Page images
PDF
EPUB

Jaf.

As when our loves
Were in their spring! Has, then, my fortune changed thee?
Art thou not, Belvidera, still the same,
Kind, good, and tender, as my arms first found thee?
If thou art altered, where shall I have harbour?

Where ease my loaded heart? Oh! where complain?
Bel. Does this appear like change, or love decaying,

When thus I throw myself into thy bosom,
With all the resolution of strong truth?

I joy more in thee
Than did thy mother, when she hugged thee first,

And blessed the gods for all her travail past.
Jaf. Can there in woman be such glorious faith?

Sure, all ill stories of thy sex are false !
Oh, woman, lovely woman i Nature made thee
To temper man; we had been brutes without you !

Angels are painted fair, to look like you.' These are but rare notes. For the most part, he moves, like the rest, in the murky waters of the great current. Like them, he is obscene; and from all, we have found it difficult to extract, without revolting decorum, something to suggest the new rhetoric, the sentiments and maxims of polite society, and the abyss from which that society and our literature have since ascended. Even here there were tokens of a more serious and orderly life, signs of a reaction in literary feelings and moral habits. A great reformer arose to accelerate the revolution, Jeremy Collier, a heroic Anglican, who threw down the gauntlet to the champions of the stage, and was victorious.

Prose.—The Restoration may be taken as the era of the formation of our present style. Imagination was tempered, transports diminished, judgment corrected itself, artifice began. Among the most agreeable specimens of the new refinement in form are the conversations of the drama. They foreshadow the Spectator. The easy and flowing manner of Cowley is continued by the polished Temple, a man of the world, a lover of elegance, who, if he assuages grief, must do it with dignity and facility:

'If you look about yon, aud consider the lives of others as well as your own; if you think how few are born with honor, and how many die without name or children; how little beauty we see, and how few friends we hear of; how many diseases, and how much poverty there is in the world; you will fall down upon your knees, and instead of repining at one affliction, will admire so many blessings which you have received from the hand of God.' Observe how the following sentence glides along:

'I have indeed heard of wondrous pretensions and visions of men possessed with notions of the strange advancement of learning and science, on foot in this age, and the .

progress they are like to make in the next; as the universal medicine, which will cer. tainly cure all that have it; the philosopher's stone, which will be found out by men that care not for riches; the transfusion of young blood into old men's veins, which will make them as gamesome as the lambs from which 'tis to be derived; a universal language, which may serve all men's turn when they have forgot their own; the knowledge of one another's thoughts without the grievous trouble of speaking; the art of flying, till a man happens to fall down and break his neck; double-bottomed ships, whereof none can ever be cast away besides the first that was made; the admirable virtues of that noble and necessary juice called spittle, which will come to be sold, and very cheap, in the apothecaries' shops; discoveries of new worlds in the planets, and voyages between this and that in the moon to be made as frequently as between York and London.'

Smoothness was the distinguishing quality of the man, as it is of his manner, which sometimes relaxes into prolixity or remissness. Dryden has sounder taste, as well as more vigor. The rest are inferior in point of ornament, but, for the most part, have the same fundamental character— ratiocination. Hobbes is surprisingly dry, idiomatic, concise, strong. The most celebrated sermons are instruments of edification rather than models of elegance. Barrow is geometrical, revises and re-revises, then revises again, dividing and subdividing, having only one desire - to explain and fully prove what he has to say. Tillotson has no rapture, no vehemence, no warmth. He wishes to convince, nothing more. South, an apostate Puritan, is colloquial, energetic; more popular than these, because he is more anecdotic, abrupt, pointed, vulgar, having the plain-dealing and coarseness which belong to the stage, and which his insincerity permits.

These sermons, once so famous, are now hardly read at all. They are outlived, in a far humbler sphere, by the little work of a London linen-draper, Izaak Walton, whose Complete Angler has what they have not,—the touch of nature which makes the whole world kin. Its natural description, as also its lively dialogue, has seldom been surpassed. A single extract can hardly suggest its abundance of quaint but wise thoughts, its redolence of wild flowers and sweet country air:

"Well, scholar, having now taught you to paint your rod, and we having still a mile to Tottenham High Cross, I will, as we walk towards it in the cool shade of this honeysuckle-hedge, mention to you some of the thoughts and joys that have possessed my soul since we two met together. And these thoughts shall be told you, that you also may join with me in thankfulness to the Giver of every good and perfect gift for our happiness. . . . We have been freed from these and all those many other miseries that threaten human nature: let us therefore rejoice and be thankful. Nay, which is a far greater mercy, we are free from the unsupportable burden of an accusing, tormenting conscience - a misery that none can ear: and therefore let us praise Hin venting grace, and say, Every misery that I miss is a new mercy. Nay, let me tell you, there may be many that have forty times our estates, that would give the greatest part

for

pre

of it to be healthful and cheerful like us, who, with the expense of a little money, have eat and drunk, and laughed, and angled, and sung, and slept securely; and rose next day, and cast away care, and sung, and laughed, and angled again, which are blessings rich men cannot purchase with all their money Let me tell you, scholar, I have a rich neighbour that is always so busy that he has no leisure to laugh; the whole business of his life is to get money, and more money, that he may still get more and more money; he is still drudging on, and says that Solomon says, “The hand of the diligent maketh rich "'; and it is true indeed: but he considers not that it is not in the power of riches to make a man happy: for it was wisely said by a man of great observation, “that there be as many miseries beyond riches as on this side of them." And yet God deliver us from pinching poverty, and grant that, having a competency, we may be content and thankful! Let us not repine, or so much as think the gifts of God unequally dealt, if we see another abound with riches, when, as God knows, the cares that are the keys that keep those riches hang often so heavily at the rich man`s girdle, that they clog him with weary days and restless nights, even when others sleep quietly. We see but the outside of the rich man's happiness; few consider him to be like the silkworm, that, when she seems to play, is at the very same time spinning her own bowels, and consuming herself; and this many rich men do, loading themseires with corrodiny, to keep what they have probably unconscionably got. Let us therefore be thankful for health and competence, and, above all, for a quiet conscience.

Let me tell you, scholar, that Diogenes walked one day, with his friend, to see a country fair, where he saw ribbons, and looking-glasses, and nut-crackers, and fiddles, and hobby-horses, and many other gimcracks; and having observed them, and all the other tinnimbruns that make a complete country fair, he said to his friend: “ Lord, how many things are there in this world of which Diogenes hath no need!", Evelyn, an amiable cavalier, begins the class of gossiping memoirs, so useful in giving color to history. He writes a Diary, with the tone of an educated and reflecting observer. Here is a picture of the court of Charles II:

'I can never forget the inexpressible luxury and profaneness, gaming, and all dissoJuteness, and as it were total forgetfulness of God-it being Sunday evening-which this day se'ennight I was witness of, - the king sitting and toying with his concubines, Ports. mouth, Cleveland, and Mazarin, etc.; a French boy singing love songs in that glorious gallery, whilst about twenty of the great courtiers and other dissolute persons were at basset round a large table, a bank of at least £2000 in gold before them, upon which two gentlemen who were with me made reflections with astonishment. Six days after, all was in the dust.' And a sketch of the Great Fire:

'2d Sept.-This fatal night, about ten, began the deplorablc firc near Fish Street, London.

3d Sept.-I had public prayers at home. The fire continuing after dinner, I took a coach with my wife and son, and went to the Bankside in Southwark, where we beheld that dismal spectacle, the whole city in dreadful flames near the water side; all the houses from the bridge, all Thames street, and upwards towards Cheapside, were now consumed; and so returned excecdingly astonished what would become of the rest. ... The conflagration was so universal and the people so astonished, that from the beginning, feeling I know not what despondency or fate, they hardly stirred to quench it, so that there was nothing heard nor seen but crying out and lamentation, running about like distracted creatures, without at all attempting even to save their goods, such a strange consternation there was npon them, and as it burned in breadth and length, the churches, public halls, exchange, hospital, monuments and ornaments, leaping after a prodigious manner from house to house, and street to street, at great distances one from the other. For the heat, with a long set of fair and warm weather, had even ignited the air, and prepared the materials to conceive the fire which devoured after an incredible manner, houses, furniture, and everything. Here we saw the Thames covered with goods floating, all the barges and boats ladened with what some had time and courage to save, as, on the other side, the carrying out to the fields, which for many miles were strewn with movables of all sorts, and tents erecting to shelter both people and what goods they could get away. O, the miserable and calamitous spectacle! such as haply the world has not seen since the foundation of it, nor can be out-donc till the universal conflagration thereof. All the sky was of a fiery aspect, like the top of a burning oven, and the light seen above forty miles round abont for many nights. God grant that mine eyes may never again behold the like; who ever saw above 10,000 houses all in one flame? The noise and crackling and thunder of the impetuous flames; the shrieking of women and children, the hurry of people, the fall of towers, houses and churches, was like a hideous storm, and the air all about so hot and inflamed that at the last one was not able to approach it, so that they were forced to stand still and let it burn on, which they did for near ten miles in length and one in breadth. The clouds of smoke also were dismal, and reached upon computation near fifty miles in length. . . . London was, but is no more.'

Readers who take an interest in the progress of civilization, will be more grateful to the garrulous old Pepys for his journal, than to professed historians for the military involutions and political intrigues that fill some of their pages. His memoranda, recorded solely for his own eye, include almost every phase of public and social life. Thus:

'Aug. 19.-- ... Ilome to dinner, where my wife had on her new petticoat that she bought yesterday, which indeed is a very fine cloth and a fine lace; but that being of a light colour, and the lace all silver, it makes no great show.'

'Nov.29.-Loril's Day.—This morning I put on my best black cloth suit, trimmed with scarlet ribbons, very neat, with my cloak lined with velvet, and a new beaver, which altogether is very noble, with my black knit silk cannons? I bought a month ago.'

Dec. 21.- To Shoe Lane to see a cock fight at a new pit ihere, a spot I never was at in my life; but, Lord ! to sce the strange variety of people, from parliament men, to the poorest 'prentices, bakers, brewers, butchers, draymen and what not, and all these fellows one with another cursing and betting. I soon had enough of it.' Mr. Pepys at divine service:

May 26, 1667.—My wife and I to church, where several strangers of good condition came to our pew. After dinner, I by water alonc to Westminster to the parish church, and there did entertain myself with my perspective giass up and down the church, by which I had the great pleasure of seeing and gazing at a great many very fine women; and what with that, and sleeping, I passed away the time till sermon was done. ...

'Aug 18.-. I walked towards Whitehall, buit, being wearicd, turned into St. Dunstan's Church, where I heard an able sermon of the minister of the place; and stood hy a pretty modest maid, whom I did labour to take by the hand; but she would not, but got further and further from me; and, at last, I could perceive her to take pins out of her pocket to prick me if I should touch her again – which, seeing, I did forbear, and was glad I did spy her design. And then I fell to gaze upon another pretty maid, in a pew. close to me, and she on me; and I did go about to take her by the hand, which she suffered a little and then withdrew. So the sermon ended.' Tries to admire Hudibras :

'Nov. 28.–To Paul's Church-yard, and there looked upon the second part of Tudibras, which I buy not, but borrow to read, to see if it be as good as the first, which the world

1 Ornamental tops to silk stockings.

cried so mightily up, though it hath not a good liking in me, though I had tried by twice or three times reading to bring myself to think it witty.' At the theatre:

October 5.-To King's house; and there, going in, met with Knipp, and she took us up into the tireing-rooms: and to the woman's shift, where Nell was dressing herself, and was all unready, and is very pretty, prettier than I thought. And into the scene. room, and there sat down, and she gave us fruit: and here I read the questions to Knipp, while she answered me through all her part of Fiora Figarys, which was acted 10-day. But, Lord! to see how they're both painted would make a man mad, and did make me loath them; and what base company of men comes among them, and how lewdly they talk!" Makes a great speech at the Bar of the House:

March 5. 1668.-All my fellow-oficers, and all the worlıl that was within hearing, did congratulate mc, and cry up my speech as the best thing they ever heard. . . . My Lord Barkeley did cry me up for what they had heard of it; and others, Parliamentmeu there, about the King, did say that they never heard such a speech in their lives delivered in that manner. . . . Everybody that saw me almost came to me, as Joseph Williamson and others, with such culogies as cannot be expressed. From thence I went to Westininster Ilall, where I met Mr. G. Montagii, who came to me and kissed me, and told me that he had often lieretoforc kissed my hands, but now he would kiss my lips; protesting that I was another Cicero, and said, all the world said the same of me.' This, it is truc, is not literature, if we insist on finish, imagery, or sentiment; but we may accept it on other ground. How far above price were so minute and living a picture of the age of Bede, or of earlier and later ages that appear only in the haze of general descriptions, dates, numbers, and results.!

Baxter, an eminent dissenter, a great sufferer, yet a voluminous writer, and an indefatigable pastor, is the author of a wellknown manual of devotion,- The Saint's Everlasting Rest. It is like the Puritan - fervent, masculine, solid, direct, unadorned, unpolished. Rarely has a book, in its day, aided so many souls

, to rise in spiritual flights, or to keep the heights which they were competent to gain. However, Milton and Bunyan exceptedthe glory of Puritanism is not in its literary remains, but in its moral results. Only once, in this period, does it attain eloquence, and beauty, and then by accident, in The Pilgrim's Progress, the work of an inspired tinker, a birth of passionate feeling in a time of self-conscious art.

History.-Turning to the historical field, we find several industrious collectors of materials, the most prominent of whom are Dugdale, Rymer, and Wood. Fuller's well-known Worthies contains sketches of about eighteen hundred individuals. Of compositions original, systematic, and dispassionate, there is a

« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »