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field that we find Goldsmith's most distinctive qualities. This evidently was written not for the world, but for himself. It is a prose idyl picturing the family life of a country vicar, Dr. Primrose, who, with unacclaimed heroism, fulfils the duties of a humble station, and in the midst of injustice, poverty, and disgrace keeps his faith in man and God. The book is the picture of an ideal man, as "ideal as Hector and not less immortal.” In Goldsmith's own words, the hero of the piece "unites in himself the three greatest characters upon earth; he is a priest, an husbandman, and the father of a family."
Goldsmith, the poet, is separated from Pope and his fellows by a wide spiritual gulf. In The Traveller he takes us beyond the narrow streets of London, and sets us in the midst of a broad expanse of Nature; he looks down on the nations from the mountain-peak, and bids us realize that the inequalities in the lot of man are less great than we suppose. In The Deserted Village, Goldsmith pictures the little contracted world of the village, untroubled with the fever of prosperity, and he regrets the passing of its simple, wholesome life before “trade's unfeeling train.” The poem is eloquent of Goldsmith's fine, unworldly nature, and is a deliberate protest against the oppression of the poor, against luxury and the evils that follow in its train.
WILLIAM COWPER (1731-1800), a timid recluse who spent more than half his life in the seclusion of an English village, was also a poet of Nature and of the new humanity. Born in 1731, he early entered upon the course of sorrow which darkened his life. At the age of six, his mother, in whom all his child-life centered, died, and he was left practically alone. At ten he went to the great school of Westminster, and at eighteen began
the study of law. But for this Cowper had little aptitude. He led an idle, aimless life, occasionally subject to fits of melancholy and depression. In 1763 he was offered a government position through the influence of his uncle, but in preparing for the necessary examination before the House of Lords, Cowper's overwrought mind gave way, and he seemed a hopeless and beaten man. After two years in an asylum for the insane, however, he partially recovered, and went to live with a family named Unwin, first at Huntingdon, a quiet old town on the river Ouse, and afterward at Olney, a village inseparably associated with his memory. In the quiet and security of this life, Cowper became the poet of the home. In The Task (1785), the greatest of his longer poems, he pictured the group about the fire on a winter's night; the woodsman, crossing the snow to his day's work, his lean cur at his heels, or frolicking in the powdery drift; the wagoner breasting the driving storm beside his reeking team; the quiet return of evening; the still waters of the Ouse; the square church-tower; the clipt hedgerows, and all the ordered beauty and repose of the English landscape. Side by side with these idyls of an English village are the poet's thoughts on life in its wider aspects. Recluse as he was, he was a leader, a precursor of Wordsworth, a man who helped to bring in the ideals of our modern world. He was the poet of an awakened religious fervor, of the new love of humanity and of human freedom, the poet of the simple natural life, who declared that
“God made the country, and man made the town.” GEORGE CRABBE (1754-1832), while continuing the poetry of natural description, brought the realism of the earlier part of the century to the painting of the
homely and often repulsive life of the country poor. In his poem, The Village (1783), he scorns the artificial pastoral of the older school, and declares
"I paint the cot
Born and brought up among the poor, Crabbe knew the scenes he pictured, and was thus able to give them a directness and vividness which did much to extend men's sympathy with the lowly and the downtrodden.
In these and other poets we hear the voice of the new democracy, and an appeal to a broader and more real human brotherhood.
Edmund Burke (1729-1797). In marked contrast to the quiet, contemplative life of Cowper was the public career of Edmund Burke, the great political thinker and statesman, who, with impassioned eloquence, strove to impress upon England and Europe the true meaning of liberty. An Irishman, born in Dublin in 1729, Burke entered Trinity College, Dublin, at the age of fourteen, and after taking a degree went to London to study the law. There he began his career as an author with the publication of An Essay on the Sublime and Beautiful (1756). He became a friend of Dr. Johnson, and one of the founders of the Literary Club. But Burke's interests were turning more and more from literature to politics. In 1765 he entered the House of Commons, and won immediate distinction by a speech on the repeal of the Stamp Act. The difficulties with the American Colonies, one of the gravest questions confronting the government, called forth three of Burke's best speeches, and placed him with the greatest supporters of the Colonists. Indeed, an English statesman and critic has said that these
speeches of Burke's on American affairs “are almost the one monument of the struggle on which a lover of English greatness can look with pride." In his Speech on Conciliation with America, Burke brushes away the legal question of the right of England to tax the Colonies, and rests the argument on the broader ground of expediency and common sense. “The question with me is not whether you have a right to render your people miserable, but whether it is not your interest to make them happy."
Burke has been called the "interpreter of English liberty." He was by nature a conservative, with a love for what he called "a well-regulated liberty.” Thus, when the French Revolution broke out, with its violence, its bloodshed, its defiance of all authority, Burke, shocked and alarmed, threw the full force of his powers into his Reflections on the Revolution in France (1790) — a book which remains one of the literary monuments of the time. To him the Revolution seemed to be only destructive. He looked back upon the cherished ideals and institutions of historic Europe, and felt that their very existence was hanging in the balance. In the insults offered to the beautiful and unhappy Marie Antoinette, Queen of France, he saw the signal of the death of chivalry. “The age of chivalry is gone. That of sophisters, economists, and calculators has succeeded; and the glory of Europe is extinguished forever.” In the Letters on a Regicide Peace (1796-1797), Burke declaimed against any truce with France, which he called a "pretended republic of murderers, robbers, and atheists." He solemnly declared that his words, though they might have the weakness, had at least the sincerity, of a dying declaration. He died soon after, at Beaconsfield, in 1797.
The enduring fiber in Burke's writings lies in his being not merely the orator, the poet, the master of style, but preëminently the thinker, able to rise above purely contemporary interests. His works are rich in a political wisdom, in maxims and observations that reach far beyond the particular conditions which called them forth. And his words are those of a man profoundly in earnest, who rises above mere questions of party, and in his concern for the welfare of mankind forgets all interests of self. In this way, Burke too is a champion of the new humanity.
Summary. -- When we classify and arrange all these stupendous changes in the external conditions of men's lives, and in man's mental and spiritual estimate of life's meaning and purpose, the great and peculiar place of the eighteenth century in history begins to take shape in our minds. The two great historic movements of the century define themselves as:
1. The expansion of England into a world power.
2. The rise of democracy, with all those industrial and social changes which accompany and forward it.
When we look at this period, not from one aspect, but from every side, we see that its beginning dates from the last years of the administration of Walpole, or from about 1730 to 1740. To that decade we have referred the rise or growth of a new spirit in religion, politics, and literature. In 1756 England enters upon her long struggle with France for the prize of half the world. Between 1755 and 1765 we find those improvements in transportation and manufactures which begin the "industrial revolution." From about this time the advance toward democracy becomes more rapid and apparent. We enter the era of a bold opposition to authority. Reporters are admitted to the House of