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“Johnson's sentences seem to be contorted, as his gigantic limbs used to twitch, by a kind of mechanical, spasmodic action. The most obvi. ous peculiarity is the tendency, which he noticed himself, to use too big words and too many of them. It was not, however, the mere bigness of the words that distinguished his style, but a peculiar love of putting the abstract for the concrete, of using awkward inversions, and of balancing his sentences in a monotonous rhythm, which give the appearance, as they sometimes correspond to the reality, of elaborate, logical discrimination.
With all its faults the style has the merits of masculine directness. The inversions are not such as to complicate the construction. As Boswell remarks, he never uses a parenthesis; and his style, though ponderous and wearisome, is as transparent as the smarter snip-snap of Macaulay. This singular mannerism appears in his earliest writings; it is inost marked at the time of the Rambler; whilst, in the Lives of the Poets, although I think that the trick of inversion has become commoner, the other peculiarities have been so far softened as to be inoffensive.”—Leslie Stephen.
“GOLDSMITH'S Citizen of the World, a series of letters supposed to be written by a Chinese traveller in England, and collected in 1762, satirizes the manners and fashionable follies of the time. Several other series followed, but they are now unreadable. One man alone in our own century caught the old inspiration, and with a humor less easy, but more subtile, than Addison's. It was Charles Lamb, in the Essays of Elia, and the fineness of perception he showed in these was equally displayed in his criticisms on the old dramatists.
The miscellaneous literature of the latter half of the eighteenth century includes, also, the admirable Letters of GRAY, the poet; THOMAS WARTON'S History of English Poetry, which founded a new school of poetic criticism; the many collections of periodical essays, all of which ceased in 1787; Burke's Inquiry into the Origin of our Ideas of the Sublime and Beautiful; and the Letters of Junius, political invectives, written in a style which has preserved them to this day.”
BIBLIOGRAPHY. BURKE.-T. Macknight's Life and Times of; Eng. Men of Let. Series; J. Timbs' Anecdote Biog.; Brougham's Sketches of Statesmen; F. D. Maurice's Friendship of Books ; S. Rogers'Recollections ; Minto's Man, of Eng. Pr. Lit.; G. Croly's Hist. Sketches ; Ecl. Mag., Jan. and Feb., 1852, and Feb. and March, 1862; N. A. Rev., v. 88, 1859.
JOHNSON.-Boswell's Life of ; Hawthorne's Our Old Home; Macaulay's Essays; Eng. Men of Let. Series; A. Murphy's Essay on Life and Genius of ; N. Drake's Essays; T. Carlyle's Heroes and Hero Worship; Ed. Rev., Oct., 1859; Quar. Rev., v. 103, 1858, and v. 105, 1859; Allibone's Crit. Dictionary.
JUNIUS.-C. Chabot's The Hand-Writing of Junius professionally investigated; J. Jaques' Hist. of Junius and His Works: De Quincey's Lit. Reminiscences; J. Forster's Crit. Essays, West. Rev., Oct., 1871; Quar. Rev., Apr., 1871; Temple Bar, Oct., 1873.
POETRY.—THE ELEMENTS AND FORMS OF THE NEW POETRY. —“The period we are now studying may not improperly be called a time of transition in poetry. The influence of the poetry of the past lasted; new elements were added to poetry, and new forms of it took shape. There was a change also in the style and in the subject of poetry. Under these heads I shall bring together the various poetical works of this period.
1. The study of the Greek and Latin classics revived, and with it a more artistic poetry. Not only correct form, for which Pope sought, but beautiful form was sought after. Men like Thomas Gray and William Collins strove to pour into their work that simplicity of beauty which the Greek poets and Italians like Petrarca had reached as the last result of genius restrained by art. Their poems, published between 1746 and 1757, remain apart as a unique type of poetry. The refined workmanship of these poets, their manner of blending together natural feeling and natural scenery, their studious care in the choice of words are worthy of special study.
2. The study of the Elizabethan and of the earlier poets like Chaucer and of the whole course of poetry in England was taken up with great interest. Shakespeare and Chaucer had engaged both Dryden and Pope; but the whole subject was now enlarged. Gray, like Pope, projected a history of English poetry, and his Ode on the Progress of Poesy illustrates this new interest. Thomas Warton wrote his History of English Poetry, 1774-78, and in doing so gave fresh material to the poets. They began to take delight in the childlikeness and naturalness of Chaucer as distinguished from the artificial and critical verse of the school of Pope. Shakespeare was studied in a more accurate way. Pope's, Theobald's, Sir Thomas Hanmer's, and Warburton's editions of Shakespeare were succeeded by Johnson's in 1765; and Garrick, the actor, began the restoration of the genuine text of Shakespeare's plays for the stage.
