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of the time to the simplicity and inspiration of earlier ages, an indication strongly confirmed by the resurgence and rapid growth of the primitive passion for narrative. Even Byron, self-conscious and vain though he was, belongs his naïve egotism and the fervid rush of his poetry to a time like that of the trouvères, if not like that of the old bards. And even if Ossian had wholly belonged to the eighteenth century, as much of the sentiment and style undoubtedly does, it would have been no false sign of the coming inspiration in poetry. There was a torrent-like advance in the imaginative work of the era that ill-brooked the check of criticism.
7. Nor is this strange phenomenon due to mere reaction from an artificial and unenthusiastic period. Reaction alone increases the volume and power of a movement and does not originate. If we trace it back to its ultimate cause, we shall find it in the expansion of the area of thought and feeling throughout the era. The organisation of industry brought the scattered population of England into teeming centres, in which thought and feeling tend to be epidemic. Town life concentrates discontent and gives it vital nuclei. And the predominance of it in a nation or an age fosters revolutionary tendencies. New ideas move more quickly than in a rural people. And any talent for speech or writing that appears catches the newest passion and gives it utterance. But even if no talent arises in the new urban masses, they join the reading public and give a new impetus to a writer, from whatever class he may
The era saw the possibilities of an audience for literature widened more and more ; it annexed first the new middle class and during our own century the new industrial classes. The first half of it fitted English literature to the new wealth and leisure that the growth of industry and commerce produced. It was the other half of it that consummated this adaptation and grew conscious of the vast field still to be cultivated in the artisans themselves. It
a whole, the great era of middle class literature ; but it was for a middle class not yet far enough separated from its relations to labour to lose sympathy with it. The poor and lowly, the toiling and oppressed had
their full share in the poetry and other imaginative productions of the period, even though it was only towards the close of it that the working classes began to be part of the audience; and by that time a section of the middle class was losing touch with labour.
8. During the time that the new wealth was kept out of politics by the aristocracy and their followers, it sympathised with revolutionary tendencies till the Reign of Terror alarmed a large section of it into reaction. Goldsmith, Burke, Cowper, and Crabbe wrote for it and were essentially conservative in their religion and politics; and yet their productions are full of the new philanthropy, the new feeling for the oppressed. Wordsworth, Coleridge, and Southey began their literary career by the greatest enthusiasm for revolutions and revolutionists; but the development of events in Paris during 1792 threw them violently back upon tradition, never, however, to be wholly free of the passion and the broader thought that the revolutionary spirit bred. Blake, Burns, and Godwin were by nature outcasts and rebels and lost little of their sympathy with the new movement during the eighteenth century.
9. It was the first quarter of our own century that saw the most violent reaction against the revolutionary spirit. But after that it began to gather renewed energy and step by step to find its way into politics as reform. The impulse it had given to poetry suffered no backward movement; for only opinions and political action were affected by the recoil. The tide of poetic passion flowed on unchecked till it exhausted itself in the latter half of our century. Nay, poets like Byron and Shelley had increase of fervour from the revulsion. The whole of the imaginative literature, even that which was produced by the most conservative of natures, like Scott's, felt the impetus ; the thoughts were expanded, the passion was intensified.
Section 6. I. Every human thought or relation, however old or threadbare in its literary treatment, took new colour and life. It glowed with such passion that it seemed to the writers and speakers to be born again. Such a hackneyed theme
as love, dealt with a thousand times over from Chaucer to Herrick, counted dead or at least artificial for a century, awakened to a new existence and was sung in an infinite variety of new tunes and songs from Burns to Tennyson, whilst in the hands of the novelist it seemed to have entered on perennial literary life. The relation of man to his past was again steeped in imagination and feeling, not by the birth and marvellous growth of historical fiction alone, but by means of the new science and the philosophy based on it. English and classical history had already fully occupied the English fancy during various eras. But from the point of view of the new thoughts of mankind as consisting, not merely of monarchs, nobles, and warriors, but of merchants, and artisans, and toilers of all kinds, these had again to be studied, again to be worked up by the literary arts. There was an even vaster expansion of his relation to his past. Science had begun to see that his existence upon earth reached far beyond the beginnings of history, and the civilisations of the East and of America, the slave and the savage gave new themes and new thoughts to literature; nor can it ever return again to the insularising treatment of civilised history. The new philosophy, too, based as it was upon science, threw a new imaginative halo around old questions; the fountain and birth of the soul, the sources of its instincts and unaccountable niemories, its nature and destiny were treated again and again both from the materialistic and idealistic side with such freshness and poetic fancy as made them seem new ; Wordsworth in his Ode on the Intimations of Immortality and Shelley in his Queen Mab and Epipsychidion are examples of the beauty that the new passion could give to abstract topics such as these.
