Slike strani

humour, and philosophy of the hale and witty old man. Between 1786 and 1805 he enlarged his Letter to Mr. Dunning on the English Particle into the "ЕПЕА ПТЕРОENTA, or the Diversions of Purley, a series of dialogues upon language, in which he reduced all parts of speech to nouns and verbs. The book should be carefully consulted by every student of the English language; but many of its etymologies are fanciful and far-fetched.

The chief Shakespearean critics of this period were: (1) RICHARD FARMER (1735-1797), Master of Emmanuel College, Cambridge, who published in 1767 an Essay on the Learning of Shakespeare, discussing with great skill the dramatist's historical and classical authorities.

(2) GEORGE STEEVENS (17361800), who was Johnson's partner in the Shakespeare of 1773, and became a member of the Club in 1774. He afterwards remodelled the text and, with Reed's help, brought out a new edition-actually the fourth-in 1793, in which he introduced serious textual alterations. He was by no means an universal favourite. Topham Beauclerk called him "malignant," and said that he deserved to be kicked.

(3) ISAAC REED (1742-1807) of Staple Inn, who edited the third edition of Johnson and Steevens' Shakespeare (1785), and brought out a new revised version in 1803, known as the first variorum." The "second variorum" is the revision of this in 1813.



1812), who had contributed notes
to Steevens' second edition of the
work (1778) and had published a
critical and historical supplement,
the poems, Broke's

Romeus and Juliet, and other things,
in 1780, subsequently fell foul of
Steevens, and brought out a Shake-
speare of his own in 1790. After
Boswell's death he edited four
editions of the Life of Johnson,
between 1797 and 1812, and his
further notes on Shakespeare were
incorporated by the younger Boswell
in the "third variorum " Shake-
speare, usually known as " Boswell's
Malone" (1821). Malone had not
Steevens' ability; but he was a
more cautious editor, and paid
more respect to the text of the first

Among the numerous travellers of this age should be mentioned SIR GEORGE LEONARD STAUNTON (1737-1801) and GEORGE, EARL MACARTNEY (1737-1806), who narrated their mission to China in two interesting works, Staunton's Account of the Embassy (1797) and Macartney's Journal (1807).

The two greatest names, however, are those of JAMES BRUCE (17301794), who penetrated far into Abyssinia and Central Africa in search of the source of the Nile, and

MUNGO PARK (1771-1806), whose literary achievements are far greater than those of Bruce. His famous Travels appeared in 1799. He was drowned while escaping from native attack, but his journal was preserved, and published posthu (1741-mously in 1815.




§ 1. The revival of nature-poetry. The share of Scotland in the movement. § 2. JAMES THOMSON. The Seasons and The Castle of Indolence. $ 3. WILLIAM SHENSTONE. WILLIAM COLLINS: his Odes. § 4 THOMAS GRAY. Importance of his Odes and Elegy. § 5. MARK AKENSIDE. § 6. The WARTONS and the History of English Poetry. § 7. Literary forgeries. THOMAS CHATTERTON and the medieval spirit of romance. § 8. JAMES MACPHERSON. Ossian and its appeal to the imagination. § 9. WILLIAM FALCONER and ERASMUS DARWIN. § 10. WILLIAM COWPER. § II. GEORGE CRABBE: homeliness and realism of his poetry. § 12. WILLIAM BLAKE. Isolated character of his lyric poetry. § 13. ROBERT BURNS: his lyric poetry; its spontaneity and humour. § 14. Drama from 1750-1800. R. B. SHERIDAN'S comedies.

