Part 8 out of 13
something of all the beauties and wonder of it. Italy, which had
called so many of our poets, called him. Once more his kindly
father let him do as he would. He gave him money, provided him
with a servant, and sent him forth on his travels. For more than
a year Milton wandered, chiefly among the sunny cities of Italy.
He meant to stray still further to Sicily and Greece, but news
from home called him back, "The sad news of Civil War." "I
thought it base," he said, "that while my fellow-countrymen were
fighting at home for liberty, I should be traveling abroad at
When Milton returned home he did not go back to Horton, but set
up house in London. Here he began to teach his two nephews, his
sister's children, who were boys of nine and ten. Their father
had died, their mother married again, and Milton not only taught
the boys, but took them to live with him. He found pleasure, it
would seem, in teaching, for soon his little class grew, and he
began to teach other boys, the sons of friends.
Milton was a good master, but a severe one. The boys were kept
long hours at their lessons, and we are told that in a year's
time they could read a Latin author at sight, and within three
years they went through the best Latin and Greek poets. But "as
he was severe on one hand, so he was most familiar and free in
his conversation to those to whom most sour in his way of
education." He himself showed the example of "hard study and
spare diet,"** for besides teaching the boys he worked and wrote
steadily, study being ever the "grand affair of his life."**
Only now and again he went to see "young sparks" of his
acquaintance, "and now and then to keep a gawdy-day."** It is
scarce to be imagined that a gawdy-day in which John Milton took
part could have been very riotous.
Then after Milton had been leading this severe quiet life for
about four years, a strange thing happened. One day he set off
on a journey. He told no one why he went. Every one thought it
was but a pleasure jaunt. He was away about a month, then "home
he returns a married man that went out a bachelor."* We can
imagine how surprised the little boys would be to find that their
grave teacher of thirty-four had brought home a wife, a wife,
too, who was little more than a girl a few years older than
themselves. And as it was a surprise to them it is still a
surprise to all who read and write about Milton's life to this
day. With the new wife came several of her friends, and so the
quiet house was made gay with feasting and merriment for a few
days; for strange to say, Milton, the stern Puritan, had married
a Royalist lady, the daughter of a cavalier. After these few
merry days the gay friends left, and the young bride remained
behind with her grave and learned husband, in her new quiet home.
But to poor little Mary Milton, used to a great house and much
merry coming and going, the life she now led seemed dull beyond
bearing. She was not clever; indeed, she was rather stupid, so
after having led a "philosophical life" for about a month, she
begged to be allowed to go back to her mother.
Milton let he go on the understanding that she should return to
him in a month or two. But the time appointed came and went
without any sign of a returning wife. Milton wrote to her and
got no answer. Several times he wrote, and still no answer.
Then he sent a messenger. But the messenger returned without an
answer, or at least without a pleasing one. He had indeed been
"dismissed with some sort of contempt."
It would seem the cavalier family regretted having given a
daughter in marriage to the Puritan poet. The poet, on his side,
now resolved to cast out forever from his heart and home his
truant wife. He set himself harder than before to the task of
writing and teaching. He hid his aching heart and hurt pride as
best he might beneath a calm and stern bearing. But life had
changed for him. Up to this time all had gone as he wished.
Ever since, when a boy of twelve, he had sat till midnight over
his books with a patient waiting-maid beside him, those around
had smoothed his path in life for him. His will had been law
until a girl of seventeen defied him.
Time went on, the King's cause was all but hopeless. Many a
cavalier had lost all in his defense, among them those of Mary
Milton's family. Driven from their home, knowing hardly where to
turn for shelter, they bethought them of Mary's slighted husband.
He was on the winning side, and a man of growing importance.
Beneath his roof Mary at least would be safe.
The poor little runaway wife, we may believe, was afraid to face
her angry husband. But helped both by his friends and her own a
meeting was arranged. Milton had a friend to whose house he
often went, and in this house his wife was hid one day when the
poet came to pay a visit. While Milton waited for his friend he
was surprised, for when the door opened there came from the
adjoining room, not his friend, but "one whom he thought to have
never seen more." Mary his wife came to him, and sinking upon
her knees before him begged to be forgiven. Long after, in his
great poem, Milton seems to describe the scene when he makes Adam
cry out to Eve after the Fall, "Out of my sight, thou serpent!
That name best befits thee."
Not so repulsed, with tears that ceased not flowing,
And tresses all disordered, at his feet
Fell humble, and, embracing them, besought
His peace; and thus proceeded in her plaint:
'Forsake me not thus, Adam! Witness, Heaven,
What love sincere, and reverence in my heart
I bear thee, and unweeting have offended,
Unhappily deceived! Thy suppliant
I beg, and clasp thy knees. Bereave me not,
Whereon I live, thy gentle looks, thy aid,
Thy counsel in this uttermost distress,
My only strength and stay. Forlorn of thee,
Whither shall I betake me? where subsist?
While yet we live, scarce one short hour perhaps,
Between us two let there be peace.'
. . . . . . .
She ended weeping; and her lowly plight,
Immovable till peace obtained from fault
Acknowledged and deplored, in Adam wrought
Commiseration. Soon his heart relented
Towards her, his life so late and sole delight,
Now at his feet submissive in distress,
Creature so fair his reconcilement seeking,
His counsel, whom she had displeased, his aid;
As one disarmed, his anger all he lost,
And thus with peaceful words upraised her soon."
Milton thus took back to his home his wandering wife and not her
only, but also her father, mother, and homeless brothers and
sisters. So although he had moved to a larger house, it was now
full to overflowing, for besides all this Royalist family he had
living with him his pupils and his own old father.
Chapter LVIII MILTON--DARKNESS AND DEATH
AND now for twenty years the pen of Milton was used, not for
poetry, but for prose. The poet became a politician. Victory
was still uncertain, and Milton poured out book after book in
support of the Puritan cause. These books are full of wrath and
scorn and all the bitter passion of the time. They have hardly a
place in true literature, so we may pass them over glad that
Milton found it possible to spend his bitterness in prose and
leave his poetry what it is.
One only of his prose works is still remembered and still read
for its splendid English. That is Areopagitica, a passionate
appeal for a free press. Milton desired that a man should have
not only freedom of thought, but freedom to write down and print
and publish these thoughts. But the rulers of England, ever
since printing had been introduced, had thought otherwise, and by
law no book could be printed until it had been licensed, and no
man might set up a printing press without permission from
Government. To Milton this was tyranny. "As good almost kill a
man as kill a good book," he said, and again "Give me the liberty
to know, to utter, and to argue freely according to my conscience
above all liberties." He held the licensing law in contempt, and
to show his contempt he published Areopagitica without a license
and without giving the printer's or bookseller's name. It was
not the first time Milton had done this, and his enemies tried to
use it against him to bring him into trouble. But he had become
by this time too important a man, and nothing came of it.
Time went on, the bitter struggle between King and people came to
an end. The people triumphed, and the King laid his head upon
the block. Britain was without ruler other than Parliament. It
was then, one March day in 1649, that a few grave-faced, somber-
clad men knocked at the door of Milton's house. We can imagine
them tramping into the poet's low-roofed study, their heavy shoes
resounding on the bare floor, their sad faces shaded with their
tall black hats. And there, in sing-song voices, they tell the
astonished man that they come from Parliament to ask him to be
Secretary for Foreign Tongues.
Milton was astonished, but he accepted the post. And now his
life became a very busy one. It had been decided that all
letters to foreign powers should be written in Latin, but many
Governments wrote to England in their own languages. Milton had
to translate these letters, answer them in Latin, and also write
little books or pamphlets in answer to those which were written
against the Government.
It was while he was busy with this, while he was pouring out
bitter abuse upon his enemies or upon the enemies of his party,
that his great misfortune fell upon him. He became blind. He
had had many warnings. He had been told to be careful of his
eyes, for the sight of one had long been gone. But in spite of
all warnings he still worked on, and at length became quite
His enemies jeered at him, and said it was a judgment upon him
for his wicked writing. But never for a moment did Milton's
spirit quail. He had always been sure of himself, sure of his
mission in life, sufficient for himself. And now that the horror
of darkness shut him off from others, shut him still more into
himself, his heart did not fail him. Blind at forty-three, he
"When I consider how my light is spent,
Ere half my days, in this dark world and wide,
And that one talent which is death to hide,
Lodg'd with me useless, though my soul more bent
To serve therewith my Maker, and present
My true account, lest He, returning, chide;
'Doth God exact day labour, light denied?'
I fondly ask: but Patience, to prevent
That murmur, soon replies, 'God doth not need
Either man's work, or His own gifts; who best
Bear His mild yoke, they serve Him best: His state
Is kingly; thousands at His bidding speed,
And post o'er land and ocean without rest;
They also serve who only stand and wait.'"
Milton meant to take up this new burden patiently, but at forty-
three, with all the vigor of life still stirring in him, he could
not meekly fold his hands to stand and wait. Indeed, his
greatest work was still to come. Blind though he was, he did not
give up his post of Latin Secretary. He still remained Chief
Secretary, and others worked under him, among them Andrew
Marvell, the poet. He still gave all his brain and learning to
the service of his country, while others supplied his lacking
eyesight. But now in the same year Fate dealt him another blow.
His wife died. Perhaps there had never been any great love or
understanding between these two, for Milton's understanding of
all women was unhappy. But now, when he had most need of a
woman's kindly help and sympathy, she went from him leaving to
his blind care three motherless girls, the eldest of whom was
only six years old.
We know little of Milton's home life during the next years. But
it cannot have been a happy one. His children ran wild. He
tried to teach them in some sort. He was dependent now on others
to read to him, and he made his daughters take their share of
this. He succeeded in teaching them to read in several
languages, but they understood not a word of what they read, so
it was no wonder that they looked upon it as a wearisome task.
They grew up with neither love for nor understanding of their
stern blind father. To them he was not the great poet whose name
should be one of the triumphs of English Literature. He was
merely a severe father and hard taskmaster.
