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The progress of the nation page 11


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Amongst these, or in the period immediately succeeding them, some individuals demand a particular notice. Benjamin Franklin, though an American citizen, ought perhaps to be mentioned, as so greatly influencing science here by his discoveries in electricity; and Sir William Jones, for his great additions to our knowledge of Indian and Persian literature and theology. There was a large number of translations made by Pye, Twining, Gillies, Francis, Murphy, Parr, Tyrwhitt, Wakefield, &c. By one or other of these the works of Aristotle, Tacitus, Horace, Caesar, Virgil, Lucretius, Bion Moschus, &c., were wholly or partly introduced to us. Monboddo's " Origin and Progress of Language," and Home Tooke's " Diversions of Purley " made a great sensation; Paine's " Rights of Man " and!< Age of Reason " a still greater, and called out elaborate answers. Richard Porson was equally distinguished for his classical knowledge and his drunkenness. Mary Wollstonecraft published her "Rights of Woman," as a necessary addendum to Paine's " Rights of Man." There were also editions of Shakespeare issued by Dr. Johnson, Stevens, Capell, Hanmer, Malone, and Reed. Warton, Ritson, Pinkerfon, Macpherson, and Ellis revived our older poetry by new editions. The controversy on the poetry of Ossian ran high during this period. In theology and morals, the works of Dr. Paley and bishops Watson, Horsley, and Porteus, were most prominent. In speculative philosophy, Malthus, by his " Essay on the Principle of Population," carried to greater lengths the notions of Wallace on the numbers of mankind.

In the later period of the reign, some of our chief poets appeared also as prose writers in biography, criticism, and general literature: Southey, as biographer and critic; Campbell and Moore, Leigh Hunt and Charles Lamb, in the same field; so also Hazlitt, Sydney Smith, Jeffrey, Playfair, Stewart, Brown, Mackintosh, and Bentham - the latter in the philosophy of law. In physical science, Sir Humphry Davy, Leslie, Dalton, the author of the atomic theory, and Wollaston, distinguished themselves.

Periodical writing grew in this reign into a leading organ of opinion and intelligence. The two chief periodicals, according to our present idea of them, were the " Gentleman's Magazine "and the " Monthly Review." These were both started prior to the accession of George III. The " Gentleman's Magazine " was started by Cave, the publisher, in 1731; and the " Monthly Review " commenced in 1749. The magazine was a depository of a great variety of matters, antiquarian, topographical, critical, and miscellaneous, and has retained that character to the present hour. The " Monthly Review " was exclusively devoted to criticism. But, in the early portion of the reign, a periodical literature of a totally different character prevailed - the periodical essayist - formed on the model of the "Spectator," "Guardian," and "Tatler" of a prior period. Chief amongst these figured Ambrose Philips's " Freethinker; " the " Museum," supported by Walpole, the Wartons, Akenside, &c.; the "Rambler," by Dr. Johnson; the " Adventurer," by Hawkesworth; the " World," in which wrote chiefly aristocrats, as lords Lyttleton, Chesterfield, Bath, Cork, Horace Walpole, &c.; the " Connoisseur," chiefly supplied by George Colman and Bonnel Thornton; the " Old Maid," conducted by Mrs. Frances Brooke; the "Idler," by Johnson; the "Babbler," by Hugh Kelly; the " Citizen of the World," by Goldsmith; the " Mirror," chiefly written by Mackenzie, the author of the "Man of Feeling;" and the "Lounger," also chiefly conducted by Mackenzie. This class of productions, appearing each once or twice a week, afforded the public the amusement and instruction now furnished by the leading daily newspapers and weekly miscellanies and journals. Towards the end of the reign arose a new species of review, the object of which was, under the guise of literature, to serve opposing parties in politics. The first of these was the " Edinburgh Review," the organ of the whigs, started in 1802, in which Brougham, Jeffrey, and Sydney Smith were the chief writers. This, professing to be liberal, launched forth the most illiberal criticisms imaginable. There was scarcely a great poet of the time - -Wordsworth, Coleridge, Southey, Byron, Montgomery, Leigh Hunt, Shelley, Keats - whom they did not, but vainly, endeavour to crush. To combat the influence of this whig organ, in 1809 came forth the " Quarterly Review," the great organ of the tories, and to which Scott, Southey, Wilson Croker, Gifford, &c., were the chief contributors. In 1817 this was followed by another conservative journal, not quarterly, but monthly in its issue, conducted chiefly by professor Wilson and Lockhart, namely, " Blackwood's Magazine," in which the monthly magazines of to-day find their prototype, but with a more decided political bias than they generally possess.

In the department of the Drama the fertility was immense. Tragedy, comedy, and farce maintained a swelling stream during the whole reign. In the earlier portion of it the chief writers of this class were Goldsmith, Garrick, Foote, Macklin, Murphy, Cumberland, Colman, Mrs. Cowley, and Sheridan. Several of these dramatists - as Garrick, Macklin, and Foote - were, at the same time, actors. The most eminent of them as writers were Gold, smith, Sheridan, and Colman. Horace Walpole wrote the " Mysterious Mother," a tragedy, which, however, was never acted; Goldsmith his two comedies, " The Good- Natured Man " and " She Stoops to Conquer," which were extremely popular; Garrick, the farces of " The Lying Valet" and "Miss in her Teens." He was said also to have been a partner with Colman in writing "The Clandestine Marriage; " but Colman denied this, saying that Garrick wrote the two first acts, and brought them to him, desiring him to put them together, and that he did put them together, for he put them together into the fire, and re-wrote the whole. Another farce, " High Life below Stairs," attributed to Garrick, was, it seems, written by the Rev. James Townley, assisted by Dr. Hoadly, the author of " The Suspicious Husband." Garrick was the great actor of his time, but, as a dramatic writer, his merit is insignificant. Foote was the chief writer of the comic before Colman. His productions amount to upwards of twenty, the most of them farces; and amongst them are "The Minor," " The Liar," and " The Mayor of Garratt." Foote was the wit and punster of the age, and has found no equal in those departments since, except Hood. His satiric keenness was the terror of his time, and he dared to think of trying it even on the great, surly essayist, Dr. Johnson, by introducing him upon the stage; but Johnson sent him word that he would be in one of the stage-boxes with a good, knotty cudgel, and Foote thought it best to let him alone.

Macklin was the author of " The Man of the World," a most successful comedy, as well as others of much merit. He remained on the stage till he was a hundred years old, and lived to a hundred and seven. George Colman had distinguished himself by the translation of Terence's plays and Horace's " Art of Poetry " before he commenced as a dramatist. His vein was comic, and his comedies and farces amount to nearly thirty, the best being " The Clandestine Marriage," already mentioned, "Polly Honeycombe," and "The Jealous Wife." Arthur Murphy was a native of Cork, and was brought up a merchant, but his bent was to the drama, and he quitted his business, and went to London, where he wrote two successful farces, " The Apprentice " and " The Upholsterer." He next wrote "The Orphan of China," a tragedy. He then studied for the bar, but had not much practice, and returned to writing for the stage. " The Grecian Daughter," " All in the Wrong," " The Way to keep him," and " The Citizen," were very successful, and raised him to wealth and distinction. Not satisfied with being a popular writer, he desired to act as well as write, like Garrick and Macklin, but failed. Besides his dramatic productions, he translated Tacitus and Sallust, and wrote the life of Garrick. Richard Cumberland, also an Irishman, was a very voluminous as well as miscellaneous writer. His comedy of " The West Indian " made him at once popular, and he wrote a great number of productions for the stage, amongst the best of which were " The Fashionable Lover," " The Jew," "The Wheel of Fortune," &c. We have seen Cumberland employed by government as an envoy to Lisbon and Madrid, and by it refused the payment of his expenses. This reduced him to sell his hereditary property, but he retired to Tunbridge Wells, and continued to write plays, novels, essays, criticisms, &c., till nearly eighty years of age.