The return to nature

§ 1. LITERARY fashions are seldom of long duration. The classical taste in English poetry had no sooner reached its zenith in Pope than it began to disappear before the rise of a new fashion. English poetry, in the in English stilted graces of the heroic couplet, had been brought poetry. to so mechanical a perfection that every versifier was capable of writing his copy of neat machine-made lines full of regular melody and of all those artificial tricks which, by constant repetition, communicated themselves to his ear. He wrote fluently of gods and nymphs, and gave his heroes and heroines names which more or less distantly recalled the classics; he dealt in a continual supply of ingenious phrases, epigrams, and antitheses; he lived, as it were, in an elaborate garden, whose arrangements bore the least imaginable resemblance to nature. His imagination led him to nothing more natural than a grotto or a fountain. When he talked of forests, he meant trim shrubberies; when he referred to caves and deserts, he was thinking of summer-houses and rockeries. And, although it was only by degrees that the English mind freed itself from this constrained attitude, a movement in the direction of natural feeling becomes perceptible in the second quarter of the eighteenth century, and grows in strength-albeit with rather dull and tentative efforts-through its remaining half. This movement is, in a certain sense, a reaction. The artificial spirit in English poetry was, as we have seen, a direct result of

of the


511 the Restoration and the fashions which it brought from France. Waller, Cowley, Dryden, and Pope, the great hierophants of this cult, take us, each of them, farther from the Attitude romantic age of Elizabethan poetry, and establish a canon of verse which removes itself very far from the classical standard of Shakespeare. On the other hand, these school to poets cannot be said to reject the claims of nature; their attitude is simply one of blindness to anything save the artificial surroundings they have created for themselves. And, when younger poets began to show their desire to see something for themselves, and to escape from the monotony of the well-ordered garden which had been so assiduously cultivated for more than sixty years, the older men were the first to praise them.

Influence of the older

poets on the early

The promise of the romantic movement, the return to the poetry of nature, thus sprang, in the ordinary course of evolution, from the classical school of the age of Anne; it inherited many of the traditions of the Augustan age-an inevitable tendency to stiffness, a choice of conventional words, epithets, and metaphors which speaks of the influence of Pope. At the same time, the new school of poets, with Thomson at their head, are, so to speak, sons of Pope who have been strongly affected by the earlier poets. Young, for example, whose Night Thoughts (1741-2) we have already mentioned, addresses Milton

"Ah, could I reach your strain Or his, who made Mæonides our own


-thus bracketing Pope with Milton. The choice of blank verse as the metre, both of Young's Night Thoughts and of Thomson's Seasons, shows their obligation to Milton, whose splendid fire they might imitate, but never catch. Gradually the influence of Shakespeare and the old dramatists made itself more and more felt, and grew in force until the earlier writers became the source of the living element in English literature, and the poetry of the Restoration and Revolution-the direct result, it should not be forgotten, of disturbed political conditions -was regarded as an interesting parenthesis in literary history. The growth of interest in the older poetry is manifest in the unflagging zeal with which the worthies of the eighteenth century-some of them, like Warburton, most unlikely persons -edited and re-edited Shakespeare, and even more clearly in the epoch-making publication of Percy's Reliques (1765).

Another thing to be noticed is the part which Scotland took in this great revival. Of Sir Walter Scott we need not speak at present; he belongs to a later generation, and his The part work is the full flower of romance. But Thomson, of Scotland who did more than anyone else for the early poetry in the new of nature, was a Scotsman and a native of that Border poetry.

where the English spirit had, centuries before, encountered the Celtic love of nature, and had been blended with it in a subtle and indissoluble union. The lyric poetry of the Lowlands, although its volume had in some measure ceased, had never died out; and, even in Allan Ramsay, indebted as his pastoral poetry was to the artificial school, the love of nature and of the bygone singers who had cherished it was far more conspicuous than any other external influence. Until the day of Burns and Scott, when the native poetry and prose of Scotland became a vital force in English literature, there was never wanting a series of Scottish bards who, poor and ephemeral though much of their verse was, carried on the romantic tradition and helped to keep it alive in England through the poetical deadness of the Johnsonian age. Blair and Beattie, by no means first-rate poets, were admired in England. Beattie's Hermit brought tears into the eyes of Johnson, whose rabid aversion to Scotland was not the least of his eccentricities. The same great critic, who gave rather grudging praise to Thomson, and showed an overwhelming contempt for that wild outbreak of Celtic romanticism, Macpherson's Ossian, confessed, in 1783, the hold that Scottish literature had gained on his country. You know, sir, that no Scotchman publishes a book or has a play brought on the stage, but there are five hundred people ready to applaud him.” § 2. JAMES THOMSON is the greatest poet among Pope's immediate successors. He was the son of a gentleman at Ednam in Roxburghshire, and was educated at Edinburgh University, where, at an early age, he was smit with the love of sacred song." Like his fellowcountryman, Smollett, he determined to seek his fortune in London, and, going up in 1725, lived for some time in great poverty. Another of his countrymen, David Mallet, the deist, a young man who had already shown sufficient originality to write the romantic ballad of William and Margaret (1723), was at this time his chief friend, and en

