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A History of English Literature by Robert Huntington Fletcher

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were extreme products of the romantic return to sentiment and democratic
feeling. Both were enormously popular and, crossing the Channel, like
Thomson's poetic innovation, exerted a great influence on the drama of
France and Germany (especially in the work of Lessing), and in general on
the German Romantic Movement. Goldsmith was inferior to no one in genuine
sentiment, but he was disgusted at the sentimental excesses of these plays.
His 'Good Natured Man,' written with the express purpose of opposing them,
and brought out in 1768, was reasonably successful, and in 1771 his far
superior 'She Stoops to Conquer' virtually put an end to Sentimental
Comedy. This is one of the very few English comedies of a former generation
which are still occasionally revived on the stage to-day. Goldsmith's
comedies, we may add here for completeness, were shortly followed by the
more brilliant ones of another Irish-Englishman, Richard Brinsley Sheridan,
who displayed Congreve's wit without his cynicism. These were 'The Rivals,'
produced in 1775, when Sheridan was only twenty-four, and 'The School for
Scandal,' 1777. Sheridan, a reckless man of fashion, continued most of his
life to be owner of Drury Lane Theater, but he soon abandoned playwriting
to become one of the leaders of the Whig party. With Burke and Fox, as we
have seen, he conducted the impeachment of Hastings.

'She Stoops to Conquer' was Goldsmith's last triumph. A few months later,
in 1774, he died at the age of only forty-five, half submerged, as usual,
in foolish debts, but passionately mourned not only by his acquaintances in
the literary and social worlds, but by a great army of the poor and needy
to whom he had been a benefactor. In the face of this testimony to his
human worth his childish vanities and other weaknesses may well be
pardoned. All Goldsmith's literary work is characterized by one main
quality, a charming atmosphere of optimistic happiness which is the
expression of the best side of his own nature. The scene of all his most
important productions, very appropriately, is the country--the idealized
English country. Very much, to be sure, in all his works has to be conceded
to the spirit of romance. Both in 'The Vicar of Wakefield' and in 'She
Stoops to Conquer' characterization is mostly conventional, and events are
very arbitrarily manipulated for the sake of the effects in rather
free-and-easy disregard of all principles of motivation. But the kindly
knowledge of the main forces in human nature, the unfailing sympathy, and
the irrepressible conviction that happiness depends in the last analysis on
the individual will and character make Goldsmith's writings, especially
'The Vicar,' delightful and refreshing. All in all, however, 'The Deserted
Village' is his masterpiece, with its romantic regret, verging on tragedy
but softened away from it, and its charming type characterizations, as
incisive as those of Chaucer and Dryden, but without any of Dryden's biting
satire. In the choice of the rimed couplet for 'The Traveler' and 'The
Deserted Village' the influence of pseudo-classicism and of Johnson
appears; but Goldsmith's treatment of the form, with his variety in pauses
and his simple but fervid eloquence, make it a very different thing from
the rimed couplet of either Johnson or Pope. 'The Deserted Village,' it
should be added, is not a description of any actual village, but a
generalized picture of existing conditions. Men of wealth in England and
Ireland were enlarging their sheep pastures and their hunting grounds by
buying up land and removing villages, and Goldsmith, like Sir Thomas More,
two hundred years earlier, and likewise patriots of all times, deeply
regretted the tendency.

PERCY, MACPHERSON, AND CHATTERTON. The appearance of Thomson's 'Winter' in
1726 is commonly taken as conveniently marking the beginning of the
Romantic Movement. Another of its conspicuous dates is 1765, the year of
the publication of the 'Reliques [pronounced Relics] of Ancient English
Poetry' of the enthusiastic antiquarian Thomas (later Bishop) Percy. Percy
drew from many sources, of which the most important was a manuscript
volume, in which an anonymous seventeenth century collector had copied a
large number of old poems and which Percy rescued just in the nick of time,
as the maids in the house of one of his friends were beginning to use it as
kindling for the fires. His own book consisted of something less than two
hundred very miscellaneous poems, ranging in date from the fourteenth
century to his own day. Its real importance, however, lies in the fact that
it contained a number of the old popular ballads (above, pp. 74 ff).
Neither Percy himself nor any one else in his time understood the real
nature of these ballads and their essential difference from other poetry,
and Percy sometimes tampered with the text and even filled out gaps with
stanzas of his own, whose sentimental style is ludicrously inconsistent
with the primitive vigor of the originals. But his book, which attained
great popularity, marks the beginning of the special study of the ballads
and played an important part in the revival of interest in medieval life.

Still greater interest was aroused at the time by the Ossianic poems of
James Macpherson. From 1760 to 1763 Macpherson, then a young Highland Scots
schoolmaster, published in rapid succession certain fragments of Gaelic
verse and certain more extended works in poetical English prose which, he
asserted, were part of the originals, discovered by himself, and
translations, of the poems of the legendary Scottish bard Ossian, of the
third Christian century. These productions won him substantial material
rewards in the shape of high political offices throughout the rest of his
long life. About the genuineness of the compositions, however, a violent
controversy at once arose, and Dr. Johnson was one of the skeptics who
vigorously denounced Macpherson as a shameless impostor. The general
conviction of scholars of the present day is that while Macpherson may have
found some fragments of very ancient Gaelic verse in circulation among the
Highlanders, he fabricated most of what he published. These works, however,
'Fingal' and the rest, certainly contributed to the Romantic Movement; and
they are not only unique productions, but, in small quantities, still
interesting. They can best be described as reflections of the misty scenes
of Macpherson's native Highlands--vague impressionistic glimpses,
succeeding one another in purposeless repetition, of bands of marching
warriors whose weapons intermittently flash and clang through the fog, and
of heroic women, white-armed and with flowing hair, exhorting the heroes to
the combat or lamenting their fall.

A very minor figure, but one of the most pathetic in the history of English
literature, is that of Thomas Chatterton. While he was a boy in Bristol,
Chatterton's imagination was possessed by the medieval buildings of the
city, and when some old documents fell into his hands he formed the idea of
composing similar works in both verse and prose and passing them off as
medieval productions which he had discovered. To his imaginary author he
gave the name of Thomas Rowley. Entirely successful in deceiving his
fellow-townsmen, and filled with a great ambition, Chatterton went to
London, where, failing to secure patronage, he committed suicide as the
only resource against the begging to which his proud spirit could not
submit. This was in 1770, and he was still only eighteen years old.
Chatterton's work must be viewed under several aspects. His imitation of
the medieval language was necessarily very imperfect and could mislead no
one to-day; from this point of view the poems have no permanent
significance. The moral side of his action need not be seriously weighed,
as Chatterton never reached the age of responsibility and if he had lived
would soon have passed from forgery to genuine work. That he might have
achieved much is suggested by the evidences of real genius in his boyish
output, which probably justify Wordsworth's description, of him as 'the
marvelous boy.' That he would have become one of the great English poets,
however, is much more open to question.

WILLIAM COWPER. Equally pathetic is the figure of William Cowper
(pronounced either Cowper or Cooper), whose much longer life (1731-1800)
and far larger literary production give him a more important actual place
than can be claimed for Chatterton, though his natural ability was far less
and his significance to-day is chiefly historical. Cowper's career, also,
was largely frustrated by the same physical weaknesses which had ruined
Collins, present in the later poet in still more distressing degree. Cowper
is clearly a transition poet, sharing largely, in a very mild fashion, in
some of the main romantic impulses, but largely pseudo-classical in his
manner of thought and expression. His life may be briefly summarized.
Morbid timidity and equally morbid religious introspection, aggravated by
disappointments in love, prevented him as a young man from accepting a very
comfortable clerkship in the House of Lords and drove him into intermittent
insanity, which closed more darkly about him in his later years. He lived
the greater part of his mature life in the household of a Mrs. Unwin, a
widow for whom he had a deep affection and whom only his mental affliction
prevented him from marrying. A long residence in the wretched village of
Olney, where he forced himself to cooperate in all phases of religious work
with the village clergyman, the stern enthusiast John Newton, produced
their joint collection of 'Olney Hymns,' many of which deservedly remain
among the most popular in our church song-books; but it inevitably
increased Cowper's disorder. After this he resigned himself to a perfectly
simple life, occupied with the writing of poetry, the care of pets,
gardening, and carpentry. The bulk of his work consists of long moralizing
poems, prosy, prolix, often trivial, and to-day largely unreadable. Same of
them are in the rimed couplet and others in blank verse. His blank-verse
translation of Homer, published in 1791, is more notable, and 'Alexander
Selkirk' and the humorous doggerel 'John Gilpin' are famous; but his most
significant poems are a few lyrics and descriptive pieces in which he
speaks out his deepest feelings with the utmost pathetic or tragic power.
In the expression of different moods of almost intolerable sadness 'On the
Receipt of My Mother's Picture' and 'To Mary' (Mrs. Unwin) can scarcely be
surpassed, and 'The Castaway' is final as the restrained utterance of
morbid religious despair. Even in his long poems, in his minutely loving
treatment of Nature he is the most direct precursor of Wordsworth, and he
is one of the earliest outspoken opponents of slavery and cruelty to
animals. How unsuited in all respects his delicate and sensitive nature was
to the harsh experiences of actual life is suggested by Mrs. Browning with
vehement sympathy in her poem, 'Cowper's Grave.'

WILLIAM BLAKE. Still another utterly unworldly and frankly abnormal poet,
though of a still different temperament, was William Blake (1757-1827), who
in many respects is one of the most extreme of all romanticists. Blake, the
son of a London retail shopkeeper, received scarcely any book education,
but at fourteen he was apprenticed to an engraver, who stimulated his
imagination by setting him to work at making drawings in Westminster Abbey
and other old churches. His training was completed by study at the Royal
Academy of Arts, and for the rest of his life he supported himself, in
poverty, with the aid of a devoted wife, by keeping a print-and-engraving
shop. Among his own engravings the best known is the famous picture of
Chaucer's Canterbury Pilgrims, which is not altogether free from the weird
strangeness that distinguished most of his work in all lines. For in spite
of his commonplace exterior life Blake was a thorough mystic to whom the
angels and spirits that he beheld in trances were at least as real as the
material world. When his younger brother died he declared that he saw the
released soul mount through the ceiling, clapping its hands in joy. The
bulk of his writing consists of a series of 'prophetic books' in verse and
prose, works, in part, of genius, but of unbalanced genius, and virtually
unintelligible. His lyric poems, some of them composed when he was no more
than thirteen years old, are unlike anything else anywhere, and some of
them are of the highest quality. Their controlling trait is childlikeness;
for Blake remained all his life one of those children of whom is the
Kingdom of Heaven. One of their commonest notes is that of childlike
delight in the mysterious joy and beauty of the world, a delight sometimes
touched, it is true, as in 'The Tiger,' with a maturer consciousness of the
wonderful and terrible power behind all the beauty. Blake has intense
indignation also for all cruelty and everything which he takes for cruelty,
including the shutting up of children in school away from the happy life of
out-of-doors. These are the chief sentiments of 'Songs of Innocence.' In
'Songs of Experience' the shadow of relentless fact falls somewhat more
perceptibly across the page, though the prevailing ideas are the same.
Blake's significant product is very small, but it deserves much greater
reputation than it has actually attained. One characteristic external fact
should be added. Since Blake's poverty rendered him unable to pay for
having his books printed, he himself performed the enormous labor of
_engraving_ them, page by page, often with an ornamental margin about
the text.

ROBERT BURNS. Blake, deeply romantic as he is by nature, virtually stands
by himself, apart from any movement or group, and the same is equally true
of the somewhat earlier lyrist in whom eighteenth century poetry
culminates, namely Robert Burns. Burns, the oldest of the seven children of
two sturdy Scotch peasants of the best type, was born in 1759 in Ayrshire,
just beyond the northwest border of England. In spite of extreme poverty,
the father joined with some of his neighbors in securing the services of a
teacher for their children, and the household possessed a few good books,
including Shakspere and Pope, whose influence on the future poet was great.
But the lot of the family was unusually hard. The father's health failed
early and from childhood the boys were obliged to do men's work in the
field. Robert later declared, probably with some bitter exaggeration, that
his life had combined 'the cheerless gloom of a hermit with the unceasing
moil of a galley slave.' His genius, however, like his exuberant spirit,
could not be crushed out. His mother had familiarized him from the
beginning with the songs and ballads of which the country was full, and
though he is said at first to have had so little ear for music that he
could scarcely distinguish one tune from another, he soon began to compose
songs (words) of his own as he followed the plough. In the greatness of his
later success his debt to the current body of song and music should not be
overlooked. He is only the last of a long succession of rural Scottish
song-writers; he composed his own songs to accompany popular airs; and many
of them are directly based on fragments of earlier songs. None the less his
work rises immeasurably above all that had gone before it.

The story of Burns' mature life is the pathetic one of a very vigorous
nature in which genius, essential manliness, and good impulses struggled
against and were finally overcome by violent passions, aggravated by the
bitterness of poverty and repeated disappointments. His first effort, at
eighteen, to better his condition, by the study of surveying at a
neighboring town, resulted chiefly in throwing him into contact with bad
companions; a venture in the business of flax-dressing ended in disaster;
and the same ill-fortune attended the several successive attempts which he
made at general farming. He became unfortunately embroiled also with the
Church, which (the Presbyterian denomination) exercised a very strict
control in Scotland. Compelled to do public penance for some of his
offenses, his keen wit could not fail to be struck by the inconsistency
between the rigid doctrines and the lives of some of the men who were
proceeding against him; and he commemorated the feud in his series of
overwhelming but painfully flippant satires.

