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

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

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

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

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

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

(5) Selections enough especially from earlier writers, and 
from writers not likely to be found in the home or school library 


to indicate the spirit of each author's work ; and directions 
as to the best works to read, and where such works may be 
found in inexpensive editions. 

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

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

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

To those who may use this book in their homes or in their 
class rooms, the writer ventures to offer one or two friendly sug- 
gestions out of his own experience as a teacher of young people. 
First, the amount of space here given to different periods and 
authors is not an index of the relative amount of time to be 
spent upon the different subjects. Thus, to tell the story of 
Spenser's life and ideals requires as much space as to tell the 
story of Tennyson ; but the average class will spend its time 
more pleasantly and profitably with the latter poet than with 
the former. Second, many authors who are and ought to be 
included in this history need not be studied in the class room. 


A text-book is not a catechism but a storehouse, in which one 
finds what he wants, and some good things beside. Few classes 
will find time to study Blake or Newman, for instance ; but 
in nearly every class there will be found one or two students 
who are attracted by the mysticism of Blake or by the profound 
spirituality of Newman. Such students should be encouraged to 
follow their own spirits, and to share with their classmates the 
joy of their discoveries. And they should find in their text-book 
the material for their own study and reading. 

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

And as for me, though that my wit be lyte, 
On booke's for to rede I me delyte. 


Indeed, many mature persons (including the writer of this history) 
are often unable to explain at first the charm or the style of an 
author who pleases themj and the more profound the impression 
made by a book, the more difficult it is to give expression to our 
thought and feeling. To read and enjoy good books is with us, 
as with Chaucer, the main thing ; to analyze the author's style or 
explain our own enjoyment seems of secondary and small impor- 
tance. However that may be, we state frankly our own conviction 
that the detailed study and analysis of a few standard works 
which is the only literary pabulum given to many young people in 
our schools bears the same relation to true literature that theol- 
ogy bears to religion, or psychology to friendship. One is a more 
or less unwelcome mental discipline ; the other is the joy of life. 
The writer ventures to suggest, therefore, that, since litera- 
ture is our subject, we begin and end with good books ; and that 
we stand aside while the great writers speak their own message 
to our pupils. In studying each successive period, let the stu- 
dent begin by reading the best that the age produced ; let him 
feel in his own way the power and mystery of Beowulf, the 
broad charity of Shakespeare, the sublimity of Milton, the ro- 
mantic enthusiasm of Scott; and then, when his own taste is 
pleased and satisfied, a new one will arise, to know some- 
thing about the author, the times in which he lived, and finally 
of criticism, which, in its simplicity, is the discovery that the men 
and women of other ages were very much like ourselves, loving as 
we love, bearing the same burdens, and following the same ideals : 

Lo, with the ancient 
Roots of man's nature 
Twines the eternal 
Passion of song. 

Ever Love fans it ; 
Ever Life feeds it ; 
Time cannot age it ; 
Death cannot slay. 


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

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



LITERATURE .... . i 

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

PERIOD ....... ... 10 

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


The Normans. The Conquest. Literary Ideals of the Normans. Geoffrey 
of Monmouth. Work of the French Writers. Layamon's " Brut." 
Metrical Romances. The Pearl. Miscellaneous Literature of the Nor- 
man Period. Summary. Bibliography. Questions. Chronology. 


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

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


Political Summary. Characteristics of the Elizabethan Age. The Non- 
Dramatic Poets. Edmund Spenser. Minor Poets. Thomas Sackville. 
Philip Sidney. George Chapman. Michael Drayton. The Origin of 
the Drama. The Religious Period of the Drama. Miracle and Mystery 
Plays. The Moral Period of the Drama. The Interludes. The Artistic 
Period of the Drama. Classical Influence upon the Drama. Shake- 
speare's Predecessors in the Drama. Christopher Marlowe. Shakespeare. 



Decline of the Drama. Shakespeare's Contemporaries and Successors. 
Ben Jonson. Beaumont and Fletcher. John Webster. Thomas Middle- 
ton. Thomas Heywood. Thomas Dekker. Massinger. Ford. Shirley. 
Prose Writers. Francis Bacon. Richard Hooker. Sidney. Raleigh. 
John Foxe. Camden and Knox. Hakluyt and Purchas. Thomas North. 
Summary. Bibliography. Questions. Chronology. 


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


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

TURE 258 

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


Historical Summary. Literary Characteristics of the Age. The Poets 
of Romanticism. William Wordsworth. Samuel Taylor Coleridge. 
Robert Southey. Walter Scott. Byron. Percy Bysshe Shelley. John 
Keats. Prose Writers of the Romantic Period. Charles Lamb. Thomas 
De Quincey. Jane Austen. Walter Savage Landor. Summary. Bibliog- 
raphy. Questions. Chronology. 




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


INDEX , .573 



CANTERBURY PILGRIMS ............ Frontispiece 

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


THE MANUSCRIPT BOOK ............... 30 

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

GEOFFREY CHAUCER ............. ... 68 

After the Rawlinson Pastel Portrait in the Bodleian Library, Oxford 

PORTIA , .................... I5 

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


EDMUND BURKE ........... ...... 298 

From an old print 

ALFRED TENNYSON ............. ... 458 

After the portrait by George Frederic Watts 

SIR GALAHAD .................. 4 6 S 

After the painting by George Frederic Watts 

CHARLES DICKENS ..... ...... ..... 4 88 

After the portrait by Daniel Maclise 


After the portrait by James McNeill Whistler 












































WALTER SCOTT , , , 397 




CHARLES LAMB , . , . 427 



ROBERT BROWNING . . , . 470 

MRS. BROWNING ..."'... 483 


GEORGE ELIOT t . . . . . 506 



JOHN RUSKIN f . . . . 539 




Hold the hye wey, and lat thy gost thee lede. 

Chaucer's Truth 

On, on, you noblest English, . . 

Follow your spirit. Shakespeare's Henry V 

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

Some such experience as this awaits us when we begin the 
study of literature, which has always two aspects, one of 
simple enjoyment and appreciation, the other of analysis and 
exact description. Let a little song appeal to the ear, or a 
noble book to the heart, and for the moment, at least, we dis- 
cover a new world, a world so different from our own that it 


seems a place of dreams and magic. To enter and enjoy this 
new world, to love good books for their own sake, is the chief 
thing ; to analyze and explain them is a less joyous but still 
an important matter. Behind every book is a man ; behind 
the man is the race ; and behind the race are the natural and 
social environments whose influence is unconsciously reflected. 
These also we must know, if the book is to speak its whole 
message. In a word, we have now reached a point where we 
wish to understand as well as to enjoy literature ; and the 
first step, since exact definition is impossible, is to determine 
some of its essential qualities. 

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

Yesterday's flowers am I, 

And I have drunk my last sweet draught of dew. 
Young maidens came and sang me to my death ; 
The moon looks down and sees me in my shroud, 

The shroud of my last dew. 

Yesterday's flowers that are yet in me 
Must needs make way for all to-morrow's flowers. 
The maidens, too, that sang me to my death 
Must even so make way for all the maids 

That are to come. 

And as my soul, so too their soul will be 
Laden with fragrance of the days gone by. 


The maidens that tomorrow come this way 
Will not remember that I once did bloom, 
For they will only see the new-born flowers. 
Yet will my perfume-laden soul bring back, 
As a sweet memory, to women's hearts 

Their days of maidenhood. 
And then they will be sorry that they came 

To sing me to my death ; 
And all the butterflies will mourn for me. 

I bear away with me 
The sunshine's dear remembrance, and the low 

Soft murmurs of the spring. 
My breath is sweet as children's prattle is ; 
I drank in all the whole earth's fruitfulness, 
To make of it the fragrance of my soul 

That shall outlive my death. 1 

One who reads only that first exquisite line, "Yesterday's 
flowers am I," can never again see hay without recalling the 
beauty that was hidden from his eyes until the poet found it. 
In the same pleasing, surprising way, all artistic work must 
be a kind of revelation. Thus architecture is probably the 
oldest of the arts ; yet we still have many builders but few 
architects, that is, men whose work in wood or stone suggests 
some hidden truth and beauty to the human senses. So in 
literature, which is the art that expresses life in words that 
appeal to our own sense of the beautiful, we have many writers 
but few artists. In the broadest sense, perhaps, literature 
means simply the written records of the race, including all its 
history and sciences, as well as its poems and novels ; in the 
narrower sense literature is the artistic record of life, and most 
of our writing is excluded from it, just as the mass of our 
buildings, mere shelters from storm and from cold, are ex- 
cluded from architecture. A history or a work of science may 
be and sometimes is literature, but only as we forget the 
subject-matter and the presentation of facts in the simple 
beauty of its expression. 

1 From The Bard of the Dimbovitza, First Series, p. 73. 


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

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

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

The third characteristic of literature, arising directly from 

the other two, is its permanence. The world does not live by 

bread alone. Notwithstanding its hurry and bustle 

Permanent , , . . , . . . , 

and apparent absorption in material things, it does 
not willingly let any beautiful thing perish. This is even more 
true of its songs than of its painting and sculpture ; though 
permanence is a quality we should hardly expect in the pres- 
ent deluge of books and magazines pouring day and night 
from our presses in the name of literature. But this problem - 
of too many books is not modern, as we suppose. It has been 
a problem ever since Caxton brought the first printing press 


from Flanders, four hundred years ago, and in the shadow of 
Westminster Abbey opened his little shop and advertised 
his wares as "good and chepe." Even earlier, a thousand 
years before Caxton and his printing press, the busy scholars 
of the great library of Alexandria found that the number of 
parchments was much too great for them to handle ; and 
now, when we print more in a week than all the Alexandrian 
scholars could copy in a century, it would seem impossible 
that any production could be permanent ; that any song or 
story could live to give delight in future ages. But literature 
is like a river in flood, which gradually purifies itself in two 
ways, the mud settles to the bottom, and the scum rises to 
the top. When we examine the writings that by common con- 
sent constitute our literature, the clear stream purified of its 
dross, we find at least two more qualities, which we call the 
tests of literature, and which determine its permanence. 

Tests of Literature. The first of these is universality, that 
is, the appeal to the widest human interests and the sim- 
plest human emotions. Though we speak of national and race 
literatures, like the Greek or Teutonic, and though each has 

'certain superficial marks arising out of the peculiar- 
Universality . 

ities of its own people, it is nevertheless true that 

good literature knows no nationality, nor any bounds save 
those of humanity. It is occupied chiefly with elementary ^ 
passions and emotions, love and hate, joy and sorrow, fear 
and faith, which are an essential part of our human nature ; 
and the more it reflects these emotions the more surely does 
it awaken a response in men of every race. Every father 
must respond to the parable of the prodigal son ; wherever 
men are heroic, they will acknowledge the mastery of Homer; 
wherever a man thinks on the strange phenomenon of evil in 
the world, he will find his own thoughts in the Book of Job ; 
in whatever place men love their children, their hearts must 
be stirred by the tragic sorrow of CEdipus and King Lear. 
All these are but shining examples of the law that only as a 


book or a little song appeals to universal human interest does 
it become permanent. 

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

The Object in studying Literature. Aside from the pleasure 
of reading, of entering into a new world and having our imagi- 
nation quickened, the study of literature has one definite 
v object, and that is to know men. Now man is ever a dual 
creature ; he has an outward and an inner nature ; he is not 
only a doer of deeds, but a dreamer of dreams ; and to know 
him, the man of any age, we must search deeper than his 
history. History records his deeds, his outward acts largely; 
but every great act springs from an ideal, and to understand 
this we must read his literature, where we find his ideals 
recorded. When we read a history of the Anglo-Saxons, for 
instance, we learn that they were sea rovers, pirates, explorers, 
great eaters and drinkers ; and we know something of their 
hovels and habits, and the lands which they harried and plun- 
dered. All that is interesting ; but it does not tell us what 
most we want to know about these old ancestors of ours, 


not only what they did, but what they thought and felt ; how 
they looked on life and death ; what they loved, what they 
feared, and what they reverenced in God and man. Then we 
turn from history to the literature which they themselves 
produced, and instantly we become acquainted. These hardy 
people were not simply fighters and freebooters ; they were 
men like ourselves ; their emotions awaken instant response 
in the souls of their descendants. At the words of their 
gleemen we thrill again to their wild love of freedom and the 
open sea ; we grow tender at their love of home, and patriotic 
at their deathless loyalty to their chief, whom they chose 
for themselves and hoisted on their shields in symbol of his 
leadership. Once more we grow respectful in the presence 
of pure womanhood, or melancholy before the sorrows and 
problems of life, or humbly confident, looking up to the God 
whom they dared to call the Allfather. All these and many 
more intensely real emotions pass through our souls as we 
read the few shining fragments of verses that the jealous 
ages have left us. 

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

Importance of Literature. It is a curious and prevalent 
opinion that literature, like all art, is a mere play of imagina- 
tion, pleasing enough, like a new novel, but without any seri- 
ous or practical importance. Nothing could be farther from 
the truth. Literature preserves the ideals of a people ; and 
ideals love, faith, duty, friendship, freedom, reverence 
are the part of human life most worthy of preservation. The 
Greeks were a marvelous people ; yet of all their mighty 
works we cherish only a few ideals, ideals of beauty in 


perishable stone, and ideals of truth in imperishable prose 
and poetry. It was simply the ideals of the Greeks and 
Hebrews and Romans, preserved in their literature, which 
made them what they were, and which determined their value 
to future generations. Our democracy, the boast of all English- 
speaking nations, is a dream ; not the doubtful and sometimes 
disheartening spectacle presented in our legislative halls, but 
the lovely and immortal ideal of a free and equal manhood, 
preserved as a most precious heritage in every great literature 
from the Greeks to the Anglo-Saxons. All our arts, our sci- 
ences, even our inventions are founded squarely upon ideals ; 
for under every invention is still the dream of Beowulf, that 
man may overcome the forces of nature ; and the foundation 
of all our sciences and discoveries is the immortal dream that 
men " shall be as gods, knowing good and evil." 

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

Summary of the Subject. We are now ready, if not to 
define, at least to understand a little more clearly the object 
of our present study. Literature is the expression of life in 
words of truth and beauty ; it is the written record of man's 
spirit, of his thoughts, emotions, aspirations ; it is the history, 
and the only history, of. the human soul. It is characterized 
by its artistic, its suggestive, its permanent qualities. Its two 
tests are its universal interest and its personal style. Its 


object, aside from the delight it gives us, is to know man, 
that is, the soul of man rather than his actions ; and since it 
preserves to the race the ideals upon which all our civilization 
is founded, it is one of the most important and delightful sub- 
jects that can occupy the human mind. 

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

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

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

Criticism. Gayley and Scott's An Introduction to the Methods and Materials 
of Literary Criticism (Ginn and Company) ; Winchester's Principles of Literary 
Criticism (Macmillan); Worsfold's Principles of Criticism (Longmans); John- 
son's Elements of Literary Criticism (American Bo"bk Company); Saintsbury'p 
History of Criticism (Dodd, Mead) . 

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

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

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



Beowulf. Here is the story of Beowulf, the earliest and the 
greatest epic, or heroic poem, in our literature. It begins with 
a prologue, which is not an essential part of the story, but 
which we review gladly for the sake of the splendid poetical 
conception that produced Scyld, king of the Spear Danes. 1 

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

Now Scyld grew and became a mighty warrior, and led the Spear 
Danes for many years, and was their king. When his son Beowulf 2 had 
become strong and wise enough to rule, then Wyrd (Fate), who speaks 
but once to any man, came and stood at hand ; and it was time for Scyld 
to go. This is how they buried him : 

Then Scyld departed, at word of Wyrd spoken, 
The hero to go to the home of the gods. 
Sadly they bore him to brink of the ocean, 
Comrades, still heeding his word of command. 

There rode in the harbor the prince's ship, ready, 
With prow curving proudly and shining sails set. 
Shipward they bore him, their hero beloved ; 
The mighty they laid at the foot of the mast. 

Treasures were there from far and near gathered, 

Byrnies of battle, armor and swords ; 

Never a keel sailed out of a harbor 

So splendidly tricked with the trappings of war. 

1 There is a mystery about this old hero which stirs our imagination, but which is 
never explained. It refers, probably, to some legend of the Anglo-Saxons which we have 
supplied from other sources, aided by some vague suggestions and glimpses of the past 
in the poem itself. * This is not the Beowulf who is hero of the poem. 



They heaped on his bosom a hoard of bright jewels 
To fare with him forth on the flood's great breast. 
No less gift they gave than the Unknown provided, 
When alone, as a child, he came in from the mere. 

High o'er his head waved a bright golden standard 
Now let the waves bear their wealth to the holm. 
Sad-souled they gave back its gift to the ocean, 
Mournful their mood as he sailed out to sea. 1 

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

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

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

With fourteen companions he crosses the sea. There is an excellent 
bit of ocean poetry here (11. 210-224), and we get a vivid idea of the 
hospitality of a brave people by following the poet's description of 
Beowulf's meeting with King Hrothgar and Queen Wealhtheow, and 
of the joy and feasting and story-telling in Heorot. The picture of 
Wealhtheow passing the mead cup to the warriors with her own hand 
is a noble one, and plainly indicates the reverence paid by these strong 
men to their wives and mothers. Night comes on ; the fear of Grendel 
is again upon the Danes, and all withdraw after the king has warned 
Beowulf of the frightful danger of sleeping in the hall. But Beowulf 
lies down with his warriors, saying proudly that, since weapons will 

1 Beowulf, 11. 26-50, a free rendering to suggest the alliteration of the original. 


not avail against the monster, he will grapple with him bare handed and 
trust to a warrior's strength. 

Forth from the fens, from the misty moorlands, 
Grendel came gliding God's wrath 1 he bore 
Came under clouds, until he saw clearly, 
Glittering with gold plates, the mead hall of men. 
Down fell the door, though fastened with fire bands ; 
Open it sprang at the stroke of his paw. 
Swollen with rage burst in the bale-bringer ; 
Flamed in his eyes a fierce light, likest fire. 2 

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

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

When night falls a great feast is spread in Heorot, and the Danes 
sleep once more in the great hall. At midnight comes another monster, 

1 Grendel, of the Eoten (giant) race, the death shadow, the mark stalker, the shadow 
ganger, is also variously called god's foe, fiend of hell, Cain's brood, etc. It need hardly 
be explained that the latter terms are additions to the original poem, made, probably, by 
monks who copied the manuscript. A belief in Wyrd, the mighty power controlling the 
destinies of men, is the chief religious motive of the epic. In line 1056 we find a curious 
blending of pagan and Christian belief, where Wyrd is withstood by the " wise God." 

2 Summary of 11. 710-727. We have not indicated in our translation (or in quota- 
tions from Garnett, Morley, Brooke, etc.) where parts of the text are omitted. 


a horrible, half-human creature, 1 mother of Grendel, raging to avenge 
her offspring. She thunders at the door ; the Danes leap up and grasp 
their weapons ; but the monster enters, seizes Aeschere, who is friend and 
adviser of the king, and rushes away with him over the fens. 

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

Sorrow not, wise man. It is better for each 

That his friend he avenge than that he mourn much. 

Each of us shall the end await 

Of worldly life : let him who may gain 

Honor ere death. That is for a warrior, 

When he is dead, afterwards best. 

Arise, kingdom's guardian ! Let us quickly go 

To view the track of Grendel's kinsman. 

I promise it thee : he will not escape, 

Nor in earth's bosom, nor in mountain-wood, 

Nor in ocean's depths, go where he will. 2 

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

They inhabit 

The dim land that gives shelter to the wolf, 
The windy headlands, perilous fen paths, 
Where, under mountain mist, the stream flows down 
And floods the ground. Not far hence, but a mile, 
The mere stands, over which hang death-chill groves, 
A wood fast-rooted overshades the flood ; 
There every night a ghastly miracle 
Is seen, fire in the water. No man knows, 
Not the most wise, the bottom of that mere. 
The firm-horned heath-stalker, the hart, when pressed, 
Wearied by hounds, and hunted from afar, 
Will rather die of thirst upon its bank 
Than bend his head to it. It is unholy. 
Dark to the clouds its yeasty waves mount up 
When wind stirs hateful tempest, till the air 
Grows dreary, and the heavens pour down tears. 8 

Beowulf plunges into the horrible place, while his companions wait 
for him on the shore. For a long time he sinks through the flood ; then, 

1 Grendel's mother belongs also to the Eoten (giant) race. She is called brim-wylf 
(sea wolf), mereu'if (sea woman), grundwyrgen (bottom monster), etc. 

2 From Garner's Beowulf, 11. 1384-1394. From Morley's veision, 11. 1357-1376. 


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

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

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

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

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

Sat on the headland there the warrior king ; 
Farewell he said to hearth-companions true, 
The gold-friend of the Geats ; his mind was sad, 
Death-ready, restless. And Wyrd was drawing nigh, 
Who now must meet and touch the aged man, 
To seek the treasure that his soul had saved 
And separate his body from his life. 1 

1 Beowulf, 11. 2417-2423, a free rendering. 


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

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

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

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

1 Lines 2729-2740, a free rendering. 2 Morley's version, 11. 2799-2816. 


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

Then the Goth's people reared a mighty pile 

With shields and armour hung, as he had asked, 

And in the midst the warriors laid their lord, 

Lamenting. Then the warriors on the mount 

Kindled a mighty bale fire ; the smoke rose 

Black from the Swedish pine, the sound of flame 

Mingled with sound of weeping ; , . . while smoke 

Spread over heaven. Then upon the hill 

The people of the Weders wrought a mound, 

High, broad, and to be seen far out at sea. 

In ten days they had built and walled it in 

As the wise thought most worthy ; placed in it 

Rings, jewels, other treasures from the hoard. 

They left the riches, golden joy of earls, 

In dust, for earth to hold ; where yet it lies, 

Useless as ever. Then about the mound 

The warriors rode, and raised a mournful song 

For their dead king ; exalted his brave deeds, 

Holding it fit men honour their liege lord, 

Praise him and love him when his soul is fled. 

Thus the [Geat's] people, sharers of his hearth, 

Mourned their chief's fall, .praised him, of kings, of men 

The mildest and the kindest, and to all 

His people gentlest, yearning for their praise. 1 

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

1 Lines 3156-3182 (Morley's version). 



Concerning the history of Beowulf a whole library has been 

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

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

The rhythm of Beowulf and indeed of all our earliest poetry 
depended upon accent and alliteration ; that is, the beginning 
Poetical of two or more words in the same line with the 
Fonn same sound or letter. The lines were made up of 

two short halves, separated by a pause. No rime was used ; 
but a musical effect was produced by giving each half line 
two strongly accented syllables^ Each full line, therefore, 


had four accents, three of which (i.e. two in the first half, 
and one in the second) usually began with the same sound or 
letter. The musical effect was heightened by the harp with 
which the gleeman accompanied his singing. The poetical 
form will be seen clearly in the following selection from the 
wonderfully realistic description of the fens haunted by Gren- 
del. It will need only one or two readings aloud to show that 
many of these strange-looking words are practically the same 
as those we still use, though many of the vowel sounds were 
pronounced differently by our ancestors. 

. o . Hie dygel lond 
Warigeath, wulf-hleothu. windige naessas, 

Frecne fen-gelad, thaer fyrgen-stream 
Under naessa genipu nither gewiteth, 
Flod under foldan. Nis thaet feor heonon, 
Mil-gemearces, thaet se mere standeth, 
Ofer thaem hongiath hrinde bearwas 

. . . They (a) darksome land 
Ward (inhabit), wolf eliffs, windy nesses, 

Frightful fen paths where mountain stream 

Under nesses' mists nether (downward) wanders, 

A flood under earth. It is not far hence, 

By mile measure, that the mere stands, 

Over which hang rimy groves. 

Widsith. The poem " Widsith," the wide goer or wanderer, 
is in part, at least, probably the oldest in our language. The 
author and the date of its composition are unknown ; but the 
personal account of the minstrel's life belongs to. the time 
before the Saxons first came to England. 1 It expresses the 
wandering life of the gleeman, who goes forth into the world 
to abide here or there, according as he is rewarded for his 
singing. From the numerous references to rings and rewards, 
and from the praise given to. generous givers, it would seem 

1 Probably to the fourth century, though some parts of the poem must have been 
added later. Thus the poet says (11. 88-102) that he visited Eormanric, who died dr. 375, 
and Queen Ealhhild whose father, Eadwin, died dr. 561. The difficulty of fixing a date 
to the poem is apparent. It contains several references to scenes and characters in 




locen hjung 
- cofele- 

paal- iu^on 

btnmi fitiJoTi ^uJf fftifto 
fa man no, fettfio 

p^epnuni jepuft 

tc eww 

. nefecJiic 




that literature as a paying profession began very early in our 
history, and also that the pay was barely sufficient to hold 
soul and body together. Of all our modern poets, Goldsmith 
wandering over Europe paying for his lodging with his songs 
is most suggestive of this first recorded singer of our race. 
His last lines read : 

Thus wandering, they who shape songs for men 
Pass over many lands, and tell their need, 
And speak their thanks, and ever, south or north, 
Meet someone skilled in songs and free in gifts, 
Who would be raised among his friends to fame 
And do brave deeds till light and life are gone. 
He who has thus wrought himself praise shall have 
A settled glory underneath the stars. 1 

Deor's Lament. In " Deor " we have another picture of the 
Saxon scop, or minstrel, not in glad wandering, but in manly 
sorrow. It seems that the scop's living depended entirely upon 
his power to please his chief, and that at any time he might 
be supplanted by a better poet. Deor had this experience, and 
comforts himself in a grim way by recalling various examples 
of men who have suffered more than himself. The poem is 
arranged in strophes, each one telling of some afflicted hero 
and ending with the same refrain : His sorrow passed away ; 
so will mine. "Deor" is much more poetic than "Widsith," 
and is the one perfect lyric 2 of the Anglo-Saxon period. 

Weland for a woman knew too well exile. 
Strong of soul that earl, sorrow sharp he bore ; 
To companionship he had care and weary longing, 
Winter-freezing wretchedness. Woe he found again, again, 
After that Nithhad . in a need had laid him 
Staggering sinew-wounds sorrow-smitten man ! 
That he overwent; this also may 7. 8 

The Seafarer. The wonderful poem of "The Seafarer" 
seems to be in two distinct parts. The first shows the hardships 

1 Lines 135-143 (Morley's version). 

2 A lyric is a short poem reflecting some personal emotion, like love or grief. Two 
other Anglo-Saxon poems, " The Wife's Complaint " and " The Husband's Message," 
belong to this class. 

8 First strophe of Brooke's version, History of Early English Literature. 


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

The hail flew in showers about me ; and there I heard only 

The roar of the sea, ice-cold waves, and the song of the swan ; 

For pastime the gannets' cry served me ; the kittiwakes' chatter 

For laughter of men ; and for mead drink the call of the sea mews. 

When storms on the rocky cliffs beat, then the terns, icy-feathered, 

Made answer; full oft the sea eagle forebodingly screamed, 

The eagle with pinions wave-wet. . . . 

The shadows of night became darker, it snowed from the north ; 

The world was enchained by the frost ; hail fell upon earth ; 

'T was the coldest of grain. Yet the thoughts of my heart now are 


To test the high streams, the salt waves in tumultuous play. 
Desire in my heart ever urges my spirit to wander, 
To seek out the home of the stranger in lands afar off. 

There is no one that dwells upon earth, so exalted in mind, 
But that he has always a longing, a sea-faring passion 
For what the Lord God- shall bestow, be it honor or death. 
No heart for the harp has he, nor for acceptance of treasure, 
No pleasure has he in a wife, no delight in the world, 
Nor in aught save the roll of the billows ; but always a longing, 
A yearning uneasiness, hastens him on to the sea. _ 

The woodlands are captured by blossoms, the hamlets grow fair, 
Broad meadows are beautiful, earth again bursts into life, 
And all stir the heart of the wanderer eager to journey, 
So he meditates going afar on the pathway of tides. 
The cuckoo, moreover, gives warning with sorrowful note, 
- Summer's harbinger sings, and forebodes to the heart bitter sorrow. 

Now my spirit uneasily turns in the heart's narrow chamber, 
Now wanders forth over the tide, o'er the home of the whale, 
To the ends of the earth and comes back to me. 

Eager and greedy, 

The lone wanderer screams, and resistlessly drives my soul onward, 
Over the whale-path, over the tracts of the sea. 1 
1 Seafarer, Part I, Iddings' version, in Translations from Old English Poetry. 


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

This no eastward dawning is, nor is here a dragon flying, 
Nor of this high hall are the horns a burning ; 
But they rush upon us here now the ravens sing, 
Growling is the gray wolf, grim the war-wood rattles, 
Shield to shaft is answering. 2 

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

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

1 It is an open question whether this poem celebrates the fight at which Hnsef, the 
Danish leader, fell, or a later fight led by Hengist, to avenge Hnaef 's death. 

2 Brooke's translation, History of Early English Literature. For another early battle- 
song see Tennyson's " Battle of Brunanburh," 



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

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

More than five hundred years after the landing of these 
tribes, and while they called themselves Englishmen, we find 
the Latin writers of the Middle Ages speaking of the inhabitants 


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

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

1 William Camden (1551-1623), one of England's earliest and greatest antiquarians. 
His first work, Britannia, a Latin history of England, has been called " the common sun 
whereat our modern writers have all kindled their little torches.'' 


. . . No delight has he in the world, 

Nor in aught save the roll of the billows ; but always a longing, 
A yearning uneasiness, hastens him on to the sea. 1 

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

Often it befalls us, on the ocean's highways, 

In the boats our boatmen, when the storm is roaring, 

Leap the billows over, on our stallions of the foam. 2 

The Inner Life. A man's life is more than his work ; his 
dream is ever greater than his achievement ; and literature 
reflects not so much man's deed as the spirit which animates 
him ; not the poor thing that he does, but rather the splendid 
thing that he ever hopes to do. In no place is this more evi- 
dent than in the age we are now studying. Those early sea 
kings were a marvelous mixture of savagery and sentiment, 
of rough living and of deep feeling, of splendid courage and 
the deep melancholy of men who know their limitations and 
have faced the unanswered problem of death. They were not 
simply fearless freebooters who harried every coast in their 
war galleys. If that were all, they would have no more his- 
tory or literature than the Barbary pirates, of whom the same 
thing could be said. These strong fathers of ours were men 
of profound emotions. In all their fighting the love of an un- 
tarnished glory was uppermost ; and under the warrior's savage 
exterior was hidden a great love of home and homely virtues, 

1 From Iddings' version of The Seafarer. 

2 From Andreas, 11. 511 ff., a free translation. The whole poem thrills with the 
old Saxon love of the sea and of ships. 


and a reverence for the one woman to whom he would pres- 
ently return in triumph. So when the wolf hunt was over, or 
thef desperate fight was won, these mighty men would gather 
in the banquet hall, and lay their weapons aside where the 
open fire would flash upon them, and there listen to the songs 
of Scop and Gleeman, men who could put into adequate 
words the emotions and aspirations that all men feel but that 
only a few can ever express : 

Music and song where the heroes sat 

The glee-wood rang, a song uprose 

When Hrothgar's scop gave the hall good cheer. 1 

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

In reading Anglo-Saxon poetry it is well to remember these 

s nn s of ^ ve P rmc ipl es > f r tnev are l^e the little springs 
Anglo-Saxon at the head of a great river, clear, pure springs of 
poetry, and out of them the best of our literature 
has always flowed. Thus when we read, 

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

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

Now hath the man 

O'ercome his troubles. No pleasure does he lack, 
Nor steeds, nor jewels, nor the joys of mead, 
Nor any treasure that the earth can give, 
O royal woman, if he have but thee, 2 

1 From Beowulf, 11. 1063 ff., a free translation. 

2 Translated from The Husband' 1 s Message, written on a piece of bark. With won- 
derful poetic insight the bark itself is represented as telling its story to the wife, from 


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

Our First Speech. Our first recorded speech begins with 
the songs of Widsith and Deor, which the Anglo-Saxons may 
have brought with them when they first conquered Britain. 
At first glance these songs in their native dress look strange 
as a foreign tongue ; but when we examine them carefully 
we find many words that have been familiar since childhood. 
We have seen this in Beowulf ; but in prose the resemblance 

the time when the birch tree grew beside the sea until the exiled man found it and 
stripped the bark and carved on its surface a message to the woman he loved. This first 
of all English love songs deserves to rank with Valentine's description of Silvia : 

Why, man, she is mine own, 
And I as rich in having such a jewel 
As twenty seas, if all their sand were pearl, 
The water nectar and the rocks pure gold. 

Two Gentlemen of Verona, II, 4. , 


of this old speech to our own is even more striking. Here, 
for instance, is a fragment of the simple story of the con- 
quest of Britain by cur Anglo-Saxon ancestors : 

Her Hengest and ALsc his sunu gefuhton with Bryttas, on thaere stowe 
the is gecweden Creccanford, and thaer ofslogon feower thusenda wera. 
And tha Bryttas tha forleton Cent-lond, and mid myclum ege flugon to 
Lundenbyrig. (At this time Hengest and Aesc, his son, fought against 

Probably the ruins of a temple of the native Britons 

the Britons at the place which is called Crayford and there slew four 
thousand men. And then the Britons forsook Kentland, and with much 
fear fled to London town.) 1 

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

From such records we see that our speech is Teutonic in 
its origin ; and when we examine any Teutonic language we 
learn that it is only a branch of the great Aryan or Indo- 
European family of languages. In life and language, there- 
fore, we are related first to the Teutonic races, and through 
them to all the nations of this Indo-European family, which, 
starting with enormous vigor from their original home (prob- 
ably in central Europe 2 ), spread southward and westward, driv- 
ing out the native tribes and slowly developing the mighty 
civilizations of India, Persia, Greece, Rome, and the wilder but 
more vigorous life of the Celts and Teutons. In all these 

1 From the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, record of the year 457. 

2 According to Sweet the original home of the Aryans is placed in central or northern 
Europe, rather than in Asia, as was once assumed. See The History ojf 'Language, p. 103 


languages Sanskrit, Iranian, Greek, Latin, Celtic, Teutonic 
we recognize the same root words for father and mother, for 
God and man, for the common needs and the common rela- 
tions of life ; and since words are windows through which we 
see the soul of this old people, we find certain ideals of love, 
home, faith, heroism, liberty, which seem to have been the 
very life of our forefathers, and which were inherited by them 
from their old heroic and conquering ancestors. It was on 
the borders of the North Sea that our fathers halted for un- 
numbered centuries on their westward journey, and slowly 
developed the national life and language which we now call 

It is this old vigorous Anglo-Saxon language which forms 

the basis of our modern English. If we read a paragraph 

from any good English book, and then analyze it, 

Dual Charac- 
ter of our as we would a flower, to see what it contains, we 

Language find two Distinct classes of words. The first class, 
containing simple words expressing the common things of life, 
makes up the strong framework of our language. These words 
are like the stem and bare branches of a mighty oak, and if 
we look them up in the dictionary we find that almost invari- 
ably they come to us from our Anglo-Saxon ancestors. The 
second and larger class of words is made up of those that give 
grace, variety, ornament, to our speech. They are like the 
leaves and blossoms of the same tree, and when we examine 
their history we find that they come to us from the Celts, 
Romans, Normans, and other peoples with whom we have 
been in contact in the long years of our development. The 
most prominent characteristic of our present language, there- 
fore, is its dual character. Its best qualities strength, sim- 
plicity, directness come from Anglo-Saxon sources ; its 
enormous added wealth of expression, its comprehensiveness, 
its plastic adaptability to new conditions and ideas, are largely 
the result of additions from other languages, and especially 
of its gradual absorption of the French language after the, 


Norman Conquest. It is this dual character, this combination 
of native and foreign, of innate and exotic elements, which ac- 
counts for the wealth of our English language and literature. 
To see it in concrete form, we should read in succession 
Beowulf and Paradise Lost, the two great epics which show 
the root and the flower of our literary development. 


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

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

Northumbrian Literature. In general, two great schools of 
Christian influence came into England, and speedily put an 
end to the frightful wars that had waged continually among 
the various petty kingdoms of the Anglo-Saxons. The first of 
these, under the leadership of Augustine, came from Rome. 
It spread in the south and center of England, especially in 
the kingdom of Essex. It founded schools and partially edu- 
cated the rough people ; but it produced no lasting literature. 



The other, under the leadership of the saintly Aidan, came from 
Ireland, which country had been for centuries a center of reli- 
gion and education for all western Europe. The monks of this 
school labored chiefly in Northumbria, and to their influence 
we owe all that is best in Anglo-Saxon literature. It is called 
the Northumbrian School ; ^. pieces tircutns? 
its center was the mon- 
asteries and abbeys, such' 
as Jarrow and Whit by, 
and its three greatest 
names are Bede, Caed- 
mon, and Cynewulf. 

BEDE (673-735) 

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

The work most important to us is the Ecclesiastical His- 
tory of the English People. It is a fascinating history to read 
even now, with its curious combination of accurate scholarship 
and immense credulity. In all strictly historical matters Bede 



is a model. Every known authority on the subject, from 
Pliny to Gildas, was carefully considered ; every learned pil- 
The First gri m to Rome was commissioned by Bede to ransack 
History of the archives and to make copies of papal decrees 
and royal letters ; and to these were added the tes- 
timony of abbots who could speak from personal knowledge of 
events or repeat the traditions of their several monasteries. 

Side by side with this historical exactness are marvelous 
stories of saints and missionaries. It was an age of credulity, 
and miracles were in men's minds continually. The men of 


whom he wrote lived lives more wonderful than any romance, 
and their courage and gentleness made a tremendous impres- 
sion on the rough, warlike people to whom they came with 
open hands and hearts. It is the natural way of all primitive 
peoples to magnify the works of their heroes, and so deeds of 
heroism and kindness, which were part of the daily life of 
the Irish missionaries, were soon transformed into the miracles 
of the saints. Bede believed these things, as' all other men did, 
and records them with charming simplicity, just as he received 
them from bishop or abbot. Notwithstanding its errors, we 
owe to this work nearly all our knowledge of the eight cen- 
turies of our history following the landing of Caesar in Britain, 


C^DMON (Seventh Century) 

Now must we hymn the Master of heaven, 

The might of the Maker, the deeds of the Father, 

The thought of His heart. He, Lord everlasting, 

Established of old the source of ail wonders : 

Creator all-holy, He hung the bright heaven, 

A roof high upreared, o'er the children of men ; 

The King of mankind then created for mortals 

The world in its beauty, the earth spread beneath them, 

He, Lord everlasting, omnipotent God. 1 

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

Life of Caedmon. What little we know of Caedmon, the Anglo- 
Saxon Milton, as he is properly called, is taken from Bede's account 2 
of the Abbess Hilda and of her monastery at Whitby. Here is a free 
and condensed translation of Bede's story : 

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

Until of mature age he lived as a layman and had never learned any 
poetry. Indeed, so ignorant of singing was he that sometimes, at a feast, 
where it was the custom that for the pleasure of all each guest should 
sing in turn, he would rise from the table when he saw the harp coming 
to him and go home ashamed. Now it happened once that he did this 
thing at a certain festivity, and went out to the stall to care for the 
horses, this duty being assigned to him for that night. As he slept at 

1 " Caedmon's Hymn," Cook's version, in Translations from Old English Poetry, 
a Ecclesiastical History, IV, xxiv. 


the usual time, one stood by him saying : " Caedmon, sing me something." 
" I cannot sing," he answered, " and that is why I came hither from the 
feast." But he who spake unto him said again, " Caedmon, sing to me." 
And he said, "What shall I sing?" and he said, "Sing the beginning 
of created things." Thereupon Caedmon began to sing verses that he 
had never heard before, of this import : " Now should we praise the 
power and wisdom of the Creator, the works of the Father." This is the 
sense but not the form of the h^mn that he sang while sleeping. 

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

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

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


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

Here first the Eternal Father, guard of all, 
Of heaven, raised up the firmament, 
The Almighty Lord set firm by His strong power 
This roomy land ; grass greened not yet the plain, 
Ocean far spread hid the wan ways in gloom. 
Then was the Spirit gloriously bright 
Of Heaven's Keeper borne over the deep 
Swiftly. The Life-giver, the Angel's Lord, 
Over the ample ground bade come forth Light. 
Quickly the High King's bidding was obeyed, 
Over the waste there shone light's holy ray. 
Then parted He, Lord of triumphant might, 
Shadow from shining, darkness "from the light. 
Light, by the Word of God, was first named day. 1 

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

Then they saw, 

Forth and forward faring, Pharaoh's war array 
Gliding on, a grove of spears ; glittering the hosts ! 
Fluttered there the banners, there the folk the march trod. 
Onwards surged the war, strode the spears along, 
Blickered the broad shields ; blew aloud the trumpets. . . . 
Wheeling round in gyres, yelled the fowls of war, 
Of the battle greedy ; hoarsely barked the raven, . 
Dew upon his feathers, o'er the fallen corpses 
Swart that chooser of the slain ! Sang aloud the wolves 
At eve their horrid song, hoping for the carrion. 2 

I Genesis, 112-131 (Morley). 2 Exodus, 155 ff. (Brooke). 


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

CYNEWULF (Eighth Century) 

Of Cynewulf, greatest of the Anglo-Saxon poets, excepting 
only the unknown author of Beowulf, we know very little. 
Indeed, it was not till 1 840, more than a thousand years after 
his death, that even his name became known. Though he is 
the only one of our early poets who signed his works, the 
name was never plainly written, but woven into the verses in 
the form of secret runes, 1 suggesting a modern charade, but 
more difficult of interpretation until one has found the key 
to the poet's signature. 

Works of Cynewulf. The only signed poems of Cynewulf 
are The Christ, Juliana, The Fates of the Apostles, and Elene. 
Unsigned poems attributed to him or his school are Andreas, 

1 Runes were primitive letters of the old northern alphabet. In a few passages Cyne- 
wulf uses each rune to represent not only a letter but a word beginning with that letter. 
Thus the rune-equivalent of C stands for cene (keen, courageous), Y for yfel (evil, in 
the sense of wretched), N for nyd (need), W for wyn (joy), U for ur (our), L for lagu 
(lake), F for feoh (fee, wealth). Using the runes equivalent to these seven letters, 
Cynewulf hides and at the same time reveals his name in certain verses of The Christ, 
tor instance : 

Then the Courage-hearted quakes, when the King (Lord) he hears 
Speak to those who once on earth but obeyed Him weakly, 
While as yet their Yearning pain and their Need most easily 
Comfort might discover. . . . Gone is then the Winsomeness 
Of the earth's adornments ! What to Us as men belonged 
Of the joys of life was locked, long ago, in Lake-flood, 
All the Fee on earth. 

See Brooke's History of Early English Literature, pp. 377-379, or The Christ ojf 
Cynewulf, ed. by Cook, also by Gollancz. 


the Phoenix, the Dream of the Rood, the Descent into Hell, 
Guthlac, the Wanderer, and some of the Riddles. The last are 
simply literary conundrums in which some well-known object, 
like the bow or drinking horn, is described in poetic language, 
and the hearer must guess the name. Some of them, like " The 
Swan " 1 and " The Storm Spirit," are unusually beautiful. 

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

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

Now 't is most like as if we fare in ships 
On the ocean flood, over the water cold, 
Driving our vessels through the spacious seas 
With horses of the deep. A perilous way is this 
Of boundless waves, and there are stormy seas 
On which we toss here in this (reeling) world 
O'er the deep paths. Ours was a sorry plight 

1 My robe is noiseless while I tread the earth, 
Or tarry 'neath the banks, or stir the shallows ; 
But when these shining wings, this depth of air, 
Bear me aloft above the bending shores 
Where men abide, and far the welkin's strength 
Over the^multitudes conveys me, then 
With rushing whir and clear melodious sound 
My raiment sings. And like a wandering spirit 
I float unweariedly o'er flood and field. 

(Brougham's version, in Trans/, from Old Eng. Poetry.) 


Until at last we sailed unto the land, 
Over the troubled main. Help came to us 
That brought us to the haven of salvation, 
God's Spirit-Son, and granted grace to us 
That we might know e'en fro-m the vessel's deck 
Where we must bind with anchorage secure 
Our ocean steeds, old stallions of the waves. 

In the two epic poems of Andreas and Elene Cynewulf 
(if he be the author) reaches the very summit of his poetical 
Andreas and art. Andreas, an unsigned poem, records the story 
of St. Andrew, who crosses the sea to rescue his 
comrade St. Matthew from the cannibals. A young ship- 
master who sails the boat turns out to be Christ in disguise. 
Matthew is set free, and the savages are converted by a mir- 
acle. 1 It is a spirited poem, full of rush and incident, and the 
descriptions of the sea are the best in Anglo-Saxon poetry. 

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

Decline of Northumbrian Literature. The same northern 
energy which had built up learning and literature so rapidly 
in Northumbria was instrumental in pulling it down again. 
Toward the end of the century in which Cynewulf lived, the 
Danes swept down on the English coasts and overwhelmed 
Northumbria. Monasteries and schools were destroyed ; schol- 
ars and teachers alike were put to the sword, and libraries that 

1 The source of Andreas is an early Greek legend of St. Andrew that found its 
way to England and was probably known to Cynewulf in some brief Latin form, now lost. 



had been gathered leaf by leaf with the toil of centuries were 
scattered to the four winds. So all true Northumbrian litera- 
ture perished, with the exception of a few fragments, and that 
which we now possess l is largely a translation in the dialect 
of the West Saxons. This translation 
was made by Alfred's scholars, after 
he had driven back the Danes in an 
effort to preserve the ideals and the 
civilization that had been so hardly 
won. With the conquest of North- 
ambria ends the poetic period of 
Anglo-Saxon literature. With Alfred 
the Great of Wessex our prose litera- 
ture makes a beginning. 

ALFRED (848-901) 

" Every craft and every power soon grows 
old and is passed over and forgotten, if it 
be without wisdom. . . . This is now to be 
said, that whilst I live I wish to live nobly, 
and after life to leave to the men who come 
after me a memory of good works." 2 

So wrote the great Alfred, looking - 
back over his heroic life. That he 
lived nobly none can doubt who reads 
the history of the greatest of Anglo- 
Saxon kings; and his good works C^DMON CROSS AT WHITBY 
include, among others, the education 

of half a country, the salvage of a noble native literature, 
and the creation of the first English prose. 

1 Our two chief sources are the famous Exeter Book, in Exeter Cathedral, a collection 
of Anglo-Saxon poems presented by Bishop Leofric (c. 1050), and the Vercelli Book, 
discovered in the monastery of Vercelli, Italy t in 1822. The only known manuscript of 
Beowulf vi^.?, discovered c. 1600, and is now in the Cotton Library of the British Museum. 
All these are fragmentary copies, and show the marks of fire and of hard usage. The 
Exeter Book contains the Christ, Guthlac, the Phoenix, Juliana, Widsith, The Seafarer, 
Dear's Lament, The Wife's Complaint, The Lover's Message, ninety-five Riddles, and 
many short hymns and fragments, an astonishing variety for a single manuscript. 

2 From Alfred's Boethius, 


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

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

Works of Alfred. Aside from his educational work, Alfred 
is known chiefly as a translator. After fighting his country's 
battles, and at a time when most men were qontent with mil- 
itary honor, he began to learn Latin, that he might translate 
the works that would be most helpful to his people. His 
important translations are four in number : Orosius's Univer- 
sal History and Geography, the leading work in general history 


for several centuries ; Bede's History?- the first great histor- 
ical work written on English soil ; Pope Gregory's Shep- 
herds' Book, intended especially for the clergy ; and Boethius's 
Consolations of Philosophy, the favorite philosophical work of 
the Middle Ages. 

More important than any translation is the English or Saxon 
Chronicle. This was probably at first a dry record, especially of 
The Saxon important births and deaths in the West-Saxon 
Chronicle kingdom. Alfred enlarged this scant record, begin- 
ning the story with Caesar's conquest. When it touches his 
own reign the dry chronicle becomes an interesting and 
connected story, the oldest history belonging to any modern 
nation in its own language. The record of Alfred's reign> 
probably by himself, is a splendid bit of writing and shows 
clearly his claim to a place in literature as well as in history. 
The Chronicle was continued after Alfred's death, and is the 
best monument of early English prose that is left to us. Here 
and there stirring songs are included in the narrative, like 
"The Battle of Brunanburh" and "The Battle of Maldon."2 
The last, entered 991, seventy-five years before the Norman 
Conquest, is the swan song of Anglo-Saxon poetry. The 
Chronicle was continued for a century after the Norman Con- 
quest, and is extremely valuable not only as a record of 
events but as a literary monument showing the development 
of our language. 

Close of the Anglo-Saxon Period. After Alfred's death there 
is little to record, except the loss of the two supreme objects 
of his heroic struggle, namely, a national life and a national 
literature. It was at once the strength and the weakness of 
the Saxon that he lived apart as a free man and never joined 
efforts willingly with any large body of his fellows. The tribe 
was his largest idea of nationality, and, with all our admiration, 

1 It is not certain that the translation of Bede is the work of Alfred. 

2 See Translations from Old English Poetry. Only a brief account of the fight is 
given in the Chronicle. The song known as " The Battle of Maldon," or " Byrhtnoth's 
Death," is recorded in another manuscript. 


we must confess as we first meet him that he has not enough 
sense of unity to make a great nation, nor enough culture to 
produce a great literature. A few noble political ideals re- 
peated in a score of petty kingdoms, and a few literary ideals 
copied but never increased, that is the summary of his liter- 
ary history. For a full century after Alfred literature was prac- 
tically at a standstill, having produced the best of which it was 
capable, and England waited for the national impulse and for 
the culture necessary for a new and greater art. Both of these 
came speedily, by way of the sea, in the Norman Conquest. 

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

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

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


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

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

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

Bibliography. 2 History. For the facts of the Anglo-Saxon conquest of 
England consult first a good text-book: Montgomery, pp. 31-57, or Cheyney, 
pp. 36-84. For fuller treatment see Green, ch. i ; Traill, vol. i ; Ramsey's 
Foundations of England ; Turner's History of the Anglo-Saxons ; Freeman's 
Old English History; Allen's Anglo-Saxon England; Cook's Life of Alfred; 
Asser's Life- of King Alfred, edited by W. H. Stevenson; C. Plummer's Life 
and Times of Alfred the Great ; E. Dale's National Life and Character in the 
Mirror of Early English Literature ; Rhys's Celtic Britain. 

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

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

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

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

1 This is an admirable little book, containing the cream of Anglo-Saxon poetry, 
in free translations, with notes. Translations from Old English Prose is a companion 

2 For full titles and publishers of general reference books, and for a list of inexpen- 
sive texts and helps, see General Bibliography at the end of this book. 


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1 The chief object of these questions is not to serve as a review, or to prepare for 
examination, but rather to set the student thinking for himself about what he has read. 
A few questions of an advanced nature are inserted which call for special study and re- 
search in interesting fields 



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

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




449(?). Landing of Hengist and Horsa 

in Britain 

477. Landing of South Saxons 
547. Angles settle Northumbria 
597. Landing of Augustine .and his 

monks. Conversion of Kent 
617. Eadwine, king of Northumbria 
635-665. Coming of St. Aidan. Con- 
version of Northumbria 

867. Danes conquer Northumbria 

871. Alfred, king of Wessex 

878. Defeat of Danes. Peace of 

901. Death of Alfred 

1013-1042. Danish period 

1016. Cnut, king 

1042. Edward the Confessor. Saxon 

period restored 

1049. Westminster Abbey begun 
1066. Harold, last .of Saxon kings. 

Norman Conquest 

547. Gildas's History 

664. Caedmon at Whitby 

673-735- Bede 

75o('r.). Cynewulf poems 

860. Anglo-Saxon Chronicle begun 

991. Last known poem of the Anglo- 
Saxon period, The Battle of 
Maldon, otherwise called 
Byrhtnoth's Death 



The Normans. The name Norman, which is a softened form of 
Northman, tells its own story. The men who bore the name came 
originally from Scandinavia, bands of big, blond, fearless men 
cruising after plunder and adventure in their Viking ships, and 
bringing terror wherever they appeared. It was these same " Chil- 
dren of Woden " who, under the Danes' raven flag, had blotted out 
Northumbrian civilization in the ninth century. Later the same race 
of men came plundering along the French coast and conquered the 
whole northern country ; but here the results were altogether differ- 
ent. Instead of blotting out a superior civilization, as the Danes had 
done, they promptly abandoned their own. Their name of Nor- 
mandy still clings to the new home ; but all else that was Norse 
disappeared as the conquerors intermarried with the native Franks 
and accepted French ideals and spoke the French language. So 
rapidly did they adopt and improve the Roman civilization of the 
natives that, from a rude tribe of heathen Vikings, they had devel- 
oped within a single century into the most polished and intellectual 
people in all Europe. The union of Norse and French (i.e. Roman- 
Gallic) blood had here produced a race having the best qualities of 
both, the will power and energy of the one, the eager curiosity and 
vivid imagination of the other. When these Norman-French people 
appeared in Anglo-Saxon England they brought with them three 
noteworthy things : a lively Celtic disposition, a vigorous and pro- 
gressive Latin civilization, and a Romance language. 1 We are to 
think of the conquerors, therefore, as they thought and spoke of 
themselves in the Domesday Book and all their contemporary liter- 
ature, not as Normans but as Franci, that is, Frenchmen. 

1 A Romance language is one whose basis is Latin, not the classic language of litera- 
ture-, but a vulgar or popular Latin spoken in the military camps and provinces. Thus 
Italian, Spanish, and French were originally different dialects of the vulgar Latin, slightly 
modified by the mingling of the Roman soldiers with the natives of the conquered provinces. 




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

Naturally such momentous changes in a nation were not brought 
about suddenly. At first Normans and Saxons lived apart in the rela- 
tion of masters and servants, with more or less contempt on one side 
and hatred on the other ; but in an astonishingly short time these two 
races were drawn powerfully together, like two men of different dis- 
positions who are often led into a steadfast friendship by the attrac- 
tion of opposite qualities, each supplying what the other lacks. The 



Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, which was continued for a century after 
Hastings, finds much to praise in the conquerors ; on the other hand 
the Normans, even before the Conquest, had no great love for the 
French nation. After conquering England they began to regard it as 
home and speedily developed a new sense of nationality. Geoffrey's 
popular History? written less than a century after the Conquest, 
made conquerors and conquered alike proud of their country by 
its stories of heroes who, curiously enough, were neither Norman 
nor Saxon, but creations of the native Celts. Thus does literature, 
whether in a battle song or a history, often play the chief role in the 
development of nationality. 2 Once the mutual distrust was overcome 
the two races gradually united, and out of this union of Saxons and 
Normans came the new English life and literature. 

Literary Ideals of the Normans. The change in the life of the con- 
querors from Norsemen to Normans, from Vikings to Frenchmen, 
is shown most clearly in the literature which they brought with them 
to England. The old Norse strength and grandeur, the magnificent 
sagas telling of the tragic struggles of men and gods, which still stir 
us profoundly, these have all disappeared. In their place is a 
bright, varied, talkative literature, which runs to endless verses, and 
which makes a wonderful romance out of every subject it touches. 
The theme may be religion or love or chivalry or history, the deeds 
of Alexander or the misdeeds of a monk ; but the author's purpose 
never varies. He must tell a romantic story and amuse his audience ; 
and the more wonders and impossibilities he relates, the more surely 
is he believed., We are reminded, in reading, of the native Gauls, 
who would stop every traveler and compel him to tell a story ere he 
passed on. There was more of the Gaul than of the Norseman in 
the conquerors, and far more of fancy than of thought or feeling in 
their literature. If you would see this in concrete form, read the 
Chanson de Roland, the French national epic (which the Normans 

1 See p. 51. 

2 It is interesting to note that all the chroniclers of the -period, whether ot English or 
Norman birth, unite m admiration of the great figures of English history, as it was then 
understood. Brutus, Arthur, Hengist, Horsa, Edward the Confessor, and William of 
Normandy are all alike set down as English heroes. In a French poem of the thirteenth 
century, for instance, we read that " there is no land in the world where so many good 
kings and saints have lived as in the isle of the English . . . such as the strong and 
brave Arthur, Edmund, and Cnut." This national poem, celebrating the English 
Edward, was written in French by a Norman monk of Westminster Abbey, and its first 
heroes are a Celt, a Saxon, and a Dane, (See f usserand. IMerary History of the Eng 
LUi People, I, U2ff.) 


first put into literary form), in contrast with Beowulf, which voices 
the Saxon's thought and feeling before the profound mystery of 
human life. It is not our purpose to discuss the evident merits or 
the serious defects of Norman-French literature, but only to point 
out two facts which impress the student, namely, that Anglo-Saxon 
literature was at one time enormously superior to the French, and 
that the latter, with its evident inferiority, absolutely replaced the 
former. " The fact is too often ignored," says Professor Schofield, 1 
"that before 1066 the Anglo-Saxons had a body of native literature 
distinctly superior to any which the Normans or French could boast 
at that time ; their prose especially was unparalleled for extent and 
power in any European vernacular." Why, then, does this superior 
literature disappear and for nearly three centuries French remain 
supreme, so much so that writers on English soil, even when they do 
not use the French language, still slavishly copy the French models ? 
To understand this curious phenomenon it is necessary only to 
remember the relative conditions of the two races who lived side by 
side in England. On the one hand the Anglo-Saxons were a con- 
quered people, and without liberty a great literature is impossible. 
The inroads of the Danes and their own tribal wars had already 
destroyed much of their writings, and in their new condition of 
servitude they could hardly preserve what remained. The conquer- 
ing Normans, on the other hand, represented the civilization of 
France, which country, during the early Middle Ages, was the literary 
and educational center of all Europe. They came to England at a 
time when the idea of nationality was dead, when culture had almost 
vanished, when Englishmen lived apart in narrow isolation ; and they 
brought with them law, culture, the prestige of success, and above 
all the strong impulse to share in the great world's work and to join 
in the moving currents of the world's history. Small wonder, then, 
that the young Anglo-Saxons felt the quickening of this new life 
and turned naturally to the cultured and progressive Normans as 
their literary models. 


In the Advocates' Library at Edinburgh there is a beauti- 
fully illuminated manuscript, written about 1330, which gives 
us an excellent picture of the literature of the Norman period. 

1 English Literature from the Norman Conquest to Chaucer. 


In examining it we are to remember that literature was in 
the hands of the clergy and nobles ; that the common people 
could not read, and had only a few songs and ballads for their 
literary portion. We are to remember also that parchments 
were scarce and very expensive, and that a single manuscript 
often contained all the reading matter of a castle or a village. 
Hence this old manuscript is as suggestive as a modern library. 
It contains over forty distinct works, the great bulk of them 
being romances. There are metrical or verse romances of 


French and Celtic and English heroes, like Roland, Arthur 
and Tristram, and Bevis of Hampton. There are stories of 
Alexander, the Greek romance of "Flores and Blanchefleur," 
and a collection of Oriental tales called "The Seven Wise 
Masters." There are legends of the Virgin and the saints, a 
paraphrase of Scripture, a treatise on the seven deadly sins, 
some Bible history, a dispute among birds concerning women, 
a love song or two, a vision of Purgatory, a vulgar story 
with a Gallic flavor, a chronicle of English kings and Norman 
barons, and a political satire. There are a few other works, 


similarly incongruous, crowded together in this typical manu- 
script, which now gives mute testimony to the literary taste of 
the times. 

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

Geoffrey of Monmouth (d. 1 1 54). Geoffrey's Historia Regum 
Britannia is noteworthy, not as literature, but rather as a source 
book from which many later writers drew their literary mate- 
rials. Among the native Celtic tribes an immense number of 
legends, many of them of exquisite beauty, had been pre- 
served through four successive conquests of Britain. Geoffrey, 
a Welsh monk, collected some of these legends and, aided 
chiefly by his imagination, wrote a complete history of the 
Britons. His alleged authority was an ancient manuscript in 
the native Welsh tongue containing the lives and deeds of all 
their kings, from Brutus, the alleged founder of Britain, down 
to the coming of Julius Caesar. 2 From this Geoffrey wrote his 
history, down to the death of Gadwalader in 689. 

The "History" is a' curious medley of pagan and Christian 
legends, of chronicle, comment, and pure invention, all 

1 Anselm was an Italian by birth, but wrote his famous work while holding the see 
of Canterbury. 

2 During the Roman occupancy of Britain occurred a curious mingling of Celtic 
and Roman traditions. The Welsh began to associate their national hero Arthur with 
Roman ancestors; hence the story of Brutus, great-grandson of vEneas, the first king 
of Britain, as related by Geoffrey and Layamon. 


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

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


Arthur and Guinevere and the matchless band of Celtic heroes 
that we meet later (1470) in Malory's Morte d 'A rthur became 
the permanent possession of our literature. 

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

Now there was a priest in the land named Layamon. He was son of 
Leovenath may God be gracious unto him. He dwelt at Ernley, at a 
noble church on Severn's bank. He read many books, and it came to 
his mind to tell the noble deeds of the English. Then he began to 
journey far and wide over the land to procure noble books for authority. 
He took the English book that Saint Bede made, another in Latin that 
Saint Albin made, 1 and a third book that a French clerk made, named 
Wace. 2 Layamon laid these works before him and turned the leaves ; 
lovingly he beheld them. Pen he took, and wrote on book-skin, and 
made the three books into one. 

The poem begins with the destruction of Troy and the 
flight of "^Eneas the duke" into Italy. Brutus, a great- 
grandson of^Eneas, gathers his people and sets out to find 
a new land in the West. Then follows the founding of the 
Briton kingdom, and the last third of the poem, which is over 
thirty thousand lines in length, is taken up with the history 
of Arthur and his knights. If the Brut had no merits of its 
own, it would still interest us, for it marks the first appear- 
ance of the Arthurian legends in our own tongue. A single 
selection is given here from Arthur's dying speech, familiar 
to us in Tennyson's Morte d' Arthur. The reader will notice 
here two things : first, that though the poem is almost pure 

1 Probably a Latin copy of Bede. 

2 Wace's translation of Geoffrey. 



Anglo-Saxon, 1 our first speech has already dropped many in- 
flections and is more easily read than Beoivulf ; second, that 
French influence is already at work in Layamon's rimes and 
assonances, that is, the harmony resulting from using the 
same vowel sound in several successive lines : 

And ich wulle varen to Avalun : 

To vairest alre maidene, 

To Argante there quene, 

Alven swithe sceone. 

And heo seal mine wun'den 

Makien alle isunde, 

Al hal me makien 

Mid haleweiye drenchen. 

And seothe ich cumen wulle 

To mine kineriche 

And wunien mid Brutten 

Mid muchelere wunne. 

yEfne than worden 

Ther com of se wenden 

That wes an sceort bat lithen, 

Sceoven mid uthen, 

And twa wimmen ther inne, 

Wunderliche idihte. 

And heo nomen Arthur anan 

And an eovste hine vereden 

And softe hine adun leiden, 

And forth gunnen lithen. 

And I will fare to Avalun, 
To fairest of all maidens, 
To Argante the queen, 
An elf very beautiful. 
And she shall my wounds 
Make all sound ; 
All whole me make 
With healing drinks. 
And again will I come 
To my kingdom 
And dwell with Britons 
With mickle joy. 
Even (with) these words 
There came from the sea 
A short little boat gliding, 
Shoved by the waves ; 
And two women therein, 
Wondrously attired. 
And they took Arthur anon 
And bore him hurriedly, 
And softly laid him down, 
And forth gan glide. 

Metrical Romances. Love, chivalry, and religion, all per- 
vaded by the spirit of roman'ce, these are the three great 
literary ideals which find expression in the metrical romances. 
Read these romances now, with their knights and fair ladies, 
their perilous adventures and tender love-making, their min- 
strelsy and tournaments and gorgeous cavalcades, as if 
humanity were on parade, and life itself were one tumultuous 
holiday in the open air, and you have an epitome of the 
whole childish, credulous soul of the Middle Ages. The 

1 Only one word in about three hundred and fifty is of French origin. A century later 
Robert Mannyng uses one French word in eighty, while Chaucer has one in six or seven. 
This includes repetitions, and is a fair estimate rather than an exact computation. 


Normans first brought this type of romance into England, and 
so popular did it become, so thoroughly did it express the 
romantic spirit of the time, that it speedily overshadowed all 
other forms of literary expression. 

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

In the enormous number of these verse romances we note 
three main divisions, according to subject, into the romances 
Cycles of ( or the so-called matter) of France, Rome, and 
Romances Britain. 1 The matter of France deals largely with 
the^ exploits of Charlemagne and his peers, and the chief of 
these Carlovingian cycles is the Chanson de Roland, the 
national epic, which celebrates the heroism of Roland in his 
last fight against the Saracens at Ronceval. Originally these 
romances were called Chansons de Geste ; and the name is 
significant as indicating that the poems were originally short 
songs 2 celebrating the deeds (gestd} of well-known heroes. 

1 The matter of Britain refers strictly to the Arthurian, i.e. the Welsh romances ; and 
so another division, the matter of England, may be noted. This includes tales of popu- 
lar English heroes, like Bevis of Hampton, Guy of Warwick, Horn Child, etc. 

2 According to mediaeval literary custom these songs were rarely signed. Later, when 
many songs were made over into a long poem, the author signed his name to the entire 
work, without indicating what he had borrowed. 


Later the various songs concerning one hero were gathered 
together and the Geste became an epic, like the Chanson de 
Roland, or a kind of continued ballad story, hardly deserving 
the name of epic, like the Geste of Robin Hood. 1 

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

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

1 An English book in which such romances were written was called a Gest or Jest 
Book. So also at the beginning of Cursor Mundi (c. 1320) we read: 

Men yernen jestis for to here 

And romaunce rede in diverse manere, 

and then follows a summary of the great cycles of romance, which we are considering 


The most interesting of all Arthurian romances are those 
of the Gawain cycle, 1 and of these the story of Sir Gawain 
. and the Green Knight is best worth reading, for 
and the Green many reasons. First, though the material is taken 
from French sources, 2 the English workmanship is 
the finest of our early romances. Second, the unknown author 
of this romance probably wrote also "The Pearl," and is the 
greatest English poet of the Norman period. Third, the poem 
itself with its dramatic interest, its vivid descriptions, and its 
moral purity, is one of the most delightful old romances in 
any language. 

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

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

The second canto of the poem describes Gawain's long journey 
through the wilderness on his steed Gringolet, and his adventures with 

1 Tennyson goes farther than Malory in making Gawain false and irreverent. That 
seems to be a mistake ; for in all the earliest romances Gawain is, next to Arthur, the 
noblest of knights, the most loved and honored of all the heroes of the Round Table. 

2 There were various French versions of the story ; but it came originally from the 
Irish, where the hero was called Cuchulinn. 


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

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

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

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


story frankly, and ever after that the knights of the Round Table wear 
a green girdle in his honor. 1 

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

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

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

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

1 It is often alleged that in this romance we have a very poetical foundation for the 
Order of the Garter, which was instituted by Edward III, in 1349; but the history of 
the order makes this extremely doubtful. The reader will be chiefly interested in com- 
paring this romance with Beowulf, for instance, to see what new ideals have taken root 
in England. 


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

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

Besides these greater works, an enormous number of fables 
and satires appeared in this age, copied or translated from 
the French, like the metrical romances. The most famous of 
these are "The Owl and the Nightingale," - a long debate 
between the two birds, one representing the gay side of life, 
the other the sterner side of law and morals, and "Land 


of Cockaygne," i.e. "Luxury Land," a keen satire on monks 
and monastic religion. 1 

While most of the literature of the time was a copy of the 

French and was intended only for the upper classes, here 

and there were singers who made ballads for the 


common people ; and these, next to the metrical 
romances, are the most interesting and significant of all the 
works of the Norman period. On account of its obscure ori- 
gin and its oral transmission, the ballad is always the most 
difficult of literary subjects. 2 We make here only three sug- 
gestions, which may well be borne in mind : that ballads were 
produced continually in England from Anglo-Saxon times 
until the seventeenth century ; that for centuries they were 
the only really popular literature ; and that in the ballads 
alone one is able to understand the common people. Read, 
for instance, the ballads of the "merrie greenwood men," 
which gradually collected into the Geste of Robin Hood, and 
you will understand better, perhaps, than from reading many 
histories what the common people of England felt and thought 
while their lords and masters were busy with impossible met- 
rical romances. 

In these songs speaks the heart of the English folk. There 
is lawlessness indeed; but this seems justified by the oppres- 
sion of the times and by the barbarous severity of the game 
laws. An intense hatred of shams and injustice lurks in every 
song ; but the hatred is saved from bitterness by the humor 
with which captives, especially rich churchmen, are solemnly 
lectured by the bandits, while they squirm at sight of devilish 

1 Originally Cockaygne (variously spelled) was intended to ridicule the mythical 
country of Avalon, somewhat as Cervantes' Don Quixote later ridicules the romances of 
chivalry. In Luxury Land everything was good to eat ; houses were built of dainties 
and shingled with cakes ; buttered larks fell instead of rain ; the streams ran with good 
wine ; and roast geese passed slowly down the streets, turning themselves as they went. 

2 Child's English and Scottish Popular Ballads is the most scholarly and complete 
collection in our language. Gummere's Old English Ballads is a good short work. 
Professor Kittredge's Introduction to the Cambridge edition of Child's Ballads is the 
best summary of a very difficult subject. For an extended discussion of the literary 
character of the ballad, see Gummere's The Pofular Ballad, 



tortures prepared before their eyes in order to make them 
give up their golden purses ; and the scene generally ends in 
a bit of wild horse-play. There is fighting enough, and ambush 
and sudden death lurk at every turn of the lonely roads ; but 
there is also a rough, honest chivalry for women, and a gener- 
ous sharing of plunder with the poor and needy. All literature 

(Fourteenth century) 

is but a dream expressed, and " Robin Hood " is the dream of 
an ignorant and oppressed but essentially noble people, strug- 
gling and determined to be free. 

Far more poetical than the ballads, and more interesting 
even than the romances, are the little lyrics of the period, 
those tears and smiles of long ago that crystallized 
into poems, to tell us that the hearts of men are 
alike in all ages. Of these, the best known are the " Luve 
Ron" (love rune or letter) of Thomas de Hales (c. 1250); 



"Springtime" (c. 1300), beginning "Lenten (spring) ys come 
with luve to toune "; and the melodious love song " Alysoun," 
\vritten at the end of the thirteenth century by some unknown 
poet who heralds the coming of Chaucer : 

Bytuene Mersh and Averil, 

When spray biginneth to springe 

The lutel foul l hath hire wyl 

On hyre lud 2 to synge. 

Ich libbe 8 in love longinge 

For semlokest 4 of all thinge. 

She may me blisse bringe ; 

Icham 6 in hire baundoun. 6 

An hendy hap ichabbe yhent, 7 
Ichot 8 from hevene it is me sent, 
From alle wymmen mi love is lent 9 
And lyht 10 on Alysoun. 

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

At first the new literature was remarkably varied, but of small intrinsic 
worth ; and very little of it is now read. In our study we have noted : 
(i) Geoffrey's History, which is valuable as a source book of literature, since 
it contains the native Celtic legends of Arthur. (2) The work of the French 
writers, who made the Arthurian legends popular. (3) Riming Chronicles, i.e. 
history in doggerel verse, like Layamon's Brut. (4) Metrical Romances, or 
tales in verse. These were numerous, and of four classes : (a) the Matter 
of France, tales centering about Charlemagne and his peers, chief of which is 

l little bird. 2 in her language. 8 I live. * fairest. 6 I am. power, bondage. 
7 a pleasant fate I have attained. 8 I know. * gone. 1 lit, alighted- 


the Chanson de Roland ; (t>) Matter of Greece and Rome, an endless series 
of fabulous tales about Alexander, and about the Fall of Troy ; (c) Matter of 
England, stories of Bevis of Hampton, Guy of Warwick, Robin Hood, etc. ; 
(</) Matter of Britain, tales having for their heroes Arthur and his knights of 
the Round Table. The best of these romances is Sir Gawain and the Green 
Knight. (5) Miscellaneous literature, the Ancren Riwle, our best piece of 
early English prose; Orm's Ormulum; Cursor Mundi, with its suggestive 
parallel to the Miracle plays ; and ballads, like King Horn and the Robin 
Hood songs, which were the only poetry of the common people. 

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

Bibliography. 1 History. Text-book, Montgomery, pp. 58-86, or Cheyney, 
pp. 88-144. For fuller treatment, Green, ch. 2 ; Traill; Gardiner, etc. Jewett's 
Story of the Normans (Stories of the Nations Series) ; Freeman's Short 
History of the Norman Conquest; Hutton's King and Baronage (Oxford 
Manuals of English History). 

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

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

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

Texts, Translations, etc. Morris and Skeat's Specimens of Early English 
Morris's Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, in Early English Text Series; 

l For titles and publishers of reference books see General Bibliography at the end ot 
this book. 


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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




912. Northmen settle in Normandy 
1066. Battle of Hastings. William, 
king of England 

1087. William Rufus 
1093. Anselm, archbishop of Canter- 

1096. First Crusade 
noo. Henry I 
1135. Stephen 

1147. Second Crusade 

1154. Henry II 

1189. Richard I. Third Crusade 

1199. John 

1215. Magna Charta 

1216. Henry III 

I23o(>.). University of Cambridge 

1265. Beginning of House of Com- 
mons. Simon de Montfort 

1272. Edward I 

1295. First complete Parliament 

1307. Edward II 
1327. Edward III 

1338. Beginning of Hundred Years' 
War with France 

1086. Domesday Book completed 

ir.. Anselm's Cur Deus Homo 

mo. First recorded Miracle play in 
England (see chapter on the 

1 1 37 (>.). Geoffrey's History 

i2Oo(>.). Layamon's Brut . 
i225(V.). Ancren Riwle 

1267. Roger Bacon's Opus Majus 

1300-1400. York and Wakefield. 

Miracle plays 
I32o(y.). Cursor Mundi 

I34o(?). Birth of Chaucer ' 
I35o(y.). Sir Gawain. The Pearl 


THE AGE OF CHAUCER (1350-1400) 

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

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

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

and again it breaks out into the violent rebellion of Wat Tyler. All 
these things show the same Saxon spirit that had won its freedom in 
a thousand years' struggle against foreign enemies, and that now felt 
itself oppressed by a social and industrial tyranny in its own midst. 
Aside from these two movements, the age was one of unusual stir 
and progress. Chivalry, that mediaeval institution of -mixed good and 
evil, was in its Indian summer, a sentiment rather than a practical 
system. Trade, and its resultant wealth and luxury, were increasing 



enormously: Following trade, as the Vikings had followed glory, the 
English began to be a conquering and colonizing people, like the Anglo- 
Saxons. The native shed something of his insularity and became a 
traveler, going first to view the places where trade had opened the 
way, and returning with wider interests and a larger horizon. Above 
all, the first dawn of the Renaissance is heralded in England, as in 
Spain and Italy, by the appearance of a national literature. 

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

CHAUCER (1340 ?- 1400) 

' What man artow ? ' quod he ; 
' Thou lokest as thou woldest finde an hare, 
For ever upon the ground I see thee stare. 
Approche neer, and loke up merily. , . . 
He semeth elvish by his contenaunce.' 

(The Host's description of Chaucer, 

Prologue, Sir Thofias) 

On reading Chaucer. The difficulties of reading Cbaucer 
are more apparent than real, being due largely to obsolete 
spelling, and there is small necessity for using any modern 
versions of the poet's work, which seem to miss the quiet 


After the Rawlinson Pastel Portrait, Oxford 


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

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

Life of Chaucer. For our convenience the life of Chaucer is divided 
into three periods. The first, of thirty years, includes his youth and 
early manhood, in which time he was influenced almost exclusively 
by French literary models. The second period, of fifteen years, 
covers Chaucer's active life as diplomat and man of affairs ; and in 
this the Italian influence seems stronger than the French. The 

l The reader may perhaps be more interested in these final letters, which are some- 
times sounded and again silent, if he remembers that they represent the decaying inflec- 
tions of our old Anglo-Saxon speech, 


third, of fifteen years, generally known as the English period, is the 
time of Chaucer's richest development. He lives at home, observes 
life closely but kindly, and while the French influence is still strong, 
as shown in the Canterbury Tales, he seems to grow more independ- 
ent of foreign models and is dominated chiefly by the vigorous life of 
his own English people. 

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

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

In 1370 Chaucer was sent abroad on the first of those diplomatic 
missions that were to occupy the greater part of the next fifteen years. 
Two years later he made his first official visit to Italy, to arrange 

a commercial treaty with Genoa, and from this time is 
Second Period .,', . . . . ,. 

noticeable a rapid development in his literary powers 

and the prominence of Italian literary influences. During the inter- 
vals between his different missions he filled various offices at home, 
chief of which was Comptroller of Customs at the port of London. 
An enormous amount of personal labor was involved ; but Chaucer 


seems to have found time to follow his spirit into the new fields of 
Italian literature : 

For whan thy labour doon al is, 

And hast y-maad thy rekeninges, 

In stede of reste and newe thinges, 

Thou gost hoom to thy hous anoon, 

And, also domb as any stoon, 

Thou sittest at another boke ' 

Til fully daswed is thy loke, 

And livest thus as an hermyte. 1 

In 1386 Chaucer was elected member of Parliament from Kent, 
and the distinctly English period of his life and work begins. Though 

exceedingly busy in public affairs and as receiver of cus- 
Third Period , * 

toms, his heart was still with his books, from which only 

nature could win him : 

And as for me, though that my wit be lyte, 

On bokes for to rede I me delyte, 

And to hem yeve I feyth and ful credence, 

And in myn herte have hem in reverence 

So hertely, that ther is game noon 

That fro my bokes maketh me to goon, 

But hit be seldom, on the holyday ; 

Save, certeynly, whan that the month of May 

Is comen, and that I here the foules singe, 

And that the floures ginnen for to springe 

Farwel my book and my devocioun ! 2 

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

1 House of Fame, II, 652 ff. The passage is more or less autobiographical. 

2 Legend of Good Women, Prologue, 11. 29 ff. 


"Truth," or "Good Counsel," reveals the quiet, beautiful spirit, of his 
life, unspoiled either by the greed of trade or the trickery of politics : 

Flee fro the prees, and dwelle with sothfastnesse, 
Suffyce unto thy good, though hit be smal ; 
For hord * hath hate, and climbing tikelnesse, 
Frees z hath envye, and wele 8 blent 4 overal ; 
Savour no more than thee bihove shal ; 
Werk 5 wel thyself, that other folk canst rede ; 
And trouthe shal delivere, hit is no drede. 

Tempest 6 thee noght al croked to redresse, 

In trust of hir 7 that turneth as a bal : 

Gret reste stant in litel besinesse ; 

And eek be war to sporne 8 ageyn an al 9 ; 

Stryve noght, as doth the crokke with the wal. 

Daunte 10 thyself, that dauntest otheres dede ; 

And trouthe shal delivere, hit is no drede. 

That thee is sent, receyve in buxumnesse, 

The wrastling for this worlde axeth a fal. 

Her nis non hoom, her nis but wildernesse : 

Forth, pilgrim, forth ! Forth, beste, out of thy stall 

Know thy contree, look up, thank God of al ; 

Hold the hye wey, and lat thy gost thee lede : 

And trouthe shal delivere, hit is no drede. 

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

The best known, though not the best, poem of the first 
period is the Romaunt of the Rose, 11 a translation from the 
French Roman de la Rose, the most popular poem of the 

1 wealth. 2 the crowd. 8 success. 4 blinds. 5 act. 6 trouble. 

7 i.e. the goddess Fortune. 8 kick. awL 10 judge. 

11 For the typography of titles the author has adopted the plan of putting the titles ot 
all books, and of all important works generally regarded as single books, in italics. Indi- 
vidual poems, essays, etc., are in Roman letters with quotation marks. Thus we have 
the " Knight's Tale," or the story of " Palamon and Arcite," in the Canterbury Tales. 
This system seems on the whole the best, though it may result in some inconsistencies. 


Middle Ages, a graceful but exceedingly tiresome allegory 
of the whole course of love. The Rose growing in its mystic 
garden is typical of the lady Beauty. Gathering the Rose 
represents the lover's attempt to win his lady's favor ; and 
the different feelings aroused Love, Hate, Envy, Jealousy, 
Idleness, Sweet Looks-: are the allegorical persons of the 
poet's drama. Chaucer translated this universal favorite, put- 
ting in some original English touches ; but of the present 
Romaunt only the first seventeen hundred lines are believed 
to be Chaucer's own work. 

