A THOUSAND HOURS OF ENJOYMENT WITH THE WORLD'S GREAT WRITERS
By JOHN CHILTON SCAMMELL, A.B.
CHICAGO AND BOSTON
GEO. L. SHUMAN & CO.
By Geo. L. Shuman & Co.
J. S. Cashing Co.—Berwick & Smith Co.
Norwood, Mass., U.S.A.
Boston Bookbinding Co., Cambridge, Mass.
|The Purpose of this Book||xi|
|Side-lights on Great Writers||1|
|'To Drive Dull Care Away'||12|
|The Study of Literature||17|
|The Decisive Periods in Literature||19|
|The Divisions of Literature||36|
|From Seven to Twenty-one||54a|
|The Use of the Index and the Biographical Sketches||54m|
|Studies of Great Authors||61|
|Browning, E. B.||86|
"Nowhere so happy as curled up in a corner with a book." So said, or is reputed to have said, no less a genius than St. Thomas à Kempis. And thousands of men and women, boys and girls, still testify to the truth and power of that saying. For of all friends or companions a book is the most reliable—often quite as helpful as any Jonathan to any David. For instance, what could have given Abraham Lincoln more lasting help than those early volumes which he so hungrily devoured over and over again? "Æsop's Fables," "Robinson Crusoe," "Benjamin Franklin's Autobiography," "The Pilgrim's Progress" absorbed every moment he could spare from his chores and his sleep. Not mere knowledge, but inspiration entered his soul from those oft-read pages; in them he gleaned visions of life, its strain and anguish, its exaltation and thrill; there, too, he caught the secret of that quaint faculty for terse anecdote by which he was to win his way not only to the heads but to the hearts of the hardy, courageous folk of the Middle West, and, later, those of the East as well. It was through this power to read and understand and enjoy that Lincoln learned to penetrate to the very soul of mankind, the deep recesses of the thoughts and feelings of his fellow men.
The will to try, the simple decision to make the effort, is all that is needed in order to grasp what an infinite fund of amusement and delight lies stored away in books. No unusual imaginative powers are requisite to get us on horseback with Dumas's swashbuckling, duelling musketeers, or to place us beside Poe's heroes in their dread predicaments. What friend or acquaintance can tell you half the tales of hair-breadth escape, side-splitting dilemma, or tender romance, such as scores of the cleverest writers have spent their lives[vi] in devising? These same writers have left this world, they can never more be seen or heard on earth; but the very essence of their talent and their personality, their brightest, most sparkling thoughts and ideas remain, and may readily be placed within reach of your own hand. Charles Dickens can never again voyage over the Atlantic and stroll across Boston Common in velvet coat and plaid waistcoat, gesticulating with eyes a-twinkle. But his Mr. Pickwick's adventure with the Middle-Aged Lady in Yellow Curl-Papers still remains, and the echo of Pickwick's "Bless my soul, what a dreadful thing" will ring in our ears forever, and forever stir a quiet chuckle. Rudyard Kipling is growing old, and his pen no longer flourishes with the reckless vivacity of the days when he was little more than a "cub" reporter and wrote "Mandalay." Yet that same "Mandalay" of the "old Moulmein pagoda" and the "tinkly temple bells" will rouse a thrill of romance and adventure in thousands of hearts that are still to be born. Poor Stevenson coughed his life away at Samoa, after a plucky fight for life that led him to France, 'Frisco, and the South Seas. None the less, though he has gone from us, the pictures of hope and courage that leap and laugh at us from his pages are as vivid to-day as when they first brought their new joy to the delighted world. Read once more that dainty sketch—that etching rather—"A Night among the Pines," and see for yourself how that great master of words has voiced our modern appreciation of the great outdoors. For each great author is an individual, no two of them are alike, any more than you are like your next-door neighbor. Their modes of expression, their joy in life are as varied and divergent as life itself. There is, moreover, nothing commonplace about them, their work is strong and fresh. Each has his tale to tell, his song to sing, his meditations to entrust to us, his own special message to the spirit or to the intellect of many a generation and many a race.
In other words, all great authors are artists, makers or shapers of truth and beauty, just as much and in the same measure as are painters and sculptors. Indeed, Literature is the chief of the Fine Arts. Music, with all its grandeur and charm, is but sound, and dies away; Painting, though never[vii] so rich in color and striking in form, is passive and for the most part devoid of action, and sad to say, very few of us have wealth enough to own even one canvas by a master; Sculpture, with all its dignity and grace, is cold and cheerless in the main; and Architecture is too bulky and ponderous to stir personal appreciation at a moment's notice.
In fact, Literature, and Literature alone, possesses the power of meeting our every mood and desire, for comfort, for excitement, for exaltation, for pathos, for laughter.
Literature alone can dwell within the walls of the humblest cabin, even in the squatter's camp in Labrador or Borneo. Raphael's glorious paintings may only be visited at the expense of months of time and hundreds of dollars; Beethoven's symphonies can only be presented by the most finished orchestras in a few of our largest cities; the statues wrought by Phidias and Rodin cannot be reproduced by the thousand and spread broadcast over our nation; Rheims Cathedral and her sister marvels must stand where first they rose, nor may they be successfully imitated. But, thank Heaven, Shakespeare, Dickens, Longfellow for a few cents send their messages to every soul on earth that can read English.
All of us are acquainted with some half dozen of the immortal writers of the world, but how many of them have we never met, perhaps have never heard of. If we could only obtain an introduction to them; if we only knew which writers and which of their works to select, all would be well. The most brilliant, the most lovable, the most sincere, the most thoughtful authors would gather round us and talk to us; they would bring their very best to entertain and delight us; they would offer us their guidance and companionship into every field of thought. Emerson's calm reflective tones reveal the answers to many of life's most pressing and significant problems; Swift, in "Gulliver's Travels," jestingly, yet bitterly, strips mankind of its pride and conceit, and lays bare the greed and selfishness that have ruined not individuals alone, but whole nations and empires; Lewis Carroll talks the most laughable, clever nonsense that ever inspired a humorist's pen; Burns, in the simplest of language, voices the pathos and tragedy of every life, even the humblest, and[viii] with our own Lincoln proves again and again that true nobility may dwell and flourish in the midst of poverty.
Truly, herein lies one of life's chief joys, in encountering what others have thought and achieved—in meeting the actors in the great world drama, the scenes in which they played their parts, the deeds by which they have won fame and fortune; still more delectable is the pleasure of whiling away leisure hours with those folk who are but products of the fancy, children of the poet's brain, dreams of the teller of tales: Odysseus, who, for the last three thousand years, as Sir Philip Sidney has put it, "held children from play and old men from the chimney corner"; Falstaff, chuckling at the comical ease with which he hoodwinks all about him; Lady Macbeth, who, even in her dreams, may not forget the dread stain upon her little hand; Faust, ever seeking to rid himself of his demon accomplice; the knights of King Arthur's round table, Robin Hood and his merry men, Dickens's troop of immortal grotesques, Bret Harte's rough miners, with their hearts of gold, Irving's droll New Yorkers of the Knickerbocker era, Longfellow's Blacksmith and his Evangeline,—these and a host of other undying notables have made life far richer for us all.
Ours is the fault if we do not avail ourselves of their magic. For here in America the special opportunity to mingle with them lies readier to the hand than in any other nation. Nowhere else, not in England, nor France, nor in Italy can the everyday man find books at his command for the asking. In a few of the largest European cities, and not anywhere else on that continent, there are libraries of size and worth, yet even these are hedged about with a hundred rules and regulations that hamper circulation. But here, through the length and breadth of this glorious land, are thousands and yet more thousands of free libraries, containing all manner of books, of every age and nation, awaiting your demand. They contain all that is splendid in the way of printed matter, but also much, alas, that is not worth any man's time; so that though the best lies open and free to us, it is mingled with a vast amount of wretched trash.
Here lies the chief difficulty for us Americans: How are[ix] we to distinguish the chaff from the wheat, the weeds from the harvest? The task is that of seeking the proverbial needle in the haystack. We are deluged with printed matter, tons upon tons of books and magazines are poured daily upon the bookseller's counters. What is our chance of choosing the treasures from out this hodgepodge?
To meet this very problem these volumes have been prepared; it is hardly our place to dwell upon the years of labor and thought in which they have gradually taken shape, but it is perhaps to the point to remark that they represent the patient effort of many judges and critics to supply an introduction and a guide to the best and most inspiring literature of the nations from the beginning of the art to the present day,—a means of recreation, amusement, and lasting profit.
In the past three thousand years, some four hundred authors have achieved such fame and standing as to distinguish them from the endless multitudes of commonplace penmen. To choose and present their very best work in complete, unified selections has constituted the fundamental purpose of these twelve volumes. In them, it is certain, an amazingly large proportion of the finest literature has been brought together; they form a boundless source of entertainment and a wellnigh infinite field for intellectual diversion and development.
By means of brief and suggestive biographical sketches, together with the Index and the Handbook, to serve as a guide to fuller enjoyment and appreciation, the editors have sought to amplify and enhance the value of the selective feature of the work. And through an abundance of illustrations, many of them painstaking reproductions of water color paintings of the homes and favorite haunts of the chief writers, additional understanding and pleasure is afforded.
The whole of this work has been built on the central idea of entertainment that shall be simple and unified. Every effort has been made to shun the elaborate, intricate methods that prevail so wastefully to-day in our educational and our recreational systems. At last educators are openly admitting that the only sane means of raising our standards of education must lie in simplifying the quantity of the studies so as to attain higher quality. In school and out of it, Johnny and[x] his sister Molly will unquestionably profit by simple, straightforward teaching, play, reading, thinking. The more complex a game is, the fewer people can enjoy it or appreciate its fine points; the more involved a school system, the fewer children will be able to acquire thorough training. But simple games and simple instruction will enable all of us and of our little ones to get the habit of thoroughness and stability. These twelve volumes, then, are all constructed upon this principle of furnishing enjoyment in a simple, clean-cut manner; they constitute one of the most straightforward, clear, and forceful means toward the advance of our civilization.
The measure of a successful life is surely the amount of happiness, of true lasting pleasure which it has contained and which it has passed on to others. We do not count our years in terms of sorrow or vexation; we do not recall again and again our moments of failure or folly; only the bright and golden hours remain fast emblazoned in our memories, those days of sunshine and delight, when beauty and laughter sang in our hearts and the air was filled with music. Of all such days, those on which the friendly pages of some treasured author were first opened, or those when we reveled in the companionship of our favorite heroes of romance and adventure—those days indeed are among the brightest of all. The greater the number of red-letter days of such wonder and rapture, the greater the value of our lives, not only to ourselves, but to all who have shared them. In work and in play, at home and abroad, our undoubted ideal is that of finding perpetual joy in life. The Fountain of Youth, which Ponce de Leon vainly sought, is the quest of us all—we no longer seek to lengthen our lives, but instead we strive with might and main to fill them to the very brim with joyous thoughts and deeds. To be happy is to be forever young.
It is the easiest thing in the world to open the treasure-vaults of the Bank of England—if you have the combination; if you haven't, the task is hopeless. It is the easiest thing in the world to enjoy the most brilliant stories, the most laughable humor, the most heroic deeds that the world has known—if you know where to find them.