There was a number of lady dramatists of this period. Mrs. Cowley wrote " The Runaway," " The Belle's Stratagern," " More Ways than One," &c.; Mrs. Brooke, Miss Marshall, Mrs. Lennox, and Miss Sophia Lee, all wrote successful plays; Mrs. Sheridan, the author of the eastern story, " Nourjahad," was the writer of the successful comedies of "The Discovery " and "The Dupe." But at the head of all dramatists of this period stood Richard Brinsley Sheridan, her son. He was equally distinguished as a politician, an orator, and a critic. Like Murphy, Macklin, and Cumberland, he was an Irishman. His dramas quickly placed him at the head of all the writers for the stage of his time. They abounded with humour, wit, the smartest action, and knowledge of life and human nature. His splendid comedy of " The Rivals," written when he was not twenty-five, did not at first augur much success; but " The Duenna," which appeared the same year, carried with it at once the highest public favour; and his " School for Scandal," acted in 1777, raised his reputation to the utmost. He afterwards wrote the farces of " The Critic," " This Trip to Scarborough," and " St. Patrick's Day." All these were issued before 1780, and after that he was too much involved in political affairs to renew this style of writing. Amongst his other labours for the theatre was the adaptation of " Pizarro," one of Kotzebue's numerous progeny of plays. Sheridan also distinguished himself as the translator of " Aristaenetus." The misfortune of Sheridan was that he was as devoted to drink as lie was to the drama or the arena of politics.

Comedy and farce occupied the middle portion of the reign, but neither of them rose to the height of Sheridan. In tragedy, Murphy's " Arminius," Godwin's " Antonio," and Madame D'Arblay's " Edwy and Elgiva," were the best. Amongst the comedies, Holcroft's " Road to Ruin," Morton's "Speed the Plough," Mrs. Inchbald's " Wives as( they Were, and Maids as they Are," and Colman's " Sylvester Daggerwood," were the most popular.

In the latest period scarcely any acting dramas were produced. Amongst the unacted tragedies, or such as were acted with no great success - being better fitted for the closet - were Coleridge's "Remorse" and " Zapolya; " Shelley's " Prometheus Unbound " and " The Cenci; " Byron's "Cain," "Manfred," "Sardanapalus," &c.; Maturing " Bertram," " Manuel," and " Fredolpho; " Joanna Baillie's " Plays on the Passions," " The Family Legend" - the last acted with some success at Edinburgh, through the influence of Sir Walter Scott, in 1810 - Charles Lamb's " John Woodville," Milman's " Fazio," and Walter Savage Landor's " Count Julian," " Andrea of Hungary," " Giovanni of Naples," "Fra Rupert," "The Siege of Ancona," &c., all masterly dramas, constituting altogether a blaze of dramatic genius which, were it adapted to the stage, would have given it a, new grandeur at the close of this reign.

poetry

The new spring in poetry broke forth as brilliantly in this reign as that in prose. In the earlier portion of it, indeed, this was not so visible. The school of Pope seemed still to retain its influence. This school had produced a host of imitators, but little real genius since Pope's time. Almost the only exception to this mediocrity was Collins, whose odes were full of fire and genius. He died just before this period, and Gray, Shenstone, and Goldsmith opened it with many of the exterior characteristics of that school. But, in truth, notwithstanding the mere fashion of their compositions, there were in them unmistakable evidences of new life. Shenstone was the least vigorous and original of the three, but his " Schoolmistress" possessed a natural charm, which still gains it admirers. He belongs, however, rather to the past period than this, for he died but three years after the accession of George III., and had ceased to write some time before. Gray's " Elegy in a Country Churchyard " showed that he had deep feeling, and a nice observation of nature; and his " Long Story " that he possessed real humour - a quality abounding in his prose, but, except in this piece, little visible in his poetry. His odes are extremely vigorous, but somewhat formal. His " Bard," his " Ode on Eton College," and his " Fatal Sisters," are all full of vigour, but somewhat stilted. In the " Fatal Sisters " he introduced a subject from the " Scandinavian Edda" to the English reader, but in a most un-Scandinavian dress.