Four years after his first wife died Milton married again. This
lady he never saw, but she was gentle and kind, and he loved her.
For fifteen months she wrought peace and order in his home, then
she too died, leaving her husband more lonely than before. He
mourned her loss in poetic words. He dreamed she came to him one
"Came vested all in white, pure as her mind;
Her face was veil'd; yet to my fancied sight
Love, sweetness, goodness, in her person shin'd
So clear, as in no face with more delight.
But O, as to embrace me she inclin'd,
I wak'd; she fled; and day brought back my night."
With this sonnet (for those lines are part of the last sonnet
Milton ever wrote) it would seem as if a new period began with
Milton, his second period of poetry writing. Who knows but that
it was the sharp sorrow of his loss which sent him back to
poetry. For throughout Milton's life we can see that it was
always something outside himself which made him write poetry. He
did not sing like the birds because he must, but because he was
asked to sing by some person, or made to sing by some
However that may be, it was now that Milton began his greatest
work, Paradise Lost. Twenty years before the thought had come to
him that he would write a grand epic. We have scarcely spoken of
an epic since that first of all our epics, the Story of Beowulf.
And although others had written epics, Milton is to be remembered
as the writer of the great English epic. At first he thought of
taking Arthur for his hero, but as more and more he saw what a
mass of fable had gathered round Arthur, as more and more he saw
how plain a hero Arthur seemed, stripped of that fable, his mind
turned from the subject. And when, at last, after twenty years
of almost unbroken silence as a poet, he once more let his organ
voice be heard, it was not a man he spoke of, but Man. He told
the story which Caedmon a thousand years before had told of the
war in heaven, of the temptation and fall of man, and of how Adam
and Eve were driven out of the happy garden.
"Of man's first disobedience, and the fruit
Of that forbidden tree, whose mortal taste
Brought death into the world, and all our woe,
With loss of Eden, till one greater Man
Restore us, and regain the blissful seat,
Sing, Heavenly Muse."
You will remember, or if you look back to Chapter XIII you can
read again about the old poet Caedmon and what he wrote. It was
in 1655 that Junius published the so-called Caedmon Manuscript,
and Milton, who was so great a student, no doubt heard of it and
found some one to read it to him. And perhaps these poems helped
to decide him in his choice, although many years before he had
thought of writing on the subject.
Perhaps when you are older it may interest you to read the poems
of Milton and the poems of Caedmon together. Then you will see
how far ahead of the old poet Milton is in smooth beauty of
verse, how far behind him sometimes in tender knowledge of man
and woman. But I do not think you can hope to read Paradise Lost
with true pleasure yet a while. It is a long poem in blank
verse, much of it will seem dull to you, and you will find it
hard to be interested in Adam and Eve. For Milton set himself a
task of enormous difficulty when he tried to interest common men
and women in people who were without sin, who knew not good nor
evil. Yet if conceit, if self-assurance, if the want of the
larger charity which helps us to understand another's faults, are
sins, then Adam sinned long before he left Milton's Paradise. In
fact, Adam is often a bore, and at times he proves himself no
gentleman in the highest and best meaning of the word.
But in spite of Adam, in spite of everything that can be said
against it, Paradise Lost remains a splendid poem. Never,
perhaps, has the English language been used more nobly, never has
blank verse taken on such stately measure. Milton does not make
pictures for us, like some poets, like Spenser, for instance; he
sings to us. He sings to us, not like the gay minstrel with his
lute, but in stately measured tones, which remind us most of
solemn organ chords. His voice comes to us, too, out of a poet's
country through which, if we would find our way, we must put our
hand in his and let him guide us while he sings. And only when
we come to love "the best words in the best order" can we truly
enjoy Milton's Paradise Lost.
Milton fails at times to interest us in Adam, but he does
interest us in the Bad Angel Satan, and it has been said over and
over again that Satan is his true hero. And with such a man as
Milton this was hardly to be wondered at. All his life had been
a cry for liberty--liberty even when it bordered on rebellion.
And so he could not fail to make his arch rebel grand, and even
in his last degradation we somehow pity him, while feeling that
he is almost too high for pity. Listen to Satan's cry of sorrow
and defiance when he finds himself cast out from Heaven:--
"'Is this the region, this the soil, the clime,'
Said then the lost Archangel, 'this the seat
That we must change for heaven?--this mournful gloom
For that celestial light? Be it so, since he
Who now is sovran can dispose and bid
What shall be right; farthest from his is best,
Whom reason hath equalled, force hath made supreme
Above his equals. Farewell, happy fields,
Where joy for ever dwells! Hail, horrors! hail,
Infernal world! and thou, profoundest Hell
Receive thy new possessor--one who brings
A mind not to be changed by place or time,
The mind is its own place, and in itself
Can make a Heaven of Hell, a Hell of Heaven.
What matter where, if I be still the same,
And what I should be, all but less than he
Whom thunder hath made greater? Here at least
We shall be free the Almighty hath not built
Here for his envy, will not drive us hence;
Here we may reign secure; and, in my choice,
To reign is worth ambition, though in Hell:
Better to reign in Hell than serve in Heaven.'"
Then in contrast to this outburst of regal defiance, read the
last beautiful lines of the poem and see in what softened mood of
submission Milton pictures our first parents as they leave the
"In either hand the hastening Angel caught
Our lingering parents, and to the eastern gate
Led them direct, and down the cliff as fast
To the subjected plain--then disappeared.
They, looking back, all the eastern side beheld
Of Paradise, so late their happy seat,
Waved over by that flaming brand; the gate
With dreadful faces thronged and fiery arms.
Some natural tears they dropped, but wiped them soon;
The world was all before them, where to choose
Their place of rest, and Providence their guide.
They, hand in hand, with wandering steps and slow,
Through Eden took their solitary way."
Milton worked slowly at this grand poem. Being blind he had now
to depend on others to write out what poetry he made in his own
mind, so it was written "in a parcel of ten, twenty, or thirty
verses at a time by whatever hand came next." We are told that
when he was dictating sometimes he sat leaning back sideways in
an easy-chair, with his leg flung over the arm. Sometimes he
dictated from his bed, and if in the middle of the night lines
came to him, whatever time it was he would ring for one of his
daughters to write them down for him, lest the thought should be
lost ere morning.
We are told, too, that he wrote very little in summer. For he
said himself that it was in winter and spring that his poetic
fancy seemed to come best to him, and that what he wrote at other
times did not please him. "So that in all the years he was about
this poem, he may be said to have spent but half his time
But now, while Milton's mind was full of splendid images, while
in spite of the discomfort and lonliness of his misruled home, he
was adding line to line of splendid sounding English, great
changes came over the land.
Oliver Cromwell died. To him succeeded his son Richard. But his
weak hands could not hold the scepter. He could not bind
together a rebel people as great Oliver had done. In a few
months he gave up the task, and little more than a year later the
people who had wept at the death of the great Protector, were
madly rejoicing at the return of a despot.
With a Stuart king upon the throne, there was no safety for the
rebel poet who had used all the power of his wit and learning
against the Royal cause. Pity for his blindness might not save
him. So listening to the warnings of his friends, he fled into
hiding somewhere in the city of London, "a place of retirement
But after a time the danger passed, and Milton crept forth from
his hiding-place. It was perhaps pity for his blind
helplessness, perhaps contempt for his powerlessness, that saved
him, who can tell? His books were burned by the common hangman,
and he found himself in prison for a short time, but he was soon
released. While others were dying for their cause, the blind
poet whose trumpet call had been Liberty! Liberty! was
contemptuously allowed to live.
Now indeed had Milton fallen on dark and evil days. He had
escaped with his life and was free. But all that he had worked
for during the past twenty years he saw shattered as at one blow.
He saw his friends suffering imprisonment and death, himself
forsaken and beggared. He found no sympathy at home. His
daughters, who had not loved their father in his days of wealth
and ease, loved him still less in poverty. They sold his books,
cheated him with the housekeeping money, and in every way added
to his unhappiness. At length, as a way out of the misery and
confusion of his home, Milton married for the third time.
The new wife was a placid, kindly woman. She managed the house,
managed too the wild, unruly girls as no one had managed them
before. She saw the folly of keeping them, wholly untamed and
half-educated as they were, at home, and persuaded her husband to
let them learn something by which they might earn a living. So
they went out into the world "to learn some curious and ingenious
sorts of manufacture, that are proper for women to learn,
particularly embroideries in gold and silver."
Thus for the last few years of his life Milton was surrounded by
peace and content such as he had never before known. All through
life he had never had any one to love him deeply except his
father and his mother, whose love for him was perhaps not all
wise. Those who had loved him in part had feared him too, and
the fear outdid the love. But now in the evening of his days, if
no perfect love came to him, he found at least kindly
understanding. His wife admired him and cared for him. She had
a fair face and pretty voice, and it is pleasant to picture the
gray-haired poet sitting at his organ playing while his wife
sings. He cannot see the sun gleam and play in her golden hair,
or the quick color come and go in her fair face, but at least he
can take joy in the sound of her sweet fresh voice.
It was soon after this third marriage that Paradise Lost was
finished and published. And even in those wild Restoration days,
when laughter and pleasure alone were sought, men acknowledged
the beauty and grandeur of this grave poem. "This man cuts us
all out, and the ancients too," said Dryden, another and younger
People now came to visit the author of Paradise Lost, as before
they had come to visit great Cromwell's secretary. We have a
pleasant picture of him sitting in his garden at the door of his
house on sunny days to enjoy the fresh air, for of the many
houses in which Milton lived not one was without a garden.
There, even when the sun did not shine, wrapt in a great coat of
coarse gray cloth, he received his visitors. Or when the weather
was colder he sat in an upstairs room hung with rusty green. He
wore no sword, as it was the fashion in those days to do, and his
clothes were black. His long, light gray hair fell in waves
round his pale but not colorless face, and the sad gray eyes with
which he seemed to look upon his visitors were still clear and
Life had now come for Milton to a peaceful evening time, but his
work was not yet finished. He had two great poems still to
One was Paradise Regained. In this he shows how man's lost
happiness was found again in Christ. Here is a second
temptation, the temptation in the wilderness, but this time Satan
is defeated, Christ is victorious.
