CHAPTER VII: THE SECOND FORTY YEARS OF THE EIGHTEENTH CENTURY, 1740-1780
The Colonial Expansion of England.—The most important movements in English history during the second forty years of the eighteenth century are connected with colonial expansion. In 1739 friction between England and Spain over colonial trade forced Robert Walpole, the prime minister, into a war which was not successfully prosecuted, and which compelled him to resign in 1742. The humorous statement that he “abdicated,” contains a large element of truth, for he had been a much more important ruler than the king. The contest with Spain was merged in the unprofitable war of the Austrian Succession (1740-1778), in which England participated.
The successors of Walpole were weak and inefficient; but in 1757 William Pitt, the Elder (1708-1778), although merely secretary of state, obtained the ascendancy in the government. Walpole had tried in vain to bribe Pitt, who was in politics the counterpart of Wesley in religious life. Pitt appealed to the patriotism and to the sense of honor of his countrymen, and his appeal was heard. His enthusiasm and integrity, coupled with good judgment of men, enabled him to lead England to become the foremost power of the world.
France had managed her colonial affairs in America and in India so well that it seemed as if she might in both places displace England. Pitt, however, selected good leaders and planned a comprehensive method of warfare against France, both in Europe and in the colonies. Between 1750 and 1760 Clive was making Great Britain mistress of the vast empire of India. The French and Indian War (1754-1760) in America resulted in favor of England. In 1759 Wolfe shattered the power of France in Canada, which has since remained an English colony. England was expanding to the eastward and the westward and taking her literature with her. As Wolfe advanced on Quebec, he was reading Gray's Elegy.
At the beginning of this century England owned one half of the island of Great Britain and a few colonial settlements. Not until 1707 were England and Scotland united. In 1763 England had vast dominions in North America and India. She had become the greatest colonial power in the world.
The New Religious Influence.—England could not have taken such a commanding position unless the patriotism and morals of her citizens had improved since the beginning of the century. The church had become too lukewarm and respectable to bring in the masses, who saw more to attract them in taverns and places of public amusement.
When religious influence was at the lowest ebb, two eloquent preachers, John Wesley and George Whitefield, started a movement which is still gathering force. Wesley did not ask his audience to listen to a sermon on the favorite bloodless abstractions of the eighteenth-century pulpit, such as Charity, Faith, Duty, Holiness, —abstractions which never moved a human being an inch heavenward. His sermons were emotional. They dealt largely with the emotion of love,—God's love for man.
He did not ask his listeners to engage in intellectual disquisitions about the aspects of infinity: He did not preach free-will metaphysics or trouble his hearers with a satisfactory philosophical account of the origin of evil. He spoke about things that reached not only the understanding but also the feelings of plain men.
About the same time, Whitefield was preaching to the miners near Bristol. As he eloquently told them the story of salvation he brought tears to the eyes of these rude men and made many resolve to lead better lives.
This religious awakening may have been accompanied with too much appeal to the feelings and unhealthy emotional excitement; but some vigorous movement was absolutely necessary to quicken the spiritual life of a decadent age.
The American Revolution.—The second forty years of the eighteenth century witnessed another movement of great importance to the world,—the revolt of the American colonies (1775). When George III. (1760-1820) came to the throne, he determined to be the real ruler of his kingdom,—to combine in himself the offices of king, prime minister, and cabinet. He undertook to coerce public opinion at home and abroad. He repeatedly offended the American colonies by attempts to tax them and to regulate their trade. They rebelled in 1775 and signed their Declaration of Independence in 1776. Under the leadership of George Washington, and with the help of France, they achieved their independence. The battle of Yorktown (1781), won by Washington and the French navy, was the last important battle of the American Revolution. In spite of her great loss, England still retained Canada and her West India possessions and remained the first colonial power.
CHANGE IN LITERARY STANDARDS: ROMANTICISM
What is Romanticism?—In order to comprehend the dominating spirit of the next age, it is important to understand the meaning of the romantic movement. Between 1740 and 1780 certain romantic influences were at work in opposition to the teaching of the great classical writer, Dr. Samuel Johnson, who was almost the literary dictator of the age.
The best short definition of romanticism is that of Victor Hugo, who calls it “liberalism in literature.” This has the merit of covering all kinds of romantic movements. “Liberalism” here means toleration of departures from fixed standards, such as the classical couplet and didactic and satiric subjects. Romanticism is characterized by less regard for form than for matter, by a return to nature, and by encouragement of deep emotion. Romanticism says: “Be liberal enough not to sneer at authors when they discard narrow rules. Welcome a change and see if variety and feeling will not add more interest to literature.”
In this period and the far more glorious one that followed, romanticism made its influence felt for the better in four different ways. An understanding of each of these will make us more intelligent critics.
In the first place, the romantic spirit is opposed to the prosaic. The romantic yearns for the light that never was on sea or land and longs to attain the unfulfilled ambitions of the soul, even when these in full measure are not possible. Sometimes these ambitions are so unrelated to the possible that the romantic has in certain usage become synonymous with the impractical or the absurd; but this is not its meaning in literature. The romantic may not always be “of imagination all compact,” but it has a tendency in that direction. To the romanticists a reality of the imagination is as satisfying as a reality of the prosaic reason; hence, unlike the classicists, the romanticists can enjoy The Tempest and A Midsummer Night's Dream. The imagination is the only power that can grasp the unseen. Any movements that stimulate imaginative activity must give the individual more points of contact with the part of the world that does not obtrude itself on the physical senses, and especially with many facts of existence that cold intellectual activity can never comprehend. Hence, romanticism leads to greater breadth of view.
In the second place, the romantic is the opposite of the hackneyed. Hence, too much repetition may take away a necessary quality from what was once considered romantic. The epithets “ivory” and “raven,” when applied to “brow” and to “tresses,” respectively, were at first romantic; but much repetition has deprived them of this quality. If an age is to be considered romantic, it must look at things from a point of view somewhat different from that of the age immediately preceding. This change may be either in the character of the thought or in the manner of its presentation, or in both. An example of the formal element of change which appeared, consists in the substitution of blank verse and the Spenserian stanza for the classical couplets of the French school. In the next age, we shall find that the subject matter is no longer chiefly of the satiric or the didactic type.
In the third place, the highest type of romanticism encourages each author to express himself in an individual way, to color the world according to his own moods. This individual element often appears in the ideals that we fashion and in our characteristic conceptions of the spiritual significance of the world and its deepest realities. Two writers of this period by investing nature with a spirit of melancholy illustrate one of the many ways in which romantic thought seeks individuality of expression.
In the fourth place, the romantic movement encouraged the portrayal of broader experiences and especially the expression of deeper feeling. The mid-eighteenth century novels of Richardson and Fielding were strong agencies in this direction; and they were followed in the next age by the even more intense appeal of the great romantic poets to those thoughts and feelings that lie too deep for tears.
The classic school shunned as vulgar all exhibitions of enthusiasm and strong emotion, such as the love of Juliet and the jealousy of Othello; but the romanticists, knowing that the feelings had as much value and power as the intellect, encouraged their expression. Sometimes this tendency was carried to an extreme, both in fiction and in the sentimental drama; but it was necessary for romanticism to call attention to the fact that great literature cannot neglect the world of feeling.
Early Romantic Influences.—The reader and imitators of the great romantic poet, Edmund Spenser, were growing in number. Previous to 1750, there was only one eighteenth-century edition of Spenser's works published in England. In 1758 three editions of the Faerie Queene appeared and charmed readers with the romantic enchantment of bowers, streams, dark forests, and adventures of heroic knights.
James Thomson (1700-1748), a Scotch poet, used the characteristic Spenserian form and subject matter for his romantic poem, The Castle of Indolence (1748). He placed his castle in “Spenser land”:—
“A pleasing land of drowsy-head it was,
Of dreams that wave before the half-shut eye;
And of gay castles in the clouds that pass,
Forever flushing round a summer sky.”
The influence of Shakespeare increased. In 1741 the great actor David Garrick captivated London by his presentation of Shakespeare's plays.
Milton's poetry, especially his Il Penseroso, with its individual expression of melancholy, its studious spirit, “commercing with the skies and bringing all Heaven before the eyes,” left a strong impress on the romantic spirit of the age. The subject matter of his Paradise Lost satisfied the romantic requirement for strangeness and strong feeling. In the form of his verse, James Thomson shows the influence of Milton as well as of Spencer. Thomson's greatest achievement is The Seasons (1730), a romantic poem, written in Miltonic blank verse. He takes us where—
“The hawthorn whitens; and the juicy groves
Put forth their buds.”
He was one of the earliest poets to place Nature in the foreground, to make her the chief actor. He reverses what had been the usual poetic attitude and makes his lovers, shepherds, and harvesters serve largely as a background for the reflection of her moods instead of their own. The spring shower, the gusts sweeping over fields of corn, the sky saddened with the gathering storm of snow, are the very fabric of his verse. Unlike Wordsworth, Thomson had not sufficient genius to invest Nature with an intelligent, loving, companionable soul; but his pictures of her were sufficiently novel and attractive to cause such a classicist and lover of the town as Dr. Samuel Johnson to say:—
“The reader of The Seasons wonders that he never saw before what
Thomson shows him, and that he never yet has felt what Thomson
Ossian and “The Castle of Otranto.”—Two contemporary works proved a romantic influence out of all proportion to the worth of their subject matter.
Between 1760 and 1764 James Macpherson, a Highland schoolmaster, published a series of poems, which he claimed to have translated from an old manuscript, the work of Ossian, a Gaelic poet of the third century. This so-called translation in prose may have been forged either in whole or in part; but the weirdness, strange imagery, melancholy, and “other-world talk of ghosts riding on the tempest at nightfall,” had a pronounced effect on romantic literature.
The Castle of Otranto: A Gothic Romance (1765) by Horace Walpole (1717-1797) tells a story of a Gothic castle where mysterious labyrinths and trap doors lead to the strangest adventures. The term “Gothic” had been contemptuously applied to whatever was medieval or out of date, whether in architecture, literature, or any form of art. The unusual improbabilities of this Gothic romance were welcomed by readers weary of commonplace works where nothing ever happens. The influence of The Castle of Otranto was even felt across the Atlantic, by Charles Brockden Brown (1771-1810), the early American novelist. Some less pronounced traces of such influence are discernible also in the work of Edgar Allan Poe and Nathaniel Hawthorne.
Mrs. Anne Radcliffe (1764-1823) was a successor of Walpole in the field of Gothic romance. Her stories, The Romance of the Forest and The Mysteries of Udolpho, have their castle and their thrilling, unnatural episodes. Lack of portrayal of character and excess of supernatural incident were causing fiction to suffer severe deterioration.
Percy's Reliques and Translation of Mallet's Northern Antiquities.—In 1765 Thomas Percy (1729-1811) published The Reliques of Ancient English Poetry, an epoch-making work in the history of the romantic movement. The Reliques is a collection of old English ballads and songs, many of which have a romantic story to tell. Scott drew inspiration from them, and Wordsworth acknowledged his indebtedness to their influence. So important was this collection that it has been called “the Bible of the Romantic Reformation.”
In 1770 appeared Percy's translation of Mallet's Northern Antiquities. For the first time the English world was given an easily accessible volume which disclosed the Norse mythology in all its strength and weirdness. As classical mythology had become hackneyed, poets like Gray rejoiced that there was a new fountain to which they could turn. Thor and his invincible hammer, the Frost Giants, Bifrost or the Rainbow Bridge, Odin, the Valkyries, Valhal, the sad story of Baldur, and the Twilight of the Gods, have appealed strongly to a race which takes pride in its own mythology, to a race which today loves to hear Wagner's translation of these myths into the music of Die Walkuere, Siegfried, and Goetterdaemmerung.
Thomas Chatterton, 1772-1770.—This Bristol boy was early in his teens impressed with Percy's Reliques and with the fact that Macpherson's claim to having discovered Ossian in old manuscripts had made him famous. Chatterton spent much time in the interesting old church of St.
Mary Redcliffe, of which his ancestors had been sextons for several generations. He studied the manuscripts in an old chest and began to write a series of poems, which he claimed to have discovered among the parchments left by Thomas Rowley, a fifteenth-century monk.
Chatterton was unsuccessful in finding a publisher, and he determined to go to London, where he thought that, like other authors, he could live by his pen. In April, 1770, at the age of seventeen, he left Bristol for London, where he took poison in August of the same year to escape a slower death by starvation.
His romantic poetry and pathetic end appealed to all the great poets. Wordsworth spoke of him as “the marvelous boy”; Coleridge called him “young-eyed Poesy”; Shelley honored him in Adonais; and Keats inscribed Endymion to his memory. Traces of his influence may be found in Coleridge and Keats.
The greatest charm of Chatterton's verse appears in unusual epithets and unexpected poetic turns, such, for instance, as may be noted in these lines from his best “Rowley” poem, Aella, a Tragycal Enterlude:—
“Sweet his tongue as the throstle's note;
Quick in dance as thought can be.”
“Hark! the raven flaps his wing
In the briar'd dell below;
Hark! the death-owl loud doth sing,
To the night-mares as they go.”
While Chatterton did not leave enough verse of surpassing merit to rank him as a great poet, his work nevertheless entitles him to be chosen from among all his boyish peers to receive the laurel wreath for song.
The Literature of Melancholy.—The choice of subjects in which the emotion of melancholy was given full sway shows one direction taken by the romantic movement. Here, the influence of Milton's Il Penseroso can often be traced. The exquisite Ode to Evening, by William Collins (1721-1759), shows the love for nature's solitudes where this emotion may be nursed. Lines like these:—
”...be mine the hut,
That, from the mountain's side,
Views wilds and swelling floods,
And hamlets brown, and dim-discovered spires;
And hears their simple bell; and marks o'er all
Thy dewy fingers draw
The gradual dusky veil,”
caused Swinburne to say: “Corot on canvas might have signed his Ode to Evening.”
The high-water mark of the poetry of melancholy of this period was reached in Thomas Gray's (1716-1771) Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard (1751). The poet with great art selected those natural phenomena which cast additional gloom upon the scene. We may notice in the very first stanza that the images were chosen with this end in view:—
“The curfew tolls the knell of parting day,
The lowing herd winds slowly o'er the lea,
The plowman homeward plods his weary way,
And leaves the world to darkness and to me”
Then we listen to the droning flight of the beetle, to the drowsy tinklings from a distant fold, to the moping owl in an ivy-mantled tower. Each natural object, either directly or by contrast, reflects the mind of man. Nature serves as a background for the display of emotion.
Gosse says in his Life of Gray: “The Elegy has exercised an influence on all the poetry of Europe, from Denmark to Italy, from France to Russia. With the exception of certain works of Byron and Shakespeare, no English poem has been so widely admired and imitated abroad.”
The Conflict between Romanticism and Classicism.—The influences of this period were not entirely in the direction of romanticism. Samuel Johnson, the literary dictator of the age, was unsparing in his condemnation of the movement. The weight of his opinion kept many romantic tendencies in check. Even authors like Gray were afraid to adopt the new creed in its entirety. In one stanza of his Hymn to Adversity we find four capitalized abstractions, after the manner of the classical school: Folly, Noise, Laughter, Prosperity; and the following two lay figures, little better than abstractions:—
“The summer Friend, the flattering Foe.”
These abstractions have little warmth or human interest. After Gray had studied the Norse mythology, we find him using such strong expressions as “iron-sleet of arrowy shower.” Collins's ode on The Passions contains seventeen personified abstractions, from “pale Melancholy” to “brown Exercise.”
The conflict between these two schools continues; and many people still think that any poetry which shows polished regularity must be excellent. To prove this statement, we have only to turn to the magazines and glance at the current poetry, which often consists of words rather artificially strung together without the soul of feeling or of thought.
THE DEVELOPMENT OF THE MODERN NOVEL
The Growth of Prose Fiction.—Authentic history does not take us back to the time when human beings were not solaced by tales. The Bible contains stories of marked interest. Beowulf, the medieval romances, the Canterbury Tales, and the ballads relate stories in verse.
For a long time the knight and his adventures held the place of honor in fiction; but the time came when improbable or impossible achievements began to pall. The knight who meets with all kinds of adventures and rescues everybody, is admirably burlesqued in Don Quixote by the Spanish author Cervantes, which appeared at the beginning of the seventeenth century. This world-famous romance shows by its ridicule that the taste for the impossible adventures of chivalry was beginning to pall. The following title to one of the chapters of Don Quixote is sufficiently suggestive: “Chapter LVIII.—Which tells how Adventures came crowding on Don Quixote in Such Numbers that they gave him No Breathing Time.”
Much prose fiction was written during the Elizabethan Age. We have seen that Lyly's Euphues and Sidney's Arcadia contain the germs of romance. Two of the novelists of the sixteenth century, Robert Greene (1560?-1592) and Thomas Lodge (1558?-1625), helped to give to Shakespeare the plots of two of his plays. Greene's novel Pandosto suggested the plot of The Winter's Tale, and Lodge'sRosalind was the immediate source of the plot of As You Like It.
Although Greene died in want at the age of thirty-two, he was the most prolific of the Elizabethan novelists. His most popular stories deal with the passion of love as well as with adventure. He was also the pioneer of those realistic novelists who go among the slums to study life at first hand. Greene made a careful study of the sharpers and rascals of London and published his observations in a series of realistic pamphlets.
Thomas Nashe (1567-1601) was the one who introduced into England the picaresque novel in The Unfortunate Traveller, or the Life of Jacke Wilton (1594). The picaresque novel (Spanish, picaro, a rogue) is a story of adventure in which rascally tricks play a prominent part. This type of fiction came from Spain and attained great popularity in England. Jacke Wilton is page to a noble house. Many of his sharp tricks were doubtless drawn from real life. Nashe is a worthy predecessor of Defoe in narrating adventures that seem to be founded on actual life.
In spite of an increasing tendency to picture the life of the time, Elizabethan prose fiction did not entirely discard the matter and style of the medieval romances. All types of prose fiction were then too prone to deal with exceptional characters or unusual events. Even realists like Greene did not present typical Elizabethan life. The greatest realist in the prose fiction of the Elizabethan Age was Thomas Deloney (1543?-1600), who chose his materials from the everyday life of common people. He had been a traveling artisan, and he knew how to paint “the life and love of the Elizabethan workshop.” He wrote The Gentle Craft, a collection of tales about shoemakers, and Jack of Newberry, a story of a weaver.
The seventeenth century produced The Pilgrim's Progress, a powerful allegorical story of the journey of a soul toward the New Jerusalem. Mrs. Aphra Behn (1640-1689), dramatist and novelist, shows the faults of the Restoration drama in her short tales, which helped to prepare the way for the novelists of the next century. Her best story is Oroonoko (1658), a tale of an African slave, which has been called “the first humanitarian novel in English,” and a predecessor of Uncle Tom's Cabin.
Fiction in the First Part of the Eighteenth Century.—Defoe's Robinson Crusoe shows a great advance over preceding fiction. In the hands of Defoe, fiction became as natural as fact. Leslie Stephen rightly calls his stories “simple history minus the facts.” Swift's Gulliver's Travels (1726) is artfully planned to make its impossibilities seem like facts. Robinson Crusoe took another forward step in showing how circumstances and environment react on character and develop the power to grapple with difficulties and overcome them. Unlike the majority of modern novels, Defoe's masterpiece does not contain a love story.
The essay of life and manners at the beginning of the eighteenth century presents us at once with various pigments necessary for the palette of the novelist. Students on turning to the second number of The Spectator will find sketches of six different types of character, which are worthy to be framed and hung in a permanent gallery of English fiction. The portrait of Sir Roger de Coverley may even claim one of the places of honor on the walls.
Distinction between the Romance and the Modern Novel.—The romances and tales of adventure which had been so long in vogue differ widely from the modern novel. Many of them pay but little attention to probability; but those which do not offend in this respect generally rely on a succession of stirring incidents to secure attention. Novels showing the analytic skill of Thackeray's Vanity Fair, or the development of character in George Eliot's Silas Marner would have been little read in competition with stirring tales of adventure, if such novels had appeared before a taste for them had been developed by habits of trained observation and thought.
We may broadly differentiate the romance from the modern novel by saying that the romance deals primarily with incident and adventure for their own sake, while the novel concerns itself with these only in so far as they are necessary for a faithful picture of life or for showing the development of character.
Again, the novel gave a much more prominent position to that important class of human beings who do the most of the world's work,—a type that the romance had been inclined to neglect.
Samuel Richardson, the First Modern English Novelist.—Samuel Richardson (1689-1761) was born in Derbyshire. When he was only thirteen years old some of the young women of the neighborhood unconsciously began to train him for a novelist by employing him to conduct their love correspondence. This training partly accounts for the fact that every one of his novels is merely a collection of letters, written by the chief characters to each other and to their friends, to narrate the progress of events.
At the age of fifteen Richardson went to London and learned the printer's trade, which he followed for the rest of his life. When he was about fifty years old, some publishers asked him to prepare a letter writer which would be useful to country people and to others who could not express themselves with a pen. The idea occurred to him of making these letters tell a connected story. The result was the first modern novel, Pamela, published in four volumes in 1740. This was followed by Clarissa Harlowe, in seven volumes, in 1747-48, and this by Sir Charles Grandison, in seven volumes, in 1753.
