« ForrigeFortsæt »
so-called Anatomy of Melancholy, 1621, a systematic examination of the nature and treatment of hypochondria. Its author, Robert Burton (1576-1640), was rector of Seagrave, in Leicestershire. Despite the methodical divisions and subdivisions of the book, quotations of a most multifarious character make up its body and substance. Burton himself terms it a cento. It is certainly a cento unparalleled. Sterne was notoriously indebted to it, as also (it is said) were the wits of the Augustan and Georgian eras; and since Thackeray makes it the entire library of one of his literary characters, it may be inferred that its use, as a convenient storehouse of out-of-the-way erudition, is not, even now, unknown.
Two other writers, although they cannot be said to belong more exclusively to the reign of James than to that of his successor, nevertheless produced some of their most important works within the period comprised in this chapter. One was Lord Herbert of Cherbury (1581-1648), the author of two deistical works, entitled respectively De Veritate and De Religione Gentilium, the first of which was published in 1624; of a valuable, if partial, History of the Life and Reign of Henry VIII.; and a singularly direct and candid autobiography. The other is John Selden (1584–1654), a man of a learning as vast as, but better disciplined than, Burton's, author of numerous works, of which the Treatise of Titles of Honour, 1614, his largest English work, and the History of Tithes, 1618, belong to this period. After his death was published his Table-Talk, 1689, reprinted in Mr. Arber's series.
47. The Minor Prose Writers.-Foremost among the minor writers comes the unfortunate Sir Thomas Overbury (1581– 1613), poisoned on account of his opposition to the marriage of Carr, James' favourite, with the Countess of Essex. Overbury was the author of the poem of The Wife, and of Characters or Witty Descriptions of the Properties of sundry Persons, 1614, pieces characterised by the prevailing taste for conceit and epigram. A valuable and original Historie of the Turks, 1610, was written by Richard Knolles (1540-1610). Among the chroniclers must be mentioned Richard Grafton (d. after 1572); Raphael Holinshed (d. 1580), to whose Chronicles of England, Ireland, and Scotland, Shakespeare was indebted for some of his raw material; John Stowe (1525-1605), author of the well-known Survey of London, 1598; and John Speed (1552–1629), author of a History of Great Britain, 1611. In his Britannia, 1586, William Camden (1551– 1623) described the country topographically; and the achievements of the Elizabethan navigators were carefully commemorated in the
collections of Voyages and Travels compiled by Hakluyt, Purchas, and others.* For Jewel, Whitgift, Cartwright, and the other theological writers of the period the reader is referred to the Dictionary Appendix at the end of this volume.
Of prose translations, the Montaigne's Essays of John Florio (d. 1625), the original of Holofernes in Love's Labour's Lost, a distinction which he attracted to himself by his censures of the contemporary drama; and (mainly on account of a connection with Shakespeare similar to that of Holinshed's work) the version (1579) of Amyot's Plutarch by Sir Thomas North (XVI. cent.), are also worthy of notice.
48. The Authorised Version. The account of the prose writings of the Shakespearean age is fittingly brought to an end by the Authorised Translation of the Scriptures, which, originating with the Hampton Court Conference of 1604, was commenced in 1607, and was published in 1611. The basis of this was the so-called Bishops', or Archbishop Parker's Bible, 1568, which was to be followed as closely as possible. The Bishops' Bible was based upon Cranmer's, which again may be said to derive from Tyndale's version. (See p. 45, s. 26.) To this literary descent, and to the careful collation of the new translation with the earlier ones, must be attributed that mellow archaism of phraseology which apparently removes the language of our present Bible to a period far more remote than the reign in which the translation was actually executed. The English of the Authorised Version represents, not the language of 1611 in its integrity, but the language which prevailed from time to time during the previous century.†
* See Dictionary Appendix (E).
Eastwood and Wright, Preface to Bible Word-Book, 1866.
THE AGE OF MILTON AND DRYDEN.
49. SUMMARY OF THE PERIOD.-50. THE METAPHYSICAL SCHOOL' OF POETS.51. COWLEY.-52. HERBERT, CRASHAW.-53. QUARLES, WITHER.-54. HERRICK, HABINGTON.-55. THE CAVALIER POETS.-56. WALLER.-57. MILTON. -58. BUTLER. 59. MARVELL.-60. THE MINOR POETS.-61. THE PROSE WRITERS. 62. HOBBES, CLARENDON.-63. FULLER, BROWNE.-64. WALTON. -65. THE DIARISTS.-66. BUNYAN.-67. LOCKE, TEMPLE.-68. THE THEOLOGIANS.-69. THE SCIENTIFIC WRITERS.-70. THE MINOR PROSE WRITERS. -71. THE NEWSPAPER PRESS.-72. THE SURVIVORS OF THE SHAKESPEAREAN STAGE. 73. THE STAGE OF THE RESTORATION.-74. DRYDEN.-75. SHADWELL, LEE.-76. OTWAY, SOUTHERNE.-77. THE COMIC DRAMATISTS.
49. Summary of the Period.-The period embraced by the last chapter came to an end with the death of James I., in 1625. The present chapter extends from that date to the close of the seventeenth century. It includes the reign of Charles I., the Commonwealth, the Protectorates, the reigns of Charles II. and James II., and (two years only excepted) the reign of William and Mary. Taking the commencement of the Civil War as one point of division, and the Restoration in 1660 as another, this epoch of English literary history may be arranged in three stages-the first from 1625 to 1640, the second from 1640 to 1660, and the third from 1660 to 1700,-the date of the death of Dryden.