Spenser formed the spirit and work of some poets, and T. Warton wrote an essay on the Faerie Queen. WILLIAM SHENSTONE's Schoolmistress, 1742, was one of these Spenserian poems, and so was the Castle of Indolence, 1748, by JAMES THOMSON, author of the Seasons. JAMES BEATTIE, in the Minstrel, 1774, a didactic poem, followed the stanza and manner of Spenser.
3. A new element, interest in the romantic past, was added by the publication of Dr. Percy's Reliques of Ancient English Poetry, 1765. The narrative ballad and the narrative romance, afterwards taken up and perfected by Sir Walter Scott, now struck their roots afresh in English poetry. Men began to seek among the ruder times of history for wild, natural stories of human life; and the pleasure in these increased and accompanied the growing love of lonely, even of savage, scenery. The Ossian, 1762, of JAMES MACPHERSON, which gave itself out as a translation of Gaelic epic poems, is an example of this new element.
Still more remarkable in this way were the poems of ThomAS CHATTERTON, the marvellous boy,' who died by his own hand in 1770, at the age of seventeen. They were imitations of old poetry. He pretended to have discovered, in a muniment room at Bristol, the Death of Sir Charles Bawdin and other poems by an imaginary monk named Thomas Rowley. Written with quaint spelling, and with a great deal of lyrical invention, they raised around them a great controversy. I
may mention is an instance of the same tendency, even before the Reliques, Gray's translations from the Norse and British poetry, and his poem of the Bard, in which the bards of Wales are celebrated.
CHANGE OF STYLE. — We have seen how the natural style of the Elizabethan poets had ended by producing an unnatural style. In reaction from this, the critical poets set aside natural feeling, as having nothing to do with the expression of thought in verse, and wrote according to rules of art which they had painfully worked out. Their style in doing this lost life and fire; and, losing these, lost art, which has its roots in emotion, and gained artifice, which has its roots in intellectual analysis. Being unwarmed by any natural feeling, it became as unnatural, considered as a poetic style, as that of the later Elizabethan poets. We may sum up, then, the whole history of the style of poetry from Elizabeth to George I.--the style of the first-rate poets being excepted-in these words: Nature without Art, and Art without Nature, had reached similar but not identical results in style.
But in the process two things had been learned. First, that artistic rules were necessary, and, secondly, that natural feeling was necessary in order that poetry should have a style fitted to express nobly the emotions and thoughts of man. The way was therefore now made ready for a style in which the Art should itself be Nature, and it sprany at once into being in the work of the poets of this time. The style of Gray and Collins is polished to the finest point, and yet is instinct with natural feeling. Goldsmith is natural even to simplicity, and yet his verse is even more accurate than Pope's. Cowper's style, in such poems as the Lines to his Mother's Picture, and in lyrics like the Loss of the Royal George, arises out of the simplest pathos, and yet is as pure in expression as Greek poetry. The work was then done; but as yet the element of fervent passion did not enter into poetry. We shall see how that came in after 1789.
CHANGE OF SUBJECT_NATURE. — Up to the age of Pope the subject of man was treated, and we have seen how many phases it went through. There remained the subject of Nature and of man's relation to it; that is, of the visible landscape, sea, and sky, and all that men feel in contact with them. Natural scenery had been hitherto used only as a background to the picture of human life. It now began to take a much larger place in poetry, and after a time grew to occupy a distinct place of its own apart from Man.
The impulse given by Thomson to poetry of this kind was soon followed. Men left the town to visit the country and record their feelings. WILLIAM SOMERVILLE's Chase, 1735, and JOHN DYER'S Grongar Hill, 1726, a description of a journey in South Wales, and his Fleece, 1757, are full of country sights and scenes: even Akenside mingled his spurious philosophy with pictures of solitary natural scenery.
Foreign travel now enlarged the love of nature. The Letter's of GRAY, 1716-1771, some of the best in the English language, describe natural scenery with a minuteness quite new in English Literature. In his poetry he used the description of nature as its most graceful ornament,' but never made it the subject. In the Elegy in a Country Churchyard, and in the Ode on a Distant Prospect of Eton College, natural scenery is interwoven with reflections on human life, and used to point its moral. COLLINS observes the same method in his Ode on the Passions and the Ode to Evening. There is, then, as yet no love of nature for its own sake.
A further step was made by OLIVER GOLDSMITH, 1728–74, in his Traveller, 1764, a sketch of national manners and governments, and in his Deserted Village, 1770. He describes natural scenery with less emotion than Collins, and does not moralize it like Gray. The scenes he paints are pure pictures, and he has no personal interest in them.
The next step was made by men like the two Wartons and by John Logan, 1782. Their poems do not speak of nature