Imagens da página
PDF
ePub

(Crowell). Macaulay's Essay is reprinted in this revolution. As a writer he is seen at his best in volume.

The Lives of the Poets. The taste of his time and his personal limitations kept him from a due ap

preciation of the work of certain men, notably JOHNSON (1709-1784)

Milton and Gray, but in general his judgments Samuel Johnson was born in Lichfield, the son

are fair and his comparisons enlightening; his of a poor bookseller. As a child he was sickly;

estimates of Dryden, Addison, and Pope are the scrofula, for which he was “touched” by

classics. As a talker Johnson was supreme: his Queen Anne, left permanent traces upon his body

conversation, so faithfully set down by Boswell, and his habits. With some financial assistance

was simpler and more brilliant than his writing, Johnson managed to get to Pembroke College,

not so laden with the ponderous Latinisms which Oxford, but poverty compelled him to leave in

we think of as characteristically. “Johnsonese,” 1731 before he had obtained a degree. Oxford

though it should be added that his later writings later honored herself by making him a Master of

are not so pompous in style as the earlier. The Arts and finally a Doctor of Laws. After struggling

man Johnson was greater than his works. No along for some time at teaching and hack writ

famous man had more or odder peculiarities, but

these were mere externals. His massiye common ing Johnson married, and with the money brought him by his wife tried to start a private school.

sense, his real tenderness of heart, his generosity, The venture failed. Johnson then abandoned

his sincere piety, his transparent honesty, endear Lichfield, and in 1737 tramped up to London with

his memory. Macaulay, writing in 1856, cona companion as impoverished as himself, young

cludes thus: “The old philosopher is still among us David Garrick, destined to become the greatest

in the brown coat with the metal buttons, and actor of his time. Arrived in London, Johnson

the shirt which ought to be at wash, blinking, was speedily submerged in the wretched life of

puffing, rolling his head, drumming with his a hack writer. He attracted a little attention

fingers, tearing his meat like a tiger, and swallowwith a satirical poem London (1738), more with

ing his tea in oceans. No human being who has the more deserving Vanily of Human Wishes

been more than seventy years in the grave is so (1749). He tried twice to launch a periodical of

well known to us. And it is but just to say that the Spectator type; The Rambler (1750-52) and The

our intimate acquaintance with what he would

himself have called the anfractuosities of his Idler (1758-60) were too heavy to be more than

intellect and his temper, serves only to strengthen moderately successful. The greatest work of these treadmill years was the famous Dictionary,

our conviction that he was both a great and a good

man." published in 1755, which made Johnson's reputation and won for him his title of “the Great

There is a good volume of selections from Lexicographer.” It is the least impersonal of

Johnson's writings in the Little Master pieces, all such books, and bristles with definitions illus

edited by Bliss Perry (Doubleday Page and Co.). trating Johnson's eccentricities and prejudices.

The best edition of the Lives of the Poets is that by

Birkbeck Hill (Clarendon Press). The essays by In 1759 Johnson was still so poor that when his mother died he defrayed the expenses of her Macaulay and Carlyle, inspired by Croker's edition funeral by writing in the evenings of a single

of Boswell's Life, should be known to all students week his moral prose romance Rasselas; 1762

of Johnson. brought relief, however, when Johnson was granted a pension of three hundred pounds, and thenceforth he was never again in want. The Club, one

BOSWELL (1740-1795) of the most famous of all literary fellowships, was James Boswell made himself famous by spreadorganized in 1764; it had as members the most ing Johnson's fame. He was the son of a Scotch brilliant men of their day-Reynolds, Garrick, lawyer of high standing, and went to the UniverGoldsmith, Burke, Gibbon, and others—but sity of Edinburgh, afterward studying law, and Johnson outshone them all, and over the Club, practicing in Edinburgh and London. The year as over the world of letters, ruled as dictator. 1763 made Boswell's fortune, for then he visited The chief work of Johnson's later years was done London and made the acquaintance of Johnin his edition of Shakespeare (1765), still valuable son. For twenty years he enjoyed the intimate for the sound common sense of its notes, and the friendship of the great man, who secured his Lives of the English Poets (1779-81), a series of admission to The Club. Though he was vain short biographies prepared to accompany a to excess, a snob imperturbably, impudent on standard edition of the poets from Cowley to occasion, Boswell was not the fool he has someGray. In 1773 he made a trip with Boswell times been made out to be. He had wit enough through Scotland and the Hebrides, an odd ex- to recognize a great man when he saw one, pedition for an inactive man of sixty-four, who and sense enough to make the most of his oploved London and despised Scotland with almost portunities. The accuracy of observation, the equal fervor; A Journey to the Western Islands of liveliness, the veracity, the thorough humanness Scotland records his impressions. He died in his of his Life of Johnson, published in 1791, make it house in Fleet Street in 1784, and was buried in the best biography ever written. the Abbey.

