Abbildungen der Seite

English critics. Charles Lamb's quaint "Essays of Elia" give him enduring fame. His "Dissertation upon Roast Pig" is a noted piece of humorous writing. John Wilson, for many years the leading spirit of Blackwood, has earned a place in English literature under the pseudonym of "Christopher North." John Lockhart, at first a contributor to Blackwood, and afterward editor of the Quarterly Review, was conservative in his tastes and made severe attacks both upon Keats and Tennyson in his earlier poems. His "Life of Scott," his father-in-law, is one of the best biographies in any language. Leigh Hunt's works were originally contributions to periodical literature.

There are two historians that deserve mention, though neither attained the heights of the great triumvirate of the preceding period. Henry Hallam was both a historian and literary critic, distinguished for his extensive research and judicial fairness. His "View of the State of Europe during the Middle Ages," which was published in 1818, his "Constitutional History of England," which dates from 1827, and his "Introduction to the Literature of Europe in the Fifteenth, Sixteenth, and Seventeenth Centuries," which was completed in 1839, are still standard works. By reason of his conversative tastes, he is somewhat less. trustworthy as a critic than as a historian. William Mitford's "History of Greece," which was completed in 1818, is recognized as a work of scholarly ability, though it is seriously marred by the prejudices of the author. He was almost fanatical in his opposition to the democratic tendencies of his age.

One of the most remarkable features of this period is the place that woman now assumes in literature. Awak

ing to a sense of the conventional restraints by which she had long been surrounded, she began to desire a larger freedom of thought and action. The title of Mary Wollstonecraft's book, "Vindication of the Rights of Woman," is indicative of the rising movement. An unusually large group of female writers, brought up under the influence of the closing decades of the eighteenth century, distinguished themselves in fiction and poetry. Ann Radcliffe belonged to the romantic school and employed "castles with secret passages, trap-doors, forests, banditti, abductions, sliding panels," as the machinery of her stories. Maria Edgeworth was a novelist of Irish life, and Scott said that her work suggested his Scottish romances. Jane Austen, who wrote realistic stories of contemporary social life, has been called the mother of the modern novel. Other writers belonging to this galaxy are Anna Letitia Barbauld, Jane Porter, whose "Thaddeus of Warsaw" and "Scottish Chiefs" are still popular, and Hannah More, a poet, dramatist, and novelist of real ability. A list of their principal works will be found on a preceding page.

Poetry, recovering from its brief eclipse in the preceding period, shines forth with unwonted splendor. Apart from the great representative names to be considered later, Wordsworth, Byron, Shelley, the list of secondary poets is unusually long and unusually good.

Thomas Campbell early showed a striking literary precocity. At the age of twenty-two, he published the "Pleas ures of Hope," the success of which was instantaneous. Its opening lines are felicitous and well known: —

"At summer eve, when Heaven's ethereal bow

Spans with bright arch the glittering hills below,

Why to yon mountain turns the musing eye,
Whose sunbright summit mingles with the sky?
Why do those cliffs of shadowy tint appear
More sweet than all the landscape smiling near?
'Tis distance lends enchantment to the view,
And robes the mountain in its azure hue."

He did not profit much by his early success. The booksellers offered him lucrative employment; but through procrastination and constitutional indolence, he disappointed their expectations and forfeited their confidence. In 1809 he published his romantic poem of "Gertrude of Wyoming," the scene of which is laid in Pennsylvania. It ranks next to the "Pleasures of Hope." But it is, perhaps, in his lyrical pieces, among which are "Lochiel's Warning," "Hohenlinden," "Battle of the Baltic," "Ye Mariners of England," "O'Connor's Child," "Hallowed Ground," "The Soldier's Dream," "The Last Man," that he attained the highest excellence. Elected lord rector of the University of Glasgow in 1826, he discharged his duties with a zeal that won admiration. He died in 1844

and was buried in Westminster Abbey.

John Keats was a brilliant but short-lived poet. Had he lived to fulfil his early promise, it is probable that he would have stood among the first poets of the period. As it is, several of his poems take rank among the choicest productions of the English muse. He began his literary career by the publication of some sonnets, which were favorably received. The sonnet on "Chapman's Homer," containing the lines,

"Then felt I like some watcher of the skies

When a new planet swims into his ken,"


is truly admirable. A volume of poems, published in 1817, was coldly received. The following year appeared “Endymion," which contains some fine passages, the opening lines being well known :

"A thing of beauty is a joy forever;

Its loveliness increases; it will never
Pass into nothingness; but still will keep

A bower quiet for us, and a sleep

Full of sweet dreams, and health, and quiet breathing."

The "lusciousness of the rhythm," which breaks completely with Augustan models, gave offence to conservative critics. The poem was savagely attacked both in Blackwood and the Quarterly. In 1820 Keats sent forth his third volume, in which his poetic genius conquered recognition and secured for him an honorable place in English literature. His "Hyperion," "Lamia," "Eve of St. Agnes," and his odes to a "Nightingale," a "Grecian Urn,” and “Autumn," are all exquisite productions. He went to Italy shortly after the appearance of this volume, where he died of pulmonary consumption early in 1821. His headstone bears the simple inscription, dictated by himself, "Here lies one whose name was writ in water."

Robert Southey is an example of untiring industry in literary pursuits. He depended upon literature for a living, and Byron pronounced him "the only existing man of letters." He worked with mechanical regularity and produced more than a hundred volumes of poetry and prose. He was a great lover of books; and his library, which contained fourteen thousand volumes, De Quincey called his wife. When in his old age he became speechless and imbecile, he still wandered around his library,

taking down his books and fondly pressing them to his lips.

As a poet, Southey was ambitious; and nourishing his talents on Tasso, Ariosto, and Spenser, he contemplated and composed several lengthy epics. His "Joan of Arc," a youthful performance, was well received. "Thalaba" was published in 1801, "Madoc," on which the poet was content to rest his fame, in 1805, and the "Curse of Kehama" in 1810. His longer poems abound in splendid imagery, but they are lacking in personal interest and dramatic art. He was made poet laureate in 1813.

"Thalaba, the Destroyer" is a rhythmical romance in irregular and unrhymed measure. The opening lines, perhaps the best in the poem, are very pleasing:

"How beautiful is night!

A dewy freshness fills the silent air;

No mist obscures, nor cloud, nor speck, nor stain
Breaks the serene of heaven:

In full-orbed glory yonder moon divine

Rolls through the dark blue depths.
Beneath her steady ray

The desert circle spreads,

Like the round ocean, girdled with the sky.
How beautiful is night!"

Among his best short pieces are "The Scholar," "Auld Cloots," "March to Moscow," " Mary the Maid of the Inn," "Lodore," "The Well of St. Keyne."

In prose Southey wrote criticism, biography, and history, in all which he exhibited great learning and an admirable style. His "Life of Nelson" is a classic biography. Among his other prose writings are the "Life of Cowper,"

« ZurückWeiter »