The affairs in the lives of the leading characters are so minutely dissected, the plot is evolved so slowly and in a way so unlike the astonishing bounds of the old romance, that one is tempted to say that Richardson's novels progress mere slowly than events in life. One secret of his success depends on the fact that we feel that he is deeply interested in all his characters. He is as much interested in the heroine of his masterpiece, Clarissa Harlowe, as if she were his own daughter. He has the remarkable power of so thoroughly identifying himself with his characters that, after we are introduced to them, we can name them when we hear selections read from their letters.
The length and slow development of his novels repel modern readers, but there was so little genuinely interesting matter in the middle of the eighteenth century that many were sorry his novels were no longer. The novelty of productions of this type also added to their interest. His many faults are largely those of his age. He wearies his readers with his didactic aims. He is narrow and prosy. He poses as a great moralist, but he teaches the morality of direct utility.
The drama and the romance had helped to prepare the way for the novel of everyday domestic life. While this way seemed simple, natural, and inevitable, Richardson was the first to travel in it. Defoe had invested fictitious adventure with reality. Richardson transferred the real human life around him to the pages of fiction. The ascendancy of French influence was noteworthy for a considerable period after the Restoration. England could now repay some of her debt. Richardson exerted powerful influence on the literature of France as well as on that of other continental nations.
Henry Fielding, 1707-1754.—The greatest novelist of the eighteenth century, and one of the greatest that England ever produced, was Henry Fielding, who was born in Sharpham Park, Somersetshire. After graduating at the University of Leyden, he became a playwright, a lawyer, a judge of a police court, and, most important of all, a novelist, or a historian of society, as he preferred to style himself.
When Richardson's Pamela appeared, Fielding determined to write a story caricaturing its morality and sentiment, which he considered hypocritical. Before he had gone very far he discovered where his abilities lay, and, abandoning his narrow, satiric aims, he wrote Joseph Andrews (1742), a novel far more interesting than Pamela. Jonathan Wild the Great (1743) tells the story of a rogue who was finally hanged. In 1749 appeared Fielding's masterpiece, Tom Jones, and in 1751 his last novel, Amelia.
Richardson lacks humor, but Fielding is one of the greatest humorists of the eighteenth century. Fielding is also a master of plot. From all literature, Coleridge selected, for perfection of plot, The Alchemist, Oedipus Tyrannus, and Tom Jones.
Fielding's novels often lack refinement, but they palpitate with life. His pages present a wonderful variety of characters, chosen from almost all walks of life. He could draw admirable portraits of women. Thackeray says of Amelia, the heroine of the novel that bears her name:—
“To have invented that character, is not only a triumph of art, but
it is a good action. They say it was in his own home that Fielding
knew her and loved her, and from his own wife that he drew the most
charming character in English fiction... I admire the author of
Amelia, and thank the kind master who introduced me to that sweet
and delightful companion and friend. Amelia, perhaps, is not a
better story than Tom Jones, but it has the better ethics; the
prodigal repents at least before forgiveness,—whereas that odious
broad-backed Mr. Jones carries off his beauty with scarce an
interval of remorse for his manifold errors and shortcomings... I
am angry with Jones. Too much of the plum cake and rewards of life
fall to that boisterous, swaggering young scapegrace.”
The “prodigal” to whom Thackeray refers is Captain Booth, the husband of Amelia, and “Mr. Jones” is the hero of Tom Jones. Fielding's wife, under the name of Sophia Western, is also the heroine of Tom Jones. It is probable that in the characters of Captain Booth and Tom Jones, Fielding drew a partial portrait of himself. He seems, however, to have changed in middle life, for his biographer, Austin Dobson, says of him: “He was a loving father and a kind husband; he exerted his last energies in philanthropy and benevolence; he expended his last ink in defence of Christianity.”
Fielding shows the eighteenth-century love of satire. He hates that hypocrisy which tries to conceal itself under a mask of morality. In the evolution of the plots of his novels, he invariably puts such characters in positions that tear away their mask. He displays almost savage pleasure in making them ridiculous. Perhaps the lack of spirituality of the age finds the most ample expression in his pages; but Chaucer's Parish Priest and Fielding's Parson Adams are typical of those persisting moral forces that have bequeathed a heritage of power to England.
Sterne and Smollett.—With Richardson and Fielding it is customary to associate two other mid-eighteenth century novelists, Lawrence Sterne (1713-1768) and Tobias Smollett (1721-1771). Between 1759 and 1767 Sterne wrote his first novel, The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman, which presents the delightfully comic and eccentric members of the Shandy family, among whom Uncle Toby is the masterpiece. In 1768 Sterne gave to the world that compound of fiction, essays, and sketches of travel known as A Sentimental Journey through France and Italy. The adjective “sentimental” in the title should be specially noted, for it defines Sterne's attitude toward everything in life. He is habitually sentimental in treating not only those things fitted to awaken deep emotion, but also those trivial incidents which ordinarily cause scarcely a ripple of feeling. Although he is sometimes a master of pathos, he frequently gives an exhibition of weak and forced sentimentalism. He more uniformly excels in subtle humor, which is his next most conspicuous characteristic.
Roderick Random (1748), Peregrine Pickle (1751), and The Expedition of Humphrey Clinker (1771) are Smollett's best novels. They are composed mainly of a succession of stirring or humorous incidents. In relying for interest more on adventure than on the drawing of character, he reverts to the picaresque type of story.
The Relation of Richardson, Fielding, Sterne, and Smollett to Subsequent Fiction.—Although the modern reader frequently complains that these older novelists often seem heavy, slow in movement, unrefined, and too ready to draw a moral or preach a sermon, yet these four men hold an important place in the history of fiction. With varying degrees of excellence, Richardson, Fielding, and Sterne all have the rare power of portraying character from within, of interpreting real life. Some novelists resort to the far easier task of painting merely external characteristics and mannerisms. Smollett belongs to the latter class. His effective focusing of external peculiarities and caricaturing of exceptional individuals has had a far-reaching influence, which may be traced even in the work of so great a novelist as Charles Dickens. Fielding, on the other hand, had great influence of Thackeray, who has recorded in The English Humorists of the Eighteenth Century his admiration for his earlier fellow-craftsman.
Although subsequent English fiction has invaded many new fields, although it has entered the domain of history and of sociology, it is not too much to say that later novelists have advanced on the general lines marked out by these four mid-eighteenth century pioneers. We may even affirm with Gosse that “the type of novel invented in England about 1740-50 continued for sixty or seventy years to be the only model for Continental fiction; and criticism has traced in every French novelist, in particular, the stamp of Richardson, if not of Sterne, and of Fielding.”
PHILOSOPHICAL, HISTORICAL, AND POLITICAL PROSE
Philosophy.—Although the majority of eighteenth-century writers disliked speculative thought and resolutely turned away from it, yet the age produced some remarkable philosophical works, which are still discussed, and which have powerfully affected later thought. David Hume (1711-1776) is the greatest metaphysician of the century. He took for his starting point the conclusions of a contemporary philosopher, George Berkeley (1685-1753).
