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3. Henceforth it was not French but German influence that told upon our literature, From Germany came a freshened philosophy: and philosophy, or the inquiry into what we are, and how we are constituted, and how we are related to the world around us, came to spread over the poetry of Wordsworth, and Coleridge, and their school. Their poetry becomes more subtle and thoughtful, not with a mere subtlety of language, like the “metaphysical” poetry, but with subtlety of subject. They, in truth, were the first really “metaphysical” Poets of England.

The poetry of Coleridge most especially shows the philosophical tendency, while his prose works are either metaphysical, or treat literary criticism in a metaphysical way. With Wordsworth, the same tendency took rather a different shape. He studied the principles of poetry. He thought he found themperhaps in the revulsion of feeling which drove him out of sympathy with the Revolution, he was more inclined to find them—in the sympathy between man and nature. The lessons which nature could teach, its moral bearing upon man, in raising and refining and ennobling him, became, therefore, the chief subjects of Wordsworth's poetry. There was not a flower, however small, nor a change in nature, however slight, in which he could not see more than other men, or from which he failed to draw inspiration.

4. Germany influenced us in other ways. Men got from thence the habit of brooding over themselves and their actions, which is so marked in Byron, who, from

Byron. 1788-1824.


Goethe's Faust, drew some of the inspiration for his own Manfred. Poetry in his hands was impetuous, restless, and stormy. Men nursed their gloomy thoughts, and refused to see any comfort. Great as Byron's poetry is, it would have been dangerous had it not been balanced by other influences.

õ. Yet another thing our literature borrowed in part from Germany, and that was its romance. Already the old romantic tales had been revived by the great German author Goethe, when our own Sir Walter Sir Walter Scott turned in the same direction, taking the first 1771-1832. suggestion from Goethe. In Scott's hands the old legendary history of the Border lived again. From his romantic poems he passed to the novels, and there also, though generally with more modern subjects, he yet contrived to keep the same halo of romance.

His novels are not merely, like the older novels, pictures of life and character, but they are poems (though not written in verse) as well. In their union of romance and poetry, with the drawing of character and dramatic effect, they are unsurpassed ; so great, that even Goethe himself confessed he could not criticise them.

Byron, and his contemporaries, Keats and Shelley, Keats. died early, and when their work was little more than Shelley. begun. With them there passed away a school of poetry which, kindled by the ardour of the Revolution, and inspired by the depth of German thought, did do great things, and might have done more; but the impulse that had stirred them, too, was gone, and they left no inheritors of their genius.


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XII. The Scientific Age.

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Since 1830 other things have occupied men's minds more than great works of imagination. We have still, in Alfred Tennyson, one poet who stands above all his contemporaries, and is worthy to rank with the great ones of the past. In Macaulay we have had a historian of unequalled vividness and graphic force. We have had writers of fiction who had great power, but they can hardly be said to have started on any new line of their own; they rather followed those who had gone before. Thackeray has followed — but followed as a man of genius may—the type of novel which Fielding established. Dickens may be said to have created a new and peculiar type of humour; while later novelists have dealt with laborious delineation of character, rather than with dramatic effect. They investigate rather than create. But

. another pursuit has occupied, and is still occupying, the most active minds—that of Science: the desire to draw from nature her most hidden secrets, the stores which she has longest kept back. New inventions ; new ardour in discovery; new accuracy of thought; new care in investigation, are the characteristics of our time. They have yielded abundant fruit in new appliances for the conveniences of life; but in literature such a tendency must lead to a balancing and testing of the fruits of former ages, rather than to producing works of creative imagination. Works of criticism have been numerous; history has been studied with new care, and with deeper attention even to minute accuracy. Men are eager, restless, and inquiring; no age has been more full of ardent effort, of great schemes for improvement, of vast opportunities; we are forced to wait for, and would be rash to

anticipate, the end. 2

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