The early naturalists: 1. JAMES THOMSON (1700-1748).

Publication of" The Seasons."



couraged him to publish his poem on Winter. This, the first contribution to The Seasons, appeared early in 1726, and brought the young poet into favour. He was taken up by Aaron Hill, one of those pretenders to literary fame whom Pope was very soon to lash so severely in The Dunciad; but Pope himself recognised the merits of the new poem, and not only gave advice to its author, but corrected and retouched several passages in it. In 1727 Winter was followed by Summer; in 1728 Spring, and, in 1730, Autumn, with a Hymn to Nature, completed the cycle of The Seasons. Thomson had been already for a short time a private tutor at East Barnet in the family of Lord Binning; he was now appointed governor to the son of the Solicitor-General (afterwards Lord Chancellor) Talbot, and travelled with his pupil in the South of France and Italy. Talbot, whose younger brother, it will be remembered, was the friend of Bishop Butler,

proved a very useful patron, and afterwards gave the poet a place in the Chancellor's gift, thus assisting him in his way to independence. On Talbot's death Thomson lost this post; but the loss was supplied, first by one, and afterwards by another sinecure, which soon placed him out of the reach of difficulty. With prosperity, however, he did not fulfil the promise of The Seasons. The Castle of Indolence, published in 1748, Later works the year of his death, is a striking exception to the and life. rest of his later work, but it must be regarded as a

thread taken up from his earlier life and elaborated in his later years. His huge poem of Liberty (1734-6) was ambitious without being even interesting; and its defects were only too obvious to his declared devotees. Between 1730 and 1740 he "reeled in slippery roads of alien art," with a set of tragedies, the first of which, Sophonisba (1730), has gained a kind of immortality from one atrocious line, "O Sophonisba! Sophonisba, O!" -subsequently altered to "O Sophonisba! I am wholly thine." But, during these later years of his life, although still a young man, he became extraordinarily lazy and self-indulgent; there was a sensual element in his disposition which needed very little encouragement; and, having once achieved fame, he settled down to sloth. However, he was not without a certain amount of Scottish prudence, and lived in his snug cottage at Richmond with no great extravagance. He was extremely kind and generous, and showed a most amiable devotion to his relatives. His friends loved him, and he does not appear to have had a single enemy or ill-wisher. His death was premature; for, catching cold in a boating expedition on the Thames, he died of a fever when he was only forty-eight.


The Seasons, which, during the happy years of his retirement, he had constantly revised and corrected until, in its intermediate and definitive forms, it became an almost entirely "The new poem, must always be considered the cornerSeasons" stone of his fame. In plan and treatment the poem, (1726-1730). with its four divisions, is entirely original. These style. four detached parts give a general and, at the same time, a minute description of all the phenomena of nature during an English year. The very uncertainty of the English seasons, with their constant and picturesque variety, aided a very difficult undertaking, which would have been almost impossible to a poet living in perpetual sunlight. Thomson watched and knew all the frowns and smiles of an English landscape; and this delicate eye for natural distinctions, this appreciation of the dramatic element in the revolution of the year, makes his poem a complete success. Round his work he cast a cloak of reverence and adoration for nature, in this anticipating Wordsworth to some extent; and it may be remarked that his ecstasy of quietism, his passive content in observing the working of natural forces, renders him, like most ardent nature-worshippers, quite impervious to humour. His blank verse, although Miltonic in


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