Berkeley had said that ideas are the only real existing entities, that matter is merely another term for the ideas in the Mind of the Infinite and has no existence outside of mind. He maintained that if every quality should be taken away from matter, no matter would remain; e.g., if color, sweetness, sourness, form, and all other qualities should be taken away from an apple, there would be no apple. Now, a quality is a mental representation based on a sensation, and this quality varies as the sensation varies; in other words, the object is not a stable immutable thing. It is only a thing as I perceive it. Berkeley's idealistic position was taken to crush atheistic materialism.
Hume attempted to rear on Berkeley's position an impregnable citadel of skepticism. He accepted Berkeley's conclusion that we know nothing of matter, and then attempted to show that inferences based on ideas might be equally illusory. Hume attacked the validity of the reasoning process itself. He endeavored to show that there is no such thing as cause and effect in either the mental or the material world.
Hume's Treatise of Human Nature (1739-1740), in which these views are stated, is one of the world's epoch-making works in philosophy. Its conclusion startled the great German metaphysician Kant and roused him to action. The questions thus raised by Hume have never been answered to the satisfaction of all philosophers.
Hume's skepticism is the most thoroughgoing that the world has ever seen; for he attacks the certainty of our knowledge of both mind and matter. But he dryly remarks that his own doubts disappear when he leaves his study. He avoids a runaway horse and inquires of a friend the way to a certain house in Edinburgh, relying as much on the evidence of his eyes and on the directions of his friend as if these philosophic doubts had never been raised.
Historical Prose.—In carefully elaborated and highly finished works of history, the eighteenth century surpasses its predecessors. The History of England by David Hume, the philosopher, is the first work of the kind to add to the history of politics and the affairs of state an account of the people and their manners. This History is distinguished for its polished ease and clearness. Unfortunately, the work is written from a partisan point of view. Hume was a Tory, and took the side of the Stuarts against the Puritans. He sometimes misrepresented facts if they did not uphold his views. His History is consequently read more to-day as a literary classic than as an authority.
Edward Gibbon (1737-1794) is the greatest historian of the century. His monumental work, The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, in six volumes, begins with the reign of Trajan, A.D. 98, and closes with the fall of the Eastern Roman Empire at Constantinople in 1453. Gibbon constructed a “Roman road” through nearly fourteen centuries of history; and he built it so well that another on the same plan has not yet been found necessary. E.A. Freeman says: “He remains the one historian of the eighteenth century whom modern research has neither set aside nor threatened to set aside.” In preparing his History, Gibbon spent fifteen years. Every chapter was the subject of long-continued study and careful original research. From the chaotic materials which he found, he constructed a history remarkable as well for its scholarly precision as for the vastness of the field covered.
His sentences follow one another in magnificent procession. One feels that they are the work of an artist. They are thickly sprinkled with fine-sounding words derived from the Latin. The 1611 version of the first four chapters of the Gospel of John averages 96 per cent of Anglo-Saxon words, and Shakespeare 89 per cent, while Gibbon's average of 70 per cent is the lowest of any great writer. He has all the coldness of the classical school, and he shows but little sympathy with the great human struggles that are described in his pages. He has been well styled “a skillful anatomical demonstrator of the dead framework of society.” With all its excellences, his work has, therefore, those faults which are typical of the eighteenth century.
Political Prose.—Edmund Burke (1729-1797) was a distinguished statesman and member of the House of Commons in an important era of English history,—a time when the question of the independence of the American colonies was paramount, and when the spirit of revolt against established forms was in the air. He is the greatest political writer of the eighteenth century.
Burke's best productions are Speech on American Taxation (1774) and Speech on Conciliation with America (1775). His Reflections on the Revolution in France is also noteworthy. His prose is distinguished for the following qualities: (1) He is one of the greatest masters of metaphor and imagery in English prose. Only Carlyle surpasses him in the use of metaphorical language. (2) Burke's breadth of thought and wealth of expression enable him to present an idea from many different points of view, so that if his readers do not comprehend his exposition from one side, they may from another. He endeavors to attach what he says to something in the experience of his hearers or readers; and he remembers that the experience of all is not the same. (3) It follows that his imagery and figures lay all kinds of knowledge under contribution. At one time he draws an illustration from manufacturing; at another, from history; at another, from the butcher shop. (4) His work displays intense earnestness, love of truth, strength of logical reasoning, vividness of imagination, and breadth of view, all of which are necessary qualities in prose that is to mold the opinions of men.
It is well to note that Burke's careful study of English literature contributed largely to his success as a writer. His use of Bible phraseology and his familiarity with poetry led a critic to say that any one “neglects the most valuable repository of rhetoric in the English language, who has not well studied the English Bible... The cadence of Burke's sentences always reminds us that prose writing is only to be perfected by a thorough study of the poetry of the language.”
OLIVER GOLDSMITH, 1728-1774
Life and Minor Works.—Oliver Goldsmith was born of English parents in the little village of Pallas in the center of Ireland. His father, a poor clergyman, soon moved a short distance to Lissoy, which furnished some of the suggestions for The Deserted Village.
Goldsmith went as a charity student to Dublin University, where, like Swift, he graduated at the bottom of his class. Goldsmith tried in turn to become a clergyman, a teacher, a lawyer, and a doctor, but failed in all these fields. Then he wandered over the continent of Europe for a year and accumulated some experiences that he used in writing The Traveler. He returned to London in 1757, and, after an ineffectual attempt to live by practicing medicine, turned to literature. In this profession he at first managed to make only a precarious living, for the most part as a hackwriter, working for periodicals and filling contracts to compile popular histories of England, Greece, Rome, and Animated Nature. He had so much skill in knowing what to retain, emphasize, or subordinate, and so much genius in presenting in an attractive style what he wrote, that his work of this kind met with a readier sale than his masterpieces. Of the History of Animated Nature, Johnson said: “Goldsmith, sir, will give us a very fine book on the subject, but if he can tell a horse from a cow, that I believe may be the extent of his knowledge of natural history.”
His first literary reputation was gained by a series of letters, supposed to be written by a Chinaman as a record of his impressions of England. These letters or essays, like so much of the work of Addison and Steele, appeared first in a periodical; but they were afterwards collected under the title, Citizen of the World (1761). The interesting creation of these essays is Beau Tibbs, a poverty-stricken man, who derives pleasure from boasting of his frequent association with the nobility.
It was not until the last ten years of his life that Goldsmith became famous. He certainly earned enough then to be free from care, had he but known how to use his money. His improvidence in giving to beggars and in squandering his earnings on expensive rooms, garments, and dinners, however, kept him always in debt.
One evening he gave away his blankets to a woman who told him a pitiful tale. The cold was so bitter during the night that he had to open the ticking of his bed and crawl inside. Although this happened when he was a young man, it was typical of his usual response to appeals for help. When his landlady had him arrested for failing to pay his rent, he sent for Johnson to come and extricate him. Johnson asked him if he had nothing that would discharge the debt, and Goldsmith handed him the manuscript of The Vicar of Wakefield. Johnson reported his action to Boswell, as follows:—
“I looked into it and saw its merit; told the landlady I should soon
return; and having gone to a bookseller, sold it for sixty pounds.”
During his last years, Goldsmith sometimes received as much as L800 in twelve months; but the more he earned, the deeper he plunged into debt. When he died, in 1774, at the age of forty-five, he owed L2000. He was loved because—
”...e'en his failings leaned to virtue's side.”