The second poem was Samson Agonistes, which tells the tragic
story of Samson in his blindness. And no one reading it can fail
to see that it is the story too of Milton in his blindness. It
is Milton himself who speaks when he makes Samson exclaim:--
"O loss of sight, of thee I most complain!
Blind among enemies: O worse than chains,
Dungeon, or beggary, or decrepit age!
Light, the prime work of God, to me is extinct,
And all her various objects of delight
Annulled, which might in part my grief have eased.
Inferior to the vilest now become
Of man or worm: the vilest here excel me,
They creep, yet see; I, dark in light, exposed
To daily fraud, contempt, abuse, and wrong,
Within doors, or without, still as a fool,
In power of others, never in my own;--
O dark, dark, dark, amid the blaze of noon,
Irrecoverably dark, total eclipse
Without all hope of day!"
This was Milton's last poem. He lived still four years longer
and still wrote. But his singing days were over, and what he now
wrote was in prose. His life's work was done, and one dark
November evening in 1674 he peacefully died.
"Thy soul was like a Star, and dwelt apart:
Thou hadst a voice whose sound was like the sea:
Pure as the naked heavens, majestic, free,
So didst thou travel on life's common way."*
Chapter LIX BUNYAN--"THE PILGRIM'S PROGRESS"
THE second great Puritan writer of England was John Bunyan. He
was born in 1628, more than twenty years after Milton. His
father was a tinker. A tinker! The word makes us think of
ragged, weather-worn men and women who wander about the
countryside. They carry bundles of old umbrellas, and sometimes
a battered kettle or two. They live, who knows how? they sleep,
who knows where? Sometimes in our walks we come across a charred
round patch upon the grass in some quiet nook by the roadside,
and we know the tinkers have been there, and can imagine all
sorts of stories about them. Or sometimes, better still, we find
them really there by the roadside boiling a mysterious three-
legged black kettle over a fire of sticks.
But John Bunyan's father was not this kind of tinker. He did not
wander about the countryside, but lived at the little village of
Elstow, about a mile from the town of Bedford, as his father had
before him. He was a poor and honest workman who mended his
neighbors' kettles and pans, and did his best to keep his family
in decent comfort.
One thing which shows this is that little John was sent to
school. In those days learning, even learning to read and write,
was not the just due of every one. It was only for the well-to-
do. "But yet," says Bunyan himself, "notwithstanding the
meanness and inconsiderableness of my parents, it pleased God to
put it into their hearts to put me to school, to learn me both to
read and write."
Bunyan was born when the struggle between King and people was
beginning to be felt, and was a great boy of fourteen when at
last the armies of King and Parliament met on the battlefield of
Edgehill. To many this struggle was a struggle for freedom in
religion. From end to end of our island the question of religion
was the burning question of the day. Religion had wrought itself
into the lives of people. In those days of few books the Bible
was the one book which might be found in almost every house. The
people carried it in their hands, and its words were ever on
their lips. But the religion which came to be the religion of
more than half the people of England was a stern one. They
forgot the Testament of Love, they remembered only the Testament
of Wrath. They made the narrow way narrower, and they believed
that any who strayed from it would be punished terribly and
eternally. It was into this stern world that little John Bunyan
was born, and just as a stern religious struggle was going on in
England so a stern religious struggle went on within his little
heart. He heard people round him talk of sins and death, of a
dreadful day of judgment, of wrath to come. These things laid
hold of his childish mind and he began to believe that in the
sight of God he must be a desperate sinner. Dreadful dreams came
to him at night. He dreamed that the Evil One was trying to
carry him off to a darksome place there to be "bound down with
the chains and bonds of darkness, unto the judgment of the great
day." Such dreams made night terrible to him.
Bunyan tells us that he swore and told lies and that he was the
ringleader in all the wickedness of the village. But perhaps he
was not so bad as he would have us believe, for he was always
very severe in his judgments of himself. Perhaps he was not
worse than many other boys who did not feel that they had sinned
beyond all forgiveness. And in spite of his awful thoughts and
terrifying dreams Bunyan still went on being a naughty boy; he
still told lies and swore.
At length he left school and became a tinker like his father.
But all England was being drawn into war, and so Bunyan, when
about seventeen, became a soldier.
Strange to say we do not know upon which side he fought. Some
people think that because his father belonged to the Church of
England that he must have fought on the King's side. But that is
nothing to go by, for many people belonged to that Church for old
custom's sake who had no opinions one way or another, and who
took no side until forced by the war to do so. It seems much
more likely that Bunyan, so Puritan in all his ways of thought,
should fight for the Puritan side. But we do not know. He was
not long a soldier, we do not know quite how long, it was perhaps
only a few months. But during these few months his life was
saved by, what seemed to him afterwards to have been a miracle.
"When I was a soldier," he says, "I, with others, were drawn out
to go to such a place to besiege it. But when I was just ready
to go one of the company desired to go in my room. To which,
when I had consented, he took my place. And coming to the siege,
as he stood sentinel, he was shot in the head with a musket
bullet, and died.
"Here, as I said, were judgments and mercy, but neither of them
did awaken my soul to righteousness. Wherefore I sinned still,
and grew more and more rebellious against God."
So whether Bunyan served in the Royal army, where he might have
heard oaths, or in the Parliamentarian, where he might have heard
godly songs and prayers, he still went on his way as before.
Some time after Bunyan left the army, and while he was still very
young, he married. Both he and his wife were, he says, "as poor
as poor might be, not having so much household stuff as a dish or
a spoon betwixt us both. Yet this she had for her part, The
Plain Man's Pathway to Heaven and The Practice of Piety, which
her father had left her when he died."
These two books Bunyan read with his wife, picking up again the
art of reading, which he had been taught at school, and which he
had since almost forgotten. He began now to go a great deal to
church, and one of his chief pleasures was helping to ring the
bells. To him the services were a joy. He loved the singing,
the altar with its candles, the rich robes, the white surplices,
and everything that made the service beautiful. Yet the terrible
struggle between good and evil in his soul went on. He seemed to
hear voices in the air, good voices and bad voices, voices that
accused him, voices that tempted. He was a most miserable man,
and seemed to himself to be one of the most wicked, and yet
perhaps the worst thing he could accuse himself of doing was
playing games on Sunday, and pleasing himself by bell-ringing.
He gave up his bell-ringing because it was a temptation to
vanity. "Yet my mind hankered, therefore I would go to the
steeple house and look on, though I durst not ring." One by one
he gave up all the things he loved, things that even if we think
them wrong do not seem to us to merit everlasting punishment.
But at last the long struggle ended and his tortured mind found
rest in the love of Christ.
Bunyan himself tells us the story of this long fight in a book
called Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners. As we read we
cannot help but see that Bunyan was never a very wicked man, but
merely a man with a very tender conscience. Things which seemed
to other men trifles were to him deadly sins; and although he was
so stern to himself, to others he shows a fatherly tenderness
which makes us feel that this rough tinker was no narrow Puritan,
but a broad-minded, large-hearted Christian. And now that Bunyan
had found peace he became a Baptist, and joined the church of a
man whom he calls "the holy Mr. Gifford." Gifford had been an
officer in the Royal army. He had been wild and drunken, but
repenting of his evil ways had become a preacher. Now, until he
died some years later, he was Bunyan's fast friend.
In the same year as Bunyan lost his friend his wife too died, and
he was left alone with four children, two of them little girls,
one of whom was blind. She was, because of that, all the more
dear to him. "She lay nearer to my heart than all beside," he
And now Bunyan's friends found out his great gift of speech.
They begged him to preach, but he was so humble and modest that
at first he refused. At length, however, he was over-persuaded.
He began his career as a minister and soon became famous. People
came from long distances to hear him, and he preached not only in
Elstow and Bedford but in all the country round. He preached,
not only in churches, but in barns and in fields, by the roadside
or in the market-place, anywhere, in fact, where he could gather
It was while Cromwell ruled that Bunyan began this ministry. But
in spite of all the battles that had been fought for religious
freedom, there was as yet no real religious freedom in England.
Each part, as it became powerful, tried to tyrannize over every
other party, and no one was allowed to preach without a license.
The Presbyterians were now in power; Bunyan was a Baptist, and
some of the Presbyterians would gladly have silenced him. Yet
during Cromwell's lifetime he went his way in peace. Then the
Restoration came. A few months later Bunyan was arrested for
preaching without a license. Those who now ruled "were angry
with the tinker because he strove to mend souls as well as
kettles and pans."* Before he was taken prisoner Bunyan was
warned of his danger, and if he had "been minded to have played
the coward" he might have escaped. But he would not try to save
himself. "If I should now run to make an escape," he said, "it
will be a very ill savour in the country. For what will my weak
and newly-converted brethren think of it but that I was not so
strong in deed as I was in word."
So Bunyan was taken prisoner. Even then he might have been at
once set free would he have promised not to preach. But to all
persuasions he replied, "I durst not leave off that work which
God has called me to."
Thus Bunyan's long imprisonment of twelve years began. He had
married again by this time, and the parting with his wife and
children was hard for him, and harder still for the young wife
left behind "all smayed at the news." But although she was
dismayed she was brave of heart, and she at once set about
eagerly doing all she could to free her husband. She went to
London, she ventured into the House of Lords, and there pleaded
for him. Touched by her earnestness and her helplessness the
Lords treated her kindly. But they told her they could do
nothing for her and that she must plead her case before the
So back to Bedford she went, and with beating heart and trembling
limbs sought out the judges. Again she was kindly received, but
again her petition was of no avail. The law was the law. Bunyan
had broken the law and must suffer. He would not promise to
cease from preaching, she would as little promise for him. "My
lord," she said, "he dares not leave off preaching as long as he
So it was all useless labor, neither side could or would give way
one inch. Bursting into tears the poor young wife turned away.
But she wept "not so much because they were so hard-hearted
against me and my husband, but to think what a sad account such
poor creatures will have to give at the coming of the Lord, when
they shall then answer for all things whatsoever they have done
in the body, whether it be good, or whether it be bad."
Seeing there was no help for it, Bunyan set himself bravely to
endure his imprisonment. And, in truth, this was not very
severe. Strangely enough he was allowed to preach to his fellow-
prisoners, he was even at one time allowed to go to church. But
the great thing for us is that he wrote books. Already, before
his imprisonment, he had written several books, and now he wrote
that for which he is most famous, the Pilgrim's Progress.
It is a book so well known and so well loved that I think I need
say little about it. In the form of a dream Bunyan tells, as you
know, the story of Christian who set out on his long and
difficult pilgrimage from the City of Destruction to the City of
the Blest. He tells of all Christian's trials and adventures on
the way, of how he encounters giants and lion, of how he fights
with a great demon, and of how at length he arrives at his
journey's end in safety. A great writer has said, "There is no
book in our literature on which we would so readily stake the
fame of the old unpolluted English language, no book which shows
so well how rich that language is in its own proper wealth, and
how little it has been improved by all that it has borrowed."*
For the power of imagination this writer places Bunyan by the
side of Milton. Although there were many clever men in England
towards the end of the seventeenth century, there were only two
minds which had great powers of imagination. "One of those minds
produced the Paradise Lost, the other the Pilgrim's Progress."
That is very great praise, and yet although Milton and Bunyan are
thus placed side by side no two writers are more widely apart.
Milton's writing is full of the proofs of his leaning, his
English is fine and stately, but it is full of words made from
Latin words. As an early writer on him said "Milton's language
is English, but it is Milton's English."*
On the other hand, Bunyan's writing is most simple. He uses
strong, plain, purely English words. There is hardly one word in
all his writing which a man who knows his Bible cannot easily
understand. And it was from the Bible that Bunyan gathered
nearly all his learning. He knew it from end to end, and the
poetry and grandeur of its language filled his soul. But he read
other books, too, among them, we feel sure, the Faery Queen.
Some day you may like to compare the adventures of the Red Cross
Knight with the adventures of Christian. And perhaps in all the
Faery Queen you will find nothing so real and exciting as
Christian's fight with Apollyon. Apollyon comes from a Greek
word meaning the destroyer. This is how Bunyan tells of the
"But now in this Valley of Humiliation poor Christian was hard
put to it. For he had gone but a little way before he espied a
Foul Fiend coming over the field to meet him. His name is
Apollyon. Then did Christian begin to be afraid and to cast in
his mind whether to go back or to stand his ground. But he
considered again, that he had no armour for his back, and
therefore thought that to turn the back to him might give him
greater advantage, with ease, to pierce him with his darts.
Therefore he resolved to venture and stand his ground. For, he
thought, had I no more in mine eye than the saving of my life,
'twould be the best way to stand.
"So he went on, and Apollyon met him. Now the Monster was
hideous to behold. He was clothed with scales like a fish, and
they are his pride. He had wings like a dragon, feet like a
bear, and out of his belly came fire and smoke. And his mouth
was as the mouth of a lion. When he came up to Christian he
beheld him with a disdainful countenance, and thus began to
"APOLLYON. When came you? and whither are you bound?
"CHRISTIAN. I am come from the City of Destruction, which is the
place of all evil, and am going to the City of Zion."
After this Apollyon argued with Christian, trying to persuade him
to give up his pilgrimage and return to his evil ways. But
Christian would listen to nothing that Apollyon could say.
"Then Apollyon straddled quite over the whole breadth of the Way
and said, 'I am void of fear in this matter. Prepare thyself to
die, for I swear by my Infernal Den that thou shalt go no
further. Here will I spill thy soul!'
"And with that he threw a flaming dart at his heart. But
Christian had a shield in his hand, with which he caught it, and
so prevented the danger of that.
"Then did Christian draw, for he saw it was time to bestir him,
and Apollyon as fast made at him, throwing darts as thick as
hail, by the which, notwithstanding all that Christian could do
to avoid it, Apollyon wounded him in his head, his hand, and
foot. This made Christian give a little back. Apollyon
therefore followed his work amain, and Christian again took
courage and resisted as manfully as he could. This sore combat
lasted for above half a day, even till Christian was almost quite
spent. For you must know that Christian, by reason of his
wounds, must needs grow weaker and weaker.
"Then Apollyon espying his opportunity began to gather up close
to Christian, and wrestling with him gave him a dreadful fall.
And with that Christian's sword flew out of his hand. Then said
Apollyon, 'I am sure of thee now.' And with that he had almost
pressed him to death so that Christian began to despair of life.
But, as God would have it, while Apollyon was fetching his last
blow, thereby to make a full end of this good man, Christian
nimbly reached out his hand for his sword and caught it, saying,
'Rejoice not against me, O mine Enemy! when I fall I shall
arise!' and with that gave him a deadly thrust which made him
give back, as one that had received his mortal wound.
"Christian perceiving that made at him again, saying 'Nay in all
these things we are more than conquerors through Him that loved
us.' And with that Apollyon spread forth his dragon's wings and
sped him away, and Christian saw him no more."
Bunyan wrote a second part or sequel to the Pilgrim's Progress,
in which he tells of the adventures of Christian's wife and
children on their way to Zion. But the story does not interest
us as the story of Christian does. Because we love Christian we
are glad to know that his wife and children escaped destruction,
but except that they belong to him we do not really care about
Bunyan wrote several other books. The best known are The Holy
War and Grace Abounding. The Holy War might be called a Paradise
Lost and Regained in homely prose. It tells much the same story,
the story of the struggle between Good and Evil for the
possession of man's soul.
In Grace Abounding Bunyan tells of his own struggle with evil,
and it is from that book that we learn much of what we know of
He also wrote the Life and Death of Mr. Badman. Instead of
telling how a good man struggles with evil and at last wins rest,
it tells of how a bad man yields always to evil and comes at last
to a sad end. It is not a pretty story, and is one, I think,
which you will not care to read.
Bunyan, too, wrote a good deal of rime, but for the most part it
can hardly be called poetry. It is for his prose that we
remember him. Yet who would willingly part with the song of the
shepherd-boy in the second part of the Pilgrim's Progress:--
"He that is down needs fear no fall;
He that is low, no pride:
He that is humble, ever shall
Have God to be his guide.
I am content with what I have,
Little be it or much:
And, Lord, contentment still I crave,
Because thou savest such.
Fullness to such a burden is
That go on pilgrimage:
Here little, and hereafter bliss,
Is best from age to age."
When Bunyan had been in prison for six years he was set free, but
as he at once began to preach he was immediately seized and
reimprisoned. He remained shut up for six years longer. Then
King Charles II passed an Act called the Declaration of
Indulgence. By this Act all the severe laws against those who
did not conform to the Church of England were done away with,
and, in consequence, Bunyan was set free. Charles passed this
Act, not because he was sorry for the Nonconformists--as all who
would not conform to the Church of England were called--but
because he wished to free the Roman Catholics, and he could not
do that without freeing the Nonconformists too. Two years later
Bunyan was again imprisoned because "in contempt of his Majesty's
good laws he preached or teached in other manner than according
to the Liturgy or practice of the Church of England." But this
time his imprisonment lasted only six months. And I must tell
you that many people now think that it was during this later
short imprisonment that Bunyan wrote the Pilgrim's Progress, and
not during the earlier and longer.
The rest of Bunyan's life passed peacefully and happily. But we
know few details of it, for "he seems to have been too busy to
keep any records of his busy life."* We know at least that it
was busy. He was now a licensed preacher, and if the people had
flocked to hear him before his imprisonment they flocked in far
greater numbers now. Even learned men came to hear him. "I
marvel," said King Charles to one, "that a learned man such as
you can sit and listen to an unlearned tinker."
"May it please your Majesty," replied he, "I would gladly give up
all my learning if I could preach like that tinker."
Bunyan became the head of the Baptist Church. Near and far he
traveled, preaching and teaching, honored and beloved wherever he
went. And his word had such power, his commands had such weight,
that people playfully called him Bishop Bunyan. Yet he was "not
puffed up in prosperity, nor shaken in adversity, always holding
the golden mean."*
Death found Bunyan still busy, still kindly. A young man who
lived at Reading had offended his father so greatly that the
father cast him off. In his trouble the young man came to
Bunyan. He at once mounted his horse and rode off to Reading.
There he saw the angry father, and persuaded him to make peace
with his repentant son.
Glad at his success, Bunyan rode on to London, where he meant to
preach. But the weather was bad, the roads were heavy with mud,
he was overtaken by a storm of rain, and ere he could find
shelter he was soaked to the skin. He arrived at length at a
friend's house wet and weary and shaking with fever. He went to
bed never to rise again. The time had come when, like Christian,
he must cross the river which all must cross "where there is no
bridge to go over and the river very deep." But Bunyan, like
Christian, was held up by Hope. He well knew the words, "When
thou passest through the waters I will be with thee, and through
the rivers they shall not overflow thee." And so he crossed
And may we not believe that Bunyan, when he reached the other
side, heard again, as he had once before heard in his immortal
dream, "all the bells in the city ring again with joy," and that
it was said unto him, "Enter ye into the joy of our Lord"?
Chapter LX DRYDEN--THE NEW POETRY
"THE life of Dryden may be said to comprehend a history of the
literature of England, and its changes, during nearly half a
century." With these words Sir Walter Scott, himself a great
writer, began his life of John Dryden. Yet although Dryden
stands for so much in the story of our literature, as a man we
know little of him. As a writer his influence on the age in
which he lived was tremendous. As a man he is more shadowy than
almost any other greater writer. We seem to know Chaucer, and
Spenser, and Milton, and even Shakespeare a little, but to know
Dryden in himself seems impossible. We can only know him through
his works, and through his age. And in him we find the
expression of his age.
