of the holy man), "keeps on the business still".
Mountsurry (Monsoreau) too, disguised as the friar, is very busy. A
magician summons Behemoth, a monstrous fiend with whom Joan of Arc was
accused of being too familiar. Tamyra is stabbed frequently on the
stage, to make her write a letter inviting Bussy to a fatal tryst;
and next, being tortured, she complies and writes in her own blood.
Bussy is overpowered by numbers and slain. Charles Lamb admired a
long description of a duel between six minions of Henry III, three on
each side. The Nuntius (the messenger), a looker-on, tells how Bussy
charged his foe exactly as, in his youth, the Nuntius had seen a
unicorn charge an Armenian jeweller, and

    Nailed him with his rich antler to a tree.

In "The Revenge of Bussy" his ghost enters and dances with the ghosts
of the Duc de Guise, the Cardinal, and Châtillon. The lookers-on are
surprised, believing the Guises to be alive and well, when Aumale
enters with the news that both have just teen assassinated! The
"Revenge" contains some very noble passages of reflection, in which
Chapman always shines, and some reminiscences of Homer. The ghosts,
though "affable familiar sprites," might be excused by the example of
Seneca's tragedies. Dryden found in "Bussy d'Ambois" "a hideous mingle
of false poetry and true nonsense," but not all of the poetry is false.
There are, indeed, in Chapman's blank verse, passages of exquisite
beauty and charm: praise which cannot be denied to passages in the
works of all his contemporaries in dramatic writing.

John Marston.

John Marston was of an old Shropshire family: he is supposed to have
been born in 1575 and educated at Coventry school. He was a member of
Brasenose College, Oxford. His father intended him to be a barrister,
but observes in his will that "man proposeth but God disposeth".
He wrote satires first, and then plays, later took orders, in 1616
received the living of Christchurch in Hampshire, and died in London
in 1634. His plays had been collected and published in 1633. Marston's
earliest publications, under the assumed name of Kinsayder, 1598, were
"The Metamorphosis of Pygmalion's Image, with Certain Satires," and, in
the same year, "The Scourge of Villainy". As to "Pygmalion,"

    My wanton Muse lasciviously doth sing,

he says: the verses are in the stanza of "Venus and Adonis". With a
cheerful anachronism, Pygmalion, having made his ivory statue of a
woman, invokes the shade of Ovid--who lived much after his time. At his
prayer the statue lives, and Marston ceases to sing lasciviously.

Of the Satires we may say in the words addressed by Mr. Toots to the
Chicken, "the language is coarse and the meaning is obscure". The first
attacks one Ruscus, for writing, like Mr. Toots, letters to himself.
Parasites and boasting soldadoes are also satirized. A quarrel with
Hall who styled himself "the first English satirist," arose; the
authors of "The Return from Parnassus" (1601) spoke of Marston with
coarse but effective contempt. In 1599 this "new poet" sold a play to
Henslowe. His "Antonio and Mellida," "Sophonisba," "What You Will,"
and "The Malcontent" (a misanthrope, as in Molière and Wycherley),
do not receive much praise even from the greatest enthusiasts for
the old drama. In the dedication to "The Malcontent" Marston made up
his quarrel with Ben Jonson, whom he had assailed in "Satiromastix"
in reply to Ben's "Poetaster" (1601), not before Ben, according to
his own account, had beaten him. In 1605 Marston joined Chapman and
Ben in composing "Eastward Ho". The remarks on the Scots, for which
the authors were imprisoned, are merely such as Dr. Johnson used to
make for the purpose of teasing Boswell. The play, on the whole, is
a very good-humoured study of life in London--rather in Hogarth's
manner,--with the honest goldsmith, his industrious and his idle
apprentice; his ambitious daughter, who would marry a knight with a
castle in the air; his quiet daughter, betrothed to the industrious
apprentice; the usual number of jokes connected with "horns," and
local colour that was useful to Scott in "The Fortunes of Nigel".
Probably Marston did little in this favourite comedy; he wearied of
play-writing, and was contemptuous of his own works, and careless of
his own fame.


Thomas Dekker, as genial as Marston is crabbed, was a playwright and
bookseller's hack, concerning whose life little is known except that he
was one of Henslowe's "hands" in 1597; was redeemed by Henslowe from
prison in the Poultry in 1598; and was still producing pamphlets in
1637. A Londoner by birth, he knew some Dutch, and as his Bryan in "The
Honest Whore" proves, a little Gaelic. His most popular work in prose
was "The Gull's Hornbook," which is full of the details of life in the
taverns; the thieves; the _bona robas_, usurers, fops, gamblers, all
the world which is best known to the modern reader in "The Fortunes of

The social historian finds matter gloomy enough as a rule, in "The
Wonderful Year" of the accession of James I; and "The Seven Deadly
Sins of London" shows a helpless horror of the crowded poverty of the
town. Mr. Swinburne found in one of Dekker's tracts a genius akin to
Goldsmith's, Thackeray's, Sterne's, Molière's, Dickens's, and not
unlike Shakespeare's; with Goldsmith he is often compared; he has given
men medicines to make them love him.

Dekker collaborated with other playwrights, and his contributions are
discerned by the bewildering light of internal evidence. Of his own
pieces, "The Shoe Maker's Holiday" (1600) is a broadly cheerful comedy;
the jolly son of St. Hugh, Simon Eyre, becomes Lord Mayor, and, in the
upper plot, the hero, Lacy, is very readily pardoned after deserting
his regiment in France to woo another Mayor's daughter in the disguise
of a shoemaker.

"The Honest Whore," in two parts, shows Bellafront as a Magdalen
redeemed by a sudden love which does not find its earthly close; she
marries a scamp to whom, in the Second Part, she plays the Patient
Grizel, backed by her father disguised as an old serving-man. There is
abundance of the inevitable ribaldry.

In a play devoted to "Patient Grissil," that ideal of the dramatists,
occurs the lovely lyric "Art thou poor, Yet hast thou golden slumbers";
in "Old Fortunatus" (in the story of the Magical Purse) is "Fortune's
kind, cry holiday": other pretty songs occur in "The Sun's Darling"
(Ford and Dekker).

"Satiromastix," as we have seen, secures for Dekker the praise of
audacity, for no craven would have attacked Ben Jonson. There are fine
_tirades_ of imaginative blank verse in "Fortunatus". Dekker admired
a thoroughly good woman, whether converted or needing no conversion,
as most of his fraternity and as Fielding did. But Fortune, if she
sometimes "cried holiday" to Dekker, was never "kind". He is best
remembered for his songs and for the words

                              the best of men
    That e'er wore earth about him was a sufferer,
    A soft, meek, patient, humble, tranquil spirit;
    The first true gentleman that ever breathed.

When Lamb tells us that Dekker "had poetry enough for anything": when
Mr. Swinburne declares that Dekker "was endowed in the highest degree
with the gifts of graceful and melodious fancy, tender and cordial
humour, vivid and pathetic realism, a spontaneous refinement, and
an exquisite simplicity of expression," we wish to search for his
privately reprinted works in prose, and the solitary edition of his

But on the other hand we are told that his "Satiromastix" is not too
severely called "a preposterous medley": that his "besetting vice"
is "reckless and sluttish incoherence"; that one play can be best
explained as the work of an intoxicated man in a debtor's prison; that
"there are times when we are tempted to denounce the Muse of Dekker as
the most shiftless and shameless of slovens and of sluts." Dekker wrote
several pamphlets, which, in a sort, resemble some minor work of Daniel
de Foe.


Though Ben Jonson said in his haste that Middleton was "a base fellow,"
he was of a gentle house. The date of his birth is unknown (1570?),
as early as 1597 he was writing for the Press; by 1602 he was working
at plays in which five or six other men collaborated. Probably they
settled on a plot, or rather on two plots, upper and under, and each
author wrote an act: a little ready money came in, but the dramas must
have been "in the veniable part of things lost". Middleton frequently
worked with Dekker, also with Rowley. They are usually thought to
have mainly contributed the noisy and incoherent underplots, but
Dekker's admirers credit _him_ with the _dénouement_ of "The Old Law"
(Middleton, Massinger, Dekker).

Mr. Bullen finds this passage the drollest of things droll. There can
be no doubt that it must have evoked hearty laughter on the stage.

Easily are Hoard and Lucre gulled in "A Trick to Catch the Old One,"
namely the uncle of the young profligate Witgood. Granting that these
ancient chuffs were incredibly credulous, the play is a bustling
comedy, with abundance of tricks and turns. The Mayor of Queenburgh
in the play so styled was contemporary with Hengist and Horsa; is
full of very serious matter, merrily set down. We must not approach
in a spirit of historical pedantry a drama in which the Earls of
Devonshire and Staffordshire, the sons of Constantine (namely Aurelius
Ambrosius, Constantius, and Uther Pendragon), with Vortiger and Horsus,
Hengist, the tanner Mayor of Quinborough, Aminada, and a number of
button-makers and professional murderers, also two monks, play their
parts. The incoherencies, the button-makers, the chaste Constantius, an
unwilling monarch, his murder by the minions of Vortiger, their murder
(in Macbeth's manner) by Vortiger, are the drollest of unconscious
drolleries. This monstrous medley of dull disconnected humours,
unspeakable villainies, and speeches in excellent blank verse, with
the sufferings of the angelic Castiza, contains, as usual, a pearl of
wronged and innocent womanhood.

Middleton is thought by some to walk more closely in Shakespeare's
footsteps than even Webster, and his acknowledged masterpiece is "The
Changeling," so called from the underplot (by Rowley), in which two
sane men smuggle themselves as maniac and idiot into a private lunatic
asylum. The cheerful interludes of lunacy set off the tragedy.

Beatrice Joanna, betrothed to Alonzo de Piracquo, loves Alsemero at
first sight, and for Piracquo's murderer suborns de Flores, a man whom
she loathes, and whose face seems charged with disaster. De Flores has
a violent physical passion for Beatrice, endures her insults, haunts
her, and accepts her murderous command. After slaying her betrothed,
and cutting off his finger that wears the ring of betrothal, he has
that scene with Beatrice in which he rejects all her offers, even her
whole fortune, and, by threatening to divulge her crime, compels her to
be his mistress. This scene is justly celebrated; it does indeed move
terror, and pity for the pitiless. But the adventures of Beatrice's
bridal night with Alsemero; the absurd affair of the glasses marked M
and C; the burning by de Flores of the girl who here plays the part of
Brangwain in the romance of Tristram and Iseult; all these things prove
Middleton's inability to keep on the level of his own high conception.

After some powerful passages and the reappearance of the bleeding
finger with the ring, de Flores murders Beatrice, and dies rejoicing in
his success. Tragedy, as Shakespeare and Aristotle understood it, was
not concerned with resolute ruffians and girls with violent passions,
but with Cordelia and Hamlet, Othello and Desdemona, noble souls; with
fate-driven and fallen Macbeth and Lady Macbeth; or Coriolanus ruined
by the excess of his own qualities.

Middleton's comedy of "The Roaring Girl," a contemporary virago with
pipe and sword, idealized as the champion of her sex; his prodigal old
Sir Bounteous in "A Mad World," and his "Chaste Maid in Cheapside"
were long popular; while the humours of the duel, and the sterling
excellence of Captain Ager in "A Fair Quarrel," are contrasted with the
horseplay of Middleton's constant partner, Rowley. In 1620, Middleton
was appointed Chronologer to the City, and did the work for which he
was paid. He continued to write for the stage, and his "Spanish Gipsy,"
an intermezzo of a very serious plot with the humours of gentlefolks
playing gipsies; his "The Witch," with curious resemblances to the
Witches in "Macbeth," and the highly successful "topical" play, "A
Game of Chess," with the intrigues in the affairs of the Spanish
match for Charles, Prince of Wales, are among the most notable of
his many dramas. The Spanish ambassador, in August, 1624, caused the
political "Game of Chess" to be withdrawn, for "his Majesty," James I,
"remembers well there was a commandment and restraint given against the
representing of any modern Christian kings in those stage plays". James
might well remember it! In 1604 Shakespeare's company had brought him
on the stage, playing his part in the mysterious affair of 1600, the
Gowrie Conspiracy. The play was stopped on the third night.

Middleton also wrote many City masques. He died on 4 July, 1627.


Thomas Heywood was born in Lincolnshire, was a Cambridge man, and by
1596-1598 was an actor and a writer for the stage and the Press. He
says that it is no custom of his to print his plays, being faithful
to the actors (who lost their rights in a play, when printed). He
confesses to having "had a hand or at least a main finger" in two
hundred and twenty plays.

The strong point in Heywood is his study of domestic manners in
Englishmen at home, and as adventurers abroad, as in "The English
Traveller," and "The Fair Maid of the West". Here Clem, the son of a
baker who, "when corn grew to be at a high rate, never doughed after,"
frankly says of four sea captains, "I believe they be little better
than pirates".

Heywood's most celebrated play, "A Woman Killed with Kindness," reads
as much like a modern novel as a Jacobean drama. There is no ribaldry,
no horrors, only a duel between two sets of men over a disputed hawking
match. The hero, Frankford, shelters and entertains a broken gentleman
who flees from the field, and the man, though thoroughly conscious
of his own villainy, seduces Frankford's wife, who is beautiful and
hitherto a pearl of virtue. She yields at a word: Frankford discovers
and spares them, the lady makes a pathetic end, and, dying of remorse
(of which her lover has his full share), she is "killed with kindness".

The pathos and the details of manners are entirely in the style of many
modern novels, and the underplot, also serious, if improbable, has the
favourite stainless heroine, Susan; a girl of great nobility.

There is a most amusing list of the practising "Mediums" of the day,
in "The Wise Woman of Hogsdon". They have their specialities, one
"doth pretty well for a thing that is lost Mother Sturton deals in
prevision--"is for fore-speaking"; another "practised the book and
key" (an automatism, the key is tied into the book, the fingers hold
it up under the handle of the key, and the book turns in answer to
questions). "All do well," says the witch, "according to their talent.
For myself, let the world speak There are some good speeches and good
blank verse in "The Iron Age," one of four dramas on the "Four Ages of
Hesiod's Mythology". In "The Rape of Lucrece" is an extraordinary set
of popular songs, some coarse enough, one in Dutch, and among them the
beautiful lyric,

    Pack, clouds, away, and welcome day,

which, more than his twenty-four surviving dramas, keeps Heywood's
memory green and fragrant. He wrote miscellaneous pamphlets and books
with enormous industry.

There is something sympathetic in his very carelessness,--what Lamb
precisely meant when he called Heywood "a prose Shakespeare" is
disputed. Possibly he meant that Heywood has sweetness of nature,
humour, and knowledge of character, without much poetry.


Concerning the life and adventures of John Webster next to nothing is
known. In 1602 the account books of Henslowe, the financier of the
stage, mention two lost plays as being, the first by Dekker, Drayton,
Middleton, Munday, and Webster; and the second by Webster, Chettle, T.
Heywood, Wentworth Smith, and Dekker. Dramas by so many hands cannot
be masterpieces. Webster was a great and busy collaborator; in the
bustling "citizen comedies," "Northward Ho" and "Westward Ho" he worked
with Dekker. He is best known by Lamb's extracts from his "White Devil"
and "Duchess of Malfi".

"The White Devil" (printed in 1612) is a chronicle play of the career
of Vittoria Corombona, but Webster has altered the facts as he pleased.
The more tragic humours of the betrayed husband (our liberal fathers
gave him a shorter name) are exemplified in her lord Camillo, who, in
the interests of her lover, the Duke of Brachiano, is murdered in a
manner intended to disguise the crime: the device is about as subtle
as the blowing up of Darnley with gunpowder. The Duchess, another
patient Grizel, except so far as Vittoria is concerned, men slay by
poisoning the portrait of her faithless husband, which she kisses, and
thus imbibes the infection. Cornelia, the mother of Vittoria and of
her leading murderer Flamineo, is a pathetic figure, and it is she who
sings the beautiful lyric.

    Call for the robin red breast and the wren.

Lamb says of Cornelia, "she speaks the dialect of despair; her tongue
has a smatch of Tartarus and the souls in bale. To move a horror
skilfully, to touch a soul to the quick, to lay upon fear as much as it
can bear, to wean and weary a life till it is ready to drop, and then
step in with mortal instruments to take its last forfeit, this only a
Webster can do." But if this is _all_ that a Webster can do, and if
to do this he needs an accumulation of unnatural horrors--fratricide,
the murderer of a brother contemplating the madness which his deed
has wrought in his mother; if the slain brother has just been kicking
his strumpet sister; then we may ask whether an art that flourishes
in these odious and extravagant conditions produces "one of the
imperishable and ineradicable landmarks of literature".

The serene and audacious impudence of Vittoria, when accused of her
first husband's, Camillo's, murder; and the Ophelia-like laments
and the song of Cornelia; with the all-but imperturbable wickedness
of Flamineo, yield the extracts which Charles Lamb made current
coin. Webster, in fact, returned, with abundant genius, but without
discretion, to the class of Revenge-plays opened by Kyd in "The Spanish

The behaviour of the Duchess of Malfi, in the play of that name
(printed 1623), introduced as she is by a noble panegyric, does not
prepare us for her sudden wooing of her steward, Antonio. Her brothers,
like the brothers of Keats's Isabella, determine to punish her: their
instrument, Bosolo, is a character not wholly lost, who deliberately
sells himself to guilt; and the scene in which eight madmen are let
loose to dance round the Duchess--they do not shake her resolution,--is
much admired. She is strangled, the children are strangled on all
sides, the servant Cariola is strangled, though "she bites and
scratches". The Fifth Act is a scene of the Kilkenny cats; almost
everybody, including Bosolo, is stabbed, and Ford, in commendatory
verses, applauds Webster, as at least the equal of the Athenian

Webster's genius was confessedly "subdued to that it worked in". In
the preface to "The White Devil" he complains that the public will not
endure a tragedy which observes the critical laws; "the sententious
Chorus," and "the passionate and weighty Nuntius," the messenger who,
in Greek tragedy, reports the horrors done off the stage. Deprived of
the messenger, obliged to work his massacres on the scene, Webster was
unsparing in horrors. His "Devil's Lawsuit" is a complicated web of
squalid intrigue; the blank verse is utterly degenerate; and "Appius
and Virginia" is not remarkable for originality in the representation
of that famous Roman story.

Webster's idea of a ghost was rather unconventional; Brachiano's
phantasm in "The White Devil" wore no common sheet, but "leather
cassock and breeches, and boots; with a cowl, in his hand a pot of lily
flowers, with a skull in't". Dekker advises his Gull at the play to
laugh aloud in the crisis of the tragedy, and probably there were some
hardy or hysterical spectators who thus received the too, too solid
spirit of Brachiano. The Tragedy of Revenge inspired Cyril Tourneur's
"Revenger's Tragedy," and horror has her home in this play and his
"Atheist's Tragedy". What in them deserves reading may be found in
Lamb's extracts.


Philip Massinger (born 1583) was the son of a gentleman patronized by
the noble house of Pembroke. The poet was educated at St. Alban Hall,
Oxford, but left without taking a degree (1606). He had fallen into
debt, and commenced play-writing in 1614; his earliest known piece, in
which Dekker took part, "The Virgin Martyr," was acted in 1622. The
period represented is that of the persecution under Diocletian, and the
piece is old-fashioned enough; introducing the angelic companion of
St. Dorothea, and the devil who attends the persecutor, Theophilus, a
very late convert. Torture is introduced on the stage, and Theophilus
slays his daughters, whom he had tortured out of Christianity back into
the Olympian faith, and whom Dorothea reconverts by arguments with
which they must already have long been familiar. There is a tendency
to credit Dekker both with the most gracious passages of verse in
the piece and with the stupid but energetic ribaldries of Hircius and

"The Unnatural Combat" (duel between a son and a father who rivals
Cenci in Shelley's tragedy), "The Duke of Milan," with a most unnatural
plot, "The Roman Actor," "The Fatal Dowry," are among Massinger's
tragedies; some twelve of his plays were burned in manuscript by Betty
Baker, or Barnes, the cook of Warburton, the herald. If they contained
such scenes as that of "the ghost of young Malefort," slain by his
father, "naked from the waist, full of wounds, leading in the Shadow of
a lady, her face leprous," our regret for them may not be overwhelming.
We have plays enough in which a man is poisoned by the venomed paint on
a canvas or on a dead lady's face; plays enough in which victims (as in
"The Roman Actor") are cruelly tortured on the stage.

That Massinger has noble passages and great _tirades_ is undeniable,
and he is one of the four or five successors of Shakespeare who are
said by their admirers to follow most closely in his footsteps. The
play which keeps Massinger's memory green in common recollection is
his "A New Way to pay Old Debts". The great part is that of Sir Giles
Overreach, a financial ruffian, suggested probably by a real character
equally nefarious, Sir Giles Mompesson. A victim of Overreach's in his
own nephew, Wellborn, and the play shows how Wellborn, with the aid
of a rich and virtuous widow, Lady Allworth, cozens Overreach into
advancing money; how his creature, Marrall, chouses him; and how his
daughter, Margaret, marries young Allworth, and not the peer for whom
the usurer designed her. Described as "both lion and fox," Overreach,
always ready to fight, is more successful in the furious than in the
furtive part of his nature. He bullies man and defies God in seeking
satisfaction of his two chief desires, to ruin and humiliate his social
superiors and to plunder the widow and the orphan or any other victim
whose loss may be his gain.

But like the Mammon-worshippers in "A Trick to Catch the Old One,"
Overreach himself is credulous enough, an easy victim of the
conspirators against his pride and pocket. Massinger's indelicacy
"has not always the apology of wit," indeed he is not remarkable
for humour, any more than most of his contemporaries, who sought and
doubtless got a laugh by stereotyped and witless ribaldries.

The character part of Greedy, a parasite of Overreach's, remarkable for
his appetite,--a shield of brawn and a barrel of Colchester oysters
"were to him a dish of tea" before breakfast,--must have been diverting
on the stage; and when Marrall turns against his master, we are
reminded of similar surprises by Mr. Micawber and Newman Noggs, though
_they_ were not accomplices in the iniquities which they exposed.

Massinger's plays are often interwoven with the work of other hands,
and deal, in a more or less veiled way, with the political situations
of his time. He lived in poverty, as his petitions to the Herbert
family prove; and he died in 1640. He was dissatisfied with his
fortunes and with public indifference; poverty had forced him into
poetry, and hunger had made him hasty in his work; the too common
calamity of poor authors.


John Ford was a native of Ilsington in Devonshire, baptized on 17
April, 1586. He was of good family, entered the Inns of Court, and is
said to have practised in his profession. A contemporary rhymer speaks
of him "deep in a dump," "with folded arms and melancholy hat". He
worked at plays with Dekker, and in "The Witch of Edmonton" (1622?).

Four of his comedies were burned or otherwise put out of being by
Betty Barnes, or Baker, the celebrated cook of Warburton, Somerset
herald, who made away with at least fifty manuscripts of old plays: his
earliest known comedy (1613) was among Betty's victims. His earliest
independent surviving piece, "The Lover's Melancholy," was played in
1628. The more serious part has a rather improbable plot turning on
the disguise of a girl as a man, but there are many beautiful romantic
passages in the loves of Palador, Prince of Cyprus, and Eroclea. A
masque of Bedlamites within the play indicates the strange contemporary
taste for the terrors and humours of maniacs.

In 1633 the famous plays "'Tis Pity She's a Whore," and "The Broken
Heart," were printed. The former has a plot of incestuous loves, ending
in a pretty general massacre. Given the inspiration of the unnatural,
Ford could do great things. In the Prologue to "The Broken Heart" (the
scene is Sparta, of all unlikely places) Ford reprobates the staple of
low contemporary comedy, "jests fit for a brothel court's applause,"
"apish laughter," "lame jeers at place or persons"; perhaps Ford was
not unaffected by Prynne's famous attack on the stage, "Histriomastix"

"The Broken Heart" is free from the customary ribaldries; it is a
tragedy of fate, the characters are noble. Ithocles is noble, despite
the original wrong which he has committed in separating Orgilus and
Penthea, and wedding Penthea to "the grey dissimulation" of the jealous
Bassanes. Orgilus, who murders Ithocles, is noble in his death, the
death of Seneca without the bath. Penthea is noble, and the wanderings
of her mind at the end of her slow suicide, are beautiful in their
sad fantasy; finally the dancing of Calantha, while one after another
come messengers with the tidings that break her heart, is noble, and
probably her endurance is the reason for the placing of the scene in
Sparta. As in Greek tragedy, all are doomed by Fate; the Oracle of
Delphi has spoken truth, with the wonted obscurity which only Time can
unriddle. It is true that the interest shifts, in the last scenes, from
Penthea to Calantha, whom we have scarcely looked on previously. But
Ford aimed high, and came near to hitting his mark. He ought never to
have, attempted his crazy low comedy scenes.

Ford's "Perkin Warbeck" is by far the most readable historical play of
the old stage, after Marlowe's "Edward II," and Shakespeare's Chronicle
plays. Perkin's character is resolute and princely, as is that of his
Gordon bride, "The White Rose". "If he lost his life he died a king" in
royal bearing. As King Henry says

       The custom, sure, of being called a king
    Has fastened in his thought that he is such.

Ford, in his Tragedies, is not to be reckoned among Mr. Swinburne's
"splendid slovens". His blank verse never degenerates into
skimble-skamble slackness, but, compared with most of his
contemporaries, he does not shine as a lyric poet. He retired to the
country after the overthrow of the stage and the beginning of the civil


James Shirley, of an honourable family, was born in London, in 1596. He
entered the Merchant Taylors' School, and, in 1612, went to St. John's,
Oxford, where Laud was then master. Laud, who believed in "the beauty
of holiness," is said to have prevented Shirley, as a blemished man,
with a large mole on his face, from taking holy orders. He migrated
to Cambridge, to St. Catherine's Hall, published a poem in 1616, did
take orders, received a living; left it on becoming a Catholic, turned
schoolmaster at St. Albans, and then went to town as a playwright.

His "Love's Tricks" was licensed in 1624-1625,--"a silly play," writes
Mr. Pepys in 1667. Shirley was prolific; his "Witty Fair One" (acted
1628) is thought one of his best comedies. These dramas have a touch of
the modern; we hear of "balls," a new name then for dancing parties. In
"The Lady of Pleasure" (1635) Lady Bornwell's contempt for the country
life and for country gentlemen, and her determination to spend her
husband's fortune on the gaieties of the Court, are amusing, and we
expect her to be a Lady Teazle. But, despite her husband's stratagem
of beating her at her own game, and the humours of the nephew whom she
has brought from Oxford, the piece can hardly be read with enthusiastic
delight. It is deemed Shirley's masterpiece in comedy, and preludes to
the comic drama of the Restoration and the Revolution of 1688. Dryden
expresses extreme contempt for both Hey wood and Shirley; it is to be
feared that his own plays are now no more popular than theirs.

After residing at Dublin under the great Earl of Strafford, and
producing plays at the Viceregal Court, and after insulting in an
ironic dedication of "The Bird in a Cage," the Puritan Prynne, who had
been most cruelly punished for allusions in his work against the stage
("Histriomastix"), Shirley returned to London. His "The Cardinal" is
imitated from Webster's "Duchess of Malfi," and with "The Traitor" is
reckoned (though Shirley preferred "The Cardinal"), "the best of his
flock" in tragedy. Pepys (1662) writes "there is no great matter in
it," but Pepys's dramatic criticisms are no great matter. In 1642 came
the shutting up of the theatres, and Shirley, after seeing the wars
under his patron, the Duke of Newcastle, returned to his old profession
as a schoolmaster.

He wrote a preface (1647) to some hitherto unprinted plays of Beaumont
and Fletcher, commending their stage as a school of moral discipline,
"In this silence of the stage thou hast a liberty to read these
inimitable plays". In 1659 Shirley published his "Contention of Ajax
and Ulysses," containing the noble lines which embalm his memory:--

    The glories of our blood and state.
    Are shadows, not substantial things.


    Bid me no more good night, because
    'Tis dark, must I away?

is also a pretty piece, like his "Song" (attributed wrongly to Carew).

Shirley's works were often acted at the beginning of the Restoration,
but he refused to write more dramas. The shock of the great fire of
1666 is said to have caused the deaths, on the same day, of himself and
of his wife. The blank verse of Shirley is seldom distinguished. His
numerous works suffer somewhat because they come at the end of a long
period in which talent like his, with defects of taste often greater
than his, have satiated and wearied all but the special student and
enthusiastic devotee of the drama. The minor stars in the galaxy of
playwrights almost defy enumeration.

Space does not permit estimates of the last dramatists of "the first
temple," Randolph, Suckling--whose dramatic verse is as chaotically bad
as several of his lyrics are exquisite; Davenant, who tried to keep
alive a semblance of the drama at the end of Cromwell's protectorate;
Brome, Cartwright, Mayne, and others. The blank verse in which the
elder poets had so often excelled was left to the care of Milton; the
blank verse of the stage became formless, and, during the Restoration,
rhymed heroic couplets usurped its place.

[1] As I write, an accidental "fourteener" meets the eyes in the
heading of a magazine article--"Discovery of the Missing Link by
Georgiana Knight". This metre does not seem the best in which to render



In sketching the history of the English drama from its beginnings to
the close of Ben Jonson's career, we have passed through a long tract
of years, rich in other than poetic literature. We must now return
to the writers in prose who came after Ascham and Sidney, and lived
through the last period of Elizabeth, and in the reigns of James I,
Charles I, and the Commonwealth.

The prose writers may be considered in four sets. First we have the
purely literary authors, the critics and novelists such as Lyly,
Sidney, Greene, Nash, and others, of whose style, with its "brave
conceits," euphuism, and metaphors we have already, spoken. Next (2)
we have the controversial pamphleteers, who wrangled mainly about
religion and Church government, defending or attacking the Established
Church with its usages; or Puritanism with its love of Presbyterian
discipline, and hatred of the cross in baptism, the surplice, and
other "rags of Rome". While Government supported the cause of the
Established Church and severely handled recalcitrant ministers of the
Puritan party, some Puritan writers went so far as to threaten war
against the cause of the detested Bishops. On both sides temper rose to
fever-heat, and the controversy was conducted in a prose style which
was full of abuse and satire. Meanwhile (3) Hooker wrote on the same
disputed themes in a style lofty, logical, and harmonious; and in his
"History of the World," Sir Walter Raleigh often played on language
with the effect of "a solemn music". Lastly (4) Bacon in his essays
touched on familiar themes in a style of brief sentences, witty, or
poetic, or philosophical, which was all his own; which came home, as he
says, "to men's business and bosoms"; and, of all the manners which we
have described, that of Bacon remains by far the most easily and most
commonly appreciated.

Meanwhile the common fault of men who wrote in prose was the inability
to tell a plain tale; to say succinctly, distinctly, and unmistakably
what they meant. Perhaps they did not always wish to be understood, but
even when Elizabethan and Jacobean writers were anxious to be lucid,
their fanciful tropes and long sentences often detain or defy the
modern reader.

This defect arose partly from imitation of the structure of stately
Latin sentences in Roman literature. But in Latin the nature of the
grammar does not permit the meaning to be lost. When books were
comparatively rare, and leisure was plentiful, readers did not grudge
the time passed over tall and massive folios and long stately involved
periods. Now and again, in the age of Elizabeth as in the Restoration,
the lighter authors took refuge in a style lax, colloquial, and charged
with current slang. A century must pass before we arrive at the
unadorned plain manner of Dean Swift.

It was not that the Elizabethans lacked the power to write tersely,
simply, and clearly. So luxuriant a poet as Spenser was the master of
a perfectly clear and unadorned prose style, deeply interesting in his
work on the condition of Ireland. The letters of such diplomatists as
Randolph, Queen Elizabeth's envoy to the Court of Mary, Queen of Scots,
are as clear and amusing, or, once or twice, as pathetic, to-day, as
when they were written. But the prose of literature was entangled and
encumbered by the search of ornament, of _esprit_ at all costs, and by
copious antitheses and, among the lighter writers, by "clenches" and
even by slang.


"It is not to be doubted but that Richard Hooker was born at Heavytree"
(near Exeter), says Izaak Walton, about 1553. But sceptics have averred
that he was born in Southgate Street, in Exeter. His parents were not
rich, and, aided by Bishop Jewel, he entered Corpus Christi College,
Oxford, in 1567, as a Bible Clerk. In 1577 he obtained a Fellowship;
in 1579 was Reader in Hebrew, a tongue with which few Oxford men were,
or are, familiarly acquainted. About four years later he took holy
orders, had a severe cold, and married a wife recommended by the lady
who had nursed him in his illness. "The good man," says Walton, "had
no cause to rejoice in the wife of his youth," for "the contentions
of a wife" (at least of Mrs. Hooker), "are a continual dropping." He
took a living in Buckinghamshire, and experienced "the corroding cares
that attend a married priest". Among these was reading Horace while he
watched his sheep, and rocking his child's cradle.

A friend, Edwin Sandys, finding him in these distressful circumstances,
obtained for him the Mastership of the Temple (1585) during the "Martin
Marprelate" controversy, in which the boisterous Nash bore a part. A
lecturer, Travers, opposed Hooker's theological positions, for Hooker,
it seems, had maintained that all Catholics are not necessarily damned
to all eternity. In 1591 Hooker obtained the living of Boscombe in
Wilts, and in 1595 moved to that of Bishopsbourne near Canterbury,
where he died in 1600.

The first four books of his "Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity" appeared in
1594, the fifth in 1597, the rest was posthumously published. The book
was admired by James VI, who read it in Scotland, and by the Pope and
Cardinal Allen. Hooker was a good, devout, simple man, a most laborious
parish minister, and so short-sighted that Walton accounts for his
choice of a wife (if he could be said to choose her), by this defect of

The great work of Hooker, "The Ecclesiastical Polity," is an argument
against the Puritans who, from matters like the surplice to matters
like the Liturgy, desired in all things to imitate the "discipline"
of Geneva and of Presbyterian Scotland. In the Martin Marprelate
controversy, as in all old controversy, the style, as we shall see, had
been extremely scurrilous on both sides. Hooker, on the other hand,
writes like a gentleman, a scholar, and a Christian. As the dispute
was really between men of two opposed temperaments and characters,
arguments, however learned, moderate, and logical, could not make
converts. The Reformation had brought not peace but a sword. Religious
differences, mingled with political differences, soon broke into civil
war under Charles I.

Hooker begins by stating that the opponents of the Church of England,
"right well affected and most religiously inclined minds," must,
he supposed, "have had some marvellous reasonable inducements" for
desiring to upset the existing ecclesiastical settlement. He therefore
studied the subject diligently, and could find "no law of God or reason
of man" against the attitude of the defenders of the settlement, and
no proof that the Presbyterian "discipline," "by error and misconceit
named 'the ordinance of Jesus Christ,'" was so in very deed.

After a pathetic request for a fair hearing "of the words of one who
desireth even to embrace together with you the self-same truth, if it
be the truth," he gave a history of the discipline as introduced by
Calvin at Geneva. Calvin, he said, by "sifting the very utmost sentence
and syllable" of the New Testament found that certain passages seemed
to him to enjoin that congregations should have elders with power
of excommunication (with fearful civil consequences) but Calvin had
"never proved that Scripture doth necessarily enforce these things"; or
enforce any other thing in which the Puritans differed from the Church
established. Manifestly an opponent would blow away this argument with
any isolated scriptural text, whatever its original application, which
as he thought backed his opinion.

Hooker analysed Puritan demagogic methods, spiritual pretensions, and
habit of leading women captive. "But, be they women or be they men, if
once they have tasted of that cup, let any man of contrary opinion open
his mouth to persuade them, they close up their ears, his reasons they
weigh not at all, all is answered with the words of John, 'We are of
God, he that knoweth God heareth us.'"

All this was, in fact, the case; it was superfluous to write a long
book, with quotations about the Angels from the pre-Christian Greek
Orphic poems, for the purpose of converting people who closed their
ears. When Hooker, wrote, some Puritan writers had already threatened
civil war; their martyrs, in fact, lay in Newgate, and their blood was
up. What they desired was not to be tolerated, but to dominate the
consciences of others. One text both parties could use, "_Compel them
to come in._"

The style of Hooker is somewhat rich in Latinized components. He is
remote from euphuistic conceits; and does not rise into eloquence
except when his subject elevates his mind and style. A celebrated
example is his defence of Church music.

"Touching musical harmony whether by instrument or by voice, it being
but of high and low in sounds a due proportionable disposition, such
notwithstanding is the force thereof, and so pleasing effects it hath
in that very part of man which is most divine, that some have been
thereby induced to think that the soul itself by nature is or hath
in it harmony. A thing which delighteth all ages and beseemeth all
states; a thing as seasonable in grief as in joy; as decent being
added unto actions of greatest weight and solemnity, as being used
when men most sequester themselves from action. The reason hereof is
an admirable facility which music hath to express and represent to the
mind, more inwardly than any other sensible mean, the very standing,
rising, and falling, the very steps and inflections every way, the
turns and varieties of all passions whereunto the mind is subject; yea,
so to imitate them, that whether it resemble unto us the same state
wherein our minds already are, or a clean contrary, we are not more
contentedly by the one confirmed, than changed and led away by the
other. In harmony the very image and character even of virtue and vice
is perceived, the mind delighted with their resemblances, and brought
by having them often iterated into a love of the things themselves."
Magnificent as is the harmony of these sentences, and severe as is the
logical thought which they express, the modern reader finds that he
cannot get at the sense of them by merely running his eye over them.
The sentences must be carefully construed, and such writing cannot
possibly be popular; as, in some degree, some writings of Bacon still

The posthumously published books of Hooker were supposed to have been
tampered with by the Editors. Hooker did not publish his sermons,
of which several were put forth after his death. Even his Puritan
adversaries could not with decency have complained that they are too
short. In one sermon he speaks freely of the Pope as "The Man of Sin".

"Martin Marprelate."

We cannot here do more than mention the masters of the fierce
controversial prose; indeed their names, often, can only be guessed.
They fought like wild cats, with the yells of these animals when
enraged, in the wordy war of "Martin Marprelate," or "Bishop's bane".
Archbishop Whitgift (1586) obtained a decree from the Star Chamber
for the suppression of pamphlets that attacked the usages of the
Established Church. Till 1593 the battle of books lasted; and then
Parliament silenced the Puritans--for a while. The authors, taking the
name of "Martin Marprelate," entered the fray, on the Puritan side,
with the weapon of satire, banter, and Billingsgate, in autumn, 1588.
Martin, whoever he or they may have been, employed a secret press,
owned by one Waldegrave, that was set up now in one place, now in
another. The history of the secret presses, of Waldegrave and of his
successors, is curious. The learned Udall, John Penry ("the Father of
Welsh Dissent") and other combatants, were imprisoned; Penry was hanged.

There remain seven tracts by Marprelate, in a style of variegated
abuse, banter, and "gag": Bishop Cooper found that his name yielded
gross palpable quips and puns to the Puritan wags who wrote for "the
man in the street". Martin was no Pascal, his weapons were not the
small sword but the jester's bladder on a stick, and the bully's
bludgeon. The Anti-Martinists answered with the same weapons, as Nash
and Lyly were responsible for certain pamphlets; Greene took a hand in
the fray, and it faded out in a literary and personal squabble with
Gabriel Harvey.

The Martin Marprelate tracts were revolutionary, and afford a singular
instance in which the wit exhibited itself on the Puritan side.

Serious treatment of serious themes, on the other hand, is nobly
vindicated in the great work of Richard Hooker.


A style quite unlike that of Hooker is Bacon's. Francis Bacon, later
Lord Verulam and Viscount St. Albans, was born in 1561, a younger son
of Sir Nicholas Bacon (long time Keeper of the Seals under Elizabeth),
and of his wife Elizabeth Cooke, daughter of Sir Anthony Cooke, and
sister of the wife of the famous Cecil, Lord Burleigh. Bacon did not
profit much by the high place of his uncle William, and his cousin
Robert Cecil. They retarded from jealousy the worldly advancement, to
secure which, and to aid the progress of Science, were Bacon's leading
desires. After leaving Trinity College, Cambridge, and studying law at
Gray's Inn, Bacon followed to Paris Sir Amyas Paulet, later the jailer
of Queen Mary Stuart at Fotheringay. He was called to the Bar in 1582,
and in 1584 entered Parliament, on the Court side. Ben Jonson has left
lofty praise of his eloquent sagacity in debate. His memoirs of advice
to Elizabeth were more admired than followed in practice. He was in
favour of moderation towards both Catholics and Puritans. He attached
himself to the fortunes of the Queen's brilliant wayward favourite,
Essex, but his wisdom was not what Essex was fitted by nature to
follow: he swayed the woman in Elizabeth by his beauty and daring
grace: his military ambitions were distasteful to the pacific and
parsimonious Queen. The mad enterprise of Essex, on Scottish models,
to seize the Royal person, was no true English political move; it led
to his trial, and Bacon was the leading speaker in his benefactor's
prosecution. "It is the wisdom of rats," says Bacon, "that will leave
a house some time before it fall" ("Essays," "Of Wisdom for a Man's

He has never been forgiven for an action which could scarcely appear
other than judicious, and praiseworthy, and even necessary, to himself.
Like Cecil he made advances to James VI of Scotland, when it was clear
that Elizabeth could not, as James feared, "last as long as sun and
moon". On James, Bacon bestowed all his wisdom, and spoke for the
project of Union between England and Scotland, a project not realized
till after the lapse of a century.

Partly through the influence of King James's favourite, Buckingham,
Bacon received promotion; he became Attorney-General; in 1617, Keeper
of the Seals, like his father; in 1618, Chancellor, and Baron Verulam;
in 1621 Viscount St. Albans. In the same year he was accused of taking
gifts from suitors (then a not uncommon practice), pled guilty, with
qualifications, and was disgraced. His last years were spent in
literary pursuits at his place, Gorhambury, near St. Albans; he caught
cold in an experiment in freezing poultry and died in March, 1626.

The industry of his biographer, Mr. Spedding, has not wholly redeemed
the character of Bacon, whose personality does not endear him to
mankind, and was not on a level with his genius. That genius was
literary in a very high degree, and was influenced by a desire to
benefit humanity through scientific knowledge of the laws of Nature and
of human nature. To this task he brought an enthusiasm which reminds us
of a man so different from himself as Shelley. In Bacon's belief, man
might be and ought to be the master of things; and a reasoned account
of all things in nature was the inventory of human possessions. To make
this inventory, and to discover a new method of "interrogating nature,"
putting her to the question and wrenching from her all her precious
secrets, was the main object of his scientific meditations.

His first important book, however, the "Essaies" (1597), was literary,
and no doubt was suggested by the Essays of Montaigne, which were also
familiar to Shakespeare. In its original form the book contained but
ten brief studies, but Bacon kept improving them and adding to their
number. There are thirty-four in the edition of 1612, fifty-eight in
that of 1625. It is dedicated to Buckingham, who is informed that he
has "planted things that are like to last," an unlucky prediction. "Of
all my other works," adds Bacon, "my essays have been most current; for
that, as it seems, they come home to men's business and bosoms". The
phrase is a proverb,--indeed the essays, as the man said of "Hamlet,"
are "made up of quotations" of phrases that are now household words.

The genius of Bacon, in the essay, and even in his scientific works,
"The Advancement of Learning" (1605), and the Latin "Novum Organum"
(1620), was not desultory, like Montaigne's, but aphoristic. He coined
Maxims or Aphorisms, brief sayings, weighty with wisdom, brilliant with
points of wit and fancy, which sometimes remind us of La Rochefoucauld.
It is interesting to compare the first drafts of the Essays in 1597
with the finished work in 1625, where they are considerably enlarged,
and altered in details. "Of Faction" is increased fourfold, and
strengthened by examples from Roman history. Like all the men of his
time, Bacon is rich in classical references and anecdotes which, with
him, are not tedious and pedantic. When he quotes Homer it is in
_Latin_ hexameters, he cites a Roman altered adaptation, "a prophecy,
as it seems, of the Roman Empire," which, of course, Homer never
predicted; but the Latin form serves Bacon's theory of "prophecies that
have been of certain memorys and from hidden causes". This wise man
notes that "the King of Spain's surname, they say, is Norway," in order
that a folk-prophecy may be fulfilled by the defeat of the Armada.
However on the whole he regards fulfilled prophecies, not scriptural,
as accidental coincidences. "Men mark when they hit, and never mark
when they miss, as they do generally also of dreams."

There is something pathetic in Bacon's wise futilities and generalities
on the most pressing political question of his time, "Unity in
religion". Concerning the means of procuring Unity, "Men must beware,
that in the procuring or muniting of religious unity they do not
dissolve and deface the laws of charity and of human society." Being men,
they necessarily defaced both--Laud later had the ears of Puritans cut
off, Puritans cut off the head of Laud, "and so as to consider men as
Christians, we forget that they are men".

Bacon is not a little "Jesuitical". Secrecy is often necessary, "no man
can be secret, except he give himself a little scope of dissimulation;
which is, as it were, but the skirts or train of secrecy". Simulation
is "more culpable and less politic; except it be in rare and great
matters"--rather encouraging to Charles I, for we are bidden to have
"dissimulation in seasonable use". Love is rather profitable to
the Stage than to human existence, "in life it doth much mischief,
sometimes like a syren, sometimes like a fury". "No great and worthy
person" (except Mark Antony and Appius Claudius, famed for his
adoration of Virginia) "hath been transported to the mad degree of
love". "It is impossible to love and be wise." Bacon certainly varied
much from Plato and all the poets "in this of love".

Bacon knew very well that atheism was apt to follow in the steps of
his adored physical science, and consoled himself by assuming that
"a little philosophy inclines man's mind to atheism, but depth in
philosophy bringeth men's minds about to religion". He deemed that
without belief there could be no sense of honour, for atheists have
died for their opinion, whereas, if they believe that there is no
God, "why should they trouble themselves?" "Against atheists the
very savages take part with the very subtlest philosophers," which
is perfectly true. To the dog "man is instead of a God, or _melior
natura._" "As atheism is in all respects hateful, so in this, that
it depriveth human nature of the means to exalt itself above human
frailty," yet martyr atheists have despised human frailty. "For
martyrdoms, I reckon them among miracles; because they seem to exceed
the force of human nature."

Concerning the extreme Reformers, Bacon says "there is a superstition
in avoiding superstition, when men think to do best if they go
furthest from the superstition formerly received," as in the Scottish
Presbyterian burial of the Christian dead with no religious service,
one of Knox's innovations. In his Essay on "Wisdom for a Man's Self,"
Bacon speaks, wittingly or unwittingly, of his own mischance: "Whereas
they have all their times sacrificed to themselves, they become in
the end themselves sacrifices to the inconstancy of fortune". A word
of Bacon's is always apt. "Let no nation expect to be great that is
not awake upon any just cause of arming." Of colonization, "it is a
shameful and unblessed thing to take the scum of the people and wicked
condemned men, to be the people with whom you plant". "If you plant
where savages are... use them justly and graciously." Always the
counsel is excellent, always the adviser is unheard! Bacon even advises
on the stage management of Masques. On Gardening he writes at much
length and with manifest pleasure. His advice to keep caged birds in
"little turrets with a belly"--is not that of a poetical imagination.
He did not like the _Ars Topiaria_, "images cut out in juniper" or
box. His garden contained "a heath of a natural wildness," with many
artificial additions.

Bacon's _Promus of Elegancies_ is a commonplace book, full of
germs of essays, _pensées._ The essays themselves are strings of
connected aphorisms, without much consecutiveness of style or skilled
transitions. "Aphorisms," says Bacon himself, "except they should be
ridiculous, cannot be made but of the pith and heart of Sciences." His
Aphorisms certainly were more popular, as he knew, than his connected
work of 1605, "The Advancement of Learning, Divine and Humane".

In the Dedication of this work to James I, Bacon admires his Majesty's
genius, "a light of nature I have observed in your Majesty," who
certainly was a clever man, and interested in literature. The book is
a plea for the organization of knowledge: Bacon styles it "a small
globe of the intellectual world". He surveys all knowledge, and maps
it out, with a view to organized study. He meets religious objections
in his usual way. It is argued that ignorance is a fine thing, making
"a more devout dependence on God as the first cause". Bacon replies
in the words of Job, "will you lie for God, as one man will do for
another to gratify him?" Will you "offer the author of Truth the
unclean sacrifice of a lie"? Bacon attacks the schoolmen as darkening
counsel by words and spinning cobwebs out of assumed first principles,
instead of collecting facts, and questioning nature by experiments.
Practically, experimental philosophy, and the endowment of special
research, are the burdens of his argument. He divides knowledge into
History (the original sense of the word being _inquiry_), Human,
Natural, and Divine. Anxious that nothing should escape him, he even
classifies Ciphers, then much used in the secret correspondence of
statesmen and conspirators. He had invented a cipher when a young
diplomatist in Paris, and, in the later Latin translation of this book,
the "De Augmentis," he is copious on the subject. The secrets of each
writing were usually discovered by the simple process of torturing the
conspirators who used them.

"Poesy," he says, "was ever thought to have some anticipation of
divineness, because it doth raise and erect the mind, by submitting
the shows of things to the desires of the mind; whereas reason doth
buckle and bow the mind unto the nature of things." He conceived that
there was a mystic meaning, a record of lost wisdom, in the myths of
the Greeks (which are mainly decorated survivals of savage guesses
at the causes of things). He asks for more biographies, in an age
very careless of biography. He speaks of the "inductive" method, as
opposed to the scholastic reasoning from invented assumptions; and
his mind was always busy with a perfect system, "Instauratio Magna,"
of the interpretation of nature, and the encyclopædic organization of
knowledge. This work he never completed; the "Novum Organum" (1620),
written in Latin, is the most important fragment. He "had a vision
of his own," but what his great and perfect method really was, in
practical operation, he probably did not know himself. Fallacies he
could detect and classify in brilliant fashion, the "Eidola" or shadowy
Dwellers on the Threshold of Truth, bewildering men who would enter
that sanctuary. His work in this kind, especially the "Novum Organum,"
is immensely stimulating: he saw in vision the Promised Land of Science
into which he did not enter, and he would have been much disenchanted
by the results, as regards human happiness, of the discoveries which
he, not vainly, summoned men to make. He did not urge haste in
practical application--the commercializing of science. He insisted
on the collection of "contradictory instances," a method always, in
accordance with human eagerness, too much neglected.[1]

Bacon's mind, in fact, was encyclopædic, and shared the faults common
to encyclopædias. The contemporary specialist, like Gilbert with his
remarkable experiments in magnetism, is spoken of but slightingly by
Bacon; nor has he much praise for other students who, in his time, were
practising what he was preaching.

Bacon's prose, beyond the region of essays and of science, may best
be studied in his "Reign of Henry VII," the fruit of a few months'
labour, after his banishment to the country, in 1621. He had no access
to manuscripts of the period, except in copies made for him in the
great collection of Sir Robert Cotton, now in the British Museum. The
printed books concerning the reign, those of Polydore Virgil, Holinshed
(translating Polydore), Stowe, and Speed, led Bacon into some mistakes
about facts. But the book is lucid and sagacious; the character of the
king is clearly depicted, without favour or deliberate fault-finding.
The study of Perkin Warbeck is full of subtle interest. "Himself with
long and continued counterfeiting and with often telling a lie was
turned, by habit, almost into the thing he seemed to be, and from a
liar to a believer." Ford makes Henry VII express the same opinion
in his tragedy of "Perkin Warbeck". Bacon treats the strange career
of Perkin in terms of the Stage, speaks of the prompter with his
prompt-book, and, in the last Act, says, "therefore now, like the end
of a play, a great number came upon the stage at once". The nature of
the statecraft of Henry VII, not very apprehensive or forecasting of
future events, afar off, "but an entertainer of Fortune by the day," is
admirably analysed. "I have not flattered the king," says Bacon in his
dedication to Charles, Prince of Wales, "but took him to life as well
as I could, sitting so far off, and having no better light." Henry's
attempt to secure the canonization of Henry VI is amusingly described.
Cardinals were set to examine that poor prince's career, "but it died
under the reference. The general opinion was that Pope Julius was too
dear, and that the king would not come to his rates." But Bacon holds
that the Pope did not wish to cheapen saintliness, and chose to "keep a
distance between innocents and Saints". The virtues of Henry VI had not
the necessary quality of being heroic.

"The New Atlantis," unfinished in 1624, was published with the "Sylva
Sylvarum," after Bacon's death, in 1627. Here our author appears as
the framer of a philosophical romance, not unlike More's "Utopia,"
but concerned, as far as it goes, with the organization of experiment
and of knowledge, as practised by the people of Bensalem, somewhere
in the southern seas. Bacon makes no long story of how he and his
company arrived at Bensalem, an unheard of land, where civilization has
survived since the time of Plato's mythical lost Atlantis. Bacon was
inclined to suspect that there must have been "in the dark backward and
abysm of time," a race more advanced in knowledge than the Greeks or
the men of his own age. The Bensalemites are survivors of that race,
people very stately, peaceable (though well provided with improved
artillery), and Christian. The tale of their miraculous conversion,
through St. Bartholomew, "about twenty years after the ascension of
our Saviour"; and of their acquisition of the Old Testament and the
New (including parts of it _not yet written_) about 53 A.D.,
is the most romantic part of the romance. The Bensalemites, who are
rich in everything, make trading voyages, not for lucre, but "for
_Light_," knowledge. They have every kind of museum, library, and
scientific apparatus which the mind of Bacon could desire, regardless
of expense, nor do they seem to have shrunk from vivisection in their
search for the secrets of nature. "We have some degrees of flying in
the air," they have Christian temples: they are extremely moral, kind,
and industrious, in fact are a sort of scientific Phæacians; "far apart
they dwell, in the midst of the wash of the waves, and with them are no
men conversant," for they help, but do not welcome mariners.