His brief period of dazzling public success dawned suddenly out of the
darkest moment of his fortunes. At the age of twenty-seven, abandoning the
hope which he had already begun to cherish of becoming the national poet of
Scotland, he had determined in despair to emigrate to Jamaica to become an
overseer on a plantation. (That this chief poet of democracy, the author of
'A Man's a Man for a' That,' could have planned to become a slave-driver
suggests how closely the most genuine human sympathies are limited by habit
and circumstances.) To secure the money for his voyage Burns had published
his poems in a little volume. This won instantaneous and universal
popularity, and Burns, turning back at the last moment, responded to the
suggestion of some of the great people of Edinburgh that he should come to
that city and see what could be done for him. At first the experiment
seemed fortunate, for the natural good breeding with which this untrained
countryman bore himself for a winter as the petted lion of the society of
fashion and learning (the University) was remarkable. None the less the
situation was unnatural and necessarily temporary, and unluckily Burns
formed associations also with such boon companions of the lower sort as had
hitherto been his undoing. After a year Edinburgh dropped him, thus
supplying substantial fuel for his ingrained poor man's jealousy and rancor
at the privileged classes. Too near his goal to resume the idea of
emigrating, he returned to his native moors, rented another farm, and
married Jean Armour, one of the several heroines of his love-poems. The
only material outcome of his period of public favor was an appointment as
internal revenue collector, an unpopular and uncongenial office which he
accepted with reluctance and exercised with leniency. It required him to
occupy much of his time in riding about the country, and contributed to his
final failure as a farmer. After the latter event he removed to the
neighboring market-town of Dumfries, where he again renewed his
companionship with unworthy associates. At last prospects for promotion in
the revenue service began to open to him, but it was too late; his
naturally robust constitution had given way to over-work and dissipation,
and he died in 1796 at the age of thirty-seven.

Burns' place among poets is perfectly clear. It is chiefly that of a
song-writer, perhaps the greatest songwriter of the world. At work in the
fields or in his garret or kitchen after the long day's work was done, he
composed songs because he could not help it, because his emotion was
irresistibly stirred by the beauty and life of the birds and flowers, the
snatch of a melody which kept running through his mind, or the memory of
the girl with whom he had last talked. And his feelings expressed
themselves with spontaneous simplicity, genuineness, and ease. He is a
thoroughly romantic poet, though wholly by the grace of nature, not at all
from any conscious intention--he wrote as the inspiration moved him, not in
accordance with any theory of art. The range of his subjects and emotions
is nearly or quite complete--love; comradeship; married affection, as in
'John Anderson, My Jo'; reflective sentiment; feeling for nature; sympathy
with animals; vigorous patriotism, as in 'Scots Wha Hae' (and Burns did
much to revive the feeling of Scots for Scotland); deep tragedy and pathos;
instinctive happiness; delightful humor; and the others. It should be
clearly recognized, however, that this achievement, supreme as it is in its
own way, does not suffice to place Burns among the greatest poets. The
brief lyrical outbreaks of the song-writer are no more to be compared with
the sustained creative power and knowledge of life and character which make
the great dramatist or narrative poet than the bird's song is to be
compared with an opera of Wagner. But such comparisons need not be pressed;
and the song of bird or poet appeals instantly to every normal hearer,
while the drama or narrative poem requires at least some special
accessories and training. Burns' significant production, also, is not
altogether limited to songs. 'The Cotter's Saturday Night' (in Spenser's
stanza) is one of the perfect descriptive poems of lyrical sentiment; and
some of Burns' meditative poems and poetical epistles to acquaintances are
delightful in a free-and-easy fashion. The exuberant power in the religious
satires and the narrative 'Tam o' Shanter' is undeniable, but they belong
to a lower order of work.

Many of Burns' poems are in the Lowland Scots dialect; a few are wholly in
ordinary English; and some combine the two idioms. It is an interesting
question whether Burns wins distinctly greater success in one than in the
other. In spite of his prevailing literary honesty, it may be observed, his
English shows some slight traces of the effort to imitate Pope and the
feeling that the pseudo-classical style with its elegance was really the
highest--a feeling which renders some of his letters painfully affected.
[Footnote: For the sake of brevity the sternly realistic poet George Crabbe
is here omitted.]

THE NOVEL. We have traced the literary production of the eighteenth century
in many different forms, but it still remains to speak of one of the most
important, the novel, which in the modern meaning of the word had its
origin not long before 1750. Springing at that time into apparently sudden
popularity, it replaced the drama as the predominant form of literature and
has continued such ever since. The reasons are not hard to discover. The
drama is naturally the most popular literary form in periods like the
Elizabethan when the ability (or inclination) to read is not general, when
men are dominated by the zest for action, and when cities have become
sufficiently large to keep the theaters well filled. It is also the natural
form in such a period as that of the Restoration, when literary life
centers about a frivolous upper class who demand an easy and social form of
entertainment. But the condition is very different when, as in the
eighteenth and still more in the nineteenth century, the habit of reading,
and some recognition of its educating influence, had spread throughout
almost all classes and throughout the country, creating a public far too
large, too scattered, and too varied to gain access to the London and
provincial theaters or to find all their needs supplied by a somewhat
artificial literary form. The novel, on the other hand, gives a much fuller
portrayal of life than does the drama, and allows the much more detailed
analysis of characters and situations which the modern mind has come more
and more to demand.

The novel, which for our present purpose must be taken to include the
romance, is, of course, only a particular and highly developed kind of long
story, one of the latest members of the family of fiction, or the larger
family of narrative, in prose and verse. The medieval romances, for
example, included most of the elements of the novel, even, sometimes,
psychological analysis; but the romances usually lacked the unity, the
complex and careful structure, the thorough portrayal of character, and the
serious attention to the real problems of life which in a general way
distinguish the modern novel. Much the same is true of the Elizabethan
'novels,' which, besides, were generally short as well as of small
intellectual and ethical caliber. During the Restoration period and a
little later there began to appear several kinds of works which perhaps
looked more definitely toward the later novel. Bunyan's religious
allegories may likely enough have had a real influence on it, and there
were a few English tales and romances of chivalry (above, pages 184-5), and
a few more realistic pieces of fiction. The habit of journal writing and
the letters about London life sent by some persons in the city to their
friends in the country should also be mentioned. The De Coverly papers in
'The Spectator' approach distinctly toward the novel. They give real
presentation of both characters and setting (social life) and lack only
connected treatment of the story (of Sir Roger). Defoe's fictions,
picaresque tales of adventure, come still closer, but lack the deeper
artistic and moral purpose and treatment suggested a moment ago. The case
is not very different with Swift's 'Gulliver's Travels,' which, besides, is
primarily a satire. Substantially, therefore, all the materials were now
ready, awaiting only the fortunate hand which should arrange and shape them
into a real novel. This proved to be the hand of a rather unlikely person,
the outwardly commonplace printer, Samuel Richardson.

SAMUEL RICHARDSON. It is difficult, because of the sentimental nature of
the period and the man, to tell the story of Richardson's career without an
appearance of farcical burlesque. Born in 1689, in Derbyshire, he early
gave proof of his special endowments by delighting his childish companions
with stories, and, a little later, by becoming the composer of the love
letters of various young women. His command of language and an insistent
tendency to moralize seemed to mark him out for the ministry, but his
father was unable to pay for the necessary education and apprenticed him to
a London printer. Possessed of great fidelity and all the quieter virtues,
he rose steadily and became in time the prosperous head of his own printing
house, a model citizen, and the father of a large family of children.
Before he reached middle life he was a valetudinarian. His household
gradually became a constant visiting place for a number of young ladies
toward whom he adopted a fatherly attitude and who without knowing it were
helping him to prepare for his artistic success.

When he was not quite fifty his great reputation among his acquaintances as
a letter-writer led some publishers to invite him to prepare a series of
'Familiar [that is, Friendly] Letters' as models for inexperienced young
people. Complying, Richardson discovered the possibilities of the letter
form as a means of telling stories, and hence proceeded to write his first
novel, 'Pamela, [Footnote: He wrongly placed the accent on the first
syllable.] or Virtue Rewarded,' which was published in 1740. It attained
enormous success, which he followed up by writing his masterpiece,
'Clarissa Harlowe' (1747-8), and then 'The History of Sir Charles
Grandison' (1753). He spent his latter years, as has been aptly said, in a
sort of perpetual tea-party, surrounded by bevies of admiring ladies, and
largely occupied with a vast feminine correspondence, chiefly concerning
his novels. He died of apoplexy in 1761.

At this distance of time it is easy to summarize the main traits of
Richardson's novels.

1. He gave form to the modern novel by shaping it according to a definite
plot with carefully selected incidents which all contributed directly to
the outcome. In this respect his practice was decidedly stricter than that
of most of his English successors down to the present time. Indeed, he
avowedly constructed his novels on the plan of dramas, while later
novelists, in the desire to present a broader picture of life, have
generally allowed themselves greater range of scenes and a larger number of
characters. In the instinct for suspense, also, no one has surpassed
Richardson; his stories are intense, not to say sensational, and once
launched upon them we follow with the keenest interest to the outcome.

2. Nevertheless, he is always prolix. That the novels as published varied
in length from four to eight volumes is not really significant, since these
were the very small volumes which (as a source of extra profit) were to be
the regular form for novels until after the time of Scott. Even 'Clarissa,'
the longest, is not longer than some novels of our own day. Yet they do
much exceed the average in length and would undoubtedly gain by
condensation. Richardson, it may be added, produced each of them in the
space of a few months, writing, evidently, with the utmost fluency, and
with little need for revision.

3. Most permanently important, perhaps, of all Richardson's contributions,
was his creation of complex characters, such as had thitherto appeared not
in English novels but only in the drama. In characterization Richardson's
great strength lay with his women--he knew the feminine mind and spirit
through and through. His first heroine, Pamela, is a plebeian serving-maid,
and his second, Clarissa, a fine-spirited young lady of the wealthy class,
but both are perfectly and completely true and living, throughout all their
terribly complex and trying experiences. Men, on the other hand, those
beyond his own particular circle, Richardson understood only from the
outside. Annoyed by criticisms to this effect, he attempted in the hero of
his last book to present a true gentleman, but the result is only a
mechanical ideal figure of perfection whose wooden joints creak painfully
as he moves slowly about under the heavy load of his sternly self-conscious
goodness and dignity.

4. Richardson's success in his own time was perhaps chiefly due to his
striking with exaggerated emphasis the note of tender sentiment to which
the spirit of his generation was so over-ready to respond. The substance of
his books consists chiefly of the sufferings of his heroines under
ingeniously harrowing persecution at the hands of remorseless scoundrels.
Pamela, with her serving-maid's practical efficiency, proves able to take
care of herself, but the story of the high-bred and noble-minded Clarissa
is, with all possible deductions, one of the most deeply-moving tragedies
ever committed to paper. The effect in Richardson's own time may easily be
imagined; but it is also a matter of record that his novels were commonly
read aloud in the family circle (a thing which some of their incidents
would render impossible at the present day) and that sometimes when the
emotional strain became too great the various listeners would retire to
their own rooms to cry out their grief. Richardson appealed directly, then,
to the prevailing taste of his generation, and no one did more than he to
confirm its hold on the next generation, not only in England, but also in
France and Germany.

5. We have not yet mentioned what according to Richardson's own reiterated
statement was his main purpose in writing, namely, the conveying of moral
and religious instruction. He is extremely anxious to demonstrate to his
readers that goodness pays and that wickedness does not, generally even in
this world (though in 'Clarissa' his artistic sense refuses to be turned
aside from the inevitable tragic outcome). The spiritual vulgarity of the
doctrine, so far as material things are concerned, is clearly illustrated
in the mechanically virtuous Pamela, who, even in the midst of the most
outrageous besetments of Squire B----, is hoping with all her soul for the
triumph which is actually destined for her, of becoming his wife and so
rising high above her original humble station. Moreover, Richardson often
goes far and tritely out of his way in his preaching. At their worst,
however, his sentimentality and moralizing were preferable to the
coarseness which disgraced the works of some of his immediate successors.

6. Lastly must be mentioned the form of his novels. They all consist of
series of letters, which constitute the correspondence between some of the
principal characters, the great majority being written in each case by the
heroine. This method of telling a story requires special concessions from
the reader; but even more than the other first-personal method, exemplified
in 'Robinson Crusoe,' it has the great advantage of giving the most
intimate possible revelation of the imaginary writer's mind and situation.
Richardson handles it with very great skill, though in his anxiety that his
chief characters may not be misunderstood he occasionally commits the
artistic blunder of inserting footnotes to explain their real motives.

Richardson, then, must on the whole be called the first of the great
English novelists--a striking case of a man in whom one special endowment
proved much weightier than a large number of absurdities and littlenesses.

HENRY FIELDING. Sharply opposed to Richardson stands his later contemporary
and rival, Henry Fielding. Fielding was born of an aristocratic family in
Somersetshire in 1707. At Eton School and the University of Leyden (in
Holland) he won distinction, but at the age of twenty he found himself, a
vigorous young man with instincts for fine society, stranded in London
without any tangible means of support. He turned to the drama and during
the next dozen years produced many careless and ephemeral farces,
burlesques, and light plays, which, however, were not without value as
preparation for his novels. Meanwhile he had other activities--spent the
money which his wife brought him at marriage in an extravagant experiment
as gentleman-farmer; studied law and was admitted to the bar; and conducted
various literary periodicals. His attacks on the government in his plays
helped to produce the severe licensing act which put an end to his dramatic
work and that of many other light playwrights. When Richardson's 'Pamela'
appeared Fielding was disgusted with what seemed to him its hypocritical
silliness, and in vigorous artistic indignation he proceeded to write 'The
History of Joseph Andrews,' representing Joseph as the brother of Pamela
and as a serving-man, honest, like her, in difficult circumstances.
Beginning in a spirit of sheer burlesque, Fielding soon became interested
in his characters, and in the actual result produced a rough but masterful
picture of contemporary life. The coarse Parson Trulliber and the admirable
Parson Adams are among the famous characters of fiction. But even in the
later part of the book Fielding did not altogether abandon his ridicule of
Richardson. He introduced among the characters the 'Squire B----' of
'Pamela,' only filling out the blank by calling him 'Squire Booby,' and
taking pains to make him correspondingly ridiculous.