With Milton ended the great romantic school of poetry. He was
indeed as one born out of time, a lonely giant. He died and left
no follower. With Dryden began a new school of poetry, which was
to be the type of English poetry for a hundred and fifty years to
come. This is called the classical school, and the rime which
the classical poets used is called the heroic couplet. It is a
long ten-syllabled line, and rimes in couplets, as, for
"He sought the storms; but, for a calm unfit,
Would stem too nigh the sands, to boast his wit,
Great wits are sure to madness near allied,
And thin partitions do their bounds divide."*
*Absalom and Achitophel.
Dryden did not invent the heroic couplet, but it was he who first
made it famous. "It was he," says Scott, "who first showed that
the English language was capable of uniting smoothness and
strength." But when you come to read Dryden's poems you may
perhaps feel that in gaining the smoothness of Art they have lost
something of the beauty of Nature. The perfect lines with their
regular sounding rimes almost weary us at length, and we are glad
to turn to the rougher beauty of some earlier poet.
But before speaking more of what Dryden did let me tell you a
little of what we know of his life.
John Dryden was the son of a Northamptonshire gentleman who had a
small estate and a large family, for John was the eldest of
fourteen children. The family was a Puritan one, although in
1631, when John was born, the Civil War had not yet begun.
When John Dryden left school he went, like nearly all the poets,
to Cambridge. Of what he did at college we know very little. He
may have been wild, for more than once he got into trouble, and
once he was "rebuked on the head" for speaking scornfully of some
nobleman. He was seven years at Cambridge, but he looked back on
these years with no joy. He had no love for his University, and
"Oxford to him a dearer name shall be,
Than his own Mother University."
Already at college Dryden had begun to write poetry, but his poem
on the death of Cromwell is perhaps the first that is worth
"Swift and relentless through the land he past,
Like that bold Greek, who did the East subdue;
And made to battles of such heroic haste
As if on wings of victory he flew.
He fought secure of fortune as of fame,
Till by new maps the island might be shown
Of conquests, which he strewed where'er he came,
This as the galaxy with stars is sown.
Nor was he like those stars which only shine,
When to pale mariners they storms portend,
He had a calmer influence, and his mien
Did love and majesty together blend.
Nor died he when his ebbing fame went less,
But when fresh laurels courted him to live:
He seemed but to prevent some new success,
As if above what triumphs earth could give.
His ashes in a peaceful urn shall rest;
His name a great example stands, to show,
How strangely high endeavours may be blessed,
Where piety and valour jointly go."
So wrote Dryden. But after the death of Cromwell came the
Restoration. Dryden had been able to admire Cromwell, but
although he came of a Puritan family he could never have been a
Puritan at heart. What we learn of him in his writings show us
that. He was not of the stern stuff which makes martyrs and
heroes. There was no reason why he should suffer for a cause in
which he did not whole-heartedly believe. So Dryden turned
Royalist, and the very next poem he wrote was On the Happy
Restoration and Return of His Majesty Charles the Second.
"How easy 'tis when destiny proves kind,
With full spread sails to run before the wind!"*
So Dryden ran before the wind.
About three years after the Restoration Dryden married an earl's
daughter, Lady Elizabeth Howard. We know very little about their
life together, but they had three children of whom they were very
With the Restoration came the re-opening of the theaters, and for
fourteen years Dryden was known as a dramatic poet. There is
little need to tell you anything about his plays, for you would
not like to read them. During the reign of Puritanism in England
the people had been forbidden even innocent pleasures. The
Maypole dances had been banished, games and laughter were frowned
upon. Now that these too stern laws had been taken away, people
plunged madly into pleasure: laughter became coarse, merriment
became riotous. Puritan England had lost the sense of where
innocent pleasure ends and wickedness begins. In another way
Restoration England did the same. The people of the Restoration
saw fun and laughter in plays which seem to us now simply vulgar
and coarse as well as dull. The coarseness, too, is not the
coarseness of an ignorant people who know no better, but rather
of a people who do know better and who yet prefer to be coarse.
I do not mean to say that there are no well-drawn characters, no
beautiful lines, in Dryden's plays for that would not be true.
Many of them are clever, the songs in them are often beautiful,
but nearly all are unpleasant to read. The taste of the
Restoration times condemned Dryden to write in a way unworthy of
himself for money. "Neither money nor honour--that in two words
was the position of writers after the Restoration."*
*Beljame, Le Public et les Hommes de Lettres in Angleterre.
"And Dryden, in immortal strain,
Had raised the table-round again
But that a ribald King and Court
Bade him toil on to make them sport,
Demanding for their niggard pay,
Fit for their souls, a loser lay."*
*Walter Scott, Marmion.
Had Dryden written nothing but plays we should not remember him
as one of our great poets. Yet it was during this time of play-
writing that Dryden was made Poet Laureate and Historiographer
Royal with the salary of 200 pounds a year and a butt of sack.
It was after he became Poet Laureate that Dryden began to write
his satires, the poems for which he is most famous. Although a
satire is a poem which holds wickedness up to scorn, sometimes it
was used, not against the wicked and the foolish, but against
those who merely differed from the writer in politics or religion
or any other way of life or thought. Such was Dryden's best
satire--thought by some people the best in the English language.
It is called Absalom and Achitophel. To understand it we must
know and understand the history of the times. Here in the guise
of the old Bible story Dryden seeks to hold Lord Shaftesbury up
to scorn because he tried to have a law passed which would
prevent the King's brother James from succeeding to the throne,
and which would instead place the Duke of Monmouth there. When
the poem was published Shaftesbury was in the Tower awaiting his
trial for high treason. The poem had a great effect, but
Shaftesbury was nevertheless set free.
In spite of the fine sounding lines you will perhaps never care
to read Absalom and Achitophel save as a footnote to history.
But Dryden's was the age of satire. Those he wrote called forth
others. He was surrounded and followed by many imitators, and it
is well to remember Dryden as the greatest of them all. His
satires were so powerful, too, that the people against whom they
were directed felt them keenly, and no wonder. "There are
passages in Dryden's satires in which every couplet has not only
the force but the sound of a slap in the face," says a recent
Among the younger writers Dryden took the place Ben Jonson used
hold. He kinged it in the coffee-house, then the fashionable
place at which the wits gathered, as Jonson had in the tavern.
He was given the most honored seat, in summer by the window, in
winter by the fire. And although he was not a great talker like
Jonson, the young wits crowded around him, eager for the honor of
a word or a pinch from the great man's snuff-box.
Besides his plays and satires Dryden wrote a poem in support of
the English Church called Religio Laici. Then a few years later,
when Charles II died and James II came to the throne, Dryden
turned Roman Catholic and wrote a poem called The Hind and the
Panther in praise of the Church of Rome.
But the reign of James II was short. The "Glorious Revolution"
came, and with a Protestant King and Queen upon the throne, the
Catholic Poet Laureate lost his post and pension and all his
other appointments. Dryden was now nearly sixty; and although he
had made what was then a good deal of money by his plays and
other poems he had spent it freely, and always seemed in need.
Now he had to face want and poverty. But he faced them bravely.
Dryden all his life had been a flatterer; he had always sailed
with the wind. Now, whether he could not or would not, he
changed no more, he flattered no more. A kind friend, it is
said, still continued to pay him the two hundred pounds he had
received as Poet Laureate, and he now wrote more plays which
brought him money. Then, thus late in life, he began the work
which for you at present will have the greatest interest. Dryden
was a great poet, but he could create nothing, he had to have
given him ideas upon which to work. Now he began translations
from Latin poets, and for those who cannot read them in the
original they are still a great pleasure and delight.
True, Dryden did not translate literally, that is word for word.
He paraphrased rather, and in doing so he Drydenized the
originals, often adding whole lines of his own. Among his
translations was Virgil's Aeneid, which long before, you remember,
Surrey had begun in blank verse. But blank verse was not what
the age in which Dryden lived desired, and he knew it. So he
wrote in rimed couplets. Long before this he had turned Milton's
Paradise Lost into rimed couplets, making it into an opera, which
he called The State of Innocence. An opera is a play set to
music, but this opera was never set to music, and never sung or
acted. Dryden, we know, admired Milton's poetry greatly. "This
man cuts us all out," he had said. Yet he thought he could make
the poem still better, and asked Milton's leave to turn it into
rime. "Ay, you may tag my verses if you will," replied the great
It is interesting to compare the two poems, and when you come to
read The State of Innocence you will find that not all the verses
are "tagged." So that in places you can compare Milton's blank
verse with Dryden's. And although Dryden must have thought he
was improving Milton's poem, he says himself: "Truly I should be
sorry, for my own sake, that any one should take the pains to
compare them (the poems) together, the original being,
undoubtedly, one of the greatest, most noble, and most sublime
poems which either this age or nation has produced."
Dryden begins his poem with the speech of Satan, Lucifer he calls
him, on finding himself cast out from heaven:--
"Is this the seat our conqueror has given?
And this the climate we must change for heaven?
These regions and this realm my wars have got;
This mournful empire is the loser's lot;
In liquid burnings, or on dry, to dwell,
Is all the sad variety of hell."
If you turn back to page 401 you can compare this with Milton's
Besides translating some Latin and a few Greek poems Dryden
translated stories from Boccaccio, Chaucer's old friend, and last
of all he translated Chaucer himself into Drydenese. For in
Dryden's day Chaucer's language had already become so old-
fashioned that few people troubled to read him. "It is so
obsolete," says Dryden, "that his sense is scarce to be
understood." "I find some people are offended that I have turned
these tales into modern English, because they think them unworthy
of my pains, and look on Chaucer as a dry, old-fashioned wit not
Again he says: "But there are other judges, who think I ought
not to have translated Chaucer into English, out of a quite
contrary notion. They suppose there is a certain veneration due
to his old language, and that it is little less than profanation
and sacrilege to alter it. They are further of opinion that
somewhat of his good sense will suffer in this transfusion, and
much of the beauty of his thoughts will infallibly be lost, which
appear with more grace in their old habit." I think all of us
who can read Chaucer in his own language must agree with these
judges. But Dryden goes on to say he does not write for such,
but for those who cannot read Chaucer's English. Are they who
can understand Chaucer to deprive the greater part of their
countrymen of the same advantage, and hoard him up, as misers do
their gold, only to look on it themselves and hinder others from
making use of it? he asks.
