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Into it Swift poured that fierce wrath at life and at his brother-men which had tormented him in his hours of darkness. As the book advances, this rage against mankind grows more rabid and more malignant. Man's knowledge is foolishness; his reason, which to Shakespeare seemed the attribute of a god, is held up to contempt; his instincts are proclaimed brutish and vile. We find here the hopeless, faithless doctrine of The Tale of a Tub reiterated and reaffirmed after thirty years. But we must remember that while Swift was writing thus savagely against his fellow-man, he was giving generously to the Irish poor out of his limited income, and was winning their affection by his fearless help and sympathy.
Insanity and Death. – Swift's life went down in loneliness and darkness. Esther Vanhomrigh, whose love he had slighted, died; Hester Johnson, who had called out the best he had to give of love and tenderness, died also, and one of the strangest and most tragic of the world's love stories was at an end. Once he had written vindictively that he was doomed to die in obscurity "like a poisoned rat in a hole;" now his life drifted on helplessly toward a pitiable and awful close. In loneliness, in failing health, and in what inward and unspeakable anguish we can only conjecture, the shadows of insanity closed in on Swift's clear and splendid intellect; and he sank into a mindless apathy from which he seldom roused. He died in 1745. “An immense genius,” writes Thackeray, "an awful downfall and ruin. So great a man he seems to me, that thinking of him is like thinking of an empire falling.”
Swift and His Time. - Swift's high place in English literature is assured by his mastery of a clear, vigorous, and straightforward prose style, by his splendid energy
of mind, by his grim satire and irony, his brilliant wit, his keen, masculine intellect, which better than any other understood the hollowness and narrowness of the age. There was actually much in the world, as Swift knew it, to make a man of earnest and melancholy nature despair of his kind, much to provoke cynicism and contempt. Vice, indeed, was less open and defiant than it had been a generation or two earlier, and an awakening sense of decency and order was beginning to make itself felt; but the wild license of the Restoration had left behind it a cynical disbelief in virtue. A mocking spirit, the spirit of denial, infected the moral atmosphere. Men had sneered at enthusiasm; they had worshiped the reason and the intellect, and slighted and despised those feelings which are the true glory of man. They had obscured their higher nature, and they were then tempted to complain that there was no higher nature in man. Yet Swift, while he denounced his time, failed to rise above it. His ambition appears to have been as earthly, as material, and as selfish as that of the men he satirizes. He railed at the fools who contended for the world's trumpery prizes; but few pursued those prizes more eagerly, few were more bitterly disappointed than Swift when they slipped from
There is no reason to doubt his sincerity when he says of himself: “All my endeavours from a boy to distinguish myself were only for want of a great title and fortune, that I might be used like a lord.” Swift then is himself an actor in the farce he satirizes; he not only hates his time, but he belongs to it through his life as well as his works. He shares in its vulgarity of aim, he is the strongest expression of its misanthropy and its materialism, and he is the truly awful example of its errors. “We live,” said Wordsworth, the poet,
who did so much to restore this lost delight in man and Nature, “we live by admiration, hope, and love." Swift, carrying out to the uttermost the tendency of his age, is a man who tried to live by contempt, by hate, and by despair, and the soul of man cannot live by these things.
Other Prose-Writers of the Early Eighteenth Century.--Among the features of the early eighteenthcentury literature, we have mentioned the rise of a clear and effective prose style, and an extension of the influence of prose as a literary form. We have studied this prose literature through some of its greatest masters, — Steele, Addison, Swift, Defoe, - but in order to form any true idea of its variety and importance, we must realize that these representative writers lived and worked among a host of others, philosophers, scientists, essayists, theologians, pamphleteers. Nor is this great host a mere crowd of obscure or “minor” authors; it includes some of the most learned, conspicuous, and brilliant men of the time,- such as DR. JOHN ARBUTHNOT '(1667-1735), LORD BOLINGBROKE (1678–1751), and BISHOP BERKELEY (1685–1753). Some of these men, indeed, won distinction outside of the strict limits of literature; they were great scholars, or great philosophers rather than simply men of letters; a few are more remarkable for the intellectual stimulus they exerted on the men about them than for the permanent value of their work, but each helped, in his own fashion, to determine the tone and character of his time.
THE NOVEL OF DOMESTIC LIFE
A more important contribution to pure literature was made by a group of writers, led by SAMUEL RICHARDSON and HENRY FIELDING, who, in the middle of the eight
eenth century developed the art of story-telling in a new form, - that of the novel of domestic life. While in the hands of Defoe and Swift the novel had come to share in the realistic spirit of the time, it still remained distinctly the novel of adventure; its interest resting mainly, although not entirely, upon the presentation of the more stirring and exceptional side of life.
Between 1740 and 1750, a new form of fiction came into existence, connected with, and yet distinct from, all that had gone before; this was the story of ordinary domestic life and manners. To the dramatist, indeed, this world of every day was not unknown, but in appropriating it to his use the novelist was virtually gaining a new world for his art. Like most great discoveries, the thing seems obvious enough when once it has been done; yet Defoe had thought it necessary to drag his readers into obscure and unsavory places, or to transport them to the ends of the earth, overlooking the artistic possibilities of a world which lay at his feet. In a century and a half this new form of fiction has grown to astonishing proportions, until it is possibly the largest, if not the most important, element in our mental life. The cause of its great and continued popularity is both obvious and fundamental. The vast majority of us are interested first in ourselves, and second in our next-door neighbors. The domestic novel shows us our own familiar life, the life of average, everyday humanity, invested with an added interest and dignity by its translation into art. To see this world of our daily life in the pages of fiction is to see ourselves and our neighbors; to find our gossip and our daily newspapers given a depth and meaning which we are too shallow and too conventional to perceive. The group of writers who first claimed this world for English fiction make an era in the history of art.
Samuel Richardson. — In 1740, Samuel Richardson (1689–1761), a London printer, short, plump, ruddy, and prosperous, began this new era by the publication of Pamela, or Virtue Rewarded, the story of a "virtuous serving-maid.” Richardson seems a strange leader for a new movement. Up to this time he had done nothing in literature. A shy, demure, highly estimable printer, at the age of fifty, suddenly blossoms into the novelist of sentiment and a master in the analysis of human passion. The fact is partly explained by Richardson's early and unconscious preparation for his task. In all his novels the story is told in a series of letters. Richardson stumbled into fiction through his marked facility in letter-writing, as Defoe passed into it from journalism by almost imperceptible steps. When only a boy of thirteen, the future author of Pamela was entrusted by three young girls of his native town in Derbyshire with the delicate task of composing their love-letters, each confiding in him "unknown to the others;" "all," he tells, “having a high opinion of my taciturnity." During his apprenticeship to a London bookseller, he kept up a voluminous correspondence with a gentleman of cultivation who was greatly interested in him. The episode of the love-letters is one of especial significance in its bearing on his later work. We see in it proof of that intimate understanding of women which is one of the distinctive marks of Richardson's work. The character of Clarissa Harlowe, the heroine of the novel of that name, is admittedly a triumph of portraiture. There was something in Richardson that invited feminine confidences, and the creator of Clarissa Harlowe gathered around him from boyhood to old age an admiring circle of women. "As a bashful and not a forward boy," he writes, “I was an early favourite with all the