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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 63

Art. VI.—Taine's History of English Literature

page 473

Art. VI.—Taine's History of English Literature.

1.Histoire de la Littérature Anglaise. Par H. Taine. Trois Tomes. Paris: Hachette et Cie. 1863.
2.The Afternoon Lectures on English Literature. London: Bell and Daldy.
3.English Writers. The Writers before Chaucer; with an Introductory Sketch of the four Periods of English Literature. By Henry Morley. London: Chapman and Hall. 1864.

It is neither difficult nor meritorious to swell the chorus of praise chanted in honour of him who, by his literary prowess, has ascended to the pinnacle of fame. The real duty of a critic consists in forestalling the universal verdict, by decreeing to him whose name is comparatively obscure, and whose works, though of striking excellence, are not already popular, the laurel crown which the general public will afterwards consider to be his proper and well-earned guerdon. About three years ago, when discharging that duty, we introduced to our readers a young Bench author, of whose abilities we had formed a very high estimate, and whose writings thoroughly merited, as we thought, to be studied and appreciated in this country.* Moreover, we believed that M. H. Taine was destined to render still greater service to literature, and attain a loftier rank among its most distinguished cultivators, than he had then done or achieved. The work by him which heads this article, fully confirms the correctness of our anticipations. It will be strange indeed should his name continue unfamiliar to lettered Englishmen! M. Taine has a title to their notice and respect which it would be ungracious to overlook; for he has produced the most elaborate and valuable history that now exists of the copious and splendid literature of England.

In order to do full justice to the result of M. Taine's labours, we must pass with brief mention two valuable works in which the same subject is treated by native writers. "The Afternoon Lectures on English Literature" are entitled to a careful perusal. Each of the topics is handled with marked discrimination and uncommon

* See an article on the "Critical Theory and Writings of H. Taine," in the Westminister Review for July, 1861. It is a curious coincidence that another writer, in an article similar in tone and scope to the foregoing one, introduced M. Taine to the American public through the medium of the North American Review for July, 1861.

page 474 freshness, that on "National Character" displaying, in addition, both subtlety and depth of thought. "The Writers before Chaucer" is the first instalment of a larger work, in which Mr. Morley proposes to traverse the whole field of our literature. The plan is a vast one. If the succeeding volumes shall be as carefully and skilfully composed as the first, Mr. Morley will have succeeded in worthily doing what he says in the preface it is his object to do, that is, "to tell, with something of the sustained interest of national biography, the story of the English mind." The work will be indispensable both for reference and study.

When writing the history of our literature, M. Taine inculcates and supports a theory of criticism and a theory of history. On a former occasion we explained his theory of criticism, and expressed our dissent from the author's view that, by means of his theory, it would be possible to give to the results of criticism the certainty of scientific demonstrations. We still think, as we formerly thought, that in M. Taine's hands his theory leads to important conclusions; but we attribute this far more to the talent of the writer than to the use of his theory. We shall again state what that theory is, without entering into a discussion as to its value; we shall next state M. Taine's views as to how history ought to be written, and then give a sketch of the history of our literature from his point of view, and endeavour to make that sketch reflect with fidelity M. Taine's particular sentiments and opinions.

According to him every writer is governed by a dominant principle. All his writings bear the impress of a master-thought, and if this master-thought be grasped, the nature and quality of his genius can be estimated and disclosed. External circumstanced influence a man's genius and modify its development. Like the plant which if left to itself will become a stately tree, but which if tortured and twisted by the elements, or human devices, will remain dwarfed, or assume an unnatural shape; so will the growth of a writer's genius terminate in abnormal or capricious results, if banefully affected by his position in life and the circumstances of his era. In order, then, to ascertain with correctness in what a writer's characteristics consist, it is necessary to determine both what he was by nature and to what extent his natural bent was influenced by external circumstances. What is true of an individual, is equally true of the nation of which he forms a part A nation's literature is chiefly useful in representing the innate character and acquired bias of those who compose it. When writing the history of national literature, these three questions must be posed and answered:—First, from what race does the nation spring? Second, what position did it occupy when the various sections of its literature were produced? Third, at what period were these sections begun and ended? By race is meant page 475 the innate and hereditary dispositions implanted in man at birth, and with which are usually associated marked peculiarities in frame and temperament. By position is meant the particular part of the earth whereon man lives, and the various accidents of politics and social status by which he is affected. Besides the first impulse and the given condition, there is the velocity quired, and this constitutes the period. When national character and surrounding circumstances are in full play, they do not operate on a blank page, but on one where a distinct impress is already perceptible. According as the page be regarded at one time or another the impression will appear different, and the operation proceeding under changed conditions will suffice to alter the final result.

In truth, history is a psychological problem. "The only distinction between problems in morals and in physics is, that the direction and amount of the forces cannot be determined and weighed in the former as in the latter. If necessities or faculties are quantities having degrees like pressure or weight, these quantities are not measurable like those of pressure or weight. We cannot clothe them in a correct, or approximately correct, formula; we can but have and give with regard to them a literary impression; we are reduced to note and cite the salient facts wherein they are manifested, and which roughly indicate about what part of the scale we must class them." In both cases, however, the final result is produced after the same rule. It is great or small, in proportion to the smallness or magnitude of the fundamental forces, and as the effects of race, of position, and period, combine to add something to each of these forces or to nullify each other. Hence it is that long barren epochs, and epochs of striking success, appear at irregular intervals and without apparent reason in the life of a people. The cause of these appearances is internal contrariety or concord. It was the concord of the creative forces which produced the finished politeness, the regular and noble literature, of the age of Louis XIV. and of Bossuet; the grandiose metaphysical systems and the all-embracing critical spirit of Hegel and Goethe. Discordance between these forces produced the imperfect literature, the scandalous comedy, and abortive drama of Dryden and Wycherley.

The problem which history ought to solve is—"Given, a literature, a system of philosophy, a society, an art or a class of arts, what are the moral states in which they are produced, and what conditions of race, position, and period are best fitted to induce these moral states? There is a distinct moral state suitable each of their formations and their offshoots; there is one for art in general and for every description of art, for architecture, painting, sculpture, and music; each of them has its special germ page 476 in the wide field of human psychology, each its law of virtue by which we see it flourish, as if by chance, and isolated among surrounding failures, like painting in Flanders and Holland during the seventeenth century, like poetry in England during the sixteen century, like music in Germany during the eighteenth Centura The rule of human growth is what history must find; the appropriate psychology of each formation is what it must frame; the complete picture of these essential conditions it must strive to produce. Behind the smeared page should be sought and disclosed the peculiar sentiments, the ferment of ideas, the frame of mind which prevailed when the document was written. In this respect, a great poem, a novel, or the confessions of a man of genius, are infinitely more instructive than a pile of histories and a crowd of historians. "I would give fifty volumes of charter's and one hundred volumes of diplomatic documents for the Memoirs of Cellini, the Epistles of St. Paul, Luther's Table-talk, or the Comedies of Aristophanes." The study of different literatures is the best preparation for composing an ethical history and advancing towards the knowledge of those psychological laws upon which events depend. It is the special feature of English civilization, that, over and above its spontaneous development, it presents a compulsory deviation, that it underwent the last and most influential of conquests, and that the three conditions whence it proceeded, race, climate, and the Norman invasion, may be regarded in its monuments with perfect distinctness; so well, indeed, that we may study in its history the two most important sources of human transformation, I mean nature and restraint, and they may be studied, too, without pause or uncertainty, in an authentic and complete series of monuments. I have striven to define the original motive-springs, to show their gradual effects, to explain how they have resulted in bringing to light great works in politics, religion, and literature, and to unveil the mechanism whereby the barbarous Saxon has become the Englishman of the present day."

The element of race which has influenced and determined the course and character alike of English history and of English literature, is Saxon. The idea of duty, in other words, [unclear: self-de] exercised for a noble end, was the ruling principle of [unclear: that]. The Saxons were continent, and faithful to their [unclear: marriage]. They produced no love songs, because they regarded love as a serious thing and the reverse of a frivolous pastime. In their social as in their conjugal relations they were grave and sober; in Saxon England as in Germany, "amidst the gloom of the melancholy temperament and the savagery of a barbarous life, we see the tragic faculties of man alone dominant and active, the strong power of love and the strong power of will." Hence it is, the page 477 heroes of the Anglo-Saxon and the Germanic poems are truly heroic. Of this, the poem of "Beowulf" is a striking example and conclusive proof. The Anglo-Saxon poets crowded their thoughts into short verses ornamented with three words beginning with the same letter. Their supreme efforts were directed towards condensing to the utmost their thoughts and expressions, giving to both the greatest conciseness, and thereby making them produce the greatest possible effect. The traits which distinguish Anglo-Saxon poetry also distinguish that which will one day succeed it.

By their sadness, their aversion for a sensual and an expansive existence, they were admirably prepared to embrace the Christia faith, and to produce biblical poems like those of Caedmon; but when they wrote in Latin, they displayed a natural incapacity to adopt the Latin spirit. Unable to think or reason, the profoundest of them "re-wrote the dead doctrines of dead authors." The national literature expired when its cultivators ceased to employ their native language. Yet the peculiar genius of the race was too innate and permanent to decay or be destroyed by any external influence, and if the Anglo-Saxon genius vanished after the conquest, "it was as a river which sinks into and runs under the soil. It will issue forth after the lapse of five hundred years."

The Normans who subjugated the Anglo-Saxons were of Scandinavian origin. They had first settled on French soil, had intermarried with the natives, and their offspring had become imbued with the ideas and had acquired the national characteristics of French-men. They formed the French language so completely that Frenchmen even now understand their codes and their poems. A century and a half of residence in France had refined their manners and polished their ideas to such a degree as to make them consider the Anglo-Saxons illiterate and barbarous. The Anglo-Saxon was by nature prone to meditation, and found in his meditations natives and incentives to action. The Norman's natural tendency was to "conceive an event or an object," and to do this speedily and clearly; he was no visionary, and did not possess high imaginative powers. "His emotion was skin deep; he was not impressed by an object in its complexity or totality, but piecemeal, in a discursive and superficial manner. Hence, no European race was less poetical." Norman poets sought facts, strung them logically and harmoniously together; never adorning them with warm colours or embodying them in splendid pictures. They were too fluent and too clear, while the Anglo-Saxon poets were too brief and too obscure. "How to co-ordinate ideas is what the French have taught Europe; what ideas are most pleasing they have shown to Europe, and these are the things which the French of the eleventh century, first with the soldier's lance, then with the page 478 master's rod, and lastly with the schoolmaster's birch, were occupied daring five hundred years in teaching and exhibiting to their Saxons."