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

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

The " Hous of Fame" is one of Chaucer's unfinished poems, 
having the rare combination of lofty thought and simple, 
homely language, showing the influence of the great Italian 
master. In the poem the author is carried away in a dream 


by a great eagle from the brittle temple of Venus, in a 
sandy wilderness, up to the hall of fame. To this house come 
all rumors of earth, as the sparks fly upward. The house 
stands on a rock of ice 

writen ful of names 
Of folk that hadden grete fames. 

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

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

Third Period. Chaucer's masterpiece, the Canterbury Tales, 
one of the most famous works in all literature, fills the third 
or English period of his life. The plan of the work is magnifi- 
cent : to represent the wide sweep of English life by gathering 


a motley company together and letting each class of society 
tell its own favorite stories. Though the great work was never 
finished, Chaucer succeeded in his purpose so well that in the 
Canterbury Tales he has given us a picture of contemporary 
English life, its work and play, its deeds and dreams, its fun 
and sympathy and hearty joy of living, such as no other single 
work of literature has ever equaled. 

Plan of the Canterbury Tales. Opposite old London, at 
the southern end of London Bridge, once stood the Tabard 


Inn of Southwark, a quarter made famous not only by the 
Canterbury Tales, but also by the first playhouses where 
Shakespeare had his training. This Southwark was the point 
of departure of all travel to the south of England, especially 
of those mediaeval pilgrimages to the shrine of Thomas a 
Becke.t in Canterbury. On a spring evening, at the inspiring 
time of the year when "longen folk to goon on pilgrimages," 
Chaucer alights at the Tabard Inn, and finds it occupied by 
a various company of people bent on a pilgrimage. Chance 
alone had brought them together; for it was the custom of 


pilgrims to wait at some friendly inn until a sufficient com- 
pany were gathered to make the journey pleasant and safe 
from robbers that might be encountered on the way. Chaucer 
joins this company, which includes all classes of English soci- 
ety, from the Oxford scholar to the drunken miller, and accepts 
gladly their invitation to go with them on the morrow. 

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

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

From the number of persons in the company, thirty-two in 
all, it is evident that Chaucer meditated an immense work of 
one hundred and twenty-eight tales, which should cover the 
whole life of England. Only twenty-four were written ; some 
of these are incomplete, and others are taken from his earlier 
work to fill out the general plan of the Canterbury Tales. 
Incomplete as they are, they cover a wide range, including 
stories of love and chivalry, of saints and legends, travels, 


adventures, animal fables, allegory, satires, and the coarse 
humor of the common people. Though all but two are written 
in verse and abound in exquisite poetical touches, they are 
stories as well as poems, and Chaucer is to be regarded as 
our first short-story teller as well as our first modern poet. 
The work ends with a kindly farewell from the poet to his 
reader, and so " here taketh the makere of this book his leve." 

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

The historian of our literature is tempted to linger over 
this " Prologue " and to quote from it passage after passage 
to show how keenly and yet kindly our first modern poet 
observed his fellow-men. The characters, too, attract one 
like a good play: the "verray parfit gentil knight" and his 
manly son, the modest prioress, model of sweet piety and 


society manners, the sporting monk and the fat friar, the dis- 
creet man of law, the well-fed country squire, the sailor just 
home from sea, the canny doctor, the lovable parish priest 
who taught true religion to his flock, but " first he folwed 
it himselve"; the coarse but good-hearted Wyf of Bath, the 
thieving miller leading the pilgrims to the music of his bag- 
pipe, all these and many others from every walk of English 
life, and all described with a quiet, kindly humor which seeks 
instinctively the best in human nature, and which has an 
ample garment of charity to cover even its faults and failings. 
" Here," indeed, as Dryden says, "is God's plenty." Probably 
no keener or kinder critic ever described his fellows ; and in 
this immortal " Prologue " Chaucer is a model for all those 
who would put our human life into writing. The student 
should read it entire, as an introduction not only to the poet 
but to all our modern literature. 

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

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

The idea of the story was borrowed from Boccaccio ; but parts 
of the original tale were much older and belonged to the com- 
mon literary stock of the Middle Ages. Like Shakespeare, 
Chaucer took the material for his poems wherever he found 
it, and his originality consists in giving to an old story some 
present human interest, making it express the life and ideals 
of his own age. In this respect the " Knight's Tale " is remark- 
able. Its names are those of an ancient civilization, but its 


characters are men and women of the English nobility as 
Chaucer knew them. In consequence the story has many 
anachronisms, such as the mediaeval tournament before the 
temple of Mars ; but the reader scarcely notices these things, 
being absorbed in the dramatic interest of the narrative. 

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

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

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

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

O blisful light, of whiche the bemes clere 
Adorneth al the thridde hevene faire ! 
O sonnes leef, O Joves doughter dere, 
Plesaunce of love, O goodly debonaire, 
In gentil hertes ay redy to repaire ! 
O verray cause of hele and of gladnesse, 
Y-heried be thy might and thy goodnesse I 


In hevene and helle, in erthe and salte see 
Is felt thy might, if that I wel descerne ; 
As man, brid, best, fish, herbe and grene tree 
Thee fele in tymes with vapour eterne. 
God loveth, and to love wol nought werne ; 
And in this world no lyves creature, 
With-outen love, is worth, or may endure. 1 

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

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

Besides these principal meters, Chaucer in his short poems 
used many other poetical forms modeled after the French, who 
in the fourteenth century were cunning workers in every form 
of verse. Chief among these are the difficult but exquisite 
rondel, "Now^welcom Somer with thy sonne softe," which 
closes the "Parliament of Fowls," and the ballad, "Flee fro 
the prees," which has been already quoted. In the " Monk's 
Tale" there is a melodious measure which may have furnished 
the model for Spenser's famous stanza. 2 Chaucer's poetry is 
extremely musical and must be judged by the ear rather than 
by the eye. To the modern reader the lines appear broken 
and uneven ; but i one reads them over a few times, he soon 
catches the perfect swing of the measure, and finds that he is 
in the hands of a master whose ear is delicately sensitive to 
the smallest accent. There is a lilt in all his lines which is 
marvelous when we consider that he is the first to show us 
the poetic possibilities of the language. His claim upon our 
gratitude is twofold : 3 first, for discovering the music that is 
in our English speech ; and second, for his influence in fixing 
the Midland dialect as the literary language of England. 

1 Troilus and Crlseyde, III. 2 See p. 107. 

8 For a summary of Chaucer's work and place in our literature, see the Comparison 
with Spenser, p. in. 


WILLIAM LANGLAND (1332? . . . ?) 

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

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

The poem as we read it now is in two distinct parts, the 
first containing the vision of Piers, the second a series of 


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

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

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


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

In a somer sesun, whon softe was the sonne, 
I schop 1 me into a shroud, as I a scheep were, 
In habite as an heremite, unholy of werkes, 
Went wyde in this world, wondres to here. 
Bote in a Mayes mornynge, on Malverne hulles, 
Me byfel a ferly, 2 of fairie me thoughte. 
I was wery, forwandred, and went me to reste 
Undur a brod banke, bi a bourne 3 side ; 
And as I lay and lened, and loked on the watres, 
I slumbred in a slepyng hit swyed 4 so murie. . . . 


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

Though Wyclif 's works are now unread, except by occa- 
sional scholars, he still occupies a very high place in our 
literature. His translation of the Bible was slowly copied all 

1 clad. 2 wonder. 8 brook. 4 sounded. 

8 4 


over England, and so fixed a national standard of English prose 
to replace the various dialects. Portions of this translation, in 
the form of favorite passages from Scripture, were copied by 
thousands, and for the first time in our history a standard of pure 
English was established in the homes of the common people. 
As a suggestion of the language of that day, we quote a 
few familiar sentences from the Sermon on the Mount, as 

given in the later version 
of Wyclif's Gospel : 

And he openyde his mouth, 
and taughte hem, and seide, 
Blessid ben pore men in spirit, 
for the kyngdom of hevenes 
is herne. 1 Blessid ben mylde 
men, for thei schulen welde? 
the erthe. Blessid ben thei 
that mornen, for thei schulen 
be coumfortid. Blessid ben 
thei that hungren and thristeii 
rightwisnessej 8 for thei schulen 
be fulfillid. Blessid ben merci- 
ful men, for thei schulen gete 
merci. Blessid ben thei that 
ben of clene herte, for thei 
schulen se God. Blessid ben 
pesible men, for thei schulen 
be clepid 4 Goddis children. 
Blessid ben thei that suffren 
persecusioun for rightfulnesse, for the kyngdom of hevenes is herne. 1 . . . 
Eftsoone ye han herd, that it was seid to elde men, Thou schalt not 
forswere, but thou schalt yelde 5 thin othis to the Lord. But Y seie 6 to 
you, that ye swere not for ony thing; , . . but be youre worde, yhe, 
yhe ; nay, nay ; and that that is more than these, is of yvel. . . . 

Ye han herd that it was seid, Thou schalt love thi neighbore^and hate 
thin enemye. But Y seie to you, love ye youre enemyes, do ye wel to hem ' 
that hatiden 8 you, and preye ye for hem that pursuen 9 and sclaundrfch^, 
you ; that ye be the sones of youre Fadir that is in hevenes, that mak^th 
his sunne to rise upon goode and yvele men, and reyneth n on just meci 
and unjuste. . . . Therefore be ye parfit, as youre hevenli Fadir is parfit. 



l theirs 

7 them 

2 rule 
8 hate 

8 righteousness 

9 persecute 

* called S yield 

1 slander 





About the year 1356 there appeared in England an extraor- 
dinary book called the Voyage and Travail of Sir John Maun- 
Mandeviiie's deville, written in excellent style in the Midland 
Travels dialect, which was then becoming the literary lan- 
guage of England. For years this interesting work and its 
unknown author were subjects of endless dispute ; but it is 
now fairly certain that this collection of travelers' tales is 
simply a compilation from Odoric, Marco Polo, and various 
other sources. The original work was probably in French, 
which was speedily translated into Latin, then into English 
and other languages ; and wherever it appeared it became 
extremely popular, its marvelous stories of foreign lands 
being exactly suited to the credulous spirit of the age. 1 At 
the present time there are said to be three hundred copied 
manuscripts of " Mandeville " in various languages, more, 
probably, than of any other work save the gospels. In the 
prologue of the English version the author calls himself John 
Maundeville and gives an outline of his wide travels during 
thirty years ; but the name is probably a " blind," the prologue 
more or less spurious, and the real compiler is still to be 

The modern reader may spend an hour or two very pleas- 
antly in. this old wonderland. On its literary side the book 
is remarkable, though a translation, as being the first prose 

1 In its English form the alleged Mandeville describes the. lands and customs he has 
seen, and brings in all the wonders he has heard about. Many things he has seen himself, 
he tells us, and these are certainly true : but others he has heard in his travels, and of 
these the reader must judge for himself. Then he incidentally mentions a .desert where 
he saw devils as thick as grasshoppers. As for things that he has been told by devout 
travelers, here are the dog-faced men, and birds that carry off elephants, and giants 
twenty-eight feet tall^ and dangeTous women who haVfe btigllt JeWe'15^ in their heads 
instead" ot eyes, "anoTif they behold any man in wrath, they slay him with a look, as 
dothlhe basilisk." Here also are the folk of Ethiopia, who have only one leg, but who 
hop about with extraordinary rapidity. Their one foot is so big that, when they lie in 
the sun, they raise it to shade their bodies ; in rainy weather it is as good as an umbrella. 
At the close of this interesting book of travel, which is a guide for pilgrims, the author 
promfses to all those who say a prayer for him a share in whatever heavenly grace he 
may himself obtain for all his holy pilgrimages, 


work in modern English having a distinctly literary style and 
flavor. Otherwise it is a most interesting commentary on the 
general culture and credulity of the fourteenth century. 

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

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

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

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

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

Bibliography. 1 History. Text-book, Montgomery, pp. 115-149, or Cheyney, 
pp. 186-263. For fuller treatment, Green, ch. 5; Traill; Gardiner. 

i For titles and publishers of reference works see General Bibliography at the end of 
this book. 


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

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

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

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

Suggestive Questions, i. What are the chief historical events of the four- 
teenth century ? What social movement is noticeable ? What writers reflect 
political and social conditions ? 

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

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

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

5. Quote or read passages which show Chaucer's keenness of observation, 
his humor, his kindness in judgment, his delight in nature. What side of 



human nature does he emphasize ? Make a little comparison between Chaucer 
arid Shakespeare, having in mind (i) the characters described by both poets, 
(2) their knowledge of human nature, (3) the sources of their plots, (4) the 
interest of their works. 

6. Describe briefly Piers Plowman and its author. Why is the poem called 
" the gospel of the p 1 oor " ? What message does it contain for daily labor ? 
Does it apply to any modern conditions? Note any resemblance in ideas 
between Piers Plowman and such modern works as Carlyle's Past and Pres- 
ent, Kingsley's Alton Locke, Morris's Dream of John Ball, etc. 

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

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




1327. Edward III 

1338. Beginning of Hundred Years' 

War with France 
1347. Capture of Calais 
1348-1349. Black Death 

1373. Winchester College, first great 
public school 

1377. Richard II. Wyclif and the 
Lollards begin Reformation 
in England 

1381. Peasant Rebellion. Wat Tyler 

1399. Deposition of Richard II. 

Henry IV chosen by Parliament 

i34o(?). Birth of Chaucer 

1356. Mandeville's Travels 
1359. Chaucer in French War 
1360-1370. Chaucer's early or French 

1370-1385. Chaucer's Middle or Italian 

1362-1395. Piers Plowman 

1385-1400. Canterbury Tales 

1382. First complete Bible in English 

1400. Death of Chaucer 

(Dante's Divina Commedia, c. 
1310; Petrarch's sonnets and 
poems, 1325-1374; Boccac- 
cio's tales, c. 1350.) 



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

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



In the long reign of Henry VIII the changes are less violent, but 
have more purpose and significance. His age is marked by a steady 
increase in the national power at home and abroad, by the entrance 
of the Reformation " by a side door," and by the final separation of 
England from all ecclesiastical bondage in Parliament's famous Act 
of Supremacy. In previous reigns chivalry and the old feudal sys- 
tem had practically been banished; now monasticism, the third 
mediaeval institution with its mixed evil and good, received its death- 
blow in the wholesale suppression of the monasteries and the re- 
moval of abbots from the House of Lords. Notwithstanding the evil 
character of the king and the hypocrisy of proclaiming such a crea- 
ture the head of any church or the defender of any faith, we acquiesce 

fill :$fyt$%t> ant* temflafefc out rf tonfy? in fc mglf fffe $t 
wtj Dag o jjupn tfr pro of oiu Ioi6 ty in? l##tj / *nfc 
ty fizft gro of tfc agne of hpng fymf tip tritfTtafc cnpign* 
frfc ffcgj Dag of fljage after/ itf 


silently in Stubb's declaration 1 that "the world owes some of its 
greatest debts to men from whose memory the world recoils." 

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

1 Constitutional History of England. 


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

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

The Revival stirred these men as the voyages of Da Gama and 
Columbus stirred the mariners of the Mediterranean. First came 
the sciences and inventions of the Arabs, making their way slowly 

1 Symonds, Revival of Learning \ 


against the prejudice of the authorities, and opening men's eyes to 
the unexplored realms of nature. Then came the flood of Greek 
literature which the new art of printing carried swiftly to every 
school in Europe, revealing a new world of poetry and philosophy. 
Scholars flocked to the universities, as adventurers to the new world 
of America, and there the old authority received a deathblow. Truth 
only was authority ; to search for truth everywhere, as men sought 
for new lands and gold and the fountain of youth, that was the 
new spirit which awoke in Europe with the Revival of Learning. 


The hundred and fifty years of the Revival period are sin- 
gularly destitute of good literature. Men's minds were too 
much occupied with religious and political changes and with 
the rapid enlargement of the mental horizon to find time for 
that peace^and leisure which are essential for literary results. 
Perhaps, also, the floods of newly discovered classics, which 
occupied scholars and the new printing presses alike, were by 
their very power and abundance a discouragement of native 
talent. Roger Ascham (15 15-1568), a famous classical scholar, 
who published a book called Toxophilus (School of Shooting) 
in 1545, expresses in his preface, or "apology," a very wide- 
spread dissatisfaction over the neglect of native literature 
when he says, "And as for ye Latin or greke tongue, every 
thing is so excellently done in them, that none can do better : 
In the Englysh tonge contrary, every thinge in a maner so 
meanly, both for the matter and handelynge, that no man can 
do worse." 

On the Continent, also, this new interest in the classics 
served to check the growth of native literatures. In Italy 
especially, for a full century after the brilliant age of Dante 
and Petrarch, no great literature was produced, and the Italian 
language itself seemed to go backward. 1 The truth is that 

l Sismondi attributes this to two causes : first, the lack of general culture ; and second, 
the absorption of the schools in the new study of antiquity. See Literature of the South 
of Europe, II, 400 ff, 


these great writers were, like Chaucer, far in advance of their 
age, and that the mediaeval mind was too narrow, too scantily 
furnished with ideas to produce a varied literature. The fif- 
teenth century was an age of preparation, of learning the be- 
ginnings of science, and of getting acquainted with the great 
ideals, the stern law, the profound philosophy, the suggestive 
mythology, and the noble poetry of the Greeks and Romans. 
So the mind was furnished with ideas for a new literature. 

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

The two greatest books which appeared in England during 
this period are undoubtedly Erasmus's 1 Praise of Folly (Enco- 
Praise of mium Morice) and More's Utopia, the famous " King- 
Foll y dom of Nowhere." Both were written in Latin, but 
were speedily translated into all European languages. The 
Praise of Folly is like a song of victory for the New Learning, 
which had driven away vice, ignorance, and superstition, the 
three foes of humanity. It was published in 1511 after the 
accession of Henry VIII. Folly is represented as donning cap 
and bells and mounting a pulpit, where the vice and cruelty of 
kings, the selfishness and ignorance of the clergy, and the 
foolish standards of education are satirized without mercy. 

More's Utopia, published in 1516, is a powerful and origi- 
nal study of social conditions, unlike anything which had ever 
appeared in any literature. 2 In our own day we have seen its 
influence in Bellamy's Looking Backward, an enormously 

1 Erasmus, the greatest scholar of the Renaissance, was not an Englishman, but 
seems to belong to every nation. He was born at Rotterdam (c. 1466), but lived the 
greater part of his life in France, Switzerland, England, and Italy. His Encomium 
Morice was sketched on a journey from Italy (1509) and written while he was the guest 
of Sir Thomas More in London. 

2 Unless, perchance, the reader finds some points of resemblance in Plato's " Republic." 


successful book, which recently set people to thinking of the 
unnecessary cruelty of modern social conditions. More learns 
from a sailor, one of Amerigo Vespucci's compan- 
ions, of a wonderful Kingdom of Nowhere, in which 
all questions of labor, government, society, and religion have 
been easily settled by simple justice and common sense. In 
this Utopia we find for the first time, as the foundations of 
civilized society, the three great words, Liberty, Fraternity, 
Equality, which retained their inspiration through all the vio- 
lence of the French Revolution and which are still the unreal- 
ized ideal of every free government. As he hears of this 
wonderful country More wonders why, after fifteen centuries 
of Christianity, his own land is so little civilized ; and as we 
read the book to-day we ask ourselves the same question. 
The splendid dream is still far from being realized ; yet it 
seems as if any nation could become Utopia in a single gen- 
eration, so simple and just are the requirements. 

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

Wyatt and Surrey. In 1557 appeared probably the first 
printed collection of miscellaneous English poems, known as 
Totters Miscellany. It contained the work of the so-called 
courtly makers, or poets, which had hitherto circulated in 
manuscript form for the benefit of the court. About half of 


these poems were the work of Sir Thomas Wyatt (1503?- 
1542) and of Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey (15 17 P-I54/). 
Both together wrote amorous sonnets modeled after the Ital- 
ians, introducing a new verse form which, although very dif- 
ficult, has been a favorite ever since with our English poets. 1 
Surrey is noted, not for any especial worth or originality of 
his own poems, but rather for his translation of two books 
of Virgil " in strange meter." The strange meter was the blank 
verse, which had never before appeared in English. The chief 
literary work of these two men, therefore, is to introduce the 
sonnet and the blank verse, one the most dainty, the other 
the most flexible and characteristic form of English poetry, 
which in the hands of Shakespeare and Milton were used to 
make the world's masterpieces. 

Malory's Morte <T Arthur. The greatest English work of 
this period, measured by its effect on subsequent literature, 
is undoubtedly the Morte d ' ArtJmr y a collection of the Arthu- 
rian romances told in simple and vivid prose. Of Sir Thomas 
Malory, the author, Caxton 2 in his introduction says that he 
was a knight, and completed his work in 1470, fifteen years 
before Caxton printed it. The record adds that "he was the 
servant of Jesu both by day and night." Beyond that we 
know little 3 except what may be inferred from the splendid 
work itself. 

Malory groups the legends about the central idea of the 
search for the Holy Grail. Though many of the stories, like 
Tristram and Isolde, are purely pagan, Malory treats them 
all in such a way as to preserve the whole spirit of mediaeval 
Christianity as it has been preserved in no other work. It 

1 See Wordsworth's sonnet, On the Sonnet. For a detailed study of this most perfect 
verse form, see Tomlinson's The Sonnet, Its Origin, Structure, and Place in Poetry. 

2 William Caxton (c. 1422-1491) was the first English printer. He learned the art 
abroad, probably at Cologne or Bruges, and about the year 1476 set up the first wooden 
printing press in England. His influence in fixing a national language to supersede the 
various dialects, and in preparing the way for the literary renaissance of the Elizabethan 
age, is beyond calculation. 

8 Malory has, in our own day, been identified with an English country gentleman 
and soldier, who was member of Parliament for Warwickshire in 1445, 


was to Malory rather than to Layamon or to the early French 
writers that Shakespeare and his contemporaries turned for 
their material ; and in our own age he has supplied Tennyson 
and Matthew Arnold and Swinburne and Morris with the 
inspiration for the "Idylls of the King" and the "Death of 
Tristram " and the other exquisite poems which center about 
Arthur and the knights of his Round Table. 

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

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

In our study we have noted: (i) the Revival of Learning, what it was, 
and the significance of the terms Humanism and Renaissance ; (2) three in- 
fluential literary works, Erasmus's Praise of Folly, More's Utopia, and Tyn- 
dale's translation of the New Testament ; (3) Wyatt and Surrey, and the , 


so-called courtly makers or poets; (4) Malory's Morte d* Arthur, a collection 
of the Arthurian legends in English prose. The Miracle and Mystery Plays 
were the most popular form of entertainment in this age ; but we have reserved 
them for special study in connection with the Rise of the Drama, in the 
following chapter. 

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

Bibliography. 1 History. Text-book, Montgomery, pp. 150-208, or Cheyney, 
pp. 264-328. Greene, ch. 6 ; Traill ; Gardiner ; Froude ; etc. 

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

Literature. General Works. Jusserand; Ten Brink; Minto's Characteris- 
tics of English Poets. 

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

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

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

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

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

l For titles and publishers of general works see General Bibliography at the end of 
this book, x - 

9 8 


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

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

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




1413. Henry V 

1415. Battle of Agincourt 

1422. Henry VI 

1428. Siege of Orleans. Joan of Arc 

1453. End of Hundred Years' War 

1455-1485. Wars of Roses 

1461. Edward IV 

1483. Richard III 

1485. Henry VII 

1492. Columbus discovers America 
1509. Henry VIII 

1534. Act of Supremacy. The Refor- 
mation accomplished 

1547. Edward VI 
1553. Mary 
1558. Elizabeth 

1470. Malory's Morte d' Arthur 
I474(r.). Caxton, at Bruges, prints the 

first book in English, the 

Recuyell of the Historyes of 


1477. First book printed hi England 
1485. Morte d' Arthur printed by 

1499. Colet, Erasmus, and More 

bring the New Learning to 


1 509. Erasmus's Praise of Folly 
1516. More's Utopia 
1525. Tyndale's New Testament 
I 53(^0- Introduction of the sonnet 

and blank verse by Wyatt 

and Surrey 
1539. The Great Bible 

1557. Tottel's Miscellany 



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

Characteristics of the Elizabethan Age. The most characteristic 
feature of the age was the comparative religious tolerance, which 
Religious was due largely to the queen's influence. The fright- 
Toleration f u i excesses of the religious war known as the Thirty 
Years' War on the Continent found no parallel in England. Upon 
her accession Elizabeth found the whole kingdom divided against 
itself ; the North was largely Catholic, while the southern counties 
were as strongly Protestant. Scotland had followed the Reforma- 
tion in its own intense way, while Ireland remained true to its old 



religious traditions, and both countries were openly rebellious. The 
court, made up of both parties, witnessed the rival intrigues of 
those who sought to gain the royal favor. It was due partly to the 
intense absorption of men's minds in religious questions that the 
preceding century, though an age of advancing learning, produced 
scarcely any literature worthy of the name. Elizabeth favored both 
religious parties, and presently the world saw with amazement 
Catholics and Protestants acting together as trusted counselors of a 
great sovereign. The defeat of the Spanish Armada established the 
Reformation as a fact in England, and at the same time united all 
Englishmen in a magnificent national enthusiasm. For the first time 
since the Reformation began, the fundamental question of religious 
toleration seemed to be settled, and the mind of man, freed from 
religious fears and persecutions, turned with a great creative impulse 
to other forms of activity. It is partly from this new freedom of the 
mind that the Age of Elizabeth received its great literary stimulus. 

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

3. It is an age of dreams, of adventure, of unbounded enthusiasm 
springing from the new lands of fabulous riches revealed by English 

explorers. Drake sails around the world, shaping the 
Enthusiasm . , r - , . ... . . u 11 < 11 

mighty course which English colonizers shall follow 

through the centuries ; and presently the young philosopher Bacon 
is saying confidently, " I have taken all knowledge for my prov- 
ince." The mind must search farther than the eye ; with new, rich 
lands opened to the sight, the imagination must create new forms 
to people the new worlds. Hakluyt's famous Collection of Voyages, 
and Purchas, His Pilgrimage, were even more stimulating to the 
English imagination than to the English acquisitiveness. While her 
explorers search the new world for the Fountain of Youth, her 
poets are creating literary works that are young forever. Marston 


writes 1 : " Why, man, all their dripping pans are piire' gold. The prison- 
ers they take are fettered in gold ; and as for rubies and diamonds, 
they goe forth on holydayes and gather 'hem by the seashore to hang 
on their children's coates." This comes nearer to being a description 
of Shakespeare's poetry than of the Indians in Virginia. Prospero, in 
The Tempest, with his control over the mighty powers and harmo- 
nies of nature, is only the literary dream of that science which had 
just begun to grapple with the forces of the universe. Cabot, Drake, 
Frobisher, Gilbert, Raleigh, Willoughby, Hawkins, a score of 
explorers reveal a new earth to men's eyes, and instantly literature 
creates a new heaven to match it. So dreams and deeds increase 
side by side, and the dream is ever greater jhan the deed. That is 
the meaning of literature. 

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


EDMUND SPENSER (1552-1599) 


" Piers, I have pipe'd erst so long with pain 
That all mine oaten reeds been rent and wore, 
And my poor Muse hath spent her spared store, 
Yet little good hath got, and much less gain. 
Such pleasaunce makes the grasshopper so poor, 
And ligge so layd 2 when winter doth her strain. 

1 Eastward Ho! a play given in Blackfriars Theater about 1603. The play was 
written by Marston and two collaborators. 2 Lie so faint. 


The dapper ditties that I wont devise, 
To feed youth's fancy, and the flocking fry 
Delighten much what I the bet forthy? 
They han the pleasure, I a slender prize : 
I beat the bush, the birds to them do fly : 
What good thereof to Cuddie can arise ? 

Cuddie, the praise is better than the price, 

The glory eke much greater than the gain : . . ." 

Shepherd' >s Calendar, October 

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

EDMUND SPENSER "*> O Spenser's early life and 

parentage we know little, except 

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

After leaving Cambridge (1576) Spenser went to the north of 
England, on some unknown work or quest. Here his chief occupation 


was to fall in love and to record his melancholy over the lost 
Rosalind in the Shepherd's Calendar. Upon his friend Harvey's 
advice he came to London, bringing his poems; and here he met 
Leicester, then at the height of royal favor, and the latter took him 
to live at Leicester House. Here he finished the Shepherd's Calen- 
dar, and here he met Sidney and all the queen's favorites. The court 
was full of intrigues, lying and flattery, and Spenser's opinion of his 
own uncomfortable position is best expressed in a few lines from 
" Mother Hubbard's Tale " : 

Full little knowest thou, that has not tried, 

What hell it is, in suing long to bide : 

To lose good days, that might be better spent ; 

To waste long nights in pensive discontent ; 

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

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

My luckless lot, 

That banished had myself, like wight forlore, 

Into that waste, where I was quite forgot. 

It is interesting to note here a gentle poet's view of the " unhappy 
island." After nearly sixteen years' residence he wrote his View of 
the State of Ireland (I596), 1 his only prose work, in which he sub- 
mits a plan for "pacifying the oppressed and rebellious people." 
This was to bring a nuge force of cavalry and infantry into the 
country, give the Irish a brief time to submit, and after that to hunt 
them down like wild beasts. He calculated that cold, famine, and 
sickness would help the work of the sword, and that after the rebels 
had been well hounded for two winters the following summer would 

1 The View was not published till 1633. 


find the country peaceful. This plan, from the poet of harmony 
and beauty, was somewhat milder than the usual treatment of a 
brave people whose offense was that they loved liberty and reli- 
gion. Strange as it may seem, the View was considered most states- 
manlike, and was excellently well received in England. 

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

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

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

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


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

To ponrtraict in Arthure, before he was king^Jhe image of jijjrave 
Knight, perfected in the twelve private Morall Vertues, as Aristotle hath 
devised ; which is the purpose of these first twelve bookesj jybirh if I 
finde to be well accepted, 1 may be perhaps encoraged to frame the other 
part of Polliticke Vertues in his person, after that hee came to be king. 

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

Argument of the Faery Queen. From the introductory letter 
we learn that the hero visits the queen's court in Fairy Land, 
while she is holding a twelve-days festival. On each day some 
distressed person appears unexpectedly, tells a woful story of 
dragons, of enchantresses, or of distressed beauty or virtue, 
and asks for a champion to right the wrong and to let the 
oppressed go free. Sometimes a knight volunteers or begs 
for the dangerous mission ; again the duty is assigned by the 
queen ; and the journeys and adventures of these knights are 


the subjects of the several books. The first recounts the 
adventures of the Redcross Knight, representing Holiness, 
and the lady Una, representing Religion. Their contests are 
symbolical of the world-wide struggle between virtue and faith 
on the one hand, and sin and heresy on the other. The second 
book tells the story of Sir Guyon, or Temperance ; the third, 
of Britomartis, representing Chastity ; the fourth, fifth, and 
sixth, of Cambel andTriamond (Friendship), Artegall (Justice), 
and Sir Calidore (Courtesy). Spenser's plan was a very elas- 
tic one and he filled up the measure of his narrative with 
everything that caught his fancy, historical events and per- 
sonages under allegorical masks, beautiful ladies, chivalrous 
knights, giants, monsters, dragons, sirens, enchanters, and 
adventures enough to stock a library of fiction. If you read 
Homer or Virgil, you know his subject in the first strong line ; 
if you read Caedmon's Paraphrase or Milton's epic, the intro- 
duction gives you the theme ; but Spenser's great poem 
with the exception of a single line in the prologue, " Fierce 
warres and faithfull loves shall moralize my song" gives 
hardly a hint of what is coming. 

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


events, till the allegory becomes as difficult to follow as the 
second part of Goethe's Faust. 

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

A Gentle Krught was prfcking on the plaine, 
Ycladd 1 in mightie armes and silver shielde, 
Wherein old dints of deepe woundes did remaine. 
The cruell markes of many a bloody fielde ; 
Yet armes till that time did he never wield : 
His angry steede did chide his foming bitt, 
As much disdayning to the curbe to yield : 
xFull iolly 2 knight he seemd, and faire^did sitt^ 
As o'ne for kni'ghtly giasts 3 and fierce encounters fm. 

And on his brest a bloodie crosse he bore, 
The deare remembrance of his dying Lord, 
For whose sweete sake that glorious badge he wore, 
And dead, as living ever, him ador'd: 
Upon his shield the like was also scor'd, 
For soveraine hope, which in his helpe he had, 
Right faithfull true he was in deede and word ; 
But of his cheere 4 did seeme too solemne sad ; 
Yet nothing did he dread, but ever was ydrad. 5 

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

linger : 

And, more to lulle him in his slumber soft, 
A trickling streame from high rock tumbling downe, 
And ever-drizling raine upon the loft, 
Mixt with a murmuring winde, much like the sowne 
Of swarming bees, did cast him in a swowne. 
1 clad. 2 hanisome. 8 jousts, tournaments. 4 countenance. 5 dreaded 


No other noyse, nor peoples troublous cryes, 
As still are wont t'annoy the walled towne, 
Might there be heard : but carelesse Quiet lyes, 
Wrapt in eternall silence farre from enimyes. 

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

One day, nigh wearie of the yrkesome way, 
From her unhastie beast she did alight ; 
And on the grasse her dainty limbs did lay 
In secrete shadow, far from all mens sight ; 
From her fayre head her fillet she undight, 1 
And layd her stole aside. Her angels face, 
As- the great eye of heaven, shyne'd bright, 
And made a sunshine in the shady place ; 
Did never mortall eye behold such heavenly grace. 

It fortune'd, out of the thickest wood 
A ramping lyon rusheM suddeinly, 
Hunting full greedy after salvage blood : 
Soone as the royall Virgin he did spy, 
With gaping mouth at her ran greedily, 
To have attonce devourd her tender corse : 
But to the pray whenas he drew more ny, 
His bloody rage aswaged with remorse, 2 
And, with the sight amazd, forgat his furious forse. 

Instead thereof he kist her wearie feet, 
And lickt her lilly hands with fawning tong ; 
As he her wronged innocence did weet. 3 
O how can beautie maister the most strong, 
And simple truth subdue avenging wrong ! 

Minor Poems. Next to his masterpiece, the Shepherd's 
Calendar (1579) is the best known of Spenser's poems; 
though, as his first work, it is below many others in melody. 
It consists of twelve pastoral poems, or eclogues, one for each 
month of the year. The themes are generally rural life, nature, 
love in the fields ; and the speakers are shepherds and shep- 
herdesses. To increase the rustic effect Spenser uses strange 
forms of speech and obsolete words, to such an extent that 
Jonson complained his works are not English or any other 

l took off. 2 pity, know 


language. Some are melancholy poems on his lost Rosalind ; 
some are satires on the clergy ; one, " The Briar and the 
Oak," is an allegory; one flatters Elizabeth, and others are 
pure fables touched with the Puritan spirit. They are written 
in various styles and meters, and show plainly that Spenser 
was practicing and preparing himself for greater work. 

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

Importance of the Shepherd's Calendar. The publication of 
this work, in 1579, by an unknown writer who signed himself 
modestly " Immerito," marks an important epoch in our litera- 
ture. We shall appreciate this better if we remember the 
long years during which England had been without a great 
poet. Chaucer and Spenser are often studied together as 
poets of the Renaissance period, and the idea prevails that 
they were almost contemporary. In fact, nearly two centuries 
passed after Chaucer's death, years of enormous political 
and intellectual development, and not onlv did Chaucer have 
no successor but our language had changed so rapidly that 
Englishmen had lost the ability to read his lines correctly. 1 

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

1 In the nineteenth century men learned again to appreciate Chaucer; 


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

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

Comparison between Chaucer and Spenser. At the outset 
it is well to remember that, though Spenser regarded Chaucer 
as his master, two centuries intervene between them, and that 


their writings have almost nothing in common. We shall 
appreciate this better by a brief comparison between our first 
two modern poets. 

Chaucer was a combined poet and man of affairs, with the 
latter predominating. Though dealing largely with ancient or 
mediaeval, material, he has a curiously modern way of looking 
at life. Indeed, he is our only author preceding Shakespeare 
with whom we feel thoroughly at home. He threw aside the 
outgrown metrical romance, which was practically the only 
form of narrative in his day, invented 

in verse, and brought it to a degree of perfection which has 
probably never since been equaled. Though a student of the 
classics, he lived wholly in the present, studied the men^and 
women of his own time, painted them as theyj&ere^but added, 
always a touch of kindly humor or romance^ to make them- 
more interesting: So his mission appears to be simply to 
amuse himself and his readers. His mastery of various and 
melodious verse was marvelous and has never been surpassed 
in our language ; but the English of his day was changing 
rapidly, and in a very few years men were unable to appreciate 
his art, so that even to Spenser and Dryden, for example, he 
seemed deficient in metrical skill. On this account his influ- 
ence on our literature has been much less than we should 
expect from the quality of his work and from his position as 
one of the greatest of English poets. 

Like Chaucer, Spenser was a busy man of affairs, but in 
him the poet and the scholar always predominates. He writes 
as the idealist, describing men not as they are but as he thinks 
they should be ; he has no humor, and his mission is not to 
amuse but to reform. Like Chaucer he studies the classics 
and contemporary French and Italian writers ; but instead of 
adapting his material- to present-day conditions, he makes 
poetry, as in his Eclogues for instance, more artificial even 
than his foreign models. Where Chaucer looks about him and 
describes life as he sees it, Spenser always looks backward for 


his inspiration ; he lives dreamily in the past, in a realm of 
purely imaginary emotions and adventures. His first quality 
is imagination, not observation, and he is the first of our poets 
to create a world of dreams, fancies, and illusions. His second 
quality is a wonderful sensitiveness to beauty, which shows 
itself not only in his subject-matter but also in the manner of 
his poetry. Like Chaucer, he is an almost perfect workman ; 
but in reading Chaucer we think chiefly of his natural char- 
acters or his ideas, while in reading Spenser we think of the 
beauty of expression. The exquisite Spenserian stanza and 
the rich melody of Spenser's verse have made him the model 
of all our modern poets. 


Though Spenser is the one great non-dramatic poet of the 
Elizabethan Age, a multitude of minor poets demand atten- 
tion of the student who would understand the tremendous 
literary activity of the period. One needs only to read The 
Paradyse of Daynty Devises (15/6), or A Gorgeous Gallery 
of Gallant Inventions (1578), or any other of the miscellane- 
ous collections to find hundreds of songs, many of them of 
exquisite workmanship, by poets whose names now awaken 
no response. A glance is enough to assure one that over all 
England "the sweet spirit of song had arisen/like the first 
chirping of birds after a storm." Nearly two hundred poets 
are recorded in the short period from 1558 to 1625, and 
many of them were prolific writers. In a work like this, we 
can hardly do more than mention a few of the best known 
writers, and spend a moment at least with the works that 
suggest Marlowe's description of "infinite riches in a little 
room." The reader will note for himself the interesting union 
of action and thought in these men, so characteristic of the 
Elizabethan Age ; for most of them were engaged chiefly in 
business or war or politics, and literature was to them a pleas- 
ant recreation rather than an absorbing profession. 


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

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

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

As a writer he is known by three principal works, all 
published after his death, showing how little importance he 
attached to his own writing, even while he was encouraging 
Spenser. The Arcadia is a pastoral romance, interspersed 
with eclogues, in which shepherds and shepherdesses sing of 
the delights of rural life. Though the work was taken up 
idly as a summer's pastime, it became immensely popular and 

i See p. 125. 


was imitated by a hundred poets. The Apologie for Poetrie 
(1595), generally called the Defense of Poesie, appeared in, 
answer to a pamphlet by Stephen Gosson called The School 
of Abuse (15/9), in which the poetry of the age and its un- 
bridled pleasure were denounced with Puritan thoroughness 
and conviction. The Apologie is one of the first critical essays 
in English ; and though its style now seems labored and unnat- 
ural, the pernicious result of Euphues and his school, it 
is still one of the best expressions of the place and meaning 
of poetry in any language. Astrophel and Stella is a col- 
lection of songs and sonnets addressed to Lady Penelope 
Devereux, to whom Sidney had once been betrothed. They 
abound in exquisite lines and passages, containing more poetic 
feeling and expression than the songs of any other minor writer 
of the age. 

George Chapman (i559?-i634). Chapman spent his long, 
quiet life among the dramatists, and wrote chiefly for the 
stage. His plays, which were for the most part merely poems 
in dialogue, fell far below the high dramatic standard of his 
time and are now almost unread. His most famous work is 
the metrical translation of the Iliad (\6\ i) and of the Odyssey 
(1614). Chapman's Homer, though lacking the simplicity and 
dignity of the original, has a force and rapidity of movement 
which makes it superior in many respects to Pope's more 
familiar translation. Chapman is remembered also as the 
finisher of Marlowe's Hero and Leander, in which, apart from 
the drama, the Renaissance movement is seen at perhaps its 
highest point in English poetry. Out of scores of long poems 
of the period, Hero and Leander and the Faery Queen are the 
only two which are even slightly known to modern readers. 

Michael Drayton (1563-1631). Drayton is the most volu- 
minous and, to antiquarians at least, the most interesting of the 
minor poets. He is the Layamon of the Elizabethan Age, and 
vastly more scholarly than his predecessor. His chief work 
is Polyolbion, an enormous poem of many thousand couplets, 


describing the towns, mountains, and rivers of Britain, with 
the interesting legends connected with each. It is an extremely 
valuable work and represents a lifetime of study and research. 
Two other long works are the Barons' Wars and the Heroic 
Epistle of England ; and besides these were many minor 
poems. One of the best of these is the " Battle of Agincourt," 
a ballad written in the lively meter which Tennyson used with 
some variations in the "Charge of the Light Brigade," and 
which shows the old English love of brave deeds and of the 
songs that stir a people's heart in memory of noble ancestors. 


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

To illustrate the matter simply, there was a great life lived 
by him who was called the Christ. Inevitably the life found 
its way into literature, and we have the Gospels. Around the 
life and literature sprang up a great religion. Its worship 
was at first simple, the common prayer, the evening meal 
together, the remembered words of the Master, and the 


closing hymn. Gradually a ritual was established, which grew 
more elaborate and impressive as the centuries went by. 
Scenes from the Master's life began to be represented in the 
churches, especially at Christmas time, when the story of 
Christ's birth was made more effective, to the eyes of a 
people who could not read, by a babe in a manger surrounded 
by magi and shepherds, with a choir of angels chanting the 
Gloria in Excelsis)- Other impressive scenes from the Gospel 
followed ; then the Old Testament was called upon, until a 
complete cycle of plays from the Creation to the Final Judg- 
ment was established, and we have the Mysteries and Miracle 
plays of the Middle Ages. Out of these came directly the 
drama of the Elizabethan Age. 


i. The Religious Period. In Europe, as in Greece, the 
drama had a distinctly religious origin. 2 The first characters 
were drawn from the New Testament, and the object of the 
first plays was to make the church service more impressive, 
or to emphasize moral lessons by showing the reward of the 
good and the punishment of the evil doer. In the latter days 
of the Roman Empire the Church found the stage possessed 
by frightful plays, which debased the morals of a people 
already fallen too low. Reform seemed impossible ; the cor- 
rupt drama was driven from the stage, and plays of every 
kind were forbidden. But mankind loves a spectacle, and 

1 The most dramatic part of the early ritual centered about Christ's death and resur- 
rection, on Good Fridays and Easter days. An exquisite account of this most impressive 
service is preserved in St. Ethelwold's Latin manual of church services, written about 
965. The Latin and English versions are found in Chambers's Mediceval Stage, Vol. II. 
For a brief, interesting description, see Gayley, Plays of Our Forefathers, pp. 14 ff. 

2 How much we are indebted to the Norman love of pageantry for the development 
of the drama in England is an unanswered question. During the Middle Ages it was 
customary, in welcoming a monarch or in celebrating a royal wedding, to represent 
allegorical and mythological scenes, like the combat of St. George and the dragon, for 
instance, on a stage constructed for the purpose. These pageants were popular all over 
Europe and developed during the Renaissance into the dramatic form known as the 
Masque. Though the drama was of religious origin, we must not overlook these secular 
pageants as an important factor in the development of dramatic art. 


soon the Church itself provided a substitute for the forbidden 
plays in the famous Mysteries and Miracles. 

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

The earliest Miracle of which we have any record in Eng- 
land is the Ludus de Sancta Katharina, which was performed 
in Dunstable about the year mo. 1 It is not known who 
wrote the original play of St. Catherine, but our first version 
was prepared by Geoffrey of St. Albans, a French school- 
teacher of Dunstable. Whether or not the play was given in 
English is not known, but it was customary in the earliest 
plays for the chief actors to speak in Latin or French, to 
show their importance, while minor and comic parts of the 
same play were given in English. 

For four centuries after this first recorded play the Mira- 
cles increased steadily in number and popularity in England. 
They were given first very simply and impressively in the 
churches ; then, as the actors increased in number and the 
plays in liveliness, they overflowed to the churchyards ; but 
when fun and hilarity began to predominate even in the most 
sacred representations, the scandalized priests forbade plays 
altogether on church grounds. By the year 1 300 the Miracles 
were out of ecclesiastical hands and adopted eagerly by the 
town guilds ; and in the following two centuries we find the 
Church preaching against the abuse of the religious drama 

1 Miracles were acted on the Continent earlier than this. The Normans undoubtedly 
brought religious plays with them, but it is probable that they began in England before 
the Conquest (1066), See Manly, Specimens of the Pre-Shaksperean Drama, I, xix. 


which it had itself introduced, and which at first had served a 
purely religious purpose. 1 But by this time the Miracles had 
taken strong hold upon the English people, and they continued 
to be immensely popular until, in the sixteenth century, they 
were replaced by the Elizabethan drama. 

The early Miracle plays of England were divided into two 
classes : the first, given at Christmas, included all plays con- 
Cycies of nected with the birth of Christ ; the second, at 
Plays Easter, included the plays relating to his death 

and triumph. By the beginning of the fourteenth century all 
these plays were, in various localities, united in single cycles 
beginning with the Creation and ending with the Final Judg- 
ment. The complete cycle was presented every spring, be- 
ginning on Corpus Christi day ; and as the presentation of so 
many plays meant a continuous outdoor festival of a week or 
more, this day was looked forward to as the happiest of the 
whole year. 

Probably every important town in England had its own 
cycle of plays for its own guilds to perform, but nearly all 
have been lost. At the present day only four cycles exist 
(except in the most fragmentary condition), and these, though 
they furnish an interesting commentary on the times, add 
very little to our literature. The four cycles are the Ches- 
ter and York plays, so called from the towns in which they 
were given ; the Towneley or Wakefield plays, named for the 
Towneley family, which for a long time owned the manu- 
script ; and the Coventry plays, which on doubtful evidence 
have been associated with the Grey Friars (Franciscans) of 
Coventry. The Chester cycle has 25 plays, the Wakefield 30, 
the Coventry 42, and the York 48. It is impossible to fix 
either the date or the authorship of any of these plays ; 
we only know certainly that they were in great favor from 
the twelfth to the sixteenth century. The York plays are 

1 See Jusserand, A Literary History of the English People, I, iii, vi. For our earliest 
plays and their authors see Gayley, Plays of Our Forefathers. 


generally considered to be the best ; but those of Wakefield 
show more humor and variety, and better workmanship. The 
former cycle especially shows a certain unity resulting from 
its aim to represent the whole of man's life from birth to 
death. The same thing is noticeable in Cursor Mundi, 
which, with the York and Wakefield cycles, belongs to the 
fourteenth century. 

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

Though the plays were distinctly religious in character, 
there is hardly one without its humorous element. In the 
play of Noah, for instance, Noah's shrewish wife makes fun 
for the audience by wrangling with her husband. In the 
Crucifixion play Herod is a prankish kind of tyrant who 
leaves the stage to rant among the audience ; so that to 
"out-herod Herod" became a common proverb. In all the 
plays the devil is a favorite character and the butt of every 
joke. He also leaves the stage to play pranks or frighten the 
wondering children. On the side of the stage was often seen 
a huge dragon's head with gaping red jaws, belching forth 


fire and smoke, out of which poured a tumultuous troop of 
devils with clubs and pitchforks and gridirons to punish the 
wicked characters and to drag them away at last, howling 
and shrieking, into hell-mouth, as the dragon's head was 
called. So the fear of hell was ingrained into an ignorant 
people for four centuries. Alternating with these horrors 
were bits of rough horse-play and domestic scenes of peace 
and kindliness, representing the life of the English fields and 
homes. With these were songs and carols, like that of the 
Nativity, for instance : 

As I out rode this enderes (last) night, 
Of three jolly shepherds I saw a sight, 
And all about their fold a star shone bright ; 

They sang terli terloiv, 
So merryly the shepherds their pipes can blow. 

Down from heaven, from heaven so high, 
Of angels there came a great companye 
With mirth, and joy, and great solemnitye ; 

They sang terli terloiv, 
So merryly the shepherds their pipes can blow. 

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

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


2. The Moral Period of the Drama. 1 The second or moral 
period of the drama is shown by the increasing prevalence of 
the Morality plays. In these the characters were allegorical 
personages, Life, Death, Repentance, Goodness, Love, 
Greed, and other virtues and vices. The Moralities may be 
regarded, therefore, as the dramatic counterpart of the once 
popular allegorical poetry exemplified by the Romance of the 
Rose. It did not occur to our first, unknown dramatists to 
portray men and women as they are until they had first made 
characters of abstract human qualities. Nevertheless, the 
Morality marks a distinct advance over the Miracle in that it 
gave free scope to the imagination for new plots and incidents. 
In Spain and Portugal these plays, under the name auto, were 
wonderfully developed by the genius of Calderon and Gil 
Vicente ; but in England the Morality was a dreary kind of 
performance, like the allegorical poetry which preceded it. 

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

The best known of the Moralities is Everyman," which has recently 
been revived in England and America. The subject of the play is the 

l These three periods are not historically accurate. The author uses them to empha- 
size three different views of our earliest plays rather than to suggest that there was any 
orderly or chronological development from Miracle to Morality and thence to the Inter- 
ludes. The latter is a prevalent opinion, but it seems hardly warranted by the facts, 
Thus, though the Miracles precede the Moralities by two centuries (the first known 
Morality, The Play of the Lord's Prayer," mentioned by Wyclif, was given probably 
about 1375), some of the best known Moralities, like " Pride of Life," precede many of 
the later York Miracles. And the term Interlude, which is often used as symbolical of 
the transition from the moral to the artistic period of the drama, was occasionally used 
in England (fourteenth century) as synonymous with Miracle and again (sixteenth century) 
as synonymous with Comedy. That the drama had these three stages seems reasonably 
certain ; but it is impossible to fix the limits of any one of them, and all three are some- 
times seen together in one of the later Miracles of the Wakefield cycle. 


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

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

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


Heywood's Interludes were written between 1520 and 1540. His 
most famous is " The Four P's," a contest of wit between a " Pardoner, 
a Palmer, a Pedlar and a Poticary." The characters here strongly sug- 
gest those of Chaucer. 1 Another interesting Interlude is called " The 
Play of the Weather." In this Jupiter and the gods assemble to listen 
to complaints about the weather and to reform abuses. Naturally every- 
body wants his own kind of weather. The climax is reached by a boy 
who announces that a boy's pleasure consists in, two things, catch- 
ing birds and throwing snowballs, and begs for the weather to be such 
that he can always do both. Jupiter decides that he will do just as he 
pleases about the weather, and everybody goes home satisfied. 

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

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

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

1 In fact, Heywood " cribbed " from Chaucer's Tales in another Interlude called 
"The Pardoner and the Frere." 


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

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

This first wholly English comedy is full of fun and coarse 
humor, and is wonderfully true to the life it represents. It 
was long attributed to John Still, afterwards bishop of Bath ; 
but the authorship is now definitely assigned to William 
Stevenson. 1 Our earliest edition of the play was printed in 
1575; but a similar play called "Dyccon of Bedlam" was 
licensed in 1552, twelve years before Shakespeare's birth. 

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

At last in a dark corner two sparkes he thought he sees 

Which were, indede, nought els but Gyb our cat's two eyes. 

" Puffe ! " quod Hodge, thinking therby to have fyre without doubt ; 

With that Gyb shut her two eyes, and so the fyre was out. 

1 Schelling, Elizabethan Drama, I, 86. 


And by-and-by them opened, even as they were before ; 

With that the sparkes appeared, even as they had done of yore. 

And, even as Hodge blew the fire, as he did thincke, 

Gyb, as she felt the blast, strayght-way began to wyncke, 

Tyll Hodge fell of swering, as came best to his turne, 

The fier was sure bewicht, and therfore wold not burne. 

At last Gyb up the stayers, among the old postes and pinnes, 

And Hodge he hied him after till broke were both his.shinnes, 

Cursynge and swering othes, were never of his makyng, 

That Gyb wold fyre the house if that shee were not taken. 

Fyrste a Songe : 

Backe and syde, go bare, go bare; 

Bvoth foote and hande, go colde; 
But, belly e, God sende thee good ale ynoughe, 

Whether it be neive or olde ! 

I can not eate but lytle meate, 

My stomacke is not good ; 
But sure I thinke that I can dryncke 

With him that weares a hood. 
Thoughe I go bare, take ye no care, 

I am nothinge a-colde, 
I stuffe my skyn so full within 

Of ioly good ale and olde. 

Backe and syde, go bare, etc. 

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

The story of " Gorboduc " is taken from the early annals of Britain and 
recalls the story used by Shakespeare in King Lear. Gorboduc, king 
of Britain, divides his kingdom between his sons Ferrex and Porrex. 
The sons quarrel, and Porrex, the younger, slays his brother, who is 
the queen's favorite. Videna, the queen, slays Porrex in revenge ; the 
people rebel and slay Videna and Gorboduc ; then the nobles kill the 
rebels, and in turn fall to fighting each Other. The line of Brutus being 


extinct with the death of Gorboduc, the country falls into anarchy, with 
rebels, nobles, and a Scottish invader all fighting for the right of succes- 
sion. The curtain falls upon a scene of bloodshed and utter confusion. 

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

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

In the classic play the so-called dramatic unities of time, 
place, and action were strictly observed. Time and place must 
Dramatic remain the same ; the play could represent a period 
of only a few hours, and whatever action was in- 
troduced must take place at the spot where the play began- 
The characters, therefore, must remain unchanged through- 
out ; there was no possibility of the child becoming a man, 
or of the man's growth with changing circumstances. As the 


play was within doors, all vigorous action was deemed out of 
place on the stage, and battles and important events were 
simply announced by a messenger. The classic drama also 
drew a sharp line between tragedy and comedy, all fun being 
rigorously excluded from serious representations. 

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

Why, let the stricken deer go weep, 

The hart ungalled play ; 

For some must watch, while some must sleep : 

So runs the world away. 

Naturally, with these two ideals struggling to master the 
English drama, two schools of writers arose. The University 
TWO Schools Wits, as men of learning were called, generally 
of Drama upheld the classical ideal, and ridiculed the crude- 
ness of the new English plays. Sackville and Norton were 
of this class, and "Gorboduc " was classic in its construction. 
In the "Defense of Poesie " Sidney upholds the classics and 
ridicules the too ambitious scope of the English drama. 
Against these were the popular playwrights, Lyly, Peele, 
Greene, Marlowe, and many others, who recognized the Eng- 
lish love of action and disregarded the dramatic unities in 
their endeavor to present life as it is. In the end the native 
drama prevailed, aided by the popular taste which had been 


trained by four centuries of Miracles. Our first plays, espe- 
cially of the romantic type, were extremely crude and often 
led to ridiculously extravagant scenes ; and here is where the 
classic drama exercised an immense influence for good, by in- 
sisting upon beauty of form and definiteness of structure at 
a time when the tendency was to satisfy a taste for stage 
spectacles without regard to either. 

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

A Dutch traveler, Johannes de Witt, who visited London 
in 1596, has given us the only contemporary drawing we 
possess of the interior of one of these theaters. They were 
built of stone and wood, round or octagonal in shape, and 
without a roof, being simply an inclosed courtyard. At one 
side was the stage, and before it on the bare ground, or pit, 
stood that large part of the audience who could afford to pay 
only an admission fee. The players and these groundlings 
were exposed to the weather ; those that paid for seats were 
in galleries sheltered by a narrow porch-roof projecting in- 
wards from the encircling walls ; while the young nobles and 
gallants, who came to be seen and who could afford the extra 


fee, took seats on the stage itself, and smoked and chaffed 
the actors and threw nuts at the groundlings. 1 The whole 
idea of these first theaters, according to De Witt, was like 
that of the Roman amphitheater; and the resemblance was 
heightened by the fact that, when no play was on the boards, 
the stage might be taken away and the pit given over to bull 
and bear baiting. 

In all these theaters, probably, the stage consisted of a 
bare platform, with a curtain or "traverse " across the middle, 
separating the front from the rear stage. On the 
latter unexpected scenes or characters were "dis- 
covered " by simply drawing the curtain aside. At first little 
or no scenery was used, a gilded sign being the only announce- 
ment of a change of scene ; and this very lack of scenery led 
to better acting, since the actors must be realistic enough 
to make the audience forget its shabby surroundings. 2 By 
Shakespeare's day, however, painted scenery had appeared, 
first at university plays, and then in the regular theaters. 3 
In all our first plays female parts were taken by boy actors, 
who evidently were more distressing than the crude scenery, 
for contemporary literature has many satirical references to 
their acting, 4 and even the tolerant Shakespeare writes : 

Some squeaking Cleopatra boy my greatness. 

1 That these gallants were an unmitigated nuisance, and had frequently to be 
silenced by the common people who came to enjoy the play, seems certain. Dekker's 
GulVs Hornbook (1609) has an interesting chapter on " How a Gallant should behave 
Himself in a Playhouse." 

2 The first actors were classed with thieves and vagabonds ; but they speedily raised 
their profession to an art and won a reputation which extended far abroad. Thus a con- 
temporary, Fynes Moryson, writes in his Itinerary : " So I remember that when some 
of our cast despised stage players came . . . into Germany and played at Franckford . . . 
having nether a complete number of actors, nor any good aparell, nor any ornament of 
the stage, yet the Germans, not understanding a worde they sayde, both men and wemen, 
flocked wonderfully to see their gesture and action." 

* Schelling, Elizabethan Drama. 

4 Baker, in his Development of Shakespeare as a Dramatist, pp. 57-62, takes a differ- 
ent view, and shows how carefully many of the boy actors were trained. It would require, 
however, a vigorous use of the imagination to be satisfied with a boy's presentation of 
Portia, Juliet, Cordelia, Rosalind, or any other of Shakespeare's wonderful women. 


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

Shakespeare's Predecessors in the Drama. The English 
drama as it developed from the Miracle plays has an inter- 
esting history. It began with schoolmasters, like Udall, who 
translated and adapted Latin plays for their boys to act, and 
who were naturally governed by classic ideals. It was con- 
tinued by the choir masters of St. Paul and the Royal and 
the Queen's Chapel, whose companies of choir-boy actors 
were famous in London and rivaled the players of the regu- 
lar theaters. 1 These choir masters were our first stage man- 
agers. They began with masques and interludes and the dra- 
matic presentation of classic myths modeled after the Italians ; 
but some of them, like Richard Edwards (choir master of the 
Queen's Chapel in 1 561), soon added farces from English coun- 
try life and dramatized some of Chaucer's stories. Finally, the 
regular playwrights, Kyd, Nash, Lyly, Peele, Greene, and Mar- 
lowe, brought the English drama to the point where Shake- 
speare began to experiment upon it. 

Each of these playwrights added or emphasized some 
essential element in the drama, which appeared later in the 
work of Shakespeare. Thus John Lyly (1554 ?-i6o6), who is 
now known chiefly as having developed the pernicious liter- 
ary style called euphuism, 2 is one of the most influential of 
the early dramatists. His court comedies are remarkable for 
their witty dialogue and for being our first plays to aim 

1 These choir masters had royal permits to take boys of good voice, wherever found, 
and train them as singers and actors. The boys were taken from their parents and were 
often half starved and most brutally treated. The abuse of this unnatural privilege led 
to the final withdrawal of all such permits. 

2 So called from Euphues, the hero of Lyly's two prose works, Euphues, the Anatomy 
of Wit (1579), and Euphues and his England (1580). The style is affected and over- 
elegant, abounds in odd conceits, and uses hopelessly involved sentences. It is found 
in nearly all Elizabethan prose writers, and partially accounts for their general tendency 
to artificiality. Shakespeare satirizes euphuism in the character of Don Adriano of 
Love >s Labour >s Lost, but is himself tiresomely euphuistic at times, especially in his .early 
or " Lylian " comedies. Lyly, by the way, did not invent the style, but did more than 
any other to diffuse it. 


definitely at unity and artistic finish. Thomas Kyd's Spanish 
Tragedy (c. 1585) first gives us the drama, or rather the 
melodrama, of passion, copied by Marlowe and Shakespeare. 
This was the most popular of the early Elizabethan plays; 
it was revised again and again, and Ben Jonson is said to 
have written one version and to have acted the chief part of 
Hieronimo. 1 And Robert Greene (I558P-I592) plays the 
chief part in the early development of romantic comedy, and 
gives us some excellent scenes of English country life in plays 
like Friar Bacon and Friar Bungay. 

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

All these things are significant, if we are to understand 

the Elizabethan drama and the man who brought it to 


l See Schelling, I, an. 


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


Marlowe is one of the most suggestive figures of the Eng- 
lish Renaissance, and the greatest of Shakespeare's prede- 
cessors. The glory of the Elizabethan drama dates from his 
Tamburlaine (1587), wherein the whole resttessjinper of^the 
age finds expression : 

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

Tamburlaine, Pt. I, II, vii. 

Life. Marlowe was born in Canterbury, only a few months before 
Shakespeare. He was the son of a poor shoemaker, but through the 
kindness of a patron was educated at the town grammar school and 
then at Cambridge. When he came to London (c. 1584), his soul 
was surging with the ideals of the Renaissance, which later found 
expression in Faustus, the scholar longing for unlimited knowledge 
and for power to grasp the universe. Unfortunately, Marlowe had 
also the unbridled passions which mark the early, or Pagan Renais- 
sance, as Taine calls it, and the conceit of a young man just enter- 
ing the realms of knowledge. He became an actor and lived in a 


low-tavern atmosphere of excess and wretchedness. In 1587, when 
but twenty-three years old, he produced Tamburlaine, which brought 
him instant recognition. Thereafter, notwithstanding his wretched 
life, he holds steadily to a high literary purpose. Though all his 
plays abound in violence, no doubt reflecting many of the violent 
scenes in which he lived, he develops his " mighty line " and depicts 
great scenes in magnificent bursts of poetry, such as the stage had 
never heard before. In five years, while Shakespeare was serving 
his apprenticeship, Marlowe produced all his great work. Then he 
was stabbed in a drunken brawl and died wretchedly, as he had lived. 
The Epilogue of Faustus might be written across his tombstone : 

Cut is the branch that might have grown full straight, 

And burned is Apollo's laurel bough 

That sometime grew within this learned man. 

Marlowe's Works. In addition to the poem "Hero and 
Leander," to which we have referred, 1 Marlpwe is famous 
for four dramas, now known as the Marlowesque or one-man 
type of tragedy, each revolving about one central personality 
who is consumed by the lust of power. The first of these- is 
Tamburlaine, the story of Timur the Tartar. /Timur begins 
as a shepherd chief, who first rebels and then triumphs over 
the Persian king. Intoxicated by his success, Timur rushes 
like a tempest over the whole East. Seated on his chariot 
drawn by captive kings, with a caged emperor before him, he 
boasts of his power which overrides all things. Then, afflicted 
with disease, he raves against the gods and would overthrow 
them as he has overthrown earthly rulers. Tamburlaine is 
an epic rather than a drama ; but one can understand its 
instant success with a people only half civilized, fond. of mili- 
tary glory, and the instant adoption" of its "mighty line" as 
the instrument of all dramatic expression. 

Faustus, the second play, is one of the best of Marlowe's 
works. 2 " The story is that of a scholar who longs for infinite 

1 See p. 114. 

2 In 1587 the first history of Johann Faust, a half-legendary German necromancer, 
appeared in Frankfort. Where Marlowe found the story is unknown ; but he used it, as 
Goethe did two centuries later, for the basis of his great tragedy. 


knowledge, and who turns from Theology, Philosophy, Medi- 
cine, and Law, the four sciences of the time, to the study of 
magic, much as a child might turn from jewels to 
tinsel and colored paper. In order to learn magic 
he sells "himself to the devil, on condition that he shall have 
twenty-four years of absolute power and knowledge. The play 
is the story of those twenty-four years. Like Tamburlainel 
it is lacking in dramatic construction, 1 but has an unusual 
number of passages of rare poetic beauty. Milton's Satan sug- 
gests strongly that the author of Paradise Lost had access to 
Faustus and used it, as he may also have used Tambiirlaine , 
for the magnificent panorama displayed by Satan in Paradise 
Regained. For instance, more than fifty years before Milton's 
hero says, "Which way 1 1 turn is hell, myself am hell," Mar- 
lowe had written : 

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

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

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

Marlowe's last play is Edward 77, a tragic study of a king's 
weakness and misery. In point of style and dramatic con- 
struction, it is by far the best of Marlowe's plays, and is a 
worthy predecessor of Shakespeare's historical drama. 

1 We must remember, however, that our present version of Paustus is very much 
mutilated, and does not preserve the play as Marlowe wrote it. 


Marlowe is the only dramatist of the time who is ever 
compared with Shakespeare. 1 When we remember that he 
Marlowe and died at twenty-nine, probably before Shakespeare 
Shakespeare had produced a single great play, we must wonder 
what he might have done had he outlived his wretched youth 
and become a man. Here and there his work is remarkable 
for its splendid imagination, for the stateliness of its verse, 
and for its rare bits of poetic beauty ; but in dramatic instinct, 
in wide knowledge of human life, in humor, in delineation of 
woman's character, in the delicate fancy which presents an 
Ariel as perfectly as a Macbeth, in a word, in all that makes 
a dramatic genius, Shakespeare stands alone. Marlowe simply 
prepared the way for the master who was to follow. 

Variety of the Early Drama. The thirty years between 
our first regular English plays and Shakespeare's first com- 
edy 2 witnessed a development of the drama which astonishes 
us both by its rapidity and variety. We shall better appreci- 
ate Shakespeare's work if we glance for a moment at the 
plays that preceded him, and note how he covers the whole 
field and writes almost every form and variety of the drama 
known to his age. 

First in importance, or at least in popular interest, are the 
new Chronicle plays, founded upon historical events and char- 
Types of acters. They show the strong national spirit of the 
Drama Elizabethan Age, and their popularity was due 

largely to the fact that audiences came to the theaters 
partly to gratify their awakened national spirit and to get 
their first knowledge of national history. Some of the Moral- 
ities, like Bayle's King Johan (1538), are crude Chronicle 
plays, and the early Robin Hood plays and the first trag- 
edy, Gorboduc, show the same awakened popular interest in 

1 The two dramatists may have worked together in such doubtful plays as Richard 
III, the hero of which is like Timur in an English dress, and Titus Andronicus, with 
its violence and horror. In many strong scenes in Shakespeare's works Marlowe's influ- 
ence is manifest. 

2 Gammer Gurton's Needle appeared c. 1562 ; Love's Labour^s Lost, c. 1591. 


English history. During the reign of Elizabeth the popular 
Chronicle plays increased till we have the record of over two 
hundred and twenty, half of which are still extant, dealing 
with almost every important character, real or legendary, in 
English history. Of Shakespeare's thirty-seven dramas, ten 
are true Chronicle plays of English kings ; three are from 
the legendary annals of Britain ; and three more are from the 
history of other nations. 

Other types of the early drama are less clearly defined, 
but we may sum them up under a few general heads : (i) The 
Domestic Drama began with crude home scenes introduced 
into the Miracles and developed in a score of different ways, 
from the coarse humor of Gammer Gurton's Needle to the 
Comedy of Manners of Jonson and the later dramatists. 
Shakespeare's Taming of the Shrew and Merry Wives of 
Windsor belong to this class. (2) The so-called Court Com- 
edy is the opposite of the former in that it represented a dif- 
ferent kind of life and was intended for a different audience. 
It was marked by elaborate dialogue, by jests, retorts, and 
endless plays on words, rather than by action. It was made 
popular by Lyly's success, and was imitated in Shakespeare's 
first or " Lylian "comedies, such as Love 's Labour 's Lost, and 
the complicated Two Gentlemen of Verona. (3) Romantic 
Comedy and Romantic Tragedy suggest the most artistic and 
finished types of the drama, which were experimented upon 
by Peele, Greene, and Marlowe, and were brought to perfec- 
tion in The Merchant of Venice, Romeo and Juliet, and The 
Tempest. (4) In addition to the above types were several 
others, the Classical Plays, modeled upon Seneca and fa- 
vored by cultivated audiences ; the Melodrama, favorite of 
the groundlings, which depended not on plot or characters 
but upon a variety of striking scenes and incidents ; and the 
Tragedy of Blood, always more or less melodramatic, like 
Kyd's Spanish Tragedy, which grew more blood-and-thundery 
in Marlowe and reached a climax of horrors in Shakespeare's 


Titus Andronicus. It is noteworthy that Hamlet ', Lear, and 
Macbeth all belong to -this class, but the developed genius of 
the author raised them to a height such as the Tragedy of 
Blood had never known before. 

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


One who reads a few of Shakespeare's great plays and 
then the meager story of his life is generally filled with a 
TheWonderof vague wonder. Here is an unknown country boy, 
Shakespeare p Oor anc { poorly educated according to the stand- 
ards of his age, who arrives at the great city of London and 
goes to work at odd jobs in a theater. In a year or two he is 
associated with scholars and dramatists, the masters of their 
age, writing plays of kings and clowns, of gentlemen and 
heroes and noble women, all of whose lives he seems to know 
by intimate association. In a few years more he leads all 
that brilliant group of poets and dramatists who have given 
undying glory to the Age of Elizabeth. Play after play runs 
from his pen, mighty dramas of human life and character 
following one another so rapidly that good work seems im- 
possible ; yet they stand the test of time, and their poetry is 



still" unrivaled in any language. For all this great work the 
author apparently cares little, since he* makes no attempt to 
collect or preserve his writings. A thousand scholars have 
ever since been busy collecting, identifying, classifying the 
works which this magnificent workman tossed aside so care- 
lessly when he aban- 
doned the drama and 
retired to his native 
village. He has a mar- 
velously imaginative 
and creative mind ; but 
he invents few, if any, 
new plots or stories. 
He simply takes an old 
play or an old poem, 
makes it over quickly, 
and lo ! this old familiar 
material glows with the 
deepest thoughts and 
the tenderest feelings 
that ennoble our hu- 
manity ; and each new 
generation of men finds 
it more wonderful than the last. How did he do it ? That is 
still an unanswered question and the source of our wonder. 

There are, in general, two theories to account for Shake- 
speare. The romantic school of writers have always held 
Genius or tnat m mm " au< came from within"; that his gen- 
Training j us was his sufficient guide ; and that to the over- 
mastering power of his genius alone we owe all his great 
works. Practical, unimaginative men, on the other hand, 
assert that in Shakespeare "all came from without," and that 
we must study his environment rather than his genius, if we 
are to understand him. He lived in a play-loving age ; he 
studied the crowds, gave them what they wanted, and simply 



reflected their own thoughts and feelings. In reflecting the 
English crowd about him he unconsciously reflected all crowds, 
which are alike in all ages ; hence his continued popularity. 
And in being guided by public sentiment he was not singular, 
but followed the plain path that every good dramatist has 
always followed to success. 

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

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

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

His father, John Shakespeare, was a farmer's son from the neigh- 
boring village of Snitterfield, who came to Stratford about 1551, and 
began to prosper as a trader in corn, meat, leather, and other agri- 
cultural products. His mother, Mary Arden, was the daughter of a 
prosperous farmer, descended from an old Warwickshire family of 


mixed Anglo-Saxon and Norman blood. In 1559 this married ceuple 
sold a piece of land, and the document is signed, " The marke + of 
John Shacksper. The marke + of Mary Shacksper " ; and from this 
it has been generally inferred that, like the vast majority of their 
countrymen, neither of the poet's parents could read or write. This 
was probably true of his mother; but the evidence from Stratford 
documents now indicates that his father could write, and that he 
also audited the town accounts; though in attesting documents he 
sometimes made a mark, leaving his name to be filled in by the one 
who drew up the document. 

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

I saw a smith stand with his hammer, thus, 

The whilst his iron did on the anvil cool, 

With open mouth swallowing a tailor's news ; 

Who, with his shears and measure in his hand, 

Standing on slippers, which his nimble haste 

Had falsely thrust upon contrary feet, 

Told of a many thousand warlike French , 

That were embattailed and ranked in Kent. 1 

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

Not only the gossip but also the dreams, the unconscious poetry 
that sleeps in the heart of the common people, appeal tremendously 

1 King John, IV, 2. 


to Shakespeare's imagination and are reflected in his greatest plays. 
Othello tries to tell a curt soldier's story of his love ; but the account 
is like a bit of Mandeville's famous travels, teeming with the fancies 
that filled men's heads when the great round world was first brought 
to their attention by daring explorers. Here is a bit of folklore, 
touched by Shakespeare's exquisite fancy, which shows what one boy 
listened to before the fire at Halloween : 

She comes 

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

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

O'er lawyers' fingers, who straight dream on fees, 
O'er ladies' lips, who straight on kisses dream. 1 

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

1 Queen Mab, in Romeo and Juliet. 



When Shakespeare was about fourteen years old his father lost 
his little property and fell into debt, and the boy probably left 
school to help support the family of younger children. What occu- 
pation he followed for the next eight years is a matter of conjecture. 
From evidence found in his plays, it is alleged with some show of 
authority that he was a country schoolmaster and a lawyer's clerk, 
the character of Holofernes, in Love's Labour' s Lost, being the war- 
rant for one, and Shakespeare's knowledge of law terms for the 
other. But if we take such evidence, then Shakespeare must have 
been a botanist, because of his knowledge of wild flowers ; a sailor, 


because he knows the ropes ; a courtier, because of his extraordinary 
facility in quips and compliments and courtly language; a clown, 
because none other is so dull and foolish ; a king, because Richard 
and Henry are true to life; a woman, because he has sounded the 
depths of a woman's feelings ; and surely a Roman, because in Cori- 
olanus and Julius Casar he has shown us the Roman spirit better 
than have the Roman writers themselves. He was everything, in his 
imagination, and it is impossible from a study of his scenes and 
characters to form a definite opinion as to his early occupation. 

In 1582 Shakespeare was married to Anne Hathaway, the daugh- 
ter of a peasant family of Shottery, who was eight years older than 
her boy husband. From numerous sarcastic references to marriage 
made by the characters in his plays, and from the fact that he soon 


left his wife and family and went to London, it is generally alleged 
that the marriage was a hasty and unhappy one ; but here again the 
evidence is entirely untrustworthy. In many Miracles as well as in 
later plays it was customary to depict the seamy side of domestic 
life for the amusement of the crowd ; and Shakespeare may have 
followed the public taste in this as he did in other things. The ref- 
erences to love and home and quiet joys in Shakespeare* s plays are 
enough, if we take such evidence, to establish firmly the opposite 
supposition, that his love was a very happy one. And the fact 
that, after his enormous success in London, he retired to Strat- 
ford to live quietly with his wife and daughters, tends to the same 

About the year 1587 Shakespeare left his family and went to 
London and joined himself to Burbage's company of players. A per- 
sistent tradition says that he had incurred the anger of Sir Thomas 
Iiucy, first by poaching deer in that nobleman's park, and then, 
when haled before a magistrate, by writing a scurrilous ballad about 
Sir Thomas, which so aroused the old gentleman's ire that Shake- 
speare was obliged to flee the country. An old record 1 says that 
me poet "was much given to all unluckiness in stealing venison 
and rabbits," the unluckiness probably consisting in getting caught 
himself, and not in any lack of luck in catching the rabbits. The 
ridicule heaped upon the Lucy family in Henry IV and the Merry 
Wives of Windsor gives some weight to this tradition. Nicholas 
Rowe, who published the first life of Shakespeare, 2 is the authority 
for this story ; but there is some reason to doubt whether, at the time 
when Shakespeare is said to have poached in the deer park of Sir 
Thomas Lucy at Charlescote, there were any deer or park at the 
place referred to. The subject is worthy of some scant attention, if 
only to show how worthless is the attempt to construct out of rumor 
the story of a great life which, fortunately perhaps, had no con- 
temporary biographer. 

Of his life in London from 1587 to 1611, the period of his great- 
est literary activity, we know nothing definitely. We can judge only 
from his plays, and from these it is evident that he entered into the 
stirring life of England's capital with the same perfect sympathy and 
understanding that marked him among the plain people of his native 
Warwickshire. The first authentic reference to him is in 1592, when 

1 By Archdeacon Davies, in the seventeenth century. 
3 In 1709, nearly a century after the poet's death. 


Greene's 1 bitter attack appeared, showing plainly that Shakespeare 
had in five years assumed an important position among playwrights. 
Then appeared the apology of the publishers of Greene's pamphlet, 
with their tribute to the poet's sterling character, and occasional lit- 
erary references which show that he was known among his fellows 
as "the gentle Shakespeare." Ben Jonson says of him: "I loved 
the man and do honor his memory, on this side idolatry, as much as 
any. He was indeed honest, and of an open and free nature." To 
judge from only three of his earliest plays 2 it would seem reasonably 
evident that in the first five years of his London life he had gained 
entrance to the society of gentlemen and scholars, had caught their 
characteristic mannerisms and expressions, and so was ready by 
knowledge and observation as well as by genius to weave into his 
dramas the whole stirring life of the English people. The plays 
themselves, with the testimony of contemporaries and his business 
success, are strong evidence against the tradition that his life in 
London was wild and dissolute, like that of the typical actor and 
playwright of his time. 

Shakespeare's first work may well have been that of a general 
helper, an odd-job man, about the theater ; but he soon became an 
actor, and the records of the old London theaters show that in the 
next ten years he gained a prominent place, though there is little 
reason to believe that he was counted among the " stars." Within 
two years he was at work on plays, and his course here was exactly 
like that of other playwrights of his time. He worked with other 
men, and he revised old plays before writing his own, and so gained 
a practical knowledge of his art. Henry VI (c. 1590-1591) is an 
example of this tinkering work, in which, however, his native power 
is unmistakably manifest. The three parts of Henry VI (and Richard 
III, which belongs with them) are a succession of scenes from 
English Chronicle history strung together very loosely ; and only in 
the last is there any definite attempt at unity. That he soon fell 
under Marlowe's influence is evident from the atrocities and bom- 
bast of Titus Andronicus and Richard III. The former may have 
been written by both playwrights in collaboration, or may be one of 

1 Robert Greene, one of the popular playwrights of the time, who attacked Shake- 
speare in a pamphlet called "A Groat's Worth of Wit Bought with a Million of Repent- 
ance." The pamphlet, aside from its jealousy of Shakespeare, is a sad picture of a man ot 
genius dying of dissipation, and contains a warning to other playwrights of the time, 
whose lives were apparently almost as bad as that of Greene. 

* Love's Labour 's Lost, Comedy of Errors, Two Gentlemen of Verona, 



Marlowe's horrors left unfinished by his early death and brought to 
an end by Shakespeare. He soon broke away from this apprentice 
work, and then appeared in rapid succession Love 's Labour 's Lost, 
Comedy of Errors, Two Gentlemen of Verona, the first English Chron- 
icle plays, 1 A Midsummer Nighfs Dream, and Romeo and Juliet. 
This order is more or less conjectural ; but the wide variety of these 
plays, as well as their unevenness and frequent crudities, marks 
the first or experimental stage of Shakespeare's work. It is as if the 


author were trying his power, or more likely trying the temper of his 
audience. For it must be remembered that to please his audience 
was probably the ruling motive of Shakespeare, as of the other early 
dramatists, during the most vigorous and prolific period of his career. 
Shakespeare's poems, rather than his dramatic work, mark the 
beginning of his success. " Venus and Adonis " became immensely 

1 Henry VI, Richard III, Richard II, King John. Prior to 1588 only three true 
Chronicle plays are known to have been acted. The defeat of the Armada in that year 
led to an outburst of national feeling which found one outlet in the theaters, and in the 
next ten years over eighty Chronicle plays appeared. Of these Shakespeare furnished 
nine or ten. It was the great popular success of Henry VI, a revision of an old play, in 
1592 that probably led to Greene's jealous attack. 


