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of the art; besides Earles, Hall and Overbury are the best of the English School.
What will at once strike the reader is the exceedingly miscellaneous and at the same time humorous nature of the contents. Under the general designation of character we have “A Childe, a meere dull Physitian, an Alderman, a younger Brother, a Tavern, an
old College Butler, a Pot-poet, a Baker, The Common Singing Man, a Bowle-alley, a She-precise Hypocrite, a Trumpeter, a meere Complemental man, Paul's Walk, a Stayed Man," &c. ; still the charactersketches formed by far the most considerable parts of these.
As instances of Earles' humour take the following extract:
“The Antiquary.-Hee will go you forty miles to see a Saint's well, or ruined Abbey ; and if there be but a Crosse or a stone footstool in the way, hee'll be considering it so long till he forget his journey. . . . His very attire is that which is the eldest out of fashion, and you may pick a criticism out of his Breeches. He never looks upon himself till he is grey-haired, and then he is pleased at his own antiquity. His grave does not fright him, because he has been us'd to sepulchers, and he likes Death the better, because it gathers him to his fathers."
Or the following, from “A Plaine CountryFellow":
“He seems to have the judgment of Nebuchadnezar; for his conversation is among beasts, and his tallons none of the shortest, only he eats not grasse, because he loves not Sallets (salads]. He expostulates with his Oxen very understandingly, and speaks Gee and Ree better than English. His mind is not much distracted with objects, but if a good Fat Cow come in his way, he stands dumb and astonisht, and though his haste be never so greate, will fix here half an houre's contemplation."
Or this, from “ A Universitie Dunne":
“He is like a rejected acquaintance, hunts those that care not for his company, and he knows it well enough ; yet he will not away. The sole place to supply him is the Buttery, where he takes grievous use upon your name, and he is one much wrought upon with good Beere and Rhetorick."
This may illustrate Earles' penetration and sagacity of observation :
“A Suspicious Man.-It shall goe hard but you must abuse him whether you will or no. Not a word can be spoke but nips him somewhere. ... You shall have him go fretting out of company with some twenty quarrels to every man, stung and gall'd, and no man knows less the occasion than they that have given it.”
Or this, from “ The Blunt Man": “He is exceedingly in love with his Humour,
which makes him always profess and proclaim it; and you must take what he says patiently, because he is a plaine man; his nature is his excuse still, and other men's Tyrant, for he must speake his mind, and that is his worst, though he love to teach others he is teaching himself."
“ The Scepticke in Religion," a habit of mind with which Earles had little sympathy, is well drawn :
“The Fathers jostle him from one side to the other; now Sosinas and Vorstius afresh torture him, and he agrees with none worse than himself. He puts his foot into Heresies tenderly, as a cat in the water, and pulls it out again, and still something unanswered delays him; yet he bears away some parcell of each, and you may sooner pick all Religions out of him than one. He cannot think so many wise men can be in error, nor so many honest men out of the way, and his wonder is doubled when he sees these oppose one another. In summer his whole life is a question and his salvation a greater, which death only concludes, and then he is resolved."
But there is, beside these sharp stinging sentences, a lovely vein of gentle tenderness in his writing. “A Childe," which opens the series, is one of the most exquisite and feeling delineations in literature :
" His father has writ him as his own little story, wherein he reads those days of his life that
he cannot remember; and sighs to see what innocence he has outlived. The elder he grows he is a stair lower from God, and like his first parent much worse in his breeches. Could he put off his body with his little coat, he had got eternity without a burthen, and exchanged one heaven for another."
But it would be easy to quote and quote, yet give no real idea of the fertility, the wit, the pathos of the man. All humanity is before him, and must be handled tenderly because he is a part of it himself, and because faults, like ugly features, are sent us to be modified, perhaps; to be eradicated, no !
The one strain in character which throughout afflicts him most, and for which he reserves his most distilled contempt, is the strain of unreality--the affectation whose sin is always to please, and which fails so singularly of its object. Hypocrisy, pretension, falseness—against everything which has that lack of simplicity so fatal to true life he sets his face. For the rest he can hardly read the enigma; he only states it reverently. Like the old Persian poet, he seems to say :
Oh Thou, who Man of baser earth didst make,
For all the Sin wherewith the face of Man
HENRY MORE, THE PLATONIST
BOUT the middle of the seventeenth century,
Hobbes and Descartes, clear-headed and unprejudiced thinkers, caused a kind of panic in the devotional world : they resolved that they would not take anything for granted. Starting from a Socratic ignorance, they determined to verify, to try (and it was time) if they could not find a little firm ground among the vast and bewildering mass of rash dogmas and unsupported assertions that lumbered the scene of thought. Such an attempt cut very hard at Revelation. The religious fabric was so perilously elaborate-the removal of a brick was likely to set so much tumbling its defenders felt themselves bound to believe that the part was as important, if not more so, than the whole ; and they had pledged themselves so widely and rashly that they made no attempt at organised rational resistance, but attempted to overwhelm the rough intruders with torrents of solemn imprecations.
But there were in many places earnest-minded, faithful thinkers, profoundly attached to the