William Vaughn Moody.

A first view of English literature online

. (page 15 of 33)
Online LibraryWilliam Vaughn MoodyA first view of English literature → online text (page 15 of 33)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


brought Dryden distinction and a modest income. In 1670
he was made Historiographer Royal and Poet Laureate, with
a salary of two hundred pounds a year. Later he received
a pension of a hundred pounds a year, and in 1683 he was
made Collector of the Port of London. All these honors and
emoluments he lost in consequence of the Revolution of 1688.
He was obliged to betake himself again to the stage as the
most lucrative department of literature, to accept aid from pri-
vate patrons in place of the royal bounty, to contract with
Tonson, the book-seller, to produce and deliver ten thousand
lines of verse for three hundred guineas, and to undertake
various jobs of translation for the same employer. In short,
in his old age Dryden was compelled to attempt almost all
the methods by which a literary man could live. Neverthe-
less, his production in these years added much to his fame.
Whatever may be thought of his poetical qualities, at least his
literar}^ energy lasted well. His work of this time includes his
translation of Vifgil, and his renderings into modern English
verse of stories from Chaucer, among which the Palamon
and Arciteis best known. These twice-told tales were pub-
lished in 1700, in a volume of Fables, which contained also his
best lyrical poem, "Alexander's Feast."

Dryden as a Literary Dictator. — During these last years
Dryden lived constantly in London. The coffee-house of
that day was the chief place of resort for literary men, much
as the tavern had been in Elizabeth's time. At Will's or
Button's the wits gathered for exchange of courtesies or for



Digitized by VjOOQIC



166 The Restoration

combat ; there their admirers or patrons met them ; and thence
went forth the criticism that made or marred the fortunes of
rising men. Dryden frequented WilPs, where he was as
much a monarch as Ben Jonson had been at the Mermaid,
or as, a century later, Samuel Johnson was at the Literary
Club. At Will's he is pictured for us by tradition, sitting
in his arm-chair on the balcony in summer, and before
the fire in winter, burly of figure, shrewd and kindly of
feature, altogether a sound, stalwart, wholesome man. It
was to Will's that young Pope was brought to gaze on great-
ness and b0 inspired ; and it was there also that Dryden dis-
missed his youthful relative with the pitying words, "Cousin
Swift, you will never be a poet." In an age when the form
of poetry was all but rigidly fixed, the acknowledged master
of that form could be as much of a despot as he chose.

Dryden's Character. — The life of Dryden seems at first
sight to have been an unheroic, and in some ways an ignoble
one. His changes of side from Cromwellian to Royalist,
from Protestant to Romanist, stand out in unfavorable con-
trast to the devotion of men like More and Milton. His
concern with the details of party strife is sharply opposed
to the ideal morality of Sidney and of Spenser. His indif-
ference in matters of belief seems tame and watery after the
flame-like faith of Bunyan. But we must not let such
comparisons carry us too far. Dryden illustrates the change
from the virtues of Elizabethan chivalry and Cromwellian
fanaticism, to the sober commonplace ethics of an era of
reason. His tendency to shift his influence to the winning
side was in part the patriotism of a sensible man who argued
that it mattered comparatively little whether the country
was ruled by Protector or King, whether it worshipped ac-
cording to Anglican or Catholic rites, so long as it was at
peace under institutions which were strong enough to curb
individual ambition.

Dryden's Poetry. — ^Thcre is also a temptation to extend
the first harsh judgment of Dryden's life, to his poetry. It,
too, lacks elevation, and the subject-matter of much of it,
the affairs of church and state, is remote from what we re-
gard as poetic. But in his writing also Dryden responded



Digitized by VjOOQIC



John Dryden 167

to the demands of his age. In the days of Charles II. men
were weary of revolution. To them the kingship and the
church, Anglican or CathoUc, were interesting and beautiful
because they represented, for the mass of the nation, an ideal
of order and restraint; just as to an earlier time the bound-
less self-assertion of Faustus and Tamburlaine had been
interesting and beautiful for the opposite reason.