All the efforts of the Normans to impose their manners and language on the conquered race wholly miscarried. That race was too inert and stolid to be materially affected by the influence brought to bear upon it. The mass of the people clung to old habits and the old language with wonderful courage and tenacity, the result being that the habits and speech of the mass dominated those of the few. The Norman had to learn the language in order to command his Anglo-Saxon dependents, or to Converse with his Anglo-Saxon wife. His children were taught Anglo-Saxon by their mothers and nurses. At length a new language was formed, having for foundation and idiom the old Saxon, containing several Norman words and phrases, and being the tongue spoken and understood by the whole body of the nation. While this transformation was in progress, several literary works were produced, but these had little value. They were imitations translations, and unskilful copies; mere repetitions of French works without their merits and with greater faults. The only literature of which England could be proud was her ballad-poetry poetry produced by uneducated men to express the feeling of their class, heartily relished by those for whom it was composed admirable because of the genuineness of the sentiments expressed, and the vigour and truth of its tone.

Chaucer was the first great writer of the new language, as well as the founder of a new literature. Although impregnated with the notions of his time, yet in one respect he far outstripped his contemporaries. He was the first who studied and noted differences of character, who essayed to image forth living personages, personages whose past history could be read, whose future actions could be divined, and who, after the lapse of four hundred years, stand forth before our eyes as individuals and as types and occupy places in our memories like the creations of Shakespeare. If, in some of his works, Chaucer wrote only to [unclear: an] others and himself, in others, because he had studied and [unclear: reflef] he wrote with the gravity of a thinker and the [unclear: solicitude] great artist. His "Canterbury Tales," instead of being a [unclear: si] string of incidents like other contemporary poems, is a carefully arranged and completed whole. Because so perfect as a whole it is so noteworthy. Preceding poets, whether barbarians or [unclear: se] barbarians, warriors of the heptarchy or knights of the Middle Age, expressed their sentiments in the manner most natural and congenial to them, but without heeding form of expression or method of arrangement. In Chaucer, we see for the first time the presiding spirit which, at the moment of conception, sits in judge page 479 ment on the thing conceived, and says, "Erase that sentence, it is a repetition of the preceding one; unite these two ideas, they do not hang together; re-write that description, it is spun out." When a writer acts thus he is, where Chaucer was, "on the brink of independent thought and fruitful discovery." "Although five hundred years apart from them, yet he approaches the Elizabethan poets by his gallery of pictures, and the reformers of the sixteenth century by his portrait of the good priest." He approaches them, but no more. He did wholly emancipate himself from the bondage of the Middle Age. "To-day he composes the 'Canterbury Tales,' yesterday he translated the 'Romance of the Rose.' To-day he studies the complicated mechanism of the heart, discovers the consequences of the primitive training and dominant habits, and invents the comedy of manners; to-morrow he will take delight only in strange events, pleasing allegories, in amorous dissertations imitated from the French, in learned moralities copied from the ancients. He is in turn a minstrel and observer; instead of taking, as he ought, a full pace, he advanced a half pace only." What checked him as well as others was the scholastic philosophy.

That philosophy taught men not to look around them and observe, not to meditate and record the result, but to consult authorities in place of experience, to cull the thoughts of others instead of cultivating their own minds. That philosophy was as dogmatic as it was unfruitful. Whoever ventured to differ from it, ran the risk of meeting the fate of Roscelin and Abélard, of being excommunicated, imprisoned, or exiled. The majority of the authors of this period wrote without having anything to say. Among poets the "moral Gower" was little better than a pedant. Lydgate displayed talent and imagination, especially in his descriptions; being unable to address the mind, he tried to dazzle the eyes. Hawe's "Temple of Glass" is a copy of Chaucer's "Palace of Fame," and his "Passetyme of Pleasure" an imitation of the "Romance of the Rose." If originality of tone can be anywhere procured, it is in Barclay's translation of the "Shippe of Foules," and Lydgate's translation of the "Danse of Death." In Skelton's satires we see an entire disregard of style, metre, rhyme, language, and art. Yet there is life in his verse, though of an ignoble and contemptible kind. "It is a kind of life, however, possessing two great features soon to be made manifest, the hatred of the ecclesiastical hierarchy which constitutes the Reformation, the return to sense and natural life which constitutes the Revival."

During the Middle Age man has been degraded into a manikin, capable only of repeating the catechism and singing hymns. To this period of depression and inanity succeeded an age of page 480 discovery and action. New worlds and new sciences were discovered, property became more secure and life more comfortable, wealth increased, and with its increase came new desires, tastes, and habits, a new ideal of life, and a new literature. The Revival was at once Pagan and Saxon in character; "A Latin race cannot invent save when expressing Latin ideas; a Saxon race cannot invent save when expressing Saxon ideas; and we shall find among the master minds of the new civilization and poetry the descendants of old Caedmon, of Adhelm, of Piers Plowman, and of Robin Hood."

Chief among the poets of the new literature are Surrey and Sir Philip Sidney, the former more mindful of his masters than of his feelings, the latter a genuine and brilliant poet. But Sidney was one of a large band, little inferior to him in talent, and the authors of works which rank hardly below his own. There is one form which towers above all the others. Chief among the poems of that period "is one which is truly divine, so divine that the reasoners of succeeding ages have found it wearisome, which even now it is with difficulty that any one can comprehend—the Faërie Queene by Spenser."

Spenser is a creator and a dreamer of the most natural and instinctive kind. Among modern poets he most closely resembles Homer. He is at all times simple and clear, never abrupt; he never omits any argument, never employs words except in their primitive and common significations, and always ranks ideas in their natural order. Like Homer, he, too, is redundant and infantine, keeps nothing back, abounds in obvious reflexions, incessantly repeats striking ornamental epithets. We feel that he perceived all objects under a uniformly beautiful aspect. He painted them with all their details, without haste or hesitation; and, without fearing the departure of the enchanting vision, he carefully noted all its outlines. Indeed, he is too diffuse and too much disposed to forget both himself and his audience. His thoughts are spread forth in vast and redoubled comparisons, like those of the old Ionian bard.

Everywhere he proves himself to be both a colourist and an architect. His great poem differs from all similar productions of the Middle Age in being a work of art. From the manner in which it is composed we are compelled to sympathize with its author. In it are depicted not objects merely, but himself also. His dominant thought is apparent in the great work of which it was the product and which it directed. "Spenser is superior to his subject, embraces it in its entirety, shapes it to his purpose, and thereby imprints on it the distinctive mark of his mind and of his genius. Each narrative is arranged in concert with another, and all in view of a certain effect which is produced; hence it is that page 481 a certain beauty springs from this combination, that which is in the poet's heart and which his entire work contributes to render palpable; a noble and yet charming beauty, composed of moral elevation and of external attractions, English in sentiment, Italian in its externals, chivalric in substance, modern in its perfection and rendering manifest a unique and admirable period when Paganism appeared in a Christian race and the worship of form in a northern imagination."

This period was a short one. From the beginning of the seventeenth century men's manners and minds had been deteriorating. The court of James the First was a scene of vulgar debauchery. Literature changed its character. The best poets, such as Carew, Suckling, and Herrick, cultivated the pretty instead of the beautiful. The general aspects of things did not impress them, nor did they care to depict the essence of things. They had none of the large conceptions, the involuntary penetration, which distinguished the great Elizabethan writers, by means of which men become parts of the objects they behold, and acquire a capacity for creating them anew. They were mere court favourites, who made a parade of imagination and style. Their love songs were not inspired by any genuine sentiment. Instead of the divine shapes, the virgin and passionate expressions we meet with in the works of the old writers, we find in their works only pleasing trifles embodied in pleasing verses.

Another sign of decadence was the prevalence of affectation. A studied style always degenerates into jargon. The first masters of an art discover the idea, and being imbued with it, give themselves up to produce it in its own natural form. The imitators, who succeed them, purposely reproduce that form, and alter by [unclear: ggerating] it. Some of the affected writers possessed talent, among them Quarles, Herbert, Habington, and Donne. The letter displayed great force, as well as great coarseness, in his [unclear: satires]. But he wilfully spoilt his natural gifts, and succeeded, after intense exertion, in fabricating absurdities. For example, when addressing his mistress, he says, in order to prove the intensity of his passion for her—

"O do not die, for I shall hate
All women so, when thou art gone,
That thee I shall not celebrate,
When I remember thou wast one."

Be it remarked, that at this time the grave Malherbe, in his "Tears of St. Peter," wrote things nearly as absurd as anything penned by Donne, and that the sonneteers of Italy and Spain were guilty of the like follies. Hence we may conclude that an age of poetry was about to terminate throughout Europe.

page 482

On the frontier line of the old and the new literature stands Abraham Cowley. Like Pope, having a better acquaintance with books than with human passions, he cared more for words than things. Although capable of saying what he pleased, yet, unfortunately, he had nothing to express. Excepting in some descriptive pieces, and a few tender effusions, he gives no signs of feeling. His poetry sprang from his brains, and not from his heart. His amorous poems serve only to show the extent of his scientific attainments and his knowledge of books—"that he is acquainted with geography, is versed in anatomy, has a tincture of medicine and astronomy, and is able to discover parallels and allusions fitted to split a reader's head." Yet he possessed a description of talent unknown to the old masters, indicating a different kind of culture, requiring for its development different manners, and betokening a new state of society. In truth, Cowley was a prose writer, and was the first Englishman worthy of that name. "His prose is as easy and sensible as his poetry is perverted and irrational. The writers of a succeeding age took his prose for a model. He was the progenitor of the dignified and admirable race of essayists perpetuated by Temple and ending in Addison.

Towards the close of the Pagan Revival, men still looked upon Nature, not to admire and embody their admiration in poetry, but in order to study and comprehend her laws. Artists and learned men were all impressed with the notion that Nature has an independent existence, that every being contains within itself the mainspring of its action, that the causes of events are laws inherent in things; "an all-powerful idea, whence sprang modern civilization, and which at this period in England and Italy, as formerly in Greece, gave birth to true science alongside of perfected art; producing, after Leonardo da Vinci and Michael Angelo, the school of anatomists, mathematicians, and naturalists which culminated in Galileo, and, after Spenser, Ben Jonson, and Shakespeare, the school of thinkers encompassing Bacon and preparing the way for Harvey." "A prodigious influx of facts, America discovered, antiquity revivified, philology restored, arts invented, industry developed, human curiosity traversing the [unclear: far] past and the whole earth, contributed to furnish materials, and prose writing began." From the universal ferment arose may striking thoughts, but few beautifully written books. There ware wanting both that analytic power which is the art of following step by step the natural order of ideas, and that conversational talent which is the art of refraining from wearying or shocking others. Style was so ornate that the sense was eclipsed by the ornaments. Prose was very unequal in quality, being either too poetical or too dull. But the writers thought for themselves and believed what they said. A new spirit emerged from the superabundant mass, the spirit of scientific inquiry.

