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The Renaissance did not bear its perfect fruit in England till late. Long after in Italy it had been defeated in its protracted struggle with the reactionary element in the Church, it continued in England to find fuller expression not only in the minds but in the characters of men. In the Florence of Milton’s day the spirit of the Renaissance lingered only in the intellectual pastimes of the Academies. In England, where the study of the classics continued hand in hand with that of the Bible, the freedom won refused to stop short at the acquirement of mental elegance. It embraced the whole man, raising before him an ideal of life and conduct largely Hebraic in its consciousness of duty to a Deity who had selected a nation (and, according to some, here and there a person) for favour. At the same time, the chivalric ideals were not dead. The memory of Sir Philip Sidney, the Elizabethan perfect knight, was still active; Dante and Petrarch, “lofty fables and romances,” and The Faerie Queene, were still consulted for moral guidance as well as for pleasure. And the study of the classics had encouraged certain notions of the Stoic philosophy, which were assimilated into the ideal. Of this ideal, the result of the joint action of Reformation and Renaissance, John Milton in his early years was the supreme example. That there were others, Mrs Hutchinson’s record of the youth of her husband, who was bom seven years after Milton, helps to show. There was little in it of what we now imply by the name Puritan. The arts were freely practised. Milton, who inherited a love of music from his father, preserved it to the end of his life and formed a friendship with Hemy Lawes, a Court musician. And the great heritage—as it had already come to be—of Elizabethan imagination as lavished in the Elizabethan drama was in his youth still a matter of glory, not, as it became later, of shame. If Milton hissed academical comedies at Cambridge, he hissed them not because they were stage-plays, but because they were silly. If he wrote nothing for a theatre which had already begun to show signs of decadence and immorality, he wrote (and that not long after the publication of Histriomastix) two masques for performance, meditated for many years the composition of a Biblical or historical drama, and published, within three years of his death, a tragedy. His austerity was not that of a hatred, but of a severe choice, of pleasure. An intellectual and moral aristocrat, he disliked, not art, but vulgarity.

1630-7] Milton's early poems.

The humanist and the Puritan are often spoken of as two elements at war in Milton. Rightly regarded, they would rather seem to be interdependent, forming together the peculiar and beautiful result of the interaction of Reformation and Renaissance. So early as 1630 we find the two wrought into perfect harmony in the poem, At a solemn musick. The time was to come when they would be forced into opposition. Meanwhile, the youthful Milton is almost, if not entirely, such a man as he has been declared to have been—one who would not unnaturally have sided with the Cavaliers against the Puritans. His disinclination to take Orders may have been due partly to his inherited Calvinism, and his dislike of the growing Arminianism which followed Laud’s elevation to the archbishopric; the final motive seems to have been his desire to reserve himself for something higher. He retired to his father’s house at Horton, and there, while preparing for a greater task, he wrote, among other things, two poems, L'Allegro and Il Penseroso (1633 c.), which bring back into a world of decadence and barren conceits (conceits which his manuscripts prove him to have been at pains to avoid) something of the freshness of the Spenserian time, but chastened, scholarly, and informed with the constant suggestiveness of classical allusion. The poems paint nature as seen through two moods in the mind of a young scholar; they foreshadow, too, the coming conflict between those moods as expressed in Cavalier and Roundhead. To the same years of preparation belong the two masques, Arcades (1633 c.) and Comus (1634). The former is a work of the Jonsonian type: the latter is more interesting, not only for its superior poetry, but for the vision of the age that shows through it. Comus has been described as a double allegory. If it represents the conflict between virtue and vice, it represents also the conflict, now growing yearly sharper, between the two parties in religion and politics. In Lycidas (1637) we have a still stronger sign of the cleavage. Here, into the perfect pastoral, the last expression of the Spenserian influence, comes the first genuine note of the sublime passion for order in liberty which inflamed the remainder of Milton’s life. Laud’s insistence on uniformity was filling the pulpits with obsequious and greedy hirelings. The “sacred office of speaking” was “bought and begun with servitude and forswearing”; and the prophet, who formed so large a part of the poet as Milton conceived him, speaks for the first time in direct reference to national affairs. This was before the final separation. There were many afterwards to be found upon the other side who must have agreed with the passage in Lycidas concerning St Peter; and the two voices are still one.

Milton’s enthusiasm for freedom in religious matters was probably intensified by what he saw and learned during his travels on the Continent (1638-9). He must have heard from his friend Charles Diodati (the descendant of a family of Lucca which had emigrated in the sixteenth century to escape conformity with the Church) of the vigilance of the Holy Office and the Jesuits; and that he started with an almost dangerous amount of Protestant feeling may be deduced from the story of Sir Henry Wotton’s famous warning, “pensieri stretti ed il viso sciolto”. Paris, the home of experimental science, could not hold him, and he moved on to Italy. The language he had already mastered; the country he doubtless regarded as still the home of culture and the arts. Here he found matter to inflame him still further. He left an England where the battle was still to come for an Italy where it was long over. Nearly a century before, the establishment of the Holy Office, the activity of the Jesuits, and the accession of Paul IV had driven the Protestants from Lucca, Siena, and elsewhere, to Geneva and other places north of the Alps, to be joined there by Huguenot refugees from France. The Catholic Reaction had come, and the Academies where Milton was made an honoured guest were little more than schools of superficial elegance, of “flattery and fustian.” In Florence Milton contrived both to speak his mind and to remain unmolested; in return, his Italian friends told him their real thoughts on the state of learning and life under the sway of the Church. In Rome he was shunned; at Naples Manso was afraid to make too much of him; at Florence, on his way back, he visited Galileo; at Geneva he was the guest of the Diodati and was able to contrast the conditions of life in the capital of Protestantism with that of the cities under the rule of the Church. To Milton’s foreign travels we owe, indeed, the beautiful Epitaphium Damonis, in which he laments, in strains of genuine grief though with ample use of the conventional classic machinery, the death in England of his friend Charles Diodati, and other poems in Latin and Italian which prove him to have been still extremely susceptible to influences of beauty; we owe to them also an increase of his bias against religious authority.

Milton reached home in August, 1639. He had intended to include Sicily and Greece in his travels, but was recalled, as he himself records, by a sense of duty to his country, where lovers of liberty were preparing to strike a blow. His journey bore no immediate fruit; it was not till two years later that he put forth the first of his pamphlets.

