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LESSON 28. PROSE. “We have traced the decline of the drama of Elizabeth up
to the date of the Restoration. All poetry suffered in the same way after the reign of James I. It became fantastic in style and overwrought in thought. It was diffuse, or violent, in expression. Prose literature, on the contrary, gradually grew into greater excellence, spread itself over larger fields of thought, and took up a greater variety of subjects. The grave national struggle, while it lessened poetical, increased prose, literature. The painting of short. Characters' was begun by Sir T. Overbury's book in 1614, and carried on by John Earle and Joseph Hall, afterwards made bishops. They mark the interest in individual life which now began to arise, and which soon took form in Biography.
THOMAS FULLER'S Holy and Profane State, 1642, added to sketches of 'characters' illustrations of them in the lives of famous persons, and in 1662 his Worthies of England still further set on foot the literature of Biography. The historical literature, which we have noticed already in the works of Raleigh and Bacon, was carried on by Fuller in his Church History of Britain, 1656. He is a quaint and delightful writer; good sense, piety, and inventive wit are woven together in his work. We may place together ROBERT BURTON's Anatomy of Melancholy, 1621, and Sir THOMAS BROWNE's Religio Medici, 1642, and Pseudodovia as books which treat of miscellaneous subjects in a witty and learned fashion. This kind of writing was greatly increased by the setting up of libraries, where men dipped into every kind of literature. It was in James I.'s reign that Sir Thomas Bodley established the Bodleian at Oxford, and Sir Robert Cotton a library now placed in the British Museum. A number of small writers took part in the Puritan and Church controversies, among whom WILLIAM PRYNNE, a violent Puritan, deserves to be mentioned for his Histrio-Mastix, or Scourge of Players.
But there were others on each side who rose above the war of party into the calm air of spiritual religion. JEREMY TAYLOR at the close of Charles I.'s reign published his Great Exemplar and his Holy Living and Holy Dying, and shortly afterwards his Sermons. They had been preceded in 1647 by his Liberty of Prophesying, in which he claimed full freedom of Biblical interpretation as the right of all, and asked for only one standard of faith—the Apostles' Creed. His work is especially literary. Weighty with argument, his sermons and books of devotion are still read among us for their sweet and deep devotion, for their rapidly flowing and poetic eloquence.
Towards the end of the Civil Wars, RICHARD BAXTER, the great Puritan writer, wrote a good book, which, as it still remains a household book in England, takes its place in literature. There are few cottages which do not possess a copy of The Saint's Everlasting Rest; and there are few parsonages in England in which ROBERT LEIGHTON's book on the Epistle of St. Peter is not also to be found. Leighton died in 1684, Archbishop of Glasgow. In philosophic literature I have already spoken of Bacon, and of the political writers, such as Hobbes and Harrington, who wrote during the Commonwealth, I will speak hereafter in their proper place.
Miscellaneous writing is further represented in the literature of travel by GEORGE SANDYS and Thomas CORYAT. Coryat's Crudities, 1611, describes his journey through France and Italy; Sandys' book, 1615, a journey to the East. We have also from abroad some interesting letters from Sir Henry Wotton, and he gave Milton introductions to famous men in Italy. Wotton's quaint and pleasant friend IZAAK WALTON closes the list of these pre-Restoration writers with the Compleat Angler, 1653, a book which resembles in its quaint and garrulous style the rustic scenery and prattling rivers that it celebrates, and marks the quiet interest in the country which now began to grow up in England.
The style of all these writers links them to the age of Eliza
beth. It did not follow the weighty gravity of Hooker, or the balanced calm and splendor of Bacon, but rather the witty quaintness of Lyly and of Sydney. The prose of men like Browne and Burton and Fuller is not as poetic as that of these Elizabethan writers, but it is just as fanciful. Even the prose of Jeremy Taylor is over poetical, and though it has all the Elizabethan ardor, it has also the Elizabethan faults of excessive wordiness and involved periods and images. It never knows where to stop. Milton's prose works, which shall be mentioned in their place in his life, are also Elizabethan in style. Their style has the fire and violence, the eloquence and diffuseness, of the earlier literature, but, in spite of the praise it has received, it is in reality scarcely to be called a style. It has all the faults a prose style can have except obscurity and vulgarity. Its bursts of eloquence ought to be in poetry, and it never charms except when Milton becomes purposely simple in personal narrative. There is no pure style in prose writing till Hobbes began to write in English, indeed we may say till after the Restoration, unless we except, on grounds of weight and power, the styles of Bacon and Hooker.”
BIBLIOGRAPHY. FULLER, TAYLOR, and BROWNE.-E. Lawrence's Lives of Brit. Historians; H. Rogers' Life and Writings of; Minto's Man. Eng. Prose Lit.; Littell, v. 19, 1857; Cornhill Mag., v. 25, 1872; J. Foster's Crit. Essays, Contemp. Rev., v. 9, 1868; Quart. Rev., v. 131, 1871; Ecl. Mag., Aug., 1851; Tuckerman's Characteristics; Bulwer's Crit. Writings; S. Johnson's Life of; Ecl. Mag., v. 25, 1852; N. A. Rev., V.
From Thomas Fuller, THE GOOD SCHOOLMASTER. —He studieth his scholars' natures as carefully as they their books, and ranks their dispositions into several forms. And though it may seem difficult for him in a great school to descend to all particulars, yet experienced schoolmasters may quickly make a grammar of boys' natures, and reduce them all, saving some few exceptions, to these general rules :
1. Those that are ingenious and industrious.— The conjunction of two such planets in a youth presages much good unto him. To such a lad a frown may be a whipping, and a whipping a death; yea, where their master whips them once, shame whips them all the week after. Such natures he useth with all gentleness.
2. Those that are ingenious and idle.—These think, with the hare in the fable, that, running with snails, (so they count the rest of their school-fellows) they shall come soon enough to the post, though sleeping a good while before their starting. Oh! good rod would finely take them napping!
3. Those that are dull and diligent.-Wines—the stronger they be, the more lees they have when they are new. Many boys are muddy-headed till they be clarified with age; and such afterwards prove the best. Bristol diamonds are both bright and squared and pointed by nature and yet are soft and worthless; whereas orient ones, in India, are rough and rugged naturally. Hard, rugged, and dull natures of youth acquit themselves afterwards the jewels of the country; and, therefore, their dulness at first is to be borne with, if they be diligent. That school. master deserves to be beaten himself who beats nature in a boy for a fault. And I question whether all the whipping in the world can make their parts which are naturally sluggish rise one minute before the hour nature hath appointed.
4. Those that are invincibly dull and negligent also.-Correction may reform the latter, not amend the former. All the whetting in the world can never set a razor's edge on that which hath no steel in it. Such boys he consigneth over to other professions. Shipwrights and boatmakers will choose those crooked pieces of timber which other carpenters refuse. Those may make excellent merchants and mechanics who will not serve for scholars.
He is able, diligent, and methodical in his teaching. Not leading them rather in a circle than forwards. He minces his precepts for children to swallow; hanging clogs on the nimbleness of his own soul that his scholars may go along with him.
He is moderate in inflicting deserved correction. Many a schoolmaster better answereth the name paidotribel than paidagogos,” rather“ tearing his scholars' flesh with whipping than giving them good education. No wonder if his scholars hate the Muses, being presented unto them in the shapes of fiends and furies. Such an Orbilius3 mars more scholars than he makes. Their tyranny hath caused many tongues to stammer which spake plain by nature, and whose stuttering at first was nothing else but fears quavering on their speech at their master's presence, and whose mauling them about their heads hath dulled those who in quickness exceeded their master.
He spoils not a good school to make thereof a bad college, therein to teach his scholars logic. For, besides that logic may have an action of trespass against grammar for encroaching on her liberties, syllogisms are solecisms taught in the school; and, oftentimes, youth are forced afterwards, in the University, to unlearn the fumbling skill they had before.
1 Boyflogger. 2 Boyteacher. 8 A rigid disciplinarian, an instructor of the poet Horace.
Out of his school he is no whit pedantical in carriage or discourse, contenting himself to be rich in Latin, though he doth not jingle with it in every company wherein he comes.
MEMORY.—It is the treasure-house of the mind, wherein the monuments thereof are kept and preserved. Plato makes it the mother of the Muses. Aristotle sets it one degree further, making experience the mother of arts, memory the parent of experience. Philosophers place it in the rear of the head; and it seems the mine of memory lies there, because there naturally men dig for it, scratching it when they are at a loss. This, again, is twofold; one the simple retention of things, the other a regaining them when forgotten.
Brute creatures equal, if not exceed, men in a bare retentive memory. — Through how many labyrinths of woods, without other clew of thread than natural instinct, doth the hunted hare return to her muce!! How doth the little bee, flying into several meadows and gardens, sipping of many cups, yet never intoxicated, through an ocean (as I may say) of air steadily steer herself home, without help of cord or compass! But these cannot play an after-game, and recover what they have forgotten, which is done by the mediation of discourse.
First soundly infix in thy mind what thou desirest to remember.—What wonder is it if agitation of business jog that out of thy head which was there rather tacked than fastened? It is best knocking in the nail overnight, and clinching it the next morning.
Overburden not thy memory to make so faithful a servant a slave.-— Remember Atlas was weary. Have as much reason as a camel—to rise when thou hast thy full load. Memory is like a purse, --if it be over-full that it cannot shut, all will drop out of it. Take heed of a gluttonous curiosity to feed on many things, lest the greediness of the appetite of thy memory spoil the digestion thereof. Beza's case was peculiar and memorable. Being over fourscore years of age, he perfectly could say. by heart any Greek chapter in St. Paul's Epistles, or anything else which he nad learned long before, but forgot whatsoever was newly told him; his memory, like an inn, retaining old guests, but having no room to entertain new.
Marshal thy notions into a handsome method.—One will carry twice
1 Gap in the hedge.