The definitive edition of Boswell's Life is by Johnson was the last great representative of Birkbeck Hill (6 vols., Clarendon Press). The the classical school, and by his influence doubtless Everyman Library contains a complete edition in held off for some time the impending literary two volumes.

BURKE (1729-1797)

THE PRECURSORS OF ROMANTICISM Edmund Burke was born in 1729, at Dublin. The poets thus roughly and somewhat inacHe graduated from Trinity College, Dublin, in curately classed together are more important to 1748, and soon took up the study of law in the the student of English literary history as a group Middle Temple, London. His interest in litera- than as individuals. They wrote during the years ture developed early in life; in 1756_the In- when the ideals established by Dryden and Pope quiry concerning the Sublime and the Beautiful and maintained by Johnson were dominant in marked his appearance on the stage of letters. England, and they mark the gradual turning of Five years later he was appointed secretary to the tide towards Romanticism. At no time before the Lord Deputy of Ireland; from this time until Wordsworth was the dominance of the Pseudohis death he was actively engaged in governmental Classicists seriously challenged; but that a new work. His political career was of the noblest; spirit was abroad even during the hey-day of the although never holding a high office, he was rec- old order, the work of these men, and of Gray ognized as the unofficial leader of the Whig and Cowper, is ample testimony. In freedom from party, and virtually shaped the policies of the literary rule and precept, in choice of forms and nation during the latter part of his life. From material which if not actually new were at least 1790 to 1797 he was concerned with France; his comparatively new to the eighteenth century, in first great interests, however, had been America their unusual attitude towards nature and man, and India. He had entered Parliament in 1766, and in their instinct for self-expression, these men and had at once taken up the question of England's unmistakably foreshadowed the age of Wordsattitude towards her American colonies. Burke un- worth and Byron. derstood America better than anyone else in Par- Allan Ramsay (1686–1758), a Scotchman, did liament; he was passionately devoted to the cause much to continue the old tradition of Scottish of human justice; and he pleaded for conciliation song and ballad, and furnished Burns with models with America not only because he foresaw that for some of his best work. James Thomson it alone would save the empire, but because it (1700-48), was also born in Scotland, but went up was the only righteous course to pursue. Burke to London in 1725. Here he attained renown as failed; England went her way under George III the author of The Seasons (1730), a descriptive and Lord North, and the colonies were lost. He poem portraying country life during the changing then turned his attention to India, studying it as year. Both the material and the form-blank carefully as he had America, vizualizing with the verse-were new to the eighteenth century; still imagination of a poet the results of English more unusual was The Castle of Indolence (1748), oppression, and finally denouncing the English which remains to this day one of the best imitasystem in a series of attacks that culminated in tions of both the form and mood of Spenser's the impeachment (1787-95) of Warren Hastings, Faerie Queene. Robert Blair (1699-1746), is rethe first Governor General. The publication in membered as the author of one poem, The Grave 1790 of the Reflections on the Revolution in France (1743), in blank verse, a gloomy if at times marks the beginning of his hostility towards effective monologue that attained a considerable French republicanism. The Appeal from the New vogue at the time and had some influence on later to the Old Whigs (1791), and the Letters on a poets. Edward Young (1681-1765), although the Regicide Peace (1796-97), continued in the same author of much besides the Night Thoughts (1742), vein, and established Burke as the great champion owes his fame to this one poem. In blank verse of conservatism, the upholder of the established which at times rises to a genuine eloquence, order of things against the forces that were making Young discourses on “Life, Death, and Immortalfor destruction.