Bacon's Latin tracts are numerous: he believed that Latin was a
permanent, English a less stable speech, but of course, since his day,
knowledge of Latin has more and more decreased, owing to the progress
of education and the march of science. The prophetic enthusiasm of
his insistence on experimental philosophy, the brilliance of his
illustrations, and the sagacity of his aphoristic observations, are
the bases of his literary fame. He was not so well fitted to be an
experimental philosopher himself, as to be the cause of experimental
philosophy in others.


  Sir Walter Raleigh (born 1552, at Hayes Barton, Budleigh,
  Devonshire), educated at Oxford, a soldier with the Huguenots
  in France, familiar with the wits in 1576 (when he wrote
  commendatory verses for Gascoigne's "Steel Glass"), a courtier
  who enjoyed the sunshine and suffered from the frosts of
  Elizabeth's favour, when supplanted by Essex went to Ireland, as
  we saw, became the friend of Spenser, and was styled by him "The
  Shepherd of the Ocean".

  In life and in literature a fiery and indefatigable adventurer,
  his productions, from sonnets and the long, and for the most
  part lost poem, "Cynthia" (on Elizabeth) to tracts on practical
  points; accounts of voyages and of South America, and the
  gigantic" History of the World," give proof of extraordinary
  energy and fertility. His description of the glorious fight of
  "The Revenge," and the death of Sir Richard Grenville (published
  in 1596) can never be forgotten. In 1596 appeared, too, his
  account of his first exploration (1595) of Guiana, with a
  description of "the great and golden City of Manoa,"--a mirage.

  On the death of Elizabeth, James I, on grounds of not unnatural
  if baseless suspicion, imprisoned Raleigh in the Tower, where
  he was well treated enough, and, with what amount of aid
  from collaborators is uncertain (Ben Jonson said that he had
  much) but, in any case with portentous industry, Raleigh
  compiled his "History of the World," from the creation to 130
  B.C. The book (1614-1615) had a very great popularity:
  even the Puritans read it with admiration. There was then no
  such world-history in English, and though, as history, it is
  now obsolete of course; it is admired for its vigour, for the
  character it displays, and the personal observations suggested by
  the author's wide experience of men; and above all for occasional
  passages of lofty eloquence, and the organ-tones of a magnificent
  style, as in the famous address to Death. The capacities of style
  in original work had never so been exemplified in English, though
  such examples are but occasional.

  Raleigh's very title in "The Prerogative of Parliaments" was
  offensive to the king, who doted on the prerogative of princes,
  and the book was not printed till after Raleigh's execution,
  following his return from his second expedition to Guiana.
  He also wrote tracts on War in general, on "The Navy and Sea
  Service," on "Trade and Commerce," on "A War with Spain"
  (the last thing that James desired), on "The Arts of Empire"
  (published by Milton, 1658, as "The Cabinet Council") and
  doubtless much is lost of the 3452 sheets of Raleigh's writing
  which John Hampden was having transcribed before the Great

  More than Bacon, Raleigh tuned the language of "lofty, insolent,
  and passionate English prose": these terms were applied by
  Puttenham ("Art of English Poesie") to Raleigh's "dittie and
  amorous ode". "Insolent," of course, means here "out of the


  Sir Thomas Overbury was born in Warwickshire in 1581: was the son
  of a Gloucestershire squire, was a gentleman commoner of Queen's
  College, Oxford, 1595-1598, entered the Middle Temple, and
  passed some years abroad. On his return he became, in Scotland,
  the friend of Robert Carr (or Ker), son of Ker of Fernihirst,
  one of Queen Mary's Border partisans. Carr, who was handsome,
  became King James's minion, and, in 1613, was created Earl of
  Somerset. His friend Overbury obtained a place at Court; and
  was first the friend, then the foe of Ben Jonson. An ally of
  Somerset, Overbury dissuaded him from his fatal marriage with
  Frances Howard, who, after a child-marriage (1606) with the boy
  Earl of Essex, detested him, loved Somerset, and, backed by
  James's influence, in spite of the Archbishop of Canterbury,
  Abbott, obtained a decree of nullity against her husband. The
  poet Donne, as Somerset's adviser, and the poet Campion, as a
  physician connected with a courtier more or less concerned in
  the affair, were entangled in this odious and mysterious matter.
  Overbury, on the other hand, was opposed to the unholy marriage
  of Somerset, and is thought to have written his popular poem "The
  Wife," to show him that Lady Essex was not what a wife should be.
  She plotted in various ways to get rid of Overbury. The offer of
  a diplomatic post in Paris he refused, with insolence it seems;
  he was sent to the Tower, and there, through the instigation
  of Lady Essex, was poisoned, with circumstances of bungling
  cruelty: for, as we know in the Spanish case of Escovedo, the
  science of poisoning was then quite in its infancy. Overbury
  died on 15 September, 1613. His death provoked many elegies and
  gave popularity to his poem "The Wife" (1614), which is of very
  slight merit, and to his "Characters," brief mordant sketches
  of types of men, in prose by Overbury and his friends. They
  appear to have been suggested rather by the Characters of the
  Greek Theophrastus, than by Montaigne or Bacon. Some pieces
  are ideal, "The Good Wife," and the charming "Fair and Happy
  Milkmaid," worthy of Izaak Walton. "She is never alone for
  she is still accompanied with old songs, honest thoughts, and
  prayers, but short ones.... Thus lives she, and all her care is
  she may die in the spring-time, to have store of flowers stuck
  upon her winding-sheet." Most of the other characters are drawn
  in a mocking style. Of "A Mere Scholar" we learn that "the
  antiquity of his University is his creed; and the excellency
  of his College, though but for a match of football, an article
  of his faith". "The Mere Fellow of a House," or don, with his
  airs of a man of the world, provokes the handsome courtier,
  and ex-undergraduate of Queen's. This on the scholar is good,
  "University jests are his universal discourse and his news the
  demeanour of the Proctors". Overbury jests at "The Melancholy
  Man". Melancholy, as Ben Jonson's Master Stephen had proved, was
  the fashion; a curious proof of this is the "Niobe" of Stafford
  (1611), a wonderful piece of railing at "the damnable times," of
  which a copy bears the arms of Charles I when Prince of Wales.
  "Straggling thoughts," says Overbury, "are the Melancholy Man's
  content, they make him dream waking; there's his pleasure!"


  Translation was a great, if not to the toilers a profitable
  industry between the reigns of Edward VI and James I. The wealth
  of classical, French, Spanish, and Italian learning, thought,
  and poetry was rapidly and strenuously conveyed into English,
  sometimes rough and ready, and rich in flowers of slang,
  sometimes replete with elegance and vigour. The translators
  certainly produced most idiomatic English; the ancients, in
  their versions, were not, as in reality, concise and classically
  self-restrained. There was, as a rule, no thought of minute
  accuracy. In fact, if some learned men were good Greek scholars,
  they did not write translations; the earlier translators in
  England used French and Italian versions of the Greek originals.
  Thus, Thomas Nicolls did Thucydides, the greatest of Greek
  historians, out of a French translation of an Italian version
  of the difficult original (1550). Nevertheless if you turn to
  the tragic pages on the utter ruin of the Athenian expedition to
  Sicily, the tale is still moving and rich in melancholy. Whoever
  B. R. was (Barnaby Rich?) the translator of the first two books
  of Herodotus (including his account of "the beastly devices" (as
  B. R. says) of the Egyptians), you cannot complain, as Macaulay
  did of another version, that Herodotus is "as flat as champagne
  in tumblers". B. R. uses slang, as "the Greeks were in the wrong
  box". Sir Thomas North, whose translation of Plutarch (1579)
  Shakespeare uses in his Roman plays, merely rendered the French
  version by Amyot. Whereas Plutarch's Greek lives of great men
  are, though in manner quiet, not frigid, North "picturesqued it
  everywhere". In fact these translators made Greeks and Romans
  speak as if they had come back to life and were writing in lusty
  Elizabethan England. Unluckily their volumes are not often to be
  picked up at bookstalls, and as magnificently printed in "Tudor
  Translations" they are expensive.

  It is strange that the great Athenian dramatists, Æschylus,
  Sophocles, Euripides, and the comic Aristophanes, were left
  untranslated; probably because no contemporary foreign versions
  were easily procurable. What our ancestors knew of ancient
  tragedy was mainly through the rhetorical Roman imitations by
  Seneca. Of Plato scarce anything was translated. By 1600 Philemon
  Holland (born 1552), who actually went to the ancient originals
  for his texts, published his translation of Livy. As early as
  1547 John Wylkinson Englished the Ethics of Aristotle,--out of
  an Italian version. Philemon was rapid, racy, indefatigable. He
  translated Plutarch's "Morals" in a year, using but one quill.
  It was through Florio's English version that Shakespeare read
  Montaigne's Essays. It is hardly necessary to name Richard
  Stanyhurst's "Four Books of Virgil's 'Æneid'" (1582) written
  in hideous English hexameters; and Thomas Phaer's Virgil, in
  "fourteeners" like Chapman's Homer, is even more helpless as a
  reproduction of "the stateliest measure

    Ever moulded by the lips of man,"

  than Conington's modern version in the metres of "The Lay of
  the Last Minstrel". It was clearly through Arthur Golding's
  translation of Ovid's "Metamorphoses" (1567, Four Books in 1565)
  that Shakespeare knew Ovid best. Golding also did Cæsar's "De
  Bello Gallico" (1565), and Sir Henry Savile, Provost of Eton,
  undertook Tacitus.

  Among books from foreign modern authors, William Painter's
  "Palace of Pleasure" (1566-1567) with tales from Boccaccio, Queen
  Margaret of Navarre, Bandello, and Straparola (as well as from
  classical sources) was a treasure-house of plots and situations
  for the playwrights. In the tragedies and comedies of the age,
  Italian characters are predominant. The Spanish novel of the
  roads and inns and adventures, "Lazarillo de Tormes," was done
  out of Spanish in 1576, and set the example of this kind of
  fiction to Nash. Ariosto and Tasso were translated, the former
  by Sir John Harington (1591), the latter by Edward Fairfax (in
  1600), and Richard Carew, but Dante was neglected. Of Chapman's
  "Homer," elsewhere spoken of, seven books appeared in 1598, and
  Shakespeare either glanced at it for his "Troilus and Cressida,"
  or used, in places, a French or Latin version of Homer. It is
  impossible to enumerate all the translators, most of them are
  very readable, more so, in fact, than our most exact literal
  renderings of Greek and Latin originals into prose.

The Authorized Version of the Bible.

The noblest and most enduring monument of Elizabethan prose is, of
course, the Authorized Version of the Bible. The nature of the texts to
be translated suppressed all tendency to wilful conceits; a substratum
of simple English from the time of Wyclif's versions in Chaucer's day,
and from Tyndale's learned rendering, was retained; the lofty poetry
of the ancient prophets was echoed in English as stately, balanced,
and harmonious; and if it be said that the English does not represent
"the speech" of any one age in the life of England, we may reply that
the original texts also are the work of a thousand years in different

  Pulpit Eloquence.

  It has often been remarked that sermons, in the sixteenth and
  seventeenth centuries, "discharged one part of the function of
  the modern newspaper" (though this is more true of Scotland than
  of England), and that sermons, where published, were a favourite
  form of reading. That is proved by their abundance in country
  house libraries, where old sermons usually occupy much valuable
  wall-space, as they cannot be sold, and present an imposing array
  of calf-backed volumes. Our space does not permit us to do more
  than name the famous preachers of the Elizabethan age, such as
  Lancelot Andrewes (1555-1626), Bishop of Winchester under James
  I; James Ussher, Archbishop of Armagh (1581-1656), a man of
  varied learning who arranged the chronology of the Bible; Bishop
  Joseph Hall (1574-1656) and Donne whose prose has many of the
  merits and defects of his age.

[1] To take a very simple instance, a critic, observing that Hector,
in the "Iliad," slays some men who lived on the road from Thessaly to
Boeotia, infers that Hector's exploits are a record of the wars of
a tribe advancing in that direction. But he entirely overlooks the
"contradictory instances," those in which Hector spears men from other
remote parts of Greece.



It may have occurred to the reader that the words which Ben Jonson
quoted about Shakespeare, _Sufflaminandus erat_--he flowed so freely
that he needed stopping--indicate the great fault of Elizabethan and
Jacobean Literature. The authors did not know where to stop. The age
was luxuriantly rich in genius; and was over-wealthy in new ideas,
gained from Greece, Rome, France, Spain, and Italy; from the clash of
religions, the discoveries in the new world, and the re-discoveries
of the treasures of the old world. What the English poets did
not re-discover was the Greek lucidity, brevity, condensation,
and orderliness. Even in plays of Shakespeare these graces are
lacking: even Shakespeare's construction is not his strong point.
The intellectual wealth of the poets tempted them to prolixity; the
abundance of their ideas provoked them to that fashion of "conceits,"
of comparisons between the things most remote in heaven, earth, and
the world of fancy. There was a taste which reappears now and then
in literature, from early Icelandic poetry to Browning and George
Meredith, for wilful abruptness, harshness, and obscurity. But
industrious prolixity is not the fault of Donne, whom we now approach:
his error lay in harshness, obscurity, and a measureless indulgence in
conceit. Through these the light which is in him is darkened. Meanwhile
rank over-abundance, the inability to stop, renders Daniel and Drayton
and Phineas Fletcher burdensome, while Giles Fletcher crowds with
conceits and points of wit a poem on the most sacred theme. These poets
are not now commonly read, except in selections of their best things,
and such selections give no idea of their pervading faults. When we
extend our knowledge of the authors, and mark the formless character
of the age in poetry, the sudden appearance of Milton indicates as
great a miracle of genius as the existence of Chaucer, Spenser, and
Shakespeare in the throng of their contemporaries.

John Donne was born in London, in 1573. His father was an eminent
ironmonger, of a Catholic family; his mother's kin, the Heywoods, had
suffered much from Protestant persecution. One of them was the writer
of Interludes which amused the melancholy of Mary Tudor. John entered
Hart Hall, Oxford, later Magdalen Hall, in 1584, he also studied at
Cambridge, and entered Lincoln's Inn in 1592. A portrait of him in 1591
shows a young man holding the hilt of a very large rapier, and wearing
a large earring shaped as a cross. He has a look of audacity, perhaps
of sensuality, with a tinge of melancholy. He seems at this time to
have studied the controversy between Catholics and Protestants, and in
his "Epistle" (rhymed heroic couplets) we perceive that he was of no
fervent piety, but rather a doubter. His satires appear to have been
written about 1593. They are obscure, and the versification is bad,
apparently of set purpose. Often the reader is puzzled to guess how a
line is meant to be scanned, the natural rules of accent are set at
defiance, as Ben Jonson remarked. Probably Donne aimed at imitating
Persius, the obscure young Roman satirist. The satires can scarcely
be read except by curious students tracing the evolution of Donne's
thought and style.

In 1596 he sailed with Essex to the victory over Spain at Cadiz. Before
starting he wrote one of his poetical "Elegies" to a lady with whom he
had an intrigue. In 1597 he went on "the Islands Voyage" with Essex,
to capture plate ships. He experienced a tempest, was driven back to
Falmouth, wrote "The Storm," and later, in the Tropics "The Calm". The
men are roasted by the sun and bathe, then

         from the sea into the ship we turn,
    Like parboiled wretches, on the coals to burn.

The poems are rude in versification and exaggeration, but most vivid
are their pictures of Nature and the sea. Returning in the autumn of
1597, Donne is supposed to have travelled in Italy and Spain, if it be
not more probable that he visited these countries in 1592-1596. If Ben
Jonson rightly said that Donne wrote "all his best pieces of verse"
before he was 25, they must have been finished by 1598. They were not
printed till 1633, but circulated in manuscript.

Probably most of the pieces in his "Elegies" and "Songs and Sonnets"
were composed in his tempestuous youth. The amorous conceits in "The
Flea" are equally rich in ingenious fancies and in bad taste. "Woman's
Constancy" and many other poems have the same moral burden as

       'T was last night I swore to thee
    That fond impossibility,--

to be constant. The sun is chidden for too early rising--

    Go tell Court-huntsmen that the King will ride,--

but leave lovers undisturbed. In "The Indifferent" he brags that he
can love all sorts and conditions of women, like Lord Byron and other
amorists. He finds in himself "something like a heart," but rather
rumpled. Of a later period, when he met his future wife, may be a
charming song,

    Just such disparity
As is 'twixt air and angel's purity'
'Twixt women's love and men's will ever be.

But the Elegies address ladies of whose nature purity is no part, and
it may be admitted that the confessions do not win admiration for
Donne's taste and temper, not to mention his morals, when he wrote
them. "The Curse" on a woman, or a man who loves his mistress, far
outdoes the Epodes of Horace in cold ferocity. "The Bait" contains
remarks on the cruelty of angling which must have vexed Izaak Walton to
the heart. "Love's Deity," opening with the charmed lines

    I long to talk with some old lover's ghost,
         Who died before the God of Love was born,

thence descends into crabbed and difficult conceits. Two songs, "The
Funeral" and "The Relic," are on a bracelet of his mistress's hair:
whoever exhumes the poet's body will find

    A bracelet of bright hair about the bone.

These verses of Donne's disturbed and adventurous youth, poems
ingenious, conceited, passionate, mystical, or cynical, have not the
music as of birds' songs which rings in the lyrists of that age: nor
have the Epithalamia the charm of Spenser's. Donne in youth was not
at ease with himself: he speculates too curiously. He may try to play
the sensualist, but there is a dark backward in his genius; there
are chords not in tune with mirth and pleasure. He is as unique as
Browning, as little like other poets. If his Elegies contain, as has
been supposed, the story of a love affair, it was of a nature to make
him uneasy.

In 1597 Donne became secretary of the Lord Keeper, Sir Thomas Egerton,
and met his niece, Anne More, daughter of Sir George More, Lieutenant
of the Tower. He married her secretly at the end of 1601, and therefore
was imprisoned in the Fleet jail, in February, 1602, thanks to the
lady's angry father, who soon after forgave the young lovers.

By 1601 he had begun "The Progress of the Soul," or "Metempsychosis,"
the adventures of a soul "placed in most shapes,"[1] for example, in
that fabulous and mortuary weed, a mandrake, in the roe of a fish, in a
sparrow, and so forth, all to little purpose. He was unemployed, eager
for employment, given to writing long letters, and laments for deaths
in verse, and he assisted in a controversy with the Catholics.

Now come such more or less theological works as "Pseudo-Martyr,"
"Ignatius His Conclave," and "Biathanatos": the first (1610) is
addressed to the King, who finally induced Donne to take holy
orders. "Divine" poems he also wrote, but he was not anxious to be a
professional divine. Donne's conceits were daring to the border of
profanity. A visit to Paris with his patron, Sir Robert Drury, while
Mrs. Donne was about to become a mother, was marked by a telepathic
experience--Donne saw his wife, then in England, with a dead baby
in her arms. Walton says that the day of the vision was that of the
child's birth and death, but the dates do not bear out the statement.
Walton's remark that Drury sent an express messenger to England, to
inquire about Mrs. Donne, is certainly untrue.

In honour of a daughter of Drury who died young, Donne had written
two extraordinary poems: "The First Anniversary" of the decease was
published in 1611, "The Second Anniversary" was written in 1612. There
seemed reason to fear that Donne would celebrate Miss Drury, whom he
had never seen, once a year, while his life endured. The poem as a
whole is "An Anatomy, of the World, wherein, by occasion of the death
of Mistress Elizabeth Drury, the frailty and decay of this whole
world is represented". Donne indulges in an exaggeration of hyperbole
equalled only by the ancient Irish bards who sang the feats of
Cuchulainn. For example, when Elizabeth joined the Saints

    This world in that great earthquake languished,
    For in a common bath of tears it bled,

an allusion to Seneca bleeding to death in a bath full of hot water.
This manner of hyperbole flourished after Donne's time, infecting
Crashaw and others,

    For there's a kind of world remaining still,

as Donne admits. Poetry on the deplorable brevity of life and the
instability of things may be excellent, and that instability is the
theme of Donne, but Mistress Drury is harped upon too much, and Donne
was taking this paragon on trust:--

           she whose rich eyes and breast
    Gilt the West Indies and perfumed the East.

It is impossible to understand how a poet, now of the mature age of
thirty-nine, could write in this fashion if he had any humour.

"The Second Anniversary" dwelt on the incommodities of the soul in this
life, and her exaltation in the next. Donne says that the world still
has a semblance of life, as when the eyes and tongue of a decapitated
man twinkle and roll, while

He grasps his hands and he pulls up his feet.
       So struggles this dead world,

without Elizabeth, whom Donne never saw! There are good lines such as

    Her pure and eloquent blood
    Spoke in her cheeks,

and the satiric remarks on

    A spongy slack divine,


    Drinks and sucks in th' instructions of great men.

In return for these poems Drury housed and took care of Donne and his
large family. The poet now became the adviser of the Earl of Somerset
in the hideous suit of nullity, and, when things went against Somerset,
who had done nothing for him, Donne proposed to publish his poems in "a
few copies". "I apprehend some incongruities in the resolution," and
indeed, as Donne at this moment intended to take holy orders, which
he did in January, 1615, he was wise in breaking his resolution. He
now obtained some clerical appointments, but in August, 1617, lost his
wife. There is little doubt that his grief changed him from a worldly
man into a man of heartfelt piety, the man whom Izaak Walton knew and

His "Holy Sonnets," written at this time, have some noble almost
Miltonic passages, mingled with lines that cannot be made to scan, and
with hyperbolical conceits. Thus, though

        Thou my thirst hast fed,
    A holy thirsty dropsy melts me yet.

He requests the American explorers to lend him "new seas," so that he
may drown his world in tears of penitence. He makes "yet" rhyme to
"spi_rit._". The excuse made for such things is that Donne thought
Elizabethan poetry too dulcet.

He is a poet by flashes, which are very brilliant with strange coloured
fires. He is not really so obscure as he is reckoned: he _can_ be
understood, though Ben Jonson, who "esteemed him the first poet in the
world in some things," added that "Donne from not being understood
would perish".

Donne died on March 31, 1631. His poetry, styled by Dr. Johnson
"metaphysical," exercised an influence not wholly favourable on his
successors; happily it did not affect Lovelace and Herrick.

Minor Lyrists.

In the Elizabethan age it might almost be said that every man was his
own poet. The name of poet became a term of contempt, as we learn
from Ben Jonson and other sources. Of the best lyrists we have spoken
in treating of the dramatists, of Sidney, Raleigh, and the chief
sonneteers. Another sonneteer is Thomas Watson, an Oxford man, and
allied to Spenser's circle (15571592). His "Hecatompathia" (1582)
and "Tears of Fancy" (posthumously published) are sonnets, either
informal or formal in structure; the "Hecatompathia" mainly consists of
translations from modern languages. Watson had learning and some skill,
but not much natural music in his soul.

Henry Constable, a Yorkshire man and a Catholic, may have been born
about 1562 or earlier, judging by his degree taken at Cambridge in
1580. He passed much of his life abroad, and, on his return, part of
it an the Tower, in the last years of Elizabeth. His sonnets ("Diana,"
1592-1594) are pleasing, more tunable than many sonnets of his own and
the succeeding age. Others have been exhumed from manuscript; some are

Willoughby's "Avisa" (the sonnet sequences usually bore girls' names)
would be forgotten but for the magic initials "W. S." and allusions to
W.'s love affairs. He may have been William Shakespeare; or he may have
been Walter Smith, or William Smith, author of another such book as
"Avisa," "Chloris" (1596). With him may pair off Lynch, with "Diella,"
and Griffin with "Fidessa," love-sonneteers.

Richard Barnfield (1574-1627), an Oxford man, was fertile in 1594-1598,
publishing "The Affectionate Shepherd" (1594), "Cynthia" (1595), "The
Encomion of Lady Pecunia" (1598). The Shepherd is much too affectionate
for Christian and Northern tastes, in the style of Virgil's second

                that horrid one
    Beginning with _formosum pastor Corydon_,

as Byron describes it. In "Cynthia" he enthusiastically admires
Spenser. If he wrote the sonnet "If Music and sweet Poetry agree,"
which appears in poems published with "Lady Pecunia," and the charming
"As it fell upon a day" (often ascribed to Shakespeare), in the
miscellany "England's Helicon," Barnfield was among the true lyrists of
his time. "Lady Pecunia" is a satire on what wealth can do, and "The
Complaint of Poetry for the death of Liberality," a satire on what it
does not usually care to do. He made experiments in English hexameters:
after the age of 24 he ceased to write or ceased to publish.

Thomas Campion (died in 1620) was, fortunately, a more persevering
poet. Though his name was hardly known to modern readers till of
recent years, because his lyrics were mainly published with music of
his own composition, he was one of the most exquisite and delightful
singers in the whole of English literature. Born in London, he went in
1581 to Peterhouse, Cambridge, left in 1585, and entered Gray's Inn
in 1586. Five of his poems appear in a Miscellany of 1591: his Latin
poems are of 1595. In 1601 appeared his first "Booke of Ayres," the
music by himself and his friend Philip Rosseter. In 1602 he put forth
"Observations on the Art of English Poesie," written, strange as it
appears, in favour of verses in quantitative metres, without rhyme.
He had taken the degree of Doctor of Medicine: he also wrote (1613)
three Masques, one was for the wedding of the Princess Elizabeth, "the
Queen of Hearts," another was for the shameful nuptials of the Earl of
Somerset and Frances Howard, stained as they were with vice, vulgarity,
and murder. Campion's later "Bookes of Ayres" are of 1612 and 1617. He
died in March, 1619-1620.

Some of Campion's lyrics may have been suggested by and adapted to his
own music, in other cases he composed the music for his own words. He
employs a great number of metres, all tunable: with him music and sweet
poesy agree. To think of these songs, as Thackeray said of some of
Scott's novels, is to wish to run to the bookshelves, take them down
and read them. Nothing can be more charming than the verses on "The
Fairy Queen, Proserpina," and "Give Beauty all her right,"

      Silly boy,'tis full moon yet,
      Thy night as day shines clearly,

    Now let her change I and spare not!
    Since she proves strange, I care not!

    Kind are her answers,
    But her performance keeps no day,
    Breaks time, as dancers
    From their own music when they stray.


Michael Drayton (born at Hartshill in Warwickshire, 1563, died 1631)
is a poet of nearly the same character and calibre as Daniel (of whom
later), with the same beginnings as a sonneteer, the same prolixity
in versifying history, and the same steady laborious cast of mind.
From the age of 10, as he tells us, he was bent on being a Poet, and
like greater poets, Burns, for example, he was usually inspired by
some model, which, unlike Burns, he did not transfigure and excel. His
earliest work, "The Harmony of the Church" (1591), contains rhymed
paraphrases of Biblical songs and prayers. Drayton, like Milton,
addresses the Heavenly Muse, singing "not of toys on Mount Ida, but of
triumphs on Mount Sion". Thus from Exodus XV., the triumph over Egypt,

    The Lord Jehovah is a Man of War,
        Pharaoh, his chariots, and his mighty host,
    Were by his hand in the wild waters lost,
        His captains drownèd in Red Sea so far.

In 1593 appears his "Shepherd's Garland". Spenser had made shepherds
fashionable; and eclogues were the mode. In one, "Beta," Queen
Elizabeth was praised; in another, Sir Philip Sidney was lamented.
The work, with improvements, was republished in 1606. The ballad of
Dowsabel was a pleasant and fortunate addition. Anne Goodere, later
Lady Rainsford, a daughter of Drayton's patron, Sir Henry Goodere, is
the person named Idea, in the sonnets collected under that title. If
the one famous and immortal sonnet,

Since there's no help, come, let us kiss and part,

be really by Drayton, he here showed mastery; and the addresses to
Idea may not be mainly fanciful. Another sonnet on rivers, Drayton's
favourite theme in the "Polyolbion," identifies Idea's home--so far
she was certainly a real person. But there are critics who deny to him,

    Since there's no help, come, let us kiss and part.

It has even been attributed to Shakespeare, because of its excellence.

Following Daniel's "Complaint of Rosamond," Drayton versified the
stories of Piers Gaveston, Matilda, daughter of Lord Robert Fitzwater,
Robert Duke of Normandy, and "The Great Cromwell" (Thomas). Like
Daniel, he gave little sack to a monstrous deal of bread, in a close
following of prose chronicles. "Mortimeriados" (1596) is another
legend, in rhyme royal, of the wars of the barons against the
second and third Edwards, later recast as "The Barons' Wars," in an
eight-lined stanza. "The English Heroical Epistles" were a following
of the Letters of Ovid's heroines; there are twelve lovers and ladies,
each writes a letter and receives a reply. Rosamond, Jane Shore, and
Geraldine are, naturally, among the ladies. Drayton employs the rhymed
decasyllabic couplet, and adds learned notes, comparing, for example,
the Maze of Rosamond to the Cnossian Labyrinth of the Minotaur in
Crete. The verses are curiously modern in some places.

The poet now did work for Henslowe and the stage. Like Daniel he wrote
a panegyric of the new King, James VI and I, in 1603: it brought him
no advancement, and in the next year he made "The Owle" the mouthpiece
of a satire, opening with the outworn dream-formula which had so long
haunted verse.

In 1606 he attempted odes: the best known is on "The Virginian Voyage":
Virginia is a paradise, doubtless the laurel is indigenous, and Drayton
foresees a Virginian poet (possibly Edgar Poe, in a way a Virginian).
By the famous patriotic "Ballad of Agincourt," Drayton holds his most
secure title to popularity.

He had long been working at his "Polyolbion," in which the rivers of
England, and the great events which occurred in their valleys, are
celebrated. The first thirteen books were published in 1612-1613.
Drayton's best Muse is the patriotic. He was not encouraged by the
reception of the book (reprinted with twelve new songs in 1622), and
unhappily he stopped at the Cumberland Eden, and did not, like Richard
Franck in prose, celebrate the Scottish rivers from the Debatable Land
to the Naver. Drayton's ambling Alexandrine couplets are, at least,
interesting to the angler, for he has a minute knowledge of even such
burns as the "roaring Yarty" (mark the _Yar_, as in Cretan and Greek
Jardanus, Yarrow, and the Australian Yarra-Yarra) and the troutful
Mimram, which he calls the Mimer. Had Drayton spoken more particularly
of the streams, and been less copious in endeavours "the battle in to
bring," battles Celtic, or of the many civil wars, his poem would have
more attractions. History, copious and minute, is a stumbling-block
to poetry in Drayton, and as to history, the public, he says, "take a
great pride to be ignorant thereof": "the idle humorous world must hear
of nothing that savours of antiquity".

Perhaps the idle world was more kind to the playful poem "Nimphidia"
(1627) where Titania, to the wrath of Oberon, wooes a new Bottom,
Pigwiggen. The tripping measure is that of Chaucer's "Sir Thopas": the
Fairy Queen's equipage is thus described,

    Her chariot of a snail's fine shell,
    Which for the colours did excell,
    The fair Queen Mab becoming well,
        So lively was the limning:
    The seat the soft wool of the bee,
    The cover, gallantly to see,
    The wing of a py'd butterflee,
        I trow, was ample trimming.

The venerable and undefeated singer returned to pastoral, "The Quest of
Cynthia," and (1630) gave "The Muses' Elizium," full of pretty innocent
ditties, while "Noah's Flood" is naturally in a more solemn strain, as
are "Moses, His Birth and Miracles," and "David and Goliath". These
prolix paraphrases do not greatly improve on the heroic prose of
Genesis and Samuel.

Drayton died in 1631, and was buried in Westminster Abbey, but not in
the Poets' Corner.


Samuel Daniel is one more of the poets whose names linger on in
histories of literature because they were contemporaries of Shakespeare
and Spenser and may more or less have "taken Eliza and our James". A
privately printed edition of 150 copies of Daniel's works (edited by
Dr. Grosart) keeps his laurels green in such abundance as his intrinsic
literary merits deserve. He seems to have been born near Taunton about
1562-63: his father is described as a music-master; he was at Oxford
for three years or thereabouts. He published a translation of a tract
by Paulus Jovius, "of rare inventions both military and amorous called
Imprese," in 1585. He was patronized by "Sidney's sister, Pembroke's
mother," and resided at Wilton, where she received much literary
society and he may have enjoyed excellent trout-fishing in the Nadder
and the Wily. In 1591 he "commenced poet" with twenty-seven of the
stereotyped love sonnets (not in the regular Petrarchian form) which
appeared unsigned in Nashe's edition of "Astrophel". In 1592-1594,
three editions, emended, were published; the collection is entitled

    So sounds my Muse according as she strikes
    On my heart-strings attuned unto her fame.

Probably Delia did not strike her Samuel's heart-strings with much
skill and vigour.

    What though my Muse no honour got thereby,
    Each bird sings to herself, and so will I.

With "Delia" appeared a long and very tedious "Complaint of Rosamond"
(who sleeps in Godstow near Oxford). The piece is in stanzas of seven
lines, and is as woeful as "The Mirror for Magistrates". The abbey
built by "the credulous devout and apt-believing ignorant" was already
ruined by the Great Pillage, and the melancholy place by the grey
waters is Rosamond's only monument. Her ghost left Daniel "to prosecute
the tenor of my woes": there is abundance of moral but very little of
music in Rosamond's "Complaint".

Daniel visited Italy about 1592, and in 1594 published "Cleopatra," a
tragedy in imitation of Seneca, with a chorus.

The chorus commences thus

    Now every mouth can tell
    What close was muttered:
    _How that she did not well,_
    _To take the course she did!_

The prologue and the chorus are the first act. Naturally in Senecan
drama Cleopatra does not commit suicide on the stage. A messenger
narrates the moving incident in two hundred and fifty rhyming verses.

In 1595 appeared the first four books of Daniel's "Civil Wars"; a
fifth book came out in 1599. In 1600 the poet became tutor to Lady Ann
Clifford, but he longed to return to his Muse, and did so in 1602. His
"Civil Wars" were now a Seven Years' War, and he achieved Book VI.
In 1603 he addressed a panegyric to James VI and I, the new King: he
obtained a Court post in connexion with the Queen's Masques, and held
his place and salary till 1618; wrote a History of England, and died at
Beckington, Somerset, in 1619. He had written Masques, and a "Defence
of Rhyme" against the friends of unrhymed verse in classical metres.
His "Civil Wars" are a chronicle in rhyme--he spares neither himself
nor the infrequent reader. Daniel opens by stating that had England
devoted herself solely to fighting abroad, she might have annexed
Europe to the Alps, the Rhine, and the Pyrenees. But this is an error:
in 1429 the tide of English conquest recoiled from the standard of the
Maid, and even before the civil wars at home England had failed to hold
the Loire.

The poem traces civil war from Richard II onwards to Edward IV, and,
as Aristotle rightly said, an Epic poem cannot be written in that way.
Daniel was an excellent man; a most industrious author, and we may say
of him in the words of his own Epistle to Lord Henry Howard,

    Vertue, though luckless, yet shall 'scape contempt,
    And though it hath not hap, it shall have fame.

Daniel had little of the exuberant fantasy of his time; he is
"well-languaged Daniel," and easily intelligible. But even his most
frequently quoted sonnet,

    Care-charmer Sleep, son of the sable Night,

is far from being one of the best of poetic Hymns to Sleep, and his
best gnomic poem,

    He that of such a height hath built his mind,

is far too long.


Sir John Davies, of Tisbury in Wilts, was born about 1569, we may
suppose, if he went to Queen's, Oxford, in 1585. As a young Templar
he is said to have been a brawler, and to have been expelled from the
society for his vivacities in 1598. In 1599 Davies published his "Nosce
Teipsum" ("Know Thyself"), on the nature and properties of the Soul
and on its Immortality. The psychology may be old fashioned, but the
versification is not. Only the best poets of the age could write the
four-lined decasyllabic verses, with alternate rhymes, with the fluency
and harmony of Davies. He has an answer to all objections,

    But still this crew with questions me pursues,
    "If souls deceased," say they, "still living be,
    Why do they not return, to bring us news
    Of that strange world where they such wonders see?"

"Why do not the Esquimaux visit us and tell us about the North Pole?"
Davies replies, not quite convincingly. Henry More or Glanvill would
have answered that souls _do_ return, and made the question one of

Davies's "The Orchestra," on dancing, is extremely graceful, melodious
and ingenious; the stanzas describing Queen Elizabeth dancing "high and
disposedly" are unfortunately lost. Even his acrostics on "Elizabetha
Regina" are charming, and wonderfully varied in ornament and
compliment--as _vers de société_ none of that age are more admirable.

Davies returned to the Temple, rose in his profession, sat in the
House of Commons, was admired by James VI for his poetry, was knighted,
and in 1606 became Attorney-General in Ireland. In 1612 he published a
valuable book on the Irish Question, which should be read with that of

He died after his return to England, Parliament, and the defence of the
cause of an Irish Parliament for Ireland, in 1626.

Giles and Phineas Fletcher.

Drayton and Daniel were not influenced by their great forerunner
Spenser, as were the two clerical brothers and poets, Phineas (born
1582?) and Giles Fletcher (born 1588). They were the sons of Giles
Fletcher, author of "Lida," one of the many collections of sonnets
published in 1593. He was a scholar, a man of business, and a
diplomatist. "Christ's Victory and Triumph" (1610), the chief poem of
the younger Giles is in stanzas one line shorter than the Spenserian;
it begins by observing that

    the Infinite far greater grew
    By growing less,

so that "'twere greatest were it none at all," as in the case of the
other poet whose wound was "so great because it was so small".

Thus does an unhappy point of wit, a "conceit," disturb the reader at
the opening of a poem on the same solemn theme as Milton's "Paradise
Regained". The poet admits us to the Councils of Eternity, and thus
sets forth the topic of his sacred song; the stanza is a fair example
of his manner:--

Ye sacred writings, in whose antique leaves
The memories of Heav'n entreasur'd lie,
Say what might be the cause that Mercy heaves
The dust of Sin above th' industrious sky,
And lets it not to dust and ashes fly?
Could Justice be of sin so overwooed,
Or so great ill be cause of so great good,
That, bloody man to save, man's Saviour shed his blood

The phrase

                   that Mercy _heaves_
    The _dust_ of Sin above th' in_dust_rious sky,

is typical of late Elizabethan mannerism. "Heaves" is used to rhyme
to "leaves"; "the dust of sin" is apparently the redeemed soul, why
the sky is "industrious," except as a kind of pun on the preceding
"dust," is not apparent; we are to wonder why the dust of sin is not
allowed "to fly to dust and ashes,"--in short a solemn and sacred poem
can hardly be written in a style more unhappily out of keeping. When
the fate of fallen man is trembling in the balance, Mercy "smooths
the wrinkles of the Fathers brow," and Justice, observing this with
displeasure (it is like a Homeric quarrel of Athene and Aphrodite!),
throws herself between Mercy and the Father, like "a vapour from a
moory slough," and begins a virulent invective against

    That wretch, beast, caitiff, Monster-Man,

who, in Egypt, is disgracing himself by animal worship, while in Greece,

      Neptune spews out the lady Aphrodite.

    Your songs exceed your matter--

says Giles to other poets,--

                               this of mine
    The matter which it sings, shall make divine.

Alas! the poem, though it has fine occasional passages, some music,
and much energy, is written in a style of conceits, and of ingenious
antitheses, which are wholly out of accord with "the matter". We cannot
but see that the poet, in regard to taste, is wholly lost, is too much
a child of his time, so rich in everything but perception of form and
limit, so fantastically over-adorned in verse as in vesture.

Giles wrote of Phineas as

       the Kentish lad, that lately taught
His oaten reed the trumpet's silver sound.

Phineas did this in his vast allegorical poem, "The Purple Island"
(1633) (the human body). His stanzas are of seven lines, the first
four rhyming alternately, the last three have all the same rhyme.
Both poets imitate Spenser with a difference in stanza, and a notable
difference in genius; both have musical passages, and both anticipate
Milton in their choice of sacred subjects. Quarles saluted Phineas as
"The Spenser of this age". Phineas is the more musical, but also by
far the more lengthy of these Kentish swains. His "Piscatory Eclogues"
follow Spenser's pastorals. They are of a moral tendency and would not
have interested Izaak Walton. The fisher (in salt water there are no
anglers), is born "To sweat, to freeze, to watch, to fast, to toil".
Phineas attacks the indolent clergy, as Milton did.

They are

           a crew of idle grooms,
    Idle and bold that never saw the seas.

It is probable that Milton, as a Cambridge man, and a man with views
like those of Phineas, was well acquainted with the poems of both the
Fletchers, which are in fact the sunken stepping-stone from Spenser to

The puritanism of Phineas's long poem, "The Locusts or Apollyonists"
(1627) preludes to the civil war. The poet will tell

    Of priests, O no! Mass-priests, priests cannibal,


    Thou purple whore, mounted on scarlet beast,

namely the Church of Rome. Satan says,

    Meantime I burn, I broil, I burst with spite,

as the puritans in fact, between fear of popery and hatred of Laud and
his measures, were actually broiling and bursting. Satan, however, is
vexed by the triumphs of Protestantism in England. His fiends form
Jesuits out of matter, "foul hearts, sear'd consciences, feet swift
to blood,"--and all this when Jesuit missionaries were dying under
unspeakable tortures at the hands of the Iroquois. While Catholics were
being hanged in England, and dreaded a massacre in Scotland, Phineas
ends loyally,

    Thrice happy who that Whore shall doubly pay,
    This, royal Charles, this be thy happy meed,--

unhappy Charles who found in the Catholics his most loyal subjects!
It is easy but erroneous to confuse the "Piscatory Dialogues" of
Phineas with his drama, "Sicelides, a Piscatory," acted at King's
College, Cambridge (published, 1631). The dialogue is partly in rhymed
heroic couplets of much fluency and partly in prose; the play is of
a happier date (1614) than "The Apollyonists," and is written "in a
merry pin". Phineas wrote many other things, including a pretty bashful


Richard Corbet (1582-1635) born at Ewell in Surrey, and educated
at Westminster and Christ Church, Oxford, was a merry clergyman,
who laughed at but did not abuse Puritans; was liked at Court, and
successively held the Sees of Oxford and Norwich. In Aubrey's gossip
there are well-known tales about the Bishop's gaieties, and his rhymes
on a tour to Paris and on another in the North were reckoned choicely
facetious. His best poem has lost nothing in the course of time,

    Farewell rewards and Fairies,
    Good house-wives now may say,
    For now foul sluts in dairies
    Do fare as well as they.

There is also a pretty piece to his son Vincent, on attaining his
third birthday. Corbet's humorous pieces have much more vigour than
refinement: his verses were not intended for publication, and did not
appear till ten years after his death.

Sir John Beaumont.

Sir John Beaumont was the elder brother of Francis Beaumont, the
celebrated partner of Fletcher in the drama. He was born (1582) at
Grace Dieu in Leicestershire, was of Broadgates Hall (now Pembroke
College) in Oxford (1596), lived chiefly at his country place, was
created a baronet in 1626, and died in 1628. A sacred poem of his, "The
Crown of Thorns," in eight books, is lost: his "Bosworth Field" with
other pieces was brought out by his eldest son, in 1629, and dedicated
to Charles I. Ben Jonson, in prefatory verses, wrote

    This book will live, it hath a genius
    Above his reader,

Few readers are below the level of the poem, which Ben calls

The bound and frontier of our poesy.

"Bosworth Field" is written in rhyming decasyllabic couplets, which
come near to the measure as later used for heroic and satiric poetry,
though the lines sometimes carry on the sense in the style disused by
Pope. The story of the death of Richard III, disdaining to fly, is
spirited, though it cannot rival the old ballad on the same subject. In
translations from the "Satires of Horace," Beaumont comes nearer to the
model of Dryden and Pope. "An Ode of the Blessed Trinity" is perhaps
the most pleasing of the sacred poems. Beaumont could have taught much
to the Royal Prentice in verse, James I, whom he salutes as his master,

    Your judicious rules have been my guide.

He translated the "Tenth Satire of Juvenal," and wrote many verses to
friends, and elegies.

William Browne, born about 1590-91, of a Devonshire family, went to
Exeter College, Oxford, and to the Inns of Court. In 1613 he published
the first part of his "Britannia's Pastorals," with commendatory
verses, including some, more cautious than usual, by Ben Jonson. The
pastorals have the usual defects of the obsolete kind of composition
and of Browne's own age of conceits. They are extremely prolix, very
artificial, rich in classical allusions, and occasionally in puns. The
rhymed decasyllabic couplets carry on the sense, as was usual before
Waller and Pope.

"The Shepherd's Pipe" is a collection of eclogues and dialogues between
long-winded shepherds, in a variety of metres. The popular tale of the
father's bequests, the ring, cloth, and brooch of magical qualities,
is told in stanzas of seven lines. The swains occasionally conduct
themselves very like "our liberal shepherds"; at other times their
songs of nature and the birds are pretty and pleasing. A pastoral elegy
for Mr. Thomas Elwood is an elegy and pastoral, in these respects alone
it resembles "Lycidas". In "The Inner Temple Masque," taken from the
Odyssey about Ulysses and Circe, the Sirens' song and Circe's charm are
pretty, but not on the highest level of the contemporary lyrics.

About 1624 Browne is said to have been the tutor at Oxford of the Hon.
Robert Dormer, afterwards Earl of Caernarvon, who fell, on the Royalist
side, at Newbury in 1643: the date of Browne's own death is unknown.

His poems seem never to have been popular. In the vast realm of Spenser
can be found all the merits of Browne on a far higher level; and
Browne's defects, for he even drops into the allegoric style which
dominated the latter Middle Ages and seemed immortal, are exceedingly
abundant in all the pastoral verse between Spenser and Milton.

George Wither (1588-1667) was one of the poets who "wrote too much
and lived too long". Only his song, "Shall I wasting in despair," can
be said to live, despite his pleasant fluency and love of country
contentments in "Philarete" (1622), "Fidelia," and "The Shepherd's
Hunting" (1615). He was among the favourites of Charles Lamb, who
discovered the neglected poet, the laughing-stock of the wits of
the Restoration. He is also highly praised by Swinburne in a most
interesting essay, "Charles Lamb and George Wither". Wither is
sometimes good, always copious.

[1] Was Donne copying a poem by Empedocles?




Robert Burton, author of "The Anatomy of Melancholy," would have
been despised by Overbury both as "a mere Fellow of a House" and as
"a melancholy man," while to Milton he must have seemed one of those
spiritual pastors whose "hungry sheep look up and are not fed," with
sufficiency of sermons. Burton (born 1577) was of a landholding
family, in Leicestershire, was educated at the grammar schools of
Nuneaton and Sutton Coldfield, went to Brasenose, Oxford, in 1593,
and got a "studentship" (the House's name for a fellowship) at Christ
Church. He never married, though he professes himself not ignorant
of love, and he held one living in Leicestershire, and another in
Oxford. He lived to do the work that he was born to do, "The Anatomy
of Melancholy," first published in 1621, with great success and with a
following of later and amplified editions. He escaped the Civil War,
which hit no class of men harder than the clergy, by dying in 1640.

Melancholy, we have seen, was then a literary and social fashion.
Burton analysed it, reduced it to a vast number of classes or
categories, explored all its causes, physical, pathological, amorous,
magical (witchcraft), and "immediately from God"; all its cures, lawful
and unlawful--incantation, prayer, diet, exercise; all its moral
alleviations; all medical prescriptions--blood-letting, purging, herbs;
everything. He made an encyclopædia of melancholy. The reader had but
to ask, "What kind of melancholy is mine, amorous, worldly, witch-sent,
or religious?" look up the right chapter, and forget his gloom in the
huge collection of anecdotes and curious, vast, classic, medical and
pleasantly useless learning. "The Anatomy" was what Thackeray called "a
bedside book," but for the inconvenience of the edition in folio. The
modern reader escapes trouble by using Mr. Shilleto's edition in three
handy volumes. To the modern reader trouble is otherwise caused by the
abundance of Latin, and by endless names of authors whom all the world
has, for the most part not unjustly, forgotten.

Under "Exercise Rectified" will be found matter for Izaak Walton,
matter on angling, from which pastime, says Nic. Heinselius, in his
Silesiographia, the Silesians are so eccentric as to suck great
pleasure. James Dubravius, an author dear to Walton, once met a
Moravian nobleman in waders, "booted up to the groins," but this
unworthy Earl was not angling, he was netting; or, as he described
his pitiful pastime, "hunting carps". In England, says Burton, many
gentlemen wade "up to the armholes," but not after salmon, not in
Frank's "glittering and resolute streams of Tweed" with salmon rod in
hand. They are "hunting carps," a fish that loves the mud, a kind of
ground-game. Burton admires "false flies," he does not appear to have
used them much. But he is always wise, so much so that he steals the
contemplative man's consolation (when his creel is empty) _without
acknowledgment_, from the charming passage in the "treatise pertaining
to fish," printed by Wynkyn de Worde in 1496. This treatise influences
all angling books, Leonard Mascal's, Walton's, and the rest.

Burton cannot have been a melancholy man; he was too laborious in
omnivorous reading, and in writing was so copious and so pleasantly
successful. His face, if his portrait at Brasenose be authentic (the
ruff seems of an earlier date), is that of a pleasant old humorist.
He is charitably disposed towards suicides; we know so little! He
leaves them to the measureless mercy of Him who, understanding all, can
pardon all. He is a very serious consoler of persons under religious
despair; perhaps Cowper studied him unavailingly, Bunyan probably did
not try his cures. It is vain, he says, to reason with the insane,
the hallucinated, "who hear and see, many times, devils, bugbears,
and Mormeluches, noisome smells, etc.". He has prescribed for these
curses when they arise from normal "internal causes". Sapphires,
chrysolites, carbuncles may be worn by the afflicted: "Pennyroyal, Rue,
Mint, Angelica, Piony" may be exhibited. There is no harm in trying St.
John's wort. The physician of the Emperor Augustus relied on betony.
Where spirits haunt, fumigations are useful.

A stout Protestant, Burton has no belief in exorcisms, though
Presbyterians used them in the eighteenth century. The clerical father
of the poet James Thomson tried exorcism on a ghost, but failed, and
was slain by a ball of fire, says legend.

    Ye wretched, Hope!
    Ye that are happy, Beware!

ends Burton.

Burton's style is admirable, if we do not weary of very long sentences,
weighted with a dozen references to his queer authorities. But the art
of skipping can meet the occasion, and Burton can write as tersely as
any man when he pleases. If Burton left his rural parish to a curate,
he preached well and wisely to the largest of congregations. If he
really were, at heart, a melancholy moping man, he found happiness in
the long task of his life; the book which teaches the lesson of the
Vanity of Melancholy.

Herbert of Cherbury.

Born in 1583, the brother of George Herbert, the poet, Lord Herbert of
Cherbury is best remembered for his curious and amusing autobiography
(edited and published by Horace Walpole in 1764). Wealthy, beautiful,
and, by his own account a desperate swordsman, Herbert was deaf in
childhood, spoke late, and then asked his nurse how he had come into
this world; for an answer to this problem "I could not imagine," and
no wonder. He pursued his reflections on the theme of birth and death
in Latin verse' and in prose. His soul, he averred, had developed
faculties "almost useless for this life," hope, faith, love, and joy.
They must therefore be destined to higher employment upon subjects
not transitory, "the perfect, eternal, and infinite". But he was not
orthodox, his "De Veritate," and "Religio Laici," both in Latin, are
deemed heretical.

He was privately educated till he went to University College, Oxford,
where he preferred Greek to Latin composition. While he was a very
young undergraduate his father died, and he was married. He was
all accomplished; astrology and medicine, many languages and music
were mastered by him, with fencing, of course: he dilates on the
fencer's need of good feet and eyes, on the "lunge," and on equestrian
duels. Having provided himself with a family, Herbert went abroad,
distinguished himself at the siege of Juliers under the Prince of
Orange, snubbed de Balagny, a great French duellist, behaved like a
paladin, and writes of himself like a Bobadil. His triumphs with the
sex are equally celebrated, and a husband who deemed himself to be, but
was not "injured," lurked, to murder Herbert, in Scotland Yard, not now
a favourite ambush for criminals. In the fight that followed of one
man against five, Herbert, with a broken sword, fought in a manner to
be described only by himself or Alexandre Dumas. If he fought like _le
brave Bussy_, he was also favoured by a miracle like Colonel Gardiner,
a miracle sanctioning the publication of his book, "De Veritate" (1624).

In 1629 he became a peer of England: in later politics he deserted the
cause of Charles I: finding himself at 60 (1643) extremely debilitated,
and quite disinclined to draw his sword. He died in 1648: his "History
of Henry VIII," much praised by Horace Walpole, was published in
the following year. His verses, in which he uses the metre of "In
Memoriam," were never so popular as his brother George's, but his
autobiography is highly diverting in its exhibition of character.