Not only the substance, but the form of Dryden's verse
has been a ground for detraction from his fame. Few poets
of the modem world have maintained such strict uniformity.
With the exception of the lyrics in his dramas, of several
odes, and of two early poems in the heroic stanza, Dryden
cultivated steadily the heroic couplet. This kind of verse
appealed with irresistible force to an age which desired,
above all, uniformity and regularity. When at the close of
Religio Laici Dryden says,

" And this unpolished rugged verse I chose
As fittest for discourse, and nearest prose,"

his second line may be taken as referring to his poems in
general. In them we look for the virtues of prose rather
than for those of poetry; for the useful quaUties, exactness,
clearness, energy, rather than for imagination and suggestion ;
for epigram in place of metaphor; for boldly marked rhythm
instead of elusive harmony.

Dryden as Prose Writer. — Dryden was not only the fore-
most poet, but also the most copious dramatist, and the
chief critic, of his time. The age of the Restoration was
a period of criticism rather than of creation, a time when
men were interested in testing the product of earlier ages,
and in winnowing the good from the bad. This interest
accounts for the fact that to many of his works Dryden pre-
fixed one or more critical essays in the form of dedications
or prefaces, in which he discussed the leading artistic ques-
tions of the day. Among these essays the most important
are "An Essay of Dramatic Poesy" (1668), the "Essay on
Satire" (1693), and the Preface to the "Fables" (1700).
In these essays Dryden set a model for simple, practical



Digitized by VjOOQIC



168 The Restoration

prose style. By his adoption of the modem sentence in
place of the unit of great and unequal length used by Raleigh
and Milton, he carried out in prose a change exactly anal-
ogous to that accomplished in verse by his adoption of the
couplet in place of the stanza. In short, he did for prose
what he did for poetry ; he reduced the unit of treatment to
manageable size; he set an example of correctness; and
finally, by his authority, he did much to estabUsh such a
standard of taste as should render henceforth impossible the
eccentricities to which the preceding century had been in-
dulgent.



III. SAMUEL BUTLER (1612 - 1680), SAMUEL PEPYS (1633-
1703), AND THE DRAMATISTS

Butler's " Hudibras."— Like Elizabeth and Charles I.,
Charles II. held in some sort a literary court, of which lyric
poetry and satire were the language. The courtly poets of
the time, the successors of the CavaUers, caught from the
king an attitude of moral indifference. In their circles the
most popular work was a fierce and scurrilous satire upon
the Puritan, Samuel Butler's Hudibras. Butler was doubt-
less meditating his attack during the years of the Protec-
torate, when he was acting as private secretary to a Puri-
tan nobleman. Three years after the accession of Charles
II., he published three cantos of a poem in which the vices
of the Puritan period, hypocrisy, sanctimoniousness, and
intolerance, are presented with savage exaggeration in the
person of Sir Hudibras. This knight, with his squire Ralpho,
passes through a series of quixotic adventures, which are
continued in further instalments of the poem, published in
1664 and 1678.

Pepys's Diary. — While Butler and the Cavalier poets were
embodying the mood of the aristocracy, Bunyan was writing
his Pilgrim^s Progress for the serious lower class, where
Puritanism still survived. Between these extremes, however,
we have an order that was to make its presence felt increas-
ingly from this time on, the upper-middle class; and as it



Digitized by VjOOQIC



Samuel Pepys 169

happens, this class had, in the late seventeenth century, a
figure almost as representative as Bunyan. Samuel Pepys
was a busy man of affairs, a clerk of the Navy Board, and
secretary of the Admiralty under James II. Between 1660
and 1669 he kept a diary in cipher, which he left with his
library to Magdalen College,* Cambridge. It was deciphered
and published in the nineteenth century, and was recognized
at once as a personal document of great interest.

Pepys's diary is scarcely to be called literature. It is a
transcript of the observations, doings, thoughts, and feelings
of a commonplace burgher, all set down with the greatest
fidelity. If Pepys goes on a picnic he mentions the time of
starting, the dishes of the luncheon, the substance of the
conversation by the way, the company he met, the sheep
which he saw ("the most pleasant and innocent sight that
ever I saw in my hfe"), the shepherd whose little boy was
reading the Bible to him, the flowers, the glow-worms which
came out in the evening, and the slight accident by which he
sprained his foot. In its detail the diary reflects the pa-
tient, industrious habits by which business and science were
to thrive in the next century — for Pepys was a scientist and
President of the Royal Society. In its uniformity of tone,
its lack of emphasis and dramatic interest, it illustrates
again the sober modernity which the citizen's life was be-
ginning to assume. In its worldliness, its reflection of per-
fectly unashamed delight in mere comfort, well-being, and
success, it shows the bourgeois ideal of Ufe. And finally, the
pleasure in his own life, which sustained the author in the
mechanical toil of recording its happenings, is to be connected
with the interest in human life in general, which was the force
behind the development of realistic fiction in the following
century.

The Restoration Drama. — One result of the Restoration
was to re-open the theatres of London, which had been closed
since 1642. Though the great generation of dramatists had
come to an end, the drama had retained its hold on the masses.
Dryden found the production of plays the most lucrative
of hterary employments, and he wrote many, both comedies
and tragedies, in prose, blank verse, and rhyme. His most



Digitized by VjOOQIC



170 The Restoration

characteristic dramatic works are his "heroic plays" in
rh)mie, the use of which he defended on the ground that **it
bounds and circumscribes the fancy. For imagination in a
poet is a faculty so wild and lawless that it is hke an high
ranging spaniel, it must have clogs tied to it lest it outrun the
judgment." Dryden's two dramatic masterpieces, however,
All for Lave and Don Sebastian are in blank verse.

In the main, the tragedy of the period interests us only as a
survival. The Restoration comedy, however, is a genuine
reflection of the temper, if not of the actual Hfe, of the upper
classes of the nation. As practised by Shakespeare, English
comedy had been romantic in spirit. However seriously it
concerned itself with the essentials of human nature, it Jiad
comparatively little to do with the circumstances of actual
human life. In Ben Jonson we find more reahstic treatment
of the setting, the social surroundings, of the play. Following
his lead, the comedians of the Restoration, of whom William
Wychcrley and WiUiam Congreve are the chief, devoted them-
selves to picturing the external details of life, the fashions of
the time, its manners, its speech, its interests. For scene they
turned to the most interesting places they knew, the drawing-
rooms, the coffee-houses, the streets and gardens of London.
Their characters were chiefly people of fashion, and their plots,
for the most part, were love intrigues, — both often enough
uninteresting and improbable. For these deficiencies, how-
ever, the dramatist made up in part by the briUiancy of his
dialogue. In tendency these plays are, almost without ex-
ception, immoral; they represent the reaction of the play-
going public against Puritanism. They are anti-social, in
that they represent social institutions, particularly marriage,
in an obnoxious or ridiculous light.

This anti-social influence of the plays of the time was
clearly perceived, and protest was not lacking. In 1698
a clergyman, Jeremy Colher, pubhshed his "Short View of
the Profaneness and ImmoraUty of the English Stage," and
Dryden, who was one of the dramatists particularly at-
tacked, admitted the justice of the rebuke. Its immediate
effect was not sufficient to do away with the coarseness of
Restoration comedy, but in Steele's plays, early in the next



Digitized by VjOOQIC



Review Outline 171

century, the drama is in full alliance with the forces which
were making for morality and decent living.

REVIEW OUTLINE.— The Restoration is held by some writers to
mark the beginning of modern English history. In the period which
followed, English life begins to assume its modern form, and to show
the beginnings of that political, commercial, industrial, artistic, and
social development, the results«of which make the England of to-day.

It was, in the main, a period -of peaceful growth. How do you
account for its calmness? W^hat was the character of Charles II.?
What were some of the events of his reign ? What caused the Revo-
lution of 1688? Contrast the age of Charles II. with the century
which preceded it. Why was the former a period of interest in society ?
How did the ideal of social conduct as opposed to that of individual
expression affect literature ? Where did men find rules for writing ?
What was the influence of France ? How did poetry in its form re-
flect the tendency of the time ? What is the heroic couplet ? How
did the writers of this period differ from Chaucer in their use of it ? '

Outline the early life of Dryden, and mention his early poems.
What is the general subject-matter of these poems? Sketch the
political situation out of which Dryden's great series of satires arose.
What was his position before and after 1688 ? Mention his chief later
works. What was the place of the coffee-house in the literature of
the time ? In what sense was Dryden a literary dictator ? Give your
view of Dryden*s personal character. Explain that character in
the light of his age. State your opinion of his poetic quality. Why
did Dryden choose political subjects ? What is the form cf his poetry ?
What virtues has it ? What was the importance of criticism in Dry-
den's time ? Compare his reform in prose with that in verse ?

What is Hudibras ? Look up several passages from it in a book
of quotations. Who was Samuel Pepys? Of what class was he
representative ? What is the nature of his diary ? How does it reflect
the ideals of the time ? Who were the chief writers of comedy in the
Restoration ? What is the difference between the Restoration comedy
and the comedy of Shakespeare ? What is the moral tendency of the
former ? Who protested against it ? Was the protest effective ?
(See also page 201.)



