The Project Gutenberg eBook of English Literature

This ebook is for the use of anyone anywhere in the United States and most other parts of the world at no cost and with almost no restrictions whatsoever. You may copy it, give it away or re-use it under the terms of the Project Gutenberg License included with this ebook or online at If you are not located in the United States, you will have to check the laws of the country where you are located before using this eBook.

Title: English Literature

Author: William J. Long

Release date: January 1, 2004 [eBook #10609]
Most recently updated: December 20, 2020

Language: English

Credits: Produced by Kevin Handy, Dave Maddock and PG Distributed Proofreaders








WILLIAM J. LONG, PH.D. (Heidelberg)








Illustration: CANTERBURY PILGRIMS From Royal MS., 18 D.ii, in the British Museum
CANTERBURY PILGRIMS From Royal MS., 18 D.ii, in the British Museum


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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




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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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




CANTERBURY PILGRIMS From Royal MS., 18 D.ii, in the British Museum


THE MANUSCRIPT BOOK After the painting in the Congressional Library, by John W. Alexander

GEOFFREY CHAUCER After the Rawlinson Pastel Portrait in the Bodleian Library, Oxford

PORTIA After the portrait by John Everett Millais. Property of the Metropolitan Museum of Art


EDMUND BURKE From an old print

ALFRED TENNYSON After the portrait by George Frederic Watts

SIR GALAHAD After the painting by George Frederic Watts

CHARLES DICKENS After the portrait by Daniel Maclise

THOMAS CARLYLE After the portrait by James McNeill Whistler

























































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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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




Beowulf. Here is the story of Beowulf, the earliest and the greatest epic, or heroic poem, in our literature. It begins with a prologue, which is not an essential part of the story, but which we review gladly for the sake of the splendid poetical conception that produced Scyld, king of the Spear Danes. [2]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Illustration: STONEHENGE, ON SALISBURY PLAIN Probably the ruins of a temple of the native Britons
STONEHENGE, ON SALISBURY PLAIN Probably the ruins of a temple of the native Britons

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

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

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



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

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

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

BEDE (673-735)

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


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

Illustration: RUINS AT WHITBY

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

CÆDMON (Seventh Century)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

CYNEWULF (Eighth Century)

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

Works of Cynewulf. The only signed poems of Cynewulf are The Christ, Juliana, The Fates of the Apostles, and Elene. Unsigned poems attributed to him or his school are Andreas, the Phoenix, the Dream of the Rood, the Descent into Hell, Guthlac, the Wanderer, and some of the Riddles. The last are simply literary conundrums in which some well-known object, like the bow or drinking horn, is described in poetic language, and the hearer must guess the name. Some of them, like "The Swan" [33] and "The Storm Spirit," are unusually beautiful.

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

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

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

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

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

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

ALFRED (848-901)

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bibliography. [40]

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

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

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

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

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

Suggestive Questions. [41]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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




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

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


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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Besides these greater works, an enormous number of fables and satires appeared in this age, copied or translated from the French, like the metrical romances. The most famous of these are "The Owl and the Nightingale,"--a long debate between the two birds, one representing the gay side of life, the other the sterner side of law and morals,--and "Land of Cockaygne," i.e. "Luxury Land," a keen satire on monks and monastic religion.[57]

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


THE AGE OF CHAUCER (1350-1400)


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

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

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

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

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

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

CHAUCER (1340?-1400)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Works of Chaucer, First Period. The works of Chaucer are roughly divided into three classes, corresponding to the three periods of his life. It should be remembered, however, that it is impossible to fix exact dates for most of his works. Some of his Canterbury Tales were written earlier than the English period, and were only grouped with the others in his final arrangement.

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

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

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

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

                        writen ful of names
Of folk that hadden grete fames.

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

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

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

Illustration: TABARD INN

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Form of Chaucer's Poetry. There are three principal meters to be found in Chaucer's verse. In the Canterbury Tales he uses lines of ten syllables and five accents each, and the lines run in couplets:

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

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

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

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

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

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


WILLIAM LANGLAND (1332? ....?)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

JOHN WYCLIF (1324?-1384)

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

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

Illustration: JOHN WYCLIF

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

6. Describe briefly Piers Plowman and its author. Why is the poem called "the gospel of the poor"? What message does it contain for daily labor? Does it apply to any modern conditions? Note any resemblance in ideas between Piers Plowman and such modern works as Carlyle's Past and Present, Kingsley's Alton Locke, Morris's Dream of John Ball, etc.

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

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

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




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

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

Literature. General Works. Jusserand; Ten Brink; Minto's Characteristics of English Poets.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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




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

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

Social contentment2. It was an age of comparative social contentment, in strong contrast with the days of Langland. The rapid increase of manufacturing towns gave employment to thousands who had before been idle and discontented. Increasing trade brought enormous wealth to England, and this wealth was shared to this extent, at least, that for the first time some systematic care for the needy was attempted. Parishes were made responsible for their own poor, and the wealthy were taxed to support them or give them employment. The increase of wealth, the improvement in living, the opportunities for labor, the new social content--these also are factors which help to account for the new literary activity.

Enthusiasm3. It is an age of dreams, of adventure, of unbounded enthusiasm springing from the new lands of fabulous riches revealed by English explorers. Drake sails around the world, shaping the mighty course which English colonizers shall follow through the centuries; and presently the young philosopher Bacon is saying confidently, "I have taken all knowledge for my province." The mind must search farther than the eye; with new, rich lands opened to the sight, the imagination must create new forms to people the new worlds. Hakluyt's famous Collection of Voyages, and Purchas, His Pilgrimage, were even more stimulating to the English imagination than to the English acquisitiveness. While her explorers search the new world for the Fountain of Youth, her poets are creating literary works that are young forever. Marston writes:[114] "Why, man, all their dripping pans are pure gold. The prisoners they take are fettered in gold; and as for rubies and diamonds, they goe forth on holydayes and gather 'hem by the seashore to hang on their children's coates." This comes nearer to being a description of Shakespeare's poetry than of the Indians in Virginia. Prospero, in The Tempest, with his control over the mighty powers and harmonies of nature, is only the literary dream of that science which had just begun to grapple with the forces of the universe. Cabot, Drake, Frobisher, Gilbert, Raleigh, Willoughby, Hawkins,--a score of explorers reveal a new earth to men's eyes, and instantly literature creates a new heaven to match it. So dreams and deeds increase side by side, and the dream is ever greater than the deed. That is the meaning of literature.

The Drama4. To sum up, the Age of Elizabeth was a time of intellectual liberty, of growing intelligence and comfort among all classes, of unbounded patriotism, and of peace at home and abroad. For a parallel we must go back to the Age of Pericles in Athens, or of Augustus in Rome, or go forward a little to the magnificent court of Louis XIV, when Corneille, Racine, and Molière brought the drama in France to the point where Marlowe, Shakespeare, and Jonson had left it in England half a century earlier. Such an age of great thought and great action, appealing to the eyes as well as to the imagination and intellect, finds but one adequate literary expression; neither poetry nor the story can express the whole man,--his thought, feeling, action, and the resulting character; hence in the Age of Elizabeth literature turned instinctively to the drama and brought it rapidly to the highest stage of its development.


EDMUND SPENSER (1552-1599)

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

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

Illustration: EDMUND SPENSER

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

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

Full little knowest thou, that has not tried,
What hell it is, in suing long to bide:
To lose good days, that might be better spent;
To waste long nights in pensive discontent;

To fret thy soul with crosses and with cares;
To eat thy heart through comfortless despairs;
To fawn, to crouch, to wait, to ride, to run,
To spend, to give, to want, to be undone.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Some squeaking Cleopatra boy my greatness.

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

Faust. How comes it then that thou art out of hell?
Mephisto. Why this is hell, nor am I out of it.

        Hell hath no limits, nor is circumscribed
        In one self place; for where we are is hell,
        And where hell is there must we ever be.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

                                                      She comes
In shape no bigger than an agate-stone
On the fore-finger of an alderman,
Drawn with a team of little atomies
Athwart men's noses as they lie asleep;
Her waggon-spokes made of long spinners' legs,
The cover of the wings of grasshoppers,
The traces of the smallest spider's web,
The collars of the moonshine's watery beams,
Her whip of cricket's bone, the lash of film,
Her waggoner a small grey-coated gnat,

Her chariot is an empty hazel nut
Made by the joiner squirrel, or old grub,
Time out o' mind the fairies' coachmakers.
And in this state she gallops night by night
Through lovers' brains, and then they dream of love;

O'er lawyers' fingers, who straight dream on fees,
O'er ladies' lips, who straight on kisses dream.[146]

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

First Period, Early Experiment. Venus and Adonis, Rape of Lucrece, 1594; Titus Andronicus, Henry VI (three parts), 1590-1591; Love's Labour's Lost, 1590; Comedy of Errors, Two Gentlemen of Verona, 1591-1592; Richard-III, 1593; Richard II, King John, 1594-1595.

Second Period, Development. Romeo and Juliet, Midsummer Night's Dream, 1595; Merchant of Venice, Henry IV (first part), 1596; Henry IV (second part), Merry Wives of Windsor, 1597; Much Ado About Nothing, 1598; As You Like It, Henry V, 1599.

Third Period, Maturity and Gloom. Sonnets (1600-?), Twelfth Night, 1600; Taming of the Shrew, Julius Cæsar, Hamlet, Troilus and Cressida, 1601-1602; All's Well That Ends Well, Measure for Measure, 1603; Othello, 1604; King Lear, 1605; Macbeth, 1606; Antony and Cleopatra, Timon of Athens, 1607.

Fourth Period, Late Experiment. Coriolanus, Pericles, 1608; Cymbeline, 1609; Winter's Tale, 1610-1611; The Tempest, 1611; Henry VIII (unfinished).


Classification according to Source. In history, legend, and story, Shakespeare found the material for nearly all his dramas; and so they are often divided into three classes, called historical plays, like Richard III and Henry V; legendary or partly historical plays, like Macbeth, King Lear, and Julius Cæsar; and fictional plays, like Romeo and Juliet and The Merchant of Venice. Shakespeare invented few, if any, of the plots or stories upon which his dramas are founded, but borrowed them freely, after the custom of his age, wherever he found them. For his legendary and historical material he depended, largely on Holinshed's Chronicles of England, Scotland, and Ireland, and on North's translation of Plutarch's famous Lives.

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

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

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

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

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

Tragedies. Romeo and Juliet, Macbeth, Hamlet, King Lear, Othello.

Historical Plays. Julius Cæsar, Richard III, Henry IV, Henry V, Coriolanus, Antony and Cleopatra.

Doubtful Plays. It is reasonably certain that some of the plays generally attributed to Shakespeare are partly the work of other dramatists. The first of these doubtful plays, often called the Pre-Shakespearian Group, are Titus Andronicus and the first part of Henry VI. Shakespeare probably worked with Marlowe in the two last parts of Henry VI and in Richard III. The three plays, Taming of the Shrew, Timon, and Pericles are only partly Shakespeare's work, but the other authors are unknown. Henry VIII is the work of Fletcher and Shakespeare, opinion being divided as to whether Shakespeare helped Fletcher, or whether it was an unfinished work of Shakespeare which was put into Fletcher's hands for completion. Two Noble Kinsmen is a play not ordinarily found in editions of Shakespeare, but it is often placed among his doubtful works. The greater part of the play is undoubtedly by Fletcher. Edward III is one of several crude plays published at first anonymously and later attributed to Shakespeare by publishers who desired to sell their wares. It contains a few passages that strongly suggest Shakespeare; but the external evidence is all against his authorship.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

BEN JONSON (1573?-1637)

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

John Ford (1586-1642?) and James Shirley (1596-1666) have left us little of permanent literary value, and their works are read only by those who wish to understand the whole rise and fall of the drama. An occasional scene in Ford's plays is as strong as anything that the Elizabethan Age produced; but as a whole the plays are unnatural and tiresome. Probably his best play is The Broken Heart (1633). Shirley was given to imitation of his predecessors, and his very imitation is characteristic of an age which had lost its inspiration. A single play, Hyde Park, with its frivolous, realistic dialogue, is sometimes read for its reflection of the fashionable gossipy talk of the day. Long before Shirley's death the actors said, "Farewell! Othello's occupation's gone." Parliament voted to close the theaters, thereby saving the drama from a more inglorious death by dissipation.[157]


Francis Bacon (1561-1626)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lyly. Endymion, in Holt's English Readings.

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

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

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

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

Bibliography.[159] History. Text-book, Montgomery, pp. 208-238; Cheyney, pp. 330-410; Green, ch. 7; Traill, Macaulay, Froude.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


THE PURITAN AGE (1620-1660)


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

JOHN DONNE (1573-1631)

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

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

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

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

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

GEORGE HERBERT (1593-1633)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

and of calmness in argument:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

JOHN MILTON (1608-1674)

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

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

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

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

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

Illustration: JOHN MILTON

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Milton's Later Poetry. Undoubtedly the noblest of Milton's works, written when he was blind and suffering, are Paradise Lost, Paradise Regained, and Samson Agonistes. The first is the greatest, indeed the only generally acknowledged epic in our literature since Beowulf; the last is the most perfect specimen of a drama after the Greek method in our language.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


JOHN BUNYAN (1628-1688)

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

Illustration: JOHN BUNYAN

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Works of Bunyan. The world's literature has three great allegories,--Spenser's Faery Queen, Dante's Divina Commedia, and Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress. The first appeals to poets, the second to scholars, the third to people of every age and condition. Here is a brief outline of the famous work:

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


History. Text-book, Montgomery, pp. 238-257; Cheyney, pp. 431-464; Green, ch. 8; Traill; Gardiner.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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




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

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

Revolution of 1688 Two considerations must modify our judgment of this disheartening spectacle. First, the king and his court are not England. Though our histories are largely filled with the records of kings and soldiers, of intrigues and fighting, these no more express the real life of a people than fever and delirium express a normal manhood. Though king and court and high society arouse our disgust or pity, records are not wanting to show that private life in England remained honest and pure even in the worst days of the Restoration. While London society might be entertained by the degenerate poetry of Rochester and the dramas of Dryden and Wycherley, English scholars hailed Milton with delight; and the common people followed Bunyan and Baxter with their tremendous appeal to righteousness and liberty. Second, the king, with all his pretensions to divine right, remained only a figurehead; and the Anglo-Saxon people, when they tire of one figurehead, have always the will and the power to throw it overboard and choose a better one. The country was divided into two political parties: the Whigs, who sought to limit the royal power in the interests of Parliament and the people; and the Tories, who strove to check the growing power of the people in the interests of their hereditary rulers. Both parties, however, were largely devoted to the Anglican Church; and when James II, after four years of misrule, attempted to establish a national Catholicism by intrigues which aroused the protest of the Pope[171] as well as of Parliament, then Whigs and Tories, Catholics and Protestants, united in England's last great revolution.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

JOHN DRYDEN (1631-1700)

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Illustration: WESTMINSTER

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The greatest writer of the age is John Dryden, who established the heroic couplet as the prevailing verse form in English poetry, and who developed a new and serviceable prose style suited to the practical needs of the age. The popular ridicule of Puritanism in burlesque and doggerel is best exemplified in Butler's Hudibras. The realistic tendency, the study of facts and of men as they are, is shown in the work of the Royal Society, in the philosophy of Hobbes and Locke, and in the diaries of Evelyn and Pepys, with their minute pictures of social life. The age was one of transition from the exuberance and vigor of Renaissance literature to the formality and polish of the Augustan Age. In strong contrast with the preceding ages, comparatively little of Restoration literature is familiar to modern readers.

Selections for Reading. Dryden. Alexander's Feast, Song for St. Cecilia's Day, selections from Absalom and Achitophel, Religio Laici, Hind and Panther, Annus Mirabilis,--in Manly's English Poetry, or Ward's English Poets, or Cassell's National Library; Palamon and Arcite (Dryden's version of Chaucer's tale), in Standard English Classics, Riverside Literature, etc.; Dryden's An Essay of Dramatic Poesy, in Manly's, or Garnett's, English Prose.

Butler. Selections from Hudibras, in Manly's English Poetry, Ward's English Poets, or Morley's Universal Library.

Pepys. Selections in Manly's English Prose; the Diary in Everyman's Library.

Bibliography. History. Text-book, Montgomery, pp. 257-280; Cheyney, pp. 466-514; Green, ch. 9; Traill; Gardiner; Macaulay.

Special Works. Sydney's Social Life in England from the Restoration to the Revolution; Airy's The English Restoration and Louis XIV; Hale's The Fall of the Stuarts.

Literature. Garnett's The Age of Dryden; Dowden's Puritan and Anglican.

Dryden. Poetical Works, with Life, edited by Christie; the same, edited by Noyes, in Cambridge Poets Series; Life and Works (18 vols.), by Walter Scott, revised (1893) by Saintsbury; Essays, edited by Ker; Life, by Saintsbury (English Men of Letters); Macaulay's Essay; Lowell's Essay, in Among My Books (or in Literary Essays, vol. 3); Dowden's Essay, supra.

Butler. Hudibras, in Morley's Universal Library; Poetical Works, edited by Johnson; Dowden's Essay, supra.

Pepys. Diary in Everyman's Library; the same, edited by Wheatley (8 vols.); Wheatley's Samuel Pepys and the World He Lived In; Stevenson's Essay, in Familiar Studies of Men and Books.

The Restoration Drama. Plays in the Mermaid Series; Hazlitt's Lectures on the English Comic Writers; Meredith's Essay on Comedy and the Comic Spirit; Lamb's Essay on the Artificial Comedy; Thackeray's Essay on Congreve, in English Humorists.

Suggestive Questions. 1. What marked change in social conditions followed the Restoration? How are these changes reflected in literature?

2. What are the chief characteristics of Restoration literature? Why is this period called the Age of French influence? What new tendencies were introduced? What effect did the Royal Society and the study of science have upon English prose? What is meant by realism? by formalism?

3. What is meant by the heroic couplet? Explain why it became the prevailing form of English poetry. What are its good qualities and its defects? Name some well-known poems which are written in couplets. How do Dryden's couplets compare with Chaucer's? Can you explain the difference?

4. Give a brief account of Dryden's life. What are his chief poetical works? For what new object did he use poetry? Is satire a poetical subject? Why is a poetical satire more effective than a satire in prose? What was Dryden's contribution to English prose? What influence did he exert on our literature?

5. What is Butler's Hudibras? Explain its popularity. Read a passage and comment upon it, first, as satire; second, as a description of the Puritans. Is Hudibras poetry? Why?

6. Name the philosophers and political economists of this period. Can you explain why Hobbes should call his work Leviathan? What important American documents show the influence of Locke?

7. Tell briefly the story of Pepys and his Diary. What light does the latter throw on the life of the age? Is the Diary a work of literature? Why?

Last Half of the Seventeenth Century
1649. Execution of Charles I
1649-1660. Commonwealth 1651. Hobbes's Leviathan
1660. Restoration of Charles II 1660-1669. Pepys's Diary
1662. Royal Society founded
1663. Butler's Hudibras
1665-1666. Plague and Fire of London
War with Holland
1667. Dutch fleet in the Thames 1667. Milton's Paradise Lost.
Dryden's Annus Mirabilis
1663-1694. Dryden's dramas
1671. Paradise Regained
1678. Pilgrim's Progress
1680. Rise of Whigs and Tories
1681. Dryden's Absalom and
1685. James II
Monmouth's Rebellion
1687. Newton's Principia
proves the law of
1688. English Revolution, William of
Orange called to throne
1689. Bill of Rights. Toleration Act
1690. Locke's Human
1698. Jeremy Collier attacks
1700. Death of Dryden




History of the Period. The Revolution of 1688, which banished the last of the Stuart kings and called William of Orange to the throne, marks the end of the long struggle for political freedom in England. Thereafter the Englishman spent his tremendous energy, which his forbears had largely spent in fighting for freedom, in endless political discussions and in efforts to improve his government. In order to bring about reforms, votes were now necessary; and to get votes the people of England must be approached with ideas, facts, arguments, information. So the newspaper was born,[182] and literature in its widest sense, including the book, the newspaper, and the magazine, became the chief instrument of a nation's progress.

Social DevelopmentThe first half of the eighteenth century is remarkable for the rapid social development in England. Hitherto men had been more or less governed by the narrow, isolated standards of the Middle Ages, and when they differed they fell speedily to blows. Now for the first time they set themselves to the task of learning the art of living together, while still holding different opinions. In a single generation nearly two thousand public coffeehouses, each a center of sociability, sprang up in London alone, and the number of private clubs is quite as astonishing.[183] This new social life had a marked effect in polishing men's words and manners. The typical Londoner of Queen Anne's day was still rude, and a little vulgar in his tastes; the city was still very filthy, the streets unlighted and infested at night by bands of rowdies and "Mohawks"; but outwardly men sought to refine their manners according to prevailing standards; and to be elegant, to have "good form," was a man's first duty, whether he entered society or wrote literature. One can hardly read a book or poem of the age without feeling this superficial elegance. Government still had its opposing Tory and Whig parties, and the Church was divided into Catholics, Anglicans, and Dissenters; but the growing social life offset many antagonisms, producing at least the outward impression of peace and unity. Nearly every writer of the age busied himself with religion as well as with party politics, the scientist Newton as sincerely as the churchman Barrow, the philosophical Locke no less earnestly than the evangelical Wesley; but nearly all tempered their zeal with moderation, and argued from reason and Scripture, or used delicate satire upon their opponents, instead of denouncing them as followers of Satan. There were exceptions, of course; but the general tendency of the age was toward toleration. Man had found himself in the long struggle for personal liberty; now he turned to the task of discovering his neighbor, of finding in Whig and Tory, in Catholic and Protestant, in Anglican and Dissenter, the same general human characteristics that he found in himself. This good work was helped, moreover, by the spread of education and by the growth of the national spfrit, following the victories of Marlborough on the Continent. In the midst of heated argument it needed only a word--Gibraltar, Blenheim, Ramillies, Malplaquet--or a poem of victory written in a garret[184] to tell a patriotic people that under their many differences they were all alike Englishmen.

In the latter half of the century the political and social progress is almost bewildering. The modern form of cabinet government responsible to Parliament and the people had been established under George I; and in 1757 the cynical and corrupt practices of Walpole, premier of the first Tory cabinet, were replaced by the more enlightened policies of Pitt. Schools were established; clubs and coffeehouses increased; books and magazines multiplied until the press was the greatest visible power in England; the modern great dailies, the Chronicle, Post, and Times, began their career of public education. Religiously, all the churches of England felt the quickening power of that tremendous spiritual revival known as Methodism, under the preaching of Wesley and Whitefield. Outside her own borders three great men--Clive in India, Wolfe on the Plains of Abraham, Cook in Australia and the islands of the Pacific--were unfurling the banner of St. George over the untold wealth of new lands, and spreading the world-wide empire of the Anglo-Saxons.

An Age of ProseLiterary Characteristics. In every preceding age we have noted especially the poetical works, which constitute, according to Matthew Arnold, the glory of English literature. Now for the first time we must chronicle the triumph of English prose. A multitude of practical interests arising from the new social and political conditions demanded expression, not simply in books, but more especially in pamphlets, magazines, and newspapers. Poetry was inadequate for such a task; hence the development of prose, of the "unfettered word," as Dante calls it,--a development which astonishes us by its rapidity and excellence. The graceful elegance of Addison's essays, the terse vigor of Swift's satires, the artistic finish of Fielding's novels, the sonorous eloquence of Gibbon's history and of Burke's orations,--these have no parallel in the poetry of the age. Indeed, poetry itself became prosaic in this respect, that it was used not for creative works of imagination, but for essays, for satire, for criticism,--for exactly the same practical ends as was prose. The poetry of the first half of the century, as typified in the work of Pope, is polished and witty enough, but artificial; it lacks fire, fine feeling, enthusiasm, the glow of the Elizabethan Age and the moral earnestness of Puritanism. In a word, it interests us as a study of life, rather than delights or inspires us by its appeal to the imagination. The variety and excellence of prose works, and the development of a serviceable prose style, which had been begun by Dryden, until it served to express clearly every human interest and emotion,--these are the chief literary glories of the eighteenth century.

SatireIn the literature of the preceding age we noted two marked tendencies,--the tendency to realism in subject-matter, and the tendency to polish and refinement of expression. Both these tendencies were continued in the Augustan Age, and are seen clearly in the poetry of Pope, who brought the couplet to perfection, and in the prose of Addison. A third tendency is shown in the prevalence of satire, resulting from the unfortunate union of politics with literature. We have already noted the power of the press in this age, and the perpetual strife of political parties. Nearly every writer of the first half of the century was used and rewarded by Whigs or Tories for satirizing their enemies and for advancing their special political interests. Pope was a marked exception, but he nevertheless followed the prose writers in using satire too largely in his poetry. Now satire--that is, a literary work which searches out the faults of men or institutions in order to hold them up to ridicule--is at best a destructive kind of criticism. A satirist is like a laborer who clears away the ruins and rubbish of an old house before the architect and builders begin on a new and beautiful structure. The work may sometimes be necessary, but it rarely arouses our enthusiasm. While the satires of Pope, Swift, and Addison are doubtless the best in our language, we hardly place them with our great literature, which is always constructive in spirit; and we have the feeling that all these men were capable of better things than they ever wrote.

The Classic Age. The period we are studying is known to us by various names. It is often called the Age of Queen Anne; but, unlike Elizabeth, this "meekly stupid" queen had practically no influence upon our literature. The name Classic Age is more often heard; but in using it we should remember clearly these three different ways in which the word "classic" is applied to literature: (1) the term "classic" refers, in general, to writers of the highest rank in any nation. As used in our literature, it was first applied to the works of the great Greek and Roman writers, like Homer and Virgil; and any English book which followed the simple and noble method of these writers was said to have a classic style. Later the term was enlarged to cover the great literary works of other ancient nations; so that the Bible and the Avestas, as well as the Iliad and the Aeneid, are called classics. (2) Every national literature has at least one period in which an unusual number of great writers are producing books, and this is called the classic period of a nation's literature. Thus the reign of Augustus is the classic or golden age of Rome; the generation of Dante is the classic age of Italian literature; the age of Louis XIV is the French classic age; and the age of Queen Anne is often called the classic age of England. (3) The word "classic" acquired an entirely different meaning in the period we are studying; and we shall better understand this by reference to the preceding ages. The Elizabethan writers were led by patriotism, by enthusiasm, and, in general, by romantic emotions. They wrote in a natural style, without regard to rules; and though they exaggerated and used too many words, their works are delightful because of their vigor and freshness and fine feeling. In the following age patriotism had largely disappeared from politics and enthusiasm from literature. Poets no longer wrote naturally, but artificially, with strange and fantastic verse forms to give effect, since fine feeling was wanting. And this is the general character of the poetry of the Puritan Age.[185] Gradually our writers rebelled against the exaggerations of both the natural and the fantastic style. They demanded that poetry should follow exact rules; and in this they were influenced by French writers, especially by Boileau and Rapin, who insisted on precise methods of writing poetry, and who professed to have discovered their rules in the classics of Horace and Aristotle. In our study of the Elizabethan drama we noted the good influence of the classic movement in insisting upon that beauty of form and definiteness of expression which characterize the dramas of Greece and Rome; and in the work of Dryden and his followers we see a revival of classicism in the effort to make English literature conform to rules established by the great writers of other nations. At first the results were excellent, especially in prose; but as the creative vigor of the Elizabethans was lacking in this age, writing by rule soon developed a kind of elegant formalism, which suggests the elaborate social code of the time. Just as a gentleman might not act naturally, but must follow exact rules in doffing his hat, or addressing a lady, or entering a room, or wearing a wig, or offering his snuffbox to a friend, so our writers lost individuality and became formal and artificial. The general tendency of literature was to look at life critically, to emphasize intellect rather than imagination, the form rather than the content of a sentence. Writers strove to repress all emotion and enthusiasm, and to use only precise and elegant methods of expression. This is what is often meant by the "classicism" of the ages of Pope and Johnson. It refers to the critical, intellectual spirit of many writers, to the fine polish of their heroic couplets or the elegance of their prose, and not to any resemblance which their work bears to true classic literature. In a word, the classic movement had become pseudo-classic, i.e. a false or sham classicism; and the latter term is now often used to designate a considerable part of eighteenth-century literature.[186] To avoid this critical difficulty we have adopted the term Augustan Age, a name chosen by the writers themselves, who saw in Pope, Addison, Swift, Johnson, and Burke the modern parallels to Horace, Virgil, Cicero, and all that brilliant company who made Roman literature famous in the days of Augustus.

ALEXANDER POPE (1688-1744)

Pope is in many respects a unique figure. In the first place, he was for a generation "the poet" of a great nation. To be sure, poetry was limited in the early eighteenth century; there were few lyrics, little or no love poetry, no epics, no dramas or songs of nature worth considering; but in the narrow field of satiric and didactic verse Pope was the undisputed master. His influence completely dominated the poetry of his age, and many foreign writers, as well as the majority of English poets, looked to him as their model. Second, he was a remarkably clear and adequate reflection of the spirit of the age in which he lived. There is hardly an ideal, a belief, a doubt, a fashion, a whim of Queen Anne's time, that is not neatly expressed in his poetry. Third, he was the only important writer of that age who gave his whole life to letters. Swift was a clergyman and politician; Addison was secretary of state; other writers depended on patrons or politics or pensions for fame and a livelihood; but Pope was independent, and had no profession but literature. And fourth, by the sheer force of his ambition he won his place, and held it, in spite of religious prejudice, and in the face of physical and temperamental obstacles that would have discouraged a stronger man. For Pope was deformed and sickly, dwarfish in soul and body. He knew little of the world of nature or of the world of the human heart. He was lacking, apparently, in noble feeling, and instinctively chose a lie when the truth had manifestly more advantages. Yet this jealous, peevish, waspish little man became the most famous poet of his age and the acknowledged leader of English literature. We record the fact with wonder and admiration; but we do not attempt to explain it.

Life. Pope was born in London in 1688, the year of the Revolution. His parents were both Catholics, who presently removed from London and settled in Binfield, near Windsor, where the poet's childhood was passed. Partly because of an unfortunate prejudice against Catholics in the public schools, partly because of his own weakness and deformity, Pope received very little school education, but browsed for himself among English books and picked up a smattering of the classics. Very early he began to write poetry, and records the fact with his usual vanity:

As yet a child, nor yet a fool to fame,
I lisped in numbers, for the numbers came.

Being debarred by his religion from many desirable employments, he resolved to make literature his life work; and in this he resembled Dryden, who, he tells us, was his only master, though much of his work seems to depend on Boileau, the French poet and critic.[187] When only sixteen years old he had written his "Pastorals"; a few years later appeared his "Essay on Criticism," which made him famous. With the publication of the Rape of the Lock, in 1712, Pope's name was known and honored all over England, and this dwarf of twenty-four years, by the sheer force of his own ambition, had jumped to the foremost place in English letters. It was soon after this that Voltaire called him "the best poet of England and, at present, of all the world,"--which is about as near the truth as Voltaire generally gets in his numerous universal judgments. For the next twelve years Pope was busy with poetry, especially with his translations of Homer; and his work was so successful financially that he bought a villa at Twickenham, on the Thames, and remained happily independent of wealthy patrons for a livelihood.

Led by his success, Pope returned to London and for a time endeavored to live the gay and dissolute life which was supposed to be suitable for a literary genius; but he was utterly unfitted for it, mentally and physically, and soon retired to Twickenham. There he gave himself up to poetry, manufactured a little garden more artificial than his verses, and cultivated his friendship with Martha Blount, with whom for many years he spent a good part of each day, and who remained faithful to him to the end of his life. At Twickenham he wrote his Moral Epistles (poetical satires modeled after Horace) and revenged himself upon all his critics in the bitter abuse of the Dunciad. He died in 1744 and was buried at Twickenham, his religion preventing him from the honor, which was certainly his due, of a resting place in Westminster Abbey.

Works of Pope. For convenience we may separate Pope's work into three groups, corresponding to the early, middle, and later period of his life. In the first he wrote his "Pastorals," "Windsor Forest," "Messiah," "Essay on Criticism," "Eloise to Abelard," and the Rape of the Lock; in the second, his translations of Homer; in the third the Dunciad and the Epistles, the latter containing the famous "Essay on Man" and the "Epistle to Dr. Arbuthnot," which is in truth his "Apologia," and in which alone we see Pope's life from his own view point.

Essay on CriticismThe "Essay on Criticism" sums up the art of poetry as taught first by Horace, then by Boileau and the eighteenth-century classicists. Though written in heroic couplets, we hardly consider this as a poem but rather as a storehouse of critical maxims. "For fools rush in where angels fear to tread"; "To err is human, to forgive divine"; "A little learning is a dangerous thing,"--these lines, and many more like them from the same source, have found their way into our common speech, and are used, without thinking of the author, whenever we need an apt quotation.