During the first of these stages the great school of dramatists, which had thrown a lustre over the two previous reigns of Elizabeth and James, was slowly dying out. Of the major prose writers of James' reign, only Selden and Lord Herbert were still active, Bacon having died in 1626. A hush preceded the coming struggle, and literature flourished chiefly in the hands of a little group of poets, of whom Jonson, in his minor pieces, and Donne (see p. 56, s. 36), who lived until 1631, may be said to be the leaders. Of these, Cowley, Wither, Herbert, Crashaw, Habington, Quarles, Suckling, and Carew had all published poems before 1640, and in that year Denham's masterpiece was written. Nothing had been printed of
Milton's earlier poetry, some of which belongs to this school, but the Epitaph On Shakespear, Comus, and Lycidas,-the two first anonymously, the last with the writer's initials only. L'Allegro and Il Penseroso; the majority of the Sonnets, and most of the shorter pieces, however, are all supposed to have been composed before the last-mentioned date.
During the whole of the second stage (1640-1660) the great poet practically laid by his singing robes' for controversial prose, and, with some few exceptions, the bulk of the little literature was of this kind. As, after Chaucer, the Wars of the Roses and the Reformation were succeeded by a literary dearth, so now the Civil Wars and the Puritan Revolution gave rise to a temporary suspension of works of imagination. The closing of the theatres in 1642 put an end to plays. Most of the lesser minstrels were silent during the storm, or, if they sang at all, their song was changed. Either the time of their literary activity did not coincide with the period of struggle, but came before it, or after it, or lay on both sides of it; or what they did write of a purely literary character during this period was written in exile.'*
With the Restoration the third stage began, and the drama, considerably modified by French influences, became at once the popular form of literature. If Paradise Lost, Paradise Regained, and Samson Agonistes were produced during the reign of Charles II., they must be regarded as produced in spite of their surroundings. The years from 1660 to 1700 belong, above all, to Davenant and Dryden, to Otway, Southerne, the Comic Dramatists and their congeners. In the present chapter we shall take the poets first in order (s. 50 to s. 60), the prose writers next (s. 61 to s. 71), and the dramatists last (s. 72 to s. 77).
50. The 'Metaphysical School' of Poets.-To the majority of the verse-writers referred to above as following the fashion of Donne, Johnson,† perhaps taking a hint from Dryden, applies the adjective 'metaphysical.' The qualification has been demurred to by Southey, who, nevertheless, refrains from proposing a better. By Hallam it is held to be more exactly applicable to writers like Sir John Davies (see p. 56, s. 36); but, correct or incorrect, it will probably continue to be used in describing this particular group of poets. Perpetual striving after novelty, intricacy of conceit, and a certain lettered quibbling are their chief characteristics. Wit and
* Masson Essays, Biographical and Critical, 1856, 93.
learning they had undoubtedly; but Johnson denies to them pathos or sublimity. He allows, however, that, in the pursuit of fanciful analogies, they 'sometimes struck out unexpected truths,' and, falling into a conceit himself, admits that if their conceits were farfetched, they were often worth the carriage. And, indeed, although some of them may be found on occasion to compare 'eyes to burning-glasses, and tears to terrestrial globes, coyness to an enthymeme, absence to a pair of compasses, and an unrequited passion to the fortieth remainder-man in an entail,' they have nevertheless left us many dainty lyrics (not to mention some longer pieces) which could ill be spared from our anthologies. Such are, for example:-Lovelace's Tell me not, Sweet, I am unkind, and the lines, To Althea, from prison; Wither's Shall I, wasting in despair?-Suckling's Why so pale and wan, fond lover? Carew's He that loves a rosy cheek; Waller's Go lovely Rose! and the verses On a Girdle; or, the Gather ye rosebuds while ye may, and others by Herrick.
51. Cowley. The most illustrious representative of the metaphysical school, after Donne (see p. 56, s. 36), is Abraham Cowley (1618-1667). On this account chiefly he is entitled to priority of place, as more than one of the writers named subsequently had produced mature works when Cowley had put forth nothing but the Poetical Blossoms (1636) of his boyhood. His father was a Cheapside tradesman. Set on fire by the study of Spenser, he began to write early, publishing the above-mentioned volume of verses while still at Westminster School. From Cambridge he was ejected in 1643 for his Royalist tendencies. He afterwards became Secretary to the Earl of St. Albans, and was for some time employed as a medium of communication between Charles I. and Henrietta Maria. Neglected at the Restoration, in spite of his hopes, he retired to Chertsey, where he died. His principal works are a collection of love verses, entitled The Mistress; Pindaric Odes; an unfinished epic, The Davideis, and the comedy of the Cutter of Coleman Street (produced in 1661, and first called The Guardian), to the frank portraiture of Cavalier humours in which, his disfavour with Charles II. has been attributed. Of his Essays mention will be made in their place. Cowley's reputation has faded since Milton ranked him next after Spenser and Shakespeare. Professor Craik considers him much inferior to Donne, 'less deep, strong, and genuine,'-substituting gilding and word-catching for the gold and meditative quaintness of the elder poet, although he sometimes exhibits dignity and a playful fancy.
* Macaulay, Miscellaneous Writings: John Dryden.