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THE BRITISH DRAMATISTS.
Carefully Selected from the Best Editions,
COPIOUS NOTES, BIOGRAPHIES, AND A HISTORICAL
ERTAIN periods in British history have been marked by the prevalence of particular forms of literature. The present age, for example, is characterized by the superabundance of prose fiction; this is the period of the novel. During the early half of last century, the most popular and common form of literature was the short essay, which appeared in shoals in such periodicals as the Spectator and Tatler. It is not difficult to account for the shower of pamphlets which deluged the period comprehended in the greater part of the reign of Charles I. and the time of the Commonwealth; while the latter half of the sixteenth, and the beginning of the seventeenth century, was emphatically the period of the drama, during which this form of imaginative literature held supreme and unexampled sway. It would be interesting to inquire into the causes which in each age determine the groove in which its popular literature will run; for although, as in the case of the pamphleteering period, these do not always lie on the surface, still no doubt a close scrutiny would prove that they are always clear and well defined, depending mainly upon the political, social, religious, and commercial state of the country at the time. Why the reigns of Elizabeth and James should have given birth to so many men of high and prolific genius, and why those men should spontaneously adopt the drama as the form of literature best adapted to afford an outlet for their wellingup thoughts and fancies, we have not the space, even if we had the requisite knowledge and insight, to attempt to discover. We believe it would be found that the drama was the channel most suited to receive the overflowings of the abundant intellectual energy of the age; although those who adopted it did not cut it out for themselves, but found it ready made to their hands. Indeed, it will be found that a great genius seldom, if ever, creates a new form of literature, into which to throw the products of his intellect; he generally adopts that which is already popular, and consecrates it to his purpose. During the reign of Elizabeth our country had got fairly over the turmoils and distractions of the Reformation; it