The resolve to lay aside poetry to a more fitting time was not yet definitely formed; but the publication of the first pamphlet, Of Reformation touching Church discipline in England (1641) raises the question how far Milton deserted his first ambition in order to write his controversial prose works. More than any other man of his time, he had, the consciousness of being dedicated. In his view, all men were dedicated to the service of the great Taskmaster; himself in particular was chosen for “the accomplishment of greatest things.” He abstained from trade or profession, mainly in order to be free for more exalted work. His task was to be a poet; and his view of the office differed widely from that current in his own day and in the age that followed. A poet, in Milton’s eyes, was not merely a sweet singer, but a prophet. The poet must be in himself a true poem; a man of knowledge, wisdom, and religion; and he must sing, not for gain or pleasure, or even “with God’s help, for immortality” for himself, but for the service of God and of his country. There was, then, no renunciation, certainly no betrayal, of his high calling in the postponement of the great epic or drama for which he had been preparing himself since youth. God and his country had needs more pressing than poetry could satisfy, and, if the inception of the pamphlets shows a change in his methods, it shows no change of final aim.

It is not within the province of this chapter to discuss the pamphlets in detail. It will be enough to refer briefly to one or two general characteristics of Milton’s prose works. His argument is not clearly conducted, nor is it truly philosophic. A constant discrepancy is to be noticed between the aspiration that possesses him and the theorem that he has to advance. The Areopagitica, for instance, shows no special knowledge and advances no practical schemes; in the Tractate on Education there is a deep fall from the principle to the scheme proposed. Of rhetoric there is plenty, sometimes magnificent, at others merely tinkling, at others tawdry. To read Milton’s prose is to find frequent cause for wonder how the poet who chastened and solidified English blank verse after it had fallen into decay, could run so wild in working without the restrictions of metre. The want of arrangement, of, construction, and of order, is almost as remarkable in the uncontroversial as in the controversial works. And the grossness, the malignity of the vituperation in which he occasionally indulged cannot be wholly excused even by a remembrance of the age in which he wrote, the enemies he was attacking, or the life and death struggle in which he engaged them.

1641-61] Milton's prose works.

In Milton’s prose we find, it has been said, the poet in the politician. If the arguments are weak and the practical value small, the prose works are aglow with the highest purposes of the greatest mind of his time. The vision of the poet breaks through the question of the moment to the expression of a vast idealism inherited from the less hampered aspirations of the Elizabethans. However much this enthusiasm may be superficially affected in Milton’s case by party spirit or the need of the moment, personal or political, it renders his prose more passionate and, at its best, more lofty than any other prose in the language. In arrangement and style we must mark a decline from the ordered dignity of Hooker; it s not so rich as Jeremy Taylor; for tempestuous passion, striving to force expression from an insufficiently developed medium, it has no equal. The passion at the root of it is the passion of liberty— liberty always conditioned by the Divine Law as revealed in the “double Scripture” of the Bible and the Spirit that is given to each man as a yet more certain guide, and by the intellectual and aristocratic love of order. And the jassion is increased by the fact that many of these pamphlets are strongly autobiographical. The Areopagitica was written in order to facilitate the publication of The Doctrine and Discipline of Divorce, which in its turn was written (whether Masson’s later theory of its date be correct or not) because of the author’s personal sufferings in wedlock—sufferings, if this theory be indeed correct, sufficient of themselves to account for his mainly Hebraic view of woman. The aspiration, therefore, is never feigned. Milton speaks from his heart of hearts, his rare spirit elevated with conscious superiority to time-servers, slaves, demagogues and fools, stung by personal griefs and inflamed with a passion for freedom and order; and his prose is typical of his age—an age of vast ideals and makeshift practice.

If it is impossible to read Milton’s prose without as much pain and disappointment as pleasure, it is also impossible not to realise that its whole effect was greatly for the good of English prose. His lowest vituperation, hardly less than his loftiest flights, helped to stretch the capacity of the tongue; and the application of Milton’s scholarship to his own language resulted in the fortifying and enriching of it for the benefit of those that came after.

In the twenty years of battle, almost the only poetry produced by him consists of a few sonnets; not founded, like those of the Elizabethans, on accepted conceits and fashionable ardours, but struck out from the poet’s heart. Perhaps for the first time in English literature we find the sonnet used for an expression of genuine personal feeling which owed nothing to Italian or French originals; Milton’s sonnets were written not because the poet would, but because he must; and no more passionate or truly lyrical sonnets are to be found in the language. And, when the battle was over and the cause practically lost, the poet returned, old, blind and unhappy, to the work to which he believed himself dedicated.

The twenty years had left their mark. If there is much of the poet in the politician and theologian, there is a great deal of the theologian in the poet. It is a useless but fascinating task to speculate what the great epic or drama would have been like, had Milton produced it ten years earlier, after years of peace and retirement. One thing is certain: that the poem would have lacked certain priceless touches of self-revelation. The best-known passage in Paradise Lost is that in which the poet speaks directly of his own blindness (IIi. 1-55). On the other hand, it is easy to imagine that the poem, whether epical or dramatic, historical or sacred, would have been a more human poem. Aristocratic and aloof, “nice of nature, honestly haughty and self-esteeming” as Milton had always been, he found himself between 1658 and 1663 more out of sympathy with the world about him than he had been before. The principles that were the passion of his life were denied; he was blind, poor, surrounded by enemies and, during part of the time, in personal danger. It is not surprising that, in addition to some outbreaks of bitterness, the poem shows an increase, an excess, of that detachment from the affairs of common humanity which had always been a feature of his sublime mind. Chosen many years earlier for the very reason that it relieved him of the necessity of dramatising, of characterising, men and women, his subject now formed at once a refuge from an overwhelming disappointment and a means of expressing his own exaltation above the study of his worthless fellow men. At the same time, it may well seem to the modern reader to be more aloof from the concerns of humanity than it seemed to Milton. If he had rejected the idea of an Arthurian or other legendary subject in favour of a Scriptural, it was because the legends, even history itself, had less of actuality, of literal truth and of human moment, than the subject of Paradise Lost. To Milton, his angels and his demons were not only eternally, essentially true, but more exactly and literally true than King Arthur. He took the Bible narrative and enlarged it, supplying nothing from uninspired sources but the imagery of his poem and such names and figures as were regarded by himself and his times as essentially linked with eternal truth by being personally existent sources of error and opposition. Criticism has succeeded in discovering onty a single passage where Milton represents an incident in his story otherwise than as recorded in the Bible; and his authority in that case (ix. 179-191, and 494 sqq.) is the Book of Wisdom.

1667] Paradise Lost.

