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the old spontaneity and versatility of the Elizabethan mind had disappeared.
Deliberate, indeed, is an epithet which may help us to define the impression made by Milton himself. Throughout his poetry, even of that earlier period when in so many aspects he was still almost Elizabethan, one may often feel him tending toward his later poetic contemporaries in the conscious carefulness of his art; and surely in the great epic work of his later years, when solitary and alone he strove to give artistic expression to the dominant ideals of a Puritanism whose earthly hopes were as lost as ever Paradise was to our erring fathers, one feels amid his all but unequalled power a colossal deliberation. In the prose work which intervened between these two periods of his poetic production, there is incisive swiftness of thought and phrase, but on the whole its effect is hardly more marked by grimly passionate asperity of temper than by an almost conscious ponderousness of phrase. The literature of Cromwell's England was as different from that of Elizabeth's as Cromwell was from Walter Ralegh. The names of Shakspere and Milton tell the story.
The name of Dryden is as different from that of Milton as Milton's is from Shakspere's. Though Dryden's “ Astræa Redux” was published seven years before“ Paradise Lost,” Dryden died in 1700 amid a literature whose poetry had cooled into something like the rational form which deadened it throughout the century to come, and whose drama had for forty years been revealing fresh phases of decadent lifelessness. For though at least the comedies of the Restoration and of the years which follow seemed to contemporaries full of wit and vitality, few bodies of literature in the world have proved more evanescent, and more corrupt, artistically as well as morally. But if poetry and the drama were for the moment sleeping, - the latter seemingly for ever, the former for wellnigh a century to come, — there were other phases of English thought, if not of English feeling, which were full of life. Boyle had done his work in chemistry ; Newton had created a whole range of physical science; Locke had produced his epoch-making “Essay on Human Understanding ;" and, to go no further, the works of Sir William Temple and the critical essays of Dryden himself had given English prose its most masterly, almost its final form.
In literature, just as in history, then, we find that the seventeenth century reveals in England three distinct epochs, each different from the others and all together involving such changes in the national temperament as to make the England of Dryden almost as foreign to that of Shakspere as the temper of King William III. was to Queen Elizabeth's. Like Elizabethan England, Elizabethan literature seems different from anything which we can now know in the flesh. One can hardly imagine feeling quite at home in the Mermaid Tavern with Beaumont and Ben Jonson and the rest ; but in modern London, or at least in the London of thirty years ago, one might sometimes feel that a few steps around a grimy corner should still lead to some coffee-house, where glorious John Dryden could be found sitting in robust, old-fashioned dictatorship over the laws of the language in which we ourselves think and speak and feel. For Dryden's England is not yet quite dead and gone. But dead and gone, or at least vanished from this earth, in Dryden's time almost as surely as in ours, was the elder England, whose spontaneity, whose enthusiasm, and whose versatility made Elizabethan literature the most lastingly vital record which our language shall ever phrase.
History and literature alike, then, have shown us an England of the seventeenth century wherein the great central convulsion of dominant Puritanism fatally destroyed a youthful world, and gave us at last in its place a more deliberate, permanently different new one.
AMERICAN HISTORY FROM 1600 TO 1700
It was in the first quarter of this seventeenth century that the American colonies were finally established. The first lasting settlement of Virginia was made in the spring of 1607; the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth towards the end of 1620; Boston was founded less than ten years later ; and from 1636 dates the oldest of native American corporations, that of Harvard College. At the latest of these dates the tragic reign of Charles I. had not half finished its course ; at the earliest Queen Elizabeth had lain less than five years in Westminster Abbey ; and these dates are less than a full generation apart.
From these familiar facts may instantly be inferred another which has been comparatively neglected. To speak only of New England, - for in literary history New England is far more important than the other colonies, - we may say that every leading man among the first settlers both of Plymouth and of Massachusetts Bay was born under Queen Elizabeth herself. William Bradford of Plymouth, for example, was born in 1590, the year when Spenser published the first books of the “Faerie Queene;" and Edward Winslow was born in 1595, when Shakspere had published only “Venus and Adonis” and “ Lucrece.” Thomas Dudley is said to have been born in 1576, some ten years before the execution of Mary Stuart. John Winthrop was born in 1588, the year of the Invincible Armada. John Cotton was born in 1585, the year before
, Sir Philip Sidney was killed, when for aught we know Shakspere had not yet emerged from Stratford, and when surely John Foxe, the martyrologist, was still alive. Thomas Hooker was born only a year later, in 1586. Richard Mather was only ten years younger, born in the year when Ben Jonson's first play is said to have been acted, when Ralegh published his “ Discovery of Guiana,” and Spenser the last three books of his “ Faerie Queene.” Roger Williams was born in 1600, the year which gave us the first quartos of “Henry IV.,” “ Henry V.,” “ The Midsummer Night's Dream,” “The Merchant of Venice,” and “Much Ado About Nothing." And what is thus shown true of New England is truer still of Virginia, founded half a generation earlier. Though the sovereigns to whom both northern and southern colonies owed their first allegiance were Stuarts, all the founders of these colonies were of true Elizabethan birth.
They were not, to be sure, quite the kind of Elizabethans who expressed themselves in poetry. The single work produced in America which by any stretch of language may be held a contribution to Elizabethan letters is a portion of George Sandys's translation of Ovid, said to have been made during his sojourn in Virginia between 1621 and 1624. In general, the settlers of Virginia were of the adventurous type which expresses itself far more in action than in words; while the settlers of New England were too much devoted to the affairs of another world than this to have time, even if they had had taste or principle, for devotion to any form of fine art. Of Elizabethan times, all the while, as of any period in history, it remains true that in a deep sense the men of a single generation cannot help being brethren. For all their mutual detestation, Puritans and playwrights alike possessed the spontaneity of temper, the enthusiasm of purpose, and the versatility of power which marked Elizabethan England.
Broadly speaking, all our northern colonies developed from those planted in Massachusetts, and all our southern from that planted in Virginia. Questionable though this statement may seem to those who consider merely or chiefly the legal and political aspects of history, it is socially true to an extraordinary degree. The type of character which planted itself first on the shores of Massachusetts Bay displayed from the beginning a marked power of assimilating whatever came within its influence. This trait, akin to that which centuries before had made the conquered English slowly but surely assimilate their Norman conquerors, the Yankees of our own day have not quite lost. An equal power of assimilation marked the less austere type of character which first planted itself on the James River. Vague and commonplace as this statement may seem, it is really important. In modern America no fact is more noteworthy than that, for all the floods of immigration which have seemed to threaten almost every political and social landmark, our native type still absorbs the foreign. The children of immigrants insensibly become natives. The irresistible
power of a common language and of the common ideals which underlie it still dominates. This tendency declared itself almost from the moments when Jamestown and Plymouth were settled. North and South alike, then, may broadly be regarded as regions finally settled by native Elizabethan Englishmen, whose ardent traits proved strong enough to impress themselves on posterity and to resist the immigrant influences of other traditions than their own.
Were our study of American history general, it would be our business to consider the southern and central colonies quite as much as those of New England; but in literary history New England is so predominant that, at least for the moment, we may neglect the other portions of the country. Plymouth and Massachusetts Bay were both settled by devout Calvinists, slightly different perhaps in some matter of religious discipline, certainly different at first in their theoretical relation to the ancestral Church of England, but still so much alike that it is hardly by misuse of language that both are now generally called Puritan. Both colonies were governed from the beginning by written charters, things which, except for Cromwell's Instrument of Government, remain foreign to the politi