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Favorable political condition — Triumphs of democracy - Periods not

sharply defined — Effect of French Revolution — Growing Intelligence Periodicals Critics: Jeffrey, Hazlitt, Lamb, Wilson, Lockhart — History: Hallam, Mitford — Prominence of women: Ann Radcliffe, Maria Edgeworth, Jane Austen — Poetry – Thomas Campbell – John Keats Robert Southey Thomas Moore SIR WALTER SCOTT - LORD BYRON WILLIAM WORDSWORTH


The political condition of England during this period was not unfavorable to literature. In 1800 the "Emerald Isle ” was joined to England under the title of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. The Napoleonic wars increased England's prestige as a world-power. She came into possession of the colonies of Spain, of Holland, and of France. Waterloo finally ended her long struggle with the French. Her victories at Copenhagen and Trafalgar made her the undisputed mistress of the seas. The population largely increased. Agriculture became more flourishing, and the inventions of Watt and Arkwright helped to build up prosperous cities in northern England and to increase the national wealth.

In 1815 London was lighted with gas; and a few years later an effective police force was organized for the city, which

had then reached a population of a million and a half. Though the transition from hand labor to machinery imposed great hardships on the working classes for a time, and thus created much social discontent and suffering, it laid the foundation of the subsequent supremacy of England as a manufacturing and commercial nation.

Though the influence of the government was generally against the democratic tendencies of the times, the new sense of human right and freedom could not be extinguished. Though held in check for a time, it achieved later notable triumphs in Parliament. In 1828 the Test Act, by which Dissenters and Roman Catholics were excluded from government office, was repealed, and the following year Roman Catholics were admitted to Parliament. In 1832 the famous Reform Bill was passed, by which the “rotten boroughs" were abolished, the list of voters was increased by half a million, and the manufacturing cities of northern England — Birmingham, Manchester, and many others — were accorded representation.

It will be understood that the periods into which the history of any literature is divided are not sharply defined. They pass gradually from one into another under the operation of new influences. The age of Scott, a designation less descriptive than convenient, is characterized by the full development of the democratic and romantic tendencies originating in the latter part of the preceding period. They reached their climax in the literary outburst that has been called, not without considerable justification, the " Second Creative Period." A copious literature, new both in form and spirit, bloomed forth. Scott, Wordsworth, Coleridge, Byron, Shelley, De Quincey, and others were men of original and creative genius; and in a retrospect of the long vista of English literature, they stand out with striking prominence. With an inadequate apprehension of the tendencies of the age, three of these writers — Wordsworth, Coleridge, and Southey have been designated the Lake School of Poets, from their residence in the northern part of England.

The chief event that immediately affected literature, in the closing decade of the eighteenth and the first third of the nineteenth century, was the French Revolution. It not only crystallized the floating thought and feeling of France, but it brought home to the English heart the vague democratic movement of the time. The rights of man, as distinguished from the privileges of class or caste, became the subject of earnest and enthusiastic examination. The literary men of England generally arrayed themselves, consciously or unconsciously, on the side of progress or of conservatism. Dreams of a golden age of right and happiness took hold of men like Wordsworth, Coleridge, and Southey; and for a time, as we shall see, they contemplated founding an ideal democracy, or Pantisocracy, beyond the sea. On the other hand, Scott, in whom the romantic movement reached its climax, turned away from the turmoil of dissension and conflict to write, in prose and poetry, of a chivalrous past. Byron satirized the social conditions about him; and Shelley, with a spirit still more radical and violent, sought to overturn the most sacred beliefs and institutions.

This period was one of rapidly growing intelligence. Through the labors of Andrew Bell and Joseph Lancaster, a new impulse was given to popular education, and hundreds of schools were founded. In 1818 the government manifested its interest in education by appointing a committee to inspect the public schools. Periodicals were multiplied; and very significant for literature was the founding of the great magazines and reviews, which became the vehicles, not only of vigorous criticism, but also of excellent miscellaneous productions. They gathered about them groups of gifted writers and elevated the taste of the reading public. The Edinburgh Review was founded in 1802, the London Quarterly, its political opponent, in 1809, Blackwood's Magazine in 1817, the Westminster Review in 1824, and Fraser's Magazine in 1830. Two weekly papers of high order, the Spectator and the Athenæum, both of which figure in later literature, were established in 1828.

One of the best-known critics of the time was Francis Jeffrey. He was at the head of the Edinburgh Review for more than a quarter of a century and wielded his critical pen with imperious spirit. Though Whiggish in politics, he was conservative in literature and had little patience with the literary innovations of the period. He treated Byron with contempt, belittled Scott, and pursued Wordsworth with relentless severity. But the results of this unsympathetic and often ferocious criticism were not without benefit. Apart from the replies it provoked, it forced an examination of fundamental principles, and grounded the new literature on a surer foundation.

William Hazlitt justly ranks as one of the foremost of

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