2. Still more was man's relation to nature recreated. Science had raised the curtain upon an infinite universe of which the earth was but an atom, and endowed it with an existence into which man's terrestrial life seemed to vanish. Yet he began to feel himself more and more a part of all that he surveyed or knew. The animals, that had been to him before only pieces of matter moulded and animated to serve his wants, now claimed more intimate connection, and stretched the chain of their existence myriads of ages beyond his past.
The plants and rocks, the seas and winds had now a nature and a history as full of meaning as he had himself. No wonder that he began to recognise in his best self a living sympathy with all these, a kinship that was not to be denied, and a spirit of beauty that had escaped his mental vision before. Wordsworth most fully and poetically expressed the revolution in his attitude to nature; but Burns, Shelley, and Tennyson had as genuine an insight into it; and no modern English writer can well be called poetic without emotional recognition of it. We find it as early as The Seasons of Thomson ; and it gained strength and fulness of spiritual meaning as the era went on.
3. Man's relation to his future was as much renewed and ilealised. In previous ages, the speculation, whether imaginative or practical, on what man was to be, was limited and narrow. Books like the Utopia and the New Atlantis dealt with the problem in rigid relation to his actual state, either political, social, or educational. Now thought reached out to limits far beyond the practicable. Godwin and Shelley especially indulged in dreams that seemed to them feasible. The Political Justice of the one, written in philosophical prose with cool self-repression anticipates the most advanced dreams of the anarchists of our own day ; whilst the Queen Mab, Laon and Cythna, and Prometheus Unbound of the other tell in impassioned poetry the hopes of the future of man that the revolutionary spirit stirred. These productions belong by nature to an era of revolution and express in the most striking way the thoughts that haunted the minds of the most advanced thinkers. And there were few imaginative writers but had in them as they wrote some picture of man's destiny, optimistic or pessimistic according to their revolutionary or reactionary tendencies. It was the uneasy sense of coming change, of threatened overthrow of convention and tradition that set men looking into the future.
4. But perhaps the most complete transformation by feeling was that of man's relation to God. Even the believers in the earlier part of the eighteenth century were cold, theological, and apologetic in their religion; they argued out rather than felt it. The sense of the relationship to the divine power was practically lost; and there was an unreality about all worship in the age of common-sense. But before the middle of the century everything religious had begun to change. Wesley and Whitefield were preaching their crusade against formalism. by the time that Butler had published his Analogy and Pope his Essay on Man, the two most striking attempts to place religion on a basis of rationality. And before the century closed, the Evangelical movement within the Church and Methodism outside it had gone far to set English religious thought on fire; the era, as far as the majority of the nation were concerned, may be classed with the ages of faith, so fervid and crusading did it become on its religious side.
5. Nor was this due to reaction alone, though reaction explains more in the sphere of faith than in those of thought. and imagination. The old Puritanism of England, that had retired crushed after the Civil War, had begun again to hold up its head; the growing comfort or wealth of the middle class gave it confidence in its traditional religious feelings, and the uneasiness of suppressed revolution gave warmth to them. The Bible and the Pilgrim's Progress, their literary legacy from the previous century, again became suffused with the glow of practical faith ; and books of piety began to increase and pass into household gods. The mood became lyrical and fervid; hymns grew apace in the era. By the middle of it the bulk of the English religious world had outlived the necessity of reasoning out their faith. Paley's Evidences of Christianity with its cool utilitarianism is. addressed rather to the upper stratum of culture wherein the old deism lingered than to the new reading public.
6. Even the deism had come to be transfused with passion. There is far less argument and reasoned statement in Paine's Age of Reason than fervid rhetoric, vituperation, and scorn.
And we have only to look into Shelley's Queen ab to see how the Re lution had transformed the old scepticism and attacks on Christianity into ardent crusades. It is not surprising, then, that religion itself had kindled into a blaze that warmed the church to missionary zeal. The secular literature felt the glow; Wordsworth, Coleridge, Southey, and many more of the poets have none of the