Though today, therefore, the poem is read mainly by scholars, who admire its learning, its technical beauties, and the constant stream of classical allusion which gives a deeper meaning to every line, and by such classes as the Russian peasants, to whom its story is still literally true and capable of being illustrated by flaming woodcuts, it is possible to regard Paradise Lost as more remote from the concerns of common humanity than it was. It contains no human sweetness, no charity, no love. Whatever of those elements there may have been in a man austere and sublime from youth, twenty years of pamphleteering, together with his private sorrows and the rejection of his ideals, had killed in him. The world of chivalry had passed for ever. Woman was no longer the lodestar, but the source of error; and man no longer the lord of the world, but a traitor to his own greatness. The voice is the voice of a man defeated. But to Milton, his contemporaries, and his successors for some generations, it seemed that Paradise Lost stood not only for an expression of the eternal truth, of matters of supreme and eternal moment to mankind, but for a story of the warfare between combatants, all of whom were perfectly familiar and personally existent beings. That the story should be presented with all the learning at the poet’s command was in accordance not only with Milton’s exalted idea of the office of poetry, but with the constant humanist element in him. Aspiring to the expression of thoughts and truths vaster than any that poetry had yet dealt with, he lavished on his poem all the knowledge, the accomplishment, and the beauty, that he had to bestow. But the humanist in him was not now, as in the days of Ltjcidas, the master of the Calvinistic theologian. Not only in the doctrine of victory over evil by force, and the passages in which the spirit of the war still rings, may we trace the influence of the twenty intervening years. Setting out to place on record, as it were, as much of the eternal truth about God, the Devil, and Man as his poem could contain, in the face of an age which threatened alrecdy to forget or to deny that truth, Milton was led into regions of disquisition outside the scope of epical poetry proper.

Paradise Lost is the last and belated voice of a great age that was gone. It gathers up all the idealism, all the poetic labours, all and far more than all the learning of the Elizabethans; it takes the instrument which from the days of Surrey onwards had grown; slowly towards perfection, and rescues it from misuse in order to employ it on greater themes than it had ever known. If the debt of the poem to the Renaissance is great, its debt to the Reformation is hardly less great, though it contains in it the seeds of decay. The spiritual scope of the poem could only be commanded by the choicest of the minds which were able to understand and assimilate all that was vital in the Genevan doctrine— the realisation of the justice and might of God and His direct concern with the affairs of man; the malignity and persistence of the Powers of Evil; the vastness of the scheme in which man is a minute, but responsible and therefore important, element. Of the world into which the poem was bom, it shows no impress, though here and there a bitter reference recalls it. The nature of that world will be seen shortly; it was a world in which Calvinism was, except for an inarticulate remnant, as dead as the tradition of the English Renaissance. That the poem was read, we know; and it is to Dryden’s honour that he saw its merit. But, so far as actual effect went, it fell on deaf ears. For its public appreciation, Paradise Lost had to wait not only till the Revolution but even later, till Addison, the mouthpiece of the greatly changed party of the Whigs, expounded such of its beauties as he and his age could grasp.

1671] Samson Agonistes.

Paradise Lost, if Milton’s greatest, was not his last message to the faithful remnant and the host of foes that surrounded them. Paradise Regained, his own favourite, and Samson Agonistes, published together in one volume, followed. And it is difficult not to see in these two very different works a kind of alternative suggested to the losing side. Paradise Regained, a “poets’ poem,” has been even less widely read, but more enthusiastically admired by a few, than Paradie Lost. Its severity is greater, its display of imagination, learning, and poetic adornment less; its nakedness being partly perhaps a protest against the false poetry, as Milton considered it, in fashion during his later years, and partly due to a feeling that the word of truth was sufficient of itself, Paradise Regained has, however, a unity and a closeness of form that have induced Wordsworth and Coleridge, among others, to rank it higher than any other of Milton’s poems. Its message is one of humility and hope, of a peaceful expectation of release from the bondage of evil. The message of Samson Agonistes is very different. In adopting the dramatic form and modelling his tragedy on Greek lines, Milton was only carrying into execution an idea that had possessed him from his earliest days. Since his return from Italy, the views of the author of the Sonnet on Shakespeare, of Arcades and of Comus, with regard to the acted drama had undergone a change, an approximation to the views of Histriomastix, which may be noticed in the reference to Shakespeare in Eikonoklastes (1649) and even earlier. He had rejected the dramatic form for Paradise Lost, influenced, no doubt, to some extent by the discredit into which the theatre had fallen, as well as by his sense of poetic fitness. But he had retained his admiration of the dramatic form of tragedy as “the gravest, moralest and most profitable.” Had the play been written in his youth, there would have been, perhaps, no need for an apology. To Samson Agonistes he prefixed an essay Of that sort of Dramatic Poetry called Tragedy, partly in order to justify his choice of form to those remaining Puritans who might not grasp the distinction between the acted and the unactable drama; and partly to protest against what he held to be the lower kind, which intermixed “comic stuff with tragic sadness and gravity... corruptly to gratify the people.” If the simplicity of Paradise Regained is a rejection of the Restoration ideal and practice of poetry, it is also perhaps a rejection of the Spenserian. It is impossible not to see in Samson Agonistes a complete rejection of Elizabethan tragedy.

The play, then, is a tragedy on the Greek lines; it has been accused of lacking strength of design and vigour of handling. Read in the light of Milton’s life and times, it becomes the most passionately personal expression he has left. Of direct symbolism the play contains much. The Philistines have triumphed over the chosen people; Samson is blind and at the mercy of his foes. Moreover, his chief fault is his marriage with a Philistine woman; and there can be no doubt that to some extent Dalila stands for Milton’s first wife, Mary Powell, and that Samson’s self-reproaches addressed to the Chorus and to Manoah and his scene with Dalila represent a recrudescence of the old wound. The Chorus, indeed, that follows the scene between Samson and Dalila is taken almost literally from the pamphlets on divorce.

In spite of the final words of the Chorus, the burden of the play is no message of resignation or patience. The prophet once more lifts up his voice to denounce, not only the victorious enemy but the half-hearted of his own side; to draw a picture of the doom awaiting the oppressor; almost to advise a last desperate struggle. The play and poem issued in one volume represent what may be supposed to have been Milton’s two main moods during the last years of his life: violent indignation, reaching almost to despair, and a withdrawal from the memories of the past, and from the hateful present which he could not see, into the inner world of his genius and his religion.

