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contemporaries, Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679), in which we find, with much less literary genius, an infinitely larger portion of that clearness and accuracy which are the note of modern prose.
“A permanent foundation for his fame,” writes Sir James Mackintosh, “consists in his admirable style, which seems to be the very perfection of didactic language. Short, clear, precise, pithy, his language has never more than one meaning, which never requires a second thought to find. . . . He had so thoroughly studied the genius of the language, and knew so well to steer between pedantry and vulgarity, that two centuries have not superannuated probably more than a dozen of his words. His expressions are so luminous, that he is clear without the help of illustration.” This extravagant eulogium, which bears all the marks of Sir James's over-laudatory disposition, must not be understood to mean more than that Hobbes wrote with a lucidity and precision rarely found in philosophers. During his long life, Hobbes mingled in much of the best society, intellectual and social, both of England and the Continent. In his earlier years he was secretary to Bacon, and was, we are told by the antiquary Aubrey, “beloved by his Lordship, who was wont to have him walk in his delicate groves, where he did meditate ; and when a notion darted into his mind, Mr. Hobbes was presently to write it down. And his Lordship was wont to say that he did it better than any one else about him; tinies when he read their notes he scarce understood what they writ, because they understood it not clearly themselves.” Hobbes was also greatly in favour with the Cavendish family, acting as tutor to two successive Earls of Devonshire, with whom he wandered over a large part of the Continent, making acquaintance with the more prominent literary men there. Hobbes's literary career began with a translation of Thucydides, designed to show the evils of popular rule. From 1640 to 1660 appeared the works on which his fame as a thinker rests : “De Cive ;” “ Treatise on Human Nature ; ' “ De Corpore Politico ;” “Leviathan, or the Matter, Power, and Form of a Commonwealth, Ecclesiastical and Civil;” and “De Corpore."
for that many
The latter years of his life were embittered by a controversy on certain mathematical points, in which he got decidedly the worst of it. At the age of eighty-six, the versatile old man published translations of the “Iliad” and “Odyssey," not remarkable save as literary curiosities. Hobbes's philosophical theories had immense influence on the Restoration period. He became the philosopher par excellence of the court and the society which surrounded it. His selfish theory of morals and his theory of government, which, though setting out with the statements that the origin of all power was in the people, and that the end of all power was for the common weal, practically inculcated a sort of divine right, were very acceptable to King 'and courtiers. As frequently happens, Hobbes's followers often carried his views to an extreme length, and the name “ Hobbism” was given to doctrines which Hobbes himself would have been the last to countenance.
With the great exception already mentioned, the poets of the era preceding the Restoration do not compare favourably with the prose writers. It is a sad contrast to leave the magnificent efflorescence of the Elizabethan era and to study the works of the many poetasters who flourished about the time of Charles 1. Even those who tower above the common herd, and have not long since been consigned to obscurity, are now remembered chiefly by a few happy verses, and not by their writings as a whole. Such is the case with the unfortunate cavalier Richard Lovelace, who died in 1658 at the age of forty. Two or three of his lyrics are perfect gems, to be committed to heart and conned over by all who care anything about poetry, but his genius was the reverse of prolific, and “rubbish” is the only fit epithet by which to characterise most of what he wrote. Much the same may be said about Sir John Suckling (16081641). A few sprightly society verses, of which the well-known and justly celebrated “Ballad on a Wedding" is the best, is all of his work that can in any sense be said to live. Of even “Holy George Herbert," whose "Temple," published in 1633, has received warm praise from some of the best judges of poetry, can it be said that he is at all generally known or appre
ciated save in select extracts? Beautiful as his devout earnestness is, and poetical and striking as are many of his thoughts, his quaint conceits prove an insuperable stumbling-block to many. " Neither their intrinsic excellence," says Mr. Ruskin, "nor the authority of those who can judge of it, will ever make the poems of George Herbert popular in the sense in which Scott and Byron are popular, because it is to the vulgar a labour instead of a pleasure to read them; and there are parts in them which to such judges cannot but be vapid and ridiculous.” If Mr. Ruskin had said that parts of them are vapid and ridiculous, he would, we think, have approached nearer the truth; though to not a few whose opinion is worthy of all respect it will appear something little short of profanity to say so. The " Hesperides” of Robert Herrick, which was published in 1648, has supplied many choice flowers to our poetical anthologies. In a similar way the works of Wither, of Carew, and others have been laid under contribution. To all these Campbell's criticism on Herrick may, with the requisite modifications, be applied : “Herrick, if we were to fix our eyes on a small portion of his works, might be pronounced a writer of delightful anacreontic spirit. He has passages where the thoughts seem to dance into numbers from his very heart, and where he frolics like a being made up of melody and pleasure, as when he sings
"Gather ye rosebuds while ye may,
Old Time is still a-flying ;
To-morrow will be dying.'
'Thou art my lise, my love, my heart,
The very eyes of me ;
To live and die for thee.'
ness and extravagance,
But his beauties are so deeply involved in surrounding coarse
as to constitute not a tenth part of his
poetry; or rather, it may be safely affirmed that of 1400 pages of verse which he has left, not a hundred are worth reading."
Herrick, Lovelace, and their fellow-lyrists belonged to the Cavalier party, but Puritanism, which produced the greatest statesmen and soldiers of the age, produced its two greatest imaginative writers, Milton and Bunyan; a rather curious fact when we remember that the Royalists prided theniselves on hav. ing a monopoly of the arts, which the austere Puritans were apt to regard with ill-judging contempt. John Milton, England's greatest epic poet, in comparison to whose organ tones the voices of his contemporary singers seem as penny-whistles, was born on December 9, 1608, at a house in Bread Street, Cheapside. His father, a cultivated man, of puritanical tendencies, but fond of music and the arts, was a well-to-do scrivener, a calling uniting part of the work now done by attorneys and law-stationers. Milion's early education was sedulously attended to: he was, to use his own words, cised to the tongues and some sciences as my age would suffer, by sundry masters and teachers both at home and the schools." Very early he applied himself to study with that intense eagerness which he retained through life; from the twelfth year of his life, he tells us, he very rarely went to bed without studying to midnight, thus, as he believed, laying the seeds of that weakness in his eyes which developed into blindness. To the period of Milton's school-days belong the first poems of his which have been preserved, Paraphrases of the cxiv. and cxxxvi. Psalms, verses well described by Johnson: “They raise no great expectations; they would in any numerous school have obtained praise but not excited wonder.”
From St. Paul's School, where he had been for some years, Milton, early in 1625, went to Cambridge, where he was enrolled as a lesser pensioner of Christ's College. Rooms there, venerable from their association with his name, are still pointed out to visitors. After his enrolment he returned to London, where he remained till his matriculation in April of the same year. For seven years, barring vacations, visits to his parents, &c., Milton remained at Cambridge, not leaving it till he took his
Milton's Early Poems.
113 M.A. degree in 1632, having previously graduated B.A. in 1629. By the undergraduates he was nicknamed “The Lady,” on account of his “fair complexion, feminine and graceful appearance, and a certain haughty delicacy in his tastes and morals." At first he was not popular among his associates; nor is there any reason to wonder that he was not so. It is easy to imagine with what scorn the youthful poet, self-restrained, self-conscious, haughty, and of purity approaching to asceticism, must have regarded the rough fun, the practical jokes, the noisy gatherings, the jovial conversation which are the delight of undergraduates possessed of high animal spirits. A want of humour, with its usual concomitant, a want of power to do justice to men of different type from himself, was Milton's great defect through life. As time wore on, however, he
. seems to have made himself more agreeable to his associates; and he certainly was distinguished for his learning and accomplishments. “ 'Twas,” says Anthony Wood, speaking of Milton's Cambridge life, “ usual with him to sit up till midnight at his book, which was the first thing that brought his eyes into the danger of blindness. By his indefatigable study he profited exceedingly - performed the academical exercises to the satisfaction of all, and was esteemed a virtuous and sober person, yet not to be ignorant of his own parts." At the outset of his university career, in 1626, he had a quarrel with his tutor, which led to his temporary rustication : he is even said on this occasion to have suffered the indignity of corporal punishment. However this may be, Milton certainly looked back to his university life with no great liking or respect for his Alma Mater.
The following is a list, with dates, of the English poems composed by Milton during his Cambridge life. We omit the Latin ones, as not properly coming within the scope of a book on English literature :-“On the Death of a Fair Infant” (1626); " At a Vacation Exercise in the College” (1628); “On the Morning of Christ's Nativity” (1629); “Upon the Circumcision ;" * The Passion ;” “ On Time ;” “At a Solemn Music;" Song on May Morning ;"" On Shakespeare" (1630);