Goldsmith was in his poetry, as in his prose, simple, genuine, and natural. His " Deserted Village " and " Traveller " were in the metre of Pope, but they were full of the most exquisite touches of pathos, of truth, and liberty; they were new in spirit, though old in form. Charles Churchill, the satirist of this period, was full of flagellant power. He has been said to have formed himself on Dryden; it is more probable that his models were Lucian and Juvenal. He was a bold and merciless chastiser of the follies of the times. He commenced, in the " Rosciad " with the players, by which he stirred a nest of hornets. Undauntedly he pursued his course, attacking, in " The Ghost," the then all powerful Dr. Johnson, who ruled like a despot over both literary men and their opinions. These satires, strong and somewhat coarse, were followed by " The Prophecy of Famine," an "Epistle to Hogarth," "The Conference," "The Duellists," "The Author," "Gotham," " The Candidate," " The Times," &c. In these Churchill not only lashed the corruptions of the age, but the false principles of nations. He condemned the seizure of other countries by so-called Christian powers, on the plea of discovery. It was only to be lamented that Churchill, who was a clergyman, in censuring his neighbour's vices, did not abandon his own.

Amongst other authors of the time, then very popular, but now little read, were Armstrong, author of " The Art of Preserving Health; " Akenside, of " The Pleasures of Imagination;" Wilkie, of "The Epigoniad;" and Glover, of the epic of " Leonidas." Falconer's " Shipwreck " and Beattie's "Minstrel" are poems much more animate with the vitality of grace and feeling. Then there were Anstey, with his "Bath Guide," half descriptive and half satiric; Stephenson's " Crazy Tales; " and the " Isis," a satire on the university of Oxford, and his tragedies of " Elfrida " and " Caractacus," by Mason, which, with other poems by the same author, enjoyed a popularity which waned before more truly living things. Then there were the brothers Joseph and Thomas Warton. Both of these deserve to be mentioned amongst our first-rate prose writers - Joseph for his excellent " Essay on the Genius and Writings of Pope," and Thomas for his " History of English Poetry," the only history which we yet have worthy of the subject, and this is merely a fragment, coming down only to the reign of queen Elizabeth. In his poetry there is a spirit and tone of feudal life, and we are greatly deceived if Sir Walter Scott did not very much model the style of his metrical romances upon Warton. But that which, at this period, produced a thorough reform of our poetry was the publication of " The Reliques of Ancient English Poetry," by bishop Percy. These specimens of poetry went back beyond the introduction of the French model into this country - into the times when Chaucer, and still earlier poets, wrote from the instincts of nature, and not from scholastic or fashionable patterns. In particular, the old ballads, such as " Chevy Chace," " The Babes in the Wood," and the like, brought back the public taste from the artificial to the natural. The simple voice of truth, pathos, and honest sentiment, was at once felt by every heart, and the reign of mere ornate words was over. After these came "The Border Minstrelsy " of Scott, and completed the revolution. These ancient ballads, in both Percy and Scott, were found, in many instances, to be founded on precisely the same facts as those of the Swedes and Danes, collected seventy years before, thus showing that they were originally brought into this country by the Scandinavians - a proof of their high antiquity. We have already said that a similar return to nature was going on in Germany and the North, showing that the very collection of Percy's " Reliques " originated in some universal cause, and that cause, no doubt, was the universal weariness of the artificial style which had so long prevailed.

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