Lapas attēli
PDF
ePub

says in Grace Abounding, “have slipped into a style much higher than this in which I have here discoursed, and could have adorned all things more than I have seemed to do; but I dare not. God did not play in convincing of me; the Devil did not play in tempting of me: neither did I play when I sunk as into a bottomless pit, when the pangs of Hell caught hold upon me: wherefore I may not play in relating of them, but be plain and simple, and lay down the thing as it was." Here, in brief, is the main source of Bunyan's power.

IMPORTANT DATES JAMES I, first of the Stuart kings.

1603-1625 JOHN MILTON

1608-1674 Comus ...

.1634 Prose Period

1639-1660 Paradise Lost.

published 1667 King JAMES VERSION OF THE Bible, completed

1611 Death of SHAKESPEARE and of FRANCIS BEAUMONT

1616 Bacon's Novum Organum

published 1620 First Folio edition of Shakespeare's plays

1623 Death of John FLETCHER, dramatist

1625 KING CHARLES I

1625-1649 John Donne's Poems

published 1633 Death of BEN JONSON

1637 Closing of the Theaters by the Puritans

1642 Outbreak of the Civil War

1642 Birth of John NEWTON, mathematician and scientist

1642 Sir Thomas Browne's Religio Medici

1642 ROBERT HERRICK's Hesperides

1648 Commonwealth and Protectorate.

1649-1660 Death of OLIVER CROMWELL

1658 Restoration of the Monarchy in the person of CHARLES II 1660

FOREIGN DATES
Louis XIII, King of France
Louis XIV, King of France
THIRTY YEARS' WAR

1610–1643 1643–1715 . 1618-1648

III. THE FRENCH INFLUENCE

(1660-ABOUT 1750)

CHAPTER I

THE ENGLAND OF THE RESTORATION

(1660--1700)

“We conquer'd France, but felt our captive's charins;
Her arts victorious triumphed o'er our arms;
Britain, to soft refinements less a foe,
Wit grew polite, and numbers learn’d to flow.
Waller was smooth; but Dryden taught to join
The varying verse, the full-resounding line,
The long majestic march, and energy divine.”

- POPE.

The restoration of the monarchy in the person of Charles II is one of the important turning points in English history. It is more than a change in government; it marks the beginning of a new England in life, in thought, and in literature. Elizabethan England, with its splendid national enthusiasms, and Puritan England, with its single-minded and almost ruthless passion for liberty and godliness, were past. The Puritan government, which though rigorous had at first been effective, had failed, and the nation, at the return of the King in 1660, was in a far different mood from that which stirred the great Puritan leaders, Cromwell and Milton. A wide-spread reaction had set in against the restraint, the severity, and austerity of Puritan ideals.

In contrast to the religious assurance and unquestioning faith of the Puritans, we find a freer and more daring use of reason by men who place the critical judgment and common sense above enthusiasm or imagination; and it was only natural that literature, which in its most vital interests is always a record of contemporary life, should have reflected this change in the temper of the nation, and, during the next one hundred years, have been profoundly influenced by it in both subjectmatter and form.

The most obvious characteristic of the period of the Restoration is its lowered moral tone. The Puritan had attempted a splendid but impossible task and had failed. He had set up a fixed pattern of righteousness, lofty indeed, but formal, uncompromising, and severe, and had thought to compel men to come up to his standard. He had made “Merrie England” a dismal England; he had forbidden dancing, and made Christmas a fast-day; he had dreamed that because he was virtuous there should “be no more cakes and ale." Then came the day of reckoning. There was something of the healthy savage still in the race. They had been pent in, and hectored, and drilled through a long session, but now school was out, and the reign of the schoolmasters was over. What wonder, then, that joyful crowds greeted the King when he landed at Dover; that his journey to London was a triumphal progress through shouting multitudes; that the bells were set ringing, and the flags flying, -the King had come to enjoy his own again, and his people were in the right mood to enjoy it with him.

But this legitimate pleasure soon went to the extreme of license. The May-poles were set up again; the Puritan Sabbath was disregarded; the brutal sport of bear

baiting revived. The somber dress, solemn face, and scriptural phrase of the Puritan had become detestable and ridiculous in men's eyes; and many a gay Cavalier, despising this as mere hypocrisy, took pains to show by the openness of his vices that he at least was no hypocrite. King Charles, known as “The Merry Monarch," witty, good-humored, and gifted with an easy charm of manner, was a selfish voluptuary, without shame, patriotism, or honor; and his Court, following his example, was a center of evil influences which corrupted society and defiled literature. Extravagant balls and entertainments, cards, intrigue, and debauchery were the business of the Court. The needs of the government and the nation were neglected. It was an age

“When love was all an easy Monarch's care;

Seldom at council, never in a war.”

Among the upper classes of society, the sense of honor, national and personal, had decayed; and it was unfortunately with the interests of those classes that literature in the last half of the seventeenth century was almost wholly concerned. Gay, dissolute courtiers wrote lyrics, which, although not without lightness and lyrical charm, often show only too clearly the moral depravity of the time. The King was a patron of the drama; and the theaters, which had been practically shut for nearly eighteen years, were soon crowded with fashionable audiences, willing, and even demanding, to be amused with licentious plays. Yet we must remember that there were some who were not swept away with the current, and that the work of Puritanism was not altogether undone. It was after the Restoration that Milton, standing apart from the riot of London, produced his greatest poems; that Isaak Walton wrote his life of

George Herbert (1670), and John Bunyan his Pilgrim's Progress (1678–1684). Such men, however, belonged to an older generation, and represented a kind of writing which was rapidly passing out of favor.

The French Influence and the Reign of Common Sense. There were other important characteristics of the literature of the Restoration than its lax morality. To understand the state of England after the Restoration, we must realize that it was not merely a time of reaction from Puritanic restraints, but a time when the higher energies of the nation were temporarily exhausted. Ever since the influence of the Renaissance first stirred the depths of the English nature, and enabled it for the first time to express its full force in literature, ever since then the nation had been living under the strain of strong excitement and heroic endeavor. There had · been something large and heroic in the Elizabethan Age; the nation had poured out its strength in great achievements; in literature, it had shown a lavish creative energy; and, following hard upon the age of Shakespeare and the Armada, there had come years no less intense and exacting, of religious ardor and civil conflict, of warring principles and of high ideals. The Restoration found England emotionally exhausted; men had grown suspicious of great emotions; they doubted the wisdom of sacrificing comfort to lofty aims; their temper was cold, worldly, and prosaic, and they forsook enthusiasm for reason and “good sense.” Right or wrong, Charles I gave his life for a principle; Charles II, believing in the same principle, did not think it worth the sacrifice of his comforts, and preferred to make any base concession rather than to “start out on his travels again.”

Now this hard, prosaic temper is apparent in the

« iepriekšējāTurpināt »