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

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

Though still in the prime of life, Shakespeare soon abandoned his 
dramatic work for the comfortable life of a country gentleman. Of 
his later plays, Coriolanus, Cymbeline, Winter's Tale, and Pericles 
show a decided falling off from his previous work, and indicate 
another period of experimentation; this time not to test his own 
powers but to catch the fickle humor of the public. As is usually 
the case with a theater-going people, they soon turned from serious 
drama to sentimental or more questionable spectacles ; and with 
Fletcher, who worked with Shakespeare and succeeded him as the 

1 See Lee's Life of William Shakespeare, pp. 188-196. 



first playwright of London, the decline of the drama had already 
begun. In 1609, however, occurred an event which gave Shake- 
speare his chance for a farewell to the public. An English ship 
disappeared, and all on board were given up for lost. A year later 
the sailors returned home, and their arrival created intense excite- 
ment. They had been wrecked on the unknown Bermudas, and 


had lived there for ten months, terrified by mysterious noises which 
they thought came from spirits and devils. Five different accounts 
of this fascinating shipwreck were published, and the Bermudas 
became known as the " He of Divels." Shakespeare took this story 
which caused as much popular interest as that later shipwreck 
which gave us Robinson Crusoe and wove it into The Tempest. 
In the same year (1611) he probably sold his interest in the 
Globe and Blackfriars theaters, and his dramatic work was ended. 


A few plays were probably left unfinished 1 and were turned over 
to Fletcher and other dramatists. 

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

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

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

Works of Shakespeare. At the time of Shakespeare's death 
twenty-one plays existed in manuscripts in the various theaters. 
A few others had already been printed in quarto form, and 
the latter are the only publications that could possibly have 
met with the poet's own approval. More probably they were 
taken down in shorthand by some listener at the play and then 
"pirated" by some publisher for his own profit. The first 
printed collection of his plays, now called the First Folio 
(1623), was made by two actors, Heming and Condell, who 
asserted that they had access to the papers of the poet and 
had made a perfect edition, " in order to keep the memory of 
so worthy a friend and fellow alive." This contains thirty-six 

l Like Henry VIII, and possibly the lost Cardenio. 


of the thirty-seven plays generally attributed to Shakespeare, 
Pericles being omitted. This celebrated First Folio was printed 
from playhouse manuscripts and from printed quartos contain- 
ing many notes and changes by individual actors and stage 
managers. Moreover, it was full of typographical errors, though 
the editors alleged great care and accuracy ; and so, though it 
is the only authoritative edition we have, it is of little value 
in determining the dates, or the classification of the plays as 
they existed in Shakespeare's mind. 

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


are the best of his later plays ; but they all show a falling off 
from his previous work, and indicate a second period of experi- 
mentation with the taste of a fickle public. 

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

FIRST PERIOD, EARLY EXPERIMENT. Venus and Adonis, Rape of 
Lucrece, 1594 ; Titus Andronicus, Henry VI (three parts), 1590-1591 ; 
Love's Labour -> j Lost, 1590; Comedy of Errors, Two Gentlemen of 
Verona, 1591-1592 ; Richard III, 1593 ; Richard II, King John, 1594- 


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

THIRD PERIOD, MATURITY AND GLOOM. Sonnets (1600- ?), Twelfth 
Night, 1600 ; Taming of the Shrew, Julius Ccesar, Hamlet, Troilus and 
Cressida, 1601-1602 ; All's Well That Ends Well, Measure for Meas- 
ure, 1603; Othello, 1604; King Lear, 1605; Macbeth, 1606; Antony 
and Cleopatra, Timon of Athens, 1607. 

FOURTH PERIOD, LATE EXPERIMENT. Coriolanus, Pericles, 1608 ; 
Cymbeline, 1609; Winter's Tale, 1610-1611 ; The Tempest, 1611; 
Henry VIII (unfinished). 

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

Property of the Metropolitan Museum oi Art 

After the portrait by John Everett Millais 


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

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

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

A comedy, on the other hand, is a drama in which the char- 
acters are placed in more or less humorous situations. The 
movement is light and of ten. mirthful, and the play ends in 
general good will and happiness. The historical drama aims 
to present some historical age or character, and may be 
either a comedy or a tragedy. The following list includes 


the best of Shakespeare's plays in each of the three classes ; 
but the order indicates merely the author's personal opinion 
of the relative merits of the plays in each class. Thus Mer- 
chant of Venice would be the first of the comedies for the 
beginner to read, and Julius C&sar is an excellent introduc- 
tion to the historical plays and the tragedies. 

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

TRAGEDIES. Romeo and Juliet, Macbeth, Hamlet, King Lear, 

HISTORICAL PLAYS. Julius Ccesar, Richard III, Henry 7K, Henry V, 
Coriolanus, Antony and Cleopatra. 

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

Shakespeare's Poems. It is generally asserted that, if 
Shakespeare had written no plays, his poems alone would 
have given him a commanding place in the Elizabethan Age. 


Nevertheless, in the various histories of our literature there 
is apparent a desire to praise and pass over all but the Sonnets 
as rapidly as possible ; and the reason may be stated frankly. 
His two long poems, "Venus and Adonis" and "The Rape 
of Lucrece," contain much poetic fancy ; but it must be said 
of both that the subjects are unpleasant, and that they are 
dragged out to unnecessary length in order to show the play 
of youthful imagination. They were extremely popular in 
Shakespeare's day, but in comparison with his great dramatic 
works these poems are now of minor importance. 

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

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

which will haunt the reader long afterwards, like the remem- 
brance of an old German melody. 

Shakespeare's Place and Influence. Shakespeare holds, by 
general acclamation, the foremost place in the world's litera- 
ture, and his overwhelming greatness renders it difficult to 


criticise or even to praise him. Two poets only, Homer and 
Dante, have been named with him ; but each of these wrote 
within narrow limits, while Shakespeare's genius included all 
the world of nature and of men. In a word, he is the uni- 
versal poet. To study nature in his works is like exploring a 
new and beautiful country ; to study man in his works is like 
going into a great city, viewing the motley crowd as one views 
a great masquerade in which past and present mingle freely 
and familiarly, as if the dead were all living again. And the 
marvelous thing, in this masquerade of all sorts and condi- 
tions of men, is that Shakespeare lifts the mask from every 
face, lets us see the man as he is in his own soul, and shows 
us in each one some germ of good, some "soul of goodness " 
even in things evil. For Shakespeare strikes no uncertain 
note, and raises no doubts to add to the burden of your own. 
Good always overcomes evil in the long run ; and love, faith, 
work, and duty are the four elements that in all ages make 
the world right. To criticise or praise the genius that creates 
these men and women is to criticise or praise humanity itself, 
Of his influence in literature it is equally difficult to speak. 
Goethe expresses the common literary judgment when he 
says, " I do not remember that any book or person or event 
in my life ever made so great an impression upon me as the 
plays of Shakespeare." His influence upon our own language 
and thought is beyond calculation. Shakespeare and the King 
James Bible are the two great conservators of the English 
speech ; and one who habitually reads them finds himself 
possessed of a style and vocabulary that are beyond criticism. 
Even those who read no Shakespeare are still unconsciously 
guided by him, for his thought and expression have so per- 
vaded our life and literature that it is impossible, so long as 
one speaks the English language, to escape his influence. 

His life was gentle, and the elements 

So mixed in him, that Nature might stand up 

And say to all the world, " This was a man I " 






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

With his successors all this was changed. The audience 
itself had gradually changed, and in place of plain people 
eager for a story and for information, we see a larger and 
larger proportion of those who went to the play because they 
had nothing else to do. They wanted amusement only, and 
since they had blunted by idleness the desire for simple 
and wholesome amusement, they called for something more 
sensational. Shakespeare's successors catered to the de- 
praved tastes of this new audience, They lacked not only 


Shakespeare's genius, but his broad charity, his moral insight 
into life. With the exception of Ben Jonson, they neglected 
the simple fact that man in his deepest nature is a moral being, 
and that only a play which satisfies the whole nature of man 
by showing the triumph of the moral law can ever wholly 
satisfy an audience or a people. Beaumont and Fletcher, 
forgetting the deep meaning of life, strove for effect by in- 
creasing the sensationalism of their plays; Webster reveled 
in tragedies of blood and thunder ; Massinger and Ford made 
another step downward, producing evil and licentious scenes 
for their own sake, making characters and situations more 
immoral till, notwithstanding these dramatists' ability, the 
stage had become insincere, frivolous, and bad. Ben Jonson's 
ode, "Come Leave the Loathed Stage," is the judgment of a 
large and honest nature grown weary of the plays and the 
players of the time. We read with a sense of relief that 
in 1642, only twenty-six years after Shakespeare's death, 
both houses of Parliament voted to close the theaters as 
breeders of lies and immorality. 

BEN JONSON (1573?- 1637) 

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


Life. Jonson was born at Westminster about the year 1573. 
His father, an educated gentleman, had his property confiscated 
and was himself thrown into prison by Queen Mary; so we infer 
the family was of some prominence. From his mother he received 
certain strong characteristics, and by a single short reference in 
Jonson' s works we are led to see the kind of woman she was. It is 
while Jonson is telling Drummond of the occasion when he was 
thrown into prison, because some passages in the comedy of East- 
ward Ho ! gave offense to King James, and he was in danger of a 

horrible death, after having 
his ears and nose cut off. 
He tells us how, after his 
pardon, he was banqueting 
with his friends, when his 
"old mother" came in 
and showed a paper full 
of "lusty strong poison," 
which she intended to mix 
with his drink just before 
the execution. And to 
show that she "was no 
churl," she intended first 
to drink of the poison her- 
self. The incident is all 
the more suggestive from 

BEN JONSON *e fact that Chapman and 

Marston, one his friend and 

the other his enemy, were first cast into prison as the authors of 
Eastward Ho ! and rough Ben Jonson at once declared that he too 
had had a small hand in the writing and went to join them in prison. 
Jonson's father came out of prison, having given up his estate, and 
became a minister. He died just before the son's birth, and two 
years later the mother married a bricklayer of London. The boy 
was sent to a private school, and later made his own way to West- 
minster School, where the submaster, Camden, struck by the boy's 
ability, taught and largely supported him. For a short time he may 
have studied at the university in Cambridge ; but his stepfather 
soon set him to learning the bricklayer's trade. He ran away from 
this, and went with the English army to fight Spaniards in the Low 
Countries. His best known exploit there was to fight a duel between 


the lines with one of the enemy's soldiers, while both armies 
looked on. Jonson killed his man, and took his arms, and made his 
way back to his own lines in a way to delight the old Norman 
troubadours. He soon returned to England, and married precipi- 
tately when only nineteen or twenty years old. Five years later we 
find him employed, like Shakespeare, as actor and reviser of old 
plays in the theater. Thereafter his life is a varied and stormy one. 
He killed an actor in a duel, and only escaped hanging by pleading 
" benefit of clergy " l ; but he lost all his poor goods and was branded 
for life on his left thumb. In his first great play, Every Man in His 
Humour (1598), Shakespeare acted one of the parts ; and that may 
have been the beginning of their long friendship. Other plays fol- 
lowed rapidly. Upon the accession of James, Jonson's masques won 
him royal favor, and he was made poet laureate. He now became 
undoubted leader of the literary men of his time, though his rough 
honesty and his hatred of the literary tendencies of the age made 
him quarrel with nearly all of them. In 1616, soon after Shake- 
speare's retirement, he stopped writing for the stage and gave him- 
self up to study and serious work. In 1618 he traveled on foot to 
Scotland, where he visited Drummond, from whom we have the scant 
records of his varied life. His impressions of this journey, called 
Foot Pilgrimage, were lost in a fire before publication. Thereafter 
he produced less, and his work declined in vigor; but spite of growing 
poverty and infirmity we notice in his later work, especially in the 
unfinished Sad Shepherd, a certain mellowness and tender human 
sympathy which were lacking in his earlier productions. He died 
poverty stricken in 1637. Unlike Shakespeare's, his death was 
mourned as a national calamity, and he was buried with all honor in 
Westminster Abbey. On his grave was laid a marble slab, on which 
the words " O rare Ben Jonson " were his sufficient epitaph. 

Works of Ben Jonson. Jonson's work is in strong con- 
trast with that of Shakespeare and of the later Elizabethan 
dramatists. Alone he fought against the romantic tendency 
of the age, and to restore the classic standards. Thus the 
whole action of his drama usually covers only a few hours, or 

l A name given to the privilege claimed by the mediaeval Church for its clergy of 
being exempt from trial by the regular law courts. After the Reformation the custom 
survived for a long time, and special privileges were allowed to ministers and their 
families. Jonson claimed the privilege as a minister's son. 


a single day. He never takes liberties with historical facts, 
as Shakespeare does, but is accurate to the smallest detail. 
His dramas abound in classical learning, are carefully and 
logically constructed, and comedy and tragedy are kept apart, 
instead of crowding each other as they do in Shakespeare 
and in life. In one respect his comedies are worthy of care- 
ful reading, - they are intensely realistic, presenting -men 
and women of the time exactly as they were. From a few 
of Jonson's scenes we can understand better than from all 
the plays of Shakespeare how men talked and acted during 
the Age of Elizabeth. 

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

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


Good morning to the day ; and next, my gold ! 
Open the shrine that I may see my saint. 

(Mosca withdraws a curtain and discovers piles of 

gold, plate, jewels, etc.) 
Hail the world's soul, and mine 1 


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

The Alchemist is a study of quackery on one side and of 
gullibility on the other, founded on the mediaeval idea of the 
philosopher's stone, 1 and applies as well to the patent medi- 
cines and get-rich-quick schemes of our day as to the pecul- 
iar forms of quackery with which Jonson was more familiar. 
In plot and artistic construction The Alchemist is an almost 
perfect specimen of the best English drama. It has some 
remarkably good passages, and is the most readable of Jon- 
son's plays. 

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

The chief character is Morose, a rich old codger whose humor is a 
horror of noise. He lives in a street so narrow that it will admit no 
The Silent carriages ; he pads the doors ; plugs the keyhole ; puts mat- 
Woman tresses on the stairs. He dismisses a servant who wears 
squeaky boots ; makes all the rest go about in thick stockings ; and 
they must answer him by signs, since he cannot bear to hear anybody 
but himself talk. He disinherits his poor nephew Eugenie, and, to make 
sure that the latter will not get any money out of him, resolves to marry. 
His confidant in this delicate matter is Cutbeard the barber, who, unlike 
his kind, never speaks unless spoken to, and does not even knick his 
scissors as he works. Cutbeard (who is secretly in league with the 
nephew) tells him of Epiccene, a rare, silent woman, and Morose is so 
delighted with her silence that he resolves to marry her on the spot. 
Cutbeard produces a parson with a bad cold, who can speak only in a 
whisper, to marry them ; and when the parson coughs after the ceremony 

1 A similar story of quackery is found in Chaucer, " The Canon's Yeoman's Tale." 


Morose demands back five shillings of the fee. To save it the parson 
coughs more, and is hurriedly bundled out of the house. The silent 
woman finds her voice immediately after the marriage, begins to talk 
loudly and to make reforms in the household, driving Morose to distrac- 
tion. A noisy dinner party from a neighboring house, with drums and 
trumpets and a quarreling man and wife, is skillfully guided in at this 
moment to celebrate the wedding. Morose flees for his life, and is 
found perched like a monkey on a crossbeam in the attic, with all his 
nightcaps tied over his ears. He seeks a divorce, but is driven frantic 
by the loud arguments of a lawyer and a divine, who are no other than 
Cutbeard and a sea captain disguised. When Morose is past all hope 
the nephew offers to release him from his wife and her noisy friends if 
he will allow him five hundred pounds a year. Morose offers him any- 
thing, everything, to escape his torment, and signs a deed to that effect. 
Then comes the surprise of the play when Eugenie whips the wig from 
Epiccene and shows a boy in disguise. 

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

Besides these, and many other less known comedies, Jonson 
wrote two great tragedies, Sejanus (1603 ) and Catiline ( 161 1), 
upon severe classical lines. After ceasing his work for the 
stage, Jonson wrote many masques in honor of James I and 
of Queen Anne, to be played amid elaborate scenery by the 
gentlemen of the court. The best of these are "The Satyr," 
"The Penates," "Masque of Blackness," "Masque of Beauty," 
"Hue and Cry after Cupid," and "The Masque of Queens." 
In all his plays Jonson showed a strong lyric gift, and some 
of his little poems and songs, like "The Triumph of Chans, " 
"Drink to Me Only with Thine Eyes," and "To the Mem- 
ory of my Beloved Mother," are now better known than his 
great dramatic works. A single volume of prose, called Tim- 
ber, or Discoveries made upon Men and Matter, is an inter- 
esting collection of short essays which are more like Bacon's 
than any other work of the age. 


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

Beaumont (1584-1616) was the brother of Sir John Beau- 
mont of Leicestershire. From Oxford he came to London to 
study law, but soon gave it up to write for the stage. Fletcher 
(15 79 -i 62 5) was the son of the bishop of London, and shows 
in all his work the influence of his high social position and of 
his Cambridge education. The two dramatists met at the 
Mermaid tavern under Ben Jonson's leadership and soon 
became inseparable friends, living and working together. 
Tradition has it that Beaumont supplied the judgment and 
the solid work of the play, while Fletcher furnished the 
high-colored sentiment and the lyric poetry, without which 
an Elizabethan play would have been incomplete. Of their 
joint plays, the two best known are Philaster, whose old 
theme, like that of Cymbeline and Griselda, is the jealousy 
of a lover and the faithfulness of a girl, and The Maid's 
Tragedy. Concerning Fletcher's work the most interesting 
literary question is how much did he write of Shakespeare's 
Henry VIII, and how much did Shakespeare help him in 
The Two Noble Kinsmen. 

John Webster. Of Webster's personal history we know 
nothing except that he was well known as a dramatist under 
James I. His extraordinary powers of expression rank him 
with Shakespeare ; but his talent seems to have been largely 
devoted to the blood-and-thunder play begun by Marlowe. 


His two best known plays are The White Devil (pub. 1612) 
and The Duchess of Malfi (pub. 1623). The latter, spite of 
its horrors, ranks him as one of the greatest masters of 
English tragedy. It must be remembered that he sought in 
this play to reproduce the Italian life of the sixteenth 
century, and for this no imaginary horrors are needed. The 
history of any Italian court or city in this period furnishes 
more vice and violence and dishonor than even the gloomy 
imagination of Webster could conceive. All the so-called 
blood tragedies of the Elizabethan period, from Thomas Kyd's 
Spanish Tragedy down, however much they may condemn the 
brutal taste of the English audiences, are still only so many 
search lights thrown upon a history of horrible darkness. 

Thomas Middleton (1570 ?-i627). Middleton is best 
known by two great plays, The Changeling^- and Women Be- 
ware Women. In poetry and diction they are almost worthy 
at times to rank with Shakespeare's plays ; otherwise, in 
their sensationalism and unnaturalness they do violence to 
the moral sense and are repulsive to the modern reader. 
Two earlier plays, A Trick to catch the Old One, his best 
comedy, and A Fair Quarrel, his earliest tragedy, are less 
mature in thought and expression, but more readable, because 
they seem to express Middleton's own idea of the drama 
rather than that of the corrupt court and playwrights of his 
later age. 

Thomas Heywood ( 1580 ?- 1650?). Heywood's life, of 
which we know little in detail, covers the whole period of 
the Elizabethan drama. To the glory of that drama he con- 
tributed, according to his own statement, the greater part, at 
least, of nearly two hundred and twenty plays. It was an 
enormous amount of work ; but he seems to have been ani- 
mated by the modern literary spirit of following the best 
market and striking while the financial iron is hot. Naturally 

1 In this and in A Fair Quarrel Middleton collaborated with William Rowley, of 
whom little is known except that he was an actor from c. 1607-1627. 


good work was impossible, even to genius, under such cir- 
cumstances, and few of his plays are now known. The two 
best, if the reader would obtain his own idea of Heywood's 
undoubted ability, are A Woman killed with Kindness, a 
pathetic story of domestic life, and The Fair Maid of the 
West, a melodrama with plenty of fighting of the popular kind. 

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

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

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

John Ford (1586-1642 ?) and James Shirley (1596-1666) 
have left us little of permanent literary value, and their works 


are read only by those who wish to understand the whole 
rise and fall of the drama. An occasional scene in Ford's 
plays is as strong as anything that the Elizabethan Age pro- 
duced ; but as a whole the plays are unnatural and tiresome. 
Probably his best play is The Broken Heart (1633). Shirley 
was given to imitation of his predecessors, and his very imita- 
tion is characteristic of an age which had lost its inspiration. 
A single play, Hyde Park, with its frivolous, realistic dialogue, 
is sometimes read for its reflection of the fashionable gossipy 
talk of the day. Long before Shirley's death the actors said, 
"Farewell ! Othello's occupation's gone." Parliament voted 
to close the theaters, thereby saving the drama from a more 
inglorious death by dissipation. 1 

FRANCIS BACON (1561-1626) 

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

Laying aside the opinions of others, and relying only upon 
the facts of Bacon's life, we find on the one side the politician, 
cold, calculating, selfish, and on the other the literary and 

1 The reader will find wholesome criticism of these writers, and selections from their 
works, in Charles Lamb's Specimens of English Dramatic Poets, an excellent book, which 
helps us to a better knowledge and appreciation of the lesser Elizabethan dramatists. 


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

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

Two years later he was recalled to London by the death of his 
father. Without money, and naturally with expensive tastes, he 
applied to his Uncle Burleigh for a lucrative position. It was in 
this application that he used the expression, so characteristic of the 
Elizabethan Age, that he " had taken all knowledge for his province." 
Burleigh, who misjudged him as a dreamer and self-seeker, not only 
refused to help him at the court but successfully opposed his ad- 
vancement by Elizabeth. Bacon then took up the study of law, 
and was admitted to the bar in 1582. That he had not lost his 
philosophy in the mazes of the law is shown by his tract, written 
about this time, " On the Greatest Birth of Time," which was a plea 
for his inductive system of philosophy, reasoning from many facts 
to one law, rather than from an assumed law to particular facts, 


which was the deductive method that had been in use for centuries. 
In his famous plea for progress Bacon demanded three things : the 
free investigation of nature, the discovery of facts instead of theories, 
and the verification of results by experiment rather than by argument. 
In our day these are the A, B, C of science, but in Bacon's time they 
seemed revolutionary. 

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

During Elizabeth's reign Bacon had sought repeatedly for high 
office, but had been blocked by Burleigh and perhaps also by the 
queen's own shrewdness in judging men. With the advent of 
James I (1603) Bacon devoted himself to the new ruler and rose 
rapidly in favor. He was knighted, and soon afterwards attained 
another object of his ambition in marrying a rich wife. The 
appearance of his great work, the Advancement of Learning, in 
1605, was largely the result of the mental stimulus produced by his 
change in fortune. In 1613 he was made attorney-general, and 
speedily made enemies by using the office to increase his personal 
ends. He justified himself in his course by his devotion to the 
king's cause, and by the belief that the higher his position and the 
more ample his means the more he could do for science. It was 


in this year that Bacon wrote his series of State Papers, which show 
a marvelous grasp of the political tendencies of his age. Had his 
advice been followed, it would have certainly averted the struggle 
between king and parliament that followed speedily. In 1617 he 
was appointed to his father's office, Lord Keeper of the Seal, and 
the next year to the high office of Lord Chancellor. With this 
office he received the title of Baron Verulam, and later of Viscount 
St.Alban, which he affixed with some vanity to his literary work. 
Two years later appeared his greatest work, the Novum Organum, 
called after Aristotle's famous Organon. 

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

The Essays. Bacon's famous Essays is the one work which 
will interest all students of our literature. His Instauratio was 


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

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

Miscellaneous Works. Other works of Bacon are interest- 
ing as a revelation of the Elizabethan mind, rather than 
because of any literary value. The New Atlantis is a kind of 
scientific novel describing another Utopia as seen by Bacon. 
The inhabitants of Atlantis have banished Philosophy and 
applied Bacon's method of investigating Nature, using 
the results to better their own condition. They have a 


wonderful civilization, in which many of our later discov- 
eries academies of the sciences, observatories, balloons, 
submarines, the modification of species, and several others 
were foreshadowed with a strange mixture of cold reason and 
poetic intuition. De Sapientia Veterum is a fanciful attempt 
to show the deep meaning underlying ancient myths, a 
meaning which would have astonished the myth makers them- 
selves. The History of Henry VII is a calm, dispassionate, 
and remarkably accurate history, which makes us regret that 
Bacon did not do more historical work. Besides these are 
metrical versions of certain Psalms which are valuable, in 
view of the controversy anent Shakespeare's plays, for show- 
ing Bacon's utter inability to write poetry and a large 
number of letters and state papers showing the range and 
power of his intellect. 

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

Of late the general tendency is to give less and less 
prominence to his work in science and philosophy ; but 
criticism of his Instanratio, in view of his lofty aim, is of 
small consequence. It is true that his "science" to-day 
seems woefully inadequate ; true also that, though he sought 
to discover truth, he thought perhaps to monopolize it, and 
so looked with the same suspicion upon Copernicus as upon 
the philosophers. The practical man who despises philosophy 
has simply misunderstood the thing he despises. In being 
practical and experimental in a romantic age he was not 
unique, as is often alleged, but only expressed the tendency 
of the English mind in all ages. Three centuries earlier the 
monk Roger Bacon did more practical experimenting than 
the Elizabethan sage ; and the latter' s famous " idols " are 


strongly suggestive of the former's "Four Sources of Human 
Ignorance." Although Bacon did not make any of the scien- 
tific discoveries at which he aimed, yet the whole spirit of 
his work, especially of the Organum, has strongly influenced 
science in the direction of accurate observation and of care- 
fully testing every theory by practical experiment. " He that 
regardeth the clouds shall not sow," said a wise writer of old ; 
and Bacon turned men's thoughts from the heavens above, 
with which they had been too busy, to the earth beneath, 
which they had too much neglected. In an age when men 
were busy with romance and philosophy, he insisted that the 
first object of education is to make a man familiar with his 
natural environment ; from books he turned to men, from 
theory to fact, from philosophy to nature, and that is per- 
haps his greatest contribution to life and literature. Like 
Moses upon Pisgah, he stood high enough above his fellows 
to look out over a promised land, which his people would 
inherit, but into which he himself might never enter. 

Richard Hooker (i554?-i6oo). In strong contrast with 
Bacon is Richard Hooker, one of the greatest prose writers 
of the Elizabethan Age. One must read the story of his life, 
an obscure and lowly life animated by a great spirit, as told 
by Izaak .Walton, to appreciate the full force of this contrast. 
Bacon took all knowledge for his province, but mastered no 
single part of it. Hooker, taking a single theme, the law and 
practice of the English Church, so handled it that no scholar 
even of the present day would dream of superseding it or of 
building upon any other foundation than that which Hooker 
laid down. His one great work is The- Laws of Ecclesiastical 
Polity} a theological and argumentative book ; but, entirely 
apart from its subject, it will be read wherever men desire 
to hear the power and stateliness of the English language. 
Here is a single sentence, remarkable not only for its perfect 

!The first five books were published 1594-1597, and are as Hooker wrote them. The 
last three books, published after his death, are of doubtful authorship, but they are 
thought to have been completed from Hooker's notes. 


form but also for its expression of the reverence for law which 
lies at the heart of Anglo-Saxon civilization : 

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

Sidney and Raleigh. Among the prose writers of this 
wonderful literary age there are many others that deserve 
passing notice, though they fall far below the standard of 
Bacon and Hooker. Sir Philip Sidney (1554-1586), who has 
already been considered as a poet, is quite as well known by 
his prose works, Arcadia, a pastoral romance, and the Defense 
of Poesie, one of our earliest literary essays. Sidney, whom 
the poet Shelley has eulogized, represents the whole romantic 
tendency of his age ; while Sir Walter Raleigh (i552?-i6i8) 
represents its adventurous spirit and activity. The life of 
Raleigh is an almost incomprehensible mixture of the poet, 
scholar, and adventurer ; now helping the Huguenots or the 
struggling Dutch in Europe, and now leading an expedition 
into the unmapped wilds of the New World ; busy here with 
court intrigues, and there with piratical attempts to capture 
the gold-laden Spanish galleons ; one moment sailing the high 
seas in utter freedom, and the next writing history and poetry 
to solace his imprisonment. Such a life in itself is a volume 
far more interesting than anything that he wrote. He is the 
restless spirit of the Elizabethan Age personified. 

Raleigh's chief prose works are the Discoverie of Guiana, 
a work which would certainly have been interesting enough 
had he told simply what he saw, but which was filled with 
colonization schemes and visions of an El Dorado to fill the 
eyes and ears of the credulous ; and the History of the World, 
written to occupy his prison hours. The history is a wholly 
untrustworthy account of events from creation to the downfall 


of the Macedonian Empire. It is interesting chiefly for its 
style, which is simple and dignified, and for the flashes of 
wit and poetry that break into the fantastic combination of 
miracles, traditions, hearsay, and state records which he called 
history. In the conclusion is the famous apostrophe to Death, 
which suggests what Raleigh might have done had he lived 
less strenuously and written more carefully. 

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

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

Foxe had been driven out of England by the Marian per- 
secutions, and in a wandering but diligent life on the Continent 
he conceived the idea of writing a history of the persecutions 
of the church from the earliest days to his own. The part 
relating to England and Scotland was published, in Latin, 
in 1559, under a title as sonorous and impressive as the 
Roman office for the dead, Rerum in Ecclesia Gestarum 
Maximarumque per Europam P ersecutionum Commentarii. On 
his return to England Foxe translated this work, calling it the 
Acts and Monuments ; but it soon became known as the Book 
of Martyrs, and so it will always be called. Foxe's own 
bitter experience causes him to write with more heat and 
indignation than his saintly theme would warrant, and the 


"holy tone" sometimes spoils a narrative that would be im- 
pressive in its bare simplicity. Nevertheless the book has 
made for itself a secure place in our literature. It is strongest 
in its record of humble men, like Rowland Taylor and Thomas 
Hawkes, whose sublime heroism, but for this narrative, would 
have been lost amid the great names and the great events that 
fill the Elizabethan Age. 

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

Hakluyt and Purchas. Two editors of this age have made 
for themselves an enviable place in our literature. They are 
Richard Hakluyt ( 1 5 5 2 ? - 1 6 1 6 ) and Samuel Purchas (1575?- 
1626). Hakluyt was a clergyman who in the midst of his 
little parish set himself to achieve two great patriotic ends, 
to promote the wealth and commerce of his country, and to 
preserve the memory of all his countrymen who added to the 
glory of the realm by their travels and explorations. To 
further the first object he concerned himself deeply with 
the commercial interests of the East India Company, with 
Raleigh's colonizing plans in Virginia, and with a translation 


of De Soto's travels in America. To further the second he 
made himself familiar with books of voyages in all foreign 
languages and with the brief reports of explorations of his 
own countrymen. His Principal Navigations, Voyages, and 
Discoveries of the English Nation, in three volumes, appeared 
first in 1589, and a second edition followed in 1598-1600. 
The first volume tells of voyages to the north ; the second to 
India and the East ; the third, which is as large as the other 
two, to the New World. With the exception of the very first 
voyage, that of King Arthur to Iceland in 517, which is 
founded on a myth, all the voyages are authentic accounts 
of the explorers themselves, and are immensely interesting 
reading even at the present day. No other book of travels 
has so well expressed the spirit and energy of the English 
race, or better deserves a place in our literature. 

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

Thomas North. Among the translators of the Elizabethan 
Age Sir Thomas North (1535 ?-i6oi ?) is most deserving of 
notice because of his version of Plutarch 's Lives (1579) from 
which Shakespeare took the characters and many of the inci- 
dents for three great Roman plays. Thus in North we read : 

Caesar also had Cassius in great jealousy and suspected him much: 
whereupon he said on a time to his friends : " What will Cassius do, 


think ye ? I like not his pale looks." Another time when Caesar's friends 
warned him of Antonius and Dolabella, he answered them again, "I 
never reckon of them ; but these pale-visaged and carrion lean people, 
I fear them most," meaning Brutus and Cassius. 

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

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

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

North's translation, to which we owe so many heroic 
models in our literature, was probably made not from Plu- 
tarch but from Amyot's excellent French translation. Never- 
theless he reproduces the spirit of the original, and notwith- 
standing our modern and more accurate translations, he 
remains the most inspiring interpreter of the great biographer 
whom Emerson calls "the historian of heroism." 

Summary of the Age of Elizabeth. This period is generally regarded as 
the greatest in the history of our literature. Historically, we note in this age 
the tremendous impetus received from the Renaissance, from the Reformation, 
and from v the exploration of the New World. It was marked by a strong 

/"national spirit, by patriotism, by religious tolerance, by social content, by 

Vintellectual progress, and by unbounded enthusiasm. 

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

In our study of this great age we have noted (i) the Non-dramatic Poets, 
that is, poets who did not write for the stage. The center of this group is 


Edmund Spenser, whose Shepherd's Calendar (1579) marked the appearance 
of the first national poet since Chaucer's death in 1400. His most famous 
work is The Faery Queen. Associated with Spenser are the minor poets, 
Thomas Sackville, Michael Drayton, George Chapman, and Philip Sidney. 
Chapman is noted for his completion of Marlowe's poem, Hero and Leander, 
and for his translation of Homer's Iliad and Odyssey. Sidney, besides his 
poetry, wrote his prose romance Arcadia, and The Defense of Poesie> one of 
our earliest critical essays. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lyly. Endymion, in Holt's English Readings, 


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

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

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

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

Bibliography. 1 History. Text-book, Montgomery, pp. 208-238; Cheyney, 
pp. 330-410; Green, ch. 7 ; Traill, Macaulay, Froude. 

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

Literature. Saintsbury's History of Elizabethan Literature ; Whipple's 
Literature of the Age of Elizabeth ; S. Lee's Great Englishmen of the Six- 
teenth Century; Schelling's Elizabethan Lyrics, in Athenaeum Press Series; 
Vernon Lee's Euphorion. 

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

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

Gayley's Plays of Our Forefathers (Miracles, Moralities, etc.) ; Bates's The 
English Religious Drama ; Schelling's The English Chronicle Play ; Lowell's 
Old English Dramatists ; Boas's Shakespeare and his Predecessors ; Symonds's 
Shakespeare's Predecessors in the English Drama ; Schelling's Elizabethan 
Drama ; Lamb's Specimens of English Dramatic Poets ; Introduction to 

1 For titles and publishers of reference works see General Bibliography at the end 
of this book 


Hudson's Shakespeare : His Life, Art, and Characters ; Ward's History of Eng 
lish Dramatic Literature ; Dekker's The Gull's Hornbook, in King's Classics. 

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

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

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

Be n Jonson. Texts in Mermaid Series, Temple Dramatists, Morley's Uni- 
versal Library, etc. ; Masques and Entertainments of Ben Jonson, edited by 
Morley, in Carisbrooke Library; Timber, edited by Schelling, in Athenaeum 
Press Series. 

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

8. Tell briefly the story of Shakespeare's life. What fact in his life most 
impressed you ? How does Shakespeare sum up the work of all his predeces- 
sors ? What are the four periods of his work, and the chief plays of each ? 

1 84 


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

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

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

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


Last Half of the Sixteenth and First Half of the Seventeenth Centuries 





Elizabeth (d. 1603) 

Rise of English Puritans 
Drake's Voyage around the 

1559. John Knox in Edinburgh 
1562 (?). Gammer ^Gurton's Needle. 
1564. Birth of Shakespeare 
1576. First Theater 
1579. Spenser's Shepherd's Calendar. 
Lyly's Euphues. North's Plu- 


CHRONOLOGY (continued) 

I8 5 



1588. Defeat of the Armada 

1603. James I (d. 1625) 

1604. Divine Right of Kings pro- 

claimed . 

1607. Settlement at Jamestown, Vir- 

1620. Pilgrim Fathers at Plymouth 

1625. Charles I 

1587. Shakespeare in London. Mar- 
lowe's Tamburlaine 

1590. Spenser's Faery Queen. Sid- 
ney's Arcadia 

1590-1595. Shakespeare's Early Plays 
1597-1625. Bacon's Essays 
1598-1614. Chapman's Homer 
1 598. Ben Jonson's Every Man in His 

1600-1607. Shakespeare's Tragedies 

1 605. Bacon's Advancement of Learn- 
1608. Birth of Milton 

1611. Translation (King James Ver- 
sion) of Bible 
1614. Raleigh's History 
1616. Death of Shakespeare 
1620-1642. Shakespeare's successors. 

End of drama 

1620. Bacon's Novum Organum 
1622. First regular newspaper, The 

Weekly News 
1626. Death of Bacon 


THE PURITAN AGE (1620-1660) 

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

Such a movement should be cleared of all the misconceptions 
which have clung to it since the Restoration, when the very name 
Wrong f Puritan was made ridiculous by the jeers of the gay 

Ideas of courtiers of Charles II. Though the spirit of the move- 
the Puritans ment was profoundly religious, the Puritans were not a 
religious sect ; neither was the Puritan a narrow-minded and gloomy 
dogmatist, as he is still pictured even in the histories. Pym and 
Hampden and Eliot and Milton were Puritans; and in the long 
struggle for human liberty there are few names more honored by 
freemen everywhere. Cromwell and Thomas Hooker were Puritans; 
yet Cromwell stood like a rock for religious tolerance ; and Thomas 
Hooker, in Connecticut, gave to the world the first written constitution, 



in which freemen, before electing their officers, laid down the 
strict limits of the offices to which they were elected. That is a 
Puritan document, and it marks one of the greatest achievements 
in the history of government. 

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

Changing Ideals. The political upheaval of the period is summed 
up in the terrible struggle between the king and Parliament, which 
resulted in the death of Charles at the block and the establishment 
of the Commonwealth under Cromwell. For centuries the English 
people had been wonderfully loyal to their sovereigns ; but deeper 
than their loyalty to kings was the old Saxon love for personal liberty. 
At times, as in the days of Alfred and Elizabeth, the two ideals went 


hand in hand ; but more often they were in open strife, and a final 
struggle for supremacy was inevitable. The crisis came when James I, 
who had received the right of royalty from an act of Parliament, 
began, by the assumption of "divine right," to ignore the Parliament 
which had created him. Of the civil war which followed in the reign 
of Charles I, and of the triumph of English freedom, it is unneces- 
sary to write here. The blasphemy of a man's divine right to rule 
his fellow-men was ended. Modern England began with the charge 
of Cromwell's brigade of Puritans at Naseby. 

Religiously the age was one of even greater ferment than that 
which marked the beginning of the Reformation. A great ideal, the 
Religious ideal of a national church, was pounding to pieces, like 
Ideals a ship in the breakers, and in the confusion of such an 

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

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

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


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

Literary Characteristics. In literature also the Puritan Age 
was one of confusion, due to the breaking up of old ideals. 
Mediaeval standards of chivalry, the impossible loves and 
romances of which Spenser furnished the types, perished no 
less surely than the ideal of a national church ; and in the 
absence of any fixed standard of literary criticism there was 
nothing to prevent the exaggeration of the "metaphysical" 
poets, who are the literary parallels to religious sects like 
the Anabaptists. Poetry took new and startling forms in 
Donne and Herbert, and prose became as somber as Burton's 
Anatomy of Melancholy. The spiritual gloom which sooner 
or later fastens upon all the writers of this age, and which 
is unjustly attributed to Puritan influence, is due to the 

breaking Up of accepted stanHarHsJp govern n]pnt 

No people, lrom~lhe (jreeRs to those of our own day, have 
suffered the loss of old ideals without causing its writers to cry, 
" Ichabod ! the glory has departed." That is the unconscious 
tendency of literary men in all times, who look backward for 
their golden age; and it need not concern the student of 
literature, who, even in the break-up of cherished institutions, 
looks for some foregleams of a better light which is to break 
upon the world. This so-called gloomy age produced some 
minor poems of exquisite workmanship, and one great master 
of verse whose work would glorify any age or people, John 
Milton, in whom the indomitable Puritan spirit finds its noblest 


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


The Transition Poets. When one attempts to classify the 
literature of the first half of the seventeenth century, from 
the death of Elizabeth (1603) to the Restoration (1660), he 
realizes the impossibility of grouping poets by any accurate 
standard. The classifications attempted here have small 
dependence upon dates or sovereigns, and are suggestive 
rather than accurate, Thus Shakespeare and 3 Bacon wrote 


largely in the reign of James I, but their work is Elizabethan 
in spirit ; and Bunyan is no less a Puritan because he hap- 
pened to write after the Restoration. The name Metaphys- 
ical poets, given by Dr. Johnson, is somewhat suggestive but 
not descriptive of the followers of Donne ; the name Caro- 
line or Cavalier poets brings to mind the careless temper of 
the Royalists who followed King Charles with a devotion of 
which he was unworthy ; and the name Spenserian poets 
recalls the little band of dreamers who clung to Spenser's 
ideal, even while his romantic mediaeval castle was battered 
down by Science at the one gate and Puritanism at the other. 
At the beginning of this bewildering confusion of ideals ex- 
pressed in literature, we note a few writers who are gener- 
ally known as Jacobean poets, but whom we have called the 
Transition poets because, with the later dramatists, they show 
clearly the changing standards of the age. 

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

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

This fling at Spenser and his followers marks the beginning 
of the modern and realistic school, which sees in life as k is 


enough poetic material, without the invention of allegories 
and impossible heroines. Daniel's poetry, which was forgot- 
ten soon after his death, has received probably more homage 
than it deserves in the praises of Wordsworth, Southey, Lamb, 
and Coleridge. The latter says : " Read Daniel, the admir- 
able Daniel. The style and language are just such as any 
pure and manly writer of the present day would use. It seems 
quite modern in comparison with the style of Shakespeare." 

The Song Writers. In strong contrast with the above are 
two distinct groups, the Song Writers and the Spenserian 
poets. The close of the reign of Elizabeth was marked by 
an outburst of English songs, as remarkable in its sudden 
development as the rise of the drama. Two causes contributed 
to this result, the increasing influence of French instead of 
Italian verse, and the rapid development of music as an art 
at the close of the sixteenth century. The two song writers 
best worth studying are Thomas Campion (1567?- 1619) and 
Nicholas Breton (1545 ?-i626 ?). Like all the lyric poets of 
the age, they are a curious mixture of the Elizabethan and 
the Puritan standards. They sing of sacred and profane love 
with the same zest, and a careless love song is often found on 
the same page with a plea for divine grace. 

The Spenserian Poets. Of the Spenserian poets Giles 
Fletcher and Wither are best worth studying. Giles Fletcher 
(i588?-i623) has at times a strong suggestion of Milton 
(who was also a follower of Spenser in his early years) in the 
noble simplicity and majesty of his lines. His best known work, 
" Christ's Victory and Triumph " (1610), was the greatest reli- 
gious poem that had appeared in England since " Piers Plow- 
man," and is not an unworthy predecessor of Paradise Lost. 

The life of George Wither (1588-1667) covers the whole 
period of English history from Elizabeth to the Restoration, 
and the enormous volume of his work covers every phase of 
the literature of two great ages. His life was a varied one ; 
now as a Royalist leader against the Covenanters, and again 


announcing his Puritan convictions, and suffering in prison for 
his faith. At his best Wither is a lyric poet of great origi- 
nality, rising at times to positive genius ; but the bulk of his 
poetry is intolerably dull. Students of this period find him 
interesting as an epitome of the whole age in which he lived ; 
but the average reader is more inclined to note with interest 
that he published in 1623 Hymns and Songs of the Church, 
the first hymn book that ever appeared in the English language. 
The Metaphysical Poets. This name which was given 
by Dr. Johnson in derision, because of the fantastic form of 
Donne's poetry is often applied to all minor poets of the 
Puritan Age. We use the term here in a narrower sense, 
excluding the followers of Daniel and that later group known 
as the Cavalier poets. It includes Donne, Herbert, Waller,. 
Denham, Cowley, Vaughan, Davenant, Marvell, and Crashaw. 
The advanced student finds them all worthy of study, not 
only for their occasional excellent poetry, but because of their 
influence on later literature. Thus Richard Crashaw (1613 ?- 
1649), the Catholic mystic, is interesting because his troubled 
life is singularly like Donne's, and his poetry is at times like 
Herbert's set on fire. 1 Abraham Cowley (1618-1667), who 
blossomed young and who, at twenty-five, was proclaimed the 
greatest poet in England, is now scarcely known even by 
name, but his " Pindaric Odes " * set an example which in- 
fluenced English poetry throughout the eighteenth century. 
Henry Vaughan (1622-1695) is worthy of study because he 
is in some respects the forerunner of Wordsworth ; 8 and 
Andrew Marvell (1621-1678), because of his loyal friendship 
with Milton, and because his poetry shows the conflict between 
the two schools of Spenser and Donne. Edmund Waller 
(1606-1687) stands between the Puritan Age and the Res 
toration. He was the first to use consistently the "closed" 

1 See, for instance, the " Hymn to St. Theresa " and " The Flaming Heart." 

2 So called from Pindar, the greatest lyric poet of Greece. 

See, for instance, " Childhood," " The Retreat," " Corruption," " The Bird," " The 
Hidden Flower," for Vaughan's mystic interpretation of childhood and nature. 


couplet which dominated our poetry for the next century. 
By this, and especially by his influence over Dryden, the 
greatest figure of the Restoration, he occupies a larger place 
in our literature than a reading of his rather tiresome poetry 
would seem to warrant. 

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

JOHN DONNE (1573-1631) 

Life. The briefest outline of Donne's life shows its intense human 
interest. He was born in London, the son of a rich iron merchant, 
at the time when the merchants of England were creating a new and 
higher kind of princes. On his father's side he came from an old 
Welsh family, and on his mother's side from the Heywoods and Sir 
Thomas More's family. Both families were Catholic, and in his early 
life persecution was brought near ; for his brother died in prison for 
harboring a proscribed priest, and his own education could not be 
continued in Oxford and Cambridge because of his religion. Such 
an experience generally sets a man's religious standards for life ; but 
presently Donne, as he studied law at Lincoln's Inn, was investigating 
the philosophic grounds of all faith. Gradually he left the church in 
which he was born, renounced all denominations, and called himself 
simply Christian. Meanwhile he wrote poetry and shared his wealth 
with needy Catholic relatives. He joined the expedition of Essex 
for Cadiz in 1596, and for the Azores in 1597, and on sea and in 
camp found time to write poetry. Two of his best poems, "The 
Storm" and "The Calm," belong to this period. Next he traveled 
in Europe for three years, but occupied himself with study and 
poetry. Returning home, he became secretary to Lord Egerton, 
fell in love with the latter's young niece, Anne More, and married 
her ; for which cause Donne was cast into prison. Strangely enough 
his poetical work at this time is not a song of youthful romance, but 


" The Progress of the Soul," a study of transmigration. Years of 
wandering and poverty followed, until Sir George More forgave the 
young lovers and made an allowance to his daughter. Instead of 
enjoying his new comforts, Donne grew more ascetic and intellectual 
in his tastes. He refused also the flattering offer of entering the 
Church of England and of receiving a comfortable " living.'* By his 
" Pseudo Martyr " he attracted the favor of James I, who persuaded 
him to be ordained, yet left him without any place or employment. 
When his wife died her allowance ceased, and Donne was left with 
seven children in extreme poverty. Then he became a preacher, 
rose rapidly by sheer intellectual force and genius, and in four years 
was the greatest of English preachers and Dean of St. Paul's Cathe- 
dral in London. There he " carried some to heaven in holy raptures 
and led others to amend their lives," and as he leans over the pulpit 
with intense earnestness is likened by Izaak Walton to "an angel 
leaning from a cloud." 

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

I have done one braver thing 

Than all the worthies did ; 

And yet a braver thence doth spring, 

Which is, to keep that hid. 

Donne's Poetry. Donne's poetry is so uneven, at times so 
startling and fantastic, that few critics would care to rec- 
ommend it to others. Only a few will read his works, and they 
must be left to their own browsing, to find what pleases 
them, like deer which, in the midst of plenty, take a bite here 
and there and wander on, tasting twenty varieties of food in 
an hour's feeding. One who reads much will probably bewail 
Donne's lack of any consistent style or literary standard. For 
instance, Chaucer and Milton are as different as two poets could 
well be ; yet the work of each is marked by a distinct and con- 
sistent style, and it is the style as much as the matter which 
makes the Tales or the Paradise. Lost a work for a,U 


Donne threw style and all literary standards to the winds ; 
and precisely for this reason he is forgotten, though his great 
intellect and his genius had marked him as one of those who 
should do things "worthy to be remembered." While the 
tendency of literature is to exalt style at the expense of 
thought, the world has many men and women who exalt 
feeling and thought above expression ; and to these Donne 
is good reading. Browning is of the same school, and com- 
pels attention. While Donne played havoc with Elizabethan 
style, he nevertheless influenced our literature in the way of 
boldness and originality ; and the present tendency is to give 
him a larger place, nearer to the few great poets, than he has 
occupied since Ben Jonson declared that he was "the first poet 
of the world in some things," but likely to perish "for not being 
understood." For to much of his poetry we must apply his 
own satiric verses on another's crudities : 

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

GEORGE HERBERT (1593-1633) 

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


subdued the pride and idleness of the Cavalier, is evident to 
one who reads between his lines : 

I struck the board and cry'd, No more ! 

I will abroad. 

What? Shall I ever sigh and pine? 
My lines and life are free, free as the road, 
Loose as the wind. 

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

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

Life. Herbert's life is so quiet and uneventful that to relate a few 
biographical facts can be of little advantage. Only as one reads the 
whole story by Izaak Walton can he share the gentle spirit of Her- 
bert's poetry. He was born at Montgomery Castle, 1 Wales, 1593, of 
a noble Welsh family. His university course was brilliant, and after 
graduation he waited long years in the vain hope of preferment at 
court. All his life he had to battle against disease, and this is un- 
doubtedly the cause of the long delay before each new step in his 
course. Not till he was thirty-seven was he ordained and placed over 
the little church of Bemerton. How he lived here among plain 
people, in " this happy corner of the Lord's field, hoping all things 
and blessing all people, asking his own way to Sion and showing others 

1 There is some doubt as to whether he was born at the Castle, or at Black HalL 
Recent opinion inclines to the latter view 


the way," should be read in Walton. It is a brief life, less than three 
years of work before being cut off by consumption, but remarkable 
for the single great purpose and the glorious spiritual strength that 
shine through physical weakness. Just before his death he gave some 
manuscripts to a friend, and his message is worthy of John Bunyan : 

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

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

Dare to be true. Nothing can need a lie ; 

A fault which needs it most grows two thereby. 

and of calmness in argument : 

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

Among the remaining poems of The Temple one of the 
most suggestive is "The Pilgrimage." Here in six short stan- 
zas, every line close-packed with thought, we have the whole 
of Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress. The poem was written prob- 
ably before Bunyan was born, but remembering the wide 
influence of Herbert's poetry, it is an interesting question 
whether Bunyan received the idea of his immortal work from 


this " Pilgrimage." Probably the best known of all his poems 
is the one called "The Pulley," which generally appears, how- 
ever under the name "Rest," or "The Gifts of God." 

When God at first made man, 
Having a glass of blessings standing by, 
Let us, said he, pour on him all we can : 
Let the world's riches, which dispersed lie, 
Contract into a span. 

So strength first made a way ; 

Then beauty flowed ; then wisdom, honor, pleasure. 
When almost all was out, God made a stay, 
Perceiving that, alone of all his treasure, 
Rest in the bottom lay. 

For, if I should, said he, 
Bestow this jewel also on my creature, 
He would adore my gifts instead of me, 
And rest in Nature, not the God of Nature : 
So both should losers be. 

Yet let him keep the rest, 
But keep them with repining restlessness : 
Let him be rich and weary, that at least, 
If goodness lead him not, yet weariness 
May toss him to my breast. 

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

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

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


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

Thomas Carew (1598 ?-i639?). Carew may be called the 
inventor of Cavalier love poetry, and to him, more than to any 
other, is due the peculiar combination of the sensual and the 
religious which marked most of the minor poets of the seven- 
teenth century. His poetry is the Spenserian pastoral stripped 
of its refinement of feeling and made direct, coarse, vigorous. 
His poems, published in 1640, are generally, like his life, 
trivial or sensual ; but here and there is found one, like the 
following, which indicates that with the Metaphysical and 
Cavalier poets a new and stimulating force had entered 
English literature : 

Ask me no more where Jove bestows, 
When June is past, the fading rose, 
For in your beauty's orient deep 
These flowers, as in their causes, sleep. 

Ask me no more where those stars light 
That downwards fall in dead of night, 
For in your eyes they sit, and there 
Fixed become as in their sphere. 

Ask me no more if east or west 
The phoenix builds her spicy nest, 
For unto you at last she flies, 
And in your fragrant bosom dies. 

Robert Herrick (1591-1674). Herrick is the true Cavalier, 
gay, devil-may-care in disposition, but by some freak of fate 


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

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

Suckling and Lovelace. Sir John Suckling ( 1 609-1 642) was 
one of the most brilliant wits of the court of Charles I, who wrote 
poetry as he exercised a horse or fought a duel, because it was 
considered a gentleman's accomplishment in those days. His 
poems, " struck from his wild life like sparks from his rapier," 
are utterly trivial, and, even in his best known "Ballad Upon a 
Wedding," rarely rise above mere doggerel. It is only the ro- 
mance of his life his rich, brilliant, careless youth, and his 
poverty and suicide in Paris, whither he fled because of his devo- 
tion to the Stuarts that keeps his name alive in our literature. 


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

Stone walls do not a prison make, 

Nor iron bars a cage ; 
Minds innocent and quiet take 

That for an hermitage. 
If I have freedom in my love, 

And in my soul am free, 
Angels alone that soar above 
Enjoy such liberty. 

JOHN MILTON (1608-1674) 

Thy soul was like a star and dwelt apart ; 

Thou hadst a voice whose sound was like the sea 

Pure as the naked heavens, majestic, free ; 

So didst thou travel on life's common way 

In cheerful godliness : and yet thy heart 

The lowliest duties on herself did lay. 

(From Wordsworth's " Sonnet on Milton ") 

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


It is well to have some such comparison in mind while 
studying the literature of the Elizabethan and the Puritan Age. 
While Shakespeare and Ben Jonson and their unequaled com- 
pany of wits make merry at the Mermaid Tavern, there is 
already growing up on the same London street a poet who 
shall bring a new force into literature, who shall a 
Renaissance culture and love of beauty th 

earnestness of the Puritan. Such a poet must begin, as the 
Puritan always began, with his own soul, to discipline and 
enlighten it, before expressing its beauty in literature. " He 
that would hope to write well hereafter in laudable things," 
says Milton, "ought himself to be a true poem ; that is, a 
composition and pattern of the best and most honorable 
things." Here is a new proposition in art which suggests the 
lofty ideal of Fra Angelico, that before one can write litera- 
ture, which is the expression of the ideal, he must first de- 
velop in himself the ideal man. Because Milton is human he 
must know the best in humanity; therefore he studies, giving 
his days to music, art, and literature, his nights to profound 
research and meditation. But because he knows that man is 
more than mortal he also prays, depending, as he tells us, 
on "devout prayer to that Eternal Spirit who can enrich 
with all utterance and knowledge." Such a poet is already 
in spirit far beyond the Renaissance, though he lives in the 
autumn of its glory and associates with its literary masters. 
"There is a spirit in man," says the old Hebrew poet, "and 
the inspiration of the Almighty giveth him understanding." 
Here, in a word, is the secret of Milton's life and writing. 
Hence his long silences, years passing without a word ; and 
when he speaks it is like the voice of a prophet who begins 
with the sublime announcement, "The Spirit of the Lord is 
upon me." Hence his style, producing an impression of sub- 
limity, which has been marked for wonder by every historian 
of our literature. His style was unconsciously sublime because 
he lived and thought consciously in a sublime atmosphere. 



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

From childhood Milton's parents set him apart for the attainment 
of noble ends, and so left nothing to chance in the matter of train- 
ing. His "father, John Milton, is said to have turned Puritan while 
a student at Oxford and to have been disinherited by his family; 

whereupon he settled in 
London and prospered 
greatly as a scrivener, 
that is, a kind of notary. 
In character the elder 
Milton was a rare com- 
bination of scholar and 
business man, a radical 
Puritan in politics and 
religion, yet a musician, 
whose hymn tunes are 
still sung, and a lover of 
art and literature. The 
poet's mother was a 
woman of refinement 
and social grace, with a 
deep interest in religion 
and in local charities. 
So the boy grew up in a 
home which combined 
the culture of the Renaissance with the piety and moral strength o 
early Puritanism. He begins, therefore, as the heir of one great agej 
and the prophet of another. 

Apparently the elder Milton shared Bacon's dislike for the educa- 
tional methods of the time and so took charge of his son's training, 
encouraging his natural tastes, teaching him music, and seeking out 
a tutor who helped the boy to what he sought most eagerly, not the 
grammar and mechanism of Greek and Latin but rather the stories, 
the ideals, the poetry that hide in their incomparable literatures. At 
twelve years we find the boy already a scholar in spirit, unable to 
rest till after midnight because of the joy with which his study 
was rewarded. From boyhood two great principles seem to govern 



Milton's career : one, the love of beauty, of music, art, literature, 
and indeed of every form of human culture ; the other, a steadfast 
devotion to duty as the highest object in human life. 

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

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

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


In this last line of one of his sonnets 1 is found Milton's rejection of 
every form of outward religious authority in face of the supreme 
Puritan principle, the liberty of the individual soul before GodC^ 

A long period of retirement followed Milton's withdrawal from the 
university in 1632. At his father's country home in Horton he gave 
himself up for six years to solitary reading and study, roaming over 
the wide fields of Greek, Latin, Hebrew, Spanish, French, Italian, 
and English literatures, and studying hard at mathematics, science, 
theology, and music, a curious combination. To his love of music 
we owe the melody of all his poetry, and we note it in the rhythm 
and balance which make even his mighty prose arguments harmonious. 

1 " On his being arrived to the Age of Twenty-threCo" 


In "Lycidas," " L'Allegro," "II Penseroso," "Arcades," " Comus," 
and a few " Sonnets," we have the poetic results of this retirement at 
Horton, few, indeed, but the most perfect of their kind that our 
literature has recorded. 

Out of solitude, where his talent was perfected, Milton entered 
the busy world where his character was to be proved to the utmost. 
From Horton he traveled abroad, through France, Switzerland, and 
Italy, everywhere received with admiration for his learning and cour- 
tesy, winning the friendship of the exiled Dutch scholar Grotius, in 
Paris, and of Galileo in his sad imprisonment in Florence. 1 He 
was on his way to Greece when news reached him of the break be- 
tween king and parliament. With the practical insight which never 
deserted him Milton saw clearly the meaning of the news. His cordial 
reception in Italy, so chary of praise to anything not Italian, had re- 
awakened in Milton the old desire to write an epic which England 
would "not willingly let die"; but at thought of the conflict for 
human freedom all his dreams were flung to the winds. He gave up 
his travels and literary ambitions and hurried to England. " For I 
thought it base," he says, " to be traveling at my ease for intellectual 
culture while my fellow-countrymen at home were fighting for liberty." 

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

Milton's opportunity to serve came in the crisis of 1649. The 
king had been sent to the scaffold, paying the penalty of his own 
treachery, and England sat shivering at its own deed, like a child or 
a Russian peasant who in sudden passion resists unbearable brutality 
and then is afraid of the consequences. Two weeks of anxiety, of 
terror and silence followed; then appeared Milton's Tenure of Kings 
and Magistrates. To England it was like the coming of a strong 
man, not only to protect the child, but to justify his blow for liberty. 
Kings no less than people are subject to the eternal principle of law ; 

1 "It is remarkable," says Lamartine, "how often in the libraries Of Italian princes 
and in the correspondence of great Italian writers of this period you find mentioned the 
name and fame of this young Englishman." 


the divine right of a people to defend and protect themselves, 
that was the mighty argument which calmed a people's dread and pro- 
claimed that a new man and a new principle had arisen in England. 
Milton was called to be Secretary for Foreign Tongues in the new 
government ; and for the next few years, until the end of the Com- 
monwealth, there were two leaders in England, Cromwell the man of 
action, Milton the man of thought. It is doubtful to which of the 
two humanity owes most for its emancipation from the tyranny of 
kings and prelates. 

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

From boyhood the strain on the poet's eyes had grown more 
and more severe ; but even when his sight was threatened he held 
steadily to his purpose of using his pen in the service of his country. 
During the king's imprisonment a book appeared called Eikon Ba- 
silike (Royal Image), giving a rosy picture of the king's piety, and 
condemning the Puritans. The book speedily became famous and 
was the source of all Royalist arguments against the Commonwealth. 
In 1649 appeared Milton's Eikonoklastes (Image Breaker), which 
demolished the flimsy arguments of the Eikon Basilike as a charge 


of Cromwell's Ironsides had overwhelmed the king's followers. After 
the execution of the king appeared another famous attack upon the 
Puritans, Defensio Regia pro Carlo /, instigated by Charles II, who 
was then living in exile. It was written in Latin by Salmasius, a 
Dutch professor at Leyden, and was hailed by the Royalists as an in- 
vincible argument. By order of the Council of State Milton prepared 
a reply. His eyesight had sadly failed, and he was warned that any 
further strain would be disastrous. His reply was characteristic of 
the man and the Puritan. N As he had once sacrificed his poetry, so he 
was now ready, he said, to sacrifice his eyes also on the altar of Eng- 
lish liberty. 'His magnificent Defensio pro Populo Anglicano is one 
of the most masterly controversial works in literature. The power of 
the press was already strongly felt in England, and the new Com- 
monwealth owed its standing partly to Milton's prose, and partly to 
Cromwell's policy. The Defensio was the last work that Milton saw. 
Blindness fell upon him ere it was finished, and from 1652 until his 
death he labored in total darkness. 

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

Now blind, disheartened, shamed, dishonored, quelled, 

To what can I be useful ? wherein serve 

My nation, and the work from Heaven imposed? 

But to sit idle on the household hearth, 

A burden ous drone; to visitants a gaze, 

Or pitied object. 

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

Paradise Lost was finished in 1665, after seven years' labor in 
darkness. With great difficulty he found a publisher, and for the 


great work, now the most honored poem in our literature, he received 
less than certain verse makers of our day receive for a little song in 
one of our popular magazines. Its success was immediate, though, 
like all his work, it met with venomous criticism. Dryden summed 
up the impression made on thoughtful minds of his time when he 
said, "This man cuts us all out, and th* ancients too." Thereafter a 
bit of sunshine came into his darkened howte, for the work stamped 
him as one of the world's great writers, and from England and the Con- 
tinent pilgrims came in increasing numbers to speak their gratitude. 
The next year Milton began his Paradise Regained. In 1671 ap- 
peared his last important work, Samson Agonistes, the most powerful 
dramatic poem on the Greek model which our language possesses. 
The picture of Israel's mighty champion, blind, alone, afflicted by 
thoughtless enemies but preserving a noble ideal to the end, is a 
fitting close to the life work of the poet himself. For years he was 
silent, dreaming who shall say what dreams in his darkness, and say- 
ing cheerfully to his friends, " Still guides the heavenly vision/' He 
died peacefully in 1674, the most sublime and the most lonely figure 
in our literature. 

Milton's Early Poetry. 1 In his early work Milton appears 
as the inheritor of all that was best in Elizabethan literature, 
and his first work, the ode " On the Morning of Christ's Na- 
tivity," approaches the high -water mark of lyric poetry in 
England. In the next six years, from 1631 to 1637, he wrote 
but little, scarcely more than two thousand lines, but these 
are among the most exquisite and the most perfectly finished 
in our language. 

" L' Allegro" and "II Penseroso" are twin poems, contain- 
ing many lines and short descriptive passages which linger in 
the mind like strains of music, and which are known 
and loved wherever English is spoken. " L' Allegro" 
(the joyous or happy man) is like an excursion into the Eng- 
lish fields at sunrise. The air is sweet ; birds are singing ; a 

1 In Milton's work we see plainly the progressive influence of the Puritan Age. Thus 
his Horton poems are joyous, almost Elizabethan in character; his prose is stern, mili- 
tant, unyielding, like the Puritan in his struggle for liberty ; his later poetry, following 
the apparent failure of Puritanism in the Restoration, has a note of sadness, yet pro- 
claims the eternal principles of liberty and justice for which he had lived. 


multitude of sights, sounds, fragrances, fill all the senses ; and 
to this appeal of nature the soul of man responds by being 
happy, seeing in every flower and hearing in every harmony 
some exquisite symbol of human life. "II Penseroso" takes 
us over the same ground at twilight and at moonrise. The 
air is still fresh and fragrant ; the symbolism is, if possible, 
more tenderly beautiful than before ; but the gay mood is 
gone, though its memory lingers in the afterglow of the sun- 
set. A quiet thoughtfulness takes the place of the pure, joyous 
sensation of the morning, a thoughtfulness which is not sad, 
though like all quiet moods it is akin to sadness, and which 
sounds the deeps of human emotion in the presence of nature. 
To quote scattered lines of either poem is to do injustice to 
both. They should be read in their entirety the same day, one 
at morning, the other at eventide, if one is to appreciate their 
beauty and suggestiveness. 

The " Masque of Comus" is in many respects the most 
perfect of Milton's poems. It was written in 1634 to be per- 
formed at Ludlow Castle before the earl of Bridge- 
water and his friends. There is a tradition that the 
earl's three children had been lost in the woods, and, whether 
true or not, Milton takes the simple theme of a person lost, 
calls in an Attendant Spirit to protect the wanderer, and out 
of this, with its natural action and melodious songs, makes 
the most exquisite pastoral drama that we possess. In form 
it is a masque, like those gorgeous products of the Elizabethan 
age of which Ben Jonson was the master. England had bor- 
rowed the idea of the masque from Italy and had used it as 
the chief entertainment at all festivals, until it had become 
to the nobles of England what the miracle play had been to 
the common people of a previous generation. Milton, with 
his strong Puritan spirit, could not be content with the mere 
entertainment of an idle hour. "Comus" has the gorgeous 
scenic effects, the music and dancing of other masques ; but 
its moral purpose and its ideal teachings are unmistakable 


" The Triumph of Virtue" would be a better name for this per- 
fect little masque, for its theme is that virtue and innocence 
can walk through any peril of this world without permanent 
harm. This eternal triumph of good over evil is proclaimed 
by the Attendant Spirit who has protected the innocent in this 
life and who now disappears from mortal sight to resume its 

life of joy : 

Mortals, that would follow me, 

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

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

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


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

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


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

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

Of the history of the great epic we have some interesting 
glimpses. In Cambridge there is preserved a notebook of 
Paradise Milton' s containing a list of nearly one hundred 
Lost subjects 1 for a great poem, selected while he was 

a boy at the university. King Arthur attracted him at first ; 
but his choice finally settled upon the Fall of Man, and we 
have four separate outlines showing Milton's proposed treat- 
ment of the subject. These outlines indicate that he con- 
templated a mighty drama or miracle play ; but whether 
because of Puritan antipathy to plays and players, or because 
of the wretched dramatic treatment of religious subjects which 

1 Of these sixty were taken from the Bible, thirty-three from English and five from 
Scotch history. 


Milton had witnessed in Italy, he abandoned the idea of a play 
and settled on the form of an epic poem ; most fortunately, it 
v must be conceded, for Milten had not the knowledge of men' 
necessary for a drama. As a study of character Paradise 
Lost would be a grievous failure. Adam, the central charac- 
ter, is something of a prig ; while Satan looms up a magnifi- 
cent figure, entirely different from the devil of the miracle 
plays and completely overshadowing the hero both in interest 
and in manliness. The other characters, the Almighty, the 
Son, Raphael, Michael, the angels and fallen spirits, are 
merely mouthpieces for Milton's declamations, without any 
personal or human interest. Regarded as a drama, there- 
fore, Paradise Lost could never have been a success ; but as 
poetry, with its sublime imagery, its harmonious verse, its 
titanic background of heaven, hell, and the illimitable void 
that lies between, it is unsurpassed in any literature. 

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

Book I opens with a statement of the subject, the Fall of Man, and 
a noble invocation for light and divine guidance. Then begins the 
Argument account of Satan and the rebel angels, their banishment 
of Paradise from heaven, and their plot to oppose the design of the 
Lost Almighty by dragging down his children, our first parents, 

from their state of innocence. The book closes with a description of 
the land of fire and endless pain where the fallen spirits abide, and the 
erection of Pandemonium, the palace of Satan. Book II is a description 
of the council of evil spirits, of Satan's consent to undertake the temp- 
tation of Adam and Eve, and his journey to the gates of hell, which are 
guarded by Sin and Death. Book III transports us to heaven again. 
God, foreseeing the fall, sends Raphael to warn Adam and Eve, so that 
their disobedience shall be upon their own heads. Then the Son offers 
himself a sacrifice, to take away the sin of the coming disobedience of 
man. At the end of this book Satan appears iji a different scene, meets 
Uriel, the Angel of the Sun, inquires from him the way to earth, and 
takes his journey thither disguised as an angel of light. Book IV shows 
us Paradise and the innocent state of man. An angel guard is set over 


Eden, and Satan is arrested while tempting Eve in a dream, but is curi- 
ously allowed to go free again. Book V shows us Eve relating her dream 
to Adam, and then the morning prayer and the daily employment of our 
first parents. Raphael visits them, is entertained by a banquet (which 
Eve proposes in order to show him that all God's gifts are not kept in 
heaven), and tells them of the revolt of the fallen spirits. His story is 
continued in Book VI. In Book VII we read the story of the creation 
of the world as Raphael tells it to Adam and Eve. In Book VIII Adam 
tells Raphael the story of his own life and of his meeting with Eve. 
Book IX is the story of the temptation by Satan, following the account 
in Genesis. Book X records the divine judgment upon Adam and Eve ; 
shows the construction by Sin and Death of a highway through chaos to 
the earth, and Satan's return to Pandemonium. Adam and Eve repent 
of their disobedience and Satan and his angels are turned into serpents. 
In Book XI the Almighty accepts Adam's repentance, but condemns 
him to be banished from Paradise, and the archangel Michael is sent to 
execute the sentence. At the end of the book, after Eve's feminine grief 
at the loss of Paradise, Michael begins a prophetic vision of the destiny 
of man. Book XI I continues Michael's vision. Adam and Eve are com- 
forted by hearing of the future redemption of their race. The poem ends 
as they wander forth out of Paradise and the door closes behind them. 

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

Lamartine has described Paradise Lost as the dream of a 
Puritan fallen asleep over his Bible, and this suggestive de- 
scription leads us to the curious fact that it is the dream, not 


the theology or the descriptions of Bible scenes, that chiefly 
interests us. Thus Milton describes the separation of earth 
and water, and there is little or nothing added to the sim- 
plicity and strength of Genesis; but the sunset which follows 
is Milton's own dream, and instantly we are transported to a 
land of beauty and poetry : 

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

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

"Is this the region, this the soil, the clime," 

Said then the lost Archangel, " this the seat 

That we must change for Heaven ? this mournful gloom 

For that celestial light ? Be it so, since He 

Who now is sovran can dispose and bid 

What shall be right: farthest from Him is best, 

Whom reason hath equalled, force hath made supreme 

Above his equals. Farewell, happy fields, 

Where joy forever dwells ! Hail, horrors ! hail, 

Infernal World ! and thou, profoundest Hell, 


Receive thy new possessor one who brings 
A mind not to be changed by place or time. 
The mind is its own place, and in itself 
Can make a Heaven of Hell, a Hell of Heaven. 
What matter where, if I be still the same, 
And what I should be, all but less than he 
. Whom thunder hath made greater? Here at least 
We shall be free ; the Almighty hath not built 
Here for his envy, will not drive us hence : 
Here we may reign secure ^and, in my choice, 
To reign is worth ambition, though in Hell: 
Better to reign in Hell than serve in Heaven. 

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

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

Soon after the completion of Paradise Lost, Thomas Ell- 
wood, a friend of Milton, asked one day after reading the 
Paradise manuscript, " But what hast thou to say of Para- 
Regained disc Found?" It was in response to this suggestion 
that Milton wrote the second part of the great epic, known 
to us as Paradise Regained. The first tells how mankind, in 
the person of Adam, fell at the first temptation by Satan and 
became an outcast from Paradise and from divine grace ; the 


second shows how mankind, in the person of Christ, with- 
stands the tempter and is established once more in the 
divine favor. Christ's temptation in the wilderness is the 
theme, and Milton follows the account in the fourth chapter 
of Matthew's gospel. Though Paradise Regained was Mil- 
ton's favorite, and though it has many passages of 'noble 
thought and splendid imagery equal to the best of Paradise 
Lost, the poem as a whole falls below the level of the first, 
and is less interesting to read. 

In Samson Agonistes Milton turns to a more vital and per- 
sonal theme, and his genius transfigures the story of Sam- 
son, the mighty champion of Israel, now blind and 


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

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



JOHN BUNYAN (1628-1688) 

As there is but one poet great enough to express the Puri- 
tan spirit, so there is but one commanding prose writer, John 
Bunyan. Milton was the child of the Renaissance, inheritor 
of all its culture, and the most profoundly educated man of 
his age. Bunyan was a poor, uneducated tinker. From the 
Renaissance he inherited nothing ; but from the Reformation 
he received an excess of that '^pjrj|nal jprUp^ri^^ which 

had caused the Puritan struggle for liberty. These two men, 

representing the extremes of English life in the seventeenth 

century, wrote the 

two works that stand 

to-day for the mighty 

Puritan spirit. One 

gave us the only epic 

since Beowulf ; the 

other gave us our 

only great allegory, 

which has been -read 

more than any other 

book in our language 

save the Bible. 

Life of Bunyan. 

Bunyan is an extraor- 

dinary figure ; we must 

study him, as well as JOH rt BUNYAN 

his books. Fortunately 

we have his life story in his own words, written with the same lovable 

modesty and sincerity that marked all his work. Reading that story 

now, in Grace Abounding, we see two great influences at work in his 

life. One, from within, was his own vivid imagination, which saw 

visions, allegories, parables, revelations, in every common event. 

The other, from without, was the spiritual ferment of the age, the 


multiplication of strange sects, Quakers, Free-Willers, Ranters, 
Anabaptists, Millenarians, and the untempered zeal of all classes, 
like an engine without a balance wheel, when men were breaking 
away from authority and setting up their own religious standards. 
Bunyan's life is an epitome of that astonishing religious individualism 
which marked the close of the English Reformation. 

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

The religious ferment of the age made a tremendous impression 
on Bunyan's sensitive imagination. He went to church occasionally, 
only to find himself wrapped in terrors and torments by some fiery 
itinerant preacher; and he would rush violently away from church 
to forget his fears by joining in Sunday sports on the village green. 
As night came on the sports were forgotten, but the terrors returned, 
multiplied like the evil spirits of the parable. Visions of hell and the 
demons swarmed in his brain. He would groan aloud in his remorse, 
and even years afterwards he bemoans the sins of his early life. 
When we look for them fearfully, expecting some shocking crimes 
and misdemeanors, we find that they consisted of playing ball on 
Sunday and swearing. The latter sin, sad to say, was begun by 
listening to his father cursing some obstinate kettle which refused to 
be tinkered, and it was perfected in the Parliamentary army. One 
day his terrible swearing scared a woman, "a very loose and ungodly 
wretch," as he tells us, who reprimanded him for his profanity. The 
reproach of the poor woman went straight home, like the voice of a 
prophet. All his profanity left him ; he hung down his head with 
shame. "I wished with all my heart," he says, "that I might be a 
little child again, that my father might learn me to speak with- 
out this wicked way of swearing." With characteristic vehemence 
Bunyan hurls himself upon a promise of Scripture, and instantly the 
reformation begins to work in his soul. He casts out the habit, root 
and branch, and finds to his astonishment that he can speak more 
freely and vigorously than before. Nothing is more characteristic 
of the man than this sudden seizing upon a text, which he had 


doubtless heard many times before, and being suddenly raised up 
or cast down by its influence. 

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

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

After years of such struggle, chased about between heaven and 
hell, Bunyan at last emerges into a saner atmosphere, even as Pilgrim 
came out of the horrible Valley of the Shadow. Soon, led by his intense 
feelings, he becomes an open-air preacher, and crowds of laborers 
gather about him on the village green. They listen in silence to his 
words ; they end in groans and tears ; scores of them amend their 
sinful lives. For the Anglo-Saxon people are remarkable for this, 
that however deeply they are engaged in business or pleasure, they 
are still sensitive as barometers to any true spiritual influence, whether 
of priest or peasant; they recognize what Emerson calls the "accent 

1 The latter was by Lewis Bayly, bishop of Bangor. It is interesting to note that 
this book, whose very title is unfamiliar to us, was speedily translated into five different 
languages. It had an enormous sale, and ran through fifty editions soon after publication. 


of the Holy Ghost," and in this recognition of spiritual leadership 
lies the secret of their democracy. So this village tinker, with his 
strength and sincerity, is presently the acknowledged leader of an 
immense congregation, and his influence is felt throughout England. 
It is a tribute to his power that, after the return of Charles II, Bunyan 
was the first to be prohibited from holding public meetings. 

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

I found myself a man encompassed with infirmities ; the parting was 
like pulling the flesh from my bones. . . . Oh, the thoughts of the hard- 
ship I thought my poor blind one might go under would break my heart 
to pieces. Poor child, thought I, what sorrow thou art like to have for 
thy portion in this world; thou must be beaten, must beg, suffer hunger, 
cold, nakedness, and a thousand calamities, though I cannot now endure 
that the wind should blow upon thee. 1 

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

With characteristic diligence Bunyan set to work in prison making 
shoe laces, and so earned a living for his family. His imprisonment 
lasted for nearly twelve years ; but he saw his family frequently, and 
was for some time a regular preacher in the Baptist church in 

1 Abridged from Grace Abounding, Part 3 ; Works (ed. 1873), P* 7 1 * 


Bedford. Occasionally he even went about late at night, holding 
the proscribed meetings and increasing his hold upon the common 
people. The best result of this imprisonment was that it gave Bunyan 
long hours for the working of his peculiar mind and for study of his 
two only books, the King James Bible and Foxe's Book of Martyrs. 
The result of his study and meditation was The Pilgrim 's Progress, 
which was probably written in prison, but which for some reason he 
did not publish till long after his release. 

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

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

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


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

"As I walked through the wilderness of this world I lighted on a 
certain place where was a den [Bedford jail] and laid me down in that 
place to sleep; and, as I slept, I dreamed a dream." So 
Argument of the stor y b e gj ns< He sees a man called Christian setting 
Progress 8 out w ^ a book in his hand and a great load on his back 
from the city of Destruction. Christian has two objects, 
to get rid of his burden, which holds the sins and fears of his life, 
and to make his way to the Holy City. At the outset Evangelist finds 
him weeping because he knows not where to go, and points him to a 
wicket gate on a hill far away. As Christian goes forward his neigh- 
bors, friends, wife and children call to him to come back ; but he puts 
his fingers in his ears, crying out, " Life, life, eternal life," and so rushes 
across the plain. 

Then begins a journey in ten stages, which is a vivid picture of the 
difficulties and triumphs of the Christian life, Every trial, every diffi- 
culty, every experience of joy or sorrow, of peace or temptation, is put 
into the form and discourse of a living character. Other allegorists 
write in poetry and their characters are shadowy and unreal ; but Bunyan 
speaks in terse, idiomatic prose, and his characters are living men and 
women. There are Mr. Worldly Wiseman^ a self-satisfied and dogmatic 
kind of man, youthful Ignorance, sweet Piety, courteous Demas, gar- 
rulous Talkative, honest Faithful, and a score of others, who are not at 
all the bloodless creatures of the Romance of the Rose, but men real 
enough to stop you on the road and to hold your attention. Scene after 
scene follows, in which are pictured many of our own spiritual expe- 
riences. There is the Slough of Despond, into which we all have fallen, 
out of which Pliable scrambles on the hither side and goes back 
grumbling, but through which Christian struggles mightily till Helpful 
stretches him a hand and drags him out on solid ground and bids him 
go on his way. Then come Interpreter's house, the Palace Beautiful, 
the Lions in the way, the Valley of Humiliation, the hard fight with the 
demon Apollyon, the more terrible Valley of the Shadow, Vanity Fair, 
and the trial of Faithful. The latter is condemned to death by a jury 
made up of Mr. Blindman, Mr. Nogood, Mr. Heady, Mr. Liveloose, Mr. 
Hatelight, and others of their kind to whom questions of justice are 
committed by the jury system, Most famous is Doubting Castle, where 
Christian and Hopeful are thrown into a dungeon by Giant Despair. 


And then at last the Delectable Mountains of Youth, the deep river that 
Christian must cross, and the city of All Delight and the glorious com- 
pany of angels that come singing down the streets. At the very end, 
when in sight of the city and while he can hear the welcome with which 
Christian is greeted, Ignorance is snatched away to go to his own place ; 
and Bunyan quaintly observes, "Then I saw that there was a way to 
hell even from the gates of heaven as well as from the city of Destruc- 
tion. So I awoke, and behold it was a dream !" 

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

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

As for the secret of its popularity, Taine says, " Next to 
the Bible, the book most widely read in England is the Pil- 
grim 's Progress. . . . Protestantism is the doctrine of salva- 
tion by grace, and no writer has equaled Bunyan in making 
this doctrine understood." And this opinion is echoed by the 
majority of our literary historians. It is perhaps sufficient 
answer to quote the simple fact that Pilgrim's Progress is 
not exclusively a Protestant study ; it appeals to Christians 
of every name, and to Mohammedans and Buddhists in pre- 
cisely the same way that it appeals to Christians. When it 
was translated into the languages of Catholic countries, like 
France and Portugal, only one .or two incidents were omitted, 
and the story was almost as popular there as with English 
readers. The secret of its success is probably simple. It is, 
first of all, not a procession of shadows repeating the author's 
declamations, but a real story, the first extended story in our 
language. Our Puritan fathers may have read the story for 
religious instruction ; but all classes of men have read it be- 
cause they found in it a true personal experience told with 
strength, interest, humor, in a word, with all the qualities 
that such a story should possess. Young people have read it, 


first, for its intrinsic worth, because the dramatic interest of 
the story lured them on to the very end ; and second, because 
it was their introduction to true allegory. The child with 
his imaginative mind the man also, who has preserved his 
simplicity naturally personifies objects, and takes pleasure 
in giving them powers of thinking and speaking like himself. 
Bunyan was the first writer to appeal to this pleasant and 
natural inclination in a way that all could understand. Add 
to this the fact that Pilgrim s Progress was the only book 
having any story interest in the great majority of English 
and American homes for a full century, and we have found 
the real reason for its wide reading. 

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


As Bunyan's one book was the Bible, we have here a sugges- 
tion of its influence in all our prose literature. 


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

of Melancholy : 

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

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

If one were to recommend certain of these books as ex- 
pressive of this age of outward storm and inward calm, there 
Three Good are three that deserve more than a passing notice, 
Books namely, the Religio Medici, Holy Living, and The 

Compleat Angler. The first was written by a busy physician, 
a supposedly scientific man at that time ; the second by the 
most learned of English churchmen ; and the third by a simple 
merchant and fisherman. Strangely enough, these three great 
books the reflections of nature, science, and revelation all 
interpret human life alike and tell the same story of gentle- 
ness, charity, and noble living. If the age had produced only 
these three books, we could still be profoundly grateful to it 
for its inspiring message. 


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

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

Sir Thomas Browne (1605-1682). Browne was a physician 
who, after much study and travel, settled down to his profes- 
sion in Norwich ; but even then he gave far more time to the 
investigation of natural phenomena than to the barbarous 
practices which largely constituted the " art " of medicine in 
his day. He was known far and wide as a learned doctor and 
an honest man, whose scientific studies had placed him in ad- 
vance of his age, and^whose religious views were liberal to the 
point of heresy. With this in mind, it is interesting to note, 


as a sign of the times, that this most scientific doctor was 
once called to give " expert '* testimony in the case of two old 
women who were being tried for the capital crime of witch- 
craft. He testified under oath that "the fits were natural, 
but heightened by the devil's cooperating with the witches, 
at whose instance he [the alleged devil] did the villainies." 

Browne's great work is the Religio Medici, i.e. The Religion 
of a Physician (1642), which met with most unusual success. 
Religio " Hardly ever was a book published in Britain," 
Medici savs Q}dy S) a chronicler who wrote nearly a century 

later, "that made more noise than the Religio Medici." Its 
success may be due largely to the fact that, among thousands 
of religious works, it was one of the few which saw in nature 
a profound revelation, and which treated purely religious 
subjects in a reverent, kindly, tolerant way, without ecclesi- 
astical bias. It is still, therefore, excellent reading ; but it is 
not so much the matter as the manner the charm, the 
gentleness, the remarkable prose style which has estab- 
lished the book as one of the classics of our literature. 

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

Thomas Fuller (1608-1661). Fuller was a clergyman and 
royalist whose lively style and witty observations would natu- 
rally place him with the gay Caroline poets. His best known 
works are The Holy War, The Holy State and the Profane 
State, Church History of Britain, and the History of the 
Worthies of England. The Holy and Profane State is chiefly 
a biographical record, the first part consisting of numerous 
historical examples to be imitated, the second of examples to 


be avoided. The Church History is not a scholarly work, not 
withstanding its author's undoubted learning, but is a lively 
and gossipy account which has at least one virtue, that it 
entertains the reader. The Worthies, the most widely read 
of his works, is a racy account of the important men of Eng- 
land. Fuller traveled constantly for years, collecting infor- 
mation from out-of-the-way sources and gaining a minute 
knowledge of his own country. This, with his overflowing 
humor and numerous anecdotes and illustrations, makes lively 
and interesting reading. Indeed, we hardly find a dull page 
in any of his numerous books. 

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

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

Richard Baxter (1615-1691). This "busiest man of his 
age" strongly suggests Bunyan in his life and writings. Like 


Bunyan, he was poor and uneducated, a nonconformist min- 
ister, exposed continually to insult and persecution ; and, like 
Bunyan, he threw himself heart and soul into the conflicts of 
his age, and became by his public speech a mighty power 
among the common people. Unlike Jeremy Taylor, who 
wrote for the learned, and whose involved sentences and clas- 
sical allusions are sometimes hard to follow, Baxter went 
straight to his mark, appealing directly to the judgment and 
feeling of his readers. 

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

Izaak Walton (i 593-1683). Walton was a small tradesman 
of London, who preferred trout brooks and good reading to the 
profits of business and the doubtful joys of a city life ; so at fifty 
years, when he had saved a little money, he left the city and 
followed his heart out into the country. He began his literary 
work, or rather his recreation, by writing his famous Lives, 
kindly and readable appreciations of Donne, Wotton, Hooker, 
Herbert, and Sanderson, which stand at the beginning of 
modern biographical writing. 

In 1653 appeared The Compleat Angler, which has grown 
steadily in appreciation, and which is probably more widely 
read than any other book on the subject of fishing. 
It: Begins with a conversation between a falconer, a 
hunter, and an angler; but the angler soon does 
most of the talking, as fishermen sometimes do ; the hunter 
becomes a disciple, and learns by the easy method of hearing 


the fisherman discourse about his art. The conversations, it 
must be confessed, are often diffuse and pedantic; but they 
only make us feel most comfortably sleepy, as one invariably 
feels after a good day's fishing. So kindly is the spirit of the 
angler, so exquisite his appreciation of the beauty of the earth 
and sky, that one returns to the book, as to a favorite trout 
stream, with the undying expectation of catching something. 
Among a thousand books on angling it stands almost alone in 
possessing a charming style, and so it will probably be read 
as long as men go fishing. Best of all, it leads to a better ap- 
preciation of nature, and it drops little moral lessons into the 
reader's mind as gently as one casts a fly to a wary trout ; 
so that one never suspects his better nature is being angled 
for. Though we have sometimes seen anglers catch more than 
they need, or sneak ahead of brother fishermen to the best 
pools, we are glad, for Walton's sake, to overlook such unac- 
countable exceptions, and agree with the milkmaid that " we 
love all anglers, they be such honest, civil, quiet men." 

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

Bibliography. 1 History. Text-book, Montgomery, pp. 238-257; Cheyney, 
pp. 431-464; Green, ch. 8 ; Traill ; Gardiner. 

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

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

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

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

1 For titles and publishers of reference works, see General Bibliography at the end 
of this book. 


Cavalier Poets. Schelling's Seventeenth Century Lyrics, in Athenaeum 
Press Series; Cavalier and Courtier Lyrists, in Canterbury Poets Series; 
Gosse's Jacobean Poets ; Lovelace, etc., in Library of Old Authors. 
" Donne. Poems, in Muses' Library ; Life, in Walton's Lives, in Temple Classics, 
and in Morley's Universal Library ; Life, by Gosse ; Jessup's John Donne ; 
Dowden's Essay, in New Studies ; Stephen's Studies of a Biographer, vol. 3. 

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

Bunyan. Brown's John Bunyan, His Life, Times, and Works ; Life, by 
Venables, and by Froude (English Men of Letters) ; Essays by Macaulay, by 
Dowden, supra, and by Woodberry, in Makers of Literature. 
/ Jeremy Taylor. Holy Living, Holy Dying, in Temple Classics, and in Bohn's 
Standard Library ; Selections, edited by Wentworth ; Life, by Heber, and by 
Gosse (English Men of Letters) ; Dowden's Essay, supra. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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


Seventeenth Century 



1625. Charles I 

Parliament dissolved 

1628. Petition of Right 

1630-1640. King rules without Parlia- 
ment. Puritan migration to 
New England 

1640. Long Parliament 

.1642. Civil War begins 

1643. Scotch Covenant 

1643. Press censorship 

1645. Battle of Naseby; triumph of 

1649. Execution of Charles I. Cava- 
lier migration to Virginia 

1649-1660. Commonwealth 

1653-1658. Cromwell, Protector 
1658-1660. Richard Cromwell 
1660. Restoration of Charles II 

1621. Burton's Anatomy of Melan- 
1623. Wither's Hymn Book 

1629. Milton's Ode on the Nativity 
1630-1633. Herbert's poems 

1632-1637. Milton's Horton poems 
1642. Browne's Religio Medici 
1644. Milton's Areopagitica 

1649. Milton's Tenure of Kings 

1650. Baxter's Saints' Rest. Jeremy 

Taylor's Holy Living 

1651. Hobbes's Leviathan 
1653. Walton's Complete Angler 

1663-1694. Dryden's dramas (next 

1666. Bunyan's Grace Abounding 

1667. Paradise Lost 
1674. Death of Milton 

1678. Pilgrim's Progress published 
(written earlier) 



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



lost, when Milton in his sorrow unconsciously portrayed the govern- 
ment of Charles and his Cabal in that tremendous scene of the 
council of the infernal peers in Pandemonium, plotting the ruin of 
the world. 

Of the king and his followers it is difficult to write temperately. 
Most of the dramatic literature of the time is atrocious, and we can 
The King understand it only as we remember the character of the 
and his court and society for which it was written. Unspeakably 

Followers v ^ e m n j s p r i va t e life, the king had no redeeming patri- 
otism, no sense of responsibility to his country for even his public 
acts. He gave high offices to blackguards, stole from the exchequer 
like a common thief, played off Catholics and Protestants against 
each other, disregarding his pledges to both alike, broke his solemn 
treaty with the Dutch and with his own ministers, and betrayed his 
country for French money to spend on his own pleasures. It is use- 
less to paint the dishonor of a court which followed gayly after such 
a leader. The first Parliament, while it contained some noble and 
patriotic members, was dominated by young men who remembered 
the excess of Puritan zeal, but forgot the despotism and injustice 
which had compelled Puritanism to stand up and assert the manhood 
of England. These young politicians vied with the king in passing 
laws for the subjugation of Church and State, and in their thirst for 
revenge upon all who had been connected with Cromwell's iron gov- 
ernment. Once more a wretched formalism that perpetual danger 
to the English Church came to the front and exercised authority 
over the free churches. The House of Lords was largely increased 
by the creation of hereditary titles and estates for ignoble men and 
shameless women who had flattered the king's vanity. Even the 
Bench, that last strong refuge of English justice, was corrupted by 
the appointment of judges, like the brutal Jeffreys, whose aim, like 
that of their royal master, was to get money and to exercise power 
without personal responsibility. Amid all this dishonor the foreign 
influence and authority of Cromwell's strong government vanished 
like smoke. The valiant little Dutch navy swept the English fleet 
from the sea, and only the thunder of Dutch guns in the Thames, 
under the very windows of London, awoke the nation to the realiza- 
tion of how low it had fallen. 

Two considerations must modify our judgment of this dishearten- 
ing spectacle. First, the king and his court are not England, 
Though our histories are largely filled with the records of kings and 


soldiers, of intrigues and fighting, these no more express the real 
life of a people than fever and delirium express a normal manhood. 
Revolution Though king and court and high society arouse our 
of 1688 disgust or pity, records are not wanting to show that 

private life in England remained honest and pure even in the worst 
days of the Restoration. While London society might be entertained 
by 1 the degenerate poetry of Rochester and the dramas of Dryden 
and Wycherley, English scholars hailed Milton with delight ; and the 
common people followed Bunyan and Baxter with their tremendous 
appeal to righteousness and liberty. Second, the king, with all his 
pretensions to divine right, remained only a figurehead ; and the 
Anglo-Saxon people, when they tire of one figurehead, have always 
the will and the power to throw it overboard and choose a better 
one. The country was divided into two political parties: the Whigs, 
who sought to limit the royal power in the interests of Parliament 
and the people; and the Tories, who strove to check the growing 
power of the people in the interests of their hereditary rulers. Both 
parties, however, were largely devoted to the Anglican Church ; and 
when James II, after four years of misrule, attempted to establish a 
national Catholicism by intrigues which aroused the protest of the 
Pope l as well as of Parliament, then Whigs and Tories, Catholics 
and Protestants, united in England's last great revolution. 

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

Literary Characteristics. In the literature of the Restora- 
tion we note a sudden breaking away from old standards, 
French j ust as society broke away from the restraints of 
influence Puritanism. Many of the literary men had been 
driven out of England with Charles and his court, or else had 
followed their patrons into exile in the days of the Common- 
wealth. On their return they renounced old ideals and de- 
manded that English poetry and drama should follow the 

I Guizot's History of the Revolution in England. 


style to which they had become accustomed in the gayety of 
Paris. We read with astonishment in Pepys's Diary (1660- 
1669) that he has been to see a play called Midsummer Night 's 
Dream, but that he will never go again to hear Shakespeare, 
" for it is the most insipid, ridiculous play that ever I saw in 

my life." And again we read in the diary of Evelyn, 

another writer who reflects with wonderful accuracy the life 
and spirit of the Restoration, "I saw Hamlet played ; but 
now the old plays begin to disgust this refined age, since his 
Majesty's being so long abroad." Since Shakespeare and the 
Elizabethans were no longer interesting, literary men began 
to imitate the French writers, with whose works they had 
just grown familiar ; and here begins the so-called period of 
French influence, which shows itself in English literature for 
the next century, instead of the Italian influence which had 
been dominant since Spenser and the Elizabethans. 

One has only to consider for a moment the French writers 
of this period, Pascal, Bossuet, F6nelon, Malherbe, Cornejlle, 
Racine, Moliere, all that brilliant company which makes 
the reign of Louis XIV the Elizabethan Age of French litera- 
ture, to see how far astray the early writers of the Restora- 
tion went in their wretched imitation. When a man takes 
another for his model, he should copy virtues not vices ; but 
unfortunately many English writers reversed the rule, copy- 
ing the vices of French comedy without any of its wit or deli- 
cacy or abundant ideas. The poems of Rochester* the plays 
of Dryden, Wycherley, Congreve, Vanbrugh, and Farquhar, all 
popular in their day, are mostly unreadable. Milton's "sons 
of Belial, flown with insolence and wine," is a good expression 
of the vile character of the court writers and of the London 
theaters for thirty years following the Restoration. Such work 
can never satisfy a people, and when Jeremy Collier, 1 in 1698, 

1 Jeremy Collier (1650-1726), a clergyman and author, noted for his scholarly Eccle 
siastical History of Great Britain (1708-1714) and his Short View of the Immorality and 
Profaneness of the English Stage (1698). The latter was largely instrumental in correct 
ing the low tendency of the Restoration drama, 


published a vigorous attack upon the evil plays and the play- 
wrights of the day, all London, tired of the coarseness and 
excesses of the Restoration, joined the literary revolution, 
and the corrupt drama was driven from the stage. 

With the final rejection of the Restoration drama we reach 
a crisis in the history of our literature. The old Elizabethan 
New Tend- spirit, with its patriotism, its creative vigor, its love 
encies o f romance, and the Puritan spirit with its mora-1 

earnestness and individualism, were both things of the past ; 
and at first there was nothing to take their places. Dryden, 
the greatest writer of the age, voiced a general complaint 
when he said that in his prose and poetry he was "drawing 
the outlines " of a new art, but had no teacher to instruct 
him. But literature is a progressive art, and soon the writers 
of the age developed two marked tendencies of their own, 
the tendency to realism, and the tendency to that preciseness 
and elegance of expression which marks our literature for the 
next hundred years. 

In realism that is, the representation of men exactly as 
they are, the expression of the plain, unvarnished truth with- 
out regard to ideals or romance the tendency 
was at first thoroughly bad. The early Restora- 
tion writers sought to paint realistic pictures of a corrupt 
court and society, and, as we have suggested, they emphasized 
vices rather than virtues, and gave us coarse, low plays with- 
out interest or moral significance. Like Hobbes, they saw 
only the externals of man, his body and appetites, not his 
soul and its ideals ; and so, like most realists, they resemble 
a man lost in the woods, who wanders aimlessly around in 
circles, seeing the confusing trees but never the whole forest, 
and who seldom thinks of climbing the nearest high hill to 
get his bearings. Later, however, this tendency to realism 
became more wholesome. While it neglected romantic poetry, 
in which youth is eternally interested, it led to a keener 
study of the practical motives which govern human action 


The second tendency of the age was toward directness and 
simplicity of expression, and to this excellent tendency our 
literature is greatly indebted. In both the Eliza- 
bethan and the Puritan ages the general tendency 
of writers was towards extravagance of thought and language. 
Sentences were often involved, and loaded with Latin quota- 
tions and classical allusions. The Restoration writers opposed 
this vigorously. From France /they brought back the tendency 
to regard established rules for writing, to emphasize close 
reasoning rather than romantic fancy, and to use short, clean- 
cut sentences without an unnecessary word. We see this 
French influence in the Royal Society, 1 which had for one of 
its objects the reform of English prose by getting rid of its 
"swellings of style," and which bound all its members to use 
"a close, naked, natural way of speaking ... as near to 
mathematical plainness as they can." Dryden accepted this 
excellent rule for his prose, and adopted the heroic couplet, 
as the next best thing, for the greater part of his poetry. As - 
he tells us himself : . rv 2^* 

^ j^> 

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

It is largely due to him that writers developed that formal- 
ism of style, that precise, almost mathematical elegance, 
miscalled classicism, which ruled English literature for the 
next century. 2 

Another thing which the reader will note with interest in 
Restoration literature is the adoption of the heroic couplet; thai 
is, two iambic pentameter lines which rime together, as the 

1 The Royal Society, for the investigation and discussion of scientific questions, was 
founded in 1662, and soon included practically all of the literary and scientific men of 
the age. It encouraged the work of Isaac Newton, who was one of its members ; and its 
influence for truth at a time when men were still trying to compound the philosopher's 
stone, calculating men's actions from the stars, and hanging harmless old women for 
witches can hardly be overestimated. 

2 If the reader would see this in concrete form, let him read a paragraph of Milton's 
prose, or a stanza of his poetry, and compare its exuberant, melodious diction with 
Dryden's concise method of writing. 


most suitable form of poetry. Waller, 1 who began to use it 

in 1623, is generally regarded as the father of the couplet, for 

he is the first poet to use it consistently in the bulk 

The Couplet . , . f ' .... . 

of his poetry. Chaucer had used the rimed couplet 

wonderfully well in his Canterbury Tales t but in Chaucer it 
is the poetical thought more than the expression which de- 
lights us. With the Restoration writers, form counts for 
everything. Waller and Dry den made the couplet the prevail- 
ing literary fashion, and in their hands the couplet becomes 
"closed"; that is, each pair of lines must contain a complete 
thought, stated as precisely as possible. Thus Waller writes : 

The soul's dark cottage, battered and decayed, 

Lets in new light through chinks that time has made. 2 

That is a kind of aphorism such as Pope made in large quan- 
tities in the following age. It contains a thought, is catchy, 
quotable, easy to remember ; and the Restoration writers de- 
lighted in it. Soon this mechanical closed couplet, in which 
the second line was often made first, 3 almost excluded 'all 
other forms of poetry. It was dominant in_ England for a "full 
century, and we have grown familiar with it, and somewhat 
weary of its monotony, in such famous poems as Pope's "Essay 
on Man" and Goldsmith's "Deserted Village." These, how- 
ever, are essays rather than poems. That even the couplet is 
capable of melody and variety is shown in Chaucer's Tales and 
in Keats's exquisite Endymion. 

These four things, the tendency to vulgar realism in the 
drama, a general formalism which came from following set 
rules, the development^ of a simpler and morg t ^di'recf~proTe 
sTyle, and thq prfvnlrnnn nf thr fr**^ gimlet in poetry, are 
the main characteristics of Restoration literature. They are 
all exemplified in the work of one man, John Dryden. 

1 Edmund Waller (1606-1687), the most noted poet of the Restoration period until 
his pupil Dryden appeared. His works are now seldom read. 

2 From Divine Poems, " Old Age and Death." 

8 Following the advice of Boileau (1676-1711), a noted French critic, whom Voltaire 
called " the lawgiver of Parnassus," 


JOHN DRYDEN (1631-1700) 

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

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

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

His grandeur he derived from Heaven alone, 
For he was great ere Fortune made him so ; 

And wars, like mists that rise against the sun, 
Made him but greater seem, not greater grow. 



In these four lines, taken almost at random from the " Heroic 
Stanzas," we have an epitome of the thought, the preciseness, and 1 
the polish that mark all his literary work. 

This poem made Dryden well known, and he was in a fair way 
to become the new poet of Puritanism when the Restoration made 
a complete change in his methods. He had come to London for a 
literary life, and when the Royalists were again in power he placed 
himself promptly on the winning side. His " Astraea Redux," a poem 


of welcome to Charles II, and his " Panegyric to his Sacred Majesty," 
breathe more devotion to "the old goat," as the king was known to 
his courtiers, than had his earlier poems to Puritanism. 

In 1667 he became more widely known and x popular by his 
" Annus Mirabilis," a narrative poem describing the terrors of the 
great fire in London and some events of the disgraceful war with 
Holland ; but with the theaters reopened and nightly filled, the 
drama offered the most attractive field to one who made his living 
by literature ; so Dryden turned to the stage and agreed to furnish 
three plays yearly for the actors of the King's Theater. For nearly 


twenty years, the best of his life, Dryden gave himself up to this 
unfortunate work. Both by nature and habit he seems to have been 
clean in his personal life; but the stage demanded unclean plays, 
and Dryden followed his audience. That he deplored this is evident 
from some of his later work, and we have his statement that he 
wrote only one play, his best, to please himself. This was All for 
Love, which was written in blank verse, most of the others being in 
rimed couplets. 

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

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

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

This hind is a symbol for the Roman Church ; and the Anglicans, 
as a panther, are represented as persecuting the faithful. Numer- 
ous other sects Calvinists, Anabaptists, Quakers were represented 
by the wolf, boar, hare, and other animals, which gave the poet an 
excellent chance for exercising his satire. Dryden's enemies made 
the accusation, often since repeated, of hypocrisy in thus changing 
his church ; but that he was sincere in the matter can now hardly 
be questioned, for he knew how to "suffer for the faith" and to 
be true to his religion, even when it meant misjudgmenil and loss of 
fortune. At the Revolution of 1688 he refused allegiance to William 


of Orange ; he was deprived of all his offices and pensions, and as 
an old man was again thrown back on literature as his only means of 
livelihood. He went to work with extraordinary courage and energy, 
writing plays, poems, prefaces for other men, eulogies for funeral 
occasions, every kind of literary work that men would pay for. 
His most successful work at this time was his translations, which re- 
sulted in the complete sEneid and many selections from Homer, 
Ovid, and Juvenal, appearing in English rimed couplets. His most 
enduring poem, the splendid ode called "Alexander's Feast," was 
written in 1697. Three years later he published his last work, 
Fables, containing poetical paraphrases of the tales of Boccaccio and 
Chaucer, and the miscellaneous poems of his last years. Long pref- 
aces were the fashion in Dryden's day, and his best critical work is 
found in his introductions. The preface to t^e Fables is generally 
admired as an example of the new prose style developed by Dryden 
and his followers. 

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

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

The controversial and satirical poems are on a higher 

plane ; though, it must be confessed, Dryden's satire often 

strikes us as cutting and revengeful, rather than 

witty. The best known of these, and a masterpiece 

of its kind, is " Absalom and Achitophel," which is undoubtedly 

the most powerful political satire in our language, Taking 


the Bible story of David and Absalom, he uses it to ridicule 
the Whig party and also to revenge himself upon his enemies. 
Charles II appeared as King David; his natural son, the 
Duke of Monmouth, who was mixed up in the Rye House 
Plot, paraded as Absalom ; Shaftesbury was Achitophel, the 
evil Counselor ; and the Duke of Buckingham was satirized 
as Zimri. The poem had enormous political influence, and 
raised Dryden, in the opinion of his contemporaries, to the 
front rank of English poets. Two extracts from the powerful 
characterizations of Achitophel and Zimri are given here to 
show the style and spirit of the whole work. 


Of these the false Achitophel was first ; 
A name to all succeeding ages cursed : 
For close designs and crooked counsels fit ; 
Sagacious, bold, and turbulent of wit ; 
Restless, unfixed in principles and place ; 
In power unpleased, impatient of disgrace : 
A fiery soul, which, working out its way, 
Fretted the pygmy body to decay. . . . 
A daring pilot in extremity, 

Pleased with the danger, when the waves went high 
He sought the storms : but for a calm unfit, 
Would steer too nigh the sands to boast his wit. 
Great wits are sure to madness near allied, 
And thin partitions do their bounds divide ; 
Else why should he, with wealth and honor blest, 
Refuse his age the needful hours of rest ? 
Punish a body which he could not please ; 
Bankrupt of life, yet prodigal of ease ? 
And all to leave what with his toil he won, 
To that unfeathered two-legged thing, a son. . . 
In friendship false, implacable in hate ; 
Resolved to ruin or to rule the state ; . . . 
Then seized with fear, yet still affecting fame, 
Usurped a patriot's all-atoning name. 
So easy still it proves in factious times 
With public zeal to cancel private crimes. 



Some of their chiefs were princes of the land ; 
In the first rank of these did Zimri stand, 
A man so various, that he seemed to be 
Not one, but all mankind's epitome : 
Stiff in opinions, always in the wrong, 
Was everything by starts and nothing long ; 
But, in the course of one revolving moon, 
Was chymist, fiddler, statesman, and buffoon J 
Then all for women, painting, rhyming, drinking, 
Besides ten thousand freaks that died in thinking. 
Blest madman, who could every hour employ 
With something new to wish or to enjoy 1 
Railing and praising were his usual themes, 
And both, to show his judgment, in extremes : 
So over-violent, or over-civil, 
That every man with him was God or devil. 

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

As a prose writer Dryden had a very marked influence on 
our literature in shortening his sentences, and especially in 
Prose and writing naturally, without depending on literary 
Criticism ornamentation to give effect to what he is saying. 
If we compare his prose with that of Milton, or Browne, or 
Jeremy Taylor, we note that Dryden cares less for style than 
any of the others, but takes more pains to state his thought 
clearly and concisely, as men speak when they wish to be 
understood. The classical school, which followed the Restora- 
tion, looked to Dryden as a leader, and to him we owe largely 
that tendency to exactness of expression which marks our 
subsequent prose writing. With his prose, Dryden rapidly 
developed his critical ability, and became the foremost critic * 

1 By a critic we mean simply one who examines the literary works of various ages, 
separates the good from the bad, and gives the reasons for his classification. It is notice- 
able that critical writings increase in an age, like that of the Restoration, when great 
creative works are wanting. 



of his age. His criticisms, instead of being published as inde- 
pendent works, were generally used as prefaces or introduc- 
tions to his poetry. The best known of these criticisms are 
the preface to the Fables, "Of Heroic Plays," "Discourse on 
Satire," and especially the " Essay of Dramatic Poesy" (1668), 
which attempts to lay a foundation for all literary criticism. 

Dryden's Influence on Literature. Dryden's place among 
authors is due partly to his great influence on the succeeding 


age of classicism. Briefly, this influence may be summed up 
by noting the three new elements which he brought into our 
literature. These are: (i) the establishment of the hexoic 
couplet_as_the^ fasjiigjn^jfo^^ descrrptive 

poetry ; (2) hisjdej^lpjjmenXofj^^ prose style 

s~ucTras_we still cultivate;, and (3) hi^develo^rnejiLDijhe_art of 
Hterar^__cnticism . mjiis jessajs and in the^mefou&-fiefaces 
tojiis poems. This is certainly a large work for one man to 
accomplish, and Dryden is worthy of honor, though compara- 
tively little of what he wrote is now found on our bookshelves. 


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

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

Hudibras is plainly modeled upon the Don Quixote of 
Cervantes. It describes the adventures of a fanatical justice 
of the peace, Sir Hudibras, and of his squire, 
Ralpho, in their endeavor to put down all innocent 
pleasures. In Hudibras and Ralpho the two extreme types of 
the Puritan party, Presbyterians and Independents, are merci- 
lessly ridiculed. When the poem first appeared in public, in 
1663, after circulating secretly for years in manuscript, it 


became at once enormously popular. The king carried a copy 
in his pocket, and courtiers vied with each other in quoting 
its most scurrilous passages. A second and a third part, con- 
tinuing the adventures of Hudibras, were published in 1664 
and 1668. At best the work is a wretched doggerel, but it 
was clever enough and strikingly original ; and since it ex- 
pressed the Royalist spirit towards the Puritans, it speedily 
found its place in a literature which reflects every phase of 
human life. A few odd lines are given here to show the 
character of the work, and to introduce the reader to the best 
known burlesque in our language : 

He was in logic a great critic, 
Profoundly skilled in analytic ; 
He could distinguish, and divide 
A hair 'twixt south and southwest side ; 
On either which he would dispute, 
Confute, change hands, and still confute ; 
He 'd undertake to prove, by force 
Of argument, a man 's no horse ; 
He 'd run in debt by disputation, 
And pay with ratiocination. 

For he was of that stubborn crew 
Of errant saints, whom all men grant 
To be the true Church Militant ; 
Such as do build their faith upon 
The holy text of pike and gun ; 
Decide all controversies by 
Infallible artillery ; 
And prove their doctrine orthodox 
By apostolic blows and knocks ; 
Compound for sins they are inclined to, 
By damning those they have no mind to. 

Hobbes and Locke. Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679) is one 
of the writers that puzzle the historian with a doubt as to 
whether or not he should be included in the story of litera- 
ture. The one book for which he is famous is called Levia- 
than, or the Matter, Form, and Power of a Commonwealth 
(1651). It is partly political, partly a philosophical book, 


combining two central ideas which challenge and startle the 
attention, namely, that self-interest is the only^gindin^power 
of humanity, and that 'bEna smpmission to^rulers is the. only 
true^ha^sis of government. 1 In a word, Hobbes reduced human 
nature to^its purely animal aspects, and then asserted con- 
fidently that there was nothing more to study. Certainly, 
therefore, as a reflection of the underlying spirit of Charles 
and his followers it has no equal in any purely literary work 
of the time. 

John Locke (1632-1704) is famous as the author of a 
single great philosophical work, the Essay concerning Human 
Understanding (1690). This is a study of the nature of the 
human mind and of the origin of ideas, which, far more than 
the work of Bacon and Hobbes, is the basis upon which Eng- 
lish philosophy has since been built. Aside from their subjects, 
both works are models of the new prose, direct, simple, con- 
vincing, for which Dryden and the Royal Society labored. 
They are known to every student of philosophy, but are sel- 
dom included in a work of literature. 2 

Evelyn and Pepys. These two men, John Evelyn (1620- 
1706) and Samuel Pepys (1633-1703), are famous as the 
writers of diaries, in which they jotted down the daily occur- 
rences of their own lives, without any thought that the world 
would ever see or be interested in what they had written. 

1 Two other principles of this book should be noted : (i) that all power originates in 
the people ; and (2) that the object of all government is the common good. Here evi- 
dently is a democratic doctrine, which abolishes the divine right of kings ; but Hobbes 
immediately destroys democracy by another doctrine, that the power given by the 
people to the ruler could not be taken away. Hence the Royalists could use the book to 
justify the despotism of the Stuarts on the ground that the people had chosen them. 
This part of the book is in direct opposition to Milton's Defense of the English People. 

2 Locke's Treatises on Government should also be mentioned, for they are of pro- 
found interest to American students of history and political science. It was from Locke 
that the framers of the Declaration of Independence and of the Constitution drew many 
of their ideas, and even some of their most striking phrases. " All men are endowed 
with certain inalienable rights"; "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness"; "the 
origin and basis of government is in the consent of the governed," these and many 
more familiar and striking expressions are from Locke. It is interesting to note that he 
was appointed to draft a constitution for the new province of Carolina ; but his work 
was rejected, probably because it was too democratic for the age in which he lived. 


Evelyn was the author of Sylva, the first book on trees 
and forestry in English, and Terra, which is the first attempt 
at a scientific study of agriculture ; but the world has lost 
sight of these two good books, while it cherishes his diary, 
which extends over the greater part of his life and gives us 
vivid pictures of society in his time, and especially of the 
frightful corruption of the royal court. 

Pepys began life in a small way as a clerk in a government 
office, but soon rose by his diligence and industry to be Sec- 
retary of the Admiralty. Here he was brought into 

Pepys's Diary . . % <- ^ f ,11- 

contact with every grade of society, from the king s 
ministers to the poor sailors of the fleet. Being inquisitive as 
a blue jay, he investigated the rumors 'and gossip of the court, 
as well as the small affairs of his neighbors, and wrote them 
all down in his diary with evident interest. But because he 
chattered most freely, and told his little book a great many 
secrets which it were not well for the world to know, he con- 
cealed everything in shorthand, and here again he was like 
the blue jay, which carries off and hides every bright trinket 
it discovers. The Diary covers the years from 1660 to 1669, 
and gossips about everything, from his own position and 
duties at the office, his dress and kitchen and cook and chil- 
dren, to the great political intrigues of office and the scandals 
of high society. No other such minute picture of the daily 
life of an age has been written. Yet for a century and a half 
it remained entirely unknown, and not until 1825 was Pepys's 
shorthand deciphered and published. Since then it has been 
widely read, and is still one of the most interesting examples 
of diary writing that we possess. Following are a few extracts, 1 
covering only a few days in April, 1663, from which one may 
infer the minute and interesting character of the work that 
this clerk, politician, president of the Royal Society, and gen- 
eral busybody wrote to please himself : 

l A few slight changes and omissions from the original text, as given in Wheatley's 
edition of Pepys (London, 1892, 9 vols.), are not indicated in these brief quotations. 


April ist. I went to the Temple to my Cozen Roger Pepys, to see 
and talk with him a little : who tells me that, with much ado, the Par- 
liament do agree to throw down Popery ; but he says it is with so much 
spite and passion, and an endeavor of bringing all Nonconformists into 
the same condition, that he is afeard matters will not go so well as he 
could wish. ... To my office all the afternoon; Lord! how Sir J. 
Minnes, like a mad coxcomb, did swear and stamp, swearing that Com- 
missioner Pett hath still the old heart against the King that ever he 
had, . . . and all the damnable reproaches in the world, at which I was 
ashamed, but said little ; but, upon the whole, I find him still a foole, 
led by the nose with stories told by Sir W. Batten, whether with or 
without reason. So, vexed in my mind to see things ordered so unlike 
gentlemen, or men of reason, I went home and to bed. 

3d. To White Hall and to Chappell, which being most monstrous 
full, I could not go into my pew, but sat among the quire. Dr. Creeton, 
the Scotchman, preached a most admirable, good, learned, honest, and 
most severe sermon, yet comicall. . . . He railed bitterly ever and anon 
against John Calvin and his brood, the Presbyterians, and against the 
present terme, now in use, of "tender consciences." He ripped up 
Hugh Peters (calling him the execrable skellum), his preaching and 
stirring up the mayds of the city to bring in their bodkins and thimbles. 
Thence going out of White Hall, I met Captain Grove, who did give 
me a letter directed to myself from himself. I discerned money to be 
in it, and took it, knowing, as I found it to be, the proceed of the place 
I have got him, the taking up of vessels for Tangier. But I did not 
open it till I came home to my office, and there I broke it open, not 
looking into it till all the money was out, that I might say I saw no 
money in the paper, if ever I should be questioned about it. There was 
a piece of gold and 4^ in silver. 

4th. To my office. Home to dinner, whither by and by comes Roger 
Pepys, etc. Very merry at, before, and after dinner, and the more for 
that my dinner was great, and most neatly dressed by our owne only 
mayde. We had a fricasee of rabbits and chickens, a leg of mutton 
boiled, three carps in a dish, a great dish of a side of lambe, a dish of 
roasted pigeons, a dish of four lobsters, three tarts, a lamprey pie (a 
most rare pie), a dish of anchovies, good wine of several sorts, and all 
things mighty noble and to my great content. 

5th (Lord's day). Up and spent the morning, till the Barber came, 
in reading in my chamber part of Osborne's Advice to his Son, which I 
shall not never enough admire for sense and language, and being by 
and by trimmed, to Church, myself, wife, Ashwell, etc. Home and, 
while dinner was prepared, to my office to read over my vows with great 
affection and to very good purpose. Then to church again, where a 
simple bawling young Scot preached. 


1 9th (Easter day). Up and this day put on my close-kneed coloured 
suit, which, with new stockings of the colour, with belt and new gilt- 
handled sword, is very handsome. To church alone, and after dinner 
to church again, where the young Scotchman preaching, I slept all the 
while. After supper, fell in discourse of dancing, and I find that Ash- 
well hath a very fine carriage, which makes my wife almost ashamed of 
herself to see herself so outdone, but to-morrow she begins to learn to 
dance for a month or two. So to prayers and to bed. Will being gone, 
with my leave, to his father's this day for a day or two, to take physique 
these holydays. 

23d. St. George's day and Coronacion, the King and Court being at 
Windsor, at the installing of the King of Denmarke by proxy and the 
Duke of Monmouth. . . . Spent the evening with my father. At cards 
till late, and being at supper, my boy being sent for some mustard to a 
neat's tongue, the rogue staid half an houre in the streets, it seems at a 
bonfire, at which I was very angry, and resolve to beat him to-morrow. 

24th. Up betimes, and with my salt eele went down into the parler 
and there got my boy and did beat him till I was fain to take breath 
two or three times, yet for all I am afeard it will make the boy never 
the better, he is grown so hardened in his tricks, which I am sorry for, 
he being capable of making a brave man, and is a boy that I and my 
wife love very well. 

Summary of the Restoration Period. The chief thing to note in England 
during the Restoration is the tremendous social reaction from the restraints 
of Puritanism, which suggests the wide swing of a pendulum from one extreme 
to the other. For a generation many natural pleasures had been suppressed ; 
now the theaters were reopened, bull and bear baiting revived, and sports, 
music, dancing, a wild delight in the pleasures and vanities of this world 
replaced that absorption in " other-worldliness " which characterized the extreme 
of Puritanism. 

In literature the change is no less marked. From the Elizabethan drama 
playwrights turned to coarse, evil scenes, which presently disgusted the people 
and were driven from the stage. From romance, writers turned to realism ; from 
Italian influence with its exuberance of imagination they turned to France, and 
learned to repress the emotions, to follow the head rather than the heart, and 
to write in a clear, concise, formal style, according to set rules. Poets turned 
from the noble blank verse of Shakespeare and Milton, from the variety and 
melody which had characterized English poetry since Chaucer's day, to the 
monotonous heroic couplet with its mechanical perfection. 

The greatest writer of the age is John Dryden, who established the heroic 
couplet as the prevailing verse form in English poetry, and who developed a 
new and serviceable prose style suited to the practical needs of the age. The 
popular ridicule of Puritanism in burlesque and doggerel is best exemplified 
in Butler's Hudibras. The realistic tendency, the study of facts and of men 


as they are, is shown in the work of the Royal Society, in the philosophy of 
Hobbes and Locke, and in the diaries of Evelyn and Pepys, with their minu-te 
pictures of social life. The age was one of transition from the exuberance and 
vigor of Renaissance literature to the formality and polish of the Augustan 
Age. In strong contrast with the preceding ages, comparatively little of 
Restoration literature is familiar to modern readers. 

Selections for Reading. Dryden. Alexander's Feast, Song for St. Cecilia's 
Day, selections from Absalom and Achitophel, Religio Laici, Hind and Panther, 
Annus Mirabilis, in Manly's English Poetry, or Ward's English Poets, or 
Cassell's National Library ; Palamon and Arcite (Dryden's version of Chaucer's 
tale), in Standard English Classics, Riverside Literature, etc. ; Dryden's An 
Essay of Dramatic Poesy, in Manly's, or Garnett's, English Prose. 

Butler. Selections from Hudibras, in Manly's English Poetry, Ward's 
English Poets, or Morley's Universal Library. 

Pepys. Selections in Manly's English Prose , the Diary in Everyman's 

Bibliography. History. Text-book, Montgomery, pp. 257-280; Cheyney, 
pp. 466-514; Green, ch. 9 ; Traill ; Gardiner; Macaulay. 

Special Works. Sydney's Social Life in England from the Restoration to 
the Revolution; Airy's The English Restoration and Louis XIV; Male's The 
Fall of the Stuarts. 

Literature. Garnett's The Age of Dryden ; Dowden's Puritan and Anglican. 

Dryden. Poetical Works, with Life, edited by Christie ; the same, edited 
by Noyes, in Cambridge Poets Series; Life and Works (18 vols.), by Walter 
Scott, revised (1893) by Saintsbury; Essays, edited by Ker; Life, by Saints- 
bury (English Men of Letters) ; Macaulay's Essay ; Lowell's Essay, in Among 
My Books (or in Literary Essays, vol. 3) ; Dowden's Essay, supra. 

Butler. Hudibras, in Morley's Universal Library ; Poetical Works, edited 
by Johnson ; Dowden's Essay, supra. 

Pepys. Diary in Everyman's Library ; the same, edited by Wheatley (8 vols.); 
Wheatley's Samuel Pepys and the World He Lived In ; Stevenson's Essay, 
in Familiar Studies of Men and Books. 

The Restoration Drama. Plays in the Mermaid Series ; Hazlitt's Lectures 
on the English Comic Writers ; Meredith's Essay on Comedy and the Comic 
Spirit ; Lamb's Essay on the Artificial Comedy ; Thackeray's Essay on Con- 
greve, in English Humorists. 

Suggestive Questions, i. What marked change in social conditions fol- 
lowed the Restoration ? How are these changes reflected in literature ? 

2. What are the chief characteristics of Restoration literature ? Why. is 
this period called the Age of French influence? What ftew tendencies were 
introduced? What effect did the Royal Society and the study of science 
have upon English prose ? What is meant by realism ? by formalism ? 

3. What is meant by the heroic couplet ? Explain why it became the pre- 
vailing form of English poetry. What are its good qualities and its defects ? 



Name some well-known poems which are written in couplets. How do Dryden's 
couplets compare with Chaucer's ? Can you explain the difference ? 

4. Give a brief account of Dryden's life. What are his chief poetical works ? 
'.For what new object did he use poetry? Is satire a poetical subject? Why 
is a poetical satire more effective than a satire in prose ? What was Dryden's 
contribution to English prose ? What influence did he exert on our literature ? 

5. What is Butler's Hudibras ? Explain its popularity. Read a passage and 
comment upon it, first, as satire ; second, as a description of the Puritans. Is 
Hudibras poetry ? Why ? 

6. Name the philosophers and political economists of this period. Can you 
explain why Hobbes should call his work Leviathan ? What important Amer- 
ican documents show the influence of Locke ? 

7. Tell briefly the story of Pepys and his Diary. What light does the latter 
throw on the life of the age ? Is the Diary a work of literature ? Why ? 


Last Half of the Seventeenth Century 



1649. Execution of Charles I 
1649-1660. Commonwealth 
1660. Restoration of Charles II 

1665-1666. Plague and Fire of London 

War with Holland 
1667. Dutch fleet in the Thames 

1680. Rise of Whigs and Tories 

1685. James II 

Monmouth's Rebellion 

1688. English Revolution, William of 

Orange called to throne 

1689. Bill of Rights. Toleration Act 

1651. Hobbes's Leviathan 
1660-1669. Pepys's Diary 

1662. Royal Society founded 

1663. Butler's Hudibras 


1667. Milton's Paradise Lost. 
den's Annus Mirabilis 
1663-1694. Dryden's dramas , 
1671. Paradise Regained \ 
1678. Pilgrim's Progress published 

1 68 1. Dryden's Absalom and Achit- 

1687. Newton's Principia proves the 
law of gravitation 

1690. Locke's Human Understanding 
1698. Jeremy Collier attacks stage 
1700. Death of Dryden 



History of the Period. The Revolution of 1688, which banished 
the last of the Stuart kings and called William of Orange to the 
throne, marks the end of the long struggle for political freedom in 
England. Thereafter the Englishman spent his tremendous energy, 
which his forbears had largely spent in fighting for freedom, in end- 
less political discussions and in efforts to improve his government. 
In order to bring about reforms, votes were now necessary ; and to 
get votes the people of England must be approached with ideas, 
facts, arguments, information. So the newspaper was born, 1 and lit- 
erature in its widest sense, including the book, the newspaper, and 
the magazine, became the chief instrument of a nation's progress. 

The first half of the eighteenth century is remarkable for the 
rapid social development in England. Hitherto men had been more 
Social or less governed by the narrow, isolated standards of the 

Development Middle Ages, and when they differed they fell speedily 
to blows. Now for the first time they set themselves to the task of 
learning the art of living together, while still holding different opin- 
ions. In a single generation nearly two thousand pnhlir. 

each a center of sociability, sprang up in London alone, and the 
number of private r.ln fan's quite as astonishing. 2 This new social life 
had a marked effect in polishing men's words and manners. The 
typical Londoner of Queen Anne's day was still rude, and a little 
vulgar in his tastes ; the city was still very filthy, the streets unlighted 
and infested at night by bands of rowdies an'd "Mohawks"; but 
outwardly men sought to refine their manners according to pre- 
vailing standards; and to be elegant, to have "good form," was 
a man's first duty, whether he entered society or wrote literature. 
One can hardly read a book or poem of the age without feeling this 

1 The first daily newspaper, The Daily Courant, appeared in London in 1702. 

2 See Lecky, England in the Eighteenth Century. 


superficial elegance. Government still had its opposing Tory and Whig 
parties, and the Church was divided into Catholics, Anglicans, and 
Dissenters; but the growing social life offset many antagonisms, 
producing at least the outward impression of peace and unity. 
Nearly every writer of the age busied himself with religion as well 
as with party politics, the scientist Newton as sincerely as the church- 
man Barrow, the philosophical Locke no less earnestly than the 
evangelical Wesley ; but nearly all tempered their zeal with modera- 
tion, and argued from reason and Scripture, or used delicate satire 
Upon their opponents, instead of denouncing them as followers of 
Satan. There were exceptions, of course ; but the general tendency 
of the age was toward toleration. Man had found himself in the 
long struggle for personal TBerty ; now he turned to the task of 
discovering his neighbor, of finding in Whig and Tory, in Catholic 
and Protestant,' in Anglican and Dissenter, the same general human 
characteristics that he found in himself. This good work was helped, 
moreover, by the spread of education and by the growth of the 
national spirit, following the victories of Marlborough on the Conti- 
nent. In the midst of heated argument it needed only a word 
Gibraltar, Blenheim, Ramillies, Malplaquet or a poem of victory 
written in a garret 1 to tell a patriotic people that under their many 
differences they were all alike Englishmen. 

In the latter half of the century the political and social progress 
is almost bewildering. The modern form of cabinet government re- 
sponsible to Parliament and the people had been established under 
George I; and in 1757 the cynical and corrupt practices of Walpole, 
premier of the first Tory cabinet, were replaced by the more en- 
lightened policies of Pitt. Schools were established ; clubs and coffee- 
houses increased ; books and magazines multiplied until the press 
was the greatest visible power in England ; the modern great dailies, 
the Chronicle, Post, and Times, began their career of public educa- 
tion. Religiously, all the churches of England 'felt the quickening 
power of that tremendous spiritual revival known as Methodism, 
under the preaching of Wesley and Whitefield. Outside her own 
borders three great men Clive in India, Wolfe on the Plains of 
Abraham, Cook in Australia and the islands of the Pacific were 
unfurling the banner of St. George Over the untold wealth of new 
lands, and spreading the world-wide empire of the Anglo-Saxons. 

1 .Addison's " Campaign" (1704), written to celebrate the battle of Blenheim. 


Literary Characteristics. In every preceding age we have 
noted especially the poetical works, which constitute, accord- 
An Age of m g to Matthew Arnold, the glory of English liter- 
Prose ature. Now for the first time we must chronicle 

the triumph of English prose. A multitude of practical in- 
terests arising from the new social and political conditions 
demanded expression, not simply in books, but more especially 
in pamphlets, magazines, and newspapers. Poetry was inade- 
quate for such a task ; hence the development of prose, of 
the "unfettered word," as Dante calls it, a development 
which astonishes us by its rapidity and excellence. The 
graceful elegance of Addison's essays, the terse vigor of 
"Swift's satires, the artistic finish of Fielding's novels, the 
sonorous eloquence of Gibbon's history and of Burke's~ora- 
tions, these have no parallel in the poetry of the age. 
Indeed, poetry itself became prosaic in this respect, that it 
was used not for creative works of imagination, but for essays, 
for satire, for criticism, for exactly the same practical ends 
as was prose. The poetry of the first half of the century, as 
typified in the work of Pope, is polished and witty enough, 
but artificial ; it lacks fire, fine feeling, enthusiasm, the glow 
of the Elizabethan Age and the moral earnestness of Puritan- 
ism. In a word, it interests us as a study of life, rather than 
delights or inspires us by its appeal to the imagination. The 
variety and excellence of psose works, and the development 
of a serviceable prose style, which had been begun by Dry- 
den, until it served to express clearly every human interest 
and emotion, these are the chief literary glories of the 
eighteenth century. 

In the literature of the preceding age we noted two marked 
tendencies, the tendency to realism in subject-matter, and 
the tendency to polish and refinement of expres- 
sion. Both these tendencies were continued in the 
Augustan Age, and are seen clearly in the poetry of Pope, 
who brought the couplet to perfection, and in the prose of 


Addison. A third tendency is shown in the prevalence of 
satire ; resulting from the unfortunate union of politics with 
literature. We have already noted the power of the press in 
this age, and the perpetual strife of political parties. Nearly 
every writer of the first half of the century was used and re- 
warded by Whigs or Tories for satirizing their enemies and for 
advancing their special political interests^ Pope was a marked 
exception, but he nevertheless followed the prose writers in 
using satire too largely in his poetry. Now satire that is, a 
literary work which searches out the faults of men or institu- 
tions in order to hold them up to ridicule is at best a de- 
structive kind of criticism. A satirist is like a laborer who 
clears away the ruins and rubbish of an old house before the 
architect and builders begin on a new and beautiful structure. 
The work may sometimes be necessary, but it rarely arouses 
our enthusiasm. While the satires of Boge, S3sdft^jind AddU 
son are doubtless the best in our language, we hartlly place 
them with our great literature, which is always constructive 
in spirit ; and we have the feeling that all these men were 
capable of better things than they ever wrote. 

The Classic Age. The period we are studying is known to 
us -by various names. It is often called the Age of Queen 
Anne; but, unlike Elizabeth, this "meekly stupicT " queen 
had practically no influence upon our literature. The name 
Classic Age is more often heard ; but in using it we should 
remember clearly these three different ways in which the 
word " classic " is applied to literature : (i) the term " classic " 
refers, in general, to writers of the highest rank in any nation. 
As used in our literature, it was first applied to the works of 
the great Greek and Roman writers, like Homer and Virgil ; 
and any English book which followed the simple and noble 
method of these writers was said to have a classic style. 
Later the term was enlarged to cover the great literary works 
of other ancient nations ; so that the Bible and the Avestas, 
as well as the Iliad and the yEneid, are called classics. 


(2) Every national literature has at least one period in which 
an unusual number of great writers are producing books, and 
this is called the classic period of a nation's literature. Thus 
the reign of Augustus is the classic or golden age of Rome ; 
the generation of Dante is the classic age of Italian litera- 
ture ; the age of Louis XIV is the French classic age ; and 
the age of Queen Anne is often called the classic age of 
England. (3) The word " classic " acquired an entirely different 
meaning in the period we are studying ; and we shall better 
understand this by reference to the preceding ages. The 
Elizabethan writers were led by patriotism, by enthusiasm, 
and, in general, by romantic emotions. They wrote in a nat- 
ural style, without regard to rules ; and though they exagger- 
ated and used too many words, their works are delightful 
because of their vigor and freshness and fine feeling. In the 
following age patriotism had largely disappeared from politics 
and enthusiasm from literature. Poets no longer wrote natu- 
rally, but artificially, with strange and fantastic verse for,ms to 
give effect, since fine feeling was wanting. And this is the 
general character 'of the poetry of the Puritan Age.. 1 Gradu- 
ally our writers rebelled against the exaggerations of both the 
natural and the fantastic style. They demanded that poetry 
should follow exact rules ; and in this they were influenced 
by French writers, especially by Boileau and Rapin, who in- 
sisted on precise methods of writing poetry, and who professed 
to have discovered their rules in the classics of Horace and 
Aristotle. In our stucjy of the Elizabethan drama we noted 
the good influence of the classic movement in insisting, upon 
that beauty of form and definiteness of expression , which 
characterize the dramas of Greece and Rome ; and in the 
work of 'Dryden and his followers we see a revival of classi- 
cism in the effort to make English literature conform to rules 

1 Great writers in every age, men like Shakespeare and Milton, make their own style. 
They are therefore not included in this summary. Among the minor writers also there 
are exceptions to the rule ; and fine feeling is often manifest in the poetry of Donne^ 
Herbert, Vaughan, and Herrick. 


established by the great writers of other nations. At first the 
results were excellent, especially in prose ; but as the crea- 
tive vigor of the Elizabethans was lacking in this age, writing 
by rule soo^developed^a kind of eleganJ^formjJism, which 
suggests the elaborate social code of the time. Just as a 
gentleman might not act naturally, but must follow exact 
rules in doffing his hat, or addressing a lady, or entering a 
room, or wearing a wig, or offering his snuffbox to a friend, 
so our writers lost individuality and became formal and arti- 
ficial. The. general tendency of literature was to look at life 
critically, to emphasize intellect rather than imagination, the 
form rather than the content of a sentence. Writers strove 
to repress all emotion and enthusiasm, and to use only precise 
and elegant methods of expression. This is what is often 
meant by the "classicism " of the ages of Pope and Johnson. 
It refers to the critical, intellectual spirit of many writers, to 
the fine polish of their heroic couplets or the elegance of 
their prose, and not to any resemblance which their work 
bears to true classic literature. In a word, the classic move- 
ment had become pseudo-classic, i.e. a false or sham classi- 
cism ; and the latter term is now often used to designate a 
considerable part of eighteenth-century literature. 1 To avoid 
this critical difficulty we have adopted the term Augustan 
Age, a name' chosen by the writers themselves, who saw in 
Pope, Addison, Swift, Johnson, and Burke the modern par- 
allels to Horace, Virgil, Cicero, and all that brilliant company 
who made Roman literature famous in the days of Augustus. 

1 We have endeavored here simply to show the meaning of terms in general use in 
our literature ; but it must be remembered that it is impossible to classify or to give a 
descriptive name to the writers of any period or century. While " classic " or " pseudo- 
classic " may apply to a part of eighteenth-century literature, every age has both its ro- 
mantic and its classic movements. In this period the revolt against classicism is shown 
in the revival of romantic poetry under Gray, Collins, Burns, and Thomson, and in the 
beginning of the English novel under Defoe, Richardson, and Fielding. These poets and 
novelists, who have little or no connection with classicism, belong chronologically to the 
period we are studying. They are reserved for special treatment in the sections 


ALEXANDER POPE (1688-^1744) 

Pope is in many respects a unique figure. In the first 
place, he was for a generation "the poet " of a great nation. 
To be sure, poetry was limited in the early eighteenth cen- 
tury ; there were few lyrics, little or no love poetry, no epics, 
no dramas or songs of nature worth considering ; but in the 
narrow field of satiric and didactic verse Pope was the undis- 
puted master. His influence completely dominated the poetry 
of his age, and many foreign writers, as well as the majority 
of English poets, looked to him as their model. Second, he 
was a remarkably clear and adequate reflection of the spirit 
of the age in which he lived> There is hardly an ideal, a be- 
lief, a doubt, a fashion, a whim of Queen Anne's time, that is 
not neatly expressed in his poetry. Third, he was the only 
important writer of that age who gave his whole life to let- 
ters. Swift was a clergyman and politician ; Addison was 
secretary of state ; other writers depended on patrons or 
politics or pensions for fame and a livelihood ; but Pope was 
independent, and had no profession but literature. And 
fourth, by the sheer force of his ambition he won his place, 
and held it, in spite of religious prejudice, and in the face of 
physical and temperamental obstacles that would have dis- 
couraged a stronger man. For Pope was deformed and sickly, 
dwarfish in soul and body. He knew little of the world of 
nature or of the world of the human heart. He was lacking, 
apparently, in noble feeling, and instinctively chose a lie when 
the truth had manifestly more advantages. Yet this jealous, 
peevish, waspish little man became the most famous poet of 
his age and the acknowledged leader of English literature. 
We record the fact with wonder and admiration ; but we do 
not attempt to explain it. 

Life. Pope was born in London in 1688, the year of the Revo- 
lution. His parents were both Catholics, who presently removed 
from London and settled in Binfield, near Windsor, where the poet's 


childhood was passed. Partly because of an unfortunate prejudice 
against Catholics in the public schools, partly because of his own 
weakness and deformity, Pope received very little school education, 
but browsed for himself among English books and picked up a smat- 
tering of the classics. Very early he began to write poetry, and records 
the fact with his usual vanity : 

As yet a child, nor yet a fool to fame, 

I lisped in numbers, for the numbers came. 

Being debarred by his religion from many desirable employments, 
he resolved to make literature his life work; and in this he re- 
sembled Dryden, who, he tells us, was his only master, though 
much of his work seems to depend on Boileau, the French poet and 
critic. 1 When only sixteen years old he had written his " Pastorals "; 
a few years later appeared his " Essay on Criticism," which made 
him famous. With the publication of the Rape of the Lock, in. 1712, 
Pope's name was known and honored all over England, and this 
dwarf of twenty- four years, by the sheer force of his own ambition, 
had jumped to the foremost place in English letters. It was soon 
after this that Voltaire called him " the best poet of England and, 
at present, of all the world," which is about as near the truth as 
Voltaire generally gets in his numerous universal judgments. For 
the next twelve years Pope was busy with poetry, especially with his 
translations of Homer ; and his work was so successful financially 
that he bought a villa at Twickenham, on the Thames, and remained 
happily independent of wealthy patrons for a livelihood. 

Led by his success, Pope returned to London and for a time en- 
deavored to live the gay and dissolute life which was supposed to be 
suitable for a literary genius ; but he was utterly unfitted for it, men- 
tally and physically, and soon retired to Twickenham. There he 
gave himself up to poetry, manufactured a little garden more arti- 
ficial than his verses, and cultivated his friendship with Martha 
Blount, with whom for many years he spent a good part of each day, 
and who remained faithful to him to the end of his life. At Twicken- 
ham he wrote his Moral Epistles (poetical satires modeled after 

1 Pope's satires, for instance, are strongly suggested in Boileau ; his Rape of the 
Lock is much like the mock-heroic Le Lutrin ; and the "Essay on Criticism," which 
made him famous, is an English edition and improvement of UArt Poetique. The last 
was, in turn, a combination of the Ars Poeiica of Horace and of many well-known rules 
of the classicists. 


Horace) and revenged himself upon all his critics in the bitter abuse 
of the Dunciad. He died in 1744 and was buried at Twickenham, 
his religion preventing him from the honor, which was certainly his 
due, of a resting place in Westminster Abbey. 

Works of Pope. For convenience we may separate Pope's 
work into three groups, corresponding to the early, middle, 
and later period of his life. In the firsL-he wrote his " Pas- 
torals," "Windsor Forest," "Messiah," " Essay on Criticism," 
"Eloise to Abelard," and the Rape of the Lock; in the sec- 
ond, his translations of Homer ; in the third the Dunciad 
and the Epistles, the latter containing the famous "Essay 
on Man" and the "Epistle to Dr. Arbuthnot," which is in 
truth his "Apologia," and in which alone we see Pope's life 
from his own view point. 

The " Essay on Criticism " sums up the art of poetry as 
taught first by Horace, then by Boileau and the eighteenth- 
Essay on century classicists. Though written in heroic coup- 
Criticism ] e t Sj we hardly consider this as a poem but rather 
as a storehouse of critical maxims. "For fools rush in where 
angels fear to tread"; "To err is human, to forgive divine " ; 
"A little learning is a dangerous thing," these lines, and 
many more like them from the same source, have found their 
way into our common speech, and are used, without thinking 
of the author, whenever we need an apt quotation. 

The Rape of the Lock is a masterpiece of its kind, and comes 
nearer to being a " creation ' ' than anything else that Pope 
Rape of the has written. The occasion of the famous poem was 
trivial enough. A fop at the court of Queen Anne, 
one Lord Petre, snipped a lock of hair from the abundant 
curls of a pretty maid of honor named Arabella Fermor. The 
young lady resented it, and the two families were plunged 
into a quarrel which was the talk of London. Pope, being 
appealed to, seized the occasion to construct, not a ballad, as 
the Cavaliers would have done, nor an epigram, as French 
poets love to do, but a long poem in which all the mannerisms 


of society are pictured in minutest detail and satirized with 
the most delicate wit. The first edition, consisting of two 
cantos, was published in 1712 ; and it is amazing now to read 
of the trivial character of London court life at the time when 
English soldiers were battling for a great continent in the 
French and Indian wars. Its instant success caused Pope to 
lengthen the poem by three more cantos ; and in order to 
make a more perfect burlesque of an epic poem, he introduces 
gnomes, sprites, sylphs^ and salamanders, 1 instead of the gods 
of the great epics, with which his readers were familiar. The 
poem is modeled after two foreign satires : Boileau's Le Lu- 
trin (reading desk), a satire on the French clergy, who raised 
a huge quarrel over the location of a lectern ; and La SeccJiia 
Rapita (stolen bucket), a famous Italian satire on the petty 
causes of the endless Italian wars. Pope, however, went far 
ahead of his masters in style and in delicacy of handling a 
mock-heroic theme, and during his lifetime the Rape of the 
Lock was considered as the greatest poem of its kind in all 
literature. The poem is still well worth reading; for as an 
expression of the artificial life of the age of its cards, par- 
ties, toilettes, lapdogs, tea-drinking, snuff-taking, and idle 
vanities it is as perfect in its way as Tamburlaine, which 
reflects the boundless ambition of the Elizabethans. 

The fame of Pope's Iliad, which was financially the most 
successful of his books, was due to the fact that he interpreted 
Pope's Trans- Homer in the elegant, artificial language of his own 
lations a g e N O J- on i v ^0 hj s WO rds follow literary fashions, 

but even the Homeric characters lose their strength and be- 
come fashionable men of the court. So the criticism of the 
scholar Bentley was most appropriate when he said, "It is a 
pretty poem, Mr. Pope, but you must not call it Homer." 
Pope translated the entire Iliad and half of the Odyssey ; and 

1 These are the four kinds of spirits inhabiting the four elements, according to the 
Rosicrucians, a fantastic sect of spiritualists of that age. In the dedication of the 
poem Pope says he took the idea from a French book called Le Comte de Gabalis. 


the latter work was finished by two Cambridge scholars, 
Elijah Fenton and William Broome, who imitated the me- 
chanical couplets so perfectly that it is difficult to distinguish 
their work from that of the greatest poet of the age. A single 
selection is given to show how, in the nobler passages, even 
Pope may faintly suggest the elemental grandeur of Homer : 

The troops exulting sat in order round, 
And beaming fires illumined all the ground. 
As when the moon, refulgent lamp of night, 
O'er Heaven's clear azure spreads her sacred light, 
When not a breath disturbs the deep serene, 
And not a cloud o'ercasts the solemn scene ; 
Around her throne the vivid planets roll, 
And stars unnumbered gild the glowing pole, 
O'er the dark trees a yellower verdure shed, 
And tip with silver every mountain's head. 

The " Essay " is the best known and the most quoted of 
all Pope's works. Except in form it is not poetry, and when 
Essay on one considers it as an essay and reduces it to plain 
Man prose, it is found to consist of numerous literary 

ornaments without any very solid structure of thought to rest 
upon. The purpose of the essay is, in Pope's words, to " vin- 
dicate the ways of God to Man " ; and as there are no unan- 
swered problems in Pope's philosophy, the vindication is per- 
fectly accomplished in four poetical epistles, concerning man's 
relations to the universe^ to himself, to society, and to happiness. 
The final result is summed up in a few well-known lines : 

All nature is but art, unknown to thee ;->. 

All chance, direction which thojflrcanst not see ; 

All discord, harmony not understood ; 

All partial evil, universal good : 

And, spite of pride, in erring reason's spite^ 

One truth is clear, whatever is, is right. 

Like the "Essay on Criticism," the poem abounds in quot- 
able lines, such as the following, which make the entire work 
well worth reading : 


Hope springs eternal in the human breast : 
Man never is, but always to be blest. 

Know then thyself, presume not God to scan ; 
The proper study of Mankind is Man. 

The same ambition can destroyer save, 
And makes a patriot as it makes a knave. 

Honor and shame from no condition rise; 
Act well your part, there all the honor lies. 

Vice is a monster of so frightful mien, 
As, to be hated, needs but to be seen ; 
Yet seen too oft, familiar with her face, 
We first endure, then pity, then embrace. 

Behold the child, by Nature's kindly law, 
Pleased with a rattle, tickled with a straw : 
Some livelier plaything gives his youth delight, 
A little louder, but as empty quite : 
Scarfs, garters, gold, amuse his riper stage, 
And beads and prayer books are the toys of age : 
Pleased with this bauble still, as that before ; 
Till tired he sleeps, and Life's poor play is o'er. 1 

The Dunciad (i.e. the " Iliad of the Dunces ") began origi- 
nally as a controversy concerning Shakespeare, but turned 
Misceiiane- out to be a coarse and revengeful satire upon all 
ous Works the literary men of the age who had aroused Pope's 
anger by their criticism or lack of appreciation of his genius. 
Though brilliantly written and immensely popular at one time, 
its present effect on the reader is to arouse a sense of pity 
that a man of such acknowledged power and position should 
abuse both by devoting his talents to personal spite and 
petty quarrels. Among the rest of his numerous works the 
reader will find Pope's estimate of himself best set forth in 
his "Epistle to Dr. Arbuthnot," and it will be well to close 
our study of this strange mixture of vanity and greatness with 
"The Universal Prayer," which shows at least that Pope had 
considered, and judged himself, and that all further judgment 
is consequently superfluous. 

l Compare this with Shakespeare's " All the world 's a stage," in As You Like It, II, 7, 



JONATHAN SWIFT (1667-1745) 

In each of Marlowe's tragedies we have the picture of a 
man dominated by a single passion, the lust of power for its 
own sake. In each we see that a powerful man without self- * 
control is like a dangerous instrument in the hands of a child ; 
and the tragedy ends in the destruction of the man by the 
ungoverned power which he possesses. The life of Swift is 
just such a living tragedy. He had the power of gaining 

wealth, like the hero of 
the Jew of Malta ; yet 
he used it scornfully, and 
in sad irony left what re- 
mained to him of a large 
property to found a hos- 
pital for lunatics. By hard 
work he won enormous 
literary power, and used 
it to satirize our common 
humanity. He wrested 
political power from the 
hands of the Tories, and 
used it to insult the~"very' 
men who had helped him, 
and who held his fate in 
their hands. By his domi- ' 
nant personality he exercised a curious power over women, 
and used it brutally to make them feel their inferiority. Being 
loved supremely by two good women, he brought sorrow and 
death to both, and endless misery to himself. So his power 
brought always tragedy in its wake. It is only when we re- 
member his life of struggle and disappointment and bitter- 
ness that we can appreciate the personal quality in his satire, 
and perhaps find some sympathy for this greatest genius of 
all the Augustan writers. 



Life. Swift was born in Dublin, of English parents, in 1667. His 
father died before he was born ; his mother was poor, and Swift, 
though proud as Lucifer, was compelled to accept aid from relatives, 
who gave it grudgingly. At the Kilkenny school, and especially at 
Dublin University, he detested the curriculum, reading only what 
appealed to his own nature ; but, since a degree was necessary to 
his success, he was compelled to accept it as a favor from the 
examiners, whom he despised in his heart. After graduation the 
only position open to him was with a distant relative, Sir William 
Temple, who gave him the position of private secretary largely on 
account of the unwelcome relationship. 

, Temple was a statesman and an excellent diplomatist; but he 
thought himself to be a great writer as well, and he entered into a 
literary controversy concerning the relative merits of the classics and 
modern literature. Swift's first notable work, The Battle of the Books, 
written at this time but not published, is a keen satire upon both 
parties in the controversy y The first touch of bitterness shows itself 
here ; for Swift was in a galling position for a man of his pride, 
knowing his intellectual superiority to the man who employed him, 
and yet being looked upon as a servant and eating at the servants' 
table. Thus he spent ten of the best years of his life in the pretty 
Moor Park, Surrey, growing more bitter each year and steadily curs- 
ing his fate. Nevertheless he read and studied widely, and, after 
his position with Temple grew unbearable, quarreled with his patron, 
took orders, and entered the Church of England. Some years later 
we find him settled in the little church of Laracor, Ireland, a 
country which he disliked intensely, but whither he went because no 
other " living " was open to him. 

In Ireland, faithful to his church duties, Swift labored to better 
the condition of the unhappy people around him. Never before had 
the poor of his parishes been so well cared for ; but Swift chafed 
under his yoke, growing more and more irritated as he saw small 
men advanced to large positions, while he remained unnoticed in a 
little country church, largely because he was too proud and too 
blunt with those who might have advanced him. While at Laracor 
he finished his Tale of a Tub, a satire on the various churches of 
the day, which was published in London with the Battle of the Books 
in 1704. The work brought him into notice as the most powerful 
satirist of the age, and he soon gave up his church to enter the 
strife of party politics. The cheap pamphlet was then the most 


powerful political weapon known ; and as Swift had no equal at 
pamphlet writing, he soon became a veritable dictator. For several 
years, especially from 1710 to 1713, Swift was one of the most im- 
portant figures in London. The Whigs feared the lash of his satire ; 
the Tories feared to lose his support. He was courted, nattered, 
cajoled on every side ; but the use he made of his new power is sad 
to contemplate. An unbearable arrogance took possession of him. 


Lords, statesmen, even ladies were compelled to sue for his favor 
and to apologize for every fancied slight to his egoism. It is at this 
time that he writes in his Journal to Stella : 

Mr. Secretary told me the Duke of Buckingham had been talking 
much about me and desired my acquaintance. I answered it could not 
be, for he had not yet made sufficient advances ; then Shrewsbury said 
he thought the Duke was not used to make advances. I said I could 
not help that, for I always expected advances in proportion to men's 
quality, and more from a Duke than any other man. 

Writing to the Duchess of Queensberry he says : 

I am glad you know your duty ; for it has been a known and estab- 
lished rule above twenty years in England that the first advances have 
been constantly made me by all ladies who aspire to my acquaintance, 
and the greater their quality the greater were their advances. 


When the Tories went out of power Swift's position became un- 
certain. He expected and had probably been promised a bishopric 
in England, with a seat among the peers of the realm; but the 
Tories offered him instead the place of dean of St. Patrick's Cathe- 
dral in Dublin. It was galling to a man of his proud spirit; but 
after his merciless satire on religion, in The Tale of a Tub, any 
ecclesiastical position in England was rendered impossible. Dublin 
was the best he could get, and he accepted it bitterly, once more 
cursing the fate which he had brought upon himself. 

With his return to Ireland begins the last act in the tragedy of 
his life. His best known literary work, Gulliver's Travels, was done 
here ; but the bitterness of life grew slowly to insanity, and a fright- 
ful personal sorrow, of which he never spoke, reached its climax in 
the death of Esther Johnson, a beautiful young woman, who had 
loved Swift ever since the two had met in Temple's household, and 
to whom he had written \^ Journal to Stella. During the last years 
of his life a brain disease, of which he had shown frequent symp- 
toms, fastened its terrible hold upon Swift, and he became by turns 
an idiot and a madman. He died in 1745, and when his will was 
opened it was found that he had left all his property to found St. 
Patrick's Asylum for lunatics and incurables. It stands to-day as 
the most suggestive monument of his peculiar genius. 

The Works of Swift. From Swift's life one can readily 
foresee the kind of literature he will produce. Taken together 
his works are a monstrous satire on humanity ; and the spirit 
of that satire is shown clearly in a little incident of his first 
days in London. There was in the city at that time a certain 
astrologer named Partridge, who duped the public by calcu- 
lating nativities from the stars, and by selling a yearly almanac 
predicting future events. Swift, who hated all shams, wrote, 
with a great show of learning, his famous Bickerstaff Alma- 
nac, containing "Predictions for the Year 1708, as Deter- 
mined by the Unerring Stars." As Swift rarely signed his 
name to any literary work, letting it stand or fall on its own 
merits, his burlesque appeared over the pseudonym of Isaac 
Bickerstaff, a name afterwards made famous by Steele in The 
Tatler. Among the predictions was the following : 


My first prediction is but a trifle ; yet I will mention it to show how 
ignorant those sottish pretenders to astrology are in their own concerns : 
it relates to Partridge the almanack maker ; I have consulted the star 
of his nativity by my own rules, and find he will infallibly die upon the 
29th of March next, about eleven at night, of a raging fever ; therefore 
I advise him to consider of it, and settle his affairs in time. 

On March 30, the day after the prediction was to be ful- 
filled, there appeared in the newspapers a letter from a revenue 
officer giving the details of Partridge's death, with the doings 
of the bailiff and the coffin maker ; and on the following 
morning appeared an elaborate " Elegy of Mr. Partridge." 
When poor Partridge, who suddenly found himself without 
customers, published a denial of the burial, Swift answered 
with an elaborate "Vindication of Isaac Bickerstaff, " in which 
he proved by astrological rules that Partridge was dead, and 
that the man now in his place was an impostor trying to cheat 
the heirs out of their inheritance. 

This ferocious joke is suggestive of all Swift's satires. 
Against any case of hypocrisy or injustice he sets up a remedy 
Character ^ precisely the same kind, only more atrocious, 
of Swift's and defends his plan with such seriousness that 
the satire overwhelms the reader with a sense of 
monstrous falsity. Thus his solemn " Argument to prove that 
the Abolishing of Christianity may be attended with Some 
Inconveniences" is such a frightful satire upon the abuses of 
Christianity by its professed followers that it is impossible for 
us to say whether Swift intended to point out needed reforms, 
or to satisfy his conscience, 1 or to perpetrate a joke on the 
Church, as he had done on poor Partridge. So also with his 
"Modest Proposal," concerning the children of Ireland, which 
sets up the proposition that poor Irish farmers ought to raise 
children as dainties, to be eaten, like roast pigs, on the tables 
of prosperous Englishmen. In this most characteristic work 

1 It is only fair to point out that Swift wrote this and two other pamphlets on religion 
at a time when he knew that they would damage, if not destroy, his own prospects of 
political advancement. 


it is impossible to find Swift or his motive. The injustice 
under which Ireland suffered, her perversity in raising large 
families to certain poverty, and the indifference of English 
politicians to her suffering and protests are all mercilessly 
portrayed ; but why ? That is still the unanswered problem 
of Swift's life and writings. 

Swift's two greatest satires are his Tale of a Tub arid 
Gulliver's Travels. The Tale began as a grim exposure of 
Tale of a Tub tne a ^ e g e d weaknesses of three principal forms of 
religious belief, Catholic, Lutheran, and Calvinist, 
as opposed to the Anglican ; but it ended in a satire upon all 
science and philosophy. 

Swift explains his whimsical title by the custom of mariners in 
throwing out a tub to a whale, in order to occupy the monster's atten- 
tion and divert it from an attack upon the ship, which only proves 
how little Swift knew of whales or sailors. But let that pass. His book 
is a tub thrown out to the enemies of Church and State to keep them 
occupied from further attacks or criticism ; and the substance of the 
argument is that all churches, and indeed all religion and science and 
statesmanship, are arrant hypocrisy. The best known part of the book 
is the allegory of the old man who died and left a coat (which is Chris- 
tian Truth) to each of his three sons, Peter, Martin, and Jack, with 
minute directions for its care and use. These three names stand for 
Catholics, Lutherans, and Calvinists ; and the way in which the sons 
evade their father's will and change the fashion of their garment is part 
of the bitter satire upon all religious sects. -Though it professes to 
defend the Anglican Church, that institution fares perhaps worse than 
the others ; for nothing is left to her but a thin cloak of custom under 
which to hide her alleged hypocrisy. 

In Gulliver's Travels the satire grows more unbearable. 
Strangely enough, this book, upon which Swift's literary fame 
Gulliver's generally rests, was not written from any literary 
Travels motive, but rather as an outlet for the author's 
own bitterness against fate and human society. It is still 
read with pleasure, as Robinson Crusoe is read, for the inter- 
esting adventures of the hero ; and fortunately those who 
read it generally overlook its degrading influence and motive. 


Gulliver' 's Travels records the pretended four voyages of one Lemuel 
Gulliver, and his adventures in four astounding countries. The first 
book tells of his voyage and shipwreck in Lilliput, where the inhabitants 
are about as tall as one's thumb, and all their acts and motives are on 
the same dwarfish scale. In the petty quarrels of these dwarfs we are 
supposed to see the littleness of humanity. The statesmen who obtain 
place and favor by cutting monkey capers on the tight rope before their 
sovereign, and the two great parties, the Littleendians and Bigendians, 
who plunge the country into civil war over the momentous question of 
whether an egg should be broken on its big or on its little end, are sat- 
ires on the politics of Swift's own day and generation. The style is 
simple and convincing ; the surprising situations and adventures are as 
absorbing as those of Defoe's masterpiece ; and altogether it is the 
most interesting of Swift's satires. 

On the second voyage Gulliver is abandoned in Brobdingnag, where 
the inhabitants are giants, and everything is done upon an enormous 
scale. The meanness of humanity seems all the more detestable in view 
of the greatness of these superior beings. When Gulliver tells about 
his own people, their ambitions and wars and conquests, the giants can 
only wonder that such great venom could exist in such little insects. 

In the third voyage Gulliver continues his adventures in Laputa, and 
this is a satire upon all the scientists and philosophers. Laputa is a 
flying island, held up in the air by a loadstone ; and all the professors 
of the famous academy at Lagado are of the same airy constitution. 
The philosopher who worked eight years to extract sunshine from 
cucumbers is typical of Swift's satiric treatment of all scientific prob- 
lems. It is in this voyage that we hear of the Struldbrugs, a ghastly 
race of men who are doomed to live upon earth after losing hope and 
the desire for life. The picture is all the more terrible in view of the 
last years of Swift's own life, in which he was compelled to live on, a 
burden to himself and his friends. 