Thomas Browne, best known as Sir Thomas Browne, came of a Cheshire
family. He was born in London on 19 October, 1605. Early left
fatherless, "he was, according to the common fate of orphans," says Dr.
Johnson, "defrauded by one of his guardians," who seems to have lacked
opportunity to strip the orphan absolutely bare. Browne was educated
at Winchester, went on to Broadgates Hall, Oxford, graduated (1629),
travelled in Ireland, took a doctor's degree at Leyden; is said to have
practised medicine at Halifax, and about 1637 settled at Norwich for
the fifty remaining years of his life.

His earliest and probably his most popular book, the "Religio Medici,"
appears to have been written about 1635-1637. Several transcripts
existed; in 1642 one of them, imperfect enough, was printed without
Browne's knowledge and consent, and was criticized by Sir Kenelm Digby
and others. Browne therefore issued an authorized edition, and the work
was extremely successful both in England and on the Continent.

Naturally this confessor of his private ideas about religion was
attacked on all sides, as an atheist, a papist, a deist, by the
scribblers of the hostile sects. Browne, in fact, was a Christian who
did not, as at that time was especially common, regard hatred of all
who differed with him about a surplice or a sermon as a holier thing
than the virtue of charity.

In his preface he says that almost every man suffers by the Press,
and that he "has lived to behold the highest perversion of that
excellent invention," the King defamed, the honour of Parliament
impaired, a flood of printed falsehoods submerging everything, and
carrying erroneous copies of Browne's private papers into the market.
Browne opens his work by declaring that, in spite of his profession
(and of the proverb, "one doctor out of three is an atheist"), he
is a Christian, and a tolerant Christian. "Holy water and crucifix
(dangerous to the common people) deceive not my judgment, nor abuse my
devotion at all. ...I should violate my own arm rather than a church;
nor willingly deface the name of saint or martyr. At the sight of a
cross or crucifix I can dispense with my hat, but scarce with the
thought or memory of my Saviour."

At Norwich in the Cathedral the Puritans publicly destroyed and burned
all works of art (including the organ), which they were pleased to
regard as monuments of idolatry: a bitter sight for Browne. "I have
no genius to dispute in religion," says he. As for "sturdy doubts and
boisterous objections, wherewith the unhappiness of our knowledge too
nearly acquainteth us, more of these no man hath known than myself;
which I confess I conquered, not in a martial posture, but on my
knees". In that world of frenzied pamphleteers, "hating each other
for the love of God," the charm and fragrance of Browne's style, the
"_peace! peace!_" which, like Falkland, he "ingeminates," his refined
humour, and smiling pitying sympathy, and curiosity about all things
knowable, made his book delightful; and delightful to readers tolerant
of exquisiteness in manner the "Religio Medici" can never cease to be.

We are astonished, to-day, as much by the things which Browne knows,
or believes, as by those which he does not know and does not believe.
"I do now know that there are witches" has a surprise in it, but
what does he precisely mean by "witches"? "I think at first a great
part of philosophy" (science) "was witchcraft." Here he agrees with
modern writers who regard magic as an early and uninstructed sort of
science. He believes in guardian angels, but his "metaphysics of them
are very shallow," and, in modern terms, what he believes in is "the
subconscious self". As for hell, "the heart of a man is the place the
devils dwell in... Lucifer keeps his court in my breast. Legion is
revived in me."

In short this good physician is a mystic: "we must therefore say that
there is something in us that is not in the jurisdiction of Morpheus...
we are somewhat more than ourselves in our sleep; and the slumbering of
the body seems to be but the wakening of the soul!" a very old belief
of the Greeks.

In "Pseudodoxia Epidemica," "Vulgar Errors" (1646), Browne's manner
somewhat resembles that of Burton, but his medley of strange stories,
scientific, pseudo-scientific, or plainly superstitious, is even more
entertaining and much more carefully and artfully written than "The
Anatomy of Melancholy". He consciously aims at harmony and balance of
style, and at selecting the right word (_le mot propre_), while he
ranges over all ancient knowledge and modern fable. "Many and false
conceptions there are of mandrakes," and Browne thinks but little of
them, and less of the false etymologies from which his age had not
delivered itself. He is engaged, like the scholar in Lytton's novel
"The Caxtons," on a "History of Human Error," and with his humour,
sympathy, learning, and irony, he makes a most entertaining book.

His "Urn Burial" with "The Garden of Cyrus" (1658) begins with
antiquarianism, and ends with the famous passages on the vanity of
desiring "to subsist in lasting monuments". "But Man is a noble animal,
splendid in ashes, and pompous in the grave, solemnising nativities and
deaths with equal lustre, nor omitting ceremonies of bravery in the
infamy" (infimy?) "of his nature." "The Garden of Cyrus" concerning the
mystic virtues of the quincunx (like _cinq_ in dice) is more fantastic
and Pythagorean. The motto for the posthumously published "Christian
Morals" might be selected from one line in its counsels,

    Yet hold thou unto old Morality.

It wears better than the new article!

To know Browne's works is no small part of a liberal education. He
lived in quiet and opulence, "his whole house and garden being a
paradise and cabinet of rarities," says Evelyn; he was much occupied in
correspondence with the learned and with his eldest son, and with local
history, till his death on 19 October, 1682.

Charles II had dubbed him knight at Norwich in 1671. Charles, in Dr.
Johnson's phrase, had skill to discover excellence, and virtue to
reward it, with such honorary distinctions, at least, as cost him



The greater part of Milton's prose works is so deeply concerned with
politics, mainly religious or concerned with Church government, that
it cannot easily be criticized without controversial interruptions,
here out of place. His earliest important piece (1641) treats of the
Reformation in England. It had never come up to Strafford's standard,
_Thorough_, never shaken off "the rags of Rome"--that is Milton's
theme. Nor, in Scotland, had reformation really been more successful,
for the preachers claimed at least all the powers of the priests over
the liberties of the subject.

Milton at once attacks that which, to Laud, was part of "the beauty
of Holiness," Jewish and Catholic survivals of "fantastic dresses,
palls and mitres, gold and gewgaws fetched from Aaron's old wardrobe".
"The piebald frippery and ostentation of ceremonies" the Church styled
"decency"; Henry VIII "stuck where he did". Under Edward VI, if his
sister Mary were not to be persecuted most righteously, who were the
slaves that interfered to secure for her liberty of conscience? Who but
Bishops! Bishops were therefore "followers of this world," they always
were and always will be. You reply that they, Cranmer and Latimer, were
also martyrs? Well, says Milton, "What then?" A man may "give his body
to the burning and yet not have charity". The Bishops had not charity,
clearly, or they would have aided in depriving the Princess of freedom
of conscience. Elizabeth, aided by Bishops, persecuted Puritans, but
then Puritans _have_ a right to freedom of conscience, for themselves,
and a right to prevent other people from exercising the same privilege.
If there are to be Bishops they must be of popular election, but when
preachers with powers in some respects greater were elected by the
people in Scotland, Milton did not approve of them either.

His next important tract, The Apology for Smectymnuus (five preachers,
Marshal, Calamy, Young, Newcomen and Spurstow, who had attacked
Episcopacy), is of 1642. Bishop Hall, who, in youth, had boasted that
he was the first English satirist, had replied to the Five in his
Defence of the Remonstrance; Milton had answered; Hall in his turn
published "A Modest Confutation," and Milton's Apology for Smectymnuus
ensued. The adversary had made scurrilous remarks, had attacked
Milton's manners and morals, quite causelessly, in the controversial
fashion of the age. Milton replied that his adversary was a "rude
scavenger," and then gave that account of his own way of life in youth
which lends its value to this passage in the discussion. He had never
haunted "bordelloes," houses of ill-fame; he calls the women who keep
them "prelatesses". A Bishop, to Milton, is a male of the same species.
As for the theatre he had seen his fellow-students act at college,
"prostituting the shame of that ministry, which either they had, or
were nigh having, to the eyes of courtiers and court ladies...." He
had always, he declares, been a remarkably pure young man; hence his
life-long love of romances of chivalry, where every knight is bound by
oath to defend, with his life if need be, the chastity of ladies. "The
first and chiefest office of love begins and ends in the soul," he says

We need not dwell on his "Doctrine and Discipline of Divorce," written,
it seems, a few weeks after his hapless marriage in 1643. If all men
were Miltons and all women worthy of them, his doctrine of freedom of
divorce would not have thorny consequences.

His "Tenure of Kings and Magistrates" was published in February, 1649;
Charles I had been slain on 30 January of that year. It is desirable,
in a history of Literature, to "keep King Charles's head out of the

In the "Areopagitica" (1644) Milton, defending freedom of printing
against these friends of liberty, the then dominant Presbyterians, in
many passages gives us the prose of a great poet. Here is a passage
which must have irritated the Puritans who were not so after the manner
of Milton.

"If we think to regulate printing, thereby to rectify manners, we must
rectify our recreations and pastimes, all that is delightful to man.
No music must be heard, no song be set or sung, but what is grave and
Doric. There must be licensing dancers, that no gesture, motion, or
deportment be taught our youth but what by their allowance shall be
thought honest: for such Plato was provided of. It will ask more than
the work of twenty licensers to examine all the lutes, and violins,
and the guitars in every house; they must not be suffered to prattle
as they do, but must be licensed what they may say. And who shall
silence all the airs and madrigals, that whisper softness in chambers?
The windows also, and the balconies must be thought on; there are
shrewd books, with dangerous frontispieces, set to sale; who shall
prohibit them? shall twenty licensers? The villages also must have
their visitors to inquire what lectures the bagpipe and the rebeck
reads, even to the ballatry, and the gamut of every municipal fiddler,
for these are the countryman's Arcadias and his Monte Mayors." The
famous sentence "I cannot praise a fugitive and cloistered virtue"
is familiar to all memories, but such things are not common in his
prose: the search for the limbs of slain and mutilated Truth compared
to the search for the fragments of "the good Osiris" by Isis, might
not have been written had Milton remembered the details of that savage
fable, common to ancient Egypt and the Australian Arunta. His cause
has triumphed, as triumph it must, in a world where no all-wise and
infallible Licenser of Books can be found.

"The defence of the people of England" in answer to Salmasius's
"Defence of the King," had not, perhaps, the right client. It was not
the People of England who slew the King. Milton tells his own story of
that unhappy reign (in "Eikonoklastes," his reply to "Eikon Basilike,"
attributed to Charles, really, as is believed, by Gauden) it may be
read with more profit in the history of Mr. S. R. Gardiner. Milton
declares the charge against the Scots of "selling their king" to be
"a foul infamy and dishonour". The Scots, every soul of them who had
a touch of chivalry, took up the sword to cleanse the blot, died on
the field, or on the scaffold, or were sold as slaves, or were starved
to death in Durham Cathedral. There are, in short there could not but
be, noble and harmonious and stirring passages in Milton's prose; but
poetry was his native language, and his themes were such as to place
sobriety of view, and delicate discrimination of good and evil almost
beyond his power. For, as Argyll said, of himself, he was "a distraught
man in distraught times". Otherwise Milton, the proudest of men, would
not have answered railing with railing.

Jeremy Taylor.

Among the pulpit orators of the seventeenth century, none has left a
name more fragrant than Jeremy Taylor. His devotional works, such as
"Holy Living," and still more "Holy Dying," are still in the hands of
the devout. But it is not easy to suppose that many readers who are
not profound students of style in prose often read the many volumes
of sermons, works of casuistry, and works of controversy which Jeremy
has left. He is not of our world or way of thinking; he dwells, for
example, on "special" and easily distinguishable "providences". Now
when a tempest flooded a river, so that Montrose's men could not cross
and despoil the lands of a contemporary of Jeremy's, Brodie of Brodie,
that devout Covenanter confided to his journal the occurrence of this
"special providence". But when the river fell, and Montrose crossed
and drove the kye, Brodie remarks in his journal that we ought not to
interpret the Divine Will, for we may be mistaken. Jeremy insists on
his own interpretations. "From Adam to the Flood, by the patriarchs
were eleven generations; but by Cain's line there were but eight, so
that Cain's posterity were longer lived: _because_ God, intending to
bring the flood upon the world, took delight to rescue his elect from
the dangers of the present impurity and the future deluge." In the
same way Abraham lived five years less than his son Isaac, and Jeremy
knows why. "The Jewish doctors" inform him that the idea was to prevent
Abraham from seeing "the iniquity of his grandchild, Esau". Later,
speaking of other times and lands, Jeremy says that "such fancies do
seldom serve either the ends of truth or charity,"--for which he has
the highest Authority in the Gospel.

We are no longer apt to reason as Taylor does about the Patriarchs, or
on hundreds of other points, and this cannot but diminish our pleasure
in reading his books. But he pleases us, exactly as Burton does in
"The Anatomy of Melancholy," by illustrations drawn from his amazing
knowledge of books. Thus, immediately after the passage last cited,
he says "Pierre Cauchon died under the barber's hand: there wanted
not some who said it was a judgement upon him for condemning to the
fire the famous Pucelle of France, who prophesied the expulsion of the
English out of the kingdom. They that thought this believed her to be
a prophetess" (as she certainly was), "but others that thought her a
witch, were willing to find out another conjecture for the sudden death
of the gentleman." "The sudden death of the gentleman" is a courteous
phrase to apply to Cauchon; and very unexpected in "The History of the
Life and Death of the Holy Jesus". But whence did Jeremy get his story
of Cauchon? From the Latin hexameters of Valerandus, a book so entirely
out of the common way that perhaps not three persons in the England of
to-day have read it.

So our author runs on, telling of "that famous person and of excellent
learning, Giacchettus of Geneva," whose morals were not Genevan,
while his death was, in an extreme degree, remarkable. Jeremy more
than once insists that many thousand men were slain, in one night, in
the Assyrian camp, for committing the offence of that famous person,
Giacchettus. Nobody has ever found out his authority for his statement;
he may have learned it "from the Jewish doctors". In any case, however
entertaining and instructive his divine works may be, he often raises a
smile which he never dreamed of provoking. Other times, other tastes!

Jeremy Taylor was born under James VI and I, was the son of a barber
in Cambridge, and was baptized on 15 August, 1613. Unless he was
christened two years after his birth, it is not plain how he could
have been in his fifteenth year when (August, 1626) he was admitted to
Caius College as a sizar (at Oxford, "servitor"); Jeremy's eloquence
attracted the notice of Archbishop Laud, who had him made a Fellow of
All Souls, Oxford (1636). At Oxford, a Cavalier University, Jeremy
studied casuistry, the topic of his large book "Ductor Dubitantium," a
Guide to the Doubting. In 1638, Jeremy obtained the cure of souls at
Uppingham, and in the same year preached, in the University pulpit, a
Guy Fawkes Day sermon. In 1639 he married. In 1640, Laud was impeached
of treason; in 1642, as chaplain, Jeremy served under the standard of
King Charles. Parliament abolished Bishops; Jeremy defended Episcopacy
("Of the Sacred Order of Episcopacy"). In February, 1645, he was
captured in a Royalist defeat, but was protected by Lord Carbery,
and became his private chaplain at Golden Grove in Carmarthenshire,
where he was safe from the persecution of the friends of freedom of
conscience that called themselves "the godly". At Golden Grove, though
far from what had been his library, he wrote "An Apology for Liturgy"
(abolished by Parliament in 1645). In 1647 appeared his "Liberty of
Prophesying," a plea for toleration. Such pleas always came from
the religious party which was being persecuted, though, even when
persecuted, the Covenanters always denounced "the vomit of toleration,"
their aim being, in power or out of power, to force all mankind to
be presbyterian covenanters. The frenzy of armed religious fanatics
made Taylor, like Falkland, as described by Clarendon, "ingeminate
peace! peace!" But he himself was to be in prisons often, under the
persecution of the Commonwealth, and when he unhappily became, under
the Restoration, Bishop of Dromore in a covenanting part of Ireland, he
replaced the Presbyterian ministers by Anglican clergymen.

Taylor's plea for toleration was an offence to all parties. These years
of the King's disasters and death must have been bitterness to Taylor.

He now composed his work "The Great Exemplar," a Life of Christ,
filled with persuasions to godliness, with reflections far fetched
but charmingly phrased, and he did not disdain legends destitute of
scriptural authority. "In the country of Thebais, whither they first
arrived, the child Jesus being by design or providence carried into a
temple, all the statues of the Idol gods fell down, like Dagon at the
presence of the Ark, and suffered their timely and just dissolution
and dishonour." The book makes no attempt at criticism, and is of an
immense length: in those days "a great book" was not deemed "a great

He also wrote his manual of devotion, "Holy Living" (1650), followed
in 1651 by the more charming "Holy Dying". Sermons for each week in
the year, sermons preached at Golden Grove, appeared in 1653. In 1655,
"Unum Necessarium," a treatise on repentance, was thought less than
orthodox, and gave displeasure to the retired bishop to whom it was,
without his permission, dedicated. Jeremy had his doubts as to whether
Man, after the Fall, was so abjectly and utterly corrupt a creature
as other divines held him to be. From 1655 onwards he suffered much,
losing his refuge at Golden Grove, reduced to extreme poverty, and
now and again imprisoned. In 1657 he lost two young sons. He wrote
a work on Friendship for a very friendly lady, Katherine Philips, a
poetess, called "The Matchless Orinda"; in this he quoted the ancients
freely. Later, unfortunately, he was employed in Ireland as chaplain
to Lord Conway at Portmore, and was much disturbed by the Presbyterian
preachers. Then came the Restoration (29 May, 1660), and by 6 August,
Taylor was sent to the Irish bishopric of Down and Connor, and
Dromore, where he was so troubled by the Presbyterians that he asked
the Duke of Ormonde to let him withdraw to "a parsonage in Munster"; or
to reorganize Trinity College, Dublin. But, after ejecting a number of
the Presbyterian ministers, he died in September, 1667, worn out, it
may be, by the civil and religious ferocities of his time.

Taylor's writings are by no means all of them very copiously decorated
with ornaments of style, and musical with organ tones of language. Even
when highly decorated, and when the music of his periods is prolonged,
his sentences are lucid. "So have I seen" (thus he introduces his
similes), "a rose newly springing from the clefts of its hood, at
first it was fair as the morning, and full with the dew of heaven, as
a lamb's fleece; but when a ruder breath had forced open its virgin
modesty, and dismantled its too youthful and unripe retirements, it
began to put on darkness, and to decline to softness and the symptoms
of a sickly age; it bowed the head and broke its stalk; and at night,
having lost some of its leaves and all its beauty, it fell into the
portion of weeds and outworn faces." It is not Herrick's and Ronsard's
lesson of the roses; with Taylor it is a persuasion to piety, nor is
any preacher more sweetly persuasive. But Jeremy, though he wrote a
work to persuade the Irish Catholics of the errors of Rome, did not
alter their doctrines, and, as to them that are "the godly party,"
"the good people of God," he speaks his mind thus: "They may disturb
kingdoms, and break the peace of a well-ordered Church, and rise up
against their fathers, and be cruel to their brethren, and stir up the
people to sedition; and all this with a cold stomach and a hot liver,
with a hard heart and a tender conscience, with humble carriage and a
proud spirit."

Preaching to "the little but excellent University of Dublin," Taylor
laid before them every way by which men, since the Reformation, had
sought religious peace and had failed to find it. The last way was
toleration, "a way of peace rather than of truth". "If we cannot have
both, for heaven's sake give us peace," was the view of some good men,
but, as each sect thought that it possessed truth, each, as it had the
opportunity, tried to make peace by forcing the others into conformity.
The godly "are not content that you _permit_ them; for they will not
permit you, but rule over your faith, and say that their way is not
only true, but necessary". Taylor gave his own counsel thus, "the way
to judge of religion is by doing our duty; and theology is rather a
Divine life than a Divine knowledge.... Let your adversaries have no
evil thing to say of you, and then you will best silence them...."
Leighton tried this method in Scotland, Taylor in Ireland, but who can
number "all the horrid things they said" about these prelates in both

Other Anglican divines can scarcely be treated within our space, of
these Robert South (born at Hackney, 1634, and educated at Westminster
and Christ Church) lived till 1716. He was in controversies often, and
a rather tart critic of both Fuller and Jeremy Taylor; he had much
force and not a little wit. Chillingworth, Hales, and others, are to
us little more than shadows of great names, with Isaac Barrow, equally
great in Greek and mathematics, and a preacher whom Charles II could
hear with pleasure. Richard Baxter (1615-1691), whose conscience after
the Restoration caused him to throw in his lot with the Nonconformists,
by his "Saints' Everlasting Rest" (1650) won and deserved popularity;
he shared with Glanvill and Henry More the love of a good ghost story,
and has left on record an excellent death-wraith. Ralph Cudworth
(1617-1688) and Henry More (1614-1687), in verse and prose a mystic and
a Platonist or Neo-platonist, are still dear to a fit though limited

Thomas Fuller.

Thomas Fuller, born (1608) like Dryden, later, at the village of
Aldwinkle, is a writer of the same group as Jeremy Taylor and Sir
Thomas Browne: that is, his manner is quaint and his matter is full of
learning from all quarters. Though a Royalist and in orders, during the
Civil War, he was not an extremist; and his humour and love of a jest
qualified him for the post of a chaplain in a Cavalier army.

No great harm befell him when the Royal cause was ruined, but he died
(1661) too soon after the Restoration to be rewarded or disappointed.
His "Holy and Profane States" (1642) is a set of sketches of historic
characters; most readable, especially in the first edition, with the
curious engravings. Despite the vivacity of Fuller's most popular work,
he is but little read, in face of the hearty commendations of Charles
Lamb, a critic who imparted his own merits to all his favourites.
Fuller never could resist a joke, a humorous parallel or allusion; and
in works on serious subjects, "The Worthies of England," and "Church
History," his severe contemporaries detected more than "a little
judicious levity". Fuller loved antiquarian details and historical
study, but history to history as Amurath to Amurath succeeds, and
Fuller is read, when he is read, for his quaintnesses and for the
humour that runs away with him.


It is impossible, within our space, to give an adequate account of the
life and works of Thomas Hobbes. Born in April, 1588, when his mother's
fear of the Spanish Armada is said to have hastened his appearance in
this world, Hobbes lived into the reign of terror of the Titus Oates's
Plot, in 1679. He was born at Malmesbury, the son of an unlettered
clergyman, and, about 1603, went to Magdalen Hall, Oxford, where he
liked neither the puritanism of the seniors, nor the roistering ways
of the juniors. He took no interest in logic and philosophy as then
taught in Oxford, and is said to have never seen an Euclid till he was
middle-aged. It might have been better for him had he never seen Euclid
at all. Taking his degree in 1608, Hobbes became tutor in the family of
the Earls of Devonshire (Cavendish), and, with a few interruptions, was
their obliged friend till he died at Hardwick Hall, built by the famous
"Bess of Hardwick," the she-jailer of Mary Queen of Scots.

Hobbes travelled with his pupil, making the acquaintance of foreign
men of science. In England, in 1629, a man of 40, Hobbes published his
first book, a translation of the great Athenian historian, Thucydides.
The English is excellent, but the translation is extremely free, and
of no use to the reader who desires a "crib," or literal version. The
ideas of Thucydides about the qualities of a democracy, as in Athens,
were congenial to Hobbes, while the task of rendering into idiomatic
English a writer so condensed as Thucydides, combined with study of the
other classics, and practice in Latin prose composition, made up for
the indolence of his youth. In 1631 he became tutor to the new young
Earl of Devonshire, and gave him an admirable education, including law,
astronomy, logic, rhetoric and the "opinions of a good Christian".

In 1634 he went to Paris, Florence, and Rome with his pupil, returning
to England in 1637. He now, at 55, began to reckon himself as a
philosopher in a kind of metaphysics, and physics about which he did
not know much. An unfortunate accident had led him to read "Euclid,"
Book I, proposition 47. "Begad," said Hobbes, "this is impossible!"
He pursued his studies, found out that it was possible, and became
convinced that it is also possible to square the circle. Easy as it
seems, this feat has never been accomplished with pedantic accuracy,
and Hobbes, from about 60 to 80, was engaged in controversy on the

Oxford mathematicians, annoyed by his attacks on the University,
replied with scientific precision, and such banter as mathematicians
enjoy when they would be merry among themselves. In this long war,
Hobbes was mercilessly handled, partly by way of discrediting his
ideas in politics and religion. He had laid out for himself a system
of the Universe, "Of the Body," "Of the Man," "Of the Citizen". In the
political storm and stress of the Great Rebellion he wrote, in Latin,
his book of "The Citizen," "De Cive," much of which he had already
done, with other such work, in English.

These papers had been circulated; Hobbes thought himself in danger--it
was "time for him to go," and in 1640 he fled to Paris. He hated
Puritans without loving Bishops. In 1642 he published "De Cive"; he
then turned to philosophy, and next worked at his great work on the
relations of rulers and ruled, and on religion, called "Leviathan". In
1646-1647 he tutored Charles, Prince of Wales, in Jersey, and Charles
always liked him as a witty companion.

In 1647, believing himself to be on the point of death, he behaved in
an orthodox manner. To the witness, Dr. Cosin, later Bishop of Durham,
he always referred when his orthodoxy was doubted. When Charles I
had been slain, in 1649, Hobbes, who in 1650 had published his "Human
Nature," the briefest Statement of his general view of mankind, thought
of returning home, for now a Government, that of Cromwell, was firmly
seated, and Hobbes's main political principle was "settled government".

By 1651 he had "Leviathan" fairly written out as a present for Charles
II in Paris. But the King's advisers thought it a most unholy book (not
that Charles himself cared, or had a bad opinion of Hobbes); he was
rebuffed; he was afraid of being murdered for his religion (which, says
De Quincey, "is a high joke; Tom Hobbes afraid of suffering for his
religion!") and he fled back to England.

Hobbes, by 1655, had published his "De Corpore," and with that and
"Leviathan," his most popular work, his philosophy of the Universe was
before the public. He gives his natural history of religion, as (saving
Christianity), the result of curiosity about First Causes, belief in
ghosts (of which he is said to have been afraid), of superstitions
about luck, and of priestly imposture designed to keep men in order.
In politics he believes in an imaginary state of Nature, or anarchy,
from which men, who are naturally equals, sought shelter in a contract,
never to be broken, with a sovereign power, in fact with the State,
though Hobbes prefers a single despot. The sovereign is supreme in
religion as well as in secular matters, and Hobbes hates nothing more
than the so-called "Kingdom of Christ" of the Presbyterian preachers,
which really, he says, means their own domination. Hobbes's general
doctrine, with its reservations and subterfuges, cannot be discussed
here: it made enemies for him in every camp, religious and political,
and now his unlucky mathematics were fallen upon, while he had an
endless controversy with Bishop Bramhall on the Freedom of the Will.

At the Restoration Charles II renewed his friendly intercourse with
his old tutor, granting, him a pension, when Hobbes could get it paid.
In 1666 he was threatened with a persecution for heresy, and went to
church, but did not wait for the sermon.

His "Behemoth," a history of the Civil War, was suppressed by the King,
and was posthumously published. He translated the "Iliad" and the
"Odyssey" into very poor verse; he wrote his autobiography in Latin
verse, and was still writing in 1679 when he died on 4 December.

The style of Hobbes is lucid and succinct, without added ornaments.
He had a clear idea of what he wanted to say, though inconsistencies
appear as his mood varied, or as his argument led him into difficult
places. His ideas provoked many replies which pervade English
literature for long after his death; but such exercises in psychology
and metaphysics belong rather to the history of philosophy than of
literature. The doctrine of Hobbes is not optimistic. "When all the
world is overcharged with inhabitants, then the last remedy of all is
War, which provideth for every man, by victory or death." The idea is
that expressed in a Greek poem "the Cypria," of about 750 B.C.
Hobbes thought himself an authority on Epic poetry, among other things,
and especially commended, in Davenant's "Gondibert," the really
pleasing passage which describes the birth of love in the heart of
Bertha. Hobbes expanded his ideas about the Epic in his translation of
Homer. We do not know what he thought of "Paradise Lost".

Izaak Walton.

Born near Stafford in 1593, Izaak Walton went to London, lived in
Fleet Street, two doors west of Chancery Lane, and was in business
as an ironmonger. Donne the poet was then vicar of the neighbouring
church of St. Dunstan's; Walton and he became friends: Walton was
also intimate with Hales of Eton, Sir Henry Wotton, Bishop King, and
Ben Jonson. In 1640 Walton's brief life of Donne, already quoted, was
published. In 1651 Walton had the dangerous task of carrying secretly
to a Royalist in London the smaller George jewel of Charles II, after
the King's crushing defeat at Worcester, on 3 September. A Royalist and
a sound Churchman (his wives were of the families of Cranmer and Ken),
Walton's natural cheerfulness, his sincere religion, and his habit of
angling "with N. and R. Roe," were needed to keep him from melancholy
in the evil days of 1642-1660. But he, for a writer of his age, is
strangely free from the melancholy then in fashion, and his "Compleat
Angler," first published in 1653, might have been composed in days of
idyllic peace. This famous work is too well known to need description
or praise. The natural history is as fantastic as that of Euphues,
the instructions on angling come from a mere fisher with bait, but
the beauty of the style, the sweetness of the thought, keep the book
fresh as with lavender and rosemary. To later editions Charles Cotton
and Colonel Venables added practical instruction on fly fishing, up
stream, in clear water like Cotton's own Dove in Derbyshire. The brief
biographies by Walton of Donne, Wotton, Herbert, Hooker, and Sanderson
are little masterpieces in their manner.

Walton lived in old age at Farnham with Bishop Morley and then at
Winchester where he doubtless fished with worm in the pellucid streams
of the Itchen. Walton's connexion with a pastoral poem "Thealma and
Clearchus," is of doubtful nature. Was he author, or did he edit
the work of Chalkhill? He died at the age of 90, and is buried in
Winchester Cathedral. Byron is almost the only critic who has thrown a
stone at the kind memory of Izaak Walton, to which Wordsworth devoted a

John Bunyan.

The two writers of this period whose works now come most closely home
"to men's bosoms and business" are John Bunyan and Izaak Walton. Copies
of the little plain volumes clad in sheepskin which they published at
a shilling or eighteen-pence, fetch spurns like £1000, more or less,
when they come into the market. The masterpieces of both are constantly
being republished, and though perhaps few people have a fairly good
knowledge of the contents of "The Pilgrim's Progress," or "The Compleat
Angler," yet most people have had these works in their hands.

The popularity of Bunyan, the non-resisting ever-preaching Dissenter;
and of Walton, the angling Churchman, rests to a great extent on their
characters. Differing as they did about the right of Bishops to exist,
and about Justification by Faith, could the two men have met, and kept
off these topics, they would "have had good talk". Each had abundant
humour, each was a keen observer of Nature and of human nature, each
was a lover of peace, each had a modest little fount of poetry within
him. Of each it may be said, as of Scott, "he is such a friendly
writer," and each is plain and intelligible, Bunyan had no artifices
of style, though Walton sometimes, by study, is able to rival the
harmonies of Sip Thomas Browne.

Bunyan, who came of a very old landed family which had steadily lost
all its lands to the last acre, was born in a cottage at Elstow, near
Bedford, in 1628. He was taught reading and writing; and pursued his
father's trade--that recommended by Mr. Dick for David Copperfield,--he
was a brasier, or tinker, but not a wandering tinker. In early youth
he was a leader in sports and games; you would have said "he wasna
the stuff they made Whigs o'". Far from that, a native genius for
expression first declared itself in his being "the ungodliest fellow
for swearing"--which was not recognized as a literary exercise. He
was under arms, like other lads of his age, but we have no reason to
suppose that he was ever under fire, and his militia (Parliamentary,
probably) was soon disbanded.

In his "Grace Abounding for the Chief of Sinners" (1666) he writes his
religious autobiography; a work composed in prison, to which he was
consigned because he would not cease to be instant in preaching. "The
Philistines understand me not," he says in his Preface. He writes for
lowly devotees, "Have you forgot the Close, the Milk House, the Stable,
the Barn, and the like where God did visit your souls,"--with "terrors
of conscience and fears of Death and Hell?" Even in his joyous youth,
Bunyan had dreamed of "devils and wicked spirits," which probably did
not trouble Shakespeare or Walton. At 9 years old he suffered from
the nightmares that haunted R. L. Stevenson. His book is the most
vivid description possible of the life of an imaginative lad, standing
between gross pleasures and terrors of hell. A Voice and an Appearance
came to him while playing at a kind of rudimentary cricket: he went on
playing, but fell into religious hypochondria. The vividness of his
imagination conjured up such scenery as he uses in his great Allegory:
he beheld comforting words "that seemed to be writ in _great_ letters,"
and so at last found consolation in faith.

Thus, and in his conflicts against the magistrates, he acted and
suffered, in his youth, all the adventures of his own Christian and
Faithful, in "The Pilgrim's Progress" (published in 1678). He left an
unfading picture of some elements in English society: seventy years
later he might have been a Fielding. "He was a born novelist," it has
been said: but the novels of his day were the interminable romances of
the French type of Scudéry. His "Grace Abounding" is as brilliant in
its way as the "Confessions of Saint Augustine". His secular characters
in "The Pilgrim's Progress" are as good, by way of sketches, as are the
finished portraits in "Tom Jones".

In 1680 he published "The Life and Death of Mr. Badman"; in which Mr.
Wiseman gives convincing reasons for his opinion "that Mr. Badman has
gone to Hell". Mr. Badman, in life's gay morn, like St. Augustine, had
"great pleasure in robbing orchards and gardens". "The beginning of
the Lord's Day was, to Mr. Badman, as if he was going to prison." As
for his eloquence he was "a _Damme_ Blade". In literature his taste
was all for "beastly Romances". In church he either slept or flirted,
like Mr. Pepys. In the long run, Mr. Badman departed from his prodigal
life, "quietly, peaceably, and like a lamb". It cannot be said of
Mr. Badman that he had no redeeming vices; he was ill-tempered and
envious; he occasionally went on the High Toby lay, and his masterpiece
was a fraudulent bankruptcy. Mr. Badman is amusing, but his history,
interwoven with many strong and simple anecdotes of other ruffians,
cannot be compared in merit with "The Pilgrim's Progress," where the
characters are so many and various; the imagination so vivid, many
passages so rich in poetic qualities, and the language so simple. It is
a great prose epic, a great novel of the road; and beside it "The Holy
War" is tame and indistinct.

Bunyan wrote many works, now forgotten, on religious themes, and in
controversial style his weapon was the cudgel. In his later days he was
the most popular of Dissenting preachers. He died just before "King
James was walked out of his kingdom," in 1688. If critics sneered
at Bunyan throughout the nineteenth century, Dr. Johnson, at least,
heartily appreciated the genius of the Non-conformist brasier.

With Bunyan-the student of the religious ferment of England in his age
may well read the "Journal" of the founder of the Society of Friends,
Quakers, George Fox (1624-1691). Like Bunyan, Fox was an untrained
thinker and author; like Bunyan he was persecuted: he had not the
genius, but he had the art of Bunyan in drawing "with his eye on the


Edward Hyde, later Earl of Clarendon (1609-1674) of a Cheshire family,
was educated at Magdalen Hall, in Oxford, and proceeded to the Middle
Temple. He inherited his family's property, was distinguished for his
legal knowledge, sat in Parliament when the strife between the King and
the Parliament began, and took part in preparing the indictment against
the great Strafford. None the less, when a general attack was made
on the order of Bishops, he came over to the King's party, in 1641;
and in 1646 accompanied the young Prince of Wales in his flights and
wanderings, in March, to the Scilly Isles (where he began his History),
and presently to Jersey. He remained with Charles II after the death of
Charles I, and, if he and Montrose had been heard, the young King would
never have disgraced himself by signing the Covenant; and consequently
his Cause would never have been defeated at Dunbar, nor his very life
imperilled after Worcester fight.

Clarendon, seven years after the Restoration, was banished by the
influence of faction, as Thucydides was exiled at an early period of
the war which he chronicles. It is not conceivable that histories
written in such circumstances should be free from partisanship and
bias: in fact no historians are exempt from prejudice.

Clarendon's history was, in the making, somewhat of a patchwork. What
he wrote far away from books and papers, in 1646-1648, depends much on
his memory: the book improves when he obtains contemporary narratives
and letters. In exile, in 1668-1670 he wrote a Life of himself, which
he later interwove with his "History of the Rebellion". Clarendon's
heirs did not permit the publication of his History till 1704, from
regard to the feelings of the descendants of the King's opponents. The
book, in one respect, resembles the History of the Peloponnesian War
by Thucydides. Much of it was written during the actual course of the
events by one who bore a great part in them.

Whether in favour or in exile, Clarendon was too loyal to say all that
he knew and thought about Charles I and Charles II. But when we look at
his pages "touching the Scottish Canons," which preceded the despotic
introduction of the Liturgy, the cause of "the Bishops' wars" (1639),
we perceive, the fairness of Clarendon. He makes it perfectly clear
that these Canons could only be accepted by a people inclined tamely
to endure the worst excesses of tyranny. But, on Scottish affairs,
Clarendon is not always trustworthy; for example he dislocates the
dates as to the General Assembly of 1638, permitted (though he does
not say so) by the King, and the subscribing of the Covenant, which he
places _after_ the Assembly. Mr. Gardiner, a fair historian, speaks
of Clarendon's "usual habit of blundering". In his remarks on the
Catholics, too, under Charles I, Clarendon can scarcely be acquitted of
unfairness; considering how bitterly, in Scotland at least, they were
persecuted under Charles I, and how loyally they stood by him.

However, a historical examination of Clarendon's great work is not here
in place. The occasional defect of his style is the enormous bulk of
some of his sentences. Two occupy two large pages and each contains
some 400 words. Here are structureless agglutinations of parentheses:
with the promising word "lastly" left stranded far from the conclusion.
But such examples are not very common, and Clarendon describes action
and intrigue with lucidity, and especially excels in his set pieces,
delineations of characters, for example of Cromwell[1] and Argyll. His
"characters" may not be exact, of course, but his knowledge of secret
motives was extensive, and such knowledge, if not always accurate, is
ever entertaining. All histories, as sources of knowledge, are sure to
be superseded by the discoverer of new information. But the History
of Clarendon can never cease to be of the highest interest, moral,
political, and personal. He possessed, in his own words, "the genius,
spirit, and soul of an historian," combined with knowledge of great
affairs, important personages, and intrigues of Court.

Among writers of prose of the age it would be ungrateful not to mention
an author so familiar and readable as the gossiping James Howell
(1594-1666) of the "Epistolæ Ho-Elianæ," a favourite bedside book of
Thackeray. Howell was imprisoned by the Puritans, and wrote essays in
form of letters which are full of curious anecdotes and reminiscences
of travel.

Much later comes the prince of gossips, Mr. Samuel Pepys (1633-1703),
whose Diary in shorthand, written for his personal diversion, can
never cease to divert, and, in a way, as a picture of a strange age
and a strange character, to instruct. Each new dip into Mr. Pepys's
manuscript, by each bolder editor, makes us like him less from the
extended candour of his unparalleled confessions, which is a pity.

John Evelyn (1620-1706) depicts the same period as Pepys, as it was
seen by a gentleman of stainless honour, unblemished virtue, and great
curiosity in the arts, and in the nascent science. His Diary is much
more entertaining than his memoir of the Lady in the "Comus" of the
merry Monarch's Court, the lovely and religious Mistress Margaret
Godolphin (_née_ Blague), to whom Evelyn was virtuously devoted.

Roger North (1653-1733), is admirably readable, and very modern in the
tone of his satire of the godly Whigs, in the "Examen,"--when he drops
into slang it is with the careless grace of Thackeray. His "Lives of
the Norths," himself and his brothers, is most interesting.

[1] To him he attributes a coarse pun which might seem more familiar in
the mouth of James I.



It is difficult, or even impossible, to mark out the Caroline from
the Jacobean poets, who, again, overlap with the Elizabethan poets.
The chief schools of the Caroline poets were (1) the writers occupied
mainly with holy things, such as Crashaw, Herbert, and Vaughan.
Next (2) come the crowd of "gentlemen who wrote with ease," now and
then triumphantly well, but often loosely and carelessly, such are
Lovelace, Carew, Suckling, and minor names. Herrick stands by himself
as a consummate lyrist, but his mood is often, though he was a parish
priest, that of the gay cavalier. Marvell had many facets, and Milton,
of course, is apart, a world of poetry in himself.


Richard Crashaw, the son of a controversial Protestant preacher, was
born in London, early in the second ten years of the seventeenth
century. He went to the Charterhouse School and to Peterhouse in
Cambridge, where he took his Master's degree in 1638. His earlier
verses were Latin exercises. He was expelled from his Fellowship at
Cambridge because he would, not take the Solemn League and Covenant,
in 1644: that odd document was forced on men under "the new liberty".
He had written a hymn to St. Theresa while still a Protestant; when
he retired to France he became a Catholic. In 1646 the poet Cowley,
his friend, found him in great poverty, and induced the almost equally
poor exiled Queen of England to use her influence in his favour. He
obtained a canonry at Loretto, where he died in 1649. His poems, sacred
and secular, "Steps to the Temple," were published in 1646; another
edition, with an interesting preface concerning his saintly life at
Cambridge, is of 1648-1649.

Pope, at the age of 22, criticized Crashaw with much superiority; "he
writ like a gentleman" (that is, like an amateur), not "to establish
a reputation". What Pope did in his anxiety to establish a reputation
was not done "like a gentleman". "Nothing regular or just can be
expected from him," "no man can be a poet who writes for diversion only".
Crashaw's pious outpourings were scarcely "writ for diversion," but
things "just and regular" are not his chief care. A fiery vehemence, an
overloaded ornament are his quality and his defect. For example in "The
Weeper" (St. Mary Magdalen) he writes:--

       Not in the Evening's eyes
       When they red with weeping are
            For the Sun that dies,
       Sits Sorrow with a face so fair,
    Nowhere but here did ever meet
    Sweetness so sad, sadness so sweet.

Here he has his style in hand. But when he calls the Magdalen's tears

    Ye simpering sons of those fair eyes

he has certainly found the most inappropriate epithet.

Many of his sacred poems are a kind of brief religious epigrams in
four lines. His "Hymn of the Nativity" is a "_fade_" thing, compared
with Milton's. In longer poems he uses rhymed decasyllabic couplets
with some skill: "On a Prayer Book Sent to Mrs. M." is a good ode in
the irregular verse and conceited manner of the time, but to speak of
what Carew does speak of as Mrs. M.'s "heavenly armful" is to remind
us of a letter of Robert Burns on a purely secular subject. Save for
the Hymn to St. Theresa, with "That not Impossible She," "The Flaming
Heart," and some pretty translations, Crashaw, like all the Cavalier
poets except Carew, is usually on a low poetic level. But in the pieces
mentioned, and above all towards the close of "The Flaming Heart,"

    Singing still he soars and soaring ever singeth.


George Herbert, author of "The Temple," was born on 13 April, 1593; was
of noble descent, and a younger brother of Lord Herbert of Cherbury.
From his fifth to his twelfth year George probably lived at Oxford
with his mother. He then went to Westminster School; thence to Trinity
College, Cambridge (1609), where he obtained a Fellowship (1616) and
early in 1619 was chosen Public Orator. In this capacity he wrote
the letters of the University to kings, princes, and the great in
general who visited it. He became a friend of Bacon and of Bishop
Andrewes, Ludovick, Duke of Lennox, and James, Marquis of Hamilton. As
a schoolboy he had written Latin epigrams against the Hildebrand of
Scottish Presbyterianism, the learned and truculent Andrew Melville,
for whose tyranny in Scotland James VI and I took an unconstitutional
revenge when safe on the throne of England. In a war of Latin verse
Andrew was very capable of holding his own.

Herbert, while at Cambridge, was a somewhat assiduous courtier of
"gentle King Jamie," though we do not know that he gratified the
monarch by adopting the Scottish and continental pronunciation of Latin
and Greek. The death of James probably disappointed any hopes he may
have had of State employment.

In 1627 he resigned his oratorship, and according to Izaak Walton
retired to a country place in Kent where he meditated on the choice of
a secular or saintly life. He preferred the saintly, took holy orders,
lost his beloved mother in 1627, married Jane Danvers in 1629, and was
presented to the living of Bemerton, between Wilton and Salisbury, in
the next year. He died in 1633, and Walton must be consulted for "an
almost incredible story of the great sanctity of the short remainder of
his holy life". On the Sunday before his death he rose, took a musical
instrument, and "sang to it such hymns as the angels and he and Mr.
Ferrar" (of Little Gidding) "now sing in heaven".

His poems, "The Temple," were published in 1633, and their great
popularity is a proof that piety had not wholly deserted the Anglican
Church for the Sects. "The Temple" opens with "The Porch," a series
of moral and religious counsels, in verses of six stanzas. The poem
"Affliction" is autobiographical: at first, in his career, "There was
no month but May". Then came maladies and the deaths of friends

    Whereas my birth and spirit rather took
            The way that takes the Town,
    Thou didst betray me to a lingering book
            And wrap me in a gown...
    Ah, my dear God, though I am quite forgot,
    Let me not love thee, if I love thee not.

Sacred poetry is of all kinds the most difficult. Herbert's is full
of conceits, though he has not the extravagances that mar the work
of Donne and Crashaw. Verses in the shape of altars and of wings are
examples of extreme decadence, but these are rare. Herbert's simplest
poem is his best, the famous

    Sweet day, so cool, so calm, so bright,
        The bridal of the earth and sky,
    The dew shall weep thy fall to-night,
        For thou must die.

"The Pearl" is also of great beauty and autobiographic interest. He
knows the ways of Learning, Honour, and Pleasure, and he has chosen the
better way. The British Church is commended as the Midway between "Her
on the hills" (the Seven Hills) and Her that

             in the valley is so shy
    Of dressing, that her hair doth lie
         About her ears;
    While she avoids her neighbour's pride,
    She wholly goes on th' other side,
         And nothing wears;

better than wearing "rags of Aaron's old wardrobe" said Milton. "The
Quip" hath a certain holy gaiety, as of a ballad. Herbert was not a
great poet, he never storms the cloudcapt towers, and "flaming walls of
the world," like Crashaw. But he has been dear to many holy and humble
men of heart.


Henry Vaughan and his twin brother Thomas were born in 1622, at
Newton St. Bridget, on the Usk, in South Wales, hence he chose to
style himself "Silurist" from the name of the ancient tribe of that
region. There is some confusion between him and his brother Thomas,
who certainly went (1638) to Jesus College, Oxford, while Henry's name
is not on the books. Henry is said to have studied law in London.
In the Civil War he may have taken up arms, at least he saw, if he
did not fight in the battle of Rowton Heath (24 Sept., 1645) and he
commemorates in a poem the courage of a friend, Mr. R. W., who fell on
the Cavalier side. In some humorous verses about a huge cloak borrowed
from another friend he speaks of wearing it during the Royalist retreat
from the Dee, and about the Puritan soldiery that seized him. In a
Latin poem, "Ad Posteros," he says that he merely lamented the war;
in any case he won no laurels and probably shed no blood. "The Bard
does not fight," says a Gaelic proverb. He studied medicine, and lived
retired at Brecknock. His first verses (1641) congratulate Charles I
on his return from Scotland. In 1646 appeared his "Poems," including a
rather tame translation of the Tenth Satire of Juvenal on "The Vanity
of Human Wishes," with some pretty love lyrics to Amoret. Unlike
Suckling and Carew, these volatile hearts,

    I not for an hour did love,
        Or for a day desire,
    But with my soul had from above
        This endless holy fire.

He "courted the mind," not the body.

His volume, "Olor Iscanus" (the swan of Usk) appeared in 1651,
opening with a eulogy of his beautiful native river, in smooth rhymed
octosyllabic verse, mixed with decasyllabic couplets. There are also
epistles to friends, one deplores the antiquated dullness of Brecknock,
another celebrates the matchless Orinda, Mrs. Phillips, and there are
translations from Latin verse.

Vaughan lives, not by these poems, nor by "Thalia Rediviva," but by his
"Silex Scintillans," the sparkling flint, sacred poems of 1650-1655. He
professedly follows George Herbert, being "the least of his many pious
converts". Direct imitations of Herbert are not infrequent in these
hymns, which, like Herbert, sigh for the far-away days when angels sat
at Abraham's board,

    O, how familiar then was heaven!

There is a party who prefer Herbert to Vaughan, another that prefer
Vaughan to Herbert. The Silurist perhaps strikes the higher and the
deeper note, when he does strike it, for all the Cavalier poets,
sacred or secular, blossomed but rarely into perfect and memorable
song: they would excel in an opening verse, in a phrase, but their
full inspiration was occasional. A line like the second in "Vanity of
Spirit" is rare:--

    Quite spent with thoughts, I left my cell and lay
    Where a shrill spring tuned to the early day.

"The Retreat":--

    Happy those early days, when I
    Shone in my angel infancy

is perfect, and has a forenote of Wordsworth's "Intimations of

Like Wordsworth, Vaughan finds the divine near him everywhere:--

    There's not a wind can stir,
        Or beam pass by,
    But straight I think, though far
        Thy hand is nigh.

"Silence and Stealth of Days" is excellent, but never quite recaptures
the charm of the opening phrase. "The Burial of an Infant" has the
purity of a snowdrop: and "They are all gone into the World of Light"
haunts the memory; while "The Timber" is a set of variants on a brief
melancholy note of Homer. There are lovely lines, not unlike Herrick's,
on "St. Mary Magdalen," and her locks,

    Which with skill'd negligence are shed
    About thy curious, wild, young head.

Vaughan lived to see another Revolution, and died in 1695.


Robert Herrick, son of a prosperous goldsmith of a Leicestershire
family, was born in London, in 1591, and for twelve years was an
"Elizabethan," though his poems are "Caroline". In 1607 Herrick was
apprenticed to his uncle; in 1613 entered as a Fellow Commoner at St.
John's, Cambridge, he migrated to Trinity Hall, and took his Master's
degree in 1620. He had friends and patrons at Court, was one of the
sons of Ben Jonson, and lived on his wits and on his patrons, in a
poetical, musical, pleasant idleness. He took holy orders, not in the
spirit of George Herbert, and in 1629 received the living of Dean
Prior, in Devonshire. He did not desert, and probably did not neglect,
his parish, from which he was thrust by the Puritans in 1647; in the
next year his "Noble Numbers," and "Hesperides" was printed in "a rich
disorder"--the lines are on various levels in this most desirable
volume. The frontispiece shows a fleshly, muscular rather Roman-looking
poet to whose lips the bees bring honey. At the Restoration, Herrick
was restored to Dean Prior, where he died in October, 1674.

"Dull Devonshire" he calls the county, in his verses; he did not live
long to resent its rural torpor. His delightful poems are all full of
the country life, they smell April and May. His book is like a large
laughing meadow in early June, all diapered with flowers, and sweet
with the songs of birds, some a mere note or two of merry music, some
as prolonged and varied, though never so passionate, as the complaint
of the nightingale.

    I sing of brooks, of blossoms, birds and bowers,
    Of April, May, of June and July flowers;
    I sing of Maypoles, hock-carts, wassails, wakes,
    Of bridegrooms, brides, and of their bridal cakes.

Everything is sweet, spontaneous, glad and musical. Some pieces are
far from straitlaced of course, but, even setting these apart, "The
Hesperides" hold the greatest and richest bouquet of English songs.
Favourites are "Delight in Disorder," "Gather Ye Rose buds while Ye
May," "Corinna's Going a Maying,"

    To Anthea (Bid me to live and I will live
              Thy Protestant to be.)

    To Meadows (Ye have been fresh and green,
               Ye have been filled with flowers.)

    To Daffodils (Fair daffodils, we weep to see.)

    To Blossoms (Fair pledges of a fruitful tree,
                Why do ye fall so fast?)

and so on; every reader culls and chooses for himself, and cannot go
wrong. Herrick speaks in his "Noble Numbers" of

              my unbaptized rhymes
    Writ in my wild unhallowed times,

but his "Noble Numbers," or poems on sacred themes, show an almost
unregenerate happiness.

The Child of his "Ode on the Birth of our Saviour" is, first of all, a
human child to Herrick, and he was in love with children as with roses.
His "Litany to the Holy Spirit" is extremely human in its foresight of

    When the artless doctor sees
    No one hope but of his fees.

His "Grace for a Child" is a miniature of the pathos of a child's

Of Herrick's epigrams, as of Ben Jonson's, there is no good to be said:
we can only marvel how the poets stooped to imitate the worst faults of
Martial, their Latin model.


Thomas Carew was one of the famous Carews or Careys of the West: his
family was settled in Gloucestershire. He was probably born about 1598:
Clarendon says that he died about the age of 50; and his death was
in 1638 or 1639. His life "was spent with less severity or exactness
than it ought to have been," but he made a good end. He seems to have
been at Corpus, Oxford, where he took no degree; he was Sewer (a Court
office of value), to Charles I, and was among those of "the tribe of
Ben Jonson". His poems were published (1640-1642) after his decease.

Suckling, in his Sessions of the Poets declares that Carew's poems,
were "seldom brought forth but with trouble and pain," in fact he _did_
take trouble, and it is a pity that most of his contemporaries took
none. His "Persuasions to Love" is a most musical version of that old
lesson of the brief-lived rose which is taught by the Greek lyrists
of the Anthology and by Ronsard and Herrick so sweetly, and so often.
"Give me more love or more disdain," "When thou, poor excommunicate,"
"He that loves a rosy cheek," the poems "In Absence," "Mark how the
bashful morn in vain," the "Elegy on Maria Wentworth," "Ask me no more
where Jove bestows," and many other pieces by the lover of Celia, are
admirable in versification, and in their own philosophy, which is not
remarkable for "severity and exactness". Carew never approaches the
elevation of Lovelace at his best, but he perhaps never falls to the
pitch of Lovelace when uninspired. There are graceful turns and songs
in his Masque "Coelum Britannicum" (1634). Carew's verse is a moment in
the development from careless speed towards the less varied and more
"correct" style that passed from Waller to Dry den and onwards.