Rape of the LockThe Rape of the Lock is a masterpiece of its kind, and comes nearer to being a "creation" than anything else that Pope has written. The occasion of the famous poem was trivial enough. A fop at the court of Queen Anne, one Lord Petre, snipped a lock of hair from the abundant curls of a pretty maid of honor named Arabella Fermor. The young lady resented it, and the two families were plunged into a quarrel which was the talk of London. Pope, being appealed to, seized the occasion to construct, not a ballad, as the Cavaliers would have done, nor an epigram, as French poets love to do, but a long poem in which all the mannerisms of society are pictured in minutest detail and satirized with the most delicate wit. The first edition, consisting of two cantos, was published in 1712; and it is amazing now to read of the trivial character of London court life at the time when English soldiers were battling for a great continent in the French and Indian wars. Its instant success caused Pope to lengthen the poem by three more cantos; and in order to make a more perfect burlesque of an epic poem, he introduces gnomes, sprites, sylphs, and salamanders,[188] instead of the gods of the great epics, with which his readers were familiar. The poem is modeled after two foreign satires: Boileau's Le Lutrin (reading desk), a satire on the French clergy, who raised a huge quarrel over the location of a lectern; and La Secchia Rapita (stolen bucket), a famous Italian satire on the petty causes of the endless Italian wars. Pope, however, went far ahead of his masters in style and in delicacy of handling a mock-heroic theme, and during his lifetime the Rape of the Lock was considered as the greatest poem of its kind in all literature. The poem is still well worth reading; for as an expression of the artificial life of the age--of its cards, parties, toilettes, lapdogs, tea-drinking, snuff-taking, and idle vanities--it is as perfect in its way as Tamburlaine, which reflects the boundless ambition of the Elizabethans.

Pope's TranslationsThe fame of Pope's Iliad, which was financially the most successful of his books, was due to the fact that he interpreted Homer in the elegant, artificial language of his own age. Not only do his words follow literary fashions but even the Homeric characters lose their strength and become fashionable men of the court. So the criticism of the scholar Bentley was most appropriate when he said, "It is a pretty poem, Mr. Pope, but you must not call it Homer." Pope translated the entire Iliad and half of the Odyssey; and the latter work was finished by two Cambridge scholars, Elijah Fenton and William Broome, who imitated the mechanical couplets so perfectly that it is difficult to distinguish their work from that of the greatest poet of the age. A single selection is given to show how, in the nobler passages, even Pope may faintly suggest the elemental grandeur of Homer:

The troops exulting sat in order round,
And beaming fires illumined all the ground.
As when the moon, refulgent lamp of night,
O'er Heaven's clear azure spreads her sacred light,
When not a breath disturbs the deep serene,
And not a cloud o'ercasts the solemn scene;
Around her throne the vivid planets roll,
And stars unnumbered gild the glowing pole,
O'er the dark trees a yellower verdure shed,
And tip with silver every mountain's head.

Essay on ManThe "Essay" is the best known and the most quoted of all Pope's works. Except in form it is not poetry, and when one considers it as an essay and reduces it to plain prose, it is found to consist of numerous literary ornaments without any very solid structure of thought to rest upon. The purpose of the essay is, in Pope's words, to "vindicate the ways of God to Man"; and as there are no unanswered problems in Pope's philosophy, the vindication is perfectly accomplished in four poetical epistles, concerning man's relations to the universe, to himself, to society, and to happiness. The final result is summed up in a few well-known lines:

All nature is but art, unknown to thee;
All chance, direction which thou canst not see;
All discord, harmony not understood;
All partial evil, universal good:
And, spite of pride, in erring reason's spite,
One truth is clear, whatever is, is right.

Like the "Essay on Criticism," the poem abounds in quotable lines, such as the following, which make the entire work well worth reading:

Hope springs eternal in the human breast:
Man never is, but always to be blest.
Know then thyself, presume not God to scan;
The proper study of Mankind is Man.
The same ambition can destroy or save,
And makes a patriot as it makes a knave.
Honor and shame from no condition rise;
Act well your part, there all the honor lies.
    Vice is a monster of so frightful mien,
As, to be hated, needs but to be seen;
Yet seen too oft, familiar with her face,
We first endure, then pity, then embrace.
    Behold the child, by Nature's kindly law,
Pleased with a rattle, tickled with a straw:
Some livelier plaything gives his youth delight,
A little louder, but as empty quite:
Scarfs, garters, gold, amuse his riper stage,
And beads and prayer books are the toys of age:
Pleased with this bauble still, as that before;
Till tired he sleeps, and Life's poor play is o'er.[189]

Miscellaneous WorksThe Dunciad (i.e. the "Iliad of the Dunces") began originally as a controversy concerning Shakespeare, but turned out to be a coarse and revengeful satire upon all the literary men of the age who had aroused Pope's anger by their criticism or lack of appreciation of his genius. Though brilliantly written and immensely popular at one time, its present effect on the reader is to arouse a sense of pity that a man of such acknowledged power and position should abuse both by devoting his talents to personal spite and petty quarrels. Among the rest of his numerous works the reader will find Pope's estimate of himself best set forth in his "Epistle to Dr. Arbuthnot," and it will be well to close our study of this strange mixture of vanity and greatness with "The Universal Prayer," which shows at least that Pope had considered, and judged himself, and that all further judgment is consequently superfluous.

JONATHAN SWIFT (1667-1745)

In each of Marlowe's tragedies we have the picture of a man dominated by a single passion, the lust of power for its own sake. In each we see that a powerful man without self-control is like a dangerous instrument in the hands of a child; and the tragedy ends in the destruction of the man by the ungoverned power which he possesses. The life of Swift is just such a living tragedy. He had the power of gaining wealth, like the hero of the Jew of Malta; yet he used it scornfully, and in sad irony left what remained to him of a large property to found a hospital for lunatics. By hard work he won enormous literary power, and used it to satirize our common humanity. He wrested political power from the hands of the Tories, and used it to insult the very men who had helped him, and who held his fate in their hands. By his dominant personality he exercised a curious power over women, and used it brutally to make them feel their inferiority. Being loved supremely by two good women, he brought sorrow and death to both, and endless misery to himself. So his power brought always tragedy in its wake. It is only when we remember his life of struggle and disappointment and bitterness that we can appreciate the personal quality in his satire, and perhaps find some sympathy for this greatest genius of all the Augustan writers.

Illustration: JONATHAN SWIFT

Life. Swift was born in Dublin, of English parents, in 1667. His father died before he was born; his mother was poor, and Swift, though proud as Lucifer, was compelled to accept aid from relatives, who gave it grudgingly. At the Kilkenny school, and especially at Dublin University, he detested the curriculum, reading only what appealed to his own nature; but, since a degree was necessary to his success, he was compelled to accept it as a favor from the examiners, whom he despised in his heart. After graduation the only position open to him was with a distant relative, Sir William Temple, who gave him the position of private secretary largely on account of the unwelcome relationship.

Temple was a statesman and an excellent diplomatist; but he thought himself to be a great writer as well, and he entered into a literary controversy concerning the relative merits of the classics and modern literature. Swift's first notable work, The Battle of the Books, written at this time but not published, is a keen satire upon both parties in the controversy. The first touch of bitterness shows itself here; for Swift was in a galling position for a man of his pride, knowing his intellectual superiority to the man who employed him, and yet being looked upon as a servant and eating at the servants' table. Thus he spent ten of the best years of his life in the pretty Moor Park, Surrey, growing more bitter each year and steadily cursing his fate. Nevertheless he read and studied widely, and, after his position with Temple grew unbearable, quarreled with his patron, took orders, and entered the Church of England. Some years later we find him settled in the little church of Laracor, Ireland,--a country which he disliked intensely, but whither he went because no other "living" was open to him.

In Ireland, faithful to his church duties, Swift labored to better the condition of the unhappy people around him. Never before had the poor of his parishes been so well cared for; but Swift chafed under his yoke, growing more and more irritated as he saw small men advanced to large positions, while he remained unnoticed in a little country church,--largely because he was too proud and too blunt with those who might have advanced him. While at Laracor he finished his Tale of a Tub, a satire on the various churches of the day, which was published in London with the Battle of the Books in 1704. The work brought him into notice as the most powerful satirist of the age, and he soon gave up his church to enter the strife of party politics. The cheap pamphlet was then the most powerful political weapon known; and as Swift had no equal at pamphlet writing, he soon became a veritable dictator. For several years, especially from 1710 to 1713, Swift was one of the most important figures in London. The Whigs feared the lash of his satire; the Tories feared to lose his support. He was courted, flattered, cajoled on every side; but the use he made of his new power is sad to contemplate. An unbearable arrogance took possession of him. Lords, statesmen, even ladies were compelled to sue for his favor and to apologize for every fancied slight to his egoism. It is at this time that he writes in his Journal to Stella:

Mr. Secretary told me the Duke of Buckingham had been talking much about me and desired my acquaintance. I answered it could not be, for he had not yet made sufficient advances; then Shrewsbury said he thought the Duke was not used to make advances. I said I could not help that, for I always expected advances in proportion to men's quality, and more from a Duke than any other man.


Writing to the Duchess of Queensberry he says:

I am glad you know your duty; for it has been a known and established rule above twenty years in England that the first advances have been constantly made me by all ladies who aspire to my acquaintance, and the greater their quality the greater were their advances.

When the Tories went out of power Swift's position became uncertain. He expected and had probably been promised a bishopric in England, with a seat among the peers of the realm; but the Tories offered him instead the place of dean of St. Patrick's Cathedral in Dublin. It was galling to a man of his proud spirit; but after his merciless satire on religion, in The Tale of a Tub, any ecclesiastical position in England was rendered impossible. Dublin was the best he could get, and he accepted it bitterly, once more cursing the fate which he had brought upon himself.

With his return to Ireland begins the last act in the tragedy of his life. His best known literary work, Gulliver's Travels, was done here; but the bitterness of life grew slowly to insanity, and a frightful personal sorrow, of which he never spoke, reached its climax in the death of Esther Johnson, a beautiful young woman, who had loved Swift ever since the two had met in Temple's household, and to whom he had written his Journal to Stella. During the last years of his life a brain disease, of which he had shown frequent symptoms, fastened its terrible hold upon Swift, and he became by turns an idiot and a madman. He died in 1745, and when his will was opened it was found that he had left all his property to found St. Patrick's Asylum for lunatics and incurables. It stands to-day as the most suggestive monument of his peculiar genius.

The Works of Swift. From Swift's life one can readily foresee the kind of literature he will produce. Taken together his works are a monstrous satire on humanity; and the spirit of that satire is shown clearly in a little incident of his first days in London. There was in the city at that time a certain astrologer named Partridge, who duped the public by calculating nativities from the stars, and by selling a yearly almanac predicting future events. Swift, who hated all shams, wrote, with a great show of learning, his famous Bickerstaff Almanac, containing "Predictions for the Year 1708, as Determined by the Unerring Stars." As Swift rarely signed his name to any literary work, letting it stand or fall on its own merits, his burlesque appeared over the pseudonym of Isaac Bickerstaff, a name afterwards made famous by Steele in The Tatler. Among the predictions was the following:

My first prediction is but a trifle; yet I will mention it to show how ignorant those sottish pretenders to astrology are in their own concerns: it relates to Partridge the almanack maker; I have consulted the star of his nativity by my own rules, and find he will infallibly die upon the 29th of March next, about eleven at night, of a raging fever; therefore I advise him to consider of it, and settle his affairs in time.

On March 30, the day after the prediction was to be fulfilled, there appeared in the newspapers a letter from a revenue officer giving the details of Partridge's death, with the doings of the bailiff and the coffin maker; and on the following morning appeared an elaborate "Elegy of Mr. Partridge." When poor Partridge, who suddenly found himself without customers, published a denial of the burial, Swift answered with an elaborate "Vindication of Isaac Bickerstaff," in which he proved by astrological rules that Partridge was dead, and that the man now in his place was an impostor trying to cheat the heirs out of their inheritance.

Character of Swift's SatireThis ferocious joke is suggestive of all Swift's satires. Against any case of hypocrisy or injustice he sets up a remedy of precisely the same kind, only more atrocious, and defends his plan with such seriousness that the satire overwhelms the reader with a sense of monstrous falsity. Thus his solemn "Argument to prove that the Abolishing of Christianity may be attended with Some Inconveniences" is such a frightful satire upon the abuses of Christianity by its professed followers that it is impossible for us to say whether Swift intended to point out needed reforms, or to satisfy his conscience,[190] or to perpetrate a joke on the Church, as he had done on poor Partridge. So also with his "Modest Proposal," concerning the children of Ireland, which sets up the proposition that poor Irish farmers ought to raise children as dainties, to be eaten, like roast pigs, on the tables of prosperous Englishmen. In this most characteristic work it is impossible to find Swift or his motive. The injustice under which Ireland suffered, her perversity in raising large families to certain poverty, and the indifference of English politicians to her suffering and protests are all mercilessly portrayed; but why? That is still the unanswered problem of Swift's life and writings.

Tale of a TubSwift's two greatest satires are his Tale of a Tub and Gulliver's Travels. The Tale began as a grim exposure of the alleged weaknesses of three principal forms of religious belief, Catholic, Lutheran, and Calvinist, as opposed to the Anglican; but it ended in a satire upon all science and philosophy.

Swift explains his whimsical title by the custom of mariners in throwing out a tub to a whale, in order to occupy the monster's attention and divert it from an attack upon the ship,--which only proves how little Swift knew of whales or sailors. But let that pass. His book is a tub thrown out to the enemies of Church and State to keep them occupied from further attacks or criticism; and the substance of the argument is that all churches, and indeed all religion and science and statesmanship, are arrant hypocrisy. The best known part of the book is the allegory of the old man who died and left a coat (which is Christian Truth) to each of his three sons, Peter, Martin, and Jack, with minute directions for its care and use. These three names stand for Catholics, Lutherans, and Calvinists; and the way in which the sons evade their father's will and change the fashion of their garment is part of the bitter satire upon all religious sects. Though it professes to defend the Anglican Church, that institution fares perhaps worse than the others; for nothing is left to her but a thin cloak of custom under which to hide her alleged hypocrisy.

Gulliver's TravelsIn Gulliver's Travels the satire grows more unbearable. Strangely enough, this book, upon which Swift's literary fame generally rests, was not written from any literary motive, but rather as an outlet for the author's own bitterness against fate and human society. It is still read with pleasure, as Robinson Crusoe is read, for the interesting adventures of the hero; and fortunately those who read it generally overlook its degrading influence and motive.

Gulliver's Travels records the pretended four voyages of one Lemuel Gulliver, and his adventures in four astounding countries. The first book tells of his voyage and shipwreck in Lilliput, where the inhabitants are about as tall as one's thumb, and all their acts and motives are on the same dwarfish scale. In the petty quarrels of these dwarfs we are supposed to see the littleness of humanity. The statesmen who obtain place and favor by cutting monkey capers on the tight rope before their sovereign, and the two great parties, the Littleendians and Bigendians, who plunge the country into civil war over the momentous question of whether an egg should be broken on its big or on its little end, are satires on the politics of Swift's own day and generation. The style is simple and convincing; the surprising situations and adventures are as absorbing as those of Defoe's masterpiece; and altogether it is the most interesting of Swift's satires.

On the second voyage Gulliver is abandoned in Brobdingnag, where the inhabitants are giants, and everything is done upon an enormous scale. The meanness of humanity seems all the more detestable in view of the greatness of these superior beings. When Gulliver tells about his own people, their ambitions and wars and conquests, the giants can only wonder that such great venom could exist in such little insects.

In the third voyage Gulliver continues his adventures in Laputa, and this is a satire upon all the scientists and philosophers. Laputa is a flying island, held up in the air by a loadstone; and all the professors of the famous academy at Lagado are of the same airy constitution. The philosopher who worked eight years to extract sunshine from cucumbers is typical of Swift's satiric treatment of all scientific problems. It is in this voyage that we hear of the Struldbrugs, a ghastly race of men who are doomed to live upon earth after losing hope and the desire for life. The picture is all the more terrible in view of the last years of Swift's own life, in which he was compelled to live on, a burden to himself and his friends.

In these three voyages the evident purpose is to strip off the veil of habit and custom, with which men deceive themselves, and show the crude vices of humanity as Swift fancies he sees them. In the fourth voyage the merciless satire is carried out to its logical conclusion. This brings us to the land of the Houyhnhnms, in which horses, superior and intelligent creatures, are the ruling animals. All our interest, however, is centered on the Yahoos, a frightful race, having the form and appearance of men, but living in unspeakable degradation.

Miscellaneous WorksThe Journal to Stella, written chiefly in the years 1710-1713 for the benefit of Esther Johnson, is interesting to us for two reasons. It is, first, an excellent commentary on contemporary characters and political events, by one of the most powerful and original minds of the age; and second, in its love passages and purely personal descriptions it gives us the best picture we possess of Swift himself at the summit of his power and influence. As we read now its words of tenderness for the woman who loved him, and who brought almost the only ray of sunlight into his life, we can only wonder and be silent. Entirely different are his Drapier's Letters, a model of political harangue and of popular argument, which roused an unthinking English public and did much benefit to Ireland by preventing the politicians' plan of debasing the Irish coinage. Swift's poems, though vigorous and original (like Defoe's, of the same period), are generally satirical, often coarse, and seldom rise above doggerel. Unlike his friend Addison, Swift saw, in the growing polish and decency of society, only a mask for hypocrisy; and he often used his verse to shock the new-born modesty by pointing out some native ugliness which his diseased mind discovered under every beautiful exterior.

Character of Swift's ProseThat Swift is the most original writer of his time, and one of the greatest masters of English prose, is undeniable. Directness, vigor, simplicity, mark every page. Among writers of that age he stands almost alone in his disdain of literary effects. Keeping his object steadily before him, he drives straight on to the end, with a convincing power that has never been surpassed in our language. Even in his most grotesque creations, the reader never loses the sense of reality, of being present as an eyewitness of the most impossible events, so powerful and convincing is Swift's prose. Defoe had the same power; but in writing Robinson Crusoe, for instance, his task was comparatively easy, since his hero and his adventures were both natural; while Swift gives reality to pygmies, giants, and the most impossible situations, as easily as if he were writing of facts. Notwithstanding these excellent qualities, the ordinary reader will do well to confine himself to Gulliver's Travels and a book of well-chosen selections. For, it must be confessed, the bulk of Swift's work is not wholesome reading. It is too terribly satiric and destructive; it emphasizes the faults and failings of humanity; and so runs counter to the general course of our literature, which from Cynewulf to Tennyson follows the Ideal, as Merlin followed the Gleam,[191] and is not satisfied till the hidden beauty of man's soul and the divine purpose of his struggle are manifest.

JOSEPH ADDISON (1672-1719)

In the pleasant art of living with one's fellows, Addison is easily a master. It is due to his perfect expression of that art, of that new social life which, as we have noted, was characteristic of the Age of Anne, that Addison occupies such a large place in the history of literature. Of less power and originality than Swift, he nevertheless wields, and deserves to wield, a more lasting influence. Swift is the storm, roaring against the ice and frost of the late spring of English life. Addison is the sunshine, which melts the ice and dries the mud and makes the earth thrill with light and hope. Like Swift, he despised shams, but unlike him, he never lost faith in humanity; and in all his satires there is a gentle kindliness which makes one think better of his fellow-men, even while he laughs at their little vanities.

Illustration: JOSEPH ADDISON

Addison's InfluenceTwo things Addison did for our literature which are of inestimable value. First, he overcame a certain corrupt tendency bequeathed by Restoration literature. It was the apparent aim of the low drama, and even of much of the poetry of that age, to make virtue ridiculous and vice attractive. Addison set himself squarely against this unworthy tendency. To strip off the mask of vice, to show its ugliness and deformity, but to reveal virtue in its own native loveliness,--that was Addison's purpose; and he succeeded so well that never, since his day, has our English literature seriously followed after false gods. As Macaulay says, "So effectually did he retort on vice the mockery which had recently been directed against virtue, that since his time the open violation of decency has always been considered amongst us a sure mark of a fool." And second, prompted and aided by the more original genius of his friend Steele, Addison seized upon the new social life of the clubs and made it the subject of endless pleasant essays upon types of men and manners. The Tatler and The Spectator are the beginning of the modern essay; and their studies of human character, as exemplified in Sir Roger de Coverley, are a preparation for the modern novel.

Life. Addison's life, like his writings, is in marked contrast to that of Swift. He was born in Milston, Wiltshire, in 1672. His father was a scholarly English clergyman, and all his life Addison followed naturally the quiet and cultured ways to which he was early accustomed. At the famous Charterhouse School, in London, and in his university life at Oxford, he excelled in character and scholarship and became known as a writer of graceful verses. He had some intention, at one time, of entering the Church, but was easily persuaded by his friends to take up the government service instead. Unlike Swift, who abused his political superiors, Addison took the more tactful way of winning the friendship of men in large places. His lines to Dryden won that literary leader's instant favor, and one of his Latin poems, "The Peace of Ryswick" (1697), with its kindly appreciation of King William's statesmen, brought him into favorable political notice. It brought him also a pension of three hundred pounds a year, with a suggestion that he travel abroad and cultivate the art of diplomacy; which he promptly did to his own great advantage.

From a literary view point the most interesting work of Addison's early life is his Account of the Greatest English Poets (1693), written while he was a fellow of Oxford University. One rubs his eyes to find Dryden lavishly praised, Spenser excused or patronized, while Shakespeare is not even mentioned. But Addison was writing under Boileau's "classic" rules; and the poet, like the age, was perhaps too artificial to appreciate natural genius.

While he was traveling abroad, the death of William and the loss of power by the Whigs suddenly stopped Addison's pension; necessity brought him home, and for a time he lived in poverty and obscurity. Then occurred the battle of Blenheim, and in the effort to find a poet to celebrate the event, Addison was brought to the Tories' attention. His poem, "The Campaign," celebrating the victory, took the country by storm. Instead of making the hero slay his thousands and ten thousands, like the old epic heroes, Addison had some sense of what is required in a modern general, and so made Marlborough direct the battle from the outside, comparing him to an angel riding on the whirlwind:

'T was then great Marlbro's mighty soul was proved,
That, in the shock of charging hosts unmoved,
Amidst confusion, horror, and despair,
Examined all the dreadful scenes of war;
In peaceful thought the field of death surveyed,
To fainting squadrons sent the timely aid,
Inspired repulsed battalions to engage,
And taught the doubtful battle where to rage.
So when an angel by divine command
With rising tempests shakes a guilty land,
(Such as of late o'er pale Britannia past,)
Calm and serene he drives the furious blast;
And, pleased th' Almighty's orders to perform,
Rides in the whirlwind, and directs the storm.

That one doubtful simile made Addison's fortune. Never before or since was a poet's mechanical work so well rewarded. It was called the finest thing ever written, and from that day Addison rose steadily in political favor and office. He became in turn Undersecretary, member of Parliament, Secretary for Ireland, and finally Secretary of State. Probably no other literary man, aided by his pen alone, ever rose so rapidly and so high in office.

The rest of Addison's life was divided between political duties and literature. His essays for the Tatler and Spectator, which we still cherish, were written between 1709 and 1714; but he won more literary fame by his classic tragedy Cato, which we have almost forgotten. In 1716 he married a widow, the Countess of Warwick, and went to live at her home, the famous Holland House. His married life lasted only three years, and was probably not a happy one. Certainly he never wrote of women except with gentle satire, and he became more and more a clubman, spending most of his time in the clubs and coffeehouses of London. Up to this time his life had been singularly peaceful; but his last years were shadowed by quarrels, first with Pope, then with Swift, and finally with his lifelong friend Steele. The first quarrel was on literary grounds, and was largely the result of Pope's jealousy. The latter's venomous caricature of Addison as Atticus shows how he took his petty revenge on a great and good man who had been his friend. The other quarrels with Swift, and especially with his old friend Steele, were the unfortunate result of political differences, and show how impossible it is to mingle literary ideals with party politics. He died serenely in 1719. A brief description from Thackeray's English Humorists is his best epitaph:

A life prosperous and beautiful, a calm death; an immense fame and affection afterwards for his happy and spotless name.

The EssaysWorks of Addison. The most enduring of Addison's works are his famous Essays, collected from the Tatler and Spectator. We have spoken of him as a master of the art of gentle living, and these essays are a perpetual inducement to others to know and to practice the same fine art. To an age of fundamental coarseness and artificiality he came with a wholesome message of refinement and simplicity, much as Ruskin and Arnold spoke to a later age of materialism; only Addison's success was greater than theirs because of his greater knowledge of life and his greater faith in men. He attacks all the little vanities and all the big vices of his time, not in Swift's terrible way, which makes us feel hopeless of humanity, but with a kindly ridicule and gentle humor which takes speedy improvement for granted. To read Swift's brutal "Letters to a Young Lady," and then to read Addison's "Dissection of a Beau's Head" and his "Dissection of a Coquette's Heart," is to know at once the secret of the latter's more enduring influence.

Three other results of these delightful essays are worthy of attention: first, they are the best picture we possess of the new social life of England, with its many new interests; second, they advanced the art of literary criticism to a much higher stage than it had ever before reached, and however much we differ from their judgment and their interpretation of such a man as Milton, they certainly led Englishmen to a better knowledge and appreciation of their own literature; and finally, in Ned Softly the literary dabbler, Will Wimble the poor relation, Sir Andrew Freeport the merchant, Will Honeycomb the fop, and Sir Roger the country gentleman, they give us characters that live forever as part of that goodly company which extends from Chaucer's country parson to Kipling's Mulvaney. Addison and Steele not only introduced the modern essay, but in such characters as these they herald the dawn of the modern novel. Of all his essays the best known and loved are those which introduce us to Sir Roger de Coverley, the genial dictator of life and manners in the quiet English country.

Addison's StyleIn style these essays are remarkable as showing the growing perfection of the English language. Johnson says, "Whoever wishes to attain an English style, familiar but not coarse, and elegant but not ostentatious, must give his days and nights to the volumes of Addison." And again he says, "Give nights and days, sir, to the study of Addison if you mean to be a good writer, or, what is more worth, an honest man." That was good criticism for its day, and even at the present time critics are agreed that Addison's Essays are well worth reading once for their own sake, and many times for their influence in shaping a clear and graceful style of writing.

PoemsAddison's poems, which were enormously popular in his day, are now seldom read. His Cato, with its classic unities and lack of dramatic power, must be regarded as a failure, if we study it as tragedy; but it offers an excellent example of the rhetoric and fine sentiment which were then considered the essentials of good writing. The best scene from this tragedy is in the fifth act, where Cato soliloquizes, with Plato's Immortality of the Soul open in his hand, and a drawn sword on the table before him:

It must be so--Plato, thou reason'st well!--
Else whence this pleasing hope, this fond desire,
This longing after immortality?
Or whence this secret dread, and inward horror,
Of falling into nought? why shrinks the soul
Back on herself, and startles at destruction?
'Tis the divinity that stirs within us;
'Tis heaven itself, that points out an hereafter,
And intimates eternity to man.

Many readers make frequent use of one portion of Addison's poetry without knowing to whom they are indebted. His devout nature found expression in many hymns, a few of which are still used and loved in our churches. Many a congregation thrills, as Thackeray did, to the splendid sweep of his "God in Nature," beginning, "The spacious firmament on high." Almost as well known and loved are his "Traveler's Hymn," and his "Continued Help," beginning, "When all thy mercies, O my God." The latter hymn--written in a storm at sea off the Italian coast, when the captain and crew were demoralized by terror--shows that poetry, especially a good hymn that one can sing in the same spirit as one would say his prayers, is sometimes the most practical and helpful thing in the world.

Richard Steele (1672-1729). Steele was in almost every respect the antithesis of his friend and fellow-worker,--a rollicking, good-hearted, emotional, lovable Irishman. At the Charterhouse School and at Oxford he shared everything with Addison, asking nothing but love in return. Unlike Addison, he studied but little, and left the university to enter the Horse Guards. He was in turn soldier, captain, poet, playwright, essayist, member of Parliament, manager of a theater, publisher of a newspaper, and twenty other things,--all of which he began joyously and then abandoned, sometimes against his will, as when he was expelled from Parliament, and again because some other interest of the moment had more attraction. His poems and plays are now little known; but the reader who searches them out will find one or two suggestive things about Steele himself. For instance, he loves children; and he is one of the few writers of his time who show a sincere and unswerving respect for womanhood. Even more than Addison he ridicules vice and makes virtue lovely. He is the originator of the Tatler, and joins with Addison in creating the Spectator,--the two periodicals which, in the short space of less than four years, did more to influence subsequent literature than all other magazines of the century combined. Moreover, he is the original genius of Sir Roger, and of many other characters and essays for which Addison usually receives the whole credit. It is often impossible in the Tatler essays to separate the work of the two men; but the majority of critics hold that the more original parts, the characters, the thought, the overflowing kindliness, are largely Steele's creation; while to Addison fell the work of polishing and perfecting the essays, and of adding that touch of humor which made them the most welcome literary visitors that England had ever received.

The Tatler and The Spectator. On account of his talent in writing political pamphlets, Steele was awarded the position of official gazetteer. While in this position, and writing for several small newspapers, the idea occurred to Steele to publish a paper which should contain not only the political news, but also the gossip of the clubs and coffeehouses, with some light essays on the life and manners of the age. The immediate result--for Steele never let an idea remain idle--was the famous Tatler, the first number of which appeared April 12, 1709. It was a small folio sheet, appearing on post days, three times a week, and it sold for a penny a copy. That it had a serious purpose is evident from this dedication to the first volume of collected Tatler essays:

The general purpose of this paper is to expose the false arts of life, to pull off the disguises of cunning, vanity, and affectation, and to recommend a general simplicity in our dress, our discourse, and our behavior.

The success of this unheard-of combination of news, gossip, and essay was instantaneous. Not a club or a coffeehouse in London could afford to be without it, and over it's pages began the first general interest in contemporary English life as expressed in literature. Steele at first wrote the entire paper and signed his essays with the name of Isaac Bickerstaff, which had been made famous by Swift a few years before. Addison is said to have soon recognized one of his own remarks to Steele, and the secret of the Authorship was out. From that time Addison was a regular contributor, and occasionally other writers added essays on the new social life of England.[192]

Steele lost his position as gazetteer, and the Tatler was discontinued after less than two years' life, but not till it won an astonishing popularity and made ready the way for its successor. Two months later, on March 1, 1711, appeared the first number of the Spectator. In the new magazine politics and news, as such, were ignored; it was a literary magazine, pure and simple, and its entire contents consisted of a single light essay. It was considered a crazy venture at the time, but its instant success proved that men were eager for some literary expression of the new social ideals. The following whimsical letter to the editor may serve to indicate the part played by the Spectator in the daily life of London:

Mr. Spectator,--Your paper is a part of my tea equipage; and my servant knows my humor so well, that in calling for my breakfast this morning (it being past my usual hour) she answered, the Spectator was not yet come in, but the teakettle boiled, and she expected it every moment.

It is in the incomparable Spectator papers that Addison shows himself most "worthy to be remembered." He contributed the majority of its essays, and in its first number appears this description of the Spectator, by which name Addison is now generally known:

There is no place of general resort wherein I do not often make my appearance; sometimes I am seen thrusting my head into a round of politicians at Will's [Coffeehouse] and listening with great attention to the narratives that are made in those little circular audiences. Sometimes I smoke a pipe at Child's, and, whilst I seem attentive to nothing but The Postman, overhear the conversation of every table in the room. I appear on Sunday nights at St. James's, and sometimes join the little committee of politics in the inner room, as one who comes to hear and improve. My face is likewise very well known at the Grecian, the Cocoa Tree, and in the theaters both of Drury Lane and the Haymarket. I have been taken for a merchant upon the Exchange for above these ten years; and sometimes pass for a Jew in the assembly of stock jobbers at Jonathan's.... Thus I live in the world rather as a spectator of mankind than as one of the species,... which is the character I intend to preserve in this paper.

The large place which these two little magazines hold in our literature seems most disproportionate to their short span of days. In the short space of four years in which Addison and Steele worked together the light essay was established as one of the most important forms of modern literature, and the literary magazine won its place as the expression of the social life of a nation.

SAMUEL JOHNSON (1709-1784)


The reader of Boswell's Johnson, after listening to endless grumblings and watching the clumsy actions of the hero, often finds himself wondering why he should end his reading with a profound respect for this "old bear" who is the object of Boswell's groveling attention. Here is a man who was certainly not the greatest writer of his age, perhaps not even a great writer at all, but who was nevertheless the dictator of English letters, and who still looms across the centuries of a magnificent literature as its most striking and original figure. Here, moreover, is a huge, fat, awkward man, of vulgar manners and appearance, who monopolizes conversation, argues violently, abuses everybody, clubs down opposition,--"Madam" (speaking to his cultivated hostess at table), "talk no more nonsense"; "Sir" (turning to a distinguished guest), "I perceive you are a vile Whig." While talking he makes curious animal sounds, "sometimes giving a half whistle, sometimes clucking like a hen"; and when he has concluded a violent dispute and laid his opponents low by dogmatism or ridicule, he leans back to "blow out his breath like a whale" and gulp down numberless cups of hot tea. Yet this curious dictator of an elegant age was a veritable lion, much sought after by society; and around him in his own poor house gathered the foremost artists, scholars, actors, and literary men of London,--all honoring the man, loving him, and listening to his dogmatism as the Greeks listened to the voice of their oracle.