This is very good reasoning, and all that can be said against it
is that when Dryden has done with Chaucer, although he tells the
same tales, they are no longer Chaucer's but Dryden's. The
spirit is changed. But that you will be able to feel only when
you grow older and are able to read the two and balance them one
against the other. Dryden translated only a few of the
Canterbury Tales, and the one he liked best was the knight's tale
of Palamon and Arcite. He published it in a book which he called
Fables, and it is, I think, as a narrative or story-telling poet
in these fables, and in his translations, that he keeps most
interest for the young people of to-day.
You have by this time, I hope, read the story of Palamon and
Arcite at least in Tales from Chaucer, and here I will give you a
few lines first from Dryden and then from Chaucer, so that you
can judge for yourselves of the difference. In them the poets
describe Emelia as she appeared on that May morning when Palamon
first looked forth from his prison and saw her walk in the
"Thus year by year they pass, and day by day,
Till once,--'twas on the morn of cheerful May,--
The young Emila, fairer to be seen
Than the fair lily on the flowery green,
More flesh than May herself in blossoms new,
For with the rosy colour strove her hue,
Waked, as her custom was, before the day,
To do the observance due to sprightly May;
For sprightly May commands our youth to keep
The vigils of her night, and breaks their sluggard sleep;
Each gentle breast with kindly warmth she moves;
Inspires new flames, revives extinguished loves.
In this remembrance, Emily, ere day,
Arose, and dressed herself in rich array;
Fresh as the month, and as the morning fair,
Adown her shoulders fell her length of hair;
A ribbon did the braided tresses bind,
The rest was loose, and wantoned in the wind:
Aurora had but newly chased the night,
And purpled o'er the sky with blushing light,
When to the garden walk she took her way,
To sport and trip along in cool of day,
And offer maiden vows in honour of the May.
At every turn she made a little stand,
And thrust among the thorns her lily hand
To draw the rose, and every rose she drew,
She shook the stalk, and brushed away the dew;
Then party-coloured flowers of white and red
She wove, to make a garland for her head.
This done, she sang and carolled out so clear,
That men and angels might rejoice to hear;
Even wondering Philomel forgot to sing,
And learned from her to welcome in the Spring."
That is Dryden's, and this is how Chaucer tells of the same May
"This passeth yeer by yeer, and day by day,
Till it fel oones in a morwe of May
That Emelie, that farier was to seene
Than is the lilie on his stalke grene,
And fressher than the May with floures newe--
For with the rose colour strof hire hewe,
I not which was the fairer of hem two--
Er it were day, as was hir wone to do,
She was arisen and al redy dight.
For May wol have no sloggardy anight.
The seson priketh every gentil herte,
And maketh him out of his sleep to sterte,
And seith, 'Arise and do thin observance'.
This mak�d Emelye have remembraunce
To don honour to May, and for to rise.
I-clothed was she fressh for to devise,
Hir yelowe heer was broyded in a tresse,
Behinde hir bak, a yerde long I gesse;
And in the gardyn at the sunne upriste
She walketh up and doun, and as hir liste
She gadereth floures, party white and rede,
To make a subtil garland for hir hede,
And as an angel hevenly she song."
In this quotation from Chaucer I have not changed the old
spelling into modern as I did in the chapter on Chaucer, so that
you may see the difference between the two styles more clearly.
If you can see the difference between these two quotations you
can see the difference between the poetry of Dryden's age and all
that went before him. It is the difference between art and
nature. Chaucer sings like a bird, Dryden like a trained concert
singer who knows that people are listening to him. There is room
for both in life. We want and need both.
If you can feel the difference between Chaucer and Dryden you
will understand in part what I meant by saying that Dryden was
the expression of his time. For in Restoration times the taste
was for art rather than for natural beauty. The taste was for
what was clever, witty, and polished rather than for the simple,
stately grandeur of what was real and true. Poetry was utterly
changed. It no longer went to the heart but to the brain.
Dryden's poetry does not make the tears start to our eye or the
blood come to our cheek, but it flatters our ear with its
smoothness and elegance; it tickles our fancy with its wit.
You will understand still better what the feeling of the times
was when I tell you that Dryden, with the help of another poet,
re-wrote Shakespeare's Tempest and made it to suit the fashion of
the day. In doing so they utterly spoiled it. As literature it
is worthless; as helping us to understand the history of those
times it is useful. But although The Tempest, as re-written by
Dryden, is bad, one of the best of his plays is founded upon
another of Shakespeare's. This play is called All for Love or
the World Well Lost, and is founded upon Shakespeare's Antony and
Cleopatra. It is not written in Dryden's favorite heroic couplet
but in blank verse. "In my style," he says, "I have professed to
imitate the divine Shakespeare, which, that I might perform more
freely, I have disencumbered myself from rhyme. Not that I
condemn my former way, but that this is more proper to my present
purpose." And when you come to read this play you will find
that, master as Dryden was of the heroic couplet, he could write,
too, when he chose, fine blank verse.
Perhaps the best-known of all Dryden's shorter poems is the ode
called Alexander's Feast. It was written for a London musical
society, which gave a concert each year on St. Cecilia's day,
when an original ode was sung in her honor. Dryden in this ode,
which was sung in 1697, pictures Timotheus, the famous Greek
musician and poet, singing before Alexander, at a great feast
which was held after the conquest of Persia. Alexander listens
"The lovely Thais, by his side,
Sate like a blooming Eastern Bride,
In flower of youth and beauty's pride.
Happy, happy, happy pair!
None but the brave,
None but the brave,
None but the brave deserves the fair!"
As Timotheus sings he stirs at will his hearers' hearts to love,
to pity, or to revenge.
"Timotheus, to his breathing flute
And sounding lyre,
Could swell the soul to rage, or kindle soft desire."
But those were heathen times. In Christian times came St.
Cecilia and she
"Enlarged the former narrow bounds,
And added length to solemn sounds,
With nature's Mother-wit, and arts unknown before.
Let old Timotheus yield the prize.
Or both divide the crown:
He raised a mortal to the skies
She drew an angel down."
Dryden was a great poet, and he dominated his own age and the age
to come. But besides being a poet he was a great prose-writer.
His prose is clear and fine and almost modern. We do not have to
follow him through sentences so long that we lose the sense
before we come to the end. "He found English of brick and left
it marble," says a late writer, and when we read his prose we
almost believe that saying to be true. He was the first of
modern critics, that is he was able to judge the works of others
surely and well. And many of his criticisms of men were so true
that we accept them now even as they were accepted then. Here is
what he says of Chaucer in his preface to The Fables:--
"He [Chaucer] must have been a man of a most wonderful
comprehensive nature, because as it has been truly observed of
him, he has taken into the compass of his Canterbury Tales the
various manners and humours (as we now call them) of the whole
English nation, in his age. Not a single character has escaped
him. All his pilgrims are severally distinguished from each
other; and not only in their inclinations, but in their very
physiognomies persons. . . . The matter and manner of their
tales, and of their telling are so suited to their different
educations, humours, and callings, that each of them would be
improper in any other mouth. Even the grave and serious
characters are distinguished by their several sorts of gravity.
Their discourses are such as belong to their age, their calling,
and their breeding; such as are becoming to them and to them
only. Some of his persons are vicious, and some virtuous; some
are unlearned, or (as Chaucer calls them) lewd, and some are
learned. Even the ribaldry of the low characters is different:
the Reeve, the Miller, and the Cook are several men, and
distinguished from each other as much as the mincing Lady-
Prioress and the broad-speaking, gap-toothed Wife of Bath. . . .
It is sufficient to say, according to the proverb, that here is
God's plenty. We have our forefathers and great-grand-dames all
before us, as they were in Chaucer's days. Their general
characters are still remaining in mankind, and even in England,
though they are called by other names than those of monks, and
friars, and canons, and lady abbesses, and nuns; for mankind is
ever the same, and nothing lost out of nature though everything
The Fables was the last book Dryden wrote. He was growing to be
an old man, and a few months after it was published he became
very ill. "John Dryden, Esq., the famous poet, lies a-dying,"
said the newspapers on the 30th April, 1700. One May morning he
closed his eyes for ever, just as
"Aurora had but newly chased the night,
And purpled o'er the sky with blushing light."
Chapter LXI DEFOE--THE FIRST NEWSPAPERS
TO almost every house in the land, as regular as the milk man,
more regular than the postman, there comes each morning the
newspaper boy. To most of us breakfast means, as well as things
to eat, mother pouring out the tea and father reading the
newspaper. As mother passes father's tea she says, "Anything in
the paper, John?" And how often he answers, "Nothing, nothing
Although father says there is nothing in the paper there is a
great deal of reading in it, that we can see. And now comes the
question, Who writes it all? Who writes this thin, flat book of
six or eight great pages which every morning we buy for a penny
or a halfpenny? But perhaps you think it does not matter who
writes the newspapers, for the newspaper is not literature.
Literature means real books with covers--dear possessions to be
loved and taken care of, to be read and read again. But a
newspaper is hardly read at all when it is crumpled up and used
to light the fire. And no one minds, for who could love a
newspaper, who cares to treasure it, and read it again and yet
We do not want even to read yesterday's newspapers, for
newspapers seem to hold for us only the interest of the day. The
very name by which they used to be called, journal, seems to tell
us that, for it comes from the French word "jour," meaning "a
day." Newspapers give us the news of the day for the day. Yet
in them we find the history of our own times, and we are
constantly kept in mind of how important they are in our everyday
life by such phrases as "the freedom of the Press," "the opinion
of the Press," the Press meaning all the newspapers, journals and
magazines and the people who write for them.
So we come back again to our question, Who writes for the
newspapers? The answer is, the journalists. A newspaper is not
all the work of one man, but of many whose names we seldom know,
but who work together so that each morning we may have our paper.