"Where's something to read, something so interesting that I can forget how tired I am and what a hard day I had at the office?" There is the problem of almost every home in this country. Tired men and women must have some means of refreshing themselves, of forgetting their worries and trials for a time. They must rest and gather strength for the next day's work. Where are they going to get it?
The purpose of this book is to give the owners of The Library of Entertainment an easy answer to that question. Its opening pages contain some unusual notes on the oddities of literary folk and some suggestions for hours and hours of entertainment and amusement that will drive away care and fatigue unfailingly. The brightest stories and the most fascinating humor are put right on the table beside you, all you have to do is to turn to them according to the directions in these pages.
But there is something better still in this little volume. It gives a true opportunity to enjoy the company of the ablest men and women who have ever put pen to paper. Until now a college course of three or four years has been the only means of getting in touch with the best of good, sensible reading. Our schools do not teach us how to understand and take pleasure in these books; our libraries only store them for us to use if we already know about them. Recent figures show that[xii] for some time past more than 10,000 new books have been published in the United States each year, an equal number in England, and even more in Germany and Russia. The public libraries contain millions upon millions printed in the past. It would be impossible for even a hundred men giving their whole lifetime of eighty years to do as much as scan the pages of all the world's literature.
Therefore it is only too evident that for the sensible use of the little time which we can give to reading we should be enabled to make a selection. We must be started on the right road. This is the express aim of The Library of Entertainment. Until now the pleasure and the distinction that come from being well-read have belonged to a few. The combination that opens the treasure-vaults of literature was only given in college lectures. The outside world has been left to shift for itself. But this is utterly wrong; with the simple introduction that is given in Part Two of this book the world of literature and its lasting delights are open to all.
To many of us it seems as if an author with an assured reputation must be one of the happiest of men; yet some of the very greatest have suffered almost intolerably.
Bobby Burns was a victim of drink largely because of his brilliant imagination and extreme sensitiveness. He was petted by society and praised as the poet of the future; all England was at his feet. Yet he gave way to his passions, took to drink, and ruined the lives of several of his dearest friends, as well as his own. In almost anyone else this would condemn him absolutely; but the truth is that his poetic powers, the gift of his genius, rendered him too sensitive to moods of the moment, and his will could not hold out under the strain.
A somewhat similar case was that of Coleridge. In his youth he showed extraordinary talent, but he fell a victim to opium and the greater part of his life was wasted in a series of unfinished efforts. No opium was necessary to stimulate his imagination, as his weird ballad of "The Ancient Mariner" plainly shows. Indeed his genius even worked during his sleep, for "Kubla Khan" is but a fragment of a poem which he dreamed and then began to write down as soon as he awoke. If he had not been interrupted by a visitor, a man of no importance, we might have had the whole instead of a scanty portion of this unique masterpiece. Even as it stands it is one of the most picturesque and brilliant compositions ever produced. It seems incredible that it should be the work of a sleeping brain. And yet this is the man who gave himself up to opium, wrecking a career that promised to surpass even that of Byron or Shelley in poetic power.
Thomas De Quincey, the author of the "Confessions of an Opium Eater," drank laudanum by the glassful. He first took to using this liquid form of opium in order to gain relief from the dyspepsia that resulted from his days of privation in the streets of London. Of course he was unable to stop the use of the drug and had to increase the doses to the alarming extent mentioned. When he was living in Edinburgh this almost caused the death of a gentleman who dined with him there; for his visitor picked up a decanter of a rich, dark red liquor, which he thought was port wine, poured out a glass, and had it at his lips, when De Quincey hurriedly seized it and saved the situation. Smoking opium was not the custom then; Coleridge drank it, as De Quincey did, and unknowingly spread the habit; for a poor man who once lived near Coleridge's house admitted that he had obtained laudanum from a boy who worked for Coleridge and smuggled it out to his friend by the bottleful.
As we all know, our great American short story writer, Edgar Allan Poe, was the prey of alcohol and also of opium, as well as a genius. The combination seems to have been more unavoidable in his case than in any other we know of. His imagination could only bring forth those extraordinarily gruesome tales of mystery and horror when stimulated by wines and brandy or opium. His whole life was spent in the shadow of despondency and irritation; and although we are indebted to him for priceless literary gems, he paid the penalty with misery which we cannot imagine.
In contrast, look at the life of Charles Lamb. He was a poor clerk at a pitiful salary, struggling to increase his income by literary work in his spare time, with a dangerous appetite for alcohol, and an insane sister to take care of. He, himself, constantly dreaded insanity. Yet he kept up a cheerful and continual resistance to his craving for drink, although he often took a drop too much. In order to care for his sister, who had killed her mother in one of her attacks, he gave up his sweetheart and settled down to the brave and heartrending task of devotion to the unhappy invalid. This lasted for thirty-three years, during which he never murmured except when her attacks forced him to place her in an asylum. One of his friends leaves the record of meeting Charles and Mary Lamb walking across the fields to the hospital with tears streaming down their faces. Yet in spite of all his troubles Lamb's essays have a delicacy and a cheerfulness that never reveal the burden he had to bear. He is one of the great heroes of English literature.
John Milton was another such hero. As a young man he won great distinction as a poet and a scholar; so much so that when he went to Italy the greatest Italian authors and critics praised his Italian and Latin poetry as the best of that day, superior to anything written during that time in Italy itself. He was received there with boundless enthusiasm and was having the time of his life, so to speak, when the news reached him of the Puritan rebellion against Charles the First. Without a moment's hesitation he abandoned his tour and came back to England. There he acted as foreign correspondent for Cromwell's Government and kept England safe from attacks by France and the rest of Europe through his able diplomacy. He worked day and night until he fell ill and eventually lost his eyesight. To make matters worse, the Puritans were deprived of their power and Milton's enemies then persecuted him so that he had to fly for his life. He spent the rest of his days in a humble cottage, while his daughters grumbled because he made them transcribe "Paradise Lost" and "Paradise Regained." It seems as if his sacrifice for his country was utterly unrewarded, until we remember that his name to-day is almost the first in its long roll of poets.
One of the sorrows of literary men is lack of appreciation. Longfellow was laughed at by the Harvard students whom he taught, for his poems had no attraction for them and he was only appreciated elsewhere. Bret Harte wrote the finest stories of California life that have ever appeared, yet for years he was not recognized in this country as a writer of unusual powers, and as a matter of fact he spent the greater part of his life in London, six thousand miles from his old home; Lafcadio Hearn was so homely and eccentric that he could not be happy or comfortable in the United States or in Europe, and took refuge in Japan where his appearance would never be remarked. As he points out in his wonderful writings on Japanese life, politeness is one of the ruling habits of that race, so that he was made far more comfortable and did far better work than would have been possible in his own country.
Some writers have done their best work in prison. "The Star Spangled Banner," as we know, was written by Francis Scott Key, while he was a captive on a British battleship during the bombardment of Fort McHenry, near Baltimore, in the War of 1812, and as he wondered whether the flag was still flying he jotted down the lines of our National Anthem. The masterpiece of Spanish literature was written in jail; "Don Quixote" is so amusing, so pathetic, and so vivid that Spain can stake her whole reputation on that one work, written by Cervantes, an innocent man, imprisoned through envy and malice. John Bunyan, another guiltless author, wrote his immortal "Pilgrim's Progress" while he was locked up for his stubborn refusal to mold his religious belief according to the demands of authorities for whom he could have no respect. The opium of Coleridge and De Quincey and the brandy of Edgar Allan Poe never stimulated them to equal the work of these two geniuses. Innocence in prison has been proved superior to dissipation in the best of surroundings, for the opium victims, Coleridge and De Quincey, had the society of England's most brilliant men and the environment of her finest scenery.
Both Bunyan and Cervantes worked hard, but the hardest workers of all have been Frenchmen; Balzac and Dumas labored unceasingly for the greater part of their lifetimes. In twenty years Balzac wrote ninety-seven novels for a mere pittance that just kept body and soul together. The greatness of his work was recognized, but the French public, as a whole, did so little reading, that the publisher himself did not make anything like a fortune. Dumas was more popular and employed a staff of assistants to collect the material for his historical romances, but the actual writing was all his own and cost him from fourteen to eighteen hours a day in labor. His works are more numerous than those of Dickens, Thackeray, and Cooper combined. It seems incredible that one man could have turned out such a tremendous mass of fascinating stories.
The only man in English literature who is to be compared to these two Frenchmen is Sir Walter Scott. In his first success, when money flowed in on him almost in torrents, his vanity led him to build the mansion of Abbotsford and his one wish was to be regarded as the Squire or ruler of the countryside, but not long after, when his partner in the publishing business had caused the failure of the firm, he bravely went to work and wrote novel after novel, year after year, to pay off his debts. His vanity and love of show disappeared and the man's true nobility took its proper place; almost on his death-bed he continued to dictate his novels although he was agonized with pain and distress.
Similar patience was shown by Thomas Carlyle, who rewrote the whole of his great work, "The French Revolution," after the first copy had been carelessly burnt by a servant girl in the house of a friend who had borrowed the manuscript. He was a dyspeptic and a constant grumbler, but on this occasion he redeemed himself by sitting down quietly to work and hammering away at his dreary task until he had once more finished the masterpiece. Carlyle was so sensitive to noise and other disturbances that he had a sound-proof shed or room built on the roof of his house in London, where he did a great part of his writing, and even there he complained of the rumbling of the wagons in the street, which vibrated through the house.
Herbert Spencer, the great English philosopher, was also easily disturbed by noises, but he solved the problem by wearing ear muffs which were specially made under his instruction. Spencer was rather irritable, it is said; certainly on one occasion he made himself a source of amusement when he objected to being beaten at billiards by the son of a friend of his and remarked that it was not fitting that a young man should have spent so much time and money on so foolish a pastime; yet when he won, the expenditure of thought and time on the part of so great a philosopher seemed altogether wise.
Robert Browning had an amusing experience on one occasion toward the close of his life. He was walking through the residential district of London's fashionable West End to a meeting which he had been invited to attend. Mistaking the house, he walked into a literary gathering that was discussing his own poems. Presently he rose to his feet and offered a few suggestions as to the meaning of a rather difficult passage. Now Browning was not at all like a poet in appearance, but rather resembled a prosperous business man, and it happened that as he was well toward the back of the hall no one recognized him. On the contrary his suggestions were ridiculed by other critics who took the floor when he sat down and he retired unrecognized but vastly delighted. Of course some of Browning's work is intensely intricate and confused; he himself said of his early poem "Sordello" that once there were two beings who understood it, the Almighty and Robert Browning; now, he added, there was but one, for Browning had long lost the key to its problem.
Charles Dickens was one of the most impressionable writers who ever lived. His characters were absolutely real to him and when he was writing he would impersonate the various characters he was describing, talking, making faces, jumping up and looking in the mirror, and then dashing back to his desk to set down each inspiration. But his impressionable nature prevented complete happiness; he was either intensely happy or down in the dumps and miserable. This made him very hard to get along with, so that it is no wonder that his wife found it almost impossible to live with him.