In these three voyages the evident purpose is to strip off the veil of 
habit and custom, with which men deceive themselves, and show the 
crude vices of humanity as Swift fancies he sees them. In the fourth 
voyage the merciless satire is carried out to its logical conclusion. This 
brings us to the land of the Houyhnhnms, in which horses, superior 
and intelligent creatures, are the ruling animals. All our interest, how- 
ever, is centered on the Yahoos, a frightful race, having the form and 
appearance of men, but living in unspeakable degradation. 

The Journal to Stella, written chiefly in the years 1710- 
1713 for the benefit of Esther Johnson, is interesting to us 
for two reasons. It is, first, an excellent commentary on 


contemporary characters and political events, by one of the 
most powerful and original minds of the age ; and second, in 
Misceiiane- its love passages and purely personal descriptions 
ous Works j t gi ves us the b es t picture we possess of Swift 
himself at the summit of his power and influence. As we 
read now its words of tenderness for the woman who loved 
him, and who brought almost the only ray of sunlight into 
his life, we can only wonder and be silent. Entirely different 
are his D rapier's Letters, a model of political harangue and of 
popular argument, which roused an unthinking English public 
and did much benefit to Ireland by preventing the politicians' 
plan of debasing the Irish coinage. Swift's poems, though 
vigorous and original (like Defoe's, of the same period), are 
generally satirical, often coarse, and seldom rise above dog- 
gerel. Unlike his friend Addison, Swift saw, in the growing 
polish and decency of society, only a mask for hypocrisy ; 
and he often used his verse to shock the new-born modesty 
by pointing out some native ugliness which his diseased mind 
discovered under every beautiful exterior. 

That Swift is the most original writer of his time, and one 
of the greatest masters of English prose, is undeniable. 
Character of Directness, vigor, simplicity, mark every page. 
Swift's Prose Among writers of that age he stands almost alone 
in his disdain of literary effects. Keeping his object steadily 
before him, he drives straight on to the end, with a convin- 
cing power that has never been surpassed in our language. 
Even in his most grotesque creations, the reader never loses 
the sense of reality, of being present as an eyewitness of the 
most impossible events, so powerful and convincing is Swift's 
prose. Defoe had the same power ; but in writing Robinson 
Crusoe, for instance, his task was comparatively easy, since 
his hero and his adventures were both natural ; while Swift 
gives reality to pygmies, giants, and the most impossible 
situations, as easily as if he were writing of facts. Notwith- 
standing these excellent qualities, the ordinary reader will do 



well to confine himself to Gulliver s Travels and a book of 
well-chosen selections. For, it must be confessed, the bulk 
of Swift's work is not wholesome reading. It is too terribly 
satiric and destructive ; it emphasizes the faults and failings 
of humanity ; and so runs counter to the general course of 
our literature, which from Cynewulf to Tennyson follows the 
Ideal, as Merlin followed the Gleam, 1 and is not satisfied till 
the hidden beauty of man's soul and the divine purpose of his 
struggle are manifest. 

JOSEPH ADDISON (1672-1719) 

In the pleasant art of living with one's fellows, Addison is 
easily a master. It is due to his perfect expression of that 
art, of that new social life which, as we have noted, was char- 
acteristic of the Age of Anne, 
that Addison occupies such a 
large place in the history of 
literature. Of less power and 
originality than Swift, he never- 
theless wields, and deserves to 
wield, a more lasting influence. 
Swift is the storm, roaring 
against the ice and frost of 
the late spring of English life. 
Addison is the sunshine, which 
melts the ice and dries the mud 
and makes the earth thrill with 
light and hope. Like Swift, he 
despised shams, but unlike him, 
he never lost faith in humanity ; and in all his satires there is 
a gentle kindliness which makes one think better of his fellow- 
men, even while he laughs at their little vanities. 

Two things Addison did for our literature which are of 
inestimable value. First, he overcame a certain corrupt 

1 See Tennyson's " Merlin and the Gleam." 



tendency bequeathed by Restoration literature. It was the 
apparent aim of the low drama, and even of much of the poetry 
Addison's of that age, to make virtue ridiculous and vice attract- 
influence j ve> Addison set himself squarely against this un- 
worthy tendency. To strip off the mask of vice, to show its 
ugliness and deformity, but to reveal virtue in its own native 
loveliness, that was Addison's purpose; and he succeeded 
so well that never, since his day, has our English literature 
seriously followed after false gods. As Macaulay says, "So 
effectually did he retort on vice the mockery which had re- 
cently been directed against virtue, that since his time the 
open violation of decency has always been considered amongst 
us a sure mark of a fool." And second, prompted and aided 
by the more original genius of his friend Steele, Addison 
seized upon the new social life of the clubs and made it the 
subject of endless pleasant essays upon types of men and 
manners. The Tatter and The Spectator are the beginning of 
the modern essay ; and their studies of human character, as 
exemplified in Sir Roger de Coverley, are a preparation for 
the modern novel. 

Life. Addison's life, like his writings, is in marked contrast to 
that of Swift. He was born in Milston, Wiltshire, in 1672. His 
father was a scholarly English clergyman, and all his life Addison 
followed naturally the quiet and cultured ways to which he was early 
accustomed. At the famous Charterhouse School, in London, and 
in his university life at Oxford, he excelled in character and scholar- 
ship and became known as a writer of graceful verses. He'had some 
intention, at one time, of entering the Church, but was easily per- 
suaded by his friends to take up the government service instead. 
Unlike Swift, who abused his political superiors, Addison took the 
more tactful way of winning the friendship of men in large places. 
His lines to Dryden won that literary leader's instant favor, and one 
of his Latin poems, " The Peace of Ryswick " (1697), with its kindly 
appreciation of King William's statesmen, brought him into favorable 
political notice. It brought him also a pension of three hundred pounds 
a year, with a suggestion that he travel abroad and cultivate the art 
of diplomacy; which he promptly did to his own great advantage. 


From a literary view point the most interesting work of Addison's 
early life is his Account of the Greatest English Poets (1693), written 
while he was a fellow of Oxford University. One rubs his eyes to 
find Dryden lavishly praised, Spenser excused or patronized, while 
Shakespeare is not even mentioned. But Addison was writing under 
Boileau's " classic " rules ; and the poet, like the age, was perhaps 
too artificial to appreciate natural genius. 

While he was traveling abroad, the death of William and the 
loss of power by the Whigs suddenly stopped Addison's pension ; 
necessity brought him home, and for a time he lived in poverty and 
obscurity. Then occurred the battle of Blenheim, and in the effort 
to find a poet to celebrate the event, Addison was brought to the 
Tories' attention. His poem, "The Campaign," celebrating the 
victory, took the country by storm. Instead of making the hero 
slay his thousands and ten thousands, like the old epic heroes, 
Addison had some sense of what is required in a modern general, 
and so made Marlborough direct the battle from the outside, com- 
paring him to an angel riding on the whirlwind : 

'T was then great Marlbro's mighty soul was proved, 

That, in the shock of charging hosts unmoved, 

Amidst confusion, horror, and despair, 

Examined all the dreadful scenes of war ; 

In peaceful thought the field of death surveyed, 

To fainting squadrons sent the timely aid, 

Inspired repulsed battalions to engage, 

And taught the doubtful battle where to rage. 

So when an angel by divine command 

With rising tempests shakes a guilty land, 

(Such as of late o'er pale Britannia past,) 

Calm and serene he drives the furious blast ; 

And, pleased th' Almighty's orders to perform, 

Rides in the whirlwind, and directs the storm. 

That one doubtful simile made Addison's fortune. Never before 
or since was a poet's mechanical work so well rewarded. It was 
called the finest thing ever written, and from that day Addison rose 
steadily in political favor and office. He became in turn Under- 
secretary, member of Parliament, Secretary for Ireland, and finally 
Secretary of State. Probably no other literary man, aided by his 
pen alone, ever rose so rapidly and so high in office. 


The rest of Addison's life was divided between political duties 
and literature. His essays for the Tatler and Spectator, which we 
still cherish, were written between 1709 and 1714 ; but he won more 
literary fame by his classic tragedy Cato, which we have almost for- 
gotten. In 1716 he married a widow, the Countess of Warwick, and 
went to live at her home, the famous Holland House. His married 
life lasted only three years, and was probably not a happy one. 
Certainly he never wrote of women except with gentle satire, and 
he became more and more a clubman, spending most of his time in 
the clubs and coffeehouses of London. Up to this time his life had 
been singularly peaceful ; but his last years were shadowed by quar- 
rels, first with Pope, then with Swift, and finally with his lifelong 
friend Steele. The first quarrel was on literary grounds, and was 
largely the result of Pope's jealousy. The latter's venomous carica- 
ture of Addison as Atticus shows how he took his petty revenge on 
a great and good man who had been his friend. The other quarrels 
with Swift, and especially with his old friend Steele, were the unfor- 
tunate result of political differences, and show how impossible it 
is to mingle literary ideals with party politics. He died serenely in 
1719. A brief description from Thackeray's English Humorists is 
his best epitaph : 

A life prosperous and beautiful, a calm death ; an immense fame and 
affection afterwards for his happy and spotless name. 

Works of Addison. The most enduring of Addison's works 
are his famous Essays, collected from the Tatler and Specta- 
tor. We have spoken of him as a master of the 

The Essays - 

art of gentle living, and these essays are a perpet- 
ual inducement to others to know and to practice the same 
fine art. To an age of fundamental coarseness and artificiality 
he came with a wholesome message of refinement and sim- 
plicity, much as Ruskin and Arnold spoke to a later age of 
materialism ; only Addison's success was greater than theirs 
because of his greater knowledge of life and his greater faith 
in men. He attacks all the little vanities and all the big vices 
of his time, not in Swift's terrible way, which makes us feel 
hopeless of humanity, but with a kindly ridicule and gentle 
humor which takes speedy improvement for granted. To read 


Swift's brutal "Letters to a Young Lady," and then to read 
Addison's " Dissection of a Beau's Head " and his " Dissection 
of a Coquette's Heart," is to know at once the secret of the 
latter 's more enduring influence. 

Three other results of these delightful essays are worthy 
of attention : first, they are the best picture we possess of 
the new social life of England, with its many new interests ; 
second, they advanced the art of literary criticism to a much 
higher stage than it "had ever before reached, and however 
much we differ from their judgment and their interpretation 
of such a man as Milton, they certainly led Englishmen to 
a better knowledge and appreciation of their own literature ; 
and finally, in Ned Softly the literary dabbler, Will Wimble 
the poor relation, Sir Andrew Freeport the merchant, Will 
Honeycomb the fop, and Sir Roger the country gentleman, 
they give us characters that live forever as part of that goodly 
company which extends from Chaucer's country parson to 
Kipling's Mulvaney. Addison and Steele not only introduced 
the modern essay, but in such characters as these they herald 
the dawn of the modern novel. Of all his essays the best 
known and loved are those 'which introduce us to Sir Roger 
de Coverley, the genial dictator of life and manners in the 
quiet English country. 

In style these essays are remarkable as showing the grow- 
ing perfection of the English language. Johnson says, " Who- 
Addison's ever wishes to attain an English style, familiar but 
style no t coarse, and elegant but not ostentatious, must 

give his days and nights to the volumes of Addison." And 
again he says, " Give nights and days, sir, to the study of 
Addison if you mean to be a good writer, or, what is more 
worth, an honest man." That was good criticism for its day, 
and even at the present time critics are agreed that Addison's 
Essays are well worth reading once for their own sake, and 
many times for their influence in shaping a clear and graceful 
style of writing. 


Addison's poems, which were enormously popular in his 
day, are now seldom read. His Cato, with its classic unities 
and lack of dramatic power, must be regarded as a 
failure, if we study it as tragedy ; but it offers an 
excellent example of the rhetoric and fine sentiment which 
were then considered the essentials of good writing. The best 
scene from this tragedy is in the fifth act, where Cato solilo- 
quizes, with Plato's Immortality of the Soul open in his hand, 
and a drawn sword on the table before him : 

It must be so Plato, thou reason'st well ! 

Else whence this pleasing hope, this fond desire, 

This longing after immortality ? 

Or whence this secret dread, and inward horror, 

Of falling into nought? why shrinks the soul 

Back on herself, and startles at destruction ? 

'T is the divinity that stirs within us ; 

'T is heaven itself, that points out an hereafter, 

And intimates eternity to man. 

Many readers make frequent use of one portion of Addi- 
son's poetry without knowing to whom they are indebted. 
His devout nature found expression in many hymns, a few of 
which are still used and loved in bur churches. Many a con- 
gregation thrills, as Thackeray did, to the splendid sweep of 
his " God in Nature," beginning, " The spacious firmament on 
high." Almost as well known and loved are his " Traveler's 
Hymn," and his "Continued Help," beginning, "When all 
thy mercies, O my God." The latter hymn written in a 
storm at sea off the Italian coast, when the captain and crew 
were demoralized by terror shows that poetry, especially a 
good hymn that one can sing in the same spirit as one would 
say his prayers, is sometimes the most practical and helpful 
thing in the world. 

Richard Steele (1672-1729). Steele was in almost every 
respect the antithesis of his friend and fellow-worker, a 
rollicking, good-hearted, emotional, lovable Irishman. At the 
Charterhouse School and at Oxford he shared everything with 


Addison, asking nothing but love in return. Unlike Addison, 
he studied but little, and left the university to enter the Horse 
Guards. He was in turn soldier, captain, poet, playwright, 
essayist, member of Parliament, manager of a theater, pub- 
lisher of a newspaper, and twenty other things, all of which 
he began joyously and then abandoned, sometimes against his 
will, as when he was expelled from Parliament, and again be- 
cause some other interest of the moment had more attraction. 
His poems and plays are now little known ; but the reader 
who searches them out will find one or two suggestive things 
about Steele himself. For instance, he loves children ; and 
he is one of the few writers of his time who show a sincere 
and unswerving respect for womanhood. Even more than 
Addison he ridicules vice and makes virtue lovely. He is the 
originator of the Tatler, and joins with Addison in creating 
the Spectator, the two periodicals which, in the short space 
of less than four years, did more to influence subsequent lit- 
erature than all other magazines of the century combined. 
Moreover, he is the original genius of Sir Roger, and of many 
other characters and essays for which Addison usually receives 
the whole credit. It is often impossible in the Tatler essays 
to separate the work of the two men ; but the majority of 
critics hold that the more original parts, the characters, the 
thought, the overflowing kindliness, are largely Steele's crea- 
tion ; while to Addison fell the work of polishing and perfect- 
ing the essays, and of adding that touch of humor which 
made them the most welcome literary visitors that England 
had ever received. 

The Tatler and The Spectator. On account of his talent in 
writing political pamphlets, Steele was awarded the position 
of official gazetteer. While in this position, and writing for 
several small newspapers, the idea occurred to Steele to pub- 
lish a paper which should contain not only the political news, 
but also the gossip of the clubs and coffeehouses, with some 
light essays on the life and manners of the age. The immediate 


result for Steele never let an idea remain idle was the 
famous Tatler, the first number of which appeared April 12, 
1709. It was a small folio sheet, appearing on post days, three 
times a week, and it sold for a penny a copy. That it had 
a serious purpose is evident from this dedication to the first 
volume of collected Tatler essays : 

The general purpose of this paper is to expose the false arts of life, 
to pull off the disguises of cunning, vanity, and affectation, and to recom- 
mend a genera] simplicity in our dress, our discourse, and our behavior. 

The success of this unheard-of combination of news, gossip, 
and essay was instantaneous. Not a club or a coffeehouse 
in London could afford to be without it, and over its pages 
began the first general interest in contemporary English life 
as expressed in literature. Steele at first wrote the entire 
paper and signed his essays with the name of Isaac Bicker- 
staff, which had been made famous by Swift a few years be- 
fore. Addison is said to have soon recognized one of his own 
remarks to Steele, and the secret of the authorship was out. 
From that time Addison was a regular contributor, and occa- 
sionally other writers added essays on the new social life of 
England. 1 

Steele lost his position as gazetteer, and the Tatler was 
discontinued after less than two years' life, but not till it 
won an astonishing popularity and made ready the way for 
its successor. Two months later, on March I, 1711, appeared 
the first number of the Spectator. In the new magazine 
politics and news, as such, were ignored ; it was a literary 
magazine, pure and simple, and its entire contents consisted 
of a single light essay. It was considered a crazy venture at 
the time, but its instant success proved that men were eager 
for some literary expression of the new social ideals. The 

1 f the Tatler essays Addison contributed forty-two ; thirty-six others were written 
in collaboration with Steele ; while at least a hundred and eighty are the work of Steele 


following whimsical letter to the editor may serve to indicate 
the part played by the Spectator in the daily life of London : 

Mr. Spectator, Your paper is a part of my tea equipage; and my 
servant knows my humor so well, that in calling for my breakfast this 
morning (it being past my usual hour) she answered, the Spectator was not 
yet come in, but the teakettle boiled, and she expected it every moment. 

It is in the incomparable Spectator papers that Addison 
shows himself most "worthy to be remembered." He con- 
tributed the majority of its essays, and in its first niimber 
appears this description of the Spectator, by which name 
Addison is now generally known : 

There is no place of general resort wherein I do not often make my 
appearance ; sometimes I am seen thrusting my head into a round of 
politicians at Will's [Coffeehouse] and listening with great attention to 
the narratives that are made in those little circular audiences. Sometimes 
I smoke a pipe at Child's, and, whilst I seem attentive to nothing but 
The Postman, overhear the conversation of every table in the room. I 
appear on Sunday nights at St. James's, and sometimes join the little 
committee of politics in the inner room, as one who comes to hear and 
improve. My face is likewise very well known at the Grecian, the Cocoa 
Tree, and in the theaters both of Drury Lane and the Haymarket. I 
have been taken for a merchant upon the Exchange for above these 
ten years ; and sometimes pass for a Jew in the assembly of stock job- 
bers at Jonathan's. . . . Thus I live in the world rather as a spectator 
of mankind than as one of the species, . . . which is the character I in- 
tend to preserve in this paper. 

The large place which these two little magazines hold in 
our literature seems most disproportionate to their short span 
of days. In the short space of four years in which Addison 
and Steele worked together the light essay was established as 
one of the most important forms of modern literature, and 
the literary magazine won its place as the expression of the 
social life of a nation. 



SAMUEL JOHNSON (1709-1784) 

The reader of Boswell's Johnson, after listening to endless 
grumblings and watching the clumsy actions of the hero, often 
finds himself wondering why he should end his reading with 
a profound respect for this "old bear" who is the object of 
Boswell's groveling attention. Here is a man who was cer- 
tainly not the greatest writer of his age, perhaps not even a 
great writer at all, but who 
was nevertheless the dictator 
of English letters, and who 
still looms across the cen- 
turies of a magnificent litera- 
ture as its most striking and 
original figure. Here, more- 
over, is a huge, fat, awkward 
man, of vulgar manners and 
appearance, who monopo- 
lizes conversation, argues 
violently, abuses everybody, 
clubs down opposition, 
" Madam " (speaking to his 
cultivated hostess at table), 
"talk no more nonsense"; 
"Sir" (turning to a distin- 
guished guest), "I perceive you are a vile Whig." While 
talking he makes curious animal sounds, " sometimes giving a 
half whistle, sometimes clucking like a hen"; and when he has 
concluded a violent dispute and laid his opponents low by 
dogmatism or ridicule, he leans back to " blow out his breath 
like a whale " and gulp down numberless cups of hot tea. Yet 
this curious dictator of an elegant age was a veritable lion, 
much sought after by society ; and around him in his own 
poor house gathered the foremost artists, scholars, actors, and 
literary men of London, all honoring the man, loving him, 



and listening to his dogmatism as the Greeks listened to the 
voice of their oracle. 

What is the secret of this astounding spectacle ? If the 
reader turns naturally to Johnson's works for an explanation, 
he will be disappointed. Reading his verses, we find nothing 
to delight or inspire us, but rather gloom and pessimism, with 
a few moral observations in rimed couplets : 

But, scarce observed, the knowing and the bold 
Fall in the general massacre of gold ; 
Wide-wasting pest ! that rages unconfined, 
And crowds with crimes the records of mankind ; 
For gold his sword the hireling ruffian draws, 
For gold the hireling judge distorts the laws ; 
Wealth heaped on wealth nor truth nor safety buys ; 
The dangers gather as the treasures rise. 1 

That is excellent common sense, but it is not poetry ; and 
it is not necessary to hunt through Johnson's bulky volumes 
for the information, since any moralist can give us offhand 
the same doctrine. As for his Rambler essays, once so suc- 
cessful, though we marvel at the big words, the carefully 
balanced sentences, the classical allusions, one might as well 
try to get interested in an old-fashioned, three-hour sermon. 
We read a few pages listlessly, yawn, and go to bed. 

Since the man's work fails to account for his leadership 
and influence, we examine his personality ; and here every- 
thing is interesting. Because of a few oft-quoted passages 
from Boswell's biography, Johnson appears to us as an 
eccentric bear, who amuses us by his growlings and clumsy 
antics. But there is another Johnson, a brave, patient, kindly, 
religious soul, who, as Goldsmith said, had "nothing of the 
bear but his skin"; a man who battled like a hero against 
poverty and pain and melancholy and the awful fear of death, 
and who overcame them manfully. " That trouble passed 
away ; so will this" sang the sorrowing Deor in the first old 

l From " The Vanity of Human Wishes." 


Anglo-Saxon lyric; and that expresses the great and suffer- 
ing spirit of Johnson, who in the face of enormous obstacles 
never lost faith in God or in himself. Though he was a reac- 
tionary in politics, upholding the arbitrary power of kings and 
opposing the growing liberty of the people, yet his political 
theories, like his manners, were no deeper than his skin ; for 
in all London there was none more kind to the wretched, and 
none more ready to extend an open hand to every struggling 
man and woman who crossed his path. When he passed 
poor homeless Arabs sleeping in the streets he would slip a 
coin into their, hands, in order that they might have a happy 
awakening ; for he himself knew well what it meant to be 
hungry. Such was Johnson, a " mass of genuine manhood," 
as Carlyle called him, and as such, men loved and honored him. 1 

Life of Johnson. Johnson was born in Lichfield, Staffordshire, in 
1709. He was the son of a small bookseller, a poor man, but intelli- 
gent and fond of literature, as booksellers invariably were in the good 
days when every town had its bookshop. From his childhood John- 
son had to struggle against physical deformity and disease and the 
consequent disinclination to hard work. He prepared for the uni- 
versity, partly in the schools, but largely by omnivorous reading in 
his father's shop, and when he entered Oxford he had read more 
classical authors than had most of the graduates. Before finishing 
his course he had to leave the university on account of his poverty, 
and at once he began his long struggle as a hack writer to earn 
his living. 

At twenty-five years he married a woman old enough to be his 
mother, a genuine love match, he called it, and with her dowry 
of ;8oo they started a private school together, which was a dismal 
failure. Then, without money or influential friends, he left his home 
and wife in Lichfield and tramped to London, accompanied only by 
David Garrick, afterwards the famous actor, who had been one of 

his pupils. Here, led by old associations, Johnson made himself 


1 A very lovable side of Johnson's nature is shown by his doing penance in the pub- 
lic market place for his unfilial conduct as a boy. (See, in Hawthorne's Our Old Home, 
the article on " Lichfield and Johnson.") His sterling manhood is recalled in his famous 
letter to Lord Chesterfield, refusing the latter's patronage for the Dictionary. The stu- 
dent should read this incident entire, in Boswell's Life of Johnson. 


known to the booksellers, and now and then earned a penny by 
writing prefaces, reviews, and translations. 

It was a dog's life, indeed, that he led there with his literary 
brethren. Many of the writers of the day, who are ridiculed in Pope's 
heartless Dunciad, having no wealthy patrons to support them, 
lived largely in the streets and taverns, sleeping on an ash heap or 
under a wharf, like rats ; glad of a crust, and happy over a single 
meal which enabled them to work for a while without the reminder 
of hunger. A few favored ones lived in wretched lodgings in Grub 
Street, which has since become a synonym for the fortunes of strug- 
gling writers. 1 Often, Johnson tells us, he walked the streets all night 
long, in dreary weather, when it was too cold to sleep, without food 
or shelter. But he wrote steadily for the booksellers and for the 
Gentleman's Magazine, and presently he became known in London 
and received enough work to earn a bare living. 

The works which occasioned this small success were his poem, 
" London," and his Life of the Poet Savage, a wretched life, at best, 
which were perhaps better left without a biographer. But his success 
was genuine, though small, and presently the booksellers of London 
are coming to him to ask him to write a dictionary of the English 
language. It was an enormous work, taking nearly eight years 
of his time, and long before he had finished it he had eaten up 
the money which he received for his labor. In the leisure intervals 
of this work he wrote "The Vanity of Human Wishes" and other 
poems, and finished his classic tragedy of Irene. 

Led by the great success of the Spectator, Johnson started two 
magazines, The Rambler (1750-1752) and The Idler (1758-1760). 
Later the Rambler essays were published in book form and ran 
rapidly through ten editions ; but the financial returns were small, 
and Johnson spent a large part of his earnings in charity. When his 
mother died, in 1759, Johnson, although one of the best known men 
in London, had no money, and hurriedly finished Rasselas, his only 
romance, in order, it is said, to pay for his mother's burial. 

It was not till 1762, when Johnson was fifty- three years old, that 
his literary labors were rewarded in the usual way by royalty, and he 
received from George III a yearly pension of three hundred pounds. 
Then began a little sunshine in his life. With Joshua Reynolds, the 

1 In Johnson's Dictionary we find this definition : " Grub-street, the name of a street 
in London much inhabited by writers of small histories, dictionaries, and temporary 
poems ; whence any mean production is called Grub-street." 


artist, he founded the famous Literary Club, of which Burke, Pitt, 
Fox, Gibbon, Goldsmith, and indeed all the great literary men and 
politicians of the time, were members. This is the period of John- 
son's famous conversations, which were caught in minutest detail by 
Boswell and given to the world. His idea of conversation, as shown 
in a hundred places in Boswell, is to overcome your adversary at 
any cost ; to knock him down by arguments, or, when these fail, 
by personal ridicule ; to dogmatize on every possible question, pro- 
nounce a few oracles, and then desist with the air of victory. Con- 
cerning the philosopher Hume's view of death he says : " Sir, if he 
really thinks so, his perceptions are disturbed, he is mad. If he does 
not think so, he lies." Exit opposition. There is nothing more to 
be said. Curiously enough, it is often the palpable blunders of these 
monologues that now attract us, as if we were enjoying a good joke 
at the dictator's expense. Once a lady asked him, " Dr. Johnson, 
why did you define pastern as the knee of a horse?" "Ignorance, 
madame, pure ignorance," thundered the great authority. 

When seventy years of age, Johnson was visited by several book- 
sellers of the city, who were about to bring out a new edition of 
the English poets, and who wanted Johnson, as the leading literary 
man of London, to write the prefaces to the several volumes. The 
result was his Lives of the Poets, as it is now known, and this is his 
last literary work. He died in his poor Fleet Street house, in 1 784, and 
was buried among England's honored poets in Westminster Abbey. 

Johnson's Works. "A book," says Dr. Johnson, "should 
help us either to enjoy life or to endure it." Judged by this 
The standard, one is puzzled what to recommend among 

English Johnson's numerous books. The two things which 
Iary belong among the things "worthy to be remem- 
bered " are his Dictionary and his Lives of the Poets, though 
both these are valuable, not as literature, but rather as a study 
of literature. The Dictionary, as the first ambitious attempt 
at an English lexicon, is extremely valuable, notwithstanding 
the fact that his derivations are often faulty, and that he fre- 
quently exercises his humor or prejudice in his curious defini- 
tions. In defining "oats," for example, as a grain given in 
England to horses and in Scotland to the people, he indulges 


his prejudice against the Scotch, whom he never understood, 
just as, in his definition of "pension," he takes occasion to 
rap the writers who had flattered their patrons since the days 
of Elizabeth ; though he afterwards accepted a comfortable 
pension for himself. With characteristic honesty he refused 
to alter his definition in subsequent editions of the Dictionary. 

The Lives of the Poets are the simplest and most readable 
of his literary works. For ten years before beginning these 
Lives of biographies he had given himself up to conversation, 
the Poets anc j the ponderous style of his Rambler essays 
here gives way to a lighter and more natural expression. As 
criticisms they are often misleading, giving praise to artificial 
poets, like Cowley and Pope, and doing scant justice or abun- 
dant injustice to nobler poets like Gray and Milton ; and they 
are not to be compared with those found in Thomas Wart on 's 
History of English Poetry, which was published in the same 
generation. As biographies, however, they are excellent read- 
ing, and we owe to them some of our best known pictures of 
the early English poets. 

Of Johnson's poems the reader will have enough if he glance 
over "The Vanity of Human Wishes." His only story, 
Poems and Rasselas, Prince of Abyssinia, is a matter of rheto- 
Essays r i c rather than of romance, but is interesting still 
to the reader who wants to hear Johnson's personal views of 
society, philosophy, and religion. Any one of his Essays, like 
that on "Reading," or "The Pernicious Effects of Revery," 
will be enough to acquaint the reader with the Johnsonese 
style, which was once much admired and copied by orators, 
but which happily has been replaced by a more natural way 
of speaking. Most of his works, it must be confessed, are 
rather tiresome. It is not to his books, but rather to the 
picture of the man himself, as given by Boswell, that Johnson 
owes his great place in our literature. 



In James Boswell (1740-1795) we have another extraordi- 
nary figure, a shallow little Scotch barrister, who trots about 
like a dog at the heels of his big master, frantic at a caress 
and groveling at a cuff, and abundantly contented if only he 
can be near him and record his oracles. All his life long Bos- 
well's one ambition seems to have been to shine in the reflected 
glory of great men, and his chief task to record their sayings 
and doings. When he came to London, at twenty-two years 
of age, Johnson, then at the beginning of his great fame, was 
to this insatiable little glory-seeker like a Silver Doctor to a 
hungry trout. He sought an introduction as a man seeks 
gold, haunted every place where Johnson declaimed, until in 
Davies's bookstore the supreme opportunity came. This is his 
record of the great event : 

I was much agitated [says Boswell] and recollecting his prejudice 
against the Scotch, of which I had heard much, I said to Davies, 
" Don't tell him where I come from." " From Scotland," cried Davies 
roguishly. " Mr. Johnson," said I, " I do indeed come from Scotland, 
but I cannot help it." ..." That, sir " [cried Johnson], " I find is what a 
very great many of your countrymen cannot help." This stroke stunned 
me a good deal ; and when we had sat down I felt myself not a little 
embarrassed, and apprehensive of what might come next 

Then for several years, with a persistency that no rebuffs 
could abate, and with a thick skin that no amount of ridicule 
could render sensitive, he follows Johnson ; forces his way 
into the Literary Club, where he is not welcome, in order to 
be near his idol ; carries him off on a visit to the Hebrides ; 
talks with him on every possible occasion ; and, when he is 
not invited to a feast, waits outside the house or tavern in 
order to walk home with his master in the thick fog of the 
early morning. And the moment the oracle is out of sight 
and in bed, Boswell patters home to record in detail all that he 
has seen and heard. It is to his minute record that we owe 
our only perfect picture of a great man ; all his vanity as 


well as his greatness, his prejudices, superstitions, and even 
the details of his personal appearance : 

There is the gigantic body, the huge face seamed with the scars of 
disease, the brown coat, the black worsted stockings, the gray wig with 
the scorched foretop, the dirty hands, the nails bitten and pared to the 
quick. We see the eyes and mouth moving with convulsive twitches; 
we see the heavy form rolling ; we hear it puffing ; and then comes the 
" Why, sir ! " and the " What then, sir ? " and the " No, ir ! " and the 
" You don't see your way through the question, sir ! " l 

To Boswell's record we are indebted also for our knowledge 
of those famous conversations, those wordy, knockdown battles, 
which made Johnson famous in his time and which still move 
us to wonder. Here is a specimen conversation, taken almost 
at random from a hundred such in Boswell's incomparable 
biography. After listening to Johnson's prejudice against 
Scotland, and his dogmatic utterances on Voltaire, Robertson, 
and twenty others, an unfortunate theorist brings up a recent 
essay on the possible future life of brutes, quoting some pos- 
sible authority from the sacred scriptures : 

Johnson, who did not like to hear anything concerning a future state 
which was not authorized by the regular canons of orthodoxy, discour- 
aged this talk ; and being offended at its continuation, he watched an 
opportunity to give the gentleman a blow of reprehension. So when the 
poor speculatist, with a serious, metaphysical, pensive face, addressed 
him, " But really, sir, when we see a very sensible dog, we don't know 
what to think of him"; Johnson, rolling with joy at the thought which 
beamed in his eye, turned quickly round and replied, " True, sir ; and 
when we see a very foolish/^w, we don't know what to think of him" 
He then rose up, strided to the fire, and stood for some time laughing 
and exulting. 

Then the oracle proceeds to talk of scorpions and natural 
history, denying facts, and demanding proofs which nobody 
could possibly furnish : 

He seemed pleased to talk of natural philosophy. " That woodcocks," 
said he, " fly over the northern countries is proved, because they have 
been observed at sea. Swallows certainly sleep all the winter. A num- 

1 From Macaulay's review of Boswell's Life of Johnson. 


her of them conglobulate together by flying round and round, and then 
all in a heap throw themselves under water and lie in the bed of a river." 
He told us one of his first essays was a Latin poem upon the glowworm : 
I am sorry I did not ask where it was to be found. 

Then follows an astonishing array of subjects and opinions. 
He catalogues libraries, settles affairs in China, pronounces 
judgment on men who marry women superior to themselves, 
flouts popular liberty, hammers Swift unmercifully, and acids 
a few miscellaneous oracles, most of which are about as reliable 
as his knowledge of the hibernation of swallows. 

When I called upon Dr. Johnson next morning I found him highly 
satisfied with his colloquial prowess the preceding evening. " Well," said 
he, " we had good talk." " Yes, sir " [says I], " you tossed and gored sev- 
eral persons." 

Far from resenting this curious mental dictatorship, his 
auditors never seem to weary. They hang upon his words, 
praise him, flatter him, repeat his judgments all over London 
the next clay, and return in the evening hungry for more. 
Whenever the conversation begins to flag, Boswell is like a 
woman with a parrot, or like a man with a dancing bear. He 
must excite the creature, make him talk or dance for the edi- 
fication of the company. He sidles obsequiously towards his 
hero and, with utter irrelevancy, propounds a question of 
theology, a social theory, a fashion of dress or marriage, a 
philosophical conundrum : " Do you think, sir, that natural 
affections are born with us ? " or, " Sir, if you were shut up in 
a castle and a newborn babe with you, what would you do ? " 
Then follow more Johnsonian laws, judgments, oracles ; the 
insatiable audience clusters around him and applauds ; while 
Boswell listens, with shining face, and presently goes home 
to write the wonder down. It is an astonishing spectacle ; one 
does not know whether to laugh or grieve over it. But we 
know the man, and the audience, almost as well as if we had 
been there ; and that, unconsciously, is the superb art of this 
matchless biographer. 


When Johnson died the opportunity came for which Bos- 
well had been watching and waiting some twenty years. He 
would shine in the world now, not by reflection, but by his 
own luminosity. He gathered together his endless notes and 
records, and began to write his biography ; but he did not 
hurry. Several biographies of Johnson appeared, in the four 
years after his death, without disturbing Boswell's perfect 
complacency. After seven years' labor he gave the world his 
Life of Johnson. It is an immortal work ; praise is superfluous ; 
it must be read to be appreciated. Like the Greek sculptors, 
the little slave produced a more enduring work than the great 
master. The man who reads it will know Johnson as he knows 
no other man who dwells across the border ; and he will lack 
sensitiveness, indeed, if he lay down the work without a greater 
love and appreciation of all good literature. 

Later Augustan Writers. With Johnson, who succeeded 
Dryden and Pope in the chief place of English letters, the 
classic movement had largely spent its force ; and the latter 
half of the eighteenth century gives us an imposing array of 
writers who differ so widely that it is almost impossible to 
classify them. In general, three schools of writers are notice- 
able : first, the classicists, who, under Johnson's lead, insisted 
upon elegance and regularity of style ; second, the romantic 
poets, like Collins, Gray, Thomson, and Burns, who revolted 
from Pope's artificial couplets and wrote of nature and the 
human heart 1 ; third, the early novelists, like Defoe and 
Fielding, who introduced a new type of literature. The 
romantic poets and the novelists are reserved for special 
chapters ; and of the other writers Berkeley and Hume in 
philosophy ; Robertson, Hume, and Gibbon in history ; Ches- 
terfield and Lady Montagu in letter writing ; Adam Smith 

1 Many of the writers show a mingling of the classic and the romantic tendencies. 
Thus Goldsmith followed Johnson and opposed the romanticists; but his Deserted 
Village is romantic in spirit, though its classic couplets are almost as mechanical as 
Pope's. So Burke's orations are " elegantly classic" in style, but are illumined by bursts 
of emotion and romantic feeling. 


in economics ; Pitt, Burke, Fox, and a score of lesser writers 
in politics we select only two, Burke and Gibbon, whose 
works are most typical of the Augustan, i.e. the elegant, classic 
style of prose writing. 

EDMUND BURKE (1729-1797) 

To read all of Burke's collected works, and so to under- 
stand him thoroughly, is something of a task. Few are equal 
to it. On the other hand, to read selections here and there, 
as most of us do, is to get a wrong idea of the man and to 
join either in fulsome praise of his brilliant oratory, or in 
honest confession that his periods are ponderous and his 
ideas often buried under Johnsonian verbiage. Such are the 
contrasts to be found on successive pages of Burke's twelve 
volumes, which cover the enormous range of the political and 
economic thought of the age, and which mingle fact and fancy, 
philosophy, statistics, and brilliant flights of the imagination, 
to a degree never before seen in English literature. For Burke 
belongs in spirit to the new romantic school, while in style 
he is a model for the formal classicists. We can only glance 
at the life of this marvelous Irishman, and then consider his 
place in our literature. 

Life. Burke was born in Dublin, the son of an Irish barrister, in 
1729. After his university course in Trinity College he came to 
London to study law, but soon gave up the idea to follow literature, 
which in turn led him to politics. He had the soul, the imagination 
of a poet, and the law was only a clog to his progress. His two first 
works, A Vindication of Natural Society and The Origin of our 
Ideas of the Sublime and the Beautiful, brought him political as well 
as literary recognition, and several small offices were in turn given 
to him. When thirty-six years old he was elected to Parliament as 
member from Wendover ; and for the next thirty years he was the 
foremost figure in the House of Commons and the most eloquent 
orator which that body has ever known. Pure and incorruptible in 
his politics as in his personal life, no more learned or devoted 
servant of the Commonwealth ever pleaded for justice and human 


liberty. He was at the summit of his influence at the time when the 
colonies were struggling for independence; and the fact that he 
championed their cause in one of his greatest speeches, " On Con- 
ciliation with America," gives him an added interest in the eyes of 
American readers. His championship of America is all the more 
remarkable from the fact that, in other matters, Burke was far from 
liberal. He set himself squarely against the teachings of the roman- 
tic writers, who were enthusiastic over the French Revolution; he 
denounced the principles of the Revolutionists, broke with the lib- 
eral Whig party to join the Tories, and was largely instrumental in 
bringing on the terrible war with France, which resulted in the 
downfall of Napoleon. 

It is good to remember that, in all the strife and bitterness of 
party politics, Burke held steadily to the noblest personal ideals of 
truth and honesty ; and that in all his work, whether opposing the 
slave trade, or pleading for justice for America, or protecting the 
poor natives of India from the greed of corporations, or setting 
himself against the popular sympathy for France in her desperate 
struggle, he aimed solely at the welfare of humanity. When he re- 
tired on a pension in 1794, he had won, and he deserved, the grati- 
tude and affection of the whole nation. 

Works. There are three distinctly marked periods in 
Burke' s career, and these correspond closely to the years in 
which he was busied with the affairs of America, India, and 
France successively. The first period was one of prophecy. 
He had studied the history and temper of the American col- 
onies, and he warned England of the disaster which must 
follow her persistence in ignoring the American demands, 
and especially the American spirit. His great speeches, " On 
American Taxation" and "On Conciliation with America," 
were delivered in 1774 and 1775, preceding the Declaration 
of Independence. In this period Burke' s labor seemed all in 
vain ; he lost his cause, and England her greatest colony. 

The second period is one of denunciation rather than of 
prophecy. England had won India ; but when Burke studied 
the methods of her victory and understood the soulless way 
in which millions of poor natives were made to serve the 

From an old print 


interests of an English monopoly, 'his soul rose in revolt, and 
again he was the champion of an oppressed people. His two 
greatest speeches of this period are "The Nabob of Arcot's 
Debts " and his tremendous " Impeachment of Warren Hast- 
ings." Again he apparently lost his cause, though he was still 
fighting on the side of right. Hastings was acquitted, and the 
spoliation of India went on ; but the seeds of reform were sown, 
and grew and bore fruit long after Burke's labors were ended. 

The third period is, curiously enough, one of reaction. 
Whether because the horrors of the French Revolution had 
frightened him with the danger of popular liberty, or because 
his own advance in office and power had made him side un- 
consciously with the upper classes, is unknown. That he was 
as sincere and noble now as in all his previous life is not 
questioned. He broke with the liberal Whigs and joined 
forces with the reactionary Tories. He opposed the romantic 
writers, who were on fire with enthusiasm over the French 
Revolution, and thundered against the dangers which the 
revolutionary spirit must breed, forgetting that it was a revo- 
lution which had made modern England possible. Here, where 
we must judge him to have been mistaken in his cause, he 
succeeded for the first time. It was due largely to Burke's 
influence that the growing sympathy for the French people 
was checked in England, and war was declared, which ended 
in the frightful victories of Trafalgar and Waterloo. 

Burke's best known work of this period is his Reflections 
on the French Revolution, which he polished and revised again 
Essay on an< ^ again before it was finally printed. This am- 
Revoiution bitious literary essay, though it met with remark- 
able success, is a disappointment to the reader. Though of 
Celtic blood, Burke did not understand the French, or the 
principles for which the common people were fighting in their 
own way 1 ; and his denunciations and apostrophes to France 

1 A much more interesting work is Thomas Paine's Rights of Man, which was written 
in answer to Burke's essay, and which had enormous influence in England and America. 


suggest a preacher without humor, hammering away at sinners 
who are not present in his congregation. The essay has few 
illuminating ideas, but a great deal of Johnsonian rhetoric, 
which make its periods tiresome, notwithstanding our admira- 
tion for the brilliancy of its author. More significant is one of 
Burke's first essays, A Philosophical Inquiry Into the Origin 
of Our Ideas of the Sublime and Beautiful, which is sometimes 
read in order to show the contrast in style with Addison's 
Spectator essays on the " Pleasures of the Imagination." 

Burke's best known speeches, "On Conciliation with 
America," "American Taxation," and the " Impeachment of 
Burke's Warren Hastings," are still much studied in our 
Orations schools as models of English prose ; and this fact 
tends to give them an exaggerated literary importance. Viewed 
purely as literature, they have faults enough ; and the first 
of these, so characteristic of the Classic Age, is that they 
abound in fine rhetoric but lack simplicity. 1 In a strict sense, 
these eloquent speeches are not literature, to delight the 
reader and to suggest ideas, but studies in rhetoric and in 
mental concentration. All this, however, is on the surface. 
A careful study of any of these three famous speeches reveals 
certain admirable qualities which account for the important 
place they are given in the study of English. First, as show- 
ing the stateliness and the rhetorical power of our language, 
these speeches are almost unrivaled. Second, though Burke 
speaks in prose, he is essentially a poet, whose imagery, like 
that of Milton's prose works, is more remarkable than that of 
many of our writers of verse. He speaks in figures, images, 
symbols ; and the musical cadence of his sentences reflects 

1 In the same year, 1775, in which Burke's magnificent " Conciliation" oration was 
delivered, Patrick Henry made a remarkable little speech before a gathering of delegates 
in Virginia. Both men were pleading the same cause of justice, and were actuated by the 
same high ideals. A very interesting contrast, however, may be drawn between the meth- 
ods and the effects of Henry's speech and of Burke's more brilliant oration. Burke 
makes us wonder at his learning, his brilliancy, his eloquence ; but he does not move 
us to action. Patrick Henry calls us, and we spring to follow him. That suggests the 
essential difference between the two orators. 


the influence of his wide reading of poetry. Not only in 
figurative expression, but much more in spirit, be belongs 
with the poets of the revival. At times his language is 
pseudo-classic, reflecting the influence of Johnson and his 
school ; but his thought is always romantic ; he is governed 
by ideal rather than by practical interests, and a profound sym- 
pathy for humanity is perhaps his most marked characteristic. 

Third, the supreme object of these orations, so different 
from the majority of political speeches, is not to win approval 
or to gain votes, but to establish the truth. Like our own 
Lincoln, Burke had a superb faith in the compelling power of 
the truth, a faith in men also, who, if the history of our race 
means anything, will not willingly follow a lie. The methods 
of these two great leaders are strikingly similar in this respect, 
that each repeats his idea in many ways, presenting the truth 
from different view points, so that it will appeal to men of 
widely different experiences. Otherwise the two men are in 
marked contrast. The uneducated Lincoln speaks in simple, 
homely words, draws his illustrations from the farm, and often 
adds a humorous story, so apt and "telling" that his hearers 
can never forget the point of his argument. The scholarly 
Burke speaks in ornate, majestic periods, and searches ail 
history and all literature for his illustrations. His wealth of 
imagery and allusions, together with his rare combination of 
poetic and logical reasoning, make these orations remarkable, 
entirely apart from their subject and purpose. 

Fourth (and perhaps most significant of the man and his 
work), Burke takes his stand squarely upon the principle of 
justice. He has studied history, and he finds that to estab- 
lish justice, between man and man and between nation and 
nation, has been the supreme object of every reformer since the 
world began. No small or merely temporary success attracts 
him ; only the truth will suffice for an argument ; and noth- 
ing less than justice will ever settle a question permanently. 
Such is his platform, simple as the Golden Rule, unshakable 


as the moral law. Hence, though he apparently fails of his 
immediate desire in each of these three orations, the principle 
for which he contends cannot fail. As a modern writer says 
of Lincoln, "The full, rich flood of his life through the nation's 
pulse is yet beating"; and his words are still potent in shaping 
the course of English politics in the way of justice. 

EDWARD GIBBON (1737-1794) 

To understand Burke or Johnson, one must read a multi- 
tude of books and be wary in his judgment ; but with Gibbon 
the task is comparatively easy, for one has only to consider 
two books, his Memoirs and the first volume of his History -, 
to understand the author. In his Memoirs we have an inter- 
esting reflection of Gibbon's own personality, a man who 
looks with satisfaction on the material side of things, who 
seeks always the easiest path for himself, and avoids life's 
difficulties and responsibilities. rr I sighed as a lover ; but I 
obeyed as a son," he says, when, to save his inheritance, he 
gave up the woman he loved and came home to enjoy the 
paternal loaves and fishes. That is suggestive of the man's 
whole life. His History, on the other hand, is a remarkable 
work. Mt was the first in our language to be written on scien- 
tific principles, and with a solid basis of fact ^ and the style is 
the very climax of that classicism which had ruled England for 
an entire century. Its combination of historical fact and literary 
style makes The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire the one 
thing of Gibbon's life that is " worthy to be remembered." 

Gibbon's History. For many years Gibbon had meditated, 
like Milton, upon an immortal work, and had tried several 
historical subjects, only to give them up idly. In his Journal 
he tells us how his vague resolutions were brought to a focus : 

It was at Rome, on the fifteenth of October, 1764, as I sat musing 
amidst the ruins of the Capitol, while the barefooted friars were singing 
vespers in the Temple of Jupiter, that the idea of writing the decline and 
fall of the city first started to my mind. 


Twelve years later, in 1776, Gibbon published the first vol- 
ume of The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire ; and the 
enormous success of the work encouraged him to go on with 
the other five volumes, which were published at intervals- 
during the next twelve years. ^ The History begins with the 
reign of Trajan, in A.D. 98, and "builds a straight Roman 
road" through the confused histories of thirteen centuries, 
ending with the fall of the Byzantine Empire in 14^3. The 
scope of the History is enormous. It includes not only 
the decline of the Roman Empire, but such movements as the 
descent of the northern barbarians, the spread of Christianity, 
the reorganization of the European nations, the establishment 
of the great Eastern Empire, the rise of Mohammedanism, 
and the splendor of the Crusades. On the one hand it lacks 
philosophical insight, being satisfied with facts without com- 
prehending the causes ; and, as Gibbon seems lacking in 
ability to understand spiritual and religious movements, it is 
utterly inadequate in its treatment of the tremendous influ- 
ence of Christianity. On the other hand, Gibbon's scholar- 
ship leaves little to criticise ; he read enormously, sifted his 
facts out of multitudes of books and records, and then mar- 
shaled them in the imposing array with which we have grown 
familiar. Moreover, he is singularly just and discriminating 
in the use of all documents and authorities at his command. 
Hence he has given us the first history in English that has 
borne successfully the test of modern research and scholarship. 

The style of the work is as imposing as his great subject. 
Indeed, with almost any other subject the sonorous roll of his 
majestic sentences would be out of place. While it deserves 
all the adjectives that have been applied to it by enthusiastic 
admirers, finished, elegant, splendid, rounded, massive, sono- 
rous, copious, elaborate, ornate, exhaustive, it must be con- 
fessed, though one whispers the confession, that the style 
sometimes obscures our interest in the narrative. As he 
sifted his facts from a multitude of sources, so he often hides 


them again in endless periods, and one must often sift them 
out again in order to be quite sure of even the simple facts. 
Another drawback is that Gibbon is hopelessly worldly in his 
point of view ; he loves pageants and crowds rather than in- 
dividuals, and he is lacking in enthusiasm and in spiritual 
insight. The result is so frankly material at times that one 
wonders if he is not reading of forces or machines, rather 
than of human beings. A little reading of his History here 
and there is an excellent thing, leaving one impressed with 
the elegant classical style and the scholarship ; but a contin- 
ued reading is very apt to leave us longing for simplicity, for 
naturalness, and, above all, for the glow of enthusiasm which 
makes the dead heroes live once more in the written pages. 

This judgment, however, must not obscure the fact that 
the book had a remarkably large sale ; and that this, of itself, 
is an evidence that multitudes of readers found it not only 
erudite, but readable and interesting. 


The old order change th, yielding plape to new ; 

And God fulfills Himself in many ways, 

Lest one good custom should corrupt the world. 

Tennyson's " The Passing of Arthur." 

The Meaning of Romanticism. While Dryden, Pope, and 
Johnson were successively the dictators of English letters, 
and while, under their leadership, the heroic couplet became 
the fashion of poetry, and literature in general became jatiric 
or critical in spirit, and formal in expression, a new romantic 
movement quietly made its appearance. Thomson's The 
Seasons (1730) was the first noteworthy poem of the roman- 
tic revival ; and the poems and the poets increased steadily in 
number and importance till, in the age of Wordsworth and 
Scott, the spirit of Romanticism dominated our literature 
more completely than Classicism had ever done. This romantic 


movement which Victor Hugo calls "liberalism in literature" 
-is simply the expression of life as seen by imagination, 
rather than by prosaic "common sense," which was the cen- 
tral doctrine of English philosophy in the eighteenth century. 
It has six prominent characteristics which distinguish it froni 
the so-called classic literature which we have just studied : 

1. The romantic movement was marked, and is always 
marked, by a strong reaction and protest against the bondage 
of rule and custom, which, in science and theology, as well as 
in literature, generally tend to fetter the free human spirit. 

2. Romanticism returned to nature and to plain humanity 
for its material, and so is in marked contrast to Classicism, 
which had confined itself largely to the clubs and drawing- 
rooms^ and to the social and political life of London. Thom- 
son's Seasons, whatever its defects, was a revelation of the 
natural wealth and beauty which, for nearly a century, had 
been hardly noticed by the great writers of England. 

3. It brought again the dream of a golden age l in which the 
stern realities of life were forgotten and the ideals of youth 
were established as the only permanent realities. t " For the' 
dreamer lives forever, but the toiler dies in a day," expresses, 
perhaps, only the wild fancy of a modern poet ; but, when we 
think of it seriously, the dreams and ideals of a people are 
cherished possessions long after their stone monuments have 
crumbled away and their battles are forgotten. The romantic 
movement emphasized these eternal ideals of youth, and 
appealed to the human heart as the classic elegance of Dryden 
and Pope could never do. 

4. Romanticism was marked by intense human sympathy, 
and by a consequent understanding of the human heart. Not 
to intellect or to science does the heart unlock its treasures, 
but rather to the touch of a sympathetic nature ; and things 
that are hidden from the wise and prudent are revealed unto 

1 The romantic revival is marked by renewed interest in mediaeval ideals and litera- 
ture ; and to this interest is due the success of Walpole's romance, The Castle of Otranto^ 
and of Chatterton's forgeriesjtnown as the Rowley Papers, 


children. Pope had no appreciable humanity ; Swift's work is 
a frightful satire ; Addison delighted polite society, but had 
no message for plain people ; while even Johnson, with all his 
kindness, had no feeling for men in the mass, but supported 
Sir Robert Walpole in his policy of letting evils alone until 
forced by a revolution to take notice of humanity's appeal. 
With the romantic revival all this was changed. While How- 
ard was working heroically for prison reform, and Wilberforce 
for the liberation of the slaves, Gray wrote his "short and 
simple annals of the poor," and Goldsmith his Deserted Village, 
and Cowper sang, 

My ear is pained, 

My soul is sick with every day's report 

Of wrong and outrage with which earth is filled. 

There is no flesh in man's obdurate heart, 

It does not feel foreman. 1 


This sympathy for the poor, and this cry against oppression, 
grew stronger and stronger till it culminated in "Bobby" 
Burns, who, more than any other writer in any language, is 
the poet of the unlettered human heart. 

5. The romantic movement was the expression of individual 
genius rather than of established rules. In consequence, the 
literature of the revival is as varied as the characters and 
moods of the different writers. When we read Pope, for 
instance, we have a general impression of sameness, as if all 
his polished poems were made in the same machine ; but in 
the work of the best romanticists there is endless variety. 
To read them is like passing through a new village, meeting 
a score of different human types, and finding in each one 
something to love or to remember. Nature and the heart of 
man are as new as if we had never studied them. Hence, in 
reading the romanticists, who went to these sources for their 
material, we are seldom wearied but often surprised ; and the 
surprise is like that of the sunrise, or the sea, which always 

1 From The Task, Book II 


offers some new beauty and stirs us deeply, as if we had 
never seen it before. 

6. The romantic movement, while it followed its own 
genius, was not altogether unguided. Strictly speaking, there 
is no new movement either in history or in literature ; each 
grows out of some good thing which has preceded it, and 
looks back with reverence to past masters. Spenser, Shake- 
speare, and Milton were the inspiration of the romantic 
revival ; and we can hardly read a poem of the early roman- 
ticists without finding a suggestion of the influence of one of 
these great leaders. 1 

There are various other characteristics of Romanticism, 
_but these six the protest against the bondage of rules, the 
return to nature and the human heart, the interest in old 
sagas and mediaeval romances as suggestive of a heroic age, 
the sympathy for the toilers of the world, the emphasis upon 
individual genius, and the return to Milton and the Eliza- 
bethans, instead of to Pope and Dryden, for literary models 
are the most noticeable and the most interesting. Remem- 
bering them, we shall better appreciate the work of the fol- 
lowing writers who, in varying degree, illustrate the revival 
of romantic poetry in the eighteenth century. 

THOMAS GRAY (1716-1771) 

The curfew tolls the knell of parting day ; 
The lowing herd wind slowly o'er the lea ; 
The plowman homeward plods his weary way, 
And leaves the world to darkness and to me. 

Now fades the glimmering landscape on the sight, 
And all the air a solemn stillness holds, 
Save where the beetle wheels his droning flight, 
And drowsy tinklings lull the distant folds. 

bo begins " the best known poem in the English language," 
a poem full of the gentle melancholy which marks all early 

l See, for instance, Phelps, Beginnings of the Romantic Movement, for a list of 
Spenserian imitators from 1700 to 1775. 



romantic poetry. It should be read entire, as a perfect model 
of its kind. Not even Milton's " II Penseroso," which it 
strongly .suggests, excels it in beauty and suggestiveness. 

Life of Gray. The author of the famous " Elegy " is the most 
scholarly and well-balanced of all the early romantic poets. In his 
youth he was a weakling, the only one of twelve children who sur- 
vived infancy ; and his unhappy childhood, the tyranny of his father, 
and the separation from his loved mother, gave to his whole life the 
stamp of melancholy which is noticeable in all his poems. At the 
famous Eton school, and again at Cambridge, he seems to have fol- 
lowed his own scholarly tastes rather 
than the curriculum, and was shocked, 
like Gibbon, at the general idleness 
and aimlessness of university life. One 
happy result of his school life was his 
friendship for Horace Walpole, who took 
him abroad for a three years' tour of the 

No better index of the essential differ- 
ence between the classical and the new 
romantic school can be imagined than 
that which is revealed in the letters of 
Gray and Addison, as they record their 
impressions of foreign travel. Thus, when 
Addison crossed the Alps, some twenty- 
five years before, in good weather, he wrote : "A very troublesome 
journey. . . . You cannot imagine how I am pleased with the sight 
of a plain." Gray crossed the Alps in the beginning of winter,. 
" wrapped in muffs, hoods and masks of beaver, fur boots, and bear- 
skins," but wrote ecstatically, "Not a precipice, not a torrent, not a 
cliff but is pregnant with religion and poetry." 

On his return to England, Gray lived for a short time at Stoke 
Poges, where he wrote his " Ode on Eton," and probably sketched 
his " Elegy," which, however, was not finished till 1750, eight years 
later. During the latter years of his shy and scholarly life he was 
Professor of Modern History and Languages at Cambridge, without 
any troublesome work of lecturing to students. Here he gave him- 
self up to study and to poetry, varying his work by " prowlings " 
among the manuscripts of the new British Museum, and by his 




" Lilliputian " travels in England and Scotland. He died in his 
rooms at Pembroke College in 1771, and was buried in the litcle 
churchyard of Stoke Poges. 

Works of Gray. Gray's Letters, published in 1775, are 
excellent reading, and his Journal is still a model of natural 
description ; but it is to a single small volume of poems that 
he owes his fame and his place in literature. These poems 
divide themselves naturally into three periods, in which we 
may trace the progress of Gray's emancipation from the 


X*"*V*' 0**^ 


classic rules which had so long governed English literature. 
In the first period he wrote several minor poems, of which 
the best are his " Hymn to Adversity " and the odes " To 
Spring" and "On a Distant Prospect of Eton College." 
These early poems reveal two suggestive things : first, the 
appearance of that melancholy which characterizes all the 
poetry of the period ; and second, the study of nature, not for 
its own beauty or truth, but rather as a suitable background 
for the play of human emotions. 

The second period shows the same tendencies more strongly 
developed. The " Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard " 


(1750), the most perfect poem of the age, belongs to this 
period. To read Milton's " II Penseroso " and Gray's " Elegy " 
is to see the beginning and the perfection of that " literature 
of melancholy" which largely occupied English poets for 
more than a century. Two other well-known poems of this 
second period are the Pindaric odes, "The Progress of Poesy " 
and " The Bard." The first is strongly suggestive of Dry den's 
"Alexander's Feast," but shows Milton's influence in a greater 
melody and variety of expression. "The Bard" is, in every 
way, more romantic and original. An old minstrel, the last of 
the Welsh singers, halts King Edward and his army in a wild 
mountain pass, and with fine poetic frenzy prophesies the terror 
and desolation which must ever follow the tyrant. From its 
first line, " Ruin seize thee, ruthless King ! " to the end, when 
the old bard plunges from his lofty crag and disappears in the 
river's flood, the poem thrills with the fire of an ancient and 
noble race of men. It breaks absolutely with the classical 
school and proclaims a literary declaration of independence. 

In the third period .Gray turns momentarily from his Welsh 
material and reveals a new field of romantic interest in two 
Norse poems, "The Fatal Sisters" and "The Descent of 
Odin "(1761). Gray translated his material from the Latin, 
and though these two poems lack much of the elemental 
strength and grandeur' of the Norse sagas, they are remark- 
able for calling attention to the unused wealth of literary 
material that was hidden in Northern mythology. To Gray 
and to Percy (who published his Northern Antiquities in 
1770) is due in large measure the profound interest iri the 
old Norse sagas which has continued to our own day. 

Taken together, Gray's works form a most interesting com- 
mentary on the varied life of the eighteenth century. He was 
a scholar, familiar with all the intellectual interests of his age, 
and his work has much of the precision and polish of the clas- 
sical school ; but he shares also the reawakened interest in 
nature, in common man, and in mediaeval culture, and his 


work is generally romantic both in style and in spirit. The 
same conflict between the classic and romantic schools, and 
the triumph of Romanticism, is shown clearly in the most 
versatile of Gray's contemporaries, Oliver Goldsmith. 



Z. ' 

Because The Deserted Village is one of the most familiar 

poems in our language, Goldsmith is generally given a high 
place among the poets of the romantic dawn. But the Village, 
when we read it care- 
fully, turns out to be a 
rimed essay in the style 
of Pope's famous Essay 
on Man; it owes its 
popularity to the sympa- 
thetic memories which it 
awakens, rather than to 
its poetic excellence. It 
is as a prose writer that 
Goldsmith excels. He is 
an essayist, with Addi- 
son's fine polish but with 
more sympathy for hu- 
man life ; he is a drama- 
tist, one of the very few 
who have ever written a 
comedy that can keep 
its popularity unchanged 

while a century rolls over its head ; but greater, perhaps, than 
the poet and essayist and dramatist is Goldsmith the novelist, 
who set "himself to the important work of purifying the early 
novel of its brutal and indecent tendencies, and who has given 
us, in The Vicar of Wakefield, one of the most enduring char- 
acters in English fiction. In his manner, especially in his 
poetry, Goldsmith was too much influenced by his friend 



Johnson and the classicists ; but in his matter, in his sympathy 
for nature and human life, he belongs unmistakably to the new 
romantic school. Altogether he is the most versatile, the most 
charming, the most inconsistent, and the most lovable genius 
of all the literary men who made famous the age of Johnson. 

Life. Goldsmith's career is that of an irresponsible, unbalanced 
genius, which would make one despair if the man himself did not 
remain so lovable in all his inconsistencies. He was born in the vil- 
lage of Pallas, Ireland, the son of a poor Irish curate whose noble 
character is portrayed in Dr. Primrose, of The Vicar of Wakeficld, 
and in the country parson of The Deserted Village. After an unsatis- 
factory course in various schools, where he was regarded as hope- 
lessly stupid, Goldsmith entered Trinity College, Dublin, as a sizar, 
i.e. a student who pays with labor for his tuition. By his escapades 
he was brought into disfavor with the authorities, but that troubled 
him little. He was also wretchedly poor, which troubled him less ; 
for when he earned a few shillings by writing ballads for street 
singers, his money went oftener to idle beggars than to the paying 
of his honest debts. After three years of university life he ran away, 
in dime-novel fashion, and nearly starved to death before he was 
found and brought back in disgrace. Then he worked a little, and 
obtained his degree in 1749. 

Strange that such an idle and irresponsible youth should have 
been urged by his family to take holy orders ; but such was the fact. 
For two years more Goldsmith labored with theology, only to be 
rejected when he presented himself as a candidate for the ministry. 
He tried teaching, and failed. Then his fancy turned to America, 
and, provided with money and a good horse, he started off for Cork, 
where he was to embark for the New World. He loafed along the 
pleasant Irish ways, missed his ship, and presently turned up cheer- 
fully amongst his relatives, minus all his money, and riding a sorry 
nag called Fiddleback, for which he had traded his own on the way. 1 
He borrowed fifty pounds more, and started for London to study law, 
but speedily lost his money at cards, and again appeared, amiable 
and irresponsible as ever, among his despairing relatives. The next 
year they sent him to Edinburgh to study medicine. Here for a 
couple of years he became popular as a singer of songs and a teller 

1 Such is Goldsmith's version of a somewhat suspicious adventure, whose details 
are unknown. 


of tales, to whom medicine was only a troublesome affliction. Sud- 
denly the Wanderlust seized him and he started abroad, ostensibly 
to complete his medical education, but in reality to wander like a 
cheerful beggar over Europe, singing and playing his flute for food 
and lodging. He may have studied a little at Leyden and at Padua, 
but that was only incidental. After a year or more of vagabondage 
he returned to London with an alleged medical degree, said to have 
been obtained at Louvain or Padua. 

The next few years are a pitiful struggle to make a living as 
tutor, apothecary's assistant, comedian, usher in a country school, 
and finally as a physician in Southwark. Gradually he drifted into 
literature, and lived from hand to mouth by doing hack work for 
the London booksellers. Some of his essays and his Citizen of the 
World (1760-1761) brought him to the attention of Johnson, who 
looked him up, was attracted first by his poverty and then by his 
genius, and presently declared him to be " one of the first men we 
now have as an author." Johnson's friendship proved invaluable, 
and presently Goldsmith found himself a member of the exclusive 
Literary Club. He promptly justified Johnson's confidence by pub- 
lishing The Traveller (1764), which was hailed as one of the finest 
poems of the century. Money now came to him liberally, with orders 
from the booksellers ; he took new quarters in Fleet Street and fur- 
nished them gorgeously ; but he had an inordinate vanity for bright- 
colored clothes, and faster than he earned money he spent it on 
velvet cloaks and in indiscriminate charity. For a time he resumed 
his practice as a physician, but his fine clothes did not bring patients, 
as he expected ; and presently he turned to writing again, to pay 
his debts to the booksellers. He produced several superficial and 
grossly inaccurate schoolbooks, like his Animated Nature and 
his histories of England, Greece, and Rome, which brought him 
bread and more fine clothes, and his Vicar ofWakefield, The Deserted 
Village, and She Stoops to Conquer, which brought him undying fame. 

After meeting with Johnson, Goldsmith became the object of 
Boswell's magpie curiosity ; and to BoswelPs Life of Johnson we are 
indebted for many of the details of Goldsmith's life, his homeli- 
ness, his awkward ways, his drolleries and absurdities, which made 
him alternately the tiutt 'and the wit of the famous Literary Club. 
Boswell disliked Goldsmith, and so draws an unflattering portrait, 
but even this does not disguise the contagious good humor which 
made men love him. When in his forty-seventh year, he fell sick of 


a fever, and with childish confidence turned to a quack medicine to 
cure himself. He died in 1774, and Johnson placed a tablet, with a 
sonorous Latin epitaph, in Westminster Abbey, though Goldsmith 
was buried elsewhere. " Let not his frailties be remembered ; he 
was a very great man," said Johnson; and the literary world 
which, like that old dictator, is kind enough at heart, though often 
rough in its methods is glad to accept and record the verdict. 

Works of Goldsmith. Of Goldsmith's early essays and his 
later school histories little need be said. They have settled 
into their own place, far out of sight of the ordinary reader. 
Perhaps the most interesting of these is a series of letters for 
the Public Ledger (afterwards published as The Citizen of the 
World), written from the view point of an alleged Chinese 
traveler, and giving the latter's comments on English civili- 
zation. 1 The following five works are those upon which Gold- 
smith's fame chiefly rests : 

The Traveller (1764) made Goldsmith's reputation among 
his contemporaries, but is now seldom read, except by stu- 
dents who would understand how Goldsmith was, at one time, 
dominated by Johnson and his pseudo-classic ideals. It is a 
long poem, in rimed couplets, giving a survey and criticism 
of the social life of various countries in Europe, and reflects' 
many of Goldsmith's own wanderings and impressions. 

The Deserted Village (1770), though written in the same 
mechanical style, is so permeated with honest human sym- 
The Deserted pathy, and voices so perfectly the revolt of the 
Village individual man 'against institutions, that a multi- 
tude of common people heard it gladly, without consulting 
the critics as to whether they should call it good poetry. 
Notwithstanding its faults, to which Matthew Arnold has 
called sufficient attention, it has become one of our best 
known poems, though* we cannot help wishing that the mo- 
notony of its couplets had been broken by some of the Irish 
folk songs and ballads that charmed street audiences in 

1 Goldsmith's idea, which was borrowed from Walpole, reappears in the pseudo Letters 
from a Chinese Official, which recently attracted considerable attention. 


Dublin, and that brought Goldsmith a welcome from the French 
peasants wherever he stopped to sing. In the village parson 
and the schoolmaster, Goldsmith has increased Chaucer's list 
by two lovable characters that will endure as long as the 
English language. The criticism that the picture of prosper- 
ous " Sweet Auburn " never applied to any village in Ireland 
is just, no doubt, but it is outside the question. Goldsmith 
was a hopeless dreamer, bound to see everything, as he saw 
his debts and his gay clothes, in a purely idealistic way. 

The Good-Natured Man and She Stoops to Conquer are 
Goldsmith's two comedies. The former, a comedy of charac- 
ter, though it has some laughable scenes and one laughable 
character, Croaker, met with failure on the stage, and has 
never been revived with any success. The latter, a comedy 
of intrigue, is one of the few plays that has never lost its 
popularity. Its lively, bustling scenes, and its pleasantly ab- 
surd characters, Marlowe, the Hardcastles, and Tony Lump- 
kin, still hold the attention of modern theater goers; and 
nearly every amateur dramatic club sooner or later places 
She Stoops to Conquer on its list of attractions. 

The Vicar of Wakefield is Goldsmith's only novel, and the 
first in any language that gives to home life an enduring 
The Vicar of romantic interest. However much we admire the 
Wakefield beginnings of the English novel, to which we shall 
presently refer, we are nevertheless shocked by its frequent 
brutalities and indecencies. Goldsmith, like Steele, had the 
Irish reverence for pure womanhood, and this reverence 
made him shun as a pest the vulgarity and coarseness in 
which contemporary novelists, like Smollett and Sterne, seemed 
to delight. So he did for the novel what Addison and Steele 
had done for the satire and the essay ; he refined and elevated 
it, making it worthy of the old Anglo-Saxon ideals which are 
our best literary heritage. 

Briefly, The Vicar of Wakefield is the story of a simple 
- English clergyman, Dr. Primrose, and his family, who pass 


from happiness through great tribulation. Misfortunes, which 
are said never to come singly, appear in this case in flocks ; 
but through poverty, sorrow, imprisonment, and the unspeak- 
able loss of his daughters, the Vicar's faith in God and man 
emerges triumphant. To the very end he is like one of the 
old martyrs, who sings Alleluia while the lions roar about 
him and his children in the arena. Goldsmith's optimism, it 
must be confessed, is here stretched to the breaking point. 
The reader is sometimes offered fine Johnsonian phrases 
where he would naturally expect homely and vigorous lan- 
guage ; and he is continually haunted by the suspicion that, 
even in this best of all possible worlds, the Vicar's clouds of 
affliction were somewhat too easily converted into showers of 
blessing ; yet he is forced to read on, and at the end he con- 
fesses gladly that Goldsmith has succeeded in making a most 
interesting story out of material that, in other hands, would 
have developed either a burlesque or a brutal tragedy. Lay- 
ing aside all romantic passion, intrigue, and adventure, upon 
which other novelists depended, Goldsmith, in this simple 
story of common life, has accomplished three noteworthy re- 
sults : he has made human fatherhood almost a divine thing ; 
he has glorified the moral sentiments which cluster about the 
family life as the center of civilization ; and he has given us, 
in Dr. Primrose, a striking and enduring figure, which seems 
more like a personal acquaintance than a character in a book. 

WILLIAM COWPER (1731-1800) 

In Cowper we have another interesting poet, who, like Gray 
and Goldsmith, shows the struggle between romantic and 
classic ideals. In his first volume of poems, Cowper is more 
hampered by literary fashions than was Goldsmith in his 
Traveller and his Deserted Village. In his second period, 
however, Cowper uses blank verse freely ; and his delight in 
nature and in homely characters, like the teamster and the 



mail carrier of The Task, shows that his classicism is being rap- 
idly thawed out by romantic feeling. In his later work, espe- 
cially his immortal "John Gilpin," Cowper flings fashions aside, 
gives Pegasus the reins, takes to the open road, and so proves 
himself a worthy predecessor of Burns, who is the most spon- 
taneous and the most interesting of all the early romanticists. 

Life. Cowper's life is a pathetic story of a shy and timid genius, 
who found the world of men too rough, and who withdrew to nature 
like a wounded animal. He was born at Great Berkhamstead, Hert- 
fordshire, in 1731, the son of an English clergyman. He was a deli- 
cate, sensitive child, whose 
early life was saddened by 
the death of his mother and 
by his neglect at home. At 
six years he was sent away to 
a boys' school, where he was 
terrified by young barbarians 
who made his life miserable. 
There was one atrocious bully 
into whose face Cowper could 
never look ; he recognized his 
enemy by his shoe buckles, 
and shivered at his approach. 
The fierce invectives of his 
"Tirocinium, or a Review of 
Schools" (1784), shows how 
these school experiences had 
affected his mind and health. 
For twelve years he studied 
law, but at the approach of a 
public examination for an office he was so terrified that he attempted 
suicide. The experience unsettled his reason, and the next twelve 
months were spent in an asylum at St. Alban's. The death of his father, 
in 1756, had brought the poet a small patrimony, which placed him 
above the necessity of struggling, like Goldsmith, for his daily bread. 
Upon his recovery he boarded for years at the house of the Unwins, 
cultured people who recognized the genius hidden in this shy and 
yet quaintly humorous man. Mrs. Unwin, in particular, 



cared for him as a son ; and whatever happiness he experienced in 
his poor life was the result of the devotion of this good woman, who 
is the " Mary " of all his poems. 

A second attack of insanity was brought on by Cowper's morbid 
interest in religion, influenced, perhaps, by the untempered zeal of 
one John Newton, a curate, with whom Cowper worked in the small 
parish of Olney, and with whom he compiled the famous Olney 
Hymns. The rest of his life, between intervals of melancholia or 
insanity, was spent in gardening, in the care of his numerous pets, 
and in writing his poems, his translation of Homer, and his charm- 
ing letters. His two best known poems were suggested by a lively 
and cultivated widow, Lady Austen, who told him the story of John 
Gilpin and called for a ballad on the subject. She also urged him 
to write a long poem in blank verse ; and when he demanded a sub- 
ject, she whimsically suggested the sofa, which was a new article of 
furniture at that time. Cowper immediately wrote " The Sofa," and, 
influenced by the poetic possibilities that lie in unexpected places, 
he added to this poem from time to time, and called his completed 
work The Task. This was published in 1785, and the author was 
instantly recognized as one of the chief poets of his age. The last 
years of his life were a long battle with insanity, until death mer- 
cifully ended the struggle in 1800. His last poem, "The Casta- 
way," is a cry of despair, in which, under guise of a man washed 
overboard in a storm, he describes himself perishing in the sight of 
friends who are powerless to help. 

Cowper's Works. Cowper's first volume of poems, contain- 
ing "The Progress of Error," "Truth," "Table Talk," etc., 
is interesting chiefly as showing how the poet was bound by 
the classical rules of his age. These poems are dreary, on the 
whole, but a certain gentleness, and especially a vein of pure 
humor, occasionally rewards the reader. For Cowper was a 
humorist, and only the constant shadow of insanity kept him 
from becoming famous in that line alone. 

The Task, written in blank verse, and published in 1785, 
is Cowper's longest poem. Used as we are to the natural 
poetry of Wordsworth and Tennyson, it is hard for us to 
appreciate the striking originality of this work. Much of it is 


conventional and "wooden," to be sure, like much of Words- 
worth's poetry ; but when, after reading the rimed essays and 
the artificial couplets of Johnson's age, we turn sud- 
denly to Cowper's description of homely scenes, 
of woods and brooks, of plowmen and teamsters and the 
letter carrier on his rounds, we realize that we are at the 
dawn of a better day in poetry : 

He comes, the herald of a noisy world, 

With spatter'd boots, strapp'd waist, and frozen locks : 

News from all nations lumbering at his back. 

True to his charge, the close-packed load behind, 

Yet careless what he brings, his one concern 

Is to conduct it to the destined inn, 

And, having dropped the expected bag, pass on. 

He whistles as he goes, light-hearted wretch, 

Cold and yet cheerful : messenger of grief 

Perhaps to thousands, and of joy to some ; 

To him indifferent whether grief or joy. 

Houses in ashes, and the fall of stocks, 

Births, deaths, and marriages, epistles wet 

With tears that trickled down the writer's cheeks 

Fast as the periods from his fluent quill, 

Or charged with amorous sighs of absent swains, 

Or nymphs responsive, equally affect 

His horse and him, unconscious of them all. 

Cowper's most laborious work, the translation of Homer in 
blank verse, was published in 1791. Its stately, Milton-like 
Misceiiane- movement, and its better rendering of the Greek, 
ous Works make this translation far superior to Pope's artifi- 
cial couplets. It is also better, in many respects, than Chap- 
man's more famous and more fanciful rendering; but for 
some reason it was not successful, and has never received the 
recognition which it deserves. Entirely different in spirit are 
the poet's numerous hymns, which were published in the 
Olney Collection in 1779, and which are still used in our 
churches. It is only necessary to mention a few first lines 
" God moves in a mysterious way," " Oh, for a closer walk 


with God," "Sometimes a light surprises" co show how 
his gentle and devout spirit has left its impress upon thou- 
sands who now hardly know his name. With Cowper's charm- 
ing Letters, published in 1803, we reach the end of his im- 
portant works, and the student who enjoys reading letters 
will find that these rank among the best of their kind. It 
is not, however, for his ambitious works that Cowper is 
remembered, but rather for his minor poems, which have 
found their own way into so many homes. Among these, the 
one that brings quickest response from hearts that understand 
is his little poem, "On the Receipt of My Mother's Picture," 
beginning with the striking line, "Oh, that those lips had 
language." Another, called "Alexander Selkirk," beginning, 
" I am monarch of all I survey," suggests how Selkirk's ex- 
periences as a castaway (which gave Defoe his inspiration for 
Robinson Crusoe) affected the poet's timid nature and imagi- 
nation. Last and most famous of all is his immortal "John 
Gilpin." Cowper was in a terrible fit of melancholy when 
Lady Austen told him the story, which proved to be better 
than medicine, for all night long chuckles and suppressed 
laughter were heard in the poet's bedroom. Next morning at 
breakfast he recited the ballad that had afforded its author so 
much delight in the making. The student should read it, 
even if he reads nothing else by Cowper ; and he will be lack- 
ing in humor or appreciation if he is not ready to echo heartily 
the last stanza : 

Now let us sing, Long live the King, 

And Gilpin^ long live he ! 
And when he next doth ride abroad 

May I be there to see. 

ROBERT BURNS (1/59-1796) 

After a century and more of Classicism, we noted with 
interest the work of three men, Gray, Goldsmith, and Cowper, 
whose poetry, like the chorus of awakening birds, suggests 
the dawn of another day. Two other poets of the same age 



suggest the sunrise. The first is the plowman Burns, who 
speaks straight from the heart to the primitive emotions of 
the race ; the second is the mystic Blake, who only half 
understands his own thoughts, and whose words stir a sensi- 
tive nature as music does, or the moon in midheaven, rousing 
in the soul those vague desires and aspirations which ordinarily 
sleep, and which can 
never be expressed 
because they have no 
names. Blake lived 
his shy, mystic, spirit- 
ual life in the crowded 
city, and his message 
is to the few who can 
understand. Burns 
lived his sad, toilsome, 
erring life in the open 
air, with the sun and 
the rain, and his songs 
touch all the world. 
The latter's poetry, so 
far as it has a philos- 
ophy, rests upon two 
principles which the 
classic school never understood, that common people are at 
heart romantic and lovers of the ideal, and that simple human 
emotions furnish the elements of true poetry. Largely because 
he follows these two principles, Burns is probably the greatest 
song writer of the world. His poetic creed may be summed 
up in one of his own stanzas : 

Give me ae spark o' Nature's fire, 

That 's a' the learning I desire ; 

Then, though I trudge thro' dub an' mire 

At pleugh or cart, 
My Muse, though namely in attire 

May touch the heart. 



Life. 1 Burns's life is "a life of fragments," as Carlyle called it; 
and the different fragments are as unlike as the noble "Cotter's 
Saturday Night" and the rant and riot of "The Jolly Beggars." 
The details of this sad and disjointed life were better, perhaps, 
forgotten. We call attention only to the facts which help us to un- 
derstand the man and his poetry. 