page 483

Robert Burton was imbued with this spirit. His "Anatomy of Melancholy" is composed with the regularity of a treatise by Thomas Aquinas. The torrent of erudition contained in it is guided throughout into correctly-cut channels. There is too vast a mass of ideas, and an absence of selection, yet the result was a more valuable product than had been known before. Sir Thomas Browne was equally imbued with the same spirit; but he was a poet as well as a pedant. "No other thinker better represented the restless and prolific curiosity of the age. No other writer has ever manifested in equal measure the splendid and sombre imagination of the North." He carried his poetical gifts into his scientific investigations. In the presence of Nature he was like an artist. Before a living visage, he was an observer "who noted every trait, every movement of the physiognomy, in order to divine the passions and inner character, incessantly correcting and cancelling his interpretations, and altogether impressed with the notion of invisible forces acting beneath the outward covering." He posed questions, suggested explanations, withheld his reply. Though he did no more, yet this was sufficient. Whoever shall seek truth as earnestly and in so many ways as he did, with an equal scrupulousness in making sure of the prize, will approach it as closely as he

Among the band of learned men, of dreamers, and of seekers after truth, Francis Bacon stands conspicuous: he was the most comprehensive, rational, and innovating spirit of the age. Like his forerunners, he was naturally prone to clothe his ideas in magnificent apparel. In that age, a thought did not seem completely expressed unless it had been endowed with shape and colour. What distinguished him in this respect was that the image concentrated the thought. "His style is admirable for its richness, gravity, and vigour, being at one time solemn and symmetrical, at another condensed and incisive, always laboured and coloured. Nothing in English prose is superior to his diction." He was pre-eminent for a practical turn of mind such as we observe in Bentham, and which circumstances combine every day to render the predominant trait of Englishmen. For pure speculation he had little taste: it was the application which delighted him. His philosophy is merely an instrument; indeed, each science, and science as a whole, were regarded by him as tools. How to enable man to accomplish whatever his capacity fits him for, and extend his empire over Nature, were the objects he had at heart. "Whence came this great and just idea?" It could not have germinated and flourished during a period of discouragement: and decay, when the end of the world was expected, when the Christian mysticism of the earlier ages, when the ecclesiastical tyranny of the fourteenth century, demonstrated man's helpless- page 484 ness by perverting his inventive faculties or in restraining his freedom of will. That idea was the offspring of the age. In orderly that man should aspire to be master of things and should labour to better his condition, it is indispensable that everywhere there should be amelioration in progress, industry thriving around him knowledge increasing, the fine arts spreading, that an incalculable weight of evidence should be constantly proclaiming the reality of his power and the assurance of his improvement. The age is which Bacon lived co-operated in doing his work. His great merit lay in foreseeing what science and industry would one day accomplish. He taught man what route to take, but did not follow it himself; he taught them how to discover natural laws, but he never discovered a law of nature. Although the first to announce the promised land, yet he refraind from entering it.

The most original fruit of the Revival in England was tie drama. Its peculiar trait is naturalness. No other drama is more complex, because at no other period was man so complete, It is as unique in history as the period during which it arose, being "the work and picture of a young society as natural as unbridled, and also as tragic as itself." The originators of a new and national drama are always thoroughly imbued with the sentiments they express. They reflect popular feelings better than other men, because those feelings actuate them more powerfully than others. With the exception of Beaumont and Fletcher the Elizabethan dramatists were all sons of the people, though poor, they were educated, their poverty contrasting strongly with their attainments. Ben Jonson was the son of a bricklayer, and a brick-layer himself; Marlowe was the son of a shoemaker, Shakespeare of a woolstapler, Massinger of a nobleman's servant. They lived as they best could, wrote for bread, went on the stage. Peel, Lodge, Marlowe, Jonson, and Shakespeare were actors. Most of them lived hard, and died like dogs. They were the willing slaves of their passions, and wrote plays representing characters who indulged every passion to excess. The actions of these personages appear strained and exaggerated to us; but they are really true to nature as it was then understood. "At the present day we no longer know what nature is; we still entertain the benevolent prejudices of the eighteenth century concerning nature; we behold it humanized by two centuries of culture, and accept its acquired tranquillity for innate moderation. At bottom the natural man is blindly impelled by irresistible impulses, passions, appetites, and lusts," as are the personages in Marlowe's plays. In the closing scenes of his "Dr. Faustus" we see the "living, acting, natural individual man; not the philosophical symbol created by Goethe, but the primitive and genuine man, an impassioned and excited being, the slave of his passions and sport of his dreams, altogether page 485 absorbed in the present, filled with lusts, contradictions, and; absurdities, and who, shouting and shuddering, with cries of joy and of anguish, wittingly and willingly rolls over the edge and down the side of his precipice. The whole English drama is concentrated there, like a plant in its germ, and Marlowe is to Shakespeare what Perugino is to Raphael."

Marlowe was succeeded by others who constructed their plays with greater regard to the rules of art; the result of their labours being the most life-like and extraordinary drama ever produced. The new art which they practised was great, because it was natural: it was Germanic and fundamentally opposed to classical art. It disregarded the usual laws of proportion, the logical laws of connexion. Those who practised it did not regard man as possessing any one passion, but an innate character; did not view the hero in his heroic aspect only, but as an individual endowed with specific habits and displaying personal traits. While the men of this drama are more manly, the women are more feminine than elsewhere. Both bear the stamp of their origin. No other than a Germanic race could furnish heroines like those of Shakespeare, or like those of Ford, Greene, Webster, Beaumont, and Fletcher. The abnegation, patience, and inexhaustible affection displayed by those heroines, are qualities unknown to the women of Latin race, and, above all, are unknown it France.

When a new kind of civilization gives rise to a new kind of art, several men of talent give a partial expression to the prevailing sentiment, and one or two men of genius express it perfectly. Ford, Marlowe, Massinger, Webster, Beaumont, and Fletcher were those men of talent. In their plays we find detached scenes, passages, and particular characters, which could not be surpassed; but we also find numerous scenes, passages, and personages which are gross failures and egregious caricatures. Where they failed, the men of genius succeeded. Among Elizabethan dramatists the two men of commanding genius were Ben Jonson and Shakespeare.

Ben Jonson studied the authors of antiquity till he became thoroughly imbued with their ideas; but so great were his natural powers, that the pressure of his acquired knowledge did not impede their free exercise. He possessed the classical gift of arranging and developing ideas in the most effective manner, according to the rules of rhetoric and eloquence. If other poets deserve to be called visionaries, he might be styled a logician. Herein lay his; talent and his defect. Although he wrote more correctly and planned his plays far better than his predecessors, yet, unlike them, he could not breathe life into his personages. He was too observant of rule and method. He chose some quality or vice, page 486 made of it a personage, and gave it a distinguishing name. When endeavouring to create characters, he was contented with a surface glance, ignored the fundamental springs of human nature, and created nothing which lives in the memory of mankind. In his works, we see for the first time a settled and carefully worked-out plan, an intrigue having a beginning, middle, and end; in short, an art similar to that taught and practised by Molière and Racine. Besides this, he had the prominent characteristics of his age and race, a sense of what is natural and life-like, an exact knowledge of minute details, the ability of openly describing strong passions in vigorous terms. The men of his day never shrank from literal truthfulness of expression.

His satirical comedies were attempts to work a new vein. There is little that is charming in them, but they are works of great power and of genuine humour. Unlike Molière, Ben Jonson had nothing of the philosopher in him; hence, instead of seizing and fixing the leading traits of human life, the predominant features of his country and time, he selected as subjects for his comedies evanescent follies and too universal vices.

That he was a true poet is proved by his "Masques," which overflow with the splendour and the imagination which characterized the works of the great writers of the English Revival. In his love-songs, his poetical genius is still more apparent. Each of them resembles an antique idyl in grace, voluptuousness, and charm. It was when stricken in years, oppressed by poverty, and confined to his room by disease, that his poetical gifts were most lavishly displayed. "A halo of poesy shone around the paralysed old man. He may well encumber himself with science, and burden himself with theories, become a critic on the stage, and a censor of mankind, the heavenly visions have never departed from him; he is the brother of Shakespeare."

To Shakespeare, the dominating spirit of that age, we now come, Resounding phrases and formal eulogy are wasted when applied to him. He does not require to be praised, but to be comprehended, and in order to comprehend him we must call science to our aid.

Properly speaking, man is by nature irrational as his body is naturally prone to disease; both reason and health are exceptions states and happy accidents. If we ignore this, it is because our inward promptings have grown into partial harmony with the courses of things. Yet the primitive forces are latent beneath an apparent regularity, and burst forth in their might in times of danger and revolution. Our ideas do not naturally range themselves in consecutive order, but press each other in undisciplined crowds. Hence, man possesses no distinct and independent power of action: he is composed of a series of impulses and teeming fancies, which have been subdued but not destroyed by civiliza- page 487 tion; these may remain for a time in partial equilibrium; man's true life, however, is that of a lunatic, who at intervals simulates sanity, but who is really of "the stuff that dreams are made of." Such is man as conceived by Shakespeare. Than he, no other writer has pierced so profoundly beneath the outer crust of good sense and logic which covers the human machine, for the purpose of discovering the brute forces which constitute its substance and its spring.

Shakespeare accomplished this because he was endowed with "imagination all compact."* When ordinary men think out a subject they do so in detail, perceiving an isolated side of it, perhaps one or two sides together; their mental vision cannot reach farther, an infinite chain of intertwined and multiplied properties escapes them altogether; they have a suspicion of something beyond their ken, and this suspicion is the sole part of their idea which represents to them what they cannot know. Shakespeare, on the other hand, instantly conceived an object as a whole, with all its connecting links and outlying dependencies; all its parts and properties being instantaneously mirrored in his imagination, and, conceiving in this fashion, he was capable of reproducing his conceptions in the same way that Nature creates. "The other artists of his time could do likewise; they had the same cast of mind and the same idea of life: in Shakespeare we discern similar faculties of larger growth, and an identical idea in bolder relief."

When we survey and analyse Shakespeare's plays and countless creations, we perceive in all of them the special imprint of that wondrous imagination which constitutes his genius. All his personages have a trait characteristic of himself; in the background of the vast crowd we recognise the poet's figure.

His imagination was impressed far more strongly and by minuter objects than ours. Because of this, his style is so overladen with imagery and extraordinary metaphors; it being the product of a mind that at the slightest touch produced too much and rebounded too violently. Because endowed with his peculiar imagination, he was capable of exercising such marvellous penetration, as to grasp in an instant all the results of a situation, all the details of a character, make them manifest in every action of a and personage, and endue his figures with the hues and sharpness of reality. That imaginative faculty which he possessed renders him so fascinating to us. Hence, regarding him as Desdemona did Othello, we love him because he loved much and suffered much.

* The following are M. Taine's own words: "Il avait l'imagination complète; tout son génie est dans ce seul mot."—Vol. ii. p. 67.

The section devoted to Shakespeare is the most elaborate one in M. Taine's work. It would require more pages than we have lines at our command to give an adequate outline of it. Hence we have contented ourselves with giving a bare abstract of M. Taine's opinions regarding Shakespeare's genius.

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The Christian succeeded the Pagan Revival. Although the English Reformation was brought about indirectly, yet when five millions of men abandon one faith for another, whatever be the circumstances which lead to this, it is unquestionable that fire millions of men are desirous of conversion. Roth the new faith, the English Bible and the Prayer-book, were adapted to the English race; they appealed to innate predispositions, and opened out to their imaginations a prospect which had special attractions for men of that race, the prospect of a better life than what they led here, of an existence beyond the grave happier than an earthly one. Unlike the Roman Catholicism it superseded, Protestantism was not antagonistic to science, poetry, or free inquiry. Bishops, and clergymen of lower grade, wrote poetry; for example, Hall, Corbet, Wither, and Donne. Theologians like Hooker, John Hales, Jeremy Taylor, and Chillingworth called reason and philosophy to aid them when discussing religious tenets. "Then arose a new literature, elevated and original, eloquent and measured; armed both against the Puritans who sacrificed liberty of judgment to the tyranny of the text, and also against the Catholics who sacrificed free inquiry to the tyranny of tradition, battling alike against the slavery of literal interpretation, and the slavery of a fixed interpretation."

Foremost among the authors of the new literature appears Hooker, at once the mildest and most conciliatory of men, the soundest and most convincing of logicians, capable of taking comprehensive views of human nature, and worthy of respect in the double capacity of a father of the church and one of the founders of English prose. John Hales and Chillingworth ably laboured in the same field and with not less success. In Jeremy Taylor we recognise a writer of genius, a prose poet, endowed with the imagination of Spenser or Shakespeare. His imagination was so complete as to enable him to grasp the real even in the mine, and the ideal in its highest heaven.

Between the new faith as embraced and expounded by men of position and education and men of low estate and no learning, an opposition speedily arose. Men who interpreted the Bible literally were dissatisfied with the church as established by law. Events concurred to give those men supreme power for a period, when they essayed to establish the kingdom of heaven upon earth. The view which they took of life was fatal to literature. They had no admiration for the beautiful in art or letters, and a literature devoid of the sentiment of beauty is an abortion. They held in abhorrence the natural promptings of the heart, and a literature in which these promptings are not depicted is worthless. The drama, and poetry, eloquence, and ornate writing were stigmatized by them as abominations. Some of Prynne's pamphlets are page 489 vigorous productions, but the histories of that time are for the most part dull and insipid. The memoirs, even those of Ludlow and Mrs. Hutchinson, are spun out and wearisome: the authors of them, as Guizot has remarked, "appear forgetful of themselves and wholly concerned for the destiny of their cause." Many works of piety were produced, plenty of solid and convincing sermons like those of Baxter, Barclay, and Calamy, of personal narratives like those of Baxter, Fox, and Bunyan. The artist,; however, is absorbed in the Puritan. If we find a Milton among them it is because he was superior to his sect. The Puritans had but one poet, one who attained the beautiful in seeking the useful, and who by accident proved himself a great artist.

The foundation of English Protestantism is salvation by faith, and in rendering that doctrine popular no artist has rivalled John Banyan. He had the kind of imagination best adapted for creating and describing supernatural impressions; an imagination which acted independently of his volition, and governed him like a master spirit. Allegory, the most artificial of all kinds of composition, was natural to him. "His allegories are hallucinations as sharply defined, as complete, and as healthy as ordinary perceptions. No one, excepting Spenser, is so lucid." Bunyan has the flow, the naturalness, the ease and the clearness of Homer, and approaches the singer of heroes and creator of deities as nearly as an Anabaptist tinker can do. "I am wrong; he approaches him still closer. Inequalities of rank disappear before the sentiment of sublimity. Grandeur of emotion elevates to the same height the peasant and the poet. And here allegory aids the peasant. It alone, in the absence of inspiration, can paint heaven; for it does not profess to paint it: by displaying heaven in a figure, it declares it invisible, like the burning sun which we cannot gaze on, but can behold the reflection in a mirror or a rivulet. Thus the unseen world remains shrouded in mystery; warmed by allegory, we can imagine, beyond the splendours we see, and can feel, behind the beauties disclosed to us, the infinity which remains concealed, and the ideal city vanishing as soon as seen, ceases to resemble that lumbering Whitehall which Milton built for Jehovah."

Milton was not gifted with the imaginative powers of the Elizabethan poets: his impulses and passions were under his control; his logical power was great, and his erudition boundless; he was thoroughly qualified to compose odes, but not to create souls.

As a prose writer, while deficient in elegance and amenity, he displays unsurpassed vigour. "It is doubtful if Voltaire's cutting sentences would prove more mortal than the blow of such an iron mace as this. 'If in less noble and almost mechanick arts he page 490 is not esteemed to deserve the name of a compleat architect, an excellent painter, or the like, that hears not a generous mind above the peasantly regard of wages and hire, much more must we think him a most imperfect and incompleat divine, who is so far from being a contemner of filthy lucre, that his whole divinity is moulded and bred up in the beggarly and brutish hopes of a a fat prebendary, deanery, or bishoprick.' Were Michael Angelo's prophets to speak, it would be in this style; and while regarding the writer we repeatedly perceive the sculptor." The powerful logic which lengthened his periods, buoyed up his images. Sustained metaphors like his acquire an exceptional amplitude, pomp, and majesty. They are spread out without interfering with each other, and resemble the ample folds of a scarlet mantle, bathed in light and fringed with gold. Every literature will be ransacked in vain to discover any poetry which can match Milton's prose.

As a poet Milton differed widely from his masters, the great Elizabethan poets. He wrote not from impulse but after reflection, and aided by his books,: he conceived objects through the medium of books as much as in themselves. It was the sublime and not life which moved him. He wrote incomparable poems, but none of them have that warmth of colouring and vividness of outline which distinguish works proceeding direct from the imagination and untinctured with reflection.

The subject which he chose for his great epic was far better suited for a lyrical drama in the style of the "Prometheus" of œschylus. The supernatural can only be successfully treated in a style which makes us forget reality. We should expect Adam and Eve to act and feel in conformity with their primitive natures Satan and the Messiah in conformity with their superhuman natures. To have accomplished this might have baffled Shakespeare. Milton, a logician and reasoner, failed in the attempt.

Adam and Eve, in the "Paradise Lost," resemble an English couple of Milton's time; for example, Colonel Hutchinson and his wife. They reason so correctly, and give so many proofs of culture, that we should have expected them at least to have invented clothing. Adam's discourse is so edifying, and his morals are so correct, that he must have passed through England on his way to Paradise. "He is the true head of a family, an elector, a member of parliament, a graduate of Oxford; he is consulted on occasion by his wife, and gives scientific answers to her queries. When an angel visits them, Eve prepares a repast with the alacrity and skill of a practised housekeeper. Happily, as the meats are uncooked, there is "no fear lest dinner cool." At dessert Eve leaves the table and goes into the garden. Desiring to alter its arrangement, and requiring Adam's aid, he compliments her this fashion:— page 491

"Nothing lovelier can be found
In woman, as to study household good,
And good works in her husband to promote."

The description of heaven reminds us of earth as much as the picture of our first parents. Milton's Jehovah strongly resembles Charles I., and his celestial dwelling is modelled upon Whitehall. How very different is the God of Goethe in the second part of "Faust!" If any one wish to know how far Milton has fallen short of his subject, and would measure the depth of his fall, let him peruse that genuine Christian poem the Apocalypse.

But if he failed in some things, he has wondrously succeeded in others. In the "Paradise Lost," the finest part is the description of hell; the true hero of the poem is Satan. Spenser has created as striking figures, but he had not the tragic force requisite to depict hell to a Protestant. Nothing more sublime was ever penned than the spectacle which Satan witnessed when issuing from his den.

Born with noble instincts, which were strengthened by solitary meditation, by learning, and by logic, Milton became master of a store of maxims and beliefs which no temptation could sap, which no reverse could overthrow. His grandiose imagination illumined his prose writings with an unexampled affluence of imagery, and enabled him to attain in his odes and lyrical pieces to an unsurpassable pitch of sublimity. During the first part of his career the spirit of pagan antiquity; during the second, that of modern Christianity, inspired him and tinctured his writings. The odes and choruses produced during that first period are almost perfect. Fettered and constrained during the second period by his theological opinions and bent of mind, he filled his epic poem with cold dissertations; he degraded God and man into vulgar mouthpieces for his opinions, and only displayed his genius in imbuing Satan with his own haughty republican spirit, in producing magnificent descriptions of scenery, in creating colossal spectres, and in consecrating his poetical gifts to the eulogy of religion and of duty.

The England of two different periods is reflected in Milton's writings. We see the England animated with the sentiments and tastes which are represented in the works of Sidney, Spenser, Shakespeare, and the brilliant band of poets that for half a century adorned her soil and illustrated her genius. We also see the England of the Puritans, in which a practical religion had taken root, in which measured common sense and narrow views prevailed, yet which attained to the highest possible eminence in power, prosperity, and freedom. "From this point of view Milton's style and ideas are historical monuments; they concentrate, recall, or forestall the past and the future, and withint he compass of a page 492 single work we can study the events and sentiments of several ages and of one nation."

"When we turn over the works of the court painters during the reigns of Charles I. and Charles II., and leave Vandyke's noble portraits for Lely's figures, the descent is sudden and profound; we seem to have left a palace and entered a brothel." The restoration of Charles II. was followed by the triumph of licentiousness. Virtue was decried as puritanical; duty was considered synonymous with fanaticism; man's better nature was swept away in the vicious torrent; the mere animal survived, who sated his lusts without regard for modesty or for justice.

One of the first literary products of the new state of society was Butler's "Hudibras." This poem "contains neither action nor naturalness; is filled with abortive satires and gross caricatures; is devoid of art, measure, and taste; is written in a puritanical style transformed into an absurd gibberish, its envenomed rancour missing the mark by its very excess, and disfiguring the portrait it essays to trace." One of the leaders of fashion and an admired poet of this time was Rochester, who wrote of love in the style and language of a cold-blooded and jaded libertine.

Hobbes was the philosopher of this society. In direct contrast to the Puritans, the courtiers had degraded human existence into an occasion for animal gratification. Hobbes taught that the mere animal part constituted human nature. The courtiers were atheists and brutes in conduct; he was the same in speculation. They had erased from their hearts every fine and generous sentiment; he erased every fine and noble sentiment from the human heart. His theories were modelled on their manners; his system was a manual for their guidance. In him, as in Descartes, was manifested for the first time a mode of philosophizing which soon became general throughout Europe. It consisted "in granting perfect independence to reason, which, disregarding tradition, and misapplying the results of experience, recognised its sovereign in logic, in mathematics its model, its organ in speech, and its audience in polite society; which busied itself with minor truths found material for speculation in man in the abstract, its formula in ideology, in the French Revolution its glory and condemnation its triumph and its end."

The new society had no taste for the dramatic works which had been the delight of a bygone age. Shakespeare's plays were re-cast, yet even then did not attract so well as the; productions of playwrights of the day. From the theatre where the new plays were acted, "even Charles II. and Rochester could depart more firmly convinced than ever that virtue was only a pretence, the pretence of cunning rogues who wished to sell themselves dearly."

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Dryden, Crowne, Shadwell, Afra Behn, Etherege, and others composed the new school of dramatists. By far the most conspicuous and successful of that school was Wycherley. He is, without exception, the filthiest writer that ever sullied the drama. He appears to have laboured as earnestly to disgust as to deprave his audience. "Whatever he composes or states, whether he creates or copies, blames or praises, his plays calumniate mankind, repel when they attract, and harden as well as corrupt." However, he possessed, in common with his countrymen, the gift of vigour.

The change which gradually took place in the mode of life Miring the seventeenth century, directly affected literature. Men grew more polished in manner, passed their time in paying visits and turning compliments: they endeavoured to amuse their neighbours, and expected to be amused in return. To shine in conversation was accounted a merit. To write as men conversed was considered a duty; hence, writers grew solicitous about style and language, the structure of periods and choice of epithets, and were prompted to express clever things in a neat manner as much by vanity as good taste. One of the leading writers of this class was Sir William Temple. His learning was superficial, his acquaintance with affairs considerable, his love of ease was only equalled by his desire to be envied for an amount of knowledge which he did not possess. Sir John Denham, in his poem entitled "Cooper's Hill," displayed a finished rhetorical style. With respect to style, as well as other matters, France exercised a direct influence over England at this period. "Bossuet was consulted, Corneille translated, Molière imitated, and Boileau's authority respected." This influence is distinctly traceable in the comedies of Wycherley, Congreve, Vanbrugh, and Farquhar. The first of them was a gross writer, the others displayed more urbanity than libertinage. Yet both the art and the philosophy Molière were absent from their productions. They were clever men but no thinkers. Their works had a striking, but shortlived success, and are not now regarded among the most praiseworthy monuments of English literature. "Essays, romances, pamphlets, and dissertations superseded the drama, and the English classical art, withdrawn from departments of literature repugnant to it, was employed upon works better fitted to express and perpetuate it."

While the English drama was declining, and before it has become extinct, some noteworthy comedies were produced; for instance, "The Beggar's Opera" of Gay, and "She Stoops to Compier" of Goldsmith. More striking and brilliant were Sheridan's works. Although they always glitter, yet the metal of which they are composed is not always of first-rate alloy. Each page 494 of them resembles an exquisitely engraved phial, into which the author has distilled all his wit, and all the results of his reflection and reading. "The School for Scandal" is composed of two of Fielding's heroes, Blifil and Tom Jones, and personages borrowed from Molière's "Misanthrope" and "Tartffue." The result is most dazzling spectacle of literary fireworks ever witnessed. If Sheridan's productions are less solid than the stronger meats of the earlier dramatists, they furnish an admirable dessert to the literary banquet. The dessert over, we leave the table. Sheridan was the last writer of English comedies. After him, comedy gave place to farce. At the present day, no other dramatic literature is so barren as that of England. The explanation is, whereas formerly literary men could find but a scanty audience unless they wrote for the stage, they can now address a larger and more intelligent audience through the medium of books. In England novels have superseded plays.

In tracing the progress and fall of the modern English comic drama, we have passed over the most conspicuous English writer of the seventeenth century, and the founder of the classical literature of England. John Dryden was formed by nature and circumstances to be a great writer rather than a great poet, being more akin to Corneille than to Shakespeare. He was too good a theorist to be a great artist; too clever a critic to produce great poems. In composing heroic plays on the model of French tragedies and intended to rank with them as compositions, he failed in his object; "because literary style blunts dramatic truth, dramatic truth corrupts literary style, because his works were neither sufficiently life-like nor sufficiently well written, because he was neither a great poet nor a great orator, and was destitute alike of the passion and imagination of Shakespeare, of the urbanity and art of Racine." His only notable poetical success was his famous ode, but even it is addressed to the senses rather than the heart. Dryden succeeded best in those branches of literature for which his nature and talents qualified him; in producing finely versified pamphlets and dissertations, biting satires, faithful translations, and clever imitations, and in writing clear, idiomatic, and excellent prose.

After the Revolution of 1688, it would seem as if nothing had been gained by the final establishment of constitutional government in England. At no other period were the people more law less, or statesmen more corrupt. The populace drank ardent spirits to excess. Members of Parliament took bribes without shame. Many of the peers plotted to overturn the constitution and restore the exiled dynasty. Vile intrigue and brutal debauchery were the occupations and amusements of men holding high position, and who plumed themselves on setting the page 495 fashion. Even the grave and polished Lord Chesterfield inculcated on his son to be gallant to women, and cringe to men in power, citing as noteworthy examples of successful men the two greatest profligates of the age, Lord Bolingbroke and the Duke of Marlborough.

However, the bad lay on the surface; the nation was still sound at the core. Polite society did not give the tone to the body of the English people, as was the case in France at the same period. The mass of Englishmen retained a sense of morality, and was still subject to the law of duty. The race was too religious by instinct to be rendered permanently irreligious by circumstances. When Wesley and Whitfield began to preach, it was evident that their listeners were naturally predisposed to religious impression.

Sermons formed a large portion of English classical literature. Tillotson was so famed for his style, that Dryden called him his master in the art of writing. To a Frenchman his style seems heavy and insufferably wearisome. But his sermons were admirably suited for his audience. They desired to be taught, not to be charmed; to be confirmed in their opinions and induced to apply them in practice. Barrow is equally heavy, but his analytic capacity and logical grasp have never been equalled. Without employing any rhetorical artifice, he could explain and demonstrate whatever he undertook, and could carry conviction to the minds of his hearers. South, who was regarded as the wittiest of divines, would be regarded by Frenchmen as coarse beyond measure. Yet the preaching of English divines was far more effective than that of their French contemporaries. "If Barrow be redundant, Tillotson heavy, South trivial, and the others unreadable, they are all convincing; their discourses are not models of eloquence, but instruments of edification. Their glory consists not in their books but in their works. If they wrote badly, they formed men's manners."

It was necessary, however, in addition to forming men's manners to defend the faith against the assaults of free-thinkers. Bolingbroke, Toland, Tindal, and Mandeville were encountered greater men than themselves; the most notable men in science, learning, and letters siding against them. But neither the laity nor the clergy distinguished themselves in philosophical speculations. If Berkeley produced his theory of the non-existence of matter, it was not in the interests of independent philosophy,: but with a view to undermine the bases of immoral and materialistic theories. Newton proved himself a great mathematician, but a poor philosopher. Locke studiously avoided lofty inquiries. He wrote his book to settle what objects are within and what are beyond the reach of the human intellect. Having defined page 496 these limits he rested satisfied. Hume went further, but in the same path. He endeavoured to explode the highest kind speculation altogether. According to him we cannot know either substance, cause, or law; when we affirm that one fact is linked to another we do so gratuitously, and cannot prove our assertion. The natural consequence of this sweeping scepticism was a reaction towards established beliefs. Reid became alarmed for the stability of society, and set up common sense as the supreme judge of truth. "If a municipal corporation were to order a system of philosophy, Reid's philosophy of churchwardens would be selected." It was not in the domain of metaphysics but of psychology that the thinkers of that day distinguished themselves. The best fruits of their labours were theories of the moral sentiments. In this field Shaftesbury, Hutcheson, Price, Smith, Ferguson, and even Hume laboured diligently, and reaped original and lasting ideas.

The predominant trait of the English mind at this period was a consciousness of the dignity of personal independence, and a sense of the importance of maintaining individual rights and respecting the rights of others. This conviction inspired those orators who, in the diversity of their talents, the energy of their opinions, the magnificence of their diction, rivalled the most renowned orators of ancient Greece and Rome. The elder Pitt was never more sublime than when asserting the inherent rights of men: a Miltonic and Shakespearian vehemence were displayed in his splendid harangues. The unbridled passion and masculine assertion of right which distinguished political speeches, gave pith and effect to political writings also. When Junius condensed his sentences and chose his epithets, it was not for the sake of improving his style, but that his utterances might wound more deeply and insult more grossly. In his hands, artifices of [unclear: rhetone] became instruments of torture. "Has any other human [unclear: wri] than Junius, Swift excepted, cherished and concentrated within his heart hatred and venom? Yet he was not vile, for he believed himself to be acting as the servant of justice." Other more genial temperaments displayed the same [unclear: characteristics] discern them even in him who was the favourite of fortune infancy; who was hailed as the first of debaters, and selected to lead a great party upon attaining manhood; whose [unclear: manners] bland and sociable, whose enemies overlooked his faults, and who was adored by his friends; who was not wearied by toil, embittered by rivalry, or spoilt by power, and the richness of whose genius was manifested in the persuasive flow, the unadorned beauties, the uniform lucidity of his speeches. Yet on occasion no one could match even Charles James Fox for vehemence of language and virulence of invective. A sort of impassioned exag- page 497 geration predominated in the discussions concerning the impeachment of Warren Hastings and the French Revolution. It was manifested alike in the piercing rhetoric and stilted declamation of Sheridan; in the pitiless sarcasm and sententious pomp of William Pitt. The force which distinguished them all was the most prominent trait of the leading spirit of the time, Edmund Burke.

Burke was superior to other men, not alone in the extent of his erudition, but also in the comprehensiveness of his views. He possessed an imagination so fertile and vivid as to be able to conjure up distant countries and strange nations with every particularity of scenery, of costume, of habit, and of physiognomy. To the mental powers which form the man of system, were conjoined in him the qualities of heart which form a fanatic. He nobly combated for noble causes. He opposed the excesses of power in England, the excesses of the people in France, and the tyrannical exercise of authority by individuals in India. "Everywhere he became the champion of a principle or the opponent of a vice, and, equipped with his astounding knowledge, his lofty reason, and splendid style, he rushed to the attack with, the unquenchable and intemperate ardour of a moralist and a knight-errant." In common with his neighbours he was wholly deficient in good taste.

The difference between the courtesans of Sir Peter Lely, and the maidens, and mothers surrounded by their children of Sir Joshua Reynolds, indicates what a transformation had taken place in English society. Every walk of life gave evidence of the alteration. Bakewell had improved the breed of sheep; Arthur Young had introduced improvements into agriculture; Howard had improved the prisons; Arkwright and Watt had revolutionized industry; Adam Smith had reformed political economy, and Bentham the penal code; Locke, Hutcheson, Ferguson, Butler, Reid, Stewart, and Price had reformed psychology and ethics. Manners had become refined; the Government was more stable; religion was held in veneration. In one thing only did the nation fall short; it had no capacity for lofty speculations. At this same moment proficiency in this last point constituted the chief glory of France.

When the French Revolution occurred, the English nation was conservative and Christian, while France was a nation of freethinkers and revolutionists. Neither understood, and each detested the other. Never were differences between the minds and the civilizations of the two countries more strongly marked, and it was Edmund Burke, who, with the superiority of a thinker and the bias of an Englishman, placed the points of difference in the clearest possible light.

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While the foregoing changes, which occupied the whole of the eighteenth century, and ended in giving to England a fixed ethical and political character, were still in progress, two men arose who were opposed to each other in politics, who were the antithesis of each other in manners, culture, and intellect, and in whom we can clearly discern the inner characteristics of the foregoing changes; they were Jonathan Swift and Joseph Addison.

The writings of Addison are masterpieces of English urbanity and English sense: all the points of his character and incident of his career contributed to mature that sense and urbanity. His poem entitled "The Campaign," which made him so famous, is a model of conventional and classical style. As he truly said in the Spectator, the aim of his prose essays was "to banish vice and ignorance out of the territories of Great Britain." These writings had an astonishing success, quite equal to that of the most popular modern novels. This was because they abounded in genuine English sense: both his talent and doctrines harmonized with the requirements of his age and country. "He taught that time is capital, that occupations are duties, that life is a business and nothing else." If he regarded life from a loftier than a sensual point of view, he never rose to the contemplation of it from the heights of philosophy. His system of morality was earthly and practical. The expectation of a future state never obscured his consideration of the best way to enjoy life. He founded virtue both on morality and self-interest. The chief concern, according to him, is "to be easy here, and happy afterwards." The sum of his philosophy is that "the business of mankind in this life is rather to act than to know." However meanly we may estimate his views, it was no trifling thing to succeed as he did in making morality fashionable.

Addison's prose is a pure well of classical style. It is rich in ornament, yet devoid of rhetoric. It is always lucid, and presents old ideas under new and pleasing aspects. Its defect is too great monotony. However perfect it may seem to an Englishman, yet a Frenchman would find grave fault with it. Compared with the prose of Tillotson, it is charming; compared with that of Montesquieu, it is but half polished. If Addison were well qualified for teaching the French rules of conduct, they could show him in return perfect models of conversational style.

Though classical by culture, he had the fondness of his race for nature. Possessing a lively imagination, he could depict wife minuteness all the incidents of a situation or consequences of an action. He created Sir Roger de Coverley, and proved that he had but another step to make in order to rank with Richardson and Fielding as a novelist. All his writings indicate that he was a poet. But there is more poetry in his prose than in his verse: page 499 this is chiefly conspicuous in his "Vision of Mirza." That tale is an epitome of Addison's distinctive talents. In it may be perceived those shades of difference which separate the classical literature of England from that of France. These are, "a more bounded and practical reason, a more poetical and less eloquent urbanity, a fund of wit richer and more copious, less sociable and less delicate."

In striking contrast to the genial Addison stands forth Swift—

"The most unhappy man of genius of the classical era and of history; English to the backbone, inspired and carried away by the preponderance of his English qualities, possessing that profundity of desire which characterizes the race, that excess of pride which habits of freedom, of command, and of success have imprinted on the nation, that sturdy practical cast of mind which the exercise of affairs has rooted in the land; who was excluded from the sphere of power and action by his unbridled passions and untractable arrogance; debarred from poetry and philosophy by his piercing, yet narrow common sense; deprived of the consolations afforded by a life of contemplation and the occupation furnished by a practical career; too superior a man to give himself up heart and soul to any one religious sect or political party, too contracted to find a resting-place in the high doctrines which conciliate all beliefs, or to cherish the expansive sympathy which embraces all parties; condemned by nature and circumstances to fight for, without being attached to a cause, to write without being enamoured of the art, to think without attaining to a dogma, who was a condottiere against all parties, a misanthrope with regard to mankind, a sceptic with regard to beauty and truth. Yet these very circumstances and that very nature which forced him beyond the pale of happiness, of love, of power, and of science, elevated him, in an age of imitation of French models and the practice of classical moderation, to an extraordinary eminence, where, by the puissance of his original and inventive genius, he equals Byron, Milton, and Shakespeare, and manifests in bold relief the characteristics and mind of his nation. Sensibility, a practical mind, and pride, contributed to form his unique style, which is terrible in its force, overpowering in its coolness, practical in its effect; dipped in scorn, truth, and hatred, a dagger vengeance and of war, which aroused the shrieks or caused the deaths of his enemies when subjected to its edge or poison. As pamphleteer against both the Opposition and the Government, he rent in pieces or smothered his adversaries by his irony or his judgments, delivered with the tone of a judge, sovereign, and executioner. As man of the world and poet, he may be said to have invented the atrocious pleasantry, funereal mirth, and convulsive gaiety of bitter contrasts, and, even while encumbered with the mythological armour, he created a poetry of his own by depicting the crude details of low life, by indulging in pitiable antics, by unsparingly revealing filthy particulars which others conceal. A philosopher against all philosophy, he created the realistic epic, the solemn parody, resembling a mathematical deduction, as absurd as a dream, as trustworthy as an affidavit, as fascinating as a tale, as debasing as dirty rags wreathed like a crown around the head of a god. page 500 Such was his wretchedness and his strength: we turn away from the spectacle with hearts contracted yet filled with admiration, remarking inwardly that a burning palace is still a beautiful object, to which artists will add, that it is most beautiful when in flames."

The English novels of the classical era were essays in an untrodden literary field. They differed from the Spanish romances of the Middle Age in neither exalting nor engrossing the imagination, and from the French novels of the eighteenth century in neither reproducing nor embellishing the sentiments and language of polite society. The objects of their writers were to depict scenes taken from life, to analyse character, suggest plans of conduct, decide upon motives to action.

Daniel Defoe was the first as well as the most successful cultivator of this new field. His mind was singularly solid precise, and destitute of ingenuity, enthusiasm, and grace. He had the matter-of-fact imagination of a tradesman. It would seem as if he had himself enacted what his heroes performed, so literally and correctly did he describe every detail of their actions. Before him, no one had been so realistic; nor have any of his successors equalled him in this respect. The realistic writers of the present day are immeasurably inferior to him: what he did was done naturally; what they do is the result of choice, calculation, and artifice. He deceived not the eye but the mind. "His very imperfections were servicable to him; the absence of art had the effect of profound art; his negligences, repetitions, and diffuseness contributed to produce an illusion: nobody could object that a certain trivial and unimportant piece of detail would have been invented; it would be said that an inventor would have omitted it because perfectly useless; that art selects, adorns, and interests; that an artist would never have heaped together such a mass of trifling, common-place incidents; that what Defoe wrote could not be fiction but must be truth."

Two leading ideas govern morals, and have always governed them in England. Either conscience must be acknowledged as sovereign, or instinct must be taken for guide. At one time men have considered themselves the slaves of rule, at another entitled to pursue the bent of their inclinations. These two ideas have alternately had the mastery over Englishmen. "From Shakespeare to the Puritans, from Milton to Wycherley, from Congreve to Defoe, from Sheridan to Burke, from Wilberforce to Lord Byron, we see licence succeeded by constraint, tyranny by revolt, and this contest between rule and nature is depicted in the novels of Fielding and Richardson.

Richardson's "Pamela" was composed with the express object of eulogizing virtue and disparaging vice, and proved so successful that Dr. Sherlock recommended it from the pulpit. However, page 501 both it and his other works are too padded with moral lessons. A novelist should insinuate and not preach morality. Richardson's artifice is so transparent that we reject his conclusions, knowing very well that the lot of the virtuous is not so splendid, nor that of the vicious so sad, as he would have us believe. Human nature, when moved by vehement passions, bursts the barriers within which he would confine it. Nature punished him for his deficient love for her, by always concealing her countenance from him.

Nature as she really is, as opposed to Richardson's conception of her, was what Fielding professed to represent. "By nature we mean the secret passions, some baneful, for the most part vulgar, and always blind, which we carry within and which influence us, which are imperfectly concealed beneath the cloak of decorum and reason we throw over them, which we suppose to be under our control, but which govern us, the actions we ascribe to ourselves being caused by them." It was the art and delight of Fielding, as of Molière, to make his personages act rationally, and then exhibit to the reader, through a rent in the outer cloak of decorum and reason, the vanities, follies, lusts, and concealed hates which constituted the mainsprings of their conduct. He, too, is a moralist; but regarding nature as wholly opposed to rule, he makes of virtue an instinct and generosity a primitive inclination. There is a great void in Fielding's representation of nature. "Cervantes, whom he copied, and Shakespeare, of whom he reminds us, showed that delicacy of mind is as truly natural as rade and boisterous vigour: in the large harvest which Fielding [unclear: ped], he forgot the flowers." The outbursts of the senses, the surging of the blood, and tender effusions were familiar to him, but with nervous exultation and poetical ravishment he had no sympathy. "Man, as conceived by him, is but a fine buffalo, and this perhaps is the most suitable hero for a nation that glories in the nickname of John Bull."

Smollett copied life with more fidelity: he was less jovial than Fielding, and less straitlaced than Richardson; but his pictures want the illumination of genius. His heroes are all gross and sensual, without having the redeeming quality of goodness which is possessed by those of Fielding. In his hands Fielding's generous wine became transformed into the fiery liquor of a tavern; but his "Humphry Clinker" was an original work, and is interesting as a study of character. The study of human follies was carried to excess by Sterne. He regarded everything through a magnifying glass. He sought for and described whatever was absurd, affected, and scandalous in men. As manners were refined, literature became more polished, the grossness of Smollett and indecency of Sterne were tabooed, and the novel, before reaching the almost prudish hands of Miss Burney, passed through the page 502 honest hands of Goldsmith. When we look upon a picture by a great Flemish artist, we shall probably see a woman making her market, or a burgomaster draining a long glass full of beer, or some other homely incident. The personages may be of low station, and the incident may be trivial, yet all the personages have such a look of contentment and self-satisfaction, that we feel disposed to envy them. A similar impression is made on us by a perusal of Goldsmith's "Vicar of Wakefield."

In the centre of a large group of writers we behold one whom Goldsmith adored even when the butt of his caprice, with whom Gibbon, Reynolds, Garrick, Burke, and Sir William Jones delighted to hold converse. His society was courted by every one; his decisions were law; he was the arbiter of style. We inquire whether it was the liberality of his opinions that attracted all men to him, and are told that he was the Hercules of [unclear: Toryiste] that he hated the Whigs, thought James II. and Charles II. the best of monarchs, and considered Voltaire and Rousseau to be rascals. We turn to his writings, and find little to charm us. Throughout them all the same solemn tone predominates; by him classical prose was brought to the perfection that classical poetry was by Pope. "Art could not be more consummate, or nature more outraged." We can well understand that a rhetorical generation would take him for master, and accord to him that pre-eminence in eloquence which had been accorded to Pope in poetry. What astonishes a Frenchman is the kind of ideas that he made popular. His truths are too indisputable, his maximum we already know by heart. "He teaches that life is short, that men ought to improve themselves during the brief space at their disposal; that a mother should not educate her son in the fashion of a dancing-master; that men should repent of their sins, yet shun superstition; that it is always right to be busy but not in a hurry. We thank him for these sage counsels, at the same time saying inwardly that we could have dispensed with [unclear: th]. However, they pleased those to whom they were addressed, because those who read them loved sermons, and this writer's essays are sermons. His readers did not desire dainties [unclear: but] and wholesome food. In this respect, these essays are a [unclear: nation] aliment. A Frenchman finds the food insipid and [unclear: heavy] because it pleased their palates, Englishmen regarded [unclear: with] favour and revered as a philosopher the respectable and [unclear: unbeable] Samuel Johnson.

After viewing the caricatures of Hogarth, it may be remarked that the lessons taught by him seem fitted for the education of barbarians. It may also be said that there is nothing amiable in the English lay preachers, such as Defoe, Hogarth, [unclear: Smollet] Johnson, and others. To this we reply, that moralists are useful page 503 under certain circumstances, and that these moralists transformed a society of semi-barbarians into a society of civilized beings.

In all the works produced between the Restoration of the Stuarts and the French Revolution, we perceive over and above genuine English traits, the impress of a classical style. Every writer from Waller to Johnson, from Hobbes and Sir William Temple to Robertson and Hume, aspired after the same ideal. Their efforts had for result the perfection of prose compositions, of all works appertaining to conversation and eloquence; the impoverishment of all poetical works, and the production of historical works written in correct language and agreeable style, but utterly lacking both colour and picturesqueness. The predominance of this special style is manifest in the poets of Queen Aune's reign. Open the first that comes to hand, Parnell or Philips, Addison or Prior, Gay or Tickell, and the same kind of versification and general turn of thought will be perceived. All have the same features; all are cast in the same mould. We seem in the presence of a family of plants: the names differ, the height, size, and colour differ, but they all belong to one class. One plant will manifest the pervading type with greater distinctness than the others. Pope is to his brother poets what that plant is to the family. In him, we have the type of the class.

It is always unfortunate for a poet to be what Pope was, too great a master of versification; as he is certain to become more of a versifier than a poet. Pope wrote verses in the style of an Italian singer who should make a shake on every note. His style is exceptionally condensed and ornate. Excepting naturalness, it wants nothing. His poetry resembles cookery, an art in which excellence can be attained without the aid of genius, what is essential being a light hand, observant eye, and practised taste. His "Rape of the Lock" and "Dunciad" were universally admired by his contemporaries, and extolled by them as far surpassing the "Lutrin" and "Satires" of Boileau. The eulogy, if deserved, is not excessive, seeing that the larger portion of Boileau's verses resemble those of a clever schoolboy, the smaller portion those of a clever undergraduate. Although the "Rape of the Lock" is on a par with most French poems as respects cleverness, it is far inferior to all French poems in polish. Had Pope dedicated it to a Frenchwoman instead of to an Englishwoman, the dedication copy would have been returned with the advice to go and learn manners, seeing that for one compliment to the fair sex contained in it, there are ten sarcasms against feminine frivolity.

Yet there was true poetical stuff in Pope. To be sensible of this we must read his works in fragments. Thus it is at the close of all literary periods. What is true of Pliny the younger page 504 and of Seneca is equally true of Pope. A paragraph, a sentence, or a couplet by them is a masterpiece. Pope's descriptive talent was great: the imitative harmony of his verses has never been surpassed. He was an excellent rhetorician, and could versify precepts and arguments with marvellous skill. Despite his art, his writings soon weary us. Stendhal has said that a woman of forty is beautiful in the eyes of those only who have loved her when young. Unfortunately, Pope's muse is not merely forty, but one hundred and forty years old to us. We cannot regard it with the eyes of his contemporaries. To them, nature unadorned was unendurable. To us nature is all in all, and, in proportion to the intensity of our love for nature must be our distaste for the writings of Pope.

Prior did not attain classical elegance, although employing classical forms. Gay was an English La Fontaine, which means that he resembled La Fontaine very distantly. The first who broke through the crust of conventional mannerism was Thomson. If his style be too emphatic it is truly opulent. He painted what he saw, and because he loved it. Thirty years before Rousseau, Thomson expressed Rousseau's sentiments, and in a very similar style. After this, Ossian was fabricated by Macpherson, "Ossian, who along with Oscar, Malvina, and the others, went the round of Europe, and ended about 1830 in supplying baptismal names for hair-dressers and milliners." Gray and Akenside, who skilfully imitated the poetry of ancient Greece, Beattie with the nerves of a young girl and the affectation of an old maid, Gold-smith, Collins, Glover, Watts, Shenstone, Smart,—all occupied themselves with sentimental poetry, were disposed towards melancholy, to indulge in reveries and dissertations, and willingly mounted on stilts in their endeavours to attain the grand style. The most celebrated of them was Young, who having lost his wife and children consoled himself by composing his "Night Thoughts." There are certainly many flashes of imagination in his poems. In making Christian philosophy the subject of a poem, he anticipated M. de Chateaubriand and M. de Lamartine. In the odes of Gray and reflections of Akenside are to be found the melancholy sadness, the exquisite art, and beautiful reasoning which compose the one-half of M. de Lamartine's poetry.

History was the only branch of literature in which England was trully original at this time, and classical art prevented history attaining its proper growth. Gibbon. Robertson, and Hume were imbued with French notions, and wrote with French art. They were liberal, moderate, and impartial in their views and judgments, and were destitute of fanaticism and prejudice; but they dwarfed human nature, and painted revolutions and outbreaks like men who had lived in dusty libraries; they judged fanatics with page 505 the coolness of parsons and the smiles of sceptics, effaced the distinguishing traits from human nature, and covered the rough surface of truth with a uniform and brilliant varnish.

As the nineteenth century approached, the classical age finished its work, and a new literary era commenced. Society had grown wealthier and more enlightened, the middle class had become better educated and more powerful, men were thrilled with new desires and aspired after higher standards of excellence. France led the way in the revolution in manners; Germany in the revolution in ideas. Two currents of thought, the one French the other Germanic, spread over England, and the result was the foundation of modern literature.

Robert Burns, a poor Scottish peasant, was one of the earliest who manifested with striking clearness the altered spirit of the period. Dissatisfaction with the prevailing social inequalities first cradled him into poetry. Like Rousseau, he wrote in the capacity of an oppressed plebeian who had risen in revolt. He detested the official cant of the time, and loved nature with unexampled enthusiasm and constancy. The majority of his poems show an utter disregard for established and acknowledged precedents in style and ideas, being protests against invidious distinctions of class or creed, and demands for position in society on the sole ground of personal merit. His poems were written, not to flatter or please society, but to express his genuine feelings and give [unclear: vent] to his strong passions. After protracted listening to formal and empty declamation, we hear in them the echo of a man's voice; nay more, we enter into close commune with a human soul. Like other men of natural genius and imperfect culture, he is very unequal. When mimicking the formal epistolary style which had long been fashionable, he excites our compassion: when appearing, as he sometimes did, ashamed of being accounted an untutored peasant and poor villager, he erred as those men usually do who owe everything to merit and nothing to fortune. After all, his shortcomings are trifling, and do not lessen our admiration for his incomparable genius.

William Cowper was another of the innovators in poetry. He wrote for pastime, regardless of popularity. He described the most commonplace incidents, not after the fashion of realists, but in the style of a true poet. He saw matter for poetry in the sparkling of burning logs, in the motion of fingers plying the needle, because—and this is distinctive of a poet—all objects issued from his mind not only better defined than when they entered it, but also purified, ennobled, and coloured, like thick vapours which the effects of distance and light transofrm into satin clouds fringed with purple and gold. He demonstrated the absurdity of seeking poetical subjects in heroic deeds in palaces in Greece page 506 or in Rome, when they lie around us, if we but knew it; if we know it not, the blame is ours. Crabbe did this also; but he handled things in the classical style, and was, as has justly been remarked, a Pope in worsted stockings. True poetry consists in the sensations with which we regard objects. Cowper did not strive to render his ideas conspicuous by antithesis or repetition; being a true poet, he contented himself with noting his sensations.

Next appeared the romantic school. Its founders, Southey, Coleridge, and Wordsworth, were radicals in politics as well as innovators in poetry. When young they talked about founding a society in America, from which kings and priests were to be excluded; in riper years they were devoted churchmen and staunch Tories. They wished to dispense with poetical diction, and employ the ordinary speech of ordinary men. They discarded the conventional forms of verse. Southey and Coleridge were especially assiduous in making new rhymes and inventing new metres, some of which were as happy and some as bad as those adopted by Victor Hugo. "It was as if a plebeian, having thrown off a court-dress, and seeking another one, had borrowed one piece from a barbarian, another from a knight, another from a peasant, and another from a journalist, and, without being sensible of the want of congruity, had decked himself in the motley garment, and was contented with it, till at length, after several essays and failures, he became conscious of his real wants and selected suitable apparel."

While these attempts were being made, two ideas gained the ascendancy over men, the one leading to the production of historical, the other of philosophical compositions. The predominance of the one tendency is visible in Southey and Sir Walter Scott, of the other in Wordsworth and Shelley. This tendency was not confined to England, but was manifested throughout Europe; in France it influenced Victor Hugo, Lamartine, and Musset; in Germany, in far stronger measure, it influenced Goethe and Schiller Rückert and Heine. The first of these ideas was the recognitions of the fact that every age and race had a separate ideal; that the barbarians, the men of feudal times, the knights of the Revival Mussulmans, and Hindoos had each an ideal of the beautiful which was really beautiful. Recognising this, men began to paint ill heroes of a particular clime and race, surrounded by the accessories which accorded with their characters, and endeavoured also to enter into their feelings and sympathize with their views. Englishmen are disqualified by nature for succeeding in such an undertaking. "They regard their own form of civilization as the most rational, their own morality as superior to that of any other nation, and every religion, except their own, extravagant." page 507 In order to write an Indian poem, it is necessary to be something of a pantheist at heart, and something of a visionary. In order to write a Greek poem, it is necessary to be a polytheist at heart, pagan at bottom, and naturalist by profession. Hence, Heine has written so well about India, and Goethe so well about Greece. However, after every attempt in this line, it has become generally felt "that it is in the writers of bygone ages, that we must seek for a picture of bygone ages; that the only real Grecian tragedies are those written by Greeks; that the historical romance must give place to a authentic chronicles, like modern to original ballads; in fine, that historical literature of the above sort must pass away or be transformed into criticism and history, that is to say, into an-exposition of, and a commentary upon documents."

What, for instance, is the value of the historical sketches of the most notable man of that age, whose reputation was European, who was more popular than Voltaire, and whom some ranked with Shakespeare? Did Sir Walter Scott really revivify the past in his poems and romances? No, he stopped short on the threshold, preferring that which would interest to that which was true. Had he painted the past as he knew it to have been, the picture would have shocked the majority of his readers he dared not draw with fidelity either the voluptuous enthusiasts of the Revival, or the heroic brutes and ferocious beasts of the Middle Ages. His real glory lay in throwing a poetical and unfading halo over his native land, in making Scotland for ever attractive to mankind.