What is the secret of this astounding spectacle? If the reader turns naturally to Johnson's works for an explanation, he will be disappointed. Reading his verses, we find nothing to delight or inspire us, but rather gloom and pessimism, with a few moral observations in rimed couplets:

But, scarce observed, the knowing and the bold
Fall in the general massacre of gold;
Wide-wasting pest! that rages unconfined,
And crowds with crimes the records of mankind;
For gold his sword the hireling ruffian draws,
For gold the hireling judge distorts the laws;
Wealth heaped on wealth nor truth nor safety buys;
The dangers gather as the treasures rise.[193]

That is excellent common sense, but it is not poetry; and it is not necessary to hunt through Johnson's bulky volumes for the information, since any moralist can give us offhand the same doctrine. As for his Rambler essays, once so successful, though we marvel at the big words, the carefully balanced sentences, the classical allusions, one might as well try to get interested in an old-fashioned, three-hour sermon. We read a few pages listlessly, yawn, and go to bed.

Since the man's work fails to account for his leadership and influence, we examine his personality; and here everything is interesting. Because of a few oft-quoted passages from Boswell's biography, Johnson appears to us as an eccentric bear, who amuses us by his growlings and clumsy antics. But there is another Johnson, a brave, patient, kindly, religious soul, who, as Goldsmith said, had "nothing of the bear but his skin"; a man who battled like a hero against poverty and pain and melancholy and the awful fear of death, and who overcame them manfully. "That trouble passed away; so will this," sang the sorrowing Deor in the first old Anglo-Saxon lyric; and that expresses the great and suffering spirit of Johnson, who in the face of enormous obstacles never lost faith in God or in himself. Though he was a reactionary in politics, upholding the arbitrary power of kings and opposing the growing liberty of the people, yet his political theories, like his manners, were no deeper than his skin; for in all London there was none more kind to the wretched, and none more ready to extend an open hand to every struggling man and woman who crossed his path. When he passed poor homeless Arabs sleeping in the streets he would slip a coin into their hands, in order that they might have a happy awakening; for he himself knew well what it meant to be hungry. Such was Johnson,--a "mass of genuine manhood," as Carlyle called him, and as such, men loved and honored him.[194]

Life of Johnson. Johnson was born in Lichfield, Staffordshire, in 1709. He was the son of a small bookseller, a poor man, but intelligent and fond of literature, as booksellers invariably were in the good days when every town had its bookshop. From his childhood Johnson had to struggle against physical deformity and disease and the consequent disinclination to hard work. He prepared for the university, partly in the schools, but largely by omnivorous reading in his father's shop, and when he entered Oxford he had read more classical authors than had most of the graduates. Before finishing his course he had to leave the university on account of his poverty, and at once he began his long struggle as a hack writer to earn his living.

At twenty-five years he married a woman old enough to be his mother,--a genuine love match, he called it,--and with her dowry of £800 they started a private school together, which was a dismal failure. Then, without money or influential friends, he left his home and wife in Lichfield and tramped to London, accompanied only by David Garrick, afterwards the famous actor, who had been one of his pupils. Here, led by old associations, Johnson made himself known to the booksellers, and now and then earned a penny by writing prefaces, reviews, and translations.

It was a dog's life, indeed, that he led there with his literary brethren. Many of the writers of the day, who are ridiculed in Pope's heartless Dunciad, having no wealthy patrons to support them, lived largely in the streets and taverns, sleeping on an ash heap or under a wharf, like rats; glad of a crust, and happy over a single meal which enabled them to work for a while without the reminder of hunger. A few favored ones lived in wretched lodgings in Grub Street, which has since become a synonym for the fortunes of struggling writers.[195] Often, Johnson tells us, he walked the streets all night long, in dreary weather, when it was too cold to sleep, without food or shelter. But he wrote steadily for the booksellers and for the Gentleman's Magazine, and presently he became known in London and received enough work to earn a bare living.

The works which occasioned this small success were his poem, "London," and his Life of the Poet Savage, a wretched life, at best, which were perhaps better left without a biographer. But his success was genuine, though small, and presently the booksellers of London are coming to him to ask him to write a dictionary of the English language. It was an enormous work, taking nearly eight years of his time, and long before he had finished it he had eaten up the money which he received for his labor. In the leisure intervals of this work he wrote "The Vanity of Human Wishes" and other poems, and finished his classic tragedy of Irene.

Led by the great success of the Spectator, Johnson started two magazines, The Rambler (1750--1752) and The Idler (1758--1760). Later the Rambler essays were published in book form and ran rapidly through ten editions; but the financial returns were small, and Johnson spent a large part of his earnings in charity. When his mother died, in 1759, Johnson, although one of the best known men in London, had no money, and hurriedly finished Rasselas, his only romance, in order, it is said, to pay for his mother's burial.

It was not till 1762, when Johnson was fifty-three years old, that his literary labors were rewarded in the usual way by royalty, and he received from George III a yearly pension of three hundred pounds. Then began a little sunshine in his life. With Joshua Reynolds, the artist, he founded the famous Literary Club, of which Burke, Pitt, Fox, Gibbon, Goldsmith, and indeed all the great literary men and politicians of the time, were members. This is the period of Johnson's famous conversations, which were caught in minutest detail by Boswell and given to the world. His idea of conversation, as shown in a hundred places in Boswell, is to overcome your adversary at any cost; to knock him down by arguments, or, when these fail, by personal ridicule; to dogmatize on every possible question, pronounce a few oracles, and then desist with the air of victory. Concerning the philosopher Hume's view of death he says: "Sir, if he really thinks so, his perceptions are disturbed, he is mad. If he does not think so, he lies." Exit opposition. There is nothing more to be said. Curiously enough, it is often the palpable blunders of these monologues that now attract us, as if we were enjoying a good joke at the dictator's expense. Once a lady asked him, "Dr. Johnson, why did you define pastern as the knee of a horse?" "Ignorance, madame, pure ignorance," thundered the great authority.

When seventy years of age, Johnson was visited by several booksellers of the city, who were about to bring out a new edition of the English poets, and who wanted Johnson, as the leading literary man of London, to write the prefaces to the several volumes. The result was his Lives of the Poets, as it is now known, and this is his last literary work. He died in his poor Fleet Street house, in 1784, and was buried among England's honored poets in Westminster Abbey.

The English DictionaryJohnson's Works. "A book," says Dr. Johnson, "should help us either to enjoy life or to endure it." Judged by this standard, one is puzzled what to recommend among Johnson's numerous books. The two things which belong among the things "worthy to be remembered" are his Dictionary and his Lives of the Poets, though both these are valuable, not as literature, but rather as a study of literature. The Dictionary, as the first ambitious attempt at an English lexicon, is extremely valuable, notwithstanding the fact that his derivations are often faulty, and that he frequently exercises his humor or prejudice in his curious definitions. In defining "oats," for example, as a grain given in England to horses and in Scotland to the people, he indulges his prejudice against the Scotch, whom he never understood, just as, in his definition of "pension," he takes occasion to rap the writers who had flattered their patrons since the days of Elizabeth; though he afterwards accepted a comfortable pension for himself. With characteristic honesty he refused to alter his definition in subsequent editions of the Dictionary.

Lives of the PoetsThe Lives of the Poets are the simplest and most readable of his literary works. For ten years before beginning these biographies he had given himself up to conversation, and the ponderous style of his Rambler essays here gives way to a lighter and more natural expression. As criticisms they are often misleading, giving praise to artificial poets, like Cowley and Pope, and doing scant justice or abundant injustice to nobler poets like Gray and Milton; and they are not to be compared with those found in Thomas Warton's History of English Poetry, which was published in the same generation. As biographies, however, they are excellent reading, and we owe to them some of our best known pictures of the early English poets.

Poems and EssaysOf Johnson's poems the reader will have enough if he glance over "The Vanity of Human Wishes." His only story, Rasselas, Prince of Abyssinia, is a matter of rhetoric rather than of romance, but is interesting still to the reader who wants to hear Johnson's personal views of society, philosophy, and religion. Any one of his Essays, like that on "Reading," or "The Pernicious Effects of Revery," will be enough to acquaint the reader with the Johnsonese style, which was once much admired and copied by orators, but which happily has been replaced by a more natural way of speaking. Most of his works, it must be confessed, are rather tiresome. It is not to his books, but rather to the picture of the man himself, as given by Boswell, that Johnson owes his great place in our literature.


In James Boswell (1740-1795) we have another extraordinary figure,--a shallow little Scotch barrister, who trots about like a dog at the heels of his big master, frantic at a caress and groveling at a cuff, and abundantly contented if only he can be near him and record his oracles. All his life long Boswell's one ambition seems to have been to shine in the reflected glory of great men, and his chief task to record their sayings and doings. When he came to London, at twenty-two years of age, Johnson, then at the beginning of his great fame, was to this insatiable little glory-seeker like a Silver Doctor to a hungry trout. He sought an introduction as a man seeks gold, haunted every place where Johnson declaimed, until in Davies's bookstore the supreme opportunity came. This is his record of the great event:

I was much agitated [says Boswell] and recollecting his prejudice against the Scotch, of which I had heard much, I said to Davies, "Don't tell him where I come from." "From Scotland," cried Davies roguishly. "Mr. Johnson," said I, "I do indeed come from Scotland, but I cannot help it."... "That, sir" [cried Johnson], "I find is what a very great many of your countrymen cannot help." This stroke stunned me a good deal; and when we had sat down I felt myself not a little embarrassed, and apprehensive of what might come next.

Then for several years, with a persistency that no rebuffs could abate, and with a thick skin that no amount of ridicule could render sensitive, he follows Johnson; forces his way into the Literary Club, where he is not welcome, in order to be near his idol; carries him off on a visit to the Hebrides; talks with him on every possible occasion; and, when he is not invited to a feast, waits outside the house or tavern in order to walk home with his master in the thick fog of the early morning. And the moment the oracle is out of sight and in bed, Boswell patters home to record in detail all that he has seen and heard. It is to his minute record that we owe our only perfect picture of a great man; all his vanity as well as his greatness, his prejudices, superstitions, and even the details of his personal appearance:

There is the gigantic body, the huge face seamed with the scars of disease, the brown coat, the black worsted stockings, the gray wig with the scorched foretop, the dirty hands, the nails bitten and pared to the quick. We see the eyes and mouth moving with convulsive twitches; we see the heavy form rolling; we hear it puffing; and then comes the "Why, sir!" and the "What then, sir?" and the "No, sir!" and the "You don't see your way through the question, sir!"[196]

To Boswell's record we are indebted also for our knowledge of those famous conversations, those wordy, knockdown battles, which made Johnson famous in his time and which still move us to wonder. Here is a specimen conversation, taken almost at random from a hundred such in Boswell's incomparable biography. After listening to Johnson's prejudice against Scotland, and his dogmatic utterances on Voltaire, Robertson, and twenty others, an unfortunate theorist brings up a recent essay on the possible future life of brutes, quoting some possible authority from the sacred scriptures:

Johnson, who did not like to hear anything concerning a future state which was not authorized by the regular canons of orthodoxy, discouraged this talk; and being offended at its continuation, he watched an opportunity to give the gentleman a blow of reprehension. So when the poor speculatist, with a serious, metaphysical, pensive face, addressed him, "But really, sir, when we see a very sensible dog, we don't know what to think of him"; Johnson, rolling with joy at the thought which beamed in his eye, turned quickly round and replied, "True, sir; and when we see a very foolish fellow, we don't know what to think of him." He then rose up, strided to the fire, and stood for some time laughing and exulting.

Then the oracle proceeds to talk of scorpions and natural history, denying facts, and demanding proofs which nobody could possibly furnish:

He seemed pleased to talk of natural philosophy. "That woodcocks," said he, "fly over the northern countries is proved, because they have been observed at sea. Swallows certainly sleep all the winter. A number of them conglobulate together by flying round and round, and then all in a heap throw themselves under water and lie in the bed of a river." He told us one of his first essays was a Latin poem upon the glowworm: I am sorry I did not ask where it was to be found.

Then follows an astonishing array of subjects and opinions. He catalogues libraries, settles affairs in China, pronounces judgment on men who marry women superior to themselves, flouts popular liberty, hammers Swift unmercifully, and adds a few miscellaneous oracles, most of which are about as reliable as his knowledge of the hibernation of swallows.

When I called upon Dr. Johnson next morning I found him highly satisfied with his colloquial prowess the preceding evening. "Well," said he, "we had good talk." "Yes, sir" [says I], "you tossed and gored several persons."

Far from resenting this curious mental dictatorship, his auditors never seem to weary. They hang upon his words, praise him, flatter him, repeat his judgments all over London the next day, and return in the evening hungry for more. Whenever the conversation begins to flag, Boswell is like a woman with a parrot, or like a man with a dancing bear. He must excite the creature, make him talk or dance for the edification of the company. He sidles obsequiously towards his hero and, with utter irrelevancy, propounds a question of theology, a social theory, a fashion of dress or marriage, a philosophical conundrum: "Do you think, sir, that natural affections are born with us?" or, "Sir, if you were shut up in a castle and a newborn babe with you, what would you do?" Then follow more Johnsonian laws, judgments, oracles; the insatiable audience clusters around him and applauds; while Boswell listens, with shining face, and presently goes home to write the wonder down. It is an astonishing spectacle; one does not know whether to laugh or grieve over it. But we know the man, and the audience, almost as well as if we had been there; and that, unconsciously, is the superb art of this matchless biographer.

When Johnson died the opportunity came for which Boswell had been watching and waiting some twenty years. He would shine in the world now, not by reflection, but by his own luminosity. He gathered together his endless notes and records, and began to write his biography; but he did not hurry. Several biographies of Johnson appeared, in the four years after his death, without disturbing Boswell's perfect complacency. After seven years' labor he gave the world his Life of Johnson. It is an immortal work; praise is superfluous; it must be read to be appreciated. Like the Greek sculptors, the little slave produced a more enduring work than the great master. The man who reads it will know Johnson as he knows no other man who dwells across the border; and he will lack sensitiveness, indeed, if he lay down the work without a greater love and appreciation of all good literature.

Later Augustan Writers. With Johnson, who succeeded Dryden and Pope in the chief place of English letters, the classic movement had largely spent its force; and the latter half of the eighteenth century gives us an imposing array of writers who differ so widely that it is almost impossible to classify them. In general, three schools of writers are noticeable: first, the classicists, who, under Johnson's lead, insisted upon elegance and regularity of style; second, the romantic poets, like Collins, Gray, Thomson, and Burns, who revolted from Pope's artificial couplets and wrote of nature and the human heart[197]; third, the early novelists, like Defoe and Fielding, who introduced a new type of literature. The romantic poets and the novelists are reserved for special chapters; and of the other writers--Berkeley and Hume in philosophy; Robertson, Hume, and Gibbon in history; Chesterfield and Lady Montagu in letter writing; Adam Smith in economics; Pitt, Burke, Fox, and a score of lesser writers in politics--we select only two, Burke and Gibbon, whose works are most typical of the Augustan, i.e. the elegant, classic style of prose writing.

EDMUND BURKE (1729--1797)

To read all of Burke's collected works, and so to understand him thoroughly, is something of a task. Few are equal to it. On the other hand, to read selections here and there, as most of us do, is to get a wrong idea of the man and to join either in fulsome praise of his brilliant oratory, or in honest confession that his periods are ponderous and his ideas often buried under Johnsonian verbiage. Such are the contrasts to be found on successive pages of Burke's twelve volumes, which cover the enormous range of the political and economic thought of the age, and which mingle fact and fancy, philosophy, statistics, and brilliant flights of the imagination, to a degree never before seen in English literature. For Burke belongs in spirit to the new romantic school, while in style he is a model for the formal classicists. We can only glance at the life of this marvelous Irishman, and then consider his place in our literature.

Life. Burke was born in Dublin, the son of an Irish barrister, in 1729. After his university course in Trinity College he came to London to study law, but soon gave up the idea to follow literature, which in turn led him to politics. He had the soul, the imagination of a poet, and the law was only a clog to his progress. His two first works, A Vindication of Natural Society and The Origin of our Ideas of the Sublime and the Beautiful, brought him political as well as literary recognition, and several small offices were in turn given to him. When thirty-six years old he was elected to Parliament as member from Wendover; and for the next thirty years he was the foremost figure in the House of Commons and the most eloquent orator which that body has ever known. Pure and incorruptible in his politics as in his personal life, no more learned or devoted servant of the Commonwealth ever pleaded for justice and human liberty. He was at the summit of his influence at the time when the colonies were struggling for independence; and the fact that he championed their cause in one of his greatest speeches, "On Conciliation with America," gives him an added interest in the eyes of American readers. His championship of America is all the more remarkable from the fact that, in other matters, Burke was far from liberal. He set himself squarely against the teachings of the romantic writers, who were enthusiastic over the French Revolution; he denounced the principles of the Revolutionists, broke with the liberal Whig party to join the Tories, and was largely instrumental in bringing on the terrible war with France, which resulted in the downfall of Napoleon.

It is good to remember that, in all the strife and bitterness of party politics, Burke held steadily to the noblest personal ideals of truth and honesty; and that in all his work, whether opposing the slave trade, or pleading for justice for America, or protecting the poor natives of India from the greed of corporations, or setting himself against the popular sympathy for France in her desperate struggle, he aimed solely at the welfare of humanity. When he retired on a pension in 1794, he had won, and he deserved, the gratitude and affection of the whole nation.

Works. There are three distinctly marked periods in Burke's career, and these correspond closely to the years in which he was busied with the affairs of America, India, and France successively. The first period was one of prophecy. He had studied the history and temper of the American colonies, and he warned England of the disaster which must follow her persistence in ignoring the American demands, and especially the American spirit. His great speeches, "On American Taxation" and "On Conciliation with America," were delivered in 1774 and 1775, preceding the Declaration of Independence. In this period Burke's labor seemed all in vain; he lost his cause, and England her greatest colony.


The second period is one of denunciation rather than of prophecy. England had won India; but when Burke studied the methods of her victory and understood the soulless way in which millions of poor natives were made to serve the interests of an English monopoly, his soul rose in revolt, and again he was the champion of an oppressed people. His two greatest speeches of this period are "The Nabob of Arcot's Debts" and his tremendous "Impeachment of Warren Hastings." Again he apparently lost his cause, though he was still fighting on the side of right. Hastings was acquitted, and the spoliation of India went on; but the seeds of reform were sown, and grew and bore fruit long after Burke's labors were ended.

The third period is, curiously enough, one of reaction. Whether because the horrors of the French Revolution had frightened him with the danger of popular liberty, or because his own advance in office and power had made him side unconsciously with the upper classes, is unknown. That he was as sincere and noble now as in all his previous life is not questioned. He broke with the liberal Whigs and joined forces with the reactionary Tories. He opposed the romantic writers, who were on fire with enthusiasm over the French Revolution, and thundered against the dangers which the revolutionary spirit must breed, forgetting that it was a revolution which had made modern England possible. Here, where we must judge him to have been mistaken in his cause, he succeeded for the first time. It was due largely to Burke's influence that the growing sympathy for the French people was checked in England, and war was declared, which ended in the frightful victories of Trafalgar and Waterloo.

Burke's best known work of this period is his Reflections on the French Revolution, which he polished and revised again Essay on and again before it was finally printed. This ambitious literary essay, though it met with remarkable success, is a disappointment to the reader. Though of Celtic blood, Burke did not understand the French, or the principles for which the common people were fighting in their own way[198]; and his denunciations and apostrophes to France suggest a preacher without humor, hammering away at sinners who are not present in his congregation. The essay has few illuminating ideas, but a great deal of Johnsonian rhetoric, which make its periods tiresome, notwithstanding our admiration for the brilliancy of its author. More significant is one of Burke's first essays, A Philosophical Inquiry Into the Origin of Our Ideas of the Sublime and Beautiful, which is sometimes read in order to show the contrast in style with Addison's Spectator essays on the "Pleasures of the Imagination."

Burke's OrationsBurke's best known speeches, "On Conciliation with America," "American Taxation," and the "Impeachment of Warren Hastings," are still much studied in our schools as models of English prose; and this fact tends to give them an exaggerated literary importance. Viewed purely as literature, they have faults enough; and the first of these, so characteristic of the Classic Age, is that they abound in fine rhetoric but lack simplicity.[199] In a strict sense, these eloquent speeches are not literature, to delight the reader and to suggest ideas, but studies in rhetoric and in mental concentration. All this, however, is on the surface. A careful study of any of these three famous speeches reveals certain admirable qualities which account for the important place they are given in the study of English. First, as showing the stateliness and the rhetorical power of our language, these speeches are almost unrivaled. Second, though Burke speaks in prose, he is essentially a poet, whose imagery, like that of Milton's prose works, is more remarkable than that of many of our writers of verse. He speaks in figures, images, symbols; and the musical cadence of his sentences reflects the influence of his wide reading of poetry. Not only in figurative expression, but much more in spirit, he belongs with the poets of the revival. At times his language is pseudo-classic, reflecting the influence of Johnson and his school; but his thought is always romantic; he is governed by ideal rather than by practical interests, and a profound sympathy for humanity is perhaps his most marked characteristic.

Third, the supreme object of these orations, so different from the majority of political speeches, is not to win approval or to gain votes, but to establish the truth. Like our own Lincoln, Burke had a superb faith in the compelling power of the truth, a faith in men also, who, if the history of our race means anything, will not willingly follow a lie. The methods of these two great leaders are strikingly similar in this respect, that each repeats his idea in many ways, presenting the truth from different view points, so that it will appeal to men of widely different experiences. Otherwise the two men are in marked contrast. The uneducated Lincoln speaks in simple, homely words, draws his illustrations from the farm, and often adds a humorous story, so apt and "telling" that his hearers can never forget the point of his argument. The scholarly Burke speaks in ornate, majestic periods, and searches all history and all literature for his illustrations. His wealth of imagery and allusions, together with his rare combination of poetic and logical reasoning, make these orations remarkable, entirely apart from their subject and purpose.

Fourth (and perhaps most significant of the man and his work), Burke takes his stand squarely upon the principle of justice. He has studied history, and he finds that to establish justice, between man and man and between nation and nation, has been the supreme object of every reformer since the world began. No small or merely temporary success attracts him; only the truth will suffice for an argument; and nothing less than justice will ever settle a question permanently. Such is his platform, simple as the Golden Rule, unshakable as the moral law. Hence, though he apparently fails of his immediate desire in each of these three orations, the principle for which he contends cannot fail. As a modern writer says of Lincoln, "The full, rich flood of his life through the nation's pulse is yet beating"; and his words are still potent in shaping the course of English politics in the way of justice.

EDWARD GIBBON (1737-1794)

To understand Burke or Johnson, one must read a multitude of books and be wary in his judgment; but with Gibbon the task is comparatively easy, for one has only to consider two books, his Memoirs and the first volume of his History, to understand the author. In his Memoirs we have an interesting reflection of Gibbon's own personality,--a man who looks with satisfaction on the material side of things, who seeks always the easiest path for himself, and avoids life's difficulties and responsibilities. "I sighed as a lover; but I obeyed as a son," he says, when, to save his inheritance, he gave up the woman he loved and came home to enjoy the paternal loaves and fishes. That is suggestive of the man's whole life. His History, on the other hand, is a remarkable work. It was the first in our language to be written on scientific principles, and with a solid basis of fact; and the style is the very climax of that classicism which had ruled England for an entire century. Its combination of historical fact and literary style makes The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire the one thing of Gibbon's life that is "worthy to be remembered."

Gibbon's History. For many years Gibbon had meditated, like Milton, upon an immortal work, and had tried several historical subjects, only to give them up idly. In his Journal he tells us how his vague resolutions were brought to a focus:

It was at Rome, on the fifteenth of October, 1764, as I sat musing amidst the ruins of the Capitol, while the barefooted friars were singing vespers in the Temple of Jupiter, that the idea of writing the decline and fall of the city first started to my mind.

Twelve years later, in 1776, Gibbon published the first volume of The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire; and the enormous success of the work encouraged him to go on with the other five volumes, which were published at intervals during the next twelve years. The History begins with the reign of Trajan, in A.D. 98, and "builds a straight Roman road" through the confused histories of thirteen centuries, ending with the fall of the Byzantine Empire in 1453. The scope of the History is enormous. It includes not only the decline of the Roman Empire, but such movements as the descent of the northern barbarians, the spread of Christianity, the reorganization of the European nations, the establishment of the great Eastern Empire, the rise of Mohammedanism, and the splendor of the Crusades. On the one hand it lacks philosophical insight, being satisfied with facts without comprehending the causes; and, as Gibbon seems lacking in ability to understand spiritual and religious movements, it is utterly inadequate in its treatment of the tremendous influence of Christianity. On the other hand, Gibbon's scholarship leaves little to criticise; he read enormously, sifted his facts out of multitudes of books and records, and then marshaled them in the imposing array with which we have grown familiar. Moreover, he is singularly just and discriminating in the use of all documents and authorities at his command. Hence he has given us the first history in English that has borne successfully the test of modern research and scholarship.

The style of the work is as imposing as his great subject. Indeed, with almost any other subject the sonorous roll of his majestic sentences would be out of place. While it deserves all the adjectives that have been applied to it by enthusiastic admirers,--finished, elegant, splendid, rounded, massive, sonorous, copious, elaborate, ornate, exhaustive,--it must be confessed, though one whispers the confession, that the style sometimes obscures our interest in the narrative. As he sifted his facts from a multitude of sources, so he often hides them again in endless periods, and one must often sift them out again in order to be quite sure of even the simple facts. Another drawback is that Gibbon is hopelessly worldly in his point of view; he loves pageants and crowds rather than individuals, and he is lacking in enthusiasm and in spiritual insight. The result is so frankly material at times that one wonders if he is not reading of forces or machines, rather than of human beings. A little reading of his History here and there is an excellent thing, leaving one impressed with the elegant classical style and the scholarship; but a continued reading is very apt to leave us longing for simplicity, for naturalness, and, above all, for the glow of enthusiasm which makes the dead heroes live once more in the written pages.

This judgment, however, must not obscure the fact that the book had a remarkably large sale; and that this, of itself, is an evidence that multitudes of readers found it not only erudite, but readable and interesting.


    The old order changeth, yielding place to new;
    And God fulfills Himself in many ways,
    Lest one good custom should corrupt the world.
                                  Tennyson's "The Passing of Arthur."

The Meaning of Romanticism. While Dryden, Pope, and Johnson were successively the dictators of English letters, and while, under their leadership, the heroic couplet became the fashion of poetry, and literature in general became satiric or critical in spirit, and formal in expression, a new romantic movement quietly made its appearance. Thomson's The Seasons (1730) was the first noteworthy poem of the romantic revival; and the poems and the poets increased steadily in number and importance till, in the age of Wordsworth and Scott, the spirit of Romanticism dominated our literature more completely than Classicism had ever done. This romantic movement--which Victor Hugo calls "liberalism in literature"--is simply the expression of life as seen by imagination, rather than by prosaic "common sense," which was the central doctrine of English philosophy in the eighteenth century. It has six prominent characteristics which distinguish it from the so-called classic literature which we have just studied:

1. The romantic movement was marked, and is always marked, by a strong reaction and protest against the bondage of rule and custom, which, in science and theology, as well as in literature, generally tend to fetter the free human spirit.

2. Romanticism returned to nature and to plain humanity for its material, and so is in marked contrast to Classicism, which had confined itself largely to the clubs and drawing-rooms, and to the social and political life of London. Thomson's Seasons, whatever its defects, was a revelation of the natural wealth and beauty which, for nearly a century, had been hardly noticed by the great writers of England.

3. It brought again the dream of a golden age[200] in which the stern realities of life were forgotten and the ideals of youth were established as the only permanent realities. "For the dreamer lives forever, but the toiler dies in a day," expresses, perhaps, only the wild fancy of a modern poet; but, when we think of it seriously, the dreams and ideals of a people are cherished possessions long after their stone monuments have crumbled away and their battles are forgotten. The romantic movement emphasized these eternal ideals of youth, and appealed to the human heart as the classic elegance of Dryden and Pope could never do.

4. Romanticism was marked by intense human sympathy, and by a consequent understanding of the human heart. Not to intellect or to science does the heart unlock its treasures, but rather to the touch of a sympathetic nature; and things that are hidden from the wise and prudent are revealed unto children. Pope had no appreciable humanity; Swift's work is a frightful satire; Addison delighted polite society, but had no message for plain people; while even Johnson, with all his kindness, had no feeling for men in the mass, but supported Sir Robert Walpole in his policy of letting evils alone until forced by a revolution to take notice of humanity's appeal. With the romantic revival all this was changed. While Howard was working heroically for prison reform, and Wilberforce for the liberation of the slaves, Gray wrote his "short and simple annals of the poor," and Goldsmith his Deserted Village, and Cowper sang,

                                  My ear is pained,
My soul is sick with every day's report
Of wrong and outrage with which earth is filled.
There is no flesh in man's obdurate heart,
It does not feel for man.[201]

This sympathy for the poor, and this cry against oppression, grew stronger and stronger till it culminated in "Bobby" Burns, who, more than any other writer in any language, is the poet of the unlettered human heart.


5. The romantic movement was the expression of individual genius rather than of established rules. In consequence, the literature of the revival is as varied as the characters and moods of the different writers. When we read Pope, for instance, we have a general impression of sameness, as if all his polished poems were made in the same machine; but in the work of the best romanticists there is endless variety. To read them is like passing through a new village, meeting a score of different human types, and finding in each one something to love or to remember. Nature and the heart of man are as new as if we had never studied them. Hence, in reading the romanticists, who went to these sources for their material, we are seldom wearied but often surprised; and the surprise is like that of the sunrise, or the sea, which always offers some new beauty and stirs us deeply, as if we had never seen it before.

6. The romantic movement, while it followed its own genius, was not altogether unguided. Strictly speaking, there is no new movement either in history or in literature; each grows out of some good thing which has preceded it, and looks back with reverence to past masters. Spenser, Shakespeare, and Milton were the inspiration of the romantic revival; and we can hardly read a poem of the early romanticists without finding a suggestion of the influence of one of these great leaders.[202]

There are various other characteristics of Romanticism, but these six--the protest against the bondage of rules, the return to nature and the human heart, the interest in old sagas and mediæval romances as suggestive of a heroic age, the sympathy for the toilers of the world, the emphasis upon individual genius, and the return to Milton and the Elizabethans, instead of to Pope and Dryden, for literary models--are the most noticeable and the most interesting. Remembering them, we shall better appreciate the work of the following writers who, in varying degree, illustrate the revival of romantic poetry in the eighteenth century.

THOMAS GRAY (1716-1771)

The curfew tolls the knell of parting day;
The lowing herd wind slowly o'er the lea;
The plowman homeward plods his weary way,
And leaves the world to darkness and to me.
Now fades the glimmering landscape on the sight,
And all the air a solemn stillness holds,
Save where the beetle wheels his droning flight,
And drowsy tinklings lull the distant folds.

So begins "the best known poem in the English language," a poem full of the gentle melancholy which marks all early romantic poetry. It should be read entire, as a perfect model of its kind. Not even Milton's "Il Penseroso," which it strongly suggests, excels it in beauty and suggestiveness.

Life of Gray. The author of the famous "Elegy" is the most scholarly and well-balanced of all the early romantic poets. In his youth he was a weakling, the only one of twelve children who survived infancy; and his unhappy childhood, the tyranny of his father, and the separation from his loved mother, gave to his whole life the stamp of melancholy which is noticeable in all his poems. At the famous Eton school and again at Cambridge, he seems to have followed his own scholarly tastes rather than the curriculum, and was shocked, like Gibbon, at the general idleness and aimlessness of university life. One happy result of his school life was his friendship for Horace Walpole, who took him abroad for a three years' tour of the Continent.

Illustration: THOMAS GRAY

No better index of the essential difference between the classical and the new romantic school can be imagined than that which is revealed in the letters of Gray and Addison, as they record their impressions of foreign travel. Thus, when Addison crossed the Alps, some twenty-five years before, in good weather, he wrote: "A very troublesome journey.... You cannot imagine how I am pleased with the sight of a plain." Gray crossed the Alps in the beginning of winter, "wrapped in muffs, hoods and masks of beaver, fur boots, and bearskins," but wrote ecstatically, "Not a precipice, not a torrent, not a cliff but is pregnant with religion and poetry."

On his return to England, Gray lived for a short time at Stoke Poges, where he wrote his "Ode on Eton," and probably sketched his "Elegy," which, however, was not finished till 1750, eight years later. During the latter years of his shy and scholarly life he was Professor of Modern History and Languages at Cambridge, without any troublesome work of lecturing to students. Here he gave himself up to study and to poetry, varying his work by "prowlings" among the manuscripts of the new British Museum, and by his "Lilliputian" travels in England and Scotland. He died in his rooms at Pembroke College in 1771, and was buried in the little churchyard of Stoke Poges.