Burns was born in a clay cottage at Alloway, Scotland, in the bleak 
winter of 1759. His father was an excellent type of the Scotch peas- 
ant of those days, a poor, honest, God-fearing man, who toiled 
from dawn till dark to wrest a living for his family from the stubborn 
soil. His tall figure was bent with unceasing labor; his hair was thin 
and gray, and in his eyes was the careworn, hunted look of a peasant 
driven by poverty and unpaid rents from one poor farm to another. 
The family often fasted of necessity, and lived in solitude to avoid 
the temptation of spending their hard-earned money. The children 
went barefoot and bareheaded in all weathers, and shared the parents' 
toil and their anxiety over the rents. At thirteen Bobby, the eldest, 
was doing a peasant's full day's labor ; at sixteen he was chief laborer 
on his father's farm ; and he describes the life as " the cheerless 
gloom of a hermit, and the unceasing moil of a galley slave." In 
1784 the father, after a lifetime of toil, was saved from a debtor's 
prison by consumption and death. To rescue something from the 
wreck of the home, and to win a poor chance of bread for the family, 
the two older boys set up a claim for arrears of wages that had never 
been paid. With the small sum allowed them, they buried their 
father, took another farm, Mossgiel, in Mauchline, and began again 
the long struggle with poverty. 

Such, in outline, is Burns's own story of his early life, taken mostly 
from his letters. There is another and more pleasing side to the pic- 
ture, of which we have glimpses in his poems and in his Common- 
place Book. Here we see the boy at school ; for like most Scotch 
peasants, the father gave his boys the best education he possibly 
could. We see him following the plow, not like a slave, but like a 
free man, crooning over an old Scotch song and, making a better 
one to match the melody. We see him stop the plow to listen to 
what the wind is saying, or turn aside lest he disturb the birds at 
their singing and nest making. At supper we see the family about 

1 Fitz-Greene Halleck's poem "To a Rose from near Alloway Kirk" (1822) is a good 
appreciation of Burns and his poetry. It might be well to read this poem before the sad 
story of Burns's life. 



the table, happy notwithstanding their scant fare, each child with a 
spoon in one hand and a book in the other. We hear Betty Davidson 
reciting, from her great store, some heroic ballad that fired the 
young hearts to enthusiasm and made them forget the day's toil. 
And in " The Cotter's Saturday Night " we have a glimpse of Scotch 
peasant life that makes us almost reverence these heroic men and 
women, who kept their faith and their self-respect in the face of 
poverty, and whose hearts, under their rough exteriors, were tender 
and true as steel. 

A most unfortunate change in Burns' s life began when he left the 
farm, at seventeen, and went to Kirkoswald to study surveying. The 
town was the haunt of smugglers, rough-living, hard-drinking men; 


and Burns speedily found his way into those scenes of " riot and 
roaring dissipation " which were his bane ever afterwards. For a 
little while he studied diligently, but one day, while taking the alti- 
tude of the sun, he saw a pretty girl in the neighboring garden, and 
love put trigonometry to flight. Soon he gave up his work and wan- 
dered back to the farm and poverty again. 

When twenty-seven years of age Burns first attracted literary 
attention, and in the same moment sprang to the first place in 
Scottish letters. In despair over his poverty and personal habits, 
he resolved to emigrate to Jamaica, and gathered together a few of 
his early poems, hoping to sell them for enough to pay the expenses 
of his journey. The result was the famous Kilmarnock edition of 
Burns, published in 1786, for which he was offered twenty pounds. 
It is said that he even bought his ticket, and on the night before 


the ship sailed wrote his "Farewell to Scotland," beginning, "The 
gloomy night is gathering fast," which he intended to be his last 
song on Scottish soil. 

In the morning he changed his mind, led partly by some dim 
foreshadowing of the result of his literary adventure ; for the little 
book took all Scotland by storm. Not only scholars and literary 
men, but " even plowboys and maid servants," says a contempo- 
rary, eagerly spent their hard-earned shillings for the new book. 
Instead of going to Jamaica, the young poet hurried to Edinburgh 
to arrange for another edition of his work. His journey was a con- 
stant ovation, and in the capital he was welcomed and feasted by 
the best of Scottish society. This unexpected triumph lasted only 
one winter. Burns's fondness for taverns and riotous living shocked 
his cultured entertainers, and when he returned to Edinburgh next 
winter, after a pleasure jaunt through the Highlands, he received 
scant attention. He left the city in anger and disappointment, and 
went back to the soil, where he was more at home. 

The last few years of Burns's life are a sad tragedy, and we pass 
over them hurriedly. He bought the farm Ellisland, Dumfriesshire, 
and married the faithful Jean Armour, in 1788. That he could write 
of her, 

I see her in the dewy flowers, 

I see her sweet and fair ; 

I hear her in the tunefu' birds, 

I hear her charm the air : 

There's not a bonie flower that springs 

By fountain, shaw, or green ; 

There's not a bonie bird that sings, 

But minds me o' my Jean, 

is enough for us to remember. The next year he was appointed ex- 
ciseman, i.e. collector of liquor revenues, and the small salary, with 
the return from his poems, would have been sufficient to keep his 
family in modest comfort, had he but kept away from taverns. For 
a few years his life of alternate toil and dissipation was occasionally 
illumined by his splendid lyric genius, and he produced many songs 
"Bonnie Boon," "My Love's like a Red, Red Rose," "Auld 
Lang Syne," " Highland Mary," and the soul-stirring " Scots wha 
hae," composed while galloping over the moor in a storm which 
have made the name of Burns known wherever the English language 
is spoken, sffld bonprf$l wherever Scotchmen gather together. He died 


miserably in 1796, when only thirty-seven years old. His last letter 
was an appeal to a friend for money to stave off the bailiff, and one 
of his last poems a tribute to Jessie Lewars, a kind lassie who 
helped to care for him in his illness. This last exquisite lyric, "O 
wert thou in the cauld blast," set to Mendelssohn's music, is one 
of our best known songs, though its history is seldom suspected by 
those who sing it. 

The Poetry of Burns. The publication of the Kilmarnock 
Burns, with the title Poems Chiefly in the Scottish Dialect 
(1786), marks an epoch in the history of English Literature, 
like the publication of Spenser's Shepherd's Calendar. After 
a century of cold and formal poetry, relieved only by the 
romanticism of Gray and Cowper, these fresh inspired songs 
went straight to the heart, like the music of returning birds 
in springtime. It was a little volume, but a great book ; and 
we tbink of Marlowe's line, "Infinite riches in a little room," 
in connection with it. Sucb poems as "The Cotter's Satur- 
day Night," "To a Mouse," "To a Mountain Daisy," "Man 
was Made to Mourn," "The Twa Dogs," "Address to the 
Deil," and "Halloween," suggest that the whole spirit of 
the romantic revival is embodied in this obscure plowman. 
Love, humor, pathos, the response to nature, all the poetic 
qualities that touch the human heart are here ; and the heart 
was touched as it had not been since the days of Elizabeth. 
If the reader will note again the six characteristics of the 
romantic movement, and then read six poems of Burns, he 
will see at once how perfectly this one man expresses the 
new idea. Or take a single suggestion, 

Ae fond kiss, and then we sever ! 
Ae farewell, and then forever ! 
Deep in heart-wrung tears I'll pledge thee, 
Warring sighs and groans I'll wage thee. 
Who shall say that Fortune grieves him 
While the star of hope she leaves him ? 
Me, nae cheerfu' twinkle lights me ; 
Dark despair around benights me. 


I'll ne'er blame my partial fancy, 
Naething could resist my Nancy ; 
But to see her was to love her ; 
Love but her, and love forever. 
Had we never lov'd sae kindly, 
Had we never lov'd sae blindly, 
Never met or never parted 
We had ne'er been broken-hearted. 

The "essence of a thousand love tales" is in that one little 
song. Because he embodies the new spirit of romanticism, 
critics give him a high place in the history of our literature ; 
and because his songs go straight to the heart, he is the poet 
of common men. 

Of Burns's many songs for music little need be said. They 
have found their way into the hearts of a whole people, and 
Songs for there they speak for themselves. They range from 
Music the exquisite " O wert thou in the cauld blast," to 

the tremendous appeal to Scottish patriotism in " Scots wha 
hae wi' Wallace bled," which, Carlyle said, should be sung 
with the throat of the whirlwind. Many of these songs were 
composed in his best days, when following the plow or resting 
after his work, while the music of some old Scotch song was 
ringing in his head. It is largely because he thought of music 
while he composed that so many of his poems have the singing 
quality, suggesting a melody as we read them. 

Among his poems of nature, "To a Mouse" and "To a 
Mountain Daisy" are unquestionably the best, suggesting the 
poetical possibilities that daily pass unnoticed under our feet. 
These two poems are as near as Burns ever comes to appre- 
ciating nature for its own sake. The majority of his poems, 
like "Winter" and "Ye banks and braes o' bonie Boon," 
regard nature in the same way that Gray regarded it, as a 
background for the play of human emotions. 

Of his poems of emotion there is an immense number. It 
is a curious fact that the world is always laughing and crying 
at the same moment; and we can hardly read a page of 



Burns without finding this natural juxtaposition of smiles and 
tears. It is noteworthy also that all strong emotions, when 
expressed naturally, lend themselves to poetry ; and Burns, 
more than any other writer, has an astonishing faculty of 
describing his own emotions with vividness and simplicity, so 
that they appeal instantly to our own. One can- 
not read, " I love my Jean," for instance, with- 
out being in love with some idealized woman ; 
or "To Mary in Heaven," without sharing the 
personal grief of one who has loved and lost. 


Besides the songs of nature and of human emotion, Burns 
has given us a large number of poems for which no general 
Misceiiane- title can be g iven - Noteworthy among these are 
ous Poems "A man's a man for a' that," which voices the 
new romantic estimate of humanity; "The Vision," from 
which we get a strong impression of Burns's early ideals ; the 
"Epistle to a Young Friend," from which, rather than from 
his satires, we learn Burns's personal views of religion and 
honor; the "Address to the Unco Guid," which is the poet's 
plea for mercy in judgment; and "A Bard's Epitaph," which, 
as a summary of his own life, might well be written at the end 
of his poems. "Halloween," a picture of rustic merrymaking, 
and "The Twa Dogs," a contrast between the rich and poor, 


are generally classed among the poet's best works ; but one 
unfamiliar with the Scotch dialect will find them rather difficult. 
Of Burns 's longer poems the two best worth reading are 
" The Cotter's Saturday Night " and "Tarn o' Shanter," the 
one giving the most perfect picture we possess of a noble 
poverty ; the other being the most Hvely and the least objec- 
tionable of his humorous works. It would be difficult to find 
elsewhere such a combination of the grewsome and the ridicu- 
lous as is packed up in " Tarn o' Shanter." With the excep- 
tion of these two, the longer poems add little to the author's 
fame or to our own enjoyment. It is better for the beginner 
to read Burns's exquisite songs and gladly to recognize his place 
in the hearts of a people, and forget the rest, since they only 
sadden us and obscure the poet's better nature. 

WILLIAM BLAKE (1757-1827) 

Piping down the valleys wild, 

Piping songs of pleasant glee, 
On a cloud I saw a child, 

And he laughing said to me : 

" Pipe a song about a lamb ; " 

So I piped with rnerry cheer. 
" Piper, pipe that song again ; " 

So I piped : he wept to hear. 

"Piper, sit thee down and write 

In a book, that all may read ; " 
So he vanished from my sight, 

And I plucked a hollow reed, 

And I made a rural pen, 

And I stained the water clear, 
And I wrote my happy songs 

Every child may joy to hear. 1 

Of all the romantic poets of the eighteenth century, Blake 
is the most independent and the most original. In his earliest 

1 Introduction, Songs of Innocence. 


work, written when he was scarcely more than a child, he 
seems to go back to -the Elizabethan song writers for his 
models ; but for the greater part of his life he was the poet 
of inspiration alone, following no man's lead, and obeying no 
voice but that which he heard in his own mystic soul. Though 
the most extraordinary literary genius of his age, he had prac- 
tically no influence upon it. Indeed, we hardly yet understand 
this poet of pure fancy, this mystic, this transcendental mad- 
man, who remained to the end of his busy life an incompre- 
hensible child. 

Life. Blake, the son of a London tradesman, was a strange, imagi- 
native child, whose soul was more at home with brooks and flowers 
and fairies than with the crowd of the city streets. Beyond learning 
to read and write, he received no education ; but he began, at ten 
years, to copy prints and to write verses. He also began a long 
course of art study, which resulted in his publishing his own books, 
adorned with marginal engravings colored by hand, an unusual 
setting, worthy of the strong artistic sense that shows itself in many 
of his early verses. As a child he had visions of God and the angels 
looking in at his window ; and as a man he thought he received 
visits from the souls of the great dead, Moses, Virgil, Homer, Dante, 
Milton, "majestic shadows, gray but luminous," he calls them. 
He seems never to have asked himself the question how far these 
visions were pure illusions, but believed and trusted them implicitly. 
To him all nature was a vast spiritual symbolism, wherein he saw 
elves, fairies, devils, angels, all looking at him in friendship or 
enmity through the eyes of flowers and stars : 

With the blue sky spread over with wings, 
And the mild sun that mounts and sings ; 

With trees and fields full of fairy elves, 
And little devils who fight for themselves ; 

With angels planted in hawthorne bowers, 
And God himself in the passing hours. 

And this curious, pantheistic conception of nature was not a matter 
of creed, but the very essence of Blake's life. Strangely enough, he 
made no attempt to found a new religious cult, but followed his own 


way, singing cheerfully, working patiently, in the face of discourage 
ment and failure. That writers of far less genius were exalted to 
favor, while he remained poor and obscure, does not seem to have 
troubled him in the least. For over forty years he labored diligently 
at book engraving, guided in his art by Michael Angelo, but invent- 
ing his own curious designs, at which we still wonder. The illustra- 
tions for Young's " Night Thoughts," for Blair's " Grave," and the 
"Inventions to the Book of Job," show the peculiarity of Blake's 
mind quite as clearly as his poems. While he worked at his trade 
he flung off for he never seemed to compose disjointed visions 
and incomprehensible rhapsodies, with an occasional little gem that 
still sets our hearts to singing : 

Ah, sunflower, weary of time, 

Who countest the steps of the sun ; 
Seeking after that sweet golden clime 

Where the traveller's journey is done ; 

Where the youth pined away with desire, 
And the pale virgin shrouded in snow, 

Rise from their graves, and aspire 
Where my sunflower wishes to go ! 

That is a curious flower to find growing in the London street ; but 
it suggests Blake's own life, which was outwardly busy and quiet, but 
inwardly full of adventure and excitement. His last huge prophetic 
works, like Jerusalem and Milton (1804), were dictated to him, he 
declares, by supernatural means, and even against his own will. 
They are only half intelligible, but here and there one sees flashes 
of the same poetic beauty that marks his little poems. Critics gen- 
erally dismiss Blake with the word " madman " ; but that is only an 
evasion. At best, he is the writer of exquisite lyrics ; at worst, he is 
mad only " north-northwest," like Hamlet ; and the puzzle is to find 
the method in his madness. The most amazing thing about him is 
the perfectly sane and cheerful way in which he moved through 
poverty and obscurity, flinging out exquisite poems or senseless rhap- 
sodies, as a child might play with gems or straws or sunbeams indif- 
ferently. He was a gentle, kindly, most unworldly little man, with 
extraordinary eyes, which seem even in the lifeless portraits to re- 
flect some unusual hypnotic powei. He died obscurely, smiling at a 
vision of Paradise, in 1827. That was nearly a century ago, yet he still 
remains one of the most incomprehensible figures in our literature. 


Works of Blake. The Poetical Sketches, published in 1783, 
is a collection of Blake's earliest poetry, much of it written in 
boyhood. It contains much crude and incoherent work, but 
also a few lyrics of striking originality. Two later and better 
known volumes are Songs of Innocence and Songs of Experi- 
ence, reflecting two widely different views of the human soul. 
As in all his works, there is an abundance of apparently worth- 
less stuff in these songs ; but, in the language of miners, it is all 
"pay dirt " ; it shows gleams of golden grains that await our 
sifting, and now and then we find a nugget unexpectedly : 

My lord was like a flower upon the brows 
Of lusty May ; ah life as frail as flower ! 
My lord was like a star in highest heaven, 
Drawn down to earth by spells and wickedness ; 
My lord was like the op'ening eye of day ; 
But he is darkened ; like the summer moon 
- Clouded ; fall'n like the stately tree, cut down ; 
The breath of heaven dwelt among his leaves. 

On account of the chaotic character of most of Blake's 
work, it is well to begin our reading with a short book of 
selections, containing the best songs of these three little vol- 
umes. Swinburne calls Blake the only poet of "supreme and 
simple poetic genius" of the eighteenth century, "the one 
man of that age fit, on all accounts, to rank with the old great 
masters." x The praise is doubtless extravagant, and the criti- 
cism somewhat intemperate ; but when we have read " The 
Evening Star," "Memory," "Night," "Love," "To the 
Muses," "Spring," "Summer," "The Tiger," "The Lamb," 
"The Clod and the Pebble," we may possibly share Swin- 
burne's enthusiasm. Certainly, in these three volumes we 
have some of the most perfect and the most original songs in 
our language. 

Of Blake's longer poems, his titanic prophecies and apoca- 
lyptic splendors, it is impossible to write justly in such a brief 
work as this. Outwardly they suggest a huge chaff pile, and 

1 Swinburne's William Blake, 


the scattered grains of wheat hardly warrant the labor of win- 
nowing. The curious reader will get an idea of Blake's amaz- 
ing mysticism by dipping into any of the works of his middle 
life, Urizen, Gates of Paradise, Marriage of Heaven and 
Hell, America, The French Revolution, or The Vision of the 
Daughters of Albion.' His latest works, like Jerusalem and 
Milton, are too obscure to have any literary value. To read 
any of these works casually is to call the author a madman ; 
to study them, remembering Blake's songs and his genius, is 
to quote softly his own answer to the child who asked about 
the land of dreams : 

" O what land is the land of dreams, 

What are its mountains and what are its streams? 

O father, I saw my mother there, 

Among the lilies by waters fair." 

w Dear child, I also by pleasant streams 
Have wandered all night in the land of dreams ; 
But though calm and warm the waters wide, 
I could not get to the other side." 


We have chosen the five preceding poets, Gray, Goldsmith, 
Cowper, Burns, and Blake, as the most typical and the most 
interesting of the writers who proclaimed the dawn of Roman- 
ticism in the eighteenth century. With them we associate 
a group of minor writers, whose works were immensely popu- 
lar in their own day. The ordinary reader will pass them by, 
but to the student they are all significant as expressions of 
very different phases of the romantic revival. 

James Thomson (1700-1748). Thomson belongs among 
the pioneers of Romanticism. Like Gray and Goldsmith, he 
wavered between pseudo-classic and the new romantic ideals, 
and for this reason, if for no other, his early work is interest- 
ing, like the uncertainty of a child who hesitates whether to 
creep safely on all fours or risk a fall by walking. He is 


"worthy to be remembered" for three poems, "Rule Bri- 
tannia," which is still one of the national songs of England, 
The Castle of Indolence, and The Seasons. The dreamy and 
romantic Castle (1748), occupied by enchanter Indolence and 
his willing captives in the land of Drowsyhed, is purely Spen- 
serian in its imagery, and is written in the Spenserian stanza. 
The Seasons (1726-1730), written in blank verse, describes 
the sights and sounds of the changing year and the poet's 
own feelings in the presence of nature. These two poems, 
though rather dull to a modern reader, were significant of the 
early romantic revival in three ways : 'they abandoned the 
prevailing heroic couplet ; they went back to the Elizabethans, 
instead of to Pope, for their models;* and they called atten- 
tion to the long-neglected life of nature as a subject for poetry. 

William Collins (1721-1759). Collins, the friend and dis- 
ciple of Thomson, was of a delicate, nervous temperament, 
like Cowper ; and over him also brooded the awful shadow of 
insanity. His first work, Oriental Eclogues (1742), is romantic 
in feeling, but is written in the prevailing mechanical couplets. 
All his later work is romantic in both thought and expression. 
His "Ode on the Popular Superstitions of the Highlands" 
(1750) is an interesting event in the romantic revival, for it 
introduced a new world, of witches, pygmies, fairies, and medi- 
aeval kings, for the imagination to play in. Collins's best known 
poems are the odes "To Simplicity," "To Fear," "To the 
Passions," the little unnamed lyric beginning "How sleep 
the brave," and the exquisite "Ode to Evening." In reading 
the latter, one is scarcely aware that the lines are so delicately 
balanced that they have no need of rime to accentuate their 

George Crabbe (1754-1832). Crabbe is an interesting com- 
bination of realism and romanticism, his work of depicting 
common life being, at times, vaguely suggestive of Fielding's 
novels. The Village (1783), a poem without a rival as a pic- 
ture of the workingmen of his age, is sometimes like Fielding 


in its coarse vigor, and again like Dryden in its precise versi 
fication. The poem was not successful at first, and Crabbe 
abandoned his literary dreams. For over twenty years he 
settled down as a clergyman in a country parish, observing 
keenly the common life about him. Then he published more 
poems, exactly like The Village, which immediately brought 
him fame and money. They brought him also the friendship 
of Walter Scott, who, like others, regarded Crabbe as one of 
the first poets of the age. These later poems, The Parish 
Register (1807), The Borough (1810), Tales in Verse (1812), 
and Tales of the Hall (1819), are in the same strain. They are 
written in couplets ; they are reflections of nature and of 
country life ; they contain much that is sordid and dull, but 
are nevertheless real pictures of real men and women, just as 
Crabbe saw them, and as such they are still interesting. 
Goldsmith and Burns had idealized the poor, and we admire 
them for their sympathy and insight. It remained for Crabbe 
to show that in wretched fishing villages, in the lives of hard- 
working men and women, children, laborers, smugglers, pau- 
pers, all sorts and conditions of common men, there is 
abundant romantic interest without exaggerating or idealizing 
their vices and virtues. 

James Macpherson (1736-1796). In Macpherson we have 
an unusual figure, who catered to the new romantic interest 
in the old epic heroes, arid won immense though momentary 
fame, by a series of literary forgeries. Macpherson was a 
Scotch schoolmaster, an educated man, but evidently not 
over-tender of conscience, whose imagination. had been stirred 
by certain old poems which he may have heard in Gaelic 
among the Highlanders. In 1760 he published his Fragments 
of Ancient Poetry collected in the Highlands, and alleged 
that his work was but a translation of Gaelic manuscripts. 
Whether the work of itself would have attracted attention is 
doubtful ; but the fact that an abundance of literary material 
might be awaiting discovery led to an interest such as now 


attends the opening of an Egyptian tomb, and a subscription 
was promptly raised in Edinburgh to send Macpherson through 
the Highlands to collect more " manuscripts." The result was 
the epic Fingal (1762), "that lank and lamentable counterfeit 
of poetry," as Swinburne calls it, which the author professed 
to have translated from the Gaelic of the poet Ossian. Its 
success was astonishing, and Macpherson followed it up with 
Temora (1763), another epic in the same strain In both these 
works Macpherson succeeds in giving an air of primal grandeur 
to his heroes ; the characters are big and shadowy ; the 
imagery is at times magnificent ; the language is a kind of 
chanting, bombastic prose : 

Now Fingal arose in his might and thrice he reared his voice. 
Cromla answered around, and the sons of the desert stood still. They 
bent their red faces to earth, ashamed at the presence of Fingal. He 
came like a cloud of rain in the days of the sun, when slow it rolls on 
the hill, and fields expect the shower. Swaran beheld the terrible king 
of Morven, and stopped in the midst of his course. Dark he leaned on 
his spear rolling his Ted eyes around. Silent and tall he seemed as an 
oak on the banks of Lubar, which had its branches blasted of old by the 
lightning of heaven. His thousands pour around the hero, and the 
darkness of battle gathers on the hill. 1 

The publication of this gloomy, imaginative work produced a 
literary storm. A few critics, led by Dr. Johnson, demanded 
to see the original manuscripts, and when Macpherson refused 
to produce them, 2 the Ossianic poems were branded as a 
forgery ; nevertheless they had enormous success. Macpher- 
son was honored as a literary explorer ; he was given an 
official position, carrying a salary for life ; and at his death, 
in 1796, he was buried in Westminster Abbey. Blake, Burns, 
and indeed most of the poets of the age were influenced by 

1 There are several omissions from the text in this fragment from Fingal. 

2 Several fragments of Gaelic poetry, attributed to Osfeian or Oisin, are now known 
to have existed at that time in the Highlands. Macpherson used these as a basis for his 
epic, but most of the details were furnished by his own imagination. The alleged text 
of " Ossian " was published in 1807, some eleven years after Macpherson's death. It only 
added another mystery to the forgery ; for, while it embodied a few old and probably genuine 
fragments, the bulk of it seems to be Macpherson's work translated back into Gaelic. 


this sham poetry. Even the scholarly Gray was deceived and 
delighted with " Ossian " ; and men as far apart as Goethe 
and Napoleon praised it immoderately. 

Thomas Chatterton (1752-1770). This "marvelous boy," 
to whom Keats dedicated his " Endymion," and who is cele- 
brated in Shelley's "Adonais," is one of the saddest and most 
interesting figures of the romantic revival. During his child- 
hood he haunted the old church of St. Mary Redcliffe, in 
Bristol, where he was fascinated by the mediaeval air of the 
place, and especially by one old chest, known as Canynge's 
coffer, containing musty documents which had been preserved 
for three hundred years. With strange, uncanny intentness 
the child pored over these relics of the past, copying them 
instead of his writing book, until he could imitate not only 
the spelling and language but even the handwriting of 
the original. Soon after the "Ossian" forgeries appeared, 
Chatterton began to produce documents, apparently very old, 
containing mediaeval poems, legends, and family histories, cen- 
tering around two characters, Thomas Rowley, priest and 
poet, and William Canynge, merchant of Bristol in the days 
of Henry VI. It seems incredible that the whole design of 
these mediaeval romances should have been worked out by a 
child of eleven, and that he could reproduce the style and the 
writing of Caxton's day so well that the printers were de- 
ceived ; but such is the fact. More and more Rowley Papers, 
as they were called, were produced by Chatterton, appar- 
ently from the archives of the old church ; in reality from his 
own imagination, delighting a large circle of readers, and 
deceiving all but Gray and a few scholars who recognized the 
occasional misuse of fifteenth-century English words. All 
this work was carefully finished, and bore the unmistakable 
stamp of literary genius. Reading now his "^Ella," or the 
"Ballad of Charite," or the long poem in ballad style called 
"Bristowe Tragedie," it is hard to realize that it is a boy's 
work. At seventeen years of age Chatterton went for a literary 


career to London, where he soon afterwards took poison and 
killed himself in a fit of childish despondency, brought on by 
poverty and hunger. 

Thomas Percy (1729-181 1). To Percy, bishop of the Irish 
church, in Dromore, we are indebted for the first attempt at 
a systematic collection of the folk songs and ballads which are 
counted among the treasures of a nation's literature. 1 In 1765 
he published, in three volumes, his famous Reliques of Ancient 
English Poetry. The most valuable part of this work is the 
remarkable collection of old English and Scottish ballads, 
such as " Chevy Chase," the " Nut Brown Mayde," " Children 
of the Wood," "Battle of Otterburn," and many more, which 
but for his labor might easily have perished. We have now 
much better and more reliable editions of these same ballads ; 
for Percy garbled his materials, adding and subtracting freely, 
and even inventing a few ballads of his own. Two motives 
probably influenced him in this. First, the different versions 
of the same ballad varied greatly ; and Percy, in changing 
them to suit himself, took the same liberty as had many other 
writers in dealing with the same material. Second, Percy was 
under the influence of Johnson and his school, and thought 
it necessary to add a few elegant ballads "to atone for the 
rudeness of the more obsolete poems." That sounds queer 
now, used as we are to exactness in dealing with historical 
and literary material ; but it expresses the general spirit of 
the age in which he lived. 

Notwithstanding these drawbacks, Percy's Reliques marks 
an epoch in the history of Romanticism, and it is difficult to 
measure its influence 'on the whole romantic movement.- Scott 
says of it, " The first time I could scrape a few shillings to- 
gether, I bought myself a copy of these beloved volumes ; nor 
do I believe I ever read a book half so frequently, or with half 
the enthusiasm." Scott's own poetry is strongly modeled 

1 For various other collections of songs and ballads, antedating Percy's, see Phelps's 
Beginnings of the English Romantic Movement ', ch. vii. 


upon these early ballads, and his Minstrelsy of the Scottish 
Border is due chiefly to the influence of Percy's work. 

Besides the Reliques, Percy has given us another good 
work in his Northern Antiquities (1770), translated from the 
French of Mallet's History of Denmark. This also was of 
immense influence, since it introduced to English readers a 
new and fascinating mythology, more rugged and primitive 
than that of the Greeks ; and we are still, in music as in 
letters, under the spell of Thor arid Odin, of Frea and the 
Valkyr maidens, and of that stupendous drama of passion and 
tragedy which ended in the "Twilight of the Gods." The lit- 
erary world owes a debt of gratitude to Percy, who wrote 
nothing of importance himself, but who, by collecting and 
translating the works of other men, did much to hasten the 
triumph of Romanticism in the nineteenth century. 


The chief literary phenomena of the complex eighteenth 
century are the reign of so-called Classicism, the revival of 
romantic poetry, and the discovery of the modern novel. Of 
these three, the last is probably the most important. Aside 
from the fact that the novel is the most modern, and at pres- 
ent the most widely read and influential type of literature, 
we have a certain pride in regarding it as England's original 
contribution to the world of letters. Other great types of 
literature, like the epic, the romance, and the drama, were 
first produced by other nations ; but the idea of the modern 
novel seems to have been worked out largely on English soil ; * 
and in the number and the fine quality of her novelists, Eng- 
land has hardly been rivaled by any other nation. Before we 
study the writers who developed this new type of literature, 
it is well to consider briefly its meaning and history. 

1 The first books to which the term " novel," in the modern sense, may be applied, 
appeared almost simultaneously in England, France, and Germany. The rapid develop- 
ment of the English novel had an immense influence in all European nations. 


Meaning of the Novel. Probably the most significant remark 
made by the ordinary reader concerning a work of fiction 
The story takes the form of a question : .Is it a good story? 
Element p or the reader of to-day is much like the child and 
the primitive man in this respect, that he must be attracted 
and held by the story element of a narrative before he learns 
to appreciate its style or moral significance. The story ele- 
ment is therefore essential to the novel ; but where the story 
originates is impossible to say. As well might we seek for 
the origin of the race ; for wherever primitive men are found, 
there we see them gathering eagerly about the story-teller. 
In the halls of our Saxon ancestors the scop and the tale- 
bringer were ever the most welcome guests ; and in the bark 
wigwams of the American Indians the man who told the 
legends of Hiawatha had an audience quite as attentive as 
that which gathered at the Greek festivals to hear the story 
of Ulysses's wanderings. To man's instinct or innate love for 
a story we are indebted for all our literature ; and the novel 
must in some degree satisfy this instinct, or fail of appreciation. 

The second question which we ask concerning a work of 
fiction is, How far does the element of imagination enter into 
it ? For upon the element of imagination depends, 
mance largely, our classification of works of fiction into 
novels, romances, and mere adventure stories. The divisions 
here are as indefinite as the border land between childhood 
and youth, between instinct and reason ; but there are certain 
principles to guide us. We note, in the development of any 
normal child, that there comes a time when for his stories he 
desires knights, giants, elves, fairies, witches, magic, and 
marvelous adventures which have no basis in experience. 
He tells extraordinary tales about himself, which may be only 
the vague remembrances of a dream or the creations of a 
dawning imagination, both of which are as real to him as 
any other part of life. When we say that such a child 
"romances," we give exactly the right name to it; for this 


sudden interest in extraordinary beings and events marks 
the development of the human imagination, running riot at 
first, because it is not guided by reason, which is a later 
development, and to satisfy this new interest the romance 1 
was invented. The romance is, originally, a work of fiction 
in which the imagination is given full play, without being 
limited by facts or probabilities. It deals with extraordinary 
events, with heroes whose powers are exaggerated, and often 
adds the element of superhuman or supernatural characters. 
It is impossible to draw the line where romance ends ; but 
this element of excessive imagination and of impossible heroes 
and incidents is its distinguishing mark in every literature. 

Where the novel begins it is likewise impossible to say ; but 

again we have a suggestion in the experience of every reader. 

There comes a time, naturally and inevitably, in the 

The Novel vr . 

lite ot every youth when the romance no longer en- 
thralls him. He lives in a world of facts ; gets acquainted with 
men and women, some good, some bad, but all human ; and he 
demands that literature shall express life as he knows it by ex- 
perience. This is the stage of the awakened intellect, and in our 
stories the intellect as well as the imagination must now be 
satisfied. At the beginning of this stage we delight in Robin- 
son Cnisoe; we read eagerly a multitude of adventure narra- 
tives and a few so-called historical novels ; but in each case 
we must be lured by a story, must find heroes and w moving 
accidents by flood and field" to appeal to our imagination; 
and though the hero and the adventure may be exaggerated, 
they must both be natural and within the bounds of probabil- 
ity. Gradually the element of adventure or surprising inci- 
dent grows less and less important, as we learn that true life 
is not adventurous, but a plain, heroic matter of work and 

1 The name " romance " was given at first to any story in one of the Romance lan- 
guages, like the French metrical romances, which we have considered. Because these 
stories were brought to England at a time when the childish mind of the Middle Ages 
delighted in the most impossible stories, the name " romance " was retained to cover any 
work of the unbridled imagination. 


duty, and the daily choice between good and evil. Life is the 
most real thing in the world now, not the life of kings, or 
heroes, or superhuman creatures, but the individual life with 
its struggles and temptations and triumphs or failures, like 
our own j and any work that faithfully represents life becomes 
interesting. So we drop the adventure story and turn to the 
novel. s For the novel is a work of fiction in which the imagi- 
nation and the intellect combine to express life in the form of 
a story ; and the imagination is always directed and controlled 
by the intellect. It is interested chiefly, not in romance or 
adventure, but in men and women as they are ; it aims to 
show the motives and influences which govern human life, 
and the effects of personal choice upon character and destiny. 
Such is the true novel, 1 and as such it opens a wider and 
more interesting field than any other type of literature. 

Precursors of the Novel. Before the novel could reach its 
modern stage, of a more or less sincere attempt to express 
human life and character, it had to pass through several cen- 
turies of almost imperceptible development. Among the early 
precursors of the novel we must place a collection of tales 
known as the Greek Romances, dating from the second to the 
sixth centuries. These are imaginative and delightful stories 
of ideal love and marvelous adventure, 2 which profoundly 

1 This division of works of fiction into romances and novels is a somewhat arbitrary 
one, but it seems, on the whole, the most natural and the most satisfactory. Many 
writers use the generic term "novel" to include all prose fiction. They divide novels 
into two classes, stories and romances ; the story being a form of the novel which relates 
certain incidents of life with as little complexity as possible ; and the romance being a 
form of novel which describes life as led by strong emotions into complex and unusual 
circumstances. Novels are otherwise divided into .novels of personality, like The Vicar 
of Wakefierd and Silas Marner ; historical novels, like Ivanhoe; novels of romance, 
like Lorna Doone ; and novels of purpose, like Oliver Twist and Uncle Tom's Cabin. 
All such classifications are imperfect, and the best of them is open to objections. 

2 One of these tales was called The Wonderful Things beyond Thule. It is the 
story of a youth, Dinias, who for love of a girl, Dercyllis, did heroic things and under- 
took many adventures, including a journey to the frozen north, and another to the moon. 
A second tale, Ephesiaca, is the story of a man and a maid, each of whom scoffs at love. 
They meet and fall desperately in love ; but the course of true love does not run smooth, 
and they separate, and suffer, and go through many perils, before they " live happily ever 
after." This tale is the source of the mediaeval story, Apollonius of Tyre, which is used 
in Gower's Confessio Amantis and in Shakespeare's Pericles. A third tale is the pastoral 
love story, Daphnis and Chloe, which reappeared in many forms in subsequent literature. 


affected romance writing for the next thousand years. A second 
group of predecessors is found in the Italian and Spanish pas- 
toral romances, which were inspired by the Eclogues of Virgil. 
These were extremely popular in the fourteenth and fifteenth 
centuries, and their influence is seen later in Sidney's Arcadia, 
which is the best of this type in English. 

The third and most influential group of predecessors of the 
novel is made up of the romances of chivalry, such as are 
found in Malory's Morte d' Arthur. It is noticeable, in read- 
ing these beautiful old romances in different languages, that 
each nation changes them somewhat, so as to make them 
more expressive of national traits and ideals. In a word, the 
old romance tends inevitably towards realism, especially in 
England, where the excessive imagination is curbed and the 
heroes become more human. In Malory, in the unknown 
author of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, and especially 
in Chaucer, we see the effect of the practical English mind 
in giving these old romances a more natural setting, and in 
making the heroes suggest, though faintly, the men and 
women of their own day. The Canterbury Tales, with their 
story interest and their characters delightfully true to nature, 
have in them the suggestion, at least, of a connected story 
whose chief aim is to reflect life as it is. 

In the Elizabethan Age the idea of the novel grows more 
definite. In Sidney's Arcadia (1580), a romance of chivalry, 
the pastoral setting at least is generally true to nature ; our 
credulity is not taxed, as in the old romances, by the continual 
appearance of magic or miracles ; and the characters, though 
idealized till they become tiresome, occasionally give the im- 
pression of beingjeal men and women. In Bacon's The New 
Atlantis (1627) we have the story of the discovery by mari- 
ners of an unknown country, inhabited by a superior race of 
men, more civilized than ourselves, an idea which had been 
used by More in his Utopia in 1516. These two books are 
neither romances nor novels, in the strict sense, but studies 


of social institutions. They use the connected story as a 
means of teaching moral lessons, and of bringing about needed 
reforms ; and this valuable suggestion has been adopted by 
many of our modern writers in the so-called problem novels 
and novels of purpose. 

Nearer to the true novel is Lodge's romantic story of 
Rosalynde, which was used by Shakespeare in As You Like It. 
This was modeled upon the Italian novella, or short story, 
which became very popular in England during the Elizabethan 
Age. In the same age we have introduced into England the 
Spanish picaresque novel (from picaro, a knave or rascal), 
which at first was a kind of burlesque on the mediaeval ro- 
mance, and which took for its hero some low scoundrel or 
outcast, instead of a knight, and followed him through a long 
career of scandals and villainies. One of the earliest types of 
this picaresque novel in English is Nash's The Unfortunate 
Traveller, or the Life of Jack Wilton (1594), which is also a 
forerunner of the historical novel, since its action takes place 
during that gorgeous interview between Henry VIII and the 
king of France on the Field of the Cloth of Gold. In ah 
these short stories and picaresque novels the emphasis was 
laid not so much on life and character as on the adventures 
of the hero ; and the interest consisted largely in wondering 
what would happen next, and how the plot would end. ^ The 
same method is employed in all trashy novels and it is es- 
pecially the bane of many modern story-writers. This exces- 
sive interest in adventures or incidents for their own sake, 
and not for their effect on character, is what distinguishes 
the modern adventure story from the true novel. 

In the Puritan Age we approach still nearer to the modern 
novel, especially in the work of Bunyan ; and as the Puritan 
always laid emphasis on character, stories appeared having 
a definite moral purpose. Bunyan's The Pilgrim's Progress 
(1678) differs from the Faery Queen, and from all other 
medieval allegories, in this important respect, that the 


characters, far from being bloodless abstractions, are but thinly 
disguised men and women. Indeed, many a modern man, 
reading the story of Christian, has found in it the reflection 
of his own life and experience. In The Life and Death of 
Mr. Badman (1682) we have another and even more realistic 
study of a man as he was in Bunyan's day. These two strik- 
ing figures, Christian and Mr. Badman, belong among the 
great characters of English fiction. Bunyan's good work, his 
keen insight, his delineation of character, and his emphasis 
upon the moral effects of individual action, was carried on by 
Addison and Steele some thirty years later. The character 
of Sir Roger de Coverley is a real reflection of English country 
life in the eighteenth century ; and with Steele's domestic 
sketches in The Tatler, The Spectator, and The Guardian 
(1709-1713), we definitely cross the border land that lies out- 
side of romance, and enter the region of character study 
where the novel has its beginning. 

The Discovery of the Modern Novel. Notwithstanding this 
long history of fiction, to which we have called attention, it 
is safe to say that, until the publication of Richardson's 
Pamela, in 1740, no true novel had appeared in any litera- 
ture. By a true novel we mean simply a work of fiction 
which relates the story of a plain human life, under stress of 
emotion, which depends for its interest not on incident or 
adventure, but on its truth to nature. A number of English 
novelists Goldsmith, Richardson, Fielding, Smollett, Sterne 
all seem to have seized upon the idea of reflecting life as 
it is, in the form of a story, and to have developed it simulta- 
neously. The result was an extraordinary - awakening of in- 
terest, especially among people who had never before been 
greatly concerned with literature. We are to remember that, 
in previous periods, the number of readers was comparatively 
small ; and that, with the exception of a few writers like 
Langland and Bunyan, authors wrote largely for the upper 
classes. In the eighteenth century the spread of education 


and the appearance of newspapers and magazines led to an 
immense increase in the number of readers ; and at the same 
time the middle-class people assumed a foremost place in 
English life and history. These new readers and this new, 
powerful middle class had no classic tradition to hamper them. 
They cared little for the opinions of Dr. Johnson and the 
famous Literary Club ; and, so far as they read fiction at all, 
they apparently took little interest in the exaggerated ro- 
mances of impossible heroes and the picaresque stories of 
intrigue and villainy which had interested the upper classes. 
Some new type of literature was demanded, and this new 
type must express the new. ideal of the eighteenth century, 
namely, the value and the importance of the individual life. 
So the novel was born, expressing, though in a different way, 
exactly the same ideals of personality and of the dignity of 
common life which were later proclaimed in the American 
and in the French Revolution, and were welcomed with re- 
joicing by the poets of the romantic revival. To tell men, 
not about knights or kings or types of heroes, but about 
themselves in the guise of plain men and women, about their 
own thoughts and motives and struggles, and the results of 
actions upon tfieir own characters, this was the purpose of 
our first novelists. The eagerness with which their chapters 
were read in England, and the rapidity with which their work 
was copied abroad, show how powerfully the new discovery 
appealed to readers everywhere. 

Before we consider the work of these writers who first devel- 
oped the modern novel, we must glance at the work of a pioneer, 
Daniel Defoe, whom we place among the early novelists for the 
simple reason that we know not how else to classify him. 

DANIEL DEFOE (i66i(?)-i;3i) 

To Defoe is often given the credit for the discovery of the 
modern novel ; but whether or not he deserves that honor is 
an open question. Even a casual reading of Robinson Crusoe 


(1719), which generally heads the list of modern fiction, 
shows that this exciting tale is largely an adventure story, 
rather than the study of human character which Defoe prob- 
ably intended it to be. Young people still read it as they 
might a dime novel, skipping its moralizing passages and 
hurrying on to more adventures ; but they seldom appreciate 
the excellent mature reasons which banish the dime novel to 
a secret place in the haymow, while Crusoe hangs proudly on 

the Christmas tree or 
holds an honored place 
on the family book- 
shelf. Defoe's Appari- 
tion of Mrs. Vea^ 
Memoirs of a Cavalier, 
and Journal of the 
Plague Year are such 
mixtures of fact, fic- 
tion, and credulity 
that they defy classi- 
fication ; while other 
so-called "novels," 
like Captain Single- 
ton, Moll Flanders, 
and Roxana, are but 
little better than pica- 


resque stories, with a 

deal of unnatural moralizing and repentance added for puri- 
tanical effect. In Crusoe, Defoe brought the realistic adven- 
ture story to a very high stage of its development ; but his 
works hardly deserve to be classed as true novels, which must 
subordinate incident to the faithful portrayal of human life and 

Life. Defoe was the son of a London butcher named Foe, and 
kept his family name until he was forty years of age, when he added 
the aristocratic prefix with which we have grown familiar. The 


events of his busy seventy years of life, in which he passed through 
all extremes, from poverty to wealth, from prosperous brickmaker 
to starveling journalist, from Newgate prison to immense popularity 
and royal favor, are obscure enough in details ; but four facts stand 
out clearly, which help the reader to understand the character of 
his work. First, Defoe was a jack-at-all-trades, as well as a writer ; 
his interest was largely with the working classes, and notwithstand- 
ing many questionable practices, he seems to have had some con- 
tinued purpose of educating and uplifting the common people. 
This partially accounts for the enormous popularity of his works, 
and for the fact that they were criticised by literary men as being 
" fit only for the kitchen." Second, he was a radical Nonconformist 
in religion, and was intended by his father for the independent 
ministry. The Puritan zeal for reform possessed him, and he tried 
to do by his pen what Wesley was doing by his preaching, without, 
however, having any great measure of the latter's sincerity or single- 
ness of purpose. This zeal for reform marks all his numerous works, 
and accounts for the moralizing to be found everywhere. Third, 
Defoe was a journalist and pamphleteer, with a reporter's eye for 
the picturesque and a newspaper man's instinct for making a " good 
story." He wrote an immense number of pamphlets, poems, and 
magazine articles; conducted several papers, one of the most 
popular, the Review, being issued from prison, and the fact that 
they often blew hot and cold upon the same question was hardly 
noticed. Indeed, so extraordinarily interesting and plausible were 
Defoe's articles that he generally managed to keep employed by the 
party in power, whether Whig or Tory. This long journalistic career, 
lasting half a century, accounts for his direct, simple, narrative style, 
which holds us even now by its intense reality. To Defoe's genius 
we are also indebted for two discoveries, the "interview" and the 
leading editorial, both of which are still in daily use in our best 

The fourth fact to remember is that Defoe knew prison life ; and 
thereby hangs a tale. In 1702 Defoe published a remarkable pam- 
phlet called "The Shortest Way with the Dissenters," supporting 
the claims of the free churches against the " High Fliers," i.e. Tories 
and Anglicans. In a vein of grim humor which recalls Swift's 
" Modest Proposal," Defoe advocated hanging all dissenting minis- 
ters, and sending all members of the free churches into exile ; and 
so ferociously realistic was the satire that both Dissenters and Tories 


took the author literally. Defoe was tried, found guilty of seditious 
libel, and sentenced to be fined, to stand three days in the pillory, 
and to be imprisoned. Hardly had the sentence been pronounced 
when Defoe wrote his " Hymn to the Pillory," 

Hail hieroglyphic state machine, 
Contrived to punish fancy in, 

a set of doggerel verses ridiculing his prosecutors, which Defoe, 
with a keen eye for advertising, scattered all over London. Crowds 
flocked to cheer him in the pillory ; and seeing that Defoe was mak- 
ing popularity out of persecution, his enemies bundled him off to 
Newgate prison. He turned this experience also to account by pub- 
lishing a popular newspaper, and by getting acquainted with rogues, 
pirates, smugglers, and miscellaneous outcasts, each one with a 
" good story " to be used later. After his release from piison, in 
1704, he turned his knowledge of criminals to further account, and 
entered the government employ as a kind of spy or secret-service 
agent. His prison experience, and the further knowledge of crim- 
inals gained in over twenty years as a spy, accounts for his numerous 
stories of thieves and pirates, \\\LQ Jonathan WildvbA. Captain Avery, 
and also for his later novels, which deal almost exclusively with 
villains and outcasts. 

When Defoe was nearly sixty years of age he turned to fiction 
and wrote the great work by which he is remembered. Robinson 
Crusoe was an instant success, and the author became famous all 
over Europe. Other stories followed rapidly, and Defoe earned 
money enough to retire to Newington and live in comfort ; but not 
idly, for his activity in producing fiction is rivaled only by that of 
Walter Scott. Thus, in 1720 appeared Captain Singleton, Duncan 
Campbell, and Memoirs of a Cavalier ; in 1722, Colonel Jack, Moll 
Flanders, and the amazingly realistic Journal of the Plague Year. 
So the list grows with astonishing rapidity, ending with the History 
of the Devil in 1726. 

In the latter year Defoe's secret connection with the government 
became known, and a great howl of indignation rose against him in 
the public print, destroying in an hour the popularity which he had 
gained by a lifetime of intrigue and labor. He fled from his home 
to London, where he died obscurely, in 1731, while hiding from real 
or imaginary enemieSo 


Works of Defoe. At the head of the list stands Robinson 
Crusoe (1719-1720), one of the few books in any literature 
which has held its popularity undiminished for nearly two 
centuries. The story is based upon the experiences of Alex- 
ander Selkirk, or Selcraig, who had been marooned in the 
island of Juan Fernandez, off the coast of Chile, and who had 
lived there in solitude for five years. On his return to Eng- 
land in 1709, Selkirk's experiences became known, and Steele 
published an account of them in The Englishman, without, 
however, attracting any wide attention. That Defoe used 
Selkirk's story is practically certain ; but with his usual du- 
plicity he claimed to have written Crusoe in 1708, a year 
before Selkirk's return. However that may be, the story 
itself is real enough to have come straight from a sailor's log- 
book. Defoe, as shown in his Jotirnal of the Plague Year and 
his Memoirs of a Cavalier, had the art of describing things he 
had never seen with the minute accuracy of an eyewitness. 

The charm of the story is its intense reality, in the succes- 
sion of thoughts, feelings, incidents, which every reader rec- 
Robinson ognizes to be absolutely true to life. At first glance 
Crusoe ft WO uld seem that one man on a desert island 

could not possibly furnish the material for a long story ; but 
as we read we realize with amazement that every slightest 
thought and action the saving of the cargo of the ship- 
wrecked vessel, the preparation for defense against imaginary 
foes, the intense agitation over the discovery of a footprint in 
the sand is a record of what the reader himself would do 
and feel if he were alone in such a place. Defoe's long and 
varied experience now stood him in good stead ; in fact, he 
"was the only man of letters in his time who might have 
been thrown on a desert island without finding himself at a 
loss what to do ; " 1 and he puts himself so perfectly in his 
hero's place that he repeats his blunders as well as his tri- 
umphs. Thus, what reader ever followed Defoe's hero, through 

J Minto's Life of Defoe, p. 139. 


weary, feverish months of building a huge boat, which was 
too big to be launched by one man, without recalling some 
boy who spent many stormy days in shed or cellar building 
a boat or dog house, and who, when the thing was painted 
and finished, found it a foot wider than the door, and had to 
knock it to pieces ? This absolute naturalness characterizes 
the whole story. It is a study of the human will also, of 
patience, fortitude, and the indomitable Saxon spirit overcom- 
ing all obstacles ; and it was this element which made Rous- 
seau recommend Robinson Crusoe as a better treatise on 
education than anything which Aristotle or the moderns had 
ever written. And this suggests the most significant thing 
about Defoe's masterpiece, namely, that the hero represents 
the whole of human society, doing with his own hands all the 
things which, by the division of labor and the demands of 
modern civilization, are now done by many different workers. 
He is therefore the type of the whole civilized race of men. 

In the remaining works of Defoe, more than two hundred 
in number, there is an astonishing variety ; but all are marked 
by the same simple, narrative style, and the same intense 
realism. The best known of these are the Journal of the 
Plague Year, in which the horrors of a frightful plague are 
minutely recorded ; the Memoirs of a Cavalier, so realistic 
that Chatham quoted it as history in Parliament ; and several 
picaresque novels, like Captain Singleton, Colonel Jack, Moll 
Flanders, and Roxana. The last work is by some critics 
given a very high place in realistic fiction, but like the other 
three, and like Defoe's minor narratives of Jack Sheppard and 
Cartouche, it is a disagreeable study of vice, ending with a 
forced and unnatural repentance. 


To Richardson belongs the credit of writing the first mod- 
ern novel. He was the son of a London joiner, who, for 
economy's sake, resided in some unknown town in Derbyshire, 


where Samuel was born in 1689. The boy received very 
little education, but he had a natural talent for writing let- 
ters, and even as a boy we find him frequently employed 
by working-girls to write their love letters for them. This 
early experience, together with his fondness for the society 
of "his dearest ladies" rather than of men, gave him that 
intimate knowledge of the hearts of sentimental and unedu- 
cated women which is manifest in all his work. Moreover, he 
was a keen observer of manners, and his surprisingly accurate 
descriptions often compel us to listen, even when he is most 
tedious. At seventeen years of age he went to London and 
learned the printer's trade, which he followed to the end of 
his life. When fifty years of age he had a small reputation 
as a writer of elegant epistles, and this reputation led certain 
publishers to approach him with a proposal that he write a 
series of Familiar Letters, which could be used as models by 
people unused to writing. Richardson gladly accepted the 
proposal, and had the happy inspiration to make these letters 
tell the connected story of a girl's life. Defoe had told an 
adventure story of human life on a desert island, but Rich- 
ardson would tell the story of a girl's inner life in the midst 
of English neighbors. That sounds simple enough now, but 
it marked an epoch in the history of literature. Like every 
other great and simple discovery, it makes us wonder why 
some one had not thought of it before. 

Richardson's Novels. The result of Richardson's inspira- 
tion was Pamela, or Virtue Rewarded, an endless series of 
letters 1 telling of the trials, tribulations, and the final happy 
marriage of a too sweet young maiden, published in four vol- 
umes extending over the years 1740 and 1741. Its chief 
fame lies in the fact that it is our first novel in the modern 
sense. Aside from this important fact, and viewed solely as 

1 These were not what the booksellers expected. They wanted a " handy letter 
writer," something like a book of etiquette; and it was published in 1741, a few months 
after Pamela. 


a novel, it is sentimental, grandiloquent, and wearisome. Its 
success at the time was enormous, and Richardson began 
another series of letters (he could tell a story in no other 
way) which occupied his leisure hours for the next six years. 
The result was Clarissa, or The History of a Young Lady, 
published in eight volumes in 1747-1748. This was another, 
and somewhat better, sentimental novel ; and it was received 
with immense enthusiasm. Of all Richardson's heroines 
Clarissa is the most human. In her doubts and scruples of 
conscience, and especially in her bitter grief and humiliation, 
she is a real woman, in marked contrast with the mechanical 
hero, Lovelace, who simply illustrates the author's inability to 
portray a man's character. The dramatic element in this novel 
is strong, and is increased by means of the letters, which 
enable the reader to keep close to'the characters of the story 
and to see life from their different view points. Macaulay, who 
was deeply impressed by Clarissa, is said to have made the 
remark that, were the novel lost, he could restore almost the 
whole of it from memory. 

Richardson now turned from his middle-class heroines, and 
in five or six years completed another series of letters, in 
which he attempted to tell the story of a man and an aristo- 
crat. The result was Sir Charles Grandison (1754), a novel 
in seven volumes, whose hero was intended to be a model of 
aristocratic manners and virtues for the middle-class people, 
who largely constituted the novelist's readers. For Richard- 
son, who began in Pamela with the purpose of teaching his 
hearers how to write, ended with the deliberate purpose of 
teaching them how to live ; and in most of his work his chief 
object was, in his own words, to inculcate virtue and good 
deportment. His novels, therefore, suffer as much from his 
purpose as from his own limitations. Notwithstanding his 
tedious moralizing and his other defects, Richardson in these 
three books gave something entirely new to the literary world, 
and the world appreciated the gift. This was the story of 


human life, told from within, and depending for its interest 
not on incident or adventure, but on its truth to human nature. 
Reading his work is, on the whole, like examining the anti- 
quated model of a stern-wheel steamer ; it is interesting for 
its undeveloped possibilities rather than for its achievement. 

HENRY FIELDING (1707-1754) 

Life. Judged by his ability alone, Fielding was the greatest of 
this new group of novel writers, and one of the most artistic that 
our literature has produced. He was born in East Stour, Dorset- 
shire, in 1707. In contrast with Richardson, he was well educated. 
having spent several years at the famous Eton school, and taken 
a degree in letters at the University of Leyden in 1728. Moreover, 
he had a deeper knowledge of life, gained from his own varied and 
sometimes riotous experience. For several years after returning 
from Leyden he gamed a precarious living by writing 

and buffooneries for the stage. In 1735 he married an admirable 
woman, of whom we have glimpses in two of his characters, Amelia, 
and Sophia Western, and lived extravagantly on her little fortune at 
East Stour. Having used up all his money, he returned to London 
and studied law r gaining his living by occasional plays and by news- 
paper work. For ten years, or more, little is definitely known of 
him, save that he published his first novel, Joseph Andrews, in 1742, 
and that he was made justice of the peace for Westminster in 1748. 
The remaining years oF his lite, in wnich his best novels were 
written, were not given to literature, but rather to his duties as 
magistrate, and especially to breaking up the gangs of thieves and 
cutthroats which infested the streets of London after nightfall. He 
died in Lisbon, whither he had gone for his health, in 1754, and 
lies buried there in the English cemetery. The pathetic account of 
this last journey, together with an inkling of the generosity and 
kind-heartedness of the man, notwithstanding the scandals and 
irregularities of his life, are found in his last work, the Journal of a 
Voyage to Lisbon. 

Fielding's Work. Fielding's first novel, Joseph Andrews 
(1742), was inspired by the success of Pamela, and began as 
a burlesque of the false sentimentality and the conventional 


virtues of Richardson's heroine. He took for his hero the 
alleged brother of Pamela, who was exposed to the same kind 
of temptations, but who, instead of being rewarded for his 
virtue, was unceremoniously turned out of doors by his mis- 
tress. There the burlesque ends ; the hero takes to the open 
road, and Fielding forgets all about Pamela in telling the 
adventures of Joseph and his companion, Parson Adams. 
Unlike Richardson, who has no humor, who minces words, 
and moralizes, and dotes on the sentimental woes of his hero- 

ines, Fielding isjjjrprt, vigorous, hijarious, and rqarse to the 
point of vulgarity. He is full of animal spirits, and he tells- 
the story of a vagabond iife, not for the sake of moralizing, 
like Richardson, or for emphasizing a forced repentance, like 
Defoe, but simply because it interests him, and his only con- 
cern is "to laugh men out of their follies." So his story, 
though it abounds in unpleasant incidents, generally leaves 
the reader with the strong impression of reality. 

Fielding's later novels are Jonathan Wild, the story of a 
rogue, which suggests Defoe's narrative ; The History of Tom 
Jones, a Foundling (1749), his best work ; and Amelia (1751), 
the story of a good wife in contrast with an unworthy hus- 
band. His strength in all these works is in the vigorous hut 
coarse figures, like those of Jan Steen's pictures, which fill 
most ot his pages ; his weakness is in lack of taste., and in 
barrenness of imagination or invention, which leads him to 
"repeat his plots and incidents with slight variations. In all 
his work sincerity is perhaps the most marked characteristic. 
Field ing -ffltes virile men, just as they are, good and bad, but 
detests shams of every sort. His satire has none of Swift's 
"bitterness, but is subtle as that of Chaucer, and good-natured 
as that of Steele. He never moralizes, though some of his 
powerfully drawn scenes suggest a deeper moral lesson than 
anything in Defoe or Richardson ; and he never judges even 
the worst of his characters without remembering his own frailty 
and tempering justice with mercy. On the whole, though much 


of his work is perhaps in bad taste and is too coarse for pleas- 
ant or profitable reading, Fielding must be regarded as an 
artist, a very great artist, in realistic fiction ; and the advanced 
student who reads him will probably concur in the judgment 
of a modern critic that, by giving us genuine pictures of men 
jind women of his own age, without moralizing over their vices 
and virtues, ne became tne real touncler ot the modern novel. 


Tobias Smollett (1721-1771) apparently tried to carry on 
Fielding's work ; but he lacked Fielding's genius, as well as 
his humor and inherent kindness, and so crowded his pages 
with the horrors and brutalities which are sometimes mistaken 
for realism. Smollett was a physician, of eccentric manners 
and ferocious instincts, who developed his unnatural peculiari- 
ties by going as a surgeon on a battleship, where he seems to 
have picked up all the evils of the navy and of the medical 
profession to use later in his novels. 

His three best known works are Roderick Random (1748), 
a series of adventures related by the hero ; Peregrine Pickle 
Smollett's ( I 75 I )> m which he reflects with brutal directness 
Novels the worst of his experiences at sea ; and Humphrey 

Clinker (1771), his last work, recounting the mild adventures 
of a Welsh family in a journey through England and Scot- 
land. This last alone can be generally read without arousing 
the reader's profound disgust. Without any particular ability, 
he models his novels on Don Quixote, and the result is simply 
a series of coarse adventures which are characteristic of the 
picaresque novel of his age. Were it not for the fact that he 
unconsciously imitates Jonson's Every Man in His Humour, 
he would hardly be named among our writers of fiction ; but 
in seizing upon some grotesque habit or peculiarity and mak- 
ing a character out of it such as Commodore Trunnion in 
Peregrine Pickle, Matthew Bramble in Htimphrey Clinker, 
and Bowling in Roderick Random he laid the foundation 


for that exaggeration in portraying human eccentricities which 
finds a climax in Dickens's caricatures. 

Lawrence Sterne (1713-1768) has been compared to a 
"little bronze satyr of antiquity in whose hollow body exqui- 
site odors were stored." That is true, so far as the satyr is 
concerned ; for a more weazened, unlovely personality would 
be hard to find. The only question in the comparison is in 
regard to he character of the odors, and that is a matter of 
taste. In his work he is the reverse of Smollett, the latter 
being given over to coarse vulgarities, which are often mis- 
taken for realism ; the former to whims and vagaries and 
sentimental tears, which frequently only disguise a sneer at 
human grief and pity. 

The two books by which Sterne is remembered are Tris- 
tram Shandy and A Sentimental Journey through France and 
steme's Italy. These are termed novels for the simple reason 
Work that we know not what else to call them. The former 

was begun, in his own words, " with no real idea of how it was 
to turn out "; its nine volumes, published at intervals from 1760 
to 1767, proceeded in the most aimless way, recording the 
experiences of the eccentric Shandy family ; and the book 
was never finished. Its strength lies chiefly in its brilliant 
style, the most remarkable of the age, and in its odd charac- 
ters, like Uncle Toby and Corporal Trim, which, with all their 
eccentricities, are so humanized by the author's genius that 
they belong among the great "creations" of our literature. 
The Sentimental Journey is a curious combination of fiction, 
sketches of travel, miscellaneous essays on odd subjects, 
all marked by the same brilliancy of style, and all stamped 
with Sterne's false attitude towards everything in life. Many 
of its best passages were either adapted or taken bodily from 
Burton, Rabelais, and a score of other writers ; so that, in 
reading Sterne, one is never quite sure how much is his own 
work, though the mark of his grotesque genius is on every 


The First Novelists and their Work. With the publication 
of Goldsmith's Vicar of Wakefield in 1766 the first series of 
English novels came to a suitable close. Of this work, with 
its abundance of homely sentiment clustering about the family 
life as the most sacred of Anglo-Saxon institutions, we have 
already spoken. 1 If we except Robinson Crusoe, as an adven- 
ture story, the Vicar of Wakefield is the only novel of the 
period which can be freely recommended to all readers, as 
giving an excellent idea of the new literary type, which was 
perhaps more remarkable for its promise than for its achieve- 
ment. In the short space of twenty-five years there suddenly 
appeared and flourished a new form of literature, which influ- 
enced all Europe for nearly a century, and which still furnishes 
the largest part of our literary enjoyment. Each successive 
novelist brought gome new element to the work, as when Field- 
ing supplied animal vigor and humor to Richardson's analysis 
of a human heart, and Sterne added brilliancy, and Goldsmith 
emphasized purity and the honest domestic sentiments which 
are still the greatest ruling force among men. So these early 
workers were like men engaged in carving a perfect cameo 
from the reverse side. One works the profile, another the eyes, 
a third the mouth and the fine lines of character ; and not till 
the work is finished, and the cameo turned, do we see the 
complete human face and read its meaning. Such, in a para- 
ble, is the story of the English novel. 

Summary of the Eighteenth Century. The period we are studying is in- 
cluded between the English Revolution of 1688 and the beginning of the 
French Revolution of 1789. Historically, the period begins in a remarkable 
way by the adoption of the Bill of Rights in 1689. This famous bill was the 
third and final step in the establishment of constitutional government, the first 
step being the (ireat Charter (1215), and the second the Petition of Right 
(1628). The modern form of cabinet government was established in the reign 
of George I (1714-1727). The foreign prestige of England was strengthened 
by the victories of Marlborough on the Continent, in the War of the Spanish 
Succession ; and the bounds of empire were enormously increased by Clive 
in India, by Cook in Australia and the islands of the Pacific, and by English 

1 See p. 315. 



victories over the French in Canada and the Mississippi Valley, during the 
Seven Years', or French and Indian, Wars. Politically, the country was 
divided' into WJjigs and^Tories : the former seeking greater liberty for the 
people ; the latter upholding the king against popular government. The con- 
tinued strife between these two political parties had a direct (and generally a 
harmful) influence on literature, as many of the great writers were used by 
the Whig or Tory party to advance its own interests and to satirize its ene- 
mies. Notwithstanding this perpetual strife of parties, the age is remarkable 
for the rapid social development, which soon expressed itself in literature. 
Clubs and coffeehouses multiplied, and the social life of these clubs resulted 
in better manners, in a general feeling of toleration, and especially in a kind 
of superficial elegance which shows itself in most of the prose and poetry of 
the period. On the other hand, the moral standard of the nation was very 
low ; bands of rowdies infested the city streets after nightfall ;' bribery and 
corruption were the rule in politics ; and drunkenness was frightfully preva- 
lent among all classes. Swift's degraded race of Yahoos is a reflection of the 
degradation to be seen in multitudes of London saloons. This low standard 
of morals emphasizes the importance of the great Methodist revival under 
Whitefield and Wesley, which began in the second' quarter of the eighteenth 

The literature of the century is remarkably complex, but we may classify it 
all under three general heads, the Reign of so-called Classicism, the Revival 
of Romantic Poetry, and the Beginning of the Modern Novel. The fu$t half 
of the century, especially, is an age of prose, owing largely to the fact that the 
practical and social interests of the age demanded expression. Modern news- 
papers, like the Chronicle, Post, and Times, and literary magazines, like the 
Tatler and Spectator, which began in this age, greatly influenced the defelop- ' 
ment of a serviceable prose style. The poetry of the first half of the century, 
as typified in Pope, was polished, unimaginative, formal ; and the closed coup- 
let was in general use, supplanting all other forms of verse. Both prose and 
poetry were too frequently satiric, and satire does not tend to produce a high 
type of literature. These tendencies in poetry were modified, in the latter 
part of the century, by the revival of romantic poetry. 

In our study we have noted: (i) the Augustan or Classic Age ; the mean- 
ing of Classicism; the life and work of Alexander Pops, the greatest poet of 
the age ; of Jonathan Swift, the satirist ; of Joseph Addison, the essayist ; of 
Richard Steele, who was the original genius of the Tatler and the Spectator ; 
of Samuel Johnson, who for nearly half a century w r as the dictator of English 
letters; of James Boswell, who gave us the immortal Life of Johnson ; of 
Edmund Burke, the greatest of English orators ; and of Edward Gibbon, the 
historian, famous for his Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. 

(2) The Revival of Romantic Poetry ; the meaning of Romanticism ; the 
life and work of Thomas Gray ; of Oliver Goldsmith, famous as poet, drama- 
tist, and novelist; of William Cowper; of Robert Burns, the greatest of 
Scottish poets ; of William Blake, the mystic ; and the minor poets of the 
early romantic movement, James Thomson, William Collins, George Crabbe, 


James Macpherson, autho^of the Ossian poems, Thomas Chatterton, the boy 
who originated the Rowley Papers, and Thomas Percy, whose work for litera- 
ture was to collect the old ballads, which he called the Reliques of Ancient 
English Poetry, and to translate the stories of Norse mythology in his North- 
ern Antiquities. 

(3) The First English Novelists ; the meaning and history of the modern 
novel; the life and work of Daniel Defoe, author of Robinson Crusoe, who is 
hardly to be called a novelist, but whom we placed among the pioneers ; and 
the novels of Richardson, Fielding, Smollett, Sterne, and Goldsmith. 

Selections for Reading. Manly's English Poetry and Manly's English 
Prose (Ginn and Company) are two excellent volumes containing selections 
from all authors studied. Ward's English Poets (4 vols.), Craik's English 
Prose Selections (5 vols.), and Garnett's English Prose from Elizabeth to 
Victoria ate useful for supplementary reading. All important works should be 
read entire, in one of the following inexpensive editions, published for school 
use. (For titles and publishers, see General Bibliography at end of this book.) 

Pope. Rape of the Lock and Other Poems, edited by Parrott, in Standard 
English Classics. Various other school editions of the Essay on Man, and 
Rape of the Lock, in Riverside Literature Series, Pocket Classics, etc. ; 
Pope's Iliad, I, VI, XXII, XX.IV, in Standard English Classics, etc. Selec- 
tions from Pope, edited by Reed, in Holt's English Readings. 

Swift. Gulliver's Travels, school edition by Ginn and Company; also in 
Temple Classics, etc. Selections from Swift, edited by Winchester, in Athe- 
naeum Press (announced) ; the same, edited by Craik, in Clarendon Press ; the 
same, edited by Prescott, in Holt's English Readings. Battle of the Books, in 
.King's Classics, Bohn's Library, etc. 

Addison and Steele, Sir Roger de Coverley Papers, in Standard English 
Classics, Riverside Literature, etc.; Selections from Addison, edited by Wen- 
dell and Greenough, and Selections from Steele, edited by Carpenter, both in 
Athenaeum Press ; various other selections, in Golden Treasury -Series, Game- 
lot Series, Holt's English Readings, etc. 

Johnson. Lives of the Poets, in CasselFs National Library ; Selected Es- 
says, edited by G. B. Hill (Dent); Selections, in Little Masterpieces Series; 
Rasselas, in Holt's English Readings, and in Morley's Universal Library. 

Bosiuell. Life of Johnson (2 vols.), in Everyman's Library ; the same (3 vols.), 
in Library of English Classics ; also in Temple Classics, and Bohn's Library. 

Burke. American Taxation, Conciliation with America, Letter to a Noble 
Lord", in Standard English Classics ; various speeches, in Pocket Classics, 
Riverside Literature Series, etc. ; Selections, edited by B. Perry (Holt) ; 
Speeches on America (Heath, etc.). 

Gibbon. The Student's Gibbon, abridged (Murray); Memoirs, edited by 
Emerson, in Athenaeum Press. 

Gray. Selections, edited by W. L. Phelps, in Athenaeum Press ; Selections 
from Gray and Cowper, in Canterbury Poets, Riverside Literature, etc.; 
Gray's Elegy, in Selections from Five English Poets (Ginn and Company). 


Goldsmith. Deserted Village, in Standard English Classics, etc. ; Vicar of 
Wakefield, in Standard English Classics, Everyman's Library, King's Classics, 
etc. ; She Stoops to Conquer, in Pocket Classics, Belles Lettres Series, etc. 

Cowper. Selections, edited by Murray, in Athenaeum Press ; Selections, in 
Cassell's National Library, Canterbury Poets, etc.; The Task, in Temple 

Burns. Representative Poems, with Carlyle's Essay on Burns, edited by 
C. L. Hanson, in Standard English Classics ; Selections, in Pocket Classics, 
Riverside Literature, etc. 

Blake. Poems, edited by W. B. Yeats, in Muses' Library ; Selections, in 
Canterbury Poets, etc. 

Minor Poets. Thomson, Collins, Crabbe, etc. Selections, in Manly's Eng- 
lish Poetry. Thomson's The Seasons, and Castle of Indolence, in Modern 
Classics ; the same poems in Clarendon Press, and in Temple Classics ; Selec- 
tions from Thomson, in Cassell's National Library. Chatterton's poems, in 
Canterbury Poets. Macpherson's Ossian, in Canterbury Poets. Percy's Rel- 
iques, in Everyman's Library, Chandos Classics, Bohn's Library, etc. More 
recent and reliable collections of popular ballads, for school use, are Gum- 
mere's Old English Ballads, in Athenaeum Press ; The Ballad Book, edited by 
Allingham, in Goldern Treasury Series ; Gayley and Flaherty's Poetry of the 
People (Ginn and Company), etc. See Bibliography on p. 64. 

Defoe. Robinson Crusoe, school edition, by Ginn and Company; the same 
in Pocket Classics, etc. ; Journal of the Plague Year, edited by Hurlbut (Ginn 
and Company) ; the same, in Everyman's Library, etc. ; Essay on Projects, 
in Cassell's National Library. 

The Novelists. Manly's English Prose ; Craik's English Prose Selections, 
vol. 4; Goldsmith's Vicar of Wakefield (see above); Selected Essays of Field- 
ing, edited by Gerould, in Athenaeum Press. 

Bibliography. 1 History. Text-book, Montgomery, pp. 280-322 ; Cheyney, 
pp. 516-574. General Works. Greene, ch. 9, sec. 7, to ch. 10, sec. 4; Traill, 
Gardiner, Macaulay, etc. Special Works. Lecky's History of England in the 
Eighteenth Century, vols. 1-3 ; Morris's The Age of Queen Anne and the 
Early Hanoverians (Epochs of Modern History) ; Seeley's The Expansion of 
England; Macaulay's Clive, and Chatham; Thackeray's The Four Georges, 
and the English Humorists ; Ashton's Social Life in the Reign of Queen 
Anne; Susan Hale's Men and Manners of the Eighteenth Century; Sydney's 
England and the English in the Eighteenth Century. 

Literature. General Works. The Cambridge Literature, Taine, Saintsbury, 
etc. Special Works. Perry's English Literature in the Eighteenth Century; 
L. Stephen's English Literature in the Eighteenth Century; Seccombe's The 
Age of Johnson ; Dennis's The Age of Pope ; Gosse's History of English 
Literature in the Eighteenth Century ; Whitwell's Some Eighteenth Century 
Men of Letters (Cowper, Sterne, Fielding, Goldsmith, Gray, Johnson, and 

1 For titles and publishers of general reference works, and of inexpensive texts, see 
General Bibliography at end of this book. 


Boswell); Johnson's Eighteenth Century Letters and Letter Writers; Williams's 
English 'Letters and Letter Writers of the Eighteenth Century; Minto's 
Manual of English Prose Writers ; Clark's Study of English Prose Writers ; 
Bourne's English Newspapers; J. B. Williams's A History of English Jour-^ 
nalism ; L. Stephen's History of English Thought in the Eighteenth Century. 
The Romantic Revival. W. L. Phelps's The Beginnings of the English Ro- 
mantic Movement ; Beers's English Romanticism in the Eighteenth Century. 
The Novel. Raleigh's The English Novel ; Simonds's An Introduction to 
the Study of English Fiction ;, Cross's The Development of the English 
Novel ; Jusserand's. The English Novel in the Time of Shakespeare ; Stod- 
dard's The Evolution of the English Novel; Warren's The History of the 
English Novel previous to the Seventeenth Century ; Masson's British Novel; 
ists and their Styles; S. Lanier's The English Novel; Hamilton's the Mate- 
rials and Methods of Fiction ; Perry's A Study of Prose Fiction. 

Pope. Texts: Works, in Globe Edition, edited by A. W. Ward; in Cam- 
bridge Poets, edited by H. W. Boynton ; Satires and Epistles, in Clarendon 
Press; Letters, in English Letters and Letter Writers of the Eighteenth 
Century, edited by H. Williams (Bell). Life: by Courthope; by L. Stephen 
(English Men of Letters Series) ; by Ward, in Globe Edition; by Johnson, in 
Lives of the Poets (Cassell's National Library, etc.). Criticism : Essays, by 
L. Stephen, in Hours in a Library; by Lowell, in My Study Windows; by 
De Quincey, in Biographical Essays, and in Essays on the Poets; by Thack- 
eray in English Humorists ; by Sainte-Beuve, in English Portraits. Warton's 
Genius and Writings of Pope (interesting chiefly from the historical view pomt, 
as the first definite and extended attack on Pope's writings). 

Swift Texts: Works, 19 vols., ed. by Walter Scott (Edinburgh, 1814- 
1824) best edition of prose works is edited by T. Scott, with introduction by 
Lecky, 12 vols. (Bohn's Library) ; Selections, edited by Winchester (Gmn and 
Company); also in Camelot Series, Carisbrooke Library, etc., Journal to 
Stella, (Button, also Putnam); Letters, in Eighteenth Century Letters and 
Letter Writers, ed. by T. B. Johnson. Life : by I, Stephen (English Men of 
Letters); by Collins; by Craik ; by J: Forster; by Macaulay; by Walter 
Scott; by Johnson, in Lives of the Poets. Criticism: Essays, by Thackeray, 
in English Humorists; by A. Dobson, in Eighteenth Century Vignettes; by 
Masson, in the Three Devils and Other Essays. 

AJdison. Texts: Works, in Bohn's British Classics; Selections, in Athe- 
naeum Press, etc. Life: by Lucy Aiken; by Courthope (English Men of 
Letters) ; by Johnson, in Lives of the Poets. Criticism: Essays, by IV 

Selections, edited by Carpenter in Athenaeum Press (Ginn 
and Company); various other Selections published by Putnam, Bangs, ir 
Camelot Series, etc.; Plays, edited by Aitken, in Mermaid Series. Li 
Aitken; by A. Dobson (English Worthies Series). Criticism: 
Thackeray; by Dobson, in Eighteenth Century Vignettes 

fohnson. Texts: Works, edited by Walesby, vols. (Oxford, '*&* 
same, edited by G. B. Hill, in Clarendon Press. Essays, edited by G. B. H 


(Dent) ; the same, in Camelot series ; Rasselas, various school editions, by 
Ginn and Company, Holt, etc. ; Selections from Lives of the Poets, with 
Macaulay's Life of Johnson, edited by Matthew Arnold (Macmillan). Life : 
Boswell's Life of Johnson, in Everyman's Library, Temple Classics, Library 
of English Classics, etc. ; by L. Stephen (English Men of Letters) ; by Grant. 
Criticism: G. B. Hill's Dr. Johnson, his Friends and Critics; Essays, by 
L. Stephen, in Hours in a Library ; by Macaulay, Birrell, etc. 

Boswell. Texts: Life of Johnson, edited by G. B. Hill (London, 1874); 
various other editions (see above). Life: by Fitzgerald (London, 1891); 
Roger's Boswelliana (London, 1874). Whitfield's Some Eighteenth Century 
Men of Letters. 

Burke. Texts: Works, I2vols. (Boston, 1871); reprinted, 6 vols., in Bohn's 
Library; Selected Works, edited by Payne, in Clarendon Press; On the Sub- 
lime and Beautiful, in Temple Classics. For various speeches, see Selections 
for Reading, above. Life: by Prior; by Morley (English Men of Letters). 
Criticism : Essay, by Birrell, in Obiter Dicta. See also Dowden's French 
Revolution and English Literature, and Woodrow Wilson's Mere Literature. 

Gibbon. Texts : Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, edited by Bury, 
7 vols. (London, 1896-1900) ; various other editions; The Student's Gibbon, 
abridged (Murray) ; Memoirs, edited by Emerson, in Athenaeum Press (Ginn 
and Company). Life : by Morison (English Men of Letters). Criticism : Essays, 
by Birrell, in Collected Essays and Res Judicatae ; by Stephen, in Studies of a 
Biographer; by Robertson, in Pioneer Humanists; by Frederick Harrison, in 
Ruskin and Other Literary Estimates ; by Bagehot, in Literary Studies ; by 
Sainte-Beuve, in English Portraits. See also Anton's Masters in History. 

Sheridan. Texts: Speeches, 5 vols. (London, 1816); Plays, edited by 
W. F. Rae (London, 1902) ; the same, edited by R. Dircks, in Camelot Series ; 
Major Dramas, in Athenaeum Press ; Plays also in Morley's Universal Library, 
Macmillaii's English Classics, etc. Life : by Rae ; by M. Oliphant (English 
Men of Letters) ; by L. Sanders (Great Writers). 

Gray. Texts : Works, edited by Gosse (Macmillan) ; Poems, in Routledge's 
Pocket Library, Chandos Classics, etc. ; Selections, in Athenaeum Press, etc. ; 
Letters, edited by D. C. Tovey (Bohn). Life : by Gosse (English Men of Letters). 
Criticism : Essays, by Lowell, in Latest Literary Essays ; by M. Arnold, in 
Essays in Criticism ; by L. Stephen, in Hours in a Library ; by A. Dobson, in 
Eighteenth Century Vignettes. 