Coleridge and Wordsworth carried into poetical literature the spirit of philosophy. Wordsworth was by nature a thinker and dreamer. He saw a beauty in common things to which others were blind. Being so much of a philosopher, he addressed the heart rather than the senses. In "The Excursion" we forget the absence of scenic decoration in our admiration for the chastity and elevation of the thoughts contained in it. The same philosophical spirit which influenced Wordsworth, the staunch Tory, influenced in equal measure Shelley, the uncompromising socialist, just as formerly the classical style served as an instrument in the hands alike of the genial Addison and of the misanthropical Swift. Shelley was destitute of that knowledge of men which most poets possess: his personages are phantoms. He lived in another world than ours, a world governed by other laws. In his poetry, fancy disported like a happy child with a splendid skein of forms and colours. Has any one since Spenser and Shakspeare had visions so tender and enchanting as he had and described? Could anything be more exquisite than several of his poems, especially that on the "Sensitive Plant"? The history of that plant is the history of himself. There was a poetical fitness in his identifying his own life with that of a plant. Assuredly, there is a soul in all things; page 508 underneath the external covering is a secret essence—something we know not what, of the divine, of which we catch a glimpse at intervals, but never obtain a clear view and full knowledge. This presentiment and aspiration which all modern poets have felt, are expressed sometimes, as by Campbell and Wordsworth, in Christian meditations; sometimes, as by Keats and Shelley, in pagan visions. They all felt the palpitation of the great heart of Nature, and wished to penetrate to its recesses, either by way of Judæa or Greece, by means of consecrated dogmas or proscribed doctrines. The greatest of them died in the attempt. Their poetry was mutilated in scaling the lofty height they aspired to mount. Byron alone reached the summit.

Byron was proud and passionate by nature, and inclined to rebel against all established customs and opinions. Only when attacking somebody or thing were his powers brought into [unclear: fell] play. His life and poetry were for the most part those of a [unclear: Skal] transported in to modern times, and who, in a world too well regulated, could find no congenial employment.

Compared with the prodigal splendours of Byron, the writings of Wordsworth and Scott seem dry and poor. Never since œschylus has more tragic pomp been displayed than in some passages in "Childe Harold." Yet he is no mere phrase-maker or scene-painter; he has lived among the scenes he depicts, he has experienced the emotions he recounts. In "Manfred" we observe the two products which civilization has caused to flourish in England, an imperious will and practical talent. If in "Faust Goethe has shown himself the poet of the universe, in "Manfred" Byron has shown himself the poet of the individual; and if the genius of Germany has its interpreter in Goethe, the genius of England has its interpreter in Byron.

"Over and above British cant, there is universal hypocrisy over and above English pedantry, Byron warred against human rascality." This is the true sense of "Don Juan." When he wrote it, experience of life had taught him what man really was the sublime sentiments of "Childe Harold" had vanished from his mind. He had come to regard man as a being who spends the principal portion of his time in sleeping, eating, and [unclear: yawing;] in working like a horse, and amusing himself like a monkey After passing the greater part of life in braving public opinion and employing his poetical powers to defend revolt, he finally took delight in composing a poem directed against all human and poetical conventions. Yet even "Don Juan" languished under his hands. The latter portion lacks the fire and spontaneousness of the earlier. In his longing after novelty and excitement, Byron went to lead a life of action in Greece, and just as he had begun his new career he died.

Looking backwards across the ages in which were produced page 509 the literature of which we have written the history, we can now embrace at a glance the whole course of English civilization.

The most important element in it is the principle of race. A body of Angles and Saxons extirpated or subjugated the natives of Britain, effaced all vestiges of Latin culture, and welcomed in the Danish invaders recruits of kindred blood. "This is the aboriginal trunk; from its substance and innate qualities nearly all future vegetation will spring." Beyond a few warlike poems lad a few religious hymns and poems, some of them very remarkable on account of the vehemence and splendour of their style, Anglo-Saxon literature was barren. Excepting that the nation has become Christian, it was nearly as barbarous after the lapse of six centuries as at its origin.

"The empire of this world belongs to the mightiest." Hence the rude Anglo-Saxons succumbed before the more cultured Normans, whose mental resources sufficed to quadruple their bodily powers. The Conquest gave an impress to the history and character of the people which has never been obliterated: it imprinted on their character and history that practical and political bias which distinguishes both from those of other Germanic races. Norman organization repressed the energies, but did not eradicate the innate capacities of the Anglo-Saxons. Their position and necessities forced them to band themselves together against their Norman masters, in order to resist oppression to defend their lives and their properties, to strive to restore their old laws, to obtain or extort charters; and being engaged in this way they gradually acquired those faculties and inclinations by which freedom is won and a nation founded. By a happy accident the Normans were obliged to obtain the aid of their Anglo-Saxon vassals against the encroachments and tyranny of regal power. When the Anglo-Saxon yeomen took their seats in Parliament alongside of the sons of Norman nobles, the social inequality Between the two races was at an end. The bulk of the nation had been too much engaged with hard travail to have had any leisure for the cultivation of letters. Hence the prevailing literature was either produced by Norman pens or adapted to Norman tastes. With the exception of ballads, the Anglo-Saxons after the Conquest produced little that is attractive or noteworthy. Only one man towered highly above the rest of his contemporaries—Geoffrey Chaucer. For a second time, we find a civilization of five centuries comparatively sterile, if we except Chaucer's poems, in important literary works.

During the barbaric era a nation of Germans had settled on Eglish soil; the feudal age imposed on that nation habits of resistance and of association, and fostered political and utilitarian tastes. At the period of the European Revival, five great nations started together in the same career. "From all appearance, we page 510 should infer that accidents and circumstances controlled their speed, their fall, or their success. Not so; on themselves alone will depend the result; each will prove the founder of his fortune; chance can have no influence over events so vast; national inclinations and national faculties, overturning or raising up obstacles, will irresistibly conduct each to its destined place, some to the lowest depth of decadence, others to the summit of prosperity. After all, man is his own master and his own slave." Look at an Englishman of the sixteenth century, and you will perceive in him the powers and aptitudes which during three centuries will govern his progress and shape his constitution. In the works of Shakespeare, Jonson, and the tragic dramatists, in those off Spenser, Sidney, and the poets, we behold represented with incomparable profundity and splendour all the national traits, as these were moulded and fixed by the events and influences of preceding centuries. By nature and circumstances the nation was prepared to embrace Protestantism, and to manifest the Protestant spirit, which consists in the determination to obtain the mastery over self, and in acting on the conviction that man is a free moral being, who having conceived for himself and in the sight of God what is the rule of conduct, is bound to apply this rule to himself and to others with unflinching energy. This spirit disappeared during the debauch of the Restoration, but reappeared afterwards, and obtained the ascendancy it has ever since retained.

Two principles influenced the literature of the eighteenth century, the desire to copy French models, and the disposition to display English traits. The result was, that such works as essays, pamphlets, parliamentary speeches, political satires, or personal lampoons, were all good in their way, being correctly written, sensible in tone, well adapted either to instruct a friend or pain an adversary. In all works of a high speculative class and of poetry, that literature is extremely poor, if not wholly deficient.

Wealth, education, and prosperity gradually transformed the nation. The fount of poesy which welled forth so copiously during the sixteenth century, welled forth again towards the beginning of the nineteenth, and a new literature arose. The influx of new ideas was perceptible in every branch of this literature. To introduce continental ideas in science and letters was then, as it is now the aim of the most distinguished minds. The men who now labour for this object are patriots as well as innovators: they wish to renew rather than destroy. They know that England is finally established on a sure basis, and that she is more capable than any other nation of future progress without either! forgetting or disregarding the traditions of the past.

Whatever exceptions may be taken to some of M. Taine's page 511 doctrines, it is unquestionable that he has mapped out the epochs of English literature with singular originality and precision, that he has analysed the works of the greatest English writers with acuteness, has stated the results of his investigations with a fulness and grasp of thought which denote an acquaintance with that literature at once minute and comprehensive, and an admiration for whatever is noble in it, as genuine as rare. His doctrines, as stated in our sketch, appear to disadvantage; they lack those accessories of illustration and argument which in the work itself illumine and enforce them. The doctrine which underlies all his speculations, that of the influence of race, has never yet been applied to our whole literature by any other writer. Of its importance we are fully aware. That even M. Taine has not applied it with perfect success we attribute to the imperfection of his generalization. The Saxon race is undoubtedly the backbone of the English people; but other races have had an influence on their history and progress. No one who carefully considers the peculiar talents displayed by such very dissimilar yet very national writers as Edmund Burke, Richard Brinsley Sheridan, and Thomas Moore can contend that these men displayed much in common with the Saxon temperament and talent. That Celtic influence has largely modified the Saxon character is rightly, though rather too unreservedly, maintained by Mr. Morley. According to him, "but for early, frequent, and various contact with the race that in its half-barbarous days invented Oisin's dialogues with St. Patrick, and that quickened afterwards the Northmen's blood in France, Germanic England would not have produced a Shakespeare." "It may be said that there is in the unmixed Anglo-Saxon an imagination with deep roots and little flower—solid stem and no luxuriance of foliage. The gay wit of the Celt would pour into the song of a few minutes more phrases of ornament than are to be found in the whole poem of Beowulf." The admission that there has been a Celtic influence at work in English literature would not destroy the value of M. Taine's speculations, it would merely necessitate the reconsideration and enlargement of his doctrine. It is the narrowness, not the tendency, of his doctrine which dissatisfies us.

The absence of a detailed account of the origin, progress, and character of English journalism is a great blemish in a work purporting to be a history of English Literature. This omission may be remedied in a future edition, as well as several trifling errors of detail, which on a careful revisal of the work must become apparent to its author. When reviewing a work so valuable and masterly as this one, we gladly exchange what Chateaubriand styled the paltry and meagre criticism of faults, for the large and prolific criticism of beauties. The beauties predominate. As a piece of historical composition, this history has few equals in our page 512 day. As a gallery of pictures, it rivals the matchless work of Macaulay; as a statement of philosophical views, it more than rivals the pregnant disquisitions of the late Mr. Buckle.

No other history of our literature can match M. Taine's in comprehensive grasp of thought, brilliancy of style, and trustworthiness of statement. It deserves a conspicuous place in every library filled with the immortal works of which it narrates the history, explains the character, and magnifies the excellence. English literature now owes the same debt to a French author which that of Italy owes to a Frenchman, that of Germany to an Englishman, and that of Spain to an American. If we would understand the history of Italian literature, we must turn to us the work of Ginguené; if we would comprehend the greatest genius that Germany has produced, we must peruse Mr. Lewes's life of Goethe. Whoever desires to become acquainted with the literary talent which Spaniards displayed before their intellectual powers had been repressed by the tyranny of the Inquisition, had been dwarfed and blighted by superstition and religious bigotry, must turn for information to the great work of Mr. Ticknor. Until superseded by a better history than any yet produced, M. Taine's masterly volumes will supply the best and most finished picture that can be found of the noble literature of England.