Obrázky na stránke


"As we read in these delightful volumes of the Tatier and Spectator the past age returns, the England of our ancestors is revivified. The Maypole rises in the Strand again in London; the churches are thronged with daily worshippers, the beaux are gathering in the coffee-houses; the gentry are going to the draw ing-room; the ladies are thronging to the toy-shops; the chairmen are jostling in the streets; the footmen are running with links before the chariots, or fighting round the theatre doors." THACKERAY: English Humourists.






[ocr errors]




FRANCIS BACOŃ, Lord Verulam-

1. Of Seeming Wise,

11. Of Studies, -


III. Of Myself, ·


iv. The Instability of Human Glory, -

v. A Quack Doctor,


VI. A Scene of Domestic Felicity (Tatler, No. 95),

VII. A Death-bed Scene (Tatler, No. 114),
VIII. The Trumpet Club (Tatler, No. 132), ·
IX. On the Death of Friends (Tatler, No. 181), -

x. The Spectator Club (Spectator, No. 2),
XI. The Ugly Club (Spectator, No. 17),

XII. Sir Roger and the Widow (Spectator, No. 113),

XIII. The Character of Ned Softly (Tatler, No. 163),
XIV. Nicolini and the Lions (Spectator, No. 13),

xv. Fans (Spectator, No. 102),
XVI. Sir Roger at the Assizes (Spectator, No. 122),
XVII. The Vision of Mirza (Spectator, No. 159),
xvIII. The Art of Grinning (Spectator, No. 173),
XIX. Sir Roger at the Abbey (Spectator, No. 329),

XX. Sir Roger at the Play (Spectator, No. 335),

XXI. The Tory Fox-hunter (Freeholder, No. 22),


XXII. On Style (Tatler, No. 230),
XXIII. The Vindication of Isaac Bickerstaff,


xxiv. The Commonwealth of Letters (Cov. Gar. Jour.,

No, 23),



digested piece; not a regular and orderly composition"-such is Johnson's definition of an essay. The first of these phrases admirably describes the typical eighteenth-century essay, but the term has so wide an application, embracing the maxims of Bacon, the philosophy of Locke, and the loose sallies of Steele and Addison, that the necessity is at once obvious of drawing some broad lines of demarcation among its various significances. The difficulty of making any such division is probably greater in the case of the essay than with any other generic name employed in literature, but three leading senses may be noted in which the term is used. It may be modestly applied to an elaborately finished treatise; or, with more direct reference to its primary meaning, it may denote the brief, general treatment of any topic, an author's preliminary skirmish with his subject; while again, it may mean a short discursive article on any literary, philosophical, or social subject, viewed from a personal or a historical standpoint. It is with essays of the last kind that this volume deals, and its scope is still farther limited by the exclusion of professedly critical papers. Literary criticism is a subject of so much importance and interest that


it must be regarded as an independent development, and the separation can be justified also on another ground. It is no violence to literary usage to think of the English Essayists as those who took for their special subject-matter the varying phases of contemporary manners and customs; and in tracing the course of this particular kind of writing, one meets with everything that is most characteristic in the periodical essay. The titles employed by the earlier essayists indicate pretty clearly the range of the subjects attempted. They hint, also, that the essayist must possess experience of and insight into character, a critical taste free from pedantry, and an easy literary style. The typical essayist must to some extent be at once a rambler, a spectator, a tatler, and a connoisseur.

It is a suggestive fact that after the artificial comedy of manners the next great development in literature was the essay of contemporary manners. It began at a time when the stage was in a state of decline. Artificial comedy, the characteristic product of the Restoration age, was still reeling under the onset of Jeremy Collier. Dryden had made a dignified apology, Congreve had prevaricated in vain, Farquhar, and more especially Steele, had in some degree purified the stage, but the theatre had no longer a paramount literary importance until Garrick appeared to act and Goldsmith to write. When the disorderly pulses of Restoration activity had finally resumed a normal beat, a vast change had taken place in the nature of social life, and there was need of some new form of literature to gratify the cravings of Queen Anne society.

« PredošláPokračovať »