ity," in much the mood of Blair's Grave. James Matthew Arnold speaks of Burke as a man who Macpherson (1736–96) was the author of the so"saturated politics with thought." It is well called poems of Ossian. It is probable that Macknown that as an orator he was ineffective, and pherson built up his forgeries around some genuine that the qualities which make his essays so power- fragments of old Celtic verse; but for the mood ful detracted from his success on the floor of the of the poems, the "delight in sorrow," and the House. But he could afford to give up the success striking portrayal of mountain scenery, he alone of the moment for the more lasting triumphs he was responsible. During his lifetime the cheat has won. His was the noblest prose of the century was suspected; Dr. Johnson, for instance, refused in England; massive, pregnant with ideas, yet to be taken in; but despite this uncertainty these always clear; logically concise, yet vibrant with "mountain monotones" attained a tremendous an emotion that colors his paragraphs as a kin- popularity in England and on the continent. dred emotion colors the great utterances of Lin- William Collins (1721-59) brought to the midcoln.

eighteenth century a lyric instinct and a finished Lord Morley's Life, in the E. M. L., is a good technique that mark him as one of the most disbiography of Burke. Various editions of his tinguished poets of the period. During a life that speeches are readily accessible; the Select Works, was short and clouded by insanity Collins wrote edited by E. J. Payne (Clarendon Press, 3 vols.), a series of odes and a few lyrics which, however is excellent.

little they may have appealed to the mass of his contemporaries, have found admirers in every succeeding generation. Thomas Chatterton (175270) is like Macpherson famous for his literary forgeries. At the age of fifteen he planned and in was written in an approved classical form, but large part executed a cycle of romantic tales, cast is distinctly different in mood from the earlier in an imitation middle-English dialect, and rep- work, and is the most finished example of the resented as the work of a fifteenth century poet "grave-yard school” which, including Blair's named Rowley. Disappointed in his hope to Grave and Young's Night Thoughts, looks back to make a living as a man of letters, Chatterton Il Penseroso for much of its inspiration. The poisoned himself in his London garret, and the Progress of Poesy and The Bard, printed by world has not ceased to wonder at the largeness Walpole in 1757, are still farther from eighteenth and splendor of the boy's poetic accomplishment century ideals. But it was not till 1761, when and promise. William Blake (1757-1827), poet, Gray wrote The Fatal Sisters and The Descent artist, engraver, and mystic, was one of the most of Odin, that his work became thoroughly eccentric of English men of letters, and as such romantic. has had little influence on the main current of Dr. Johnson's criticism, in his Life of Gray, is unEnglish verse. But the simple perfection and sympathetic, but valuable as showing the attitude daring imagery of Blake's lyrics, especially the of the eighteenth century towards a poet of Songs of Innocence (1789), and Songs of Experience the new order. Gosse's Life, in the E. M. L., is (1794), are untouched by the obscurity of his a good biography. Phelps's Selections, in the longer works, and mark him as one of the masters Atheneum Press Series (Ginn), is an inexpensive of English song. George Crabbe (1754–1832), edition of Gray's best work, both prose and poetry, though he did most of his work after the Lyrical and contains much valuable editorial matter. Ballads had been published, clung to the eighteenth Gosse's edition of the complete works (4 vols., century couplet that connects him with Pope. Macmillan) is the standard. Arnold's essay on But his determination to picture with unvarnished Gray (Essays in Criticism, Macmillan) is aptruthfulness the life of a small English town makes preciative, and in most respects accurate. The Village (1783) and The Borough (1810) unlike the conventional description of the eighteenth century, and Crabbe is on the whole a herald of

COWPER (1731-1800) the new age.

