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at a stroke. He was accused of having taken bribes in his office of Lord Chancellor. He piteously confessed the charge, and was henceforth a ruined man in reputation and fortune. Bacon spent the remainder of his life in the compilation of some of the great philosophical and scientific works on which his fame chiefly rests.
Works. — The most important of these are The Advancement of Learning (1605) and the Novum Organum (1620). In these, the former of which, by reason of its eloquent style, is to be ranked as pure literature, Bacon shows that the old modes of speculative thought used by the philosophers of ancient and medieval times had produced but little accurate or scientific knowledge, and he concludes that it is necessary to adopt a new method of study if we wish to arrive at truth. This new method is set forth in the Novum Organum, or New Instrument of learning, and has become the great principle of modern scientific research. If we wish to know the facts of Nature, Bacon says, we must study them in detail, by long, patient observation and experiment. Then from these details it may be possible to arrive at general truths or universal laws. It is from Bacon's comprehensive outline of the new idea that modern science largely takes its inspiration and beginning. Bacon himself made little progress in scientific investigation, but he was the forerunner of Harvey and Newton, and of the entire world of great men who have developed our present-day sciences.
Essays. — But the student of literature is more directly concerned with Bacon's Essays, published in three editions between 1597 and 1625.
By an essay,” Bacon meant the first trial, or weighing, of a subject, as distinguished from a finished treatise. His Essays are pithy jottings on great subjects, informally
set down, with no attempt to carry the thought to its full or logical conclusion. They read like the notebook of a profound thinker, a shrewd observer of life, a politic and active man of affairs. They are brief, suggestive, without ornament, but closely packed with thought. They give us the concentrated results of Bacon's experience, and are often comparable to the proverbial sayings in which wise men have delighted since the days of Solomon. Often they go to the heart of the matter with one quick thrust, as in Men fear death as children fear to go into the dark;
“ I cannot call riches better than the baggage of virtue;” and “A man's nature runs either to herbs or weeds, therefore let him seasonably water the one and destroy the other."
Bacon's own account of the object of the Essays is that he “ endeavoured to make them not vulgar (i.e. popular), but of a nature whereof much should be found in experience and little in books; so that they should be neither repetitions nor fancies; ” and he desires that they should“ come home to men's business and bosoms.”'
SUMMARY OF RENAISSANCE LITERATURE IN ENGLAND
We have seen England, lifted by a common wave of thought and emotion, advance under the influence of the new learning, and find an outlet for her richer and deeper experience in the creation of innumerable works in every department of literature. We have approached this many-sided and inexhaustible period chiefly through the study of three of its greatest men, Spenser, Shakespeare, and Bacon. The first is supreme as a poet of dreamland, the second supreme among all poets, the last is the great thinker who stands at the gateway of our modern science. These men are indeed preëminent,
but other writers crowd about them, each great enough to stand first in a less abundant time.. The extent and richness of Elizabethan literature has made our study most limited, for so "spacious" is the time that on every hand are beautiful regions which we cannot even pretend to explore. For instance, there is all the literature of criticism, of which we have mentioned only Sidney's Defense of Poesie; there is the literature of travel, books such as Hakluyt's Voyages (1589), which the narratives of great navigators like Sir Humphrey Gilbert or Sir Walter Raleigh were collected; there are books of short poems, which tell us how prodigal the country was in song in that full time when England was “a nest of singing birds.” Then, too, there are series of sonnets, such as those of Spenser, Sidney, William Drummond (1585–1649); the last perhaps the most Italian in tone and among the most beautiful of them all. We have spoken briefly of the drama, but only extended study can make us realize its power and richness, the great host of busy playwrights and their extraordinary vigor and productiveness. We have alluded to the prose-writers, but we must pass by the work of historian, theologian, romance-writer, and antiquarian, almost without mention. We are forced to leave these regions behind us unexplored, but it will help us to a firmer hold on this period of the new learning if, before leaving it, we fix in our minds certain points of chronology that rise like milestones along the way. In doing this we must remember that such arbitrary divisions of literature are convenient, but not always exactly true, for literary periods are not in reality thus sharply defined.
First (about 1491 to about 1509). We may associate the last ten years of the fifteenth and the first nine or ten of the sixteenth centuries with that band of teachers and
educational reformers who may be called the missionaries of the new learning. This period reaches from about 1491, the year when Grocyn lectured on Greek at Oxford, to about 1509, the year of the accession of Henry VIII.
Second (1509–1557). During this time the influence of Italy begins to be apparent in English poetry. Henry VIII is a patron of learning. More publishes his Utopia, Heywood his Interludes. We note in Ralph Roister Doister the beginning of regular comedy. On the whole, the new learning is making itself apparent in literature, and the time is full of the signs of promise.
Third (1557-1579). This period may be remembered as beginning with the publication of Tottel's Miscellany, which marks the real beginning of Elizabethan literature, and ending with that of Spenser's Shepherd's Calendar. During this interval the coming of a mighty outburst draws nearer, the work of preparation goes on in the publication of numerous classical translations; Sackville writes his Induction to the Mirror for Magistrates (1563); short poems and ballads appear in extraordinary numbers; the first regular tragedy is written, and innumerable Italian stories become popular. It is a time of growth, of preparation, and of expectancy.
Fourth (1579–1637). This period includes the high noon of the English Renaissance. It begins with the Shepherd's Calendar, which marks the decisive entrance into literature of the greatest poet England had produced since Chaucer. The ten years succeeding are marked by the rapid advance of the drama under Lyly, Peele, Greene, Lodge, and Marlowe, the immediate precursors of Shakespeare. In 1590, with the first instalment of the Faërie Queene and the advent of Shakespeare, we are at the opening of twenty of the most glorious years
in the whole course of our literature. From about 1613, when Shakespeare ceased to write, we note the slow decline of this creative energy, and that shifting of the nation's interest to religious and political questions which is a late effect of the Reformation. In 1637 two events occur which emphasize for us the ending of the old order and the beginning of the new.
In that year Ben Jonson died, the greatest surviving representative of the glory of the Elizabethans, and in that year also there was published the Lycidas of the young Puritan poet, John Milton.
IMPORTANT DATES ELIZABETH, Queen of England
1558-1603 EDMUND SPENSER
1552–1599 The Shepherd's Calendar
1579 The Faërie Queene
1590–1596 SIR WALTER RALEIGH
1552–1618 The History of the World
1614 SIR PHILIP SIDNEY, poet, courtier, ambassador . 1554-1586 A Defense of Poesie
. about 1581 The Arcadia
published 1590 RISTOPHER MARLOWE
printed 1590 Other early dramatists, KyD, PEELE, and GREENE. Execution of MARY STUART, Queen of Scots
1587 Defeat of the Spanish Armada
1588 WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE
1564-1616 Period of Shakespeare's literary activity about 1588-1613 BEN JONSON
..1573–1637 Every Man in his Humour
acted 1598 Other later dramatists, MIDDLETON, DEKKER, CHAPMAN, etc. FRANCIS BACON
1561-1626 His Essays
1597-1625 RICHARD HOOKER's Ecclesiastical Polity