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of that most chivalrous of autobiographers, Lord Herbert of Cherbury. All three are marked by a big, simple, youthful spontaneity, different at once from any general trait of modern times and from those which are common to every period of history. Take, equally at random, three other names which belong to the years after Cromwell's dominant Puritanism had failed; Monk, the first Duke of Albemarle; Samuel Pepys, the diarist; and John Churchill, first Duke of Marlborough. Though this last little group seem by no means contemporary with ourselves, yet, in comparison with the elder group, they seem almost modern, old-fashioned men rather than men of an earlier type than those we live with. The contrast is deeply typical. The England which came before the dominant Puritanism of Cromwell, the England to which we may broadly give, as we often give to its literature, the name “ Elizabethan, vanished when Puritan dominance broke for a while the progress of English constitutional law; the England which came afterwards, whatever its merits or its faults, lacked, as England has continued to lack ever since King Charles II. was restored, certain traits which we all feel in the old Elizabethan world.

For our purpose there is hardly anything more important than to realise, if we can, what these Elizabethan traits were, which distinguish the England before Cromwell's time from that which has come after him. Perhaps we shall have done a little to remind ourselves of what Elizabethan England possessed, when we say that in the older time we can everywhere find three characteristics which in the later time are more and more dimly discernible, - spontaneity, enthusiasm, and versatility.



The social history of seventeenth-century England broadly groups itself in three parts: that which preceded the dominant Puritanism of the Commonwealth; the dominant Puritanism itself; and what came after. All three of these phases of English life found adequate expression in lasting literature. An easy way to remind ourselves of these literary types is to glance at some records of publication in England during the three distinct periods of the seventeenth century.1 Between 1600 and 1605 appeared plays by Dekker, Ben Jonson, John Lyly, Shakspere, Marston, Middleton, Heywood, and Chapman; Fairfax's translation of Tasso, Lodge's of Josephus, and Florio's of Montaigne ; England's Helicon,” Campion's “ Art of English Poetry,” and Davidson's “ Poetical Rhapsody;” and, among many other lesser works, the last volume of Hakluyt's “Voyages.” Between 1648 and 1652 appeared works by Fuller, Herrick, Lovelace, Milton, Francis Quarles, Jeremy Taylor, Baxter, Bunyan, Cowley, Hobbes, Vaughan, Davenant, Izaak Walton, and George Herbert. Finally, between 1695 and 1700 appeared plays by Colley Cibber, Southern, Congreve, Farquhar, and Vanbrugh; and works of one sort or another by Bentley, Blackmore, Defoe, Evelyn, Garth, Lord Shaftesbury, and Dryden; not to speak of Tate and Brady's version of the “ Psalms.” These random lists will

1 Throughout our study, the names recorded in Ryland's “Chronological Outlines of English Literature,” published by Macmillan, should suffice for such purposes as that now in mind. Though sometimes slightly inaccurate, this admirably useful book is always trustworthy enough to warrant generalisation.

define, almost as clearly as lists made with thoughtful care, the chief facts which we should now keep in mind.

In the beginning of the century, even though Elizabeth's reign was very near its end, the literature which we call Elizabethan was at its height; and as the generations have passed, we begin to see how surely its central figure, the dominant figure of all English literature, is that of Shakspere. In the middle of the century there was more confusion ; yet it takes no great knowledge of English letters to feel in the first place that the Elizabethan temper was no longer strong; and in the second place, that among the men who were then writing, there was one who — if not so surely central — rose almost as superior to the rest as Shakspere was fifty years before. That man, of course, is Milton. In the last five years of the century, when the Commonwealth, the Restoration, and the Glorious Revolution had done their work, there was another group, less diverse than that of Cromwell's time, almost as homogeneous indeed as that of Elizabeth's, but as different from either of the others as the periwigs of Marlborough were from the jewelled caps of Walter Ralegh; and in this last group, as in both the others, one figure emerged from the rest. Here that figure is John Dryden, the first great maker of heroic couplets, and the first masterly writer of what has become modern English prose. It is worth our while to glance in turn at each of these literary periods, — the periods of Shaks pere, of Milton, and of Dryden.