Richard Lovelace is when at his best the greatest of the Cavalier
poets, and is personally one of the most sympathetic of men. The eldest
son of Sir William Lovelace of "Woolidge" (Woolwich), he was born in
1618, educated at Charterhouse School, and at Gloucester Hall, in
Oxford. He is styled "Adonis" in some pleasant verses by a friend, and,
like that more glorious cavalier, Wogan, as described by Clarendon, was
"accounted the most amiable and beautiful person that eye ever beheld,"
according to the Oxford antiquary, Wood. Under Goring, to whom he wrote
a ringing song of camp revelry, he served in the inglorious expedition
of Charles I to Scotland, in 1639; and wrote a lost play, "The
Soldier". For presenting a Royalist petition from the county of Kent to
Parliament (April, 1642) he was imprisoned for some weeks, and then let
out on bail of £40,000 (?) not to leave the Parliamentary lines.

He and his brothers were devoted to each other, as appears from poems
which passed between them. He provided Francis and William, slain at
Carmarthen, with money and men for the Royal service, and Dudley with
the expenses of a military education. In 1646 he raised a regiment for
the French service, was wounded at Dunkirk, and was reported dead. His
Lucasta, Lucy Sacheverell, then married another man, and, in 1648,
Richard returned to England, and, with Dudley, was taken and imprisoned.

In 1649 be published his "Lucasta," with engravings after Lely (who
signs himself "P. Lilly"), it is a strangely ill-printed little volume.
After the death of Charles I, Lovelace was reduced to great poverty,
and died "in Gunpowder Alley, near Shoe Lane," in 1658. His friend,
Charles Cotton, the pupil and friend of Walton, is said to have helped
to support him. A second part of "Lucasta," containing little of merit,
was published by Dudley Lovelace in 1659.

Like so many of the poets of his day, Lovelace was inspired but seldom,
and, when uninspired fell into sterile conceits and below mediocrity.
His unrivalled poems of true love, "To Lucasta, Going beyond Seas,"
"To Althæa, from Prison," "To Lucasta, Going to the Wars" (strangely
attributed by Scott to Montrose), are beyond praise or rivalry. "Honour
is my Life," wrote Montrose in his Bible; love and honour inspire
Lovelace with faultless and immortal verse. "To Amarantha, that she
would dishevel her hair,"

    But shake your head and scatter day,

is also a charming song; and Suckling could not exceed the cheerful
impudence of

    Why shouldst thou swear I am forsworn,
       Since thine I vowed to be,
    Lady, it is already Morn,
       And 'twas last night I swore to thee
       That fond impossibility.

We can but wish for Lovelace that he had ridden with Wogan from Dover
to the North, and died with the last of the loyal on the hills.


Sir John Suckling, the son of a wealthy man, who held various offices
at Court, was born at Whitton in 1609 (?). Not much is known of his
education, but in town he was one of the tribe of Ben Jonson, wits and
courtiers, such as Davenant, Carew, and Endymion Porter. His "Session
of the Poets" is inelegant banter of his friends. His plays "Aglaura,"
"The Goblins," "Brennoralt," are very decadent in style, and a man
must have a strong passion for the drama who can read them "for human

In Charles's expedition against the Scottish Covenanters, in 1639,
each army occupied itself in observation, Charles at Berwick, Leslie
at Duns Law. The commanders on both sides were dispirited, and if a
troop of horse, equipped by Suckling at great expense, ran away, it
was probably from Kelso, where a small Royalist command was driven in.
We know nothing with certainty, but derisive ballads were made against
the poet's courage, though there never was a braver man than Colonel
Gardiner, whose dragoons on every occasion used their spurs, in 1745.
Suckling died in Paris in 1642; various tales are told of the cause of
his decease.

Suckling is the typical jolly, audacious, amorous, now constant, now
amusingly volatile Cavalier poet. His verses are well made but seldom
so well as Carew's; and though he is not always on pleasure bent he
never approaches the heights of Lovelace. The first edition of his
poems, "Fragmenta Aurea," is of 1646, and the frontispiece exactly
meets our natural theory of Suckling's personal aspect. He looks very
pleasant in his armour. Among his successes in verse are

    'Tis now since I sate down before
    That foolish fort, a heart

    and "A Ballad of a Wedding" (the most charming thing of its
    kind in English poetry):

        Out upon it, I have loved
    Three whole days together,
    When, dearest, I but think of thee,


    Why so pale and wan, fond lover?

It was with very slight trouble that the gay Suckling stormed the gates
of poetic immortality.


William Habington (1605-1654) was of a Catholic family; his father
(of Hindlip in Worcestershire), had suffered on the occasions of
Babington's and of the Gunpowder plots. The poet was educated abroad
(St. Omer's and Paris). He married Lucy, daughter of Lord Powys; his
Muse was the domestic, and he ceaselessly celebrated his wife under
the name of "Castara". His play, "The Queen of Arragon," had some
success. Many of the lyrics to Castara are quite pretty, whether they
be prenuptial or written in wedlock, whether Castara is "sick," or "in
a trance," or beginning to recover, or weeping, or setting forth on a
journey. In lines to the celebrated first and only Marquess of Argyll,
Habington applauds those feats of military daring which History does
not recognize in the vanquished of Inverlochy and Kilsyth. A Catholic
who thought the cause of the Covenant "just," must have had a very
open mind. Wood says, in fact, that Habington "did run with the times,
and was not unknown to Oliver Cromwell". Habington's relations with
Argyll are rather puzzling. In addition to his many poems on his wife,
Habington composed eight elegies on the death of George Talbot, Esquire.


William Cartwright (1611-1643) must have been a most amiable man,
agreeable University wit, and "florid and seraphical preacher". He
passed much of his life at Oxford, being a student of Christ Church;
he was an active military organizer when King Charles and the Court
were at Oxford, he was Junior Proctor, lectured on the Metaphysics, was
lamented by the King and University on his death, and was admired in
his life by Dr. Fell.

His poems are mainly birthday odes, and complimentary addresses to
ladies. In the person of Lady Carlisle he celebrated,

    Masses of ivory blushing here and there,

and he wrote disdainfully of what is called "Platonic" Love. He also
wrote a song called "The Ordinary".


Sir William Davenant (1606-1668) was more interesting as a man, and in
his relations with greater men of letters, than as a poet. His vast
"epic" "Gondibert," concerned with the heroic age of Lombardy, and
written in quatrains of alternately rhyming decasyllabic lines, is a
monument of misplaced ambition. Davenant's father was landlord of the
Crown Inn, at Oxford, and Davenant did not discourage the legend that
Shakespeare was his mother's admirer. At a very early age, Davenant
wrote the briefest of elegiac odes on Shakespeare's death. His best
lyric is

       The lark now leaves his watery nest,
            And climbing, shakes his dewy wings,
       He takes this window for the east,
            And to implore your light, he sings:
    "Awake, awake, the Morn will never rise
    Till she can dress her beauty at your eyes".

Davenant was of Lincoln College, Oxford; was one of the London wits,
and is bantered by Suckling in "The Session of the Poets" for a sad
misfortune. To Lombardy, Davenant turned, in 1629, for the topic of
his tragedy of Albovine, a theme with which poets have rarely been
successful. In 1638 Davenant was made Poet Laureate; he managed a
theatre; in 1641 was accused of being engaged in a Cavalier enterprise,
escaped to France, returned, was knighted (1643) for his services at
the siege of Gloucester; failed, in 1646, to make Charles accept the
terms of the Covenanters, and, after various loyal adventures, was
placed in the Tower (1650). Milton is said to have pleaded for him, and
he, later, for Milton. On the Restoration he was rewarded by the patent
of a theatre, where he produced plays by no means Shakespearean.

He forms a link between the Shakespeare of his childish years, Milton,
and the young Dryden. Waller and Cowley wrote the only recommendatory
verses for his "Gondibert," which is dedicated, with Davenant's ideas
on the Art of Poetry, to Thomas Hobbes. Davenant modestly compared
himself to Homer. He trusts that his verses in "Gondibert" will be
"sung at village feasts," "like the works of Homer ere they were joined
together and made a volume by the Athenian king". A stranger combination
of vanity with erroneous pedantry has seldom been printed.


The name of Abraham Cowley is likely to live as long as histories of
English literature are written, and yet some students who are not
passionately fond of Lydgate would much liefer read Lydgate than
Cowley. To Charles Lamb, on the other hand, Cowley's was "one of the
sweetest names, which carry a perfume in the mention". He was born in
London in 1618, and Dr. Johnson suspected that his father was not only
a Puritan but a grocer.

A copy of "The Faery Queen" which lay on the window-seat of his
mother's chamber is said to have wakened Cowley's ambition. He "lisped
in numbers," and published his verses at Westminster School, whence
he went on to Cambridge. There he is said to have written much of his
Biblical epic, the "Davideis". The poem is in the heroic couplet, thus

    Rais'd with the news he from high heaven receives,
    Straight to his diligent God just thanks he gives
    To divine Nob directs he then his flight,
    A small town, great in fame, by Levi's right.

The poem breaks off at the passage where Jonathan, after fighting all
day, tastes some honey of the wild bees.

To compare with Milton's Satan the Satan of Cowley,

    Thrice did he knock his iron teeth, thrice howl
    And into frowns his wrathful forehead roll

is to perceive that the Cavalier was no match for the Puritan poet in
sacred epic.

Cowley had done much secretary's work for Charles I during the war, he
was employed by the Queen in Paris, and returned in 1656 to England,
where he was arrested, but presently released. He returned to France
just as the star of Molière was rising, came home at the Restoration,
was dissatisfied with such reward as his loyalty obtained, and left
town for a very pleasant house at Chertsey, where he died in 1667.
His set of amatory verses, "The Mistress," holds a high place in
collections. He revelled in what Dr. Johnson called "metaphysical"
conceits. Odes he wrote in great numbers, in imitation of Pindar; one
of them is addressed to the Royal Society and hails the new birth of
divine Science.

Pindaric Odes became a fashion that lasted long, and, in its day,
produced little of merit till Dryden came. Not much of Cowley in verse
is now read for pleasure except the lively and graceful "Chronicle" of
the names of his mistresses. If we could suppose that without Cowley
the great Odes in the language would not have been written, Cowley
might be regarded as an important influence. But when we turn to his
"Praise of Pindar,"

    Pindar is imitable by none;
    The Phœnix Pindar is a vast species alone,

Cowley does not seem very inspiring! But Dr. Johnson held that Cowley
"was the first who imparted to English numbers the enthusiasm of the
greater ode, and the gaiety of the less," while "he left such specimens
of excellence" in versification "as enabled succeeding poets to improve


The poems of Sir John Denham (1615-1669) might, had they perished,
have been reckoned in "the veniable part of things lost". He was of
the Royalist party, and his occasional political rhymes are humourless
libels. In 1642 he published "The Sophy," and surprised the wits, for
he had been best known as a dicer and gambler. In 1642 his "Cooper's
Hill," an early example of local poetry, appeared, and in this was
little of what Dr. Johnson called "the old manner of continuing
the sense ungracefully from verse to verse," which disfigured his
translation of the Second Book of the "Æneid". For restricting the
sense to the couplet, Denham was reckoned with Waller among the
reformers of English poetry.

Four lines of "Cooper's Hill," admired by Dryden, are all that men
remember; he wrote not ungracefully on Cowley, and he succeeded in
getting £10,000 for the Royal cause from the Scottish traders in
Poland. He is no longer, as by Dr. Johnson, deservedly considered as
one of the fathers of our English poetry, "who improved our taste and
advanced our language".

Sherburne, Stanley, Browne, Cotton.

It is customary to mention among English poets of the seventeenth
century Sir Edward Sherburne, Thomas Stanley his kinsman, Alexander
Browne, and Charles Cotton, whose birth and death dates range from 1618
to 1702--Sherburne's life occupied the whole space. All but Cotton, the
latest born (1630), were of the Royalist party. Sherburne dealt most
in translations and sacred verses; Browne in ditties of love, wine,
and politics, with epistles and elegies; Stanley was a scholar--his
amorous verses often approach excellence; Cotton celebrated Chloris
with little inspiration, wrote angling songs, and was the friend of
Izaak Walton, a fact that preserves his name in lavender. He wrote the
part on fly-fishing (in which Walton was no expert) for a late edition
of "The Compleat Angler," and (1681) celebrated in verse "The Wonders
of the Peak," as he had sung the praises of his well-loved river, the
Dove. His "Scarronides or Virgil Travestie," in the manner of Scarron
gave offence to reverent admirers of the "Æneid".


Edmund Waller, certainly the greatest wit of his time (for it would
be sacrilege to speak of Milton as "a wit"), was born at Coleshill
in Bucks, on 3 March, 1606. He was early left a rich orphan, was
educated at Eton, and King's, Cambridge, entered Parliament at 18,
and was familiar with the Court of James I. His first-known poem, on
"The Escape of the Prince at Saint Andero," is in the same correct
and elegant heroic verse as that of his later measures: Waller had at
18 command of the instrument to which Dryden fell heir. Possibly the
poem, with some of his other loyal pieces of almost the same period,
may have been improved by Waller in later days, but his ear was already
as excellent as that of Davies in his "Nosce te Ipsum" or of Fairfax
in his translation of Tasso. Waller had no taste for the venture-some
irregular lines of his contemporaries, and seldom, like so many of
them, drew amorous conceits from the depths of the fanciful science of
the age.

Adulation of people in power from Charles I and his Queen to Charles II
and his Queen, or to Cromwell in "The Panegyric," was the common theme
of Waller. As he is always tuneful and always vivacious he may be read
with interest, whether he congratulates Prince Charles on his escape
from shipwreck, or the King on his fortitude when he heard of the
murder of Buckingham, or Cromwell on his victories, or Mary of Modena
on a tea-party or Monmouth on the defeat of the Covenanters at Bothwell
Bridge. His love verses to Sacharissa (Lady Dorothea Sidney) or to
Amoret (Lady Sophia Murray?) are seldom tedious, and his "On a Girdle,"
and "Go, lovely Rose," and "Tell me, lovely loving pair" are among the
imperishable flowers of the English anthology.

While he lived, and he lived to be 81, Waller always wrote well, nor
was he less distinguished as an orator in Parliament, and a delightful
companion. In the Short and Long Parliaments he appeared as a moderate
member of the Parliamentary party, and opposed the abolition of
Episcopacy. Revolution, not reform, was the winning card; and Waller
slid into what was called Waller's Plot. He organized what may be
called a scheme of constitutional resistance to the King's enemies, but
with this coexisted, as usually happens, a more strenuous and violent
conspiracy under Sir Nicholas Crispe.

The affair was detected on 31 May, 1643, Waller and his brother-in-law,
Tompkyns, were arrested: Waller lost head and heart, confessed all
that he knew, and more that he conjectured; lost honour, and kept his
life at the ransom of a heavy fine, and exile (at Rouen). He made his
peace with Cromwell, who had nothing to fear and something to gain from
him, the famous panegyric of 1654. When Charles returned, Waller's
congratulations were deemed by the King less good than his compliments
to Cromwell. "Poets, Sir," answered Waller, "succeed better in fiction
than in truth." The treacherous politician was forgiven on every side,
the witty poet was welcome in Parliament and everywhere.

Waller's first wife was rich, his second was fertile. When at last
his doctor pronounced his sentence of death, he quoted some lines of
Virgil, and went home to die. John Evelyn had been "his worthy Friend":
to no man were men more charitable than to Waller.

His "Battle of the Summer Islands" is mildly mock-heroic: the
compliments which he lavished on other poets, as to Evelyn on his
translation of Lucretius, outlive their works which he praised. Dryden
esteemed him generously, and all the more because he was judiciously
applauded by Sir George Mackenzie, the "bluidy Mackenzie" of the

With his songs Waller has one foot in the paradise of Lovelace and
Suckling and Carew; as represented by his heroic couplets he almost
enters the Augustan age. Waller well understood the transitoriness of
poetic popularity, shifting with every change of manners, language and

    Poets that lasting marble seek
    Must carve in Latin or in Greek;
    We write in sand, our language grows,
    And, like the tide, our work o'er flows.
    Chaucer his sense can only boast
    The glory of his numbers lost.

Happily the glory of Chaucer's "numbers" has been recovered; nor is
that of Waller's lost: his "sense" sometimes can only be appreciated by
aid of some knowledge of history.


In a sense and as regards the better part of his poetry, Andrew Marvell
may be reckoned among Cavalier poets. He had not, in full measure, the
occasional but unique inspiration of Lovelace, but he is comparatively
free from wanton conceits, and never falls into the abyss. He has,
in addition to the charm of the Cavaliers at their best, a certain
delicacy and reserve, and a sense of natural beauty and a rural
felicity in which they do not abound. He has none of the stains of the

Marvell was born on 31 March, 1621, at Winestead, near Hull, being son
of the parson of Winestead. He went to Trinity College, Cambridge,
at an early age, did not wait to take his Master's degree, and in
1641-1646, travelled widely on the Continent. In 1649 he wrote
commendatory verses to Lovelace's "Lucasta," and in these he speaks as
a sympathetic Cavalier, though, like other quiet people who loved a
settled government, he later addressed Cromwell as "an angel," which
may have made Noll smile grimly. In 1650 Marvell became tutor to the
daughter of Lord Fairfax, the Parliamentary General, but no regicide.
At Appleton House, near Bilborow Hill, Marvell wrote his most charming
poems of country life and innocent loves. He compared the hill to the
delicately pencilled curve of an eyebrow, and assures "mountains more
unjust," such at the Alps, that they "The Earth deform, and Heaven
fright". For more than a century any peaked mountain or rocky eminence
was reckoned "horrid".

Marvell made at this time the acquaintance of Milton, who recommended
him as acquainted with foreign languages and classical literature for
the post of Assistant Secretary: which he obtained in 1657. In the
circle of Government, Marvell learned to appreciate and was induced
to applaud Cromwell on his return from his visit of conquest and
massacre to Ireland. This poem contains the familiar and beautiful
lines appreciative of the behaviour of Charles I on the scaffold. In
1659-1660 Marvell entered Parliament as Member for Hull: in 1663-1665
he went abroad on various embassies, and, after playing the part of
a fierce satirist of the sinners of the Restoration, he died on 18
August, 1678.

His prose satires "The Rehearsal Transprosed" and others (1672-1678)
were inspired by that terror of a restoration of Catholicism, which
flamed up in the cowardly ferocities of Titus Oates's "Popish Plot".
Though a Catholic in sympathy, Charles II knew well that if he
announced his change of religion he would be "sent off on his travels"
again; and to travel he was not inclined. The satires of Marvell
in verse "we still read," says Swift, who speaks of the author's
"genius". It had none of the majesty of Dryden's nor of Pope's polish,
and Marvell is best known for what is best in his poetry: "The Nymph
complaining for her Fawn"; "The Garden," which has much of the
merit of Milton's "L'Allegro" and "Il Penseroso"; "The Mower to the
Glowworms," "Bermudas," "To His Coy Mistress," with its charming
humour; and "The Definition of Love," which scarcely maintains the
level of its first noble stanza. Such poems on divine subjects as "The
Coronet" are reminiscent of Herbert, but less conceited, retaining
Marvell's grace of flowers and gardens.


John Milton, son of a "money-scrivener," was born in Bread Street,
London, on 9 December, 1608. His father, though a Puritan, was in
sympathy with literature, and his wealth permitted his son to devote
himself, as long as he pleased, to studies of many kinds, and to
train himself sedulously for the great poetic task which he deemed
himself "born to do". Milton was thus one of the first of our strictly
professional non-dramatic poets,--like Shelley, Tennyson, Browning, and
Wordsworth[1]--who were able to devote themselves deliberately to the
cultivation of their genius. Milton never wrote for his livelihood,
and, except when he gave himself up to political and theological
controversy, he was always preparing himself for the great poem which
he was determined to make. He entered at St. Paul's School in 1620,
and thence went to Christ's College, Cambridge, where his beauty and
refined morals won for him the name of the Lady of Christ's. He put
on his Master's gown in 1632, and then for six years resided at his
father's place, Horton, in Buckinghamshire, the county of John Hampden.

A man's best poems are usually written before he is 30. Milton was 21
when (1629) he produced the ode "On the Morning of Christ's Nativity".
In this splendid and immortal piece he invokes, as always, "the
heavenly Muse," and, in addition to the beautiful measure of the Hymn,
in harmony rivalling Spenser's, he already strikes his own sonorous
note, as in "The trumpet spoke not to the armed throng," a glorious
combination and harmony of sounds. Here advance

    The helmed cherubim
    And sworded seraphim,

who are, in "Paradise Lost," to make the floor of heaven

    Ring to the roar of an angel onset.

The stanzas on the flight of the ancient classic deities, even the
genius of "haunted spring and dale," and the nymphs, are of a high and
melancholy imagination. But Milton "found the subject to be above the
years he had when he wrote it," and "was nothing satisfied with what he
had done". After deliberately selecting and weighing many themes, for
example that of Arthur, he returned when old, blind, and fallen on what
he deemed "evil days," to the topic of wars in heaven, and man's Fall
and Redemption.

"L'Allegro" and "Il Penseroso" are impeccable early poems. Milton is
not yet so Puritan as to denounce Merry England, "the jocund rebecks,"
the dancing youths and maids, the tales of fairy Mab and the Brownie,
and the stage: if Jonson and sweetest Shakespeare be the playwrights.
Milton was deeply learned in the classics, but there is none of the
pedantry of his age in his allusions to Prince Memnon, or "that
starr'd Aethiop Queen," though now many readers must turn to notes
for information about them. Octosyllabic lines had never before been
written with such variety of grave and gay as by Milton, who in verse
is a supreme master and "inventor of harmonies". Spenser had not his
variety: in Milton's poems, as in his lines "On a Solemn Music"

       The bright Seraphim, in burning row
    Their loud uplifted angel-trumpets blow.

Yet Milton's party in the State set its face like a flint against the
"solemn music" of the churches as against the "joyous rebecks" of the
lads and lasses.

In 1634 Milton produced a masque, the one great and enduring masque
of the many that were played in the halls of princes and peers.
"Comus" was presented at Ludlow Castle, the house of Lord Bridgewater,
President of Wales, and the actors were his family. The Muse is
heavenly, the theme is divine Chastity; there is no such awful
contrast to the purity of the Lady as that which Fletcher, in "The
Faithful Shepherdess," presents in the person of the deplorable Cloe.
As in the plays of Euripides, an explanatory prologue is spoken by a
Spirit, who later appears as the shepherd Thyrsis. We learn that Comus
(Revelry) the son of Dionysus the Wine God and Circe the enchantress of
the "Odyssey," has settled in "this ominous wood" in Britain; tempts
travellers with the crystal cup of his sorceries, and changes them into
beast-headed adventurers. Then Comus enters with his torch-bearing
company, swine, bulls, goats, bears, and in beautiful lines, recommends
his unholy ethics.

    Come, let us our rites begin,
    'Tis only daylight that makes sin.

But something warns him that a chaste being draws near; he dismisses
his troop; the Lady enters, she has lost her way in the dark wood, her
brothers have strayed apart, she hopes to meet merry peasants who will
guide her; she calls them by a song, and Comus appears, summoned by the

    How sweetly did they float upon the wings
    Of silence, through the empty-vaulted night
    At every fall smoothing the raven down
    Of darkness, till it smiled.

Thinking Comus an honest shepherd, the Lady follows him: her brothers
enter in search of her, the Spirit warns them of her danger, and gives
them such virtuous herbs as Hermes gives to Odysseus in Circe's isle.
Armed with these they scatter the satyrs of Comus, but only Sabrina,
nymph of the Severn, called and replying in lyrics of ineffable beauty
can release the Lady from the enchanted chair of Comus. The majesty,
delicacy, and beauty of the ideas are matched by the exquisite music
of the blank verse and lyric passages, for at the age of 26 and in his
poetic prime of youth, Milton was already a master of every technical
resource of poetry; of everything, except humour and the power of
creating human characters. He might compose poetry more august and
sustained than "Comus," but he never could be a better poet man he was
in 1634. Sanity, order, form, absence of vain conceit and ingenious
antithesis were as natural to Milton as they were unknown to Donne and
the Fletchers.

Milton's next great poem, "Lycidas," was composed shortly before he
left Horton, early in 1638, on a visit to Italy. The occasion, which
other Cambridge poets celebrated, was the death of a friend, Edward
King, drowned in crossing the Irish Channel. We do not know from
external evidence that Milton was more attached to King, personally,
than Shelley was to Keats. "Lycidas" is not a cry from an almost broken
heart, as are parts of the "In Memoriam" of Tennyson. It has been
said that admiration of "Lycidas" is a test of a man's capacity for
appreciating poetry,--a hard saying for Dr. Johnson. That Milton had a
true affection for King the classic allusions and the pastoral guise of
his ode may cause some to doubt. But there is deep natural feeling in
the plangent words,

    But oh! the heavy change now thou art gone,
    Now thou art gone and never must return!

The story disguised as a friendship between Theocritean shepherds is
really that of a college friendship between two boyish poets, and no
later friendships can be so tender, close, dear; the lost voice ever
echoing in the memory. The verse is a solemn music: the mingling of
the figures of classical mythology with St. Peter, and with Camus,
"reverend sire," vexed Dr. Johnson, but he would have been equally
vexed by the only Oxford pendant to this Cambridge lament, the
"Thyrsis" of Matthew Arnold.

Indeed what really annoyed the good Doctor was the certainly
regrettable introduction of an attack on his beloved Church of England,
and the ominous mention of "that two-handed engine at the door," which
did not strike once, but often, nor only at the neck of an Archbishop,
but slew Strafford, Hamilton, and the King.

"The dread voice" comes across the shepherd's dirge; the Sicilian
Muse, the Muse of Theocritus, is bidden to return, but to Milton she
will not come again. We think of him, at this time, as "young but
intolerably severe," like Apollo in Matthew Arnold's "Empedocles on
Etna". Like Wordsworth and Shelley he was devoid of humour,--and thus
fails--as Shelley did not fail, thanks to his geniality, and kindness
and charms--to win universal sympathy. Think of Shakespeare,--who does
not love the man, and who does dare to love Milton! He was not vain
with the childlike vanity of some poets, but he was as proud as his
own Satan. He not only had genius next to the highest, but he knew
it, tended it, cared for it, and could scarcely find a task that was
great enough for his powers. We respect his self-knowledge, applaud his
resolution, and are much happier with Shakespeare and Scott, who never
gave a thought to their genius.

On returning from Italy to his country, the country of "the Bishops'
Wars," Milton, in Aldersgate Street, devoted himself to the education
of his nephews, to sonnets, and then to prose works, as already
mentioned, all written in the cause of sacred Liberty. He, like the
old Scots Earl, did not love "the new liberty" as offered by the
Presbyterian, whose name was "old priest writ large". His marriage,
in 1643, to a lady of a loyal family, Mary Powell, was unhappy: she
went back, in a short time, to her own people In 1645 she returned,
had three daughters, and died in 1652. His private unhappiness made
Milton plead vainly for freedom of divorce, a remedy which has its own
unsatisfactory aspect. In 1652 Milton lost his eyesight, like his

    Blind Thamyris and blind Maeonides,
    And Teiresias and Phineus, prophets old.

His sonnets are his only poems of this period; when he argued for
divorce, and for liberty of printing, defended the slaying of his King,
wrangled with political opponents in English and Latin, and was Latin
Secretary to the Commonwealth. An accomplished sonneteer in Italian,
Milton in English observed, usually, the strict Petrarchian rules; and
had the wisdom and self-restraint to write not too many sonnets, most
of them choicely good. Even that in which he commemorates the noble
Aboyne, and the son of Col of the left hand, and Gilespie Grumach is
a good sonnet. He mourned for the late Massacre in Piedmont, but not
for those of Drogheda and Dundee. His nobility of soul never declares
itself more gloriously than in the sonnets on his blindness, of these

    In Liberty's defence, my glorious task.

But there was no liberty left for Anglicans, Catholics, or
Presbyterians in Scotland, who were turned out of their court of
General Assembly.

After rejecting many topics which had occurred to him as possible
subjects for his life-long purpose to write a great Epic, Milton
returned to the inspiration of the Heavenly Muse, and settled
(1655-1667) on "Paradise Lost". He did wisely, for a human epic like
the others, the "Iliad," the "Odyssey," and all the Greek, Roman,
Italian, and French imitations of these, demands a pell-mell of human
characters, noble, treacherous, and humorous. In creating human
characters Milton had little skill, and, in "Paradise Lost" there are
but two, Adam and Eve. In Genesis they are extremely human, but Milton
had to make them at first perfect, and place them in a situation where
no other human beings ever were. For the rest, he had the magnificent
Satan, fallen through a pride and independence of character with which
the poet was in sympathy; while Belial and Abdiel are also, each in
his own way, heroic. The heavenly angels are less clearly marked and

In Athens, Milton would have rivalled Æschylus; with Euripides he does
not pair. He has the greatest of stages, the universe, chaos, heaven
and hell. His theme is the mystery of human fortunes; man, what he
might be, what he is. He uses a non-Biblical poetic legend, the war in
heaven, which had been treated, we saw, by an Anglo-Saxon poet, and has
a parallel in the mythology of the Kaitish, a savage tribe of Central
Australia. There too the great self-created Atnatu of the highest
heaven hurls his disobedient children down to earth. It was inevitable
that Satan, not Adam, should become the Hero, as Mephistopheles, not
Faust, is the hero of Goethe's play--is the interesting character.
Milton in his Puritan way describes himself as "Not sedulous by nature
to indite wars," hitherto "alone heroic deemed," while modest domestic
patience and heroic martyrdom are unsung, or as in the case of Jeanne
d'Arc, have proved too lofty a theme for any poet. But Milton being a
poet is subject to inevitable poetic limitations. The patience which
Eve displayed in everyday domestic life, after her expulsion from
Paradise, would not be a theme for the epic; and Milton "never stoops
his wing" when he sings of the Raising of the Banner of Satan, and "the
banner cry of Hell".

In the true spirit of epics, his poem ends with no clash of arms, no
blare of trumpets, but with "a dying fall";

    They, hand in hand, with wandering steps and slow,
    Through Eden took their solitary way;

in such manner, too, ceases the "Iliad,"

    Thus held they funeral for knightly Hector.

Milton's blank verse is the stateliest, most variously tuneful,
and most relieved by varieties of pause, most sonorous with the
mysterious music of ancient names. All in this is perfect. The
verse-paragraphs--the opening paragraph is of thirty lines--could only
be arrayed by Milton. We do not often meet what seems to us a bathos,
as when Satan, fallen from heaven, "views the dismal situation". After
viewing the dismal situation Satan is himself again:--

    All is not lost; the unconquerable will,
    And study of revenge, immortal hate,
    And courage never to submit or yield,
    And what is else not to be overcome,
    That glory never shall His wrath or might
    Extort from me.

Milton is not pedantic, but as Homer has his catalogue of ships and
heroes, Milton outdoes him with _his_ catalogue of fallen angels, gods
of the nations, Moloch, Chemosh, Ashtoreth, Dagon, Osiris, Isis, Horns,
"the Ionian gods of Javan's issue," and they

           who with Saturn old
Fled over Adria to the Hesperian fields,
And o'er the Celtic roam'd the utmost isles.

Milton's knowledge was equal to every demand, and his were

               the unconquerable will
    And courage never to submit or yield.

But, magnificent as he is, Milton has always his eye on that Achæan
"father of the rest," and he copies Homer's bridal-bed of Zeus and Hera

                under foot the violet,
    Crocus and hyacinth with rich inlay
    Broidered the ground.

"And beneath them the divine earth sent forth fresh new grass, and dewy
lotus, crocus, and hyacinth." But Milton gives twenty lines where Homer
gives four.

In comparing the two greatest of epic poets--the first, Homer, with
the last, Milton,--we observe that each sums up in himself the whole
thought and experience, and the poetic expression of a world that
lies behind him. Each "takes his own where he finds it," "makes
all men's wit his own," as Ben Jonson said, in an invidious sense,
of Shakespeare. Homer has his debts to old nameless poets; Milton
displays his debts to Homer, and to Greek, Roman, and Celtic poets
and historians, to Anglo-Saxons, Dutch, Italians, to all song and all
learning, and all that he takes he transfigures, and rounds into a
harmonious whole, the immortal Epic.

"Paradise Lost" was published in 1667, four years after Milton's
third marriage. It is not apparent that he was in any danger from the
Government of the Restoration. Charles II avowed to Clarendon, in a
scribbled note now in the Bodleian, his constitutional dislike of
hanging men. The book did not sell badly for a Puritan poem produced
while the revel of the company of Comus was maddest, and, when Milton
died, Dryden, the literary dictator, gave due praise to the greatest of
literary epics, the loftiest, the most splendidly adorned; and poets
of the eighteenth century adored the style which became ridiculous, or
dull, in their imitations.

In "Paradise Regained," a sequel which Mr. Ellwood, a Quaker, reports
himself to have suggested to Milton, the great qualities of the poet
are unimpaired. His verse is that which he alone could wield. His
sonorous catalogues, the music of names, the eagle glance over all the
kingdoms of earth and the glory of them, the triumph of the pure spirit
over carnal joys; nay the haunting memories of old romance,

    Of fairy damsels, met in forest wide,
    By knights of Logres, or of Lyones,
    Lancelot, or Pelleas, or Pellenore,

these are all present, all are captivating.

It is natural to wish that, while young, Milton had followed his
dominant motive into Arthur's fairy land, and told the story of Galahad
and the Holy Grail: the purity that wins the Beatific Vision.

His "Samson Agonistes," in the severest style of Greek tragedy, sets
forth his own strength foiled by blindness, mocked by the dull triumphs
of the wanton crowd, and triumphant in death. The occasional unrhymed
verse of the chorus, not in decasyllabic lines, stands for Milton's
curious antipathy for rhyme, in which, when he chose, he excelled. The
subtleties and sophistries of Delilah express his idea of one type of
womanhood, the other type shines in the steadfast love of the repentant
Eve. The poem, with all the strength, has less of the charm of Milton
than his other great works.

Milton died in 1674; a poet who in one sense might be styled
"self-taught," for while he was so deeply read, his verse was no echo,
nor ever can be re-echoed. It is foolish but natural to appraise the
relative greatness of great poets, but, Shakespeare apart, it is to the
lonely Milton that the world has always awarded the crown of England's

Samuel Butler.

If we could take the "God-gifted organ-voice of England," Milton, as
representing the anti-Royalist parties in the Civil War, and Samuel
Butler, with his "Hudibras," as the representative of those who stood
for Church and King, we could not hesitate in our choice between the
two factions. But Milton's was a soul that dwells apart, making its
own special music, while Butler produced a unique epic-satire on the
furies and follies of the once triumphant Presbyterians, Independents,
and a multitude of wild contending sects. Of Samuel Butler's life but
little is known. Born at Strensham in Worcestershire in 1612, he was
educated at the school of Worcester, but could not afford to proceed
to either university. He was clerk to a justice of the peace, was
later in the service of the Countess of Kent, where he had leisure for
study, at Wrest in Bedfordshire, during the war, and in the same shire
resided with Sir Samuel Luke, an active Presbyterian, who, however,
was opposed to the Regicide. Butler thus saw plenty of the people
whom, in 1663, he satirized in the first part of "Hudibras". That
Presbyterian Don Quixote, with his Independent Squire, Ralph, is the
wildest caricature of a type, not of an individual, and the adventures
of the pair are merely burlesque. The discussions and descriptions are
a tempest of ridicule falling on the fallen Cause in showers of jigging
and strangely rhymed octosyllabics, often so piquant that many of them
are still commonly quoted though the historic allusions are forgotten.
The associations of ideas in the author's mind bring out a learning as
multifarious as that of Burton or of Browne; the book was adored at
Court, not least by the King, and was pirated; all three parts were put
forth by Walton's publisher, Richard Marriot, though they may have been
little to the taste of the pacific author of "The Compleat Angler".

Butler seems to have been no roysterer, but a retired, bookish,
sardonic humorist, who "asked for nothing and got nothing". The
Court wits who sought his acquaintance did not find in him what they
expected. He certainly received no notable rewards: and later poets
found in him the type of neglected merit. He died in London in 1680.

After a war of Religion in which all the countless factions felt
certain of their own infallibility, Butler, a disillusioned wit, saw
nothing in the strife but what the saintly Leighton called "a scuffle
of drunken men in the dark". The Parliamentarians

    Call fire and sword and desolation
    A godly thorough Reformation,
    Which always must be carried on,
    And still be doing, never done,
    As if Religion were intended
    For nothing else but to be mended...
    They with more care keep holy-day
    The wrong, than others the right way,

for Christmas was kept as a fast, and Good Friday as a feast. The
whole poem has rather less of a constructed plot than "Tristram
Shandy"; and the strange rhymes--as of _flambeau_ to "damn'd
blow"--tickled the merry Cavaliers more than they amuse later
generations. What is "topical" in "Hudibras" is, of course, transitory,
but much of permanent and brilliant wit remains and is current in
quotations: for example,

    Compound for sins they are inclined to
    By damning those they have no mind to:
    Still so perverse and opposite
    As if they worshipped God for spite.

Butler wrote other things, the best is a dialogue in which Puss and Cat
mimic the conversations of the lovers in the "heroic" tragedies of the

[1] All five wrote dramas, but none was a professional playwright.



In England, when the King came to his own again (29 May, 1660) and the
reign of the Saints was ended, it was certain that the Theatre also
would come to her own. The stage had been bad enough, in verse, taste,
and manners, before the doors were closed in 1642. When the dramatic
Muse returned, she brought with her, like the man in the parable, seven
other devils worse than herself. The morals and tastes of the town and
Court were what, after so many years of Puritan sway, they might be
expected to be. They are most livelily delineated in the "Diary" of Mr.
Pepys; and the drama of the Restoration was their child, and worthy of
them. At first the stage was occupied by the older plays of Fletcher,
Jonson, and Shirley; no new names of note appear till Dryden's "Wild
Gallant" failed in 1663, and Sir George Etherege's "Love in a Tub"
prospered in 1664.

No age will be content with old plays, the mould and fashion of the
time must be exhibited. Pictures of the brutal mirth and the horseplay
of triumphant licence, of the flirtations and intrigues of lackeys and
lords and ladies, all genteel and witty _à la mode_ of the Court and
town as we know them from Pepys and Grammont, were presented.

Everything must be "new". As we hear of "the new morality," "the new
theology," and so on, so, in "The Rehearsal" (1671), a burlesque by the
Duke of Buckingham and other hands, on the plays of the last ten years,
the word "new" is constantly reiterated. "You must know this is the new
way of writing, and these hard things please forty times better than
the old plain way of writing."

The butt of "The Rehearsal," Bayes, a mixture of Davenant with the
mannerisms of Dryden, keeps bragging that this or that absurdity is
"new". "New," certainly, and not worthy to wax old, was the extravagant
"heroic" tragedy, copying the flights of the French school of bombastic
romances, and written in rhyming couplets. The authors of "The
Rehearsal" stitch together scraps and parodies of the new plays, in
that which is being rehearsed, with plenty of farcical "business" under
Mr. Bayes, who gives amusing snatches of his "Ars Poetica," while there
are gibes at the new style of prologues and epilogues, which Dryden
wrote so copiously. But "The Rehearsal" is less witty than Sheridan's
"The Critic". As for the "new" rhyming "heroic" plays, Dryden ascribes
their origin to Davenant. Forbidden to act the old sort of plays under
the Reign of the Saints, he introduced examples of moral virtue, "writ
in verse" (in rhyme), "and performed in recitative music". He combined
the Italian opera with characters in the manner of Corneille. At the
Restoration, he turned his "Siege of Rhodes" into "a just drama," but
without "design and variety of characters". Dryden took the manner up,
and, inspired by Ariosto, made love and valour the theme of the new
heroic tragedy on a superhuman scale, and with supernatural incidents,
ghosts for example. Then came rant and extravagance expressed in rhymed
couplets, and even triplets, till Dryden returned to blank verse, and
Lee and Otway and others followed him. But the drama remained as heroic
and absurd as when Dryden wrote that masterpiece "The Conquest of
Granada". In this he has a ghost, the ghost of the mother of the heroic
Almanzor. Scott supposes that she was brought in to prove the courage
of her son, even in face of an apparition. Really, the courtesy of
Almanzor is more to be admired; the stage direction shows that he bowed
to the spectre!

Many critics of the age regarded the heroic tragedy with no more
respect than we are apt to do now. Dryden replied with arguments
which are not quite to the point. The heroic tragedy is a perfectly
legitimate form of art; the Greek tragedies deal with divine heroes
and gods, and Æschylus in "The Persians" does not disdain the ghost of
Darius, and in "The Eumenides" introduces the Furies. Dryden pleaded
for a similar licence in the heroic play, but all depends on the manner
of the doing. His ghosts are not majestic, like that of Darius; they
are absurd. For boldness of language he also claimed a privilege;
persons engaged in superhuman struggles may talk above the pitch of
ordinary men. But they must not, like the heroes of the Caroline
tragedies, soar or slip into bombast; they must rise on the wings of
poetry, not on bladders full of gas. "Are all the flights of heroic
poetry to be concluded bombast, unnatural, and mere madness because
they," the critics, "are not affected by their excellences?" asks
Dryden, in his "Apology for Heroic Poetry and Poetic Licence". "No, not
all," the critics might have answered, "but many of _your_ flights of
heroic poetry are bombast"; and they might, indeed they did, produce
examples. For instance, in his "The State of Innocence," in which,
accepting Milton's permission given in blank verse,

    Ay, you may tag my verses if you will,

he rhymed "Paradise Lost" into an opera, Dryden wrote thus:--

    Seraph and cherub, careless of their charge,
    And wanton, in full ease, who live at large,
    Unguarded leave the passes of the sky,
    And all dissolved in hallelujahs lie.

The spectacle of wanton seraphs lying dissolved in hallelujahs
naturally provoked laughter, but Glorious John did not see the
absurdity of the situation. He took his image from Virgil, he says,
where the Greeks enter Troy which "lay buried in sleep and wine".
But Trojans were not seraphs, and sleep and wine are not dissolving
hallelujahs. In the same way Virgil, following Homer, describes the
Cyclops as a monster of mountainous height, as in fact he was. Goliath
was only about ten feet high. But Dryden applauds Cowley for writing of

    The valley, now, this monster seemed to fill,
    And we, methought, looked up to him from our hill.

"The passage is horrible bombast," says Scott. Not living in an early
heroic age, in which exaggeration is natural and pardonable, but in the
age of scepticism and the Royal Society, Dryden exceeded the ancient
licence, and, as when a hero takes off his hat to his mother's ghost,
mingled modern manners with more than heroic audacities. Criticism
should look for beauties, not faults, said Dryden, but the critics
could reply that the whole scheme of the heroic drama was faulty. The
result is extravagance and rant, indeed rant was then the fault of the
actors on the French stage. Molière had to warn his company that a
King, conversing with his Minister, "does not necessarily speak like a

Turning to comedy, we find it but little instructed, in refinement,
creation of character, and wit, by the example of Molière.

Etherege's three plays "Love in a Tub" (1664), "She Would if She Could"
(1667), and "The Man of Mode, or Sir Fopling Flutter" (1676), are the
work of a courtier and amateur concerning whose life and death little
is known. The merriment of "Love in a Tub" is a picture of contemporary
manners; compared with its prose, the rhyming ten-syllabled couplets of
the graver and sentimental characters are almost a relief.

The author (1635-1691?), in the Prologue, admits that "wit" (dramatic
genius in this case), "has now declined"; avers that "the older and
graver sort" would decry new plays in the manner of Fletcher and Ben
Jonson; and bids the audience "Only think upon the modern way of
writing". In an Epilogue to "Sir Fopling Flutter," Dryden characterizes
the hero admirably:--

    True fops help Nature work, and go to school,
    To file and finish God Almighty's fool.

If these' pieces have wit, they "have not wit enough to keep them

Thomas Shadwell (1642-1692) was made immortal when he became the butt
of Dryden's satire. His plays are useful to students of contemporary
manners, and he was the Laureate of William and Mary in succession to
"Glorious John".

Sir Charles Sedley and Mrs. Aphra Behn have left nothing imperishable
but a few songs, the swan songs of the dying Muse of lyric.

All these playwrights had before their eyes the inimitable and immortal
comedies with which Molière was endowing the literature of France.
But, even when they tried to follow this model, their imitations were
barbarous: for compared with the literary taste and manners of the
Court of Louis XIV, those of the reign of Charles II were brutal.

The least unsuccessful of those who directed themselves by the light of
Molière was William Wycherley (1640?-1716?). Here we sketch his career
and that of his successors, reserving for a separate section the great
name of Dryden. Wycherley was of an old family in Shropshire, had a
handsome person, was brought up, in boyhood, at Paris, in the literary
circle of Madame de Montausier, later resided at Oxford, and, if we
could believe what Pope says that Wycherley reported of himself, wrote
his first play, "Love in a Wood," before he came to London, to the
Middle Temple. This would make Wycherley prior to Etherege, but either
his own or Pope's memory is supposed to have been incorrect. The play
was not acted till 1672: it was not much in advance of Etherege in

Of "The Gentleman Dancing Master" (1673), "The Country Wife" (1673),
and "The Plain Dealer" (1674) the last is by far the best. In the
Prologue, the line

    And with faint praises one another damn,

was remembered, unconsciously, by Pope, in his "Damn with faint praise"
(in the character of "Atticus," Addison).

"The Plain Dealer" is a comedy of humours, like Jon son's, the chief
humorist being the benevolent railing Manly, taken from the Alceste
of Molière's "Le Misanthrope". Manly "of an honest, surly, nice
humour," is a gallant British sea captain, who holds all the world
in contempt but his friend and his love, who, of course, betray him.
He is beloved by Fidelia, who, for his sake, has abandoned her large
fortune, and taken service as a seaman with Captain Manly. Many scenes
of conversation, in imitation of Molière, are vigorous; one perhaps was
in Sheridan's mind when he wrote "The School for Scandal". Wycherley
defends his "Country Wife" from the assaults of a false prude, who, at
least, shows us that, even under Charles II, "The Country Wife" was
thought superfluously indecent. The Widow Blackacre, a female Peter
Peebles, a litigious she-lawyer, with her oaf of a son, is "in very
gracious fooling". The intrigue, and the part assigned to Fidelia, are
odious enough, and impossible enough, but the nobility of Fidelia is
demonstrated by allowing her, occasionally, to talk in blank verse.
When we remember Wycherley's French education, we may suppose that he
dealt so much in matter which a French audience would not have endured,
because he knew the taste of the theatre-going part of his countrymen.

Wycherley is said to have suffered much from a jealous wife of noble
birth, who caused him a world of legal troubles by the bequest of
her money. He married again at 75, and shortly afterwards died. The
most interesting thing in his later years was his acquaintance with
Pope, then a lad, and the characteristic use which Pope made of his


    Heaven, that but once was prodigal before,
    To Shakespeare gave as much, she could not give him more

than she conferred on Congreve. So wrote Dryden: and probably half
believed what he wrote. Dryden was a literary dictator; literary
opinion followed his lead; and there was a period when the town
recognized the equal of Shakespeare in the sprightly author of comedies
no longer ravishing.

William Congreve was born (1670) near Leeds: his family was of
Staffordshire. His father settling in Ireland, Congreve was educated
at the grammar school of Kilkenny, and at Trinity College, Dublin. He
was a very handsome man, with an air of greatness; he easily conquered
both the courtly and the literary world when he came to London; he won
the admiration and affection of the generous Dryden, who applauded
and opened the doors of the theatre to his first comedy, "The Old
Bachelor". The play is not better than a fair specimen of Wycherley's
manner, but "The Double Dealer" (1693) is much more readable and
interesting. The complicated passions of Lady Touchwood have a kind
of greatness, the more complicated plots of Maskwell nearly lead to
a sanguinary conclusion; Maskwell being as near an approach to the
regular villain of comedy as the conditions of comedy permitted. Lady
Froth is rather more learned than Mrs. Malaprop, and as vicious under
her zeal for astronomy and "mathemacular proof" as the unkindness
of man will allow her to be. The haughty refusal of Lord Froth to
laugh, even when he is amused, is amusing; Brisk and Careless are
agreeable rattles, Sir Paul Plyant is almost to an incredible degree
"an uxorious, foolish, fond old knight," and the heroine, Cynthia, is a
good girl. The constant bustle, and the involutions of a plot full of
surprises ought to have made the play more popular on the stage than it
was at first. Leigh Hunt, who edited "The Comedies of the Restoration"
(or rather of the date from the Restoration to Queen Anne), candidly
says, "speaking for ourselves, we can never attend sufficiently to the
plots of Congreve. They soon puzzle us and we cease to think of them."

The student who would enjoy Congreve must first peruse each play
very carefully, and make out a summary of the plot, with diagrams
illustrating the secret staircases, back doors, screens, and other
places of ambush: he must also master the details of the various
marriages which are arranged for the various heiresses, amiable
bankrupts, and old gentlemen. When the reader has thus given his full
attention to the details he may re-read the plays with more ease and

In "Love for Love" (1695) Sir Sampson Legend has some of the diverting
traits of Sir Anthony Absolute; there are unlooked-for glimpses of
romance in the assumed madness of his impoverished son Valentine (the
sympathetic rake of comedy--the Charles Surface of an earlier day). The
sailor son, Ben Legend, is the stock simple sailor, with some gross
sense under the breezy manners of the untutored mariner. Foresight,
with his rich collection of superstitions, is a "character part" of
interest to the folklorist; one scene between two moral sisters who
simultaneously detect each other's sins is diverting: the wit of Jeremy
the valet, however, does not come within sight of the wit of Molière's
Mascarille; and Miss Prue is a tomboy not remarkable for innocence.

The pearl of "The Way of the World" (1700) is the high-hearted
Millamant, who, when she at last rewards one of the thousands that
sigh for her, makes a very spirited private marriage contract with her
adorer. Her song,

    If there's delight in love,'tis when I see
    That heart, which others bleed for, bleed for me,

is famous among the lyrics of Congreve. We do not often care for
Congreve's characters, nor do they try to win our affection, but
Millamant conquers all hearts.

Congreve's tragedy in blank verse "The Mourning Bride," holds much the
same place in his plays as "Don Garcie de Navarre" does in those of

After a long, fashionable, and applauded life, Congreve died in
1729, deeply lamented by the Duchess of Marlborough (daughter of the
great Duke), and by the once beautiful and delightful actress, Mrs.
Bracegirdle. He held rich sinecures under Government, as did other wits
while the Tories were in office.


    He writes your comedies, draws schemes, and models,
    And builds Dukes' houses upon very odd hills

is a contemporary couplet which sums up a few of the accomplishments of
Sir John Vanbrugh. His family seem to have been Protestants driven from
Ghent in the wars of Alva. He was born in 1666[1] "in a French bastile"
he said. He was educated in France; entered the English army; produced
his first play, "The Relapse," in 1696, and was the architect of Castle
Howard, the Earl of Carlisle's house, in 1701. Carlisle procured for
him the herald's post of Clarencieux; as a Whig he was sent to carry
the Order of the Garter to the Elector of Hanover (later George I); he
built the palace of Blenheim, and, like all who met her, was insulted
by Sarah Duchess of Marlborough. He seems to have been friendly with
the wits of both parties, being as jovial as versatile. He died on 26
March, 1726.

"The Relapse, or Virtue in Danger," is a kind of continuation of Colley
Cibber's "Love's Last Shift"; as Fielding's "Joseph Andrews" continues
and burlesques Richardson's "Pamela". From the Preface we learn that,
as the second title leads us to think probable, "The Relapse" was
accused of obscenity and blasphemy. The Prologue, spoken by Miss Cross
on the first night, would, in our delicate age, clear all the women out
of the stalls and boxes. The piece opens with a long dialogue in blank
verse, between Loveless, a newly married rake, rejoicing in

    the happy cause of my content,

and Amanda, his bride, that Sappy cause. They are going to town, and
Amanda is afraid that Loveless's Virtue will Relapse. An amusing
character is Lord Foppington, a knight newly made a peer; "While I was
but a knight I was a very nauseous fellow," he confesses. He holds
an absurd levee with his tailor, wigmaker, and hosier, and snubs
his brother, Tom Fashion, who is penniless. Through an old nauseous
match-maker, Coupler, Tom learns that the peer is contracted to a
rustic heiress, whom he has never seen, Miss Hoyden, daughter to Sir
Tunbelly Clumsey. Tom decides to go down, personate his brother, and
marry the wealthy Miss Hoyden. Yet he has a qualm of conscience and
will give Foppington another chance.

Arrived in town, Loveless and Amanda drop blank verse for prose. Amanda
confesses her distaste for the obscenities of, the stage. Loveless
admits that he has admired a lady at the play; Amanda flutters with
jealousy; her cousin, Berinthia, enters; she is the woman admired
by Loveless. Enter Lord Foppington bent on the conquest of Amanda.
He dislikes the quiet of a country life: "For 'tis impossible to be
quiet without thinking; now thinking is to me the greatest fatigue in
the world". His lordship is a lover of books, of their bindings, "The
inside, I must confess, I am not altogether so fond of". For this he
gives his exquisite reasons, and describes the glories of his everyday
occupations. From 10 p.m. to 2 a.m. he drinks. "Thus, ladies, you
see my life is a perpetual round of delights." This peer is worth a
wilderness of Sir Fopling Flutters. On Sundays, "a vile day I must
confess," Foppington imitates the course of Mr. Badman. He ends by
making a declaration to Amanda, who replies with a box on the ear.
Loveless and Foppington fight, Foppington falls, exclaiming "Ah,--quite
through the body. Stap my vitals!"

Like Shakespeare, Vanbrugh "has brave notions," and like him, as
Ben Jonson said, "he needs to be stopped" before swords are drawn
in ladies' company. His Lordship, of course, is no more killed than
was the Master of Ballantrae when the sword hilt "dirled on his

Berinthia and Amanda now discuss not "the practical part of unlawful
love," "_that_ is abominable"; "but for the speculative; that, we
must all confess, is entertaining". Amanda admits an interest in a
speculative inquirer, her husband's friend, Mr. Worthy, and, most
unnaturally, for she is very jealous, invites Berinthia, a merry widow,
to be her guest.

Lord Foppington, happily recovered, airs his original philosophy of
life for his brother's edification. "Look you, Tam, of all things that
belong to a woman I have an aversion to her heart. For when once a
woman has given you her heart, you can never get rid of the rest of her
body." This philosopher declines to give Tom a penny, and Tom returns
to the raid upon Miss Hoyden and her fortune.

Loveless is now found--ah! woful change--not only talking in blank
verse--indicative of a serious passion--with Berinthia, but kissing
her: the discovery is made by Worthy, her old lover. "O God!" exclaims
Berinthia. Worthy now knows that Berinthia adores Loveless, and
Berinthia--that Worthy adores Amanda. They contrive a plot against
Amanda very worthy of their ingenuous principles.

We next find Tom at Sir Tunbelly Clumsey's door, which is garrisoned
like the Tower, and all to seclude that Danaë, Miss Hoyden. Both Tom
and Miss Hoyden are eager to be married with no more delay than Tom
Jones and Sophia, but Sir Tunbelly is more set on ceremonies than
Squire Western.

The proceedings of Berinthia now justify the censures of the moralist,
and "turning the other page," as Chaucer recommends, we find Tom
and Miss Hoyden privately married by Chaplain Bull, when Foppington
arrives with two coaches and twenty foot-men, the military skill of
Sir Tunbelly, convinced that the newcomer is an impostor, enables him
to rout Lord Foppington's guard and arrest his person. Presently a Sir
John Friendly arrives; he knows and recognizes the genuine Foppington,
who has admirably preserved the calm dignity of his philosophy. The
blushless Hoyden now avows to her Nurse and the Chaplain her resolve to
prevent trouble by at once wedding the real Lord Foppington.

Meanwhile, by aid of virtue and blank verse, Amanda converts the
passion of Mr. Worthy into profound admiration and esteem. The natural
denouement follows: Miss Hoyden is recognized as Mrs. Tom Fashion, and
Lord Foppington, who would have gone to the guillotine as gallantly as
any gentleman, congratulates his brother: "Dear Tam, you have married
a woman beautiful in her person, charming in her airs, prudent in her
conduct, constant in her inclinations, and of a nice morality. Split my

Vanbrugh's quality, his absence of sentiment, his large and lively
handling of old comic types, may be guessed at from this brief analysis
of his first play. He was thought to have surpassed it in "The Provoked
Wife" (1697) and "The Confederacy" (1705). He also adapted pieces by
Molière, and a French writer nearly forgotten, Boursault.

George Farquhar.

George Farquhar, born 1678, at Londonderry, was the son of a clergyman,
and was a University wit of Trinity College, Dublin. He early became
an actor, and early left the stage; it is said because he had done
accidentally what Mr. Lenville proposed to do of set purpose to
Nicholas Nickleby, severely wounded a fellow-player in a stage duel. He
then obtained a commission in the army, and wrote plays, "A Trip to the
Jubilee," "Sir Harry Wildair," "The Way to Win Him," "The Recruiting
Officer," "The Beaux' Stratagem" (1707), and others; the characters,
such as Scrub, Sergeant Kite, Archer, Lady Bountiful, Captain Plume,
and others, were great favourites with Sir Walter Scott, and by him
are often quoted. Farquhar died young, at about the age of 30. George
Farquhar with his gaiety, his gallantry, his happy military swagger,
his heroes who are not lost to honour, his plots, so comprehensible,
and sources of so many merry adventures, wins more sympathy and
affection,--dying in the arms of Victory as he did, during the triumph
of his last and best play,--than any of the other comic writers of the


Otway, like most dramatists of his day, cannot be fairly judged by
his printed works. They want the splendid costumes and _decor_, the
setting of the stage, and the pathos and brilliance of the beautiful
actresses, for Otway was most successful in such tender and distraught
heroines as Belvidera and Monimia. Born in 1652, Thomas Otway, the
son of the rector of Woolbeding, in Sussex, entered Christ Church,
Oxford, in 1669, but soon left it, on the death of his father, for
London. Here he hung about the Duke of York's Theatre, where he failed
as an actor. In 1675 he produced a play, "Alcibiades," though, as he
says in a preface to his "Don Carlos," "I might as well have called it
'Nebuchadnezzar,'" for Alcibiades acted in a way not consistent with
his character. The caprice of the witty, miserable Earl of Rochester
won the good will, if nothing more substantial, of the Duke of York for
the poet, who dedicates to him the heroic play of "Don Carlos" (1676).
In this, according to Otway, Dryden declared that "I know not a line
I would not be author of," so the play must have been, and in fact
was, a success. It is written in rhyming couplets, and even triplets;
the rhymes are often surprisingly bad. The history of the death of
Don Carlos, who was mad, is obscure, and Otway treats it with extreme
poetic licence. Philip of Spain is here a tender, though avenging,
father and husband, who repents and rants monstrously, though rant is
not the common fault of Otway. There is tenderness and pathos enough to
account for the popularity of the play; moreover Otway was known to be
hopelessly in love with Mrs. Barry, the beautiful actress; Rochester
who presently satirised Otway, being his rival. After a luckless
campaign with Monmouth in Flanders, Otway, following Dryden's example,
abandoned rhyme for blank verse in "The Orphan" (1680), based on a
stock situation in a novel of the seventeenth century. The intrigue,
though the crucial situation is not acceptable now on the stage,
is ingeniously contrived to bring out the characters of the rival
brothers, and Monimia, a very pathetic character, must have drawn many
tears. There is the usual number of deaths in the last act. The blank
verse has no great distinction, and abounds in redundant feet. Otway,
in fact, did not take by literary perfections, but "The Orphan" has no
lines so far below the tragic level as the words of the Queen in "Don

    How hard it is his passion to confine,
    I'm sure 'tis so if I may judge by mine!

The phrase of Monimia when she learns the depth of her misery, "Oh,
when shall I be mad indeed!" is of other metal.

In 1682, Otway produced his "Venice Preserved," certainly his best
play, which long held the stage, and was acted now and then up to the
middle of the nineteenth century. The conspirators in the play may be
said to rant, but moderation of language does not mark the eloquence of
violent revolutionaries with the most bitter personal wrongs to avenge.
Belvidera may be "stagey," but she has genuine tenderness and pathos;
there is dramatic development of character in Jaffier; "the moving
incident" is abundant; the absence of poetry was not marked or missed.
The scenes with Antonio, a caricature of the Shaftesbury of Titus
Oates's plot, with his "I'll prove there's a plot with a vengeance, a
bloody, horrid, execrable, damnable, and audacious plot," must have
delighted audiences who had just escaped from Oates's reign of lies and
terror. The bloody ghosts who appear in the conclusion are an unhappy
reversion to the devices of Chapman. Otway wrote other things, the
comedy of "The Soldier's Fortune," for example, which, even then, was
"so filthy, no modest woman ought to be seen at it," as, Otway tells
us, a woman of "a nice morality" declared. Certainly Otway had no real
comic genius. Before he wrote "Venice Preserved" Otway was destitute,
till relieved by the Duchess of Portsmouth, to whom the play is
dedicated. On the death of Charles II the Duchess ceased, it appears,
to succour the poet, who died in deep distress, in April, 1685; as to
the manner of his death, stories vary. Probably he was not a careful
liver; profits from plays were slight; and patrons were niggardly.
Otway is undeniably more coherent, more capable in construction than
the majority of the tragedians from Chapman to Ford; but he did not
inherit that remarkable, if occasional, gift of greatness in style
which was their common portion.

Nat Lee.

The reader of the plays in which Nat Lee (1653-1692) employs blank
verse, finds it much more satisfactory in its cadences and in movement
than the blank verse of Otway. There is something of the old ring in

    For I am doz'd so weary with complaining.
    That I could stand and listen to the winds,


    For straight when the sick priest had breathed his last,
    The sacred oil which for a hundred years
    Supplied the sun behind the golden veil,
    Went out and all the mystic lights were quenched.

Undeniably there was poetry in Lee, but to the pathos, concentration,
and construction of Otway he does not attain. He was born in
Hertfordshire, and educated in Westminster, and Trinity, Cambridge.
He was at intervals insane, and while reading the speeches of his
characters we sometimes seem to "stand and listen to the winds" of a
wild night of autumn.

There is a kind of furious magnificence in the tempestuous tirades of
Pharnaces with which the play of "Mithradates" opens, and throughout
the terrors of that piece "The old winds cease not blowing and all the
night thunders". The same vigour displays itself in his first tragedy
(1675), written partly in "new" rhymed heroic couplets. The ghost of
Caligula would

    Burn palaces; like Thunder I would rove,
    Tear the tall woods, and rend each sacred grove.

Lee is, by the way, far too prodigal of his ghosts. His age, at all
events the theatre-going part of his contemporaries, was apt to jest
at ghosts, following Webster and Wagstaffe, and unconvinced by Henry
More, Glanvill in "Sadducismus Triumphatus," and the other founders of
"Psychical Research".

In 1677, Lee, with "The Rival Queens," made a success which long held
the stage, and the names of Statira and Roxana, rivals for the love
of Alexander the Great, live in memory. Dryden wrote the prologue of
the piece, protesting that he was not "logrolling," and comparing the
poet to "Titian and Angelo". Lee loved a ghost, and that of Philip of
Macedon "shakes his truncheon at 'em," at the conspirators against
Alexander, whom two queens adore with furious passion. Statira's first
words demand

    a knife, a draught of poison, flames!

but, instantly relenting, for she has heard that Alexander loves
Roxana, she praises the faithless conqueror:--

    Not the Spring's mouth, nor breath of jesamin,
    Nor violets' infant sweets, nor opening buds,
    Are half so sweet as Alexander's breast.

Though "well-matched for a pair of quiet ones," Statira, of the two, is
of milder mood.

The staging of the play must have been arduous, a battle of crows and
ravens fills the air, an eagle and dragon meet and fight; the eagle and
birds drop dead, the dragon flies away, and "soldiers walk off, shaking
their heads," and no wonder! especially as the ghost of Philip is still
walking, and a "monstrous child" is weeping blood into a silver bowl
and throwing the gore over the percipients. When the jealous Roxana
reaches Babylon, she is as passionate as Statira, and cries to the

    Away, be gone, and give a whirlwind room!

The two queens meet with gentle words, but when their blood is up
their language is on the level of the situation. Roxana is the readier
with her knife; the dying Statira forgives her; Alexander dies in a
delirium, with a lucid interval at the close.

Dryden and Lee worked together in "The Duke of Guise" (assassinated
by order of Henri III) and in "Œdipus". The last is worth reading as
an example of the taste of the time. The foundation is the "Œdipus
Tyrannus" of Sophocles, from which passages are translated in blank
verse. In the preface we learn that Corneille's "Œdipe" "is inferior
to the original". The "Œdipus" of Lee and Dryden goes very far
beyond,--and in that sense surpasses--the masterpiece of the Athenian.
"All that one could gain out of Corneille was that an episode must
lie, but not his way." For "custom has obtained that there must be
an underplot of second persons," as, alas! there is, while the
over-elaboration of the loves of Œdipus and Jocasta, "very curious and
disgusting," would have seemed to Sophocles the work of Læstrygonians
or some such uncouth barbarians. Jocasta murders all her children--she
hangs the girls and stabs the boys, which proves that the taste of
Englishmen was infinitely more brutal than that of the prehistoric
framers of the original legend. Œdipus, after putting out his eyes as
in the Greek, commits suicide--by jumping out of an upper floor window!
The love affair of Eurydice, and the charge against her of being the
murderess of Laius, are supremely absurd, while the ghost of Laius
drives about in a chariot with those of three of his retainers. Even
this nonsense is capped by a song about fiends who use red-hot tongs,
and boiling cauldrons, and torture "with molten lead in it".

Lee and Dryden seem to have stimulated each the other's ambition to
outdo the worst excesses of the most frantic Elizabethan playwrights.
They knew, of course, that Œdipus, in the Attic myth, did not kill
himself, like a distraught housemaid, by jumping out of a window;
they knew that he lived, and that the children of Jocasta lived and
furnished the materials for two noble dramas of Sophocles. But they
thought that the blood could not be spread too thick.[2]


Though Dryden was a dramatist of the Restoration, he was so much else,
was a link so strong in the golden chain of our poetry and prose, that
he must be considered apart from smaller wits.

John Dryden was born in 1631, at Aldwinkle, Northamptonshire. His name
is common in Teviotdale: his family was landed, and had a baronetcy:
in Scotland it is not a landed name. From Westminster school Dryden
went to Trinity, Cambridge, where he was known to Mr. Samuel Pepys. He
entered in 1650, at 19, an age later than was usual. For some reason he
did not like his University.

    Thebes did his green unknowing youth engage,
    He chooses Athens in his riper age,

that is Oxford, the home of lost causes, like his own. In 1663 married
Lady Elizabeth Howard; wrote plays for a livelihood (his rents were
small); in 1670 became Poet Laureate and Historiographer Royal: acted,
we may say, in both capacities in his great satires of the troubles
following on the Popish Plot and other poems down to the birth of the
Prince of Wales (10 June, 1688), and, after the Revolution, supported
himself by play-writing, translating Virgil, by his "Fables," and other
works, till his death on 1 May, 1700.

Setting aside Milton, who dwelt apart, Dryden was by far the greatest
man of letters of the Restoration and the reign of our Dutch deliverer.
Under Dryden, and to a great extent through his versatile and manly
genius, English literature matured and clarified itself. Though not
averse to far-fetched "conceits" in his early poems, Dryden shook
them off; he made the heroic couplet the instrument for Pope and his
successors, he gave it a nobility, a richness and depth of music which
it had not possessed: it was stronger, more varied, more poetical, in
his hands than in those of Pope. Prose, touched by him, became much
more lucid and rapid than it had been in the long involved periods of
Clarendon, if not so purely simple as the prose of Swift.

It was, in a sense, the misfortune of Dryden that he was the poet of an
age immersed in its own complicated and exciting, and now, to all but
careful historical students, not easily understood affairs. We have no
adequate and intelligent history of the Restoration. Dry den's verses,
for the most part, are "topical," deal with events of the day: there is
little time for meditation on what is universal; he is an urban poet,
too: nature and landscape are rarely handled by him. If our ideal of
poetry is derived from study of Wordsworth, Shelley, Keats, Tennyson,
and other recent moderns, we do not and cannot find in Dryden what
they have taught us to desire and expect. His themes are of his time
and of the men and the political passions of his time. His plays, many
of them rhymed, are but little read; nobody strongly recommends his
comedies, which are more coarse than comic; he did not, himself, think
that comedy set his genius.

His lyrics, though spirited, have not the sweet spontaneity of the true
English lyric from "Love has come with Lent to town" to those of the
best nineteenth century makers. To read his best satires with entire
enjoyment we need to be well acquainted with the obscure intrigues of
an age of plots, royal, political, and religious. Yet, through all his
poetic work, from his early "Heroic Stanzas" on the death of Cromwell,
down to "Alexander's Feast," we see the note and hear the voice of a
great poet; a voice new, noble, sonorous, and his own. There is, in
almost all that Dryden did, in his criticism in prose not less than in
his verse, a kind of conquering supremacy, an ease, an impetus, and a
consciousness of his own greatness which is not arrogance, but lends
facility and a triumphant speed to his verse; while his criticism is
that of zest, of delight in excellence wherever he finds it; from
Homer to Virgil, from Virgil to the then little understood Chaucer, to
Spenser, Shakespeare, and Milton.

His "Heroic Stanzas" (published in 1659) in quatrains, may or may not
have been inspired by appreciation of Cromwell; Dryden's kinsfolk
were Presbyterian and Parliamentarian; but his heart and natural
inclinations as a man and a poet, were more engaged (1660) in his
"Astræa Redux," and verses to Charles II on his coronation. Dryden,
like Waller, was (to our taste) more successful in praising the
great usurper than the Merry Monarch. The first stanza in the poem
on Cromwell strikes a ringing and a novel note, but the reader also
requires a footnote on Roman imperial funereal ritual before he can
understand what is meant. To say of Cromwell,

    To our crown he did fresh jewels bring,

while, in fact, he sold the jewels, was to invite satire; to talk of

    Stanching the blood by breathing of the vein,

was thought an odd way of alluding to regicide: though Dryden may
perhaps have spoken of the wars in general.

    Her safety rescued Ireland to him owes

is a strange compliment to the man of the Drogheda massacre. Dryden, at
this time, wrote as a Protestant; much later he was reconciled to the
ancient Church.

His "Astræa Redux," and poem on the Coronation of Charles II show his
early mastery of the heroic couplet. Scott thought that in these poems
the Muse awoke, like the Sleeping Beauty of the fairy tale "in the same
antiquated and absurd vestments in which she had fallen asleep twenty
years before". This means that the so-called "metaphysical" style of
far-fetched conceits and comparisons (which Sir Walter heartily hated)
still prevailed. There are, indeed, traces of the habits attributed by
fable to elephants, and remote classical allusions, and abrupt changes
of metaphor from anatomy to bait-fishing (of which Dryden was fond) and
it is rather absurd to make a ship of war "groan beneath the weight" of
a lad like the Duke of Gloucester! But the verse is excellent, and the
spirit high and joyous, as became the great occasion. As much may be
said of the lines addressed to Clarendon.

In the "Annus Mirabilis" (1667), concerning the naval war with Holland
and the Great Fire of 1666, Dryden reverted to the quatrains made
fashionable by Davenant's "Gondibert". Mr. Pepys, of the Admiralty,
thought this "a very good poem," it came home to his bosom and
business, and, as a poem of war, is much superior to Addison's
"Campaign". There are still conceits, as when Dutch mariners killed on
board a ship laden with spices and Oriental porcelain "by shattered
porcelain fall," or "by aromatic splinters die". To appreciate the
poem the reader needs a good chart and an intimate knowledge of naval
history, but the vigour of the verses on the fire carries them on like
the conflagration itself. The "Prayer of Charles II" is royal, and
worthy of David, to whom Dryden had already compared him in "Astræa
Redux," as later in "Absalom and Achitophel". Indeed Charles in certain
points of conduct resembled the Psalmist.

For some fifteen years Dryden was now to be occupied with play-writing,
and his tragedies and comedies, as his latest editor says, supply the
historian with "the most troublesome and perhaps the most thankless...
part of his task". But Dryden does not live by the merits of his
dramas. When we have said that Scott, with all his zeal for old plays,
did not like Dryden's, it is clear that people less omnivorous in
literature and less devoted to the drama, will leave them alone.

Of Dryden's first comedy, "The Wild Gallant," 1663, Mr. Pepys said it
was "so poor a thing as I ever saw in my life". It was condemned, but
was amended and repeated. The judgment of Mr. Pepys was well deserved.
The play is in prose.

"The Rival Ladies" (published 1664) was reckoned "innocent and most
pretty witty" by Pepys: it is partly in poor blank verse, partly in
rhymed couplets: in the preface Dryden says that Waller "first showed
us to conclude the sense, most commonly in distiches, which, in the
verse before him, runs on for so many lines together, that the reader
is out of breath to overtake it". The plot is reckless of probability,
but, on the whole, the thing is not coarse as well as shocking to the
credulity of the reader.

In "The Indian Queen" (1664) Dryden added some scenes to a "heroic"
play by Sir Robert Howard, and is credited with the part of Montezuma.
The "heroic" play resembled the immense extravagant romances of the day
("Gondibert" is a versified romance of this kind); written by Mdlle. de
Scudéry and her imitators. Intricate prolonged extravagance was then
characteristic; and Sir George Mackenzie ("Bluidy Mackenzie"), who
wrote such a romance about the civil war, reckoned these heroic tales
the final and perfect type of the novel.

"The Indian Emperor," in rhyme (1665), was a contribution by Dryden
to this class of drama. Cortez and Pizarro go conquering together,
which is odd, "in a pleasant Indian country," within two leagues of
Mexico. The High Priest's morning sacrifice has disposed of 500 human
victims--love scenes with ladies of such Mexican names as Almeria
and Cydaria follow; Cortez and Pizarro approach in arms, Cydaria and
Cortez fall in love, in a song, and after much heroic passion, all
ends happily for the lovers. The merits of the versification and the
rhetoric are great; Montezuma is racked on the stage; and holds a
dialogue about religion, in fine distiches, with his equally tormented
High Priest. The priest expires, but Cortez releases Montezuma, and
throws the blame on Pizarro.

"The Conquest of Granada" (1670) was a yet more triumphant play of
the heroic variety; "The Rehearsal," a satirical piece, partly by
the Duke of Buckingham, partly by collaborators, derided "Bayes" (as
we have seen); and as Dryden received the Laureate's bays in 1670,
he is, at least, in part, the object of the mockery. He took it very
unconcernedly, and went on writing heroic plays, but in 1677-1678, in
"All for Love," abandoned rhyme for blank verse. "The Spanish Friar"
(1681) was a "topical" play, full of the Protestantism of Oates's
Popish Plot.

The sequels of the Whig and Protestant lunacy of the Popish Plot,
and the political turmoil and Whig conspiracies in the interests
of Monmouth, and against the succession of the Duke of York (James
II.), found Dryden on the side of the King, and gave occasion for
his greatest works, the political satires, "Absalom and Achitophel"
(Monmouth and Shaftesbury) and "The Medal" (1681-1682), while more
amusing if less monumental, is "Mac-Flecknoe," the attack on the Whig
playwright and versifier, Shadwell. "The Hind and Panther" (the Roman
and Anglican Churches) is not very appropriate in its allegory, but
magnificent in many passages of verse. Dryden came into the religion of
the Duke of York, apparently from conviction, and so threw in his lot
with a doomed cause. After the Revolution of 1688, no longer Laureate,
he simply worked hard at literature for his livelihood. He translated
Virgil with much spirit, into rhymed ten syllabled couplets; and wrote
that Ode to the Pious Memory of Mrs. Anne Killigrew which contains his
repentance for the prostitution of the Muse throughout the revel of the

    O gracious God I how far have we
    Profaned thy heavenly grace of poesy!
    Made prostitute and profligate the Muse,
    Debased to each obscene and impious use,
    Whose harmony was first ordained above
    For tongues of angels and for hymns of love.

Dryden's old age, as the dictator to the wits at Will's Coffee House,
was tranquil and happy: he had sown his literary wild oats, his life
was one of peaceful and honoured industry, without failure of mental
force. He died in May, 1700, and was buried near Chaucer in Westminster
Abbey, with strangely maimed rites, according to Farquhar, the author
of "The Beaux' Stratagem," who was present.

Dryden's prose, chiefly critical, was addressed to that part of the
literary world, the Court and the Town, and the Templars, which was
mainly interested in the theatre. He could thus write with freedom,
alertness, and gaiety, to appreciative readers concerned with the
problems of the drama. It had almost expired by a kind of natural
decay, moral and literary, before the theatres were closed by the
Puritans. Now writers of plays looked back on the glories of the
"former temple," to Jonson, Fletcher, and Shakespeare, and also looked
abroad to the French stage then flourishing under Corneille and
Molière. Which was the better way? Was the rhyme of French tragedy,
and of many French comedies, to be imitated? It was imitated, and in
his rhymed tragedies Dryden acquired his mastery of the couplet. What
was to be said for and against the English practice of an upper and an
under plot? What were the famous "unities" of time, place, and action?
Should deaths be merely reported or presented on the stage? Dryden
observes that the audiences used to laugh at dying scenes in tragedies:
"it is the most comic part of the whole play".

Having such topics to discuss, Dryden adopted the prose style so
justly appreciated, though it was the reverse of his own manner, by
Dr. Johnson. Dryden's prefaces to his plays "have not the formality of
a settled style, in which the first half of the sentence betrays the
other. The clauses are never balanced, nor the periods modelled: every
word seems to drop by chance, though it falls into its proper place.
Nothing is cold or languid; the whole is airy, animated, and vigorous;
what is little is gay; what is great is splendid."

The most famous essays are those of "Dramatic Poesy," and "The
Preface to the Fables," adaptations or "translations" of Chaucer and
Boccaccio. The former essay is, in form, a dialogue, held in a boat
on the Thames, while the thunder of the guns, in a great naval battle
against the Dutch (3 June, 1665) dies away from the English shores,
with promise of an English victory. The speakers are Lord Buckhurst,
Sir Robert Howard, Dryden's brother-in-law, the poet himself, and
Sir Charles Sedley, the gayest of the four, though his knowledge of
Aristotle's "Poetics" is far from adequate. The speeches are rather
long; there is no rapid interchange of opinions. In Dryden's lips are
placed the words, "Shakespeare was the man who of all modern, and
perhaps ancient poets, had the largest and most comprehensive soul".
Yet "he is many times flat, insipid; his comic wit degenerating into
clinches, his serious swelling into bombast". Dryden, here, and in
"The Preface to the Fables," was much more keen to praise Shakespeare
than to blame him: in the second place the zest with which he applauds
Shakespeare and Chaucer (whose scansion, unluckily, he did not
understand), is worthy of himself and of them. He translated Virgil,
but, when he did some Homeric passages into English, we see how
entirely the Greek, to his taste, overcomes the Mantuan poet. "I have
found, by trial, Homer a more pleasing task than Virgil... the Grecian
is more according to my genius than the Latin poet."

Dryden himself, at the meeting of the ways of the seventeenth and
eighteenth centuries, belonged by genius more to the past than the
immediate future. His criticisms are like the conversation of a great
artist, speaking of his art, and also (Dr. Johnson thought him too
copious on this subject) of himself. But here Johnson resembles Dryden
when he rebukes Andromache, at her last leave-taking with Hector, for
speaking of her utter bereavement of father and brothers by the spear
of Achilles. "The devil was in Hector," says Dryden, "if he knew not
all this matter, as well as she who told it him, for she had been his
bed-fellow for many years together"--an error in fact, and an example
of Dryden's occasional frivolity.

  The work of Thomas Southerne has for long been neglected, though
  Garrick, by making excisions and modifications, restored part
  of it to the stage. Southerne was born before the Restoration
  (1660), and lived to see the last effort of the Stuart cause
  crushed in 1746. Born in Dublin, he went to Oxford, neglected
  the law, gave his first play in 1682, paid court to the Duke
  of York, got a commission in the Duke of Berwick's regiment,
  and wrote, in 1687, a play, not acted till 1721, in which he
  satirized Mary, the daughter of James II. Dryden doubled, in
  Southerne's case, the price of a prologue, raising it from £5
  to £10, but Southerne raised the gains of authors, getting £700
  for a single piece, while Dryden never received more than £100.
  Southerne's new comedies were popular after the Revolution
  of 1688. The plot of his "Innocent Adultery" (dear to Lydia
  Languish) was taken from a novel, by Mrs. Aphra Behn--the play,
  in 1758, was revived by Garrick;--from Mrs. Behn also Southerne
  dramatized "Oroonoko, or the Loyal Slave". This piece, with the
  licentious comic scenes removed, was revived in 1759, and a new
  age saw how Southerne

    "Touch'd their fathers' hearts with gen'rous woe,
    And taught their mothers' youthful eyes to flow,"


    "With ribald mirth he stained his sacred page".

  In 1725, the poetic fire of Southerne died out in "Money the
  Mistress". The author was liked by everybody, even by Pope, known
  to all as "honest Tom," and addressed by the Earl of Orrery in
  a letter as "My Dear Old Man". Southerne did not affect the
  development of the stage, and the better part of his "Oroonoko"
  is due to Mrs. Behn: people who laughed at the sub-plot were
  easily amused.

  Of Nicholas Rowe (1674-1718) space suffices only for the
  statement that he was made Poet Laureate under George I.,
  edited Shakespeare, and wrote "Jane Shore," "in imitation of
  Shakespeare's style". Here is a sample of the imitation:--

    "If poor, weak woman swerve from Virtue's rule,
    If strongly charmed she leave the thorny way,
    And in the softer paths of pleasure stray,
    Ruin ensues, reproach and endless shame,
    And one false step entirely damns her fame."

  The blank verse too is remote from the Shakespearean.

The stage (like the world after the death of Donne's Miss Drury)
continued to exist after the death of Steele. Young and Johnson,
Thomson and John Home wrote tragedies, and acting comedies abounded,
but we do not find comedies that live and give pleasure in the reading
till we come to Goldsmith and Sheridan.

[1] In 1664 in the Parish of St. Nicholas Aeons (_see_ "Diet, of Nat.
Biog." referring to the list of Baptisms in that Church).

[2] In the Achæan myth, first mentioned in the "Iliad," we read that
"Œdipus fell," the Greek word is that used for falling in battle.



Alexander Pope.

Alexander Pope, the son of Catholic parents in the trading class,
was born in the year of Revolution, 1688. His education was private,
priests were his tutors, but he acquired Latin, and was from childhood
a great reader of poetry, and an imitator of what he read. He was not
born deformed, but overstudy, perhaps, or unnoted accident, made him
the stunted and crooked thing that he became, while his health, and the
hideous personal insults which his enemies used as freely as Hazlitt
did in later times, exasperated his temper.

His parents withdrew to Windsor Forest, a centre of Catholic families
like the Blounts and Englefields. Pope was early introduced to the
coffee-house wits by the most chivalrous and accomplished of men,
Charles Wogan, who, in 1719, rescued from prison in Austria, and
brought to her affianced prince in Italy, Clementina Sobieska, mother
of Prince Charles.

Pope corresponds very early, on literary subjects, with the veteran
Wycherley (of whom Pope's account is, as always, quite untrustworthy)
and with "knowing Walsh". He taught himself verse by translating the
Latin poet Statius, and at 21 published, in 1709, his "Pastorals,"
"written at the age of 16," according to Pope.

It is not possible here to examine all Pope's statements about
his works, all his really ingenious ways of fishing for fame, of
mystifying; and, with none of the coarseness of our contemporary
literary advertisement, of acting as his own interviewer and his own
advertiser. He had no need to practise these arts, but his methods are
amusing as exposed by his learned and hostile editor, Elwin. Pope's
great delight was in literary quarrels, and he managed to pick some
very pretty quarrels out of remarks on his pastorals and those of
Philips which appeared in "The Guardian". Pope preluded his pastorals
by an essay on pastoral poetry in general; a _genre_ of which it may
be said that Theocritus (using literary models, such as Stesichorus,
and also familiar with the songs of Sicilian peasants) introduced it
in immortal poems; Virgil imitated Theocritus: and Pope thinks that
Virgil "refines upon his original, and in all points when judgment is
principally concerned, he is much superior to his master". It would
have been pleasant to set down Pope to the construing of a few passages
from Theocritus. Pope kept pretty close to his originals: and follows
his own advice "the numbers should be the smoothest, the most easy and
flowing imaginable". The brevity of the pastorals, their smoothness,
and their avoidance of the "burning questions" of the day, so commonly
intruded into Elizabethan pastorals, permit Pope's to be read with ease
and even with pleasure.

In the "Essay on Criticism" (1711) we find Pope with an ambition to
reform the world of literature. It is not easy to find out exactly what
he would be at, for he uses such terms as "Nature," "wit," "judgment,"
in various ways. Nature seems permanent enough, but human views of
"Nature" differ perpetually, and when Pope says, "First follow Nature,"
what does he mean by "Nature"? Why are "wit" and "judgment" "at
strife"? The poet refers them to Nature as interpreted by Greek art for
a verdict; and of Greek art he knew very little. Read Homer and Virgil,
especially Virgil, he says. The poem, though it teaches us little about
criticism, is full of lines so witty and so pointed that they are now

In 1713 he published "Windsor Forest," admired by Swift, his life-long
friend; with Addison he was on apparently good terms, but he was
already suspicious. He attacked Dennis, who had assailed Addison's
"Cato," and he did so in a style which Addison, through Steele,
repudiated. Addison's praise of Philips's pastorals, with their
Fairies, to Pope appeared dispraise of his own; and in an article
in "The Guardian" he made fun of Philips with ingenious irony of

Pope's great work, his version of the "Iliad," appearing in portions
(1715-1720), met a kind of challenge in Tickell's version of the First
Book. Addison spoke well of Tickell's specimen; did he write it, or
inspire it, or set it up as a rival to Pope's? Pope, much later, told
his own story of his wrongs and of his noble and dignified treatment
of Addison. His most loyal biographer cannot accept the tale: at all
events Pope wrote, and much later published, his famous verses on
Addison (Atticus). (Published, 1722, after Addison's death.) The two
men ceased to be friends, but Addison never hit back. Pope had also
suspected him for doubts as to the wisdom of adding to the first shape
of "The Rape of the Lock" (1712) the machinery of Sylphs and Gnomes
in the second form (1714). The addition was deservedly successful,
but Addison might well hesitate to recommend a change in that tiny
mock-epic of a quarrel about the stealing of a lock of hair. It is
perfection in its way, in its wit, sauciness, and gaiety.

The "Iliad," a terrible task for Pope, executed through long years of
advice from all quarters, of doubt, and of weariness, was a triumph,
celebrated in charming verses by Gay's "Welcome to Mr. Pope on His
Return from Greece". In that strange age the noble, the great, the
beautiful swelled Pope's triumph; literature was fashionable. Pope's
"Iliad" can never be superseded as a masterpiece of English literature.
He was no scholar, but he had many friends to help him, and his plan
was to give the spirit of the Epic, as he conceived it, in a form which
his age could appreciate. It is almost as if he had taken Homer's
theme and written the poem himself. The minor characteristics of the
antique manner are gone; but his age would have thought them barbarous
and fatiguing. Wherever there is rhetoric, as in the speeches of the
heroes, Pope is magnificent; where there are pictures of external
nature he is conventional. But he is never slow. His conventions were
those of his age, and are extinct, but time cannot abate the splendour
of his spirit.

In doing the "Odyssey," of which the first part appeared in 1725, he
was aided by Fenton and Broome, who, under his supervision, wrote
exactly like himself. With them, too, there were quarrels; they were
not paid in what they reckoned a satisfactory style. Pope received
about £10,000 in all for Homer, a large sum in those days, and not
likely to be equalled by the gains of any later translator of Homer. He
dabbled in the shares of the South Sea Bubble, and appears to have been
rather a winner than a loser.

He had accumulated quarrels to his heart's content, hence "The
Dunciad" of 1728-1729: a satire on minor men of letters, in which he
shows wit and ill-nature enough, with a vein of true poetry in the
conclusion; but the dirt and the personalities are now rather amazing
than agreeable; while the necessary notes below drive the text into
the garrets of the page. Not even Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, who had
laughed at Pope's attempts to make love to her, escaped a flick of the
whip of scandal in "The Dunciad". Perhaps Pope had not been gently
treated, but nobody admires his revenges. The business of publication
was managed with all the intricate wiles and subterfuges in which
he took such strange delight. One of his butts, Cibber, retorted in
kind, and was successful in giving pain: Theobald, a useful editor of
Shakespeare, Pope assailed, because Theobald had not spared the errors
in his own edition (1728).

His later works, Epistles to Burlington and Arbuthnot, "The Essay on
Man," the "Imitations of Horace," are full of the wit and polished
verse that were natural to Pope, and were fostered by his friendships
with St. John (Bolingbroke), Swift, Gay, and Arbuthnot; friendships
that never failed, and eternally testify to the better part in Pope,
despite his tempers of malice and his feline arts. His enthusiasm
for Atterbury, exhibited in letters written before the bishop's too
well-merited exile, is the most romantic point in his career. Late in
life he was kind to Johnson and Thomson; he had been a good son; his
character greatly irritated his most learned editor, Mr. Elwin; but
nobody suffered so much from his faults of jealousy and suspiciousness
as Pope himself. He died on 30 May, 1744.

Ever since the romantic movement of the early nineteenth century,
people have asked "Was Pope a poet?" He was, in the highest degree,
the kind of poet that his age and the English society of his age
desired and deserved; a town poet--where rural nature is concerned,
conventional and unobservant; where Man is concerned a poet of Man,
literary, political, and fashionable. In the great fight over Pope's
claim to be a poet, of 1819, when Bowles was the assailant, Byron
was the champion of Pope: Byron himself being a satirist and a poet
of mankind, urban, political, and fashionable, as well as piratical.
Horace was busied with the same field of human nature (not with the
desperate pirate and remorseful Giaour) but nobody has asked "Was
Horace a poet?"

Pope wrote in reaction against the conceited poetry of the seventeenth
century; he did well, though the manner was already dead, but he never
came within sight or hearing of the inspired songs of Lovelace and
Carew. The world of Pope was in many ways a limited and evanescent
and artificial world; but in his verse it lives eternally, and that
is enough for his fame, and testimony sufficient to his genius. He
brought his instrument, the decasyllabic couplet, to the perfection
required for his purpose, each couplet existing in and for itself.
But in reading him we feel that "paper-sparing Pope" wrote down his
best passages, detached, on the backs of letters; they are separate
inspirations, and are fitted into the whole like fragments of a mosaic:
for example the lines on Atticus are fitted into "The Epistle to
Arbuthnot". His rhymes, as "fault" to "thought," are not the things on
which he bestowed most pains.

Concerning other poets--Chaucer, Spenser, Shakespeare--we feel that, in
any age of literature, in any period of taste, under any conventions,
they must have been great. Pope, on the other hand, cannot easily be
thought of as having the capacity for greatness, except in the literary
conditions of the early eighteenth century. But in that period he was


From the galaxy of wits who dined with Harley and St. John and
were addressed in that splendid society by their Christian names,
Jonathan or Mat, Matthew Prior stands somewhat apart. His duties as a
diplomatist carried him abroad; he owed his diplomatic posts to his
wit, not to his birth, which Queen Anne spoke of as unpleasantly
obscure. He was born on 14 July, 1664, at Wimborne or Winburn, in
Dorsetshire; Westminster was his school, and St. John's, Cambridge, his
college. Here he took his degree, in 1686, and obtained a fellowship
in 1688. He attracted the notice of the Whigs by parodying Dryden's
"Hind and Panther," in "The Town and Country Mouse," aided in the jest
by Charles Montagu. Dryden is very improbably said to have wept; the
Whigs, at all events, laughed, and in 1691 made Prior secretary to the
Embassy in Holland. He held the same post at Versailles later; at this
time he was a sincere eulogist of our Dutch deliverer, William III,
whom he celebrated in "The Carmen Seculare" (1700), indeed constantly,
like Horace, he "praising his tyrant sung". Reviewing history, he
places William before a number of Roman heroes, and, remembering that
William's wife is a Stuart, bids the god Janus

       Finding some of Stuart's race
       Unhappy, pass their annals by.

    But, as thou dwell'st upon that heavenly name
    To grief for ever sacred, as to fame,
    O! read it to thyself: in silence weep!

Is the name Charles or Mary? At this time there was a fashionable cult
of Mary Stuart. This long ode, granting the mythology, has considerable
merit, though, says Dr. Johnson, "Who can be supposed to have laboured
through it?" Not the Doctor, as he candidly confesses.

Under Queen Anne, Prior was tempted over to the Tory party, and his
doings, as a negotiator with France, were thought, and perhaps not
unjustly, to smack of Jacobitism. He was in Paris when Beatrix Esmond's
Duke of Hamilton was about to go thither on a mission, and there seems
little doubt (from a record by Lockhart of Carnwath, the leader of
the Scottish Cavaliers) that Hamilton was to bring over to England,
in disguise, the exiled son of James II, "the Pretender," as Colonel
Esmond does in Thackeray's novel. But Hamilton fell in a duel with
Mohun, and that chance was lost.

As _acknowledged_ ambassador, Prior was at the French Court from
August, 1712, to August, 1714, when the death of Queen Anne scattered
the Tories. Early in 1715 he was locked up on suspicion of treason, and
was not released till three years later.

The hope of the Whigs was to decapitate Harley, who lay in the Tower;
but Harley could have involved Marlborough, possessing a fatal letter
of his, and finally Prior and Harley were released. He had now no
resources except his college fellowship, but his friends by securing a
large subscription for his poems, and by the generosity of the family
of Harley, placed him beyond want. He died on September 18, 1721.

Prior does not live by his "Alma, or the Progress of the Mind," a long
poem in rhymed eight syllable couplets, in the manner of Butler's
"Hudibras". This work is a kind of comic history of Psychology, and
ends with Barry Lyndon's rhyme to Aristotle, "Here, Jonathan, your
master's bottle!" Prior's "Solomon," on the vanity of knowledge,
pleasure, and power, in heroic rhymed verse, is best remembered for
two lines to Abra, and might, so easily does the author take his
theme, be called the vanity of melancholy, though it closes in serious
admonitions to "the weary King Ecclesiast".

Prior's tales in the manner of Fontaine's "Contes," are lively, like
these; and like these, may have seemed coarse to such a moralist as Sir
Richard Steele.

Prior, in fact, lives by his merry, tender, light, and bright social
verses, in tripping measures, for example, "Thus Kitty, beautiful and
young" (for Gay's patroness, the Duchess of Queensberry), "To a Child
of Quality," "The Merchant, to Secure His Treasure," "Dear Chloe,
how blubber'd is that pretty face," and many other things; the best
reminding us more of the charming trifles in the Greek Anthology than
of Horace.


The spoiled improvident child in the group of wits was John Gay, to
whom Pope and Swift were attached by the most tender affection. Gay
was an author who never aimed high, but who almost always hit his mark
and pleased the Town. But his success was so much the consequence of
choosing the happy moments, his poems are so completely poems of his
age, that he is now praised at a venture rather than read. He was born
at Barnstaple, in Devonshire (1685); though of an old family he "was
without prospect of hereditary riches," and was "placed apprentice with
a silk-mercer" in London.

Perhaps some fair customer discovered that he had a soul above silk;
the Duchess of Monmouth, the heiress of the Scotts of Buccleuch, made
him her secretary (1712). Becoming acquainted with Pope, Gay dedicated
to him (1713) his "Rural Sports" in the usual heroic rhymed couplets.
Gay's descriptions of nature, and his praises, are more genuine than,
in that age of the Town, such things usually were. He writes of angling
"with his eye on the object," in Wordsworth's phrase. His remarks on
fishing with the worm, a theme unworthy of the Muse, are judicious. As
to fly fishing, Gay is among those who advocate a search for the insect
in the waters and an exact imitation. He would have us fish "fine and
far off," with "a single hair" next the hook, and perhaps he is the
first to recommend the use of the "dry" or floating fly: "Upon the
curling _surface_ let it glide," not sunk. The catching of a salmon is
not ill described, but as Gay retains his "single hair," he must always
have been broken if he did happen to hook a fish. For his own part,
he never uses either worm or the natural fly: never tries for coarse
fish--pike, perch, and so forth,--and this justifies the affection of
his friends.

In "The Shepherd's Week" (1714) his Idylls describe real peasants with
their folklore superstitions, but Virgil, or Theocritus, is still
imitated. The pastoral is an extinct species of literature, but Gay's
were more natural and popular than Pope's. Dedicated to St. John, in
verses celebrating the recovery of Queen Anne, who presently died,
the poems were ungrateful to the Hanoverian Court, and Gay lost the
secretaryship to an ambassador.

Gay's "Welcome from Greece, to Mr. Pope on his having finished his
translation of the 'Iliad,'" has already been mentioned as one of the
most charming relics of that golden age of letters, wit, and friendship.

Friendship did not aid wit, when Pope and Arbuthnot took hands in,
and ruined, Gay's "Three Hours after Marriage," a comedy which was not
comic (1717). In 1720 his collected poems brought Gay £1000: but a gift
of stock in the South Sea Bubble was profitless, as Gay would not sell
out in time. In 1727 he was offered by George II a Court place so small
and ludicrous that it was declined.

Gay next made an immense but not a lucrative success with "The Beggar's
Opera," which had an unexampled run of seven weeks. A sequel was not
licensed by the censor; Gay was recouped by a subscription, and fell
out of Court favour. The Duchess of Queensberry (Prior's Kitty),
carried him to her place in the country, and here he was petted till
his death, which seems to have been caused by indolence and the
pleasures of the table.

His "Trivia; or the Art of Walking the Streets of London," is a
vivacious picture of the crowds, dirt, and bustle: his "Fables," though
original and witty, are, like pastorals, an obsolete form of literary
entertainment. He wrote his own epitaph,

    Life is a jest, and all things show it,
    I thought so once, but now I know it.

He took a different view of this important theme in "Thoughts on

Ambrose Philips.

But for his friendship with Addison and the collision of his
"Pastorals," with those of Pope, producing Pope's famous ironical
review, Ambrose Philips (1675-1749) would scarcely be remembered. The
modern art of "booming" was illustrated in Philips's case. A whole
'Spectator' was devoted to a puff of his adaptation ("The Distressed
Mother") of the "Andromache" of Racine: and another told how it
affected Sir Roger de Coverley. As has occasionally happened more
recently, though advertised by Addison, and by his own threat to birch
Pope, "Philips became ridiculous, without his own fault, by the absurd
admiration of his friends," and his Christian name, Ambrose, became the
ludicrous nickname, Namby-pamby. But for Philips there was not lacking
a patron, Boulter, Primate of Ireland, and in Ireland places were found
for the exile. Philips translated several Odes of Pindar, and though he
had not the pinion of the Theban eagle, the sentiments of Pindar are
plainly visible in his versions.


Among the minor stars in the golden galaxy of Queen Anne's reign
scrutiny detects Thomas Tickell. (Born in Cumberland in 1686,
educated at Queen's, Oxford.) He is best remembered in connexion with
Pope's story that to damage his translation of the "Iliad," Addison
translated the First Book and published it, averring that Tickell was
the author. That Addison was guilty of a villainous action is, says
Macaulay, highly improbable, that Tickell was capable of a villainy
is highly improbable, that the twain were united in a base conspiracy
is improbable "out of all whooping". But that Pope's mind, resentful,
brooding, and inventive, came to believe in the conspiracy, is,
unfortunately, only too natural. We know the figments of all sorts
which the imagination of Shelley imposed on him: they were, at least,
more romantic than the figments of Pope. In both cases there is a
resemblance to the fancy of persecutions which haunts the insane.

Tickell had the honour and happiness to be a friend of Addison, and
wrote verses commendatory of his opera, "Rosamond," and of his tragedy,
"Cato". His translation of the First Book of the "Iliad" is really
good, when we consider the poetic conventions of the age, and the
inevitable use of the rhyming heroic couplets. He who would estimate
the difficulties of Pope's and Tickell's task, should endeavour,
himself, to do a few of the lines of Homer into the classical metre of
Queen Anne's day. When Tickell makes Agamemnon, speaking of Chryseis,

    Not Clytæmnestra boasts a nobler race,
    A sweeter temper, or a lovelier face,

he is comically remote from what Agamemnon does say in Homer, and
the sweetness of Clytæmnestra's temper was never famous. Tickell's
"Thou fierce-looked talker with a coward soul" is much less spirited
and literal than Pope's "Thou dog in forehead and in heart a deer"
("Drunkard, with eyes of dog and heart of deer," is the literal
version). Tickell, more bound by the taste of his age than Pope,
shirks the dog and deer. None the less Tickell's version is spirited
and lucid; the course of events can be easily followed: the reader is
enabled to understand the tragic situation from which the whole epic
evolves itself. If Pope had not written, if Tickell had finished his
version as well as he began it, he would have satisfied public taste,
and won considerable fame.

Tickell, following Addison, was a Whig, "most Whiggish of Whigs," Swift
said. This makes his line on "An Original Picture of King Charles I,
Taken at the Time of His Trial," all the more curious. The portrait, of
which several replicas exist, was mezzotinted from the All Souls' copy
in Tickell's day, about 1714. (Bower was the painter.)

    How meagre, pale, neglected, worn with care,
     What steady sadness and august despair!

says Tickell. The look is one of melancholy scorn rather than of
despair. Tickell falls foul of the artist:

    Thy steady hands thy savage heart betray,
    Near thy bad work the stunn'd spectators faint,
    Nor see unmoved what thou unmoved could'st paint.

Bower, in fact, produced the most sympathetic portrait of the King.
Tickell proceeds to curse Cromwell, bless the Restoration, and salute
Queen Anne as a Stuart.

Not much Whiggery here! But when the Hanoverian dynasty and the Whigs
came in, Tickell was strong on the winning side. His "Epistle from a
Lady in England to a Gentleman at Avignon," from a Jacobite lady to a
gentleman at James's Court, is very prettily written, and the following
lines are true.

    Then mourn not, hapless prince, thy kingdoms lost;
    A crown, though late, thy sacred brows may boast;
    Heaven seems, through _us_, thy empire to decree,
    Those who win hearts have given their hearts to thee,

On his side "James reckons half the fair".

    Say, will he come again?
      Nay, Lady, never.
    Say, will he never reign?
      Ay, Lady, ever,

sings a modern poet, whose heart is true to George? However, Tickell's
lady reflects that the Hanoverian sway is good for trade, and in the
end prefers London to Avignon.

In 1717 Addison made Tickell his under-secretary--Tickell had always
been his "understudy". In 1740 Tickell died, in the enjoyment of one of
these lucrative places which rewarded the loyalty of literary Whigs.

With Tickell, the name of Thomas Parnell (1679-1718) goes naturally.
He was a minor light among the wits; was befriended by Swift, and is
remembered for "The Hermit," "The Night-Piece on Death," and one or two
other effusions.




Steele and Addison are the Twins among the stars of the age of Queen
Anne. Swift impresses us as a greater genius than either Steele or
Addison, but he is not loved, and he is not read as they are. Their
lives, till two or three years before Addison's death, were united.
They were schoolfellows at Charterhouse, fellow-undergraduates at
Oxford, each was apt to take a hand in the other's play when the stage
attracted them; they wrote together in the two famous journals, "The
Tatler" and "The Spectator," which Steele created; some essays therein
are a patchwork of pieces from both hands. They were both anxious to
cleanse the stage; to bring decent morals and manners into fashion In
the original manuscript of Steele's comedy, "The Conscious Lovers"
(1722), are rough notes for a preface, written after Addison's death,
"The fourth act was the business of the play. The case of duelling I
have fought nor shall I ever fight again... Addison told me I had a
faculty of drawing tears... Be that as it will, I shall endeavour to do
what I can to promote noble things...."

Both men were moralists, but while Addison was the more moral, Steele
was infinitely the more greatly given to moralizing. His heart was in
the right place. He honoured women and pure affection, and temperance,
and the wedded state. But his many brief notes to his second wife
"Prue" (Miss Scurlock), written from all manner of places and at all
sorts of hours, prove that poor Prue had often to dine alone. Business
detained her Richard; he came home with the milk, and had a terrible
headache next day. With the posts which he held under Government,
with what he gained by his pen (and he was the owner of his own paper,
and his own paymaster), with Mrs. Steele's fortune, they had resources
enough, but Richard at intervals sends Prue a guinea or two; Richard is
constantly in hiding from the bailiffs; is never out of debt; sometimes
there is no coal, candle, or meat in the house. Steele was the most
affectionate of men and the most generous. He boasted that the world
owed Addison's essays to him, because he had made Addison overcome his
laziness, and he told the world how greatly Addison was his superior.
He wishes that they might write together some work to be called "The
Monument," the memorial of their friendship. He took the side of poor
discharged soldiers, whipped from parish to parish for their poverty.
He adored children; his tears were as ready and heroic as the tears of
Homer's warriors. But when he yielded to the temptations of the bottle
and of extravagance, his wife and children had to suffer just as much
as if Richard, in place of being a Christian Hero, had been no better
than the wicked. Like Balzac he was a man of debts and of projects;
he even wasted money on alchemy, and had a scheme for getting wealth
in connexion with a lottery, a scheme which even then was found to
be illegal. Mr. Swinburne called Steele "a sentimental debauchee,"
and indeed he shone more in preaching than in practice. Addison calls
him "poor Dick," he is "poor Dick" to all the world now, if he were
Sir Richard "to all Europe". But, when lip preached, he meant what he
said, and his pleasant sermons, or rather pleas for goodness, kindness,
faith, did "promote noble things," and he left the world more decent
and more human than he found it.

Steele was born in Dublin in 1672; his family were not Celtic Irish
folk; his father was in what is reckoned the less noble branch of the
legal profession. When Sir Richard assumed heraldic bearings he calmly
annexed those of another family of Steele, as the elder Osborne, in
"Vanity Fair," was supplied by his coachbuilder with the arms of the
House of Leeds. Like the cousin of Mr. Isaac Bickerstaff, in "The
Tatler" (No. 14), he was guilty of "treason against the Kings at Arms".
Of his childhood we know only what he tells in that pathetic passage
about his father's funeral: "I had a battledore in my hand and fell
a-beating the coffin, and calling papa, for, I know not how, I had some
idea that he was locked up there.... My mother was a very beautiful
woman, of a noble spirit, and there was a dignity in her grief amidst
all the wildness of her transport, which methought struck me with an
instinct of sorrow that, before I was sensible what it was to grieve,
seized my very soul and has made pity the weakness of my heart ever
since" ("Tatler," No. 181). "Hence it is that in me good nature is no
merit, but having been so frequently overwhelmed with her tears before
I knew the cause of any affliction... I imbibed consideration, remorse,
and an unmanly gentleness of mind, which has since ensnared me into
ten thousand calamities...." So a "Night of Memories and Sighs" is
consecrated by Richard to his beloved dead, "when my servant knocked at
the door with a letter, attended by a hamper of wine, of the same sort
with that which is to be put on sale at Garraway's coffee house. Upon
the receipt of it I sent for three friends.... We drank two bottles a
man," and, as Mr. Arthur Pendennis says, found that there "was not a
headache in a hogshead".

The fluid, in fact, as we know from the advertisement in this number of
"The Tatler," was "extraordinary French claret". Dick conscientiously
tested its merits, and gave it a puff in addition to the advertisement
which was paid for. Thus he "promoted everything noble," including
the vintage of Bordeaux, and, as Thackeray saw, there is no more
characteristic essay of Steele's than this meditation on death and
grief and loyal memory: _à léal souvenir!_

Steele lost his mother also in his childhood. He had an uncle, Henry
Gascoigne, who, like Swift's uncle, provided for his education, but
more generously. Attached to "Erin's high Ormonde," Gascoigne obtained
for Steele a nomination to Charterhouse (1684) (Thackeray's school),
where Steele met Addison, and their friendship began. In 1689 Steele
went up to Christ Church, Addison being at Magdalen; in 1691 Steele
gained a "postmastership" (a scholarship) at Merton, a college to
which he was warmly attached, presenting its ancient library with
the volumes of "The Tatler". He left just before his Schools (that
is his examination for a degree). In 1694 he entered the Duke of
Ormonde's Guards as a trooper, apparently gentlemen did this as a way
of approaching a commission. Steele got his as a reward for a poem on
the death of Queen Mary--the piece was dedicated to Lord Cutts, Colonel
of the Coldstreams. He befriended Steele, who, stationed at the Tower,
made the acquaintance of Congreve and the wits, and defeated Captain
Kelly in a duel. Probably the contrast between the delicacy of Steele's
sentiments, and his vein of sincere piety, on one hand, with his
addiction to mundane pleasures, on the other, made him as notable in
his regiment as Aramis, Abbé d'Herblay, among the Musketeers of Louis

Steele, when once he took a pen in his hand, wrote much against
duelling, exposing the ludicrousness of the institution. His remarks
had no effect; what killed the duel in England was the use of the
pistol: unromantic, fatal, and fortuitous. His duel may have made
men more wary of bantering Steele, but his "Christian Hero," a work
of military devotion (1701) lowered his character in the regiment.
To restore it he wrote his comedy "The Funeral" (1701); to show that
blasphemy and intrigue were no necessary components of a play: for
he was wholly of the party of Jeremy Collier. The idea of the plot,
the revival of Lord Brampton while his coffin is waiting for him, and
his watching of the manœuvres of his hateful widow, while his fair
ward, Lady Sharlot, escapes in the coffin from her enemies (a common
situation in ancient ballads) is too grotesque. But the scenes with the
hired mutes, with the poor broken soldiers, with Lady Brampton and her
maid, are very amusing. Steele's exposure of the low tricks of lawyers,
his appeal for cheap and accessible justice for all, are much in,
Dickens's manner, and the loves of Lord Hardy and Lady Sharlot are as
pure as bonny Kilmeny, while Lady Sharlot, in her encounter with Lady
Brampton, gives proof of high spirit, and Lady Harriet is a flirt as
harmless as lively.

Like the other wits, Steele was presented with lucrative posts, such
as the editorship of the colourless official "Gazette". In the same
year, 1707, he married his second wife, Miss Scurlock, the adored Prue,
a woman of some property. He had a house at Hampton Wick, horses,
gardeners, footmen, everything handsome about him. In 1709 he founded
"The Tatler," a folio sheet of printed matter, appearing thrice a week
and containing news, political and social, correspondence, and the
charming essays which soon became most important. Steele wrote 188 of
these papers, Addison, forty-two, in thirty-six both men took a hand.
Swift wrote very seldom. The essays, with those which he wrote in "The
Spectator," and in other papers, are the foundation of the fame of
Steele. They vary much in theme and style. To digest the "Iliad" into a
journal, and reckon up the days of the events, cannot have much amused
the public. There is plenty of dramatic criticism. Steele openly avows
that he is a member of the Society for the Reformation of Manners;
blames the plays of Wycherley and the rest, and calls in the name of
Virtue for frequent representations of Shakespeare. "The apt use of
the theatre is the most agreeable and easy way of making a polite and
moral gentry, which would end in making the rest of the people regular
in their behaviour," a pleasing opinion which is not quite justified by

Dick was a constant patron of the best plays, but regular his
behaviour was not. Various, excellent, and amiable as are Steele's
essays, neither in style nor in thought do they wear quite so well as
Addison's. Yet it is scarcely just to draw a distinction which may rest
only on individual taste.

"The Tatler's" last appearance was on 2 January, 1711. Steele ended
with a paper in which he generously attributes to his friend the essays
which he deemed of most value. On 1 March the first number of "The
Spectator" appeared--it ceased to exist on 6 December, 1712. Steele's
new journal, "The Guardian," lasted for six months in 1713; he was
elected as member for Stockbridge, and then came a quarrel of Whig and
Tory with Swift, who wrote in "The Examiner". The arrival of George I
from Hanover procured various lucrative posts, a patent for a theatre,
and a knighthood for Steele: he edited "The Englishman," and attacked
Swift's fallen friends, Harley and St. John; and in 1716 he got an
income of £1000 a year as one of the commissioners of the estates
forfeited by the Scottish Jacobites who were out for their King in
the rising of 1715. This was not a pleasant appointment to a man of
feeling. Of the coolness between Steele and Addison we speak elsewhere.

In 1722 Steele's "Conscious Lovers," with another attack on duelling
was acted with success, and dedicated to the "gracious and amiable
sovereign," George I. Cibber the actor added scenes rather more gay
than the rest, for so moral is this drama that Fielding's Parson Adams,
in "Joseph Andrews," said "it contains some things almost solemn
enough for a sermon". His connexion with the theatre brought Steele
into more than one lawsuit; his failing health, and the assiduities
of his creditors caused him to prefer to reside in Wales; he died in
Carmarthen on I September, 1729. Like Goldsmith, Charles Lamb, Walton,
and Scott, he has made all his readers his friends, and if his plays
are not acted much, the Lydia Languish of Sheridan, and the Tony
Lumpkin of Goldsmith, are reflections from his Biddy and Humphrey in
"The Tender Husband," a not successful comedy of 1705.


There were few forms of literature, from the sacred hymn to the
libretto of an opera, in which Addison did not adventure himself with
success more than respectable. It is, however, as an essayist that he
survives, and is read and admired. Born on 1 May, 1672, he was the
eldest son of the Rev. Lancelot Addison, who, after acting as chaplain
to the garrisons of Dunkirk and, later, of Tangier, obtained the small
living of Milston, married the sister of a bishop, and in 1683 received
the Deanery of Lichfield. He was something of a Jacobite, and as an
author had pleasing traits of humour and irony. His son Joseph passed
through two local schools, and thence to Charterhouse (Thackeray's
school) whence first to Queen's, then to Magdalen, Oxford, where he
held a demyship (scholarship), and was later a Fellow.

"Addison's Walk" is in the little wood round which two branches of the
Cherwell meander with a mazy motion. Addison was soon admired for the
excellence of his Latin verses: he made Dryden's acquaintance, and
complimented him in verse; he began a translation of Ovid for Tonson,
in the usual ten-syllable rhyming couplets.

Some of the stories of the Metamorphoses remain, with notes of literary
criticism, including a compliment to William III. "The smoothness of
our English verse," he casually remarks, "is too much lost by the
repetition of proper names," which, in fact, are sonorous ornaments of
the verse of Milton, Scott, Tennyson, and others. But Addison, bent on
"smoothness" had not yet come to appreciate Milton; still less, in his
early "Account of the English Poets," Spenser, who

    Can charm an understanding age no more.

The young champion of smoothness and common sense unblushingly rhymed
"success" to "verse".

Reluctant to take Orders, without which his Fellowship must lapse,
Addison, through Congreve, was introduced to Charles Montagu (later
Halifax) who, with Somers, wished to enlist Addison for his powers as a
writer. They obtained for him a travelling pension of £300 yearly, and
in December, 1699, left Marseilles for Italy.

His published remarks on Italy, written in a simple and easy style,
are of interest mainly because they are so unlike modern ecstasies
about the country. What most pleased Addison was to compare the scenes
and towns which he saw, with the descriptions of them which, in Latin
authors, he had read. To the natural beauties of the land, and to the
works of Christian art, he is almost blind; Paul Veronese leaves him
cold; at Verona he says nothing of the tomb of Romeo and Juliet, which,
perhaps, was not yet shown. At Venice he is most concerned about the
military strength of the place; "Tintoret is in greater esteem than in
other parts of Italy," and that is enough about Tintoret! The Venetian
comedies "are more lewd than in other countries". Addison paid a good
deal of attention to ancient coins; and Pope wrote commendatory verses
for his "Dialogues on Medals," and hoped that, on medals, Addison and
Craggs will be represented: Craggs's effigy is to have an inscription
in six heroic lines. Though the Dialogues be antiquated as archæology
the description of collectors of coins is amusing: one of the speakers
hastens to add that the science "must appear ridiculous to those who
have not taken the pains to examine it". Addison, in a kind humorous
way, strove to convince his age that ignorance is not the best judge of
the historical, social, and artistic value of numismatics.

Returning to England in 1703 Addison was poor, and had no prospect
of employment. The Whigs, however, wanted to make the most of
Marlborough's victory at Blenheim. Strange as it seems to us, poetry
had influence, a poet was needed, Halifax recommended Addison; the
Chancellor of the Exchequer found him "up three pairs of stairs,"
and "The Campaign" was written. The scene is familiar to readers of
"Esmond". Thackeray, devoted to Addison as he was, asks "how many
fourth form boys at Mr. Addison's school of Charterhouse could write
as well as that now?" as well as Addison writes in several passages of
"The Campaign". Probably no fourth form boys would write

    With floods of gore that from the vanquished fell,
    The marshes stagnate, and the rivers swell.

However the simile of the Angel has been reckoned fine, and the poem
"fulfilled the purpose for which it was written. It strengthened the
position of the Whig Ministry" (what a task for the Muse!) and obtained
patent places for the poet. As Under-secretary of State, Addison
had leisure to write the libretto of "Rosamond," an opera, in which
Queen Eleanor does not poison Rosamond, but gives her, like Juliet, a
sleeping draught. The King says

    O quickly relate
    This riddle of fate!
    My impatience forgive
    Does Rosamond live?

Eleanor explains the situation:--

    Soon the waking nymph shall rise
    And, _in a convent placed_, admire
    The cloistered walls and virgin choir:
    With them in songs and hymns divine
    The beauteous penitent shall join.

Finally the King and Queen sing

    Who to forbidden joys would rove
    That know the sweets of virtuous love?

Who indeed?

The rise of Blenheim Palace is prophesied, and Marlborough is flattered
ingeniously by the Muse of Whiggery. The "understanding age" was not
charmed: it was not absolutely destitute of humour. Nor was Addison.
The intentionally funny parts of the opera, though not so comic as the
serious passages, are not unworthy of Sir W. S. Gilbert. Sir Trusty,
finding Rosamond's corpse, as he supposes, says

    The King this doleful news shall read
        In lines of my inditing;
        Great Sir

          Your Rosamond is dead,
    As I'm at present writing.

Addison's unacknowledged comedy, "The Drummer," based on the famous
rapping spirit at Tedworth (1662), was a failure, and died on its third
night (1715).

Of his lucky tragedy, "Cato," he seems to have written four acts in
Italy. As early as April, 1711, Addison confided his ideas on Tragedy
to the Town ("Spectator," No. 39). They show us how far the wits of
"the understanding age" of Anne, had moved from the taste of the
Restoration stage. Addison is "very much offended when I see a play
in rhyme; which is as absurd in English, as a tragedy of hexameters
would have been in Greek or Latin". But blank verse is "in such due
medium between rhyme and prose that it seems wonderfully adapted to
tragedy," as the Elizabethan tragedians had not failed to discover.
The thoughts of English tragic writers, especially of Shakespeare,
"are often obscured by the sounding phrases, hard metaphors, and
forced expressions in which they are clothed". These expressions,
however, have been admired by many. The English tragedian is apt to
make his hero successful in the fifth act: Addison does not approve of
a modernization of "Lear," in which, as in the chronicles which told
the story, King Lear and Cordelia triumph in the end. Aristotle says,
Addison reports, that the populace preferred tragedies which ended ill
(but Addison himself has made the tale of Fair Rosamond end happily).
He makes no universal rule, only protests that a tragedy should not be
_compelled_ to conclude with comfort. There is "nothing which delights
and terrifies our English theatre so much as a ghost, especially when
he appears in a bloody shirt. A spectre has very often saved a play."
Addison applauds the handling of the ghost in "Hamlet": ghosts, in
fact, need delicate handling. For the moving of pity, our principal
machine is the handkerchief; and the introduction of an orphan or two,
but not of half a dozen fatherless children. "That dreadful butchering
of one another," with the use of racks, thumbscrews, and other
instruments of torture, gives occasion to French critics to think us a
people who delight in blood.

In practice, Addison produced a tragedy which political accidents made
highly successful at the moment, and which has enriched the stock of
quotations. But Dr. Johnson described it as rather a poem in dialogue
than a drama, rather a succession of just sentiments in elegant
language than a representation of natural affections.... The events
are expected without solicitude, and are remembered without joy or
sorrow. The "love interest," Pope says, was a popular after-thought,
and Pope told Addison that the play was better fitted to be read
than to be acted. Thanks to the habit of mingling literature with
politics, the play (13 April, 1713) was "expected" with "solicitude"
by Whigs and Tories. "All the foolish industry possible has been used
to make it thought a party play," says Pope. The leaders of each party
clapped loudly at each remark that might be twisted into a political
allusion, while Addison, with Dr. Berkeley and two or three friends,
in a side-box "had a table and two or three flasks of Burgundy and
champagne, with which the author (though a very sober man) thought
necessary to support his spirits". A run of thirty-five nights, a great
marvel then, also sustained the spirits of Addison.

Addison does not hold his high and enviable place in our literature by
virtue of his plays, poems, and work on Medals, but of his brief Essays
in "The Tatler" and "The Spectator". We have already seen how Steele
and he worked, in the most pleasant, kindly, and humorous tone, for the
improvement of morals and manners in the Court and Town.

The aim of Addison was "to temper wit with morality and to enliven
morality with wit," and he succeeded so well that, to this day, if
one opens a volume of "The Spectator" for any reason, one cannot
lay it down. The spectacle of that world comes before us in all its
aspects--toy shops, theatres, streets, coffee-houses, masquerades:
there are allegories, sportive or serious, reflections at the opera,
or among the monuments of the dead at Westminster Abbey; there are
letters, real or "done in the office," asking for advice on points
of etiquette; there are musical strains of solemn prose, or passages
of exquisite banter; there are creations of character, Sir Roger de
Coverley, Will Wimble, and the rest. There are criticisms, as of
Milton, which led taste back from the fantasies of the Restoration to
that great poet who lived lonely, fallen on evil days and evil tongues.
Even the folk-poetry of the past, "songs and fables that are come from
father to son, and are most in vogue among the common people of the
countries through which I passed," give Addison "a particular delight,"
he says, in his paper on Chevy Chase, "the favourite ballad of the
common people of England". In our time, a critic would fall back on the
history of the ballad, showing how "Chevy Chase" is a later version of
"Otterbourne," a poem common, with patriotic variations, to England
and Scotland. For Addison "Chevy Chase" is an heroic poem: as such he
treats it, and shows how touches of Nature make it akin to Homer and

Here we are far away from the Restoration, and the age of conceits;
we are on the way to the romantic movement, to Scott and "The Lay of
the Last Minstrel". In quite another style take Addison's musings
on a "lady's library," mixed with "a thousand odd figures in China
ware," Japanese lacquer, and old silver. Leonora has "all the Classic
Authors--in wood," dummies! "A set of Elzevirs," small classic volumes
of the famous Dutch press, "by the same hand"--the cabinetmaker's.
There are several of the huge wandering heroic French romances,
and "Locke of Human Understanding, with a paper of patches in it":
"Clelia, which opened of itself in the place that describes two lovers
in a bower." Most of the books were bought, not "for her own use," but
"because the lady had heard them praised, or because she had seen the
authors of them".

Addison, it must be confessed, did not take the learning of the sex
very seriously. Now the learning of many of them is serious indeed;
but, we ask, are either men or women more seriously inclined, on
the whole, to study than they were in Queen Anne's day? Addison,
says Thackeray, "walks about the world watching women's pretty
humours--fashions, follies, flirtations, rivalries, and noting them
with the most charming humour". It was not he, but Steele, who found in
a lady's society "a liberal education". But it was Addison whom Lady
Mary Wortley Montagu proclaimed to be "the best companion in the world".

There is still no better companion: we can still hear him "sweetly talk
and sweetly smile" in his Essays. He knows so much, and he is never
tedious in giving information. Like Coleridge in talk with Keats, he
deals in ghost stories: and this child of an age of reason does not
scout them. He makes the judicious remark that Lucretius, the Roman
materialist, does not believe that the soul can exist apart from the
body, yet "makes no doubt of the reality of apparitions, and that
men often appeared after their death... he was so pressed with the
matter of fact, which he could not have the confidence to deny...." He
explains by "one of the most absurd unphilosophical notions that was
ever started"--in a different way of statement this theory of Lucretius
has lately been revived.

What a variety of themes Addison illustrates and adorns! His writings
are like better conversation than was ever held save in the Fortunate
Islands by the happy Dead.

The humour and the drawing of character in the papers on Sir Roger
de Coverley, have a delicacy, a minuteness, a happy humour, which we
scarcely meet again in our literature till they reappear, a century
later, in the novels of Miss Austen. It must be admitted that Addison's
manner of writing _sent son vieux temps_, is not "up to date," but this
only lends an agreeable quaintness. Nobody, to-day, in writing of the
scene in the "Odyssey" where the hero beholds, in the next world, "the
far-renowned brides of ancient song," would speak of them as "a circle
of beauties," "the finest women". Nor, when the hero says "each of them
gave me an account of her birth and family," would a critic now say
"this is a gentle satire upon female vanity"! To give such an account
is the universal practice in Homer, when strangers meet, whether men or

"The Spectator" was dropped after running for about two years, not
before Addison had praised in his paper Pope's "Essay on Criticism".
Steele introduced Pope to Addison; perhaps they never were very
attached friends, for a man of Addison's sense could not but be
watchful of himself in the company of the vain and irritable little
satirist. Pope's jealousy and suspicions produced a coldness, and,
after Addison was dead, Pope emitted his venom in the poisonous
character of "Atticus":--

    Blest with each talent and each art to please,
    And born to live, converse, and write with ease;


    Bears, like the Turk, no brother near the throne,"

and so forth. Nothing that inspired skill and spite can do is better
than this satire; had Addison been alive when it was given to the world
he could not have hit a return blow, for cruelty was not in his nature,
and Pope was so sensitive that any retort on him was cruel.

In 1715 Addison conducted for six months another paper, "The
Freeholder," in the Whig interest; was made one of the Commissioners
for Trade and the Colonies, and married the Dowager-Countess of
Warwick. He died in 1719, "three years after that splendid but dismal
union," says Thackeray. A dowager-countess is not usually splendid,
and we really have no reason to think that the union was "dismal".
Addison's position as Secretary of State was sufficiently good, not to
speak of his fame, popularity, and genius. In 1719 Addison was matched
against Steele in a newspaper controversy: Steele probably was not
welcome to Lady Warwick at Holland House, but the two men, says Steele,
"still preserved the most passionate concern for their mutual welfare.
When they met they were as unreserved as boys...."

Addison with Steele, founded a school of essayists of merit, who never
came near the supremacy of their masters: Addison not only delighted
his world, but left it better than he found it; not by preaching
violent sermons, not by "lashing the vices of the age," but by sensibly
lowering the tyranny of the fashion which insisted on the duty of being


Concerning the genius, character, and career of Jonathan Swift there
are interesting varieties of opinion, but nobody denies that the genius
was great or that the career was sad, strange, even mysterious. In an
old-fashioned comedy of Humours, Swift would have been cast for the
part of Wycherley's Captain Manly in "The Plain Dealer"; the man of
tender heart who hates an age and a society that do not come up to his
ideals. Swift had, indeed, depths of affection, and a noble capacity
for friendship, but, unlike Captain Manly, he would never have made
Fidelia, or any other woman, happy. He lived in this world the life of
a flogging schoolmaster. He expresses a hope, at about the age of 26,
that, in his poems,

    Each line shall stab, shall blast, like daggers and like fire.

He hopes, at the same hopeful period, that

    My hate, whose lash just heaven has long decreed,
    Shall on a day make Sin and Folly bleed.

He lashed away, but Sin and Folly remained "more than usual calm,"
they did not hear, they did not heed him; and the presentable part of
his most comprehensive and ferocious satire of humanity, the one book
published by him which is still generally known, "Gulliver's Travels,"
has been an innocent source of amusement to many generations of

At about the age of 37, Swift, in a private letter, wrote thus of his
own case, "I envy very much your prudence and temper, and love of peace
and settlement: the reverse of which has been the great uneasiness
of my life, and is like to continue so". He recognizes one source of
his sorrows. As to "prudence," Swift had even too much of it, if
"prudence" were the motive which made him put off marriage with the
woman ("Stella," Esther Johnson) whom he loved, and who loved him. But
for "peace and settlement," he had no partiality; and his temper was no
better than he deemed it.

The curses of Swift were, first, his just consciousness of powers far
superior to those of the great politicians who adulated, and used, and
failed to reward him. With their wine, and their amours, and their
bitter, petty jealousies, they let the great opportunity go by, and,
lo! Harley is in the Tower; and Bolingbroke, a fugitive, drinks, and
loves, and intrigues in France, vituperating the Prince whose cause he
has helped to ruin; while Swift eats out his own heart in that Ireland
which he hated.

Another curse was that he had attached himself as a priest to the
Church of England; while the author of "The Tale of a Tub," however
loyal he might be in practice, certainly cannot have been "a trusty
and undoubting Church of England man". Of all the creeds, of all the
Churches and Sects, in his heart he thought like the Jupiter of his

    _You_, who in various Sects were shamm'd,
    And come to hear each other damn'd.

This bleak lucidity of soul, this consciousness of being able "to
see forward with a fatal clearness," this knowledge of the greatness
of his own genius,--thwarted by poverty, driven wild by servitude,
lacerated by the torments of a mysterious disease, crushed by terrible
forebodings of the appointed end; these things drove Swift to cut
himself among the tombs, and to curse in the wilderness.

Though born in Dublin (30 Nov. 1667) Swift was no Irishman: his father
belonged to an old Yorkshire, his mother to an old Leicestershire
family. But on his father's death, his mother being left ill-provided,
Swift's was the position of a poor relation. His training at Kilkenny
school and Trinity College, Dublin, was paid for by his uncle, Godwin
Swift, who was either poor or penurious. Men like Swift seldom yield
much attention to their tutors; and Swift, though he did well in Greek
and Latin, failed in physics and took no pains with his Latin essay.
He was, however, allowed to pass. In 1688 he went to England, to his
mother at Leicester, and in the following year entered the household of
Sir William Temple, a politician and diplomatist, retired from active
life, busy with literature and gardening, but in friendly relations
with William III and with men of affairs.

Sir William Temple (1628-1699) was himself a writer admired for his
style, especially in his Essay on Poetry. His periods, though long,
are graceful and well balanced, but seldom have such brief melancholy
cadences as this reflection "when all is done, human life is, at the
greatest and the best, but like a froward child, that must be played
with and humoured a little to keep it quiet till it falls asleep, and
then the care is over".

Swift's position, at first, was between those of a secretary and an
upper servant; he left Temple's house for Ireland, in 1690; returned in
1691: next year obtained a degree at Oxford; and in 1694, in Ireland,
took Orders, and received a small benefice, Kilroot, near Belfast,
where the people were Presbyterians, and he had no congregation worth
mentioning. He entangled himself with a Miss Waring (Varina) and wrote
"Pindaric" poems. Dryden, a remote cousin of his, told him that he
would never be a poet, and no other reason has been discovered for
Swift's flouts and jeers at Dryden's reputation. The anecdote may be
untrue, and, as a Catholic, Dryden would be disapproved of by Swift.

In 1696 Swift was reconciled with Temple, and during the next two years
was treated with more favour, met politicians, met the King; educated
Stella, an inmate of Temple's house, then a girl of 15; read much in
Temple's library, and was about to attach himself to the double-dyed
traitor, Sunderland, when Sunderland was dismissed from office. Swift
went back to Ireland, held a living at Laracor, lived much with Lord
Berkeley at the Castle, Dublin; wrote lively verses of the lighter
sort, wrote a political pamphlet which was successful, and showed
leanings towards the Whig party. In London (1704) his "Tale of a Tub"
was published anonymously: it had been composed in 1696-1697.

In "An Apology" (1709) Swift, still, as always, anonymous, writes
"the book seems calculated to live as long as our language and our
taste admit no great alterations". In taste great alterations have
been admitted. Though excellent judges still applaud this whimsical
allegory, few readers who approach it with high expectations are
likely to escape disappointment. The allegory of Peter (Rome) Martin
(Anglicans and Lutherans) and Jack (Presbyterians and all other
Protestant sects), is utterly incoherent. At present no self-respecting
person would write of the religions of Islam and Buddha in such
terms and such temper as Swift wrote about the Churches and sects
of Christianity. Whatever we may think of Transubstantiation and
Vestments, we do not make uproarious fun of them.

Already Swift indulges his half-insane delight in malodorous
references; the wit of the dirty schoolboy scrawling on the walls. Few
things in the work are more witty than this on Dryden: "he has often
said to me in confidence, that the world would never have suspected him
to be so great a poet, if he had not assured them so frequently in his
prefaces, that it was impossible they could ever doubt or forget it".

Thackeray remarks, "I think the world was right, and the Bishops who
advised Queen Anne not to appoint the author of 'The Tale of the
Tub' to a Bishopric, gave perfectly good advice". James IV did not
give Dunbar a benefice: the line must be drawn somewhere. Swift, in
his "Apology," denied that he had attacked religion: be it so, he
had written on matters ecclesiastical with amazingly bad taste. His
"Argument against Abolishing Christianity" (1708) is not the sort of
argument that we expect from a bishop-postulant, but its irony seems as
charming and dexterous now as it did two centuries ago. In "The Tale of
a Tub," on the other hand, we seldom find a passage that wins a smile,
except in "those fine curses" which Peter spoke, and in some of the
gambols of Jack. The apologue, in feet, is heavy-handed; the author
does not clearly know where he is making for; the perfect clearness of
his later style is absent. (These observations, entirely candid, are at
odds with the usual applause of "The Tale of a Tub".)

With "The Tale of a Tub" was published, in the same volume, "The
Battle of the Books," written about 1697; this was a now belated
contribution to the controversy as to the relative merits of the
Ancients and the Moderns, begun in France by Charles Perrault, the
author of our most familiar fairy tales. As it happened, Temple, in
an essay, had taken up the cause of the Ancients, and had chosen,
as proofs of superiority of the oldest books, the Fables ascribed
to Æsop, and the Letters attributed to Phalaris, the half-mythical
tyrant of Agrigentum. The matter of the fables is prehistoric, but
the crooked slave, Æsop, did not contribute their _form_; and the
Letters of Phalaris were a literary exercise composed long after the
tyrant's date. Wotton, with some help from the greatest scholar of his
day, Richard Bentley, King's Librarian, and (1700) Master of Trinity,
Cambridge, replied to Temple, and Charles Boyle, of Christ Church,
Oxford, introduced a personal squabble with Bentley. The Christ Church
wits, including the formidable Atterbury, sided with Boyle,--there
was a war between elegant scholars, on Boyle's side; and the nascent
science of the Royal Society allied with perfect scholarship and
Bentley, on the other. Boyle did not insist that the Letters of
Phalaris were genuine; Bentley displayed his sagacious learning in
his proof that they were not. Temple was discreetly silent, but Swift
espoused the cause of the wits in "The Battle of the Books". The Books
in the King's Library, Ancient and Modern, meet in a parody of a fight
in Homer. The goddess, Dulness, befriends the Moderns, as Aphrodite, in
Homer, protects Paris and Æneas. The mock-Homeric manner was not then
outworn, and it amused; while Swift heaped personal scorn on Bentley,
and, of course, on Dryden, who is ridiculed for being old. Bentley,
crooked-legged and hump-backed, is armed with a flail, and "a vessel
full of ordure". Boyle transfixes Bentley and Wotton as a cook spits a
brace of woodcocks--and that is the humour of it.

Infinitely more amusing were Swift's predictions of the death of a
prophetic almanac-maker, Partridge (1708), and the sequel of that jest.
Swift styled himself Isaac Bickerstaff, and lent the name to Steele,
for use in his new paper "The Tatler". He lived in close friendship
with Addison, Steele, Congreve, and Prior; and began his love affair
with Miss Vanhomrigh, the unfortunate Vanessa, rival of Stella. Like
Lord Foppington, Swift probably coveted nothing less than her heart,
which she gave, and his difficulty was "to get rid of the rest of her

After a visit to Ireland, Swift returned to find the Tories in power,
"a new world" (September, 1710). He met Harley (Lord Oxford), took
service under him, and for three years was the Achitophel of the
Tories, writing for them lampoons and political pamphlets which
"were cried up to the skies". For half a year (1710-1711) Swift's
papers appeared in "The Examiner". Swift dined with Harley and St.
John--they called him, "Jonathan"; he snubbed their attempts to treat
him as a mere gentleman of the Press; and in the delightful pages of
his familiar "Journal to Stella," he paints the age, and himself,
triumphant, adulated, powerful, but "seeing all his own mischance"; "I
believe they will leave me Jonathan as they found me".

Among the pamphlets of this period are "The Hue and Cry after Dismal"
(Lord Nottingham,'ancestor of Horace Walpole's "black funereal
Finches"), and the more important "Conduct of the Allies". By 1713
Swift hoped "that the present age and posterity would learn who were
the real enemies of the country". The old question of Tory Short and
Whig Codlin! But he had cruelly offended the Duchess of Somerset by
"The Windsor Prophecy"; and the Queen could not endure the author of
"The Tale of a Tub". He asked for his reward, and with much trouble
obtained the Deanery of St. Patrick's, Dublin (June, 1713). He went to
Ireland, but he could not get rid of Vanessa. Her letters pursued him;
other letters called him to town--Harley and St. John were at odds, and
he was needed. He engaged in a paper war with Steele, now an enemy;
he wrote "The Public Spirit of the Whigs"; he offended the Scottish
members, and the Duke of Argyll, the hero of Malplaquet, an ill man
to meddle with. He was consoled by the friendship of Pope, Gay, and
Arbuthnot, a good man and a great humorist. They founded the Martinus
Scriblerus Club, for the writing of facetious papers: but politics went
ill, Harley and St. John quarrelled in the Queen's presence: her death
was near; Harley was overthrown by St. John; St. John had no courage,
and, on the death of Anne, was checked by Argyll and his regiment.
Bishop Atterbury would have proclaimed the King, King James over the
Water; the laymen dared not back him; the Elector of Hanover occupied
the throne; and of Swift's great friends St. John fled to France, and
Harley was imprisoned in the Tower; while Swift, hooted by the pressmen
whom he had bullied, made for Ireland. The Jacobite Cause was lost,
and we cannot here ask, would Swift (as St. John says in "Esmond")
have accepted the Primacy of England from _la bonne cause_, the young
Catholic King?

    My life is now a burden grown
    To others, ere it be my own,

Swift wrote. He corresponded (1716) with Atterbury, and Atterbury was
at the head of the Jacobite party in England. In 1719 Swift dedicated
to a Swedish diplomatist, Count Gyllenborg, a History of England. "My
intention was to inscribe it to the King, your late Master, for whose
great virtues I had ever the highest admiration, as I shall continue
to bear to his memory." This King, Charles XII, in 1716 meant to land
in Britain with an army in support of the Jacobites, and Gyllenborg,
his ambassador, managed the plot in England. Charles had invited Swift,
at an earlier date, to Sweden: now Swift dwells "in a most obscure
disagreeable country" (Ireland), "and among a most profligate and
abandoned people".

All this does not look like zeal for the Protestant succession.

The years 1719-1723 saw the completion of Swift's ambiguous poem,
"Cadenus and Vanessa," and the arrival of Vanessa in Swift's
neighbourhood. "In vain he protested, he vowed, he soothed and bullied;
the news of the Dean's marriage to Stella at last reached her; and it
killed her,--Vanessa died of that passion" (Thackeray). The marriage is
still matter of controversy.

In 1724 Swift, who hated the English Government if he did not love
Ireland, wrote the famous "Drapier's Letters" against a job in copper
currency, and gained high popularity.

In 1726 he gave to the world the most famous of his books, "Gulliver's
Travels," in which his gift of narrative, his amazing power of being
truthful in the minutest details of the most extravagant imaginations,
his misanthropy, his irony, and his delight in unsavoury things,
are all carried to the highest perfection. In 1729 came the "Modest
Proposal" for eating Irish children; in 1738 his "Polite Conversation"
and "Directions to Servants," with the same merit of humour, and the
same inveterate fault.

In visits to London (1726, 1727) Swift had enjoyed the society of
his old friends and comrades in letters; and hoped there, perhaps,
to find a Fountain of Youth. He felt himself slipping into the vice
of hoarding; and rusting in a second-rate society. Bolingbroke had
been allowed to return from exile; the banished King had found him
worthless as a statesman: he had said his worst against the banished
King; nobody wanted Bolingbroke and nobody was afraid of him. He played
the philosopher, and Swift did not believe in his affectation of
philosophy. Arbuthnot, Swift loved, Pope he had always admired; and he
tried to protect Gay from his own reckless improvidence. He ridiculed,
in "Gulliver," the proofs brought against Atterbury as a Jacobite
agent: if Swift was not convinced by the evidence he must have shut his
eyes very hard.

In January, 1728, Stella died: Swift tried to fill the gap in his life
by activity in Irish politics. His disease, apparently some malady of
the ear which gradually affected the brain, became more unendurable,
but he had still to write some of his most powerful satires in
verse. Then his memory began to fail, and he drifted slowly into the
half-unconscious dotage of his last five years, dying on 19 October,
1745, unconscious, probably, of the meteoric adventure of Prince

The failure of his party, of his political ambition, and measureless
hopes of greatness, gave Swift the retirement and the leisure to
produce his greatest works. If fortune had "bantered us" as Bolingbroke
said, he turned and bantered Fate and mankind. In the long array of his
volumes, so seldom opened, are many brief flights, in verse and prose,
which are full of entertainment, of wild fancy, orderly and gravely
presented; and there is the "Journal to Stella," with its infinite
tenderness of affection; and the Letters, the confidences of the wits
from romantic Charles Wogan, who rescued from prison the bride of a
King, and died as Governor of the appropriate province of La Mancha,
to those of Pope and Arbuthnot and Gay. The works of Swift are a
library in themselves.

De Foe.

"One man in his time plays many parts," and no man played more parts
than Daniel Foe or De Foe. The son of a butcher in St. Giles's, born
in 1661, he received at a Nonconformist school an education that was
a sufficient basis for literary undertakings, but not tending to
such "classical" flights as led young University men to profitable
sinecures under Government. He is said to have been out under Monmouth
in 1685. He betook himself to commerce of various kinds, thus acquiring
little or no money (in 1692 he "broke," like Mr. Badman), but a
competent knowledge of the currents of trade, and the courses of
financial speculation, exhibited in his "Essay on Projects," projects,
educational and social as well as financial (1698). In 1701 his "True
Born Englishman," showing in the interest of William III that the
English are a mixed race, was successful.

In 1702 his famous "Shortest Way with the Dissenters" was discovered
to be, not a candid plea for the Church of England, but an irritating
parody of High Church pretensions, nearly as serious as Swift's
apology for cannibalism. De Foe was pilloried, but not pelted, and
imprisoned for his waggery; was released, probably through the agency
of Harley, Lord Oxford, the wavering and enigmatic "Dragon" of Swift's
correspondence; and while editing and indeed writing a weekly "Review,"
the precursor in its social columns of Steele's "Tatler," De Foe served
Harley in divers subterranean ways. In Scotland, in the autumn of 1706,
he acted as Harley's spy and newsagent: his letters to Harley contain
an admirable picture of the struggles for and against the Union of
Scotland and England, and of De Foe's own versatile, acute and daring
character. He made himself "all things to all men," could talk to
each citizen as a member of his own trade, explained all the economic
conditions of the country, understood, and did not revere, the Kirk,
and the preachers; and, by securing the services of that lively and
humorous rogue and sham-fanatic, Ker of Kersland, broke up an unholy
alliance between the extreme "Cameronians" and the Jacobite gentry and
clansmen of Perthshire and Angus. They had intended to break up the
Parliament; but the wild Whigs did not keep tryst.

It is plain that Harley treated De Foe very ill, and that, like most
spies, he was underpaid. Still he was working for a cause which he had
at heart; as he was later, when, to all appearance, playing the part of
journalist in the Tory or even Jacobite interest under Government.

The needy De Foe was a man of dark corners, an absolute "Johannes
Factotum". Swift called him "a grave, sententious, dogmatical rogue".
He professed that he received assistance from "The Divine Spirit".

No man who wrote so much and so variously has written so well. His
favourite topic, if we may judge by the frequency with which he handled
it, was "psychical research". Like Glanvill, Henry More, and other
writers in the sceptical age of the Restoration, he collected, and
told in his own inimitable manner, many current anecdotes of wraiths,
death-warnings, second sight, and phantasms of the dead. The most
prominent merit of De Foe, in fiction, is his power of convincing the
reader by the minute and sober realism of his details. Some of his
novels, in autobiographic form, have caused disputes as to whether they
be romances, or actual memoirs.

"A True Relation of the Apparition of One Mrs. Veal, on September 8,
1705" (published in 1706) has been described as "the first instance of
De Foe's wonderful lies like truth". "This relation is matter of fact,"
said De Foe in the Preface. Sir Walter Scott, a ghost-hunter himself,
explained the "fact" by saying that De Foe invented and wrote the story
as a puff of Drelincourt "On Death," which the appearance of Mrs. Veal,
on the day after her death recommended to her friend (who believed her
to be alive), Mrs. Bargrave.

But Mr. George Aitken has proved "that the piece was, as De Foe said,
'a true relation of matter of fact,'" that is, De Foe merely wrote the
story as told by Mrs. Bargrave--"the percipient"--the person who saw
and conversed with the dead Mrs. Veal about her gown--"a scoured silk,
newly made up". Mr. Aitken found a manuscript note of 21 May, 1714, by
some one who had interviewed Mrs. Bargrave, and for whom Mrs. Bargrave
made three or four minute additions. As for Mrs. Veal herself, she
died on 7 September, appeared on 8 September to Mrs. Bargrave, and we
have the record of her burial on 10 September, in the register of St.
Mary's, Dover.

In another case, "The Botethan Ghost," told in an appendix to De Foe's
"Duncan Campbell," the tale was really written, as De Foe says, not by
himself, but by one of the people who saw the spectre, the Rev. Mr.
Ruddle of Launceston in Cornwall, in June, 1665; the narrative was
written on 4 September of the same year.

Thus De Foe's extraordinary gift of making things fictitious seem true
has caused him to be charged with inventing stories which he merely
retold, or printed from the manuscript of another.

De Foe was 60 years of age, and had suffered from apoplexy, when he
wrote the masterpiece which made him immortal, "Robinson Crusoe"
(1719). New editions appeared in May, June, and August; a sequel
followed which few read; still more scarce are readers of De Foe's
"Serious Reflections and Vision of the Angelic World" (1720). The
"metapsychical" world was always very near De Foe, practical and shrewd
man as he was.

"Crusoe" is based on Captain Rogers's narrative of the adventures of
Alexander Selkirk, a mariner of Largo, in Fife, marooned (1704) on the
Island of Juan Fernandez. An allegory of De Foe's own life has been
suspected, the idea is unimportant.

It is superfluous to dilate on the sterling merits of "Robinson
Crusoe". Before he published it a critic had recognized "the little
art he is truly master of, of forging a story, and imposing it on the
world for truth". The style is as simple as Swift's, and more "homely".
The tale of love was not De Foe's trade, any more than "the moving
accident" was Wordsworth's. "Moll Flanders," and "Roxana" are no doubt
meant to have a moral influence; but their readers are looking for
something else: like the readers of the edifying Monsieur Zola.

De Foe was one of the fathers of journalism, and almost "the only
begetter" of the story of adventure, the desert island romance, and,
in "Memoirs of a Cavalier," and "A Journal of the Plague Year," of
the historical autobiographical novel. "It was about the beginning of
September, 1664, that I, among the rest of my neighbours, heard, in
ordinary discourse, that the plague was returned again in Holland...."
That keynote reverberates in scores of the historical romances of

The modern novelist, of course, avoids De Foe's strict statistical
method. De Foe's story reads precisely like a historical document, and
the modern reader dislikes nothing more than that sort of reading. De
Foe's hero saw a number of people looking at "a ghost walking on a
grave stone". Less fortunate Mr. Pepys "went forth, to see (God forgive
my presumption!) whether I could see any dead corpse going to the
grave, but, as God would have it, did not".

By a truly realistic touch De Foe's contemplative saddler closes his
journal with "a coarse but sincere stanza of my own,"

    A dreadful plague in London was
      In the year sixty-five,
    Which swept an hundred thousand souls
      Away; yet I alive!

The modern reader finds that De Foe's fictions are too like facts, and,
often, in the moral and religious reflections, too like tracts, for his
taste. On the other hand, to a contemplative mind, "Robinson Crusoe,"
carefully read, and compared with its descendants in fiction, is a
source of delight. De Foe, at the age of 60, must have been, while he
wrote it, as happy as his innumerable readers. For example, we compare
Robinson's felling of a cedar tree "five feet ten inches diameter at
the lower part..." and his construction of a vessel "fit to carry
twenty-six men," a vessel quite unlaunchable, with the practicable
coracle, the most "home-made" of things in "Treasure Island". We
compare the trial trips of the two crafts (Robinson's _second_ boat);
we see that R. L. Stevenson has produced the less impossible narrative
of the twain, and that both rejoice the heart.

The mass, and the variety, of what must be called the "pot-boilers" of
De Foe are unequalled. In better conditions of authorship he would have
been a rich man, but he died poor, in distress, and under a cloud, in

A history of literature is not necessarily a history of philosophical,
metaphysical, and theological speculation. In such speculation the age
was rich that saw the volcanic eruption of sects and heresies during
the religious frenzy of the Civil War, and also beheld the reaction
from all "enthusiasm" to the passion for common sense and for science
as "organized common sense" which came in with the Restoration.
Hobbes's works did not encourage religious "enthusiasm," or mysticism,
or belief in the ineffable spiritual experiences of devout men, from
John Bunyan with his visions, to Ralph Cudworth (1617-1688), an
Anglican divine, with his Neoplatonic hints at Union with the Absolute
("True Intellectual System of the Universe," "Eternal and Immutable
Morality"). The learned and the unlearned wrote books on either side,
sceptical or in favour of belief.

The Royal Society impartially included Joseph Glanvill (16361680)
with his "Vanity of Dogmatising," and his "Sadducismus Triumphatus,"
the pioneer of Psychical Research, with its tales of _Poltergeists_,
wraiths, and levitations, some of them fairly well authenticated. The
Royal Society also gave a place to the far more famous philosopher of
liberal common sense philosophy, John Locke (1632-1704). Locke's first
eighteen years were passed under the shadow of the Great Rebellion,
and at Christ Church, Oxford, under a Head who was an Independent
divine. He did not like the new freedom, in which he found the old
slavery, but after the Restoration he found liberty for discussion,
in which "enthusiasm" was not permitted to enter. His attitude
towards mental philosophy was not unlike that of Bacon. He disliked
Aristotelianism as then held at Oxford, thinking that words usurped
the place of facts, and in his "Essay on the Human Understanding" he
employed that plain style which the Royal Society enjoined. The work
was written at intervals during seventeen years, disturbed when as a
friend of Shaftesbury, Dryden's Achitophel, the turbulent patron of
Titus Oates, he was sent into exile. The burden of the essay, which
appeared in 1690, is opposition to the theory of "innate ideas"--the
terms need defining--and insistence that we derive our ideas from
the presentations of our senses. "Average common sense was always
kept in his view," and "he wrote for the most part in the language
of the market-place". He wanted man to think as a human being very
limited in his faculties, "to distinguish between what is, and what
is not comprehensible by us," and his treatise had the most potent
and enduring effects on continental as well as on English Philosophy.
He was a friend of his junior, Berkeley, whose philosophic fancy
took a wider and more audacious range. His "Treatise on Government"
and "Thoughts on Education" followed rapidly. He obtained a place as
Commissioner of Trade and Plantations (Colonies), and advised England
to anticipate Scotland in founding an emporium at Darien, in Spanish
territory, as the Scots were to discover.

We have not space for much more than the names of other prose writers
of this great age. John Arbuthnot (1667-1735), a Scot in London, was
an admirable humorist, a great physician, and the friend of all the
wits; himself a good-humoured Swift in prose satire. Bishop Atterbury
(1662-1732) excited an enthusiastic devotion in Pope, who proposed
to accompany this clerical conspirator into exile, after his great
Jacobite plot was crushed in 1723. Atterbury was an accomplished
general writer, while the great scholar and Master of Trinity,
Richard Bentley (1662-1742), gave to his classical criticism of the
forged "Epistles of Phalaris" the merit of vigorous literature.
His conjectural various readings in Milton's text are now and then
comical, and seem a parody of classical criticism. The Viscount
Bolingbroke, Henry St. John (1678-1751), was a wit among politicians,
the patron, friend, and inspiration of the wits; he had his fame as
an eloquent rhetorician in his life, and as a daring thinker, but
he really wrote best when he wrote simply and humorously, as in his
satire of his Jacobite allies, "The Epistle to Windham" (1716). His
"Ideal of a Patriot King" also preserves his literary reputation
(1738). Anthony Ashley Cooper, Earl of Shaftesbury (1671-1713), was
an elegant philosopher, a thinker of taste; while George Berkeley,
Bishop of Cloyne (born at Kilkenny 1685, died 1753), was an idealistic
philosopher and man of science ("The Theory of Vision") whose style,
in grace and irony, is akin to the manners of Plato and of Pascal. The
best and most delightful of his works is the dialogue "Alciphron, or
the Minute Philosopher," directed against the Sceptics, and deistical
writers. Berkeley's character was not less admirable than his works.




Edward Young.

"Is it to the credit or discredit of Young, as a poet, that of his
'Night Thoughts' the French are particularly fond?" So asks Croft, the
sardonic author of a notice on Young in Dr. Johnson's "Lives of the
Poets". The preference is certainly not to the credit of the French!
Born in Hampshire in 1683, the son of a clergyman, Young lived till
1765: writing much verse, and more prodigal of praises to "the Great"
than any other poet of any age.

Young's father, in 1703, appears to have been poor, for the son, to
save expense, was hospitably entertained in the lodges of the Warden of
New College and the President of Corpus. A Fellowship was found for him
at All Souls', and as he was chosen to make and speak the Latin oration
at the founding of the fine Codrington Library, it may be supposed
that, at All Souls', he was held to be more than _mediocriter doctus_
(the qualifications for a Fellow were said to be "well born, well
dressed, moderately learned").

Young's earlier poems, and his dedications always, seem bids for
patronage and preferment. In his "Last Day" (1710),

    An archangel eminently bright
    From off his silver staff of wondrous height
    Unfurls the Christian flag, which waving flies
    And shuts and opens more than half the skies.

Angels are asked, on the annihilation of the universe, to say where
Britannia is now?

    All, all is lost, no monument, no sign,
    Where once so proudly blazed the great machine.

In the Dedication, which Young later suppressed, nothing was left but
Queen Anne, whom the poet distinctly saw floating upwards, and leaving
the fixed stars behind her. The clever but eccentric and unfortunate
Jacobite Duke of Wharton was a patron of Young, and the defender of
Atterbury. The Duke died, under arms for the exiled James III, or
Chevalier de St. George, at Lerida; he was then composing a tragedy on
Mary, Queen of Scots. Young suppressed, in later years, the dedication
to Wharton of his successful tragedy, "The Revenge" (1721).

In 1725-1726 Young published his Satires, "The Universal Passion". They
read like a poor imitation of Pope's satires, but in point of time they
precede the "Dunciad".

    Why slumbers Pope, who leads the tuneful train,
    Nor hears that Virtue, which he loves, complain?

Pope was not slumbering, he was counting every groan of Virtue, to whom
he was so devoted, and was about to lash Vice with the best of them.
The Universal Passion which Young flogs, is the Love of Fame. Every one
is the fool of Fame except this earl or that, at whom Young dedicates
his strings of epigrams which remind us of Pope, with a difference.
Sloane and Ashmole are derided for their Museums. Young even dedicated
a satire to Sir Robert Walpole; _he_ must smile, "or the Nine inspire
in vain". He also adulated the Duke of Newcastle in 1745, when

    a pope-bred princeling crawled ashore,


    The Prince who did in Moidart land
    With seven men at his right hand,
    And all to conquer kingdoms three.
    Oh, he's the lad to wanton me!

as a poet of the opposite party exclaimed. The inglorious Duke is

    Holles! immortal in far more than fame!

In 1727 Young became a clergyman, at the ripe age of 44. His "Night
Thoughts" in blank verse, are of 1741-1742, in Nine Nights

    My song the midnight raven has outwinged,

and the midnight owl was outshrieked.

    From short (as usual) and disturbed repose
    I wake, how happy they who wake no more!
    Yet that were vain, if dreams infest the grave.

We remember

    In that sleep of death what dreams may come!

A few lines are in the common stock of quotations such as,

    An undevout astronomer is mad.

There are good passages, here and there, but long sermons in a kind of
blank verse which "does not overstimulate" are not immortal. "Young
has the trick of joining the turgid with the familiar... but with all
his faults he was a man of genius and a poet." He was not, as people,
misled by the existence of one William Young, foolishly supposed, the
original of Fielding's Parson Adams in "Joseph Andrews", But Young may
be the original of Robert Montgomery, who added to the piety of Young
the ebullitions of an unprecedented genius for nonsense.

James Thomson.

Romance secured a firm footing in English literature, after the
artificialities of the eighteenth century had sunk into dotage, through
the genius of a Borderer, Sir Walter Scott. But another Borderer, long
before, had seen glimmerings and had heard strains of the fairy world
and the fairy songs. This was James Thomson, son of the parish minister
of Ednam in Roxburghshire. The father was presently translated to
Southdean, in the Cheviots, and on the old line of Scottish marches: by
that way they rode, as Froissart shows, to Otterbourne fight. Thomson's
father died while trying to lay a ghost in a house near Southdean,
when the son was at the University of Edinburgh. The haunted house was
demolished. Thomson studied divinity, but abandoned the prospective
pulpit for poetry, and went to London to seek his fortune in 1725. He
lost his letters of introduction, and he needed a pair of shoes; his
only resource was the manuscript of his "Winter," in "The Seasons". A
dedication brought to Thomson twenty guineas: the piece was praised by
Aaron Hill and Malloch (or Mallet, Malloch is a Macgregor name); the
poem was liked; "Spring" and "Summer" followed, and Thomson dallied
over "Autumn" till 1730.

In 1730 he Had been successful with the moral tragedy of "Sophonisba":
though in opposition to the Court party, Thomson had obtained several
noble patrons, and they did their best for his drama. A long poem on
Liberty was not a triumph: but the Prince of Wales gave the author a
pension of £100 yearly. His tragedy of "Tancred and Sigismunda" was
popular (1745), and a patent place brought to the poet £300 a year,
which he did not long enjoy, dying on 27 August, 1748. Thomson was
notoriously indolent, and his last, perhaps his best, work is "The
Castle of Indolence" in the Spenserian stanza.

"The Seasons" are in blank verse, a welcome change from the eternal
rhyming couplets, and prove that Thomson, unlike his contemporaries,
wrote "with his eye on the object". He had been bred in "the wide
places of the shepherds," among the lonely Border moors and hills; he
had not always been a man of towns. In the sunless winter day

    The bittern knows his time, with bill ingulpht
    To shake the sounding marsh; or from the shore
    The plovers when to scatter o'er the heath,
    And sing their wild notes to the listening waste.

This was a new voice. Being a Borderer, Thomson was an angler, and
describes fly-fishing well, though not better than Gay.

In that old theme of the Middle Ages "the symphony of spring," the
songs of birds, he shows knowledge of their ways, and if he makes the
hen nightingale the singer, so does Homer, following the myth. In
"Summer," Thomson describes, with wonderful tact, sultry climes in
which he never breathed, and adds the little idyll of Musidora.

"Autumn" includes a picture of fox-hunting, a sport which James
probably did not indulge in, and celebrates the Argyll of Malplaquet
and Duncan Forbes of Culloden, and the water of Tweed,

    Whose pastoral banks first heard my Doric reed.

Despite his power of rendering nature, the artificiality of his age is
still strong with Thomson, and it cannot be said that "The Seasons" are
very attractive to modern readers.

"The Castle of Indolence," by virtue of the poet's return to the
measure of an author in his day despised, Spenser, yields a welcome
change from the eternal rhymed couplets.

    A pleasant land of drowsyhead it was.

like the land of the Lotus-eaters in Tennyson. The stanza beginning

    And when a shepherd of the Hebrid isles,
    Set far amid the melancholy main

is the voice of reviving poetry, and is immortal. Nobody has the
slightest sympathy with

    The Knight of arts and industry,
      And his achievements fair;
    That by his castle's overthrow
      Secur'd and crowned were.

The castle is a very good castle, it is good to be there, where no
cocks disturb the dawn, no dogs murder sleep, "no babes, no wives, no
hammers" make a din,

    But soft-embodied Fays through airy portals stream.

William Collins.

"The grandeur of wildness and the novelty of extravagance, were always
desired by Collins, but not always attained," says Dr. Johnson. After
half a century of tame poets, we are happy to meet with one who did
not cultivate the trim parterre, and who sometimes did attain to being
"exquisitely wild".

Collins was born at Chichester on Christmas Day, 1721, was educated at
Winchester, and at Oxford was a "demy," or scholar of Magdalen, like
Addison. About 1744 he came to London with many literary projects in
his mind, and very little money in his pockets. Johnson met him, while
"immured by a bailiff". Collins cleared his debt with money advanced
by a confiding bookseller on the credit of a contemplated translation
of Aristotle's "Poetics," with a commentary. A legacy of £2000 from
an uncle, Colonel Martin, was "a sum which Collins could scarcely
think exhaustible, and which he did not live to exhaust". His mind
weakened: he died in 1759: sane, but incapable of composition. His
Odes (1746-1747) are the firm base of his renown: the little volume is
extremely scarce; Collins is said to have burned, in disappointment,
the greater part of the edition.

Of his "Persian Eclogues" (1742) Collins said that they were his "Irish
Eclogues," being inadequately Oriental in local colour. The brief "Ode"
(1746) "How Sleep the Brave" (of Fontenoy and Culloden) in ten lines
has the magic of an elder day, and of all time. The "Ode to Evening,"
where the poet sees

          hamlets brown and dim discovered spires
    And hears their simple bell, and marks o'er all
        Thy dewy fingers draw
        The gradual dusky veil,

has escaped from the manner of the eighteenth century, and preludes to

There are fine free passages in "The Ode to the Passions," and the
"Dirge in Cymbeline" is not unworthy of its place. The "Ode on the
Popular Superstitions of the Highlands," was long lost, and did not
receive the poet's final touches. He obtained his knowledge of the
Second Sight from John Home, author of "Douglas," who was a Hanoverian
volunteer in the Forty-five, and inspired in Collins an unfulfilled
desire to visit Tay and Teviotdale and Yarrow. The conventions of his
age sometimes disfigure Collins's poems, but his face was set towards
the City of Romance. Tastes still vary as to the relative merit of
Collins and Gray: Matthew Arnold being the advocate of Gray; Swinburne
of Collins. There is no way of settling such disputes; each writer, at
his best, was truly a poet; neither, at his best, is staled or dimmed
by time; both were almost portentous exceptions, when really inspired,
to the conventional rules of their age in England.

Thomas Gray.

Nature occasionally brings into the world pairs of men destined to be
distinguished in literature, and, without their own consent, to be
pitted against each other as rivals. We have Scott and Byron, Dickens
and Thackeray, Tennyson and Browning, and Collins and Gray. Gray was
the elder, born in 1716 (Collins was born in 1721). If Collins's
father was a hatter, Gray's mother was a bonnet-maker, if milliners
make bonnets. Collins went to Oxford, after being at Winchester; Gray,
before going to Peterhouse, Cambridge, was at Eton. Both poets wrote
little: the health of Collins broke down; Gray, from his boyhood,
was of a gentle morbid melancholy, and had humour enough to laugh
at himself. Collins was neglected; Gray died, later, at the age of
54, beyond competition or dispute the foremost of English poets at
the moment. Both men had their faces set to the North as the home
of old poetry and poetic beliefs. Collins wrote his Ode on Highland
Superstitions; Gray was delighted (at first) by Macpherson's "Ossian,"
he translated ancient Norse poems, visited Scotland, and appreciated
the Highlands, and the lakes that Wordsworth was to make famous. Both
men were scholars: Collins meant to translate Aristotle's "Poetics";
Gray meant to write a history of English Poetry. Both broke away from
the tyranny of the rhymed heroic couplet; both especially cultivated
the Ode.

There is no doubt as to which of the two is and always has been the
more popular. Eton has made Gray her own. The great General Wolfe,
before falling in the arms of Victory at Quebec, recited the "Elegy
in a Country Churchyard" to one of his officers, saying, "I would
prefer being the author of that poem to the glory of beating the French

It is not easy to criticize Gray, because so many of his lines are
household words, and have been familiar to us from childhood. It may
perhaps be said that Gray never attains to the magical effect of
Collins's "How Sleep the Brave," and of the "Ode to Evening". But there
are cadences in "The Elegy," and sentiments noble, pure, pious, and
modest in his poems which lend to them an unspeakable charm, while
the ideas are such as come home to men's bosoms. It is true that his
habit of personifying abstract ideas is an unfortunate survival of the
weary allegorical company of the "Romance of the Rose," and no more
than Collins does he escape from the mannerisms of his age. But like
Collins, and indeed like his friend Horace Walpole, he was passing
towards the kingdom of Romance.

At Eton he acquired Walpole's friendship; and if, after leaving
Cambridge, he and Walpole quarrelled in Italy, Walpole confessed that
he was to blame, made the first steps to reconciliation, and cherished,
admired, and at last regretted Gray with all the ardour of a heart
devoted and constant in friendship.

For the rest, Gray's life was passed quietly, and in a melancholy way,
at Cambridge, which he reckoned a bear garden, and a home of Indolence;
and, with his mother and aunt at Stoke Pogis, where he wrote the Elegy.
His poems distilled very slowly from his genius: the Eton Ode appeared,
and was unnoticed, in 1747. In the same year were written, to Horace
Walpole, the rather hard-hearted lines on Walpole's handsome cat,

    'Twas on a lofty vase's side.

The Eton Ode was _composed_, with a beautiful sonnet commemorating a
private sorrow, in 1742:--

    In vain to me the smiling mornings shine.

Earlier in the same year the "Ode to Spring," marked "to be sent to
Fav,"--to West, his friend commemorated in the sonnet,--had been
written, "not knowing he was then dead". Again, in October, 1742,
another death prompted "The Elegy," which lay unfinished for about
eight years. Grief had shaken Gray out of causeless melancholy, and
1742 was his great poetic year. In 1750 he wrote the light and bright
"Long Story," on an unexpected visit from some poet-hunting ladies. In
1753, Walpole had Gray's "Six Poems" published, in twenty-one pages,
with illustrations by Bentley. In 1754 he began the "Pindaric Odes," of
which "The Progress of Poesy" is the noblest, and displays most of

       the pride and ample pinion
      That the Theban eagle bear
    Sailing with supreme dominion
      Thro' the azure deep of air.

To compose "The Bard" (the Welsh Bard) took two years and a half, and
neither the style nor the ideas of the Odes were thought pleasing,
or comprehensible, by the public and Dr. Johnson. In his demure way
the little poet was a rebel, and Dr. Johnson knew it. Gray never
practised the adulation of "the great" that was customary; he asked
for no places, he refused the Laureateship. Late in life a sinecure
Professorship at Cambridge was given to him. The professor never
lectured: not to lecture was the convention, and against this happy
convention Gray did not rebel. He studied, made notes, learned Norse,
translated, visited haunted Glamis, with the chamber where Malcolm II
was murdered, visited the Lakes, wrote the most delightful letters, and
died at 54 in 1771, the year of the birth of Sir Walter Scott, the year
of Burns's twelfth birthday.

Gray had genius--not a great, but a new genius, and had many
accomplishments. His satires were surprisingly sharp and fierce. He
had the light French touch of the day in verses of society. There is
something of the noble pensiveness and mysteriously appealing music
of Virgil in his best poems: if he be "a second-rate poet" (an unkind
way of saying that he is not a Shakespeare or Homer), he shares with
first-rate poets the power of moving all readers; he is not the poet
of a set of refined amateurs. He who moved and soothed the heart of
James Wolfe in the crisis of his fortunes, and who has charmed every
generation of the English race since Wolfe and Montcalm gloriously
fell, has done more than enough for fame.

The Wartons.

Gray's taste for ancient Scandinavian poetry, itself a symptom of the
tendency to study all poetry, however old, exotic, and unconscious
of the rules of the eighteenth century, was not a new thing. We are
apt to think of Swift's patron, Sir William Temple, as an example of
mere gentlemanly and conventional ideas, though happy in the gift
of a pure and sometimes exquisite style in prose. But Temple in his
essay "Of Heroic Virtue" shows that he was capable of taking sincere
pleasure in old Norse poetry, though he knew it only through the Latin
translations "by Olaus Wormius in his 'Literatura Runica' (who has very
much deserved from the commonwealth of learning, and is very well worth
reading by any that love poetry); and to consider the several stamps
of that coin, according to several ages and climates". Temple speaks
of "The Death Song" of Ragnar Lodbrog as a "sonnet" and applauds "An
Ode of Scallogrim" (Skalagrim); but his remarks, "I am deceived if in
this sonnet and ode there be not a vein truly poetical, and in its
kind Pindaric, taking it with the allowance of the different climates,
fashions, opinions, and languages of such different countries," though
well meant, show a curious idea of the nature of the sonnet.

Here we have, before the end of the seventeenth century, the essence
of historical comparative criticism of literature; and admiration
for a kind of poetry as remote as possible from the standards of
the eighteenth century. Temple handed on the torch to the elder
Thomas Warton, Professor of Poetry at Oxford in his day, who himself
translated from the Latin, as "a Runic ode," two stanzas of the Death
Song of Regnar Lodbrog.[1]

One of Warton's sons, Thomas (born 1728), was Professor of Poetry, at
Oxford (1757-1767), and, from 1774 onwards (he died in 1790), published
a History of English Poetry, which may be unsystematic, but is both
interesting and erudite. Warton had to read the earlier and later
mediaeval poets, French and English, in the manuscripts, and he quoted
profusely from sources then scarcely known. "Partly through the store
of new matter that is provided for 'the reading public,' partly through
the zest and enthusiasm of its students--the spirit of adventure which
is the same in Warton as in Scott"--his book "did more than any theory
to correct the narrow culture, the starved elegance, of the preceding
age". The elder brother of Thomas, Joseph Warton, born 1722, was a
schoolfellow of Collins, and published "Odes" in the same year as he
(1746). In his preface he boldly said that "the fashion of moralizing
in verse has been carried too far," and "he looks upon invention and
imagination to be the chief faculties of a poet". He preached what
Collins practised; he wrote good criticism in Dr. Johnson's paper, "The
Adventurer"; in his essay on Pope he tried "to impress on the reader
that a clear head and acute understanding are not sufficient alone to
make a Poet," "that it is a creative and glowing imagination... and
that alone, that can stamp a writer with this exalted and very uncommon
character...." These were to be the watchwords of the Romantic movement,
into which Warton, dying in 1800, did not live to enter.

John Dyer.

Of John Dyer we know from his most famous poem, "Grongar Hill," that,
on a certain occasion, he

    Sate upon a flowery bed
    With my hand beneath my head.

If he had lain upon a flowery bed the posture would have been more
poetical. In blank verse, deserting Grongar Hill, he found

   Lo, the resistless theme, imperial Rome.

His "Ruins of Rome" are less impressive than Spenser's sonnets
translated from Du Bellay. His "Fleece," an instructive epic of the
wool trade, though praised by the illustrious Akenside, proved no
golden fleece to its publisher. The prose summaries are pleasing.
"Disputes between France and England on the coast of Coromandel,

Dyer, at his best, is less successful than Thomson. He was born in
1700, son of an eminent solicitor of Carmarthen, was educated at
Westminster, attempted the painter's art, visited Italy, took holy
orders, published "The Fleece," in 1757, and died in 1758.

Briefer notes must suffice for the Rev. Mr. Blair of Athelstaneford
(1699-1746) who wrote "The Grave," later recommended to amateurs by
Blake's illustrations; and Matthew Green, who wrote "The Spleen"
(1696-1737), a somewhat lively subsatirical effort.

William Shenstone.

Shenstone was one of the many poets who owe their reputation to their
luck in being contemporaries of their biographer, Dr. Johnson. No
Johnson could keep records of all the versifiers of the nineteenth
century who have occasionally written good things. William Shenstone
was born in November, 1714, at the Leasowes, in Halesowen. His life
was much devoted to landscape gardening; and his harmless taste made
him a noted character in his day. "He learned to read of an old dame,"
and pleasantly described her, or some other old dame, in "The School
Mistress," an agreeable idyll in the Spenserian measure.

In 1732 Shenstone went to Johnson's college, his "nest of singing
birds," Pembroke, in Oxford. He took no degree, he rhymed, printed his
rhymes, and "The School Mistress" appeared in 1742. Thenceforth he
landscape-gardened, being so little of an angler that he was indignant,
says Johnson, when asked if there were any trout in his purely
ornamental water. His expenses in gardening brought the haunting forms
of bailiffs into his groves, but Johnson informs us gravely that "his
life was unstained by any crime". He died in February, 1763. Several of
his innocent poems, such as

    I have found out a gift for my fair,
    I have found where the wood pigeons breed,

are still familiar to many memories: they are from the "Pastoral
Ballad". He perceived the demerits of the rhyming heroic couplet (as
it was then written), as "apt to render the expression either scanty
or constrained," and preferred the verse of four lines with alternate
rhymes. Thus, on the death of Pope

    Now sadly lorn, from Twit'nam's widow'd bow'r
        The drooping muses take their casual way,
    And where they stop a flood of tears they pour,
        And where they weep, no more the fields are gay.

Of such matter are Shenstone's Elegies composed: his ballad on Jemmy
Dawson, a martyr of the Jacobite cause, was celebrated and popular;
poor Jemmy's lady-love died of grief and horror at his execution.

[1] Posthumously published in 1748. See Mr. W. P. Ker's "Warton Lecture
on English Poetry," "Proceedings of the British Academy," Vol. IV.




Thomas Chatterton.

The name of Thomas Chatterton, the youngest and most short-lived of
English poets, is curiously connected with that of Horace Walpole.
Born, at Bristol, on 20 November, 1752, under the shadow of the
beautiful old church of St. Mary Redcliffe, Chatterton from infancy
became, as it were, possessed by the charm of the edifice and of
the Middle Ages. Members of Chatterton's family had for more than a
century been associated with the church as sextons; probably they had
never given a thought to its beauty and historical associations, but
these haunted their descendant, and the story of his childhood reads
like a fantasy by Nathaniel Hawthorne. Among the clergy and people
of Bristol the spirit of the eighteenth century, indeed the natural,
usual contempt for things old, beautiful, and not understood, was
complacently active. The chests which contained the archives of the
church had been broken into by the Vestry, and quantities of old
parchment documents, some of them illuminated, had been thrown about.
Chatterton's father (died 1752), a schoolmaster, had taken as much of
the stuff as he chose, and manuscripts in the house of the boy's mother
were used for domestic purposes. The little boy, till the age of 6,
had been curiously lethargic (and far from truthful); the sight of
the illuminated parchments awakened his intellect; he stored all that
he could find in a den of his own, and became a voracious reader. In
1760 he was sent to Colston's Hospital, a school resembling Christ's
Hospital in London. He was soon, at the age of 10, a versifier, his
Muse was first the sacred, then the satiric; but already, by the age
of 11, he had made for himself, as some children do, a society of
"invisible playmates," notably "T. Rowlie, a secular priest," of the
age of Henry VI and Edward IV, and already he was writing, in a kind
of old English made up out of glossaries, poems which he passed off as
Rowlie's, found by himself in the derelict archives of the church.

In short, Chatterton might have seemed to be a victim of "split
personality," and to be now Rowlie, and a number of other secondary
selves, now the actual Chatterton, apprentice to an attorney. His
conduct was almost as abnormal as his genius was precocious, and his
passion for fame or notoriety was not quite sane. But, in fact, he
knew very well what he was about, and, in December, 1768, attempted
to dispose of "Rowley's ancient poems," including "The Tragedy of
Aella," to Dodsley, the publisher. The success of Percy's ballads
from the Old Folio (1765) may have suggested his scheme to the boy,
but Dodsley was not tempted. Horace Walpole had published the first
edition of "The Castle of Otranto" at the end of 1764. He used the
conventional device (already familiar to the Greek romancers in the
third century A.D.) of pretending to have found the tale in
an ancient manuscript. Chatterton had proclaimed his discoveries in
manuscripts in the summer of 1764, when he was 12 years old; in Horace
Walpole he recognized, in 1769, a kindred spirit, and offered to show
Walpole not only poems by Rowlie, but a history of English painters
by the same learned divine. Walpole replied very courteously and
gratefully, but "I have not the happiness of understanding the Saxon
language". In a reply Chatterton explained his circumstances; his youth
and position; and Gray had assured Walpole that the manuscripts sent
were forgeries. Walpole therefore advised Chatterton to adhere to his
profession, adding that experts were not convinced of the genuineness
of the papers. He took no notice of several letters from Chatterton,
and, after receiving a curt and angry note (24 July, 1769), sent back
the manuscripts without further comment, and thought no more of the
matter till he heard from Goldsmith, at a dinner of the Royal Academy,
that Chatterton had committed suicide in London. After an attempt to
support himself by hackwork, political and other, the poor boy, whose
pride could not stoop to soliciting charity, had poisoned himself on
the night of 24 August, 1770. Six weeks earlier he had been buying
and sending presents of porcelain, fans, and snuff, to his mother and
sister; twelve days before his death he had written that he intended to
go abroad as a surgeon's mate.

Even when he wrote in ordinary English, Chatterton showed rare
precocity. When he wrote in "Rowleian," in an invented dialect as
remote from real English of any day as the language of the planet
Mars, evolved by Mlle. Hélène Smith, is remote from French, Chatterton
often produced lyrics of great charm as in "The Tragedy of Aella,"
and he invented a curious form of the Spenserian stanza. His touches
in descriptions of Nature are sometimes charming. But he never quite
escapes, as is natural, from the conventions of the eighteenth century;
and his best inspiration is derived from Percy's "Reliques". What he
might have been and might have done, in happier circumstances, it is
impossible to conjecture. Genius he had, with more than the wonted
abnormality of genius.

William Cowper.

The overlapping of styles in poetry and of tastes in poetry is
pleasantly illustrated in the case of Cowper. He was born in 1731,
Scott was born in 1771, and in Miss Austen's "Sense and Sensibility"
we find the sensible Marianne Dashwood hesitating between the rival
charms of Cowper and Scott; Byron, it appears, had not yet reached her
fair hands. Cowper is a bridge between Thomson and Wordsworth. He was
averse to the Popeian couplet; in his translation of Homer he preferred
a blank verse which, at best, is not rapid. In writing of Nature he
"had his eye on the object". His exit from the triumphant common
sense of the eighteenth century was by way of spiritual religion,
the Evangelical Revival promoted by Wesley, Whitefield, and their
followers. They made appeal to the souls, not to the passions, of the
populace; and Cowper's own sympathy with their bodies, with their
poverty, like his love of retirement, and of newspapers, makes him akin
to Wordsworth.

Born of the powerful Whig family of Cowper, the poet was the son of the
rector of Great Berkhampstead; his mother, whom he lost when he was 6
years of age, yet ever remembered daily with intense affection, was of
the name and lineage of Donne. He was cruelly bullied in childhood at
a preparatory school. The innate savagery of boys of fifteen sometimes
wreaks itself on a single small child, and we might think that his
sufferings had their share in depressing the spirits of Cowper, did he
not tell us that, at his public school, Westminster, he was eminent
in cricket, which Horace Walpole and Gray despised at Eton. His
master, "Vinny" Bourne, a Latin poet, was dear to him; he made many
clever and lively friends, and, despite his attack on public schools
in "Tirocinium" (1784), he seems to have been reasonably happy at
Westminster, though he learned no more in one way than to write "lady's
Greek without the accents

"Tirocinium" is a vigorous satire in Pope's metre. But Cowper, despite
the vices and brutalities of school life, confesses his affection for
the old place. The clergy at large come under Cowper's birch,

    The parson knows enough who knows a Duke!
    Behold your Bishop I well he plays his part,
    Christian in name and infidel in heart.

In denouncing emulation for prizes, Cowper hit a blot that seems to
have vanished, for anything like ungenerous emulation of this kind
appears to be a lost vice. No boy studies

    Less for improvement than to tickle spite.

Macaulay's victims, Warren Hastings and Elijah Impey, were at school
with Cowper. He went to no University, but was articled to a solicitor;
and idly "giggled and made giggle" with his cousins, Theodora and
Harriet. He was in love with Theodora, but was disappointed, Harriet
(Lady Hesketh) was one of his best friends. At the age of 32 (1763)
hypochondria or hysteria shattered' his life; in a private asylum he
was suddenly converted, and recovered, and religion was henceforth,
now his joy and happiness, now, when the black cloud came over him,
the cause of his despair. At Huntingdon, and later, at the uninviting
village of Olney, he lived retired, the friend of Mrs. Unwin ("My
Mary") and of a clerical ex-slave-trader, the Rev. John Newton. With
Newton, Cowper wrote hymns, the ladies encouraged him to occupy himself
with moral poems, "Table Talk," "Truth," "The Progress of Error,"
"Retirement," "Charity," "Hope," all in the metre of Pope; and all more
or less satirical. Kings, in "Table Talk," are the first to suffer: one
of the speakers in the dialogue is rather revolutionary. Indeed the
mild tea-drinking Cowper, with his denunciations of "the great," the
clergy, and the unthinking squires, preludes to the French Revolution,
which he took very calmly. After politics comes talk of poetry: and the
well-known lines on Pope occur; he

    Made poetry a mere mechanic art,
    And every warbler has his tune by heart.

Of poets in his own age Cowper prefers the reckless satirist,
Churchill; of Gray and Collins nothing is said. In "The Progress
of Error" the much-enduring Nimrod is attacked, in company with
the well-graced popular preacher; and novelists are assailed as
"flesh-flies of the land," while men who study art in Italy come home
worse dunces than they went, and finally the deist and atheist are
publicly birched.

It is not for his satires that Cowper is remembered: they were
suggested to him, in the interests of religion and morals, by Mrs.
Unwin, while Lady Austen, a lively person of quality, appointed to
Cowper "The Task," or rather gave him the subject of "The Sofa," out of
which grew "The Task". The poet ambles, in an essay in blank verse, as
much at his ease and as fond of digressions as Montaigne, from the days
when man squatted on the ground, to his invention of a three-legged
stool, the addition of a fourth leg, cushions, arm-chairs, the settee,
finally the sofa. The sofa pleases the gouty; never may the poet have
gout; he has done nothing to deserve it; in boyhood he

    Has fed on scarlet and strong haws,
    The bramble, black as jet, and sloes austere.

This introduces a rural digression.

    Here Ouse, slow winding through a level plain
    Of spacious meads with cattle sprinkled o'er,
    Conducts the eye along his sinuous course,

We think of

              a river winding slow
    By cattle, on an endless plain;
    The ragged rims of thunder brooding low
        With shadow streaks of rain.

How different are the methods of the two painters in words! The poet,
finding geologists in the course of his wanderings, pities them, truth
disclaiming them. Like Wordsworth he praises "retirement," welcomes the
newspaper, and welcomes tea. In the charming lines, "The Retired Cat,"
temporarily shut up in a drawer lined "with linen of the softest kind,"
he seems to smile at his own cosy retirement; the teacups, the happy
listening ladies. He is full of human kindness, of love for children,
cats, and his own tame hares; he sets out to gather flowers, he says,
and comes home laden with moral fruits, and religious reflections,
and with his sketch book full of landscapes like Gainsborough's, and
studies of cattle like Morland's. "The Task" won for the poet countless
friends who never saw his face; and, though we have become attuned to
blank verse of many beautiful modulations which he never dreamed of
(though now and then they were attained by Thomson), "The Task" may
still be read with sympathy and pleasure.

Many of Cowper's shorter poems, grave or gay, are in all memories:
"The Wreck of the Royal George," as spirited and sad as a ballad; the
ringing notes of "Boadicea"; the idyllic sweetness of

    The poplars are felled, farewell to the shade
    And the whispering sound of the cool colonnade;

the lines, "Addressed to a Young Lady," brief and beautiful as the
most tender epigrams of "The Greek Anthology," from which Cowper's
translating hand gathered a little garland. Of these "The Swallow,"
"Attic Maid with Honey Fed," are worthy of the original, as is "The
Grass-hopper". Cowper shone in occasional verses on trifling matters
such as "The Dog and the Water-lily"; and pretty kindly compliments,
such as "Gratitude" (to his cousin, Lady Hesketh), and things tender
and touched with the sense of tears in mortal things, as in the
"Epitaph on a Hare," and the "To Mary" (of 1793). His "John Gilpin" is
an unusual frolic.

The translations, in blank verse, of the "Iliad" and "Odyssey" could
not displace those of Pope, who, in Cowper's opinion, had done all that
could be done in rhyme. Blank verse, especially that of Cowper, cannot
convey, as Pope does, the sense of the speed of the great epic; nor was
Cowper's scholarship exempt from curious errors. He was overworked;
Mrs. Unwin fell into the condition described in "To Mary," his terrible
melancholy returned, but his last original verses, "The Cast-away"
(1798), are penned by no "maniac's hand," nor can a poet have written
them without pleasure in his own genius. Cowper died in 1800.

His letters are reckoned among the best in our language, and their
delightful wit and gaiety fortunately assure us that there was much
happiness in a life so blameless.

Literature in Scotland (1550-1790).

Before approaching the great northern contemporary of Cowper, Robert
Burns, it is necessary to cast a backward glance at his predecessors
in Scottish letters. We left them in the reign of James V, when Sir
David Lyndsay was the reigning poet of the Court and of the people. It
is not easy to fit some remarks on Scottish literature after Sir David
Lyndsay into a chronological sequence parallel with the development
of literature in England. The Scottish writers under James VI and I
produced no effect on their English contemporaries: the King's "Reulis
and Cautelis" in poetical criticism, and his "Basilikon Doron," a
treatise on king-craft, with his "Counterblast to Tobacco," and
his "Demonology" are the work of a clever general writer, but now
only interest the curious. Alexander Scott and Alexander Montgomery
continued to practise in Scots, the style of Dunbar, though Scott
shone most in love lyrics, often musical, while Montgomery survives
in an allegory of the old sort, "The Cherry and the Slae"; and an
old-fashioned "flyting". Sir Robert Ayton (1570-1638) lived in London
with the wits of the time, and, like the Earl of Stirling (died in
1640) and William Drummond of Hawthornden, deserted for English the
Scots vernacular. The most distinguished of these poets William
Drummond of Hawthornden (1585-1649) entertained Ben Jonson at his
beautiful house, and has left brief notes of Ben's rather crabbed
criticisms of his great contemporaries. In the previous year, when
James, "with a salmonlike instinct" (1617) revisited his native
country, Drummond celebrated the event in "Forth Feasting," a panegyric
in fairly regular rhymed heroic couplets. Some of his sonnets have
charm and are not forgotten; but the times darkened, and Drummond
(who showed common sense and public spirit when Charles I unjustly
persecuted Lord Balmerino (1633), advising the King to read George
Buchanan's book on the Royal power in Scotland), was unlikely to find
an audience for his learned verse during the subsequent troubles. His
"Cypress Grove," a meditation in prose on death, is poetic in phrasing
and cadences, while the periods are not over-long and over burdened.
But the brief years in which Scottish wits might have learned many
lessons from the great contemporary literature of England soon went by;
and Scottish writers for nearly a century were confined to wranglings
over theology and sermons, and to bitter tracts and pamphlets, valuable
to the historical but not to the literary student.

The great Marquis of Montrose is credited with one charming Cavalier
lyric, "My dear and only love, I pray," and with verses sincere but
rugged and full of conceits on his own death and his King's, but he
"tuned his elegies to trumpet sounds". The favourite measure of Burns
was kept alive by Sempill of Beltrees, in his vernacular elegy over a

    On bagpipes now no body blaws
         Sen Habbie's dead.

The translation of Rabelais (1653) by the learned, militant, and
eccentric Sir Thomas Urquhart of Cromarty (1611?-1660) is an
imperishable monument of the author's amazing wealth of strange
vocabularies, and vigour of appropriate style. The task of making
Rabelais talk in English seemed little fit for a Scottish Cavalier who
fought at Worcester, but Urquhart, aided by Rabelais, won a kind of
immortality by his success. His translation is final and decisive; in
which it stands alone. Of the preachers and controversialists, bitter
or humorous, there is no space to speak, but the saintly character
and gentle eloquence of Archbishop Leighton (1611-1684) live in his
Commentary on the First Epistle of St. Peter and his other expository
writings. The historical works of Gilbert Burnet (1643-1715), Bishop of
Salisbury, are English, except in their occasional Scotticisms, as much
of his life was spent in England. He had seen much of the inner wheels
and springs of politics, was fond of talking of himself and of his part
in great affairs, and, like Leighton, represents the Scottish divine,
politician, and author, who has been Anglicized out of the Presbyterian
precision and acerbity, and is as English as he can make himself.

His very conceit, and his almost incredible want of tact, make this
"Scotch dog," as Swift loves to call him, a most entertaining gossip.
His "History of My Own Times" was judiciously kept from publication
till after his death. Burnet cannot be relied on as a safe authority
either in what he insinuates most basely, against William III, or
states, without an atom of corroboration, against James II. In the
latter case, however, Macaulay has accepted and given circulation to
Burnet's narrative.

By far the greatest man of letters of the Restoration, north of
Tweed, is "that noble wit of Scotland," in Dryden's phrase, Sir
George Mackenzie of Rosehaugh (1636?-1691). Beginning with a "heroic
romance," "Aretina," influenced by Sidney's "Arcadia" (1660), and the
French school of heroic romances, and with verses, in which he did not
shine, Mackenzie, in the "Religio Stoici" (1663) shows that he, like
R. L. Stevenson, has been "the sedulous ape" of Sir Thomas Browne.
He has many admirably harmonious sentences, a very lively wit, and a
becomingly pensive air of disenchantment. "The scuffle of drunken men
in the dark," the bloodshed and bitterness of the wars of the Covenant,
have saddened him, and left him an enthusiast for Montrose,

    At once his country's glory and her shame.

But political and professional ambitions carried Mackenzie away from
pure literature into dark and tortuous paths. His work on the Criminal
Law of Scotland has considerable literary as well as great legal merit;
his observations on the persecution of witches are of great interest;
and the worst of his "Memoirs of the Affairs of Scotland" is the
fragmentary condition of the manuscript. Mackenzie was the cause of the
foundation of the Advocates' Library in Edinburgh: after the Revolution
of 1688 he retired to Oxford, where he was hospitably welcomed.

The Rev. Robert Wodrow (1679-1734) a country clergyman, would gladly
have taken all knowledge for his province; his was a most inquiring
mind, and perhaps no man so assiduous in his parochial duties ever
left behind him so huge a mass of unpublished manuscript. His great
work is "The History of the Sufferings of the Church of Scotland from
the Restoration to the Revolution". He was, of course, a partisan,
but an honest partisan; he consulted all accessible documents, and
often printed them at full length; he occasionally makes errors in the
direction of his bias, but never makes them consciously. He neglects
not one of the humblest of the sufferers, and, as he did not belong to
the extreme left of the Covenanting party, he was savagely criticized
by its members. He is a most serviceable writer, and his "Analecta,
or Materials for a History of Remarkable Providences" (published long
after his death), is a delightful collection of ghost-stories, and
tales of witches. The evidence for the ghosts is extremely frail.
Wodrow was in frequent correspondence with an American divine, as
simple, learned, and credulous as himself, the Rev. Cotton Mather.
Wodrow, after 1714, saw the beginnings of "Latitudinarianism,"
or "Moderatism," in the Kirk: young ministers began to study the
"Characteristics" of that polite philosopher, the third Earl of
Shaftesbury (1671-1713); to doubt whether virtuous heathens and
Catholics must inevitably be excluded from salvation; to wander from
the Calvinism of John Knox; to aim at rhetorical airs and graces; and
to regard the chief end of religion as the promotion of virtue. These
Moderates despised "enthusiasm," and while the fiercer Presbyterian
leaders separated themselves from the Kirk, the abler Moderates
attempted, sometimes with much success, to distinguish themselves in
secular studies, and took part in secular amusements, being patrons of
the stage.

To understand the new Georgian revival of polite letters among the
clergy and laity of Scotland, we should study the writings and life
of Professor Francis Hutcheson of Glasgow University (1694-1746)
a follower of Shaftesbury, and a writer on æsthetics and on moral
philosophy. But for a true, lively, and Humorous picture of ministers
who loved society, the stage, and the company of the wits, in London
and in Edinburgh, we should read the autobiography, posthumously
published, of the Rev. Dr. Alexander Carlyle, minister of Inveresk
(1722-1805). In youth he had revelled and drunk deep with the wicked
Lord Lovat, and that stern Presbyterian, dear to Wodrow, Lord Grange,
well remembered for his energy in packing off his termagant wife to
seclusion on the Isle of St. Kilda. Carlyle had seen the rout of Sir
John Cope at Prestonpans; he had amazed Garrick, at his villa on the
Thames, by the accuracy of his driving at golf; he had championed his
brother minister, John Home, when Home offended the Kirk by writing
the once famous play of "Douglas"; and he lived to be the acquaintance
of Sir Walter Scott. Carlyle, called "Jupiter Carlyle" from his noble
presence, knew every one worth knowing in Scotland; and if we think him
a kind of good-humoured pagan, he is nevertheless reported to have been
an excellent parish minister. "For human pleasure" in the reading, the
memoirs of this most unspiritual of divines are the best thing that the
literary revival in Scotland has bequeathed to us. Very few Scottish
writers had paid attention to the graces of composition, except in the
period of the tenure by James I of the English Crown, and in the cases
of Sir George Mackenzie and Archbishop Leighton during the Restoration.
But the papers of Addison and Steele, "The Tatler" and "The Spectator,"
went everywhere, were eagerly read in Scotland, and provoked imitation
in the matter of style. Literary clubs met in Edinburgh taverns: and
men corresponded with Berkeley on philosophical subjects, as Mackenzie
had corresponded on literature with John Evelyn. In addition to the
literary clubs a centre of interest in poetry and prose was the shop
of Allan Ramsay (1686-1758) who passed from the trade of a wigmaker
to that of a bookseller. In 1724 he published "The Evergreen," a
collection of old Scots verses from the manuscript made by George
Bannatyne (1545-1608) during a visitation of the plague (1568).[1]
Ramsay's "Tea-table Miscellany" (1724-1727) was a medley of old Scots
and new songs and lyrics: the new made by Ramsay and his disciples to
be sung to the old Scots tunes. The old verses were the basis of the
new, which are a mixture of the simple ancient matter with that of
the eighteenth century. Hamilton of Gilbertfield, who, by modernizing
Blind Harry's "Wallace," produced a book very inspiring to Burns, was a
contemporary of Ramsay: they wrote to each other "epistles" in verse,
in the manner continued by Burns. Ramsay's "Gentle Shepherd" (1725)
contains matter more true to Scottish shepherd life than is common in
pastoral poetry: and Ramsay's elegies, in Burns's favourite metre,
on such personages as Maggy Johnstoun, an ale-wife, were models for
Fergusson and Burns. Allan was no friend of the more rigid Presbyterian
party, and once, at least, in the pretty song of "The Blackbird," he
showed the colours of the Jacobite. Another poet, Hamilton of Bangour
(1704-1754) was actually out with Prince Charles in 1745; his slim
volume of 1744, "Poems on Several Occasions," contains little that
dwells in the memory except the beautiful and melancholy song of Yarrow,

    Busk ye, busk ye, my bonny, bonny Bride.

In this little renaissance, whose poets always had their eyes on the
romantic past, Lady Wardlaw (1677-1727) produced what was taken for
an old ballad, "Hardyknute," the first, Scott said, that he ever
learned, the last that he would ever forget. But it needed "a poetic
child" to find so much merit in "Hardyknute". Ladies like Lady Grizel
Baillie (1665-1746) with "Were na my heart licht I wad dee," and Miss
Jean Elliot of Minto, with "The Flowers of the Forest," a lament for
Flodden, were surpassed in the number, and equalled in the merit of
their songs by Lady Nairne (an Oliphant of Gask, and a hereditary
Jacobite) (1766-1845). She was the best of the known and named poets of
the Cause which has had so many singers; and her strains were continued
by the last of these lady minstrels and musicians, Lady John Scott, a
Spottiswoode (1810-1900). The new day was dawning in Scotland, thus
early in the eighteenth century, and the birds were singing prelusive
to Burns, Scott, and Hogg. Indeed, Lady Nairne's "Will ye no come back
again?" and "The Auld House," and "Wi' a Hundred Pipers and a,'" and
"The Land o' the Leal," are far better remembered than the poems of
Robert Fergusson (1750-1774) who died so young, the harmless, hapless
Villon of St. Andrews and Edinburgh, and, in certain poems, the model
of Burns.

These poets were not more determined to be Scots (though Ramsay and
Fergusson also wrote in English) than the wits who attempted prose
were set on speaking English with the English accent, and on avoiding
Scotticisms. The Select Society (1754) was a debating society whose
members were taught to speak English by an Irishman, the father of the
famous author of "The School for Scandal". The results were matter of
admiration. They produced an "Edinburgh Review" which survived into
two numbers: it had intended to appear every six months, but expired,
though Edinburgh was full of _literati_, including the Rev. Hugh
Blair, a once celebrated preacher, and Hume's friend, the Rev. John
Home (1722-1808) whose tragedy, "Douglas," "gave the clergy cause for
speculation". Hume declared that Home possessed "the true theatric
genius of Shakespeare and Otway, refined from the unhappy barbarism of
the one, and licentiousness of the other". Posterity has not confirmed
Hume's verdict, but Home is the one "mellow glory" of the Scottish

The Rev. Adam Ferguson (1723-1816), as chaplain of the Black Watch,
went in at Fontenoy with the claymore. "Remember your commission, Sir,"
shouted his colonel. "D-- my commission, Sir!" shouted the chaplain.
His "History of Margaret, otherwise called Sister Peg" (1760), is a
humorous and valuable sketch of the antipathy between England and
Scotland in 1760-1770. These men, and many others,--Lord Kames, Lord
Monboddo, Lord Hailes, a serviceable critical historian, Beattie, the
poet of "The Minstrel," and the satirist of the dead Churchill,--kept
alive the interest in all forms of literature. The great men of the
time, to be treated in a later chapter, alas! fall under the censure of
Charles Lamb, that their "books are no books," but Charles's sympathy
with Scotland was confessedly imperfect.

Out of this medley of new and old, of the vernacular Scots with the
affected English of Edinburgh, out of the ancient ballads and old
frolicsome rural ditties, arose the style of Burns.

Robert Burns.

The place of Burns in poetry may be called unique. His genius was
the incarnation, as it were, of his country people's through many
centuries, generations, from the one musical stanza on the death of
Alexander III (1285) to the simplest song that the milkmaids crooned
at their work. In literary poetry, as we have seen, the part played
by Scotland had been partly derivative. The greatest poets, those of
the fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries, were professed followers
of Chaucer: Drummond of Hawthornden was a lyrist and sonneteer under
Italian and Elizabethan influences. Of Barbour and Blind Harry, Burns
had little but the burning patriotism: his real predecessors were the
many named or nameless popular song-makers, and makers of lays of
rural merriment; and the music of the Scottish tunes to which their
words were wedded. Of the popular ballads, romantic or historical, he
professed no high esteem: no "white plumes were dancing in his eye,"
chivalry was not his subject: his matter was rural life and Nature;
and he had the true Scottish love of the rivers and burns of his
country. In the furnace of his genius all the ancient poetic material,
all the folk-song (but not "the fairy way of writing") was recast and
refashioned in forms singularly varied, vivid, and real: while, to
pursue the metaphor, the furnace was fanned by all the winds of his
age--now of democracy; now of loyalty to "a man undone," and a dying
dynasty; now of patriotic resistance to "haughty Gaul," and her threats
of invasion.

In the fire of his nature and of his passions Burns resembled Byron,
but his humour was kindlier, his ear more tuneful, and his gift of
creating character was infinitely more varied. He had the eye of
Molière or of Fielding for a hypocrite; and combined the delusion that
the Covenanters were the friends of freedom, with a scornful contempt
of the discipline and doctrines of the successors of the Covenanters.
In affairs of the heart he exhibits the usual pastoral morality, that
of the shepherds and goatherds of Theocritus, with little of the
Sicilian grace and charm.

The life of Burns is so familiarly known that the briefest survey must
suffice. Born on 25 January, 1759, in a clay bigging in the parish of
Alloway, in Ayrshire, he was the son of a small labouring farmer of
the class whence so many of the martyrs and stout fighting men of the
Covenant sprang. His father, a "grave liver" and devout, like them,
managed to obtain for Burns, and out of every book which came in his
way Burns picked-up for himself, a fair literary education. He owed
much, especially many opportunities of reading, to a young tutor, Mr.
Murdoch. He never was such a bookish man as Hogg, neglected as Hogg's
education was in youth, but he acquired a knowledge of French, and
studied Molière. The hardships of a poor farmer, in a cold soil, under
a heartless "factor," the severest struggles for existence were known
to Burns, but he also had his fill of dancing and "daffing," and the
consequent "Kirk discipline". On this aspect of his life and adventures
what is best to say has been said by Keats, in a letter written from
Burns's country.

Entanglements of love affairs, and despair of success in life, caused
Burns to contemplate emigration to the West Indies, but first he
published at Kilmarnock (July, 1786), a collection of his songs and
verses which instantly made him famous. Invited to Edinburgh, he passed
a winter there in learned, noble, and festive society, carrying the
celebrated Duchess of Gordon "off her feet," as she said, but winning
far more admirers and boon companions than serviceable friends.

The Earl of Glencairn, whom Burns immortalized in sincere and glowing
verse, died young; the age of Harley and Bolingbroke, of pensions and
places for poets, was long dead. Burns met Scott, then a boy of 15;
Scott later said that he was unworthy to tie Burns's shoes, but had the
men been of equal age, better work would have been found for Burns
than the perilous and bitterly uncongenial task of the exciseman (1789).

Not successful as a farmer at Ellisland (his capital was no more than
the scanty profits of his poems), Burns settled in the pretty little
town of Dumfries. Here his wit and genius made him the guest of the
town and country, of lairds and tourists, and tradesmen. A constitution
naturally robust, though injured by early privation, broke down; he had
not the energy to continue in the vein of "Tam o' Shanter"; but poured
out his songs, original, or re-creations of old popular ditties, till
his death on 21 July, 1796.

Burns was singular as a poet, in one point: he needed, as it were, to
have a key-note struck for him, and he prolonged and glorified the note
which had inspired him. Far from concealing the fact, he acknowledged,
with perfect candour and generosity, his debt to Robert Fergusson. This
poet, born in Edinburgh (1750), and educated at the University of St.
Andrews, died, after an interval of madness, in 1774. He, like Burns,
had been too welcome a guest of more seasoned convivialists for the
sake of his wit. His verses in English are commonplace, but his lyrics,
in Burns's favourite measure, on the rude pleasures of Edinburgh tavern
life, his "Leith Races," "The Farmer's Ingle," "Ode to the Gowdspink,"
and other pieces, gave Burns the needed key-note for "The Cottar's
Saturday Night," "The Holy Fair" (the sacramental meeting in the open
air, a relic of Covenanting days), and, perhaps, for the poems on
"The Mouse," and "The Mountain Daisy". Burns has so entirely eclipsed
Fergusson that he is scarcely remembered, even in Scotland.

"Poor Mailie's Elegy" had a much older predecessor; and, generally,
Burns's songs start from an old tune, to which, through the ages, new
verses had been set in new generations. There was a Jacobite "Auld Lang
Syne," there was a Jacobite "For a' that," there was a very improper
"Green grows the Rashes, o'" and so on, endlessly. But Burns, in many
cases, transfigured his original. That he shone more in Scots than in
English is admitted--but the best verses in his "Jolly Beggars" are in
English, and there is only one word spelled in the Scots fashion in

    Had we never lov'd sae kindly,
    Had we never lov'd sae blindly,
    Never met or never parted--
    We had ne'er been broken hearted.

The same song contains the conventional lines--

    Deep in heart-wrung tears I'll pledge thee,
    Warring sighs and groans I'll wage thee.

The vigour and variety, the humour, the pity, the scorn, and the
sentiment of Burns were all entirely new when he wrote, and his variety
enabled him to please the most widely different tastes. Critics who
were horrified by "The Jolly Beggars," and "The Holy Fair," and the
reckless song to Anna found consolation in "The Cottar's Saturday
Night," and the lament for "Highland Mary"

    Thou ling'ring star with lessening ray,

in English. Poems in the manner of these two last are sometimes spoken
of as "sentimental," but the sentiment was as real a mood, while it
lasted, as the scorn, or the revelry.

Of Burns it may be said that, beloved as he has been, not always for
his best qualities, by the uncritical, he has been no less admired by
the greatest poets of the age that followed his own, Keats, Scott,
and Wordsworth. No poet ever was more truly national; none had more
of the genius of the popular past, and the aspirations of the popular
future; none was more essentially and spontaneously lyrical; none was
more at home with Mature, with human society (with the life of the
animal world, too, as in "The Twa Dogs"), and, in the humorous tale,
none has excelled "Tam o'Shanter". No poet wears better in the changes
of circumstance and taste. His letters, though of capital biographical
interest, are sometimes of a comic complexion; "the style of the
Bird of Paradise" prevails, now and then, in his English prose. But
his English verse, as Scott found to be the way with his countrymen
when they had, in passionate moments, "gotten to their English," is
sometimes the natural vehicle of high reflection or of sincere grief.

Charles Churchill.

Satire is the least worthy kind of poetry; for it is almost never
sincere. The writer is always in a fatiguing state of virtuous
indignation about matters for which he really cares very little,
except when his virulence is brewed out of personal spite. Satire,
in fact, is only tolerable when combined with the smiling humour of
Horace, the occasional majesty of Juvenal, the grace, wit, and finish
of Pope, or the airy contempt and sonorous lines of Dryden. Charles
Churchill had little of the qualities of these poets, yet was, no
doubt, the most popular writer of satire in the rhymed heroic couplet
between Pope and Byron. He was born in 1731, the son of the Rector at
Rainham; was at Westminster School a contemporary of Cowper and Warren
Hastings; did not study at either University, though he was admitted to
Trinity, Cambridge; married at 18, and married unwisely; took orders,
and returned to lay costume and pursuits, and in 1761, looking about
for a theme of satire that promised notoriety, had the happy thought
of attacking the actors and actresses of the day in "The Rosciad".
"The profession" is sensitive; the actors were not silent about their
wrongs; there was plenty of hubbub, and the satire was remunerative.
Any man who stoops to taunt actors, and even actresses, by personal
attacks in rhyme, can make himself notorious. Perhaps the best-known
rhymes of Churchill are

                On my life
    That Davies hath a very pretty wife.

There were replies and hostile reviews, and Churchill, in "The
Apology," assailed Garrick as "the vain tyrant" with

    His puny green-room wits and venal bards.

Garrick is said not to have dared to contemn things contemptible, and
to have propitiated Churchill. As ally of Jack Wilkes, he "took the
Wilkes and Liberty" to assail Scotland in "The Prophecy of Famine".

    Waft me, some Muse, to Tweed's inspiring stream
    .    .    .    .    .    .    .    .    .    .
    Where, slowly winding the dull waters creep
    And seem themselves to own the power of sleep.

In fact, "the glittering and resolute streams of Tweed," as the old
Cromwellian angler, Richard Franck, styles them, are only dull and
sleepy in the "dubs" where England provides their flat southern bank.

In 1763 Churchill assailed Hogarth in an epistle, and Hogarth replied
in kind with a truly English caricature. He wrote several other satires
and a Hudibrastic skit, in Four Books, on Dr. Johnson's incursion
into psychical research, in the matter of the famous Cock Lane Ghost.
Churchill died at Boulogne, in November, 1764, and is buried at Dover.
In private life he displayed some kindly and honourable qualities,
and Byron, before leaving England for ever, in 1816, consecrated a
poem to his grave. To the discredit of Scotland, Dr. Beattie lampooned
Churchill--after he was dead!

George Crabbe.

Born more than twenty years after Cowper, but making his first
noticeable entry into literature at the same time as he, Crabbe belongs
in curious ways to different schools and different ages. In verse he
follows the tradition of Pope and Goldsmith; writing, in his best-known
works, in the rhymed ten syllables, and much influenced by Goldsmith's
"Deserted Village," and by reaction against the smiling conventional
"pastorals", But perhaps Crabbe's genius, stern and almost grim, was
unfortunate in finding no other vendible vehicle of his thought than
verse, for his natural bent was to the modern "realistic" novel on the
squalor, sufferings and sins of the neglected rural poor. He had a
genius like that of several modern novelists, for painting all that in
nature or human nature is dark, lowering, and sullen; he is unsparingly
devoted to actual study from the life; and yet he has a peculiar humour
of his own. His later works were "Tales," short stories in the measure
of Pope, but destitute of brilliance, and extremely prolix, so that,
though these narratives in verse were apparently more popular than
the contemporary novels of Miss Austen, the rapid rise and universal
popularity of the prose novel began to deprive Crabbe of readers even
in his own later years. Crabbe, who had been praised by Dr. Johnson,
lived to enjoy the generous applause of Scott, Byron, Miss Austen,
and, what was more rare, the approval of Wordsworth. But as, in the
beginning of his career, he censured the Newspaper as the supplanter of
poetry, so, before his death in 1832, he found that the world preferred
novels in prose to short tales of modern life in verse. He profited
by the brief period of the bloom of poetry, but his biographer, Canon
Ainger, observes that "Crabbe is practically unknown to the readers
of the present day". The gaiety and grace which in Cowper alternate
with gloom, and make many of his poems so generally familiar, were not
elements in the genius of Crabbe.

He was born at Aldeburgh, on the coast of Suffolk, on Christmas Eve,
1754, the son of a man who had been a schoolmaster, but later obtained
a small post in the Customs. In Crabbe's day Aldeburgh was not, as
now, a watering-place, but through the inroads of the sea, was become
a squalid smuggling village with a desolate background of poor and
ill-cultivated land: as described in "The Village". Crabbe was from
childhood a great devourer of books, and at the second of his two
country schools acquired Latin enough for his later purposes. He was
apprenticed to a surgeon, fell early in love, at 18 won a prize for a
magazine poem, "Hope," made songs to his mistress's eyebrow, printed
(1775) a moral poem ("Inebriety"), at Ipswich practised medicine in
a humble way, and in April, 1780, went to London with his surgical
instruments and three pounds in his pocket. He wrote poems which were
declined by publishers; though there was an opening for a poet--

    When Verse her wintry prospect weeps,
    When Pope is gone, and mighty Milton sleeps,
    When Gray in lofty lines has ceased to soar,
    And gentle Goldsmith charms the Town no more.

(Lines of 1780.) But the opening was occupied by Cowper, and Crabbe
was as destitute as Chatterton, when a letter written by him to
Burke excited the sympathy of that generous heart in 1781. Burke
offered encouragement and hospitality, Thurlow gave money; Crabbe was
introduced to Fox, Reynolds and Dr. Johnson, took orders, was made
curate of his native village, liked it not, and became chaplain of
the Duke of Rutland at Belvoir. Later he held a variety of livings,
and, for a poet so satirical about clerical neglect of the poor, was,
inconsistently, a pluralist and an absentee, till his Bishop made him
mend his ways.

His first poem of any note, "The Library" (1781-2) has no great merit:
we see that the novel, to Crabbe's mind, was represented by the old
heroic romance,

                                     bloody deeds
    Black suits of armour, masks, and foaming steeds.

In "The Village" (1783) Crabbe showed his true self in realistic
descriptions of wretchedness. He first tells the Pastoral Muse that her
day is over:--

                              I paint the cot,
    As Truth will paint it, and as bards will not.

There follows a perfect masterpiece of landscape in his manner, "the
thin harvest with its withered ears" beyond the "burning sands"; the
blighted rye, the thistles, poppies, blue bugloss, slimy mallow, the
tares, the charlock. The peasants are "a wild amphibious race" of
smugglers and fishers; the farm-labourers

    hoard up aches and agues for their age,


    mend the broken hedge with icy thorn.

In the poorhouse, amidst unspeakable filth, the dying are neglected
by the doctor and the sporting curate, and the dead are buried
without rites. There is not a gleam of hope or sunshine, except in
the accidental mention of "the flying ball, the bat, the wicket". The
poet ends with applause of the heroic death in action of Lord Robert
Manners, and with consolatory remarks to the Duke of Rutland.

The poem was successful and was admired by Scott, then a lad of 18: a
few lines had been contributed by Dr. Johnson.

Deserting the topics in which he was strongest, Crabbe (1785) published
"The Newspaper"; the papers are

    A daily swarm that banish every Muse,
    For these unread the noblest volumes lie,
    For these unsoiled in sheets the Muses die....

    For daily bread the dirty trade they ply,
    Coin their fresh tales and live upon the lie.

"The puffing poet" is also censured.

Crabbe continued to write, but not till 1807 did he publish "The Parish
Register," which returns to the theme of "The Village". He was now
doing duty at his parish, Muston, and, not unnaturally, found that, in
various forms, the people had become Nonconformists. He now took a much
more cheerful view of "the cot," and found its book-shelf well occupied
by the Bible, Bunyan, and old English fairy tales; while the garden was
rich in salads, carnations, hyacinths, and tulips. But Crabbe turns
with more zest

    To this infected row we term our street,

he enumerates the smells, and describes the horrible results of
overcrowded dwellings; and catalogues the disguises, the weapons, and
the implements of the poacher. There follows the sad story of "The
Miller's Daughter"; and another girl who thus addresses her clerical

    Alas! your Reverence, wanton thoughts, I grant,
    Were once my motive, now the thoughts of want.

This is a fair example of Crabbe's favourite punning antitheses, like

    loose in his gaiters, looser in his gait.

In "The Parish Register" Crabbe reduces the story of a life to the
brevity of an anecdote, and in the dearth of novels his book was very
popular. A better book of a similar scope and aim, in prose, Galt's
"Annals of the Parish," was being written, but, taking time by the
forelock, Crabbe, in 1810, produced "The Borough," descriptions of
a large country town, including tales in verse of more considerable
length. But, in 1804-1805, he had written a poem which is strange in
his work, "Sir Eustace Grey," a tale told by a madman, a record of
the dreams of madness, closely resembling De Quincey's account of the
visions begotten by opium, and, in essence, not unlike Coleridge's
"Pains of Sleep". The metre is that of the French _ballade_, and of the
oldest Scottish ditty on the death of Alexander III. Thus

    They hung me on a bough so small,
        The rook could build her nest no higher,
    They fixed me on the trembling ball
        That crowns the steeple's quivering spire;

    They set me where the seas retire,
        But drown with their returning tide;
    And made me flee the mountain's fire
        When rolling from its burning side.

This adventure into romance has imaginative merits, and a speed of
movement elsewhere unexampled in the work of Crabbe. The hymn with
which poor Sir Eustace consoles himself might have been written by
Cowper when first converted and "from cells of madness unconfined":--

    Pilgrim, burdened with thy sin,
    Come the way to Zion's gate;
    There, till Mercy let thee in,
    Knock and weep, and watch and wait.
    Knock! He knows the sinner's cry:
    Weep! He loves the mourner's tears:
    Watch! for saving grace is nigh:
    Wait! till heavenly light appears.

Crabbe thought it necessary to apologize for the "enthusiasm" of the
hymn, and to point out that Sir Eustace, had he been sane, would not
have been converted by "a methodistic call". "The World of Dreams," in
the same stanza, might take its place in "Sir Eustace Grey," so similar
are the processions of terrible fantastic visions. These things are
very strange among the vigorous but heavy-footed marches of Crabbe's
habitual style.

To return to "The Borough," Crabbe paints its very aspect with his
Dutch precision; and, incidentally, strikes at his rivals, the
enthusiasts of various sects, who were much more popular preachers than

    Their, earth is crazy and their heaven is base,

he says of the followers of Swedenborg. As for the Jews,

    They will not study and they dare not fight,

he exclaims; making an exception for Mendoza and other famed Semitic
bruisers. The poem is of some value to the social historian, and the
tales of the country coquette, and the horrible and haunted Peter
Grimes, have a gloomy vigour, and somewhat resemble, in poetry, the
moral pictures of Hogarth.

Crabbe's later works were collections of tales in verse, and with all
their merits their versification condemns them to general neglect. His
"Lady Barbara, or the Ghost" is not so successful in rendering the
well-known story of "The Beresford Ghost" as is Scott's early ballad
"The Eve of St John". To read with attention novels of everyday life
narrated in the metre of Pope, without the skill of Pope, requires a
vigorous effort.

In his Tales (as when a sturdy orthodox farmer expels the demon of
scepticism from his son by a sound trouncing) Crabbe is often somewhat
remote from our sympathetic modern tolerance of honest doubt. His
method of narration is obsolete. In "The Patron," the patronized youth
of humble birth, who has loved the Squire's daughter, is neglected,

    And in the bed of death the youth reposed.

The nymph of his adoration is thus corrected by her mother:--

    "Emma," the lady cried, "my words attend,
    Your syren-smiles have killed your humble friend;
    The hopes you raised can now delude no more,
    Nor charms, that once inspired, can now restore."

People did not speak in that style in Miss Austen's day; or in any
other day.

Crabbe died in the same year as Sir Walter Scott, who, like Byron,
Wordsworth, and Tennyson, appreciated that in him which was rare,
excellent, and original.

[1] The Bannatyne Club, for the printing and preservation of old
manuscripts, a kind of Scottish Roxburghe Club, was founded by Sir
Walter Scott in memory of the old lover of poetry.




_The Great Novelists._

The novel, since the days of the mediaeval romances, and the
Elizabethan prose stories from Sidney's "Arcadia" to the tales of
Greene and Nash, was never quite unrepresented in England, for example,
there were translations and imitations of the huge French "Heroic"
romances; Bunyan's stories are religious and moral novels, and under
the Restoration Mrs. Aphra Behn (1640-1689) wrote short novels of
love which do not quite deserve the bad reputation conferred on them
by an anecdote told by Sir Walter Scott. Eliza Haywood (1693-1756)
was prolific in prose tales, and is the author of a little romance of
Prince Charles's adventures in 1749-1750, disguised as "A Letter of
H-- G--," Henry Goring, the Prince's equerry. But in literary circles,
the novel was held in as high disdain as it was later, before Scott
produced "Waverley" (1814).

The novel of modern life, manners, and sentiment first came to its
own as the universal joy of reading mankind in Richardson's "Pamela";
advertised as it was, in modern fashion from the pulpits of all

Samuel Richardson, the son of a Yorkshire joiner, was born in 1689,
and after being educated at the Charterhouse was apprenticed to a
London printer. As a boy he made small sums by writing love-letters
for maid-servants and others who were unable to write for themselves;
and when, as a middle-aged man, he turned to writing novels, he cast
them in the form of letters. "Pamela," which he began to publish in
1740, is the story of a girl who is a waiting-maid to a lady and is
persecuted by her mistress's son; in the end he marries her and becomes
a model husband. It may annoy us from the very strange and unnatural
way in which all the characters behave. Pamela strikes us less as a
being of equal innocence and virtue, mistress of her own passion for
"the dear obliger," Mr. B. (only the initial is given), than as a
young woman who knows her game and plays her cards most adroitly. Her
snobbishness was, no doubt, in the manner of her class in her day, but
we approve of Pamela no more than Fielding did, when he overwhelmed it
with the sturdy laughter of his parody, "Joseph Andrews," brother of
Pamela, and as virtuous as that paragon, yet no milksop. But "Pamela"
was admired beyond "this side idolatry".

"Clarissa" (1748) is another novel of Virtue in danger and distress,
but Clarissa is a lady of good family and fortune, and of a pure and
heroic spirit. Decoyed from her home and friends by the wiles of the
professional seducer, Lovelace, a rake so brilliant and witty and
reckless as to win the hearts, if not of Clarissa, of all Richardson's
lady readers, Clarissa is exposed to the last extreme of misery,
steadily refuses to marry the scoundrel who has wronged her, and dies
slowly among the sobs of the congregation.

"Sir Charles Grandison," whose name has become a proverb in the English
language, appeared in 1753, and is one of the longest books that ever
was printed. It is very badly constructed too, and contains lengthy
episodes which have nothing to do with the story, and only puzzle and
confuse the reader. Properly speaking it is not so much a novel as a
series of incidents, all tending to the glorification of the hero, who
is made up of long words, fine sentiments and whalebone. The women of
the tale are less exasperating than the men, though they can hardly
be considered attractive. The reason of this may be found in the fact
that Richardson neither sought nor was sought by men, while he was
in the habit of reading his manuscripts to a group of enthusiastic
young ladies (among whom was the future Mrs. Chapone) in his garden at
Fulham. Unluckily his audience, who might have been of service to him
in pointing out that well-bred people had other manners than those of
the characters of Richardson, were too deeply engulfed in admiration to
be capable of criticism; or possibly they may not have been aware, as
Lady Mary Wortley Montagu was, that Richardson did not know the society
which he described. The letters themselves, besides showing a frankness
and lack of reticence which it may confidently be said few real letters
could ever parallel, are of a length which even on a desert island no
one could write. The genuine letters in his correspondence, between him
and the unknown but worshipping Lady Bradshaigh, and their romantic
and elaborate arrangements to discover each other in Hyde Park, are
far more amusing reading. Richardson has been accused, and justly, of
a portentous lack of humour, but if his reader has any of his own, he
will not read the novels in vain.

These censures are the candid criticism of the modern reader who finds
that he cannot think himself back into the circle of Richardson, who
finds its Virtue and its Sentiment hardly intelligible, though he
is entirely at home with the society of all degrees that Fielding
describes, or that lives in Boswell's "Life of Johnson," and in the
"Letters" of Horace Walpole and Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, expressing
themselves like people of this world. But though Richardson lived
in a kind of moral and sentimental hothouse, where one can scarcely
breathe; though he had a more than feminine liking for accumulated
minutenesses of details and a more than mediaeval prolixity; yet his
full-length pictures of his personages, stippled like a miniature in
a ring, delighted not only English but continental, especially French
readers. It was an age when people took little exercise, were little in
the open air, and passed endless hours in conversation on the ethics
and philosophy of love and sentiment. The Memoirs of Madame d'Épinay
are partly a romance in the manner of Richardson, and to read them is
to understand the society which found in him its ideal novelist. "The
man would hang himself who tried to read 'Clarissa' for its story,"
said Dr. Johnson, a friend of the author, partly because the author
was the friend of Virtue. We, if we please, may detest and disbelieve
in Lovelace, who was, none the less, the conqueror of the hearts of
the ladies of the time, that implored Richardson to convert a hero so
brilliant, witty and amiable. But for Richardson it had been enough to
convert Mr. B., and he was artist enough to refuse to gratify tastes
which, in the manner of Charles II., demanded that all tragedies should
end happily. Scott, with the resurrection of Athelstane; Dickens, with
the conversion of Estella, were more good-naturedly and erroneously
amenable to the requests of friends.

There was a blush between Charles Lamb and the girl who sat down beside
him to read "Pamela," and, in fact, Richardson's way of educating girls
in virtue may seem apt to have effects which he did not contemplate.
Other times, other manners.

Henry Fielding.

To say anything at once new and true about Henry Fielding passes the
power of man. His defects and his qualities; the good in him and in his
work, and the not so good, are so conspicuous that his contemporaries,
and later generations down to our own, have passed on them the same
remarks. There are the admirers of Fielding, who justly see in him
one of the three very greatest of English novelists of contemporary
life and manners as exhibited in the portions of society which he knew
and illustrated. But he did not take all contemporary society for his
province. Born at Sharpham Park, in Somerset, in 1707, he had far
greater advantages of birth than other men of the pen. The House of
Fielding is ancient and noble, though, unlike Gibbon in his monumental
compliment to Fielding, Mr. Horace Round cannot accept its connexion
with the House of Hapsburg.

The Fieldings had two Earldoms, of Desmond (in Ireland) and of Denbigh;
Fielding's father was of a cadet branch of the family: Lady Mary
Wortley Montagu was a kind of cousin of the novelist. He was educated
at Eton and in the law-loving University of Leyden; but when he "came
upon the town," in 1728, he did not associate himself with the circle
of Pope and Bolingbroke and the wits and the great ladies; he does not
draw his characters from that splendid society, though Lady Bellaston,
in "Tom Jones," is a member thereof.

Fielding had to live by his brains, by writing comedies, and by
journalism. He showed his genius for parody of the heroic tiresome
tragedy that was "such an unconscionable time adying," in "Tom Thumb
the Great"; and his dangerous turn for political satire in "The
Historical Register" (1737). But the Licensing Act, making the Lord
Chamberlain, or his subaltern, Licencer of Plays, excluded Fielding
from that course; he was called to the Bar (1740), where he did not
practise much. He was married in 1735 to the original, it is said, of
the exquisite Sophia of "Tom Jones"; he wrote in the Press; in 1745 he
took the Hanoverian side, in "The True Patriot," and "The Jacobite's
Journal," in mockery so named; and during all this period he saw a
great deal of the world, especially the world of the stage and of light

But of all this he makes little display in his novels. He falls back
on the humours of the country: on the country parson, Adams; the Tory
Squire, Squire Western; a neighbour, in character of Sir Tunbelly
Clumsey, and so good an Englishman that he rejoices when he hears
that "twenty thousand honest Frenchmen are landed in Kent" to back
the Rightful King, and the landed interest, against Hanoverians,
financiers, and Whigs in general. His excellent Allworthy is no
townsman; Mr. Thomas Jones, a Foundling, is country born and country
bred; most of the adventures of Joseph Andrews take place in the
country; in "Amelia" we are in town, and in taverns and prisons often,
but by no means "in society".

"Jonathan Wild" is a tale of town villains and rogues; and Fielding's
minor characters, from postilions to philosophers, like Philosopher
Square, landlords, landladies, serving-men, lawyers, parsons,
unfortunate ladies, people on the road, are of ordinary humanity, with
a considerable sprinkling of hypocrites. He had heard the chimes at
midnight and much later; he had hunted; he had lived the tavern life,
the life of debts and expedients, but he "had kept the bird in his
bosom," the sterling excellence of his heart; pity for the poor and
oppressed; honour, good humour, tolerance, and manly indignation.

To Fielding, Richardson's "Pamela," the text of many a sermon, the
snow-pure prudent Pamela, with Virtue rewarded by the hand of the
enterprising Mr. B., was even as a red rag to a bull. He did not weep
over Pamela's tears, these "pearly fugitives". He no more believed
in Mr. B.'s return to virtue than in that of Vanbrugh's Loveless.
Respectability was so far from being his favourite virtue, that, like
many very inferior writers, he inclined to identify it, unjustly, with

Consequently he began "Joseph Andrews" as a parody or burlesque of
"Pamela". That paragon had a brother, appropriately named Joseph;
and the virtue of Joseph is assailed like that of his sister, but in
vain. Joseph is invincibly respectable, yet no hypocrite, but a very
manly young fellow with an honest love in his own rank. The story soon
ceased to be a parody; that grotesque, learned, excellent and extremely
muscular Christian, Parson Adams, came into the tale with the egregious
Mrs. Slipslop; and the thing became a "picaresque" novel, a tale of the
road and of chance meetings: with the lesson that kind hearts are more
than coronets, and a postilion, later guilty of robbing a hen roost,
is a better Christian than a whole coach-load of Pharisees. Indeed
St. Augustine, once at least, robbed an orchard, yet became a shining
light, having been misled (as regards the apples and pears) by his
sense of humour.

"Joseph Andrews," though its language is occasionally coarse, as
regards its meaning is not obscure, and it is certainly one of the
most amusing works in our language: though it is not written for small
boys and little girls. We meet Pamela and Mr. B. (cruelly styled Mr.
Booby), again at the close, and they behave ill in church, when Joseph
is married.

Richardson was very much hurt, of course, and spoke very ill of
Fielding; if he forgave Fielding, he "forgave him as a Christian,"
like Rowena in Ivanhoe, "'which means,' said Wamba, 'that she does not
forgive him at all'".

There is an endless discussion about Fielding's morality. Natural
goodness of heart is everything with him. Of his Tom Jones the epitaph
might be that devised by Joe Gargery in "Great Expectations" for his
reprobate of a father,

    Whatsume'er the failings on his part,
    Remember reader he were that good in his hart.

Thomas was "that good at his heart" and lectures young Nightingale
very nobly on the infamy of corrupting virtue. But where there is
no virtue to corrupt in others, Thomas pays no attention to his
own. Perhaps he could have resisted temptation, in Nightingale's
circumstances, but he is wisely kept out of it by the author. He does
what is thought the very basest thing that a man can do; Colonel
Newcome never forgave him; if we are to pardon Tom it must be, as Dumas
urges in the case of Porthos, because, "other times, other manners".

This affair is the dangerous step in "Tom Jones" (1749), that epic of
the eighteenth century. Fielding thought of it as an epic in prose; he
is fond of burlesquing Homer and of quoting Aristotle. The plot has
been praised by Coleridge and justly, as on a level with that of the
"Œdipus Tyrannus" of Sophocles. The construction of plots has not been
the strong point of most great novelists, but Fielding set this good
example, not immaculate of course, but admirable.

The real merit of the book lies in its pell-mell of characters, all
delineated with exquisite humour, wit, and observation, from the
mysterious mother of the hero, and the adorable Sophia, to the adroit
hypocrite, Blifil; the uproarious stupid fox-hunter, the Jacobite who
drinks healths, Squire Western; the philanthropic yet really good
Allworthy; the delightful pedantic Partridge, with his tags of Latin
quotations; the rural ruffian, Black George; the harmless vanity of
Miss Western (the aunt), the sternly Protestant and Anglican, but not
immaculately virtuous Philosopher Square, and all the attendant crowd.

The moral introductory reflections may, of course, be skipped, yet not
by wise readers, for they are full of Fielding's humour, and display
his confidence in the immortality of his book.

Fielding was Thackeray's master and model; in his too frequent
reflections he follows Fielding too closely. If all men were equally
fortunate, they would all read "Tom Jones" in the six small volumes of
the First Edition: but in any edition the book is delightful. Charlotte
Brontë thought it corrupting to such young fellows as her brother, the
unhappy Branwell, but Branwells will go their own way, with or without
the aid of the too fortunate Foundling.

Fielding was a sturdy Hanoverian, but he was mortal and an author. He
must have been pleased had he known that the hero of 1745 (the year in
which the tale is cast), that Prince Charles then lurking in a Parisian
convent, purchased "Tom Jones," both in French and English.

Earlier than "Tom Jones" is "Jonathan Wild the Great," the romance
of a thief-taker and sharer of spoils with thieves, who was gibbeted
in 1725. It is customary to speak of this book, a satire of the
"greatness" of men like Julius Cæsar, as a masterpiece of irony, and as
a success in the field where Thackeray, on the same estimate, failed
with "Barry Lyndon". If irony is to be openly and noisily unveiled in
every page, then "Jonathan Wild" may be a masterpiece of irony. The
reader may be left, if he can read "Jonathan Wild," to compare it with
"Barry Lyndon" for himself, and to draw his own conclusions as to the
relative merits of these books. The deliciously absurd adventures of
Mrs. Heartfree, like those of the heroines of late Greek romances, are,
at all events, intentionally or unintentionally funny. Sir Walter Scott
disliked this masterpiece, and after reading it, and the commendations
which eminent modern critics bestow upon it, the writer cannot honestly
dissent from the disrelish of Sir Walter. He is said not to have
understood Fielding's meaning which Fielding constantly proclaims and
avows, namely that greatness of intellect and ambition without goodness
of heart is a mischievous monstrosity. Mr. Carlyle, in some moods of
hero-worship, might have differed, but we can give a general assent
without wading through "Jonathan Wild".

Fielding's own heart was as good as Steele's. He adored his beautiful
wife as Steele adored Prue. But, while "the greatest blessing is a
faithful and beloved wife," says our author in "Amelia," "it rather
tends to aggravate the misfortune of distressed circumstances from
the consideration of the share which she is to bear in them". But the
circumstances were distressed because Fielding, like Amelia's Captain
Booth, was "a good fellow," and, like Johnson's friend, Savage, was
at no time of his life the first to leave any company,--over the
punch bowl. And Amelia was listening for every footstep, and dreading
every accident of the streets, and money was a minus quantity, and a
scrag of mutton was a rare festival, because Captain Booth had every
generosity except that of a little self-denial.

By 1749 Mr. Fielding, as his friendly biographer says, "was a martyr
to gout". "He had not stolen it," and we have heard of another
sufferer, "a martyr to delirium tremens". By this time his wife was
dead; later he married her maid, an excellent woman, Mary Daniel,
probably of an old and ruined Jacobite family of Daniel. At the end of
1748 Fielding had been made a stipendiary magistrate for Westminster.
Unlike his Jonathan Thrasher, Esq., J.P., who was infamously corrupt,
and as ignorant of the law as the country justice before whom Frank
Osbaldistone appears in "Rob Roy," Fielding brought to his work his
honesty, courage, and sympathy with the poor.

The first chapters of his "Amelia" (1751) contain pictures of the
contemporary corruption of justice, and the laxity of the prisons.
Thence came the misfortunes of Captain Booth, a true lover, but also a
young man in the prime of life. From this error of the Captain's, who
met a Circe in prison, and from the greatness of his wife's character,
the beautiful Amelia, the plot of the novel adroitly develops itself.
She was "too good to be true". On the other hand the high spirit and
temper of Miss Matthews make her a kind of shady Brynhild; and only
coincidences in which Captain Booth recognized the hand of Providence
prevent the most tragical catastrophe. "Men worship women on their
knees; when they get up they go away," says Fielding's great successor.
They never get up and go away when they worship Amelia.

The book, in addition to her and Miss Matthews, presents the
delightfully amusing characters of Colonel Bath, "old honour and
dignity," who fights Booth in Hyde Park from motives of the purest
friendship; Colonel James, with a philosophy of love rather like Lord
Foppington's; Sergeant Atkinson, a kind of later Great Heart; Mrs.
Ellison, a lady "not of the nicest delicacy"; Murphy, a Jonathan Wild
as attorney; and a score of other characters worthy of their creator.
With "Joseph Andrews" and "Tom Jones," "Amelia" is an immortal glory of
English fiction.

Fielding's experiences led him into plans for suppressing lawlessness,
and for important social reforms. In 1753 he took the side of
Elizabeth Canning in that unsolved mystery of a girl who, if not a good
girl, "has been too hard for me," says Fielding. His own behaviour,
in the case of Miss Virtue's examination, is rather startling to the
modern student; and whether he ended as a partisan of the Gipsy or
of Elizabeth Canning is uncertain (1753-1754). Elizabeth made a good
marriage, in America, whither she was banished, and lived and died

In his pamphlet on Elizabeth's affair, which excited and divided
London for more than a year, Fielding speaks of his illness and
overtaxed strength. He spent what was left of it in his public duties;
was advised to voyage to Portugal, and his "Journal of a Voyage to
Lisbon," written with a dying hand, is the record of his sufferings and
reflections. He sailed in the "Queen of Portugal" (Captain Veal), had
intervals of enjoyment, and sketched, with his usual humour, the events
and incidents of the expedition. He died at Lisbon on 8 October, 1754.

Tobias Smollett.

The name of Smollett is coupled as familiarly with that of Fielding
as the name of Thackeray with that of Dickens. Smollett and
Fielding were contemporaries: both came of ancient families: each
had a profession;--Smollett was a physician while Fielding was a
barrister,--but each lived mainly by journalism, literature and
fiction. If opinions as to their relative merits were divided in
their day, posterity has awarded the crown to Fielding. The reason is
obvious: Fielding is full of good humour; in him there is no rancour;
he admires good women almost to adoration, and paints them as only the
very greatest poets have done. Again, his tales are well constructed,
especially "Tom Jones". On the other hand Smollett allows his story
to wander in the roads and haunt the inns, and encounter grotesque
adventures; he has bitter grudges against all and sundry, especially
against his patrons and his kinsfolk. His heroines are regarded by his
heroes rather as luxuries than as ladies; his heroes, to be plain,
are not merely libertines, but often behave like selfish ruffians;
and his relish for odious images and thoughts is hardly surpassed by
that of Swift. These faults in temper and taste have made Smollett
unpopular, despite his wide knowledge of life; his irresistible power
of compelling laughter, his swaggering vein. But, if he drew Roderick
Random and Peregrine Pickle from himself, he gave them bad qualities
far in excess of his own, and did not endow them with many of his own
better attributes. Smollett would never have used the loyal Strap as
Roderick Random often does; and was incapable of what may be styled
the dastardly plot in which Peregrine was fain to have imitated
Richardson's Lovelace.

Smollett was born in 1721, a younger son of a younger son of the
ancient house of Smollett of Bonhill, on the Leven near Loch Lomond.
An ancestor of his, he says, blew up a galleon of the Spanish Armada
in Tobermory Bay. He did indeed, by an act of suborned treachery.
Like Burns, Tobias celebrated in verse his native stream; like Burns
in boyhood he devoured the truculent romance of "Wallace" by Blind
Harry. He was poor, and believed himself to be badly treated by his
kinsfolk; after studying at Glasgow University he was apprenticed to
a surgeon. In 1739 he went to London to push his fortunes, carrying
with him a foolish tragedy on the murder of James I, which was the
apple of his eye. No manager would accept it, wherefore Smollett
raged against Garrick and Lord Lyttelton: he puts the story of his
woes into "Roderick Random," where Mr. Melopoyn, unhappy poet, is the
sufferer. He got what Chatterton and Goldsmith failed to obtain, the
post of surgeon's mate in a ship of war; lived through the distresses
of the siege of Carthagena (1741), and obtained that knowledge of
naval squalor and brutality, and of the good qualities of sea-men,
which he used in "Roderick Random" and in the characters of Bowling
and Trunnion. Leaving the navy, he married in Jamaica, came to town,
practised as a physician, and certainly lived in most fashionable
quarters. He speaks of Bob Sawyer's method of advertisement by being
hastily called out of church as an old trick; perhaps Dickens, a reader
of Smollett from his childhood, borrowed here from "Count Fathom". His
patriotism was stirred by the fatal disaster of Culloden, and he boldly
published his "Tears of Scotland" (1746).

In 1748 he published "Roderick Random," the history of a meritorious
orphan who lives on his servant, cheats his tailor, is a gambler, and
enriches himself in the slave trade; but all is to be forgiven to
Roderick's ebullient vigour and occasional sentimentalism. There are
countless changes of scene and varieties of character, from the ocean
to the Marshalsea Prison, to adventures in French service, from Strap
and Bowling to the literary Miss Snapper and the unfortunate Miss
Williams. Lady Mary Wortley Montagu supposed her cousin, Fielding,
to be the author, which showed little discrimination, though her
ladyship's letters are among the wittiest and most brilliantly amusing
of her century. Smollett had a bitter feud with Fielding; we do not
know, or care, for what cause. The briskness of the book, and the
novelty of the nautical horrors, made Smollett's reputation.

Going to Paris in 1750, Smollett found some of the characters who
appear in the crowd of "Peregrine Pickle" (1751), of which the first
edition aroused censures on passages later pruned by the author. It
is a work of amazingly careless vigour and humour: the irrepressible
Peregrine is even a less desirable hero than Roderick; and an infamous
Jacobite spy was not ill-advised in choosing Pickle for his pseudonym.
Emilia is more than too good for the rascal to whom she descends in
marriage, after escaping plots of his which might have disgusted
Pamela's Mr. B. But Cadwallader Crabtree, Hatchway and Pipes, and
Commander Hawser Trunnion are immortal characters; it is cruel to call
Trunnion caricatured; he is a comic masterpiece.

The "Ferdinand, Count Fathom" (1753), the adventurous son of a suttler
and murderess, is not a much worse man than Peregrine, but, in place
of Trunnion and Pipes, we are entertained with a queer attempt at
romance in the loves of Rinaldo and Monimia, who meets her lover as
he weeps over her empty tomb. "Sir Lancelot Greaves," a modern Don
Quixote, armour and all, was preferred by Scott to "Jonathan Wild,"
and, despite the patent absurdity of the armed knight, is really a much
more agreeable story. In 1763 Smollett visited Italy, and his grumbling
hypochondriacal narrative of his tour was ridiculed by that more
sentimental traveller, Sterne. His "Adventures of an Atom" (1769) is a
scurrilous political satire. On the other hand his "Humphry Clinker"
(1771), a narrative, in letters, of a journey by English travellers
in Scotland, is both more good-humoured and more amusing than any of
his other stories--Matthew Bramble is a favourable study of his later
self; Lieutenant Lismahago is a kind of Dugald Dalgetty, born more than
a century later than the laird of Drumthwacket, and the spelling and
innocent good-hearted absurdity of Winifred Jenkins endear her to every
reader, as a contrast to Tabitha Bramble, a bad kind of old maid. Here
we meet Ferdinand, Count Fathom, as a sincerely converted character!

Smollett is not only remarkable for variety, humour, vigour, as a
social observer: he strongly influenced both Fanny Burney and Dickens.
His History of England has been justly described by Sir Pitt Crawley
as less interesting but less dangerous than that by Hume. Smollett,
revisiting Italy, died at Monte Nero, near Leghorn, in the early autumn
of 1771.




Samuel Johnson.

We could scarcely understand how Dr. Johnson gained his immense
influence and acknowledged chiefship in literature if we had only his
works of various kinds before us. But he had a friend and biographer,
James Boswell, Esq. (younger of Auchinleck in Ayrshire), and "Bozzy,"
by showing Johnson as he was and talked, explains his supremacy. In
an age when classical learning counted for something, Johnson was,
especially in Roman literature, vastly learned. In a time when people
who could tear themselves from cards, took little exercise, but sat and
talked, over wine or over tea, or as they slowly sauntered, Johnson
was probably the best and certainly the best reported of the talkers.
While politicians like Burke, and painters like Sir Joshua Reynolds,
and musicians like Burney (Fanny Burney's father), were men of letters,
critics, talkers, a scholar and author who could talk like Johnson
was certain of his reward, was sure to be at the front. Though he
confessed himself not specially partial to clean linen; though he did
not eat in a neat and cleanly fashion; though he had the strange tricks
which we know so well; though if his pistol missed fire in argument he
knocked you down with the butt; though he had curious prejudices, was
at heart a Jacobite, and could be extremely rude, yet the excellence
of his heart, his large sagacity, his immense knowledge and readiness,
his humour, all of him that is immortally delightful to read about
in Boswell's Life, won his forgiveness and his welcome from the most
refined of men and women. He thought himself a lady's man, he said,
and a man of the world, and he was thoroughly a man's man, with heart,
and tongue, and hands, if that were necessary.

As a playwriter, he had not great success, and his friend Goldsmith's
comedies keep the stage, unlike Johnson's tragedy. Johnson's tale
"Rasselas, Prince of Abyssinia," has wisdom and humour enough, "wit
enough to keep it sweet," but it never did nor ever can share the
popularity of Goldsmith's "Vicar of Wakefield".

Johnson's essays, in "The Rambler" and "The Idler," may still be but
are seldom read: they are far less alive than the essays of Addison
and Steele, and are weighed down by the ponderous harmonies of the
Latinised style.

Of his books, "The Lives of the Poets," written in his old age, are,
to some, we may hope to many, readers, entrancing. Here we find the
Johnson of conversation. He is not, indeed, a scientific biographer, a
searcher among old letters and old records. But his memory was rich in
anecdotes of the half century before his own; his style contains many a
humorous comment, and his criticism is often acute, and always honest,
and unaffectedly tinged, especially when he writes of the republican
and puritan Milton, or of the dainty, yet, in poetry, revolutionary
Gray, with all the literary and political prejudices that gave salt to
his conversation. There may have been more enlightened critics, but
none was ever more entertaining.

If his literary biographies are not of the most exact, they are
occasionally minute enough. "Pope's weakness was so great, that he
constantly wore stays, as I have been assured by a waterman (of
Twickenham) who, in lifting him into his boat, had often felt them."
Again, "Pope once slumbered at his own table while the Prince of Wales
was talking of poetry". In his "Life of Swift" Johnson is by no means
friendly, and publishes an anecdote which was indignantly denied. His
life of his friend, Richard Savage, a most detestable person, is an
example of Johnson's loyalty and tolerance. Supposing that Savage was
the son of the Countess of Macclesfield, and was persecuted by her with
incredible cruelty, yet his conduct in most ways was detestable, though
Johnson, who candidly narrates the facts, good-humouredly condones
them. The conversation of Savage must, apparently, have won the heart
of "the great Lexicographer". Even the Dictionary of the Doctor
contains several of his good sayings, and perhaps the learning and
persevering industry which Johnson displayed as a "drudge" increased
his reputation, and won for him friends and admirers, as much as his
more literary works.

The outlines of his life are too well known to need more than a brief
summary. His family was matter of interest to the Highlanders when
he visited them, was he a MacIan of Glencoe or a Johnston of the
Border? He was born at Lichfield (18 September, 1709), his father was
a bookseller. His Oxford career, at Pembroke College, was embittered
by poverty, but he retained a great affection for his college and
University, which delighted to honour him. He kept a school without
much profit, and, coming to London with Garrick in 1737, lived the life
of Grub Street, doing translations, writing for Cave's "Gentleman's
Magazine," compiling parliamentary debates in which he "took care
not to let the Whig dogs have the best of it". Of his doings in 1745
Boswell could learn nothing, and there was a fancy that he was inclined
to take part in what he called "a gallant enterprise," that of Prince

His "London," an imitation of Juvenal, was well thought of by Pope,
and Scott took more pleasure in no modern poem than in Johnson's
manly, resolute, and mournful "Vanity of Human Wishes," also based on
Juvenal's satire (1749). The "Rambler" and "Idler," were his next works
(with the Dictionary), and in 1759 he rapidly wrote "Rasselas," to pay
the expenses of his mother's funeral. In 1762 he accepted, from a King
who "gloried in the name of Briton," a pension of £300 yearly. He lived
much, after this date, at the house of Mrs. Thrale and her husband, "my
Master" as she called him, the rich brewer. Here he was happy in the
society of many wits, of the beautiful Sophy Streatfield, "with nose
and notions à la Grecque," and of Fanny Burney, blessed in the success
of "Evelina". Mrs. Thrale and Miss Burney have left many reminiscences
of him which complete the account by his young Scottish adorer and
butt, Boswell.

Johnson founded the Club, and such was his influence that the Club did
not blackball Bozzy. With him Johnson made his difficult journey to the
Western Islands of Scotland; so happily described both by Boswell and
himself; stayed at Dunvegan Castle, was entertained by Flora Macdonald,
met a learned minister in Skye who was a sceptic about Homer, inquired
into the Second Sight; stayed at Inveraray Castle with the Duke of
Argyll; and at St. Andrews was told that at Oxford they had nothing
like the St. Andrews University Library. On hearing this Dr. Johnson,
for once, made no reply.

His "Lives of the Poets" was written in 1779-1781, when he was 70 years
of age and more. His cruel last illness was nobly borne; he died on 13
December, 1784, one of the best, greatest, wisest, and most humorous of

His "Lives," and the Life of him are among the works which time cannot
stale; read ten times over they please the more, and more excellencies
are discovered. No man of times past is known so well, and none was so
well worth knowing. His critical tastes and rules are not ours, and
perhaps even in his own day were falling out of fashion; but they are
none the less historically valuable.

Oliver Goldsmith.

Dr. Johnson carried all his set with him into renown, and though Oliver
Goldsmith was a writer of versatile and charming genius, but for his
friendship with Johnson he would have been much less successful in
life, and less well loved and remembered after his death.

Like several great writers born in Ireland, Goldsmith was of an
English family, but they had been so long settled in Ireland that they
had become "more Irish than the Irish". Goldsmith's father had the
care of Protestant souls at Pallasmore, County Longford, where (10
November, 1728) the poet was born. The father obtained a cure worth
more than the "forty pounds a year" at Lissoy in West Meath, and Lissoy
contributes some features to the Auburn of the "Deserted Village," an
ideal village, in an ideal state of desertion. His father, according to
Goldsmith's poetry and prose, was a most excellent man; more capable of
teaching his family how to spend large fortunes in benevolence than
how to earn a maintenance,

    More skilled to raise the wretched than to rise.

He was the generous host of "all the vagrant train," of "the
long-remembered beggar," an Irish Edie Ochiltree, of "the ruined
spendthrift," who "claimed kindred," and came to "scorn," and of "the
broken soldier".

    Careless their merits or their faults to scan
    His pity gave ere charity began.

This pity was Goldsmith's own characteristic. When an exceedingly poor
scholar at Trinity College, Dublin, his feats of charity matched those
of St. Francis or St. Martin of Tours. He is said to have given away
his blanket, and slept in the ticking of his bed.

A love of fine clothes was no less part of his nature than love of
his neighbours, while he liked "the cards," and the bowl and tavern
talk. He took his bachelor's degree in February, 1749: idled away
a year or two at home, learned to play the flute, failed to take
holy orders, and, as a medical student, went to Edinburgh University
(1752-1754) lived on the benevolence of an uncle, Contarine, and, on
his way to Leyden, was taken in the company of five or six Scottish
gentlemen in French service, who had been recruiting for King Louis in
the Highlands. Alan Breck may have been in this adventure. Throughout
1755-1756, Goldsmith roamed about the Continent, supporting himself by
his flute, and entertained by the hospitality of the Universities.

"Sir," said Johnson, "he disputed his way through Europe," as the
Admirable Crichton had done, a hundred and seventy years earlier. At
Padua, it is thought, if anywhere, he obtained his Doctor's degree:
his adventures later gave him materials for essays, for the wandering
scholar in "The Vicar of Wakefield," and for his poem, "The Traveller".
"He was making himself all the time."

Returning to England in 1756, he lived as an usher in a small school;
as a corrector for the press; as a kind of indentured reviewer and
general hack to Griffiths the publisher; failed to pass as a naval
surgeon; wrote with Smollett's literary gang, conducted a weekly
booklet or magazine, "The Bee," for a few numbers (1759); and published
"An Enquiry into the Present State of Polite Learning in Europe". He
was much more successful (1760) with letters in "The Public Ledger," in
the assumed character of a Chinese visitor to London.

In the former work Goldsmith complains that young genius effervesces
at college and is unrewarded, while dull plodders fatten. "The link"
between "the great" and the literary "now seems entirely broken". "An
author" is a thing only to be laughed at. "His person, not his jest,
becomes the mirth of the company." Indeed Goldsmith's person was
quaint, his attire, when in funds, was that of the bird of paradise;
while his wit flowed from his pen, not from his tongue; his repartee
was not ready; eager he was but apparently absent-minded in company. As
for the publisher, "it is his interest to allow as little as possible
for writing, and of the author to write as much as possible". Writers
for the stage suffer from the competition of the dead. Like two or
three men of genius of our day, Goldsmith asks "who will deliver us
from Shakespeare?" from "these pieces of forced humour, far-fetched
conceit, and unnatural hyperbole _which have been ascribed to
Shakespeare._" Here is scepticism! Managers make new authors wait some
years before giving their plays a chance: a malady most incident to
managers; and Garrick believed that _he_ was attacked.

The not unnatural acrimony of a neglected man appears in some of
the Chinese Letters (published in book form as "The Citizen of the
World"), notably in the visit to Westminster Abbey. Goldsmith had a
spite against the patronage, given to the art of painting, and made his
Chinaman share it. The same critic looks on Sterne's "Tristram Shandy"
as a lewd compound of pertness, vanity, and obscene buffoonery.

The Chinaman also attacked the brutality of the criminal law (that of
his own country being so mild), and generally inveighed against the
state of society. The Letters are an unflattering picture of the times.
By 1761 Johnson had made the acquaintance of Goldsmith, and henceforth
Goldsmith had not to complain of neglect from wits and authors. In
1764 he published his moral and contemplative poem "The Traveller";
with his "Deserted Village" it is perhaps the last good thing of the
old school of poems in rhymed heroic couplets. The dedicatory preface
to the author's brother, the Rev. Henry Goldsmith, tells us that, as
society becomes refined, painting and music "offer the feeble mind a
less laborious entertainment" than poetry, which they supplant, while
"what criticisms have we not heard of late in favour of blank verse,
and Pindaric Odes, anapests (_sic_) and iambics, alliterative care and
happy negligence! Every absurdity has now a champion to defend it!"

Goldsmith, in social matters rather a Socialist, is, in poetry,
opposing the slowly dawning freedom, and upholding the school of Pope.
But there is, in both of his longer poems, a kind of softness in the
versification, and of sincerity in the sentiments and descriptions
of Nature, which we miss in Pope, while each piece, as the man said
of "Hamlet," "is made up of quotations," of lines which live in many
memories like household words. The pictures of the parish clergyman,
of the schoolmaster, of the harmless old rustic ale-house, in the
"Deserted Village," may be called imperishable; and Goldsmith cries
"back to the land" and denounces "landlordism," and forced migration to
North America,

    Where crouching tigers wait their hapless prey.

Goldsmith, in fact, never revisited "the decent church," "the hawthorn
bush," the harmless pot-house, and other scenes of his infancy: in
his poem he blends an ideal Irish with an ideal English village, and
ascribes the result to a tyrannical, landlord with admirable pathetic

Of his other poems "The Haunch of Venison," imitated from Horace, and
the witty and kind raillery of "Retaliation," in which his pen supplies
the wit that often failed his tongue in the wit-combats of "the Club,"
are both in "anapests" and are the most important. The "Lament for
Madame Blaise" is a lively adaptation from the French, and the "Elegy
on the Death of a Mad Dog" is a most vivacious piece. As a ballad
"Edwin and Angelina," though popular, is too unballad-like.

The works on which Goldsmith's fame depends are not his essays,
histories, or view of "Animated Nature," genially unscientific, but his
"Vicar of Wakefield" (written earlier, but sold by Johnson for while
Goldsmith was in a sponging house in 1764), and his two plays "The Good
Natured Man," and "She Stoops to Conquer" (1768, 1773).

"The Vicar of Wakefield" drew the highest possible praise from
Goethe, and the most furious of attacks from the critical pen of Mark
Twain. Nobody says that it shines in construction, but its humour and
sweetness, the goodness, the simplicity, the true wisdom, and the
learned foibles of the Vicar, with the humours of his wife, daughters,
and wandering scholar son, an usher, a dweller in Grub Street, make
"The Vicar of Wakefield" a book to be read once a year. "Finding
that the best things had not been said on the wrong side, I resolved
to write a book that should be wholly new... the learned world said
nothing to my paradoxes, nothing at all, sir." In the son's narrative
Goldsmith has his usual flout at art and amateurs of art, and Pietro

The plays are too well known for comment, with Croaker and Lofty, the
Bailiffs, Tony Lumpkin, Mrs. Hardcastle, the revellers at the Three
Pigeons, and young Marlow, they are at least as familiar on the amateur
as on the professional boards. They brought to Goldsmith fame, some
money and more credit, but he was still a drudge, still working for
booksellers, and deep in debt, when his death on 4 April, 1774, made
Reynolds for once lay down his brush, saddened the Club, and filled
the stairs of his chambers in Brick Court with poor weeping women to
whom he had been kind,--their only friend. "Nullum fere scribendi genus
non tetigit, nullum quod tetigit non ornavit," wrote Johnson in his
epitaph, adding a new phrase to Latin proverbial philosophy.[1]

Edmund Burke.

"It seems probable," says Burke's biographer, Lord Morley, "that Burke
will be more frequently and more seriously referred to within the
next twenty years" (from 1899) "than he has been within the whole of
the last eighty." Yet we do not find many references to Burke, who,
living, speaking, and writing through some thirty years of discontents
and revolutions (the American and the French) and bringing to problems
like our own a masculine judgment, and a lucid and energetic style,
might seem worthy of general study.

In a sketch of the history of literature space for the works of Burke,
saturated with politics as they are, and only to be understood in the
light of ample historical knowledge, cannot be provided. The speeches
of most successful orators are brilliant, and persuasive for the
hour, with crowds who wish to be persuaded. The speeches of Burke are
sometimes, when his pity and indignation are stirred (as by the fate
of Marie Antoinette, or the alleged infamies of Warren Hastings), rich
in floral components, in impassioned rhetoric. But, as a rule, his
best orations required to be read if they were to be appreciated; they
are too full of thought and knowledge and too logically built to be
generally effective at the moment.

Whatever our political opinions may be, we cannot but find Burke's
"Speech on Moving His Resolutions for Conciliation with the Colonies"
(22 March, 1775) a very great and noble literary work. For its purpose
it was futile; fierce peoples are not to be guided by all the eloquence
and all the wisdom of the wise. "We are called upon, as it were by a
superior warning Voice, again to attend to America; to attend to the
whole of it together; and to review the subject with an unusual degree
of care and calmness. Surely it is an awful subject; or there is none
so on this side of the grave."

It was an awful subject; but it was also a party question. Knowledge,
care, and calmness were, therefore, put out of action. On an infamous
proposal to "reduce the high aristocratic spirit of Virginia and the
southern colonies" by proclaiming the freedom of the black slaves and
raising a servile war, Burke said: "Slaves as these unfortunate black
people are, and dull as all men are from slavery, must they not a
little suspect the offer of freedom from that very nation which has
sold them to their present masters? from that nation, one of whose
causes of quarrel with those masters is their refusal to deal any more
in that inhuman traffic?"--the Slave Trade. The idea of sending, in
the same ship, samples of fresh "black ivory" and a proclamation of
freedom for all blacks, not unreasonably seemed absurd, to Burke.

This speech, so moving to the reader, is said to have driven members
out of the House; the gestures of the orator being clumsy, his tones
harsh, and his delivery hasty. Johnson said that his wit was "blunt";
Goldsmith, on the other hand, that he "cut blocks with a razor". He "to
party gave up what was meant for mankind," but, save through party,
mankind is not to be helped by the politicians.

To glance at the main facts of Burke's life, he appears to have been,
as far as his name shows, of Norman but long Hibernicised stock on his
father's side; of native Irish blood on that of his mother, a Miss
Nagle, a Catholic. He was born in Dublin, apparently on 12 January,
1729. His father was a solicitor. After two years at a small school
kept by a learned Quaker, Burke went to Trinity College, Dublin, where
he showed eager intellectual appetites, without paying much heed to the
academic round of studies. In 1750 he went to London, to the Middle
Temple, and studied law, but did not practise. In 1755 his father cut
off his allowance, in 1756 he married. He cannot have made money by
his "Vindication of Natural Society" (1756), written in the rhetorical
manner of Bolingbroke. The book is an ironical reply to Bolingbroke's
argument for "natural" against "revealed" religion. Transfer the view
to society: our religion may have its anomalies, yet our society has
far more and worse. Do you propose, therefore, to return to "natural
society"? "Natural" society was then supposed by the wise and learned
to be a happy go-as-you-please innocent communism. In fact, if savage
society be "natural" society it is emmeshed in the strangest and most
artificial, cruel, and filthy set of laws and customs: the marriage
laws, when carried (as they sometimes are) to their logical conclusion,
make marriage impossible! All this was not understood, but Burke, while
arguing against a sudden and violent break-up of society, did perceive
and state brilliantly, the glaring injustices of our society, as
Goldsmith did in "The Deserted Village".

Burke's "Philosophical Inquiry into the Origin of Our Ideas of the
Sublime and Beautiful" (1756) is a study in the science of "Æsthetics,"
a science which, if it has reached no very conspicuous results, is
now pursued with instruments and by a method not extant in Burke's
day. He only sought for "the _Origin_ of our ideas of the Sublime and
Beautiful". He went into the psychology of pain and pleasure, and found
Beauty to be "some quality in bodies acting mechanically upon the
human mind by the intervention of the senses". But what is the quality
and why does it automatically produce the effect? The qualities which
automatically excite in the mind the apperception of the beautiful are
comparatively small, smooth, varied without angularity, delicate, and
in colour clear and bright, but not strong or glaring. But a mountain,
or fire, is beautiful yet--does not present the six qualities.
Consequently we must not call a huge rough mountain beautiful but

Burke does not pretend to know "the ultimate cause" of the emotions
produced in the mind, and he censures the daring of Sir Isaac Newton in
accounting for things by Ether. But Ether seems to prosper in modern
scientific thought.

We cannot follow Burke into metaphysics, but the ordinary reader may
test, by experience, his description of a lover in the presence of the
beloved. "As far as I could observe," says Burke, "the head reclines
something on one side; the eyelids are more closed than usual, and
the eyes roll gently with an inclination to the Object; the mouth is
a little opened, and the breath drawn slowly, with now and then a
low sigh; the whole body is composed, and the hands fall idly by the
side." Thus it seems probable "that beauty acts by relaxing the solids
of the whole system". On the other hand, the Sublime ought to string
up the solids, and we do hear of sublime objects which "petrify" the
percipient. Burke sought, at all events, for the answer to his problem
in the nature of man, in psychology.

The nature of Burke's financial resources, beyond what he made
by writing in the new "Annual Register" (1759,--a hundred a year
from Dodsley the publisher) is as mysterious as the address of his
fellow-countryman, The Mulligan, in Thackeray's book. In 1759 the
so-called "Single Speech Hamilton" employed him; in 1761 he went to
Ireland with Hamilton, who was secretary to Lord Halifax. Hamilton
treated him badly, and in 1765 he became secretary to the Marquis
of Rockingham, entered Parliament as member for Wendover, a pocket
borough, made his mark at once; wrote "Observations on the Present
State of the Nation" (1769), and the admirable "Thoughts on the Present
Discontents," a book always in season. How Burke, in 1768, contrived
to buy Beaconsfield in Bucks (£22,000) and to live at a rate of £2500
a year, the rental being £500, is a mystery deeper than that of "The
Man in the Iron Mask". Apparently there was a suffering Marquis in the
background: at least Burke owed large sums to Lord Rockingham, who
forgave the debt. No discreditable source of Burke's fairy gold can be
conjectured or conceived, as Goldsmith said he was

    Too nice for a statesman, too proud for a wit,

"too nice" meaning "too scrupulous".

Burke did not hold office, save for one year (1782-1783). Though a Whig
and a "Pro-American," Burke never liked, never approved of the French
Revolution. Early in 1790, he spoke in Parliament, breaking away from
those enthusiasts for Liberty in her wildest mood, Fox and Sheridan.

His "Reflections on the French Revolution" (1790) had a large sale
and wide influence. People will judge Burke's influence, conduct
and eloquence, at this time, in accordance with their politics and
prejudices; his "Letters on a Regicide Peace," and other work of his
last years cannot be discussed without partisanship. He died on 9 July,
1797. "The age of chivalry is gone," is one of Burke's best-remembered
phrases. When was there an age of chivalry? If no swords leaped from
their sheaths for Marie Antoinette, in 1793, not one was drawn for
Jeanne d'Arc in 1431, not one for Mary Stuart in 1587.

The Revival of the Ballad.

Throughout the eighteenth century, despite the dominance of Pope
and his followers, and the poetry of the Town; despite the sturdy
resistance of Johnson; despite Goldsmith's complaints against Odes
and "anapests" and "blank verse" and "happy negligence," there were
streams of tendency making for literary freedom. Addison had lovingly
praised both the blank verse of Milton, and the purely popular art of
the ancient ballads. Men were beginning to look back with personal
interest at antiquity; not only at Spenser, Chaucer, and Shakespeare,
but at all the art and poetry of times past. As early as 1706-1711
Watson's "Choice Collection" of old Scottish poems was published:
and Allan Ramsay gave old things mixed with new in his "Evergreen,"
and "Tea Table Miscellany" between 1724 and 1727; others appeared in
d'Urfey's "Pills to Purge Melancholy" (1719), others in "Old Ballads"

We have seen the antiquarianism of Gray, in his translations from the
Norse, and his interest in Macpherson's so-called "Ossian" (1760-1763).
Though there was no written Highland epic in existence, there were,
and are, "Ossianic ballads" in Gaelic, late popular survivals of
Irish poetry. Working in his own way on these, and on prose legends,
apparently, Macpherson led men's fancies back to the racing "sounds"
of the north; back to the Highland beliefs that had already fascinated
Collins; and emancipated poetry from the chatter of the coffee-house
and the tavern. The charlatanism of Macpherson disgusted Johnson; any
one could write Ossianisms, he said, who abandoned his mind to it, but
Macpherson, at least, pleased thousands, including so enthusiastic
a student of Homer as Napoleon Bonaparte, and stimulated Gaelic

In 1765 the publication of an old and famous manuscript folio by
Bishop Percy ("The Reliques") not only gave a new and popular source
of pleasure in ballads and old relics, but caused a noisy controversy,
which, again, led to close research. Percy "restored," altered, added
to, and omitted from his materials as taste and fancy prompted;
arousing the wrath of the crabbed antiquary, Joseph Ritson, who denied
that the manuscript folio existed. Had Percy published it as it stood
(which Furnivall and Hales at last succeeded in doing) the book would
have been unread except by a few antiquaries. Arranged by Percy, the
ballads became truly popular. They were followed, from 1774, by Thomas
Warton's "History of English Poetry," the work of an Oxford Professor
of Poetry (1757-1767) who, in a lazy University, was a serious student.

Nothing is more ruinous to literature than ignorance, excitedly
absorbed in the momentary present. In the manner briefly described,
men's minds became awake to the merits of the English literature of
many remote a