Works of Gray. Gray's Letters, published in 1775, are excellent reading, and his Journal is still a model of natural description; but it is to a single small volume of poems that he owes his fame and his place in literature. These poems divide themselves naturally into three periods, in which we may trace the progress of Gray's emancipation from the classic rules which had so long governed English literature. In the first period he wrote several minor poems, of which the best are his "Hymn to Adversity" and the odes "To Spring" and "On a Distant Prospect of Eton College." These early poems reveal two suggestive things: first, the appearance of that melancholy which characterizes all the poetry of the period; and second, the study of nature, not for its own beauty or truth, but rather as a suitable background for the play of human emotions.

The second period shows the same tendencies more strongly developed. The "Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard" (1750), the most perfect poem of the age, belongs to this period. To read Milton's "Il Penseroso" and Gray's "Elegy" is to see the beginning and the perfection of that "literature of melancholy" which largely occupied English poets for more than a century. Two other well-known poems of this second period are the Pindaric odes, "The Progress of Poesy" and "The Bard." The first is strongly suggestive of Dryden's "Alexander's Feast," but shows Milton's influence in a greater melody and variety of expression. "The Bard" is, in every way, more romantic and original. An old minstrel, the last of the Welsh singers, halts King Edward and his army in a wild mountain pass, and with fine poetic frenzy prophesies the terror and desolation which must ever follow the tyrant. From its first line, "Ruin seize thee, ruthless King!" to the end, when the old bard plunges from his lofty crag and disappears in the river's flood, the poem thrills with the fire of an ancient and noble race of men. It breaks absolutely with the classical school and proclaims a literary declaration of independence.

In the third period Gray turns momentarily from his Welsh material and reveals a new field of romantic interest in two Norse poems, "The Fatal Sisters" and "The Descent of Odin" (1761). Gray translated his material from the Latin, and though these two poems lack much of the elemental strength and grandeur of the Norse sagas, they are remarkable for calling attention to the unused wealth of literary material that was hidden in Northern mythologv. To Gray and to Percy (who published his Northern Antiquities in 1770) is due in large measure the profound interest in the old Norse sagas which has continued to our own day.

Taken together, Gray's works form a most interesting commentary on the varied life of the eighteenth century. He was a scholar, familiar with all the intellectual interests of his age, and his work has much of the precision and polish of the classical school; but he shares also the reawakened interest in nature, in common man, and in mediæval culture, and his work is generally romantic both in style and in spirit. The same conflict between the classic and romantic schools, and the triumph of Romanticism, is shown clearly in the most versatile of Gray's contemporaries, Oliver Goldsmith.



Because The Deserted Village is one of the most familiar poems in our language, Goldsmith is generally given a high place among the poets of the romantic dawn. But the Village, when we read it carefully, turns out to be a rimed essay in the style of Pope's famous Essay on Man; it owes its popularity to the sympathetic memories which it awakens, rather than to its poetic excellence. It is as a prose writer that Goldsmith excels. He is an essayist, with Addison's fine polish but with more sympathy for human life; he is a dramatist, one of the very few who have ever written a comedy that can keep its popularity unchanged while a century rolls over its head; but greater, perhaps, than the poet and essayist and dramatist is Goldsmith the novelist, who set himself to the important work of purifying the early novel of its brutal and indecent tendencies, and who has given us, in The Vicar of Wakefield, one of the most enduring characters in English fiction. In his manner, especially in his poetry, Goldsmith was too much influenced by his friend Johnson and the classicists; but in his matter, in his sympathy for nature and human life, he belongs unmistakably to the new romantic school. Altogether he is the most versatile, the most charming, the most inconsistent, and the most lovable genius of all the literary men who made famous the age of Johnson.

Life. Goldsmith's career is that of an irresponsible, unbalanced genius, which would make one despair if the man himself did not remain so lovable in all his inconsistencies. He was born in the village of Pallas, Ireland, the son of a poor Irish curate whose noble character is portrayed in Dr. Primrose, of The Vicar of Wakefield, and in the country parson of The Deserted Village. After an unsatisfactory course in various schools, where he was regarded as hopelessly stupid, Goldsmith entered Trinity College, Dublin, as a sizar, i.e. a student who pays with labor for his tuition. By his escapades he was brought into disfavor with the authorities, but that troubled him little. He was also wretchedly poor, which troubled him less; for when he earned a few shillings by writing ballads for street singers, his money went oftener to idle beggars than to the paying of his honest debts. After three years of university life he ran away, in dime-novel fashion, and nearly starved to death before he was found and brought back in disgrace. Then he worked a little, and obtained his degree in 1749.

Strange that such an idle and irresponsible youth should have been urged by his family to take holy orders; but such was the fact. For two years more Goldsmith labored with theology, only to be rejected when he presented himself as a candidate for the ministry. He tried teaching, and failed. Then his fancy turned to America, and, provided with money and a good horse, he started off for Cork, where he was to embark for the New World. He loafed along the pleasant Irish ways, missed his ship, and presently turned up cheerfully amongst his relatives, minus all his money, and riding a sorry nag called Fiddleback, for which he had traded his own on the way.[203] He borrowed fifty pounds more, and started for London to study law, but speedily lost his money at cards, and again appeared, amiable and irresponsible as ever, among his despairing relatives. The next year they sent him to Edinburgh to study medicine. Here for a couple of years he became popular as a singer of songs and a teller of tales, to whom medicine was only a troublesome affliction. Suddenly the Wanderlust seized him and he started abroad, ostensibly to complete his medical education, but in reality to wander like a cheerful beggar over Europe, singing and playing his flute for food and lodging. He may have studied a little at Leyden and at Padua, but that was only incidental. After a year or more of vagabondage he returned to London with an alleged medical degree, said to have been obtained at Louvain or Padua.

The next few years are a pitiful struggle to make a living as tutor, apothecary's assistant, comedian, usher in a country school, and finally as a physician in Southwark. Gradually he drifted into literature, and lived from hand to mouth by doing hack work for the London booksellers. Some of his essays and his Citizen of the World (1760-1761) brought him to the attention of Johnson, who looked him up, was attracted first by his poverty and then by his genius, and presently declared him to be "one of the first men we now have as an author." Johnson's friendship proved invaluable, and presently Goldsmith found himself a member of the exclusive Literary Club. He promptly justified Johnson's confidence by publishing The Traveller (1764), which was hailed as one of the finest poems of the century. Money now came to him liberally, with orders from the booksellers; he took new quarters in Fleet Street and furnished them gorgeously; but he had an inordinate vanity for bright-colored clothes, and faster than he earned money he spent it on velvet cloaks and in indiscriminate charity. For a time he resumed his practice as a physician, but his fine clothes did not bring patients, as he expected; and presently he turned to writing again, to pay his debts to the booksellers. He produced several superficial and grossly inaccurate schoolbooks,--like his Animated Nature and his histories of England, Greece, and Rome,--which brought him bread and more fine clothes, and his Vicar of Wakefield, The Deserted Village, and She Stoops to Conquer, which brought him undying fame.

After meeting with Johnson, Goldsmith became the object of Boswell's magpie curiosity; and to Boswell's Life of Johnson we are indebted for many of the details of Goldsmith's life,--his homeliness, his awkward ways, his drolleries and absurdities, which made him alternately the butt and the wit of the famous Literary Club. Boswell disliked Goldsmith, and so draws an unflattering Portrait, but even this does not disguise the contagious good humor which made men love him. When in his forty-seventh year, he fell sick of a fever, and with childish confidence turned to a quack medicine to cure himself. He died in 1774, and Johnson placed a tablet, with a sonorous Latin epitaph, in Westminster Abbey, though Goldsmith was buried elsewhere. "Let not his frailties be remembered; he was a very great man," said Johnson; and the literary world--which, like that old dictator, is kind enough at heart, though often rough in its methods--is glad to accept and record the verdict.

Works of Goldsmith. Of Goldsmith's early essays and his later school histories little need be said. They have settled into their own place, far out of sight of the ordinary reader. Perhaps the most interesting of these is a series of letters for the Public Ledger (afterwards published as The Citizen of the World), written from the view point of an alleged Chinese traveler, and giving the latter's comments on English civilization.[204] The following five works are those upon which Goldsmith's fame chiefly rests:

The Traveller (1764) made Goldsmith's reputation among his contemporaries, but is now seldom read, except by students who would understand how Goldsmith was, at one time, dominated by Johnson and his pseudo-classic ideals. It is a long poem, in rimed couplets, giving a survey and criticism of the social life of various countries in Europe, and reflects many of Goldsmith's own wanderings and impressions.

The Deserted VillageThe Deserted Village (1770), though written in the same mechanical style, is so permeated with honest human sympathy, and voices so perfectly the revolt of the individual man against institutions, that a multitude of common people heard it gladly, without consulting the critics as to whether they should call it good poetry. Notwithstanding its faults, to which Matthew Arnold has called sufficient attention, it has become one of our best known poems, though we cannot help wishing that the monotony of its couplets had been broken by some of the Irish folk songs and ballads that charmed street audiences in Dublin, and that brought Goldsmith a welcome from the French peasants wherever he stopped to sing. In the village parson and the schoolmaster, Goldsmith has increased Chaucer's list by two lovable characters that will endure as long as the English language. The criticism that the picture of prosperous "Sweet Auburn" never applied to any village in Ireland is just, no doubt, but it is outside the question. Goldsmith was a hopeless dreamer, bound to see everything, as he saw his debts and his gay clothes, in a purely idealistic way.

The Good-Natured Man and She Stoops to Conquer are Goldsmith's two comedies. The former, a comedy of character, though it has some laughable scenes and one laughable character, Croaker, met with failure on the stage, and has never been revived with any success. The latter, a comedy of intrigue, is one of the few plays that has never lost its popularity. Its lively, bustling scenes, and its pleasantly absurd characters, Marlowe, the Hardcastles, and Tony Lumpkin, still hold the attention of modern theater goers; and nearly every amateur dramatic club sooner or later places She Stoops to Conquer on its list of attractions.

The Vicar of WakefieldThe Vicar of Wakefield is Goldsmith's only novel, and the first in any language that gives to home life an enduring romantic interest. However much we admire the beginnings of the English novel, to which we shall presently refer, we are nevertheless shocked by its frequent brutalities and indecencies. Goldsmith like Steele, had the Irish reverence for pure womanhood, and this reverence made him shun as a pest the vulgarity and coarseness in which contemporary novelists, like Smollett and Sterne, seemed to delight. So he did for the novel what Addison and Steele had done for the satire and the essay; he refined and elevated it, making it worthy of the old Anglo-Saxon ideals which are our best literary heritage.

Briefly, The Vicar of Wakefield is the story of a simple English clergyman, Dr. Primrose, and his family, who pass from happiness through great tribulation. Misfortunes, which are said never to come singly, appear in this case in flocks; but through poverty, sorrow, imprisonment, and the unspeakable loss of his daughters, the Vicar's faith in God and man emerges triumphant. To the very end he is like one of the old martyrs, who sings Alleluia while the lions roar about him and his children in the arena. Goldsmith's optimism, it must be confessed, is here stretched to the breaking point. The reader is sometimes offered fine Johnsonian phrases where he would naturally expect homely and vigorous language; and he is continually haunted by the suspicion that, even in this best of all possible worlds, the Vicar's clouds of affliction were somewhat too easily converted into showers of blessing; yet he is forced to read on, and at the end he confesses gladly that Goldsmith has succeeded in making a most interesting story out of material that, in other hands, would have developed either a burlesque or a brutal tragedy. Laying aside all romantic passion, intrigue, and adventure, upon which other novelists depended, Goldsmith, in this simple story of common life, has accomplished three noteworthy results: he has made human fatherhood almost a divine thing; he has glorified the moral sentiments which cluster about the family life as the center of civilization; and he has given us, in Dr. Primrose, a striking and enduring figure, which seems more like a personal acquaintance than a character in a book.

WILLIAM COWPER (1731--1800)

In Cowper we have another interesting poet, who, like Gray and Goldsmith, shows the struggle between romantic and classic ideals. In his first volume of poems, Cowper is more hampered by literary fashions than was Goldsmith in his Traveller and his Deserted Village. In his second period, however, Cowper uses blank verse freely; and his delight in nature and in homely characters, like the teamster and the mail carrier of The Task, shows that his classicism is being rapidly thawed out by romantic feeling. In his later work, especially his immortal "John Gilpin," Cowper flings fashions aside, gives Pegasus the reins, takes to the open road, and so proves himself a worthy predecessor of Burns, who is the most spontaneous and the most interesting of all the early romanticists.

Illustration: WILLIAM COWPER

Life. Cowper's life is a pathetic story of a shy and timid genius, who found the world of men too rough, and who withdrew to nature like a wounded animal. He was born at Great Berkhamstead, Hertfordshire, in 1731, the son of an English clergyman. He was a delicate, sensitive child, whose early life was saddened by the death of his mother and by his neglect at home. At six years he was sent away to a boys' school, where he was terrified by young barbarians who made his life miserable. There was one atrocious bully into whose face Cowper could never look; he recognized his enemy by his shoe buckles, and shivered at his approach. The fierce invectives of his "Tirocinium, or a Review of Schools" (1784), shows how these school experiences had affected his mind and health. For twelve years he studied law, but at the approach of a public examination for an office he was so terrified that he attempted suicide. The experience unsettled his reason, and the next twelve months were spent in an asylum at St. Alban's. The death of his father, in 1756, had brought the poet a small patrimony, which placed him above the necessity of struggling, like Goldsmith, for his daily bread. Upon his recovery he boarded for years at the house of the Unwins, cultured people who recognized the genius hidden in this shy and melancholy yet quaintly humorous man. Mrs. Unwin, in particular, cared for him as a son; and whatever happiness he experienced in his poor life was the result of the devotion of this good woman, who is the "Mary" of all his poems.

A second attack of insanity was brought on by Cowper's morbid interest in religion, influenced, perhaps, by the untempered zeal of one John Newton, a curate, with whom Cowper worked in the small parish of Olney, and with whom he compiled the famous Olney Hymns. The rest of his life, between intervals of melancholia or insanity, was spent in gardening, in the care of his numerous pets, and in writing his poems, his translation of Homer, and his charming letters. His two best known poems were suggested by a lively and cultivated widow, Lady Austen, who told him the story of John Gilpin and called for a ballad on the subject. She also urged him to write a long poem in blank verse; and when he demanded a subject, she whimsically suggested the sofa, which was a new article of furniture at that time. Cowper immediately wrote "The Sofa," and, influenced by the poetic possibilities that lie in unexpected places, he added to this poem from time to time, and called his completed work The Task. This was published in 1785, and the author was instantly recognized as one of the chief poets of his age. The last years of his life were a long battle with insanity, until death mercifully ended the struggle in 1800. His last poem, "The Castaway," is a cry of despair, in which, under guise of a man washed overboard in a storm, he describes himself perishing in the sight of friends who are powerless to help.

Cowper's Works. Cowper's first volume of poems, containing "The Progress of Error," "Truth," "Table Talk," etc., is interesting chiefly as showing how the poet was bound by the classical rules of his age. These poems are dreary, on the whole, but a certain gentleness, and especially a vein of pure humor, occasionally rewards the reader. For Cowper was a humorist, and only the constant shadow of insanity kept him from becoming famous in that line alone.

The TaskThe Task, written in blank verse, and published in 1785, is Cowper's longest poem. Used as we are to the natural poetry of Wordsworth and Tennyson, it is hard for us to appreciate the striking originality of this work. Much of it is conventional and "wooden," to be sure, like much of Wordsworth's poetry; but when, after reading the rimed essays and the artificial couplets of Johnson's age, we turn suddenly to Cowper's description of homely scenes, of woods and brooks, of plowmen and teamsters and the letter carrier on his rounds, we realize that we are at the dawn of a better day in poetry:

He comes, the herald of a noisy world,
With spatter'd boots, strapp'd waist, and frozen locks:
News from all nations lumbering at his back.
True to his charge, the close-packed load behind,
Yet careless what he brings, his one concern
Is to conduct it to the destined inn,
And, having dropped the expected bag, pass on.
He whistles as he goes, light-hearted wretch,
Cold and yet cheerful: messenger of grief
Perhaps to thousands, and of joy to some;
To him indifferent whether grief or joy.
Houses in ashes, and the fall of stocks,
Births, deaths, and marriages, epistles wet
With tears that trickled down the writer's cheeks
Fast as the periods from his fluent quill,
Or charged with amorous sighs of absent swains,
Or nymphs responsive, equally affect
His horse and him, unconscious of them all.

Miscellaneous WorksCowper's most laborious work, the translation of Homer in blank verse, was published in 1791. Its stately, Milton-like movement, and its better rendering of the Greek, make this translation far superior to Pope's artificial couplets. It is also better, in many respects, than Chapman's more famous and more fanciful rendering; but for some reason it was not successful, and has never received the recognition which it deserves. Entirely different in spirit are the poet's numerous hymns, which were published in the Olney Collection in 1779 and which are still used in our churches. It is only necessary to mention a few first lines--"God moves in a mysterious way," "Oh, for a closer walk with God," "Sometimes a light surprises"--to show how his gentle and devout spirit has left its impress upon thousands who now hardly know his name. With Cowper's charming Letters, published in 1803, we reach the end of his important works, and the student who enjoys reading letters will find that these rank among the best of their kind. It is not, however, for his ambitious works that Cowper is remembered, but rather for his minor poems, which have found their own way into so many homes. Among these, the one that brings quickest response from hearts that understand is his little poem, "On the Receipt of My Mother's Picture." beginning with the striking line, "Oh, that those lips had language." Another, called "Alexander Selkirk," beginning, "I am monarch of all I survey," suggests how Selkirk's experiences as a castaway (which gave Defoe his inspiration for Robinson Crusoe) affected the poet's timid nature and imagination. Last and most famous of all is his immortal "John Gilpin." Cowper was in a terrible fit of melancholy when Lady Austen told him the story, which proved to be better than medicine, for all night long chuckles and suppressed laughter were heard in the poet's bedroom. Next morning at breakfast he recited the ballad that had afforded its author so much delight in the making. The student should read it, even if he reads nothing else by Cowper; and he will be lacking in humor or appreciation if he is not ready to echo heartily the last stanza:

Now let us sing, Long live the King,
And Gilpin, long live he!
And when he next doth ride abroad
May I be there to see.

ROBERT BURNS (1759-1796)

After a century and more of Classicism, we noted with interest the work of three men, Gray, Goldsmith, and Cowper, whose poetry, like the chorus of awakening birds, suggests the dawn of another day. Two other poets of the same age suggest the sunrise. The first is the plowman Burns, who speaks straight from the heart to the primitive emotions of the race; the second is the mystic Blake, who only half understands his own thoughts, and whose words stir a sensitive nature as music does, or the moon in midheaven, rousing in the soul those vague desires and aspirations which ordinarily sleep, and which can never be expressed because they have no names. Blake lived his shy, mystic, spiritual life in the crowded city, and his message is to the few who can understand. Burns lived his sad, toilsome, erring life in the open air, with the sun and the rain, and his songs touch all the world. The latter's poetry, so far as it has a philosophy, rests upon two principles which the classic school never understood,--that common people are at heart romantic and lovers of the ideal, and that simple human emotions furnish the elements of true poetry. Largely because he follows these two principles, Burns is probably the greatest song writer of the world. His poetic creed may be summed up in one of his own stanzas:

Give me ae spark o' Nature's fire,
That's a' the learning I desire;
Then, though I trudge thro' dub an' mire
              At pleugh or cart,
My Muse, though hamely in attire,
              May touch the heart.


Life.[205] Burns's life is "a life of fragments," as Carlyle called it; and the different fragments are as unlike as the noble "Cotter's Saturday Night" and the rant and riot of "The Jolly Beggars." The details of this sad and disjointed life were better, perhaps, forgotten. We call attention only to the facts which help us to understand the man and his poetry.

Burns was born in a clay cottage at Alloway, Scotland, in the bleak winter of 1759. His father was an excellent type of the Scotch peasant of those days,--a poor, honest, God-fearing man, who toiled from dawn till dark to wrest a living for his family from the stubborn soil. His tall figure was bent with unceasing labor; his hair was thin and gray, and in his eyes was the careworn, hunted look of a peasant driven by poverty and unpaid rents from one poor farm to another. The family often fasted of necessity, and lived in solitude to avoid the temptation of spending their hard-earned money. The children went barefoot and bareheaded in all weathers, and shared the parents' toil and their anxiety over the rents. At thirteen Bobby, the eldest, was doing a peasant's full day's labor; at sixteen he was chief laborer on his father's farm; and he describes the life as "the cheerless gloom of a hermit, and the unceasing moil of a galley slave." In 1784 the father, after a lifetime of toil, was saved from a debtor's prison by consumption and death. To rescue something from the wreck of the home, and to win a poor chance of bread for the family, the two older boys set up a claim for arrears of wages that had never been paid. With the small sum allowed them, they buried their father, took another farm, Mossgiel, in Mauchline, and began again the long struggle with poverty.

Such, in outline, is Burns's own story of his early life, taken mostly from his letters. There is another and more pleasing side to the picture, of which we have glimpses in his poems and in his Common-place Book. Here we see the boy at school; for like most Scotch peasants, the father gave his boys the best education he possibly could. We see him following the plow, not like a slave, but like a free man, crooning over an old Scotch song and making a better one to match the melody. We see him stop the plow to listen to what the wind is saying, or turn aside lest he disturb the birds at their singing and nest making. At supper we see the family about the table, happy notwithstanding their scant fare, each child with a spoon in one hand and a book in the other. We hear Betty Davidson reciting, from her great store, some heroic ballad that fired the young hearts to enthusiasm and made them forget the day's toil. And in "The Cotter's Saturday Night" we have a glimpse of Scotch peasant life that makes us almost reverence these heroic men and women, who kept their faith and their self-respect in the face of poverty, and whose hearts, under their rough exteriors, were tender and true as steel.

A most unfortunate change in Burns's life began when he left the farm, at seventeen, and went to Kirkoswald to study surveying. The town was the haunt of smugglers, rough-living, hard-drinking men; and Burns speedily found his way into those scenes of "riot and roaring dissipation" which were his bane ever afterwards. For a little while he studied diligently, but one day, while taking the altitude of the sun, he saw a pretty girl in the neighboring garden, and love put trigonometry to flight. Soon he gave up his work and wandered back to the farm and poverty again.


When twenty-seven years of age Burns first attracted literary attention, and in the same moment sprang to the first place in Scottish letters. In despair over his poverty and personal habits, he resolved to emigrate to Jamaica, and gathered together a few of his early poems, hoping to sell them for enough to pay the expenses of his journey. The result was the famous Kilmarnock edition of Burns, published in 1786, for which he was offered twenty pounds. It is said that he even bought his ticket, and on the night before the ship sailed wrote his "Farewell to Scotland," beginning, "The gloomy night is gathering fast," which he intended to be his last song on Scottish soil.

In the morning he changed his mind, led partly by some dim foreshadowing of the result of his literary adventure; for the little book took all Scotland by storm. Not only scholars and literary men, but "even plowboys and maid servants," says a contemporary, eagerly spent their hard-earned shillings for the new book. Instead of going to Jamaica, the young poet hurried to Edinburgh to arrange for another edition of his work. His journey was a constant ovation, and in the capital he was welcomed and feasted by the best of Scottish society. This inexpected triumph lasted only one winter. Burns's fondness for taverns and riotous living shocked his cultured entertainers, and when he returned to Edinburgh next winter, after a pleasure jaunt through the Highlands, he received scant attention. He left the city in anger and disappointment, and went back to the soil where he was more at home.

The last few years of Burns's life are a sad tragedy, and we pass over them hurriedly. He bought the farm Ellisland, Dumfriesshire, and married the faithful Jean Armour, in 1788, That he could write of her,

I see her in the dewy flowers,
I see her sweet and fair;
I hear her in the tunefu' birds,
I hear her charm the air:
There's not a bonie flower that springs
By fountain, shaw, or green;
There's not a bonie bird that sings,
But minds me o' my Jean,

is enough for us to remember. The next year he was appointed exciseman, i.e. collector of liquor revenues, and the small salary, with the return from his poems, would have been sufficient to keep his family in modest comfort, had he but kept away from taverns. For a few years his life of alternate toil and dissipation was occasionally illumined by his splendid lyric genius, and he produced many songs--"Bonnie Doon," "My Love's like a Red, Red Rose," "Auld Lang Syne," "Highland Mary," and the soul-stirring "Scots wha hae," composed while galloping over the moor in a storm--which have made the name of Burns known wherever the English language is spoken, and honored wherever Scotchmen gather together. He died miserably in 1796, when only thirty-seven years old. His last letter was an appeal to a friend for money to stave off the bailiff, and one of his last poems a tribute to Jessie Lewars, a kind lassie who helped to care for him in his illness. This last exquisite lyric, "O wert thou in the cauld blast," set to Mendelssohn's music, is one of our best known songs, though its history is seldom suspected by those who sing it.

The Poetry of Burns. The publication of the Kilmarnock Burns, with the title Poems Chiefly in the Scottish Dialect (1786), marks an epoch in the history of English Literature, like the publication of Spenser's Shepherd's Calendar. After a century of cold and formal poetry, relieved only by the romanticism of Gray and Cowper, these fresh inspired songs went straight to the heart, like the music of returning birds in springtime. It was a little volume, but a great book; and we think of Marlowe's line, "Infinite riches in a little room," in connection with it. Such poems as "The Cotter's Saturday Night," "To a Mouse," "To Mountain Daisy," "Man was Made To Mourn," "The Twa Dogs," "Address to the Deil," and "Halloween," suggest that the whole spirit of the romantic revival is embodied in this obscure plowman. Love, humor, pathos, the response to nature,--all the poetic qualities that touch the human heart are here; and the heart was touched as it had not been since the days of Elizabeth. If the reader will note again the six characteristics of the romantic movement, and then read six poems of Burns, he will see at once how perfectly this one man expresses the new idea. Or take a single suggestion,--

Ae fond kiss, and then we sever!
Ae farewell, and then forever!
Deep in heart-wrung tears I'll pledge thee,
Warring sighs and groans I'll wage thee.
Who shall say that Fortune grieves him
While the star of hope she leaves him?
Me, nae cheerfu' twinkle lights me;
Dark despair around benights me.
I'll ne'er blame my partial fancy,
Naething could resist my Nancy;
But to see her was to love her;
Love but her, and love forever.
Had we never lov'd sae kindly,
Had we never lov'd sae blindly,
Never met--or never parted--
We had ne'er been broken-hearted.

The "essence of a thousand love tales" is in that one little song. Because he embodies the new spirit of romanticism, critics give him a high place in the history of our literature; and because his songs go straight to the heart, he is the poet of common men.

Songs for MusicOf Burns's many songs for music little need be said. They have found their way into the hearts of a whole people, and there they speak for themselves. They range from the exquisite "O wert thou in the cauld blast," to the tremendous appeal to Scottish patriotism in "Scots wha hae wi' Wallace bled," which, Carlyle said, should be sung with the throat of the whirlwind. Many of these songs were composed in his best days, when following the plow or resting after his work, while the music of some old Scotch song was ringing in his head. It is largely because he thought of music while he composed that so many of his poems have the singing quality, suggesting a melody as we read them.

Among his poems of nature, "To a Mouse" and "To a Mountain Daisy" are unquestionably the best, suggesting the poetical possibilities that daily pass unnoticed under our feet. These two poems are as near as Burns ever comes to appreciating nature for its own sake. The majority of his poems, like "Winter" and "Ye banks and braes o' bonie Doon," regard nature in the same way that Gray regarded it, as a background for the play of human emotions.

Of his poems of emotion there is an immense number. It is a curious fact that the world is always laughing and crying at the same moment; and we can hardly read a page of Burns without finding this natural juxtaposition of smiles and tears. It is noteworthy also that all strong emotions, when expressed naturally, lend themselves to poetry; and Burns, more than any other writer, has an astonishing faculty of describing his own emotions with vividness and simplicity, so that they appeal instantly to our own. One cannot read, "I love my Jean," for instance, without being in love with some idealized woman; or "To Mary in Heaven," without sharing the personal grief of one who has loved and lost.


Miscellaneous PoemsBesides the songs of nature and of human emotion, Burns has given us a large number of poems for which no general title can be given. Noteworthy among these are "A man's a man for a' that," which voices the new romantic estimate of humanity; "The Vision," from which we get a strong impression of Burns's early ideals; the "Epistle to a Young Friend," from which, rather than from his satires, we learn Burns's personal views of religion and honor; the "Address to the Unco Guid," which is the poet's plea for mercy in judgment; and "A Bard's Epitaph," which, as a summary of his own life, might well be written at the end of his poems. "Halloween," a picture of rustic merrymaking, and "The Twa Dogs" a contrast between the rich and poor, are generally classed among the poet's best works; but one unfamiliar with the Scotch dialect will find them rather difficult.

Of Burns's longer poems the two best worth reading are "The Cotter's Saturday Night" and "Tam o' Shanter,"--the one giving the most perfect picture we possess of a noble poverty; the other being the most lively and the least objectionable of his humorous works. It would be difficult to find elsewhere such a combination of the grewsome and the ridiculous as is packed up in "Tam o' Shanter." With the exception of these two, the longer poems add little to the author's fame or to our own enjoyment. It is better for the beginner to read Burns's exquisite songs and gladly to recognize his place in the hearts of a people, and forget the rest, since they only sadden us and obscure the poet's better nature.

WILLIAM BLAKE (1757-1827)

Piping down the valleys wild,
    Piping songs of pleasant glee,
On a cloud I saw a child,
    And he laughing said to me:
"Pipe a song about a lamb;"
    So I piped with merry cheer.
"Piper, pipe that song again;"
    So I piped:, he wept to hear.
"Piper, sit thee down and write
    In a book, that all may read;"
So he vanished from my sight,
    And I plucked a hollow reed,
And I made a rural pen,
    And I stained the water clear,
And I wrote my happy songs
    Every child may joy to hear.[206]

Of all the romantic poets of the eighteenth century, Blake is the most independent and the most original. In his earliest work, written when he was scarcely more than a child, he seems to go back to the Elizabethan song writers for his models; but for the greater part of his life he was the poet of inspiration alone, following no man's lead, and obeying no voice but that which he heard in his own mystic soul. Though the most extraordinary literary genius of his age, he had practically no influence upon it. Indeed, we hardly yet understand this poet of pure fancy, this mystic this transcendental madman, who remained to the end of his busy life an incomprehensible child.

Life. Blake, the son of a London tradesman, was a strange, imaginative child, whose soul was more at home with brooks and flowers and fairies than with the crowd of the city streets. Beyond learning to read and write, he received education; but he began, at ten years, to copy prints and to write verses. He also began a long course of art study, which resulted in his publishing his own books, adorned with marginal engravings colored by hand,--an unusual setting, worthy of the strong artistic sense that shows itself in many of his early verses. As a child he had visions of God and the angels looking in at his window; and as a man he thought he received visits from the souls of the great dead, Moses, Virgil, Homer, Dante, Milton,--"majestic shadows, gray but luminous," he calls them. He seems never to have asked himself the question how far these visions were pure illusions, but believed and trusted them implicitly. To him all nature was a vast spiritual symbolism, wherein he saw elves, fairies, devils, angels,--all looking at him in friendship or enmity through the eyes of flowers and stars:

With the blue sky spread over with wings,
    And the mild sun that mounts and sings;
With trees and fields full of fairy elves,
    And little devils who fight for themselves;
With angels planted in hawthorne bowers,
    And God himself in the passing hours.

And this curious, pantheistic conception of nature was not a matter of creed, but the very essence of Blake's life. Strangely enough, he made no attempt to found a new religious cult, but followed his own way, singing cheerfully, working patiently, in the face of discouragement and failure. That writers of far less genius were exalted to favor, while he remained poor and obscure, does not seem to have troubled him in the least. For over forty years he labored diligently at book engraving, guided in his art by Michael Angelo. but inventing his own curious designs, at which we still wonder. The illustrations for Young's "Night Thoughts," for Blair's "Grave," and the "Inventions to the Book of Job," show the peculiarity of Blake's mind quite as clearly as his poems. While he worked at his trade he flung off--for he never seemed to compose--disjointed visions and incomprehensible rhapsodies, with an occasional little gem that still sets our hearts to singing:

Ah, sunflower, weary of time,
    Who countest the steps of the sun;
Seeking after that sweet golden clime
    Where the traveller's journey is done;
Where the youth pined away with desire,
    And the pale virgin shrouded in snow,
Rise from their graves, and aspire
    Where my sunflower wishes to go!

That is a curious flower to find growing in the London street; but it suggests Blake's own life, which was outwardly busy and quiet, but inwardly full of adventure and excitement. His last huge prophetic works, like Jerusalem and Milton (1804), were dictated to him, he declares, by supernatural means, and even against his own will. They are only half intelligible, but here and there one sees flashes of the same poetic beauty that marks his little poems. Critics generally dismiss Blake with the word "madman"; but that is only an evasion. At best, he is the writer of exquisite lyrics; at worst, he is mad only "north-northwest," like Hamlet; and the puzzle is to find the method in his madness. The most amazing thing about him is the perfectly sane and cheerful way in which he moved through poverty and obscurity, flinging out exquisite poems or senseless rhapsodies, as a child might play with gems or straws or sunbeams indifferently. He was a gentle, kindly, most unworldly little man, with extraordinary eyes, which seem even in the lifeless portraits to reflect some unusual hypnotic power. He died obscurely, smiling at a vision of Paradise, in 1827. That was nearly a century ago, yet he still remains one of the most incomprehensible figures in our literature.

