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FROM THE RESTORATION OF CHARLES II TO THE DEATH OF DRYDEN (1660-1700)
Puritan Repression. It will be readily inferred from what has been said in the preceding chapter that life under Puritan government was not happy. A certain sort of people will perhaps always derive a certain sort of pleasure from a life of repression, self-denial, and prohibition of all forms of amusement; but the class is never numerous, and it is likely to decrease when the period of repression is too long extended. It must be kept in mind that in this instance the prohibitions arose not because of the effect on the amusers, but because of that on the amused. The Puritans prohibited bear baiting, not because it gave pain to the bears but because it gave pleasure to the spectators.
The Change in Government. The great majority of Englishmen had doubtless wearied of the Puritan régime long before the end came. Cromwell, however, by his overmastering personality, became autocrat in fact if not in name in 1653; and he forced the distasteful life on the people for five years longer. At his death his son Richard succeeded to the title of Lord Protector; but having no ability or taste for leadership, he resigned in six months. After about nine months of a pretence of government by the military leaders, General Monk gained control of London, and brought about the election of a "free Parliament," which immediately invited Charles II to return and take his kingdom.
The Change in Life. Charles and his followers had been in exile on the Continent, chiefly in France, during the Commonwealth. They were a pleasure-loving, extravagant lot, who had been entertained almost to satiety by the gay nation. On reaching England they set to work to make over the nation on a French pattern; and it was not long before French standards pervaded the life of the City, and the literature of England. The literature most in demand was drama, and a host of writers appeared to give the Court and the City what was demanded. Life at least that of the theatregoing circles was on an exceedingly low moral plane, and it was accurately reflected in Restoration drama, especially comedy.
Restoration Comedy. Of the comic writers of this period it is difficult to speak too severely, and unnecessary here to speak at length. They not only made no effort at originality they did not even travel far for their models and materials. They worked over the greatest of French dramas, chiefly the comedies of Molière, according to French dramatic theory. They remade Shakspere and other Elizabethans to suit the taste of an age not so "barbarous." Worse, however, than lack of originality, is the unblushing immorality of Restoration drama, which constantly pictures vice triumphant, which "laughs not merely indulgently at vice, but harshly at the semblance of virtue." 1
The Swing of the Pendulum. That this standard was allowed to remain for forty years recalls the fact that a pendulum swings as far in one direction as the other. An enforced seriousness, morality, restraint, gave way to a deliberately sought levity, immorality, licence. If people thought of sin
1 Nettleton, English Drama of the Restoration, page 7.
at all, they took the position expressed by one of the Cavalier poets, that sin consists, not in doing wrong, but in being found out. Not that the entire nation fell to this low level: there were many exceptions. But the upper class in state and society was morally down, and this class determined the literature of the period.
Before studying the greatest writer of the day it will be well to look briefly at a work which admirably supplements Restoration comedy in picturing the life of the time. This work is the Diary of Samuel Pepys.1
SAMUEL PEPYS, 1633-1703
Life. - Pepys was born in London, the son of a tailor. He attended St. Paul's School in the City, and Magdalene College, Cambridge, being graduated in 1650. At the age of twenty-two, without occupation or prospects, he married; and of his life for the succeeding four or five years we have no information. Having, however, secured the favor and patronage of his distant kinsman, Sir Edward Montagu, an influential man in the Restoration, Pepys became in 1660 Clerk of the Acts of the Navy Board. Soon afterward he became Secretary of the Admiralty; and to him, it is said, much credit is due for improvements in administration of the navy.
The Diary, begun in 1660, Pepys was compelled to discontinue in 1669 because of the weakness of his eyes. He was an early member of the Royal Society and became its presi
1 According to H. B. Wheatley, authority on Pepys, the most usual pronunciation of the name to-day is Peps, though most bearers of the name say Peeps, and one branch of the family has said Pep-pis for at least a hundred years. Mr. Wheatley thinks the pronunciation of the diarist's own day was undoubtedly Peeps.· See Samuel Pepys and the World He Lived In, second edition, preface.
dent in 1684. With the Revolution of 1688 he lost his position in the Admiralty, and spent his last fifteen years in a suburb of London, maintaining acquaintance and correspondence with prominent men, including Christopher Wren the architect, and Isaac
thought of publication, is clear. He shows the weaknesses and vices of the day: avarice, with no great scruples in gratifying it; love of amusement, satisfied by the typical amusements of the Restoration; love of wine, indulgence in which caused him inconvenience, and therefore, pain; vanity, which led him, while complaining of even the small expenditures of his wife, to lay out great sums for attire for himself. "Up, and make myself as fine as I could, with the linen stockings on and wide canons [i.e., ornamental rolls around the bottom of his trousers] that I bought the other day at Hague." (May 24, 1660.) The list of plays which he saw, many of them over and over again, numbers nearly one hundred and fifty, and there were frequent merry-makings,
not all of unquestionable character, at his own and friends' houses, and at taverns of all kinds.
A Business Man. On the other hand, he certainly devoted himself faithfully to the business of his office, with benefit to the service, as has been mentioned. For many a day the entry is as brief as the following: "At the office all the morning, and merry at noon, at dinner; and after dinner to the office, where all the afternoon, doing much business, late." (Nov. 15, 1668.) That he earnestly wished
to be freed from his bad habits is evidenced by the number of times he prays that he may overcome them. Sometimes in a sentence he seems rightly to estimate a business acquaintance: "I thought it dangerous to be free with him, for I do not think he can keep counsel; because he blabs to me of what hath passed between other people and him." (Aug. 13, 1666.)
Life of the Time Pictured. The satisfaction of the people with the new government appears from two passages for 1660. On March 6 he writes: "Everybody now drinks the King's health without any fear, whereas before it was very private (i.e., secretly) that a man dare do it; " and on