Digitized by VjOOQIC



172 The Restoration

BEADING GUTOE.— " Palamon and Arcite " is an excellent ex-
ample of Dryden's poetry, and if the poem be compared with its origi-
nal, Chaucer's " Knight's Tale," the result of making over a story to
suit the classic taste of the time may be observed. Numerous school
editions are accessible. Of Dryden's other poems, " Alexander's Feast "
should be read as an example of his power of sustaining lyric effects
through a variety of metres. The poem is included in The Golden
Treasury. Of Dryden's prose, examples may be found in Craik's
English Prose. Selections from Pepys's Diary may be chosen from
the several volumes in CasselPs National Library, and no better pic-
tures of English life of the time are to be found.

For fuller treatment of the general condition of society in the Res-
toration, the third chapter of Macaulay's " History of England " will
be found crowded with interesting details. The life of Dryden, by
Mr. Saintsbury in the English Men of Letters series (Harper), is satis-
factory; and the pupil will enjoy R. L. Stevenson's vivid portrait of
Pepys in " Memories and Portraits " (Scribner). Extended criticism of
the Restoration writers is given in Mr. Edmund Gosse's '* From Shake-
peare to Pope." An appreciation of the comedy of the Restoration may
be gained from Thackeray's lecture on Congreve, in " The English Hu-
mourists of the Eighteenth Century."



Digitized by VjOOQIC



Tabular View



178



>

<

oq



NO



Q

o

W

H

Q



o

H
O

o

H
C/3

Pi
H

:^
o
p<



Q






t2



0<

9

o
1^:



H
Z

w

>

U

o



■g lO o

^ vO O

O



2



2-§
^ W O

55 :g -S s






0) (j

. Ah



W ^



5 o

H M

o

O X V

H



I!






3^2

H^ >H O

H »0 ^





lO O JH






2 '^



u



O Q^ Q\

t>- vO vO

M MM

! <^

: pq



•5



2 2 a

c4






Digitized by VjOOQIC



CHAPTER X
THE EIGHTEENTH CENTURY

I. INTRODUCTION

Political History of the Eighteenth Century. — Almost
at the opening of the eighteenth century the crown passed,
by the death of William III., to the second daughter of
James II., Anne (1702-1714). Her reign was marked by
poHtical struggles between the Whigs, who wished to secure
the Protestant succession to the throne by recognizing the
Elector of Hanover as next heir, and the Tories, who hoped
to see the kingdom revert to the son of James II. In spite
of the fact that the Tories were led by one of the cleverest
men of the time both in politics and literature, Lord Boling-
broke, the Whigs triumphed, and on the death of the queen
in 1 7 14 the Elector of Hanover succeeded as George I. The
supporters of the Stuart heir, or Jacobites, revolted twice,
once in 1 7 15, and again against George II. in 1745, but fruit-
lessly. The House of Hanover was continued by George III.,
in whose reign England won her imperial domain from France
in America and India, only to lose the greater part of the
former by the American Revolution.

The Social Importance of Literature. — The early eight-
eenth century shows a continuation of the Uterary ten-
dencies which marked the Restoration. Literature on its
serious side was largely concerned with politics. The Revo-
lution of 1688 had made Parliament supreme in the gov-
ernment of the nation, and had fixed the system of party
government. In the days before newspapers, the services of
writers were of great importance in determining public opin-
ion ; accordingly they were employed largely by both parties
and hberally rewarded. In a sense, political service took the
place of patronage as the chief resource of authors. It gave

174



Digitized by VjOOQIC



Introduction 175

them a place of independence and power in the state such
as they have at no other time enjoyed. Moreover, thoughtful
men saw in literature a means of improving social life and
purging society of evils which threatened the peace and
order of the community. The violence of party spirit en-
gendered by the expulsion of the Stuarts, the survival of re-
ligious fanaticism among the lower orders, the licentiousness
of private life among the aristocracy, which is reflected in the
Restoration drama — against all these the literature of the
age made protest, partly by the use of ridicule and satire,
partly by an appeal to common sense. In minor respects,
also, the civilization of the time was imperfect. London was
so filthy that the plague was always imminent, so badly paved
that traveling was dangerous, so poorly guarded that foot-
pads and highwaymen operated freely, and wild young bucks,
who called themselves Mohocks, kept peaceful citizens in
terror. The crude, immature nature of the masses, as it
expressed itself in vulgar amusements and cruel practical
jokes, is portrayed in the realistic writings^ of the time, as
it is with still more vivid satire in the pictures of Hogarth —
always with the intention of making things better.