Works of Blake. The Poetical Sketches, published in 1783, is a collection of Blake's earliest poetry, much of it written in boyhood. It contains much crude and incoherent work, but also a few lyrics of striking originality. Two later and better known volumes are Songs of Innocence and Songs of Experience, reflecting two widely different views of the human soul. As in all his works, there is an abundance of apparently worthless stuff in these songs; but, in the language of miners, it is all "pay dirt"; it shows gleams of golden grains that await our sifting, and now and then we find a nugget unexpectedly:

My lord was like a flower upon the brows
Of lusty May; ah life as frail as flower!
My lord was like a star in highest heaven
Drawn down to earth by spells and wickedness;
My lord was like the opening eye of day;
But he is darkened; like the summer moon
Clouded; fall'n like the stately tree, cut down;
The breath of heaven dwelt among his leaves.

On account of the chaotic character of most of Blake's work, it is well to begin our reading with a short book of selections, containing the best songs of these three little volumes. Swinburne calls Blake the only poet of "supreme and simple poetic genius" of the eighteenth century, the one man of that age fit, on all accounts, to rank with the old great masters.[207] The praise is doubtless extravagant, and the criticism somewhat intemperate; but when we have read "The Evening Star," "Memory," "Night," "Love," "To the Muses," "Spring," "Summer," "The Tiger," "The Lamb," "The Clod and the Pebble," we may possibly share Swinburne's enthusiasm. Certainly, in these three volumes we have some of the most perfect and the most original songs in our language.

Of Blake's longer poems, his titanic prophecies and apocalyptic splendors, it is impossible to write justly in such a brief work as this. Outwardly they suggest a huge chaff pile, and the scattered grains of wheat hardly warrant the labor of winnowing. The curious reader will get an idea of Blake's amazing mysticism by dipping into any of the works of his middle life,--Urizen, Gates of Paradise, Marriage of Heaven and Hell, America, The French Revolution, or The Vision of the Daughters of Albion. His latest works, like Jerusalem and Milton, are too obscure to have any literary value. To read any of these works casually is to call the author a madman; to study them, remembering Blake's songs and his genius, is to quote softly his own answer to the child who asked about the land of dreams:

"O what land is the land of dreams,
What are its mountains and what are its streams?
--O father, I saw my mother there,
Among the lilies by waters fair."
"Dear child, I also by pleasant streams
Have wandered all night in the land of dreams;
But though calm and warm the waters wide,
I could not get to the other side."


We have chosen the five preceding poets, Gray, Goldsmith, Cowper, Burns, and Blake, as the most typical and the most interesting of the writers who proclaimed the dawn of Romanticism in the eighteenth century. With them we associate a group of minor writers, whose works were immensely popular in their own day. The ordinary reader will pass them by, but to the student they are all significant as expressions of very different phases of the romantic revival.

James Thomson (1700-1748). Thomson belongs among the pioneers of Romanticism. Like Gray and Goldsmith, he wavered between Pseudo-classic and the new romantic ideals, and for this reason, if for no other, his early work is interesting, like the uncertainty of a child who hesitates whether to creep safely on all fours or risk a fall by walking. He is "worthy to be remembered" for three poems,--"Rule Britannia," which is still one of the national songs of England The Castle of Indolence, and The Seasons. The dreamy and romantic Castle (1748), occupied by enchanter Indolence and his willing captives in the land of Drowsyhed, is purely Spenserian in its imagery, and is written in the Spenserian stanza. The Seasons (1726-1730), written in blank verse, describes the sights and sounds of the changing year and the poet's own feelings in the presence of nature. These two poems, though rather dull to a modern reader, were significant of the early romantic revival in three ways: they abandoned the prevailing heroic couplet; they went back to the Elizabethans, instead of to Pope, for their models; and they called attention to the long-neglected life of nature as a subject for poetry.

William Collins (1721-1759). Collins, the friend and disciple of Thomson, was of a delicate, nervous temperament, like Cowper; and over him also brooded the awful shadow of insanity. His first work, Oriental Eclogues (1742), is romantic in feeling, but is written in the prevailing mechanical couplets. All his later work is romantic in both thought and expression. His "Ode on the Popular Superstitions of the Highlands" (1750) is an interesting event in the romantic revival, for it introduced a new world, of witches, pygmies, fairies, and mediæval kings, for the imagination to play in. Collins's best known poems are the odes "To Simplicity," "To Fear," "To the Passions," the little unnamed lyric beginning "How sleep the brave," and the exquisite "Ode to Evening." In reading the latter, one is scarcely aware that the lines are so delicately balanced that they have no need of rime to accentuate their melody.

George Crabbe (1754-1832). Crabbe is an interesting combination of realism and romanticism, his work of depicting common life being, at times, vaguely suggestive of Fielding's novels. The Village (1783), a poem without a rival as a picture of the workingmen of his age, is sometimes like Fielding in its coarse vigor, and again like Dryden in its precise versification. The poem was not successful at first, and Crabbe abandoned his literary dreams. For over twenty years he settled down as a clergyman in a country parish, observing keenly the common life about him. Then he published more poems, exactly like The Village, which immediately brought him fame and money. They brought him also the friendship of Walter Scott, who, like others, regarded Crabbe as one of the first poets of the age. These later poems, The Parish Register (1807), The Borough (1810), Tales in Verse (1812), and Tales of the Hall (1819), are in the same strain. They are written in couplets; they are reflections of nature and of country life; they contain much that is sordid and dull, but are nevertheless real pictures of real men and women, just as Crabbe saw them, and as such they are still interesting. Goldsmith and Burns had idealized the poor, and we admire them for their sympathy and insight. It remained for Crabbe to show that in wretched fishing villages, in the lives of hardworking men and women, children, laborers, smugglers, paupers,--all sorts and conditions of common men,--there is abundant romantic without exaggerating or idealizing their vices and virtues.

James Macpherson (1736-1796). In Macpherson we have an unusual figure, who catered to the new romantic interest in the old epic heroes, and won immense though momentary fame, by a series of literary forgeries. Macpherson was a Scotch schoolmaster, an educated man, but evidently not over-tender of conscience, whose imagination had been stirred by certain old poems which he may have heard in Gaelic among the Highlanders. In 1760 he published his Fragments of Ancient Poetry collected in the Highlands, and alleged that his work was but a translation of Gaelic manuscripts. Whether the work of itself would have attracted attention is doubtful; but the fact that an abundance of literary material might be awaiting discovery led to an interest such as now attends the opening of an Egyptian tomb, and a subscription was promptly raised in Edinburgh to send Macpherson through the Highlands to collect more "manuscripts." The result was the epic Fingal (1762), "that lank and lamentable counterfeit of poetry," as Swinburne calls it, which the author professed to have translated from the Gaelic of the poet Ossian. Its success was astonishing, and Macpherson followed it up with Temora (1763), another epic in the same strain. In both these works Macpherson succeeds in giving an air of primal grandeur to his heroes; the characters are big and shadowy; the imagery is at times magnificent; the language is a kind of chanting, bombastic prose:

Now Fingal arose in his might and thrice he reared his voice. Cromla answered around, and the sons of the desert stood still. They bent their red faces to earth, ashamed at the presence of Fingal. He came like a cloud of rain in the days of the sun, when slow it rolls on the hill, and fields expect the shower. Swaran beheld the terrible king of Morven, and stopped in the midst of his course. Dark he leaned on his spear rolling his red eyes around. Silent and tall he seemed as an oak on the banks of Lubar, which had its branches blasted of old by the lightning of heaven. His thousands pour around the hero, and the darkness of battle gathers on the hill.[208]

The publication of this gloomy, imaginative work produced a literary storm. A few critics, led by Dr. Johnson, demanded to see the original manuscripts, and when Macpherson refused to produce them,[209] the Ossianic poems were branded as a forgery; nevertheless they had enormous success. Macpherson was honored as a literary explorer; he was given an official position, carrying a salary for life; and at his death, in 1796, he was buried in Westminster Abbey. Blake, Burns, and indeed most of the poets of the age were influenced by this sham poetry. Even the scholarly Gray was deceived and delighted with "Ossian"; and men as far apart as Goethe and Napoleon praised it immoderately.

Thomas Chatterton (1752-1770). This "marvelous boy," to whom Keats dedicated his "Endymion," and who is celebrated in Shelley's "Adonais," is one of the saddest and most interesting figures of the romantic revival. During his childhood he haunted the old church of St. Mary Redcliffe, in Bristol, where he was fascinated by the mediæval air of the place, and especially by one old chest, known as Canynge's coffer, containing musty documents which had been preserved for three hundred years. With strange, uncanny intentness the child pored over these relics of the past, copying them instead of his writing book, until he could imitate not only the spelling and language but even the handwriting of the original. Soon after the "Ossian" forgeries appeared, Chatterton began to produce documents, apparently very old, containing mediæval poems, legends, and family histories, centering around two characters,--Thomas Rowley, priest and poet, and William Canynge, merchant of Bristol in the days of Henry VI. It seems incredible that the whole design of these mediæval romances should have been worked out by a child of eleven, and that he could reproduce the style and the writing of Caxton's day so well that the printers were deceived; but such is the fact. More and more Rowley Papers, as they were called, were produced by Chatterton,--apparently from the archives of the old church; in reality from his own imagination,--delighting a large circle of readers, and deceiving all but Gray and a few scholars who recognized the occasional misuse of fifteenth-century English words. All this work was carefully finished, and bore the unmistakable stamp of literary genius. Reading now his "Ælla," or the "Ballad of Charite," or the long poem in ballad style called "Bristowe Tragedie," it is hard to realize that it is a boy's work. At seventeen years of age Chatterton went for a literary career to London, where he soon afterwards took poison and killed himself in a fit of childish despondency, brought on by poverty and hunger.

Thomas Percy (1729-1811). To Percy, bishop of the Irish church, in Dromore, we are indebted for the first attempt at a systematic collection of the folk songs and ballads which are counted among the treasures of a nation's literature.[210] In 1765 he published, in three volumes, his famous Reliques of Ancient English Poetry. The most valuable part of this work is the remarkable collection of old English and Scottish Ballads, such as "Chevy Chase," the "Nut Brown Mayde," "Children of the Wood," "Battle of Otterburn," and many more, which but for his labor might easily have perished. We have now much better and more reliable editions of these same ballads; for Percy garbled his materials, adding and subtracting freely, and even inventing a few ballads of his own. Two motives probably influenced him in this. First, the different versions of the same ballad varied greatly; and Percy, in changing them to suit himself, took the same liberty as had many other writers in dealing with the same material. Second; Percy was under the influence of Johnson and his school, and thought it necessary to add a few elegant ballads "to atone for the rudeness of the more obsolete poems." That sounds queer now, used as we are to exactness in dealing with historical and literary material; but it expresses the general spirit of the age in which he lived.

Notwithstanding these drawbacks, Percy's Reliques marks an epoch in the history of Romanticism, and it is difficult to measure its influence on the whole romantic movement. Scott says of it, "The first time I could scrape a few shillings together, I bought myself a copy of these beloved volumes; nor do I believe I ever read a book half so frequently, or with half the enthusiasm." Scott's own poetry is strongly modeled upon these early ballads, and his Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border is due chiefly to the influence of Percy's work.

Besides the Reliques, Percy has given us another good work in his Northern Antiquities (1770) translated from the French of Mallet's History of Denmark. This also was of immense influence, since it introduced to English readers a new and fascinating mythology, more rugged and primitive than that of the Greeks; and we are still, in music as in letters, under the spell of Thor and Odin, of Frea and the Valkyr maidens, and of that stupendous drama of passion and tragedy which ended in the "Twilight of the Gods." The literary world owes a debt of gratitude to Percy, who wrote nothing of importance himself, but who, by collecting and translating the works of other men, did much to hasten the triumph of Romanticism in the nineteenth century.


The chief literary phenomena of the complex eighteenth century are the reign of so-called Classicism, the revival of romantic poetry, and the discovery of the modern novel. Of these three, the last is probably the most important. Aside from the fact that the novel is the most modern, and at present the most widely read and influential type of literature, we have a certain pride in regarding it as England's original contribution to the world of letters. Other great types of literature, like the epic, the romance, and the drama, were first produced by other nations; but the idea of the modern novel seems to have been worked out largely on English soil;[211] and in the number and the fine quality of her novelists, England has hardly been rivaled by any other nation. Before we study the writers who developed this new type of literature, it is well to consider briefly its meaning and history.

The Story ElementMeaning of the Novel. Probably the most significant remark made by the ordinary reader concerning a work of fiction takes the form of a question: Is it a good story? For the reader of to-day is much like the child and the primitive man in this respect, that he must be attracted and held by the story element of a narrative before he learns to appreciate its style or moral significance. The story element is therefore essential to the novel; but where the story originates is impossible to say. As well might we seek for the origin of the race; for wherever primitive men are found, there we see them gathering eagerly about the story-teller. In the halls of our Saxon ancestors the scop and the tale-bringer were ever the most welcome guests; and in the bark wigwams of the American Indians the man who told the legends of Hiawatha had an audience quite as attentive as that which gathered at the Greek festivals to hear the story of Ulysses's wanderings. To man's instinct or innate love for a story we are indebted for all our literature; and the novel must in some degree satisfy this instinct, or fail of appreciation.

The RomanceThe second question which we ask concerning a work of fiction is, How far does the element of imagination enter into it? For upon the element of imagination depends, largely, our classification of works of fiction into novels, romances, and mere adventure stories. The divisions here are as indefinite as the border land between childhood and youth, between instinct and reason; but there are certain principles to guide us. We note, in the development of any normal child, that there comes a time when for his stories he desires knights, giants, elves, fairies, witches, magic, and marvelous adventures which have no basis in experience. He tells extraordinary tales about himself, which may be only the vague remembrances of a dream or the creations of a dawning imagination,--both of which are as real to him as any other part of life. When we say that such a child "romances," we give exactly the right name to it; for this sudden interest in extraordinary beings and events marks the development of the human imagination,--running riot at first, because it is not guided by reason, which is a later development,--and to satisfy this new interest the romance[212] was invented. The romance is, originally, a work of fiction in which the imagination is given full play without being limited by facts or probabilities. It deals with extraordinary events, with heroes whose powers are exaggerated, and often adds the element of superhuman or supernatural characters. It is impossible to draw the line where romance ends; but this element of excessive imagination and of impossible heroes and incidents is its distinguishing mark in every literature.

The NovelWhere the novel begins it is likewise impossible to say; but again we have a suggestion in the experience of every reader. There comes a time, naturally and inevitably, in the life of every youth when the romance no longer enthralls him. He lives in a world of facts; gets acquainted with men and women, some good, some bad, but all human; and he demands that literature shall express life as he knows it by experience. This is the stage of the awakened intellect, and in our stories the intellect as well as the imagination must now be satisfied. At the beginning of this stage we delight in Robinson Crusoe; we read eagerly a multitude of adventure narratives and a few so-called historical novels; but in each case we must be lured by a story, must find heroes and "moving accidents by flood and field" to appeal to our imagination; and though the hero and the adventure may be exaggerated, they must both be natural and within the bounds of probability. Gradually the element of adventure or surprising incident grows less and less important, as we learn that true life is not adventurous, but a plain, heroic matter of work and duty, and the daily choice between good and evil. Life is the most real thing in the world now,--not the life of kings, or heroes, or superhuman creatures, but the individual life with its struggles and temptations and triumphs or failures, like our own; and any work that faithfully represents life becomes interesting. So we drop the adventure story and turn to the novel. For the novel is a work of fiction in which the imagination and the intellect combine to express life in the form of a story and the imagination is always directed and controlled by the intellect. It is interested chiefly, not in romance or adventure, but in men and women as they are; it aims to show the motives and influences which govern human life, and the effects of personal choice upon character and destiny. Such is the true novel,[213] and as such it opens a wider and more interesting field than any other type of literature.

Precursors of the Novel. Before the novel could reach its modern stage, of a more or less sincere attempt to express human life and character, it had to pass through several centuries of almost imperceptible development. Among the early precursors of the novel we must place a collection of tales known as the Greek Romances, dating from the second to the sixth centuries. These are imaginative and delightful stories of ideal love and marvelous adventure,[214] which profoundly affected romance writing for the next thousand years. A second group of predecessors is found in the Italian and Spanish pastoral romances, which were inspired by the Eclogues of Virgil. These were extremely popular in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, and their influence is seen later in Sidney's Arcadia, which is the best of this type in English.

The third and most influential group of predecessors of the novel is made up of the romances of chivalry, such as are found in Malory's Morte d'Arthur. It is noticeable, in reading these beautiful old romances in different languages, that each nation changes them somewhat, so as to make them more expressive of national traits and ideals. In a word, the old romance tends inevitably towards realism, especially in England, where the excessive imagination is curbed and the heroes become more human. In Malory, in the unknown author of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, and especially in Chaucer, we see the effect of the practical English mind in giving these old romances a more natural setting, and in making the heroes suggest, though faintly, the men and women of their own day. The Canterbury Tales, with their story interest and their characters delightfully true to nature, have in them the suggestion, at least, of a connected story whose chief aim is to reflect life as it is.

In the Elizabethan Age the idea of the novel grows more definite. In Sidney's Arcadia (1580), a romance of chivalry, the pastoral setting at least is generally true to nature; our credulity is not taxed, as in the old romances, by the continual appearance of magic or miracles; and the characters, though idealized till they become tiresome, occasionally give the impression of being real men and women. In Bacon's The New Atlantis (1627) we have the story of the discovery by mariners of an unknown country, inhabited by a superior race of men, more civilized than ourselves,--an idea which had been used by More in his Utopia in 1516. These two books are neither romances nor novels, in the strict sense, but studies of social institutions. They use the connected story as a means of teaching moral lessons, and of bringing about needed reforms; and this valuable suggestion has been adopted by many of our modern writers in the so-called problem novels and novels of purpose.

Nearer to the true novel is Lodge's romantic story of Rosalynde, which was used by Shakespeare in As You Like It. This was modeled upon the Italian novella, or short story, which became very popular in England during the Elizabethan Age. In the same age we have introduced into England the Spanish picaresque novel (from picaro, a knave or rascal), which at first was a kind of burlesque on the mediæval romance, and which took for its hero some low scoundrel or outcast, instead of a knight, and followed him through a long career of scandals and villainies. One of the earliest types of this picaresque novel in English is Nash's The Unfortunate Traveller, or the Life of Jack Wilton (1594), which is also a forerunner of the historical novel, since its action takes place during that gorgeous interview between Henry VIII and the king of France on the Field of the Cloth of Gold. In all these short stories and picaresque novels the emphasis was laid not so much on life and character as on the adventures of the hero; and the interest consisted largely in wondering what would happen next, and how the plot would end. The same method is employed in all trashy novels and it is especially the bane of many modern story-writers. This excessive interest in adventures or incidents for their own sake, and not for their effect on character, is what distinguishes the modern adventure story from the true novel.

In the Puritan Age we approach still nearer to the modern novel, especially in the work of Bunyan; and as the Puritan always laid emphasis on character, stories appeared having a definite moral purpose. Bunyan's The Pilgrim's Progress (1678) differs from the Faery Queen, and from all other mediæval allegories, in this important respect,--that the characters, far from being bloodless abstractions, are but thinly disguised men and women. Indeed, many a modern man, reading the story of the Christian;--has found in it the reflection of his own life and experience. In The Life and Death of Mr. Badman (1682) we have another and even more realistic study of a man as he was in Bunyan's day. These two striking figures, Christian and Mr. Badman, belong among the great characters of English fiction. Bunyan's good work,--his keen insight, his delineation of character, and his emphasis upon the moral effects of individual action,--was carried on by Addison and Steele some thirty years later. The character of Sir Roger de Coverley is a real reflection of English country life in the eighteenth century; and with Steele's domestic sketches in The Tatler, The Spectator, and The Guardian (1709-1713), we definitely cross the border land that lies outside of romance, and enter the region of character study where the novel has its beginning.

The Discovery of the Modern Novel. Notwithstanding this long history of fiction, to which we have called attention, it is safe to say that, until the publication of Richardson's Pamela in 1740, no true novel had appeared in any literature. By a true novel we mean simply a work of fiction which relates the story of a plain human life, under stress of emotion, which depends for its interest not on incident or adventure, but on its truth to nature. A number of English novelists--Goldsmith, Richardson, Fielding, Smollett, Sterne--all seem to have seized upon the idea of reflecting life as it is, in the form of a story, and to have developed it simultaneously. The result was an extraordinary awakening of interest, especially among people who had never before been greatly concerned with literature. We are to remember that, in previous periods, the number of readers was comparatively small; and that, with the exception of a few writers like Langland and Bunyan, authors wrote largely for the upper classes. In the eighteenth century the spread of education and the appearance of newspapers and magazines led to an immense increase in the number of readers; and at the same time the middle-class people assumed a foremost place in English life and history. These new readers and this new, powerful middle class had no classic tradition to hamper them. They cared little for the opinions of Dr. Johnson and the famous Literary Club; and, so far as they read fiction at all, they apparently took little interest in the exaggerated romances, of impossible heroes and the picaresque stories of intrigue and villainy which had interested the upper classes. Some new type of literature was demanded, this new type must express the new ideal of the eighteenth century, namely, the value and the importance of the individual life. So the novel was born, expressing, though in a different way, exactly the same ideals of personality and of the dignity of common life which were later proclaimed in the American and in the French Revolution, and were welcomed with rejoicing by the poets of the romantic revival. To tell men, not about knights or kings or types of heroes, but about themselves in the guise of plain men and women, about their own thoughts and motives and struggles, and the results of actions upon their own characters,--this was the purpose of our first novelists. The eagerness with which their chapters were read in England, and the rapidity with which their work was copied abroad, show how powerfully the new discovery appealed to readers everywhere.

Before we consider the work of these writers who first developed the modern novel, we must glance at the work of a pioneer, Daniel Defoe, whom we place among the early novelists for the simple reason that we do not know how else to classify him.

DANIEL DEFOE (1661(?)-1731)

To Defoe is often given the credit for the discovery of the modern novel; but whether or not he deserves that honor is an open question. Even a casual reading of Robinson Crusoe (1719), which generally heads the list of modern fiction, shows that this exciting tale is largely an adventure story, rather than the study of human character which Defoe probably intended it to be. Young people still read it as they might a dime novel, skipping its moralizing passages and hurrying on to more adventures; but they seldom appreciate the excellent mature reasons which banish the dime novel to a secret place in the haymow, while Crusoe hangs proudly on the Christmas tree or holds an honored place on the family bookshelf. Defoe's Apparition of Mrs. Veal, Memoirs of a Cavalier, and Journal of the Plague Year are such mixtures of fact, fiction, and credulity that they defy classification; while other so-called "novels," like Captain Singleton, Moll Flanders, and Roxana, are but, little better than picaresque stories, with a deal of unnatural moralizing and repentance added for puritanical effect. In Crusoe, Defoe brought the realistic adventure story to a very high stage of its development; but his works hardly deserve, to be classed as true novels, which must subordinate incident to the faithful portrayal of human life and character.

Illustration: DANIEL DEFOE

Life. Defoe was the son of a London butcher named Foe, and kept his family name until he was forty years of age, when he added the aristocratic prefix with which we have grown familiar. The events of his busy seventy years of life, in which he passed through all extremes, from poverty to wealth, from prosperous brickmaker to starveling journalist, from Newgate prison to immense popularity and royal favor, are obscure enough in details; but four facts stand out clearly, which help the reader to understand the character of his work. First, Defoe was a jack-at-all-trades, as well as a writer; his interest was largely with the working classes, and notwithstanding many questionable practices, he seems to have had some continued purpose of educating and uplifting the common people. This partially accounts for the enormous popularity of his works, and for the fact that they were criticised by literary men as being "fit only for the kitchen." Second, he was a radical Nonconformist in religion, and was intended by his father for the independent ministry. The Puritan zeal for reform possessed him, and he tried to do by his pen what Wesley was doing by his preaching, without, however, having any great measure of the latter's sincerity or singleness of purpose. This zeal for reform marks all his numerous works, and accounts for the moralizing to be found everywhere. Third, Defoe was a journalist and pamphleteer, with a reporter's eye for the picturesque and a newspaper man's instinct for making a "good story." He wrote an immense number of pamphlets, poems, and magazine articles; conducted several papers,--one of the most popular, the Review, being issued from prison,--and the fact that they often blew hot and cold upon the same question was hardly noticed. Indeed, so extraordinarily interesting and plausible were Defoe's articles that he generally managed to keep employed by the party in power, whether Whig or Tory. This long journalistic career, lasting half a century, accounts for his direct, simple, narrative style, which holds us even now by its intense reality. To Defoe's genius we are also indebted for two discoveries, the "interview" and the leading editorial, both of which are still in daily use in our best newspapers.

The fourth fact to remember is that Defoe knew prison life; and thereby hangs a tale. In 1702 Defoe published a remarkable pamphlet called "The Shortest Way with the Dissenters," supporting the claims of the free churches against the "High Fliers," i.e. Tories and Anglicans. In a vein of grim humor which recalls Swift's "Modest Proposal," Defoe advocated hanging all dissenting ministers, and sending all members of the free churches into exile; and so ferociously realistic was the satire that both Dissenters and Tories took the author literally. Defoe was tried, found guilty of seditious libel, and sentenced to be fined, to stand three days in the pillory, and to be imprisoned. Hardly had the sentence been pronounced when Defoe wrote his "Hymn to the Pillory,"--

Hail hieroglyphic state machine,
Contrived to punish fancy in,--

a set of doggerel verses ridiculing his prosecutors, which Defoe, with a keen eye for advertising, scattered all over London. Crowds flocked to cheer him in the pillory; and seeing that Defoe was making popularity out of persecution, his enemies bundled him off to Newgate prison. He turned this experience also to account by publishing a popular newspaper, and by getting acquainted with rogues, pirates, smugglers, and miscellaneous outcasts, each one with a "good story" to be used later. After his release from prison, in 1704, he turned his knowledge of criminals to further account, and entered the government employ as a kind of spy or secret-service agent. His prison experience, and the further knowledge of criminals gained in over twenty years as a spy, accounts for his numerous stories of thieves and pirates, Jonathan Wild and Captain Avery, and also for his later novels, which deal almost exclusively with villains and outcasts.

When Defoe was nearly sixty years of age he turned to fiction and wrote the great work by which he is remembered. Robinson Crusoe was an instant success, and the author became famous all over Europe. Other stories followed rapidly, and Defoe earned money enough to retire to Newington and live in comfort; but not idly, for his activity in producing fiction is rivaled only by that of Walter Scott. Thus, in 1720 appeared Captain Singleton, Duncan Campbell, and Memoirs of a Cavalier; in 1722, Colonel Jack, Moll Flanders, and the amazingly realistic Journal of the Plague Year. So the list grows with astonishing rapidity, ending with the History of the Devil in 1726.

In the latter year Defoe's secret connection with the government became known, and a great howl of indignation rose against him in the public print, destroying in an hour the popularity which he had gained by a lifetime of intrigue and labor. He fled from his home to London, where he died obscurely, in 1731, while hiding from real or imaginary enemies.

Works of Defoe. At the head of the list stands Robinson Crusoe (1719-1720), one of the few books in any literature which has held its popularity undiminished for nearly two centuries. The story is based upon the experiences of Alexander Selkirk, or Selcraig, who had been marooned in the island of Juan Fernandez, off the coast of Chile, and who had lived there in solitude for five years. On his return to England in 1709, Selkirk's experiences became known, and Steele published an account of them in The Englishman, without, however, attracting any wide attention. That Defoe used Selkirk's story is practically certain; but with his usual duplicity he claimed to have written Crusoe in 1708, a year before Selkirk's return. However that may be, the story itself is real enough to have come straight from a sailor's logbook. Defoe, as shown in his Journal of the Plague Year and his Memoirs of a Cavalier, had the art of describing things he had never seen with the accuracy of an eyewitness.

Robinson CrusoeThe charm of the story is its intense reality, in the succession of thoughts, feelings, incidents, which every reader recognizes to be absolutely true to life. At first glance it would seem that one man on a desert island could not possibly furnish the material for a long story; but as we read we realize with amazement that every slightest thought and action--the saving of the cargo of the shipwrecked vessel, the preparation for defense against imaginary foes, the intense agitation over the discovery of a footprint in the sand--is a record of what the reader himself would do and feel if he were alone in such a place. Defoe's long and varied experience now stood him in good stead; in fact, he "was the only man of letters in his time who might have been thrown on a desert island without finding himself at a loss what to do;"[215] and he puts himself so perfectly in his hero's place that he repeats his blunders as well as his triumphs. Thus, what reader ever followed Defoe's hero through weary, feverish months of building a huge boat, which was too big to be launched by one man, without recalling some boy who spent many stormy days in shed or cellar building a boat or dog house, and who, when the thing was painted and finished, found it a foot wider than the door, and had to knock it to pieces? This absolute naturalness characterizes the whole story. It is a study of the human will also,--of patience, fortitude, and the indomitable Saxon spirit overcoming all obstacles; and it was this element which made Rousseau recommend Robinson Crusoe as a better treatise on education than anything which Aristotle or the moderns had ever written. And this suggests the most significant thing about Defoe's masterpiece, namely, that the hero represents the whole of human society, doing with his own hands all the things which, by the division of labor and the demands of modern civilization, are now done by many different workers. He is therefore the type of the whole civilized race of men.

In the remaining works of Defoe, more than two hundred in number, there is an astonishing variety; but all are marked by the same simple, narrative style, and the same intense realism. The best known of these are the Journal of the Plague Year, in which the horrors of a frightful plague are minutely recorded; the Memoirs of a Cavalier, so realistic that Chatham quoted it as history in Parliament; and several picaresque novels, like Captain Singleton, Colonel Jack, Moll Flanders, and Roxana. The last work is by some critics given a very high place in realistic fiction, but like the other three, and like Defoe's minor narratives of Jack Sheppard and Cartouche, it is a disagreeable study of vice, ending with a forced and unnatural repentance.


To Richardson belongs the credit of writing the first modern novel. He was the son of a London joiner, who, for economy's sake, resided in some unknown town in Derbyshire, where Samuel was born in 1689. The boy received very little education, but he had a natural talent for writing letters, and even as a boy we find him frequently employed by working girls to write their love letters for them. This early experience, together with his fondness for the society of "his dearest ladies" rather than of men, gave him that intimate knowledge of the hearts of sentimental and uneducated women which is manifest in all his work. Moreover, he was a keen observer of manners, and his surprisingly accurate descriptions often compel us to listen, even when he is most tedious. At seventeen years of age he went to London and learned the printer's trade, which he followed to the end of his life. When fifty years of age he had a small reputation as a writer of elegant epistles, and this reputation led certain publishers to approach him with a proposal that he write a series of Familiar Letters, which could be used as models by people unused to writing. Richardson gladly accepted the proposal, and had the happy inspiration to make these letters tell the connected story of a girl's life. Defoe had told an adventure story of human life on a desert island, but Richardson would tell the story of a girl's inner life in the midst of English neighbors. That sounds simple enough now, but it marked an epoch in the history of literature. Like every other great and simple discovery, it makes us wonder why some one had not thought of it before.

Richardson's Novels. The result of Richardson's inspiration was Pamela, or Virtue Rewarded, an endless series of letters[216] telling of the trials, tribulations, and the final happy marriage of a too sweet young maiden, published in four volumes extending over the years 1740 and 1741. Its chief fame lies in the fact that it is our first novel in the modern sense. Aside from this important fact, and viewed solely as a novel, it is sentimental, grandiloquent, and wearisome. Its success at the time was enormous, and Richardson began another series of letters (he could tell a story in no other way) which occupied his leisure hours for the next six years. The result was Clarissa, or The History of a Young Lady, published in eight volumes in 1747-1748. This was another, and somewhat better, sentimental novel; and it was received with immense enthusiasm. Of all Richardson's heroines Clarissa is the most human. In her doubts and scruples of conscience, and especially in her bitter grief and humiliation, she is a real woman, in marked contrast with the mechanical hero, Lovelace, who simply illustrates the author's inability to portray a man's character. The dramatic element in this novel is strong, and is increased by means of the letters, which enable the reader to keep close to the characters of the story and to see life from their different view points. Macaulay, who was deeply impressed by Clarissa, is said to have made the remark that, were the novel lost, he could restore almost the whole of it from memory.