And in this chapter I want to tell you about one of our first
real journalists, Daniel Defoe. Of course you know of him
already, for he wrote Robinson Crusoe, and he is perhaps your
favorite author. But before he was an author he was a
journalist, and as I say one of our first.
For there was a time when there were no newspapers, nothing for
father to read at breakfast-time, and no old newspapers to
crumple up and light fires with. The first real printed English
newspaper was called the Weekly News. It was published in 1622,
while King Charles I was still upon the throne.
But this first paper and others that came after it were very
small. The whole paper was not so large as a page of one of our
present halfpenny papers. The news was told baldly without any
remarks upon it, and when there was not enough news it was the
fashion to fill up the space with chapters from the Bible.
Sometimes, too, a space was left blank on purpose, so that those
who bought the paper in town might write in their own little bit
of news before sending it off to country friends.
Defoe was one of the first to change this, to write articles and
comments upon the news. Gradually newspapers became plentiful.
And when Government by party became the settled form of our
Government, each party had its own newspaper and used it to help
on its own side and abuse the other.
Milton and Dryden were really journalists; Milton when he wrote
his political pamphlets, and Dryden when he wrote Absalom and
Achitophel and other poems of that kind. But they were poets
first, journalists by accident. Defoe was a journalist first,
though by nature ever a story-teller.
Daniel Defoe, born in 1661, was the son of a London butcher names
James Foe. Why Daniel, who prided himself on being a true-born
Englishman, Frenchified his name by adding a "De" to it we do not
know, and he was over forty before he changed plain Foe into
Daniel's father and mother were Puritans, and he was sent to
school with the idea that he should become a Nonconformist
minister. But Defoe did not become a minister; perhaps he felt
he was unsuited for such solemn duty. "The pulpit," he says
later, "is none of my office. It was my disaster first to be set
apart for, and then to be set apart from the honor of that sacred
Defoe never went to college, and because of this many a time in
later days his enemies taunted him with being ignorant and
unlearned. He felt these taunts bitterly, and again and again
answered them in his writings. "I have been in my time pretty
well master of five languages," he says in one place. "I have
also, illiterate though I am, made a little progress in science.
I have read Euclid's Elements. . . . I have read logic. . . . I
went some length in physics. . . . I thought myself master of
geography and to possess sufficient skill in astronomy." Yet he
says I am "no scholar."
When Defoe left school he went into the office of a merchant
hosier. It was while he was in this office that King Charles II
died and King James II came to the throne. Almost at once there
followed the Duke of Monmouth's rebellion. The Duke was a
Protestant and James was a Catholic. There were many in the land
who feared a Catholic King, and who believed too that the Duke
had more right to the throne than James, so they joined the
rebellion. Among them was Daniel. But the Rebellion came to
nothing. In a few weeks the Duke's army was scattered in flight,
and he himself a wretched prisoner in the Tower.
Happier than many of his comrades, Defoe succeeded in escaping
death or even punishment. Secretly and safely he returned to
London and there quietly again took up his trade of merchant
hosier. But he did not lose his interest in the affairs of his
country. And when the glorious Revolution came he was one of
those who rode out to meet and welcome William the Deliverer.
But perhaps he allowed politics to take up too much of his time
and thought, for although he was a good business man he failed
and had to hide from those to whom he owed money. But soon we
find him setting to work again to mend his fortunes. He became
first secretary to and then part owner of a tile and brick
factory, and in a few years made enough money to pay off all his
By this time Defoe had begun to write, and was already known as a
clever author. Now some one wrote a book accusing William among
many other "crimes" of being a foreigner. Defoe says, "this
filled me with a kind of rage"; and he replied with a poem called
The True-born Englishman. It became popular at once, thousands
of copies being sold in the first few months. Every one read it
from the King in his palace to the workman in his hut, and long
afterwards Defoe was content to sign his books "By the author of
'The True-born Englishman.'" It made Defoe known to the King.
"This poem," he said, "was the occasion of my being known to his
Majesty." He was received and employed by him and "above the
capacity of my deserving, rewarded." He was given a small
appointment in the Civil Service. All his life after Defoe loved
King William and was his staunch friend, using all the power of
his clever pen to make the unloved Dutch King better understood
of his people. But when King William died and Queen Anne ruled
in his stead Defoe fell on evil times.
In those days the quarrels about religion were not yet over.
There was a party in the Church which would very willingly have
seen the Nonconformists or Dissenters persecuted. Dissenters
were like to have an evil time. To show how wrong persecution
was, Defoe wrote a little pamphlet which he called The Shortest
Way with the Dissenters. He wrote as if he were very angry
indeed with the Dissenters. He said they had been far too kindly
treated and that if he had his way he would make a law that
"whoever was found at a conventicle should be banished the nation
and the preacher be hanged. We should soon see an end of the
tale--they would all come to Church, and one age would make us
all one again."
Defoe meant this for satire. A satire is, you remember, a work
which holds up folly or wickedness to ridicule. He meant to show
the High Churchmen how absurd and wicked was their desire to
punish the Dissenters for worshiping God in their own way. He
meant to make the world laugh at them. But at first the High
Churchmen did not see that it was meant to ridicule them. They
greeted the author of this pamphlet as a friend and ally. The
Dissenters did not see the satire either, and found in the writer
a new and most bitter enemy.
But when at last Defoe's meaning became plain the High Church
party was very angry, and resolved to punish him. Defoe fled
into hiding. But a reward of fifty pounds was offered for his
discovery, and, "rather than others should be ruined by his
mistake," Defoe gave himself up.
For having written "a scandalous and seditious pamphlet" Defoe
was condemned to pay a large fine, to stand three times in the
pillory, and to be imprisoned during the Queen's pleasure. Thus
quickly did Fortune's wheel turn round. "I have seen the rough
side of the world as well as the smooth," he said long after. "I
have, in less than half a year, tasted the difference between the
closet of a King, and the dungeon of Newgate."
The pillory was a terrible punishment. In a public place, raised
on a platform, in full view of the passing crowd, the victim
stood. Round his neck was a heavy collar of wood, and in this
collar his hands were also confined. Thus he stood helpless,
unable to protect himself either from the sun or rain or from the
insults of the crowd. For a man in the pillory was a fitting
object for laughter and rude jests. To be jeered at, to have mud
thrown at him, was part of his punishment.
But for Defoe it was a triumph rather than a punishment. To the
common people he was already a hero. So they formed a guard
round him to protect him from the mud and rotten eggs his enemies
would now thrown. They themselves threw flowers, they wreathed
the pillory with roses and with laurel till it seemed a place of
honor rather than of disgrace. They sang songs in his praise and
drank to his health and wished those who had sent him there stood
in his place. Thus through all the long, hot July hours Defoe
was upheld and comforted in his disgrace. And to show that his
spirit was untouched by his sentence he wrote A Hymn to the
Pillory. This was bought and read and shouted in the ears of his
enemies by thousands of the people. It was a more daring satire
than even The Shortest Way. In the end of it Defoe calls upon
the Pillory, "Thou Bugbear of the Law," to speak and say why he
"Tell them, it was, because he was too bold,
And told those truths which should not have been told!
Extol the justice of the land,
Who punish what they will not understand!
Tell them, he stands exalted there
For speaking what we would not hear:
And yet he might have been secure,
Had he said less, or would he have said more!
Tell them the men that placed him here
Are scandals to the Times!
Are at a loss to find his guilt,
And can't commit his crimes!"
But although Defoe's friends could take the sting out of the
terrible hours during which he stood as an object for mockery
they could do little else for him. So he went back to prison to
remain there during the Queen's pleasure.
This, of course, meant ruin to him. For himself he could bear
it, but he had a wife and children, and to know that they were in
poverty and bitter want was his hardest punishment.
From prison Defoe could not manage his factory. He had to let
that go, losing with it thousands of pounds. For the second time
he saw himself ruined. But he had still left to him his pen and
his undaunted courage. So, besides writing many pamphlets in
prison, Defoe started a paper called the Review. It appeared at
first once, then twice, and at last three times a week. Unlike
our papers of to-day, which are written by many hands, Defoe
wrote the whole of the Review himself, and continued to do so for
years. It contained very little news and many articles, and when
we turn these worn and yellowing pages we find much that,
interesting in those days, has lost interest for us. But we also
find articles which, worded in clear, strong, truly English
English, seem to us as fresh and full of life as when they were
written more than two hundred years ago. We find as well much
that is of keen historical interest, and we gain some idea of the
undaunted courage of the author when we remember that the first
numbers of the Review at least were penned in a loathsome prison
where highwaymen, pirates, cut-throats, and common thieves were
his chief companions.
Chapter LXII DEFOE--"ROBINSON CRUSOE"
FOR more than a year and a half Defoe remained in prison; then he
was set free.
A new Government had come into power. It was pointed out to the
Queen that it was a mistake to make an enemy of so clever an
author as Defoe. Then he was set at liberty, but on condition
that he should use his pen to support the Government. So
although Defoe was now free to all seeming, this was really the
beginning of bondage. He was no longer free in mind, and by
degrees he became a mere hanger-on of Government, selling the
support of his pen to whichever party was in power.
We cannot follow him through all the twists and turns of his
politics, nor through all his ups and downs in life, nor mention
all the two hundred and fifty books and pamphlets that he wrote.
It was an adventurous life he led, full of dark and shadowy
passages which we cannot understand and so perhaps cannot pardon.
But whether he sold his pen or no we are bound to confess that
Defoe's desire was towards the good, towards peace, union, and
One thing he fought for with all his buoyant strength was the
Union between England and Scotland. It had been the desire of
William III ere he died, it had now become the still stronger
desire of Queen Anne and her ministers. So Defoe took "a long
winter, a chargeable, and, as it proved, hazardous journey" to
Scotland. There he threw himself into the struggle, doing all he
could for the Union. He has left for us a history of that
struggle,* which perhaps better than any other makes us realize
the unrest of the Scottish people, the anger, the fear, the
indecision, with which they were filled. "People went up and
down wondering and amazed, expecting every day strange events,
afraid of peace, afraid of war. Many knew not which way to fix
their resolution. They could not be clear for the Union, yet
they saw death at the door in its breaking off--death to their
liberty, to their religion, and to their country." Better than
any other he gives a picture of the "infinite struggles, clamor,
railing, and tumult of party." Let me give, in his own words, a
description of a riot in the streets of Edinburgh:--
*History of the Union of Great Britain.