Gladstone, the 'Grand Old Man' of English politics in the last century, was a scholar and a linguist as well as a statesman. On one occasion he was seated in the House of Commons while his bitter opponent, the clever Disraeli, was delivering a venomous and brilliant attack upon him. During the speech Gladstone was observed to be writing on a scrap of paper, apparently taking notes for his reply. At the conclusion of his enemy's speech Gladstone rose and delivered a most masterly refutation of the attack, answering and breaking down each point of Disraeli's invective with the utmost skill. A member sitting near by noticed that the scrap of paper was lying on Gladstone's seat and picked it up to see what the notes were like; to his surprise they consisted of a careful translation of "Rock of Ages" into smooth Greek verse, which the orator had made half-consciously while waiting for the occasion to reply to his opponent.
Macaulay, too, had wonderful scholastic talent and a fine memory. Even in his youth he showed great ability and read with amazing speed; most remarkable is the fact that he never seemed to forget a line he had read, but could repeat pages of an author many years after he had once perused his work. He read many works again and again, it is true, but for the pleasure of enjoying the fine points of style rather than for the sake of attaining greater familiarity with the book. His essays are regarded as among the most brilliant in the language, and seem to have been written posthaste, at full swing. In reality, however, he was well pleased if he produced five foolscap pages of longhand manuscript a day. It was his custom to spend the morning writing as fast as he could, the afternoon, in revising and pruning the morning's work and thus producing finished copy. He knew only too well that, as Sheridan said, "easy writing makes cursed hard reading," and that labor alone could produce a forceful and pleasant style.
Goethe, the greatest of the German immortals, is mainly remembered as a poet. Yet his fame would be great even if it depended only upon his scientific exploits. It was he who did much toward establishing the modern theory of evolution. Goethe also showed his insight into human progress by prophesying the construction of the Suez and the Panama Canals as long ago as 1827; this illustrates the marvelous imagination of the genius who was, as he himself said, a citizen of the world.
Shakespeare is certainly the supreme master of English literature, yet there was a time when he was regarded as a nuisance and a good-for-nothing. He was a poacher, a thieving vagabond arrested for stealing or killing deer in the park of the neighboring aristocrat, Sir Thomas Lucy. It was not long afterward that the future playwright went to London and gained his first acquaintance with the theater by holding horses for gentlefolk at the entrance of the principal playhouse of the city. Some authors would also call him a pirate and a thief, as Sir Thomas Lucy did, for he took plots and ideas wherever he found them and worked them over into the revised versions that now rank among the finest achievements of mankind. Yet all the while his one desire was to be a well-to-do business man of his native town of Stratford, and as soon as he had made a comfortable fortune he retired and spent his last years in quiet, building a new house and writing one or two last plays in the commonplace seclusion of a country town. There is still one place left in London where his plays were performed under his direction, although the old theaters have long since perished. This is the Temple Hall, in the grounds that belonged to the old of Crusading fame. Here he put on "The Winter's Tale" with great success. If you are ever in London you can visit the hall and on entering you can turn the very door-handle, so tradition says, which the poet himself used.
Molière was the greatest French dramatist. At the height of his career, legend relates, he was such a favorite with the grand monarch, Louis XIV, that this proud king made him come and dine in private with him, so as to convince his servants and courtiers that the genius whom they thought of as a vulgar, impossible boor, a mere actor, was worthy of the greatest consideration. Yet when Molière was dead the king ungratefully refused to see that he was properly buried and the great man was carried to his last resting-place with little ceremony.
At the present day one of France's most prominent writers is Rostand, the author of "Cyrano de Bergerac," a play which brought him into instant popularity through its brilliance, although a few weeks before scarcely anyone had heard his name. On the first night of the production, in 1897, the audience cheered and shouted until it seemed as if the performance would break up in the confusion created by its success, yet thanks to Rostand's coolness the actors and even the spectators were kept calm enough to carry the play through to its masterly conclusion. At the close, when the curtain had fallen on the last act, Rostand was sought for everywhere to make his bow to the enthusiastic audience, but he had quietly driven away to his country home, with his wife, and there he stayed for a week or more before the public had a chance to welcome him.
Byron is almost the only man in English letters to come so suddenly before the people. He woke up one morning to find himself famous, through the publication of "Childe Harold." Byron was another of the unhappy geniuses. He was hot-headed and married an equally irritable wife, so naturally they separated, with anger and yet with sorrow. His little daughter, who he said was the one friend he had in the world, died at an early age. He dreaded being fat and therefore starved himself, a process which did not make him happier. But his death was in itself enough to redeem him in spite of his irresponsible and rather selfish career, for he gave himself up to the cause of the freedom and independence of the Greeks, and died of fever contracted while preparing for the great campaign against the Turks.
Poor Dean Swift, the author of "Gulliver's Travels," the bitterest book ever written about human beings, suffered even more than Byron. He was keenly sensitive, and his political labors were poorly paid because he was none too courteous in his manner to the political leaders for whom he worked so hard. Boot-licking would have brought him the position he desired, but Swift was not a toady, so he was driven to accept the second-rate place offered him, and there vented his anger in the most savage attacks on human nature that can be imagined. All this while he had been fearing that his mind would give way; "I am like that tree," he said to a friend one day when they were out walking, "I shall die at the top first." He was right, for not long afterward his brain gave way.
"The Old Oaken Bucket" still has a touch of beauty for us, if we do not hear it too often. It was written under rather interesting circumstances. Samuel Woodworth, the author, was born and brought up on a little farm in Scituate, not far from Plymouth, Massachusetts. In his youth he went to New York and got a job as a reporter. One day he was in a bar, taking a glass of brandy and declaring that it was the finest drink on earth, when a friend with him said, "You're wrong; think of the delicious water you used to draw from the old well at home." Woodworth jumped up and hurried over to his rooms, where he sat down and dashed off the outline of the song that at once won a widespread vogue.
Perhaps the bravest fight against ill health was put up by Robert Louis Stevenson, the gentle, lovable poet and novelist. As a young man he found that consumption threatened to carry him off. With the cheerfulness characteristic of the victims of the White Plague he set off on a series of outdoor trips afoot and afloat. Two of these are preserved for us in his "Inland Voyage" and the more fascinating "Travels with a Donkey." This latter is almost unequaled as a picture of travel. He finally started for America to see if the climate there would not be better for him than the moist weather of Scotland, his home. Eventually he reached Samoa, in the South Seas of the Pacific, where he lived for several years, cheerful and brave in spite of his increasing weakness. His character, although mild and kindly, was so forceful that the chiefs among the natives held him in veneration, and at the time of his death no one lamented him more than the simple Samoans, some of whom bore him to the grave on the hill-top near his home.
Thoreau, one of New England's philosophers of the great and glorious Emerson days, was as eccentric as any one that can be found. For the sake of peace and independence he went off into the woods and lived as a hermit near Walden Pond, outside Concord. To earn what little money he needed he made lead pencils; like many country folks of those days he was amazingly dexterous with his knife and his pencils were a delight to use. In his leisure he made an exhaustive study of the Pond; but in two years' time he left this little cabin and never returned. He said that he had had enough of that sort of life and now he was going to try something else. His was the same spirit of adventure that stirred the old explorers and yet he was so fond of New England that he rarely set foot outside her boundaries. He could find enough to keep him busy thinking and writing within his own dooryard. But he showed that it was possible for a man in good health to live on less than $100 a year and have more than two thirds of his time to himself. On the other hand, as he died of consumption at the age of forty-four, he also proved that outdoor life is not in itself a preventive of that scourge.
Whittier, the gentle Quaker poet, was one of the sturdiest heroes of the antislavery movement. In those days he was a fighter, stoned and mobbed by the partisans of slavery in Philadelphia and Concord, New Hampshire. His genius was discovered by William Lloyd Garrison, the abolitionist, while he was editing a paper at Newburyport. Whittier's sister had sent some verses of her young brother's to the paper and Garrison not only printed them but hunted up the author to enlist him in his good work. In his latter years Whittier clung to the rural obscurity of Amesbury, where he enjoyed the rippling life of the little town, talking local politics with the 'natives' in the country store, chatting with his friends on the doorstep of the Friends' meeting-house which he had helped to build, or planting trees about it, like Holmes, who used to boast that at one time or another he had set out more than seven hundred saplings. Whittier, more than any other American, has left us glowing pictures of New England life and geniality. With his reverent sense of the need for emphasizing morals and duty there was a love of home, of the memory of youth's work and play that makes "Snow-Bound" immortal. Emerson was the Yankee philosopher; Hawthorne, the novelist of New England's moods; Thoreau, the nature-worshiper; Holmes, the Bostonian; Longfellow, the cosmopolitan poet; but Whittier was the poet of New England's heart.
The brightest and most delightful pages that have ever been written.
Short stories, humor, adventure, and fun.
Aldrich: "Père Antoine's Date Palm."
Balzac: "The Purse."
Barrie: "Lads and Lassies."
Björnson: "The Railroad and the Churchyard."
Boccaccio: "The Story of Constantia," "The Story of Federigo and the Falcon."
Brown: "Rab and his Friends."
Collins: "A Terribly Strange Bed."
Crawford: "The Upper Berth."
Eliot: "Brother Jacob."
Hale: "The Man Without a Country."
Hardy: "The Three Strangers."
Harte: "Tennessee's Partner."
Hawthorne: "The Snow-Image."
Irving: "Rip Van Winkle."
Japanese Literature: "The Forty-Seven Rônins."
Kipling: "The Man Who Would Be King."
Macleod: "The Washer of the Ford."
Maupassant: "The Piece of String."
Meredith: "The Story of Noorna Bin Noorka, the Genie Karaz, and the Princess of Oolb," "The Punishment of Shahpesh, the Persian, on Khipil, the Builder."
Poe: "The Fall of the House of Usher," "The Cask of Amontillado."
Sterne: "The Story of Le Fevre."
Stevenson: "A Lodging for the Night."
Tolstoi: "Where Love is, There God is Also."
Andersen: "The Hardy Tin Soldier," "The Ugly Duckling," "The Old Street Lamp."
Apuleius: "The Story of Cupid and Psyche."
Arabian Nights: "Ali Baba and the Forty Robbers," "Abon-Hassan the Wag, or the Sleeper Awakened," "The Story of the Three Apples."
Grimm: "Cinderella," "Hansel and Grethel," "The Two Brothers."
Perrault: "Little Red Riding-Hood," "Blue Beard," "Puss in Boots."
Russian Literature: "The Water King and Vasilissa the Wise."
Barham: "The Knight and the Lady."
Browne: "The Showman's Courtship."
Carroll: "A Mad Tea-Party," "The White Knight," "The Walrus and the Carpenter," "Jabberwocky."
Cowper: "The Diverting History of John Gilpin."
Gilbert: "The Yarn of the Nancy Bell."
Harris: "Old Mr. Rabbit, He's a Good Fisherman."
Harte: "Plain Language from Truthful James."
Hood: "Faithless Sally Brown."
Hope: "The House Opposite."
Jerrold: "Mrs. Caudle's Curtain Lectures."
Lamb: "A Dissertation on Roast Pig."
Lowell: "The Courtin'."