Richardson now turned from his middle-class heroines, and in five or six years completed another series of letters, in which he attempted to tell the story of a man and an aristocrat. The result was Sir Charles Grandison (1754), a novel in seven volumes, whose hero was intended to be a model of aristocratic manners and virtues for the middle-class people, who largely constituted the novelist's readers. For Richardson, who began in Pamela with the purpose of teaching his hearers how to write, ended with the deliberate purpose of teaching them how to live; and in most of his work his chief object was, in his own words, to inculcate virtue and good deportment. His novels, therefore, suffer as much from his purpose as from his own limitations. Notwithstanding his tedious moralizing and his other defects, Richardson in these three books gave something entirely new to the literary world, and the world appreciated the gift. This was the story of human life, told from within, and depending for its interest not on incident or adventure, but on its truth to human nature. Reading his work is, on the whole, like examining the antiquated model of a stern-wheel steamer; it is interesting for its undeveloped possibilities rather than for its achievement.

HENRY FIELDING (1707-1754)

Life. Judged by his ability alone, Fielding was the greatest of this new group of novel writers, and one of the most artistic that our literature has produced. He was born in East Stour, Dorsetshire, in 1707. In contrast with Richardson, he was well educated, having spent several years at the famous Eton school, and taken a degree in letters at the University of Leyden in 1728. Moreover, he had a deeper knowledge of life, gained from his own varied and sometimes riotous experience. For several years after returning from Leyden he gained a precarious living by writing plays, farces, and buffoneries for the stage. In 1735 he married an admirable woman, of whom we have glimpses in two of his characters, Amelia, and Sophia Western, and lived extravagantly on her little fortune at East Stour. Having used up all his money, he returned to London and studied law, gaining his living by occasional plays and by newspaper work. For ten years, or more, little is definitely known of him, save that he published his first novel, Joseph Andrews, in 1742, and that he was made justice of the peace for Westminster in 1748. The remaining years of his life, in which his best novels were written, were not given to literature, but rather to his duties as magistrate, and especially to breaking up the gangs of thieves and cutthroats which infested the streets of London after nightfall. He died in Lisbon, whither he had gone for his health, in 1754, and lies buried there in the English cemetery. The pathetic account of this last journey, together with an inkling of the generosity and kind-heartedness of the man, notwithstanding the scandals and irregularities of his life, are found in his last work, the Journal of a Voyage to Lisbon.

Fielding's Work. Fielding's first novel, Joseph Andrews (1742), was inspired by the success of Pamela, and began as a burlesque of the false sentimentality and the conventional virtues of Richardson's heroine. He took for his hero the alleged brother of Pamela, who was exposed to the same kind of temptations, but who, instead of being rewarded for his virtue, was unceremoniously turned out of doors by his mistress. There the burlesque ends; the hero takes to the open road, and Fielding forgets all about Pamela in telling the adventures of Joseph and his companion, Parson Adams. Unlike Richardson, who has no humor, who minces words, and moralizes, and dotes on the sentimental woes of his heroines, Fielding is direct, vigorous, hilarious, and coarse to the point of vulgarity. He is full of animal spirits, and he tells the story of a vagabond life, not for the sake of moralizing, like Richardson, or for emphasizing a forced repentance, like Defoe, but simply because it interests him, and his only concern is "to laugh men out of their follies." So his story, though it abounds in unpleasant incidents, generally leaves the reader with the strong impression of reality.

Fielding's later novels are Jonathan Wild, the story of a rogue, which suggests Defoe's narrative; The History of Tom Jones, a Foundling (1749), his best work; and Amelia (1751), the story of a good wife in contrast with an unworthy husband. His strength in all these works is in the vigorous but coarse figures, like those of Jan Steen's pictures, which fill most of his pages; his weakness is in lack of taste, and in barrenness of imagination or invention, which leads him to repeat his plots and incidents with slight variations. In all his work sincerity is perhaps the most marked characteristic. Fielding likes virile men, just as they are, good and bad, but detests shams of every sort. His satire has none of Swift's bitterness, but is subtle as that of Chaucer, and good-natured as that of Steele. He never moralizes, though some of his powerfully drawn scenes suggest a deeper moral lesson than anything in Defoe or Richardson; and he never judges even the worst of his characters without remembering his own frailty and tempering justice with mercy. On the whole, though much of his work is perhaps in bad taste and is too coarse for pleasant or profitable reading, Fielding must be regarded as an artist, a very great artist, in realistic fiction; and the advanced student who reads him will probably concur in the judgment of a modern critic that, by giving us genuine pictures of men and women of his own age, without moralizing over their vices and virtues, he became the real founder of the modern novel.


Tobias Smollett (1721-1771) apparently tried to carry on Fielding's work; but he lacked Fielding's genius, as well as his humor and inherent kindness, and so crowded his pages with the horrors and brutalities which are sometimes mistaken for realism. Smollett was a physician, of eccentric manners and ferocious instincts, who developed his unnatural peculiarities by going as a surgeon on a battleship, where he seems to have picked up all the evils of the navy and of the medical profession to use later in his novels.

Smollett's NovelsHis three best known works are Roderick Random (1748), a series of adventures related by the hero; Peregrine Pickle (1751) in which he reflects with brutal directness the worst of his experiences at sea; and Humphrey Clinker (1771), his last work, recounting the mild adventures of a Welsh family in a journey through England and Scotland. This last alone can be generally read without arousing the readers profound disgust. Without any particular ability, he models his novels on Don Quixote, and the result is simply a series of coarse adventures which are characteristic of the picaresque novel of his age. Were it not for the fact that he unconsciously imitates Jonson's Every Man in His Humour, he would hardly be named among our writers of fiction; but in seizing upon some grotesque habit or peculiarity and making a character out of it--such as Commodore Trunnion in Peregrine Pickle, Matthew Bramble in Humphrey Clinker, and Bowling in Roderick Random--he laid the foundation for that exaggeration in portraying human eccentricities which finds a climax in Dickens's caricatures.

Lawrence Sterne (1713-1768) has been compared to a "little bronze satyr of antiquity in whose hollow body exquisite odors were stored." That is true, so far as the satyr is concerned; for a more weazened, unlovely personality would be hard to find. The only question in the comparison is in regard to the character of the odors, and that is a matter of taste. In his work he is the reverse of Smollett, the latter being given over to coarse vulgarities, which are often mistaken for realism; the former to whims and vagaries and sentimental tears, which frequently only disguise a sneer at human grief and pity.

Sterne's WorkThe two books by which Sterne is remembered are Tristram Shandy and A Sentimental Journey through France and Italy. These are termed novels for the simple reason that we know not what else to call them. The former was begun, in his own words, "with no real idea of how it was to turn out"; its nine volumes, published at intervals from 1760 to 1767, proceeded in the most aimless way, recording the experiences of the eccentric Shandy family; and the book was never finished. Its strength lies chiefly in its brilliant style, the most remarkable of the age, and in its odd characters, like Uncle Toby and Corporal Trim, which, with all their eccentricities, are so humanized by the author's genius that they belong among the great "creations" of our literature. The Sentimental Journey is a curious combination of fiction, sketches of travel, miscellaneous essays on odd subjects,--all marked by the same brilliancy of style, and all stamped with Sterne's false attitude towards everything in life. Many of its best passages were either adapted or taken bodily from Burton, Rabelais, and a score of other writers; so that, in reading Sterne, one is never quite sure how much is his own work, though the mark of his grotesque genius is on every page.

The First Novelists and their Work. With the publication of Goldsmith's Vicar of Wakefield in 1766 the first series of English novels came to a suitable close. Of this work, with its abundance of homely sentiment clustering about the family life as the most sacred of Anglo-Saxon institutions, we have already spoken[217] If we except Robinson Crusoe, as an adventure story, the Vicar of Wakefield is the only novel of the period which can be freely recommended to all readers, as giving an excellent idea of the new literary type, which was perhaps more remarkable for its promise than for its achievement. In the short space of twenty-five years there suddenly appeared and flourished a new form of literature, which influenced all Europe for nearly a century, and which still furnishes the largest part of our literary enjoyment. Each successive novelist brought some new element to the work, as when Fielding supplied animal vigor and humor to Richardson's analysis of a human heart, and Sterne added brilliancy, and Goldsmith emphasized purity and the honest domestic sentiments which are still the greatest ruling force among men. So these early workers were like men engaged in carving a perfect cameo from the reverse side. One works the profile, another the eyes, a third the mouth and the fine lines of character; and not till the work is finished, and the cameo turned, do we see the complete human face and read its meaning. Such, in a parable, is the story of the English novel.

Summary of the Eighteenth Century. The period we are studying is included between the English Revolution of 1688 and the beginning of the French Revolution of 1789. Historically, the period begins in a remarkable way by the adoption of the Bill of Rights in 1689. This famous bill was the third and final step in the establishment of constitutional government, the first step being the Great Charter (1215), and the second the Petition of Right (1628). The modern form of cabinet government was established in the reign of George I (1714-1727). The foreign prestige of England was strengthened by the victories of Marlborough on the Continent, in the War of the Spanish Succession; and the bounds of empire were enormously increased by Clive in India, by Cook in Australia and the islands of the Pacific, and by English victories over the French in Canada and the Mississippi Valley, during the Seven Years', or French and Indian, Wars. Politically, the country was divided into Whigs and Tories: the former seeking greater liberty for the people; the latter upholding the king against popular government. The continued strife between these two political parties had a direct (and generally a harmful) influence on literature, as many of the great writers were used by the Whig or Tory party to advance its own interests and to satirize its enemies. Notwithstanding this perpetual strife of parties, the age is remarkable for the rapid social development, which soon expressed itself in literature. Clubs and coffeehouses multiplied, and the social life of these clubs resulted in better manners, in a general feeling of toleration, and especially in a kind of superficial elegance which shows itself in most of the prose and poetry of the period. On the other hand, the moral standard of the nation was very low; bands of rowdies infested the city streets after nightfall; bribery and corruption were the rule in politics; and drunkenness was frightfully prevalent among all classes. Swift's degraded race of Yahoos is a reflection of the degradation to be seen in multitudes of London saloons. This low standard of morals emphasizes the importance of the great Methodist revival under Whitefield and Wesley, which began in the second quarter of the eighteenth century.

The literature of the century is remarkably complex, but we may classify it all under three general heads,--the Reign of so-called Classicism, the Revival of Romantic Poetry, and the Beginning of the Modern Novel. The first half of the century, especially, is an age of prose, owing largely to the fact that the practical and social interests of the age demanded expression. Modern newspapers, like the Chronicle, Post, and Times, and literary magazines, like the Tatler and Spectator, which began in this age, greatly influenced the development of a serviceable prose style. The poetry of the first half of the century, as typified in Pope, was polished, unimaginative, formal; and the closed couplet was in general use, supplanting all other forms of verse. Both prose and poetry were too frequently satiric, and satire does not tend to produce a high type of literature. These tendencies in poetry were modified, in the latter part of the century, by the revival of romantic poetry.

In our study we have noted: (1) the Augustan or Classic Age; the meaning of Classicism; the life and work of Alexander Pope, the greatest poet of the age; of Jonathan Swift, the satirist; of Joseph Addison, the essayist; of Richard Steele, who was the original genius of the Tatler and the Spectator; of Samuel Johnson, who for nearly half a century was the dictator of English letters; of James Boswell, who gave us the immortal Life of Johnson; of Edmund Burke, the greatest of English orators; and of Edward Gibbon, the historian, famous for his Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire.

(2) The Revival of Romantic Poetry; the meaning of Romanticism; the life and work of Thomas Gray; of Oliver Goldsmith, famous as poet, dramatist, and novelist; of William Cowper; of Robert Burns, the greatest of Scottish poets; of William Blake, the mystic; and the minor poets of the early romantic movement,--James Thomson, William Collins, George Crabbe, James Macpherson, author of the Ossian poems, Thomas Chatterton, the boy who originated the Rowley Papers, and Thomas Percy, whose work for literature was to collect the old ballads, which he called the Reliques of Ancient English Poetry, and to translate the stories of Norse mythology in his Northern Antiquities.

(3) The First English Novelists; the meaning and history of the modern novel; the life and work of Daniel Defoe, author of Robinson Crusoe, who is hardly to be called a novelist, but whom we placed among the pioneers; and the novels of Richardson, Fielding, Smollett, Sterne, and Goldsmith.

Selections for Reading. Manly's English Poetry and Manly's English Prose (Ginn and Company) are two excellent volumes containing selections from all authors studied. Ward's English Poets (4 vols.), Craik's English Prose Selections (5 vols.), and Garnett's English Prose from Elizabeth to Victoria are useful for supplementary reading. All important works should be read entire, in one of the following inexpensive editions, published for school use. (For titles and publishers, see General Bibliography at end of this book.)

Pope. Rape of the Lock and Other Poems, edited by Parrott, in Standard English Classics. Various other school editions of the Essay on Man, and Rape of the Lock, in Riverside Literature Series, Pocket Classics, etc.; Pope's Iliad, I, VI, XXII, XXIV, in Standard English Classics, etc. Selections from Pope, edited by Reed, in Holt's English Readings.

Swift. Gulliver's Travels, school edition by Ginn and Company; also in Temple Classics, etc. Selections from Swift, edited by Winchester, in Athenaeum Press (announced); the same, edited by Craik, in Clarendon Press; the same, edited by Prescott, in Holt's English Readings. Battle of the Books, in King's Classics, Bohn's Library, etc.

Addison and Steele. Sir Roger de Coverley Papers, in Standard English Classics, Riverside Literature, etc.; Selections from Addison, edited by Wendell and Greenough, and Selections from Steele, edited by Carpenter, both in Athenaeum Press; various other selections, in Golden Treasury Series, Camelot Series, Holt's English Readings, etc.

Johnson. Lives of the Poets, in Cassell's National Library; Selected Essays, edited by G.B. Hill (Dent); Selections, in Little Masterpieces Series; Rasselas, in Holt's English Readings, and in Morley's Universal Library.

Boswell. Life of Johnson (2 vols.), in Everyman's Library; the same (3 vols.), in Library of English Classics; also in Temple Classics, and Bohn's Library.

Burke. American Taxation, Conciliation with America, Letter to a Noble Lord, in Standard English Classics; various speeches, in Pocket Classics, Riverside Literature Series, etc.; Selections, edited by B. Perry (Holt); Speeches on America (Heath, etc.).

Gibbon. The Student's Gibbon, abridged (Murray); Memoirs, edited by Emerson, in Athenaeum Press.

Gray. Selections, edited by W.L. Phelps, in Athenaeum Press; Selections from Gray and Cowper, in Canterbury Poets, Riverside Literature, etc.; Gray's Elegy, in Selections from Five English Poets (Ginn and Company).

Goldsmith. Deserted Village, in Standard English Classics, etc.; Vicar of Wakefield, in Standard English Classics, Everyman's Library, King's Classics, etc.; She Stoops to Conquer, in Pocket Classics, Belles Lettres Series, etc.

Cowper. Selections, edited by Murray, in Athenaeum Press; Selections, in Cassell's National Library, Canterbury Poets, etc.; The Task, in Temple Classics.

Burns. Representative Poems, with Carlyle's Essay on Burns, edited by C.L. Hanson, in Standard English Classics; Selections, in Pocket Classics, Riverside Literature, etc.

Blake. Poems, edited by W.B. Yeats, in Muses' Library; Selections, in Canterbury Poets, etc.

Minor Poets. Thomson, Collins, Crabbe, etc. Selections, in Manly's English Poetry. Thomson's The Seasons, and Castle of Indolence, in Modern Classics; the same poems in Clarendon Press, and in Temple Classics; Selections from Thomson, in Cassell's National Library. Chatterton's poems, in Canterbury Poets. Macpherson's Ossian, in Canterbury Poets. Percy's Reliques, in Everyman's Library, Chandos Classics, Bohn's Library, etc. More recent and reliable collections of popular ballads, for school use, are Gummere's Old English Ballads, in Athenaeum Press; The Ballad Book, edited by Allingham, in Goldern Treasury Series; Gayley and Flaherty's Poetry of the People (Ginn and Company), etc. See Bibliography on p. 64.

Defoe. Robinson Crusoe, school edition, by Ginn and Company; the same in Pocket Classics, etc.; Journal of the Plague Year, edited by Hurlbut (Ginn and Company); the same, in Everyman's Library, etc.; Essay on Projects, in Cassell's National Library.

The Novelists. Manly's English Prose; Craik's English Prose Selections, vol. 4; Goldsmith's Vicar of Wakefield (see above); Selected Essays of Fielding, edited by Gerould, in Athenæum Press.


History. Text-book, Montgomery, pp. 280-322; Cheyney, pp. 516-574. General Works, Greene, ch. 9, sec. 7, to ch. 10, sec. 4; Traill, Gardiner, Macaulay, etc. Special Works, Lecky's History of England in the Eighteenth Century, vols. 1-3; Morris's The Age of Queen Anne and the Early Hanoverians (Epochs of Modern History); Seeley's The Expansion of England; Macaulay's Clive, and Chatham; Thackeray's The Four Georges, and the English Humorists; Ashton's Social Life in the Reign of Queen Anne; Susan Hale's Men and Manners of the Eighteenth Century; Sydney's England and the English in the Eighteenth Century.

Literature. General Works. The Cambridge Literature, Taine, Saintsbury, etc. Special Works. Perry's English Literature in the Eighteenth Century; L. Stephen's English Literature in the Eighteenth Century; Seccombe's The Age of Johnson; Dennis's The Age of Pope; Gosse's History of English Literature in the Eighteenth Century; Whitwell's Some Eighteenth Century Men of Letters (Cowper, Sterne, Fielding, Goldsmith, Gray, Johnson, and Boswell); Johnson's Eighteenth Century Letters and Letter Writers; Williams's English Letters and Letter Writers of the Eighteenth Century; Minto's Manual of English Prose Writers; Clark's Study of English Prose Writers; Bourne's English Newspapers; J.B. Williams's A History of English Journalism; L. Stephen's History of English Thought in the Eighteenth Century.

The Romantic Revival. W.L. Phelps's The Beginnings of the English Romantic Movement; Beers's English Romanticism in the Eighteenth Century.

The Novel. Raleigh's The English Novel; Simonds's An Introduction to the Study of English Fiction; Cross's The Development of the English Novel; Jusserand's The English Novel in the Time of Shakespeare; Stoddard's The Evolution of the English Novel; Warren's The History of the English Novel previous to the Seventeenth Century; Masson's British Novelists and their Styles; S. Lanier's The English Novel; Hamilton's the Materials and Methods of Fiction; Perry's A Study of Prose Fiction.

Pope. Texts: Works in Globe Edition, edited by A.W. Ward; in Cambridge Poets, edited by H.W. Boynton; Satires and Epistles, in Clarendon Press; Letters, in English Letters and Letter Writers of the Eighteenth Century, edited by H. Williams (Bell). Life: by Courthope; by L. Stephen (English Men of Letters Series); by Ward, in Globe Edition; by Johnson, in Lives of the Poets (Cassell's National Library, etc.). Criticism: Essays, by L. Stephen, in Hours in a Library; by Lowell, in My Study Windows; by De Quincey, in Biographical Essays, and in Essays on the Poets; by Thackeray, in English Humorists; by Sainte-Beuve, in English Portraits. Warton's Genius and Writings of Pope (interesting chiefly from the historical view point, as the first definite and extended attack on Pope's writings).

Swift. Texts: Works, 19 vols., ed. by Walter Scott (Edinburgh, 1814-1824); best edition of prose works is edited by T. Scott, with introduction by Lecky, 12 vols. (Bonn's Library); Selections, edited by Winchester (Ginn and Company); also in Camelot Series, Carisbrooke Library, etc., Journal to Stella, (Dutton, also Putnam); Letters, in Eighteenth Century Letters and Letter Writers, ed. by T.B. Johnson. Life: by L. Stephen (English Men of Letters); by Collins; by Craik; by J. Forster; by Macaulay; by Walter Scott; by Johnson, in Lives of the Poets. Criticism: Essays, by Thackeray, in English Humorists; by A. Dobson, in Eighteenth Century Vignettes; by Masson, in the Three Devils and Other Essays.

Addison. Texts: Works, in Bohn's British Classics; Selections, in Athenaeum Press, etc. Life: by Lucy Aiken; by Courthope (English Men of Letters); by Johnson, in Lives of the Poets. Criticism: Essays, by Macaulay; by Thackeray.

Steele. Texts: Selections, edited by Carpenter in Athenaeum Press (Ginn and Company); various other Selections published by Putnam, Bangs, in Camelot Series, etc.; Plays, edited by Aitken, in Mermaid Series. Life: by Aitken; by A. Dobson (English Worthies Series). Criticism: Essays by Thackeray; by Dobson, in Eighteenth Century Vignettes.

Johnson. Texts: Works, edited by Walesby, 11 vols. (Oxford, 1825); the same, edited by G.B. Hill, in Clarendon Press. Essays, edited by G.B. Hill (Dent); the same, in Camelot series; Rasselas, various school editions, by Ginn and Company, Holt, etc.; Selections from Lives of the Poets, with Macaulay's Life of Johnson, edited by Matthew Arnold (Macmillan). Life: Boswell's Life of Johnson, in Everyman's Library, Temple Classics, Library of English Classics, etc.; by L. Stephen (English Men of Letters); by Grant. Criticism: G.B. Hill's Dr. Johnson, his Friends and Critics; Essays, by L. Stephen, in Hours in a Library; by Macaulay, Birrell, etc.

Boswell. Texts: Life of Johnson, edited by G.B. Hill (London, 1874); various other editions (see above). Life: by Fitzgerald (London, 1891); Roger's Boswelliana (London, 1874). Whitfield's Some Eighteenth Century Men of Letters.

Burke. Texts: Works, 12 vols. (Boston, 1871); reprinted, 6 vols., in Bohn's Library; Selected Works, edited by Payne, in Clarendon Press; On the Sublime and Beautiful, in Temple Classics. For various speeches, see Selections for Reading, above. Life: by Prior; by Morley (English Men of Letters). Criticism: Essay, by Birrell, in Obiter Dicta. See also Dowden's French Revolution and English Literature, and Woodrow Wilson's Mere Literature.

Gibbon. Texts: Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, edited by Bury, 7 vols. (London, 1896-1900); various other editions; The Student's Gibbon, abridged (Murray); Memoirs, edited by Emerson, in Athenaeum Press (Ginn and Company). Life: by Morison (English Men of Letters). Criticism: Essays, by Birrell, in Collected Essays and Res Judicatae; by Stephen, in Studies of a Biographer; by Robertson, in Pioneer Humanists; by Frederick Harrison, in Ruskin and Other Literary Estimates; by Bagehot, in Literary Studies; by Sainte-Beuve, in English Portraits. See also Anton's Masters in History.

Sheridan. Texts: Speeches, 5 vols. (London, 1816); Plays, edited by W.F. Rae (London, 1902); the same, edited by R. Dircks, in Camelot Series; Major Dramas, in Athenaeum Press; Plays also in Morley's Universal Library, Macmillan's English Classics, etc. Life: by Rae; by M. Oliphant (English Men of Letters); by L. Sanders (Great Writers).

Gray. Texts: Works, edited by Gosse (Macmillan); Poems, in Routledge's Pocket Library, Chandos Classics, etc.; Selections, in Athenaeum Press, etc.; Letters, edited by D.C. Tovey (Bohn). Life: by Gosse (English Men of Letters). Criticism: Essays, by Lowell, in Latest Literary Essays; by M. Arnold, in Essays in Criticism; by L. Stephen, in Hours in a Library; by A. Dobson, in Eighteenth Century Vignettes.

Goldsmith. Texts: edited by Masson, Globe edition; Works, edited by Aiken and Tuckerman (Crowell); the same, edited by A. Dobson (Dent); Morley's Universal Library; Arber's The Goldsmith Anthology (Frowde). See also Selections for Reading, above. Life: by Washington Irving; by A. Dobson (Great Writer's Series); by Black (English Men of Letters); by J. Forster; by Prior. Criticism: Essays, by Macaulay; by Thackeray; by De Quincey; by A. Dobson, in Miscellanies.

Cowper. Texts: Works, Globe and Aldine editions; also in Chandos Classics; Selections, in Athenasum Press, Canterbury Poets, etc. The Correspondence of William Cowper, edited by T. Wright, 4 vols. (Dodd, Mead & Company). Life: by Goldwin Smith (English Men of Letters); by Wright; by Southey. Criticism: Essays, by L. Stephen; by Bagehot; by Sainte-Beuve; by Birrell; by Stopford Brooke; by A. Dobson (see above). See also Woodberry's Makers of Literature.

Burns. Texts: Works, Cambridge Poets Edition (containing Henley's Study of Burns), Globe and Aldine editions, Clarendon Press, Canterbury Poets, etc.; Selections, in Athenaeum Press, etc.; Letters, in Camelot Series. Life: by Cunningham; by Henley; by Setoun; by Blackie (Great Writers); by Shairp (English Men of Letters). Criticism: Essays, by Carlyle; by R.L. Stevenson, in Familiar Studies; by Hazlitt, in Lectures on the English Poets; by Stopford Brooke, in Theology in the English Poets; by J. Forster, in Great Teachers.

Blake. Texts: Poems, Aldine edition; also in Canterbury Poets; Complete Works, edited by Ellis and Yeats (London, 1893); Selections, edited by W.B. Yeats, in the Muses' Library (Dutton); Letters, with Life by F. Tatham, edited by A.G.B. Russell (Scribner's, 1896). Life: by Gilchrist; by Story; by Symons. Criticism: Swinburne's William Blake, a Critical Study; Ellis's The Real Blake (McClure, 1907); Elizabeth Cary's The Art of William Blake (Moffat, Yard & Company, 1907). Essay, by A.C. Benson, in Essays.

Thomson. Texts: Works, Aldine edition; The Seasons, and Castle of Indolence, in Clarendon Press, etc. Life: by Bayne; by G.B. Macaulay (English Men of Letters). Essay, by Hazlitt, in Lectures on the English Poets.

Collins. Works, edited by Bronson, in Athenaeum Press; also in Aldine edition. Life: by Johnson, in Lives of the Poets. Essay, by Swinburne, in Miscellanies. See also Beers's English Romanticism in the Eighteenth Century.

Crabbe. Works, with memoir by his son, G. Crabbe, 8 vols. (London, 1834-1835); Poems, edited by A.W. Ward, 3 vols., in Cambridge English Classics (Cambridge, 1905); Selections, in Temple Classics, Canterbury Poets, etc. Life: by Kebbel (Great Writers); by Ainger (English Men of Letters). Essays, by L. Stephen, in Hours in a Library; by Woodberry, in Makers of Literature; by Saintsbury, in Essays in English Literature; by Courthope, in Ward's English Poets; by Edward Fitzgerald, in Miscellanies; by Hazlitt, in Spirit of the Age.

Macpherson. Texts: Ossian, in Canterbury Poets; Poems, translated by Macpherson, edited by Todd (London, 1888). Life and Letters, edited by Saunders (London, 1894). Criticism: J.S. Smart's James Macpherson (Nutt, 1905). See also Beers's English Romanticism. For relation of Macpherson's work to the original Ossian, see Dean of Lismore's Book, edited by MacLauchlan (Edinburgh, 1862); also Poems of Ossian, translated by Clerk (Edinburgh, 1870).

Chatterton. Works, edited by Skeat (London, 1875); Poems, in Canterbury Poets. Life: by Russell; by Wilson; Masson's Chatterton, a Biography. Criticism: C.E. Russell's Thomas Chatterton (Moffatt, Yard & Company); Essays, by Watts-Dunton, in Ward's English Poets; by Masson, in Essays Biographical and Critical. See also Beers's English Romanticism.

Percy. Reliques, edited by Wheatley (London, 1891); the same, in Everyman's Library, Chandos Classics, etc. Essay, by J.W. Hales, Revival of Ballad Poetry, in Folia Literaria. See also Beers's English Romanticism, etc. (Special works, above.)

Defoe. Texts: Romances and Narratives, edited by Aitken (Dent); Poems and Pamphlets, in Arber's English Garner, vol. 8; school editions of Robinson Crusoe, and Journal of the Plague Year (Ginn and Company, etc.); Captain Singleton, and Memoirs of a Cavalier, in Everyman's Library; Early Writings, in Carisbrooke Library (Routledge). Life: by W. Lee; by Minto (English Men of Letters); by Wright; also in Westminster Biographies (Small, Maynard). Essay, by L. Stephen, in Hours in a Library.

Richardson. Works: edited by L. Stephen (London, 1883); edited by Philips, with life (New York, 1901); Correspondence, edited by A. Barbauld, 6 vols. (London, 1804). Life: by Thomson; by A. Dobson. Essays, by L. Stephen, in Hours in a Library; by A. Dobson, in Eighteenth Century Vignettes.

Fielding. Works: Temple Edition, edited by Saintsbury (Dent); Selected Essays, in Athenaeum Press; Journal of a Voyage to Lisbon, in Cassell's National Library. Life: by Dobson (English Men of Letters); Lawrence's Life and Times of Fielding. Essays, by Lowell; by Thackeray; by L. Stephen; by A. Dobson (see above); by G.B. Smith, in Poets and Novelists.

Smollett. Works, edited by Saintsbury (London, 1895); Works, edited by Henley (Scribner). Life: by Hannah (Great Writers); by Smeaton; by Chambers. Essays, by Thackeray; by Henley; by Dobson, in Eighteenth Century Vignettes.

Sterne. Works: edited by Saintsbury (Dent); Tristram Shandy, and A Sentimental Journey, in Temple Classics, Morley's Universal Library, etc. Life: by Fitzgerald; by Traill (English Men of Letters); Life and Times, by W.L. Cross (Macmillan). Essays, by Thackeray; by Bagehot, in Literary Studies.

Horace Walpole. Texts: Castle of Otranto, in King's Classics, Cassell's National Library, etc. Letters, edited by C.D. Yonge. Morley's Walpole, in Twelve English Statesmen (Macmillan). Essay, by L. Stephen, in Hours in a Library. See also Beers's English Romanticism.

Frances Burney (Madame d'Arblay). Texts: Evelina, in Temple Classics, 2 vols. (Macmillan). Diary and Letters, edited by S.C. Woolsey. Seeley's Fanny Burney and her Friends. Essay, by Macaulay.

Suggestive Questions. 1. Describe briefly the social development of the eighteenth century. What effect did this have on literature? What accounts for the prevalence of prose? What influence did the first newspapers exert on life and literature? How do the readers of this age compare with those of the Age of Elizabeth?

2. How do you explain the fact that satire was largely used in both prose and poetry? Name the principal satires of the age. What is the chief object of satire? of literature? How do the two objects conflict?

3. What is the meaning of the term "classicism," as applied to the literature of this age? Did the classicism of Johnson, for instance, have any relation to classic literature in its true sense? Why is this period called the Augustan Age? Why was Shakespeare not regarded by this age as a classical writer?

4. Pope. In what respect is Pope a unique writer? Tell briefly the story of his life. What are his principal works? How does he reflect the critical spirit of his age? What are the chief characteristics of his poetry? What do you find to copy in his style? What is lacking in his poetry? Compare his subjects with those of Burns of Tennyson or Milton, for instance. How would Chaucer or Burns tell the story of the Rape of the Lock? What similarity do you find between Pope's poetry and Addison's prose?

5. Swift. What is the general character of Swift's work? Name his chief satires. What is there to copy in his style? Does he ever strive for ornament or effect in writing? Compare Swift's Gulliver's Travels with Defoe's Robinson Crusoe, in style, purpose of writing, and interest. What resemblances do you find in these two contemporary writers? Can you explain the continued popularity of Gulliver's Travels?

6. Addison and Steele. What great work did Addison and Steele do for literature? Make a brief comparison between these two men, having in mind their purpose, humor, knowledge of life, and human sympathy, as shown, for instance, in No. 112 and No. 2 of the Spectator Essays. Compare their humor with that of Swift. How is their work a preparation for the novel?

7. Johnson. For what is Dr. Johnson famous in literature? Can you explain his great influence? Compare his style with that of Swift or Defoe. What are the remarkable elements in Boswell's Life of Johnson? Write a description of an imaginary meeting of Johnson, Goldsmith, and Boswell in a coffeehouse.

8. Burke. For what is Burke remarkable? What great objects influenced him in the three periods of his life? Why has he been called a romantic poet who speaks in prose? Compare his use of imagery with that of other writers of the period. What is there to copy and what is there to avoid in his style? Can you trace the influence of Burke's American speeches on later English politics? What similarities do you find between Burke and Milton, as revealed in their prose works?

9. Gibbon. For what is Gibbon "worthy to be remembered"? Why does he mark an epoch in historical writing? What is meant by the scientific method of writing history? Compare Gibbon's style with that of Johnson. Contrast it with that of Swift, and also with that of some modern historian, Parkman, for example.

10. What is meant by the term "romanticism?" What are its chief characteristics? How does it differ from classicism? Illustrate the meaning from the work of Gray, Cowper, or Burns. Can you explain the prevalence of melancholy in romanticism?

11. Gray. What are the chief works of Gray? Can you explain the continued popularity of his "Elegy"? What romantic elements are found in his poetry? What resemblances and what differences do you find in the works of Gray and of Goldsmith?

12. Goldsmith. Tell the story of Goldsmith's life. What are his chief works? Show from The Deserted Village the romantic and the so-called classic elements in his work. What great work did he do for the early novel, in The Vicar of Wakefield? Can you explain the popularity of She Stoops to Conquer? Name some of Goldsmith's characters who have found a permanent place in our literature. What personal reminiscences have you noted in The Traveller, The Deserted Village, and She Stoops to Conquer?