His grave by the Temple Church on Fleet Street, London, is each year visited by thousands who feel genuine affection for him in spite of his shortcomings.
Masterpieces.—His best work consists of two poems, The Traveler and The Deserted Village; a story, The Vicar of Wakefield ; and a play,_She Stoops to Conquer.
The object of The Traveler (1765), a highly polished moral and didactic poem, was to show that happiness is independent of climate, and hence to justify the conclusion:—
“Vain, very vain, my weary search to find
That bliss which only centers in the mind.”
The Deserted Village (1770) also has a didactic aim, for which we care little. Its finest parts, those which impress us most, were suggested to Goldsmith by his youthful experiences. We naturally remember the sympathetic portrait of the poet's father, “the village preacher”:—
“A man he was to all the country dear
And passing rich with forty pounds a year.
* * * * *
His house was known to all the vagrant train;
He chid their wanderings but relieved their pain.”
The lines relating to the village schoolmaster are almost as well known as Scripture. Previous to this time, the eighteenth century had not produced a poem as natural, sincere, and sympathetic in its descriptions and portraits as The Deserted Village.
The Vicar of Wakefield is a delightful romantic novel, which Andrew Lang classes among books “to be read once a year.” Goldsmith's own criticism of the story in the Advertisement announcing it has not yet been surpassed:—
“There are an hundred faults in this Thing, and an hundred things
might be said to prove them beauties. But it is needless. A book
may be amusing with numerous errors, or it may he very dull without
a single absurdity. The hero of this piece unites in himself the
three greatest characters upon earth: he is a priest, an husbandman,
and the father of a family. He is drawn as ready to teach and ready
to obey; as simple in affluence, and majestic in adversity.”
The Vicar of Wakefield has faults of improbability and of plot construction; in fact, the plot is so poorly constructed that the novel would have been almost a failure, had other qualities not insured success. The story lives because Dr. Primrose and his family show with such genuineness the abiding lovable traits of human nature,—kindliness, unselfishness, good humor, hope, charity,—the very spirit of the Sermon of the Mount. Goethe rejoiced that he felt the influence of this story at the critical moment of his mental development. Goldsmith has added to the world's stock of kindliness, and he has taught many to avoid what he calls “the fictitious demands of happiness.”
Goldsmith wrote two plays, both hearty comedies. The less successful, The Good-Natured Man (acted 1768), brought him in L500. His next play, She Stoops to Conquer, a comedy of manners, is a landmark in the history of the drama. The taste of the age demanded regular, vapid, sentimental plays. Here was a comedy that disregarded the conventions and presented in quick succession a series of hearty humorous scenes. Even the manager of the theater predicted the failure of the play; but from the time of its first appearance in 1773, this comedy of manners has had an unbroken record of triumphs. A century later it ran one hundred nights in London. Authorities say that it has never been performed without success, not even by amateurs. Like all of Goldsmith's best productions, it was based on actual experience. In his young days a wag directed him to a private house for an inn. Goldsmith went there and with much flourish gave his orders for entertainment. The subtitle of the comedy is The Mistakes of a Night ; and the play shows the situations which developed when its hero, Tony Lumpkin, sent two lovers to a pretended inn, which was really the home of the young ladies to be wooed.
It is interesting to note that his contemporary, Richard Brinsley Sheridan (1751-1816), produced, shortly after the great success of She Stoops to Conquer, the only other eighteenth-century comedies that retain their popularity, The Rivals (1775) and The School for Scandal (1777), which contributed still further to the overthrow of the sentimental comedy of the age.
General Characteristics.—Goldsmith is a romanticist at heart; but he felt the strong classical influences of Johnson and of the earlier school. In his poetry, Goldsmith used classical couplets and sometimes classical subject matter, but the didactic parts of his poems are the poorest. His greatest successes, such as the pictures of the village preacher and the schoolmaster in The Deserted Village and of Dr. Primrose and his family in The Vicar of Wakefield, show the warm human sympathy of the romantic school.
The qualities for which he is most noted are (1) a sane and saving altruistic philosophy of life, pervaded with rare humor, and (2) a style of remarkable ease, grace, and clearness, expressed in copious and apt language.
She Stoops to Conquer marks a change in the drama of the time, because, in Dobson's phrase, it bade “good-bye to sham Sentiment.”
”...this play it appears
Dealt largely in laughter and nothing in tears.”
SAMUEL JOHNSON, 1709-1784
Early Struggles.—Michael Johnson, an intelligent bookseller in Lichfield, Staffordshire, was in 1709 blessed with a son who was to occupy a unique position in literature, a position gained not so much by his writings as by his spoken words and great personality.
Samuel was prepared for Oxford at various schools and in the paternal bookstore, where he read widely and voraciously, but without much system. He said that at the age of eighteen, the year before he entered Oxford, he knew almost as much as at fifty-three. Poverty kept him from remaining at Oxford long enough to take a degree. He left the university, and, for more than a quarter of a century, struggled doggedly against poverty. When he was twenty-five, he married a widow of forty-eight. With the money which she brought him, he opened a private school, but failed. He never had more than eight pupils, one of whom was the actor, David Garrick.
In 1737 Johnson went to London and sought employment as a hack writer. Sometimes he had no money with which to hire a lodging, and was compelled to walk the streets all night to keep warm. Johnson reached London in the very darkest days for struggling authors, who were often subjected to the greatest hardships. They were the objects of general contempt, to which Pope's Dunciad had largely contributed.
During this period Johnson did much hack work for the Gentleman's Magazine. He was also the author of two satirical poems, London (1738) and The Vanity of Human Wishes (1749), which won much praise.
Later Years.—By the time he had been for ten years in London, his abilities were sufficiently well known to the leading booksellers for them to hire him to compile a Dictionary of the English Language for L1575. He was seven years at this work, finishing it in 1755. Between 1750 and 1760 he wrote the matter for two periodicals, The Rambler (1750-1752) and The Idler (1758-1760), which contain papers on manners and morals. He intended to model these papers on the lines of The Tatler and The Spectator, but his essays are for the most part ponderously dull and uninteresting.
In 1762, for the first time, he was really an independent man, for then George III. gave him a life pension of L300 a year. Even as late as 1759, in order to pay his mother's funeral expenses, Johnson had been obliged to dash off the romance of Rasselas in a week; but from the time he received his pension, he had leisure “to cross his legs and have his talk out” in some of the most distinguished gatherings of the eighteenth century. During the rest of his life he produced little besides Lives of the English Poets, which is his most important contribution to literature. In 1784 he died, and was buried in Westminster Abbey among the poets whose lives he had written.
A Man of Character.—Any one who will read Macaulay's Life of Johnson may become acquainted with some of Johnson's most striking peculiarities; but these do not constitute his claims to greatness. He had qualities that made him great in spite of his peculiarities. He knocked down a publisher who insulted him, and he would never take insolence from a superior; but there is no case on record of his having been unkind to an inferior. Goldsmith said: “Johnson has nothing of a bear but the skin.” When some one manifested surprise that Johnson should have assisted a worthless character, Goldsmith promptly replied: “He has now become miserable, and that insures the protection of Johnson.”