Eighteenth Century Style. — ^To serve such ends the writers
of the time found their most acceptable form in the regular
style which had characterized the period of Dryden. The
reign of law and order, which was so much desired After the
turbulence of the seventeenth century, had already been
achieved in the realm of letters. Literary men had only to
practise what they preached, the cultivation of perfect man-
ners instead of the assertion of personal peculiarities, the
attainment of regularity and correctness of form instead of
originality of thought. If the literary fashion of the time
seems to us to stifle real feeling under formality, we must re-
member that men needed this formality, as they did their
wigs and ruffles and their stately courtliness of manner, to
remind themselves that they were not barbarians, like Shake-
speare and his friends, but almost as fine gentlemen as the
French or the Latins. Indeed, it was the boast of Queen
Anne's time that it resembled the first century of the Ro-
man Empire, whence it called itself the Augustan Age.



Digitized by VjOOQIC



176 The Eighteenth Century

The Age of Queen Anne. — Queen Anne has given her
name to an age in English history only less glorious than
that of Elizabeth. Her short reign is famous for the won-
derful victories of the Duke of Mariborough over the French,
and for the writers who are known as Queen Anne's men.
These form the most compact group in the history of English
letters. They all shared the same interests and wrote after
the same models. They were all more or less in politics;
they lived as much as possible in London; they met con-
stantly in coffee-houses and clubs where they formed part-
nerships and alliances, or quarrelled and went away to attack
each other with lampoons and epigrams. All this gives a
peculiar sense of intimacy to literary society in the early eight-
eenth century, the days of Swift, Addison, Steele, Pope.

II. JONATHAN SWIFT (1667-1745)

Swift's Early Life. — Jonathan Swift was bom in Ireland
of English parents, in 1667. He was a posthumous son, and
he grew up to share his mother's poverty. He was sent to
the University of Dublin, where, as he says, he was "stopped
of his degree for dulness and unsufficiency ; and at last haidly
admitted, in a manner little to his credit." In 1689 he left
Ireland to take a position as under-secretary to a distant
relative. Sir William Temple, with whom he remained inter-
mittently for some years, reading aloud to his patron, writ-
ing at dictation, keeping accounts, and cursing his fate. At
Moor Park, Temple's country-seat, he met Esther Johnson,
who was also a dependent on the bounty of Temple, and there
began the bng friendship between them which later gave rise
to the story of their secret marriage. While in the service of
Sir William Temple, Swift wrote The Battle of the Books, a
contribution to the controversy which Temple was carrying
on with Bentley, the great scholar, as to the comparative
merit of ancient and modern writers. About this time, also,
he wrote a satire on the divisions of Christianity, called
The Tale of a Tub, Neither work was published until 1704.
Before this time, in despair of any other career, he had en-
tered the church; and after his patron's death he returned to



Digitized by VjOOQIC



Jonathan Swift 177

Ireland as chaplain to Lord Berkeley, by whom he was given
the living of Laracor.

Swift's Political Career. — ^Then began the great period of
Swift's life, the time of his political power. During the
reign of William III., party strife was bitter between the
Whigs, who supported the king's foreign policy of resist-
ance to Louis XIV. of France, and the Tories, who op-
posed it; and this struggle was continued in the reign of
Queen Anne. Almost all the prominent literary men of
the time were engaged on one side or the other. Swift,
who was frequently in London promoting his candidacy for
offices in the church as they fell vacant, at first wrote on the
Whig side; but in 1710 he joined the Tories, who were just
coming into power. The Tory ministry, of which Lord
Bolingbroke was a member, was resolved to stop the war
with France; and in defence of this policy Swift put out
one of his strongest political writings, The Conduct oj the
Allies. His life during these years is reflected in his Jour-
nal to Stella^ a daily account of his doings which he wrote
to his friend, Esther Johnson. Here we find Swift playing
the part in which he most delighted, that of a man of affairs,



Online LibraryWilliam Vaughn MoodyA first view of English literature → online text (page 15 of 33)