Goldsmith. Texts : edited by Masson, Globe edition ; Works, edited by 
Aiken and Tuckerman (Crowell) ; the same, edited by A. Dobson (Dent) ; 
Morley's Universal Library; Arber's The Goldsmith Anthology (Frowde). See 
also Selections for Reading, above. Life : by Washington Irving ; by A. Dobson 
(Great Writer's Series); by Black (English Men of Letters); by J. Forster; 
by Prior. Criticism: Essays, by Macaulay; by Thackeray; by De Quinccy ; 
by A. Dobson, in Miscellanies. 

Cowper. Texts : Works, Globe and Aldine editions ; also in Chandos 
Classics ; Selections, in Athenaeum Press, Canterbury Poets, etc. The Corre- 
spondence of William Cowper, edited by T. Wright, 4 vols. (Dodd, Mead & 


Company). Life: by Goldwin Smith- (English Men of Letters); by Wright; 
by Southey. Criticism : Essays, by L. Stephen ; by Bagehot ; by Sainte- 
Beuve ; by Birrell; by Stopford Brooke; by A. Dobson (see above). See 
also Woodberry's Makers of Literature. 

Burns. Texts: Works, Cambridge Poets Edition (containing Henley's 
Study of Burns), Globe and Aldine editions, Clarendon Press, Canterbury 
Poets, etc. ; Selections, in Athenaeum Press, etc. ; Letters, in Camelot Series. 
Life : by Cunningham ; by Henley ; by Setoun ; by Blackie (Great Writers) ; 
by Shairp (English Men of Letters). Criticism: Essays, by Carlyle; by R. L. 
Stevenson, in Familiar Studies ; by Hazlitt, in Lectures on the English Poets ; 
by Stopford Brooke, in Theology in the English Poets; by J. Forster, in 
Great Teachers. 

Blake. Texts : Poems, Aldine edition ; also in Canterbury Poets ; Com- 
plete Works, edited by Ellis and Yeats (London, 1893); Selections, edited 
by W. B. Yeats, in the Muses' Library (Button) ; Letters, with Life by 
F. Tatham, edited by A. G. B. Russell (Scribner's, 1896). Life: by Gilchrist; 
by Story; by Symons. Criticism: Swinburne's William Blake, a Critical 
Study ; Ellis's The Real Blake (McClure, 1907) ; Elizabeth Gary's The Art 
of William Blake (Moffat, Yard & Company, 1907). Essay, by A. C. Benson, 
in Essays. , 

Thomson. Texts : Works, Aldine edition ; The Seasons, and Castle of Indo- 
lence, in Clarendon Press, etc. Life : by Bayne ; by G. B. Macaulay (English 
Men of Letters). Essay, by Hazlitt, in Lectures on the English Poets. 

Collins. Works, edited by Bronson, in Athenaeum Press;* also in Aldine 
edition. Life : by Johnson, in Lives of the Poets. Essay, by Swinburne, in 
Miscellanies. See also Beers's English Romanticism in the Eighteenth Century. 

Crabbe. Works, with memoir by his son, G. Crabbe, 8 vols. (London, 
1834-1835); Poems, edited by A. W. Ward, 3 vols., in Cambridge English 
Classics (Cambridge, 1905) ; Selections, in Temple Classics, Canterbury Poets, 
etc. Life : by Kebbel (Great Writers) ; by Ainger (English Men of Letters). 
Essays, by L. Stephen, in Hours in a Library; by Woodberry, in Makers of 
Literature; by Saintsbury, in Essays in English Literature; by Courthope, 
in Ward's English Poets ; by Edward Fitzgerald, in Miscellanies ; by Hazlitt, 
in Spirit of the Age. 

Macpherson. Texts : Ossian, in Canterbury Poets ; Poems, translated by 
Macpherson, edited by Todd (London, 1888). Life and Letters, edited by 
Saunders (London, 1894). Criticism : J. S. Smart's James Macpherson (Nutt, 
1905). See also Beers's English Romanticism. For relation of Macpherson's 
work to the original Ossian, see Dean of Lismore's Book, edited by Mac- 
Lauchlan (Edinburgh, 1862) ; also Poems of Ossian, translated by Clerk 
(Edinburgh, 1870). 

Chatterton. Works, edited by Skeat (London, 1875) ; Poems, in Canter- 
bury Poets. Life : by Russell ; by Wilson ; Masson's Chatterton, a Biography. 
Criticism : C. E. Russell's Thomas Chatterton (Moffatt, Yard & Company) ; 
Essays, by Watts-Dunton, in Ward's English Poets ; by Masson, in Essays 
Biographical and Critical. See also Beers's English Romanticism. 


Percy. Reliques, edited by Wheatley (London, 1891) ; the same, in Every- 
man's Library, Chandos Classics, etc. Essay, by J. W. Hales, Revival of 
Ballad Poetry, in Folia Literaria. See also Beers's English Romanticism, etc. 
(Special works, above.) 

Defoe. Texts : Romances and Narratives, edited by Aitken (Dent) ; Poems 
and Pamphlets, in Arber's English Garner, vol. 8 ; school editions of Robinson 
Crusoe, and Journal of the Plague Year (Ginn and Company, etc.) ; Captain 
Singleton, and Memoirs of a Cavalier, in Everyman's Library; Early Writings, 
in Carisbrooke Library (Routledge). Life : by W. Lee ; by Minto (English 
Men of Letters) ; by Wright ; also in Westminster Biographies (Small, May- 
nard). Essay, by L. Stephen, in Hours in a Library. 

Richardson. Works: edited by L. Stephen (London, 1883); edited by 
Philips, with life (New York, 1901) ; Correspondence, edited by A. Barbauld, 
6 vols. (London, 1804). Life : by Thomson ; by A. Dobson. Essays, by L. 
Stephen, in Hours in a Library; by A. Dobson, in Eighteenth Century 

Fielding. Works: Temple Edition, edited by Saintsbury (Dent) ; Selected 
Essays, in Athenaeum Press ; Journal of a Voyage to Lisbon, in Cassell's 
National Library. Life : by Dobson (English Men of Letters) ; Lawrence's 
Life and Times of Fielding. Essays, by Lowell ; by Thackeray ; by L. Stephen ; 
by A. Dobson (see above) ; by G. B. Smith, in Poets and Novelists. 

Smollett. Works, edited by Saintsbury (London, 1895) 5 Works, edited by 
Henley (Scribnar). Life : by Hannah (Great Writers) ; by Smeaton ; by Cham- 
bers. Essays, by Thackeray ; by Henley ; by Dobson, in Eighteenth Century 

Sterne. Works : edited by Saintsbury (Dent) ; Tristram Shandy, and A 
Sentimental Journey, in Temple Classics, Morley's Universal Library, etc. 
Life : by Fitzgerald ; by Traill (English Men of Letters) ; Life and Times, by 
W. L. Cross (Macmillan). Essays, by Thackeray; by Bagehot, in Literary 

Horace Walpole. Texts: Castle of Otranto, in King's Classics, Cassell's 
National Library, etc. Letters, edited by C. D. Yonge. Morley's Walpole, in 
Twelve English Statesmen (Macmillan). Essay, by L. Stephen, in Hours in a 
Library. See also Beers's English Romanticism. 

Frances Burney (Madame d'Arblay). Texts : Evelina, in Temple Classics, 
2 vols. (Macmillan). Diary and Letters, edited by S. C. Woolsey. Seeley's 
Fanny Burney and her Friends. Essay, by Macaulay. 

Suggestive Questions, i. Describe briefly the social development of the 
eighteenth century. What effect did this have on literature ? What accounts 
for the prevalence of prose ? What influence did the first newspapers exert 
on life and literature ? How do the readers of this age compare with those of 
the Age of Elizabeth ? 

2. How do you explain the fact that satire was largely used in both prose 
and poetry? Name the principal satires of the age. What is the chief object 
of satire ? of literature ? How do the two objects conflict ? 


3. What is the meaning of the term " classicism," as applied to the litera- 
ture of this age ? Did the classicism of Johnson, for instance, have any relation 
to classic literature in its true sense ? Why is this period called the Augustan 
Age ? Why was Shakespeare not regarded by this age as a classical writer ? 

4. Pope. In what respect is Pope a unique writer ? Tell briefly the story of 
his life. What are his principal works ? How does he reflect the critical spirit 
of his age ? What are the chief characteristics of his poetry ? What do you 
find to copy in his style ? What is lacking in his poetry ? Compare his sub- 
jects with those of Burns or Tennyson or Milton, for instance. How would 
Chaucer or Burns tell the story of the Rape of the Lock ? What similarity do 
you find between Pope's poetry and Addison's prose ? 

5. Swift. What is the general character of Swift's work ? Name his chief 
satires. What is there to copy in his style ? Does he ever strive for ornament 
or effect in writing ? Compare Swift's Gulliver's Travels with Defoe's Robin- 
son Crusoe, in style, purpose of writing, and interest. What resemblances do 
you find in these two contemporary writers ? Can you explain the continued 
popularity of Gulliver's Travels ? 

6. Addison and Steele. What great work did Addison and Steele do for 
literature ? Make a brief comparison between these two men, having in mind 
their purpose, humor, knowledge of life, and human sympathy, as shown, for 
instance, in No. 1 1 2 and No. 2 of the Spectator Essays. Compare their humor 
with that of Swift. How is their work a preparation for the novel ? 

7. Johnson. For what is Dr. Johnson famous in literature ? Can you ex- 
plain his great influence ? Compare his style with that of Swift or Defoe. What 
are the remarkable elements in Boswell's Life of Johnson ? Write a description 
of an imaginary meeting of Johnson, Goldsmith, and Boswell in a coffeehouse. 

8. Burke. For what is Burke remarkable ? What great objects influenced 
him in the three periods of his life ? Why has he been called a romantic poet 
who speaks in prose ? Compare his use of imagery with that of other writers 
of the period. What is there to copy and what is there to avoid in his style ? 
Can you trace the influence of Burke's American speeches on later English 
politics ? What similarities do you find between Burke and Milton, as revealed 
in their prose works ? 

9. Gibbon. For what is Gibbon " worthy to be remembered " ? Why does 
he mark an epoch in historical writing? What is meant by the scientific 
method of writing history ? Compare Gibbon's style with that of Johnson. 
Contrast it with that of Swift, and also with that of some modern historian, 
jParkman, for example. 

10. What is meant by the term " romanticism ? " What are its chief charac- 
teristics ? How does it differ from classicism ? Illustrate the meaning from 
the work of Gray, Cowper, or Burns. Can you explain the prevalence of 
melancholy in romanticism ? 

11. Gray. What are the chief works of Gray? Can you explain the con- 
tinued popularity of his " Elegy " ? What romantic elements are found in his 
poetry ? What resemblances and what differences do you find in the works of 
Gray and of Goldsmith ? 


12. Goldsmith. Tell the story of Goldsmith's life. What are his chief 
works ? Show from The Deserted Village the romantic and the so-called clas- 
sic elements in his work. What great work did he do for the early novel, in 
The Vicar of Wakefield? Can you explain the popularity of She Stoops to Con- 
quer ? Name some of Goldsmith's characters who have found a permanent 
place in our literature. What personal reminiscences have you noted in The 
Traveller, The Deserted Village, and She Stoops to Conquer ? 

13. Cowper. Describe Cowper's The Task. How does it show the romantic 
spirit ? Give passages from " John Gilpin " to illustrate Cowper's humor. 

14. Burns. Tell the story of Burns's life. Some one has said, " The meas- 
ure of a man's sin is the difference between what he is and what he might be." 
Comment upon this, with reference to Burns. What is the general character 
of his poetry ? Why is he called the poet of common men ? What subjects 
does he choose for his poetry ? Compare him, in this respect, with Pope. 
What elements in the poet's character are revealed in such poems as " To a 
Mouse " and " To a Mountain Daisy " ? How do Burns and Gray regard 
nature ? What poems show his sympathy with the French Revolution, and 
with democracy ? Read "The Cotter's Saturday Night," and explain its en 
during interest. Can you explain the secret of Burns's great popularity ? 

15. Blake. What are the characteristics of Blake's poetry? Can you ex- 
plain why Blake, though the greatest poetic genius of the age, is so little 
appreciated ? 

1 6. Percy. In what respect did Percy's Reliques influence the romantic 
movement ? What are the defects in his collection of ballads ? Can you ex- 
plain why such a crude poem as " Chevy Chase " should be popular with an 
age that delighted in Pope's " Essay on Man " ? 

17. Macpherson. What is meant by Macpherson's. (f Ossian " ? Can you 
account for the remarkable success of the Ossianic forgeries ? 

1 8. Chatterton. Tell the story of Chatterton and the Rowley Poems. Read 
Chatterton's " Bristowe Tragedie," and compare it, in style and interest, with 
the old ballads, like " The Battle of Otterburn " or " The Hunting of the 
Cheviot" (all in Manly's English Poetry). 

19. The First Novelists. What is meant by the modern novel? How does 
it differ from the early romance and from the adventure story? What are 
some of the precursors of the novel ? What was the purpose of stories mod- 
eled after Don Quixote ? What is the significance of Pamela ? What elements 
did Fielding add to the novel ? What good work did Goldsmith's Vicar of 
Wakefield accomplish ? Compare Goldsmith, in this respect, with Steele and 




End of Seventeenth and the Eighteenth Century 



689. William and Mary 

Bill of Rights. Toleration Act 

700 (?) Beginning of London clubs 
702. Anne (d. 1714) 

War of Spanish Succession 

1704. Battle of Blenheim 

1707. Union of England and Scotland 

1714. George I (d. 1727) 

1721. Cabinet government, Walpolt 
first prime minister 

1727. George II (d. 1760) 
1738. Rise of Methodism 
1740. War of Austrian Succession 
1746. Jacobite Rebellion 

1750-1757. Conquest of India 

1756. War with France 

1759. Wolf at Quebec 

1760. George III (d. 1820) 

1765. Stamp Act 

1683-1719. Defoe's early writings 

1695. Press made free 

1702. First daily newspaper 
1704. Addison's The Campaign 
Swift's Tale of a Tub 

1709. The Tatler 

Johnson born (d. 1784) 
1710-1713. Swift in London. Journal 
to Stella 

1711. The Spectator 

1712. Pope's Rape of the Lock 

1719. Robinson Crusoe 

1726. Gulliver's Travels 
1726-1730. Thomson's The Seasons 

1732-1734. Essay on Man 
1740. Richardson's Pamela 
1742. Fielding's Joseph Andrews 

1749. Fielding's Tom Jones 
1750-1752. Johnson's The Rambler 
1751. Gray's Elegy 
1755. Johnson's Dictionary 

1760-1767. Sterne's Tristram Shandy 

1764. Johnson's Literary Club 

1765. Percy's Reliques 

1766. Goldsmith's Vicar of Wakefield 





1773. Boston Tea Party 

1774. Howard's prison reforms 

1775. American Revolution 

1776. Declaration of Independence 

1783. Treaty of Paris 

1786. Trial of Warren Hastings 

1789-1799. French Revolution 

1 793. War with France 

1770. Goldsmith's Deserted Village 

1771. Beginning of great newspapers 

1774-1775. Burke's American speeches 
1776-1788. Gibbon's Rome 
1779. Cowper's Olney Hymns 
1779-81. Johnson's Lives of the Poets 
1783. Blake's Poetical Sketches 

1785. Cowper's The Task 
The London Times 

1786. Burns's first poems (the Kilmar- 

nock Burns) 
Burke's Warren Hastings 

1790. Burke's French Revolution 

1791. Boswell's Life of Johnson 




The first half of the nineteenth century records the triumph 
of Romanticism in literature and of democracy in govern- 
ment ; and the two movements are so closely associated, in 
so many nations and in so many periods of history, that one 
must wonder if there be not some relation of cause and effect 
between them. Just as we understand the tremendous ener- 
gizing influence of Puritanism in the matter of English liberty 
by remembering that the common people had begun to read, 
and that their book was the Bible, so we may understand this 
age of popular government by remembering that the chief 
subject of romantic literature was the essential nobleness of 
common men and the value of the individual. As we read 
now that brief portion of history which lies between the 
Declaration of Independence (1776) and the English Reform 
Bill of 1832, we are in the presence of such mighty political 
upheavals that "the age of revolution" is the only name by 
which we can adequately characterize it. Its great historic 
movements become intelligible only when we read what was 
written in this period ; for the French Revolution and the 
American commonwealth, as well as the establishment of a 
true democracy in England by the Reform Bill, were the 
inevitable results of ideas which literature had spread rapidly 
through the civilized world. Liberty is fundamentally an 
ideal; and that ideal beautiful, inspiring, compelling, as a 
loved banner in the wind was kept steadily before men's 
minds by a multitude of books and pamphlets as far apart as 



Burns's Poems and Thomas Paine's Rights of Man, all read 
eagerly by the common people, all proclaiming the dignity of 
common life, and all uttering the same passionate cry against 
every' form of class or caste oppression. 

First the dream, the ideai in some human soul ; then the 
written word which proclaims it, and impresses other minds 
with its truth and beauty ; then the united and determined 
effort of men to make the dream a reality, that seems to 
be a fair estimate of the part that literature plays, even in our 
political progress. 

Historical Summary. The period we are considering begins in the 
latter half of the reign of George III and ends with the accession of 
Victoria in 1837. When on a foggy morning in November, 1783, 
King George entered the House of Lords and in a trembling voice 
recognized the independence of the United States of America, he 
unconsciously proclaimed the triumph of that free government by 
free men which had been the ideal of English literature for more 
than a thousand years ; though it-vras not tifTi832, when the Reform 
Bill became the law of the land, that England herself learned the 
lesson taugh't her by America, and became the democracy of which 
her writers had always dreamed. 

The half century between these two events is one of great turmoil, 
yet of steady advance in every department of English life. The 
The French storm center of the political unrest was the French 
Revolution Revolution, that frightful uprising which proclaimed the 
natural rights of man and the abolition of class distinctions. Its 
effect on the whole civilized world is beyond computation. Patriotic 
clubs and societies multiplied in England, all asserting the doc- 
trine of Liberty, Equality, Fraternity, the watchwords of the Revo- 
lution. * Young England, led by Pitt the younger, hailed the new 
French republic and offered it friendship ; old England, which par- 
dons no revolutions but her own, looked with horror on the turmoil 
in France and, misled by Burke and the nobles of the realm, forced 
the two nations into war. Even Pitt saw a blessing in this at first ; 
because the sudden zeal for fighting a foreign nation which by 
some horrible perversion is generally called patriotism might turn 
men's thoughts from their own to their neighbors' affairs, and so pre- 
vent a threatened revolution at home. 


The causes of this threatened revolution were not political but 
economic. By her inventions in steel and machinery, and by her 
Economic monopoly of the carrying trade, England had become 
Conditions " the workshop of the world." Her wealth had increased 
beyond her wildest dreams; but the unequal distribution of that 
wealth was a spectacle to make angels weep. The invention of 
machinery at Jfrst threw thousands of skilled hand workers out of 
employment ; in order to protect a few agriculturists, heavy duties 
were imposed on corn and wheat, and bread rose to famine prices 
just when laboring men had the least money to pay for it. There 
followed a curious spectacle. While England increased in wealth, 
and spent vast sums to support her army and subsidize her allies in 
Europe, and while nobles, landowners, manufacturers, and merchants 
lived in increasing luxury, a multitude of skilled laborers were clam- 
oring for work. Fathers sent their wives and little children into the 
mines and factories, where sixteen hours' labor would hardly pay for 
the daily bread ; and in every large city were riotous mobs made up 
chiefly of hungry men and women. It was this unbearable economic 
condition, and not any political theory, as Burke supposed, which 
occasioned the danger of another English revolution. 

It is only when we remember these conditions that we can under- 
stand two books, Adam Smith's Wealth of Nations and Thomas 
Paine's Rights of Man, which can hardly be considered as literature, 
but which exercised an enormous influence in England. Smith was 
a Scottish thinker, who wrote to uphold the doctrine that labor is 
the only source of a nation's wealth, and that any attempt to force 
labor into unnatural channels, or to prevent it by protective duties 
from freely obtaining the raw materials for its industry, is unjust and 
destructive. Paine was a curious combination orjekyll and Hyde, 
shallow and untrustworthy personally, but with a passionate devotion 
to popular liberty. His Rights of Man, published in London in 
1791, was like one of Burns's lyric outcries against institutions which 
oppressed humanity. Coming so soon after the destruction of the . 
Bastille, it added fuel to the flames kindled in England by the 
French Revolution. The author was driven out of the country, on 
the curious ground that he endangered the English constitution, but 
not until his book had gained a wide sale and influence. 

All these dangers, real and imaginary, passed away when England 
turned from the affairs of France to remedy her own economic con- 
ditions. The long Continental war came to an end with Napoleon's 


overthrow at Waterloo, in 1815 ; and England, having gained enor- 
mously in prestige abroad, now turned to the work of reform at 
home. The destruction of the African slave trade ; the 
mitigation of horribly unjust laws, which included poor 
debtors and petty criminals in the same class; the prevention of 
child labor; the freedom of the press; the extension of manhood 
suffrage ; the abolition of restrictions against Catholics in Parliament ; 
the establishment of hundreds of popular schools, under the leader- 
ship of Andrew Bell and Joseph Lancaster, these are but a few of 
the reforms which mark the progress of civilization in a single half 
century. When England, in 1833, proclaimed the emancipation of 
all slaves in all her colonies, she unconsciously proclaimed her final 
emancipation from barbarism. 

Literary Characteristics of the Age. It is intensely inter- 
esting to note how literature at first reflected the political 
turmoil of the age ; and then, when the turmoil was over and 
England began her mighty work of reform, how literature 
suddenly developed a new creative spirit, which shows itself 
in the poetry of Wordsworth, Cojexidge, Byron, Shelley, 
I^eats, and in the prose of Scott, Jane Austen, Lamb, and 
De Quincey, a wonderful group of writers, whose patriotic 
enthusiasm suggests the Elizabethan days, and whose genius 
has caused their age to be known as the second creative 
period of our literature. Thus in the early days, when old 
institutions seemed crumbling with the Bastille, Coleridge and 
Southey formed their youthful scheme of a " Pantisocracy on 
Romantic tne banks of the Susquehanna," an^ideaT^om- 
Enthusiasm monwealtb, in which the principles of More'si/to^ia 
should be put in practice. Even Wordsworth, fired with po- 
litical enthusiasm, could write, 

Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive, 
But to be young was very heaven. 

The essence of Romanticism was, it must be remembered, that 
literature must reflect all that is spontaneous and unaffected 
in nature and in man, and be free to follow its own fancy in 
its own way. We have already noted this characteristic in the 


work of the Elizabethan dramatists, who followed their own 
genius in opposition to all the laws of the critics. In Coleridge 
we see this independence expressed in " Kubla Khan" and 
" The Ancient Mariner," two dream pictures, one of the popu- 
lous Orient, the other of the lonely sea. In Wordsworth this 
literary independence led him inward to the heart of common 
things. Following his own instinct, as Shakespeare does, he too 

Finds tongues in trees, books in the running brooks, 
Sermons in stones, and good in everything. 

And so, more than any other writer of the age, he invests the 
common life of nature, and the souls of common men and 
women, with glorious significance. These two poets, Coleridge 
and Wordsworth, best represent the romantic genius of the 
age in which they lived, though Scott had a greater literary 
reputation, and Byron and Shelley had larger audiences. 

The second characteristic of this age is that it is emphatic- 
ally an age of poetry. The previous century, with its practical 
An Age of "outlook on life, was largely one of prose ; but now, 
Poetry as i n the Elizabethan Age, the young enthusiasts 

turned as naturally to poetry as a happy man to singing. The 
glory of the age is in the poetry of Scott, Wordsworth, Coler- 
idge, Byron, Shelley, Keats, Moore, and Southey. Of its prose 
works, those of Scott alone have attained a very wide reading, 
though the essays of Charles Lamb and the novels of Jane 
Austen have slowly won for their authors a secure place in 
the history of our literature. Coleridge and Southey (who 
with Wordsworth form the trio of so-called Lake Poets) wrote 
far more prose than poetry ; and Southey's prose is much 
better than his verse. It was characteristic of the spirit of 
this age, so different from our own, that Southey could say 
that, in order to earn money, he wrote in verse " what would 
otherwise have been better written in prose." 

It was during this period that woman assumed, for the first 
time, an important place in our literature. Probably the chief 


reason for this interesting phenomenon lies in the fact that 
woman was for the first time given some slight chance of 
Women as education, of entering into the intellectual life of 
Novelists the race ; and, as is always the case when woman is 
given anything like a fair opportunity, she responded magnifi- 
cently. A secondary reason may be found in the nature of 
the age itself, which was intensely emotional. The French 
Revolution stirred all Europe to its depths, and during the 
following half century every great movement in literature, as 
in politics and religion, was characterized by strong emotion ; 
which is all the more noticeable by contrast with the cold, 
formal, satiric spirit of the early eighteenth century. As 
woman is naturally more emotional than man, it may well be 
that the spirit of this emotional age attracted her, and gave 
her the opportunity to express herself in literature. 

As all strong emotions tend to extremes, the age produced 
a new type of novel which seems rather hysterical now, but 
which in its own day delighted multitudes of readers whose 
nerves were somewhat excited, and who reveled in "bogey" 
stories of supernatural terror. Mrs. Anne Radcliffe (1764- 
1823) was one of the most successful writers of this school 
of exaggerated romance. Her novels, with their azure-eyed 
heroines, haunted castles, trapdoors, bandits, abductions, res- 
cues in the nick of time, and a general medley of overwrought 
joys and horrors, 1 were immensely popular, not only with the 

1 Mrs. Radcliffe's best work is the Mysteries of Udolpho. This is the story of a tender 
heroine shut upJa a gloomy castle. Over her broods the terrible shylnw of an ancestor's 
crime." There are the usual "goose-flesh" accompaniments of haunted rooms, secret 
, sliding panels, mysterious figures behind old pictures, and a 

leading to a jnnlt, rirrrinrrrrt ernrpj ** fl, t*"*"^ Here the heroijje finds a chest with 
blood-stained papers. By the light of a flickering candle she reads, with chills and 
slu'VeTlUg, Lliy I'Sl^ord of long-buried crimes. At the^psycho^glC moment the little candle 
suddenly goes out. Then out of the darkness a cold, clammy hand ugh ! Foolish 
as such stories seem to us now, they show, first, a wild reaction from the skepticism of 
the preceding age ; and second, a development of the mediaeval romance of adventure ; 
only the adventure is here inward rather than outward. It faces a ghost instead of a 
dragon ; and for this work a nun with her beads is better than a knight in armor. So 
heroines abound, instead of heroes. The age was too educated for mediaeval monsters 
and magic, but not educated enough to reject ghosts and other bogeys. 


crowd of 'novel readers, but also with men of unquestioned 
literary genius, like Scott and Byron. 

In marked contrast to these extravagant stories is the 
enduring work of Jane Austen, with her charming descrip- 
tions of everyday life, and of Maria Edgeworth, whose won- 
derful pictures of Irish life suggested to Walter Scott the 
idea of writing his Scottish romances. Two other women who 
attained a more or less lasting fame were Hannah More, poet, 
dramatist, and novelist, and Jane Porter, whose Scottish Chiefs 
and Thaddeus of Warsa^v are still in demand in our libraries. 
Beside these were Fanny Burney (Madame D'Arblay) and 
several other writers whose works, in the early part of the 
nineteenth century, raised woman to the high place in liter- 
ature which she has ever since maintained. 

In this age literary criticism became firmly established by 
the appearance of such magazines as the Hdinburg/i KeviZw 
The Modern (1802), The Quarterly Review (1808), Blackwood's 
Magazines Magazine (1817), the Westminster Review ( 1 824), 
The Spectator (1828), The Athenceum (1828), and Fraser s 
Magazine (1830). These magazines, edited by such men as 
Francis Jeffrey, t John Wilson (who is known to us as Chris- 
topher North), and John Gibson Lockhart, who gave us the 
Life of Scott, exercised an immense influence on all subse- 
quent literature. At first their criticisms were largely de- 
structive, as when Jeffrey hammered Scott, Wordsworth, and 
Byron most unmercifully ; and Lockhart could find no good 
in either Keats or Tennyson ; but with added wisdom*, criti- 
cism assumed its true function of construction. And when 
these magazines began to seek and to publish the works of 
unknown writers, like Hazlitt, Lamb, and Leigh Hunt, they 
discovered the chief mission of the modern magazine, which 
is to give every writer of ability the opportunity to make his 
work known to the world. 




It was in 1797 that the new romantic movement in our 
literature assumed definite form. Wordsworth and Coleridge 
retired to the Quantock Hills, Somerset, and there formed 
the deliberate purpose to make literature " adapted to interest 

mankind permanently," 
which, they declared, 
classic poetry could 
never do. Helping the 
two poets was Words- 
worth's sister Dorothy, 
with a woman's love for 
flowers and all beautiful 
things, and a woman's 
divine sympathy for 
human life even in its 
lowliest forms. Though 
a silent partner, she 
furnished perhaps the 
largest share of the in- 
spiration which resulted 
in the famous Lyrical 
Ballads of 1 798. In their partnership Coleridge was to take up 
the " supernatural, or at least romantic " ; while Wordsworth 
was " to give the charm of novelty to things of every day . . . 
by awakening the mind's attention from the lethargy of custom 
and directing it to the loveliness and the wonders of the world 
before us." The whole spirit of their work is reflected in two 
poems of this remarkable little volume, " The Rime of the An- 
cient Mariner," which is Coleridge's masterpiece, and "Lines 
Written a Few Miles above Tintern Abbey/' which expresses 
Wordsworth's poetical creed, and which is one of the noblest 
and most significant of our poems, That the Lyrical Ballads 



attracted no attention, 1 and was practically ignored by a 
public that would soon go into raptures over Byron's Childe 
Harold and Don Juan, is of small consequence. Many men 
will hurry a mile to see skyrockets, who never notice Orion 
and the Pleiades from their own doorstep. Had Wordsworth 
and Coleridge written only this one little book, they would 
still be among the representative writers of an age that pro- 
claimed the final triumph of Romanticism. 

Life of Wordsworth. To understand the life of him who, in 
Tennyson's words, "uttered nothing base," it is well to read first 
The Prelude, which records the impressions made upon Wordsworth s 
mind from his earliest recollection until his full manhood, in 1805 
when the poem was completed. 2 Outwardly his long and uneventfi 
life divides itself naturally into four periods : (i) his childhood and 
youth, in the Cumberland Hills, from 1770 to 1787 ; (2) a period 
of uncertainty, of storm and stress, including his university life at 
Cambridge, his travels abroad, and his revolutionary experience, 
from 1787 to 1797; (3) a short but significant period of finding 
himself and his work, from 179? to i 7 99; (4) along period 
retirement in the northern lake region, where he was born, an. 
where for a full half century he lived so close to nature that her 
influence is reflected in all his poetry. When one has outlined these 
four periods he has told almost all that can be told of a life which 
is marked, not by events, but largely by spiritual experiences. 

Wordsworth was born in 1770 at Cockermouth, Cumberland, whc 
theDerwent, Fairest of a ii rivers, loved 

To blend his murmurs with my nurse's song, 
And from his alder shades and rocky falls, 
And from his fords and shallows, sent a voi 
That flowed along my dreams. 

It is almost a shock to one who knows Wordsworth only by his calm 
and noble poetry to read that he was of a moody and v.olent temper, 
and that his mother despaired of him alone among her five children^ 
She died when he was but eight years old, but not till she 

1 The Lyrical BMad; were better appreciated in America than in England. The 
'.ill after Wordsworth's death, near ly haH a century 



exerted an influence which lasted all his life, so that he could re- 
member her as " the heart of all our learnings and our loves." The 
father died some six years later, and the orphan was taken in charge 
by relatives, who sent him to school at Hawkshead, in the beautiful 
lake region. Here, apparently, the unroofed school of nature 
attracted him more than the discipline of the classics, and he 
learned more eagerly from flowers and hills and stars than from his 
books ; but one must read Wordsworth's own record, in The Prelude, 
to appreciate this. Three things in this poem must impress even 
the casual reader : first, Wordsworth loves to be alone, and is never 
lonely, with nature ; second, like every other child who spends much 
time alone in the woods and fields, he feels the presence of some 
living spirit, real though unseen, and companionable though silent ; 
third, his impressions are exactly like our own, and delightfully 
familiar. When he tells of the long summer day spent in swimming, 
basking in the sun, and questing over the hills ; or of the winter 
night when, on his skates, he chased the reflection of a star in the 
black ice ; or of his exploring the lake in a boat, and getting sud- 
denly frightened when the world grew big and strange, in all this 
he is simply recalling a multitude of our own vague, happy memo- 
ries of childhood. He goes out into the woods at night to tend his 
woodcock snares ; he runs across another boy's snares, follows them, 
finds a woodcock caught, takes it, hurries away through the night. 

And then, 

I heard among the solitary hills 

Low breathings coming after me, and sounds 

Of undistinguishable motion. 

That is like a mental photograph. Any boy who has come home 
through the woods at night will recognize it instantly. Again he tells 
us of going bird's-nesting on the cliffs : 

Oh, when I have hung 
Above the raven's nest, by knots of grass 
And half-inch fissures in the slippery rock 
But ill-sustained, and almost (so it seemed) 
Suspended by the blast that blew amain, 
Shouldering the naked crag, oh, at that time, 
While on the perilous ridge I hung alone, 
With what strange utterance did the loud dry wind 
Blow through my ear ! The sky seemed not a sky 
Of earth, and with what motion moved the clouds ! 


No man can read such records without finding his own boyhood again, 
and his own abounding joy of life, in the poet's early impressions. 

The second period of Wordsworth's life begins with his university 
course at Cambridge, in 1787. In the third book of The Prelude we 
find a dispassionate account of student life, with its trivial occupa- 
tions, its pleasures and general aimlessness. Wordsworth proved to 
be a very ordinary scholar, following his own genius rather than the 
curriculum, and looking forward more eagerly to his vacation among 
the hills than to his examinations. Perhaps the most interesting 
thing in his life at Cambridge was his fellowship with the young 
political enthusiasts, whose spirit is expressed in his remarkable 
poem on the French Revolution, a poem which is better than a 
volume of history to show the hopes and ambitions that stirred all 
Europe in the first days of that mighty upheaval. Wordsworth made 
two trips to France, in 1790 and 1791, seeing things chiefly through 
the rosy spectacles of the young Oxford Republicans. On his second 
visit he joined the Girondists, or the moderate Republicans, and 
only the decision of his relatives, who cut off his allowance and 
hurried him back to England, prevented his going headlong to the 
guillotine" with the leaders of his party. Two things rapidly cooled 
Wordsworth's revolutionary enthusiasm, and ended the only dramatic 
interest of his placid life. One was the excesses of the Revolution 
itself, and especially the execution of Louis XVI ; the other was the 
rise of Napoleon, and the slavish adulation accorded by France to 
this most vulgar and dangerous of tyrants. His coolness soon grew to 
disgust and opposition, as shown by his subsequent poems ; and this 
brought upon him the censure of Shelley, Byron, and other extrem- 
ists, though it gained the friendship of Scott, who from the first had no 
sympathy with the Revolution or with the young English enthusiasts. 

Of the decisive period of Words-worth's life, when he was living 
with his sister Dorothy and with Coleridge at Alfoxden, we have 
already spoken. The importance of this decision to give himself to 
poetry is evident when we remember that, at thirty years of age, he 
was without money or any definite aim or occupation in life. He 
considered the law, but confessed he had no sympathy for its con- 
tradictory precepts and practices; he considered the ministry, but 
though strongly inclined to the Church, he felt himself not good 
enough for the sacred office ; once he had wanted to be a soldier 
and serve his country, but had wavered at the prospect of dying of 
disease in a foreign land and throwing away his life without glory or 


profit to anybody. An apparent accident, which looks more to us 
like a special Providence, determined his course. He had taken 
care 6f a young friend, Raisley Calvert, who died of consumption 
and left Wordsworth heir to a few hundred pounds, and to the re- 
quest that he should give his life to poetry. It was this unexpected 
gift which enabled Wordsworth to retire from the world and follow 
his genius. All his life he was poor, and lived in an atmosphere of 
plain living and high thinking. His poetry brought him almost 
nothing in the way of money rewards, and it was only by a series of 
\appy accidents that he was enabled to continue his work. One of 
these accidents was that he became a Tory, and soon accepted 
the office of a distributor of stamps, and was later appointed poet 
laureate by the government, which occasioned Browning's famous 
but ill-considered poem of "The Lost Leader " : 

Just for a handful of silver he left us, 
Just for a riband to stick in his coat. 

The last half century of Wordsworth's life, in which he retired to 
his beloved lake district and lived successively at Grasmere and 
Rydal Mount, remind one strongly of Browning's long struggle for 
literary recognition. It was marked by the same steadfast purpose, 
the same trusted ideal, the same continuous work, and the same 
tardy recognition by the public. His poetry was mercilessly ridi- 
culed by nearly all the magazine critics, who seized upon the worst 
of his work as a standard of judgment; and book after book of 
poems appeared without meeting any success save the approval of 
a few loyal friends. Without doubt or impatience he continued his 
work, trusting to the future to recognize and approve it. His atti- 
tude here reminds one strongly of the poor old soldier whom he met 
in the hills, 1 who refused to beg or to mention his long service or 
the neglect of his country, saying with noble simplicity, 

My trust is in the God of Heaven 
And in the eye of him who passes me. 

Such work and patience are certain of their reward, and long before 
Wordsworth's death he felt the warm sunshine of general approval. 
The wave of popular enthusiasm for Scott and Byron passed by, as 
their limitations were recognized ; and Wordsworth was hailed by 
critics as the first living poet, and one of the greatest that England 

1 The Prelude, Book IV. 


had ever produced. On the death of Southey (1843) ne was made 
poet laureate, against his own inclination. The late excessive praise 
left him quite as unmoved as the first excessive neglect. The steady 
decline in the quality of his work is due not, as might be expected, 
to self-satisfaction at success, but rather to his intense conserva- 
tism, to his living too much alone and failing to test his work by the 
standards and judgment of other literary men. He died tranquilly ii 
1850, at the age of 
eighty years, and was 
buried in the church- 
yard at Grasmere. 

Such is the brief 
outward record of the 
world's greatest in- 
terpreter of nature's _ ' ^ I 
message; and only 
one who is acquainted 
with both nature and 
the poet can realize 
how inadequate is 
any biography ; for 
the best thing about 
Wordsworth must always remain unsaid. It is a comfort to know 
that his life, noble, sincere, "heroically happy," never contradicted 
his message. Poetry was his life ; his soul was in all his work ; and 
only by reading what he has written can we understand the man. 

The Poetry of Wordsworth. There is often a sense of dis- 
appointment when one reads Wordsworth for the first time ; 
and this leads us to speak first of two difficulties which may 
easily prevent a just appreciation of the poet's worth. The 
first difficulty is in the reader, who is often puzzled by Words- 
worth's absolute simplicity. We are so used to stage effects 
in poetry, that beauty unadorned is apt to escape our notice, 
like Wordsworth's " Lucy": 

A violet by a mossy stone, 

Half hidden from the eye; 
Fair as a star, when only one 

Js shining in the sky. 



Wordsworth set himself to the task of freeing poetry from all 
its " conceits," of speaking the language of simple truth, and 
of portraying man and nature as they are ; and in this good 
work we are apt to miss the beauty, the passion, the intensity, 
that hide themselves under his simplest lines. The second 
difficulty is in the poet, not in the reader. It must be con- 
fessed that Wordsworth is not always melodious ; that he is 
seldom graceful, and only occasionally inspired. When he is 
inspired, few poets can be compared with him ; at other times 
the bulk of his verse is so wooden and prosy that we wonder 
how a poet could have written it. Moreover, he is absolutely 
without humor, and so he often fails to see the small step 
that separates the sublime from the ridiculous. In no other 
way can we explain "The Idiot Boy," or pardon the serious 
absurdity of " Peter Bell " and his grieving jackass. 

On account of these difficulties it is well to avoid at first 
the longer works and begin with a good book of selections. 1 
Poems of When we read these exquisite shorter poems, with 
Nature their noble lines that live forever in our memory, 
we realize that Wordsworth is the greatest poet of nature 
that our literature has produced. If we go further, and study 
the poems that impress us, we shall find four remarkable 
characteristics : (i) Wordsworth is sensitive as a barometer 
to every subtle change in the world about him. In The Pre- 
lude he compares himself to an aeolian harp, which answers 
with harmony to every touch of the wind ; and the figure is 
strikingly accurate, as well as interesting, for there is hardly 
a sight or a sound, from a violet to a mountain and from a 
bird note to the thunder of the cataract, that is not reflected 
in some beautiful way in Wordsworth's poetry. 
(2) Of all the poets who have written of nature there is 
none that compares with him in the truthfulness of his repre- 
sentation. Burns, like Gray, is apt to read his own emotions 

1 Dowden's Selections from Wordsworth is the best of many such collections. See 
Selections tor Reading, and Bibliography, at the end of this chapter. 


into natural objects, so that there is more of the poet than of 
nature even in his mouse and mountain daisy ; but Words- 
worth gives you the bird and the flower, the wind and the 
tree and the river, just as they are, and is content to let them 
speak their own message. 

(3) No other poet ever found such abundant beauty in the 
common world. He had not only sight, but insight, that is, he 
not only sees clearly and describes accurately, but penetrates 
to the heart of things and always finds some exquisite meaning 
that is not written on the surface. It is idle to specify or to 
quote lines on flowers or stars, on snow or vapor. Nothing is 
ugly or commonplace in his world ; on the contrary, there 
is hardly one natural phenomenon which he has not glorified 
by pointing out some beauty that was hidden from our eyes. 

(4) It is the life of nature which is everywhere recognized ; 
not mere growth and cell changes, but sentient, personal 
life ; and the recognition of this personality in nature charac- 
terizes all the world's great poetry. In his childhood Words- 
worth regarded natural objects, the streams, the hills, the 
flowers, even the winds, as his companions ; and with his 
mature belief that all nature is the reflection of the living 
God, it was inevitable that his poetry should thrill with the 
sense of a Spirit that "rolls through all things." Cowper, 
Burns, Keats, Tennyson, all these poets give you the out- 
ward aspects of nature in varying degrees ; but Wordsworth 
gives you her very life, and the impression of some. personal 
living spirit that meets and accompanies the man who goes 
alone through the woods and fields. We shall hardly find, 
even in the philosophy of Leibnitz, or in the nature myths of 
our Indians, any such impression of living nature as this poet 
awakens in us. And that suggests another delightful charac- 
teristic of Wordsworth's poetry, namely, that he seems to 
awaken rather than create an impression ; he stirs our mem- 
ory deeply, so that in reading him we live once more in the 
vague, beautiful wonderland of our own childhood, 


Such is the philosophy of Wordsworth's nature poetry. If 
we search now for his philosophy of human life, we shall find 
Poems of Hu- f ur more doctrines, which rest upon his basal con- 
man Life ception that man is not apart from nature, but is 
the very "life of her life." (i) In childhood man is sensitive 
as a wind harp to all natural influences ; he is an epitome of 
the gladness and beauty of the world. Wordsworth explains 
this gladness and this sensitiveness to nature by the doctrine 
that the child comes straight from the Creator of nature : 

Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting: 
The Soul that rises with us, our life's Star, 

Hath had elsewhere its setting, 
And cometh from afar : 

Not in entire forgetfulness 

And not in utter nakedness, 
But trailing clouds of glory do we come 

From God, who is our home. 

In this exquisite ode, which he calls " Intimations of Immortality 
from Recollections of Early Childhood" (1807), Wordsworth 
sums up his philosophy of childhood ; and he may possibly 
be indebted here to the poet Vaughan, who, more than a 
century before, had proclaimed in " The Retreat " the same 
doctrine. This kinship with nature and with God, which 
glorifies childhood, ought to extend through a man's whole 
life and ennoble it. This is the teaching of "Tintern Abbey," 
in which the best part of our life is shown to be the result of 
natural influences. According to Wordsworth, society and 
the crowded unnatural life of cities tend to weaken and per- 
vert humanity ; and a return to natural and simple living is 
the only remedy for human wretchedness. 

(2) The natural instincts and pleasures of childhood are the 
true standards of a man's happiness in this life. All artificial 
pleasures soon grow tiresome. The natural pleasures, which 
a man so easily neglects in his work, are the chief means by 
which we may expect permanent and increasing joy. In 
"Tintern Abbey," "The Rainbow," "Ode to Duty," and 


" Intimations of Immortality " we see this plain teaching ; 
but we can hardly read one of Wordsworth's pages without 
finding it slipped in unobtrusively, like the fragrance of a 
wild flower. 

(3) The truth of humanity, that is, the common life which 
labors and loves and shares the general heritage of smiles 
and tears, is the only subject of permanent literary interest. 
Burns and the early poets of the Revival began the good work 
of showing the romantic interest of common life ; and Words- 
worth continued it in "Michael," "The Solitary Reaper," 
"To a Highland Girl," "Stepping Westward," The Excur- 
sion, and a score of lesser poems. Joy and sorrow, not of 
princes or heroes, but "in widest commonalty spread," are 
his themes ; and the hidden purpose of many of his poems is 
to show that the keynote of all life is happiness, not an 
occasional thing, the result of chance or circumstance, but a 
heroic thing, to be won, as one would win any other success, 
by work and patience. 

(4) To this natural philosophy of man Wordsworth adds a 
mystic element, the result of his own belief that in every 
natural object there is a reflection of the living God. Nature 
is everywhere transfused and illumined by Spirit ; man also 
is a reflection of the divine Spirit ; and we shall never under- 
stand the emotions roused by a flower or a sunset until we 
learn that nature appeals through the eye of man to his inner 
spirit. In a word, nature must be " spiritually discerned." In 
"Tintern Abbey" the spiritual appeal of nature is expressed 
in almost every line; but the mystic conception of man is 
seen more clearly in "Intimations of Immortality," which 
Emerson calls " the high-water mark of poetry in the nine- 
teenth century." In this last splendid ode Wordsworth adds 
to his spiritual interpretation of nature and man the alluring 
doctrine of preexistence, which has appealed so powerfully to 
Hindoo and Greek in turn, and which makes of human life a 
continuous, immortal thing, without end or beginning 


Wordsworth's longer poems, since they contain much that 
is prosy and uninteresting, may well be left till after we have 
read the odes, sonnets, and short descriptive poems 
that have made him famous. As showing a certain 
heroic cast of Wordsworth's mind, it is interesting to learn 
that the greater part of his work, including The Prelude and 
The Excursion, was intended for a place in a single great 
poem, to be called The Recluse, which should treat of nature, 
man, and society. The Prelude, treating of the growth of a 
poet's mind, was to introduce the work. The Home at Gras- 
mere, which is the first book of The Recluse, was not published 
till 1888, long after the poet's death. The Excursion (1814) 
is the second book of The Recluse ; and the third was never 
completed, though Wordsworth intended to include most of 
his shorter poems in this third part, and so make an immense 
personal epic of a poet's life and work. It is perhaps just as 
well that the work remained unfinished. The best of his work 
appeared in the Lyrical Ballads (1798) and in the sonnets, 
odes, and lyrics of the next ten years ; though " The Duddon 
Sonnets" (1820), "To a Skylark" (1825), and "Yarrow Re- 
visited" (1831) show that he retained till past sixty much of 
his youthful enthusiasm. In his later years, however, he per- 
haps wrote too much ; his poetry, like his prose, becomes dull 
and unimaginative ; and we miss the flashes of insight, the 
tender memories of childhood, and the recurrence of noble 
lines each one a poem that constitutes the surprise and 
the delight of reading Wordsworth. 

The outward shows of sky and earth, 

Of hill and valley, he has viewed ; 
And impulses of deeper birth 

Have come to him in solitude. 

In common things that round us lie 
Some random truths he can impart 

The harvest of a quiet eye 

That broods and sleeps on his own heart. 



A grief without a pang, void, dark and drear, 

A stifled, drowsy, unimpassioned grief, 
Which finds no natural outlet, no relief, 

In word, or sigh, or tear. 

In the wonderful "Ode to Dejection," from which the 
above fragment is taken, we have a single strong impression 
of Coleridge's whole life, a sad, broken, tragic life, in marked 
contrast with the peaceful existence of his friend Wordsworth. 
For himself, during the greater part of his life, the poet had 
only grief and remorse as his portion ; but for everybody else, 
for the audiences that were charmed by the brilliancy of his 
literary lectures, for the friends who gathered about him to 
be inspired by his ideals and conversation, and for all his 
readers who found unending delight in the little volume which 
holds his poetry, he had and still has a cheering message, full 
of beauty and hope and inspiration. Such is Coleridge, a man 
of grief who makes the world glad. 

Life. In 1772 there lived in Ottery St. Mary, Devonshire, a queer 
little man, the Rev. John Coleridge, vicar of the parish church and 
master of the local grammar school. In the former capacity he 
preached profound sermons, quoting to open-mouthed rustics long 
passages from the Hebrew, which he told them was the very tongue 
of the Holy Ghost. In the latter capacity he wrote for his boys a 
new Latin grammar, to mitigate some of the difficulties of traversing 
that terrible jungle by means of ingenious bypaths and short cuts. 
For instance, when his boys found the ablative a somewhat difficult 
case to understand, he told them to think of it as the quale-quare- 
quidditive case, which of course makes its meaning perfectly clear. 
In both these capacities the elder Coleridge was a sincere man, 
gentle and kindly, whose memory was " like a religion " to his sons 
and daughters. In that same year was born Samuel Taylor Coleridge, 
the youngest of thirteen children. He was an extraordinarily preco- 
cious child, who could read at three years of age, and who, before 
he was five, had read the Bible and the Arabian Nights, and could 
remember an 'astonishing amount from both books. From three to 


six he attended a "dame " school ; and from six till nine (when his 
father died and left the family destitute) he was in his father's school, 
learning the classics, reading an enormous quantity of English books, 
avoiding novels, and delighting in cumbrous theological and meta- 
physical treatises. At ten he was sent to the Charity School of 
Christ's Hospital, London, where he met Charles Lamb, who re- 
cords his impression of the place and of Coleridge in one of his 
famous essays. 1 Coleridge seems to have remained in this school 
for seven or eight years without visiting his home, a poor, neglected 
boy, whose comforts and entertainments were all within himself. 
Just as, when a little child, he used to wander over the fields with 
a stick in his hand, slashing the tops from weeds and thistles, 

and thinking himself to be the mighty 
champion of Christendom against the 
infidels, so now he would lie on the 
roof of the school, forgetting the play of 
his fellows and the roar of the London 
streets, watching the white clouds drift- 
ing over and following them in spirit 
into all sorts of romantic adventures. 

At nineteen this hopeless dreamer, 
who had read more books than an 
old professor, entered Cambridge as 
a charity student. He remained for 

SAMUEL TAYLOR COLERIDGE nearl y three years, then ran away be- 
cause of a trifling debt and enlisted in 

the Dragoons, where he served several months before he was discov- 
ered and brought back to the university. He left in 1794 without 
taking his degree ; and presently we find him with the youthful 
Southey, a kindred spirit, who had been fired to wild enthusiasm 
by the French Revolution, founding his famous Pantisocracy for 
the regeneration of human society. "The Fall of Robespierre," a 
poem composed by the two enthusiasts, is full of the new revolu- 
tionary spirit. The Pantisocracy, on the banks of the Susquehanna, 
was to be an ideal community, in which the citizens combined farm- 
ing and literature ; and work was to be limited to two hours each 
day. Moreover, each member of the community was to marry 
a good woman, and take her with him. The two poets obeyed 
the latter injunction first, marrying two sisters, and then found 
, l See " Christ's Hospital Five and Thirty Years Ago," in Essays of Elia. 


that they had no money to pay even their traveling expenses 
to the new Utopia. 

During all the rest of his career a tragic weakness of will takes 
possession of Coleridge, making it impossible for him, with all his 
genius and learning, to hold himself steadily to any one work or 
purpose. He studied in Germany ; worked as a private secretary, 
till the drudgery wore upon his free spirit ; then he went to Rome 
and remained for two years, lost in study. Later he started The 
Friend, a paper devoted to truth and liberty ; lectured on poetry 
and the fine arts to enraptured audiences in London, until his fre- 
quent failures to meet his engagements scattered his hearers ; was 
offered an excellent position and a half interest (amounting to some 
2000) in the Morning Post and The Courier, but declined it, say- 
ing " that I would not give up the country and the lazy reading of 
old folios for two thousand times two thousand pounds, in short, 
that beyond ^350 a year I considered money a real evil." 
family, meanwhile, was almost entirely neglected ; he lived apart, 
following his own way, and the wife and children were left in charge 
of his friend Southey. Needing money, he was on the point of be- 
coming a Unitarian minister, when a small pension from two friends 
enabled him to live for a few years without regular employment. 

A terrible shadow in Coleridge's life was the apparent cause of 
most of his dejection. In early life he suffered from neuralgia, and 
to ease the pain began to use opiates. The result on such a tempera- 
ment was almost inevitable. He became a slave to the drug habit ; 
his naturally weak will lost all its directing and sustaining force, 
until, after fifteen years of pain and struggle and despair, he 
gave up and put himself in charge of a physician, one Mr. 
man, of Highgate. Carlyle, who visited him at this time, calls him 
"a king of men," but records that "he gave you the idea of a h 
that had been full of sufferings, a life heavy-laden, half-vanquished, 
still swimming painfully in seas of manifold physical and 

The shadow is dark indeed ; but there are gleams of sunshine 
that occasionally break through the clouds. One of these is his asso- 
ciation with Wordsworth and his sister Dorothy, in the Quantock 
hills, out of which came the famous Lyrical Ballads of 1798. 
Another was his loyal devotion to poetry for its own sake. With tl 
exception of his tragedy Remorse, which through Byron's influence 
was accepted at Drury Lane Theater, and for which he was paid 


^400, he received almost nothing for his poetry. Indeed, he seems 
not to have desired it ; for he says: "Poetry has been to me its own 
exceeding great reward ; it has soothed my afflictions ; it has multi- 
plied and refined my enjoyments; it has endeared solitude, and it 
has given me the habit of wishing to discover the good and the 
beautiful in all that meets and surrounds me." One can better un- 
derstand his exquisite verse after such a declaration. A third ray of 
sunlight came from the admiration of his contemporaries ; for though 
he wrote comparatively little, he was by his talents and learning a 
leader among literary men, and his conversations were as eagerly 
listened to as were those of Dr. Johnson. Wordsworth says of him 
that, though other men of the age had done some wonderful things, 
Coleridge was the only wonderful man he had ever known. Of his 
lectures on literature a contemporary says : " His words seem to 
flow as from a person repeating with grace and energy some delight- 
ful poem." And of his conversation it is recorded : " Throughout a 
long-drawn summer's day would this man talk to you in low, equable 
but clear and musical tones, concerning things human and divine ; 
marshalling all history, harmonizing all experiment, probing the 
depths of your consciousness, and revealing visions of glory and 
terror to the imagination." 

The last bright ray of sunlight comes from Coleridge's own soul, 
from the gentle, kindly nature which made men love and respect him 
in spite of his weaknesses, and which caused Lamb to speak of him 
humorously as " an archangel a little damaged." The universal law 
of suffering seems to be that it refines and softens humanity; and 
Coleridge was no exception to the law. In his poetry we find a note 
of human sympathy, more tender and profound than can be found 
in Wordsworth or, indeed, in any other of the great English poets. 
Even in his later poems, when he has lost his first inspiration and 
something of the splendid imaginative power that makes his work 
equal to the best of Blake's, we find a soul tender, triumphant, 
quiet, " in the stillness of a great peace." He died in 1834, and was 
buried in Highgate Church. The last stanza of the boatman's song, 
in Remorse, serves better to express the world's judgment than any 
epitaph : 

Hark ! the cadence dies away 

On the quiet moon-lit sea ; 

The boatmen rest their oars and say, 
Miserere Domini ! 


Works of Coleridge. The works of Coleridge naturally 
divide themselves into three classes, the poetic, the critical, 
and the philosophical, corresponding to the early, the middle, 
and the later periods of his career. Of his poetry Stopford 
Brooke well says: "All that he did excellently might be 
bound up in twenty pages, but it should be bound in pure 
gold." His early poems show the influence of Gray and Blake, 
especially of the latter. When Coleridge begins his "Day 
Dream " with the line, " My eyes make pictures when they're 
shut," we recall instantly Blake's haunting Songs of Innocence. 
But there is this difference between the two poets, in Blake 
we have only a dreamer ; in Coleridge we have the rare com- 
bination of the dreamer and the profound scholar. The qual- 
ity of this early poetry, with its strong suggestion of Blake, 
may be seen in such poems as " A Day Dream," " The Devil's 
Thoughts," "The Suicide's Argument," and "The Wander- 
ings of Cain." His later poems, wherein we see his imagination 
bridled by thought and study, but still running very freely, may 
best be appreciated in " Kubla Khan," " Christabel," and " The 
Rime of the Ancient Mariner." It is difficult to criticise such 
poems ; one can only read them and wonder at their melody, 
and at the vague suggestions which they conjure up in the mind. 
"Kubla Khan" is a fragment painting a gorgeous Oriental 
dream picture, such as one might see in an October sunset 
The whole poem came to Coleridge one morning when he had 
fallen asleep over Purchas, and upon awakening he began 
write hastily, anadu did Kubla Khan 

A stately pleasure-dome decree : 

Where Alph, the sacred river, ran 

Through caverns measureless to man 

Down to a sunless sea. 

He was interrupted after fifty-four lines were written, and he 
never finished the poem. 

" Christabel " is also a fragment, which seems to have 
planned as the story of a pure young girl who fell under t 


spell of a sorcerer, in the shape of the woman Geraldine. It 
is full of a strange melody, and contains many passages of 
exquisite poetry ; but it trembles with a strange, unknown 
horror, and so suggests the supernatural terrors of the popu- 
lar hysterical novels, to which we have referred. On this 
account it is not wholesome reading ; though one flies in the 
face of Swinburne and of other critics by venturing to suggest 
such a thing. 

"The Rime of the Ancient Mariner" is Coleridge's chief 
contribution to the Lyrical Ballads of 1798, and is one of the 
The Rime of wor ^' s masterpieces. Though it introduces the 
the Ancient reader to a supernatural realm, with a phantom 
ship, a crew of dead men, the overhanging curse of 
the albatross, the polar spirit, and the magic breeze, it never- 
theless manages to create a sense of absolute reality concern- 
ing these manifest absurdities. All the mechanisms of the 
poem, its meter, rime, and melody are perfect ; and some of 
its descriptions of the lonely sea have never been equaled. 
Perhaps we should say suggestions, rather than descriptions ; 
for Coleridge never describes things, but makes a suggestion, 
always brief and always exactly right, and our own imagina- 
tion instantly supplies the details. It is useless to quote frag- 
ments ; one must read the entire poem, if he reads nothing 
else of the romantic school of poetry. 

Among Coleridge's shorter poems there is a wide variety, 
and each reader must be left largely to follow his own taste. 
The beginner will do well to read a few of the early poems, to 
which we have referred, and then try the "Ode to France," 
"Youth and Age," "Dejection," "Love Poems," "Fears in 
Solitude," " Religious Musings," " Work Without Hope," and 
the glorious " Hymn Before Sunrise in the Vale of Chamouni." 
One exquisite little poem from the Latin, " The Virgin's Cradle 
Hymn," and his version of Schiller's Wallenstein, show Cole- 
ridge's remarkable power as a translator. The latter is one of 
the best poetical translations in our literature. 


Of Coleridge's prose works, the Biographia Literaria, or 
Sketches of My Literary Life and Opinions (1817), his col- 
lected Lectures on Shakespeare (1849), and Aids to 
Prose Works Deflection (1825) are the most interesting from a 
literary view point. The first is an explanation and criticism 
of Wordsworth's theory of poetry, and contains more sound 
sense and illuminating ideas on the general subject of poetry 
than any other book in our language. The Lectures, as re- 
freshing as a west wind in midsummer, are remarkable for 
their attempt to sweep away the arbitrary rules which for two 
centuries had stood in the way of literary criticism of Shake- 
speare, in order to study the works themselves. No finer 
analysis and appreciation of the master's genius has ever been 
written. In his philosophical work Coleridge introduced the 
idealistic philosophy of Germany into England. He set him- 
self in line with Berkeley, and squarely against Bentham, 
Malthus, Mill, and all the materialistic tendencies which were 
and still are the bane of English philosophy. The Aids to 
Reflection is Coleridge's most profound work, but is more 
'interesting to the student of religion and philosophy than to 
the readers of literature. 


ROBERT SOUTHEY (1774-1843) 

Closely associated with Wordsworth and Coleridge is Rob- 
ert Southey ; and the three, on account of their residence in 
the northern lake district, were referred to contemptuously as 
the " Lakers " by the Scottish magazine reviewers. Southey 
holds his place in this group more by personal association 
than by his literary gifts. He was born at Bristol, in 1774 ; 
studied at Westminster School, and at Oxford, where he found 
himself in perpetual conflict with the authorities on account 
of his independent views. He finally left the university and 
joined Coleridge in his scheme of a Pantisocracy. For more 
than fifty years he labored steadily at literature, refusing to 



consider any other occupation. He considered himself seri- 
ously as one of the greatest writers of the day, and a reading 
of his ballads which connected him at once with the ro- 
mantic school leads us to think that, had he written less, 
he might possibly have justified his own opinion of himself. 
Unfortunately he could not wait for inspiration, being obliged 
to support not only his own family but also, in large measure, 
that of his friend Coleridge. . 

Southey gradually surrounded himself with one of the most 
extensive libraries in England, and set himself to the task of 
Works of writing something every working day. The results 
Southey o f hi s industry were one hundred and nine volumes, 
besides some hundred and fifty articles for the magazines, 
most of which are now utterly forgotten. His most ambitious 

poems are Thalaba, a tale of 
Arabian enchantment ; The 
Curse of Kehama, a medley of 
Hindoo mythology ; Madoc, a 
legend of a Welsh prince who 
discovered the western world ; 
and Roderick, a tale of the 
last of the Goths. All these, 
and many more, although 
containing some excellent pas- 
sages, are on the whole exag- 
gerated and unreal, both in 
manner and in matter. Southey 
wrote far better prose than 
poetry, and his admirable Life 
of Nelson is still often read. 
Besides these are his Lives of British Admirals, his lives of 
Cowper and Wesley, and his histories of Brazil and of the 
Peninsular War. 

Southey was made Poet Laureate in 1813, and was the 
first to raise that office from the low estate into which it had 



fallen since the death of Dryden. The opening lines of 
Thalaba, beginning, 

How beautiful is night! 

A dewy freshness fills the silent air, 

are still sometimes quoted ; and a few of his best known short 
poems, like "The Scholar," " Auld Cloots," "The Well of St. 
Keyne," "The Inchcape Rock," and " Lodore," will repay the 
curious reader. The beauty of Southey's character, his pa- 
tience and helpfulness, make him a worthy associate of the 
two greater poets with whom he is generally named. 

WALTER SCOTT (1771-1832) 

We have already called attention to two significant move- 
ments of the eighteenth century, which we must for a moment 
recall if we are to appreciate Scott, not simply as a delightful 
teller of tales, but as a tremendous force in modern literature. 
The first is the triumph of romantic poetry in Wordsworth 
and Coleridge ; the second is the success of our first English 
novelists, and the popularization of literature by taking it from 
the control of a few patrons and critics and putting it into 
the hands of the people as one of the forces which mold 
our modern life. Scott is an epitome of both these move- 
ments. The poetry of Wordsworth and Coleridge was read by 
a select few, but Scott's Marmion and his Lady of the Lake 
aroused a whole nation to enthusiasm, and for the first time 
romantic poetry became really popular. So also the novel had 
been content to paint men and women of the present, until 
the wonderful series of Waverley novels appeared, when sud- 
denly, by the magic of this " Wizard of the North," all history 
seemed changed. The past, which had hitherto appeared as 
a dreary region of dead heroes, became alive again, and filled 
with a multitude of men and women who had the surprising 
charm of reality. It is of small consequence that Scott's 
poetry and prose are bo'th faulty ; that his poems are read 


chiefly for the story, rather than for their poetic excellence ; 
and that much of the evident crudity and barbarism of the 
Middle Ages is ignored or forgotten in Scott's writings. By 
their vigor, their freshness, their rapid action, and their 
breezy, out-of-door atmosphere, Scott's novels attracted thou- 
sands of readers who else had known nothing of the delights 
of literature. He is, therefore, the greatest known factor in 
establishing and in popularizing that romantic element in 
prose and poetry which has been for a hundred years the 
chief characteristic of our literature. 

Life. Scott was born in Edinburgh, on August 15, 1771. On 
both his mother's and father's side he was descended from old 
Border families, distinguished more for their feuds and fighting than 
for their intellectual attainments. His father was a barrister, a just 
man, who often lost clients by advising them to be, first of all, hon- 
est in their lawsuits. His mother was a woman of character and 
education, strongly imaginative, a teller of tales which stirred young 
Walter's enthusiasm by revealing the past as a world of living heroes. 

As a child, Scott was lame and delicate, and was therefore sent 
away from the city to be with his grandmother in the open country 
at Sandy Knowe, in Roxburghshire, near the Tweed. This grand- 
mother was a perfect treasure-house of legends concerning the old 
Border feuds. From her wonderful tales Scott developed that in- 
tense love of Scottish history and tradition which characterizes all 
his work. 

By the time he was eight years old, when he returned to Edin- 
burgh, Scott's tastes were fixed for life. At the high school he was 
a fair scholar, but without enthusiasm, being more interested in 
Border stories than in the text-books. He remained at school only 
six or seven years, and then entered his father's office to study law, 
at the same time attending lectures at the university. He kept this 
up for some six years without developing any interest in his profes- 
sion, not even when he passed his examinations and was admitted 
to the Bar, in 1792. After nineteen years of desultory work, in 
which hex showed far more zeal in gathering Highland legends than 
in gaming clients, he had won two small legal offices which gave him 
enough income to support him comfortably. His home, meanwhile, 
was at Ashestiel on the Tweed, where all his best poetry was written. 



Scott's literary work began with the translation from the German 
of Burger's romantic ballad of Lenore (1796) and of Goethe's Gotz 
von Berlichingen (1799); but there was romance enough in his 
own loved Highlands, and in 1802-1803 appeared three volumes 
of his Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border, which he had been collect- 
ing for many years. In 1805, when Scott was 34 years old, appeared 
his first original work, The Lay of the Last Minstrel. Its success 
was immediate, and when Marmion (1808) and The Lady of the 
Lake (1810) aroused Scotland and England to intense enthusiasm, 
and brought unexpected fame to the author, without in the least 
spoiling his honest and lov- 
able nature, Scott gladly 
resolved to abandon the 
law, in which he had won 
scant success, and give 
himself wholly to literature. 
Unfortunately, however, in 
order to increase his earn- 
ings, he entered secretly , 
into partnership with the jj 
firms of Constable and the 
brothers Ballantyne, as 
printer-publishers, a sad 
mistake, indeed, and the 
cause of that tragedy which 
closed the life of Scotland's 
greatest writer. 

The year 1 8 1 1 is remark- 
able for two things in Scott's 

life. In this year he seems to have realized that, notwithstanding the 
success of his poems, he had not yet " found himself " ; that he was 
not a poetic genius, like Burns ; that in his first three poems he had 
practically exhausted his material, though he still continued to write 
verse ; and that, if he was to keep his popularity, he must find some 
other work. The fact that, only a year later, Byron suddenly became 
the popular favorite, shows how correctly Scott had judged himself 
and the reading public, which was even more fickle than usual 
in this emotional age. In that same year, 1811, Scot^ bought the 
estate of Abbotsford, on the Tweed, with which place his name is for- 
ever associated. Here he began to spend large sums, and to dispense 



the generous hospitality of a Scotch laird, of which he had been 
dreaming for years. In 1820 he was made a baronet ; and his new 
title of Sir Walter came nearer to turning his honest head than had 
all his literary success. His business partnership was kept secret, and 
during all the years when the Waverley novels were the most popular 
books in the world, their authorship remained unknown; for Scott 
deemed it beneath the dignity of his title to earn money by business 
or literature, and sought to give the impression that the enormous 
sums spent at Abbotsford in improving the estate and in entertain- 
ing lavishly were part of the dignity of the position and came from 
ancestral sources. 

It was the success of Byron's Childe Harold, and the comparative 
failure of Scott's later poems, Rokeby, The Bridal of Triermain, and 
The Lord of the Isles, which led our author into the new field, where 
he was to be without a rival. Rummaging through a cabinet one day 
in search of some fishing tackle, Scott found the manuscript of a 
story which he had begun and laid aside nine years before. He read 
this old story eagerly, as if it, had been another's work ; finished 
it within three weeks, and published it without signing his name. 
The success of this first novel, Waverley (1814), was immediate and, 
unexpected. Its great sales and the general chorus of praise for its 
unknown author were without precedent ; and when Guy Manner- 
ing, The Antiquary, Black Dwarf, Old Mortality, Rob Roy, and 
The Heart of Midlothian appeared within the next four years, Eng- 
land's delight and wonder knew no bounds. Not only at home, but 
also on the Continent, large numbers of these fresh and fascinating 
stories were sold as fast as they could be printed. 

During the seventeen years which followed the appearance of 
Waverley, Scott wrote on an average nearly two novels per year, 
creating an unusual number of characters and illustrating many 
periods of Scotch, English, and French history, from the time of the 
Crusades to the fall of the Stuarts. In addition to these historical 
novels, he wrote Tales of a Grandfather, Demonology and Witch- 
craft, biographies of Dryden and of Swift, the Life of Napoleon, in 
nine volumes, and a large number of articles for the reviews and 
magazines. It was an extraordinary amount of literary work, but it 
was not quite so rapid and spontaneous as it seemed. He had been 
very diligent in looking up old records, and we must remember 
that, in nearly all his poems and novels, Scott was drawing upon a 
fund of legend, tradition, history, and poetry, which he had been 



gathering for forty years, and which his memory enabled him to pro- 
duce at v/ill with almost the accuracy of an encyclopedia. 

For the first six years Scott held himself to Scottish history, giv- 
ing us in nine remarkable novels the whole of Scotland, its heroism, 
its superb faith and enthusiasm, and especially its clannish loyalty to 
its hereditary chiefs ; giving us also all parties and characters, from 
Covenanters to Royalists, and from kings to beggars. After reading 
these nine volumes we know Scotland and Scotchmen as we can 
know them in no other way. In 1819 he turned abruptly from 
Scotland, and in Ivanhoe, the most popular of his works, showed what 
a mine of neglected wealth lay just beneath the surface of English 


history. It is hard to realize now, as we read its rapid, melodramatic 
action, its vivid portrayal of Saxon and Norman character, and all : 
picturesque details, that it was written rapidly, at a time when 1 
author was suffering from disease and could hardly repress an occa- 
sional groan from finding its way into the rapid dictation. It stands 
to-day as the best example of the author's own theory that the will 
of a man is enough to hold him steadily, against all obstacles to 
the task of "doing what he has a mind to do." Kemlworlh Nigel, 
Peveril, and Woodstock, all written in the next few years, si x>w his 
grasp of the romantic side of English annals ; Count Robert ^ The 
Talisman show his enthusiasm for the heroic side of the Crusaders 
nature- and Quentin Durward m& Anne of Geierstein suggest an- 
other mine of romance which he discovered in French history. 


For twenty years Scott labored steadily at literature, with the 
double object of giving what was in him, and of earning large sums 
to support the lavish display which he deemed essential to a laird 
of Scotland. In 1826, while he was blithely at work on Woodstock, 
the crash came. Not even the vast earnings of all these popular 
novels could longer keep the wretched business of Ballantyne on its 
feet, and the firm failed, after years of mismanagement. Though a 
silent partner, Scott assumed full responsibility, and at fifty-five 
years of age, sick, suffering, and with all his best work behind him, 
he found himself facing a debt of over half a million dollars. The 
firm could easily have compromised with its creditors ; but Scott 
refused to hear of bankruptcy laws under which he could have taken 
refuge. He assumed the 'entire debt as a personal one, and set 
resolutely to work to pay every penny. Times were indeed changed 
in England when, instead of a literary genius starving until some 
wealthy patron gave him a pension, this man, aided by his pen alone, 
could confidently begin to earn that enormous amount of money. 
And this is one of the unnoticed results of the popularization of lit- 
erature. Without a doubt Scott would have accomplished the task, 
had he been granted only a few years of health. He still lived at 
Abbotsford, which he had offered to his creditors, but which they 
generously refused to accept ; and in two years, by miscellaneous 
work, had paid some two hundred thousand dollars of his debt, 
nearly half of this sum coming from his Life of Napoleon. A new 
edition of the Waverley novels appeared, which was very successful 
financially, and Scott had every reason to hope that he would soon 
face the world owing no man a penny, when he suddenly broke 
under the strain. In 1830 occurred a stroke of paralysis from which 
he never fully recovered ; though after a little time he was again at 
work, dictating with splendid patience and resolution. He writes in 
his diary at this time : "The blow is a stunning one, I suppose, for I 
scarcely feel it. It is singular, but it comes with as little surprise as 
if I had a remedy ready, yet God knows I am at sea in the dark, 
and the vessel leaky." 

It is good to remember that governments are not always ungrate- 
ful, and to record that, when it became known that a voyage to 
Italy might improve Scott's health, the British government promptly 
placed a naval vessel at the disposal of a man who had led no 
armies to the slaughter, but had only given pleasure to multitudes of 
peaceable men and women by his stories. He visited Malta, Naples, 


and Rome ; but in his heart he longed for Scotland, and turned 
homeward after a few months of exile. The river Tweed, the Scotch 
hills, the trees of Abbotsford, the joyous clamor of his dogs, brought 
forth the first exclamation of delight which had passed Scott's lips 
since he sailed away. He died in September of the same year, 1832, 
and was buried with his ancestors in the old Dryburgh Abbey. 

Works of Scott. Scott's work is of a kind which the critic 
gladly passes over, leaving each reader to his own joyous and 
uninstructed opinion. From a literary view point the works 
are faulty enough, if one is looking for faults ; but it is well 
to remember that tbey were intended to give delight, and 
that they rarely fail of their object. When one has read the 
stirring Marmion or the more enduring Lady of the Lake, 
felt the heroism of the Crusaders in The Talisman, the pic- 
turesqueness of chivalry in Ivanhoe, the nobleness of soul of 
a Scotch peasant girl in The Heart of Midlothian, and the qual- 
ity of Scotch faith in Old Mortality, then his own opinion of 
Scott's genius will be of more value than all the criticisms 
that have ever been written. 

At the outset we must confess frankly that Scott's poetry 
is not artistic, in the highest sense, and that it lacks the 
Scott's deeply imaginative and suggestive qualities which 
Poetry make a poem the noblest and most enduring work 
of humanity. We read it now, not for its poetic excellence, 
but for its absorbing story interest. Even so, it serves an 
admirable purpose. Marmion and The Lady of the Lake, 
which are often the first long poems read by tbe beginner in 
literature, almost invariably lead to a deeper interest in the 
subject ; and many readers owe to these poems an introduc- 
tion to the delights of poetry. They are an excellent begin- 
ning, therefore, for young readers, since they are almost certain 
to hold the attention, and to lead indirectly to an interest in 
other and better poems. Aside from this, Scott's poetry is 
marked by vigor and youthful abandon ; its interest lies in 
its vivid pictures, its heroic characters, and especially in its 


rapid action and succession of adventures, which hold and de- 
light us still, as they held and delighted the first wondering 
readers. And one finds here and there terse descriptions, or 
snatches of song and ballad, like the " Boat Song " and " Loch- 
invar," which are among the best known in our literature. 

In his novels Scott plainly wrote too rapidly and too much. 
While a genius of the first magnitude, the definition of genius 
Scott's as " tne infinite capacity for taking pains " hardly 
Novels belongs to him. For details of life and history, for 

finely drawn characters, and for tracing the logical conse- 
quences of human action, he has usually no inclination. He 
sketches a character roughly, plunges him into the midst of 
stirring incidents, and the action of the story carries us 
on breathlessly to the end. So his stories are largely adven- 
ture stories, at the best ; and it is this element of adventure 
and glorious action, rather than the study of character, which 
makes Scott a perennial favorite of the young. The same ele- 
ment of excitement is what causes mature readers to turn 
from Scott to better novelists, who have more power to delin- 
eate human character, and to create, or discover, a romantic 
interest in the incidents of everyday life rather than in stir- 
ring adventure. 1 

Notwithstanding these limitations, it is well especially in 
these days, when we hear that Scott is outgrown to empha- 
Scott's Work s i ze f ur noteworthy things that he accomplished, 
for Literature (i) He created the historical novel 2 ; and all nov- 
elists of the last century who draw upon history for their 
characters and events are followers of Scott and acknowledge 
his mastery. 

(2) His novels are on a vast scale, covering a very wide 
range of action, and are concerned with public rather than 

1 See Scott's criticism of his own work, in comparison with Jane Austen's, p. 439. 
' 2 Scott's novels were not the first to have an historical basis. For thirty years pre- 
ceding the appearance of Waverley, historical romances were popular ; but it was due to 
Scott's genius that the historical novel became a permanent type of literature. See Cross, 
The Development of the English Novel. 


with private interests. So, with the exception of The Bride of 
Lammermoor, the love story in his novels is generally pale 
and feeble ; but the strife and passions of big parties are mag- 
nificently portrayed. A glance over even the titles of his 
novels shows how the heroic side of history for over six hun- 
dred years finds expression in his pages ; and all the parties 
of these six centuries Crusaders, Covenanters, Cavaliers, 
Roundheads, Papists, Jews, Gypsies, Rebels start into life 
again, and fight or give a reason for the faith that is in them. 
No other novelist in England, and only Balzac in France, 
approaches Scott in the scope of his narratives. 

(3) Scott was the first novelist in any language to make 
the scene an essential element in the action. He knew Scot- 
land, and loved it ; and there is hardly an event in any of his 
Scottish novels in which we do not breathe the very atmos- 
phere of the place, and feel the presence of its moors and 
mountains. The place, morever, is usually so well chosen and 
described that iihe action seems almost to be the result of 
natural environment. Perhaps the most striking illustration 
of this harmony between scene and incident is found in Old 
Mortality, where Morton approaches the cave of the old Cove- 
nanter, and where the' spiritual terror inspired by the fanatic's 
struggle with imaginary fiends is paralleled by the physical 
terror of a gulf and a roaring flood spanned by a slippery tree 
trunk. A second illustration of the same harmony of scene 
and incident is found in the meeting of the arms and ideals 
of the East and West, when the two champions fight in the 
burning desert, and then eat bread together in the cool shade 
of the oasis, as described in the opening chapter of The Talis- 
man^ A third illustration is found in that fascinating love 
scene, where Ivanhoe lies wounded, raging at his helplessness, 
while the gentle Rebecca alternately hides and reveals her 
love as she describes the terrific assault on the castle, which 
goes on beneath her window. His thoughts are all on the 
fight ; hers on the man she loves ; and both are natural, and 


both are exactly what we expect under the circumstances. 
These are but striking examples of the fact that, in all his 
work, Scott tries to preserve perfect harmony between the 
scene and the action. 

(4) Scott's chief claim to greatness lies in the fact that he 
was the first novelist to recreate the past ; that he changed 
our whole conception of history by making it to be, not a 
record of dry facts, but a stage on which living men and 
women played their parts. Carlyle's criticism is here most 
pertinent: "These historical novels have taught this truth 
. . . unknown to writers of history: that the bygone ages of 
the world were actually filled by living men, not by protocols, 
state papers, controversies, and abstractions of men." Not 
only the pages of history, but all the hills and vales of his be- 
loved Scotland are filled with living characters, lords and 
ladies, soldiers, pirates, gypsies, preachers, schoolmasters, 
clansmen, bailiffs, dependents, all Scotland is here before 
our eyes, in the reality of life itself. It is astonishing, with 
his large numbers of characters, that Scott never repeats him- 
self. Naturally he is most at home in Scotland, and with 
humble people. Scott's own romantic interest in feudalism 
caused him to make his lords altogether too lordly ; his aris- 
tocratic maidens are usually bloodless, conventional, exasper- 
ating creatures, who talk like books and pose like figures in 
an old tapestry. But when he describes characters like Jeanie 
Deans, in The Heart of Midlothian, and the old clansman, 
Evan Dhu, in Waverley, we know the very soul of Scotch 
womanhood and manhood. 

Perhaps one thing more should be said, or rather repeated, 
of Scott's ensuring work. He is always sane, wholesome, 
manly, inspiring. We know the essential nobility of human 
life better, and we are better men and women ourselves, 
because of what he has written. 



There are two distinct sides to Byron and his poetry, one 
good, the other bad ; and those who write about him generally 
describe one side or the other in superlatives. Thus one critic 
speaks of his " splendid and imperishable excellence of sincerity 
and strength"; another of his "gaudy charlatanry, blare of 
brass, and big bow-wowishness." As both critics are funda- 
mentally right, we shall not here attempt to reconcile their 
differences, which arise from viewing one side of the man's 
nature and poetry to the exclusion of the other. Before his 
exile from England, in 1816, the general impression made by 
Byron is that of a man who leads an irregular life, poses as a 
romantic hero, makes himself out much worse than he really 
is, and takes delight in shocking not only the conventions but 
the ideals of English society. His poetry of this first period 
is generally, though not always, shallow and insincere in 
thought, and declamatory or bombastic in expression. After 
his exile, and his meeting with Shelley in Italy, we 'note a 
gradual improvement, due partly to Shelley's influence and 
partly to his own mature thought and experience. We have 
the impression now of a disillusioned man who recognizes his 
true character, and who, though cynical and pessimistic, is at 
least honest in his unhappy outlook on society. His poetry 
of this period is generally less shallow and rhetorical, and 
though he still parades his feelings in public, he often sur- 
prises us by being manly and sincere. Thus in the third canto 
of Childe Harold, wrjtten just after his exile, he says : 

In my youth's summer I did sing of one, 
The wandering outlaw of his own dark mind ; 

and -as we read on to the end of the splendid fourth canto 
with its poetic feeling for nature, and its stirring rhythm that 
grips and holds the reader like martial music we lay down 
the book with profound regret that this gifted man should 


have devoted so much of his talent to describing trivial or 
unwholesome intrigues and posing as the hero of his own 
verses. The real tragedy of Byron's life is that he died just 
as he was beginning to find himself. 

Life. Byron was born in London in 1788, the year preceding the 
French Revolution. We shall understand him better, and judge 
him more charitably, if we remember the tainted stock from which 
he sprang. His father was a dissipated spendthrift of unspeakable 
morals ; his mother was a Scotch heiress, passionate and unbalanced. 
The father deserted his wife after squandering her fortune ; and the 
boy was brought up by the mother who "alternately petted and 
abused " him. In his eleventh year the death of a granduncle left 
him heir to Newstead Abbey and to the baronial title of one of the 
oldest houses in England. He was singularly handsome ; and a 
lameness resulting from a deformed foot lent a suggestion of pathos 
to his make-up. All this, with his social position, his pseudo-heroic 
poetry, and his dissipated life, over which he contrived to throw 
a veil of romantic secrecy, made him a magnet of attraction to 
many thoughtless young men and foolish women, who made the 
downhill path both easy and rapid to one whose inclinations led him 
in that direction. Naturally he was generous, and easily led by 
affection. He is, therefore, largely a victim of his own weakness 
and of unfortunate surroundings. 

At school at Harrow, and in the university at Cambridge, Byron 
led an unbalanced life, and was more given to certain sports from 
which he was not debarred by lameness, than to books and study. 
His school life, like his infancy, is sadly marked by vanity, violence, 
and rebellion jagainst every form of authority ; yet it was not with- 
out its hours of nobility and generosity. Scott describes him as " a 
man of real goodness of heart, and the kindest and best feelings, 
miserably thrown away by his foolish contempt of public opinion." 
While at Cambridge, Byron published his first volume of poems, 
Hours of Idleness , in 1807. A severe criticism of the volume in the 
Edinburgh Review wounded Byron's vanity, and threw him into a 
violent passion, the result of which was the now famous satire called 
English Bards and Scotch Reviewers, in which not only his enemies, 
but also Scott, Wordsworth, and nearly all the literary men of his 
day, were satirized in heroic couplets after the manner of Pope's 
Dunciad. It is only just to say that he afterwards made friends with 



Scott and with others whom he had abused without provocation; 
and it is interesting to note, in view of his own romantic poetry, that 
he denounced all masters of romance and accepted the artificial 
standards of Pope and Dryden. His two favorite books were the Old 
Testament and a volume of Pope's poetry. Of the latter he says, 
" His is the greatest name in poetry ... all the rest are barbarians." 

In 1809 Byron, when only twenty-one years of age, started on a 
tour of Europe and the Orient. The poetic results of this trip were 
the first two cantos of Childe Harold' 's Pilgrimage, with their famous 
descriptions of romantic scenery. The work made him instantly 
popular, and his fame overshadowed Scott's completely. As he says 
himself, "I awoke one morn- 
ing to find myself famous," and 
presently he styles himself "the 
grand Napoleon of the realms 
of rhyrhe." The worst element 
in Byron at this time was his 
insincerity, his continual pos- 
ing as the hero of his poetry. 
His best works were translated, 
and his fame spread almost as 
rapidly on the Continent as 
in England. Even Goethe was 
deceived, and declared that a 
man so wonderful in character 
had never before appeared in 
literature, and would never ap- 
pear again. Now that the tinsel 

has worn off, and we can judge the man and his work dispassion- 
ately, we see how easily even the critics of the age were governed by 
romantic impulses. 

The adulation of Byron lasted only a few years in England. In 
1815 he married Miss Milbanke, an English heiress, who abruptly 
left him a year later. With womanly reserve she kept silence ; but 
the public was not slow to imagine plenty of reasons for the separa- 
tion. This, together with the fact that men had begun to penetrate 
the veil of romantic secrecy with which Byron surrounded himself 
and found a rather brassy idol beneath, turned the tide of public 
opinion against him. He left England under a cloud of distrust and 
disappointment, in 1816, and never returned. Eight years were 



spent abroad, largely in Italy, where he was associated with Shelley 
until the latter 's tragic death in 1822. His house was ever the 
meeting place for Revolutionists and malcontents calling themselves 
patriots, whom he trusted too greatly, and with whom he shared his 
money most generously. Curiously enough, while he trusted men 
too easily, he had no faith in human society or government, and 
wrote in 1817 : "I have simplified my politics to an utter detesta- 
tion of all existing governments." During his exile he finished 
Childe Harold, The Prisoner of Chilian, his dramas Cain and Man- 
fred, and numerous other works, in some of which, as in Don Juan, 
he delighted in revenging himself upon his countrymen by holding 
up to ridicule all that they held most sacred. 

In 1824 Byron went to Greece, to give himself and a large part 
of his fortune to help that country in its struggle for liberty against 
the Turks. How far he was led by his desire for posing as a hero, 
and how far by a certain vigorous Viking spirit that was certainly in 
him, will never be known. The Greeks welcomed him and made 
him a leader, and for a few months he found himself in the midst 
of a wretched squabble of lies, selfishness, insincerity, cowardice, 
and intrigue, instead of the heroic struggle for liberty which he had 
anticipated. Hetlied of fever, in Missolonghi, in 1824. One of his 
last poems, written there on his thirty-sixth birthday, a few months 
before he died, expresses his own view of his disappointing life : 

My days are in the yellow leaf, 
The flowers and fruits of love are gone : 
The worm, the canker, and the grief 
Are mine alone. 


Works of Byron. In reading Byron it is well to remember 
that he was a disappointed and embittered man, not only in 
his personal life, but also in his expectation of a general trans- 
formation of human society. As he pours out his own feelings, 
chiefly, in his poetry, he is the most expressive writer of his 
age in voicing the discontent of a multitude of Europeans who 
were disappointed at the failure of the French Revolution to 
produce an entirely new form of government and society. 

One who wishes to understand the whole scope of Byron's 
genius and poetry will do well to begin with his first w*rk, 


Hours of Idleness, written when he was a young man at the 
university. There is very little poetry in the volume, only a 
Hours of striking facility in rime, brightened by the devil- 
idleness may-care spirit of the Cavalier poets ; but as a reve- 
lation of the man himself 'it is remarkable. In a vain and 
sophomoric preface he declares that poetry is to him an idle 
experiment, and that this is his first and last attempt to 
amuse himself in that line. Curiously enough, as he starts for 
Greece on his last, fatal journey, he again ridicules literature, 
and says that the poet is a "mere babbler." It is this despis- 
ing of the art which alone makes him famous that occasions 
our deepest disappointment. Even in his magnificent pas- 
sages, in a glowing description of nature or of a Hindoo wom- 
an's exquisite love, his work is frequently marred by a wretched 
pun, or by some cheap buffoonery, which ruins our first splen- 
did impression of his poetry. 

Byron's later volumes, Manfred and Cain, the one a c 
ous and perhaps unconscious, parody of Faust, the other of 
Paradise Lost, are his two best known dramatK 
Longer Poems work ^ Aside from the ques tion of their poetic 
value they are interesting as voicing Byron's excessive indi- 
vidualism and his rebellion against society. The best known 
and the most readable of Byron's works are Mazeppa, l 
Prisoner of Chilian, and Childe Harold's Pilgrimage. 1 
first two cantos of Childe Harold (1812) are perhaps more 
frequently read than any other work of the same author, 
partly because of their melodious verse, partly because of 
descriptions of places along the lines of European travel 
but the last two cantos (1816-1818) written after his exile 
^from England, have more sincerity, and are in every way bet- 
ter expressions of Byron's mature genius. Scattered through 
all his works one finds magnificent descriptions of natural 
scenery, and exquisite lyrics of love and despair ; 
are mixed with such a deal of bombast and -rhetoric, 
gether with much that is unwholesome, that the beginner 


will do well to confine himself to a small volume of well- 
chosen selections. 1 

Byron is often compared with Scott, as having given to 
us Europe and the Orient, just as Scott gave us Scotland 
and its people ; but while there is a certain resemblance in 
the swing and dash of the verses, the resemblance is all on 
the surface, and the underlying difference between the two 
poets is as great as that between Thackeray and Bulwer-Lytton. 
Scott knew his country well, its hills and valleys which are 
interesting as the abode of living and lovable men and women. 
Byron pretended to know the secret, unwholesome side of 
Europe, which generally hides itself in the dark ; but instead 
of giving us a variety of living men, he never gets away from 
his own unbalanced and egotistical self. All his characters, 
in Cain, Manfred, T/ie Corsair, The Giaour, CJiilde Harold, 
Don Juan, are tiresome repetitions of himself, -a vain, dis- 
appointed, cynical man, who finds no good in life or love or 
anything. Naturally, with such a disposition, he is entirely 
incapable of portraying a true woman. To nature alone, 
especially in her magnificent moods, Byron remains faithful ; 
and his portrayal of the night and the storm and the ocean 
in Childe Harold are unsurpassed in our language. 


Make me thy lyre, even as the forest is : 
What if my leaves are falling like its own ! 

The tumult of thy mighty harmonies 

Will take from both a deep, autumnal tone, 

Sweet though in sadness. Be thou, spirit fierce, 
My spirit ! Be thou me, impetuous one ! 

In this fragment, from the " Ode to the West Wind," we 
have a suggestion of Shelley's own spirit, as reflected in all 
his poetry. The very spirit of nature, which appeals to us in 
the wind and the cloud, the sunset and the moonrise, seems 

1 See Selections for Reading, and Bibliography, at the end of this chapter. 



to have possessed him, at times, and made him a chosen in- 
strument of melody. At such times he is a true poet, and his 
work is unrivaled. At other times, unfortunately, Shelley 
oins with Byron in voicing a vain rebellion against society. 


His poetry, like his life, divides itself into two distinct moods. 
In one he is the violent reformer, seeking to overthrow our 
present institutions and to hurry the millennium out of its slow 
walk into a gallop. Out of this mood come most of his longer 
poems, like Queen Mab, Revolt of Islam, Hellas, and The 


Witch of Atlas, which are somewhat violent diatribes against 
government, priests, marriage, religion, even God as men 
supposed him to be. In a different mood, which finds ex- 
pression in Alas tor, Adonais, and his wonderful lyrics, Shelley 
is like a wanderer following a vague, beautiful vision, forever 
sad and forever unsatisfied. In the latter mood he appeals 
profoundly to all men who have known what it is to follow 
after an unattainable ideal. 

Shelley's Life. There are three classes of men who see visions, 
and all three are represented in our literature. The first is the mere 
dreamer, like Blake, who stumbles through a world of reality without 
noticing it, and is happy in his visions. The second is the seer, the 
prophet, like Langland, or Wyclif, who sees a vision and quietly 
goes to work, in ways that men understand, to make the present 
world a little more like the ideal one which he sees in his vision. 
The third, who appears in many forms, as visionary, enthusiast, 
radical, anarchist, revolutionary, call him what you will, sees a 
vision and straightway begins to tear down all human institutions, 
which have been built up by the slow toil of centuries, simply be- 
cause they seem to stand in the way of his dream. To the latter 
class belongs Shelley, a man perpetually at war with the present 
world, a martyr and exile, simply because of his inability to sympa- 
thize with men and society as they are, and because of his own mis- 
taken judgment as to the value and purpose of a vision. 

Shelley was born in Field Place, near Horsham, Sussex, in 1792. 
On both his father's and his mother's side he was descended from 
'noble old families, famous in the political and literary history of 
England. From childhood he lived, like Blake, in a world of fancy, 
so real that certain imaginary dragons and headless creatures of the 
neighboring wood kept him and his sisters in a state of fearful ex- 
pectancy. He learned rapidly, absorbed the classics as if by intui- 
tion, and, dissatisfied with ordinary processes of learning, seems to 
have sought, like Faustus, the acquaintance of spirits, as shown in his 
" Hymn to Intellectual Beauty " : 

While yet a boy, I sought for ghosts, and sped 
Through many a listening chamber, cave and ruin, 
And starlight wood, with fearful steps pursuing 

Hopes of high talk with the departed dead. 


Shelley's first public school, kept by a hard-headed Scotch master, 
with its floggings and its general brutality, seemed to him like a com- 
bination of hell and prison ; and his active rebellion against existing 
institutions was well under way when, at twelve years of age, he 
entered the famous preparatory school at Eton. He was a delicate, 
nervous, marvelously sensitive boy, of great physical beauty; and, 
like Cowper, he suffered torments at the hands of his rough school- 
fellows. Unlike Cowper, he was positive, resentful, and brave to the 
point of rashness; soul and body rose up against tyranny; and he 
promptly organized a rebellion against the brutal fagging system. 
" Mad Shelley " the boys called him, and they chivied him like dogs 
around a little coon that fights and cries defiance to the end. 
finds what he seeks in this world, and it is not strange that Shelley, 
after his Eton experiences, found causes for rebellion in all existing 
forms of human society, and that he left school " to war among man- 
kind," as he says of himself in the Revolt of Islam. His university 
days'are but a repetition of his earlier experiences. While a student 
at Oxford he read some scraps of Hume's philosophy, and immedi- 
ately published a pamphlet called "The Necessity of Atheism." 
was a crude, foolish piece of work, and Shelley distributed it by post 
to every one to whom it might give offense. Naturally this brought 
on a conflict with the authorities, but Shelley would not listen to 
reason or make any explanation, and was expelled from the i 

sity in 1811. 

Shelley's- marriage was even more unfortunate. While living i 
London, on a generous sister's pocket money, a certain young schoo 
girl Harriet Westbrook, was attracted by Shelley's crude revolution- 
ary doctrines. She promptly left school, as her own personal pai 
the general rebellion, and refused to return or even to h: 
parents upon the subject. Having been taught by Shelley, she 
herself upon his protection; and this unbalanced couple wer 
ently married, as they said, in deference to anarch custom 
two infants had already proclaimed a rebellion against the institution 
of marriage, for which they proposed to substitute the doctrine of 
elective affinity. For two years they wandered about 
land, and Wales, living on a small allowance from Shelley s father, 
who had disinherited his son because of his ill-considered marriage 
The pair soon separated, and two years-later Shelley, having fo 
a strong friendship with one Godwin, - a leader of young enthusiasts 
and a preacher of anarchy, -presently showed his belief in Godwin s 


theories by eloping with his daughter Mary. It is a sad story, and the 
details were perhaps better forgotten. We should remember that in 
Shelley we are dealing with a tragic blend of high-mindedness and 
light-headedness. Byron wrote of him, " The most gentle, the most 
amiable, and the least worldly-minded person I ever met ! " 

Led partly by the general hostility against him, and partly by his 
own delicate health, Shelley went to Italy in 1818, and never re- 
turned to England. After wandering over Italy he finally settled in 
Pisa, beloved of so many English poets, beautiful, sleepy Pisa, 
where one looks out of his window on the main street at the busiest 
hour of the day, and the only living thing in sight is a donkey, doz- 
ing lazily, with his head in the shade and his body in the sunshine. 
Here his best poetry was written, and here he found comfort in the 
friendship of Byron, Hunt, and Trelawney, who are forever associ- 
ated with Shelley's Italian life. He still remained hostile to English 
social institutions ; but life is a good teacher, and that Shelley dimly 
recognized the error of his rebellion is shown in the increasing sad- 
ness of his later poems : 

O world, O life, O time ! 
On whose last steps I climb, 

Trembling at that where I had stood before ; 
When will return the glory of your prime ? 

No more oh, never more ! 

Out of the day and night 
A joy has taken flight ; 

Fresh spring, and summer, and winter hoar, 
Move my faint heart with grief, but with delight 

No more oh, never more ! 

In 1822, when only thirty years of age, Shelley was drowned 
while sailing in a small boat off the Italian coast. His body was 
washed ashore several days later, and was cremated, near Viareggio, 
by his friends, Byron, Hunt, and Trelawney. His ashes might, with 
all reverence, have been given to the winds that he loved and that 
were a symbol of his restless spirit; instead, they found a resting 
place near the grave of Keats, in the English cemetery at Rome. 
One rarely visits the spot now without finding English and American 
visitors standing in silence before the significant inscription, Cor 


Works of Shelley. As a lyric poet, Shelley is one of the 
supreme geniuses of our literature ; and the reader will do 
well to begin with the poems which show him at his very 
best. "The Cloud," "To a Skylark," "Ode to the West 
Wind," "To Night," poems like these must surely set the 
reader to searching among Shelley's miscellaneous works, to 
find for himself the things "worthy to be remembered." 

In reading Shelley's longer poems one must remember 
that there are in this poet two distinct men : one, the wan- 
derer, seeking ideal beauty and forever unsatisfied^ 
the other, the unbalanced reformer, seeking the 
overthrow of present institutions and the establishment of 
universal happiness. Alastor, or the Spirit of Solitude (1816) 
is by far the best expression of Shelley's greater mood. Here 
we see him ^j^Wj n or r^tlp^iy through the vast silences of 
nature, in search of a loved dream-maiden who shall satisfy 
his love of beauty. Here Shelley is the poet of the moonrise, 
and of the tender exquisite fancies that can never be expressed. 
The charm of the poem lies in its succession ^of dreamlike 
pictures ; but it gives absolutely no impressions of reality. It 
was written when Shelley, after his long struggle, had begun 
to realize that the world was too strong for him. Alastor is 
therefore the poet's confession, not simply of failure, but of 
undying hope in some better thing that is to come. 

Prometheus Unbound (1818-1820), a lyrical drama, is the 
best work of Shelley's revolutionary enthusiasm, and the 
most characteristic of all his poems. Shelley's 
>rometheus philosophy (if one may d i gn ify a hopeless dream 
by such a name) was a curious aftergrowth of the French 
Revolution, namely, that it is only the existing tyranny of 
State, Church, and society which keeps man from growth into 
perfect happiness. Naturally Shelley forgot, like many other 
enthusiasts', that Church and State and social laws were not 
imposed upon man from without, but were created by himse 
to minister to his necessities. In Shelley's poem the hero, 


Prometheus, represents mankind itself, a. just and noble 
humanity, chained and tortured by Jove, who is here the per 
Bonification of human institutions. 1 In due time Demogorgoi 
(which is Shelley's name for Necessity) overthrows the tyran 
Jove and releases Prometheus (Mankind), who is presently 
united to Asia, the spirit of love and goodness in nature 
while the earth and the moon join in a wedding song, and 
everything gives promise that they shall live together happy 
ever afterwards. 

Shelley here looks forward, not back, to the Golden Age, 
and is the prophet of science and evolution. If we compare 
his Titan with similar characters in Faust and Cain, we shall 
find this interesting difference, that while Goethe's Titan 
is cultured and self-reliant, and Byron's stoic and hopeless, 
Shelley's hero is patient under torture, seeing help and hope 
beyond his suffering. And he marries Love that the earth 
may be peopled with superior beings who shall substitute 
brotherly love for the present laws and conventions of society. 
Such is his philosophy ; but the beginner will read this poem, 
not chiefly for its thought, but for its youthful enthusiasm, for 
its marvelous imagery, and especially for its ethereal music. 
Perhaps we should add here that Prometheus is, and probably 
always will be, a poem for the chosen few who can appreciate 
its peculiar spiritlike beauty. In its purely pagan conception 
of the world, it suggests, by contrast, Milton's Christian phil- 
osophy in Paradise Regained. - 

Shelley's revolutionary works, Queen Mab (1813), The 
Revolt of Islam (1818), Hellas (1821), and The Witch of 
Atlas (1820), are to be judged in much the same way as is 
Prometheus Unbound. They are largely invectives against 
religion, marriage, kingcraft, and priestcraft, most impractical 
when considered as schemes for reform, but abounding in 

1 Shelley undoubtedly took his idea from a lost drama of ^Eschylus, a sequel to Pro- 
metheus Bound, in which the great friend of mankind was unchained from a precipice, 
where he had been placed by the tyrant Zeus. 


passages of exquisite beauty, for which alone they are worth 
reading. In the drama called The Cenci(\% 19), which is founded 
upon a morbid Italian story, Shelley for the first and only time 
descends to reality. The heroine, Beatrice, driven to despera- 
tion by the monstrous wickedness of her father, kills him and 
suffers the death penalty in consequence. She is the only one 
of Shelley's characters who seems to us entirely human. 

Far different in character is Epipsychidion (1821), a rhap- 
sody celebrating Platonic love, the most impalpable, and so 
one of the most characteristic, of all Shelley's 

Adonais , _ . .,, , ....... 

works. It was inspired by a beautiful Italian girl, 
Emilia Viviani, who was put into a cloister against her will, 
and in whom Shelley imagined he found his long-sought ideal 
of womanhood. With this should be read Adonais (1821), 
the best known of all Shelley's longer poems. Adonais is a 
wonderful threnody, or a song of grief, over the death of the 
poet Keats. Even in his grief Shelley still preserves a sense 
of unreality, and calls in many shadowy allegorical figures, 
Sad Spring, Weeping Hours, Glooms, Splendors, Destinies, 
all uniting in bewailing the loss of a loved one. The whole 
poem is a succession of dream pictures, exquisitely beautiful, 
such as only Shelley could imagine ; and it holds its place 
with Milton's Lycidas and Tennyson's In Memoriam as one 
of the three greatest elegies in our language. 

In his interpretation of nature Shelley suggests Words- 
worth, both by resemblance and by contrast. To both poets 
Shelley and a ll natural objects are symbols of truth ; both re- 
Words worth gard nature as perfneaterj hy Llitf fcjieal 'spiritual life 
\vjncJi^ttiiiiiia'l'eT~a11 things ; but while Wordsworth finds a 
spirit of thought, and so of communion between nature and 
the soul of man, Shelley finds a spirit of love, which exists 
chiefly for its own delight; and so "The Cloud," "The Sky- 
lark," and "The West Wind," three of the most beauti- 
ful poems in our language, have no definite message for 
humanity. In his "Hymn to Intellectual Beauty" Shelley is 


most like Wordsworth ; but in his " Sensitive Plant," with its 
fine symbolism and imagery, he is like nobody in the world 
but himself. Comparison is sometimes an excellent thing ; 
and if we compare Shelley's exquisite " Lament," beginning 
" O world, O life, O time," with Wordsworth's " Intimations 
of Immortality," we shall perhaps understand both poets 
better. Both poems recall many happy memories of youth ; 
both express a very real mood of a moment ; but while the 
beauty of one merely saddens and disheartens us, the beauty 
of the other inspires us with something of the poet's own 
faith and hopefulness. In a word, Wordsworth found arid 
Shelley lost himself in nature. 

JOHN KEATS (1795-1821) 

Keats was not only the last but also the most perfect of 
the Romanticists. While Scott was merely telling stories, and 
Wordsworth reforming poetry or upholding the moral law, 
and Shelley advocating impossible reforms, and Byron voicing 
his own egoism and the political discontent of the times, 
Keats lived apart from men and from all political measures, 
worshiping beauty like a devotee, perfectly content to write 
what was in his own heart, or to reflect some splendor of the 
natural world as he saw or dreamed it to be. He had, moreover, 
the novel idea that poetry exists for its own sake, and suffers 
loss by being devoted to philosophy or politics or, indeed, to 
any cause, however great or small. As he says in " Lamia" : 

. . . Do not all charms fly 
At the mere touch of cold philosophy ? 
There was an awful rainbow once in heaven : 
We know her woof, her texture ; she is given 
In the dull catalogue of common things. 
Philosophy will clip an Angel's wings, 
Conquer all mysteries by rule and line, 
Empty the haunted air, and gnomed mine 
Unweave a rainbow, as it erewhile made 
The tender-person'd Lamia melt into a shade. 


Partly Because of this high ideal of poetry, partly because he 
studied and unconsciously imitated the Greek classics and 
the best works of the Elizabethans, Keats's last little volume 
of poetry is unequaled by the work of any of his contempo- 
raries. When we remember that all his work was published 
in three short years, from 18 1 7 to 1820, and that he died when 
only twenty-five years old, we must judge him to be the most 
promising figure of the early nineteenth century, and one of 
the most remarkable in the history of literature. 

Life. Keats's life of devotion to beauty and to poetry is all the 
more remarkable in view of his lowly origin. He was the son of a 
hostler and stable keeper, and was born in the stable of the Swan 
and Hoop Inn, London, in 1795. One has only to read the rough 
stable scenes from our first- novelists, or even from Dickens, to un- 
derstand how little there was in such an atmosphere Iq develop 
poetic gifts. Before Keats was fifteen years old both parents died, 
and he was placed with his brothers and sisters in charge of guardi- 
ans. Their first act seems to have been to take Keats from school 
at Enfield, and to bind him as an apprentice to a surgeon at Ed- 
monton. For five years he served his apprenticeship, and for two 
years more he was surgeon's helper in the hospitals ; but though 
skillful enough to win approval, he disliked his work, and his 
thoughts were on other things. " The other day, during a lecture," 
he said to a friend, " there came a sunbeam into the room, and with 
it a whole troop of creatures floating in the ray ; and I was off with 
them to Oberon and fairvland." A copy of Spenser's Faery Queen, 
which had been given him by Charles Cowden Clark, was the prime 
caii'se of his abstraction. He abandoned his profession in 1817, and 
early in the same year published his first volume of Poems. It was 
modest enough in spirit, as was also his second volume, Endymion 
(1818); but that did not prevent brutal attacks upon the author 
and his work by the self-constituted critics of Blackwood's Magazine 
and the Quarterly. It is often alleged that the poet's spirit and 
ambition were broken by these attacks; 1 but Keats was a man of 
strong character, and instead of quarreling with his reviewers, or 
being crushed by their criticism, he went quietly to work with the 

1 This idea is suppported by Shelley's poem Adonais, and by Byron's parody against 
the reviewers, beginning, " Who killed John Ke^tS ? I, says the Quarterly." 


idea of producing poetry that should live forever. As Matthew 
Arnold says, Keats " had flint and iron in him " ; and in his next 
volume he accomplished his own purpose and silenced unfriendly 

For the three years during which Keats wrote his poetry he lived 
chiefly in London and in Hampstead, but wandered at times over 
England and Scotland, living for brief spaces in the Isle of Wight, 
in Devonshire, and in the Lake district, seeking to recover his own 
health, and especially to restore that of his brother. His illness be- 
gan with a severe cold, but soon developed into consumption ; and 
added to this sorrow was another, his love for Fannie Brawne, to 
whom he was engaged, but whom he could not marry on account of 
his poverty and growing illness. When we remember all this per- 
sonal grief and the harsh criticism of literary men, the last small 
volume, Lamia, Isabella, The Eve of St. Agnes, and Other Poems 
(1820), is most significant, as showing not only Keats's wonderful 
poetic gifts, but also his beautiful and indomitable spirit. Shelley, 
struck by the beauty and promise of " Hyperion," sent a generous 
invitation to the author to come to Pisa and live with him ; but 
Keats refused, having little sympathy with Shelley's revolt against 
society. The invitation had this effect, however, that it turned 
Keats's thoughts to Italy, whither he soon went in the effort to save 
his life. He settled in Rome with his friend Severn, the artist, but 
died soon after his arrival, in February, 1821. His grave, in the 
Protestant cemetery at Rome, is still an object of pilgrimage to 
thousands of tourists ; for among all our poets there is hardly 
another whose heroic life and tragic death have so appealed to the 
hearts of poets and young enthusiasts. 

The Work of Keats. "None but the master shall praise 
us; and none but the master shall blame" might well be 
written on the fly leaf of every volume of Keats's poetry ; for 
never was there a poet more devoted to his ideal, entirely 
independent of success or failure. In strong contrast with 
his contemporary, Byron, who professed to despise the art 
that made him famous, Keats lived for poetry alone, and, as 
Lowell pointed out, a virtue went out of him into everything he 
wrote. In all his work we have the impression of this intense 
loyalty to his art ; we have the impression also of a profound 


dissatisfaction that the deed falls so far short of the splendid 
dream. Thus after reading Chapman's translation of Homer he 

Much have I travelled in the realms of gold, 
And many goodly states and kingdoms seen ; 
Round many western islands have I been 
Which bards in fealty to Apollo hold. 
Oft of one wide expanse had I been told 
That deep-browed Homer ruled as his demesne ; 
Yet did I never breathe its pure serene 
Till I heard Chapman speak out loud and bold : 
Then felt I like some watcher of the skies 
When a new planet swims into his ken ; 
Or like stout Cortez when with eagle eyes 
He stared at the Pacific and all his men 
Looked at each other with a wild surmise 
Silent, upon a peak in Darien. 

In this striking sonnet we have a suggestion of Keats's high 
ideal, and of his sadness because of his own ignorance, when 
he published his first little volume of poems in 1817. He 
knew no Greek ; yet Greek literature absorbed and fascinated 
him, as he saw its broken and imperfect reflection in an Eng- 
lish translation. Like Shakespeare, who also was but poorly 
educated in the schools, he had a marvelous faculty of dis- 
cerning the real spirit of the classics, a faculty denied to 
many great scholars, and to most of the " classic " writers of 
the preceding century, and so he set himself to the task of 
reflecting in modern English the spirit of the old Greeks. 

The imperfect results of this attempt are seen in his next 
volume, Endymion, which is the story of a young shepherd 
beloved by a moon goddess. The poem begins with the strik- 
ing lines : , 

A thing of beauty is a joy forever ; 

Its loveliness increases ; it will never 

Pass into nothingness ; but still will keep 

A bower quiet for us ; and a sleep 

Full of sweet dreams, and health, and quiet breathing, 

which well illustrate the spirit of Keats's later work, with its 
perfect finish and melody. It has many quotable lines and 


passages, and its " Hymn to Pan " should be read in connection 
with Wordsworth's famous sonnet beginning, " The world is too 
much with us." The poem gives splendid promise, but as a whole 
it is rather chaotic, with too much ornament and too little de- 
sign, like a modern house. That Keats felt this defect strongly 
is evident from his modest preface, wherein he speaks of Endy- 
mio'n, not as a deed accomplished, but only as an unsuccessful 
attempt to suggest the underlying beauty of Greek mythology. 

Keats's third ancl last volume, LamTa, Isabella, The Eve of 
St. Agnes, and Other Poems (1820), is the one with which the 
Lamia and reader should begin his acquaintance with this mas- 
other Poems ter O f English verse. It has only two subjects, 
Greek mythology and mediaeval romance. "Hyperion" is a 
magnificent fragment, suggesting the first arch of a cathedral 
that was never finished. Its theme is the overthrow of the 
Titans by the young sun-god Apollo. Realizing his own im- 
maturity and lack of knowledge, Keats laid aside this work, 
and only the pleadings of his publisher induced him to print 
the fragment with his completed poems. 

Throughout this last volume, and especially in " Hyperion," 
the influence of Milton is apparent, while Spenser is more 
frequently suggested in reading Endymion. 

Of the longer poems in the volume, " Lamia " is the most 
suggestive. It is the story_of a heaiitifiil enchantress, who 
turns from a serpent into a glorious woman and fills every 
human sense with delight, until, as a result of the foolish 
philosophy of old Apollonius, she vanishes forever from her 
lover's sight. "The Eve of St. Agnes," the most perfect of 
Keats's mediaeval poems, is not a story after the manner of 
the metrical romances, but rather a yjvid painting of a roman- 
tjc^mood, such as comes to all men, at times, to glorify a 
workaday world. Like all the work of Keats and Shelley, it 
has an element of unreality ; and when we read at the end, 

And they are gone ; aye, ages long ago 
These lovers fled away into the storm, 


it is as if we were waking from a dream, which is the only 
possible ending to all of Keats's Greek and mediaeval fancies. 
We are to remember, however, that no beautiful thing, though 
it be intangible as a dream, can enter a man's life and leave 
him quite the same afterwards. Keats's own word is here sug- 
gestive. "The imagination," he said, "may be likened to 
Adam's dream ; he awoke and found it true." 

It is by his short poems that Keats is known to the major- 
ity of present-day readers. Among these exquisite shorter 
c. poems we mention only the four odes, " On a Grecian Urn," 
"To a Nightingale," "To Autumn," and "To Psyche." These 
are like an invitation to a feast ; one who reads them will 
hardly be satisfied until he knows more of such delightful 
poetry. Those who study only the "Ode to a Nightingale" 
may find four things, a love of sensuous beauty, a touch of 
pessimism, a purely pagan conception of nature, and a strong 
individualism, which are characteristic of this last of the 
romantic poets. 

As Wordsworth's work is too often marred by the moral- 
izer, and Byron's by the demagogue, and Shelley's by the 
Keats's Place reformer, so Keats's work suffers by the opposite 
in Literature extreme of aloofness from every human interest ; 
so much so, that he is often accused of being indifferent to 
humanity. His work is also criticised as being too effeminate 
for ordinary readers. Three things should be remembered in 
this connection. First, that Keats sought to express beauty 
for its own sake ; that beauty is as essential to normal hu- 
manity as is government or law ; and that the higher man 
climbs in civilization the more imperative becomes his need 
of beauty as a reward for his labors. Second, that Keats's let- 
ters are as much an indication of the man as is his poetry ; 
and in his letters, with their human sympathy, their eager 
interest in social problems, their humor, and their keen insight 
into life, there is no trace of effeminacy, but rather every 
indication of a strong and noble manhood. The third thing 


to remember is that all Keats's work was done in three or four 
years, with small preparation, and that, dying at twenty-five, 
he left us a body of poetry which will always be one of our 
most cherished possessions. He is often compared with " the 
marvelous boy " Chatterton, whom he greatly admired, and 
to whose memory he dedicated his Endymion ; but though 
both died young, Chatterton was but a child, while Keats was 
in all respects a man. It is' idle to prophesy what he might 
have done, had he been granted a Tennyson's long life and 
scholarly training. At twenty-five his work was as mature 
as was Tennyson's at fifty, though the maturity suggests 
the too rapid growth of a tropical plant which under the warm 
rains and the flood of sunlight leaps into life, grows, blooms 
in a day, and dies. 

As we have stated, Keats's work was bitterly and unjustly 
condemned by the critics of his day. He belonged to what 
was. derisively called the cockney school of poetry, of which 
Leigh Hunt was chief, and Proctor and Beddoes were fellow- 
workmen. Not even from Wordsworth and Byron, who were 
ready enough to recommend far less gifted writers, did Keats 
receive the slightest encouragement. Like young Lochinvar, 
"he rode all unarmed and he rode all alone." Shelley, with 
his sincerity and generosity, was the first to recognize -the 
young genius, and in his noble Adonais written, alas, like 
most of our tributes, when the subject of our praise is dead 
he spoke the first true word of appreciation, and placed 
Keats, where he unquestionably belongs, among our greatest 
poets. The fame denied him in his sad life was granted freely 
after his death. Most fitly does he close the list of poets of 
the romantic revival, because in many respects he was the 
best workman of them all. He seems to have studied words 
more carefully than did his contemporaries, and so his poetic 
expression, or the harmony of word and thought, is gener- 
ally more perfect than theirs. More than any other he lived 
for poetry, as the noblest of the arts. More than any other 


he emphasized beauty, because to him, as shown by his " Gre- 
cian Urn," beauty and truth were one and inseparable. And 
he enriched the .whole romantic movement by adding to its 
interest in common life the spirit, rather than the letter, of the 
classics and of Elizabethan poetry. For these reasons Keats 
is, like Spenser, a poet's poet ; his work profoundly influenced 
Tennyson and, indeed, most of the poets of the present era. 


Aside from the splendid work of the novel writers Wal- 
ter Scott, whom we have considered, and Jane Austen, to 
Literary whom we shall presently return the early nine- 
Criticism teenth century is remarkable for the development 
of a new and valuable type of critical prose writing. If we 
except the isolated work of Dryden and of Addison, it is safe 
to say that literary criticism, in its modern sense, was hardly 
known in England until about the year 1825. Such criticism 
as existed seems to us now to have been largely the result of 
personal opinion or prejudice. Indeed we could hardly expect 
anything else before some systematic study of our literature 
as a whole had been attempted. In one age a poem was called 
good or bad according as it followed or ran counter to so- 
called classic rules ; in another we have the dogmatism of 
Dr. Johnson ; in a third the personal judgment of Lockhart 
and the editors of the Edinburgh Review and the Quarterly, 
who so violently abused Keats and the Lake poets in the 
name of criticism. Early in the nineteenth century there 
arose a new school of criticism which was guided by knowl- 
edge of literature, on the one hand, and by what one might 
call the- fear of God on the other. The latter element showed 
itself in a profound human sympathy, the essence of the 
romantic movement, and its importance was summed up by 
De Quincey when he said, " Not to sympathize is not to under- 
stand." These new critics, with abundant reverence for past 
masters, could still lay aside the dogmatism and prejudice 


which marked Johnson and the magazine editors, and read 
sympathetically the work of a new author, with the sole idea 
of rinding what he had contributed, or tried to contribute, 
to the magnificent total of our literature. Coleridge, Hunt, 
Hazlitt, Lamb, and De Quincey were the leaders in this new 
and immensely important development ; and we must not for- 
get the importance of the new periodicals, like the London 
Magazine, founded in 1820, in which Lamb, De Quincey, and 
Carlyle found their first real encouragement. 

Of Coleridge's Biographia Literaria and his Lectures on 
Shakespeare we have already spoken. Leigh Hunt (1784 
Hunt and l %$9) wrote continuously for more than thirty 
Hazlitt years, as editor and essayist ; arid his chief object 
seems to have been to make good literature known and appre- 
ciated. William Hazlitt (1778-1830), in a long series of lec- 
tures and essays, treated all reading as a kind of romantic 
journey into new and pleasant countries. To his work largely, 
with that of Lamb, was due the new interest in Elizabethan 
literature, which so strongly influenced Keats's-last and best 
volume of poetry. For those interested in the art of criticism, 
and in the appreciation of literature, both Hunt and Hazlitt 
will well repay study ; but we must pass over their work to 
consider the larger literary interest of Lamb and De Quincey, 
who were not simply critics of other men's labor, but who 
also produced some delightful work of their own, which the 
world has carefully put away among the "things worthy to 
be remembered." 

CHARLES LAMB (1775-1834) 

In Lamb and Wordsworth we have two widely different 
views of the romantic movement ; one shows the influence of 
nature and solitude, the other of society. Lamb was a lifelong 
friend of Coleridge, and an admirer and defender of the poetic 
creed of Wordsworth ; but while the latter lived apart from 
men, content with nature and with reading an occasional 


moral lesson to society, Lamb was born and lived in the midst 
of the London streets. The city crowd, with its pleasures and 
occupations, its endless little comedies and tragedies, alone in- 
terested him. According to his own account, when he paused 
in the crowded street tears would spring to his eyes, tears 
of pure pleasure at the abundance of so much good life ; and 
when he wrote, he simply interpreted that crowded human life 
of joy and sorrow, as Wordsworth in- 
terpreted the woods and waters, with- 
out any desire to change or to reform 
them, He has given us the best pic- 
tures we possess of Coleridge, Haz- 
litt, Landor, Hood, Cowden Clarke, 
and many more of the interesting men 
and women of his age ; and it is due 
to his insight and sympathy that the 
life of those far-off days seems almost 
as real to us as if we ourselves remem- 
bered it. VOf all our English essayists CHA RLES LAMB 
he is the most lovable ; partly because 

of his delicate, old-fashioned style and humor, but more be- 
cause of that cheery and heroic struggle against misfortune 
which shines like a subdued light in all his writings. 

Life. In the very heart of London there is a curious, old- 
fashioned place known as the Temple, an enormous, rambling, 
apparently forgotten structure, dusty and still, in the midst of the 
endless roar of the city streets. Originally it was a chapter house 
of the Knights Templars, and so suggests to us the spirit of the 
Crusades and of the Middle Ages ; but now the building is given 
over almost entirely to the offices and lodgings of London lawyers. 
It is this queer old place which, more than all others, is associated 
with the name of Charles Lamb. "I was born," he says, "and 
passed the first seven years of my life in the Temple. Its gardens, 
its halls, its fountain, its river . . . these are my oldest recollec- 
tions." He was the son of a poor clerk, or rather servant, of one of 
the barristers, and was the youngest of seven children, only three of 



whom survived infancy. Of these three, John, the elder, was appar- 
ently a selfish creature, who took no part in the heroic struggle of 
his brother and sister. At seven years, Charles was sent to the famous 
"Bluecoat" charity school of Christ's Hospital. Here he remained 
seven years ; and here he formed his lifelong friendship for another 
poor, neglected boy, whom the world remembers as Coleridge. 1 

When only fourteen years old, Lamb left the charity school and 
was soon at work as a clerk in the South Sea House. Two years 
later he became a clerk in the famous India House, where he worked 


steadily for thirty-three years, with the exception of six weeks, in 
the winter of 1795-1 796, spent within the walls of an asylum. 
In 1796 Lamb's sister Mary, who was as talented and remarkable 
as Lamb himself, went violently insane and killed her own mother. 
For a long time after this appalling tragedy she was in an asylum at 
Hoxton ; then Lamb, in 1797, brought her to his own little house, 
and for the remainder of his life cared for her with a tenderness and 
devotion which furnishes one of the most beautiful pages in our 
literary history. At times the malady would return to Mary, giving 

1 See " Christ's Hospital Five and Thirty Years Ago," in Essays of Elia. 


sure warning of its terrible approach ; and then brother and sister 
might be seen walking silently, hand in hand, to the gates of the 
asylum, their cheeks wet with tears. One must remember this, as 
well as Lamb's humble lodgings and the drudgery of his daily work 
in the big commercial house, if he would appreciate the pathos of 
" The Old Familiar Faces," or the heroism which shines through the 
most human and the most delightful essays in our language. 

When Lamb was fifty years of age the East India Company, led 
partly by his literary fame following his first Essays of Elia, and 
partly by his thirty-three years of faithful service, granted him a 
comfortable pension ; and happy as a boy turned loose from school 
he left India House forever to give himself up to literary work. 1 He 
wrote to Wordsworth, in April, 1825, "I came home forever on 
Tuesday of last week it was like passing from life into eternity." 
Curiously enough Lamb seems to lose power after his release from 
drudgery, and his last essays, published in 1833, lack something of 
the grace and charm of his earlier work. He died at Edmonton in 
1834; and his gifted sister Mary sank rapidly into the gulf from 
which his strength and gentleness had so long held her back. No 
literary man was ever more loved and honored by a rare circle of 
friends; and all who knew him bear witness to the simplicity and 
goodness which any reader may find for himself between the lines 
jof his essays. 

Works. The works of Lamb divide themselves naturally 
into three periods. First, there are his early literary efforts, 
including the poems signed " C. L." in Coleridge's Poems on 
Various Subjects (1/96) ; his romance Rosamund Gray (1798) ; 
his poetical drama John Woodvil (1802); and various other 
immature works in prose and poetry. This period comes to an 
end in 1803, when he gave up his newspaper work, especially 
the contribution of six jokes, puns, and squibs daily to the 
Morning Post at sixpence apiece. The second period was 
given largely to literary criticism ; and the Tales from Shake- 
speare (1807) written by Charles and Mary Lamb, the 
former reproducing the tragedies, and the latter the comedies 
may be regarded as his first successful literary venture. 

1 See Essays o/EIia, " The Superannuated Man." 


The book was written primarily for children ; but so thor- 
oughly had brother and sister steeped themselves in the litera 
ture of the Elizabethan period that young and old alike were 
delighted with this new version of Shakespeare's stories, and 
the Tales are still regarded as the best of their kind in our 
literature. In 1808 appeared his Specimens of English Dra- 
matic Poets Contemporary with Shakespeare. This carried 
out the splendid critical work of Coleridge, and was the most 
noticeable influence in developing the poetic qualities of 
Keats, as shown in his last volume. 

The third period includes Lamb's criticisms of life, which 
are gathered together in his Essays of Elia (1823), and his 
Essays of Last Essays of Elia, which were published ten 
Elia years later. These famous essays began in 1820 

with the appearance of the new London Magazine? and 
were continued for many years, such subjects as the " Disser- 
tation on Roast Pig," "Old China," "Praise of Chimney 
Sweepers," " Imperfect Sympathies," " A Chapter on Ears/' 
"Mrs. Battle's Opinions on Whist," " Mackery End," "Grace 
Before Meat," " Dream Children," and many others being 
chosen apparently at random, but all leading to a delightful 
interpretation of the life of London, as it appeared to a quiet 
little man who walked unnoticed through its crowded streets. 
In the first and last essays which we have mentioned, " Dis- 
sertation on Roast Pig" and "Dream Children," we have the 
extremes of Lamb's humor and pathos. 

The style of all these essays is gentle, old-fashioned, irre- 
sistibly attractive. Lamb was especially fond of old writers, 
and borrowed unconsciously from the style of Bur- 
ton's Anatomy of Melancholy and from Browne's 
Religio Medici and from the early English dramatists. But 
this style had become a part of Lamb by long reading, and 

1 In the first essay, " The South Sea House," Lamb assumed as a joke the name of a 
former clerk, Elia. Other essays followed, and the name was retained when several suc- 
cessful essays were published in book form, in 1823. In these essays " Elia " is Lamb 
himself, and " Cousin Bridget " is his sister Mary. 


he was apparently unable to express his new thought without 
using their old quaint expressions. Though these essays are 
all criticisms or appreciations of the life of his age, they are 
all intensely personal. In other words, they are an excellent 
picture of Lamb and of humanity. Without a trace of vanity 
or self-assertion, Lamb begins with himself, with some purely 
personal mood or experience, and from this he leads the reader 
to see life and literature as he saw it. It is this wonderful 
combination of personal and universal interests, together with 
Lamb's rare old style and quaint humor, which make the 
essays remarkable. They continue the best tradition of Addi- 
son and Steele, our first great essayists ; but their sympathies 
are broader and deeper, and their humor more delicious, than 
any which preceded them. 

THOMAS DE QUINCEY (1785-1859) 

In De Quincey the romantic element is even more strongly 
developed than in Lamb, not only in his critical work, but 
also in his erratic and imaginative life. He was profoundly 
educated, even more so than Coleridge, and was one of the 
keenest intellects of the age ; yet his wonderful intellect 
seems always subordinate to his passion for dreaming. Like 
Lamb, he was a friend and associate of the Lake poets, mak- 
ing his headquarters in Wordsworth's old cottage at Gras- 
mere for nearly twenty years. Here the resemblance ceases, 
and a marked contrast begins. As a man, Lamb is the most 
human and lovable of all our essayists ; while De Quincey is 
the most uncanny and incomprehensible. Lamb's modest 
works breathe the two essential qualities of sympathy and 
humor ; the greater number of De Quincey's essays, while 
possessing more or less of both these qualities, are character- 
ized chiefly by their brilliant style. Life, as seen through 
De Quincey's eyes, is nebulous and chaotic, and there is a 
suspicion of the fabulous in all that he wrote. Even in The 
Revolt of the Tartars the romantic element is uppermost, and 


in much of De Quincey's prose the element of unreality is 
more noticeable than in Shelley's poetry. Of his subject- 
matter, his facts, ideas, and criticisms, we are generally sus- 
picious ; but of his style, sometimes stately and sometimes 
headlong, now gorgeous as an Oriental dream, now musical 
as Keats's Endymion, and always, even in the most violent 
contrasts, showing a harmony between the idea and the ex- 
pression such as no other English writer, with the possible 
exception of Newman, has ever rivaled, say what you will 
of the marvelous brilliancy of De Quincey's style, you have 
still only half expressed the truth. It is the style alone which 
makes these essays immortal. 

Life. De Quincey was born in Manchester in 1785. In neither 
his father, who was a prosperous merchant, nor his mother, who was 
a quiet, unsympathetic woman, do we see any suggestion of the son's 
almost uncanny genius. As a child he was given to dreams, more 
vivid and intense but less beautiful than those of the young Blake, 
to whom he bears a strong resemblance. In the grammar school at 
Bath he displayed astonishing ability, and acquired Greek and Latin 
with a rapidity that frightened his slow tutors. At fifteen he not 
only read Greek, but spoke it fluently ; and one of his astounded 
teachers remarked, "That boy could harangue an Athenian mob 
better than you or I could address an English one." From the gram- 
mar school at Manchester, whither he was sent in 1800, he soon ran 
away, finding the instruction far below his abilities, and the rough 
life absolutely intolerable to his sensitive nature. An uncle, just 
home from India, interceded for the boy lest he be sent back to the 
school, which he hated ; and with an allowance of a guinea a week 
he started a career of vagrancy, much like that of Goldsmith, living 
on the open hills, in the huts of shepherds and charcoal burners, in 
the tents of gypsies, wherever fancy led him. His fear of the Man- 
chester school finally led him to run away to London, where, with- 
out money or friends, his life was even more extraordinary than his 
gypsy wanderings. The details of this vagrancy are best learned in 
his Confessions of an English Opium-Eater, where we meet not 
simply the facts of his life, but also the confusion of dreams and 
fancies in the midst of which he wandered like a man lost on the 
mountains, with storm clouds under his feet hiding the familiar 



earth. After a year of vagrancy and starvation he was found by his 
family and allowed to go to Oxford, where his career was marked by 
the most brilliant and erratic scholarship. When ready for a degree, 
in 1807, he passed his written tests successfully, but felt a sudden 
terror at the thought of the oral examination and disappeared from 
the university, never to return. 

It was in Oxford that De Quincey began the use of opium, to relieve 
the pains of neuralgia, and the habit increased until he was an almost 
hopeless slave to the drug. 
Only his extraordinary will 
power enabled him to break 
away from the habit, after 
some thirty years of misery. 
Some peculiarity of his deli- 
cate constitution enabled De 
Quincey to take enormous 
quantities of opium, enough 
to kill several ordinary men ; 
and it was largely opium, 
working upon a sensitive im- 
agination, which produced 
his gorgeous dreams, broken 
by intervals of weakness and 
profound depression. For 
twenty years he resided at 
Grasmere in the companion- 
ship of the Lake poets ; and 
here, led by the loss of his 
small fortune, he began to 
write, with the idea of sup- 
porting his family. In 1821 he published his first famous work, 
the Confessions of an English Opium-Eater, and for nearly forty 
years afterwards he wrote industriously, contributing to various 
magazines an astonishing number of essays on a great variety of 
subjects. Without thought of literary fame, he contributed these 
articles anonymously; but fortunately, in 1853, he began to collect 
his own works, and the last of fourteen volumes was published just 
after his death. 

In 1830, led by his connection with Blackwood's Magazine, to 
which he was^ the chief contributor, De Quincey removed with his 



family to Edinburgh, where his erratic genius and his singularly 
childlike ways produced enough amusing anecdotes to fill a volume. 
He would take a room in some place unknown to his friends and 
family ; would live in it for a few years, until he had filled it, even 
to the bath tub, with books and with his own chaotic manuscripts, 
allowing no one to enter or disturb his den ; and then, when the 
place became too crowded, he would lock the door and go away^nd 
take another lodging, where he repeated the same extraordinary 
performance. He died in Edinburgh in 1859. Like Lamb, he was 
a small, boyish figure, gentle, and elaborately courteous. Though 
excessively shy, and escaping as often as possible to solitude, he was 
nevertheless fond of society, and his wide knowledge and vivid 
imagination made his conversations almost as prized as those of his 
friend Coleridge. 

Works. De Quincey's works may be divided into two gen- 
eral classes. The first includes his numerous critical articles, 
and the second his autobiographical sketches. All his works, 
it must be remembered, were contributed to various maga- 
zines, and were hastily collected just before his death. Hence 
the general impression of chaos which we get from reading 

From a literary view point the most illuminating of De 
Quincey's critical works is his Literary Reminiscences. This 
Critical contains brilliant appreciations of Wordsworth, Cole- 
Essays ridge, Lamb, Shelley, Keats, Hazlitt, and Landor, 
as well as some interesting studies of the literary figures of 
the age preceding. Among the best of his brilliant critical 
essays are On the Knocking at the Gate in Macbeth (1823), 
which is admirably suited to show the man's critical genius, 
and Murder Considered as One of the Fine A its (1827), which 
reveals his grotesque humor. Other suggestive critical works, 
if one must choose among such a multitude, are his Letters to 
a Young Man (1823), Joan of Arc (1847), The Revolt of the 
Tartars (1840), and The English Mail-Coach (1849). I n tne 
last-named essay the "Dream Fugue" is one of the most 
imaginative of all his curious works. 


Of De Quincey's autobiographical sketches the best known 
is his Confessions of an English Opium-Eater (1821). This is 
Confessions onl y P artlv a record of opium dreams, and its chief 
of an Opium- interest lies in glimpses it gives us of De Quincey's 
own life and wanderings. This should be followed 
by Suspiria de Profundis (1845), which is chiefly a record of 
gloomy and terrible dreams produced by opiates. The most 
interesting parts of his Stispiria, showing De Quincey's mar- 
velous insight into dreams, are those in which we are brought 
face to face with the strange feminine creations " Levana," 
""Madonna," "Our Lady of Sighs," and "Our Lady of Dark- 
ness." A series of nearly thirty articles which he collected in 
1853, called Autobiographic Sketches, completes the revelation 
of the author's own life. Among his miscellaneous works may 
be mentioned, in order to show his wide range of subjects, 
Klosterheim, a novel, Logic of Political Economy, the Essays 
on Style and Rhetoric, Philosophy of Herodotus, and his arti- 
cles on Goethe, Pope, Schiller, and Shakespeare which he 
contributed to the Encyclopedia Britannica. 

De Quincey's style is a revelation of the beauty of the 
English language, and it profoundly influenced Ruskin and 
The style of other prose writers of the Victorian Age. It has two 
De Quincey c ^i e f f au i ts , diffuseness, which continually leads 
De Quincey away from his object, and triviality, which often 
makes him halt in the midst of a marvelous paragraph to 
make some light jest or witticism that has some humor but 
no mirth in it. Notwithstanding these faults, De Quincey's 
prose is still among the few supreme examples of style in our 
language. Though he was profoundly influenced by the seven- 
teenth-century writers, he attempted definitely to create a 
new style which should combine the best elements of prose 
and poetry. In consequence, his prose works are often, like 
those of Milton, more imaginative and melodious than much 
of our poetry. He has been well called fr the psychologist of 
style," and as such his works will never be popular; but to 


the few who can appreciate him he will always be an inspi- 
ration to better writing One has a deeper respect for our 
English language and literature after reading him. 

Secondary Writers of Romanticism. One has only to glance 
back over the authors we have been studying Wordsworth, 
Coleridge, Southey, Byron, Shelley, Keats, Scott, Lamb, De 
Quincey to realize the great change which swept over 
the life and literature of England in a single half century, 
Bunder two influences which we now know as the French 
Revolution in history and the Romantic Movement in litera- 
ture. In life men had rebelled against the too strict authority 
of state and society; in literature they rebelled even more 
igorously against the bonds of classicism, which had sternly 
icpressed a writer's ambition to follow his own ideals and to 
express them in his own way. Naturally such an age of revo- 
lution was essentially poetic, only the Elizabethan Age sur- 
passes it in this respect, and it produced a large number of 
minor writers, who followed more or less closely the example 
of its great leaders. Among novelists we have Jane Austen, 
Frances Burney, Maria Edgeworth, Jane Porter, and Susan 
Ferrier, all women, be it noted ; among the poets, Campbell, 
Moore, Hogg ("the Ettrick Shepherd "), Mrs. Hemans, Heber, 
Keble, Hood, and " Ingoldsby " (Richard Barham) ; and among 
miscellaneous writers, Sidney Smith, " Christopher North " 
(John Wilson), Chalmers, Lockhart, Leigh Hunt, Hazlitt, 
Hallam, and Landor. Here is an astonishing variety of 
writers, and to consider all their claims to remembrance 
would of itself require a volume. Though these are generally 
classed as secondary writers, much of their work has claims 
to popularity, and some of it to permanence. Moore's Irish 
Melodies, Campbell's lyrics, Keble' s Christian Year, and Jane 
Porter's Thaddeus of Warsaw and Scottish Chiefs have still 
a multitude of readers, where Keats, Lamb, and De Quincey 
are prized only by the cultured few ; and Hallam's historical 
and critical works are perhaps better known than those of 


Gibbon, who nevertheless occupies a larger place in our litera- 
ture. Among all these writers we choose only two, Jane 
Austen and Walter Savage Landor, whose works indicate a 
period of transition from the Romantic to the Victorian Age. 

JANE AUSTEN (1775-1817) 

We have so lately rediscovered the charm and genius of 
this gifted young woman that she seems to be a novelist of 
yesterday, rather than the contemporary of Wordsworth and 
Coleridge ; and few even of her readers realize that she did 
for the English novel precisely what the Lake poets did for 
English poetry, she refined and simplified it, making it 
a true reflection of English life. Like the Lake poets, she 
met with scanty encouragement in her own generation. Her 
greatest novel, Pride and Prejudice, was finished in 1 797, a 
year before the appearance of the famous Lyrical Ballads of 
Wordsworth and Coleridge ; but while the latter book was 
published and found a few appreciative readers, the .manu- 
script of this wonderful novel went begging for sixteen years 
before it found a publisher. As Wordsworth began with the 
deliberate purpose of making poetry natural and truthful, so 
Miss Austen appears to have begun writing with the idea of 
presenting the life of English country society exactly as it 
was, in opposition to the romantic. extravagance of Mrs. Rad- 
cliffe and her school. But there was this difference, that 
Miss Austen had in large measure the saving gift of humor, 
which Wordsworth sadly lacked. Maria Edgeworth, at the 
same time, set a sane and excellent example in her tales of 
Irish life, The Absentee and Castle Rackrent ; and Miss Austen 
followed up the advantage with at least six works, which have 
grown steadily in value until we place them gladly in the first 
rank of our novels of common life. It is not simply for her 
exquisite charm, therefore, that we admire her, but also for 
her influence in bringing our novels back to their true place 
as an expression of human life. It is due partly, at least, to 


her influence that a multitude of readers were ready to appre- 
ciate Mrs. Gaskell's Cranford, and the powerful and enduring 
work of George Eliot. 

Life. Jane Austen's life gives little opportunity for the biographer, 
unless, perchance, he has something of her own power to show the 
beauty and charm of commonplace things. She was the seventh 
child of Rev. George Austen, rector of Steventon, and was born in 
the parsonage of the village in 1775. With her sisters she was edu- 
cated at home, and passed her life very quietly, cheerfully, in the 
doing of small domestic duties, to which love lent the magic lamp 
that makes all things beautiful. She began to write at an early age, 
and seems to have done her work on a little table in the family sit- 
ting room, in the midst of the family life. When a visitor entered, 
she would throw a paper or a piece of sewing over her work, and 
she modestly refused to be known as the author of novels which we 
now count among our treasured possessions. With the publishers 
she had little success. Pride and Prejudice went begging, as we 
have said, for sixteen years; and Northanger Abbey (1798) was 
sold for a trivial sum to a publisher, who laid it aside and forgot it, 
until the appearance and moderate success of Sense and Sensibility 
in 1811. Then, after keeping the manuscript some fifteen years, he 
sold it back to the family, who found another publisher. 

An anonymous article in the Quarterly Review, following the 
appearance of Emma in 1815, full of generous appreciation of the 
charm of the new writer, was the beginning of Jane Austen's fame ; 
and it is only within a few years that we have learned that the 
friendly and discerning critic was Walter Scott. He continued to be 
her admirer until her early death ; but these two, the greatest writers 
of fiction in their age, were never brought together. Both were 
home-loving people, and Miss Austen especially was averse to pub- 
licity and popularity. She died, quietly as she had lived, at Win- 
chester, in 1817, and was buried in the cathedral. She was a bright, 
attractive little woman, whose sunny qualities are unconsciously re- 
flected in all her books. 

Works. Very few English writers ever had so narrow a 
field of work as Jane Austen. Like the French novelists, 
whose success seems to lie in choosing the tiny field that 
they know best, her works have an exquisite perfection that 


is lacking in most of our writers of fiction. With the excep- 
tion of an occasional visit to the watering place of Bath, her 
whole life was spent in small country parishes, whose simple 
country people became the characters of her novels. Her 
brothers were in the navy, and so naval officers furnish the 
only exciting elements in her stories ; but even these alleged 
heroes lay aside their imposing martial ways and act like them- 
selves and other people. Such was her literary field, in which 
the chief duties were of the household, the chief pleasures in 
country gatherings, and the chief interests in matrimony. 
Life, with its mighty interests, its passions, ambitions, and 
tragic struggles, swept by like a great river ; while the se- 
cluded interests of a country parish went round and round 
quietly, like an eddy behind a sheltering rock. We can easily 
understand, therefore, the limitations of Jane Austen ; but 
within her own field she is unequaled. Her characters are 
absolutely true to life, and all her work has the perfection of 
a delicate miniature painting. The most widely read of her 
novels is Pri^e and Prejudice ; but three others, Sense and 
Sensibility, Emma, and Mansfield Park, have slowly won 
their way to the front rank of fiction. From a literary view 
point Northanger Abbey is perhaps the best ; for in it we find 
that touch of humor and delicate satire with which this gentle 
little woman combated the grotesque popular novels of the 
Udolpho type. Reading any of these works, one is inclined to 
accept the hearty indorsement of Sir Walter Scott : " That 
young lady has a talent for describing the involvements and 
feelings and characters of ordinary life which is to me the 
most wonderful I ever met with. The big bowwow strain I 
can do myself, like any now going ; but the exquisite touch 
which renders ordinary commonplace things and characters 
interesting from the truth of the description and the senti- 
ment, is denied to me. What a pity such a gifted creature 
died so early ! " 



While Hazlitt, Lamb, De Quincey, and other romantic crit- 
ics went back to early English literature for their inspiration, 
Landor shows a reaction from the prevailing Romanticism by 
his imitation of the ancient classic writers. His life was an 
extraordinary one and, like his work, abounded in sharp con- 
trasts. On the one hand, there are his egoism, his uncontrol- 
lable anger, his perpetual lawsuits, and the last sad tragedy 
with his children, which suggests King Lear and his daugh- 
ters ; on the other hand there is his steady devotion to the 
classics and to the cultivation of the deep wisdom of the 
ancients, which suggests Pindar and Cicero. In his works we 
find the wild extravagance of Gebir, followed by the superb 
classic style and charm of Pericles and Aspasia. Such was 
Landor, a man of high ideals, perpetually at war with himself 
and the world. 

Life. Lander's stormy life covers the whole period from Words- 
worth's childhood to the middle of the Victorian Era. He was the 
son of a physician, and was born at Warwick, in 1775. From his 
mother he inherited a fortune ; but it was soon scattered by large 
expenditures and law quarrels ; and in his old age, refused help by 
his own children, only Browning's generosity kept Landor from 
actual want. At Rugby, and at Oxford, his extreme Republican- 
ism brought him into constant trouble ; and his fitting out a band 
of volunteers to assist the Spaniards against Napoleon, in 1808, 
allies him with Byron and his Quixotic followers. The resemblance 
to Byron is even more strikingly shown in the poem Gebir, pub- 
lished in 1798, a year made famous by the Lyrical Ballads of 
Wordsworth and Coleridge. 

A remarkable change in Lander's life is noticeable in 1821, when, 
at forty-six years of age, after having lost his magnificent estate of 
Llanthony Abbey, in Glamorganshire, and after a stormy experience 
in Como, he settled down for a time at Fiesole near Florence. To 
this period of calm after storm we owe the classical prose works for 
which he is famous. The calm, like that at the center of a whirl- 
wind, lasted but a short time, and Landor, leaving his family in 


great anger, returned to Bath, where he lived alone for more than 
twenty years. Then, in order to escape a libel suit, the choleric old 
man fled back to Italy. He died at Florence, in 1864. The spirit 
of his whole life may be inferred from the defiant farewell which he 
flung to it : 

I strove with none, for none was worth my strife ; 

Nature I loved, and next to Nature Art ; 
I warmed both hands before the fire of life ; 
It sinks, and I am ready to depart. 

Works. Lander's reaction from Romanticism is all the 
more remarkable in view of his early efforts, such as Gebir, a 
wildly romantic poem, which rivals any work of Byron or 
Shelley in its extravagance. Notwithstanding its occasional 
beautiful and suggestive lines, the work was not and never 
has been successful; and the same may be m said of all his 
poetical works. His first collection of poems was published 
in 1795, his last a full half century later, in 1846. In the 
latter volume, The Hellenics, which included some transla- 
tions of his earlier Latin poems, called Idyllia Heroica, one 
has only to read "The Hamadryad," and compare it with the 
lyrics of the first volume, in order to realize the astonishing 
literary vigor of a man who published two volumes, a half 
century apart, without any appreciable -diminution of poetical 
feeling. In all these poems one is impressed by the striking 
and original figures of speech which Landor uses to emphasize 
kis meaning. 

It is by his prose works, largely, that Landor has won a 
place in our literature ; partly because of their intrinsic worth. 
their penetrating thought, and severe classic style ; and partly 
because" of lheir~prof(5und influence upon- the" writers of the 
present age. The most noted of his prose works are his six 
volumes of Imaginary Conversations (1824-1846). For these 
conversations Landor brings together, sometimes in groups, 
sometimes in couples, well-known characters, or rather shad- 
ows, from the four corners of the earth and from the remot- 
est ages of recorded history. Thus Diogenes talks with Plato, 


yEsop with a young slave girl in Egypt, Henry VIII with 
Annex Boleyn in prison, Dante with Beatrice, Leofric with 
Lady Godiva, all these and many others, from Epictetus 
to Cromwell, are brought together and speak of life and love 
and death, each from his own view point. Occasionally, as in 
the meeting 9f Henry and Anne Boleyn, the situation is tense 
and dramatic ; but as a rule the characters simply meet and 
converse in the same quiet strain, which becomes, after much 
reading, somewhat monotonous. On the other hand, one who 
reads the Imaginary Conversations is lifted at once into a 
calm and noble atmosphere which braces and inspires him, 
making him forget petty things, like a view from a hilltop. 
By its combination of lofty thought and severely classic style 
the book has won, and deserves, a very high place among our 
literary records. 

The same criticism applies to Pericles and Aspasia, which 
is a series of imaginarj^-Jetters. telling The experiences of 
^sj^a^iar-a-young lady from Asia Minor, who visits Athens 
at the summit of its fame and glory, in the great age of Peri- 
cles. This is, in our judgment, the best worth reading of all 
Landor's works. One gets from it not only Landor's classic 
style, but what is well worth while a better picture of 
Greece in the days of its greatness] than can be obtained 
from many historical volumes. 

Summary of the Age of Romanticism. This period extends from the war 
with the colonies,, following the Declaration of Independence, in 1776, to the 
accession of Victoria in 1837, both limits being very indefinite, as will be seen 
by a glance at the Chronology following. During the first part of the period 
especially, England was in a continual turmoil, produced by political and 
economic agitation at home, and by the long wars that covered two continents 
and the wide sea between them. The mighty changes resulting from these 
two causes have given this period the name of the Age of Revolution. The 
storm center of all the turmoil at home and abroad was the French Revolu- 
tion, which had a profound influence on the life and literature of all Europe. 
On the Continent the overthrow of Napoleon at Waterloo (1815) apparently 
checked the progress of liberty, which had started with the French Revolution,' 

i See histories for the Congress of Vienna (1814) and the Holy Alliance (1815). 


but in England the case was reversed. The agitation for popular liberty, which 
at one time threatened a revolution, went steadily forward till it resulted in 
the. final triumph of democracy, in the Reform Bill of 1832, and in a number 
of exceedingly important reforms, such as~tHe extension of manhood suffrage, 
the removal of the last unjust restrictions against Catholics, the establishment 
of a national system of schools, followed by a rapid increase in popular educa- 
tion, and the abolition of slavery in all English colonies (1833). To this we 
must add the changes produced by the discovery of steam and the invention 
of machinery, which rapidly changed England from an agricultural to a manu- 
facturing nation, introduced the factory system, and caused this period to be 
known as the Age of Industrial Revolution. 

The literature of the age is largely poetical in form, and almost entirely 
romantic in spirit. For, as we have noted, the triumph of democracy in gov- 
ernment is generally accompanied by the triumph of romanticism in literature. 
At first the literature, as shown especially in the early work of Wordsworth, 
Byron, and Shelley, reflected the turmoil of the age and the wild hopes of an 
ideal democracy occasioned by the French Revolution/ Later the extravagant 
enthusiasm subsided, and English writers produced so much excellent litera- 
ture that the age is often called the Second Creative period, the first being 
the Age of Elizabeth. The six chief characteristics of the age are :.the preva- 
lence of romantic poetry ; the creation of the historical novel by Scott ; the 
first appearance of women novelists, such as Mrs. Anne Radcliffe, Jane Porter, 
Maria Edgeworth, and Jane Austen ; the development of literary criticism, in 
the work of Lamb, De Quincey, Coleridge, and Hazlitt ; the practical and 
economic bent of philosophy, as shown in the work of Malthus, James Mill, 
and Adam Smith; and the establishment of great literary magazines, like 
the Edinburgh Review, the Qtiarterly, Blackwood's, and the Athenamm. 

In our study we have noted (i) the Poets of Romanticism : the impor- 
tance of the Lyrical Ballads of 1798; the life and work of Wordsworth, 
Coleridge, Scott, Byron, Shelley, and Keats ; (2) the Prose Writers : the 
novels of Scott ; the development of literary criticism ; the life and work of 
the essayists, Lamb, De Quincey, Landor, and of the novelist Jane Austen. 

Selections for Reading. Manly's English Poetry and Manly's English 
Prose (each one vol.) contain good selections from all authors studied. 
Ward's English Poets (4 vols.), Craik's English Prose Selections (5 vols.), 
Braithwaite's The Book of Georgian Verse, Page's British Poets of the Nine- 
teenth Century, and Garnett's English Prose from Elizabeth to Victoria, may 
also be used to advantage. Important works, however, should be read entire 
in one of the inexpensive school editions given below. (Full titles and pub- 
lishers may be found in the General Bibliography at the end of this book.) 

Wordsworth. Intimations of Immortality, Tintern Abbey, best lyrics and 
sonnets, in Selections, edited by Dowden (Athenaeum Press Series) ; selections 
and short poems, edited by M. Arnold, in Golden Treasury Series; Selections, 
also in Everyman's Library, Riverside Literature Series, CasselFs National 
Library, etc. 


Coleridge. Ancient Mariner, edited by L. R. Gibbs, in Standard English 
Classics ; same poem, in Pocket Classics, Eclectic English Classics, etc. ; 
Poems, edited by J. M. Hart, in Athenaeum Press (announced, 1909) ; Selec- 
tions, Golden Book of Coleridge, in Everyman's Library ; Selections from 
Coleridge and Campbell, in Riverside Literature ; Prose Selections (Ginn and 
Company, also Holt) ; Lectures on Shakespeare, in Everyman's Library, 
Bohn's Standard Library, etc. 

Scott. Lady of the Lake, Marmion, Ivanhoe, The Talisman, Guy Manner- 
ing, Quentin Durward. Numerous inexpensive editions of Scott's best poems 
and novels in Standard English Classics, Pocket Classics, Cassell's National 
Library, Eclectic English Classics, Everyman's Library, etc. ; thus, Lady of 
the Lake, edited by Edwin Ginn, and Ivanhoe, edited by W. D. Lewis, both 
in Standard English Classics ; Marmion, edited by G. B. Acton, and The 
Talisman, edited by F. Treudly, in Pocket Classics, etc. 

Byron. Mazeppa and The Prisoner of Chillon, edited by S. M. Tucker, in 
Standard English Classics ; short poems, Selections from Childe Harold, etc., 
in Canterbury Poets, Riverside Literature, Holt's English Readings, Pocket 
Classics, etc. 

Shelley. To a Cloud, To a Skylark, West Wind, Sensitive Plant, Adonais, 
etc., all in Selections from Shelley, edited by Alexander, in Athenaeum Press 
Series ; Selections, edited by Woodberry, in Belles Lettres Series ; Selections, 
also in Pocket Classics, Heath's English Classics, Golden Treasury Series, etc. 

Keats. Ode on a Grecian Urn, Eve of St. Agnes, Hyperion, Lamia, To a 
Nightingale, etc., in Selections from Keats, in Athenaeum Press ; Selections 
also in Muses' Library, Riverside Literature, Golden Treasury Series, etc. 

Lamb. Essays : Dream Children, Old China, Dissertation on Roast Pig, 
etc., edited by Wauchope, in Standard English Classics ; various essays also 
in Camelot Series, Temple Classics, Everyman's Library, etc. Tales from 
Shakespeare, in Home and School Library (Ginn and Company) ; also in 
Riverside Literature, Pocket Classics, Golden Treasury, etc. 

De Quincey. The English Mail-Coach and Joan of Arc, in Standard English 
Classics, etc. ; Confessions of an English Opium-Eater, in Temple Classics, 
Morley's Universal Library, Everyman's Library, Pocket Classics, etc. ; Selec- 
tions, edited by M. H. Turk, in Athenaeum Press ; Selections, edited by 
B. Perry (Holt). 

Landor. Selections, edited by W. Clymer, in Athenaeum Press ; Pericles 

and Aspasia, in Camelot Series ; Imaginary Conversations, selected (Ginn and 

Company); the same, 2 vols., in Dutton's Universal Library; selected poems, 

in Canterbury Poets ; selections, prose and verse, in Golden Treasury Series. 

Jane Austen. Pride arid Prej udice, in Everyman's Library, Pocket Classics, etc. 

Bibliography. 1 History. Text-book, Montgomery, pp. 323-357 ; Cheyney, 
576-632. General Works. Green, X, 2-4, Traill, Gardiner, Macaulay, etc. 
Special Works. Cheyney's Industrial and Social History of England ; Warner's 

l For full titles and publishers of general reference books, see General Bibliography 
at end of this book. 


Landmarks of English Industrial History; HassaH's Making of the British 
Empire ; Macaulay's William Pitt ; Trevelyan's Early Life of Charles James 
Fox ; Morley's Edmund Burke ; Morris's Age of Queen Anne and the Early 

Literature. General Works. Mitchell, Courthope, Garnett and Gosse, Taine 
(see General Bibliography). Special Works. Beers's English Romanticism in 
the Nineteenth Century; A. Symons's The Romantic Movement in English 
Poetry ; Dowden's The French Revolution and English Literature, also 
Studies in Literature, 1789-1877; Hancock's The French Revolution and 
the English Poets ; Herford's The Age of Wordsworth (Handbooks of Eng- 
lish Literature) ; Mrs. Oliphant's Literary History of England in the End of 
the Eighteenth and Beginning of the Nineteenth Centuries ; Saintsbury's 
History of Nineteenth Century Literature; Masson's Wordsworth, Shelley, 
Keats, and Other Essays ; Poets and Poetry of the Nineteenth Century, 
vols. 1-3; Gates's Studies and Appreciations; S. Brooke's*Studies in Poetry; 
Rawnsley's Literary Associations of the English Lakes (2 vols.). 

Wordsworth. Texts : Globe, Aldine, Cambridge editions, etc. ; Poetical 
and Prose Works, with Dorothy Wordsworth's Journal, edited by Knight, 
Eversley Edition (London and New York, 1896) ; Letters of the Wordsworth 
Family, edited by Knight, 3 vols. (Ginn and Company) ; Poetical Selections^ 
edited by Dowden, in Athenaeum Press ; various other selections, in Golden 
Treasury, etc. ; Prose Selections, edited by Gayley (Ginn and Company). Life : 
Memoirs, 2 vols., by Christopher Wordsworth ; by Knight, 3 vols. ; by Myers 
(English Men of Letters) ; by Elizabeth Wordsworth ; Early Life (a Study 
of the Prelude) by E. Legouis, translated by J. Matthews ; Raleigh's Words- 
worth ; N. C. Smith's Wordsworth's Literary Criticism ; Rannie's Wordsworth 
and His Circle. Criticism : Herford's The Age of Wordsworth ; Masson's 
Wordsworth, Shelley, and Keats ; Magnus's Primer of Wordsworth ; Wilson's 
Helps to the Study of Arnold's Wordsworth ; Essays, by Lowell, in Among 
My Books; by M. Arnold, in Essays in Criticisai ; by Hutton, in Literary 
Essays ; by L. Stephen, in Hours in a Library, and in Studies of a Biographer; 
by Bagehot, in Literary Studies ; by Hazlitt, in The Spirit of the Age : by 
Pater, in Appreciations ; by De Quincey, in Essays on the Poets , by Fields, 
in Yesterdays with Authors ; by Shairp, in Studies in Poetry and Philosophy. 
See also Knight's Through the Wordsworth Country, and Rawnsley's Literary 
Associations of the English Lakes. 

Coleridge. Texts : Complete Works, edited by Shedd, 7 vols. (New York, 
1884); Poems, Globe, Aldine, and Cambridge editions, in Athenaeum Press 
(announced, 1909), Muses' Library, Canterbury Poets, etc. ; Biographia Liter- 
aria, in Everyman's Library ; the same, in Clarendon Press ; Prose Selections, 
Lectures on Shakespeare, etc. (see Selections for Reading, above) ; Letters, 
edited by E. H. Coleridge (London, 1895). Lif e : b Y J- D - Campbell; by 
Traill (English Men of Letters) ; by Dykes ; by Hall Caine (Great Writers 
Series) ; see also Coleridge's Biographia Literaria, and Lamb's essay, Christ's 
Hospital, in Essays of Elia. Criticism : Brandl's Coleridge and the English 
Romantic Movement. Essays, by Shairp, in Studies, in Poetry and Philosophy ; 


by Woodberry, in Makers of Literature ; by J. Forster, in Great Teachers ; 
by Dowden, in New Studies ; by Swinburne, in Essays and Studies ; by Brooke, 
in Theology in the English Poets ; by Saintsbury, in Essays in English Litera- 
ture ; by Lowell in Democracy and Other Essays ; by Hazlitt, and by Pater 
(see Wordsworth, above). See also Beers's English Romanticism; Carlyle's 
chapter on Coleridge, in Life of John Sterling. 

Southey. Texts : Poems, edited by Dowden (Macmillan) ; Poetical Works 
(Crowell) ; Selections in Canterbury Poets ; Life of Nelson, in Everyman's 
Library, Temple Classics, Morley's Universal Library, etc. Life : by Dowden 
(English Men of Letters). Essays, by L. Stephen, in Studies of a Biographer ; 
by Hazlitt and Saintsbury (see above). 

Scott. Texts : Numerous good editions of novels and poems. For single 
works, see