Fielding now began to pay the penalty for his youthful dissipations in
failing health, but he continued to write with great expenditure of time
and energy. 'The History of Jonathan Wild the Great,' a notorious ruffian
whose life Defoe also had narrated, aims to show that great military
conquerors are only bandits and cutthroats really no more praiseworthy than
the humbler individuals who are hanged without ceremony. Fielding's
masterpiece, 'The History of Tom Jones,' followed hard after Richardson's
'Clarissa,' in 1749. His last novel, 'Amelia,' is a half autobiographic
account of his own follies. His second marriage, to his first wife's maid,
was intended, as he frankly said, to provide a nurse for himself and a
mother for his children, but his later years were largely occupied with
heroic work as a police justice in Westminster, where, at the sacrifice of
what health remained to him, he rooted out a specially dangerous band of
robbers. Sailing for recuperation, but too late, to Lisbon, he died there
at the age of forty-seven, in 1754.

The chief characteristics of Fielding's nature and novels, mostly directly
opposite or complementary to those of Richardson, are these:

1. He is a broad realist, giving to his romantic actions a very prominent
background of actual contemporary life. The portrayal is very illuminating;
we learn from Fielding a great deal, almost everything, one is inclined to
say, about conditions in both country and city in his time--about the state
of travel, country inns, city jails, and many other things; but with his
vigorous masculine nature he makes abundant use of the coarser facts of
life and character which a finer art avoids. However, he is extremely human
and sympathetic; in view of their large and generous naturalness the
defects of his character and works are at least pardonable.

2. His structure is that of the rambling picaresque story of adventure, not
lacking, in his case, in definite progress toward a clearly-designed end,
but admitting many digressions and many really irrelevant elements. The
number of his characters, especially in 'Tom Jones,' is enormous. Indeed,
the usual conception of a novel in his day, as the word 'History,' which
was generally included in the title, indicates, was that of the complete
story of the life of the hero or heroine, at least up to the time of
marriage. It is virtually the old idea of the chronicle-history play.
Fielding himself repeatedly speaks of his masterpiece as an 'epic.'

3. His point of view is primarily humorous. He avowedly imitates the manner
of Cervantes in 'Don Quixote' and repeatedly insists that he is writing a
_mock_-epic. His very genuine and clear-sighted indignation at social
abuses expresses itself through his omnipresent irony and satire, and
however serious the situations he almost always keeps the ridiculous side
in sight. He offends some modern readers by refusing to take his art in any
aspect over-seriously; especially, he constantly asserts and exercises his
'right' to break off his story and chat quizzically about questions of art
or conduct in a whole chapter at a time.

4. His knowledge of character, that of a generous-hearted man of the world,
is sound but not subtile, and is deeper in the case of men than of women,
especially in the case of men who resemble himself. Tom Jones is virtually
Henry Fielding in his youth and is thoroughly lifelike, but Squire
Allworthy, intended as an example of benevolent perfection, is no less of a
pale abstraction than Sir Charles Grandison. The women, cleverly as their
typical feminine traits are brought out, are really viewed only from
without.

THE OTHER SENTIMENTALISTS AND REALISTS. Richardson and Fielding set in
motion two currents, of sentimentalism and realism, respectively, which
flowed vigorously in the novel during the next generation, and indeed
(since they are of the essence of life), have continued, with various
modifications, down to our own time. Of the succeeding realists the most
important is Tobias Smollett, a Scottish ex-physician of violent and brutal
nature, who began to produce his picaresque stories of adventure during the
lifetime of Fielding. He made ferociously unqualified attacks on the
statesmen of his day, and in spite of much power, the coarseness of his
works renders them now almost unreadable. But he performed one definite
service; in 'Roderick Random,' drawing on his early experiences as a ship's
surgeon, he inaugurated the out-and-out sea story, that is the story which
takes place not, like 'Robinson Crusoe,' in small part, but mainly, on
board ship. Prominent, on the other hand, among the sentimentalists is
Laurence Sterne, who, inappropriately enough, was a clergyman, the author
of 'Tristram Shandy.' This book is quite unlike anything else ever written.
Sterne published it in nine successive volumes during almost as many years,
and he made a point of almost complete formlessness and every sort of
whimsicality. The hero is not born until the third volume, the story mostly
relates to other people and things, pages are left blank to be filled out
by the reader--no grotesque device or sudden trick can be too fantastic for
Sterne. But he has the gift of delicate pathos and humor, and certain
episodes in the book are justly famous, such as the one where Uncle Toby
carefully puts a fly out of the window, refusing to 'hurt a hair of its
head,' on the ground that 'the world surely is wide enough to hold both
thee and me.' The best of all the sentimental stories is Goldsmith's 'Vicar
of Wakefield' (1766), of which we have already spoken (above, page 244).
With its kindly humor, its single-hearted wholesomeness, and its delightful
figure of Dr. Primrose it remains, in spite of its artlessness, one of the
permanent landmarks of English fiction.

HISTORICAL AND 'GOTHIC' ROMANCES. Stories which purported to reproduce the
life of the Past were not unknown in England in the seventeenth century,
but the real beginning of the historical novel and romance belongs to the
later part of the eighteenth century. The extravagance of romantic writers
at that time, further, created a sort of subspecies called in its day and
since the 'Gothic' romance. These 'Gothic' stories are nominally located in
the Middle Ages, but their main object is not to give an accurate picture
of medieval life, but to arouse terror in the reader, by means of a
fantastic apparatus of gloomy castles, somber villains, distressed and
sentimental heroines, and supernatural mystery. The form was inaugurated by
Horace Walpole, the son of the former Prime Minister, who built near
Twickenham (Pope's home) a pseudo-medieval house which he named Strawberry
Hill, where he posed as a center of the medieval revival. Walpole's 'Castle
of 'Otranto,' published in 1764, is an utterly absurd little story, but its
novelty at the time, and the author's prestige, gave it a great vogue. The
really best 'Gothic' romances are the long ones written by Mrs. Ann
Radcliffe in the last decade of the century, of which 'The Mysteries of
Udolpho,' in particular, was popular for two generations. Mrs. Radcliffe's
books overflow with sentimentality, but display real power, especially in
imaginative description. Of the more truly historical romances the best
were the 'Thaddeus of Warsaw' and 'Scottish Chiefs' of Miss Jane Porter,
which appeared in the first decade of the nineteenth century. None of all
these historical and 'Gothic' romances attains the rank of great or
permanent literature, but they were historically important, largely because
they prepared the way for the novels of Walter Scott, which would hardly
have come into being without them, and which show clear signs of the
influence of even their most exaggerated features.

NOVELS OF PURPOSE. Still another sort of novel was that which began to be
written in the latter part of the century with the object of exposing some
particular abuse in society. The first representatives of the class aimed,
imitating the French sentimentalist Rousseau, to improve education, and in
accordance with the sentimental Revolutionary misconception which held that
all sin and sorrow result from the corruptions of civilization, often held
up the primitive savage as a model of all the kindly virtues. The most
important of the novels of purpose, however, were more thorough-going
attacks on society composed by radical revolutionists, and the least
forgotten is the 'Caleb Williams' of William Godwin (1794), which is
intended to demonstrate that class-distinctions result in hopeless moral
confusion and disaster.

MISS BURNEY AND THE FEMININE NOVEL OF MANNERS. The most permanent results
of the latter part of the century in fiction were attained by three women
who introduced and successively continued the novel which depicts, from the
woman's point of view, with delicate satire, and at first in the hope of
accomplishing some reform, or at least of showing the beauty of virtue and
morality, the contemporary manners of well-to-do 'society.' The first of
these authoresses was Miss Frances Burney, who later became Madame
D'Arblay, but is generally referred to familiarly as Fanny Burney.

The unassuming daughter of a talented and much-esteemed musician,
acquainted in her own home with many persons of distinction, such as
Garrick and Sir Joshua Reynolds, and given from girlhood to the private
writing of stories and of a since famous Diary, Miss Burney composed her
'Evelina' in leisure intervals during a number of years, and published it
when she was twenty-five, in 1778. It recounts, in the Richardsonian letter
form, the experiences of a country girl of good breeding and ideally fine
character who is introduced into the life of London high society, is
incidentally brought into contact with disagreeable people of various
types, and soon achieves a great triumph by being acknowledged as the
daughter of a repentant and wealthy man of fashion and by marrying an
impossibly perfect young gentleman, also of great wealth. Structure and
substance in 'Evelina' are alike somewhat amateurish in comparison with the
novels of the next century; but it does manifest, together with some lack
of knowledge of the real world, genuine understanding of the core, at
least, of many sorts of character; it presents artificial society life with
a light and pleasing touch; and it brought into the novel a welcome
atmosphere of womanly purity and delicacy. 'Evelina' was received with
great applause and Miss Burney wrote other books, but they are without
importance. Her success won her the friendship of Dr. Johnson and the
position of one of the Queen's waiting women, a sort of gilded slavery
which she endured for five years. She was married in middle-age to a French
emigrant officer, Monsieur D'Arblay, and lived in France and England until
the age of nearly ninety, latterly an inactive but much respected figure
among the writers of a younger generation.

MISS EDGEWORTH. Much more voluminous and varied was the work of Miss
Burney's successor, Maria Edgeworth, who devoted a great part of her long
life (1767-1849) to active benevolence and to attendance on her father, an
eccentric and pedantic English gentleman who lived mostly on his estate in
Ireland and who exercised the privilege of revising or otherwise meddling
with most of her books. In the majority of her works Miss Edgeworth
followed Miss Burney, writing of the experiences of young ladies in
fashionable London life. In these novels her purpose was more obviously
moral than Miss Burney's--she aimed to make clear the folly of frivolity
and dissipation; and she also wrote moral tales for children which though
they now seem old-fashioned were long and widely popular. Since she had a
first-hand knowledge of both Ireland and England, she laid the scenes of
some of her books partly in both countries, thereby creating what was later
called 'the international novel.' Her most distinctive achievement,
however, was the introduction of the real Irishman (as distinct from the
humorous caricature) into fiction. Scott testified that it was her example
that suggested to him the similar portrayal of Scottish character and life.

JANE AUSTEN. Much the greatest of this trio of authoresses is the last,
Jane Austen, who perhaps belongs as much to the nineteenth century as the
eighteenth. The daughter of a clergyman, she past an absolutely uneventful
life of forty-two years (1775-1817) in various villages and towns in
Southern England. She had finished her masterpiece, 'Pride and Prejudice,'
at the age of twenty-two, but was unable for more than a dozen years to
find a publisher for this and her other earlier works. When at last they
were brought out she resumed her writing, but the total number of her
novels is only six. Her field, also, is more limited than that of any other
great English novelist; for she deliberately restricted herself, with
excellent judgment, to portraying what she knew at first-hand, namely the
life of the well-to-do classes of her own 'provincial' region. Moreover,
her theme is always love; desirable marriage for themselves or their
children seems to be the single object of almost all her characters; and
she always conducts her heroine successfully to this goal. Her artistic
achievement, like herself, is so well-bred and unobtrusive that a hasty
reader may easily fail to appreciate it. Her understanding of character is
almost perfect, her sense for structure and dramatic scenes (quiet ones)
equally good, and her quiet and delightful humor and irony all-pervasive.
Scott, with customary generosity, praised her 'power of rendering ordinary
things and characters interesting from the truth of her portrayal,' in
favorable contrast with his own facility in 'the Big Bow-Wow strain.'
Nevertheless the assertion of some present-day critics that she is the
greatest of all English authoresses is certainly extravagant. Her novels,
though masterly in their own field and style, do not have the fulness of
description or the elaboration of action which add beauty and power to most
later ones, and her lack of a sense for the greater issues of life denies
her legitimate comparison with such a writer as George Eliot.

SUMMARY. The variety of the literary influences in eighteenth century
England was so great that the century can scarcely be called a literary
unit; yet as a whole it contrasts clearly enough both with that which goes
before and with that which follows. Certainly its total contribution to
English literature was great and varied.

CHAPTER X

PERIOD VIII. THE ROMANTIC TRIUMPH, 1798 TO ABOUT 1830

THE GREAT WRITERS OF 1798-1830. THE CRITICAL REVIEWS. As we look back
to-day over the literature of the last three quarters of the eighteenth
century, here just surveyed, the progress of the Romantic Movement seems
the most conspicuous general fact which it presents. But at the, death of
Cowper in 1800 the movement still remained tentative and incomplete, and it
was to arrive at full maturity only in the work of the great writers of the
following quarter century, who were to create the finest body of literature
which England had produced since the Elizabethan period. All the greatest
of these writers were poets, wholly or in part, and they fall roughly into
two groups: first, William Wordsworth, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Robert
Southey, and Walter Scott; and second, about twenty years younger, Lord
Byron, Percy Bysshe Shelley, and John Keats. This period of Romantic
Triumph, or of the lives of its authors, coincides in time, and not by mere
accident, with the period of the success of the French Revolution, the
prolonged struggle of England and all Europe against Napoleon (above, page
233), and the subsequent years when in Continental Europe despotic
government reasserted itself and sternly suppressed liberal hopes and
uprisings, while in England liberalism and democracy steadily and doggedly
gathered force until by the Reform Bill of 1832 political power was largely
transferred from the former small governing oligarchy to the middle class.
How all these events influenced literature we shall see as we proceed. The
beginning of the Romantic triumph is found, by general consent, in the
publication in 1798 of the little volume of 'Lyrical Ballads' which
contained the first significant poetry of Wordsworth and Coleridge.

