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THE

BOOK OF AUTHORS.

Roger Bacon.

1214-1292. The resemblance between Roger Bacon and his great namesake is

very

remarkable. Whether Lord Bacon ever read the “Opus Majus" I know not, but it is singular that his favourite quaint expression, prarogative scientiarum, should be found in that work, though not used with the same allusion to the Roman Comitia. And whoever reads the sixth part of the “ Opus Majus” upon experimental science, must be struck by it as the prototype in spirit of the “Novum Organum."-Hallam.

Our great Roger Bacon, by a degree of penetration which perhaps has never been equalled, discovered some of the most occult secrets in Nature. She seems indeed-if I may so express myself—to have stood naked before him. His honours have been stolen from him by more modern authors, who have appeared inventors when they were copying Bacon. Yet, for the reward of all his intense studies, the holy brethren and the infallible majesty of Rome occasioned him to languish in prison during the greater part of his life.-I. D’Israci.

His are wonderful discoveries for a man to make in so ignorant an age, who had no master to teach him, but struck it all out of his own brain ; but it is still more wonderful that such discoveries should be so long concealed; till in the next succeeding centuries other people should start up and lay claim to those very inventions to which Bacon alone had a right.-Dr. Friend.

Bacon discovered the art of making reading-glasses, the camera obscura, microscopes, telescopes, and various other

B

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Roger Bacon— Fohn Gower.

in use.

mathematical and astronomical instruments. He discovered a method of performing all the chymical operations that are now

He combined the mechanical powers in so wonderful a manner, that it was for this he was accused of magic. His discoveries in medicine were by no means unimportant. That the ingredients of gunpowder and the art of making it were well known to him is now undeniable; but the humane philosopher, dreading the consequences of communicating this discovery to the world, transposed the letters of the Latin words which signify charcoal, which made the whole obscure.- Henry.

John Gower.

1320-1402.

Gower stamped with the force of ethical reasoning his smooth rhymes; and this was a near approach to poetry itself. If in the mind of Chaucer we are more sensible of the impulses of genius- those creative and fugitive touches-his diction is more mixed and unsettled than the tranquil elegance of Gower.-1. D’Israeli.

The almost worthless Gower.—Coleridge.

He is always polished, sensible, perspicuous, and not prosaic in the reproachful sense of the word. - Hallam.

He was a man of varied learning, but far inferior to Chaucer in the natural qualities of a true poet.-Scrymogeour.

If Chaucer had not existed the compositions of John Gower, the next poet in succession, would alone have been sufficient to have rescued the reigns of Edward III. and Richard II. from the imputations of barbarism.— IVarton.

The first of our authors who can properly be said to have written English was Sir John Gower, who in his “Confession of a Lover” calls Chaucer his disciple, and may therefore be considered as the father of our poetry.--Johnson.

The “moral Gower" was Chaucer's friend, and inherited his tediousness and pedantry, without a sparkle of his fancy, passion, humour, wisdom, and good spirits.-- Alexander Smith.

Geoffrey Chaucer.

1328–1400. In all his works he excelleth, in mine opinion, all other writers in our English, for he writeth in void words, but all his matter is full of high and quick sentence, to whom ought to be given laud and praise for his noble making and writing.--Caxton.

Redith his werkis sul of plesaunce,
Clere in sentence, in langage excellent,
Briefly to wryte suche was his suffysaunce,
What ever to saye he tooke in his entente
His langage was so fayr and pertynente
It semeth unto mannys heerynge

Not only the worde but verely the thynge.-Ibid. As he is the father of English poetry, so I hold him in the same degree of veneration as the Grecians held Homer or the Romans Virgil; he is a perpetual fountain of good sense, learned in all sciences, and therefore speaks properly on all subjects.—Dryden.

Chaucer followed Nature everywhere, but was never so bold as to go beyond her.-Ibid.

Chaucer, notwithstanding the praises bestowed on him, I think obscene and contemptible ; he owes his celebrity merely to his antiquity, which he does not deserve so well as Pierce Plowman or Thomas of Ercildoune.-Byron.

