Richard Hooker's Ecclesiastical Polity , the first book of which has been compared to the peal of a cathedral organ, is a work of genius. It is a defense of the Church of England as established under Elizabeth. In Francis Bacon published 10 short essays: in the latest edition there were Nothing equal to them in any way has ever been written since.
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His Advancement of Learning is a view of knowledge as it then was. His great work in Latin, Novum Organum , is a treatise on the inductive philosophy. This, the true method of studying nature, was not created by Bacon, but he held it up before the world in such a light as to make its claims seen and felt and to earn for himself the title of Father of Modern Science. John Milton, born in , ranking next to Shakespeare among English poets, wrote in three distinct periods.
That of his early poems began in his boyhood, the noble Hymn on the Nativity being written before he left the university. His two companion pieces, L'Allegro and Il Penseroso , show, the one, cheerful sympathy with the bright side of nature and life, and the other, sober thought on the earnestness and mystery which belong to them.
The elegy Lycidas and the masque Comus are others of his early poems. Milton's second period as a writer was spent in defending Parliament against Charles I. For 20 years he poured forth tracts and treatises, the most eloquent of which is his Areopagitica , a plea for the freedom of the press. His last period as a writer gave to the world the tragedy of Samson Agonistes and the epics of Paradise Lost and Paradise Regained.
Paradise Lost is his masterpiece and the greatest English epic. Among the theological writers of Milton's time was Jeremy Taylor, whose sermons are famous in literature. George Herbert's religious poetry is good, as are also the love-poems of Lovelace, Herrick, Cowley and Waller. To the era of the Restoration belongs the immortal prose allegory of the Bedford tinker and nonconformist preacher, The Pilgrim's Progress of John Bunyan. The greatest writer of the Restoration was John Dryden, whose many plays were highly popular.
His Absalom and Achitophel has been called the most powerful satire in English verse.
In this period, from Charles II to Anne, modern science arose on the foundation laid by Bacon; Newton's Principia was an epoch-making book. At this time, also, John Locke and Thomas Hobbes wrote on politics and metaphysics. The literature of the reign of Queen Anne was second only to that of the Elizabethan age.
The most forcible prose-writer of the age was Jonathan Swift, whose Tale of a Tub is a satire against all churchmen outside the Anglican state-church; while Gulliver's Travels is an ingenious and humorous satire against mankind. Alexander Pope was the chief poet of the day. His Essay on Criticism was written at His Rape of the Lock and his Dunciad are keen and bitter satires. The Essay on Man is full of brilliant sayings, often quoted.
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Thomson's Seasons showed a heart in love with nature. Defoe's Robinson Crusoe is the one of his many works that has given him lasting fame. Samuel Richardson's Pamela was the first modern novel. A much greater writer, Henry Fielding, followed him, whose Tom Jones is one of the best of English novels. Then came Sterne with his wonderful humor, exemplified in his Tristram Shandy.
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In history Hume and Robertson gave a new character and aim to the treatment of the past; and Hume's History of England and Robertson's History of Scotland and History of Charles V were the first of what might be called modern histories. Gibbon's Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire took even higher rank. Johnson and Goldsmith are brilliant examples of the miscellaneous writers of their day.
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Johnson's Lives of the Poets is that one of his works which is most read at present. Some of these essays are classics. Goldsmith's Traveller and Deserted Village are charming poems; She Stoops to Conquer is one of the most successful of English plays; and The Vicar of Wakefield long was a favorite novel wherever English is read.
Cowper's poetry had great influence on later poets. The poems of Burns have a depth and intensity of passion and sweetness of rhythm that have made them widely popular. The fullness of the literature of the 19th century makes it impossible to go into details. A new poetry of imagination and feeling had begun to spring up before the century opened. Coleridge devoted but a small part of his life to poetry, but his Christabel , The Ancient Mariner and Love are gems of English verse.
Wordsworth's Excursion is but a fragment of a vast plan. But Scott left poetry for fiction when Byron suddenly became the first poet of the day. Byron, Shelley and Keats were poets of imagination and passion. Campbell and Southey would have had much greater reputations as poets had it not been for the brilliant galaxy that shone around them. Robert Browning and Mrs. Browning have a firm place among English poets, while Tennyson was the greatest poet of the past century and its chief representative of that grand English song which has done much to elevate the national character and refine the human heart.
