Page images

Lord Brook. Robert, second Lord Brooke, cousin and heir of Fulke Greville, Lord Brooke, the friend of Sidney and Spenser. Milton tells the chief facts about him. He was killed storming Lichfield, Jan. 7, 1643. The book mentioned is: A discourse opening the nature of that Episcopacie which is exercised in England. Wherein, with all Humility, are represented some considerations tending to the much desired Peace and long expected Reformation of this our Mother Church.

P. 214 a. old Proteus. Cf. note on Hero and Leander, 1.. 137, and especially Vergil, Georgics, IV, 387-414.


Cf. note on Waller, p. 717.



Crashaw at his best is full of intense religious fire combined with some degree of Milton's power of visualization; but he has a subtlety quite unMiltonic and an extravagance of imagery that sometimes mars his work. See, for instance, 1. 87, describing the Virgin's breast, l. 90, her double nature; also ll. 91-93, describing courtiers, especially the extraordinary figure in 1. 93. It is interesting to compare Crashaw's Hymn not merely with Milton's, but with the simplicity of the early Christmas carols and Southwell's Burning Babe, pp. 92-94 and 161 above.

II. 15-16. Observe that the shepherds have conventional classical names.

P. 215. 1. 46. The phoenix is, because of its uniqueness, a frequent symbol of Christ in early Christian poetry. According to fable, the phonix lives five hundred years, and, when it feels the time of its death approaching, gathers spices and fragrant woods, of which it builds a nest; it then sets fire to the nest and is consumed with it, but comes out from the ashes a young phoenix, new and yet the same. As the phoenix builds the nest for its own rebirth, so Christ himself chose where he would be born.


Pp. 216 f. Jeremy Taylor was a master of elaborate and involved prose rhythms and as such will always retain his place in the history of English

literature. Whether his fondness for themes of decay and death was due to a morbid liking for the subjects themselves, or to the value which religious teachers in general at that time attached to the contemplation of physical corruption, or whether such themes offered a specially favorable opportunity for lyrical movements in prose ending in minor cadences, may admit of discussion. Certainly one hears even in the most soaring strains of his eloquence the ground tone of the futility and vanity of life.


P. 218. Denham was the first English poet after the Restoration who set out to be deliberately descriptive. To-day he seems colorless, but he was greatly admired in his own and the succeeding age, not so much for the descriptions themselves as for his moralization of his theme. See Pope's Essay on Criticism, II, 361.


Cf. note on Waller, p. 717.


Cf. Keats's sonnet The Grasshopper and the Cricket, p. 478.


P. 219. Cowley's fame was greatest in his lifetime. His contemporaries buried him in Westminster Abbey by the side of Chaucer. But almost at once reaction set in, and he came to be recognized for what he was, a good verseartisan but one of the most shallow and artificial thinkers among the followers of Donne. It is supposed that it was his precocity which Milton contrasted with his own late and slow development (as it seemed to him) in the sonnet On his Having Arrived at the Age of Twenty-three (see especially 1. 8).


Pp. 219 f. As Cowley is associated with the Stuart court, so is Marvell with Cromwell and the Protectorate. The vigor so striking in his work as a satirist and pamphleteer stiffens his lyrics and makes them to-day much fresher and more interesting than Cowley's work. His fancies are original and often quaint.


P. 220. 1. 32. And out of the reed he made his flute. Cf. note on Waller's The Story of Phoebus and Daphne Applied, p. 717.

ll. 43-44. The idea that the mind contains an image of each external thing is a modification of Platonism.


Addison, in his Hilpa and Shalum (p. 269), developed the idea of this amusing extravaganza in great detail.


P. 221. A Welsh imitator of Herbert, and the most purely mystic of English poets. He was practically forgotten when Wordsworth rediscovered him. His influence on the Ode on the Intimations of Immortality (p. 391) is noticeable. It may be a question how far Wordsworth has improved upon his simple model, The Retreat.