The age succeeding Milton. [1660-1680

The tragedy that was then occupying the theatres was of a very different kind; but before it is examined the characteristics of the age as a whole may be briefly noted. In the age of Milton men had first fought with sword and pen for their ideals, and afterwards tried in many ways to find practical expression for them; in the age of Dryden, the men of ideals were silent, and the defeated party had returned to prominence, some of them weary of exile and poverty, others of an order of things which had discouraged the decoration of life. Between the two periods comes one of the sharpest divisions in the history of arts and manners. It was natural that there should be among the Royalists a reaction in favour of pleasure too strong for moderation and fine taste. The ideals, again, that had sought for expression in revolt had sought for it unsuccessfully, and the failure disposed men against ideals of any kind and in favour, rather, of ease and security. And, in the third place, the years of Puritan rule had effected so sharp and complete a cleavage between what we may call the age of the English Renaissance and the age succeeding them, that the nation found itself, in matters of art and literature, beginning afresh, with no living or continuous standard of taste for reference. We have seen the significant change of Milton’s attitude to Shakespeare; by the time of the Restoration the spirit of the Elizabethan world was completely dead, and the only use of the Elizabethans which we find amounts practically to parody. The period, then, was one of low ideals; it was one in which the mind, starting anew, set to work to learn over again the world in which it found itself; it was one in which material aims and pleasures, things of certain if small return, were placed in the foreground; and it was one which, feeling the necessity of a new technique for the expression of its thoughts and desires, chose its own models and developed them according to its own needs. We have passed into a prosaic, a curious, a materialist, and an experimental period. For something of the temper of the times, no doubt, Charles II in person was responsible. Charles was a man, as the epitaph ascribed to Rochester, and the information given by Pepys, Hamilton and others imply, of sound sense, low ideals, and shrewd taste, imbued with French feeling in matters of literature, and preferring wit to aspiration. His age is the age of the heroic drama—an attempt to nationalise an exotic; of the comedy of wit and manners and the death of romantic comedy; of the foundation of the Royal Society, of curiosity about natural phenomena, and of such curiosity about the arts as may be found in Evelyn’s Sculptura, that strange book which not only deals with the minutiae of processes, but attempts to link up the arts and sciences in a “philosophy” which was the prominent need of the age. Later come the philosophy of Locke, a patient investigation of the actual facts of the human understanding, and the scholarship of Bentley, both in accordance with the spirit of the age. Finally, it was an age which, being full not only of curiosity but of controversy, perfected the form of didactic and argumentative poetry and wrought prose into a finished instrument. Possibly no one represents so completely the average man of his period as Samuel Pepys. His easy morality, his energetic curiosity, his serious practice of the arts combined with his characteristically uncertain taste, his materialism and his vulgarity, his care for detail and his earnest desire to be a man of culture and elegance, sum up in little the main features of his time.

The great representative of his age, the man who, like a journalist of genius, knew what his public wanted before they wanted it, and gave it them in the best possible form, was John Dryden. Instead of the remoteness and exaltation of Milton, we have the lower aims, the strong sense, the strange lapses of taste, and the frequent experiments of Dryden. Milton may be held, on the whole, to give the best expression to the best minds of his time; Dryden to give the best expression to the reigning fashions of his. Neither spoke, as Shakespeare had spoken, for the nation. Milton was the voice of one of two opposed ideals, Dryden the voice of the Court and of what we should now call society.

The theatre, falling lower and lower since the early years of the reign of James I, was revived at the Restoration, to be no longer a national institution, but the toy of the Court and the town. Sir William D’Avenant, in his tentative productions at Rutland House and elsewhere in and after 1658, had been led, partly by the necessity of a disguise, and largely by the influence of what he had seen in France and Italy, to introduce a form that lay between the heroic drama of France and the opera. The Restoration brought back to England a large body of men whose notions were French in character and origin. Lacking a tradition, and knowing enough of the Elizabethan drama only to misunderstand its form and aim, they turned to French models for guidance. It was not long before they introduced, mainly by the aid of Dryden, a form of tragedy which, though expressive in its native country of national ideas and aims, was in England an exotic. It is true that English heroic drama is far from strictly French or “classical” in form. The “unities” are a bondage which the English have never borne complacently. The Restoration dramatists studied Corneille and Racine only to dilute them, as it were, with something of the complexity of plot formerly learned of Spain and the freedom of movement characteristically English. The attempt to transplant the spirit of the French tragedy was more thorough in intention, but even less successful in result. The French Court of Louis XIV had at least an unbroken tradition of chivalry expressed in the typically French form of gallantry, an heroic past and a stately present. In France, Corneille’s drama of the great problems of human life, Racine’s drama of the ethical problems of a polite age, expressed the facts of the society that enjoyed them. To the English Court, with no heroic past and with an idea of gallantry that had little in common with the chivalric, the two motives of love and honour were merely matters of fashion. Where the French drama embodied the difficulties and problems of real life, the English attempted to introduce actuality only by lowering the spirit of the problems to the morality of its patrons’ practice. The morality was better them that of the later prerRebellion tragedy of Ford or Webster; that is all that can be said in its favour. “Ce qu'on appelle aimer en France” wrote Saint-Evremond, “Cest que parler l'amour”. It was not so in England. And the fact, to which the same excellent critic points—that the English like to see blood and death on the stage instead of following the French, and the classics in merely hearing of it—is another instance of the change undergone by the spirit of pseudo-classic drama in its transplantation. Again, having no heroic tradition as a standard, it was forced to substitute rant and bombast for appropriate loftiness. No one now can read the close of Dryden’s Tyrannic Love (1669) without laughter. It is the work of a man groping in the dark after effect, and inspired partly by a misunderstanding of the heroic, partly, perhaps, by a failure to distinguish between the ebullient force of an Elizabethan author and deliberate, even painful, exaggeration.

Dryden's heroic plays.

