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religious, philosophical, has found its most effective utterance through it.
3. And this was a period of great movements, just as the previous period was one of great 'individualities. The great men of last ce ry vanished or sank into insignificance before the middle of the second decade of ours. Revolution had drawn forth European genius to meet it in politics and
But once it had culminated and passed, literature and thought claimed the best talent, and the revolutionary harvest had to be reaped in the form of the theories held by numbers with such passion as ever and again to threaten new but scattered attempts at revolution. In religion the mediaeval and the rationalistic movements rent the church ; in politics the Reform Bill, the anti-slavery agitation, and the demand for the repeal of the Corn Laws made party feeling almost volcanic ; in the economic world the swift development of industrialism, the rage against the introduction of new machinery, the fluctuations of wealth and poverty, the strikes and riots, the famines and threats of famine kept thought in perpetual ferment; socialism first appeared in the schemes of St. Simon, Fourier, and Owen ; science overturned all the traditional bases of belief; wild patriotism and the most unscrupulous tyranny existed side by side ; passion made all antagonisms fierce ; even the meditative calm of philosophy was disturbed, torn as it was into the opposing camps of optimism and pessimism, the positive attitude and the idealist. And imaginative literature was deeply affected by all these movements and phases of thought and life. It is more sensitive than even religion to the atmospheric phenomena of the national mind. Poetry, the drama, and fiction stir to every wind of thought or feeling
4. But of all, poetry, as the older and as the product chiefly of the emotional side of man, comes first in sensitiveness; it is the first literary form to feel an approaching change. Next comes the drama in antiquity of origin and instability of equilibrium before national movements; it echoes all the social and political cries. The novel, as last developed, as appealing to a far more varied audience, and as more deliberately written, was during the era least subject of the three to new gusts of passion or new phases of thought. This is the natural order in which they should be treated in the history of literature-poetry, drama, fiction. And after them comes the literature of púre thought and pure fact, of observation and investigation, of knowledge and speculation.
ENGLISH POETRY OF THE PERIOD OF PREPARATION.
I. There is a natural conservatism in minor poetry that makes much of one period seem but an echo of the last. It clings to the forms if not to the spirit of the past. Nor will it relinquish its models unless some striking genius arises and masters the younger poets by the attraction of his melody or greatness of his thought.
2. And in English poetry of this period masterful individuality appeared. Burns, the only approach to it, was imprisoned within a dialect and could not reach the general current of English poetry, although we have one evidence of his immediate influence in a copy of his poems that belonged to Cowper, liberally marked and underlined by that poet and bearing the date 1787. Chatterton died a mere boy. Blake gave his power to pseudo-prophecy and art. And Wordsworth and Coleridge only touch the rim of the century with their first poetic efforts. There was no great force of character in the poetry of the period to mould it to new purposes. There was a complete absence of great creative power or seer-like inspiration. All the poetry that appeared was a poetry of tendencies rather than of fruition. The greatest energies of the time were drawn off into the political sphere.
3. The first tendency we should expect to find is an imitation of Pope, conscious or unconscious. He was the great poet of the Queen Anne period and his last triumphs fall as late as 1744. Whilst the great edition of his works by Warburton appeared in 1751. It was the most natural thing in the world that he should have disciples in the third quarter of the century if not in the fourth.
4. Samuel Johnson, the sturdy, autocratic adherent of the immediate past, comes first. His youth and earliest literary ambitions fell in the period of Pope's greatest influence and fame. And with all his respect for the genius of Dryden, he never could rid himself of the yoke of the great artist of versified epigram. His Lives of the Poets, written in the last quarter of the century and marked by the presence of the new movement in prose, is still dominated by the poetic ideals that Pope had consecrated by his work. Strong though his character was, he had to view English poetry through the medium of these. So masterful indeed were they that he allowed the publishers of the collection of the poets that he edited to exclude Chaucer and Spenser and Shakespeare from it and condemned as unpoetic some of the most beautiful poems of Milton like Lycidas. His own satires in verse, imitations though they were of Juvenal and inspired by the gloomiest pessimism, are echoes of the satiric optimist whose Essay on Criticism, Rape of the Lock, and translation of the Iliad he so much admired And his feeling that poetry after Pupe “could no farther go” grew upon him so that after the middle of the century he practically abandoned the pursuit; his only attempts after this were his prologues and his lines On the Death of Dr. Robert Levett. · This last written in 1782 shows in its form the influence of the new time; though composed in his dignified, moralising vein and with his usual sonorous eloquence, it adopts the brief ballad stanza of four octosyllabic lines with alternating rhymes ; the heroic couplet of his master was abandoned for the first time.
5. In his London (1738), Vanity of Human Wishes (1749), Prologue to Comus, at its production for the benefit of a granddaughter of Milton (1750), Prologue to Goldsmith's Goodnatured Man (1769), and Prologue to A Word to the Wise (1777), he is emulating the epigrammatic terseness, the balanced rhetoric, the antithetic moralising of Pope. He adds a certain elephantine dignity of his own to the expression, a dignity, that belonged to his nature, but was confirmed by his employment in oratorising notes of
the discussions in parliament for The Gentleman's Magazine in his Reports of the Debates of the Senate of Lilliput. Most of his poems were written whilst he was busy at this, and they bear the marks; though they also reveal the wealth of vigorous Saxon phrase that he had at command. Their pith often lies in a line or phrase of Latinised eloquence followed by one of vigorous conversational English. There are not many couplets all stiff rhetorical brocade like these from The Vanity of Human Wishes ;
“Let observation, with extensive view,
Survey mankind from China to Peru.”,
And restless fire precipitates on death.”
“ This mournful truth is everywhere confessed,
Slow rises worth by poverty depressed.” (London) “He left the name at which the world grew pale
To point a moral or adorn a tale.”( Vanity of Human Wishes) “Safe in his power, whose eyes discern afar
The secret ambush of a specious prayer.” (Vanity &c.) “Existence saw hinn spurn her bounded reign, And panting time toiled after him in vain.”
(Prologue at Drury Lane) His Prologue at the Opening of Drury Lane versifies literary history and is quite in the style of the Queen Anne period and the Essay on Criticism in particular. But he exalts Shakespeare, and decries the Restoration drama, in which “ declamation roared while passion slept.”
6. His other prologues reveal his manly and independent and yet sympathetic nature. In them he tutors the theatrical audiences or chides them for their had taste or heartless conduct. He was as fearless of their frown as of Chesterfield's, and helped more than any man to give an upright attitude to literature and to abolish the influence of patronage. Coming from the provinces and the middle classes as he did, he expressed their growing confidence in their judgments and standards as against those of the city and aristocratic circles. Even when most imitative of the Queen Anne poetry in form, he anticipated the new age by his embodiment of middle class feelings and morality. He had no sympathy with the shallow optimism of Pope and Shaftesbury, or with the fashionable cynicism