They who look into Chaucer . . will find his comic vein, like that of Shakspeare, to be only like one of mercury imperceptibly mingled with a mine of gold.- Warton.

Chaucer his sense can only boast,
The glory of his numbers lost !
Years have desac'd his matchless strain,
And yet he did not sing in vain. — Waller.
Him who first with harmony inform'd

The language of our fathers.--Aken side.
The affecting parts of Chaucer are almost always expressed
in language pure and universally intelligible even to this day.-
Wordsworth.

See how Chaucer exhibits to us all that lay around him, the

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roughness and ignorance, the honour, faith, fancy, joyousness of a strong mind and a strong age, both tranquil within bounds which, as large enough for their uses, neither had tried to pass. How strikingly for us are those grating contrasts of social condition harmonized by the home-bred feeling that men as they then were had the liberty and space they then needed : the king and priest the all-sufficient guides of men's higher life, and all powers and even wishes finding ample room, each within the range marked out by custom! Every figure is struck off by as clear and cutting a stroke as that of a practised mower with his scythe.-- Quarterly Review.

In serious and moral poetry he is frequently languid and diffuse ; but he springs like Antæus from the earth, when his subject changes to coarse satire or merry narrative.-Hallam.

His words point as an index to the objects like the eye or finger. There were none of the commonplaces of poetic diction in our author's time; no reflected lights of fancy; no borrowed roseate tints; he was obliged to inspect things for himself: to look narrowly: almost to handle the object. Chaucer had an equal eye for truth of nature and discrimination of character; and his interest in what he saw gave new distinctness and force to what he did.Hazlitt.

Chaucer seems to have been a right Wicklevian, or else there never was any; and that, all his works almost, if they be thoroughly advised, will testify (albeit it be done in mirth and covertly), and especially the latter end of his third book of the Testament of love; for there purely he toucheth the highest matter, that is, the Communion; wherein, except a man be altogether blind, he may espy him at the full.—John Fox.

The first of our versifiers who wrote poetically. He does not, however, appear to have deserved all the praise he has received, or all the censure that he has suffered. Skinner blames him in harsh terms for having vitiated his native speech by whole cartloads of foreign words. But he that reads the works of Gower will find smooth numbers and easy rhymes, of which Chaucer is supposed to be the inventor, and the French words, whether good or bad, of which Chaucer is charged as the importer.-- Johnson.

For a hundred beautiful pictures of genuine English existence and English character, for a world of persons and things that have snatched us from the present to their society, for a host of wise and experience-fraught maxims, for many a tear shed Geoffrey Chaucer-William Langland. 5 and emotion revived, and laugh of merriment, for many a happy hour and bright remembrance, we thank thee, Dan Chaucer, and just thanks shalt thou receive a thousand years hence.-W. Howitt.

William Langland.

14th century. He is a great satirist, touching with caustic invective or keen irony public abuses and private vices, but in the depth of his emotions and wildness of imagination he breaks forth in the solemn tones and in the sombre majesty of Dante.1. D’Israeli.

The first English writer who can be read with approbation is William Langland, the author of “ Piers Plowman's Vision,” a severe satire upon the clergy. Though his measure is more uncouth than that of his predecessors, there is real energy in his conceptions, which he caught, not from the chimeras of knight-errantry, but the actual manners and opinions of his times.—Hallam.

John Skelton.

1460-1529. His eccentricity in attempts at humour is at once vulgar and flippant; and his style is almost a texture of slang phrases patched with shreds of French and Latin.—Thomas Campbell.

Beastly Skelton.-Pope.

His buffooneries, like those of Rabelais, were thrown out as a tub to the whale ; for unless Skelton had written thus for the coarsest palates, he could not have poured forth his bitter and undaunted satire in such perilous times.—Southey.

Skelton is the father of English doggrel.- Quarterly Review.

Skelton's characteristic vein of humour is capricious and grotesque. If his whimsical extravagancies ever move our laughter, at the same time they shock our sensibility. His festive levities are not only vulgar and indelicate, but frequently want truth and propriety. His subjects are often as ridiculous as his metre ; but he sometimes debases his matter by his versification. On the whole, his genius seems better suited to low burlesque than to liberal and manly satire. It is supposed by

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