Even during this its greatest period, however, Romanticism had for a time a
hard battle to fight, and a chief literary fact of the period was the
founding and continued success of the first two important English literary
and political quarterlies, 'The Edinburgh Review' and 'The Quarterly
Review,' which in general stood in literature for the conservative
eighteenth century tradition and violently attacked all, or almost all, the
Romantic poets. These quarterlies are sufficiently important to receive a
few words in passing. In the later eighteenth century there had been some
periodicals devoted to literary criticism, but they were mere
unauthoritative booksellers' organs, and it was left for the new reviews to
inaugurate literary journalism of the modern serious type. 'The Edinburgh
Review,' suggested and first conducted, in 1802, by the witty clergyman and
reformer Sydney Smith, passed at once to the hands of Francis (later Lord)
Jeffrey, a Scots lawyer who continued to edit it for nearly thirty years.
Its politics were strongly liberal, and to oppose it the Tory 'Quarterly
Review' was founded in 1808, under the editorship of the satirist William
Gifford and with the cooperation of Sir Walter Scott, who withdrew for the
purpose from his connection with the 'Edinburgh.' These reviews were
followed by other high-class periodicals, such as 'Blackwood's Magazine,'
and most of the group have maintained their importance to the present day.

SAMUEL TAYLOR COLERIDGE. The poets Wordsworth and Coleridge are of special
interest not only from the primary fact that they are among the greatest of
English authors, but also secondarily because in spite of their close
personal association each expresses one of the two main contrasting or
complementary tendencies in the Romantic movement; Coleridge the delight in
wonder and mystery, which he has the power to express with marvelous poetic
suggestiveness, and Wordsworth, in an extreme degree, the belief in the
simple and quiet forces, both of human life and of Nature.

To Coleridge, who was slightly the younger of the two, attaches the further
pathetic interest of high genius largely thwarted by circumstances and
weakness of will. Born in Devonshire in 1772, the youngest of the many
children of a self-made clergyman and schoolmaster, he was a precocious and
abnormal child, then as always a fantastic dreamer, despised by other boys
and unable to mingle with them. After the death of his father he was sent
to Christ's Hospital, the 'Blue-Coat' charity school in London, where he
spent nine lonely years in the manner briefly described in an essay of
Charles Lamb, where Coleridge appears under a thin disguise. The very
strict discipline was no doubt of much value in giving firmness and
definite direction to his irregular nature, and the range of his studies,
both in literature and in other fields, was very wide. Through the aid of
scholarships and of contributions from his brothers he entered Cambridge in
1791, just after Wordsworth had left the University; but here his most
striking exploit was a brief escapade of running away and enlisting in a
cavalry troop. Meeting Southey, then a student at Oxford, he drew him into
a plan for a 'Pantisocracy' (a society where all should be equal), a
community of twelve young couples to be founded in some 'delightful part of
the new back settlements' of America on the principles of communistic
cooperation in all lines, broad mental culture, and complete freedom of
opinion. Naturally, this plan never past beyond the dream stage.

Coleridge left the University in 1794 without a degree, tormented by a
disappointment in love. He had already begun to publish poetry and
newspaper prose, and he now attempted lecturing. He and Southey married two
sisters, whom Byron in a later attack on Southey somewhat inaccurately
described as 'milliners of Bath'; and Coleridge settled near Bristol. After
characteristically varied and unsuccessful efforts at conducting a
periodical, newspaper writing, and preaching as a Unitarian (a creed which
was then considered by most Englishmen disreputable and which Coleridge
later abandoned), he moved with his wife in 1797 to Nether Stowey in
Somersetshire. Expressly in order to be near him, Wordsworth and his sister
Dorothy soon leased the neighboring manor-house of Alfoxden, and there
followed the memorable year of intellectual and emotional stimulus when
Coleridge's genius suddenly expanded into short-lived but wonderful
activity and he wrote most of his few great poems, 'The Ancient Mariner,'
'Kubla Khan,' and the First Part of 'Christabel.' 'The Ancient Mariner' was
planned by Coleridge and Wordsworth on one of their frequent rambles, and
was to have been written in collaboration; but as it proceeded, Wordsworth
found his manner so different from that of Coleridge that he withdrew
altogether from the undertaking. The final result of the incident, however,
was the publication in 1798 of 'Lyrical Ballads,' which included of
Coleridge's work only this one poem, but of Wordsworth's several of his
most characteristic ones. Coleridge afterwards explained that the plan of
the volume contemplated two complementary sorts of poems. He was to present
supernatural or romantic characters, yet investing them with human interest
and semblance of truth; while Wordsworth was to add the charm of novelty to
everyday things and to suggest their kinship to the supernatural, arousing
readers from their accustomed blindness to the loveliness and wonders of
the world around us. No better description could be given of the poetic
spirit and the whole poetic work of the two men. Like some other
epoch-marking books, 'Lyrical Ballads' attracted little attention. Shortly
after its publication Coleridge and the Wordsworths sailed for Germany,
where for the greater part of a year Coleridge worked hard, if irregularly,
at the language, literature, and philosophy.

The remaining thirty-five years of his life are a record of ambitious
projects and fitful efforts, for the most part turned by ill-health and
lack of steady purpose into melancholy failure, but with a few fragmentary
results standing out brilliantly. At times Coleridge did newspaper work, at
which he might have succeeded; in 1800, in a burst of energy, he translated
Schiller's tragedy 'Wallenstein' into English blank verse, a translation
which in the opinion of most critics surpasses the original; and down to
1802, and occasionally later, he wrote a few more poems of a high order.
For a few years from 1800 on he lived at Greta Hall in the village of
Keswick (pronounced Kesick), in the northern end of the Lake Region
(Westmoreland), fifteen miles from Wordsworth; but his marriage was
incompatible (with the fault on his side), and he finally left his wife and
children, who were thenceforward supported largely by Southey, his
successor at Greta Hall. Coleridge himself was maintained chiefly by the
generosity of friends; later, in part, by public pensions. It was
apparently about 1800, to alleviate mental distress and great physical
suffering from neuralgia, that he began the excessive use of opium
(laudanum) which for many years had a large share in paralyzing his will.
For a year, in 1804-5, he displayed decided diplomatic talent as secretary
to the Governor of Malta. At several different times, also, he gave
courses, of lectures on Shakspere and Milton; as a speaker he was always
eloquent; and the fragmentary notes of the lectures which have been
preserved rank very high in Shaksperean criticism. His main interest,
however, was now in philosophy; perhaps no Englishman has ever had a more
profoundly philosophical mind; and through scattered writings and through
his stimulating though prolix talks to friends and disciples he performed a
very great service to English thought by introducing the viewpoint and
ideas of the German transcendentalists, such as Kant, Schelling, and
Fichte. During his last eighteen years he lived mostly in sad acceptance of
defeat, though still much honored, in the house of a London physician. He
died in 1834.

As a poet Coleridge's first great distinction is that which we have already
pointed out, namely that he gives wonderfully subtile and appealing
expression to the Romantic sense for the strange and the supernatural, and
indeed for all that the word 'Romance' connotes at the present day. He
accomplishes this result partly through his power of suggesting the real
unity of the inner and outer worlds, partly through his skill, resting in a
large degree on vivid impressionistic description, in making strange scenes
appear actual, in securing from the reader what he himself called 'that
willing suspension of disbelief which constitutes poetic faith.' Almost
every one has felt the weird charm of 'The Ancient Mariner,' where all the
unearthly story centers about a moral and religious idea, and where we are
dazzled by a constant succession of such pictures as these:

And ice, mast-high, came floating by,
As green as emerald.

We were the first that ever burst
Into that silent sea.
The western wave was all aflame:
The day was well nigh done:
Almost upon the western wave
Rested the broad, bright sun;
When that strange shape drove suddenly
Betwixt us and the sun.

'Christabel' achieves what Coleridge himself described as the very
difficult task of creating witchery by daylight; and 'Kubla Khan,' worthy,
though a brief fragment, to rank with these two, is a marvelous glimpse of
fairyland.

In the second place, Coleridge is one of the greatest English masters of
exquisite verbal melody, with its tributary devices of alliteration and
haunting onomatopoeia. In this respect especially his influence on
subsequent English poetry has been incalculable. The details of his method
students should observe for themselves in their study of the poems, but one
particular matter should be mentioned. In 'Christabel' and to a somewhat
less degree in 'The Ancient Mariner' Coleridge departed as far as possible
from eighteenth century tradition by greatly varying the number of
syllables in the lines, while keeping a regular number of stresses. Though
this practice, as we have seen, was customary in Old English poetry and in
the popular ballads, it was supposed by Coleridge and his contemporaries to
be a new discovery, and it proved highly suggestive to other romantic
poets. From hearing 'Christabel' read (from manuscript) Scott caught the
idea for the free-and-easy meter of his poetical romances.

With a better body and will Coleridge might have been one of the supreme
English poets; as it is, he has left a small number of very great poems and
has proved one of the most powerful influences on later English poetry.

WILLIAM WORDSWORTH, 1770-1850. William Wordsworth [Footnote: The first
syllable is pronounced like the common noun 'words'] was born in 1770 in
Cumberland, in the 'Lake Region,' which, with its bold and varied mountains
as well as its group of charming lakes, is the most picturesque part of
England proper. He had the benefit of all the available formal education,
partly at home, partly at a 'grammar' school a few miles away, but his
genius was formed chiefly by the influence of Nature, and, in a qualified
degree, by that of the simple peasant people of the region. Already as a
boy, though normal and active, he began to be sensitive to the Divine Power
in Nature which in his mature years he was to express with deeper sympathy
than any poet before him. Early left an orphan, at seventeen he was sent by
his uncles to Cambridge University. Here also the things which most
appealed to him were rather the new revelations of men and life than the
formal studies, and indeed the torpid instruction of the time offered
little to any thoughtful student. On leaving Cambridge he was uncertain as
to his life-work. He said that he did not feel himself 'good enough' for
the Church, he was not drawn toward law, and though he fancied that he had
capacity for a military career, he felt that 'if he were ordered to the
West Indies his talents would not save him from the yellow fever.' At
first, therefore, he spent nearly a year in London in apparent idleness, an
intensely interested though detached spectator of the city life, but more
especially absorbed in his mystical consciousness of its underlying current
of spiritual being. After this he crossed to France to learn the language.
The Revolution was then (1792) in its early stages, and in his 'Prelude'
Wordsworth has left the finest existing statement of the exultant
anticipations of a new world of social justice which the movement aroused
in himself and other young English liberals. When the Revolution past into
the period of violent bloodshed he determined, with more enthusiasm than
judgment, to put himself forward as a leader of the moderate Girondins.
From the wholesale slaughter of this party a few months later he was saved
through the stopping of his allowance by his more cautious uncles, which
compelled him, after a year's absence, to return to England.

For several years longer Wordsworth lived uncertainly. When, soon after his
return, England, in horror at the execution of the French king, joined the
coalition of European powers against France, Wordsworth experienced a great
shock--the first, he tells us, that his moral nature had ever suffered--at
seeing his own country arrayed with corrupt despotisms against what seemed
to him the cause of humanity. The complete degeneration of the Revolution
into anarchy and tyranny further served to plunge him into a chaos of moral
bewilderment, from which he was gradually rescued partly by renewed
communion with Nature and partly by the influence of his sister Dorothy, a
woman of the most sensitive nature but of strong character and admirable
good sense. From this time for the rest of her life she continued to live
with him, and by her unstinted and unselfish devotion contributed very
largely to his poetic success. He had now begun to write poetry (though
thus far rather stiffly and in the rimed couplet), and the receipt of a
small legacy from a friend enabled him to devote his life to the art. Six
or seven years later his resources were several times multiplied by an
honorable act of the new Lord Lonsdale, who voluntarily repaid a sum of
money owed by his predecessor to Wordsworth's father.

In 1795 Wordsworth and his sister moved from the Lake Region to
Dorsetshire, at the other end of England, likewise a country of great
natural beauty. Two years later came their change (of a few miles) to
Alfoxden, the association with Coleridge, and 'Lyrical Ballads,' containing
nineteen of Wordsworth's poems (above, page 267). After their winter in
Germany the Wordsworths settled permanently in their native Lake Region, at
first in 'Dove Cottage,' in the village of Grasmere. This simple little
stone house, buried, like all the others in the Lake Region, in brilliant
flowers, and opening from its second story onto the hillside garden where
Wordsworth composed much of his greatest poetry, is now the annual center
of pilgrimage for thousands of visitors, one of the chief literary shrines
of England and the world. Here Wordsworth lived frugally for several years;
then after intermediate changes he took up his final residence in a larger
house, Rydal Mount, a few miles away. In 1802 he married Mary Hutchinson,
who had been one of his childish schoolmates, a woman of a spirit as fine
as that of his sister, whom she now joined without a thought of jealousy in
a life of self-effacing devotion to the poet.