This is a fanciful conceit which is redeemed from absurdity by the strength of the feeling that pervades it.

The tree is pictured first as alive in the forest (II. 1-8), then as wood built into a house (ll. 9–12), which creaks in a storm (l. 13-16); and this "resentment after death" is supposed to be a survival of the old enmity between the tree and the winds (ll. 17-20).



Pp. 222 ff. Dryden was to the men of letters of the time of Charles II about what Ben Jonson was to those of Charles I the dominant literary figure, yet without supreme talent in either prose or verse. He left a large body of work, of which the prose shows him to have been possessed of a kind of ample common sense, strikingly evinced, for example, in the Essay of Dramatic Poesy, while the verse has a large, easy movement without the fire and force of the best of the Elizabethans. The heroic couplet he developed and popularized to a degree that made it the chief vehicle of narrative poetry for the next half century (cf. Gray, The Progress of Poesy, ll. 103-111, p. 318).


Dryden's satire is effective partly because of its lack of exaggeration and heat, its tone of wellbred superiority and amused self-possession, and partly because of its clearness, its rapidity, and its ease of movement. It was well fitted to be read and discussed and enjoyed by the miscellaneous assemblies in the coffee-houses (see p. 516), and it is still his chief credential to a high place in the history of English literature.


Pp. 222 f. July 2, 1681, the Earl of Shaftesbury was sent to the Tower. He was the leader of the movement to have the Roman Catholic Duke of York barred from the succession, and the illegitimate Duke of Monmouth recognized as heir to Charles II. Dryden's satire, which was not improbably written at the King's suggestion, was published only a few days before Shaftesbury's indictment and, although it did not prevent his acquittal, had an enormous popular success.

The use of the biblical story of David and Absalom must have appealed even to the Dissenting party, who thought in Hebraic terms, the more so as Shaftesbury had been dubbed Achitophel and Monmouth Absalom before the poem was written. This fact suggests that Dryden was shrewd enough to follow in the wake of popular imagination.

[merged small][merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small][merged small]


Pp. 224 ff. Dryden's odes are cold and artificial, but remarkable for their sustained adaptation of sound and rhythm to produce musical quality.

For Pope's eulogy of this poem, see the Essay on Criticism, II, 374-383.

1. 9. According to tradition Alexander was induced by Thaïs to set fire to the capital Persepolis. 1. 20. Timotheus. A famous Athenian musician who, however, died just before Alexander was born.

P. 225. 11. 75-83. The particular force of this passage is that Alexander himself had conquered Darius in a series of hard-fought battles, and that his own memory would necessarily strengthen the impression which the musician wished to produce in his mind.

11. 97-98. Cf. L'Allegro, ll. 135-150 (p. 193). P. 226. l. 161-165. St. Cecilia, a Roman martyr of the third century, is credited with the development of sacred music. Line 162 refers to her supposed invention of the organ.


Pp. 226 ff. This is at once an authoritative treatment of a big literary problem, a summary of dramatic criticism for an age, and a monument of common sense. The subject of debate is the respective merits of the classic (including the French), and the romantic (especially the English) ideals of the drama. Dryden presents each side with a fine balance and discrimination, but is obviously in sympathy with the English ideal.

The four talkers are Eugenius (? Lord Buckhurst, later Earl of Dorset, himself a keen critic, to whom the essay was dedicated), Crites (? Sir Robert Howard, author of some successful plays), Lisideius (Sir Charles Sedley, a well-known poet and wit, the anagram of Sidleius makes this identification certain), and Neander (Dryden himself). To give informality to their discussion, the friends are represented as on a pleasure trip in a barge on the river. The supposed date of the excursion is June 3, 1665, when the Dutch and English fleets were engaged in battle; but the setting is, of course, a mere device for making the presentation of all sides of the question more convincing and more entertaining.

