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that occurs (Edward Gibbon) will be mentioned when we come to speak of the historians. Sloth and ease reigned at the Universities; and those great foundations, which in the hands of monks and churchmen in former times had never wholly ceased to minister to learning and philosophy, were now the mere haunts of port-drinking fellows, and lazy, mercenary tutors.* Porson, the delicacy of whose Greek scholarship almost amounted to a sense, and who admirably edited several of the plays of Euripides Bishop Lowth, author of the Prælectiones on Hebrew Poetry, and of a translation of Isaias, and Pococke, the Arabic scholar are the only learned writers whose works are still of value.
Prose Fiction, 1745-1800:- Richardson, Fielding, Smollett, Sterne, Goldsmith; Miss Burney, Mrs. Radcliffe.
Favoured, in the manner before explained, by the continued stability of society, the taste for novels grew from year to year, and was gratified during this period by an abundant supply of fiction. Richardson, Fielding, Smollett, and Sterne, worked on at the mine which Defoe had opened. Richardson, who was brought up as a printer, produced his first novel, Pamela, in 1740. A natural and almost accidental train of circumstances led to his writing it. He had agreed to compose a collection of specimen letters-a polite letter-writer, in fact-for two booksellers; and it occurred to him, while engaged in this task, that the work would be greatly enlivened if the letters were connected by a thread of narrative. The bookseller applauded the notion, and he accordingly worked up the true story of a young woman the Pamela of the novel which had come to his knowledge a few years before. Henry Fielding, sprung from a
* See Gibbon's Memoirs.
younger branch of the noble house of Denbigh, wrote his first novel-Joseph Andrews — in 1742, to turn Pamela into ridicule. Richardson's masterpieces, Clarissa Harlowe and Sir Charles Grandison, appeared successively in 1748 and 1753; Fielding's Tom Jones and Amelia in 1749 and 1751. Smollett, a Scotchman, wrote, between 1748 and 1771, a number of coarse clever novels upon the same general plan as those of his English contemporaries; that is, on the plan of "holding the mirror up to Nature," and showing to the age its own likeness without flattery or disguise. The best are Roderick Random and Humphrey Clinker. But Richardson wrote always with a moral purpose, which the other two had not, though that does not hinder much that he wrote from being of an objectionable tendency.
In Sterne, humour is carried to its farthest point. His novel of Tristram Shandy is like no other novel ever written it has no interest of plot or of incident; its merit and value lie partly in the humour with which the characters are drawn and contrasted, partly in that other kind of humour which displays itself in unexpected transitions, and curious trains of thought. The first two volumes of Tristram Shandy appeared in 1759. The character and life of Sterne have been admirably portrayed by Thackeray, in his Lectures on the English Humorists.
Johnson's tale of Rasselas, Prince of Abyssinia, appeared in 1759. In Lord Brougham's Life of Voltaire, Johnson is reported to have said that, had he seen Voltaire's Candide, which appeared shortly before, he should not have written Rasselas, because both works travel nearly over the same ground. Nothing, however, can be more different than the tone and spirit of the tales. Each writer rejects the optimism of Leibnitz, and pictures a world full of evil and misery; but the Frenchman founds on this common basis his sneers at religion and at the doctrine of an overruling Providence, while the
Englishman represents the darkest corners of the present. life as irradiated by a compensating faith in immortality, which alone can explain their existence.
Goldsmith's Vicar of Wakefield, the book which, by its picturesque presentation of the manners and feelings of simple people, first led Goethe to turn with interest to the study of English literature, was published in 1766. The Man of Feeling, by Henry Mackenzie, appeared in 1771. Its author, who wrote it while under the potent spell of Sterne's humour, and the attraction of Johnson's style, lived far on into the nineteenth century, and learned to feel and confess the superior power of the author of Waverley. The Man of the World and Julia de Roubigné are later works, by the same hand. Frances Burney created a sensation by her novel of Evelina, published in 1778, "the best work of fiction that had appeared since the death of Smollett." It was followed by Cecilia (1782), and at a long interval, both of time and merit by Camilla, in 1796.