Wordsworth's poetic inspiration, less fickle than that of Coleridge,
continued with little abatement for a dozen years; but about 1815, as he
himself states in his fine but pathetic poem 'Composed upon an Evening of
Extraordinary Splendour,' it for the most part abandoned him. He continued,
however, to produce a great deal of verse, most of which his admirers would
much prefer to have had unwritten. The plain Anglo-Saxon yeoman strain
which was really the basis of his nature now asserted itself in the growing
conservatism of ideas which marked the last forty years of his life. His
early love of simplicity hardened into a rigid opposition not only to the
materialistic modern industrial system but to all change--the Reform Bill,
the reform of education, and in general all progressive political and
social movements. It was on this abandonment of his early liberal
principles that Browning based his spirited lyric 'The Lost Leader.'

During the first half or more of his mature life, until long after he had
ceased to be a significant creative force, Wordsworth's poetry, for reasons
which will shortly appear, had been met chiefly with ridicule or
indifference, and he had been obliged to wait in patience while the
slighter work first of Scott and then of Byron took the public by storm.
Little by little, however, he came to his own, and by about 1830 he enjoyed
with discerning readers that enthusiastic appreciation of which he is
certain for all the future. The crowning mark of recognition came in 1843
when on the death of his friend Southey he was made Poet Laureate. The
honor, however, had been so long delayed that it was largely barren. Ten
years earlier his life had been darkened by the mental decay of his sister
and the death of Coleridge; and other personal sorrows now came upon him.
He died in 1850 at the age of eighty.

Wordsworth, as we have said, is the chief representative of some
(especially one) of the most important principles in the Romantic Movement;
but he is far more than a member of any movement; through his supreme
poetic expression of some of the greatest spiritual ideals he belongs among
the five or six greatest English poets. First, he is the profoundest
interpreter of Nature in all poetry. His feeling for Nature has two
aspects. He is keenly sensitive, and in a more delicately discriminating
way than any of his predecessors, to all the external beauty and glory of
Nature, especially inanimate Nature--of mountains, woods and fields,
streams and flowers, in all their infinitely varied aspects. A wonderfully
joyous and intimate sympathy with them is one of his controlling impulses.
But his feeling goes beyond the mere physical and emotional delight of
Chaucer and the Elizabethans; for him Nature is a direct manifestation of
the Divine Power, which seems to him to be everywhere immanent in her; and
communion with her, the communion into which he enters as he walks and
meditates among the mountains and moors, is to him communion with God. He
is literally in earnest even in his repeated assertion that from
observation of Nature man may learn (doubtless by the proper attuning of
his spirit) more of moral truth than from all the books and sages. To
Wordsworth Nature is man's one great and sufficient teacher. It is for this
reason that, unlike such poets as Keats and Tennyson, he so often views
Nature in the large, giving us broad landscapes and sublime aspects. Of
this mystical semi-pantheistic Nature-religion his 'Lines composed above
Tintern Abbey' are the noblest expression in literature. All this explains
why Wordsworth considered his function as a poet a sacred thing and how his
intensely moral temperament found complete satisfaction in his art. It
explains also, in part, the limitation of his poetic genius. Nature indeed
did not continue to be to him, as he himself says that it was in his
boyhood, absolutely 'all in all'; but he always remained largely absorbed
in the contemplation and interpretation of it and never manifested, except
in a few comparatively short and exceptional poems, real narrative or
dramatic power (in works dealing with human characters or human life).

In the second place, Wordsworth is the most consistent of all the great
English poets of democracy, though here as elsewhere his interest is mainly
not in the external but in the spiritual aspect of things. From his
insistence that the meaning of the world for man lies not in the external
events but in the development of character results his central doctrine of
the simple life. Real character, he holds, the chief proper object of man's
effort, is formed by quietly living, as did he and the dalesmen around him,
in contact with Nature and communion with God rather than by participation
in the feverish and sensational struggles of the great world. Simple
country people, therefore, are nearer to the ideal than are most persons
who fill a larger place in the activities of the world. This doctrine
expresses itself in a striking though one-sided fashion in his famous
theory of poetry--its proper subjects, characters, and diction. He stated
his theory definitely and at length in a preface to the second edition of
'Lyrical Ballads,' published in 1800, a discussion which includes
incidentally some of the finest general critical interpretation ever made
of the nature and meaning of poetry. Wordsworth declared: 1. Since the
purpose of poetry is to present the essential emotions of men, persons in
humble and rustic life are generally the fittest subjects for treatment in
it, because their natures and manners are simple and more genuine than
those of other men, and are kept so by constant contact with the beauty and
serenity of Nature. 2. Not only should artificial poetic diction (like that
of the eighteenth century) be rejected, but the language of poetry should
be a selection from that of ordinary people in real life, only purified of
its vulgarities and heightened so as to appeal to the imagination. (In this
last modification lies the justification of rime.) There neither is nor can
be any _essential_ difference between the language of prose and that
of poetry.

This theory, founded on Wordsworth's disgust at eighteenth century poetic
artificiality, contains a very important but greatly exaggerated element of
truth. That the experiences of simple and common people, including
children, may adequately illustrate the main spiritual aspects of life
Wordsworth unquestionably demonstrated in such poems as 'The Reverie of
Poor Susan,' 'Lucy Gray,' and 'Michael.' But to restrict poetry largely to
such characters and subjects would be to eliminate not only most of the
external interest of life, which certainly is often necessary in giving
legitimate body to the spiritual meanings, but also a great range of
significant experiences which by the nature of things can never come to
lowly and simple persons. That the characters of simple country people are
on the average inevitably finer and more genuine than those of others is a
romantic theory rather than a fact, as Wordsworth would have discovered if
his meditative nature had, allowed him to get into really direct and
personal contact with the peasants about him. As to the proper language of
poetry, no one to-day (thanks partly to Wordsworth) defends artificiality,
but most of Wordsworth's own best work, as well as that of all other poets,
proves clearly that there _is_ an essential difference between the
language of prose and that of poetry, that much of the meaning of poetry
results from the use of unusual, suggestive, words and picturesque
expressions, which create the essential poetic atmosphere and stir the
imagination in ways distinctly different from those of prose. Wordsworth's
obstinate adherence to his theory in its full extent, indeed, produced such
trivial and absurd results as 'Goody Blake and Harry Gill,' 'The Idiot
Boy,' and 'Peter Bell,' and great masses of hopeless prosiness in his long
blank-verse narratives.

This obstinacy and these poems are only the most conspicuous result of
Wordsworth's chief temperamental defect, which was an almost total lack of
the sense of humor. Regarding himself as the prophet of a supremely
important new gospel, he never admitted the possibility of error in his own
point of view and was never able to stand aside from his poetry and
criticise it dispassionately. This somewhat irritating egotism, however,
was perhaps a necessary element in his success; without it he might not
have been able to live serenely through the years of misunderstanding and
ridicule which would have silenced or embittered a more diffident spirit.

The variety of Wordsworth's poetry deserves special mention; in addition to
his short lyric and narrative poems of Nature and the spiritual life
several kinds stand out distinctly. A very few poems, the noble 'Ode to
Duty,' 'Laodamia,' and 'Dion,' are classical in inspiration and show the
finely severe repression and finish of classic style. Among his many
hundreds of sonnets is a very notable group inspired by the struggle of
England against Napoleon. Wordsworth was the first English poet after
Milton who used the sonnet powerfully and he proves himself a worthy
successor of Milton. The great bulk of his work, finally, is made up of his
long poems in blank-verse. 'The Prelude,' written during the years
1799-1805, though not published until after his death, is the record of the
development of his poet's mind, not an outwardly stirring poem, but a
unique and invaluable piece of spiritual autobiography. Wordsworth intended
to make this only an introduction to another work of enormous length which
was to have presented his views of Man, Nature, and Society. Of this plan
he completed two detached parts, namely the fragmentary 'Recluse' and 'The
Excursion,' which latter contains some fine passages, but for the most part
is uninspired.

Wordsworth, more than any other great English poet, is a poet for mature
and thoughtful appreciation; except for a very small part of his work many
readers must gradually acquire the taste for him. But of his position among
the half dozen English poets who have made the largest contribution to
thought and life there can be no question; so that some acquaintance with
him is a necessary part of any real education.

ROBERT SOUTHEY. Robert Southey (1774-1843), a voluminous writer of verse
and prose who from his friendship with Wordsworth and Coleridge has been
associated with them as third in what has been inaptly called 'The Lake
School' of poets, was thought in his own day to be their equal; but time
has relegated him to comparative obscurity. An insatiate reader and
admirable man, he wrote partly from irrepressible instinct and partly to
support his own family and at times, as we have seen, that of Coleridge. An
ardent liberal in youth, he, more quickly than Wordsworth, lapsed into
conservatism, whence resulted his appointment as Poet Laureate in 1813 and
the unremitting hostility of Lord Byron. His rather fantastic epics,
composed with great facility and much real spirit, are almost forgotten; he
is remembered chiefly by three or four short poems--'The Battle of
Blenheim,' 'My days among the dead are past,' 'The Old Man's Comforts' (You
are old, Father William,' wittily parodied by 'Lewis Carroll' in 'Alice in
Wonderland')--and by his excellent short prose 'Life of Nelson.'

WALTER SCOTT. In the eighteenth century Scotland had contributed Thomson
and Burns to the Romantic movement; now, early in the nineteenth, she
supplied a writer of unexcelled and marvelous creative energy, who
confirmed the triumph of the movement with work of the first importance in
both verse and prose, namely Walter Scott. Scott, further, is personally
one of the most delightful figures in English literature, and he is
probably the most famous of all the Scotsmen who have ever lived.

He was descended from an ancient Border fighting clan, some of whose
pillaging heroes he was to celebrate in his poetry, but he himself was
born, in 1771, in Edinburgh, the son of an attorney of a privileged, though
not the highest, class. In spite of some serious sicknesses, one of which
left him permanently lame, he was always a very active boy, more
distinguished at school for play and fighting than for devotion to study.
But his unconscious training for literature began very early; in his
childhood his love of poetry was stimulated by his mother, and he always
spent much time in roaming about the country and picking up old ballads and
traditional lore. Loyalty to his father led him to devote six years of hard
work to the uncongenial study of the law, and at twenty he was admitted to
the Edinburgh bar as an advocate. Though his geniality and high-spirited
brilliancy made him a social favorite he never secured much professional
practice; but after a few years he was appointed permanent Sheriff of
Selkirk, a county a little to the south of Edinburgh, near the English
Border. Later, in 1806, he was also made one of the Principal Clerks of
Session, a subordinate but responsible office with a handsome salary which
entailed steady attendance and work at the metropolitan law court in
Edinburgh during half of each year.

His instinct for literary production was first stimulated by the German
Romantic poets. In 1796 he translated Burger's fiery and melodramatic
ballad 'Lenore,' and a little later wrote some vigorous though hasty
ballads of his own. In 1802-1803 he published 'Minstrelsy of the Scottish
Border,' a collection of Scottish ballads and songs, which he carefully
annotated. He went on in 1805, when he was thirty-four, to his first
original verse-romance, 'The Lay of the Last Minstrel.' Carelessly
constructed and written, this poem was nevertheless the most spirited
reproduction of the life of feudal chivalry which the Romantic Movement had
yet brought forth, and its popularity was immediate and enormous. Always
writing with the greatest facility, though in brief hours snatched from his
other occupations, Scott followed up 'The Lay' during the next ten years
with the much superior 'Marmion,' 'The Lady of the Lake,' and other
verse-romances, most of which greatly increased both his reputation and his
income. In 1813 he declined the offer of the Poet Laureateship, then
considered a position of no great dignity for a successful man, but secured
the appointment of Southey, who was his friend. In 1811 he moved from the
comparatively modest country house which he had been occupying to the
estate of Abbotsford, where he proceeded to fulfill his ambition of
building a great mansion and making himself a sort of feudal chieftain. To
this project he devoted for years a large part of the previously
unprecedented profits from his writings. For a dozen years before, it
should be added, his inexhaustible energy had found further occupation in
connection with a troop of horse which he had helped to organize on the
threat of a French invasion and of which he acted as quartermaster,
training in barracks, and at times drilling for hours before breakfast.

The amount and variety of his literary work was much greater than is
understood by most of his admirers today. He contributed largely, in
succession, to the 'Edinburgh' and 'Quarterly' reviews, and having become a
secret partner in the printing firm of the Ballantyne brothers, two of his
school friends, exerted himself not only in the affairs of the company but
in vast editorial labors of his own, which included among other things
voluminously annotated editions of Dryden and Swift. His productivity is
the more astonishing because after his removal to Abbotsford he gave a
great part of his time not only to his family but also to the entertainment
of the throngs of visitors who pressed upon him in almost continuous
crowds. The explanation is to be found partly in his phenomenally vigorous
constitution, which enabled him to live and work with little sleep; though
in the end he paid heavily for this indiscretion.