Raspe: "Baron Münchhausen."
Sterne: "A Sentimental Journey."
Audubon: "Hospitality in the Woods."
Carlyle: "The Fall of the Bastille."
Coleridge: "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner."
Froude: "A Cagliostro of the Second Century."
Hay: "Jim Bludso of the Prairie Belle."
Hearn: "In the Cave of the Children's Ghosts."
Stevenson: "A Night among the Pines."
We are told there is no royal road to learning; no short cut to the understanding and appreciation of literature. We are told that we must admire Homer, or Addison, or some other immortal author, but no one tells us why or how. No explanation is given of the reason why their work is deservedly immortal. Our schools do not introduce us to the delights of good reading; instead, they handle a few stories and essays as if they were Latin or algebra, making drudgery out of what ought to be enjoyment. The result is that we are frightened away from the great writers; their work is supposed to be a mystery, only to be revealed to those who give years of labor to its study.
But no one is so dull or so heedless of pleasure as not to accept the means of lasting delight when it is put right in front of them. Thousands of people are waiting for the chance to get in touch with the good sense, rousing style, and splendid ideas of the masters of literature. That is why this volume has been prepared. It furnishes a direct and attractive road straight to the heart of literature. It has been laid out systematically so as to be a simple and practical guide.
The leading characteristics of each era, each nation, and each division of literature have been tersely stated, with the authors under each of these classifications listed beneath. The noblest and most fascinating works gain tenfold in interest through the knowledge of these fundamental facts. With them before you, you command a view, not merely of one single author, but of the whole movement of which he was a part. You see the ideas and lines of thought from which a book has sprung, the hidden forces which went into the making of it. Each book stands in association with those of the same literary class, or nation, or period; their relationship with the rest of literature is at once apparent. In this way the wasteful drudgery and folly of aimless reading is avoided. The study of literature pursued with the means here given cannot be tedious, for it is straightforward, simple, and clear.
The results that are to be expected from the limited time which most of us can devote to reading are more extensive than might be thought. In this connection read the following selections, practical and full of common sense, each of them throwing light on the subject of reading.
The Preface, I, 3.
Hamerton, "To a Man of Business," VI, 236.
Harrison, from "The Choice of Books," VI, 275.
Morley, "Popular Culture," IX, 236.
Schopenhauer, "On Books and Reading," X, 374.
First of all: What is Literature?
The expression of thought upon the countless phases of life and the universe as felt by the greatest intellects.
There are innumerable views to be taken of this world of ours; each of us sees it a little differently, the problem of life strikes a nation or an age or an individual in ever changing ways. Homer saw it in heroic terms, Swift, in "Gulliver's Travels," looked at it savagely and sadly, Bunyan, in the "Pilgrim's Progress," saw the religious side. These authors not only saw but felt; their feelings took possession of them, they had to write them down and give them expression. Gray, the author of the immortal "Elegy in a Country Churchyard," took seven years to perfect the expression of the feelings roused by what he saw in that secluded village nook. Poe chose every word of his "Tales of Mystery and Imagination" with the utmost care. The labor of composition was solely for the purpose of giving the reader exactly the impression and emotion desired; for the sake of clearness, force, and ease.
In the second place: Each of the great periods in history has had certain traits and has excelled in some particular field of literature. The traits and the works of an era have been molded by preceding ages and likewise have brought about the development of the periods which followed. Vergil was influenced by Homer and the whole tradition of Greek literature; Shakespeare and the rest of the Elizabethan writers are products of the fresh outburst of activity which we call the Renaissance; Kipling has profited by the work of Dickens, Poe, Milton, Chaucer, and a host of other authors. If we are to appreciate a writer, then, we must know the chief characteristics of these great literary epochs.
The Age of the Ancients. 1500 B.C.–500 A.D. From the dawn of history to the fall of the Roman Empire, all the principal forms of literary expression were developed, at least two of which, epic poetry and tragedy, have never been surpassed. Yet the world was very small then; it was merely the coast of the Mediterranean Sea. Its ideals were narrow, limited by paganism and slavery. For those who wrote and those who read there was no struggle for existence, they were waited on by their slaves, they had no faith in a life after death; whether thinkers or heedless wasters, they were selfishly living for to-day and not for the morrow. The bulk of the people were ignorant, even when not enslaved. As their literature was the product of an aristocracy, leading a life of leisure, it was inevitably stately, reserved, and formal in its tone, except in the earliest productions before society had emerged completely from barbarism.
The Dark Ages. 500 A.D.–1000 A.D. Crippled by pride and selfishness Roman civilization was swept away by wave after wave of barbarian invasions. Goths, Visigoths, Ostrogoths, Huns, Lombards, and Vandals in turn swarmed over the face of Europe, spreading terror and desolation. Learning, art, industry, and government perished. But the invaders brought a love of freedom, a hatred of bondage and captivity, to offset their contempt for the progress effected by the great thinkers and rulers of antiquity.
There is but little left to us of the scanty literature produced in those dim centuries. It is all primitive, Homeric; rhythmic tales of the heroic lives and deaths of national leaders constitute the sole endeavor that has lasted. But in these is the note of freedom, for the masses of the people as well as the rulers and nobles delighted in Charlemagne and his peerless knight Roland, or in Eric, the Viking adventurer, who dared to sail far forth to Vinland. The great ruler was not a mere commander but a leader whom men of every class gladly followed with love as well as respect. Yet the ideals were low, mainly of physical prowess and sheer brute strength.
Anglo-Saxon Lit. French Lit. German Lit. Norse Lit. Spanish Lit.
The Middle Ages. 1000 A.D.–1400 A.D. However, as soon as the dread of barbarian havoc had passed and peace and government had been restored to some extent, a new and brighter era began. The thirst for learning has never been greater than at this time. Students flocked to the universities of Paris, Oxford, and Bologna in thousands, begging their way, traveling on foot for hundreds of miles. Religion seized men even more firmly, finding them active or meditative occupations either in the monasteries or in the Crusades. The aspirations of the time appear in the legends of King Arthur and the Round Table, as told in the prose of the day by Sir Thomas Malory or in the more recent verse of Tennyson's "Idylls of the King." This is the chivalric ideal of perfect knighthood. The religious feeling is shown in such hymns as the "Stabat Mater," the "Dies Iræ," or "Jerusalem the Golden." Dante, commonly reckoned the second of the world's poets, proves the zeal for learning and scholarship. The spirit of freedom gleams from the "Old English Ballads" of Robin Hood, the enemy of the oppressive nobles and the friend of the poor and the humble. It is even more evident in the work of John Wyclif, who translated the Bible into English so that the common peasant might have the advantage of hearing the Gospel message read to him in a tongue that he understood, and that he might feel that the teachings of religion were meant for him as much as for the wealthy and the learned.
But science and thought had not yet startled men into recognition of the wonder round about them. Knowledge was assumed to be complete. To probe into the mysteries of nature was unholy and wicked in those days. The awakening from unseeing and unreasoning childhood to the adventuresome zest of youth and young manhood was yet to come.
Old English Ballads
Bernard of Cluny
Thomas of Celano
The Renaissance. 1400–1600. The gradual increase of knowledge and better government toward the close of the Middle Ages caused a desire for higher things. This hidden desire suddenly broke loose with astonishing force when the art of printing was discovered, about 1450. Information had hitherto been spread only by word of mouth or by laboriously copying a volume by hand. The process in either case was slower than we can imagine. But now new ideas, rare books, foreign teaching could be spread broadcast like wildfire.
It also happened at just this time that Constantinople was taken by the Turks (1453). The greatest treasures of Greek literature had been jealously hidden away there for centuries. Now that the scholars had to fly for their lives they let loose a store of new thought on the nations of western Europe. Taking refuge in Italy they brought with them these rich volumes. The Italian enthusiasm and the ardor with which these discoveries were published to the world spread like fire through France and Germany and England.
Everywhere mankind awoke; never before or since have people lived so strenuously. Their newly awakened curiosity drove them round the Cape of Good Hope and across the Atlantic Ocean. Exploration and adventure, the invasion of Mexico and the Americas as well as the Orient, the search for gold and for happiness went hand in hand. At the same time Luther roused northern Europe with his demand for religious reform and founded the Protestant church. In England Shakespeare and his companions had discovered a new field of literary venture and produced plays by the hundred, many of them immortal. The modern world of action and progress had at last come of age.
The passing of the old ideals, of chivalry and monkish study, is nowhere better shown than in "Don Quixote." The love of creative art hand in hand with adventure echoes through every page of Cellini's "Autobiography." Francis Bacon discovered a new method of reasoning; Montaigne did what had not been thought of for hundreds of years, and began to study his own personality, the workings of his mind, and the problems which he found in his own life within himself; Sir Thomas More also took up a subject that had not been touched for seventeen centuries and drew a wonderful picture of an ideal government in his "Utopia." Columbus and a whole squadron of others sailed the unknown seas. The Elizabethan nobles, like Sir Philip Sidney and Sir Walter Raleigh, were poets, statesmen, courtiers, and generals all at once.
The Age of Classicism. 1600–1776. By 1600 imagination and the creative spirit were running riot. The exuberance of wonder and discovery had led to a wordy and confused style of writing. It was time for this unbalanced disorderly manner to be subjected to sound criticism and to be regulated by laws of composition.
This is precisely what happened. Enthusiasm and inventive power were wearied, and thinking men began to criticize and judge the work that was being done. It was clear to them that there was need of proportion and symmetry, that each act of a play, for example, should do its special part in the development of the plot and in the revelation of the characters. The problem in the scholar's mind was: What is the best possible form or model to follow in making a play, a song, or a speech? Wise men came to the conclusion that the classic authors of ancient literature furnished the best examples, and this is why the period is called the Age of Classicism.
It was characterized by the use of reason and judgment, rather than feeling and inspiration, by convention and law, by restraint and dignity. In fact the wilder side of nature was actually disliked; the Alps were not grand, but barbaric and odious, in the eyes of the literary men of that day. Dr. Johnson, in his famous Dictionary, defines a mountain as "a protuberance on the face of nature." The rich land-owners altered the landscapes on their great estates, smoothed out the of the meadows, cut trees down and planted others, laid out geometrically correct roads and paths, and altogether 'improved' nature until the whole scene was thoroughly artificial; very trim and neat, but very unnatural.
In literature it was much the same. Poetry, such as Pope's, seems stilted and affected to us; the plays of Racine, the opposite of Shakespeare's, are formal and long-winded, so exalted in tone and so restrained in their phrasing that they are dignity indeed, but nothing else.
Yet the movement was beneficial because it cut away the extravagances of the earlier period. It also produced a new branch of literature, the critical essay. The essays of Bacon and Montaigne had been philosophical. Those of Addison and Steele dealt with life and literature critically, using fable and fiction to give point to their verdicts in enforcement of law and convention.
But writing based on the ancient classics demanded a highly educated public. Only the wealthy could obtain the education necessary. Besides, the aristocracy held that the common people should be kept in their place, that learning and scholarship were not for them. The life of thought and progress was remote from the mass of the population, just as the government was carried on without reference to their needs or wishes.