Elizabethan literature, in which Shakspere declares himself more and more supreme, is at once the first, and in many respects the greatest, of the schools or periods of letters which have come to constitute modern English literature as a whole. Marked throughout by the spontaneity, the enthusiasm, and the various versatility of the England which bred it, this period is clearly marked as well by the fact that it brought to final excellence two kinds of poetry, — the lyric, and a little later the dramatic. In thinking of Elizabethan literature, then, one is apt to forget that it includes noble work of other than poetic sort; yet no reader of English can long forget that to this same school belongs the scientific work and the final aphorisms of Bacon. It was during the first fifteen years of the seventeenth century, too, that Walter Ralegh, in the Tower, wrote his “ History of the World;" and we have only to glance back at Ryland's summaries of publication to see what masterly translations were steadily leading the way to that final masterpiece of translation, the English Bible of 1611. There were minor phases of literature meanwhile which posterity has been apt to forget; but the name of Hakluyt, the collector of so many records of explorations, is still familiar; and so perhaps is that of Richard Hooker, whose “ Ecclesiastic Polity” remains the chief literary monument of religious controversy during the reign of Elizabeth. Poetry was first, then, and supreme; but there was fine, noble, thoughtful prose in philosophy and history alike; and not less characteristic of the time, though far less excellent as literature, was much matter of contemporary chronicle, like Hakluyt's “ Voyages,” and much religious controversy.

Throughout this literature there is one trait which the lapse of three centuries, with their slow, inevitable changes of language, has tended to obscure. Yet whoever grows familiar even with the work of Shakspere by himself, and still more with that of his contemporaries as well, must grow to feel it. This is a sort of pristine alertness of mind, evident in innumerable details of Elizabethan style. One may best detect it, perhaps, by committing to memory random passages of Elizabet han literature. If the trait occurred only in the work of Shakspere, one might deem it a mere fresh miracle of his genius; but you will find it everywhere. In the thinner plays, for example, of Beaumont and Fletcher, the words, the sentences, the lines, the cadences, are full of refinements of phrase, subtleties of alliteration, swift glancing varieties of allusion, Aashes alike of sentiment and of wit, somehow beyond the instant perception of any English-born modern mind. Yet it is no mere juggling with words to say that the works of Beaumont and Fletcher, of Shakspere, and of all the dramatists, are truly plays; and plays are meant not for such serious study as the excellence of these has compelled from posterity, but rather to give such instant emotional pleasure as theatres afford us to-day, and as we have got best during the nineteenth century in Paris. Such literature as the Elizabethan world has left us, in short, bespeaks a public whose spontaneous alertness of mind, whose instant perception of every subtle variety of phrase and allusion, was more akin to that of our contemporary French than to anything which we are now accustomed to consider native to insular England. Elizabethan literature bears witness throughout to the spontaneous, enthusiastic versatility which the English temperament possessed in the spacious Elizabethan days.

By the middle of the century, after the convulsions of the Civil Wars, this trait had begun to fade out of English letters. Our brief list of mid-century publications revealed Milton, not as the chief of a school, but rather as the one great figure who subsisted amid a group of excellently deliberate minor poets and elaborate makers of overwrought rhetorical prose, often splendid, but never simple. Fuller, Taylor, and Walton fairly typify seventeenth-century prose; to complete our impression of it we might glance back at Burton, whose “ Anatomy of Melancholy ” appeared in 1621, and at Sir Thomas Browne, whose “ Religio Medici” was in 1650 less than ten years old. In Milton's time, except for Milton himself, the creative impulse which had made Elizabethan literature so vital had subsided. The English imagination seemed checked by a variously developed sense of the inexorable limits of fact and of language. One term by which we may characterise this mid-century English literature, to distinguish it from the elder, is the term “deliberate.” Mysteriously but certainly

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