Johnson, coming home late at night, would frequently slip a coin into the hand of a sleeping street Arab, who, on awakening, was rejoiced to find provision thus made for his breakfast. He spent the greater part of his pension on the helpless, several of whom he received into his own house.
There have been many broader and more scholarly Englishmen, but there never walked the streets of London a man who battled more courageously for what he thought was right. The more we know of him, the more certain are we to agree with this closing sentence from Macaulay's Life of Johnson: “And it is but just to say that our intimate acquaintance with what he would himself have called the anfractuosities of his intellect and of his temper serves only to strengthen our conviction that he was both a great and a good man.”
A Great Converser and Literary Lawgiver.—By nature Johnson was fitted to be a talker. He was happiest when he had intelligent listeners. Accordingly, he and Sir Joshua Reynolds, the artist, founded the famous Literary Club in 1764. During Johnson's lifetime this had for members such men as Edmund Burke, Oliver Goldsmith, Charles James Fox, James Boswell, Edward Gibbon, and David Garrick. Macaulay says: “The verdicts pronounced by this conclave on new books were speedily known over all London, and were sufficient to sell off a whole edition in a day, or to condemn the sheets to the service of the trunk maker and the pastry cook... To predominate over such a society was not easy; yet even over such a society Johnson predominated.”
He was consulted as an oracle on all kinds of subjects, and his replies were generally the pith of common sense. So famous had Johnson become for his conversations that George III. met him on purpose to hear him talk. A committee from forty of the leading London booksellers waited on Johnson to ask him to write the Lives of the English Poets. There was then in England no other man with so much influence in the world of literature.
Boswell's Life of Johnson.—In 1763 James Boswell (1740-1795), a Scotchman, met Johnson and devoted much time to copying the words that fell from the great Doctor's lips and to noting his individual traits. We must go to Boswell's Life of Johnson, the greatest of all biographies, to read of Johnson as he lived and talked; in short, to learn those facts which render him far more famous than his written works.
Leslie Stephen saw: “I would still hope that to many readers Boswell has been what he has certainly been to some, the first writer who gave them a love of English literature, and the most charming of all companions long after the bloom of novelty has departed. I subscribe most cheerfully to Mr. Lewes's statement that he estimates his acquaintances according to their estimate of Boswell.”
A Champion of the Classical School.—Johnson was a powerful adherent of classicism, and he did much to defer the coming of romanticism. His poetry is formal, and it shows the classical fondness for satire and aversion to sentiment. The first two lines of his greatest poem, The Vanity of Human Wishes—
“Let observation with extensive view
Survey mankind from China to Peru,”
show the classical couplet, which he employs, and they afford an example of poetry produced by a sonorous combination of words. “Observation,” “view,” and “survey” are nearly synonymous terms. Such conscious effort centered on word building subtracts something from poetic feeling.
His critical opinions of literature manifest his preference for classical themes and formal modes of treatment. He says of Shakespeare: “It is incident to him to be now and then entangled with an unwieldy sentiment, which he cannot well express ... the equality of words to things is very often neglected.”
Although there is much sensible, stimulating criticism in Johnson's Lives of the Poets, yet he shows positive repugnance to the pastoral references—the flocks and shepherds, the oaten flute, the woods and desert caves—of Milton's Lycidas. “Its form,” says Johnson, “is that of a pastoral, easy, vulgar, and therefore disgusting.”
General Characteristics.—While he is best known in literary history as the great converser whose full length portrait is drawn by Boswell, Johnson left the marks of his influence on much of the prose written within nearly a hundred years after his death. On the whole, this influence has, for the following reasons, been bad.
First, he loved a ponderous style in which there was an excess of the Latin element. He liked to have his statements sound well. He once said in forcible Saxon: “The Rehearsal! has not wit enough to keep it sweet,” but a moment later he translated this into: “It has not sufficient vitality to preserve it from putrefaction.” In his Dictionary he defined “network” as “anything reticulated or decussated at equal distances with interstices between the intersections.” Some wits of the day said that he used long words to make his Dictionary necessary.
In the second place, Johnson loved formal balance so much that he used too many antitheses. Many of his balancing clauses are out of place or add nothing to the sense. The following shows excess of antithesis:—
“If the flights of Dryden, therefore, are higher, Pope continues
longer on the wing. If of Dryden's fire the blaze is brighter, of
Pope's the heat is more regular and constant. Dryden often surpasses
expectation, and Pope never falls below it. Dryden is read with
frequent astonishment, and Pope with perpetual delight.”
As a rule, Johnson's prose is too abstract and general, and it awakens too few images. This is a characteristic failing of his essays in The Rambler and The Idler. Even in Rasselas, his great work of fiction, he speaks of passing through the fields and seeing the animals around him; but he does not mention definite trees, flowers, or animals. Shakespeare's wounded stag or “winking Mary-buds" would have given a touch of life to the whole scene.
Johnson's latest and greatest work, Lives of the English Poets, is comparatively free from most of these faults. The sentences are energetic and full of meaning. Although we may not agree with some of the criticism, shall find it stimulating and suggestive. Before Johnson gave these critical essays to the world, he had been doing little for years except talking in a straightforward manner. His constant practice in speaking English reacted on his later written work. Unfortunately this work has been the least imitated.
The second part of the eighteenth century was a time of changing standards in church, state, and literature. The downfall of Walpole, the religious revivals of Wesley, the victories of Clive in India and of Wolfe in Canada, show the progress that England was making at home and abroad. Even her loss of the American colonies left her the greatest maritime and colonial power.
There began to be a revolt against the narrow classical standards in literature. A longing gradually manifested itself for more freedom of imagination, such as we find in Ossian, The Castle of Otranto, Percy'sReliques, and translations of the Norse mythology. There was a departure from the hackneyed forms and subjects of the preceding age and an introduction of more of the individual and ideal element, such as can be found in Gray's Elegy and Collins's Ode to Evening. Dr. Johnson, however, threw his powerful influence against this romantic movement, and curbed somewhat such tendencies in Goldsmith, who, nevertheless, gave fine romantic touches to The Deserted Village and to much of his other work. This period was one of preparation for the glorious romantic outburst at the end of the century.
In prose, the most important achievement of the age was the creation of the modern novel in works like Richardson's Pamela and Clarissa Harlowe, Fielding's Tom Jones, Sterne's Tristram Shandy, Smollett's Humphrey Clinker, and Goldsmith's Vicar of Wakefield. There were also noted prose works in philosophy and history by Hume and Gibbon, in politics by Burke, in criticism by Johnson, and in biography by Boswell. Goldsmith's comedy of manners, She Stoops to Conquer, won a decided victory over the insipid sentimental drama.
REFERENCES FOR FURTHER STUDY
For contemporary English history, consult Gardiner, Green, Walker, or Cheney. For the social side, see Traill, V. Lecky's History of the Eighteenth Century is specially full.
The Cambridge History of English Literature.
Courthope's History of English Poetry, Vol. V.
Seccombe's The Age of Johnson.
Gosse's History of English Literature in the Eighteenth Century.
Stephen's English Literature in the Eighteenth Century.
Minto's Manual of English Prose Literature.
Symons's The Romantic Movement in English Poetry.
Beers's English Romanticism.
Phelps's Beginnings of the English Romantic Movement.
Nutt's Ossian and Ossianic Literature.