William Cowper, one of the pathetic figures in GRAY (1716-1771)

English literature, lived a life that was clouded by poetry because of its inherent worth, there is a prejudices, much remains of permanent value. significance in his work which students of literary His best songs, written in most part during the history have not failed to mark. In a real sense last six years of his life, his simple pictures of Cowper was the spiritual predecessor of the great Scottish domesticity, his satires on cant and makeRomanticists. He had a sympathy for outcast believe in Church and State, and his two unique humanity as sincere as Shelley's, if less passionate; contributions to English poetry, Tam O'Shanhis love of nature was as deep-seated as Word- ter and The Jolly Beggars,—these have passed worth's, though his musings on nature never led out of the narrow circle of Scottish and local him to the heights which Wordsworth attained verse, and have become part of the world's litthrough his “impassioned contemplation.” erature.

periodic attacks of religious melancholia and Thomas Gray's life was uneventful. He was insanity, and was otherwise uneventful. Born born in London, December, 1716. At Eton he in 1731, in Hertfordshire, he spent seven years at met Horace Walpole, whose name is connected the Westminster School. In 1754 he was called to with the publication of some of Gray's most the bar; the dread of a public examination before famous poems. He went to Pembroke College, assuming a clerkship in the House of Lords preCambridge, but left in 1738 without a degree. In cipitated his first attack of insanity in 1763. From 1739 Gray and Walpole together made the "grand this he did not recover for eighteen months; tour,” the records of which are preserved in some never again was he free from the spectre. The of Gray's most memorable letters. From 1742 rest of his life is memorable for his friendship with until his death in 1771 he lived as an academic Morley Unwin and his wife Mary Unwin. Mr. recluse at Cambridge. In 1757 he declined the Unwin, a clergyman, died in 1765; in 1767 Cowper laureateship; though appointed Professor of and Mrs. Unwin began their life together at Olney. Modern History in 1768 he delivered no lectures. It is probable that Cowper would have married One of the most scholarly of English poets, he Mrs. Unwin had he not suffered a second attack shrank instinctively from the notoriety attendant of insanity in 1773. After recovering, Cowper, upon publication; he printed but few verses, and in need of some regular employment, began to the most famous, the Elegy, he published only write verses, and amused himself by carpentry, because of the fear that a mangled and pirated gardening, and caring for tame hares and other copy was to appear in a magazine. But despite household pets. His first great work, The Task, his sensitive and shrinking nature, the range of appeared in 1785. In this long poem Cowper Gray's intellectual life was very wide; his letters allowed his fancy to play over things in general; and miscellaneous writings witness the fact that as a result The Task is a composite of verse dehe was interested both in the worlds of art and scriptive of the English landscape that he knew letters and in the political and social development and loved, of satire and comment on conditions of his time.

in Europe, and of accounts of Cowper's life. It His verse would be important in whatever age is written in blank verse; the fact that it became it had been written; but coming as it did during generally popular is indicative that the tyranny the years of transition from Pseudo-Classicism to of the couplet was already being broken. John Romanticism, it is unusually significant. Gray Gilpin, Cowper's most famous piece of humorous himself illustrates the change that was gradually verse, also appeared in 1785; in 1791 he completed to take place in all English literature. Begin- his translation of Homer. The remaining years ning as a classicist, he wrote the Ode to Spring were darkened by sorrow and melancholia. In (1742), and the Ode on a Distant Prospect of 1794 he was again insane; in 1796 Mrs. Unwin Eton College (1742), in conventional eighteenth died. The Castaway and To Mary picture with century "poetic diction," and indulged in a good poignant force the pathetic blackness of this deal of conventional moralizing. The Elegy, period. published 1751, although begun many years before, Aside from the interest attaching to Cowper's BURNS (1759-1796)

The best one volume edition of Cowper is the The best edition of Burns's poetry is the CenGlobe (Macmillan); the volume of selections in tenary (four volumes, T. C. and E. C. Jack). The the Athenæum Press series (Ginn) is representa- one volume Cambridge edition (Houghton Miftive and inexpensive. Southey's Life, though Alin) contains the Centenary text and some of the written long ago, is still valuable; more recent is notes. Shairp's Life, in the E. M. L., is the best Goldwin Smith's in the E. M. L. Leslie Stephen's brief biography. Carlyle's well known essay, essay, in his Hours in a Library, and Bagehot's, Stevenson's, in his Familiar Studies of Men and in his Literary Studies, are suggestive.

Books, and Henley's, in the Centenary and Cambridge editions, are all valuable.