In a few brilliant young men started the Edinburgh Review. Blackmore and George Meredith to those of Wm. Black, Thomas Hardy, J.
Crockett, Conan Doyle and Mrs. Humphry Ward, the novel has become the largest department of English literature. In the number of these writers of fiction, naturally the range covered by the novel in our time is an enormous and varied one.
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There hardly is a domain which is deemed foreign to it, even outside its natural field of adventure, with its pictures of social life and its studies in and portrayal of character. Happily its legitimate function of entertainment in a wearying and engrossing age has not been lost, in spite of the ultrarealistic tendencies of the novel and its degenerating trend in the hands of ambitious but unpleasant and sometimes unwholesome writers.
In this prolific department of literature it is gratifying to find the public taste, in the main, quickly nauseated with the pernicious in fiction and reverting, with unfeigned pleasure, to the historical romance in the successors of the gallant school of Scott. The student of history has in the past half-century had much to entertain as well as instruct him in many solid and enduring contributions. The writers are many who have brought not only high scholarship, industry and great powers of research, but the rare gifts of animated and picturesque style.
Much of the work of these writers has enriched thought as well as informed the mind. Nor ought we to neglect to speak of the men who have done much excellent work in departments akin to that of the historian. We refer to the writers, among whom are jurists, university lecturers, professors and other eminent men of letters, who by their research have thrown light on English political institutions and the recent trend of the nation in legislation as well as in national expansion.
A few of these may be cited, as E. Palgrave on The House of Commons , with illustrations of its history and practice.
Further and helpful light on the politics and political problems of the time is afforded by the memoirs of prominent statesmen and the many instructive biographies which recent years have produced. Among the more important of these may be mentioned the many biographies of Mr. Gladstone, notably those by John Morley and by G. Baron Rowton's monograph on Lord Beaconsfield Benjamin Disraeli should also be known to the modern student of English politics, as well as the monographs in the English Statesmen Series; H. In the record of notable books in politics and the political life of the motherland it is proper to note the important treatise on The American Commonwealth by James Bryce, dealing with the American constitution and its development, a work which has been written not only with a scholar's dispassionateness but with remarkable intelligence and sympathy.
Here also we must chronicle J. Hunter, under the title of Rulers of India. The series embraces the lives of the great English consuls and governors-general in India, from the era of Clive, Cornwallis and Hastings to that of Dalhousie, Canning, Lawrence and Mayo.
Wide and entertaining is the field of general biography, in the department that deals with the lives and work of contemporary men outside the ranks of statesmen and politicians. Our limited space will permit the mention of but a few productions of note that are likely to endure. Of these, John Morley's series of English Men of Letters has the merit, not only of compactness of form as well as of modest cost, but the special advantage of being written by literary specialists of eminence, of keen critical powers, trained judgment and, as a rule, fine qualities in writing English prose.
A colossal undertaking also deserves to be noted—the 60 volumes of the Dictionary of National Biography , which has recently been completed under the editorship first of Leslie Stephen and finally of Sidney Lee. The transition is natural to the essay and the numberless writers in modern belles-lettres. The age is rich in workers here, especially in poetry, art and criticism. One of the sanest and most thoughtful of these critics was Richard Holt Hutton, the late editor of the London Spectator , who wrote largely and with earnestness on modern philosophical, literary and religious topics.
To single out but one of his works we may mention Criticisms on Contemporary Thought and Thinkers. Another of these writers of eminence is George Saintsbury, professor of English literature at the University of Edinburgh. Nor should Walter H. Pater's writings be overlooked, especially Appreciations , Imaginary Portraits and Studies in the History of the Renaissance.
Important also are the Essays and Addresses by A. The late Mrs. Oliphant was an industrious and interesting writer in general literature. Mark Pattison, Austin Dobson, A. Even a brief reference must be made to writers in religious philosophy among English churchmen and others, who have done excellent as well as thoughtful work, and in apologetics, and have chronicled the trend of the great religious movements of the period.
Especially have they done good work in their defense of theistic beliefs after the assaults of Darwinism and evolution. The past half-century also was the era of the investigation of facts. Darwin, Lyell, Faraday, Tyndall and Huxley made science clear and charming.
In philosophy the chief figure was Herbert Spencer, an author of ability, who wrote largely on evolutionary sociology, but more from the mechanical than from the moral side. Oliphant's Victorian Age of English Literature. Colonial literature mainly is sources of history, not literature proper.