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Charles II.


THE character of much of the literature of this reign was considerably influenced by that of the sovereign, and by political events. The tumults of the preceding reign had subsided; and though many were still dissatisfied, the general joy and security induced by the restoration, disposed a large majority to settle into that tranquillity and good humour favourable to literary pursuits. The temper of Charles was cheerful, and inclined to pleasure; and the wit and humour which distinguished his voluptuous court, contributed to dilute and mollify the sourness of fanaticism, and the rage of faction.

The ardour for philosophical pursuits kindled by Bacon, shone forth with great lustre in the respected names of Boyle and Barrow. Theology became more calm and more rational; and South and Tillotson may be ranked,

in point of style, among the best writers in the language.

The stage of this period can boast the name of Dryden; who is not only conspicuous as a dramatic writer, but as having been the first to fix the laws of the English drama. A new species of comedy commenced in this reign, which, laying aside the verse of the old drama, reduced it at once to a point of degradation, from which no attempt in diction has been made to recover it, till the time of John Tobin.

I should have noticed perhaps in the preceding reign, that the French Romances, as they are called, made their appearance about the year 1650. Calprenades, Cassandra; Cleopatra and Pharamond; the Clelia and Grand Cyrus of Madame Scudery; and the Ibrahim and Almahedi of her brother; (the Astrea of D'Urfe is of a different character, partaking more of the pastoral romance;) upon this detestable model is Parthenissa, by the earl of Orrery.

Novels began also with short stories of intrigue, by Mrs. Behn*. The conversational

These, under the title of histories and novels, were published in two volumes 12mo. Lond. 1735, 8th edit. with the life of the authoress prefixed.

style of writing too, was introduced by sir Roger L'Estrange; in which he was followed by Tom Brown; and all the slang and barbarism of colloquial life made their appearance in print.

The general literary character of this period is well delineated by Dr. Isaac Barrow. "All reputation (says he,) appears now to vail and stoop to that of being a wit. To be learned, to be wise, to be good, are nothing in comparison thereto; even to be noble and rich are inferior things, and afford no such glory. Many at least, (to purchase this glory, to be deemed considerable in this faculty, and enrolled among the wits,) do not only make shipwreck of conscience, abandon virtue, and forfeit all pretences to wisdom; but neglect their estates and prostitute their honour: so to the pri vate damage of many particular persons, and with no small prejudice to the public, are our times possessed and transported with this humour."


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