A History of English Romanticism in the Eighteenth Century
by Henry A. Beers
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E-text prepared by Jeanette Hayward and Al Haines. Dedicated to the memory of James Hayward.




Author of A Suburban Pastoral, The Ways of Vale, etc.

"Was unsterblich im Gesang soll leben Muss im Leben untergehen." —Schiller


Historians of French and German literature are accustomed to set off a period, or a division of their subject, and entitle it "Romanticism" or "the Romantic School." Writers of English literary history, while recognizing the importance of England's share in this great movement in European letters, have not generally accorded it a place by itself in the arrangement of their subject-matter, but have treated it cursively, as a tendency present in the work of individual authors; and have maintained a simple chronological division of eras into the "Georgian,", the "Victorian," etc. The reason of this is perhaps to be found in the fact that, although Romanticism began earlier in England than on the Continent and lent quite as much as it borrowed in the international exchange of literary commodities, the native movement was more gradual and scattered. It never reached so compact a shape, or came so definitely to a head, as in Germany or France. There never was precisely a "romantic school" or an all-pervading romantic fashion in England.

There is, therefore, nothing in English corresponding to Heine's fascinating sketch "Die Romantische Schule," or to Theophile Gautier's almost equally fascinating and far more sympathetic "Histoire du Romantisme." If we can imagine a composite personality of Byron and De Quincey, putting on record his half affectionate and half satirical reminiscences of the contemporary literary movement, we might have something nearly equivalent. For Byron, like Heine, was a repentant romanticist, with "radical notions under his cap," and a critical theory at odds with his practice; while De Quincey was an early disciple of Wordsworth and Coleridge,—as Gautier was of Victor Hugo,—and at the same time a clever and slightly mischievous sketcher of personal traits.

The present volume consists, in substance, of a series of lectures given in elective courses in Yale College. In revising it for publication I have striven to rid it of the air of the lecture room, but a few repetitions and didacticisms of manner may have inadvertently been left in. Some of the methods and results of these studies have already been given to the public in "The Beginnings of the English Romantic Movement," by my present associate and former scholar, Professor William Lyon Phelps. Professor Phelps' little book (originally a doctorate thesis) follows, in the main, the selection and arrangement of topics in my lectures. En revanche I have had the advantage of availing myself of his independent researches on points which I have touched but slightly; and particularly of his very full treatment of the Spenserian imitations.

I had at first intended to entitle the book "Chapters toward a History of English Romanticism, etc."; for, though fairly complete in treatment, it makes no claim to being exhaustive. By no means every eighteenth-century writer whose work exhibits romantic motives is here passed in review. That very singular genius William Blake, e.g., in whom the influence of "Ossian," among other things, is so strongly apparent, I leave untouched; because his writings—partly by reason of their strange manner of publication—were without effect upon their generation and do not form a link in the chain of literary tendency.

If this volume should be favorably received, I hope before very long to publish a companion study of English romanticism in the nineteenth century.


October, 1898.



I. The Subject Defined

II. The Augustans

III. The Spenserians

IV. The Landscape Poets

V. The Miltonic Group

VI. The School of Warton

VII. The Gothic Revival

VIII. Percy and the Ballads

IX. Ossian

X. Thomas Chatterton

XI. The German Tributary



The Subject Defined

To attempt at the outset a rigid definition of the word romanticism would be to anticipate the substance of this volume. To furnish an answer to the question—What is, or was, romanticism? or, at least, What is, or was English romanticism?—is one of my main purposes herein, and the reader will be invited to examine a good many literary documents, and to do a certain amount of thinking, before he can form for himself any full and clear notion of the thing. Even then he will hardly find himself prepared to give a dictionary definition or romanticism. There are words which connote so much, which take up into themselves so much of the history of the human mind, that any compendious explanation of their meaning—any definition which is not, at the same time, a rather extended description—must serve little other end than to supply a convenient mark of identification. How can we define in a sentence words like renaissance, philistine, sentimentalism, transcendental, Bohemia, pre-Raphaelite, impressionist, realistic? Definitio est negatio. It may be possible to hit upon a form of words which will mark romanticism off from everything else—tell in a clause what it is not; but to add a positive content to the definition—to tell what romanticism is, will require a very different and more gradual process.[1]

Nevertheless a rough, working definition may be useful to start with. Romanticism, then, in the sense in which I shall commonly employ the word, means the reproduction in modern art or literature of the life and thought of the Middle Ages. Some other elements will have to be added to this definition, and some modifications of it will suggest themselves from time to time. It is provisional, tentative, classic, but will serve our turn till we are ready to substitute a better. It is the definition which Heine gives in his brilliant little book on the Romantic School in Germany.[2] "All the poetry of the Middle Ages," he adds, "has a certain definite character, through which it differs from the poetry of the Greeks and Romans. In reference to this difference, the former is called Romantic, the latter Classic. These names, however, are misleading, and have hitherto caused the most vexatious confusion."[3]

Some of the sources of this confusion will be considered presently. Meanwhile the passage recalls the fact that romantic, when used as a term in literary nomenclature, is not an independent, but a referential word. It implies its opposite, the classic; and the ingenuity of critics has been taxed to its uttermost to explain and develop the numerous points of contrast. To form a thorough conception of the romantic, therefore, we must also form some conception of the classic. Now there is an obvious unlikeness between the thought and art of the nations of pagan antiquity and the thought and art of the peoples of Christian, feudal Europe. Everyone will agree to call the Parthenon, the "Diana" of the Louvre, the "Oedipus" of Sophocles, the orations of Demosthenes classical; and to call the cathedral of Chartres, the walls of Nuremberg—die Perle des Mittelalters—the "Legenda Aurea" of Jacobus de Voragine, the "Tristan und Isolde" of Gottfried of Strasburg, and the illuminations in a Catholic missal of the thirteenth century romantic.

The same unlikeness is found between modern works conceived in the spirit, or executed in direct imitation, of ancient and medieval art respectively. It is easy to decide that Flaxman's outline drawings in illustration of Homer are classic; that Alfieri's tragedies, Goethe's "Iphigenie auf Tauris" Landor's "Hellenics," Gibson's statues, David's paintings, and the church of the Madeleine in Paris are classical, at least in intentions and in the models which they follow; while Victor Hugo's "Notre Dame de Paris," Scott's "Ivanhoe," Fouque's "Der Zauberring," and Rossetti's painting, "The Girlhood of Mary," are no less certainly romantic in their inspiration.

But critics have given a wider extension than this to the terms classic and romantic. They have discerned, or imagined, certain qualities, attitudes of mind, ways of thinking and feeling, traits of style which distinguish classic from romantic art; and they have applied the words accordingly to work which is not necessarily either antique or medieval in subject. Thus it is assumed, for example, that the productions of Greek and Roman genius were characterized by clearness, simplicity, restraint, unity of design, subordination of the part to the whole; and therefore modern works which make this impression of noble plainness and severity, of harmony in construction, economy of means and clear, definite outline, are often spoken of as classical, quite irrespective of the historical period which they have to do with. In this sense, it is usual to say that Wordsworth's "Michael" is classical, or that Goethe's "Hermann and Dorothea" is classical; though Wordsworth may be celebrating the virtues of a Westmoreland shepherd, and Goethe telling the story of two rustic lovers on the German border at the time of the Napoleonic wars.

On the other hand, it is asserted that the work of mediaeval poets and artists is marked by an excess of sentiment, by over-lavish decoration, a strong sense of color and a feeble sense of form, an attention to detail, at the cost of the main impression, and a consequent tendency to run into the exaggerated, the fantastic, and the grotesque. It is not uncommon, therefore, to find poets like Byron and Shelly classified as romanticists, by virtue of their possession of these, or similar, characteristics, although no one could be more remote from medieval habits of thought than the author of "Don Juan" or the author of "The Revolt of Islam."

But the extension of these opposing terms to the work of writers who have so little in common with either the antique or the medieval as Wordsworth, on the one hand, and Byron, on the other, does not stop here. It is one of the embarrassments of the literary historian that nearly every word which he uses has two meanings, a critical and a popular meaning. In common speech, classic has come to signify almost anything that is good. If we look in our dictionaries we find it defined somewhat in this way: "Conforming to the best authority in literature and art; pure; chaste; refined; originally and chiefly used of the best Greek and Roman writers, but also applied to the best modern authors, or their works." "Classic, n. A work of acknowledged excellence and authority." In this sense of the word, "Robinson Crusoe" is a classic; the "Pilgrim's Progress" is a classic; every piece of literature which is customarily recommended as a safe pattern for young writers to form their style upon is a classic.[4]

Contrariwise the word romantic, as popularly employed, expresses a shade of disapprobation. The dictionaries make it a synonym for sentimental, fanciful, wild, extravagant, chimerical, all evident derivatives from their more critical definition, "pertaining or appropriate to the style of the Christian and popular literature of the Middle Ages, as opposed to the classical antique." The etymology of romance is familiar. The various dialects which sprang from the corruption of the Latin were called by the common name of romans. The name was then applied to any piece of literature composed in this vernacular instead of in the ancient classical Latin. And as the favorite kind of writing in Provencal, Old French, and Spanish was the tale of chivalrous adventure that was called par excellence, a roman, romans, or romance. The adjective romantic is much later, implying, as it does, a certain degree of critical attention to the species of fiction which it describes in order to a generalizing of its peculiarities. It first came into general use in the latter half of the seventeenth century and the early years of the eighteenth; and naturally, was marked from birth with that shade of disapproval which has been noticed in popular usage.

The feature that struck the critics most in the romances of the Middle Ages, and in that very different variety of romance which was cultivated during the seventeenth century—the prolix, sentimental fictions of La Calprenede, Scuderi, Gomberville, and D'Urfe—was the fantastic improbability of their adventures. Hence the common acceptation of the word romantic in such phrases as "a romantic notion," "a romantic elopement," "an act of romantic generosity." The application of the adjective to scenery was somewhat later,[5] and the abstract romanticism was, of course, very much later; as the literary movement, or the revolution in taste, which it entitles, was not enough developed to call for a name until the opening of the nineteenth century. Indeed, it was never so compact, conscious, and definite a movement in England as in Germany and France; and its baptism doubtless came from abroad, from the polemical literature which attended the career of the German romanticismus and the French romantisme.

While accepting provisionally Heine's definition, it will be useful to examine some of the wider meanings that have been attached to the words classic and romantic, and some of the analyses that have been attempted of the qualities that make one work of art classical and another romantic. Walter Pater took them to indicate opposite tendencies or elements which are present in varying proportions in all good art. It is the essential function of classical art and literature, he thought, to take care of the qualities of measure, purity, temperance. "What is classical comes to us out of the cool and quiet of other times, as a measure of what a long experience has shown us will, at least, never displease us. And in the classical literature of Greece and Rome, as in the classics of the last century, the essentially classical element is that quality of order in beauty which they possess, indeed, in a pre-eminent degree."[6] "The charm, then, of what is classical in art or literature is that of the well-known tale, to which we can nevertheless listen over and over again, because it is told so well. To the absolute beauty of its form is added the accidental, tranquil charm of familiarity."

On the other hand, he defines the romantic characteristics in art as consisting in "the addition of strangeness to beauty"—a definition which recalls Bacon's saying, "There is no excellent beauty that hath not some strangeness in the proportion." "The desire of beauty," continues Pater, "being a fixed element in every artistic organization, it is the addition of curiosity to this desire of beauty that constitutes the romantic temper." This critic, then, would not confine the terms classic and classicism to the literature of Greece and Rome and to modern works conceived in the same spirit, although he acknowledges that there are certain ages of the world in which the classical tradition predominates, i.e., in which the respect for authority, the love of order and decorum, the disposition to follow rules and models, the acceptance of academic and conventional standards overbalance the desire for strangeness and novelty. Such epochs are, e.g., the Augustan age of Rome, the Siecle de Louis XIV, in France, the times of Pope and Johnson in England—indeed, the whole of the eighteenth century in all parts of Europe.

Neither would he limit the word romantic to work conceived in the spirit of the Middle Ages. "The essential elements," he says, "of the romantic spirit are curiosity and the love of beauty; and it is as the accidental effect of these qualities only, that it seeks the Middle Ages; because in the overcharged atmosphere of the Middle Age there are unworked sources of romantic effect, of a strange beauty to be won by strong imagination out of things unlikely or remote." "The sense in which Scott is to be called a romantic writer is chiefly that, in opposition to the literary tradition of the last century, he loved strange adventure and sought it in the Middle Age."

Here again the essayist is careful to explain that there are certain epochs which are predominately romantic. "Outbreaks of this spirit come naturally with particular periods: times when . . . men come to art and poetry with a deep thirst for intellectual excitement, after a long ennui." He instances, as periods naturally romantic, the time of the early Provencal troubadour poetry: the years following the Bourbon Restoration in France (say, 1815-30); and "the later Middle Age; so that the medieval poetry, centering in Dante, is often opposed to Greek or Roman poetry, as romantic to classical poetry."

In Pater's use of the terms, then, classic and romantic do not describe particular literature, or particular periods in literary history, so much as certain counterbalancing qualities and tendencies which run through the literatures of all times and countries. There were romantic writings among the Greeks and Romans; there were classical writings in the Middle Ages; nay, there are classical and romantic traits in the same author. If there is any poet who may safely be described as a classic, it is Sophocles; and yet Pater declares that the "Philoctetes" of Sophocles, if issued to-day, would be called romantic. And he points out—what indeed has been often pointed out—that the "Odyssey"[7] is more romantic than the "Iliad:" is, in fact, rather a romance than a hero-epic. The adventures of the wandering Ulysses, the visit to the land of the lotus-eaters, the encounter with the Laestrygonians, the experiences in the cave of Polyphemus, if allowance be made for the difference in sentiments and manners, remind the reader constantly of the medieval romans d'aventure. Pater quotes De Stendhal's saying that all good art was romantic in its day. "Romanticism," says De Stendhal, "is the art of presenting to the nations the literary works which, in the actual state of their habits and beliefs, are capable of giving them the greatest possible pleasure: classicism, on the contrary, presents them with what gave the greatest possible pleasure to their great grand-fathers"—a definition which is epigrammatic, if not convincing.[8] De Stendhal (Henri Beyle) was a pioneer and a special pleader in the cause of French romanticism, and, in his use of the terms, romanticism stands for progress, liberty, originality, and the spirit of the future; classicism, for conservatism, authority, imitation, the spirit of the past. According to him, every good piece of romantic art is a classic in the making. Decried by the classicists of to-day, for its failure to observe traditions, it will be used by the classicists of the future as a pattern to which new artists must conform.

It may be worth while to round out the conception of the term by considering a few other definitions of romantic which have been proposed. Dr. F. H. Hedge, in an article in the Atlantic Monthly[9] for March, 1886, inquired, "What do we mean by romantic?" Goethe, he says, characterized the difference between classic and romantic "as equivalent to [that between] healthy and morbid. Schiller proposed 'naive and sentimental.'[10] The greater part [of the German critics] regarded it as identical with the difference between ancient and modern, which was partly true, but explained nothing. None of the definitions given could be accepted as quite satisfactory."[11]

Dr. Hedge himself finds the origin of romantic feeling in wonder and the sense of mystery. "The essence of romance," he writes, "is mystery"; and he enforces the point by noting the application of the word to scenery. "The woody dell, the leafy glen, the forest path which leads, one knows not whither, are romantic: the public highway is not." "The winding secret brook . . . is romantic, as compared with the broad river." "Moonlight is romantic, as contrasted with daylight." Dr. Hedge attributes this fondness for the mysterious to "the influence of the Christian religion, which deepened immensely the mystery of life, suggesting something beyond and behind the world of sense."

This charm of wonder or mystery is perhaps only another name for that "strangeness added to beauty" which Pater takes to be the distinguishing feature of romantic art. Later in the same article, Dr. Hedge asserts that "the essence of romanticism is aspiration." Much might be said in defense of this position. It has often been pointed out, e.g., that a Gothic cathedral expresses aspiration, and a Greek temple satisfied completeness. Indeed if we agree that, in a general way, the classic is equivalent to the antique, and the romantic to the medieval, it will be strange if we do not discover many differences between the two that can hardly be covered by any single phrase. Dr. Hedge himself enumerates several qualities of romantic art which it would be difficult to bring under his essential and defining category of wonder or aspiration. Thus he announces that "the peculiarity of the classic style is reserve, self-suppression of the writer"; while "the romantic is self-reflecting." "Clear, unimpassioned, impartial presentation of the subject . . . is the prominent feature of the classic style. The modern writer gives you not so much the things themselves as his impression of them." Here then is the familiar critical distinction between the objective and subjective methods—Schiller's naiv and sentimentalisch—applied as a criterion of classic and romantic style. This contrast the essayist develops at some length, dwelling upon "the cold reserve and colorless simplicity of the classic style, where the medium is lost in the object"; and "on the other hand, the inwardness, the sentimental intensity, the subjective coloring of the romantic style."

A further distinguishing mark of the romantic spirit, mentioned by Dr. Hedge in common with many other critics, is the indefiniteness or incompleteness of its creations. This is a consequence, of course, of its sense of mystery and aspiration. Schopenbauer said that music was the characteristic modern art, because of its subjective, indefinite character. Pursuing this line of thought, Dr. Hedge affirms that "romantic relates to classic somewhat as music relates to plastic art. . . It [music] presents no finished ideal, but suggests ideals beyond the capacity of canvas or stone. Plastic art acts on the intellect, music on the feelings; the one affects us by what it presents, the other by what it suggests. This, it seems to me, is essentially the difference between classic and romantic poetry"; and he names Homer and Milton as examples of the former, and Scott and Shelley of the latter school.

Here then we have a third criterion proposed for determining the essential differentia of romantic art. First it was mystery, then aspiration; now it is the appeal to the emotions by the method of suggestion. And yet there is, perhaps, no inconsistency on the critic's part in this continual shifting of his ground. He is apparently presenting different facets of the same truth; he means one thing by this mystery, aspiration, indefiniteness, incompleteness, emotion suggestiveness: that quality or effect which we all feel to be present in romantic and absent from classic work, but which we find it hard to describe by any single term. It is open to any analyst of our critical vocabulary to draw out the fullest meanings that he can, from such pairs of related words as classic and romantic, fancy and imagination, wit and humor, reason and understanding, passion and sentiment. Let us, for instance, develop briefly this proposition that the ideal of classic art is completeness[12] and the ideal of romantic art indefiniteness, or suggestiveness.

A.W. Schlegel[13] had already made use of two of the arts of design, to illustrate the distinction between classic and romantic, just as Dr. Hedge uses plastic art and music. I refer to Schlegel's famous saying that the genius of the antique drama was statuesque, and that of the romantic drama picturesque. A Greek temple, statue, or poem has no imperfection and offers no further promise, indicates nothing beyond what it expresses. It fills the sense, it leaves nothing to the imagination. It stands correct, symmetric, sharp in outline, in the clear light of day. There is nothing more to be done to it; there is no concealment about it. But in romantic art there is seldom this completeness. The workman lingers, he would fain add another touch, his ideal eludes him. Is a Gothic cathedral ever really finished? Is "Faust" finished? Is "Hamlet" explained? The modern spirit is mystical; its architecture, painting, poetry employ shadow to produce their highest effects: shadow and color rather than contour. On the Greek heroic stage there were a few figures, two or three at most, grouped like statuary and thrown out in bold relief at the apex of the scene: in Greek architecture a few clean, simple lines: in Greek poetry clear conceptions easily expressible in language and mostly describable in sensuous images.

The modern theater is crowded with figures and colors, and the distance recedes in the middle of the scene. This love of perspective is repeated in cathedral aisles,[14] the love of color in cathedral windows, and obscurity hovers in the shadows of the vault. In our poetry, in our religion these twilight thoughts prevail. We seek no completeness here. What is beyond, what is inexpressible attracts us. Hence the greater spirituality of romantic literature, its deeper emotion, its more passionate tenderness. But hence likewise its sentimentality, its melancholy and, in particular, the morbid fascination which the thought of death has had for the Gothic mind. The classic nations concentrated their attention on life and light, and spent few thoughts upon darkness and the tomb. Death was to them neither sacred nor beautiful. Their decent rites of sepulture or cremation seem designed to hide its deformities rather than to prolong its reminders. The presence of the corpse was pollution. No Greek could have conceived such a book as the "Hydriotaphia" or the "Anatomy of Melancholy."

It is observable that Dr. Hedge is at one with Pater, in desiring some more philosophical statement of the difference between classic and romantic than the common one which makes it simply the difference between the antique and the medieval. He says: "It must not be supposed that ancient and classic, on one side, and modern and romantic, on the other, are inseparably one; so that nothing approaching to romantic shall be found in any Greek or Roman author, nor any classic page in the literature of modern Europe. . . The literary line of demarcation is not identical with the chronological one." And just as Pater says that the Odyssey is more romantic than the Iliad, so Dr. Hedge says that "the story of Cupid and Psyche,[15] in the 'Golden Ass' of Apuleius, is as much a romance as any composition of the seventeenth or eighteenth century." Medievalism he regards as merely an accident of romance: Scott, as most romantic in his themes, but Byron, in his mood.

So, too, Mr. Sidney Colvin[16] denies that "a predilection for classic subjects . . . can make a writer that which we understand by the word classical as distinguished from that which we understand by the word romantic. The distinction lies deeper, and is a distinction much less of subject than of treatment. . . In classical writing every idea is called up to the mind as nakedly as possible, and at the same time as distinctly; it is exhibited in white light, and left to produce its effect by its own unaided power.[17] In romantic writing, on the other hand, all objects are exhibited, as it were, through a colored and iridescent atmosphere. Round about every central idea the romantic writer summons up a cloud of accessory and subordinate ideas for the sake of enhancing its effect, if at the risk of confusing its outlines. The temper, again, of the romantic writer is one of excitement, while the temper of the classical writer is one of self-possession. . . On the one hand there is calm, on the other hand enthusiasm. The virtues of the one style are strength of grasp, with clearness and justice of presentment; the virtues of the other style are glow of the spirit, with magic and richness of suggestion." Mr. Colvin then goes on to enforce and illustrate this contrast between the "accurate and firm definition of things" in classical writers and the "thrilling vagueness and uncertainty," the tremulous, coruscating, vibrating or colored light—the "halo"—with which the romantic writer invests his theme. "The romantic manner, . . . with its thrilling uncertainties and its rich suggestions, may be more attractive than the classic manner, with its composed and measured preciseness of statement. . . But on the other hand the romantic manner lends itself, as the true classical does not, to inferior work. Second-rate conceptions excitedly and approximately put into words derive from it an illusive attraction which may make them for a time, and with all but the coolest judges, pass as first-rate. Whereas about true classical writing there can be no illusion. It presents to us conceptions calmly realized in words that exactly define them, conceptions depending for their attraction, not on their halo, but on themselves."

As examples of these contrasting styles, Mr. Colvin puts side by side passages from "The Ancient Mariner" and Keats' "Ode to a Nightingale," with passages, treating similar themes, from Landor's "Gebir" and "Imaginary Conversations." The contrast might be even more clearly established by a study of such a piece as Keats' "Ode on a Grecian Urn," where the romantic form is applied to classical content; or by a comparison of Tennyson's "Ulysses" and "The Lotus Eaters," in which Homeric subjects are treated respectively in the classic and the romantic manner.

Alfred de Musset, himself in early life a prominent figure among the French romanticists, wrote some capital satire upon the baffling and contradictory definitions of the word romantisme that were current in the third and fourth decades of this century.[18] Two worthy provincials write from the little town of La Ferte-sous-Jouarre to the editor of the "Revue des Deux Mondes," appealing to him to tell them what romanticism means. For two years Dupuis and his friend Cotonet had supposed that the term applied only to the theater, and signified the disregard of the unities. "Shakspere, for example makes people travel from Rome to London, and from Athens to Alexandria in a quarter of an hour. His heroes live ten or twenty years between two acts. His heroines, angels of virtue during a whole scene, have only to pass into the coulisses, to reappear as wives, adulteresses, widows, and grandmothers. There, we said to ourselves, is the romantic. Contrariwise, Sophocles makes Oedipus sit on a rock, even at the cost of great personal inconvenience, from the very beginning of his tragedy. All the characters come there to find him, one after the other. Perhaps he stands up occasionally, though I doubt it; unless, it may be, out of respect for Theseus, who, during the entire play, obligingly walks on the high-way, coming in or going out continually. . . There, we said to ourselves, is the classic."

But about 1828, continues the letter, "we learned that there were romantic poetry and classical poetry, romantic novels and classical novels, romantic odes and classical odes; nay, a single line, my dear sir, a sole and solitary line of verse might be romantic or classic, according as the humor took it. When we received this intelligence, we could not close our eyes all night. Two years of peaceful conviction had vanished like a dream. All our ideas were turned topsy-turvy; for it the rules of Aristotle were no longer the line of demarcation which separated the literary camps, where was one to find himself, and what was he to depend upon? How was one to know, in reading a book, which school it belonged to? . . . Luckily in the same year there appeared a famous preface, which we devoured straightway[19]. . . This said very distinctly that romanticism was nothing else than the alliance of the playful and the serious, of the grotesque and the terrible, of the jocose and the horrible, or in other words, if you prefer, of comedy and tragedy."

This definition the anxious inquirers accepted for the space of a year, until it was borne in upon them that Aristophanes—not to speak of other ancients—had mixed tragedy and comedy in his drama. Once again the friends were plunged in darkness, and their perplexity was deepened when they were taking a walk one evening and overheard a remark made by the niece of the sous-prefet. This young lady had fallen in love with English ways, as was—somewhat strangely—evidenced by her wearing a green veil, orange-colored gloves, and silver-rimmed spectacles. As she passed the promenaders, she turned to look at a water-mill near the ford, where there were bags of grain, geese, and an ox in harness, and she exclaimed to her governess, "Voila un site romantique."

This mysterious sentence roused the flagging curiosity of MM. Dupuis and Contonet, and they renewed their investigations. A passage in a newspaper led them to believe for a time that romanticism was the imitation of the Germans, with, perhaps, the addition of the English and Spanish. Then they were tempted to fancy that it might be merely a matter of literary form, possibly this vers brise (run-over lines, enjambement) that they are making so much noise about. "From 1830 to 1831 we were persuaded that romanticism was the historic style (genre historique) or, if you please, this mania which has lately seized our authors for calling the characters of their novels and melodramas Charlemagne, Francis I., or Henry IV., instead of Amadis, Oronte, or saint-Albin. . . From 1831 to the year following we thought it was the genre intime, about which there was much talk. But with all the pains that we took we never could discover what the genre intime was. The 'intimate' novels are just like the others. They are in two volume octavo, with a great deal of margin. . . They have yellow covers and they cost fifteen francs." From 1832 to 1833 they conjectured that romanticism might be a system of philosophy and political economy. From 1833 to 1834 they believed that it consisted in not shaving one's self, and in wearing a waistcoat with wide facings very much starched.

At last they bethink themselves of a certain lawyer's clerk, who had first imported these literary disputes into the village, in 1824. To him, they expose their difficulties and ask for an answer to the question, What is romanticism? After a long conversation, they receive this final definition. "Romanticism, my dear sir! No, of a surety, it is neither the disregard of the unities, nor the alliance of the comic and tragic, nor anything in the world expressible by words. In vain you grasp the butterfly's wing; the dust which gives it its color is left upon your fingers. Romanticism is the star that weeps, it is the wind that wails, it is the night that shudders, the bird that flies and the flower that breathes perfume: it is the sudden gush, the ecstasy grown faint, the cistern beneath the palms, rosy hope with her thousand loves, the angel and the pearl, the white robe of the willows. It is the infinite and the starry," etc., etc.

Then M. Ducoudray, a magistrate of the department, gives his theory of romanticism, which he considers to be an effect of the religious and political reaction under the restored Bourbon monarchy of Louis XVIII, and Charles X. "The mania for ballads, arriving from Germany, met the legitimist poetry one fine day at Ladvocat's bookshop; and the two of them, pickax in hand, went at nightfall to a churchyard, to dig up the Middle Ages." The taste for medievalism, M. Ducoudray adds, has survived the revolution of 1830, and romanticism has even entered into the service of liberty and progress, where it is a manifest anachronism, "employing the style of Ronsard to celebrate railroads, and imitating Dante when it chants the praises of Washington and Lafayette." Dupuis was tempted to embrace M. Ducoudray's explanation, but Cotonet was not satisfied. He shut himself in, for four months, at the end of which he announced his discovery that the true and only difference between the classic and the romantic is that the latter uses a good many adjectives. He illustrates his principle by giving passages from "Paul and Virginia" and the "Portuguese Letters," written in the romantic style.

Thus Musset pricks a critical bubble with the point of his satire; and yet the bubble declines to vanish. There must really be some more substantial difference than this between classic and romantic, for the terms persist and are found useful. It may be true that the romantic temper, being subjective and excited, tends to an excess in adjectives; the adjective being that part of speech which attributes qualities, and is therefore most freely used by emotional persons. Still it would be possible to cut out all the adjectives, not strictly necessary, from one of Tieck's Maerchen without in the slightest degree disturbing its romantic character.

It remains to add that romanticism is a word which faces in two directions. It is now opposed to realism, as it was once opposed to classicism. As, in one way, its freedom and lawlessness, its love of novelty, experiment, "strangeness added to beauty," contrast with the classical respect for rules, models, formulae, precedents, conventions; so, in another way, its discontent with things as they are, its idealism, aspiration, mysticism contrast with the realist's conscientious adherence to fact. "Ivanhoe" is one kind of romance; "The Marble Faun" is another.[20]

[1] Les definitions ne se posent pas a priori, si ce n'est peutetre en mathematiques. En histoire, c'est de l'etude patiente de is la realite qu'elles se degagent insensiblement. Si M. Deschanel ne nous a pas donne du romantisme la definition que nous reclamions tout a l'heure, c'est, a vrai dire, que son enseignement a pour objet de preparer cette definition meme. Nous la trouverons ou elle doit etre, a la fin du cours et non pas a debut.—F. Brunetiere: "Classiques et Romantiques, Etudes Critiques," Tome III, p. 296.

[2] Was war aber dis romantische Schule in Deutschland? Sie war nichts anders als die Wiedererweckung der Poesie des Mittelalters, wie sie sich in dessen Liedern, Bild- und Bauwerken, in Kunst und Leben, manifestiert hatte.—Die romanticsche Schule (Cotta edition), p. 158.

[3] "The Romantic School" (Fleishman's translation), p. 13.

[4] Un classique est tout artiste a l'ecole de qui nous pouvons nous mettre sans craindre que ses lecons on ses exemples nous fourvoient. Ou encore, c'est celui qui possede . . . des qualites dont l'imitation, si elle ne peut pas faire de bien, ne peut pas non plus faire de mal.—F. Brunetiere, "Etudes Critiques," Tome III, p. 300.

[5] Mr. Perry thinks that one of the first instances of the use of the word romantic is by the diarist Evelyn in 1654: "There is also, on the side of this horrid alp, a very romantic seat."—English Literature in the Eighteenth Century, by Thomas Sergeant Perry, p. 148, note.

[6] "Romanticism," Macmillan's Magazine, Vol. XXXV.

[7] The Odyssey has been explained throughout in an allegorical sense. The episode of Circe, at least, lends itself obviously to such interpretation. Circe's cup has become a metaphor for sensual intoxication, transforming men into beasts; Milton, in "Comus," regards himself as Homer's continuator, enforcing a lesson of temperance in Puritan times hardly more consciously than the old Ionian Greek in times which have no other record than his poem.

[8] "Racine et Shakespeare, Etudes en Romantisme" (1823), p. 32, ed. of Michel Levy Freres, 1954. Such would also seem to be the view maintained by M. Emile Deschanel, whose book "Le Romantisme des Classiques" (Paris, 1883) is reviewed by M. Brunetiere in an article already several times quoted. "Tous les classiques," according to M. Deschanel—at least, so says his reviewer—"ont jadis commence par etre des romantiques." And again: "Un romantique seraut tout simplement un classique en route pour parvenir; et, reciproquement, un classique ne serait de plus qu'un romantique arrive."

[9] "Classic and Romantic," Vol. LVII.

[10] See Schiller's "Ueber naive and sentimentalische Dichtung."

[11] Le mot de romantisme, apres cinquante ans et plus de discussions passionnees, ne laisse pas d'etre encore aujourd'hui bien vague et bien flottant.—Brunetiere, ibid.

[12] Ce qui constitue proprement un classique, c'est l'equilibre en lui de toutes les facultes qui concourent a la perfection de l'oeuvre d'art.—Brunetiere, ibid.

[13] "Vorlesungen ueber dramatische Kunst und Litteratur."

[14] Far to the west the long, long vale withdrawn, Where twilight loves to linger for a while. —Beattie's "Minstrel."

[15] The modernness of this "latest born of the myths" resides partly in its spiritual, almost Christian conception of love, partly in its allegorical theme, the soul's attainment of immortality through love. The Catholic idea of penance is suggested, too, in Psyche's "wandering labors long." This apologue has been a favorite with platonizing poets, like Spenser and Milton. See "The Fairie Queene," book iii. canto vi. stanza 1., and "Comus," lines 1002-11

[16] "Selections from Walter Savage Landor," Preface, p. vii.

[17] See also Walter Bagehot's essay on "Pure, Ornate, and Grotesque Art," "Literary Studies, Works" (Hartford, 1889), Vol I. p. 200.

[18] Lettres de Dupuis et Cotonet (1836), "Oeuvres Completes" (Charpentier edition, 1881), Tome IX. p. 194.

[19] Preface to Victor Hugo's "Cromwell," dated October, 1827. The play was printed, but not acted, in 1828.

[20] In modern times romanticism, typifying a permanent tendency of the human mind, has been placed in opposition to what is called realism. . . [But] there is, as it appears to us, but one fundamental note which all romanticism . . . has in common, and that is a deep disgust with the world as it is and a desire to depict in literature something that is claimed to be nobler and better.—Essays on German Literature, by H. H. Boyesen, pp. 358 and 356.


The Augustans

The Romantic Movement in England was a part of the general European reaction against the spirit of the eighteenth century. This began somewhat earlier in England than in Germany, and very much earlier than in France, where literacy conservatism went strangely hand in hand with political radicalism. In England the reaction was at first gradual, timid, and unconscious. It did not reach importance until the seventh decade of the century, and culminated only in the early years of the nineteenth century. The medieval revival was only an incident—though a leading incident—of this movement; but it is the side of it with which the present work will mainly deal. Thus I shall have a great deal to say about Scott; very little about Byron, intensely romantic as he was in many meanings of the word. This will not preclude me from glancing occasionally at other elements besides medievalism which enter into the concept of the term "romantic."

Reverting then to our tentative definition—Heine's definition—of romanticism, as the reproduction in modern art and literature of the life of the Middle Ages, it should be explained that the expression, "Middle Ages," is to be taken here in a liberal sense. Contributions to romantic literature such as Macpherson's "Ossian," Collins' "Ode on the Superstitions of the Scottish Highlands," and Gray's translations form the Welsh and the Norse, relate to periods which antedate that era of Christian chivalry and feudalism, extending roughly from the eleventh century to the fifteenth, to which the term, "Middle Ages," more strictly applies. The same thing is true of the ground-work, at least, of ancient hero-epics like "Beowulf" and the "Nibelungen Lied," of the Icelandic "Sagas," and of similar products of old heathen Europe which have come down in the shape of mythologies, popular superstitions, usages, rites, songs, and traditions. These began to fall under the notice of scholars about the middle of the last century and made a deep impression upon contemporary letters.

Again, the influence of the Middle Age proper prolonged itself beyond the exact close of the medieval period, which it is customary to date from the fall of Constantinople in 1453. The great romantic poets of Italy, Boiardo, Ariosto, Tasso, wrote in the full flush of the pagan revival and made free use of the Greek and Roman mythologies and the fables of Homer, Vergil, and Ovid; and yet their work is hardly to be described as classical. Nor is the work of their English disciples, Spenser and Sidney; while the entire Spanish and English drama of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries (down to 1640, and with an occasional exception, like Ben Jonson) is romantic. Calderon is romantic; Shakspere and Fletcher are romantic. If we agree to regard medieval literature, then, as comprising all the early literature of Europe which drew its inspiration from other than Greek-Latin sources, we shall do no great violence to the usual critical employment of the word. I say early literature, in order to exclude such writings as are wholly modern, like "Robinson Crusoe," or "Gulliver's Travels," or Fielding's novels, which are neither classic nor romantic, but are the original creation of our own time. With works like these, though they are perhaps the most characteristic output of the eighteenth century, our inquiries are not concerned.

It hardly needs to be said that the reproduction, or imitation, of mediaeval life by the eighteenth- and nineteenth-century romanticists, contains a large admixture of modern thought and feeling. The brilliant pictures of feudal society in the romances of Scott and Fouque give no faithful image of that society, even when they are carefully correct in all ascertainable historical details.[1] They give rather the impression left upon an alien mind by the quaint, picturesque features of a way of life which seemed neither quaint nor picturesque to the men who lived it, but only to the man who turns to it for relief form the prosaic, or at least familiar, conditions of the modern world. The offspring of the modern imagination, acting upon medieval material, may be a perfectly legitimate, though not an original, form of art. It may even have a novel charm of its own, unlike either parent, but like Euphorion, child of Faust by Helen of Troy, a blend of Hellas and the Middle Age. Scott's verse tales are better poetry than the English metrical romances of the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. Tennyson has given a more perfect shape to the Arthurian legends than Sir Thomas Malory, their compiler, or Walter Map and Chrestien de Troyes, their possible inventors. But, of course, to study the Middle Ages, as it really was, one must go not to Tennyson and Scott, but to the "Chanson de Roland," and the "Divine Comedy," and the "Romaunt of the Rose," and the chronicles of Villehardouin, Joinville, and Froissart.

And the farther such study is carried, the more evident it becomes that "mediaeval" and "romantic" are not synonymous. The Middle Ages was not, at all points, romantic: it is the modern romanticist who makes, or finds, it so. He sees its strange, vivid peculiarities under the glamour of distance. Chaucer's temper, for instance, was by no means romantic. This "good sense" which Dryden mentions as his prominent trait; that "low tone" which Lowell praises in him, and which keeps him close to the common ground of experience, pervade his greatest work, the "Canterbury Tales," with an insistent realism. It is true that Chaucer shared the beliefs and influences of his time and was a follower of its literary fashions. In his version of the "Romaunt of the Rose," his imitations of Machault, and his early work in general he used the mediaeval machinery of allegory and dreams. In "Troilus and Cresseide" and the tale of "Palamon and Arcite," he carries romantic love and knightly honor to a higher pitch than his model, Boccaccio. But the shrewdly practical Pandarus of the former poem—a character almost wholly of Chaucer's creation—is the very embodiment of the anti-romantic attitude, and a remarkable anticipation of Sancho Panza; while the "Rime of Sir Thopas" is a distinct burlesque of the fantastic chivalry romances.[2] Chaucer's pages are picturesque with tournament, hunting parties, baronial feasts, miracles of saints, feats of magic; but they are solid, as well, with the everyday life of fourteenth-century England. They have the naivete and garrulity which are marks of mediaeval work, but not the quaintness and grotesquerie which are held to be marks of romantic work. Not archaic speech, but a certain mental twist constitutes quaintness. Herbert and Fuller are quaint; Blake is grotesque; Donne and Charles Lamb are willfully quaint, subtle, and paradoxical. But Chaucer is always straight-grained, broad, and natural.

Even Dante, the poet of the Catholic Middle Ages; Dante, the mystic, the idealist, with his intense spirituality and his passion for symbolism, has been sometimes called classic, by virtue of the powerful construction of his great poem, and his scholastic rigidity of method.

The relation between modern romanticizing literature and the real literature of the Middle Ages, is something like that between the literature of the renaissance and the ancient literatures of Greece and Rome. But there is this difference, that, while the renaissance writers fell short of their pattern, the modern schools of romance have outgone their masters—not perhaps in the intellectual—but certainly in the artistic value of their product. Mediaeval literature, wonderful and stimulating as a whole and beautiful here and there in details of execution, affords few models of technical perfection. The civilization which it reflected, though higher in its possibilities than the classic civilization, had not yet arrived at an equal grade of development, was inferior in intelligence and the natured results of long culture. The epithets of Gothic ignorance, rudeness, and barbarism, which the eighteenth-century critics applied so freely to all the issue of the so-called dark ages, were not entirely without justification. Dante is almost the only strictly mediaeval poet in whose work the form seems adequate to the content; for Boccaccio and Petrarca stand already on the sill of the renaissance.

In the arts of design the case was partly reversed. If the artists of the renaissance did not equal the Greeks in sculpture and architecture, they probably excelled them in painting. On the other hand, the restorers of Gothic have never quite learned the secret of the mediaeval builders. However, if the analogy is not pushed too far, the romantic revival may be regarded as a faint counterpart, the fragments of a half-forgotten civilization were pieced together; Greek manuscripts sought out, cleaned, edited, and printed: statues, coins, vases dug up and ranged in museums: debris cleared away from temples, amphitheaters, basilicas; till gradually the complete image of the antique world grew forth in august beauty, kindling an excitement of mind to which there are few parallels in history; so, in the eighteenth century, the despised ages of monkery, feudalism, and superstition began to reassert their claims upon the imagination. Ruined castles and abbeys, coats of mail, illuminated missals, manuscript romances, black-letter ballads, old tapestries, and wood carvings acquired a new value. Antiquaries and virtuosos first, and then poets and romancers, reconstructed in turn an image of medieval society.

True, the later movement was much the weaker of the two. No such fissure yawned between modern times and the Middle Ages as had been opened between the ancient world and the Middle Ages by the ruin of the Roman state and by the barbarian migrations. Nor had ten centuries of rubbish accumulated over the remains of mediaeval culture. In 1700 the Middle Ages were not yet so very remote. The nations and languages of Europe continued in nearly the same limits which had bounded them two centuries before. The progress in the sciences and mechanic arts, the discovery and colonizing of America, the invention of printing and gunpowder, and the Protestant reformation had indeed drawn deep lines between modern and mediaeval life. Christianity, however, formed a connecting link, though, in Protestant countries, the continuity between the earlier and later forms of the religion had been interrupted. One has but to compare the list of the pilgrims whom Chaucer met at the Tabard, with the company that Captain Sentry or Peregrine Pickle would be likely to encounter at a suburban inn, to see how the face of English society had changed between 1400 and 1700. What has become of the knight, the prioress, the sumner, the monk, pardoner, squire, alchemist, friar; and where can they or their equivalents be found in all England?

The limitations of my subject will oblige me to treat the English romantic movement as a chapter in literary history, even at the risk of seeming to adopt a narrow method. Yet it would be unphilosophical to consider it as a merely aesthetic affair, and to lose sight altogether of its deeper springs in the religious and ethical currents of the time. For it was, in part, a return of warmth and color into English letters; and that was only a symptom of the return of warmth and color—that is, of emotion and imagination—into English life and thought: into the Church, into politics, into philosophy. Romanticism, which sought to evoke from the past a beauty that it found wanting in the present, was but one phase of that revolt against the coldness and spiritual deadness of the first half of the eighteenth century which had other sides in the idealism of Berkeley, in the Methodist and Evangelical revival led by Wesley and Whitefield, and in the sentimentalism which manifested itself in the writings of Richardson and Sterne. Corresponding to these on the Continent were German pietism, the transcendental philosophy of Kant and his continuators, and the emotional excesses of works like Rousseau's "Nouvelle Heloise" and Goethe's "Sorrows of Werther."

Romanticism was something more, then, than a new literary mode; a taste cultivated by dilettante virtuosos, like Horace Walpole, college recluses like Gray, and antiquarian scholars like Joseph and Thomas Warton. It was the effort of the poetic imagination to create for itself a richer environment; but it was also, in its deeper significance, a reaching out of the human spirit after a more ideal type of religion and ethics than it could find in the official churchmanship and the formal morality of the time. Mr. Leslie Stephen[3] points out the connection between the three currents of tendency known as sentimentalism, romanticism, and naturalism. He explains, to be sure, that the first English sentimentalists, such as Richardson and Sterne, were anything but romantic. "A more modern sentimentalist would probably express his feelings[4] by describing some past state of society. He would paint some ideal society in mediaeval times and revive the holy monk and the humble nun for our edification." He attributes the subsequent interest in the Middle Ages to the progress made in historical inquiries during the last half of the eighteenth century, and to the consequent growth of antiquarianism. "Men like Malone and Stevens were beginning those painful researches which have accumulated a whole literature upon the scanty records of our early dramatists. Gray, the most learned of poets, had vaguely designed a history of English poetry, and the design was executed with great industry by Thomas Warton. His brother Joseph ventured to uphold the then paradoxical thesis that Spenser was as great a man as Pope. Everywhere a new interest was awakening in the minuter details of the past." At first, Mr. Stephen says, the result of these inquiries was "an unreasonable contempt for the past. The modern philosopher, who could spin all knowledge out of his own brain; the skeptic, who had exploded the ancient dogma; or the free-thinker of any shade, who rejoiced in the destruction of ecclesiastical tyranny, gloried in his conscious superiority to his forefathers. Whatever was old was absurd; and Gothic—an epithet applied to all medieval art, philosophy, or social order—became a simple term of contempt." But an antiquarian is naturally a conservative, and men soon began to love the times whose peculiarities they were so diligently studying. Men of imaginative minds promptly made the discovery that a new source of pleasure might be derived from these dry records. . . The 'return to nature' expresses a sentiment which underlies . . . both the sentimental and romantic movements. . . To return to nature is, in one sense, to find a new expression for emotions which have been repressed by existing conventions; or, in another, to return to some simpler social order which had not yet suffered from those conventions. The artificiality attributed to the eighteenth century seems to mean that men were content to regulate their thoughts and lives by rules not traceable to first principles, but dependent upon a set of special and exceptional conditions. . . To get out of the ruts, or cast off the obsolete shackles, two methods might be adopted. The intellectual horizon might be widened by including a greater number of ages and countries; or men might try to fall back upon the thoughts and emotions common to all races, and so cast off the superficial incrustation. The first method, that of the romanticists, aims at increasing our knowledge: the second, that of the naturalistic school, at basing our philosophy on deeper principles.[5]

The classic, or pseudo-classic, period of English literature lasted from the middle of the seventeenth till the end of the eighteenth century. Inasmuch as the romantic revival was a protest against this reigning mode, it becomes necessary to inquire a little more closely what we mean when we say that the time of Queen Anne and the first two Georges was our Augustan or classical age. In what sense was it classical? And was it any more classical than the time of Milton, for example, or the time of Landor? If the "Dunciad," and the "Essay on Man," are classical, what is Keats' "Hyperion"? And with what propriety can we bring under a common rubric things so far asunder as Prior's "Carmen Seculare" and Tennyson's "Ulysses," or as Gay's "Trivia" and Swinburne's "Atalanta in Calydon"? Evidently the Queen Anne writers took hold of the antique by a different side from our nineteenth-century poets. Their classicism was of a special type. It was, as has been often pointed out, more Latin than Greek, and more French than Latin.[6] It was, as has likewise been said, "a classicism in red heels and a periwig." Victor Hugo speaks of "cette poesie fardee, mouchetee, poudree, du dix-huitieme siecle, cette literature a paniers, a pompons et a falbalas."[7] The costumes of Watteau contrast with the simple folds of Greek drapery very much as the "Rape of the Lock," contrasts with the Iliad, or one of Pope's pastorals with an idyl of Theocritus. The times were artificial in poetry as in dress—

"Tea-cup times of hood and hoop, And when the patch was worn."

Gentlemen wore powdered wigs instead of their own hair, and the power and the wig both got into their writing. Perruque was the nickname applied to the classicists by the French romanticists of Hugo's generation, who wore their hair long and flowing—cheveaux merovigiennes—and affected an outre freedom in the cut and color of their clothes. Similarly the Byronic collar became, all over Europe, the symbol of daring independence in matters of taste and opinion. Its careless roll, which left the throat exposed, seemed to assist the liberty of nature against cramping conventions.

The leading Queen Anne writers are so well known that a somewhat general description of the literary situation in England at the time of Pope's death (1744) will serve as an answer to the question, how was the eighteenth century classical. It was remarked by Thomas Warton[8] that, at the first revival of letters in the sixteenth century, our authors were more struck by the marvelous fables and inventions of ancient poets than by the justness of their conceptions and the purity of their style. In other words, the men of the renaissance apprehended the ancient literature as poets: the men of the Eclaircissement apprehended them as critics. In Elizabeth's day the new learning stimulated English genius to creative activity. In royal progresses, court masques, Lord Mayors' shows, and public pageants of all kinds, mythology ran mad. "Every procession was a pantheon." But the poets were not careful to keep the two worlds of pagan antiquity and mediaeval Christianity distinct. The art of the renaissance was the flower of a double root, and the artists used their complex stuff naively. The "Faerie Queene" is the typical work of the English renaissance; there hamadryads, satyrs, and river gods mingle unblushingly with knights, dragons, sorcerers, hermits, and personified vices and virtues. The "machinery" of Homer and Vergil—the "machinery" of the "Seven Champions of Christendom" and the "Roman de la Rose"! This was not shocking to Spenser's contemporaries, but it seemed quite shocking to classical critics a century later. Even Milton, the greatest scholar among English poets, but whose imagination was a strong agent, holding strange elements in solution, incurred their censure for bringing Saint Peter and the sea-nymphs into dangerous juxtaposition in "Lycidas."

But by the middle of the seventeenth century the renaissance schools of poetry had become effete in all European countries. They had run into extravagances of style, into a vicious manner known in Spain as Gongorism, in Italy as Marinism, and in England best exhibited in the verse of Donne and Cowley and the rest of the group whom Dr. Johnson called the metaphysical poets, and whose Gothicism of taste Addison ridiculed in his Spectator papers on true and false wit. It was France that led the reform against this fashion. Malherbe and Boileau insisted upon the need of discarding tawdry ornaments of style and cultivating simplicity, clearness, propriety, decorum, moderation; above all, good sense. The new Academy, founded to guard the purity of the French language, lent its weight to the precepts of the critics, who applied the rules of Aristotle, as commented by Longinus and Horace, to modern conditions. The appearance of a number of admirable writers—Corneille, Moliere, Racine, Bossuet, La Fontaine, La Bruyere—simultaneously with this critical movement, gave an authority to the new French literature which enabled it to impose its principles upon England and Germany for over a century. For the creative literature of France conformed its practice, in the main, to the theory of French criticism; though not, in the case of Regnier, without open defiance. This authority was re-enforced by the political glories and social eclat of the siecle de Louis Quatorze

It happened that at this time the Stuart court was in exile, and in the train of Henrietta Maria at Paris, or scattered elsewhere through France, were many royalist men of letters, Etherege, Waller, Cowley, and others, who brought back with them to England in 1660 an acquaintance with this new French literature and a belief in its aesthetic code. That French influence would have spread into England without the aid of these political accidents is doubtless true, as it is also true that a reform of English versification and poetic style would have worked itself out upon native lines independent of foreign example, and even had there been so such thing as French literature. Mr. Gosse has pointed out couplets of Waller, written as early as 1623, which have the formal precision of Pope's; and the famous passage about the Thames in Denham's "Cooper's Hill" (1642) anticipates the best performance of Augustan verse:

"O could I flow like thee, and make thy stream My great example, as it is my theme! Though deep, yet clear, though gentle, yet not dull, Strong without rage, without o'erflowing full."

However, as to the general fact of the powerful impact of French upon English literary fashions, in the latter half of the seventeenth century, there can be no dispute.[9]

This change of style was symptomatic of a corresponding change in the national temper. It was the mission of the eighteenth century to assert the universality of law and, at the same time, the sufficiency of the reason to discover the laws, which govern in every province: a service which we now, perhaps, undervalue in our impatience with the formalism which was its outward sign. Hence its dislike of irregularity in art and irrationality in religion. England, in particular, was tired of unchartered freedom, of spiritual as well as of literary anarchy. The religious tension of the Commonwealth period had relaxed—men cannot be always at the heroic pitch—and theological disputes had issued in indifference and a skepticism which took the form of deism, or "natural religion." But the deists were felt to be a nuisance. They were unsettling opinions and disturbing that decent conformity with generally received beliefs which it is the part of a good citizen to maintain. Addison instructs his readers that, in the absence of certainty, it is the part of a prudent man to choose the safe side and make friends with God. The freethinking Chesterfield[10] tells his son that the profession of atheism is ill-bred. De Foe, Swift, Richardson, Fielding, Johnson all attack infidelity. "Conform! Conform!" said in effect the most authoritative writers of the century. "Be sensible: go to church: pay your rates: don't be a vulgar deist—a fellow like Toland who is poor and has no social position. But, on the other hand, you need not be a fanatic or superstitious, or an enthusiast. Above all, pas de zele!"

"Theology," says Leslie Stephen, "was, for the most part, almost as deistical as the deists. A hatred for enthusiasm was as strongly impressed upon the whole character of contemporary thought as a hatred of skepticism. . . A good common-sense religion should be taken for granted and no questions asked. . . With Shakspere, or Sir Thomas Browne, or Jeremy Taylor, or Milton, man is contemplated in his relations to the universe; he is in presence of eternity and infinity; life is a brief drama; heaven and hell are behind the veil of phenomena; at every step our friends vanish into the abyss of ever present mystery. To all such thoughts the writers of the eighteenth century seemed to close their eyes as resolutely as possible. . . The absence of any deeper speculative ground makes the immediate practical questions of life all the more interesting. We know not what we are, nor whither we are going, nor whence we come; but we can, by the help of common sense, discover a sufficient share of moral maxims for our guidance in life. . . Knowledge of human nature, as it actually presented itself in the shifting scene before them, and a vivid appreciation of the importance of the moral law, are the staple of the best literature of the time."[11]

The God of the deists was, in truth, hardly more impersonal than the abstraction worshiped by the orthodox—the "Great Being" of Addison's essays, the "Great First Cause" of Pope's "Universal Prayer," invoked indifferently as "Jehovah, Jove, or Lord." Dryden and Pope were professed Catholics, but there is nothing to distinguish their so-called sacred poetry from that of their Protestant contemporaries. Contrast the mere polemics of "The Hind and the Panther" with really Catholic poems like Southwell's "Burning Babe" and Crashaw's "Flaming Heart," or even with Newman's "Dream of Gerontius." In his "Essay on Man," Pope versified, without well understanding, the optimistic deism of Leibnitz, as expounded by Shaftesbury and Bolingbroke. The Anglican Church itself was in a strange condition, when Jonathan Swift, a dean and would-be bishop, came to its defense with his "Tale of a Tub" and his ironical "Argument against the Abolition of Christianity." Among the Queen Anne wits Addison was the man of most genuine religious feeling. He is always reverent, and "the feeling infinite" stirs faintly in one or two of his hymns. But, in general, his religion is of the rationalizing type, a religion of common sense, a belief resting upon logical deductions, a system of ethics in which the supernatural is reduced to the lowest terms, and from which the glooms and fervors of a deep spiritual experience are almost entirely absent. This "parson in a tie-wig" is constantly preaching against zeal, enthusiasm, superstition, mysticism, and recommending a moderate, cheerful, and reason religion.[12] It is instructive to contrast his amused contempt for popular beliefs in ghosts, witches, dreams, prognostications, and the like, with the reawakened interest in folk lore evidenced by such a book as Scott's "Demonology and Witchcraft."

Queen Anne literature was classical, then, in its lack of those elements of mystery and aspiration which we have found described as of the essence of romanticism. It was emphatically a literature of this world. It ignored all vague emotion, the phenomena of subconsciousness, "the electric chain wherewith we are darkly bound," the shadow that rounds man's little life, and fixed its attention only upon what it could thoroughly comprehend.[13] Thereby it escaped obscurity. The writings of the Augustans in both verse and prose are distinguished by a perfect clearness, but it is a clearness without subtlety or depth. They never try to express a thought, or to utter a feeling, that is not easily intelligible. The mysticism of Wordsworth, the incoherence of Shelley, the darkness of Browning—to take only modern instances—proceed, however, not from inferior art, but from the greater difficulty of finding expression for a very different order of ideas.

Again the literature of the Restoration and Queen Anne periods—which may be regarded as one, for present purposes—was classical, or at least unromantic, in its self-restraint, its objectivity, and its lack of curiosity; or, as a hostile criticism would put it, in its coldness of feeling, the tameness of its imagination, and its narrow and imperfect sense of beauty. It was a literature not simply of this world, but of the world, of the beau monde, high life, fashion, society, the court and the town, the salons, clubs, coffee-houses, assemblies, ombre-parties. It was social, urban, gregarious, intensely though not broadly human. It cared little for the country or outward nature, and nothing for the life of remote times and places. Its interest was centered upon civilization and upon that peculiarly artificial type of civilization which it found prevailing. It was as indifferent to Venice, Switzerland, the Alhambra, the Nile, the American forests, and the islands of the South Sea as it was to the Middle Ages and the manners of Scotch Highlanders. The sensitiveness to the picturesque, the liking for local color and for whatever is striking, characteristic, and peculiarly national in foreign ways is a romantic note. The eighteenth century disliked "strangeness added to beauty"; it disapproved of anything original, exotic, tropical, bizarre for the same reason that it disapproved of mountains and Gothic architecture.

Professor Gates says that the work of English literature during the first quarter of the present century was "the rediscovery and vindication of the concrete. The special task of the eighteenth century had been to order, and to systematize, and to name; its favorite methods had been analysis and generalization. It asked for no new experience. . . The abstract, the typical, the general—these were everywhere exalted at the expense of the image, the specific experience, the vital fact."[14] Classical tragedy, e.g., undertook to present only the universal, abstract, permanent truths of human character and passion.[15] The impression of the mysterious East upon modern travelers and poets like Byron, Southey, De Quincey, Moore, Hugo,[16] Ruckert, and Gerard de Nerval, has no counterpart in the eighteenth century. The Oriental allegory or moral apologue, as practiced by Addison in such papers as "The Vision of Mirza," and by Johnson in "Rasselas," is rather faintly colored and gets what color it has from the Old Testament. It is significant that the romantic Collins endeavored to give a novel turn to the decayed pastoral by writing a number of "Oriental Eclogues," in which dervishes and camel-drivers took the place of shepherds, but the experiment was not a lucky one. Milton had more of the East in his imagination than any of his successors. His "vulture on Imaus bred, whose snowy ridge the roving Tartar bounds"; his "plain of Sericana where Chinese drive their cany wagons light"; his "utmost Indian isle Taprobane," are touches of the picturesque which anticipate a more modern mood than Addison's.

"The difference," says Matthew Arnold, "between genuine poetry and the poetry of Dryden, Pope, and all their school is briefly this: their poetry is conceived and composed in their wits, genuine poetry is conceived and composed in the soul." The representative minds of the eighteenth century were such as Voltaire, the master of persiflage, destroying superstition with his souriere hideux; Gibbon, "the lord of irony," "sapping a solemn creed with solemn sneer"; and Hume, with his thorough-going philosophic skepticism, his dry Toryism, and cool contempt for "zeal" of any kind. The characteristic products of the era were satire, burlesque, and travesty: "Hudibras," "Absalom and Achitophel," "The Way of the World," "Gulliver's Travels" and "The Rape of the Lock." There is a whole literature of mockery: parodies like Prior's "Ballad on the Taking of Namur" and "The Country Mouse and the City Mouse"; Buckingham's "Rehearsal" and Swift's "Meditation on a Broomstick"; mock-heroics, like the "Dunciad" and "MacFlecknoe" and Garth's "Dispensary," and John Phillips' "Splendid Shilling" and Addison's "Machinae Gesticulantes"; Prior's "Alma," a burlesque of philosophy; Gay's "Trivia" and "The Shepherd's Week," and "The Beggars' Opera"-a "Newgate pastoral"; "Town Eclogues" by Swift and Lady Montague and others. Literature was a polished mirror in which the gay world saw its own grinning face. It threw back a most brilliant picture of the surface of society, showed manners but not the elementary passions of human nature. As a whole, it leaves an impression of hardness, shallowness, and levity. The polite cynicism of Congreve, the ferocious cynicism of Swift, the malice of Pope, the pleasantry of Addison, the early worldliness of Prior and Gay are seldom relieved by any touch of the ideal. The prose of the time was excellent, but the poetry was merely rhymed prose. The recent Queen Anne revival in architecture, dress, and bric-a-brac, the recrudescence of society verse in Dobson and others, is perhaps symptomatic of the fact that the present generation has entered upon a prosaic reaction against romantic excesses and we are finding our picturesque in that era of artifice which seemed so picturesque to our forerunners. The sedan chair, the blue china, the fan, farthingale, and powdered head dress have now got the "rime of age" and are seen in fascinating perspective, even as the mailed courser, the buff jerkin, the cowl, and the cloth-yard shaft were seen by the men of Scott's generation.

Once more, the eighteenth century was classical in its respect for authority. It desired to put itself under discipline, to follow the rules, to discover a formula of correctness in all the arts, to set up a tribunal of taste and establish canons of composition, to maintain standards, copy models and patterns, comply with conventions, and chastise lawlessness. In a word, its spirit was academic. Horace was its favorite master—not Horace of the Odes, but Horace of the Satires and Epistles, and especially Horace as interpreted by Boileau.[17] The "Ars Poetica" had been englished by the Earl of Roscommon, and imitated by Boileau in his "L'Art Poetique," which became the parent of a numerous progeny in England; among others as "Essay on Satire" and an "Essay on Poetry," by the Earl of Mulgrave;[18] an "Essay on Translated Verse" by the Earl of Roscommon, who, says Addison, "makes even rules a noble poetry";[19] and Pope's well-known "Essay on Criticism."

The doctrine of Pope's essay is, in brief, follow Nature, and in order that you may follow nature, observe the rules, which are only "Nature methodized," and also imitate the ancients.

"Learn hence for ancient rules a just esteem; To copy nature is to copy them."

Thus Vergil when he started to compose the Aeneid may have seemed above the critic's law, but when he came to study Homer, he found that Nature and Homer were the same. Accordingly,

"he checks the bold design, And rules as strict his labor'd work confine."

Not to stimulate, but to check, to confine, to regulate, is the unfailing precept of this whole critical school. Literature, in the state in which they found it, appeared to them to need the curb more than the spur.

Addison's scholarship was almost exclusively Latin, though it was Vergilian rather than Horatian. Macaulay[20] says of Addison's "Remarks on Italy"; "To the best of our remembrance, Addison does not mention Dante, Petrarch, Boccaccio, Bolardo, Berni, Lorenzo de' Medici, or Machiavelli. He coldly tells us that at Ferrara he saw the tomb of Ariosto, and that at Venice he heard the gondoliers sing verses of Tasso. But for Tasso and Ariosto he cared far less than for Valerius Flaccus and Sidonius Apollinaris. The gentle flow of the Ticino brings a line of Silius to his mind. The sulphurous stream of Albula suggests to him several passages of Martial. But he has not a word to say of the illustrious dead of Santa Croce; he crosses the wood of Ravenna[21] without recollecting the specter huntsman, and wanders up and down Rimini without one thought of Francesca. At Paris he had eagerly sought an introduction to Boileau; but he seems not to have been at all aware that at Florence he was in the vicinity of a poet with whom Boileau could not sustain a comparison: of the greatest lyric poet of modern times [!] Vincenzio Filicaja. . . The truth is that Addison knew little and cared less about the literature of modern Italy. His favorite models were Latin. His favorite critics were French. Half the Tuscan poetry that he had read seemed to him monstrous and the other half tawdry."[22]

There was no academy in England, but there was a critical tradition that was almost as influential. French critical gave the law: Boileau, Dacier, LeBossu, Rapin, Bouhours; English critics promulgated it: Dennis, Langbaine, Rymer, Gildon, and others now little read. Three writers of high authority in three successive generations—Dryden, Addison, and Johnson—consolidated a body of literary opinion which may be described, in the main, as classical, and as consenting, though with minor variations. Thus it was agreed on all hands that it was a writer's duty to be "correct." It was well indeed to be "bold," but bold with discretion. Dryden thought Shakspere a great poet than Jonson, but an inferior artist. He was to be admired, but not approved. Homer, again, it was generally conceded, was not so correct as Vergil, though he had more "fire." Chesterfield preferred Vergil to Homer, and both of them to Tasso. But of all epics the one he read with most pleasure was the "Henriade." As for "Paradise Lost," he could not read it through. William Walsh, "the muses' judge and friend," advised the youthful Pope that "there was one way still left open for him, by which he might excel any of his predecessors, which was by correctness; that though indeed we had several great poets, we as yet could boast of none that were perfectly correct; and that therefore he advised him to make this quality his particular study." "The best of the moderns in all language," he wrote to Pope, "are those that have the nearest copied the ancients." Pope was thankful for the counsel and mentions its giver in the "Essay on Criticism" as one who had

"taught his muse to sing, Prescribed her heights and pruned her tender wing."

But what was correct? In the drama, e.g., the observance of the unities was almost universally recommended, but by no means universally practiced. Johnson, himself a sturdy disciple of Dryden and Pope, exposed the fallacy of that stage illusion, on the supposed necessity of which the unities of time and place were defended. Yet Johnson, in his own tragedy "Irene," conformed to the rules of Aristotle. He pronounced "Cato" "unquestionably the noblest production of Addison's genius," but acknowledge that its success had "introduced, or confirmed among us, the use of dialogue too declamatory, of unaffecting elegance and chill philosophy." On the other hand Addison had small regard for poetic justice, which Johnson thought ought to be observed. Addison praised old English ballads, which Johnson thought mean and foolish; and he guardedly commends[23] "the fairy way of writing," a romantic foppery that Johnson despised.[24]

Critical opinion was pronounced in favor of separating tragedy and comedy, and Addison wrote one sentence which condemns half the plays of Shakspere and Fletcher: "The tragi-comedy, which is the product of the English theater, is one the most monstrous inventions that ever entered into a poet's thought."[25] Dryden made some experiments in tragi-comedy, but, in general, classical comedy was pure comedy—the prose comedy of manners—and classical tragedy admitted no comic intermixture. Whether tragedy should be in rhyme, after the French manner, or in blank verse, after the precedent of the old English stage, was a moot point. Dryden at first argued for rhyme and used it in his "heroic plays"; and it is significant that he defended its use on the ground that it would act as a check upon the poet's fancy. But afterward he grew "weary of his much-loved mistress, rhyme," and went back to blank verse in his later plays.

As to poetry other than dramatic, the Restoration critics were at one in judging blank verse too "low" for a poem of heroic dimensions; and though Addison gave it the preference in epic poetry, Johnson was its persistent foe, and regarded it as little short of immoral. But for that matter, Gray could endure no blank verse outside of Milton. This is curious, that rhyme, a mediaeval invention, should have been associated in the last century with the classical school of poetry; while blank verse, the nearest English equivalent of the language of Attic tragedy, was a shibboleth of romanticizing poets, like Thomson and Akenside. The reason was twofold: rhyme came stamped with the authority of the French tragic alexandrine; and, secondly, it meant constraint where blank verse meant freedom, "ancient liberty, recovered to heroic poem from the troublesome and modern bondage of rhyming."[26] Pope, among his many thousand rhymed couplets, has left no blank verse except the few lines contributed to Thomson's "Seasons." Even the heroic couplet as written by earlier poets was felt to have been too loose in structure. "The excellence and dignity of it," says Dryden, "were never fully known till Mr. Waller taught it; he first made writing easily an art; first showed us how to conclude the sense most commonly in distichs, which, in the verse of those before him, runs on for so many lines together, that the reader is out of breath to overtake it."[27] All through the classical period the tradition is constant that Waller was the first modern English poet, the first correct versifier. Pope is praised by Johnson because he employed but sparingly the triplets and alexandrines by which Dryden sought to vary the monotony of the couplet; and he is censured by Cowper because, by force of his example, he "made poetry a mere mechanic art." Henceforth the distich was treated as a unit: the first line was balanced against the second, and frequently the first half of the line against the second half.

"To err is human, to forgive divine." "And so obliging, that he ne'er obliged." "Charms strike the eye, but merit wins the soul," etc., etc.

This type of verse, which Pope brought to perfection, and to which he gave all the energy and variety of which it was capable, so prevailed in our poetry for a century or more that one almost loses sight of the fact that any other form was employed. The sonnet, for instance, disappeared entirely, until revived by Gray, Stillingfleet, Edwards, and Thomas Warton, about the middle of the eighteenth century.[28] When the poets wished to be daring and irregular, they were apt to give vent in that species of pseudo-Pindaric ode which Cowley had introduced—a literary disease which, Dr. Johnson complained, infected the British muse with the notion that "he who could do nothing else could write like Pindar."

Sir Charles Eastlake in his "History of the Gothic Revival" testifies to this formal spirit from the point of view of another art than literature. "The age in which Batty Langley lived was an age in which it was customary to refer all matters of taste to rule and method. There was one standard of excellence in poetry—a standard that had its origin in the smooth distichs of heroic verse which Pope was the first to perfect, and which hundreds of later rhymers who lacked his nobler powers soon learned to imitate. In pictorial art, it was the grand school which exercised despotic sway over the efforts of genius and limited the painter's inventions to the field of Pagan mythology. In architecture, Vitruvius was the great authority. The graceful majesty of the Parthenon—the noble proportions of the temple of Theseus—the chaste enrichment which adorns the Choragic monument of Lysicrates, were ascribed less to the fertile imagination and refined perceptions of the ancient Greek, than to the dry and formal precepts which were invented centuries after their erection. Little was said of the magnificent sculpture which filled the metopes of the temple of the Minerva; but the exact height and breadth of the triglyphs between them were considered of the greatest importance. The exquisite drapery of caryatids and canephorae, no English artist, a hundred years ago, thought fit to imitate; but the cornices which they supposed were measured inch by inch with the utmost nicety. Ingenious devices were invented for enabling the artificer to reproduce, by a series of complicated curves, the profile of a Doric capital, which probably owed its form to the steady hand and uncontrolled taste of the designer. To put faith in many of the theories propounded by architectural authorities in the last century, would be to believe that some of the grandest monuments which the world has ever seen raised, owe their chief beauty to an accurate knowledge of arithmetic. The diameter of the column was divided into modules: the modules were divided into minutes; the minutes into fractions of themselves. A certain height was allotted to the shaft, another to the entablature. . . Sometimes the learned discussed how far apart the columns of a portico might be."[29]

This kind of mensuration reminds one of the disputes between French critics as to whether the unity of time meant thirty hours, or twenty-four, or twelve, or the actual time that it took to act the play; or of the geometric method of the "Saturday papers" in the Spectator. Addison tries "Paradise Lost" by Aristotle's rules for the composition of an epic. Is it the narrative of a single great action? Does it begin in medias res, as is proper, or ab ovo Ledae, as Horace has said that an epic ought not? Does it bring in the introductory matter by way of episode, after the approved recipe of Homer and Vergil? Has it allegorical characters, contrary to the practice of the ancients? Does the poet intrude personally into his poem, thus mixing the lyric and epic styles? etc. Not a word as to Milton's puritanism, or his Weltanschauung, or the relation of his work to its environment. Nothing of that historical and sympathetic method—that endeavor to put the reader at the poet's point of view—by which modern critics, from Lessing to Sainte-Beuve, have revolutionized their art. Addison looks at "Paradise Lost" as something quite distinct from Milton: as a manufactured article to be tested by comparing it with standard fabrics by recognized makers, like the authors of the Iliad and Aeneid.

When the Queen Anne poetry took a serious turn, the generalizing spirit of the age led it almost always into the paths of ethical and didactic verse. "It stooped to truth and moralized its song," finding its favorite occupation in the sententious expression of platitudes—the epigram in satire, the maxim in serious work. It became a poetry of aphorisms, instruction us with Pope that

"Virtue alone is happiness below;"

or, with Young, that

"Procrastination is the thief of time;"

or, with Johnson, that

"Slow rises worth by poverty depressed."

When it attempted to deal concretely with the passions, it found itself impotent. Pope's "Epistle of Eloisa to Abelard" rings hollow: it is rhetoric, not poetry. The closing lines of "The Dunciad"—so strangely overpraised by Thackeray—with their metallic clank and grandiose verbiage, are not truly imaginative. The poet is simply working himself up to a climax of the false sublime, as an orator deliberately attaches a sounding peroration to his speech. Pope is always "heard," never "overheard."

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