Charles and his Court demanded heroic tragedy, and Dryden, who was not a dramatist of internal compulsion, gave it them, and gave it them, all things considered, very good. If he helped to turn The Tempest into an opera, he wrote All for Love on the basis of Antony and Cleopatra, and it is scarcely too much to say that All for Love is as good a play of its order as Antony and Cleopatra is. And, though there is a wide difference between The Conquest of Granada and the Scudéry romance on which it is founded, we cannot deny to it that “kind of generous and noble spirit” which has been claimed for it. How the “refined” age, which, in Evelyn’s phrase, was “disgusted” with the “old plays”, could have tolerated the lapses of taste to be found in these heroic plays would be hard to understand, were it not clear that, lacking its own tradition and standard, it took from another nation a standard which it misinterpreted. That there were some who deplored the resultant excesses, The Rehearsal (1671) is there to prove; but it is easy to overestimate the significance and effect of that burlesque. Aimed originally, not at Dryden but at D’Avenant, the character of its “hero” was a piece of patch­work. It has even been supposed that Sprat, Butler, and Clifford, three of the authors of the play, were not above making sly hits at the fourth, Buckingham. Dryden’s first heroic drama, The Indian Emperor, had appeared in 1665; it was not till Aurengzebe (1675) that he announced his intention of deserting the heroic metre which was only one of the distinctive features of the heroic play, and so late as 1698 we find Crowne still employing that form. Dryden, with his unerring eye for what his public wanted, was not likely to continue the use of a form of expression which had been outgrown. The heroic play satisfied a need of its time, and was, in one particular especially, of service to English literature. Dryden avoided blank verse because he regarded it as too “easy” for long works; the blank verse which he meant, however, was not that of Marlowe or of Shakespeare, but the blank verse run to seed of its last pre-Rebellion practitioners. And, if in English hands and to English ears the rhymed heroics of Dryden are not suitable for dramatic use, as the rhymed Alexandrines of Corneille and Racine were in French ears, they at least brought back point, concentration and reasonableness, though at some loss of naturalness and ease. The discussions on questions of ethics which we find in Dryden’s dramas are neither so sincere nor so sensible as those of the French dramatists; but at least they are, within their limits, to the point, and they show an argumentative power and a measure of reason which were new. And when, after 1675, Dryden in All for Love (1678) turned to blank verse, it was all the firmer and more effective for his years of work in the heroic metre. There are elements, therefore, in the heroic drama, which, though imitated from the French, are adapted to the needs and express the characteristics of the English intellect of the period. The “grandeur d'âme bien exprimée qui excite une tendre admiration,” according to the prescription of Saint-l'Évremond, was, no doubt, a makeshift substitute for the actual possession of a lofty ideal, and replaced a national aim by the worship of the person, especially that of the King; but, such as it was, it was better than anything that the dregs of the pre-Rebellion tragedy had had to offer.

Of the other writers of tragedy, Crowne is chiefly remarkable for the lyrics introduced into his plays. In Nathaniel Lee we find the popular bombast carried to extremes, though combined with “infinite fire.” Otway, lacking Dryden’s humour, has a more poignant tenderness than Dryden, quite as good a sense of character, and a greater sense of the theatre. The Orphan and Venice Preserved outlived all Dryden’s plays on the stage, and showed what tragedy could achieve in this age, when it had cast off the heroic influence.

In the comedy of the period we find the reverse of the picture. Having exchanged, as it has been said, the telescope of the Elizabethans for the microscope, the Restoration authors used the microscope nowhere to better effect than in their comedy Romantic and poetic comedy were dead. The opera and the ballet had come to take their places. Jonsonian comedy, the comedy of “humours”, or single characteristics carried to the point of eccentricity, survived in the wholesome but extravagant comedies of Shadwell, whose Epsom Wells, and the comedies of which it is an example, are valuable pictures of contemporary manners. To some extent the Jonsonian principle of letting a characteristic stand for a character survives in the Restoration drama, at least as far as Congreve, as its nomenclature tends to show; but in comedy, more perhaps than in any other branch of literature, the Restoration period started afresh to study the life of the moment, the instances, not the exceptions. The field is narrow at first, including only the men and women of the Court and “the town”; it widens in Vanbrugh, and in Farquhar it expands still further. Its debt to French comedy, especially to Moliere, and through French comedy to Plautus and Terence, there is no disguising and no need to disguise; for here there is no question of forcing a foreign taste on people with no taste of their own, but of borrowing a form for independent use. It was early discovered (and perhaps unfortunately, says a historian of the English drama) that one French plot was not enough for an English comedy; indeed, there is only one good English comedy, Congreve’s Double-Dealer, that has a single plot: the English stage needed more persons and more action, just as it needed stronger characterisation than it could find in the Spanish comedies of intrigue. With regard to its morality, such a perversion as that of Moliere’s Alceste into the Manly of Wycherley’s Plain-Dealer is a comprehensive comment on the general degradation of tone for which no condemnation is too strong. It is ungracious and unpleasant work to call attention to the glaring error in work which is unmatched in all English literature; but it must be stated again that Restoration comedy is gross, licentious, and cynical, and—more important still—that just because of its want of a moral standard it failed, for all its wit and its use of the microscope, to interpret human life in enduring terms. It began its career as the plaything of a corrupt Court; and it reflected the gross temper of a materialistic period among a people always inclined to confuse grossness with humour and the gratification of the appetites with pleasure. The accession of James made no difference in this respect. After the Restoration it took some years for the purer influence of Queen Mary—a good woman and a good judge of a play—to make itself felt. But the growing disgust with the immorality, not only of the drama but of the theatre, before and behind the curtain, found expression in 1698 in a book, which all must admire but the necessity for which all must regret, Jeremy Collier’s Short View of the Profaneness and Immorality of the English Stage. By so much as Collier was better acquainted with his subject arid less of a fanatic than Prynne, by so much is the Short View a more damning indictment than Histriomastix. It was answered by Congreve, among others, with deplorable flippancy. Farquhar tried to turn it against the purpose of its author, and failed. Dryden protested against its exaggerations, and, like the great man he was, confessed with contrition its substantial justice. But its effect was not seen immediately. Farquhar’s Sir Harry Wildair (to take a single instance) dates from three years after its publication.

It was not till the Sentimental Comedy of Steele, who followed up a hint given by Colley Cibber, that the reform really began. Meanwhile, from Etherege to Farquhar we find a social comedy which represents, with some brilliance and a fair show of completeness, certain aspects of the actual life lived by a small circle of men and women sufficiently “elegant,” leisured and self-conscious to be interested in themselves and to provide food for the “wit” which had changed its meaning since the days of the metaphysical poets. All the types that composed the small circle are revealed to us with an elegance and fineness of characterisation unknown before. If plots, incidents, and people are alike borrowed from Moliere, the effort is always towards approximation to the English social life of the day. In 1661 Cowley had caused offence by daring to hint, in Cutter of Coleman-Street, that there were black sheep among the Royalists: Mrs Behn, in The Roundheads (168?) and The Rover (1677 and 1681) boldly shows the new society regarding as objects of humour not only the Roundheads, who, of course, are outrageously caricatured, but the Cavaliers themselves. Old heroism and ideals are forgotten or scorned, and the town is engrossed in its own little affairs of gallantry or rogueiy. Immensely interested in itself, it likes to see itself reflected on the stage, with some exaggeration of its wit, and possibly of its immorality.

Sir George Etherege.