The circumstances which led him to turn from poetry to prose fiction are
well known. His poetical vein was really exhausted when in 1812 and 1813
Byron's 'Childe Harold' and flashy Eastern tales captured the public fancy.
Just about as Scott was goodnaturedly confessing to himself that it was
useless to dispute Byron's supremacy he accidentally came across the first
chapters of 'Waverley,' which he had written some years before and had
thrown aside in unwillingness to risk his fame by a venture in a new field.
Taking it up with renewed interest, in the evenings of three weeks he wrote
the remaining two-thirds of it; and he published it with an ultimate
success even greater than that of his poetry. For a long time, however,
Scott did not acknowledge the authorship of 'Waverley' and the novels which
followed it (which, however, was obvious to every one), chiefly because he
feared that the writing of prose fiction would seem undignified in a Clerk
of Session. The rapidity of the appearance of his novels testified to the
almost unlimited accumulation of traditions and incidents with which his
astonishing memory was stored; in seventeen years he published nearly
thirty 'Waverley' novels, equipping most of them, besides, with long
fictitious introductions, which the present-day reader almost universally
skips. The profits of Scott's works, long amounting apparently to from ten
to twenty thousand pounds a year, were beyond the wildest dream of any
previous author, and even exceeded those of most popular authors of the
twentieth century, though partly because the works were published in
unreasonably expensive form, each novel in several volumes. Still more
gratifying were the great personal popularity which Scott attained and his
recognition as the most eminent of living Scotsmen, of which a symbol was
his elevation to a baronetcy in 1820.

But the brightness of all this glory was to be pathetically dimmed. In 1825
a general financial panic, revealing the laxity of Scott's business
partners, caused his firm to fail with liabilities of nearly a hundred and
twenty thousand pounds. Always magnanimous and the soul of honor, Scott
refused to take advantage of the bankruptcy laws, himself assumed the
burden of the entire debt, and set himself the stupendous task of paying it
with his pen. Amid increasing personal sorrows he labored on for six years
and so nearly attained his object that the debt was actually extinguished
some years after his death. But in the effort he completed the exhaustion
of his long-overtaxed strength, and, a trip to Italy proving unavailing,
returned to Abbotsford, and died, a few weeks after Goethe, in 1832.

As a man Scott was first of all a true and thorough gentleman, manly, open
hearted, friendly and lovable in the highest degree. Truthfulness and
courage were to him the essential virtues, and his religious faith was deep
though simple and unobtrusive. Like other forceful men, he understood his
own capacity, but his modesty was extreme; he always insisted with all
sincerity that the ability to compose fiction was not for a moment to be
compared with the ability to act effectively in practical activities; and
he was really displeased at the suggestion that he belonged among the
greatest men of the age. In spite of his Romantic tendencies and his
absolute simplicity of character, he clung strongly to the conservatism of
the feudal aristocracy with which he had labored so hard to connect
himself; he was vigorously hostile to the democratic spirit, and, in his
later years, to the Reform Bill; and he felt and expressed almost childish
delight in the friendship of the contemptible George IV, because George IV
was his king. The conservatism was closely connected, in fact, with his
Romantic interest in the past, and in politics it took the form,
theoretically, of Jacobitism, loyalty to the worthless Stuart race whose
memory his novels have done so much to keep alive. All these traits are
made abundantly clear in the extended life of Scott written by his
son-in-law, J. G. Lockhart, which is one of the two or three greatest
English biographies.

Scott's long poems, the best of them, are the chief examples in English of
dashing verse romances of adventure and love. They are hastily done, as we
have said, and there is no attempt at subtilty of characterization or at
any moral or philosophical meaning; nevertheless the reader's interest in
the vigorous and picturesque action is maintained throughout at the highest
pitch. Furthermore, they contain much finely sympathetic description of
Scottish scenery, impressionistic, but poured out with enthusiasm. Scott's
numerous lyrics are similarly stirring or moving expressions of the primal
emotions, and some of them are charmingly musical.

The qualities of the novels, which represent the culmination of Romantic
historical fiction, are much the same. Through his bold and active
historical imagination Scott vivifies the past magnificently; without
doubt, the great majority of English readers know English history chiefly
through his works. His dramatic power, also, at its best, is superb; in his
great scenes and crises he is masterly as narrator and describer. In the
presentation of the characters there is often much of the same
superficiality as in the poems, but there is much also of the highest
skill. The novels may be roughly divided into three classes: first those,
like 'Ivanhoe,' whose scene is laid in the twelfth or thirteenth century;
second those, like 'Kenilworth,' which are located in the fifteenth or
sixteenth; and third, those belonging to England and Scotland of the
seventeenth and eighteenth. In the earlier ones sheer romance predominates
and the hero and heroine are likely to be more or less conventional
paragons, respectively, of courage and tender charm; but in the later ones
Scott largely portrays the life and people which he himself knew; and he
knew them through and through. His Scottish characters in particular, often
especially the secondary ones, are delightfully realistic portraits of a
great variety of types. Mary Queen of Scots in 'The Abbot' and Caleb
Balderstone in 'The Bride of Lammermoor' are equally convincing in their
essential but very personal humanity. Descriptions of scenery are
correspondingly fuller in the novels than in the poems and are equally
useful for atmosphere and background.

In minor matters, in the novels also, there is much carelessness. The
style, more formal than that of the present day, is prevailingly wordy and
not infrequently slipshod, though its vitality is a much more noticeable
characteristic. The structure of the stories is far from compact. Scott
generally began without any idea how he was to continue or end and sent off
each day's instalment of his manuscript in the first draft as soon as it
was written; hence the action often wanders, or even, from the structural
point of view, drags. But interest seldom greatly slackens until the end,
which, it must be further confessed, is often suddenly brought about in a
very inartistic fashion. It is of less consequence that in the details of
fact Scott often commits errors, not only, like all historical novelists,
deliberately manipulating the order and details of the actual events to
suit his purposes, but also making frequent sheer mistakes. In 'Ivanhoe,'
for example, the picture of life in the twelfth century is altogether
incorrect and misleading. In all these matters scores of more
self-conscious later writers are superior to Scott, but mere correctness
counts for far less than genius.

When all is said, Scott remains the greatest historical novelist, and one
of the greatest creative forces, in world literature.

THE LAST GROUP OF ROMANTIC POETS. Coleridge, Wordsworth, Southey, and Scott
had mostly ceased to produce poetry by 1815. The group of younger men, the
last out-and-out Romanticists, who succeeded them, writing chiefly from
about 1810 to 1825, in some respects contrast strongly with them. Byron and
Shelley were far more radically revolutionary; and Keats, in his poetry,
was devoted wholly to the pursuit and worship of beauty with no concern
either for a moral philosophy of life or for vigorous external adventure.
It is a striking fact also that these later men were all very short-lived;
they died at ages ranging only from twenty-six to thirty-six.

Lord Byron, 1788-1824. Byron (George Gordon Byron) expresses mainly the
spirit of individual revolt, revolt against all existing institutions and
standards. This was largely a matter of his own personal temperament, but
the influence of the time also had a share in it, the time when the
apparent failure of the French Revolution had thrown the pronounced
liberals back upon their own resources in bitter dissatisfaction with the
existing state of society. Byron was born in 1788. His father, the violent
and worthless descendant of a line of violent and worthless nobles, was
just then using up the money which the poet's mother had brought him, and
soon abandoned her. She in turn was wildly passionate and uncontrolled, and
in bringing up her son indulged alternately in fits of genuine tenderness
and capricious outbursts of mad rage and unkindness. Byron suffered also
from another serious handicap; he was born with deformed feet, so that
throughout life he walked clumsily--a galling irritation to his sensitive
pride. In childhood his poetic instincts were stimulated by summers spent
among the scenery of his mother's native Scottish Highlands. At the age of
ten, on the death of his great-uncle, he succeeded to the peerage as Lord
Byron, but for many years he continued to be heavily in debt, partly
because of lavish extravagance, which was one expression of his inherited
reckless wilfulness. Throughout his life he was obliged to make the most
heroic efforts to keep in check another inherited tendency, to corpulence;
he generally restricted his diet almost entirely to such meager fare as
potatoes and soda-water, though he often broke out also into periods of
unlimited self-indulgence.

From Harrow School he passed to Trinity College, Cambridge, where Macaulay
and Tennyson were to be among his successors. Aspiring to be an athlete, he
made himself respected as a fighter, despite his deformity, by his strength
of arm, and he was always a powerful swimmer. Deliberately aiming also at
the reputation of a debauchee, he lived wildly, though now as later
probably not altogether so wickedly as he represented. After three years of
irregular attendance at the University his rank secured him the degree of
M. A., in 1808. He had already begun to publish verse, and when 'The
Edinburgh Review' ridiculed his very juvenile 'Hours of Idleness' he added
an attack on Jeffrey to a slashing criticism of contemporary poets which he
had already written in rimed couplets (he always professed the highest
admiration for Pope's poetry), and published the piece as 'English Bards
and Scotch Reviewers.'

He was now settled at his inherited estate of Newstead Abbey (one of the
religious foundations given to members of the nobility by Henry VIII when
he confiscated them from the Church), and had made his appearance in his
hereditary place in the House of Lords; but following his instinct for
excitement and for doing the expensively conspicuous thing he next spent
two years on a European tour, through Spain, Greece, and Turkey. In Greece
he traveled, as was necessary, with a large native guard, and he allowed
reports to become current that he passed through a succession of romantic
and reckless adventures. The first literary result of his journey was the
publication in 1812 of the first two cantos of 'Childe Harold's
Pilgrimage.' This began as the record of the wanderings of Childe Harold, a
dissipated young noble who was clearly intended to represent the author
himself; but Byron soon dropped this figure as a useless impediment in the
series of descriptions of Spain and Greece of which the first two cantos
consist. He soon abandoned also the attempt to secure an archaic effect by
the occasional use of Spenserian words, but he wrote throughout in
Spenser's stanza, which he used with much power. The public received the
poem with the greatest enthusiasm; Byron summed up the case in his
well-known comment: 'I awoke one morning and found myself famous.' In fact,
'Childe Harold' is the best of all Byron's works, though the third and
fourth cantos, published some years later, and dealing with Belgium, the
battle of Waterloo, and central Europe, are superior to the first two. Its
excellence consists chiefly in the fact that while it is primarily a
descriptive poem, its pictures, dramatically and finely vivid in
themselves, are permeated with intense emotion and often serve only as
introductions to passionate rhapsodies, so that the effect is largely
lyrical.

Though Byron always remained awkward in company he now became the idol of
the world of fashion. He followed up his first literary success by
publishing during the next four years his brief and vigorous metrical
romances, most of them Eastern in setting, 'The Giaour' (pronounced by
Byron 'Jower'), 'The Bride of Abydos,' 'The Corsair,' 'Lara,' 'The Siege of
Corinth,' and 'Parisina.' These were composed not only with remarkable
facility but in the utmost haste, sometimes a whole poem in only a few days
and sometimes in odds and ends of time snatched from social diversions. The
results are only too clearly apparent; the meter is often slovenly, the
narrative structure highly defective, and the characterization superficial
or flatly inconsistent. In other respects the poems are thoroughly
characteristic of their author. In each of them stands out one dominating
figure, the hero, a desperate and terrible adventurer, characterized by
Byron himself as possessing 'one virtue and a thousand crimes,' merciless
and vindictive to his enemies, tremblingly obeyed by his followers,
manifesting human tenderness only toward his mistress (a delicate romantic
creature to whom he is utterly devoted in the approved romantic-sentimental
fashion), and above all inscrutably enveloped in a cloud of pretentious
romantic melancholy and mystery. Like Childe Harold, this impossible and
grandiose figure of many incarnations was well understood by every one to
be meant for a picture of Byron himself, who thus posed for and received in
full measure the horrified admiration of the public. But in spite of all
this melodramatic clap-trap the romances, like 'Childe Harold,' are filled
with the tremendous Byronic passion, which, as in 'Childe Harold,' lends
great power alike to their narrative and their description.

Byron now made a strangely ill-judged marriage with a Miss Milbanke, a
woman of the fashionable world but of strict and perhaps even prudish moral
principles. After a year she left him, and 'society,' with characteristic
inconsistency, turned on him in a frenzy of superficial indignation. He
shortly (1816) fled from England, never to return, both his colossal vanity
and his truer sensitive self stung by the injustice to fury against the
hypocrisy and conventionalities of English life, which, in fact, he had
always despised. He spent the following seven years as a wanderer over
Italy and central Europe. He often lived scandalously; sometimes he was
with the far more fine-spirited Shelley; and he sometimes furnished money
to the Italians who were conducting the agitation against their tyrannical
foreign governments. All the while he was producing a great quantity of
poetry. In his half dozen or more poetic dramas he entered a new field. In
the most important of them, 'Manfred,' a treatment of the theme which
Marlowe and Goethe had used in 'Faust,' his real power is largely thwarted
by the customary Byronic mystery and swagger. 'Cain' and 'Heaven and
Earth,' though wretchedly written, have also a vaguely vast imaginative
impressiveness. Their defiant handling of Old Testament material and
therefore of Christian theology was shocking to most respectable Englishmen
and led Southey to characterize Byron as the founder of the 'Satanic
School' of English poetry. More significant is the longest and chief of his
satires, 'Don Juan,' [Footnote: Byron entirely anglicized the second word
and pronounced it in two syllables--Ju-an.] on which he wrote
intermittently for years as the mood took him. It is ostensibly the
narrative of the adventures of a young Spaniard, but as a story it rambles
on formlessly without approaching an end, and its real purpose is to serve
as an utterly cynical indictment of mankind, the institutions of society,
and accepted moral principles. Byron often points the cynicism by lapsing
into brilliant doggerel, but his double nature appears in the occasional
intermingling of tender and beautiful passages.

Byron's fiery spirit was rapidly burning itself out. In his uncontrolled
zest for new sensations he finally tired of poetry, and in 1823 he accepted
the invitation of the European committee in charge to become a leader of
the Greek revolt against Turkish oppression. He sailed to the Greek camp at
the malarial town of Missolonghi, where he showed qualities of leadership
but died of fever after a few months, in 1824, before he had time to
accomplish anything.

It is hard to form a consistent judgment of so inconsistent a being as
Byron. At the core of his nature there was certainly much genuine
goodness--generosity, sympathy, and true feeling. However much we may
discount his sacrifice of his life in the cause of a foreign people, his
love of political freedom and his hatred of tyranny were thoroughly and
passionately sincere, as is repeatedly evident in such poems as the sonnet
on 'Chillon,' 'The Prisoner of Chillon,' and the 'Ode on Venice.' On the
other hand his violent contempt for social and religious hypocrisy had as
much of personal bitterness as of disinterested principle; and his
persistent quest of notoriety, the absence of moderation in his attacks on
religious and moral standards, his lack of self-control, and his indulgence
in all the vices of the worser part of the titled and wealthy class require
no comment. Whatever allowances charity may demand on the score of tainted
heredity, his character was far too violent and too shallow to approach to
greatness.

As a poet he continues to occupy a conspicuous place (especially in the
judgment of non-English-speaking nations) through the power of his volcanic
emotion. It was this quality of emotion, perhaps the first essential in
poetry, which enrolled among his admirers a clear spirit in most respects
the antithesis of his own, that of Matthew Arnold. In 'Memorial Verses'
Arnold says of him:

He taught us little, but our soul
Had felt him like the thunder's roll.
With shivering heart the strife we saw
Of passion with eternal law.

His poetry has also an elemental sweep and grandeur. The majesty of Nature,
especially of the mountains and the ocean, stirs him to feeling which often
results in superb stanzas, like the well-known ones at the end of 'Childe
Harold' beginning 'Roll on, thou deep and dark blue Ocean, roll'! Too
often, however, Byron's passion and facility of expression issue in bombast
and crude rhetoric. Moreover, his poetry is for the most part lacking in
delicacy and fine shading; scarcely a score of his lyrics are of the
highest order. He gives us often the blaring music of a military band or
the loud, swelling volume of an organ, but very seldom the softer tones of
a violin or symphony.

To his creative genius and power the variety as well as the amount of his
poetry offers forceful testimony.

In moods of moral and literary severity, to summarize, a critic can
scarcely refrain from dismissing Byron with impatient contempt;
nevertheless his genius and his in part splendid achievement are
substantial facts. He stands as the extreme but significant exponent of
violent Romantic individualism in a period when Romantic aspiration was
largely disappointed and disillusioned, but was indignantly gathering its
strength for new efforts.

PERCY BYSSHE SHELLEY, 1792-1832. Shelley resembles Byron in his
thorough-going revolt against society, but he is totally unlike Byron in
several important respects. His first impulse was an unselfish love for his
fellow-men, with an aggressive eagerness for martyrdom in their behalf; his
nature was unusually, even abnormally, fine and sensitive; and his poetic
quality was a delicate and ethereal lyricism unsurpassed in the literature
of the world. In both his life and his poetry his visionary reforming zeal
and his superb lyric instinct are inextricably intertwined.

Shelley, born in 1792, belonged to a family of Sussex country gentry; a
baronetcy bestowed on his grandfather during the poet's youth passed from
his father after his own death to his descendants. Matthew Arnold has
remarked that while most of the members of any aristocracy are naturally
conservative, confirmed advocates of the system under which they enjoy
great privileges, any one of them who happens to be endowed with radical
ideas is likely to carry these to an extreme. In Shelley's case this
general tendency was strengthened by reaction against the benighted Toryism
of his father and by most of the experiences of his life from the very
outset. At Eton his hatred of tyranny was fiercely aroused by the fagging
system and the other brutalities of an English school; he broke into open
revolt and became known as 'mad Shelley,' and his schoolfellows delighted
in driving him into paroxysms of rage. Already at Eton he read and accepted
the doctrines of the French pre-Revolutionary philosophers and their
English interpreter William Godwin. He came to believe not only that human
nature is essentially good, but that if left to itself it can be implicitly
trusted; that sin and misery are merely the results of the injustice
springing from the institutions of society, chief of which are organized
government, formal religion, law, and formal marriage; and that the one
essential thing is to bring about a condition where these institutions can
be abolished and where all men may be allowed to follow their own
inclinations. The great advance which has been made since Shelley's time in
the knowledge of history and the social sciences throws a pitiless light on
the absurdity of this theory, showing that social institutions, terribly
imperfect as they are, are by no means chiefly bad but rather represent the
slow gains of thousands of years of painful progress; none the less the
theory was bound to appeal irresistibly to such an impulsive and
inexperienced idealism as that of Shelley. It was really, of course, not so
much against social institutions themselves that Shelley revolted as
against their abuses, which were still more flagrantly apparent in his time
than in ours. When he repudiated Christianity and declared himself an
atheist, what he actually had in mind was the perverted parody of religion
mainly offered by the Church of his time; and, as some one has observed,
when he pronounced for love without marriage it was because of the
tragedies that he had seen in marriages without love. Much must be ascribed
also to his sheer radicalism--the instinct to fly violently against
whatever was conventionally accepted and violently to flaunt his adherence
to whatever was banned.

In 1810 Shelley entered Oxford, especially exasperated by parental
interference with his first boyish love, and already the author of some
crude prose-romances and poetry. In the university he devoted his time
chiefly to investigating subjects not included or permitted in the
curriculum, especially chemistry; and after a few months, having written a
pamphlet on 'The Necessity of Atheism' and sent it with conscientious zeal
to the heads of the colleges, he was expelled. Still a few months later,
being then nineteen years old, he allowed himself to be led, admittedly
only through pity, into a marriage with a certain Harriet Westbrook, a
frivolous and commonplace schoolgirl of sixteen. For the remaining ten
years of his short life he, like Byron, was a wanderer, sometimes in
straits for money, though always supported, after some time generously
enough, by his father. At first he tried the career of a professional
agitator; going to Ireland he attempted to arouse the people against
English tyranny by such devices as scattering copies of addresses from his
window in Dublin or launching them in bottles in the Bristol Channel; but
he was soon obliged to flee the country. It is hard, of course, to take
such conduct seriously; yet in the midst of much that was wild, his
pamphlets contained also much of solid wisdom, no small part of which has
since been enacted into law.

Unselfish as he was in the abstract, Shelley's enthusiast's egotism and the
unrestraint of his emotions rendered him fitful, capricious, unable to
appreciate any point of view but his own, and therefore when irritated or
excited capable of downright cruelty in concrete cases. The most painful
illustration is afforded by his treatment of his first wife. Three years
after his marriage he informed her that he considered the connection at an
end and abandoned her to what proved a few years of a wretched existence.
Shelley himself formed a union with Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin, the
daughter of his revolutionary teacher. Her sympathetic though extravagant
admiration for his genius, now beginning to express itself in really great
poetry, was of the highest value to him, the more so that from this time on
he was viewed by most respectable Englishman with the same abhorrence which
they felt for Byron. In 1818 the Shelleys also abandoned England
(permanently, as it proved) for Italy, where they moved from place to
place, living sometimes, as we have said, with Byron, for whose genius, in
spite of its coarseness, Shelley had a warm admiration. Shelley's death
came when he was only thirty, in 1822, by a sudden accident--he was
drowned by the upsetting of his sailboat in the Gulf of Spezia, between
Genoa and Pisa. His body, cast on the shore, was burned in the presence of
Byron and another radical, Leigh Hunt, and the ashes were buried in the
Protestant cemetery just outside the wall of Rome, where Keats had been
interred only a year earlier.

Some of Shelley's shorter poems are purely poetic expressions of poetic
emotion, but by far the greater part are documents (generally beautiful
also as poetry) in his attack on existing customs and cruelties. Matthew
Arnold, paraphrasing Joubert's description of Plato, has characterized him
as 'a beautiful and ineffectual angel, beating in the void his luminous
wings in vain.' This is largely true, but it overlooks the sound general
basis and the definite actual results which belong to his work, as to that
of every great idealist.

On the artistic side the most conspicuous thing in his poetry is the
ecstatic aspiration for Beauty and the magnificent embodiment of it.
Shelley is the poetic disciple, but a thoroughly original disciple, of
Coleridge. His esthetic passion is partly sensuous, and he often abandons
himself to it with romantic unrestraint. His 'lyrical cry,' of which
Matthew Arnold has spoken, is the demand, which will not be denied, for
beauty that will satisfy his whole being. Sensations, indeed, he must
always have, agreeable ones if possible, or in default of them, painful
ones; this explains his occasional touches of repulsive morbidness. But the
repulsive strain is exceptional. No other poetry is crowded in the same way
as his with pictures glorious and delicate in form, light, and color, or is
more musically palpitating with the delight which they create. To Shelley
as a follower of Plato, however, the beauty of the senses is only a
manifestation of ideal Beauty, the spiritual force which appears in other
forms as Intellect and Love; and Intellect and Love as well are equal
objects of his unbounded devotion. Hence his sensuousness is touched with a
real spiritual quality. In his poetic emotion, as in his social ambitions,
Shelley is constantly yearning for the unattainable. One of our best
critics [Footnote: Mr. R. H. Hutton.] has observed: 'He never shows his
full power in dealing separately with intellectual or moral or physical
beauty. His appropriate sphere is swift sensibility, the intersecting line
between the sensuous and the intellectual or moral. Mere sensation is too
literal for him, mere feeling too blind and dumb, mere thought too cold....
Wordsworth is always exulting in the fulness of Nature, Shelley is always
chasing its falling stars.'

The contrast, here hinted at, between Shelley's view of Nature and that of
Wordsworth, is extreme and entirely characteristic; the same is true, also,
when we compare Shelley and Byron. Shelley's excitable sensuousness
produces in him in the presence of Nature a very different attitude from
that of Wordsworth's philosophic Christian-mysticism. For the sensuousness
of Shelley gets the upper hand of his somewhat shadowy Platonism, and he
creates out of Nature mainly an ethereal world of delicate and rapidly
shifting sights and sounds and sensations. And while he is not unresponsive
to the majestic greatness of Nature in her vast forms and vistas, he is
never impelled, like Byron, to claim with them the kinship of a haughty
elemental spirit.

A rather long passage of appreciative criticism [Footnote: Professor A.C.
Bradley, 'Oxford Lectures on Poetry' (Macmillan), p.196.] is sufficiently
suggestive for quotation:

"From the world of [Shelley's] imagination the shapes of the old world had
disappeared, and their place was taken by a stream of radiant vapors,
incessantly forming, shifting, and dissolving in the 'clear golden dawn,'
and hymning with the voices of seraphs, to the music of the stars and the
'singing rain,' the sublime ridiculous theories of Godwin. In his heart
were emotions that responded to the vision--an aspiration or ecstasy, a
dejection or despair, like those of spirits rapt into Paradise or mourning
over its ruin. And he wrote not like Shakspere or Pope, for Londoners
sitting in a theatre or a coffee-house, intelligence's vivid enough but
definitely embodied in a definite society, able to fly, but also able to
sit; he wrote, or rather he sang, to his own soul, to other spirit-sparks
of the fire of Liberty scattered over the dark earth, to spirits in the
air, to the boundless spirit of Nature or Freedom or Love, his one place of
rest and the one source of his vision, ecstasy, and sorrow. He sang
_to_ this, and he sang _of_ it, and of the emotions it inspired,
and of its world-wide contest with such shapes of darkness as Faith and
Custom. And he made immortal music; now in melodies as exquisite and varied
as the songs of Schubert, and now in symphonies where the crudest of
Philosophies of History melted into golden harmony. For although there was
something always working in Shelley's mind and issuing in those radiant
vapors, he was far deeper and truer than his philosophic creed; its
expression and even its development were constantly checked or distorted by
the hard and narrow framework of his creed. And it was one which in effect
condemned nine-tenths of the human nature that has formed the material of
the world's great poems." [Footnote: Perhaps the finest piece of
rhapsodical appreciative criticism written in later years is the essay on
Shelley (especially the last half) by Francis Thompson (Scribner).]

The finest of Shelley's poems, are his lyrics. 'The Skylark' and 'The
Cloud' are among the most dazzling and unique of all outbursts of poetic
genius. Of the 'Ode to the West Wind,' a succession of surging emotions and
visions of beauty swept, as if by the wind itself, through the vast spaces
of the world, Swinburne exclaims: 'It is beyond and outside and above all
criticism, all praise, and all thanksgiving.' The 'Lines Written among the
Euganean Hills,' 'The Indian Serenade,' 'The Sensitive Plant' (a brief
narrative), and not a few others are also of the highest quality. In
'Adonais,' an elegy on Keats and an invective against the reviewer whose
brutal criticism, as Shelley wrongly supposed, had helped to kill him,
splendid poetic power, at least, must be admitted. Much less satisfactory
but still fascinating are the longer poems, narrative or philosophical,
such as the early 'Alastor,' a vague allegory of a poet's quest for the
beautiful through a gorgeous and incoherent succession of romantic
wildernesses; the 'Hymn to Intellectual Beauty'; 'Julian and Maddalo,' in
which Shelley and Byron (Maddalo) are portrayed; and 'Epipsychidion,' an
ecstatic poem on the love which is spiritual sympathy. Shelley's satires
may be disregarded. To the dramatic form belong his two most important long
poems. 'Prometheus Unbound' partly follows AEschylus in treating the
torture of the Titan who is the champion or personification of Mankind, by
Zeus, whom Shelley makes the incarnation of tyranny and on whose overthrow
the Golden Age of Shelleyan anarchy succeeds. The poem is a lyrical drama,
more on the Greek than on the English model. There is almost no action, and
the significance lies first in the lyrical beauty of the profuse choruses
and second in the complete embodiment of Shelley's passionate hatred of
tyranny. 'The Cenci' is more dramatic in form, though the excess of speech
over action makes of it also only a 'literary drama.' The story, taken
from family history of the Italian Renaissance, is one of the most horrible
imaginable, but the play is one of the most powerful produced in English
since the Elizabethan period. That the quality of Shelley's genius is
unique is obvious on the slightest acquaintance with him, and it is equally
certain that in spite of his premature death and all his limitations he
occupies an assured place among the very great poets. On the other hand,
the vagueness of his imagination and expression has recently provoked
severe criticism. It has even been declared that the same mind cannot
honestly enjoy both the carefully wrought classical beauty of Milton's
'Lycidas' and Shelley's mistily shimmering 'Adonais.' The question goes
deep and should receive careful consideration.