Between the works just mentioned and the writings of Godwin, there is a gulf interposed, such as marks the transition from one epoch of world-history to another. Instead of the moralizing, the sketches of manners, and delineations of character, on which the novelists of this age had till then employed their powers, we meet with impassioned or argumentative attacks upon society itelf, as if it were so fatally disordered as to require reconstruction from top to bottom. The design of Caleb Williams, published in 1794, is to represent English society as so iniquitously constituted as to enable a man of wealth and position to trample with impunity upon the rights of his inferiors, and, though himself a criminal of the darkest dye, to brave the accusations of his poor and unfriended opponent, and succeed in fixing upon him, though innocent, the brand of guilt. Besides Caleb Williams *Macaulay's Essays.
Godwin wrote the strange romance of St. Leon, the hero of which has found the elixir vitæ, and describes the descent of his undecaying life from century to century. About the close of the period, Mrs. Radcliffe wrote the Mysteries of Udolpho, and the Romance of the Forest — two thrilling romances of the Kotzebue school, in which stirring and terrible events succeed each other so rapidly, that the reader is, or ought to be, kept in a whirl of horror and excitement from the beginning to the end. Horace Walpole's Castle of Otranto was meant as a satire upon novels of this class; though, as he relates with great enjoyment, numberless simple-minded novel-readers took it for a serious production of the romantic school.
Oratory, 1745-1800:- Chatham, Burke, Sheridan, &c.
This is the great age of English eloquence. Perhaps no country in the world ever possessed at one time such a group of orators as that whose voices were heard in Parliament and in Westminster Hall during these fifty years. Chatham, Burke, Fox, Erskine, Pitt, Sheridan, and Grattan! It seemed as if the country could not bring to maturity two kinds of imaginative genius at once; - the age of the great poets-of Milton, Dryden, and Popepasses away before the age of the great orators begins. Our limits will only permit us to advert to a few celebrated orations. Everyone has heard of the last speech of the great Lord Chatham, in April 1778, "the expiring tones of that mighty voice when he protested against the dismemberment of this ancient monarchy, and prayed that if England must fall, she might fall with honour."* The eloquence of Burke
'Who, too deep for his hearers, still went on refining,
And thought of convincing when they thought of dining,"
though it often flew over the heads of those to whom it was addressed, was to be the admiration and delight of unborn generations. The speech on the conciliation of America (1775), that addressed to the electors of Bristol (1780), that on the Nabob of Arcot's debts (1785), and those delivered on the impeachment of Warren Hastings (1788), may be considered his greatest efforts. Upon a subject connected with, and leading to this impeachment — the conduct of Warren Hastings to the Begums of OudeSheridan delivered, in 1787, a speech which was unfortunately not reported, but which appears to have made a more, profound and permanent impression upon the hearers than any speech recorded in the annals of Parlia"Mr. Windham, twenty years later, said that the speech deserved all its fame, and was, in spite of some faults of taste, such as were seldom wanting either in the literary or the parliamentary performances of Sheridan, the finest that had been delivered within the memory of man. Grattan during many years was the foremost among a number of distinguished orators who sat in the Irish parliament; and his fiery eloquence, exerted at a period when England lay weakened and humiliated by her failure in America, extorted for that body, in 1782, the concession of legislative independence. Pitt's speech on the India Bill in 1784, explaining and defending his proposal of the system of double government, which has been lately (1858) superseded, as well as his speeches on the Slave Trade and the Catholic Relief Bill, though not exactly eloquent, should be read as embodying the views of a great practical statesman upon subjects of deep and permanent interest. Erskine was a cadet of a noble but needy family in Scotland. He crossed the Border early in life, raised himself by his remarkable powers as an advocate to the position of Lord Chancellor, and died on
* Macaulay's Essays; article, Warren Hastings.