The pioneer in this new comedy was Sir George Etherege. The date of Etherege’s return to England is, like many other facts in his life, uncertain, but there is reason to believe that he lingered in Paris long enough to see the production of some of Moliere’s plays. On his return he wrote The Comical Revenge (1664), a tragi-comedy in which the serious portions are written in rhymed heroics. To Etherege, therefore, belongs the honour of writing the earliest regular play in which the use of rhyme was adopted. But his significance does not end there. He was the first to introduce to England the new comedy, which forsook eccentricities and moral castigation, and simply attempted to transfer to the stage the life of the time. A witty man himself, Etherege made the mistake of endowing all his characters with his own wit; and the fault persisted throughout most of the Restoration comedy; nevertheless his characters are portraits. Of them, as of the characters of Restoration comedy in general, it may be said that, so far from being abstractions, they represent the attempt to be as exact and realistic as possible. The few chances enjoyed by modem playgoers of seeing Restoration comedies acted are quite enough to prove these men and women very much alive indeed. In She Would if she Could (1668) Etherege developed the idea of the new comedy, and produced the brightest and gayest of his pictures of contemporary life. In the under­plot of his only other play, The Man of Mode (1676)—the play which contains the first of a long line of fops—Etherege, says Gosse, virtually founded English comedy as it was understood by Congreve, Goldsmith, and Sheridan.

Dryden’s first essay in comedy, The Wild Gallant (1663) is, in effect, a comedy of the old Jonsonian type of “humours.” The value of Etherege’s work may be seen by a comparison of this play of Dryden’s and the plays of Wilson and Shadwell with Dryden’s later comedies and the school of younger writers, Wycherley, Congreve, Mrs Behn, Vanbrugh, and Farquhar. Dryden’s comcdy, as a whole, shows more sense and less wit than that of his fellows. In general, he is a large borrower of plots, scenes, and characters from the French, which, however, he stamps with his own mark and that of his country. He coarsens what he takes, as a comparison of Sir Martin Mar-all (1667) with its original, L'Étourdi, is enough to show. He leans a little towards farce, and is no whit less licentious than his fellows in the art; on the other hand, he does not suffer from the bleak cynicism and cruelty of Etherege and Wycherley. Some of his women, indeed, have breadth and sweetness. Possibly, his best dramatic work is to be found in some of his tragi-comedies, Marriage á la Mode (1672), Don Sebastian (1690), Amphitryon (1690), and even Love Triumphant (1694). An even more important figure is that of Wycherley, a born playwright. To The Plain-Dealer we have already referred. This, with his three other comedies, was written before he had reached forty. His gaiety is almost hideous; he sees the worst of everything, and has no spark of nobility to counteract his bitterness; but he is an effective if clumsy satirist, and the possessor of strong dramatic power.

With Congreve we reach the summit of this form of expression. His output was very small, being checked partly by Collier’s Short View and partly by the social ambitions of the playwright, whom offices and rewards had relieved of the necessity of work. The Old Bachelor (acted in 1693) had been highly praised and adapted for representation by Dryden. The Double-Dealer (1693) we have mentioned before. The skill and vigour with which the single plot is kept alive and full of interest to the end are masterly. With Love for Love (1695) he opened the theatre in Lincoln’s Inn Fields after the secession of Betterton and others from Drury Lane; and in 1700, after the attack of Collier, appeared his finest play, The Way of the World. It was his aim in this play to substitute the folly of affectation for the folly of grossness, and the result is a severe satire on the world of fashion and foppery. Congreve cannot be acquitted of the charges of frivolity, cynicism, and indecency. On the other hand, he is never, like Wycherley, Vanbrugh, or Otway in his comedies, offensive, and Millamant, in his last play, is a woman so entirely fascinating in her wit and her wilfulness as to prove him aware of something higher than the gross attractions dwelt on by his fellows. It may be pointed out, too, that in The Double-Dealer virtue is rewarded; and, on the whole, it may be said that the faults of Congreve are largely the faults of his age, while his merits are of his own contriving. In him the characteristic “wit” of the age finds its most perfect expression. Like Etherege, he suffers from too much of it; his servants talk as elegantly and pointedly as their masters and mistresses; but, as representing the talk of a society which had leisure and ambition to be “polite” and exquisite, it is, in all probability, not far from the truth, while the attainment by English prose of such finish, flexibility, and point as his marks the advance on the previous age. The writers of comedies in deserting poetry, with Etherege, rendered invaluable service to the development of prose. On Mrs Behn and other writers we need not dwell. Sir John Vanbrugh, a writer and architect of mixed English and Flemish parentage, is noteworthy for the unsurpassed gaiety and ease of his dialogue and his vivid pictures of contemporary life. In Farquhar we reach a writer of greater significance. No fine gentleman, but an Irish adventurer of genius, he extended the field—especially in his last two plays, The Recruiting Officer (1706) and The Beaux’s Stratagem (1707)—to embrace types outside the little parish of St James’ and sentiments more modem and humane than those of the “beaux” and “belles.” His comedy comes nearer to being national, to dealing with the life of the people at large, than that of his contemporaries. His frequent references to current events are apt and diverting, and his rejection of the traditional topics of Restoration comedy in favour of wider and more actual material was the basis of a similar advance on the part of Lessing, whose Minna von Barnhelm owes more to Farquhar than some of its incidents.

It was in this age that the drama, especially the tragic drama, began to be used for political ends, if not with the virulence shown by Henry Fielding and others in the next century, at any rate with almost unabashed openness. In Dryden’s own case we have, notably, Amboyna (1673), which raked up an old story for the purpose of inflaming public opinion against the Dutch, and The Spanish Friar, a “Protestant play” (1681); and The Duke of Guise (1682), written by Lee with Dryden’s aid, drew a parallel between Guise and Monmouth, and practically foretold for the latter—in spite of the disclaimer in the epilogue and the subsequent Vindication—an end similar to that of the former. Otway’s shameful caricature of Shaftesbury as Antonio in Venice Preserved, though personal rather than political, is another instance. Even more frequently than the play itself the prologue and epilogue were used as political weapons. The curious custom by which the play­wright spoke personally to the public through the mouth of an actor or actress was at its height during this period. The result was almost always inartistic, in some cases disgusting, as in the famous epilogue to Tyrannic Love or in the first version of that to The Duke of Guise; the language was often indelicate, and the sentiments highly objectionable. At the same time, in the hands of Dryden the prologue and epilogue reached a very high level of epigrammatic point, and were admirably adapted in their freedom to inflame political passions by sneers, innuendos, or open attack or defence.

Lyrical poetry.