"The rabble by shouting and noise having increased their numbers
to several thousands, they began with Sir Patrick Johnston, who
was one of the treaters, and the year before had been Lord
Provost. First they assaulted his lodging with stones and
sticks, and curses not a few. But his windows being too high
they came up the stairs to his door, and fell to work at it with
sledges or great hammers. And had they broke it open in their
first fury, he had, without doubt, been torn to pieces without
mercy; and this only because he was a treater in the Commission
to England, for, before that, no man was so well beloved as he,
over the whole city.
"His lady, in the utmost despair with this fright, came to the
window, with two candles in her hand, that she might be known;
and cried out, for God's sake to call the guards. An honest
Apothecary in the town, who knew her voice, and saw the distress
she was in, and to whom the family, under God, is obliged for
their deliverance, ran immediately down to the town guard. But
they would not stir without the Lord Provost's order. But that
being soon obtained, one Captain Richardson, who commanded,
taking about thirty men with him, marched bravely up to them; and
making his way with great resolution through the crowd, they
flying, but throwing stones and hallooing at him, and his men.
He seized the foot of the stair case; and then boldly went up,
cleared the stair, and took six of the rabble in the very act,
and so delivered the gentleman and his family.
"But this did not put a stop to the general tumult, though it
delivered this particular family. For the rabble, by this time,
were prodigiously increased, and went roving up and down the
town, breaking the windows of the Members of Parliament and
insulting them in their coaches in the streets. They put out all
the lights that they might not be discovered. And the author of
this had one great stone thrown at him for but looking out of a
window. For they suffered nobody to look out, especially with
any lights, lest they should know faces, and inform against them
"By this time it was about eight or nine o'clock at night, and
now they were absolute masters of the city. And it was reported
they were going to shut up all the ports.* The Lord Commissioner
being informed of that, sent a party of the foot guards, and took
possession of the Netherbow, which is a gate in the middle of the
High Street, as Temple Bar between the City of London and the
*Gates in the City Wall.
"The city was now in a terrible fright, and everybody was under
concern for their friends. The rabble went raving about the
streets till midnight, frequently beating drums, raising more
people. When my Lord Commissioner being informed, there were a
thousand of the seamen and rabble come up from Leith; and
apprehending if it were suffered to go on, it might come to a
dangerous head, and be out of his power to suppress, he sent for
the Lord Provost, and demanded that the guards should march into
"The Lord Provost, after some difficulty, yielded; though it was
alleged, that it was what never was known in Edinburgh before.
About one o'clock in the morning a battalion of the guards
entered the town, marched up to the Parliament Close, and took
post in all the avenues of the city, which prevented the
resolutions taken to insult the houses of the rest of the
treaters. The rabble were entirely reduced by this, and
gradually dispersed, and so the tumult ended."
Although Defoe did all he could to bring the Union about he felt
for and with the poor distracted people. He saw that amid the
strife of parties, proud, ignorant, mistaken, it may be, the
people were still swayed by love of country, love of freedom.
Even after the Union was accomplished Defoe remained in Scotland.
He still wrote his Review every week, and filled it so full of
Union matters that his readers began to think he could speak of
nothing else and that he was grown dull. In his Review he
"Nothing but Union, Union, says one now that wants diversion; I
am quite tired of it, and we hope, 'tis as good as over now.
Prithee, good Mr. Review, let's have now and then a touch of
something else to make us merry." But Defoe assures his readers
he means to go on writing about the Union until he can see some
prospect of calm among the men who are trying to make dispeace.
"Then I shall be the first that shall cease calling upon them to
The years went on, Defoe always living a stormy life amid the
clash of party politics, always writing, writing. More than once
his noisy, journalistic pen brought him to prison. But he was
never a prisoner long, never long silenced. Yet although Defoe
wrote so much and lived at a time when England was full of witty
writers he was outside the charmed circle of wits who pretended
not to know of his existence. "One of these authors," says
another writer, "(the fellow that was pilloried, I have forgotten
his name), is indeed so grave, sententious, dogmatical a rogue
that there is no enduring him."*
At length when Defoe was nearly sixty years old he wrote the book
which has brought him world-wide and enduring fame. Need I tell
you of that book? Surely not. For who does not know Robinson
Crusoe, or, as the first title ran, "The Life and Strange
Surprising Adventures of Robinson Crusoe, of York, Mariner, who
lived eight-and-twenty years all alone in an uninhabited Island
on the Coast of America near the Mouth of the great River
Oroonoque, having been cast on shore by shipwreck, wherein all
the men perished but himself. With an account how he was at last
strangely delivered by Pirates. Written by himself." In those
days, you see, they were not afraid of long titles. The book,
too, is long. "Yet," as another great writer says,* "was there
ever anything written by mere man that was wished longer by its
readers, except Don Quixote, Robinson Crusoe, and the Pilgrim's
The book was a tremendous success. It pleased the men and women
and children of two hundred years ago as much as it pleases them
to-day. Within a few months four editions had been sold. Since
then, till now, there has never been a time when Robinson Crusoe
has not been read. The editions of it have been countless. It
has been edited and re-edited, it has been translated and
abridged, turned into shorthand and into poetry, and published in
every form imaginable, and at every price, from one penny to many
Defoe got the idea of his story from the adventures of a Scots
sailor named Alexander Selkirk. This sailor quarreled with his
captain, and was set ashore upon an uninhabited island where he
remained alone for more than four years. At the end of that time
he was rescued by a passing ship and brought home to England.
Out of this slender tale Defoe made his fascinating story so full
What holds us in the story is its seeming truth. As we read it
we forget altogether that it is only a story, we feel sure that
Crusoe really lived, that all his adventures really happened.
And if you ever read any more of Defoe's books you will find that
this feeling runs through them all. Defoe was, in fact, a born
story-teller--like Sir John Mandeville. With an amazing show of
truth he was continually deceiving people. "He was a great, a
truly great liar, perhaps the greatest liar that ever lived."*
Finding that Robinson Crusoe was such a success, Defoe began to
write other stories. He wrote of thieves, pirates and rogues.
These stories have the same show of truth as Robinson Crusoe.
Defoe, no doubt, got the ideas for them from the stories of the
rogues with whom he mixed in prison. But they have nearly all
been forgotten, for although they are clever the heroes and
heroines are coarse and the story of their adventures is
unpleasant reading. Yet as history, showing us the state of the
people in the days of Queen Anne and of George I, they are
Defoe was now well off. He had built himself a handsome house
surrounded by a pleasant garden. He had carriages and horses and
lived in good style with his wife and beautiful daughters. There
seemed to be no reason why he should not live happily and at ease
for the rest of his life. But suddenly one day, for some unknown
reason, he fled from his comfortable home into hiding. Why he
did this no one can tell. For two years he lived a homeless,
skulking fugitive. Then in 1731 he died, if not in poverty at
least in loneliness and distress of mind.
BOOKS TO READ
Robinson Crusoe, abridged by John Lang. Robinson Crusoe, retold
by Edith Robarts, illustrated by J. Hassall, R. I. Robinson
Crusoe (Everyman's Library).
Chapter LXIII SWIFT--THE "JOURNAL TO STELLA"
WE all know what it is to feel hurt and angry, to feel that we
are misunderstood, that no one loves us. At such times it may be
we want to hurt ourselves so that in some mysterious way we may
hurt those who do not love us. We long to die so that they may
be sorry. But these feelings do not come often and they soon
pass. We cry ourselves to sleep perhaps and wake up to find the
evil thoughts are gone. We forget all about them, or if we
remember them we remember to smile at our own foolishness, for we
know that after all we are understood, we are loved. And when we
grow old enough to look back upon those times, although we may
remember the pain of them, we can see that sometimes they came
from our own fault, it was not that we were misunderstood so much
as that we were misunderstanding. Yet whether it be our own
fault or not, when such times do come, the world seems very dark
and life seems full of pain. Then think of what a whole life
filled with these evil thoughts must be. Think of a whole life
made terrible with bitter feelings. That would be misery indeed.
Yet when we read the sad story of the life of Jonathan Swift who
has in Gulliver's Travels given to countless children, and grown-
up people too, countless hours of pleasure, we are forced to
believe that so he passed a great part of his life. Swift was
misunderstood and misunderstanding. It was not that he had no
love given to him, for all his life through he found women to
love him. But it was his unhappiness that he took that love only
to turn it to bitterness in his heart, that he took that love so
as to leave a stain on him and it ever after. He had friendship
too. But in the hands stretched out to help him in his need he
saw only insult. In the kindness that was given to him he saw
only a grudging charity, and yet he was angry with the world and
with man that he did not receive more.
In the life of Jonathan Swift there are things which puzzle even
the wisest. Children would find those things still harder to
understand, so I will not try to explain them, but will tell you
a little that you will readily follow about the life of this
lonely man with the biting pen and aching heart.
Jonathan Swift's father and mother were very poor, so poor indeed
that their friends said it was folly for them to marry. And when
after about two years of married life the husband died, he left
his young wife burdened with debts and with a little baby girl to
keep. It was not until a few months after his father's death
that Jonathan was born.
His mother was a brave-hearted, cheerful woman, and although her
little son came to her in the midst of such sorrow she no doubt
loved him, and his nurse loved him too. Little Jonathan's father
and mother were English, but because he was born in Dublin, and
because he spent a great deal of his life there, he has sometimes
been looked upon as an Irishman.
Jonathan's nurse was also an Englishwoman, and when he was about
a year old she was called home to England to a dying friend. She