Jusserand's The English Novel in the Time of Shakespeare.
Cross's The Development of the English Novel.
Minto's Defoe (E.M.L.)
Dobson's Samuel Richardson. (E.M.L.)
Dobson's Henry Fielding. (E.M.L.)
Godden's Henry Fielding, a Memoir.
Stephen's Hours in a Library (Defoe, Richardson, and Fielding).
Thackeray's English Humorists of the Eighteenth Century (Fielding, Smollett, Sterne, Goldsmith).
Gosse's Life of Gray. (E.M.L.)
Huxley's Life of Hume. (E.M.L.)
Morrison's Life of Gibbon. (E.M.L.)
Woodrow Wilson's Mere Literature (Burke).
Boswell's Life of Johnson.
Stephen's Life of Johnson. (E.M.L.)
Macaulay's Essay on Croker's Edition of Boswell's Life of Johnson.
Irving's, Forster's, Dobson's, Black's (E.M.L.), or B. Frankfort Moore's Life of Goldsmith.
SUGGESTED READINGS WITH QUESTIONS AND SUGGESTIONS
The Romantic Movement.—In order to note the difference in feeling, imagery, and ideals, between the romantic and the classic schools, it will be advisable for the student to make a special comparison of Dryden's and Pope's satiric and didactic verse with Spenser's Faerie Queene, Milton's Il Penseroso, and with some of the work of the romantic poets in the next period. What is the difference in the general atmosphere of these poems? See if the influence of Il Penseroso is noticeable in Collins's Ode to Evening (Ward, III., 287; Bronson, III., 220; Oxford, 531; Manly, I., 273; Century, 386) and in Gray'sElegy (Ward, III., 331; Bronson, III., 238; Oxford, 516; Manly, I., 267; Century, 398).
What element foreign to Dryden and Pope appears in Thomson's Seasons (Ward, III., 173; Bronson. III., 179; Manly, I., 255; Century, 369-372).
What signs of a struggle between the romantic and the classic are noticeable in Goldsmith's Deserted Village (Ward, III., 373-379; Bronson, III., 282; Manly, I., 278; Century, 463). Pick out the three finest passages in the poem, and give the reasons for the choice.
Read pp. 173-176 of Ossian (Canterbury Poets series, 40 cents; Chambers, II.; Manly, II., 275), and show why it appealed to the spirit of romanticism.
For a short typical selection from Walpole's Castle of Otranto, see Chambers. II. Why is this called romantic fiction?
In Percy's Reliques, read the first ballad, that of Chevy Chase, and explain how the age could turn from Pope to read such rude verse.
In place of Mallet's Northern Antiquities, twentieth-century readers will prefer books like Guerber's Myths of Northern Lands and Mabie's Norse Stories Retold from the Eddas.
From Chatterton's Aella read nine stanzas from the song beginning: “O sing unto my roundelay.” His The Bristowe Tragedy may be compared with Percy's Reliques and with Coleridge's The Ancient Mariner. Selections from Chatterton are given in Bronson, III., Ward, III., Oxford, Manly, I., and Century.
The Novel.—Those who have the time to study the beginnings of the novel will be interested in reading, Guy, Earl of Warwick (Morley's Early Prose Romances) or Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, Retold in Modern Prose, with Introduction and Notes, by Jessie L. Weston (London: David Nutt, two shillings).
Two Elizabethan novels: Lodge's Rosalynde (the original of Shakespeare's As You Like It) and Greene's Pandosto (the original of The Winter's Tale) are published in The Shakespeare Classics, edited by Gollancz (Duffield &Company, New York, $1 each). Pandosto may be found at the end of the Cassell National Library edition of The Winter's Tale (15 cents). Selections from Lodge's Rosalynde are given in Craik, I., 544-549. These should be compared with the parallel parts of As You Like It. Selections from Nashe's The Unfortunate Traveller are given in Craik, I., 573-576, and selections from Sidney's Arcadia in the same volume, pp. 409-419. Deloney's The Gentle Craft and Jack of Newberry are given in his Works, edited by Mann (Clarendon Press).
For the preliminary sketching of characters that might serve as types in fiction, read The Spectator, No. 2, by Steele. Defoe's Robinson Crusoe will be read entire by almost every one.
In Craik, IV., read the following selections from these four great novelists of the middle of the eighteenth century; from Richardson, pp. 59-66; from Fielding, pp. 118-125; from Sterne, pp. 213-219; and from Smollett, pp. 261-264 and 269-272. Manly, II., has brief selections.
Goldsmith's Vicar of Wakefield should be read entire by the student (Eclectic English Classics, or Gateway Series, American Book Company). Selections may be found in Craik, IV., 365-370.
Sketch the general lines of development in fiction, from the early romance to Smollett. What type of fiction did Don Quixote ridicule? Compare Greene's Pandosto with Shakespeare's Winter's Tale, and Lodge's Rosalynde with As You Like It. In what relation do Steele, Addison, and Defoe stand to the novel? Why is the modern novel said to begin with Richardson?
Philosophy.—Two selections from Berkeley in Craik, IV., 34-39, give some of that philosopher's subtle metaphysics. The same volume, pp. 189-195, gives a selection from Hume's Treatise of Human Nature. Try stating in your own words the substance of these selections.
Gibbon.—Read Aurelian's campaign against Zenobia, which constitutes the last third of Chap. XI. of the first volume of The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. Other selections may be found in Craik, IV., 460-472; Century, 453-462.
What is the special merit of Gibbon's work? What period does he cover? Compare his style, either in description or in narration, with Bunyan's.
Burke.—Let the student who has not the time to read all the speech on Conciliation with America (Eclectic English Classics, or Gateway Series, American Book Company, 20 cents) read the selection in Craik, IV., 379-385, and also the selection referring to the decline of chivalry, from Reflections on the Revolution in France (Craik, IV., 402).
Point out in Burke's writings the four characteristics mentioned on p. 331. Compare his style with Bacon's, Swift's, Addison's, and Gibbon's.
Goldsmith.—Read his three masterpieces: The Deserted Village, The Vicar of Wakefield (Eclectic English Classics, or Gateway Series, American Book Company), She Stoops to Conquer (Cassell'sNational Library; Everyman's Library).
Select passages that show (a) altruistic philosophy of life, (b) humor, (c) special graces of style. What change did She Stoops to Conquer bring to the stage? What qualities keep the play alive?
Johnson.—Representative selections are given in Craik, IV., 141-185. Those from Lives of the English Poets (Craik, IV., 175-182; Century, 405-419) will best repay study. Let the student who has the time read Johnson's Dryden entire. As much as possible of Boswell's Life of Johnson should be read (Craik, IV., 482-495; Manly, II., 277-292).
Compare the style of Johnson with that of Gibbon and Burke. For what reasons does Johnson hold a high position in literature? What special excellences or defects do you note in his Lives of the English Poets ? Why is Boswell's Life of Johnson a great work?
FOOTNOTES TO CHAPTER VII:
[Footnote 1: The English Humorists of the Eighteenth Century.]
[Footnote 2: To be found in Encyclopaedia Britannica, or in Macaulay's collected Essays.]
[Footnote 3: For full titles, see p. 50.]
[Footnote 4: For full titles, see p. 6.]