JOHN KEATS, 1795-1821. No less individual and unique than the poetry of
Byron and Shelley is that of the third member of this group, John Keats,
who is, in a wholesome way, the most conspicuous great representative in
English poetry since Chaucer of the spirit of 'Art for Art's sake.' Keats
was born in London in 1795, the first son of a livery-stable keeper.
Romantic emotion and passionateness were among his chief traits from the
start; but he was equally distinguished by a generous spirit, physical
vigor (though he was very short in build), and courage. His younger
brothers he loved intensely and fought fiercely. At boarding-school,
however, he turned from headstrong play to enthusiastic reading of Spenser
and other great English and Latin poets and of dictionaries of Greek and
Roman mythology and life. An orphan at fourteen, the mismanagement of his
guardians kept him always in financial difficulties, and he was taken from
school and apprenticed to a suburban surgeon. After five years of study and
hospital practice the call of poetry proved too strong, and he abandoned
his profession to revel in Spenser, Shakspere, and the Italian epic
authors. He now became an enthusiastic disciple of the literary and
political radical, Leigh Hunt, in whose home at Hampstead he spent much
time. Hunt was a great poetic stimulus to Keats, but he is largely
responsible for the flippant jauntiness and formlessness of Keats' earlier
poetry, and the connection brought on Keats from the outset the relentless
hostility of the literacy critics, who had dubbed Hunt and his friends 'The
Cockney [i.e., Vulgar] School of Poetry.'

Keats' first little volume of verse, published in 1817, when he was
twenty-one,-contained some delightful poems and clearly displayed most of
his chief tendencies. It was followed the next year by his longest poem,
'Endymion,' where he uses, one of the vaguely beautiful Greek myths as the
basis for the expression of his own delight in the glory of the world and
of youthful sensations. As a narrative the poem is wandering, almost
chaotic; that it is immature Keats himself frankly admitted in his preface;
but in luxuriant loveliness of sensuous imagination it is unsurpassed. Its
theme, and indeed the theme of all Keats' poetry, may be said to be found
in its famous first line--'A thing of beauty is a joy forever.' The
remaining three years of Keats' life were mostly tragic. 'Endymion' and its
author were brutally attacked in 'The Quarterly Review' and 'Blackwood's
Magazine.' The sickness and death, from consumption, of one of Keats'
dearly-loved brothers was followed by his infatuation with a certain Fanny
Brawne, a commonplace girl seven years younger than himself. This
infatuation thenceforth divided his life with poetry and helped to create
in him a restless impatience that led him, among other things, to an
unhappy effort to force his genius, in the hope of gain, into the very
unsuitable channel of play-writing. But restlessness did not weaken his
genuine and maturing poetic power; his third and last volume, published in
1820, and including 'The Eve of St. Agnes,' 'Isabella,' 'Lamia,' the
fragmentary 'Hyperion,' and his half dozen great odes, probably contains
more poetry of the highest order than any other book of original verse, of
so small a size, ever sent from the press. By this time, however, Keats
himself was stricken with consumption, and in the effort to save his life a
warmer climate was the last resource. Lack of sympathy with Shelley and his
poetry led him to reject Shelley's generous offer of entertainment at Pisa,
and he sailed with his devoted friend the painter Joseph Severn to southern
Italy. A few months later, in 1821, he died at Rome, at the age of
twenty-five. His tombstone, in a neglected corner of the Protestant
cemetery just outside the city wall, bears among other words those which in
bitterness of spirit he himself had dictated: 'Here lies one whose name was
writ in water.' But, in fact, not only had he created more great poetry
than was ever achieved by any other man at so early an age, but probably no
other influence was to prove so great as his on the poets of the next
generation.

The most important qualities of his poetry stand out clearly:

1. He is, as we have implied, the great apostle of full though not
unhealthy enjoyment of external Beauty, the beauty of the senses. He once
said: 'I feel sure I should write, from the mere yearning and tenderness I
have for the beautiful, even if my night's labors should be burnt every
morning and no eye ever rest upon them.' His use of beauty in his poetry is
marked at first by passionate Romantic abandonment and always by lavish
Romantic richness. This passion was partly stimulated in him by other
poets, largely by the Italians, and especially by Spenser, from one of
whose minor poems Keats chose the motto for his first volume: 'What more
felicity can fall to creature than to enjoy delight with liberty?'
Shelley's enthusiasm for Beauty, as we have seen, is somewhat similar to
that of Keats. But for both Spenser and Shelley, in different fashions,
external Beauty is only the outer garment of the Platonic spiritual Beauty,
while to Keats in his poetry it is, in appearance at least, almost
everything. He once exclaimed, even, 'Oh for a life of sensations rather
than of thoughts!' Notable in his poetry is the absence of any moral
purpose and of any interest in present-day life and character, particularly
the absence of the democratic feeling which had figured so largely in most
of his Romantic predecessors. These facts must not be over-emphasized,
however. His famous final phrasing of the great poetic idea--'Beauty is
truth, truth beauty'--itself shows consciousness of realities below the
surface, and the inference which is sometimes hastily drawn that he was
personally a fiberless dreamer is as far as possible from the truth. In
fact he was always vigorous and normal, as well as sensitive; he was always
devoted to outdoor life; and his very attractive letters, from which his
nature can best be judged, are not only overflowing with unpretentious and
cordial human feeling but testify that he was not really unaware of
specific social and moral issues. Indeed, occasional passages in his poems
indicate that he intended to deal with these issues in other poems when he
should feel his powers adequately matured. Whether, had he lived, he would
have proved capable of handling them significantly is one of the questions
which must be left to conjecture, like the other question whether his power
of style would have further developed.

Almost all of Keats' poems are exquisite and luxuriant in their embodiment
of sensuous beauty, but 'The Eve of St. Agnes,' in Spenser's richly
lingering stanza, must be especially mentioned.

2. Keats is one of the supreme masters of poetic expression, expression the
most beautiful, apt, vivid, condensed, and imaginatively suggestive. His
poems are noble storehouses of such lines as these:

The music, yearning like a God in pain.

Into her dream he melted, as the rose
Blendeth its odour with the violet.

magic casements, opening on the foam
Of perilous seas, in faery lands forlorn.

It is primarily in this respect that he has been the teacher of later
poets.

3. Keats never attained dramatic or narrative power or skill in the
presentation of individual character. In place of these elements he has the
lyric gift of rendering moods. Aside from ecstatic delight, these are
mostly moods of pensiveness, languor, or romantic sadness, like the one so
magically suggested in the 'Ode to a Nightingale,' of Ruth standing lonely
and 'in tears amid the alien corn.'

4. Conspicuous in Keats is his spiritual kinship with the ancient Greeks.
He assimilated with eager delight all the riches of the Greek imagination,
even though he never learned the language and was dependent on the dull
mediums of dictionaries and translations. It is not only that his
recognition of the permanently significant and beautiful embodiment of the
central facts of life in the Greek stories led him to select some of them
as the subjects for several of his most important poems; but his whole
feeling, notably his feeling for Nature, seems almost precisely that of the
Greeks, especially, perhaps, of the earlier generations among whom their
mythology took shape. To him also Nature appears alive with divinities.
Walking through the woods he almost expects to catch glimpses of hamadryads
peering from their trees, nymphs rising from the fountains, and startled
fauns with shaggy skins and cloven feet scurrying away among the bushes.

In his later poetry, also, the deeper force of the Greek spirit led him
from his early Romantic formlessness to the achievement of the most
exquisite classical perfection of form and finish. His Romantic glow and
emotion never fade or cool, but such poems as the Odes to the Nightingale
and to a Grecian Urn, and the fragment of 'Hyperion,' are absolutely
flawless and satisfying in structure and expression.

SUMMARY. One of the best comments on the poets whom we have just been
considering is a single sentence of Lowell: 'Three men, almost
contemporaneous with each other, Wordsworth, Keats, and Byron, were the
great means of bringing back English poetry from the sandy deserts of
rhetoric and recovering for her her triple inheritance of simplicity,
sensuousness, and passion.' But justice must be done also to the
'Renaissance of Wonder' in Coleridge, the ideal aspiration of Shelley, and
the healthy stirring of the elementary instincts by Scott.

LESSER WRITERS. Throughout our discussion of the nineteenth century it will
be more than ever necessary to pass by with little or no mention various
authors who are almost of the first rank. To our present period belong:
Thomas Campbell (1777-1844), author of 'Ye Mariners of England,'
'Hohenlinden,' and other spirited battle lyrics; Thomas Moore (1779-1852),
a facile but over-sentimental Irishman, author of 'Irish Melodies,' 'Lalla
Rookh,' and a famous life of Byron; Charles. Lamb (1775-1834), the
delightfully whimsical essayist and lover of Shakspere; William Hazlitt
(1778-1830), a romantically dogmatic but sympathetically appreciative
critic; Thomas de Quincey (1785-1859), a capricious and voluminous author,
master of a poetic prose style, best known for his 'Confessions of an
English Opium-Eater'; Walter Savage Landor (1775-1864), the best nineteenth
century English representative, both in prose and in lyric verse, of the
pure classical spirit, though his own temperament was violently romantic;
Thomas Love Peacock (1785-1866), author of some delightful satirical and
humorous novels, of which 'Maid Marian' anticipated 'Ivanhoe'; and Miss
Mary Russell Mitford (1787-1855), among whose charming prose sketches of
country life 'Our Village' is best and best-known.

CHAPTER XI

PERIOD IX. THE VICTORIAN PERIOD, ABOUT 1830 TO 1901

GENERAL CONDITIONS. The last completed period of English literature, almost
coincident in extent with the reign of the queen whose name it bears
(Victoria, queen 1837-1901), stands nearly beside The Elizabethan period in
the significance and interest of its work. The Elizabethan literature to be
sure, in its imaginative and spiritual enthusiasm, is the expression of a
period more profoundly great than the Victorian; but the Victorian
literature speaks for an age which witnessed incomparably greater changes
than any that had gone before in all the conditions of life--material
comforts, scientific knowledge, and, absolutely speaking, in intellectual
and spiritual enlightenment. Moreover, to twentieth century students the
Victorian literature makes a specially strong appeal because it is in part
the literature of our own time and its ideas and point of view are in large
measure ours. We must begin by glancing briefly at some of the general
determining changes and conditions to which reference has just been made,
and we may naturally begin with the merely material ones.

Before the accession of Queen Victoria the 'industrial revolution,' the
vast development of manufacturing made possible in the latter part of the
eighteenth century by the introduction of coal and the steam engine, had
rendered England the richest nation in the world, and the movement
continued with steadily accelerating momentum throughout the period. Hand
in hand with it went the increase of population from less than thirteen
millions in England in 1825 to nearly three times as many at the end of the
period. The introduction of the steam railway and the steamship, at the
beginning of the period, in place of the lumbering stagecoach and the
sailing vessel, broke up the old stagnant and stationary habits of life and
increased the amount of travel at least a thousand times. The discovery of
the electric telegraph in 1844 brought almost every important part of
Europe, and eventually of the world, nearer to every town dweller than the
nearest county had been in the eighteenth century; and the development of
the modern newspaper out of the few feeble sheets of 1825 (dailies and
weeklies in London, only weeklies elsewhere), carried full accounts of the
doings of the whole world, in place of long-delayed fragmentary rumors, to
every door within a few hours. No less striking was the progress in public
health and the increase in human happiness due to the enormous advance in
the sciences of medicine, surgery, and hygiene. Indeed these sciences in
their modern form virtually began with the discovery of the facts of
bacteriology about 1860, and the use of antiseptics fifteen years later,
and not much earlier began the effective opposition to the frightful
epidemics which had formerly been supposed to be dependent only on the will
of Providence.

Political and social progress, though less astonishing, was substantial. In
1830 England, nominally a monarchy, was in reality a plutocracy of about a
hundred thousand men--landed nobles, gentry, and wealthy merchants--whose
privileges dated back to fifteenth century conditions. The first Reform
Bill, of 1832, forced on Parliament by popular pressure, extended the right
of voting to men of the 'middle class,' and the subsequent bills of 1867
and 1885 made it universal for men. Meanwhile the House of Commons slowly
asserted itself against the hereditary House of Lords, and thus England
became perhaps the most truly democratic of the great nations of the world.
At the beginning of the period the social condition of the great body of
the population was extremely bad. Laborers in factories and mines and on
farms were largely in a state of virtual though not nominal slavery,
living, many of them, in unspeakable moral and physical conditions. Little
by little improvement came, partly by the passage of laws, partly by the
growth of trades-unions. The substitution in the middle of the century of
free-trade for protection through the passage of the 'Corn-Laws' afforded
much relief by lowering the price of food. Socialism, taking shape as a
definite movement in the middle of the century, became one to be reckoned
with before its close, though the majority of the more well-to-do classes
failed to understand even then the growing necessity for far-reaching
economic and social changes. Humanitarian consciousness, however, gained

Book of the day: