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English Literature

A LITTLE later than the Miracle and Mystery plays came another sort of play called the Moralities. In these, instead or representing real people, the actors represented thoughts, feelings and deeds, good and bad. Truth, for instance, would be shown as a beautiful lady; Lying as an ugly old man, and so on. These plays were meant to teach just as the Miracles were meant to teach. But instead of teaching the Bible stories, they were made to show men the ugliness of sin and the beauty of goodness.

SOME of you may have seen a picture of a brown-faced sailor sitting by the seashore, telling stories of travel and adventure to two boy. The one boy lies upon the sand with his chin in his hands listening but carelessly, the other with his hands clasped about his knees listens eagerly. His face is rapt, his eyes the eyes of a poet and a dreamer. This picture is called The Boyhood of Raleigh, and was painted by one of our great painters, Sir John Millais.

YOU have heard a little about Dick Steele in connection with Joseph Addison. Steele is always overshadowed by his great friend, for whom he had such a generous admiration that he was glad to be so overshadowed. But in this chapter I mean to tell you a little more about him.

He was born, you know, in Dublin in 1671, and early lost his father. About this he tells us himself in one of the Tatlers:

A LITTLE time after Carlyle's French Revolution was published he wrote to his brother, "I understand there have been many reviews of a very mixed character. I got one in the Times last week. The writer is one, Thackeray, a half-monstrous Cornish giant, kind of painter, Cambridge man, and Paris newspaper correspondent, who is now writing for his life in London. . . . His article is rather like him, and I suppose calculated to do the book good."

The Tain gives us vivid pictures of people and things, but it is not full of beauty and of tender imagination like many of the Gaelic stories. Among the most beautiful and best known of these are perhaps the Three Sorrows of Story-Telling. These three stories are called: The Tragedy of the Children of Lir; The Tragedy of the Children of Tuireann; and Deirdre and the Sons of Usnach. Of the three the last is perhaps the most interesting, because the story happened partly in Scotland and partly in Ireland, and it is found both in old Irish and in old Scottish manuscripts.

DURING the long years after the Norman Conquest when English was a despised language, it became broken up into many dialects. But as time went on and English became once more the language of the educated as well as of the uneducated, there arose a cultured English, which became the language which we speak to-day.

PERHAPS the best Morality of which we know the author's name is Magnificence, by John Skelton. But, especially after Everyman, it is dull reading for little people, and it is not in order to speak of this play that I write about Skelton.

SOON after the fight with the Revenge, the King of Spain made ready more ships to attack England. Raleigh then persuaded Queen Elizabeth that it would be well to be before hand with the Spaniards and attack their ships at Panama. So to this end a fleet was gathered together. But the Queen sent only two ships, various gentlemen provided others, and Raleigh spent every penny of his own that he could gather in fitting out the remainder. He was himself chosen Admiral of the Fleet. So at length he started on an expedition after his own heart.

AS you have already guessed by the number of prose writers you have been reading about, this age, the age of the last Stuarts and the first Georges, was not a poetic one. It was an age of art and posturing. It was an age of fierce and passionate party strife—strife between Whig and Tory which almost amounted to civil war, but instead of using swords and guns the men who took part in the strife used pen and ink. They played the game without any rules of fair play. No weapon was too vile or mean to be used if by it the enemy might be injured.

CHARLES DICKENS was a novelist who lived and wrote at the same time as Thackeray. He was indeed only six months younger, but he began to make a name much earlier and was known to fame while Thackeray was still a struggling artist. When they both became famous these two great writers were to some extent rivals, and those who read their books were divided into two camps. For though both are men of genius, they are men of widely differing genius.

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