In the plays of the period, too, may be found embedded—to its disadvantage and neglect by posterity—most of the lyrical poetry of the time. In a self-conscious age, when feeling was at a low ebb and the passion of love debased by the prevailing mode, good lyrical poetry was rare. Marvell and Waller carried on the characteristics of the former age; for the rest, the lyrics of Dryden, Crowne, Congreve, Pordage, Rochester and others are both small in quantity and deficient in genuine lyrical quality. Rochester, indeed, is often worthy of comparison with Catullus; but his lyrics, like those of his contemporaries, are rather neatly finished than spontaneous, and their harmony is a matter of rule more than of essence. A favourite form was the ode, and here, as elsewhere, Dryden outstripped his fellows. The Pindariques of Cowley were freely imitated by Sprat, and to Congreve belongs the honour of pointing out that a Pindaric ode proper was not of irregular structure. Dryden’s odes are irregular in structure, but almost faultless in accomplishment. If Alexander's Feast (1697) is not poetry of the highest sort, it has been justly called “the best thing of its kind”; and the first portion of the Ode to the Memory of Mrs Anne Killigrew (1685-6) is famous as one of the most superb pieces of verbal organ-music in the language.

The age, however, was not an age of song-birds, but of enquirers, critics, prose-writers; and the best prose of the time was the work of the critics. The men of “science” exercised an influence of their own, for it was one of the merits of the new Royal Society to exact from its members a “close, naked, natural way of speaking; positive expressions, clear senses, a native easiness.” From the turbulent splendours of Milton we pass to the ordered, clarified prose, which is the work of men who use it for the purpose of saying what they have to say, of communicating their discoveries, thoughts, and arguments, as clearly as possible. It is, as befits its purpose, for the most part a plain and useful means of expression; yet in the hands of Dryden, that great man of letters, it rises, with no professed aim at ornament, into a thing of dignity and beauty. Dryden used prose for many purposes: the Epistle to the Whigs that precedes The Medal is a piece of political argument so clear, forcible, and ordered that it is difficult to believe it a work not forty years younger than the Areopagitica. But his most important prose-works are in literary criticism, a new branch of activity introduced into England from France, partly by Charles and his Court, partly by a French exile, Saint-Évremond, who exercised a very important influence on the criticism of his time. Modern French writers find him too much dependent on prejudice imbibed in the France of his youth, on personal fancy and taste, and lacking in reason and conviction. To modern England, accustomed to an even more thoroughly “impressionist” style of criticism, such a verdict seems strange. Saint-Évremond’s letters (for they are little more) on the English, French, and classical drama seem full of principle and reason, however little knowledge of the English drama of the day his preference of Shadwell and other “coarse” poets, as Dryden called them, to the more “polite” may reveal. At any rate, his influence—and particularly his preference for the modem drama over the ancient—had a great effect on English men of letters. Everyone who wrote a play wrote in a preface his own theories of play-writing; and this is the form in which most of Dryden’s critical work—excepting the Essay of Dramatic Poesy (1665)—was done. Dryden, while a large borrower from the French, is a sturdy champion of the English drama. He displays a truer taste in discriminating Elizabethan authors than any of his fellows. Though he lent a hand in the spoiling of The Tempest, and “tagged” Milton’s lines in The Age of Innocence, he recognised the true place of both the poets he attempted to adapt. As a rule, his critical work is called out by some special need of his own—the defence or the surrender of the heroic couplet in drama, for instance; and it combines reason and enthusiasm in a manner that makes it at once profitable and delightful to read. It was in this school, as the preface to the translation of the Georgics shows, that Addison was trained; and by Dryden, Sprat, Rymer (whose manner is far better than his deplorable literary matter), Congreve, and other critics, were laid the foundations of the edifice completed in the following century.

Literary criticism.—Satire.

Such an age as this makes fruitful ground for satire—a form of literature that looks not so much at the ideal itself as at the faults of those who depart from it. And it is due to Dryden that the satire of this period at its best is of supreme merit. The Hudibras of Samuel Butler, much of which was written before the Restoration, is in some respects a voice from the age that had passed. Its versification has all and more than all the ruggedness of Donne or Marston at their worst: the author chooses deliberately to make his effects by jocular antics of diction, which his shrewd humour and close observation of detail carry off successfully. But we look in vain for elevation, dignity, or strong purpose. Butler shows to the full some of the worst characteristics of the age which laughed at Hudibras; its easy ridicule of externals, its want of conviction and of taste, its vulgarity and its scepticism. It is not Puritanism but Puritans that he attacks, and he attacks them rather with caricature than with satire. Neither Royalist nor Churchman, but sceptic and opportunist, he writes less from belief in a cause than from the desire to make fun of the external extravagances of its opponents, and there is as little principle in his message as there is plan or cohesion in the poem he took up and dropped and took up again. Reverence was not a characteristic of the man who could so use his models, Don Quixote and The Faerie Queene, as to debase them in Butler’s manner. It might be objected that there was as little conviction at the bottom of Dryden’s satires as of Butler’s; and, allowing for all reasonable change of opinion, consistency can hardly be claimed for the man who wrote Amboyna with its prologue and epilogue in 1673, and eight years later attacked in Absalom and Achitophel and The Medal the policy which he supposed to be Shaftesbury’s. But here Dryden’s genius, the dignity of his mind, the actual superiority conferred on him, not by lofty purpose but by mere ability, came to his rescue. He took to satire late in life, and then, probably, rather on suggestion than from any ardent interest in politics; and the qualities of his mind and the nature of his training for the work were such that in his hands political satire reached its highest point.

Absalom and Achitophel, the first and greatest of these poems, was published in November, 1681. The “Popish Plot” and the rejection of the Exclusion Bill by the Lords had wrought popular feeling to a height not reached in any preceding period of Charles’ reign. The Parliament at Oxford had been dissolved; Shaftesbury was on his trial for high treason; and it is said that Charles himself suggested to Dryden that he should strike a blow in the fight. Dryden’s blow was this satire, which, though it failed of its main object on the acquittal of Shaftesbury a few days after its publication, was one of the most powerful aids to the King in his resistance to the Exclusionists. The story of Absalom and David fitted aptly enough the circumstances of Monmouth and his father: Achitophel, considerably changed, became Shaftesbury, whom Dryden affected to regard as part inventor of the “Popish Plot” and the leader in the decision to make war on the Dutch. The Biblical story could not, of course, be closely followed, and the conduct of the fable, which ends with a speech from the King, is its weakest part. Its strength lies in its masterly characterisation, the finest in an age which Clarendon and Saint-Évremond had helped to educate in a favourite field of literature, and in Dryden’s ability in presenting a case. To celebrate the acquittal of Shaftesbury, a medal was struck, which formed the text of Dryden’s next satire, The Medal, A Satire against Sedition (March, 1682), also suggested to him, as report declared, by Charles II. In the introductory Epistle to the Whigs and in the satire itself Dryden makes fun of the medal and attacks the party; he returns to his invective on Shaftesbury, and explains in a passage of great didactic force, sound sense and strong fancy, the ansu tability of republican institutions to the climate and temper of England. The Medal, like its predecessors, was not allowed to go unanswered by the Whigs, and among the answers was Shadwell’s The Medal of John Bayes, a savage piece of scurrility. Dryden, for once, used his satire for personal ends, and replied to Shadwell in October, 1682, with Mac Flecknoe, or, a Satire on the True Blue Protestant poet. In this he fathers Shadwell on Flecknoe, an Irish priest and an indifferent poet, who had died not long before, and represents the sire handing on his mantle of dulness to his duller son. In the following month, he returned to the attack with some 200 lines on Shadwell, Settle and others included in the second part of Absalom and Achitophel, the rest of which was composed by Nahum Tate, possibly (for the verse is above Tate’s level) under Dryden’s revision. And in the same month with this, his last satire and the most violent attack he ever wrote, he put forth a remarkable piece, the Religio Laici, an examination of the credibility of the Christian religion and the claims of the Church of England against the Catholic Church and the Deists. The surprise that has been expressed at Dryden’s sudden excursion into theology is ungrounded. Theological thought must have been called forth in all who had dwelt on the double question, religious and political, raised by the “Popish Plot” and the Exclusion Bill. Still less is there reason for suspecting Dryden’s sincerity. The poem could not serve his turn with Charles, of whose secret leanings to Catholicism he must have been aware, or with the Duke of York. It forms a sober and sincere expression of the opinions of a man of fifty-one who was passing through the process of thought which led him four years later to join the Catholic Church. The conversion was followed by the publication of The Hind and the Panther (1687), in which, with even more argumentative skill than was shown in the Religio Laici, he supports the claims of the Church, commending at the same time the policy of James II. The sincerity, again, of Dryden’s conversion has been questioned; and even Saintsbury admits that it may have been helped on to some extent by the prospect of being on the winning side, by the “journalist spirit” and by his dislike of the unliterary character of the Protestant Whigs. Dryden indeed was always abreast or a little in advance of the public opinion of his party. But it is from the Whig party and its descendants that this charge of insincerity, together with that of personal profligacy, proceeded, and neither rests on good foundation. Sincere or not, Dryden held to his path. Except for the Britannia Rediviva, an ode celebrating the birth of a son to James II, The Hind and the Panther was his last word on matters of state and religion. The Revolution found him on the losing side; he was deprived of his laureateship; his authority, save in matters of literature, was at an end.

We have only to compare the work of Oldham, who published his Satires upon the Jesuits the year before the appearance of Absalom and Achitophel, with the poems mentioned above, to see what Dryden did for satire and didactic poetry. Oldham, student of Marvell though he was, is a rugged writer. His hits are shrewd; but he has none of the “science” of Dryden in the art of attack, and none of his dignity and intellectual supremacy. He maintains throughout the tone to which Dryden descends in the regrettable attack on the son of Shaftesbury in Absalom and Achitophel. For the most part, only on the greatest provocation does Dryden stoop to personalities. He strikes from above, and condescends as he strikes. In most cases, though the individual sufferer is unmistakable, Dryden succeeds in treating him as the embodiment of a principle. He writes not as a moral reformer but as a man of sense, and hits hardest when apparently most cool. There is no calculating exactly the effect of such a weapon as this of Dryden’s in the victory of Charles over the Exclusionists. Besides the direct satire of Absalom and Achitophel, its severe and logical expression of the political thought of the King’s party, its scorn of popular rule and of such abstractions as “that golden calf—a state,” and its glorification of monarchy and of Charles, account must be taken of the skill with which, by its very tone of ease and superiority, it contrives to put a social stigma on those whom it attacks in an age which was socially ambitious and socially sensitive The place of these poems as pure literature has been almost universally acknowledged to be supreme in their kind. Poetry and argument go hand in hand in a manner never before achieved, and the management of the couplet—for which Dryden had been trained by years of work in the drama—is perfect. These didactic poems and the Fables from Chaucer and Boccaccio to which he turned after the Revolution may be regarded as the best poetry of a prosaic age. If skill in stating a case or telling a story does not constitute the highest form of poetry, it is to Dryden’s honour that he gathered up all the reasoning power, the wit, and the polish of his age and gave them expression with the best of the taste that his labours had helped to form.

The novel and the Characters. 1643-1712

A last word must be added concerning another form of literary expression, which the following century brought to perfection—the novel. During the closing of the theatres after 1642, the heroic romances of France made their way into England and were translated and imitated freely by Orrery, Crowne, and others, while D’Avenant’s Gondilert and Chamberlayne’s Pharonnida are heroic romances in verse. The renascence of the drama affected the demand for romances; but in Mrs Behn we find an attempt to bring romance into touch with contemporary life. Her prose novel Oroonoko is a strange mixture of the romantic and the realistic; a mixture even more strangely marked in The Fair Jilt. This attempt was to bear little fruit. A more important work is Congreve’s novel, Incognita, which reveals him as a humorist in prose fiction, and a parodist of the heroic style. On the other hand, we have the allegories of Bunyan, which have no parentage but the Bible and the vivid imagination of an untutored man. The voice of Bunyan is not the voice of his age. He has no affinities with Milton save his knowledge of the Bible; he owes nothing to the other Writers of his day. His imagination and sincerity made him forcible and arresting; the Bible made him lucid and direct. His immediate influence was nothing, and the temptation to dwell on his genius must be resisted. Despite the attempt of Mrs Behn and such close interest in the common facts of life as Bunyan shows in Mr Badman, the origin of the novel must be looked for not in the fiction of this age, but in its history and in its “characters.” Clarendon and Burnet with their powers of characterisation and anecdote, Butler with his Theophrastian Characters, Halifax, Saint-Évremond, and the letter-writers and diarists, sowed the seeds of such work as the Spectator papers on Sir Roger de Coverley, and their development into the English novel.


Further reading


Richard Garnett - The Life of John Milton.


Benjamin Henry Weathley - Samuel Pepys and the world he lived in


Edward Hyde Clarendon - The history of the rebellion and civil wars in England, to which is added, An historical view of the affairs of Ireland VOLUMES : ONE // TWO // THREE // FOUR // FIVE // SIX // SEVEN


Courthope, William John - A history of English poetry


Ward, Adolphus William - A history of English dramatic literature to the death of Queen Ann VOLUME ONE // VOLUME TWO