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But in respect to literary criticism, the influence of France was more salutary. Boileau had displayed great critical acumen in estimating French authors, and had laid down correct principles by which to judge literary composition. The art of criticism took root in England. Dryden, whom Johnson calls the father of English criticism, sat at the feet of his great French contemporary, and in his numerous prefaces exhibited admirable judgment in weighing the productions both of ancient and modern times.
The Restoration gave a new impulse to natural science. Charles II. was himself something of a chemist, and even the profligate Buckingham varied his debaucheries with experiments in his laboratory. In 1662 the Royal Society was founded, and for half a century inventions and discoveries in science followed one another in rapid succession. The national observatory at Greenwich was established. The spirit of investigation showed great vigor. Halley studied the tides, comets, and terrestrial magnetism. Boyle improved the air-pump, and founded experimental chemistry. Mineralogy, zoölogy, and botany either had their beginning or made noteworthy progress at this time. It was the age of Sir Isaac Newton.
But this period was one of ferment and transition. Old faiths in politics, philosophy, and religion were being cast aside. Tradition and custom were summoned before the bar of reason. "From the moment of the Restoration," says Green, "we find ourselves all at once among the great currents of thought and activity which have gone on widening and deepening from that time to this. The England around us becomes our England, an England whose chief forces are industry and science, the love
of popular freedom and of law, an England which presses steadily forward to a larger social justice and equality, and which tends more and more to bring every custom and tradition, religious, intellectual, and political, to the test of pure reason." The belief in the divine right of kings became a thing of the past. With the Revolution of Orange on the throne, the
1688, which placed William of prolonged conflict between the people and the king came to an end. The executive supremacy was transferred from the crown to the House of Commons.
The asperities of theological parties began to give way. Within the Church of England there arose a class of divines who, because of their tolerant views, were stigmatized as "latitudinarians." Avoiding the scholasticism of the preceding age, they studied Scripture with a genial spirit. The evils of strife, as well as a sense of danger from infidelity, made them desire Christian unity, which they recognized as the normal condition of the church. Among the most distinguished of these broad churchmen were Ralph Cudworth, Henry More, and John Tillotson.
A still more important movement in theology was the rise of Deism, which owed its prevalence to several cooperative causes. As we have seen, there was a general tendency to break away from the restraints of authority in every department of thought. The divisions and animosities of the church tended to unsettle the faith of many in the teachings of Christianity. And above all, perhaps, the license of the age sought to emancipate itself from the restraints of divine law.
In its progress Deism showed a rapid declension. It began with Lord Herbert of Cherbury, who reduced religion to five points: I, that there is a God; 2, that he is
to be worshipped; 3, that piety and virtue are the principal parts of this worship; 4, that men should repent and forsake sin; and 5, that good will be rewarded and sin punished. This scheme of doctrine represents Deism at its best. The writings of the deists, among whom may be mentioned Hobbes, Blount, and Lord Bolingbroke, naturally called forth many replies. The controversy, which was protracted into the eighteenth century, was conducted with great ability on both sides. Among the defenders of Christianity, with whom ultimately remained the victory, were Cudworth, John Locke the philosopher, and Joseph Butler, the author of the famous Analogy."
THE greatest name in the literature of this period is John Dryden. He does not deserve, indeed, to stand by the side of Chaucer, Spenser, Shakespeare, or Milton; but after these great names he comes at the head of the second rank. It was the fault of his age that he was not greater. No man can wholly detach himself from the influences by which he is surrounded; and Dryden came on the stage when a false taste prevailed, and when licentiousness gave moral tone to poetry. Living in the midst of burning religious and political questions, he was drawn into the vortex of controversy. He was always a partisan in some religious or political issue of the day. While this fact has given us some of the best satirical and didactic poems in our language, it did not contribute, perhaps, to the largest development of his poetical powers.
His aims were not high enough. "I confess," he said, "my chief endeavors are to delight the age in which I live. If the humor of this be for low comedy, small accidents, and raillery, I will force my genius to obey it." This was a voluntary degrading of his genius, and an intentional renouncing of the artistic spirit. Guided by such motives, it was impossible for him to attain the highest results. If, like Milton, he had concentrated all the energies of his strong nature on an epic poem, as he once contemplated, or on poetry as an art, his work would no doubt have been less faulty. But, taking him as he was, we cannot help admiring his genius, which created for him a distinct place in English literature.
Dryden was born of good family in Northamptonshire, in 1631. Both on his father's and his mother's side his ancestry was Puritan and republican. He was educated at Westminster
school, under the famous Dr. Busby. A school-boy poem on the death of Lord Hastings had the distinction, and we may add the misfortune, of being published in connection with sev
eral other elegies called forth by the same event.
Some of its conceits are exceedingly ridiculous. The young nobleman had died of the small-pox, and Dryden exclaims:
"Was there no milder way than the small-pox,
The very filthiness of Pandora's box?"
Of the pustules he says:
"Each little pimple had a tear in it,
To wail the fault its rising did commit."
And as the climax of this absurdity:
"No comet need foretell his change drew on,
Dryden's genius was slow in maturing, and much of his early work failed to give promise of his future eminence.
He entered Trinity College, Cambridge, in 1650, and took his degree of Bachelor of Arts in 1654. No details of his college life have come down to us, except his punishment on one occasion for "disobedience to the vice-master, and contumacy in taking his punishment, inflicted by him." In 1654, by the death of his father, he came into the possession of a small estate worth about sixty pounds a year. After leaving Cambridge, for which he entertained no great affection, he went to London, and served for a time as secretary to his cousin, Sir Gilbert Pickering, a favorite of Cromwell.
In 1658 he composed "Heroic Stanzas" on the death of Oliver Cromwell, which caused him to be spoken of as a rising poet. Though disfigured here and there by conceits, it is, upon the whole, a strong, manly poem, showing a just appreciation of the great Protector's life. His next effort does not reflect credit