WORDSWORTH (1770-1850) Robert Burns lived a life of hard work, interrupted by periods of reckless and enthusiastic William Wordsworth was born at Cockermouth, relaxation; a life which from some points of view Cumberland, in 1770. After spending his school was a tragic failure, involving many besides Burns years among the lakes and hills he went up to himself in the wreck. Yet it is noteworthy that St. John's College, Cambridge, where in 1791 he such stern moralists as Wordsworth and Whittier graduated. Twice during the Revolution he should have been willing to forgive Burns's many visited France; the first time on a walking tour weaknesses, and to point only to the largeness of during one of his long vacations from Cambridge, his accomplishment.

the second in 1791, after his graduation. The He was born in Ayrshire, near the west coast first time he had been comparatively unmoved of Scotland, in 1759. His father, William Burnes, by the events that were taking place on the contiwas a hard-working man of the peasant class, but nent; the second, he was drawn into the whirl of mentally superior to the average small farmer, French politics, and became an enthusiastic supand the equal of any one in ambition for his porter of the Revolution, returning to England children. By the time Burns was fifteen he was only when his guardians recalled him by stopping doing much of the work of his father's farm; his allowance. The years from 1792 to 1795 were in 1784, when his father died, he and his brother darkened by doubt and spiritual distress. The Gilbert undertook farming for themselves, but excesses of the Terror, which he had at first tried with poor finar.cial results. It was about this to justify as the necessary preliminary to a social time that he met Jean Armour, later his wife. regeneration, became more and more appalling; During 1785 and 1786 he wrote much of the verse gradually his faith in the French cause was shaken, on which his fame depends; had he never pub- and at the same time he began to lose faith in lished anything but the 1786 volume of Poems, humanity. From this state of despairing uncerChiefly in the Scottish Dialect, he would have tainty he was recalled by the sympathetic friendbeen sure of ultimate recognition. Here, in the ship of his sister Dorothy. On a precariously little volume printed at Kilmarnock, the proceeds small income the two began housekeeping, and of which were to defray the cost of Burns's in- under the influence of Dorothy, and freed from tended emigration to America, were The Twa the necessity of earning his daily bread, WordsDogs, The Holy Fair, The Cotter's Saturday Night, worth devoted himself as seriously as Milton had To a Mouse, To a Daisy, and the Epistle to Davie. done to preparation for the writing of poetry. The success of this venture prompted Burns to From 1795 to 1797 the brother and sister lived at change his plans, and in the same year he went Racedown, Dorsetshire; here they were visited up to Edinburgh, where he became the lion of by Coleridge, at whose suggestion the Wordsthe season. A second volume, published in worths moved to Alfoxden, Somersetshire, within Edinburgh in 1787, brought him more_renown a mile and a half of Coleridge's home at Nether and a considerable sum of money. In 1788

Stowey. Here was formed one of the most notable he married Jean Armour, and took up farming of literary friendships. Coleridge encouraged at Ellisland. But his venture proved unsuccess- Wordsworth by his sympathetic praise; Wordsful, and in 1789 he was glad to fall back on an worth in turn stimulated Coleridge. Together appointment to the excise service that brought the two men tramped over the Quantock hills, him fifty pounds per year. In 1791 he moved and planned the volume that appeared in 1798 as to Dumfries, and there, after five years of hard the Lyrical Ballads. The importance of the work labor as exciseman, he died.

was two-fold. Historically it is significant in the Burns's poetry has at times been overpraised, development of Romanticism as the first example especially by Scottish critics; but after all allow- of conscious protest against the ideals of Pseudoances have been made for national or personal | Classicism. And here the the two friends pubsurvey; Legouis's La Jeunesse de Guillaume Wordseventful. Like others of his circle, he grew more and more conservative as time passed; occasion

lished some of their noblest work—the Lines on pathy and understanding, and both were animated Tintern Abbey, and The Rime of the Ancient by the same Divinity Moriner,-poems which would have brought distinction to any volume.

“Whose dwelling is the light of setting suns, When the Lyrical Ballads appeared the two

And the round ocean and the living air, poets, with Dorothy Wordsworth, were already

And the blue sky, and in the mind of man: on their way to Germany, where Wordsworth A motion and a spirit, that impels wrote some of his brief lyrics and began The All thinking things, all objects of all thought, Prelude. Returning to England in 1799, he took

And rolls through all things.” a house at Grasmere, in the lake country where

Other men had held such a philosophy; it remained he had grown up, and where he was to make his

for Wordsworth to give expression to it in the home for the rest of his life. In 1802 he married

noblest verse of the nineteenth century. Mary Hutchinson; in 1813 he moved to Rydal

The best one-volume editions of Wordsworth are Mount, a few miles from Grasmere. The same

the Oxford (Oxford Univ. Press), the Cambridge year he was pensioned by the government by

(Houghton Mifflin), and the Globe (Macmillan). being appointed Distributor of Stamps for Westmoreland. The remainder of his life was un

The Life by Myers, in the E. M. L., is an adequate

worth (translated by Matthews, Dent and Co.), is ally he made a trip to Scotland or the continent,

an exhaustive study of the years covered by The

Prelude. Arnold's essay in the Essays in Critibut there is little to record until 1843. In this

cism, Pater's in Appreciations, and Sir Walter year the laureateship fell vacant through the

Raleigh's Wordsworth are all authoritative. For death of Southey; the appointment of Wordsworth was a tribute to his genius and a mark of the es

contemporary criticism nothing is better than teem in which he was held by the nation. Seven

Coleridge's in the Biographia Literaria. years later he died, and was buried in the churchyard at Grasmere.

COLERIDGE (1772–1834) Wordsworth wrote his finest verse comparatively early in his life. Tintern Abbey ap- Samuel Taylor Coleridge was born in Devonpeared in 1798; the best sonnets soon after the

shire, in 1772.

He received his preparatory turn of the century; The Prelude, though not education at Christ's Hospital, London, where published until 1850, was completed in 1805; his precocity gained for him the title of "the inthe Intimations of Immortality was published in spired charity boy." Here he met Lamb, whose 1807. During his last forty years he added much essays picture the life of these early years, and to the bulk of his poetry, but wrote few of his who remained one of his few constant friends. greatest poems. And yet fame came to Words- From Christ's Hospital Coleridge went up to worth late in life. In 1800 he was an innovator, Cambridge University just as Wordsworth was whose theories appeared heretical, and whose leaving. His career was erratic, and in 1794 he great work was curiously intermingled with poems left without a degree. He had already met that the critics quickly singled out for ridicule. Robert Southey, with whom he planned the ideal By 1840, however, the theories propounded in commonwealth on the banks of the Susquethe preface to the second edition of the Lyrical hanna which the dreamers named “PantisocBallads had in part been accepted by the public, racy.” In 1795 he married; in 1796 he brought and in part modified by Wordsworth himself; out his first volume of verse. In 1797 he visited his poor work was being forgotten; and his great the Wordsworths at Racedown; the next year, in contribution to the world's literature had been company with Wordsworth, he was planning the recognized.

Lyrical Ballads. To this volume Coleridge conThe precise nature of this contribution cannot tributed four poems, most important of which be explained in the present limits, but two sug- was The Rime of The Ancient Mariner. In gestions can be made: no poet had ever written 1798, the year of the Lyrical Ballads, Coleridge so nobly of the beauties of nature; few poets had went with Wordsworth to Germany, and plunged done more than Wordsworth to point out the into the study of German philosophy and literaessential dignity of mankind. And in one respect ture. In 1800 he settled at Keswick, a few miles Wordsworth was unique. Always keenly sensitive from Grasmere, where he had the companionship to the beauty of nature, and aware that from of Wordsworth and Southey. The remainder of association with nature came peace and consola- his life was in many ways unfortunate. His tion to mankind, Wordsworth cast about for a

by to laudanum; he planned much, but accomplished any theory that regarded nature as inanimate little. Occasional lectures on literature, much or unconscious. In Tintern Abbey he suggests brilliant but rather formless conversation on his solution of the problem. In moments of philosophy, and very little actual writing, occupied mystic contemplation it had been vouchsafed to his last twenty years.

Like Wordsworth and him to see the divine unity of all creation; a Southey, he became more and more conservative spiritual unity, in which nature and man were as he grew older, and looked back with horror on but different manifestations of the same creative the youthful enthusiasms of his republican days. Power, and capable of influencing one another Much of Coleridge's prose work is significant because each was conscious of the other's sym- and interesting, but it is as the author of the

« AnteriorContinuar »