13. Cowper. Describe Cowper's The Task. How does it show the romantic spirit? Give passages from "John Gilpin" to illustrate Cowper's humor.

14. Burns. Tell the story of Burns's life. Some one has said, "The measure of a man's sin is the difference between what he is and what he might be." Comment upon this, with reference to Burns. What is the general character of his poetry? Why is he called the poet of common men? What subjects does he choose for his poetry? Compare him, in this respect, with Pope. What elements in the poet's character are revealed in such poems as "To a Mouse" and "To a Mountain Daisy"? How do Burns and Gray regard nature? What poems show his sympathy with the French Revolution, and with democracy? Read "The Cotter's Saturday Night," and explain its enduring interest. Can you explain the secret of Burns's great popularity?

15. Blake. What are the characteristics of Blake's poetry? Can you explain why Blake, though the greatest poetic genius of the age, is so little appreciated?

16. Percy. In what respect did Percy's Reliques influence the romantic movement? What are the defects in his collection of ballads? Can you explain why such a crude poem as "Chevy Chase" should be popular with an age that delighted in Pope's "Essay on Man"?

17. Macpherson. What is meant by Macpherson's "Ossian"? Can you account for the remarkable success of the Ossianic forgeries?

18. Chatterton. Tell the story of Chatterton and the Rowley Poems. Read Chatterton's "Bristowe Tragedie," and compare it, in style and interest, with the old ballads, like "The Battle of Otterburn" or "The Hunting of the Cheviot" (all in Manly's English Poetry).

19. The First Novelists. What is meant by the modern novel? How does it differ from the early romance and from the adventure story? What are some of the precursors of the novel? What was the purpose of stories modeled after Don Quixote? What is the significance of Pamela? What elements did Fielding add to the novel? What good work did Goldsmith's Vicar of Wakefield accomplish? Compare Goldsmith, in this respect, with Steele and Addison.

End of Seventeenth and the Eighteenth Century
1689. William and Mary 1683-1719. Defoe's early writings
Bill of Rights.
Toleration Act
1695. Press made free
1700(?) Beginning of London clubs
1702. Anne (d. 1714)
War of Spanish Succession
1702. First daily newspaper
1704. Battle of Blenheim 1704. Addison's The Campaign
Swift's Tale of a Tub
1707. Union of England and Scotland
1709. The Tatler
Johnson born (d. 1784)
1710-1713. Swift in London. Journal
to Stella
1711. The Spectator
1712. Pope's Rape of the Lock
1714. George I (d. 1727)
1719. Robinson Crusoe
1721. Cabinet government, Walpole
first prime minister
1726. Gulliver's Travels
1726-1730. Thomson's The Seasons
1727. George II (d. 1760)
1732-1734. Essay on Man
1738. Rise of Methodism
1740. Richardson's Pamela
1740. War of Austrian Succession
1742. Fielding's Joesph Andrews
1746. Jacobite Rebellion
1749. Fielding's Tom Jones
1750-1752. Johnson's The Rambler
1750-1757. Conquest of India 1751. Gray's Elegy
1755. Johnson's Dictionary
1756. War with France
1759. Wolf at Quebec
1760. George III (d. 1820) 1760-1767. Sterne's Tristram Shandy
1764. Johnson's Literary Club
1765. Stamp Act 1765. Percy's Reliques
1766. Goldsmith's Vicar of
1770. Goldsmith's Deserted Village
1771. Beginning of great newspapers
1773. Boston Tea Party
1774. Howard's prison reforms 1774-1775. Burke's American speeches
1775. American Revolution 1776-1788. Gibbon's Rome
1776. Declaration of Independence 1779. Cowper's Olney Hymns
1779-81. Johnson's Lives of the Poets
1783. Treaty of Paris 1783. Blake's Poetical Sketches
1785. Cowper's The Task
The London Times
1786. Trial of Warren Hastings
1786. Burns's first poems (the
Kilmarnock Burns)
Burke's Warren Hastings
1789-1799. French Revolution
1790. Burke's French Revolution
1791. Boswell's Life of Johnson
1793. War with France




The first half of the nineteenth century records the triumph of Romanticism in literature and of democracy in government; and the two movements are so closely associated, in so many nations and in so many periods of history, that one must wonder if there be not some relation of cause and effect between them. Just as we understand the tremendous energizing influence of Puritanism in the matter of English liberty by remembering that the common people had begun to read, and that their book was the Bible, so we may understand this age of popular government by remembering that the chief subject of romantic literature was the essential nobleness of common men and the value of the individual. As we read now that brief portion of history which lies between the Declaration of Independence (1776) and the English Reform Bill of 1832, we are in the presence of such mighty political upheavals that "the age of revolution" is the only name by which we can adequately characterize it. Its great historic movements become intelligible only when we read what was written in this period; for the French Revolution and the American commonwealth, as well as the establishment of a true democracy in England by the Reform Bill, were the inevitable results of ideas which literature had spread rapidly through the civilized world. Liberty is fundamentally an ideal; and that ideal--beautiful, inspiring, compelling, as a loved banner in the wind--was kept steadily before men's minds by a multitude of books and pamphlets as far apart as Burns's Poems and Thomas Paine's Rights of Man,--all read eagerly by the common people, all proclaiming the dignity of common life, and all uttering the same passionate cry against every form of class or caste oppression.

First the dream, the ideal in some human soul; then the written word which proclaims it, and impresses other minds with its truth and beauty; then the united and determined effort of men to make the dream a reality,--that seems to be a fair estimate of the part that literature plays, even in our political progress.

Historical Summary. The period we are considering begins in the latter half of the reign of George III and ends with the accession of Victoria in 1837. When on a foggy morning in November, 1783, King George entered the House of Lords and in a trembling voice recognized the independence of the United States of America, he unconsciously proclaimed the triumph of that free government by free men which had been the ideal of English literature for more than a thousand years; though it was not till 1832, when the Reform Bill became the law of the land, that England herself learned the lesson taught her by America, and became the democracy of which her writers had always dreamed.

The French RevolutionThe half century between these two events is one of great turmoil, yet of steady advance in every department of English life. The storm center of the political unrest was the French Revolution, that frightful uprising which proclaimed the natural rights of man and the abolition of class distinctions. Its effect on the whole civilized world is beyond computation. Patriotic clubs and societies multiplied in England, all asserting the doctrine of Liberty, Equality, Fraternity, the watchwords of the Revolution. Young England, led by Pitt the younger, hailed the new French republic and offered it friendship; old England, which pardons no revolutions but her own, looked with horror on the turmoil in France and, misled by Burke and the nobles of the realm, forced the two nations into war. Even Pitt saw a blessing in this at first; because the sudden zeal for fighting a foreign nation--which by some horrible perversion is generally called patriotism--might turn men's thoughts from their own to their neighbors' affairs, and so prevent a threatened revolution at home.

Economic ConditionsThe causes of this threatened revolution were not political but economic. By her invention in steel and machinery, and by her monopoly of the carrying trade, England had become the workshop of the world. Her wealth had increased beyond her wildest dreams; but the unequal distribution of that wealth was a spectacle to make angels weep. The invention of machinery at first threw thousands of skilled hand workers out of employment; in order to protect a few agriculturists, heavy duties were imposed on corn and wheat, and bread rose to famine prices just when laboring men had the least money to pay for it. There followed a curious spectacle. While England increased in wealth, and spent vast sums to support her army and subsidize her allies in Europe, and while nobles, landowners, manufacturers, and merchants lived in increasing luxury, a multitude of skilled laborers were clamoring for work. Fathers sent their wives and little children into the mines and factories, where sixteen hours' labor would hardly pay for the daily bread; and in every large city were riotous mobs made up chiefly of hungry men and women. It was this unbearable economic condition, and not any political theory, as Burke supposed, which occasioned the danger of another English revolution.

It is only when we remember these conditions that we can understand two books, Adam Smith's Wealth of Nations and Thomas Paine's Rights of Man, which can hardly be considered as literature, but which exercised an enormous influence in England. Smith was a Scottish thinker, who wrote to uphold the doctrine that labor is the only source of a nation's wealth, and that any attempt to force labor into unnatural channels, or to prevent it by protective duties from freely obtaining the raw materials for its industry, is unjust and destructive. Paine was a curious combination of Jekyll and Hyde, shallow and untrustworthy personally, but with a passionate devotion to popular liberty. His Rights of Man published in London in 1791, was like one of Burns's lyric outcries against institutions which oppressed humanity. Coming so soon after the destruction of the Bastille, it added fuel to the flames kindled in England by the French Revolution. The author was driven out of the country, on the curious ground that he endangered the English constitution, but not until his book had gained a wide sale and influence.

ReformsAll these dangers, real and imaginary, passed away when England turned from the affairs of France to remedy her own economic conditions. The long Continental war came to an end with Napoleon's overthrow at Waterloo, in 1815; and England, having gained enormously in prestige abroad, now turned to the work of reform at home. The destruction of the African slave trade; the mitigation of horribly unjust laws, which included poor debtors and petty criminals in the same class; the prevention of child labor; the freedom of the press; the extension of manhood suffrage; the abolition of restrictions against Catholics in Parliament; the establishment of hundreds of popular schools, under the leadership of Andrew Bell and Joseph Lancaster,--these are but a few of the reforms which mark the progress of civilization in a single half century. When England, in 1833, proclaimed the emancipation of all slaves in all her colonies, she unconsciously proclaimed her final emancipation from barbarism.

Romantic EnthusiasmLiterary Characteristics of the Age. It is intensely interesting to note how literature at first reflected the political turmoil of the age; and then, when the turmoil was over and England began her mighty work of reform, how literature suddenly developed a new creative spirit, which shows itself in the poetry of Wordsworth, Coleridge, Byron, Shelley, Keats, and in the prose of Scott, Jane Austen, Lamb, and De Quincey,--a wonderful group of writers, whose patriotic enthusiasm suggests the Elizabethan days, and whose genius has caused their age to be known as the second creative period of our literature. Thus in the early days, when old institutions seemed crumbling with the Bastille, Coleridge and Southey formed their youthful scheme of a "Pantisocracy on the banks of the Susquehanna,"--an ideal commonwealth, in which the principles of More's Utopia should be put in practice. Even Wordsworth, fired with political enthusiasm, could write,

Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive,
But to be young was very heaven.

The essence of Romanticism was, it must be remembered, that literature must reflect all that is spontaneous and unaffected in nature and in man, and be free to follow its own fancy in its own way. We have already noted this characteristic in the work of the Elizabethan dramatists, who followed their own genius in opposition to all the laws of the critics. In Coleridge we see this independence expressed in "Kubla Khan" and "The Ancient Mariner," two dream pictures, one of the populous Orient, the other of the lonely sea. In Wordsworth this literary independence led him inward to the heart of common things. Following his own instinct, as Shakespeare does, he too

Finds tongues in trees, books in the running brooks,
Sermons in stones, and good in everything.

And so, more than any other writer of the age, he invests the common life of nature, and the souls of common men and women, with glorious significance. These two poets, Coleridge and Wordsworth, best represent the romantic genius of the age in which they lived, though Scott had a greater literary reputation, and Byron and Shelley had larger audiences.

An Age of PoetryThe second characteristic of this age is that it is emphatically an age of poetry. The previous century, with its practical outlook on life, was largely one of prose; but now, as in the Elizabethan Age, the young enthusiasts turned as naturally to poetry as a happy man to singing. The glory of the age is in the poetry of Scott, Wordsworth, Coleridge, Byron, Shelley, Keats, Moore, and Southey. Of its prose works, those of Scott alone have attained a very wide reading, though the essays of Charles Lamb and the novels of Jane Austen have slowly won for their authors a secure place in the history of our literature. Coleridge and Southey (who with Wordsworth form the trio of so-called Lake Poets) wrote far more prose than poetry; and Southey's prose is much better than his verse. It was characteristic of the spirit of this age, so different from our own, that Southey could say that, in order to earn money, he wrote in verse "what would otherwise have been better written in prose."

Women as NovelistsIt was during this period that woman assumed, for the first time, an important place in our literature. Probably the chief reason for this interesting phenomenon lies in the fact that woman was for the first time given some slight chance of education, of entering into the intellectual life of the race; and as is always the case when woman is given anything like a fair opportunity she responded magnificently. A secondary reason may be found in the nature of the age itself, which was intensely emotional. The French Revolution stirred all Europe to its depths, and during the following half century every great movement in literature, as in politics and religion, was characterized by strong emotion; which is all the more noticeable by contrast with the cold, formal, satiric spirit of the early eighteenth century. As woman is naturally more emotional than man, it may well be that the spirit of this emotional age attracted her, and gave her the opportunity to express herself in literature.


As all strong emotions tend to extremes, the age produced a new type of novel which seems rather hysterical now, but which in its own day delighted multitudes of readers whose nerves were somewhat excited, and who reveled in "bogey" stories of supernatural terror. Mrs. Anne Radcliffe (1764-1823) was one of the most successful writers of this school of exaggerated romance. Her novels, with their azure-eyed heroines, haunted castles, trapdoors, bandits, abductions, rescues in the nick of time, and a general medley of overwrought joys and horrors,[219] were immensely popular, not only with the crowd of novel readers, but also with men of unquestioned literary genius, like Scott and Byron.

In marked contrast to these extravagant stories is the enduring work of Jane Austen, with her charming descriptions of everyday life, and of Maria Edgeworth, whose wonderful pictures of Irish life suggested to Walter Scott the idea of writing his Scottish romances. Two other women who attained a more or less lasting fame were Hannah More, poet, dramatist, and novelist, and Jane Porter, whose Scottish Chiefs and Thaddeus of Warsaw are still in demand in our libraries. Beside these were Fanny Burney (Madame D'Arblay) and several other writers whose works, in the early part of the nineteenth century, raised woman to the high place in literature which she has ever since maintained.

The Modern MagazinesIn this age literary criticism became firmly established by the appearance of such magazines as the Edinburgh Review (18O2), The Quarterly Review (1808), Blackwood's Magazine (1817), the Westminster Review (1824), The Spectator (1828), The Athenæum (1828), and Fraser's Magazine (1830). These magazines, edited by such men as Francis Jeffrey, John Wilson (who is known to us as Christopher North), and John Gibson Lockhart, who gave us the Life of Scott, exercised an immense influence on all subsequent literature. At first their criticisms were largely destructive, as when Jeffrey hammered Scott, Wordsworth, and Byron most unmercifully; and Lockhart could find no good in either Keats or Tennyson; but with added wisdom, criticism assumed its true function of construction. And when these magazines began to seek and to publish the works of unknown writers, like Hazlitt, Lamb, and Leigh Hunt, they discovered the chief mission of the modern magazine, which is to give every writer of ability the opportunity to make his work known to the world.




It was in 1797 that the new romantic movement in our literature assumed definite form. Wordsworth and Coleridge retired to the Quantock Hills, Somerset, and there formed the deliberate purpose to make literature "adapted to interest mankind permanently," which, they declared, classic poetry could never do. Helping the two poets was Wordsworth's sister Dorothy, with a woman's love for flowers and all beautiful things; and a woman's divine sympathy for human life even in its lowliest forms. Though a silent partner, she furnished perhaps the largest share of the inspiration which resulted in the famous Lyrical Ballads of 1798. In their partnership Coleridge was to take up the "supernatural, or at least romantic"; while Wordsworth was "to give the charm of novelty to things of everyday ... by awakening the mind's attention from the lethargy of custom and directing it to the loveliness and the wonders of the world before us." The whole spirit of their work is reflected in two poems of this remarkable little volume, "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner," which is Coleridge's masterpiece, and "Lines Written a Few Miles above Tintern Abbey," which expresses Wordsworth's poetical creed, and which is one of the noblest and most significant of our poems. That the Lyrical Ballads attracted no attention,[220] and was practically ignored by a public that would soon go into raptures over Byron's Childe Harold and Don Juan, is of small consequence. Many men will hurry a mile to see skyrockets, who never notice Orion and the Pleiades from their own doorstep. Had Wordsworth and Coleridge written only this one little book, they would still be among the representative writers of an age that proclaimed the final triumph of Romanticism.

Life of Wordsworth. To understand the life of him who, in Tennyson's words, "uttered nothing base," it is well to read first The Prelude, which records the impressions made upon Wordsworth's mind from his earliest recollection until his full manhood, in 1805, when the poem was completed.[221] Outwardly his long and uneventful life divides itself naturally into four periods: (1) his childhood and youth, in the Cumberland Hills, from 1770 to 1787; (2) a period of uncertainty, of storm and stress, including his university life at Cambridge, his travels abroad, and his revolutionary experience, from 1787 to 1797; (3) a short but significant period of finding himself and his work, from 1797 to 1799; (4) a long period of retirement in the northern lake region, where he was born, and where for a full half century he lived so close to nature that her influence is reflected in all his poetry. When one has outlined these four periods he has told almost all that can be told of a life which is marked, not by events, but largely by spiritual experiences.

Wordsworth was born in 1770 at Cockermouth, Cumberland, where the Derwent,

            Fairest of all rivers, loved
To blend his murmurs with my nurse's song,
And from his alder shades and rocky falls,
And from his fords and shallows, sent a voice
That flowed along my dreams.

It is almost a shock to one who knows Wordsworth only by his calm and noble poetry to read that he was of a moody and violent temper, and that his mother despaired of him alone among her five children. She died when he was but eight years old, but not till she had exerted an influence which lasted all his life, so that he could remember her as "the heart of all our learnings and our loves." The father died some six years later, and the orphan was taken in charge by relatives, who sent him to school at Hawkshead, in the beautiful lake region. Here, apparently, the unroofed school of nature attracted him more than the discipline of the classics, and he learned more eagerly from the flowers and hills and stars than from his books; but one must read Wordsworth's own record, in The Prelude, to appreciate this. Three things in this poem must impress even the casual reader: first, Wordsworth loves to be alone, and is never lonely, with nature; second, like every other child who spends much time alone in the woods and fields, he feels the presence of some living spirit, real though unseen, and companionable though silent; third, his impressions are exactly like our own, and delightfully familiar. When he tells of the long summer day spent in swimming, basking in the sun, and questing over the hills; or of the winter night when, on his skates, he chased the reflection of a star in the black ice; or of his exploring the lake in a boat, and getting suddenly frightened when the world grew big and strange,--in all this he is simply recalling a multitude of our own vague, happy memories of childhood. He goes out into the woods at night to tend his woodcock snares; he runs across another boy's snares, follows them, finds a woodcock caught, takes it, hurries away through the night. And then,

I heard among the solitary hills
Low breathings coming after me, and sounds
Of undistinguishable motion.

That is like a mental photograph. Any boy who has come home through the woods at night will recognize it instantly. Again he tells as of going bird's-nesting on the cliffs:

                Oh, when I have hung
Above the raven's nest, by knots of grass
And half-inch fissures in the slippery rock
But ill-sustained, and almost (so it seemed)
Suspended by the blast that blew amain,
Shouldering the naked crag,--oh, at that time,
While on the perilous ridge I hung alone,
With what strange utterance did the loud dry wind
Blow through my ear! The sky seemed not a sky
Of earth,--and with what motion moved the clouds!

No man can read such records without finding his own boyhood again, and his own abounding joy of life, in the poet's early impressions.

The second period of Wordsworth's life begins with his university course at Cambridge, in 1787. In the third book of The Prelude we find a dispassionate account of student life, with its trivial occupations, its pleasures and general aimlessness. Wordsworth proved to be a very ordinary scholar, following his own genius rather than the curriculum, and looking forward more eagerly to his vacation among the hills than to his examinations. Perhaps the most interesting thing in his life at Cambridge was his fellowship with the young political enthusiasts, whose spirit is expressed in his remarkable poem on the French Revolution,--a poem which is better than a volume of history to show the hopes and ambitions that stirred all Europe in the first days of that mighty upheaval. Wordsworth made two trips to France, in 1790 and 1791, seeing things chiefly through the rosy spectacles of the young Oxford Republicans. On his second visit he joined the Girondists, or the moderate Republicans, and only the decision of his relatives, who cut off his allowance and hurried him back to England, prevented his going headlong to the guillotine with the leaders of his party. Two things rapidly cooled Wordsworth's revolutionary enthusiasm, and ended the only dramatic interest of his placid life. One was the excesses of the Revolution itself, and especially the execution of Louis XVI; the other was the rise of Napoleon, and the slavish adulation accorded by France to this most vulgar and dangerous of tyrants. His coolness soon grew to disgust and opposition, as shown by his subsequent poems; and this brought upon him the censure of Shelley, Byron, and other extremists, though it gained the friendship of Scott, who from the first had no sympathy with the Revolution or with the young English enthusiasts.

Of the decisive period of Wordsworth's life, when he was living with his sister Dorothy and with Coleridge at Alfoxden, we have already spoken. The importance of this decision to give himself to poetry is evident when we remember that, at thirty years of age, he was without money or any definite aim or occupation in life. He considered the law, but confessed he had no sympathy for its contradictory precepts and practices; he considered the ministry, but though strongly inclined to the Church, he felt himself not good enough for the sacred office; once he had wanted to be a soldier and serve his country, but had wavered at the prospect of dying of disease in a foreign land and throwing away his life without glory or profit to anybody. An apparent accident, which looks more to us like a special Providence, determined his course. He had taken care of a young friend, Raisley Calvert, who died of consumption and left Wordsworth heir to a few hundred pounds, and to the request that he should give his life to poetry. It was this unexpected gift which enabled Wordsworth to retire from the world and follow his genius. All his life he was poor, and lived in an atmosphere of plain living and high thinking. His poetry brought him almost nothing in the way of money rewards, and it was only by a series of happy accidents that he was enabled to continue his work. One of these accidents was that he became a Tory, and soon accepted the office of a distributor of stamps, and was later appointed poet laureate by the government,--which occasioned Browning's famous but ill-considered poem of "The Lost Leader":

Just for a handful of silver he left us,
Just for a riband to stick in his coat.

The last half century of Wordsworth's life, in which he retired to his beloved lake district and lived successively at Grasmere and Rydal Mount, remind one strongly of Browning's long struggle for literary recognition. It was marked by the same steadfast purpose, the same trusted ideal, the same continuous work, and the same tardy recognition by the public. His poetry was mercilessly ridiculed by nearly all the magazine critics, who seized upon the worst of his work as a standard of judgment; and book after book of poems appeared without meeting any success save the approval of a few loyal friends. Without doubt or impatience he continued his work, trusting to the future to recognize and approve it. His attitude here reminds one strongly of the poor old soldier whom he met in the hills,[222] who refused to beg or to mention his long service or the neglect of his country, saying with noble simplicity,

    My trust is in the God of Heaven
And in the eye of him who passes me.

Such work and patience are certain of their reward, and long before Wordsworth's death he felt the warm sunshine of general approval. The wave of popular enthusiasm for Scott and Byron passed by, as their limitations were recognized; and Wordsworth was hailed by critics as the first living poet, and one of the greatest that England had ever produced. On the death of Southey (1843) he was made poet laureate, against his own inclination. The late excessive praise left him quite as unmoved as the first excessive neglect. The steady decline in the quality of his work is due not, as might be expected, to self-satisfaction at success, but rather to his intense conservatism, to his living too much alone and failing to test his work by the standards and judgment of other literary men. He died tranquilly in 1850, at the age of eighty years, and was buried in the churchyard at Grasmere.

Such is the brief outward record of the world's greatest interpreter of nature's message; and only one who is acquainted with both nature and the poet can realize how inadequate is any biography; for the best thing about Wordsworth must always remain unsaid. It is a comfort to know that his life, noble, sincere, "heroically happy," never contradicted his message. Poetry was his life; his soul was in all his work; and only by reading what he has written can we understand the man.


The Poetry of Wordsworth. There is often a sense of disappointment when one reads Wordsworth for the first time; and this leads us to speak first of two difficulties which may easily prevent a just appreciation of the poet's worth. The first difficulty is in the reader, who is often puzzled by Wordsworth's absolute simplicity. We are so used to stage effects in poetry, that beauty unadorned is apt to escape our notice,--like Wordsworth's "Lucy":

A violet by a mossy stone,
    Half hidden from the eye;
Fair as a star, when only one
    Is shining in the sky.

Wordsworth set himself to the task of freeing poetry from all its "conceits," of speaking the language of simple truth, and of portraying man and nature as they are; and in this good work we are apt to miss the beauty, the passion, the intensity, that hide themselves under his simplest lines. The second difficulty is in the poet, not in the reader. It must be confessed that Wordsworth is not always melodious; that he is seldom graceful, and only occasionally inspired. When he is inspired, few poets can be compared with him; at other times the bulk of his verse is so wooden and prosy that we wonder how a poet could have written it. Moreover he is absolutely without humor, and so he often fails to see the small step that separates the sublime from the ridiculous. In no other way can we explain "The Idiot Boy," or pardon the serious absurdity of "Peter Bell" and his grieving jackass.

Poems of NatureOn account of these difficulties it is well to avoid at first the longer works and begin with a good book of selections.[223] When we read these exquisite shorter poems, with their noble lines that live forever in our memory, we realize that Wordsworth is the greatest poet of nature that our literature has produced. If we go further, and study the poems that impress us, we shall find four remarkable characteristics: (1) Wordsworth is sensitive as a barometer to every subtle change in the world about him. In The Prelude he compares himself to an æolian harp, which answers with harmony to every touch of the wind; and the figure is strikingly accurate, as well as interesting, for there is hardly a sight or a sound, from a violet to a mountain and from a bird note to the thunder of the cataract, that is not reflected in some beautiful way in Wordsworth's poetry.

(2) Of all the poets who have written of nature there is none that compares with him in the truthfulness of his representation. Burns, like Gray, is apt to read his own emotions into natural objects, so that there is more of the poet than of nature even in his mouse and mountain daisy; but Wordsworth gives you the bird and the flower, the wind and the tree and the river, just as they are, and is content to let them speak their own message.

(3) No other poet ever found such abundant beauty in the common world. He had not only sight, but insight, that is, he not only sees clearly and describes accurately, but penetrates to the heart of things and always finds some exquisite meaning that is not written on the surface. It is idle to specify or to quote lines on flowers or stars, on snow or vapor. Nothing is ugly or commonplace in his world; on the contrary, there is hardly one natural phenomenon which he has not glorified by pointing out some beauty that was hidden from our eyes.

(4) It is the life of nature which is everywhere recognized; not mere growth and cell changes, but sentient, personal life; and the recognition of this personality in nature characterizes all the world's great poetry. In his childhood Wordsworth regarded natural objects, the streams, the hills, the flowers, even the winds, as his companions; and with his mature belief that all nature is the reflection of the living God, it was inevitable that his poetry should thrill with the sense of a Spirit that "rolls through all things." Cowper, Burns, Keats, Tennyson,--all these poets give you the outward aspects of nature in varying degrees; but Wordsworth gives you her very life, and the impression of some personal living spirit that meets and accompanies the man who goes alone through the woods and fields. We shall hardly find, even in the philosophy of Leibnitz, or in the nature myths of our Indians, any such impression of living nature as this poet awakens in us. And that suggests another delightful characteristic of Wordsworth's poetry, namely, that he seems to awaken rather than create an impression; he stirs our memory deeply, so that in reading him we live once more in the vague, beautiful wonderland of our own childhood.

Poems of Human LifeSuch is the philosophy of Wordsworth's nature poetry. If we search now for his philosophy of human life, we shall find four more doctrines, which rest upon his basal conception that man is not apart from nature, but is the very "life of her life." (1) In childhood man is sensitive as a wind harp to all natural influences; he is an epitome of the gladness and beauty of the world. Wordsworth explains this gladness and this sensitiveness to nature by the doctrine that the child comes straight from the Creator of nature:

Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting:
The Soul that rises with us, our life's Star,
    Hath had elsewhere its setting,
        And cometh from afar:
    Not in entire forgetfulness
    And not in utter nakedness,
But trailing clouds of glory do we come
    From God, who is our home.

In this exquisite ode, which he calls "Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood" (1807), Wordsworth sums up his philosophy of childhood; and he may possibly be indebted here to the poet Vaughan, who, more than a century before, had proclaimed in "The Retreat" the same doctrine. This kinship with nature and with God, which glorifies childhood, ought to extend through a man's whole life and ennoble it. This is the teaching of "Tintern Abbey," in which the best part of our life is shown to be the result of natural influences. According to Wordsworth, society and the crowded unnatural life of cities tend to weaken and pervert humanity; and a return to natural and simple living is the only remedy for human wretchedness.

(2) The natural instincts and pleasures of childhood are the true standards of a man's happiness in this life. All artificial pleasures soon grow tiresome. The natural pleasures, which a man so easily neglects in his work, are the chief means by which we may expect permanent and increasing joy. In "Tintern Abbey," "The Rainbow," "Ode to Duty," and "Intimations of Immortality" we see this plain teaching; but we can hardly read one of Wordsworth's pages without finding it slipped in unobtrusively, like the fragrance of a wild flower.

(3) The truth of humanity, that is, the common life which labors and loves and shares the general heritage of smiles and tears, is the only subject of permanent literary interest. Burns and the early poets of the Revival began the good work of showing the romantic interest of common life; and Wordsworth continued it in "Michael," "The Solitary Reaper," "To a Highland Girl," "Stepping Westward," The Excursion, and a score of lesser poems. Joy and sorrow, not of princes or heroes, but "in widest commonalty spread," are his themes; and the hidden purpose of many of his poems is to show that the keynote of all life is happiness,--not an occasional thing, the result of chance or circumstance, but a heroic thing, to be won, as one would win any other success, by work and patience.

(4) To this natural philosophy of man Wordsworth adds a mystic element, the result of his own belief that in every natural object there is a reflection of the living God. Nature is everywhere transfused and illumined by Spirit; man also is a reflection of the divine Spirit; and we shall never understand the emotions roused by a flower or a sunset until we learn that nature appeals through the eye of man to his inner spirit. In a word, nature must be "spiritually discerned." In "Tintern Abbey" the spiritual appeal of nature is expressed in almost every line; but the mystic conception of man is seen more clearly in "Intimations of Immortality," which Emerson calls "the high-water mark of poetry in the nineteenth century." In this last splendid ode Wordsworth adds to his spiritual interpretation of nature and man the alluring doctrine of preëxistence, which has appealed so powerfully to Hindoo and Greek in turn, and which makes of human life a continuous, immortal thing, without end or beginning.

The RecluseWordsworth's longer poems, since they contain much that is prosy and uninteresting, may well be left till after we have read the odes, sonnets, and short descriptive poems that have made him famous. As showing a certain heroic cast of Wordsworth's mind, it is interesting to learn that the greater part of his work, including The Prelude and The Excursion, was intended for a place in a single great poem, to be called The Recluse, which should treat of nature, man, and society. The Prelude, treating of the growth of a poet's mind, was to introduce the work. The Home at Grasmere, which is the first book of The Recluse, was not published till 1888, long after the poet's death. The Excursion (1814) is the second book of The Recluse; and the third was never completed, though Wordsworth intended to include most of his shorter poems in this third part, and so make an immense personal epic of a poet's life and work. It is perhaps just as well that the work remained unfinished. The best of his work appeared in the Lyrical Ballads (1798) and in the sonnets, odes, and lyrics of the next ten years; though "The Duddon Sonnets" (1820), "To a Skylark" (1825), and "Yarrow Revisited" (1831) show that he retained till past sixty much of his youthful enthusiasm. In his later years, however, he perhaps wrote too much; his poetry, like his prose, becomes dull and unimaginative; and we miss the flashes of insight, the tender memories of childhood, and the recurrence of noble lines--each one a poem--that constitutes the surprise and the delight of reading Wordsworth.

The outward shows of sky and earth,
    Of hill and valley, he has viewed;
And impulses of deeper birth
    Have come to him in solitude.
In common things that round us lie
    Some random truths he can impart--
The harvest of a quiet eye
    That broods and sleeps on his own heart.


A grief without a pang, void, dark and drear,
    A stifled, drowsy, unimpassioned grief,
Which finds no natural outlet, no relief,
    In word, or sigh, or tear.

In the wonderful "Ode to Dejection," from which the above fragment is taken, we have a single strong impression of Coleridge's whole life,--a sad, broken, tragic life, in marked contrast with the peaceful existence of his friend Wordsworth. For himself, during the greater part of his life, the poet had only grief and remorse as his portion; but for everybody else, for the audiences that were charmed by the brilliancy of his literary lectures, for the friends who gathered about him to be inspired by his ideals and conversation, and for all his readers who found unending delight in the little volume which holds his poetry, he had and still has a cheering message, full of beauty and hope and inspiration. Such is Coleridge, a man of grief who makes the world glad.

Life. In 1772 there lived in Ottery St. Mary, Devonshire, a queer little man, the Rev. John Coleridge, vicar of the parish church and master of the local grammar school. In the former capacity he preached profound sermons, quoting to open-mouthed rustics long passages from the Hebrew, which he told them was the very tongue of the Holy Ghost. In the latter capacity he wrote for his boys a new Latin grammar, to mitigate some of the difficulties of traversing that terrible jungle by means of ingenious bypaths and short cuts. For instance, when his boys found the ablative a somewhat difficult case to understand, he told them to think of it as the quale-quare-quidditive case, which of course makes its meaning perfectly clear. In both these capacities the elder Coleridge was a sincere man, gentle and kindly, whose memory was "like a religion" to his sons and daughters. In that same year was born Samuel Taylor Coleridge, the youngest of thirteen children. He was an extraordinarily precocious child, who could read at three years of age, and who, before he was five, had read the Bible and the Arabian Nights, and could remember an astonishing amount from both books. From three to six he attended a "dame" school; and from six till nine (when his father died and left the family destitute) he was in his father's school, learning the classics, reading an enormous quantity of English books, avoiding novels, and delighting in cumbrous theological and metaphysical treatises. At ten he was sent to the Charity School of Christ's Hospital, London, where he met Charles Lamb, who records his impression of the place and of Coleridge in one of his famous essays.[224] Coleridge seems to have remained in this school for seven or eight years without visiting his home,--a poor, neglected boy, whose comforts and entertainments were all within himself. Just as, when a little child, he used to wander over the fields with a stick in his hand, slashing the tops from weeds and thistles, and thinking himself to be the mighty champion of Christendom against the infidels, so now he would lie on the roof of the school, forgetting the play of his fellows and the roar of the London streets, watching the white clouds drifting over and following them in spirit into all sorts of romantic adventures.


At nineteen this hopeless dreamer, who had read more books than an old professor, entered Cambridge as a charity student. He remained for nearly three years, then ran away because of a trifling debt and enlisted in the Dragoons, where he served several months before he was discovered and brought back to the university. He left in 1794 without taking his degree; and presently we find him with the youthful Southey,--a kindred spirit, who had been fired to wild enthusiasm by the French Revolution,--founding his famous Pantisocracy for the regeneration of human society. "The Fall of Robespierre," a poem composed by the two enthusiasts, is full of the new revolutionary spirit. The Pantisocracy, on the banks of the Susquehanna, was to be an ideal community, in which the citizens combined farming and literature; and work was to be limited to two hours each day. Moreover, each member of the community was to marry a good woman, and take her with him. The two poets obeyed the latter injunction first, marrying two sisters, and then found that they had no money to pay even their traveling expenses to the new Utopia.

During all the rest of his career a tragic weakness of will takes possession of Coleridge, making it impossible for him, with all his genius and learning, to hold himself steadily to any one work or purpose. He studied in Germany; worked as a private secretary, till the drudgery wore upon his free spirit; then he went to Rome and remained for two years, lost in study. Later he started The Friend, a paper devoted to truth and liberty; lectured on poetry and the fine arts to enraptured audiences in London, until his frequent failures to meet his engagements scattered his hearers; was offered an excellent position and a half interest (amounting to some £2000) in the Morning Post and The Courier, but declined it, saying "that I would not give up the country and the lazy reading of old folios for two thousand times two thousand pounds,--in short, that beyond £350 a year I considered money a real evil." His family, meanwhile, was almost entirely neglected; he lived apart, following his own way, and the wife and children were left in charge of his friend Southey. Needing money, he was on the point of becoming a Unitarian minister, when a small pension from two friends enabled him to live for a few years without regular employment.

A terrible shadow in Coleridge's life was the apparent cause of most of his dejection. In early life he suffered from neuralgia, and to ease the pain began to use opiates. The result on such a temperament was almost inevitable. He became a slave to the drug habit; his naturally weak will lost all its directing and sustaining force, until, after fifteen years of pain and struggle and despair, he gave up and put himself in charge of a physician, one Mr. Gillman, of Highgate. Carlyle, who visited him at this time, calls him "a king of men," but records that "he gave you the idea of a life that had been full of sufferings, a life heavy-laden, half-vanquished, still swimming painfully in seas of manifold physical and other bewilderment."

The shadow is dark indeed; but there are gleams of sunshine that occasionally break through the clouds. One of these is his association with Wordsworth and his sister Dorothy, in the Quantock hills, out of which came the famous Lyrical Ballads of 1798. Another was his loyal devotion to poetry for its own sake. With the exception of his tragedy Remorse, which through Byron's influence was accepted at Drury Lane Theater, and for which he was paid £400, he received almost nothing for his poetry. Indeed, he seems not to have desired it; for he says: "Poetry has been to me its own exceeding great reward; it has soothed my afflictions; it has multiplied and refined my enjoyments; it has endeared solitude, and it has given me the habit of wishing to discover the good and the beautiful in all that meets and surrounds me." One can better understand his exquisite verse after such a declaration. A third ray of sunlight came from the admiration of his contemporaries; for though he wrote comparatively little, he was by his talents and learning a leader among literary men, and his conversations were as eagerly listened to as were those of Dr. Johnson. Wordsworth says of him that, though other men of the age had done some wonderful things, Coleridge was the only wonderful man he had ever known. Of his lectures on literature a contemporary says: "His words seem to flow as from a person repeating with grace and energy some delightful poem." And of his conversation it is recorded: "Throughout a long-drawn summer's day would this man talk to you in low, equable but clear and musical tones, concerning things human and divine; marshalling all history, harmonizing all experiment, probing the depths of your consciousness, and revealing visions of glory and terror to the imagination."

The last bright ray of sunlight comes from Coleridge's own soul, from the gentle, kindly nature which made men love and respect him in spite of his weaknesses, and which caused Lamb to speak of him humorously as "an archangel a little damaged." The universal law of suffering seems to be that it refines and softens humanity; and Coleridge was no exception to the law. In his poetry we find a note of human sympathy, more tender and profound than can be found in Wordsworth or, indeed, in any other of the great English poets. Even in his later poems, when he has lost his first inspiration and something of the splendid imaginative power that makes his work equal to the best of Blake's, we find a soul tender, triumphant, quiet, "in the stillness of a great peace." He died in 1834, and was buried in Highgate Church. The last stanza of the boatman's song, in Remorse, serves better to express the world's judgment than any epitaph:

Hark! the cadence dies away
On the quiet moon-lit sea;
The boatmen rest their oars and say,
    Miserere Domini!

Works of Coleridge. The works of Coleridge naturally divide themselves into three classes,--the poetic, the critical, and the philosophical, corresponding to the early, the middle, and the later periods of his career. Of his poetry Stopford Brooke well says: "All that he did excellently might be bound up in twenty pages, but it should be bound in pure gold." His early poems show the influence of Gray and Blake, especially of the latter. When Coleridge begins his "Day Dream" with the line, "My eyes make pictures when they're shut," we recall instantly Blake's haunting Songs of Innocence. But there is this difference between the two poets,--in Blake we have only a dreamer; in Coleridge we have the rare combination of the dreamer and the profound scholar. The quality of this early poetry, with its strong suggestion of Blake, may be seen in such poems as "A Day Dream," "The Devil's Thoughts," "The Suicide's Argument," and "The Wanderings of Cain." His later poems, wherein we see his imagination bridled by thought and study, but still running very freely, may best be appreciated in "Kubla Khan," "Christabel," and "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner." It is difficult to criticise such poems; one can only read them and wonder at their melody, and at the vague suggestions which they conjure up in the mind. "Kubla Khan" is a fragment, painting a gorgeous Oriental dream picture, such as one might see in an October sunset. The whole poem came to Coleridge one morning when he had fallen asleep over Purchas, and upon awakening he began to write hastily,

In Xanadu did Kubla Khan
A stately pleasure-dome decree:
Where Alph, the sacred river, ran
Through caverns measureless to man
Down to a sunless sea.

He was interrupted after fifty-four lines were written, and he never finished the poem.

"Christabel" is also a fragment, which seems to have been planned as the story of a pure young girl who fell under the spell of a sorcerer, in the shape of the woman Geraldine. It is full of a strange melody, and contains many passages of exquisite poetry; but it trembles with a strange, unknown horror, and so suggests the supernatural terrors of the popular hysterical novels, to which we have referred. On this account it is not wholesome reading; though one flies in the face of Swinburne and of other critics by venturing to suggest such a thing.

The Rime of the Ancient Mariner"The Rime of the Ancient Mariner" is Coleridge's chief contribution to the Lyrical Ballads of 1798, and is one of the world's masterpieces. Though it introduces the reader to a supernatural realm, with a phantom ship, a crew of dead men, the overhanging curse of the albatross, the polar spirit, and the magic breeze, it nevertheless manages to create a sense of absolute reality concerning these manifest absurdities. All the mechanisms of the poem, its meter, rime, and melody are perfect; and some of its descriptions of the lonely sea have never been equaled. Perhaps we should say suggestions, rather than descriptions; for Coleridge never describes things, but makes a suggestion, always brief and always exactly right, and our own imagination instantly supplies the details. It is useless to quote fragments; one must read the entire poem, if he reads nothing else of the romantic school of poetry.

Among Coleridge's shorter poems there is a wide variety, and each reader must be left largely to follow his own taste. The beginner will do well to read a few of the early poems, to which we have referred, and then try the "Ode to France," "Youth and Age," "Dejection," "Love Poems," "Fears in Solitude," "Religious Musings," "Work Without Hope," and the glorious "Hymn Before Sunrise in the Vale of Chamouni." One exquisite little poem from the Latin, "The Virgin's Cradle Hymn," and his version of Schiller's Wallenstein, show Coleridge's remarkable power as a translator. The latter is one of the best poetical translations in our literature.

Prose Works Of Coleridge's prose works, the Biographia, Literaria, or Sketches of My Literary Life and Opinions (1817), his collected Lectures on Shakespeare (1849), and Aids to Reflection (1825) are the most interesting from a literary view point. The first is an explanation and criticism of Wordsworth's theory of poetry, and contains more sound sense and illuminating ideas on the general subject of poetry than any other book in our language. The Lectures, as refreshing as a west wind in midsummer, are remarkable for their attempt to sweep away the arbitrary rules which for two centuries had stood in the way of literary criticism of Shakespeare, in order to study the works themselves. No finer analysis and appreciation of the master's genius has ever been written. In his philosophical work Coleridge introduced the idealistic philosophy of Germany into England. He set himself in line with Berkeley, and squarely against Bentham, Malthus, Mill, and all the materialistic tendencies which were and still are the bane of English philosophy. The Aids to Reflection is Coleridge's most profound work, but is more interesting to the student of religion and philosophy than to the readers of literature.

ROBERT SOUTHEY (1774-1843)

Closely associated with Wordsworth and Coleridge is Robert Southey; and the three, on account of their residence in the northern lake district, were referred to contemptuously as the "Lakers" by the Scottish magazine reviewers. Southey holds his place in this group more by personal association than by his literary gifts. He was born at Bristol, in 1774; studied at Westminster School, and at Oxford, where he found himself in perpetual conflict with the authorities on account of his independent views. He finally left the university and joined Coleridge in his scheme of a Pantisocracy. For more than fifty years he labored steadily at literature, refusing to consider any other occupation. He considered himself seriously as one of the greatest writers of the day, and a reading of his ballads--which connected him at once with the romantic school--leads us to think that, had he written less, he might possibly have justified his own opinion of himself. Unfortunately he could not wait for inspiration, being obliged to support not only his own family but also, in large measure, that of his friend Coleridge.

Works of SoutheySouthey gradually surrounded himself with one of the most extensive libraries in England, and set himself to the task of of writing something every working day. The results of his industry were one hundred and nine volumes, besides some hundred and fifty articles for the magazines, most of which are now utterly forgotten. His most ambitious poems are Thalaba, a tale of Arabian enchantment; The Curse of Kehama, a medley of Hindoo mythology; Madoc, a legend of a Welsh prince who discovered the western world; and Roderick, a tale of the last of the Goths. All these, and many more, although containing some excellent passages, are on the whole exaggerated and unreal, both in manner and in matter. Southey wrote far better prose than poetry, and his admirable Life of Nelson is still often read. Besides these are his Lives of British Admirals, his lives of Cowper and Wesley, and his histories of Brazil and of the Peninsular War.

Illustration: ROBERT SOUTHEY

Southey was made Poet Laureate in 1813, and was the first to raise that office from the low estate into which it had fallen since the death of Dryden. The opening lines of Thalaba, beginning,

How beautiful is night!
A dewy freshness fills the silent air,

are still sometimes quoted; and a few of his best known short poems, like "The Scholar," "Auld Cloots," "The Well of St. Keyne," "The Inchcape Rock," and "Lodore," will repay the curious reader. The beauty of Southey's character, his patience and helpfulness, make him a worthy associate of the two greater poets with whom he is generally named.

WALTER SCOTT (1771-1832)

We have already called attention to two significant movements of the eighteenth century, which we must for a moment recall if we are to appreciate Scott, not simply as a delightful teller of tales, but as a tremendous force in modern literature. The first is the triumph of romantic poetry in Wordsworth and Coleridge; the second is the success of our first English novelists, and the popularization of literature by taking it from the control of a few patrons and critics and putting it into the hands of the people as one of the forces which mold our modern life. Scott is an epitome of both these movements. The poetry of Wordsworth and Coleridge was read by a select few, but Scott's Marmion and Lady of the Lake aroused a whole nation to enthusiasm, and for the first time romantic poetry became really popular. So also the novel had been content to paint men and women of the present, until the wonderful series of Waverley novels appeared, when suddenly, by the magic of this "Wizard of the North," all history seemed changed. The past, which had hitherto appeared as a dreary region of dead heroes, became alive again, and filled with a multitude of men and women who had the surprising charm of reality. It is of small consequence that Scott's poetry and prose are both faulty; that his poems are read chiefly for the story, rather than for their poetic excellence; and that much of the evident crudity and barbarism of the Middle Ages is ignored or forgotten in Scott's writings. By their vigor, their freshness, their rapid action, and their breezy, out-of-door atmosphere, Scott's novels attracted thousands of readers who else had known nothing of the delights of literature. He is, therefore, the greatest known factor in establishing and in popularizing that romantic element in prose and poetry which has been for a hundred years the chief characteristic of our literature.

Life. Scott was born in Edinburgh, on August 15, 1771. On both his mother's and father's side he was descended from old Border families, distinguished more for their feuds and fighting than for their intellectual attainments. His father was a barrister, a just man, who often lost clients by advising them to be, first of all, honest in their lawsuits. His mother was a woman of character and education, strongly imaginative, a teller of tales which stirred young Walter's enthusiasm by revealing the past as a world of living heroes.

As a child, Scott was lame and delicate, and was therefore sent away from the city to be with his grandmother in the open country at Sandy Knowe, in Roxburghshire, near the Tweed. This grandmother was a perfect treasure-house of legends concerning the old Border feuds. From her wonderful tales Scott developed that intense love of Scottish history and tradition which characterizes all his work.

By the time he was eight years old, when he returned to Edinburgh, Scott's tastes were fixed for life. At the high school he was a fair scholar, but without enthusiasm, being more interested in Border stories than in the text-books. He remained at school only six or seven years, and then entered his father's office to study law, at the same time attending lectures at the university. He kept this up for some six years without developing any interest in his profession, not even when he passed his examinations and was admitted to the Bar, in 1792. After nineteen years of desultory work, in which he showed far more zeal in gathering Highland legends than in gaining clients, he had won two small legal offices which gave him enough income to support him comfortably. His home, meanwhile, was at Ashestiel on the Tweed, where all his best poetry was written.

Scott's literary work began with the translation from the German of Bürger's romantic ballad of Lenore (1796) and of Goethe's Götz von Berlichingen (1799); but there was romance enough in his own loved Highlands, and in 1802-1803 appeared three volumes of his Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border, which he had been collecting for many years. In 1805, when Scott was 34 years old, appeared his first original work, The Lay of the Last Minstrel. Its success was immediate, and when Marmion (1808) and The Lady of the Lake (1810) aroused Scotland and England to intense enthusiasm, and brought unexpected fame to the author,--without in the least spoiling his honest and lovable nature,--Scott gladly resolved to abandon the law, in which he had won scant success, and give himself wholly to literature. Unfortunately, however, in order to increase his earnings, he entered secretly into partnership with the firms of Constable and the brothers Ballantyne, as printer-publishers,--a sad mistake, indeed, and the cause of that tragedy which closed the life of Scotland's greatest writer.

Illustration: WALTER SCOTT

The year 1811 is remarkable for two things in Scott's life. In this year he seems to have realized that, notwithstanding the success of his poems, he had not yet "found himself"; that he was not a poetic genius, like Burns; that in his first three poems he had practically exhausted his material, though he still continued to write verse; and that, if he was to keep his popularity, he must find some other work. The fact that, only a year later, Byron suddenly became the popular favorite, shows how correctly Scott had judged himself and the reading public, which was even more fickle than usual in this emotional age. In that same year, 1811, Scott bought the estate of Abbotsford, on the Tweed, with which place his name is forever associated. Here he began to spend large sums, and to dispense the generous hospitality of a Scotch laird, of which he had been dreaming for years. In 1820 he was made a baronet; and his new title of Sir Walter came nearer to turning his honest head than had all his literary success. His business partnership was kept secret, and during all the years when the Waverley novels were the most popular books in the world, their authorship remained unknown; for Scott deemed it beneath the dignity of his title to earn money by business or literature, and sought to give the impression that the enormous sums spent at Abbotsford in improving the estate and in entertaining lavishly were part of the dignity of the position and came from ancestral sources.

It was the success of Byron's Childe Harold, and the comparative failure of Scott's later poems, Rokeby, The Bridal of Triermain, and The Lord of the Isles, which led our author into the new field, where he was to be without a rival. Rummaging through a cabinet one day in search of some fishing tackle, Scott found the manuscript of a story which he had begun and laid aside nine years before. He read this old story eagerly, as if it had been another's work; finished it within three weeks, and published it without signing his name. The success of this first novel, Waverley (1814), was immediate and unexpected. Its great sales and the general chorus of praise for its unknown author were without precedent; and when Guy Mannering, The Antiquary, Black Dwarf, Old Mortality, Rob Roy, and The Heart of Midlothian appeared within the next four years, England's delight and wonder knew no bounds. Not only at home, but also on the Continent, large numbers of these fresh and fascinating stories were sold as fast as they could be printed.

During the seventeen years which followed the appearance of Waverley, Scott wrote on an average nearly two novels per year, creating an unusual number of characters and illustrating many periods of Scotch, English, and French history, from the time of the Crusades to the fall of the Stuarts. In addition to these historical novels, he wrote Tales of a Grandfather, Demonology and Witchcraft, biographies of Dryden and of Swift, the Life of Napoleon, in nine volumes, and a large number of articles for the reviews and magazines. It was an extraordinary amount of literary work, but it was not quite so rapid and spontaneous as it seemed. He had been very diligent in looking up old records, and we must remember that, in nearly all his poems and novels, Scott was drawing upon a fund of legend, tradition, history, and poetry, which he had been gathering for forty years, and which his memory enabled him to produce at will with almost the accuracy of an encyclopedia.

Illustration: ABBOTSFORD

For the first six years Scott held himself to Scottish history, giving us in nine remarkable novels the whole of Scotland, its heroism, its superb faith and enthusiasm, and especially its clannish loyalty to its hereditary chiefs; giving us also all parties and characters, from Covenanters to Royalists, and from kings to beggars. After reading these nine volumes we know Scotland and Scotchmen as we can know them in no other way. In 1819 he turned abruptly from Scotland, and in Ivanhoe, the most popular of his works, showed what a mine of neglected wealth lay just beneath the surface of English history. It is hard to realize now, as we read its rapid, melodramatic action, its vivid portrayal of Saxon and Norman character, and all its picturesque details, that it was written rapidly, at a time when the author was suffering from disease and could hardly repress an occasional groan from finding its way into the rapid dictation. It stands to-day as the best example of the author's own theory that the will of a man is enough to hold him steadily, against all obstacles, to the task of "doing what he has a mind to do." Kenilworth, Nigel, Peveril, and Woodstock, all written in the next few years, show his grasp of the romantic side of English annals; Count Robert and The Talisman show his enthusiasm for the heroic side of the Crusaders' nature; and Quentin Durwardand Anne of Geierstein suggest another mine of romance which he discovered in French history.

For twenty years Scott labored steadily at literature, with the double object of giving what was in him, and of earning large sums to support the lavish display which he deemed essential to a laird of Scotland. In 1826, while he was blithely at work on Woodstock, the crash came. Not even the vast earnings of all these popular novels could longer keep the wretched business of Ballantyne on its feet, and the firm failed, after years of mismanagement. Though a silent partner, Scott assumed full responsibility, and at fifty-five years of age, sick, suffering, and with all his best work behind him, he found himself facing a debt of over half a million dollars. The firm could easily have compromised with its creditors; but Scott refused to hear of bankruptcy laws under which he could have taken refuge. He assumed the entire debt as a personal one, and set resolutely to work to pay every penny. Times were indeed changed in England when, instead of a literary genius starving until some wealthy patron gave him a pension, this man, aided by his pen alone, could confidently begin to earn that enormous amount of money. And this is one of the unnoticed results of the popularization of literature. Without a doubt Scott would have accomplished the task, had he been granted only a few years of health. He still lived at Abbotsford, which he had offered to his creditors, but which they generously refused to accept; and in two years, by miscellaneous work, had paid some two hundred thousand dollars of his debt, nearly half of this sum coming from his Life of Napoleon. A new edition of the Waverley novels appeared, which was very successful financially, and Scott had every reason to hope that he would soon face the world owing no man a penny, when he suddenly broke under the strain. In 1830 occurred a stroke of paralysis from which he never fully recovered; though after a little time he was again at work, dictating with splendid patience and resolution. He writes in his diary at this time: "The blow is a stunning one, I suppose, for I scarcely feel it. It is singular, but it comes with as little surprise as if I had a remedy ready, yet God knows I am at sea in the dark, and the vessel leaky."

It is good to remember that governments are not always ungrateful, and to record that, when it became known that a voyage to Italy might improve Scott's health, the British government promptly placed a naval vessel at the disposal of a man who had led no armies to the slaughter, but had only given pleasure to multitudes of peaceable men and women by his stories. He visited Malta, Naples, and Rome; but in his heart he longed for Scotland, and turned homeward after a few months of exile. The river Tweed, the Scotch hills, the trees of Abbotsford, the joyous clamor of his dogs, brought forth the first exclamation of delight which had passed Scott's lips since he sailed away. He died in September of the same year, 1832, and was buried with his ancestors in the old Dryburgh Abbey.

Works of Scott. Scott's work is of a kind which the critic gladly passes over, leaving each reader to his own joyous and uninstructed opinion. From a literary view point the works are faulty enough, if one is looking for faults; but it is well to remember that they were intended to give delight, and that they rarely fail of their object. When one has read the stirring Marmion or the more enduring Lady of the Lake, felt the heroism of the Crusaders in The Talisman, the picturesqueness of chivalry in Ivanhoe, the nobleness of soul of a Scotch peasant girl in The Heart of Midlothian, and the quality of Scotch faith in Old Mortality, then his own opinion of Scott's genius will be of more value than all the criticisms that have ever been written.

Scott's PoetryAt the outset we must confess frankly that Scott's poetry is not artistic, in the highest sense, and that it lacks the deeply imaginative and suggestive qualities which make a poem the noblest and most enduring work of humanity. We read it now, not for its poetic excellence, but for its absorbing story interest. Even so, it serves an admirable purpose. Marmion and The Lady of the Lake, which are often the first long poems read by the beginner in literature, almost invariably lead to a deeper interest in the subject; and many readers owe to these poems an introduction to the delights of poetry. They are an excellent beginning, therefore, for young readers, since they are almost certain to hold the attention, and to lead indirectly to an interest in other and better poems. Aside from this, Scott's poetry is marked by vigor and youthful abandon; its interest lies in its vivid pictures, its heroic characters, and especially in its rapid action and succession of adventures, which hold and delight us still, as they held and delighted the first wondering readers. And one finds here and there terse descriptions, or snatches of song and ballad, like the "Boat Song" and "Lochinvar," which are among the best known in our literature.

Scott's NovelsIn his novels Scott plainly wrote too rapidly and too much. While a genius of the first magnitude, the definition of genius as "the infinite capacity for taking pains" hardly belongs to him. For details of life and history, for finely drawn characters, and for tracing the logical consequences of human action, he has usually no inclination. He sketches a character roughly, plunges him into the midst of stirring incidents, and the action of the story carries us on breathlessly to the end. So his stories are largely adventure stories, at the best; and it is this element of adventure and glorious action, rather than the study of character, which makes Scott a perennial favorite of the young. The same element of excitement is what causes mature readers to turn from Scott to better novelists, who have more power to delineate human character, and to create, or discover, a romantic interest in the incidents of everyday life rather than in stirring adventure.[225]

Scott's Work for LiteratureNotwithstanding these limitations, it is well--especially in these days, when we hear that Scott is outgrown--to emphasize four noteworthy things that he accomplished.

(1) He created the historical novel[226]; and all novelists of the last century who draw upon history for their characters and events are followers of Scott and acknowledge his mastery.

(2) His novels are on a vast scale, covering a very wide range of action, and are concerned with public rather than with private interests. So, with the exception of The Bride of Lammermoor, the love story in his novels is generally pale and feeble; but the strife and passions of big parties are magnificently portrayed. A glance over even the titles of his novels shows how the heroic side of history for over six hundred years finds expression in his pages; and all the parties of these six centuries--Crusaders, Covenanters, Cavaliers, Roundheads, Papists, Jews, Gypsies, Rebels--start into life again, and fight or give a reason for the faith that is in them. No other novelist in England, and only Balzac in France, approaches Scott in the scope of his narratives.

(3) Scott was the first novelist in any language to make the scene an essential element in the action. He knew Scotland, and loved it; and there is hardly an event in any of his Scottish novels in which we do not breathe the very atmosphere of the place, and feel the presence of its moors and mountains. The place, morever, is usually so well chosen and described that the action seems almost to be the result of natural environment. Perhaps the most striking illustration of this harmony between scene and incident is found in Old Mortality, where Morton approaches the cave of the old Covenanter, and where the spiritual terror inspired by the fanatic's struggle with imaginary fiends is paralleled by the physical terror of a gulf and a roaring flood spanned by a slippery tree trunk. A second illustration of the same harmony of scene and incident is found in the meeting of the arms and ideals of the East and West, when the two champions fight in the burning desert, and then eat bread together in the cool shade of the oasis, as described in the opening chapter of The Talisman. A third illustration is found in that fascinating love scene, where Ivanhoe lies wounded, raging at his helplessness, while the gentle Rebecca alternately hides and reveals her love as she describes the terrific assault on the castle, which goes on beneath her window. His thoughts are all on the fight; hers on the man she loves; and both are natural, and both are exactly what we expect under the circumstances. These are but striking examples of the fact that, in all his work, Scott tries to preserve perfect harmony between the scene and the action.

(4) Scott's chief claim to greatness lies in the fact that he was the first novelist to recreate the past; that he changed our whole conception of history by making it to be, not a record of dry facts, but a stage on which living men and women played their parts. Carlyle's criticism is here most pertinent: "These historical novels have taught this truth ... unknown to writers of history: that the bygone ages of the world were actually filled by living men, not by protocols, state papers, controversies, and abstractions of men." Not only the pages of history, but all the hills and vales of his beloved Scotland are filled with living characters,--lords and ladies, soldiers, pirates, gypsies, preachers, schoolmasters, clansmen, bailiffs, dependents,--all Scotland is here before our eyes, in the reality of life itself. It is astonishing, with his large numbers of characters, that Scott never repeats himself. Naturally he is most at home in Scotland, and with humble people. Scott's own romantic interest in feudalism caused him to make his lords altogether too lordly; his aristocratic maidens are usually bloodless, conventional, exasperating creatures, who talk like books and pose like figures in an old tapestry. But when he describes characters like Jeanie Deans, in The Heart of Midlothian, and the old clansman, Evan Dhu, in Waverley, we know the very soul of Scotch womanhood and manhood.

Perhaps one thing more should be said, or rather repeated, of Scott's enduring work. He is always sane, wholesome, manly, inspiring. We know the essential nobility of human life better, and we are better men and women ourselves, because of what he has written.


There are two distinct sides to Byron and his poetry, one good, the other bad; and those who write about him generally describe one side or the other in superlatives. Thus one critic speaks of his "splendid and imperishable excellence of sincerity and strength"; another of his "gaudy charlatanry, blare of brass, and big bow-wowishness." As both critics are fundamentally right, we shall not here attempt to reconcile their differences, which arise from viewing one side of the man's nature and poetry to the exclusion of the other. Before his exile from England, in 1816, the general impression made by Byron is that of a man who leads an irregular life, poses as a romantic hero, makes himself out much worse than he really is, and takes delight in shocking not only the conventions but the ideals of English society. His poetry of this first period is generally, though not always, shallow and insincere in thought, and declamatory or bombastic in expression. After his exile, and his meeting with Shelley in Italy, we note a gradual improvement, due partly to Shelley's influence and partly to his own mature thought and experience. We have the impression now of a disillusioned man who recognizes his true character, and who, though cynical and pessimistic, is at least honest in his unhappy outlook on society. His poetry of this period is generally less shallow and rhetorical, and though he still parades his feelings in public, he often surprises us by being manly and sincere. Thus in the third canto of Childe Harold, written just after his exile, he says:

In my youth's summer I did sing of one,
The wandering outlaw of his own dark mind;

and as we read on to the end of the splendid fourth canto--with its poetic feeling for nature, and its stirring rhythm that grips and holds the reader like martial music--we lay down the book with profound regret that this gifted man should have devoted so much of his talent to describing trivial or unwholesome intrigues and posing as the hero of his own verses. The real tragedy of Byron's life is that he died just as he was beginning to find himself.

Life. Byron was born in London in 1788, the year preceding the French Revolution. We shall understand him better, and judge him more charitably, if we remember the tainted stock from which he sprang. His father was a dissipated spendthrift of unspeakable morals; his mother was a Scotch heiress, passionate and unbalanced. The father deserted his wife after squandering her fortune; and the boy was brought up by the mother who "alternately petted and abused" him. In his eleventh year the death of a granduncle left him heir to Newstead Abbey and to the baronial title of one of the oldest houses in England. He was singularly handsome; and a lameness resulting from a deformed foot lent a suggestion of pathos to his make-up. All this, with his social position, his pseudo-heroic poetry, and his dissipated life,--over which he contrived to throw a veil of romantic secrecy,--made him a magnet of attraction to many thoughtless young men and foolish women, who made the downhill path both easy and rapid to one whose inclinations led him in that direction. Naturally he was generous, and easily led by affection. He is, therefore, largely a victim of his own weakness and of unfortunate surroundings.

At school at Harrow, and in the university at Cambridge, Byron led an unbalanced life, and was more given to certain sports from which he was not debarred by lameness, than to books and study. His school life, like his infancy, is sadly marked by vanity, violence, and rebellion against every form of authority; yet it was not without its hours of nobility and generosity. Scott describes him as "a man of real goodness of heart, and the kindest and best feelings, miserably thrown away by his foolish contempt of public opinion." While at Cambridge, Byron published his first volume of poems, Hours of Idleness, in 1807. A severe criticism of the volume in the Edinburgh Review wounded Byron's vanity, and threw him into a violent passion, the result of which was the now famous satire called English Bards and Scotch Reviewers, in which not only his enemies, but also Scott, Wordsworth, and nearly all the literary men of his day, were satirized in heroic couplets after the manner of Pope's Dunciad. It is only just to say that he afterwards made friends with Scott and with others whom he had abused without provocation; and it is interesting to note, in view of his own romantic poetry, that he denounced all masters of romance and accepted the artificial standards of Pope and Dryden. His two favorite books were the Old Testament and a volume of Pope's poetry. Of the latter he says, "His is the greatest name in poetry ... all the rest are barbarians."


In 1809 Byron, when only twenty-one years of age, started on a tour of Europe and the Orient. The poetic results of this trip were the first two cantos of Childe Harold's Pilgrimage, with their famous descriptions of romantic scenery. The work made him instantly popular, and his fame overshadowed Scott's completely. As he says himself, "I awoke one morning to find myself famous," and presently he styles himself "the grand Napoleon of the realms of rhyme." The worst element in Byron at this time was his insincerity, his continual posing as the hero of his poetry. His best works were translated, and his fame spread almost as rapidly on the Continent as in England. Even Goethe was deceived, and declared that a man so wonderful in character had never before appeared in literature, and would never appear again. Now that the tinsel has worn off, and we can judge the man and his work dispassionately, we see how easily even the critics of the age were governed by romantic impulses.

The adulation of Byron lasted only a few years in England. In 1815 he married Miss Milbanke, an English heiress, who abruptly left him a year later. With womanly reserve she kept silence; but the public was not slow to imagine plenty of reasons for the separation. This, together with the fact that men had begun to penetrate the veil of romantic secrecy with which Byron surrounded himself and found a rather brassy idol beneath, turned the tide of public opinion against him. He left England under a cloud of distrust and disappointment, in 1816, and never returned. Eight years were spent abroad, largely in Italy, where he was associated with Shelley until the latter's tragic death in 1822. His house was ever the meeting plac