P. 233 a. Mr. Hales of Eton, John Hales, a famous scholar of his day. It is said that in an actual debate in Hales's chamber at Eton, to which many "persons of wit and quality" were invited, his opponents produced from a large

[ocr errors]

number of authors the most striking expressions of many various subjects, and that he immediately produced from Shakespeare a better expression of each.


Pp. 234 ff. The Diary of Samuel Pepys is probably the most honest and unsophisticated selfrevelation ever given to the world. This is due partly to the fact that Pepys did not suppose that it would ever be read by any one but himself, and partly to an intellectual clearness and candor which enabled him to describe his actions and feelings without self-deception. Other autobiographies

even the most famous - have, without exception, been written with half an eye on the public; either the author has, consciously or half-consciously, posed to excite admiration for his cleverness or to shock by his unconventionalities, or he has become secretive at the very moment when he was beginning to be most interesting. But Pepys shows himself exactly as he was an extraordinarily human mixture of worldliness and religion, of loyalty and intrigue, of jealousy, immorality, good-heartedness, pettiness, generosity, weakness, and substantial personal worth. Yet the reader would judge unjustly who estimated Pepys's character solely on the basis of the Diary. He was in his own day regarded as a model of propriety and respectability and a man of unusual business capacity. He may be said, indeed, with little exaggeration, to have created the English navy: when he became Secretary to the Generals of the Fleet, the Admiralty Office was prac tically without organization; before the close of his career he had organized it and, as a recent Lord of the Admiralty says, provided it with "the principal rules and establishments in present use." That he was not altogether averse to what we now call "graft," is true; but in an age of universal bribery he was a notably honest and honorable official, and he never allowed his private interests to cause injury or loss to the service. No other document of any sort gives us so full and varied and vivid an account of the social life and pursuits of the Restoration period; Pepys is often ungrammatical, but he is never dull in manner or unprovided with interesting material.

The carelessness of his style is due in no small measure to the nature of his book. He wrote for his own eye alone, using a system of shorthand which was not deciphered until 1825. That he was a man of cultivation is proved by the society in which he moved, by his interest in music and the drama, by the valuable library of books and

[blocks in formation]

P. 241 b. Vanity Fair. If instead of the allegorical Vanity, we substitute Stourbridge, or Southwark, or the name of some other town, we find in this passage a vivid and accurate description of the old-time fair, with only slight exaggeration for the purpose of the allegory. Fairs lasted usually only a day, or a few days, although at Stourbridge, on the outskirts of Cambridge, where a fair was held in September, after the harvest was in, it continued for three weeks. At such a fair every article used in England could be bought, and merchandise was imported from the Continent and the Far East. As Bunyan shows, there were also associated with the bartering all sorts of amusements, and much license and crime developed. Cf. Ben Jonson's amusing play, Bartholomew Fair.


Pp. 239 ff. Written in an age of subtleties and extravagances of style, Bunyan's prose is so simple and straightforward that children to-day can understand and enjoy it. A naturally vivid imagination strengthened by keen observation of life, intense religious feeling quickened by persecution, and much reading of the Bible are some of the factors that entered into the creation of his masterpiece, The Pilgrim's Progress.


Pp. 243 f. See the discussion under Waller,

p. 717.



Pp. 245 ff. Defoe had the type of mind, the training, and the experience that make a successful newspaper man. His invincible curiosity and love of experiment, his willingness to take risks, his argumentative ability, his instinct for what the people think and want, his memory for details, and his marvelous ability to add circumstantial evidence to make his fictions convincing, his talent as a "story-teller," and his keen eye to the main chance commercially all these qualities would have helped him to success under any conditions; and, considering his time and his temperament, he made a considerable figure. He was not an originator, but by reason of his lucid and forceful English, he was a good disseminator of current ideas. His project for the education of women, for instance, was not original, but it reflects the most advanced thought of his time on the subject, and in a way that could not have failed to interest a wide public. The selection does not show Defoe's peculiar genius for making fiction read like fact, but it does show him as a man able to make English serve his ends.


Pp. 248 ff. Swift's satire is supreme by virtue of his style and his constructive imagination. The

latter shows itself chiefly in his ability to assume a certain attitude toward a problem or a situation and carry out this attitude to its logical consequences in even the minutest details. Thus in Gulliver's Travels he shows human life as looked at successively by beings smaller than men, by beings larger than men, and by beings of other standards and ideals. In his Modest Proposal he emphasizes the low value set on human life — on the lives of children in Ireland - by assuming that they are worth only what they will fetch in the market, and consistently pushing that assumption to its logical but horrible consequences. The effectiveness of his method depends upon the fact that, whereas in most of our thinking inherited views and conventional opinions on particular points rise up to prevent us from developing any principle with relentless logic, this method presents a principle under such a form that our inherited views and conventional reactions are not aroused until after we have committed ourselves to what the simple logic of the principle implies.

His style is devoid of grace and charm because it is so set upon practical results and so direct and simple. He uses words with an exact sense of their intellectual values and force rarely equalled; but his clearness and simplicity are deceptive. A second meaning lurks always beneath the plain and simple surface.


Pp. 248 ff. Swift himself explains his title thus:

"The wits of the present age being so very numerous and penetrating, it seems the grandees of Church and State begin to fall under horrible apprehensions lest these gentlemen, during the intervals of a long peace, should find leisure to pick holes in the weak sides of religion and government. To prevent which, there has been much thought employed of late upon certain projects for taking off the force and edges of those formidable inquirers from canvassing and reasoning upon such delicate points. To this end, at a grand committee, some days ago, this important discovery was made by a certain curious and refined observer, that seamen have a custom when they meet a Whale to fling him out an empty Tub, by way of amusement, to divert him from laying violent hands upon the Ship. . . . The Ship in danger is easily understood to be its old antitype, the commonwealth." But this explanation is a part of Swift's jest; "a tale of a tub" had long

been a proverbial expression for an absurd or nonsensical story.

The treatise as a whole is a satire on the three great branches of the Christian Church: the Catholic (represented by Peter), the Church of the Reformation, including the English and the Lutheran branches (represented by Martin, i.e., Luther), and the Presbyterians, Independents and other Dissenters (represented by Jack, i.e., Calvin). The coats represent Primitive Christianity as delivered by Christ to his followers. The successive sections of the main satire describe allegorically the various changes which have been made in Christian doctrine and institutions from time to time. The section given in this volume is devoted entirely to the history of the Church before the split caused by the Reformation. A later section tells how Peter, claiming to be the oldest, assumed authority and kicked his brothers out of the house which he had taken possession of (see p. 252, last paragraph); and other sections narrate the adventures and deeds of the brothers after their separation.

That this satire should have given great offence to Protestants as well as to Catholics and effectually prevented Swift from ever attaining such a rank and position in the English Church as his intellectual ability clearly entitled him to, is not to be wondered at. It has been said that he was more favorable to Martin the Church of England than to the others; but no good Church of England man can have been pleased with the treatment Martin receives, especially in the brief section entitled The History of Martin which Swift added in some editions of the work. The fact is that every deviation from Primitive Christianity is represented as arbitrary, fraudulent, and ludi


Some details of the allegory may assist the reader :

The seven years of obedience and the travels and exploits (p. 248 a) refer to the early centuries and the spreading of Christianity in foreign lands. The three ladies with whom the brothers fell in love (p. 248 b) are covetousness, ambition, and pride, the great vices which caused the first corruptions of the Church; and the social climbing (p. 248 b) represents the rise of Christianity to dominant power in the Roman Empire. The whole of p. 249-in which readers of Carlyle will recognize the germ of his Clothes Philosophy in Sartor Resartus is a general satire on mankind for its worship of externals, such as rank, wealth, etc., and at the same time a special satire on the Church for the

[ocr errors]
« EelmineJätka »