The Age of Romanticism. 1776–1832. The Revolution in America, soon followed by that in France, is the historical sign of the passing of the aristocratic spirit of classicism. Freedom, equality, the destruction of the bondage that had held the common people back from education and advancement, these are the new ideas. In literature as in life a reaction broke out against the formal, stilted, unemotional style of classicism. Wordsworth and Byron in England, Rousseau in France, and Goethe and Schiller in Germany were the leaders in the intellectual activity. Their writings and their principles were directly opposed to their predecessors. Liberty, instead of convention; free expression of passion and feeling, in the place of cold reasoning; individual expression instead of imitation and studied restraint; simple words and direct, clear statement in the place of an affected and artificial style; a love for the wild and picturesque in scenery rather than for the smooth and cultivated parks of the past century. Contrast Byron with Pope, or Scott's novels with Johnson's "Rasselas" to see the radical difference in tone.
This outburst of freedom and self-expression meant progress. To increase the advance, steam and machinery came into use; just as printing accomplished marvels in the days of the Renaissance, so now there was again a blaze of creative genius and inventiveness. National education at the expense of the state and the growth of newspapers and magazines put rich and poor, noble and peasant more nearly on a level than any bloodshed or lawmaking could ever have done.
The Nineteenth Century. The first glow of the romantic enthusiasm soon died away and the new forces of industry and commerce took possession of Europe and America.
But the swift onrush of manufacturing and trading called for armies of accountants, skilled workers, and salesmen. These made up a new class of society; hitherto there had been aristocrats and peasants, educated and ignorant, rich and poor. The army of business employees, alert, vigorous, ready for any quantity of reading-matter that would amuse or furnish knowledge, added their countless numbers to the reading public. Fiction, at first in the novel, and later in the short story, was published as fast as it could be printed. This great middle class itself provided material for genius to work on. Dickens and George Eliot are striking examples of authors who wrote about this new middle class in order to amuse it. The influence of business life made the world more matter of fact and in consequence literature became rather more prosaic, with a tendency to present a realistic picture of everyday life and manners. Science, aided by a multitude of mechanical inventions, made unprecedented progress and assumed a more important place in the minds of men than ever before. History was treated scientifically, thought was more systematic than ever, the nineteenth century presented a union of the enthusiasm of the Renaissance, the love of system of the Classic Age, and the devotion to nature of the Romantic Period.
The following lists have been selected from the great array of nineteenth-century authors with the view of presenting those whose work has been peculiarly significant of the period.
Browning, E. B.
Each of the nations, like each of the great eras of human progress, possesses definite characteristics of its own. Frenchmen differ from Englishmen in their faces, their customs, and also in intellectual trend. Shakespeare is unlike Ibsen not simply because he lived at an earlier date, in another epoch, but also because he was the native of another country. Kipling's point of view is not the same as that of Thomas Bailey Aldrich; their national traditions and surroundings varied sufficiently to leave a mark upon their work so legible that one is recognized as English and the other as American without need of referring to their biographies.
It is necessary, then, to have in mind the traits that individualize nations and races. For this reason the national characteristics are here set forth briefly, with lists of the principal authors of each country.
Greek Literature. An unequaled perception of beauty, with a love of symmetry and proportion: the reason and the feelings, the intellect and the emotions are perfectly blended. The powers of imagination and creation are highly trained, as well as the logical faculty, resulting in the perfection of skill and insight in epic poetry (Homer), tragedy (Æschylus, Euripides, and Sophocles), and philosophy (Plato).
Latin Literature. The power of organization, with an ardor for law and order, combined with a genius for adapting and utilizing the best products of the nations which came under the Roman rule. This talent for adaptation and imitation stands in contrast to the Greek creative talent. Inasmuch as Rome's greatest literary works belong to a period four centuries after the best Greek production, it follows that the Roman authors profited not only by Greek achievement but also by the increased knowledge of the world due to the vast extension of the Roman Empire. Apart from this broader point of view, Latin authors borrowed method and style from the Greek; Vergil follows Homer and Theocritus, who was also imitated by Horace. Cicero and Seneca took both thought and style from Greek philosophers. In fact, Athens was the university at which all well-educated Romans had studied.
English Literature. England's isolation as an island has enabled her to develop a national literature continuously for nine centuries with only the slightest interruption from the world without. Foreign ideas have been introduced, certainly, but by Englishmen instead of by foreigners. Where a slothful race would have lain dormant and inactive, the vigorous and adventurous islanders have even led the way in two fields of literary endeavor, for fiction and the essay reached their successive stages of growth more quickly in England than elsewhere. Throughout poetry and prose, with but few exceptions, there is a blend of shrewdness and inspiration which in daily life is called common sense; Chaucer, Shakespeare, Milton, Browning continually sound the practical note, evincing their knowledge and appreciation of material affairs. Another trait is that of searching out the moral lessons in life and thought. "Books in the running brooks, sermons in stones" are constantly sought by English authors. Chaucer, Bunyan, Milton, Dickens, Carlyle, Browning, and many others from the forefront of English letters play the part of teacher and preacher again and again.
Browning, E. B.
Old English Ballads
Rossetti, D. G.
Browne, Sir T.
American Literature. Obviously akin to English literature, yet more democratic in tone, owing to national tendencies, such as the character of the settlers, and the subsequent historical developments. Longfellow, Emerson, Whitman, and the other leading American authors wrote for the nation and not for any restricted class; the aristocratic note characteristic of much of eighteenth-century English literature is not to be found in American writers.
Morris, G. P.
Smith, S. F.
Browne, C. F.
French Literature. A marked love of beauty, almost Greek in its nature, with a feeling for accuracy and organization which is decidedly Latin. These qualities have produced delicacy and clearness of expression; but their tendencies lead to perfection of style and form rather than to depth of thought, giving an effect of lightness and brilliance, and at times of superficiality.
Rouget de Lisle
Bernard of Cluny
German Literature. Depth of thought and forceful expression, which are in part responsible for the complex character of the national style as opposed to the clarity of the French. Owing to the unsettled condition of Germany for many centuries, the arts in general, and literature especially, did not begin to flourish to a noteworthy degree until the eighteenth century. While Luther was the first great author to use the language in its present form, it was not until two centuries later that the next eminent writers, Lessing, Schiller, and Goethe, appeared, whose work marks the highest point in the history of German letters.
Italian Literature. Emotional and imaginative rather than reflective, and therefore at its best in the brilliant and exuberant era of the Renaissance, which first came into full bloom in Italy.
Thomas of Celano
Spanish Literature. Marked by the dignity that is the predominating characteristic of the nation. Just as Spain has had but one brief period when she was supreme among the European nations, so she has produced but one supreme author, Cervantes. Her literature, for the most part, and notably at the present day, is imitative, behind rather than ahead of the times.
Scandinavian Literature. Norway, Sweden, and Denmark are nations of the same race; their history, literature, and civilization are inseparably associated. Climate, racial character, historical developments, and other causes have combined to retard the growth of their literature. Apart from the sagas little of universal interest appeared until the nineteenth century, in which Ibsen created a sensation with his dramas of relentless criticism of the vanity and pettiness of life in the prosperous, democratic society of Norway.
Russian Literature. In some respects more closely related to the East than to the West, and hampered by despotism until the twentieth century, Russia produced nothing of value until a century ago. The novelists mentioned below then began a series of vivid pictures of the struggle for freedom, knowledge, and civilization as opposed to tyranny, universal ignorance, and barbarism. Their work has a strong national flavor, coupled with a youthful energy and an enthusiasm for the mission of enlightenment that recalls the spirit of the Renaissance and its zeal for discovery and progress.
Oriental Literature. Arabia, Persia, India, China, and Japan live and think along lines utterly at variance with our mode of life. Their points of difference from each other are by no means as distinct as the radical contrast between their customs and ours. As we all know, Arabic and Hebrew are written from right to left, so that a book's first page corresponds to the last page with us; in China and Japan people write down the page in vertical columns. Again, with us energy and activity, wisely used, form the basis of our life and our religion, whereas in the Orient it is held best to abstain from all action, to lead a life of absolute quiet and inactivity, if possible.
It follows that the literature of the East is first of all exceedingly difficult to translate well and in the second place is not to be judged in the same fashion as Western writings.
Poetry, history, the novel, the short story, the essay, and other branches of literature have all passed through successive stages of change and progress. To trace one of these divisions from its beginnings is not only interesting, but affords an excellent method of study, easily carried out and immediately beneficial. The novel of to-day, for example, is the product of centuries of authorship, in which various elements were gradually blended; the contributions of Cervantes, Defoe, Addison, and Scott, extending over a space of two hundred and thirty years, have each played a decisive part in its formation. So it is with history, poetry, and the rest of the forms of intellectual expression. The origin and nature of each of these divisions is considered in the pages that follow, with the usual lists and examples under each heading.
How did poetry originate? In every nation the beginnings of its literature have been poems. This highest form of literary expression is also the oldest; it is not the final triumphant product of a highly civilized age, after centuries of slow development and gradual growth of power and art in the use of words. It is exactly the opposite; the earliest authors are the poets who sang and chanted the brave deeds of the leaders of their nation; the "Iliad," the Norse sagas, the "Song of Roland" are well-known examples of this primitive yet glorious poetry. But why is this, that one of the greatest of the arts should be already highly perfected in barbaric times? Because poetry rests on two principles: it is imaginative in its nature and rhythmic in its form. Man's imagination stirred him to conquest for the sake of glory and dominion, and then his imagination was again roused to tell in words of splendid imagery of his honor and fame and valor, of loveliness and happiness and power. Man's instinct for the regular cadence that he heard in the tramp of marching feet led him to chant aloud in firm, even measure while the words he sang fitted themselves to the beat of his music. It was only a slight matter to vary the length of the lines or group them in stanzas or use rhyme in order to increase the beauty of verse construction. However, the true test of poetry has always been the value of its imaginative power; no matter how accurate or elaborate its form, unless it expresses great ideas it cannot rank as great poetry, but merely as good verse. Like all art, poetry is the expression of genuine feeling in beautiful form. (See Sidney's "Defense of Poesy.")
The Chief Divisions of Poetry
Epic poetry tells the story of a great sequence of events, such as the wanderings and home-coming of Odysseus, in the "Odyssey." It is the earliest form of literature and one of the grandest. No great period or nation has failed to produce its epic.
For examples in Ancient Literature see "The Epic of Pentaur" under Egyptian Literature; Homer; and Vergil. The works of the last two are known as 'heroic epics.'
In the Dark Ages: "Beowulf" under Anglo-Saxon Literature; "The Song of Roland" under French Literature; "The Nibelungenlied" under German Literature; "The Saga of Eric the Red" under Norse Literature; and "The Chronicle of the Cid" under Spanish Literature.
In the Middle Ages: Dante and Tasso, who wrote 'sacred epics.' The "Old English Ballads" are excellent examples of the shorter poetic tales from which such epics as the "Iliad," the "Nibelungenlied," and the "Song of Roland" were built up.
In the Renaissance: Spenser, whose "Faerie Queene" is an epic of chivalry. Milton's great epics of "Paradise Lost" and "Paradise Regained" are sacred epics, reflecting the Puritan influence that came over England at the close of the period.
In the Age of Classicism: the mock-epic of Pope's "Rape of the Lock," and the epic tale in prose, "Telemachus," by Fénelon.
In the Age of Romanticism: Scott's "Lady of the Lake," and Byron's "Childe Harold's Pilgrimage," although this last is perhaps best regarded as a study of the poet's emotions upon visiting the grandest scenes in Europe.
In Nineteenth Century Literature: Longfellow's "Evangeline" and "Hiawatha" are short epics. Owing to the central, unifying figure of King Arthur, Tennyson's "Idylls of the King" have much of the epic effect.
Lyric poetry includes all verse that presents the poet's feelings and passions; it is characterized also by plentiful use of varied ideas, rich and fanciful imagery, and rhythmical flow of language.
From the beginning there were shorter songs, as well as the epic, often accompanied on the lyre, a small harp, from which this branch of poetry takes its name. To-day lyric poetry tends toward a lighter tone and spirit than in the Romantic Period; in length it may vary very widely, from the little quatrain, of four lines, to an ode or a ballad of almost epic extent. Burns, Milton, Moore, Byron, Keats, Shelley, Shakespeare, and Wordsworth are among the foremost in this field; among the ancients Catullus, Horace, and Sappho are prominent; while the writings of Goethe, Heine, Uhland, Longfellow, Whittier, Browning, Tennyson, and Swinburne contain many that are familiar. Musical accompaniment is no longer essential. There are several forms of the lyric, chief among which are the following:
The Ode, addressed to a person or a personified idea or else expressing the poet's emotions at a moment of great exaltation. In form it either follows a varying sequence of lines of irregular length or else employs a series of uniform stanzas. Illustrative of the former are Dryden's "Alexander's Feast" and "A Song for St. Cecilia's Day," and Wordsworth's "Ode on Intimations of Immortality"; among the latter are Collins's "Ode to Evening," Keats's "Ode to a Nightingale" and "Ode on a Grecian Urn," Shelley's "Ode to the West Wind" and "To a Skylark," and Wordsworth's "To the Cuckoo" and "Ode to Duty."
The Sonnet, of Italian origin, was brought to its perfection by Petrarch; it consists of fourteen lines of equal length (in English usually of ten syllables), the first eight lines constituting the octave and the last six, the sestet. In the octave the rhymes are arranged a b b a a b b a, and in the sestet, either c d c d c d or c d e c d e. The sonnet should contain one idea, which may be treated from two points of view, in the octave and sestet respectively. As used by Milton and later poets in England this double treatment was not often observed and there is no break of thought at the end of the octave. Owing to its restrictions the sonnet is considered one of the most difficult forms in which to achieve distinction, as metrical ingenuity without sublimity of thought bars mere versifiers. The most noted examples by English authors are E. B. Browning's "Sonnets from the Portuguese," Keats's "On First Looking into Chapman's Homer," Milton's "On His Blindness," Shelley's "England in 1819," and those selected from Wordsworth.
The Ballad, partaking somewhat of the epic, is a tale in verse, usually arranged in short stanzas. "Old English Ballads," Cowper's "The Diverting History of John Gilpin," Drayton's "Ballad of Agincourt," and Rossetti's "The White Ship" are specimens of this form. It originated among the peasantry, who commemorated the prowess of their favorite heroes in rough verse sung by the cottage hearth.
The Elegy is devoted to the memory of the dead and therefore is grave and stately in its metrical form as well as in thought. Gray's "Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard," Milton's "Lycidas," Shelley's "Adonais," and Tennyson's "In Memoriam" are the most famous.
Idyllic poetry briefly presents a picture, complete and lovely, usually pastoral and romantic. Tennyson's "Idylls of the King," Goldsmith's "Deserted Village," the Idylls of Theocritus, and the Eclogues of Vergil are the best examples.
Dramatic poetry, in which the form of a play or drama is used, has always been chosen for the deepest and most majestic presentations of the problems and wonders of human life. The dramatic poets of the ancients as well as those of modern times rank among the most far-seeing thinkers and ablest writers of the world. No philosopher or historian has ever been able to reach the people or express the profoundest reflections so readily and forcibly.
The tragedies of Æschylus, Euripides, and Sophocles, with those of Shakespeare and the "Faust" of Goethe, are the highest achievements in literature; their effect, from the stage, is instantaneous, and even in reading them the mind receives a direct impression of wonder and awe not elsewhere given. The Greek tragedies mentioned above have for their underlying theme the power of relentless fate, the inevitable omnipotence of right, and the final destruction of wrong and falsehood. In these and "Macbeth," "Hamlet," and "King Lear" the mastery of plot and action is superb; the play gathers force and momentum until the catastrophe sweeps down upon the evil-doers and unfortunates like a tidal wave. Yet each step in its progress, even the least trifle, is so natural as to seem unavoidable. Here is the proof of the poet's genius, in that he selects the message to be presented to his audience or readers, chooses his characters, and outlines his plot, then combines the three elements with such skill and with such inspiration as to leave an effect of perfect truth and actuality. Aristotle, the ancient philosopher and critic, declared that the very souls of the audience were cleansed and rid of pettiness and self-seeking by beholding such works as these; that the spectacle of disaster brought down upon men by their own vanity and wrong-doing, and portrayed in language of such vivid grandeur, was the most impressive means of reaching the hearts of men.
In addition to the authors mentioned above, Calderon, Jonson, Lessing, Marlowe, Molière, Racine, Rostand, and Schiller have made notable contributions to the poetic drama. (See also Drama, p. 49.)
The practice of telling tales of love and heroism is older than history itself. Ever since men sat about the fire of an evening and recited the deeds of their chieftains or extolled the beauty of their princesses, in other words, ever since the days when poetry first began, stories and tales have been handed down, first by word of mouth, then by carvings and inscriptions and at last by writing and printing. The first fiction was a simple, imaginative invention of adventure, told to pass the time. Æsop's "Fables" and Apuleius's "Story of Cupid and Psyche," ancient as they are, show the progress already made in the art of narration, the one simple and insistent in its purpose of teaching common sense by whimsical anecdotes, the other a delicately artistic legend told with exquisite grace. In "Jewish Literature" the story of Tobit's wonderful adventures at once calls to mind the "Arabian Nights," which were of similar origin, told by professional story-tellers for centuries before they were finally written down and translated for our perpetual delight.
The novel, a new feature in fiction, shows its first faint beginnings in the tumult and enthusiasm of the Renaissance, that strenuous age of new ideas and discoveries. Cervantes in writing "Don Quixote" had a definite purpose in mind beyond mere entertainment; the passing of the age of chivalry and the pathos and humor of life form the true subject of his tale. Bunyan in the "Pilgrim's Progress" shows the same intent of doing something more than providing interesting reading; the growth of a noble character through struggle and temptation on the journey through life is the central thought of his work. His hero, Christian, changes in character, becoming a stronger, better man as the story goes on. Defoe's Robinson Crusoe goes through much of the same evolution. And this is the underlying principle of the novel, that it has a purpose beyond simple story-telling, possessing a plot or unified succession of incidents, with actors whose characters develop. It is a picture of human life, with strength and weakness, happiness and misery, all bound together and forming a united and well-proportioned whole.
However, it was not until Addison and Steele, in the "Spectator" essays, had shown such skill in drawing characters and depicting manners and customs that the time was ripe for the true novel to appear. For one of the chief duties of the novel is to criticize life, to furnish comment on the social conditions and tendencies of the day. Among the earliest and also the greatest of the English novelists, Fielding, whose work appeared about thirty years after the "Spectator," not only draws sturdy and truthful pictures of the life of his day, but also makes the reader see the true value of that life and estimate its good and its bad qualities. In the same way Dickens and Thackeray, not very long after, supplied unending amusement and fun for the world and at the same time did far more by making the nations sit up and think, pointing out with almost brutal clearness the need of unselfish action and the love of truth and simplicity. There is not a novel of high rank but contains more than meets the eye at first glance. It is the readiest means of putting a critical estimate of history, of life and society, directly before the world.
NOVELS AND GENERAL FICTION
The short story, as distinct from a story that is short, is a nineteenth-century development in fiction. During the last hundred years the magazines grew so rapidly in numbers and circulation that they could not depend entirely on continued stories; they had to have tales that would be complete in one number, which could be read at one sitting. The demand brought the needed solution, a story which instead of length, with intricate action and complex studies of personality, supplied rapid action, brilliantly imaginative description, and a terse portrayal of character. Scenes, persons, and events were stamped immediately on the reader's mind; the effect desired by the writer was attained by force and bold decision. Edgar Allan Poe was one of the first to excel in this field, utilizing his critical powers as well as sheer inspiration to meet the situation.
The variations in style and manner are as manifold in the short story as in the novel. Boccaccio, "The Arabian Nights," French Literature, and the "Gesta Romanorum" show the work of the Middle Ages, from mere anecdote with a moral tagged on, in the "Gesta," to the graceful prose poem of "Aucassin and Nicolete." Barrie, Brown, and Hawthorne do little more than draw quiet sketches of simple life, while Björnson, Eliot, Hardy, Harte, Irving, Kipling, Macleod, Maupassant, Stevenson, and Tolstoi deal powerfully with situations that bring home to us the force of fate which lurks hidden in petty incidents. Aldrich, Collins, Crawford, Hale, and Watson have all used this type of fiction effectively. Indeed, Hale's "Man Without a Country" drives home the idea of patriotism so vigorously that Italy recently issued a translation in an edition of a million copies for distribution to her army.
Like poetry and fiction, history emerges from the darkness of the unknown ages, at first no more than a boastful record of slaughter and usurpation, such as shows through the gloss and splendor of epic poetry. The sagas in "Norse Literature," the crisp record of invasion and conquest by Cæsar, and that of Josephus on the Roman conquest of the Jews are all of this type, a chronicle by an eyewitness of the succession of deeds that made up some event in a nation's life.
An improvement came with Herodotus in ancient times and again with Froissart in the Middle Ages. Both of these historians added zest to their tale by including some account of the principal personages as well as picturesque, well-drawn pictures of the scene. In other words, they filled in the background of their pictures, their wars were waged by people with definite personalities and in a country with certain individual features and peculiarities.
From this method to the modern scientific style was a further advance. It is now understood that we must perceive the growth of a nation, its social changes, its increase of intellectual as well as physical power, its innermost secrets of success or failure. Thucydides, the Greek historian, and Tacitus, the Roman, felt something of this and have left us far more than a mere list of battles and rulers. Gibbon, in "The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire," and later still, Guizot, Mommsen, and Ferrero, have carried on the work of analyzing the complex mysteries of history and civilization and have brought it to its highest development. The more stirring visions of heroism and kingly dominion have been replaced by pages in which not an emperor but a nation is born, passes through childhood to maturity and wisdom, succumbs to disease or an enemy's murderous attacks, and perishes.
The study of history nowadays may involve the scholar in years of drudgery, such as searching out and listing the exports and imports of the city of London between the years 1340 and 1400. However, the conclusions drawn from his discoveries may be of world-wide importance. The questions of tariff reform, wage-scales, taxation, and representative government will all be affected by the data which his scientific investigation will have brought to light. Those of us whose life-work lies in other directions can give no attention to the details of toilsome labor like this. But the results must always be significant for us. The great movements in the troublous advance of the nations from barbarism to civilization are full of lessons which we must learn. History, regarded as a series of wars, an unceasing fury of bloodshed and misgovernment, is of slight interest to peace-loving people. But history as a series of pictures, showing the conditions of life in various ages and countries, picturing the spread of liberty and equality, and the slow yet sure increase of justice—history viewed in this manner is one of the most stirring and educative subjects for reading and study.
How was the Roman Empire built up? What was the condition of the people in the days of Homer? How did the ancient tribes live from which the German nation is descended? What was England like in Shakespeare's time? These are some of the questions which we should ask. Many of the ablest brains in Europe and America have spent their lives in finding out the answers.
The following lists group the historians according to the nation which they discuss.
Egyptian Literature, Guizot's "History of Civilization in Europe," Japanese Literature, Josephus on the conquest of the Jews by Rome, Motley's "Relief of Leyden," Norse Literature, Tacitus's "Customs of the Germans," and Voltaire's account of Charles XII of Sweden are other selections.
The lives of great men have always been of interest not merely for the sake of satisfying curiosity, but because of the value of further knowledge about their habits, thoughts, and actions. The personality of a great man attracts us; perhaps through reading an intimate account of his life we may see into the reasons for his superiority, possibly we may find the key to the secret of power. So much can be learned from biography that it seems absurd how little importance is given to the subject even in our best colleges. Yet Christianity rests upon the life and teachings of one Personality, nation after nation has been saved or ruined by the deeds of one individual, wisdom and contentment have been found by the great minds of the world. By considering their lives, their principles, their virtues, and their failings we can get an extraordinary insight into the problems of happiness and wholesome living. Carlyle rightly called a Great Man "the most precious gift that Heaven can give to the Earth; a man of 'genius' as we call it; the Soul of a Man actually sent down from the skies with a God's-message to us." To see such a man at his work, at his play, thinking, dreaming, attaining greatness little by little or in a flash, to spend hours with him in thought, learning from him or from his friends and critics wherein he proved his power and how he labored to express it: to be in such close touch with one of the giants of the earth is a privilege which we must not dare to neglect. The opportunity is ours, ours be the blame and the failure if we neglect it.
Originally intended, as its name implies, to be a tentative effort rather than a finished production, the essay has none the less become one of the most perfect forms of prose. Its subject and the treatment thereof may be of almost any nature, provided it is well wrought and finished in style; for an essay is the artistic consideration of a topic, often critical, as in the case of Matthew Arnold's masterpieces, humorous, as with Lamb, philosophical as with Emerson, Carlyle, and Ruskin, and so on through a dozen diverse manners. In general the essay is brief, critical, and scholarly, and bears the stamp of the author's personality and individual opinion in his most polished style.
Bacon and Montaigne were the first to use it, Milton followed, and then Addison and Steele brought it to a high state of light and pungent perfection. Lamb, Macaulay, and Stevenson are perhaps the leaders in its later development. The work of such writers as Walton and Gilbert White, though not perhaps within the stricter limits of the definition, is closely related to the essay in tone and style.
Humor is the most subtle of intellectual modes of expression. To define it and lay down its laws and principles is all but beyond human power. For it ranges from the inspired nonsense of Carroll's "Alice in Wonderland" and "Through the Looking-Glass" or the rough and ready gusto of Browne's "Showman's Courtship" to the airily intangible delicacy of Lamb's "Essays of Elia" and the venomous sarcasm of Swift's "Gulliver's Travels." Mere wit turns on an absurd similarity in words or ideas, as in Hood's lines:
"They went and told the sexton, and
The sexton tolled the bell."
Yet the deepest humor is all but pathos; Don Quixote's demented visions of giants that prove to be windmills and of castles that turn out to be taverns provoke our laughter while they stir our pity.
Humor would seem to depend, according to some, upon the association of ideas or circumstances that have no true relation to each other, as if they actually possessed a natural relationship. For this reason a cat or a cow dressed in coat and trousers provokes laughter, or a village bully described as a proud monarch causes a smile. An unexpected answer made as seriously as if it were appropriate is one of the commoner examples of the ludicrous. It is much for the same reason that actual misfortune may appear laughable, if the element of suffering is suppressed, as in Joel Chandler Harris's "Uncle Remus" stories, or Gilbert's "Yarn of the Nancy Bell." Its very limits the appeal of humor. "One man's meat is another man's poison" applies more closely to this division of authorship than to any other. What tickles the fancy of one person, and more especially, one nation, may not afford even passing amusement to another. Englishmen find our comic papers dull, while many Americans see little to laugh at in "Punch."
FOR THE CHILDREN
The foundations of good taste are best laid in childhood. Fairy tales, adventures, and all sorts of stories for children may be well designed and well written, or the opposite, just as much as books for older people. Choose your children's books as you choose their food; take care they get no trash, arrange a tempting diet of wholesome nourishment for their minds. The authors listed below wrote as carefully and thoughtfully for little folks as when they wrote for grown-ups. Andersen devoted his life to authorship for children; the Grimm brothers made a scientific study of folk-lore and fairy tales throughout the German empire, collecting the stories told by the firesides in each district. Carroll, Hawthorne, Kingsley, and many others put their best efforts into books which are unquestioned examples of great literature and yet were purposed entirely for youth. There is no occasion for young people to ruin their taste and their appreciation with ill-written rubbish.
The majority of travelers have been men of action rather than words, filled with enthusiasm and inspiration for deeds instead of books. Columbus, Magellan, Drake, and the rest of the leaders of exploration have left nothing that can be called literature. Their records, at best, are scientific reports of their discoveries. Still, ever since the days when Pausanias made his remarkable tour of Greece and described its wonders and Herodotus jotted down the travelers' tales of Egypt, there have been able writers to tell of the marvels, real or imaginary, to be found in foreign lands.
In both ancient and modern literature the drama is of religious origin. Among the Greeks it began as a service in memory of some dead hero, the choir or chorus chanting the story of his life and deeds. Their leader presently began to take an actor's part, addressing the audience or congregation, and then other persons were introduced who carried on a dialogue with him and at last played the part of characters in the hero's history. In the Middle Ages, when the great majority of the people could not read, the Bible story was acted at Christmas, Easter, and other festivals in order to impress it on their minds more vividly. From this it was an easy step to the presentation of historical events, and it was but one more step to the modern drama's elaborate staging and well-rounded plot. (For the poetic drama, see p. 40.)
In general the drama has certain limitations which must be taken into account before passing judgment upon a play. Three hours is the utmost duration for a play; it must 'get across' within that period, since an audience becomes wearied during the third hour. It appeals to two senses, hearing and sight, while other forms of literature appeal but to one. This is an advantage as far as it enables the dramatist to tell his story by scenery and action as well as by speech and incidental music. It is a handicap when the action or the scenery is faulty and distracts the attention of the audience from the dialogue. Descriptions of any length, the study or analysis of personality, all features of ordinary fiction which delay the action are impossible on the stage. Speech and action must be fitted together so as to carry the plot through without pause, revealing the story forcibly, clearly, and yet naturally, within the restricted time.
These limitations have been handled in widely varying manners: three systems of presentation have been employed, the ancient, the medieval, and the modern, all of which are to be seen at the present day, thanks to the revival of Greek plays in the stadiums and amphitheaters of our colleges and likewise to the revival of the Elizabethan drama during the past ten years.
The ancient or Greek drama was presented in a stone amphitheater against a background of marble, constructed in the form of a palace or temple; the semicircular space occupied by the orchestra seats in our theaters contained an altar in the center and was used by the actors as a part of the stage; the chorus in particular used this space for their stately dances and stood at one side during the progress of the action, commenting on the course of events in odes which they chanted. The lack of movable scenery, and other limitations, resulted in the restrictions known as the three 'unities,' of action, time, and place. No play, according to the unity of action, should introduce incidents that were not a part of the main action; the plot must be absolutely simple. Thus the story of Jessica and Lorenzo, in "The Merchant of Venice" would be barred by this convention, as it does not contribute to the development of the main story of Antonio and Shylock. The unity of time required that the action should not represent the occurrences of more than a day at the very outside, and the unity of place held the action to one spot. These latter conventions were to increase the impression of truth and actuality on the minds of the spectators, heightening the effect of complete naturalness and leaving their imaginations free to grasp the problems of the plot without the additional effort of supposing lapses of time and changes of scene to have occurred. The number of actors was small; usually two, or at most three, were permitted to take part at one time in a portion of the dialogue. These conventions produce a simplicity that was not bare and dull, but just the reverse; the attention is focused directly upon the leading character and his fate from beginning to end. The effect is single and direct, there is no complexity or intricacy to puzzle the audience or distract its interest in the crisis which is so obviously approaching. The grandeur of this type of drama is like that of a great hymn, such as "Old Hundred," sung by a vast congregation.
The medieval plays, which reached their height in Shakespeare's time, were very different from those of the ancients. The stage was almost as bare and scenery was not used, but changes of locality were frequent, indicated by hanging out a sign with the words, "This is a garden" or "A Street in Venice" and so on. In the same way there was no restriction upon time; years might be supposed to have passed between one act and the next. The imagination of the audience was expected to take care of such matters, and indeed it did so with the utmost ease. The plot could be supplemented with all sorts of incidents whether they directly concerned it or not. For example, the wrestling scene at the beginning of "As You Like It" was inserted to satisfy the Elizabethan love of sport, not because it could be of use in advancing the progress of the story, as it did nothing of the kind. The Greek unities were disregarded completely; however, the most impressive of Shakespeare's tragedies do adhere to the principle of the unity of action,—"Macbeth," for example, deals with the consequences of unscrupulous ambition, each event in the play leads directly on to the catastrophe without a pause, there are no minor events or plots.
The modern play differs from both the earlier forms of the drama in its appeal to the eye. The use of scenery, which came in at the beginning of the Age of Classicism, has led to an elaboration of stage effects which sometimes is injurious to the success of a production. Much of the modern stage-craft is concerned with scenic effects and therefore does not come into this discussion. The chief distinction to-day lies in the treatment of problems of everyday life in an everyday manner. Neither the ancient nor the Shakespearian playwrights handled tragedy in the setting of ordinary life. The Greeks portrayed famous heroes and princes and so did the Elizabethans, but rarely, except in comedy, was there any presentation of the life of the middle classes of that time. Sheridan and Ibsen, in common with most of the modern playwrights, take the life of the mass of the people and draw their illustrations of success and failure direct. The audience of to-day sees itself walking and talking on the stage, playing the fool or the hero.
Each style has its merits and its faults, each is powerful in the hands of a genius and each fails when used by incompetents. The average drama depends largely upon the actors for its success, it can hardly be classed among literary efforts. Only the plays wrought by masters of thought as well as of speech can be given a place in the realm of literature.
The art of addressing a large gathering and winning their support, as well as their attention, by sound argument and also by eloquence is a study that is in danger of falling into a decline, owing perhaps to the prevalence of newspapers and the rapidity with which an argument or an idea can be spread broadcast over the world by the telegraph and the press. In reading even the finest speeches of the past or the present allowance must almost always be made for the personal magnetism of the speaker, the appeal made by his presence, his gestures, and his voice. For this reason it is difficult to form a just estimate of the worth of a speech, especially at a date when the subject has become less vital or even unfamiliar through the passage of time. The sole bases of criticism under these conditions must be the force of the argument and the eloquence of the style. This is aptly illustrated in the case of Burke, whose arguments were admitted to be irresistible in their strength, but who had so poor a delivery that he was called the dinner-bell of the House of Commons, in reference to the departure of the members when he rose to speak. The most influential speakers have been those who combined skill in argument with grace and eloquence and reinforced these qualities with a commanding personality. These talents are needed to-day if we are to maintain the standard set by Washington, Webster, and Lincoln.
PHILOSOPHY AND SCIENCE
The aim of philosophy, like that of science, is to probe the mystery of life, to discover as far as possible the nature of man and of the universe in which he dwells. These efforts began when men first asked "What am I? What is this world?" Philosophy attempts the answer by reasoning and meditation, while science uses inventions, such as the telescope, mathematical calculation, and all other means of obtaining accurate information regarding the physical environment and nature of man. The former is concerned with the spirit, the unseen, the motives of honor, love, and the like, and the infinite possibilities of the mind and the soul; the latter deals with the actual, material conditions of life. The best of scientific literature so closely borders on philosophy that it has been included among the selections that treat of philosophic problems.
Certain hymns will always linger in the memory from the days of childhood; and certain sermons and devotional works have so feelingly expressed the aspirations of Christian life that they have attained enduring fame. These are here collected without reference to denominational distinction.
Also, as it is of interest to note the ideals of thinkers in other than Christian lands, passages are included from the teachings of Confucius, the Chinese scholar; Cleanthes, the Greek poet; the life of Buddha, in Hindoo Literature; the Talmud, in Jewish Literature; and the "Koran" of Mohammed.
Bernard of Cluny
SERMONS AND DEVOTIONAL WORKS
Lists of readings for young and old.
Showing how to acquire, by easy stages, a knowledge of the best in literature, year by year.
Unlike poets, painters, and the rest of the world of artists, booklovers are made, not born. But many a booklover has been spoiled in the making, too; so that we must needs give thought to the process of transforming everyday folk into willing and skilful readers and lovers of books. Many boys and girls and many men and women have lost all interest in the realm of books through lack of suitable material for enjoyment and adequate opportunity for practice. What books they could find round the house failed to meet their desires or hold their attention; probably they were technical or 'dry-as-dust.'
In other words the untrained reader, whether young or old, must be trained and exercised on the right books at the right time. Not that he should be coaxed and tempted with light fiction or showy trash, quite the contrary; he must acquire strength of mind and intellectual habits—he is to be trained to grasp serious thought as well as highstrung romance. Conan Doyle's thrilling "White Company" or Blackmore's tender "Lorna Doone" form excellent entertainment, but they must be supplemented by sturdy common sense, such as one finds in Franklin's "Autobiography," Dana's "Two Years Before the Mast," or Bancroft's account of the Lexington and Concord fight. The young mind, and the old one as well, cannot grow strong and able without exercise. Just as tennis, football, swimming, or golf help to develop and strengthen our physical powers, so the mind likewise must take exercise that will ripen and enlarge the intellectual powers. The joy of living is dependent upon full vigor of brain and brawn; the weakling, whether in intellect or in muscle, loses the best that life has to give. Our ideal must[54b] be not merely a sound mind in a sound body but, rather, a strong mind in a strong body.
The lists that follow have been devised to meet the requirements for training the mind to a ready facility and enjoyment of books and reading. Naturally, these groups are arbitrary, they definitely place one author or selection in the eleven year old's list, another in the fifteen; whereas either might well be transferred, in individual cases. The object manifestly is to group writers and selections as a means of guidance and help to the average reader whether parent or child, but not to draw hard and fast lines. The sooner the reader becomes ready to wander as he will, the sooner will he be a true booklover.
Seven to Ten Years of Age. At this time of life, as every one knows, fairy tales are an unfailing delight and form the foundations, moreover, of all thorough literary appreciation. In addition to these, tales of adventure or of travel, such as Malory's Morte Darthur, or Marco Polo's astonishing discoveries in China, serve as admirable supplementary reading at this age.
Rip Van Winkle
Star Spangled Banner
The Water King
Smith, S. F.
Eleven and Twelve Years of Age. The next step consists in awakening the sense of understanding, rousing the mind to grasp actual scenes and situations. For this purpose the "Pilgrim's Progress," "Two Years Before the Mast," "The Village Blacksmith," or "Horatius" are especially suitable. For while the fairy tale element is continued in "Cupid and Psyche," the "Odyssey," and "Undine," it is to these more realistic selections that we must look for the stimulus to imaginative growth that the children need. For this reason,[54c] "Robinson Crusoe" is of paramount value at this time simply because it trains the young mind to picture the scenes or events with the utmost care for details; probably no other work of fiction in English Literature can equal it for realistic vividness and precision.
Cupid and Psyche
Alice in Wonderland, etc.
Two Years Before the Mast
Thirteen and Fourteen Years of Age. This period should mark the beginning of true reading power—the faculty of perceiving and absorbing the pictures, the facts, the ideas that lie within the printed page. The true joys of reading first-class fiction, for example, "Don Quixote" or "The Cloister and the Hearth," are usually first experienced in these years. And in the same manner young readers delight in the more vivid pages of history, such as "The Relief of Leyden," or "The Conquest of Peru," or—best of all—Raleigh's telling account of the fight of the 'Revenge' to[54d]gether with Tennyson's magnificent poem, built up from the prose of Raleigh. For it is in such passages as these that the natural tendency to hero-worship is roused and fostered. Jim Bludso, Sir Launfal, Alexander the Great, John Halifax, Lorna Doone, and Constantia, together with the splendid characters in the works already mentioned, all establish in the minds of the average boy and girl examples of courage, courtesy, and nobility that are never forgotten.
Browne, C. F.
The Showman's Courtship
Collins, W. W.
A Terribly Strange Bed
Man Without a Country
Princes in the Tower
Abou Ben Adhem
Settler Life in 1800
Relief of Leyden
Discovery of Vinland
Alexander the Great
Conquest of Peru
The Fight of the "Revenge"
Cloister and the Hearth
The Light Brigade, Etc.
Fifteen and Sixteen Years of Age. The appreciation of poetry is one of the most subtle and difficult developments in the youthful intellect. Yet some enjoyment of poetry, not merely narrative poems, but contemplative verse as well, should manifest itself during these next years. Furthermore, it is high time to form an acquaintance with writers who will be met again and again in days yet to come. No one will maintain for a moment that a sixteen year old lad will fully understand and appreciate Milton's "L'Allegro," with its treasury of allusion; yet, on the other hand, no one will pretend that this same lad should not at least be granted the opportunity to listen for the first time to those immortal lines. For this reason not only Milton, but Lincoln, Cowper, Pepys, Tolstoi, Hodgkin, Gray, and several others are included in the list.
But apart from the more serious and contemplative side of the reading that can be commenced at this age, there is much that will fascinate and delight those who are looking for pastime rather than deep thinking. Barham's "Ingoldsby Legends," of which "The Knight and the Lady" is a most characteristic tale in verse, have long been the joy of all who love laughter and nonsense; and so with Irving's "Knickerbocker's New York," which in many respects is unequaled for wit and delicate fun. Crawford's "The Upper Berth," Doyle's "White Company," and Dumas's "Three Musketeers" furnish thrill enough for the most eager adventure seeker. Tolstoi and Goldsmith will satisfy a quieter mood with their gentle satire on the folly and stupidity and vanity of everyday people, who none the less are the salt of the earth, after all.
In the Woods
Lexington and Concord
The Knight and the Lady
Lads and Lasses
Note. The reader should take care to read and even to reread the majority of the selections in the previous lists before attempting further progress.
Crawford, F. M.
The Upper Berth
The White Company
Monte Cristo, etc.
A Cagliostro of the Second Century
The Nancy Bell
Vicar of Wakefield
The Old Manse
Attila the Hun
Knickerbocker's New York
Destruction of the Temple
Alexander the Great
Rouget de Lisle
Uncle Tom's Cabin
Where Love Is
Seventeen and Eighteen Years of Age. With increasing maturity we may naturally expect the mind to enjoy the more calm and meditative moods of life: for example, the essays of Addison and Lamb, the more forceful historical reflections of such writers as Green, Froissart, and Parkman, the "Utopia" of Sir Thomas More, Thoreau's "Walden," and Washington's "Farewell Address." These form an excellent introduction to the deeper thoughts which will shortly be forced upon youth as it goes out into the world to fight for a career.
At this time, too, interest is stirred to attempt an understanding of the 'reason for things'—the mind endeavors to arrive at some law or principle beneath the varied course of life and action in the world. In other words, boyhood and girlhood are past, and an older view of life and its responsibilities must naturally take the place of the carefree spirit of earlier days. The qualities of friendship that appear in "Tennessee's Partner" and the search for spiritual as well as intellectual companionship and understanding that is emphasized in Tennyson or Matthew Arnold are at this time beginning to be more fully appreciated and understood.
The Forsaken Merman
Railroad and Churchyard
Battles of Otterbourne and Crécy
The Three Strangers
Philemon and Baucis
The Plains of Abraham
Ascent of Mont Blanc
Nineteen and Twenty Years of Age. Unquestionably, as the years pass on, we read again the books that have already given us so many hours of happiness and amusement. For this reason it is well for the young booklover to return to the lists for the previous years and renew acquaintanceships there. No doubt some of the authors whom he found but moderately amusing then will now win far more favor in his sight. Meanwhile, among the fresh material history and criticism naturally find a prominent place. Mommsen's estimate of Julius Cæsar and Chesterton's appreciative critique of Dickens stand among the foremost studies of great men that the world has yet produced. In the field of poetry it is high time to spend some quiet hours with Emerson, Browning, Shakespeare, Shelley, and Wordsworth. These five poets represent perhaps the very best that English verse has produced in the way of meditation—insight into the depths of nature and humanity.
At this point the reader will do well to consider other chapters in this Handbook, notably that on Literary Criticism, and the rest of Part II, which deals with the general principles underlying a fuller comprehension of literature. Part III, Studies of Great Authors, will be of even greater help to those readers who are finding increased pleasure in reading as students rather than for the sake of recreation or light reading alone. By following out the lines of thought presented in Parts II and III, especially if one does not attempt to carry too heavy a quantity of reading at a time, the enjoyment of books and thought will be immensely stimulated and broadened.
Alfred the Great
Pride and Prejudice
Industry and Idleness
Life of Johnson
Our Ladies of Sorrow
Corruption of Rome
The World Romeless
Man Who Would be King
Life of Scott
Description of Greece
Trial of Socrates
The School for Scandal
Grandeur of Nations
Twenty-one and After. During these years, through respect for wisdom and experience, maturity rapidly quickens into being. Once we get a few hard knocks in the battle of life, our regard for the learning and understanding of our elders soon increases. We likewise can enter more thoroughly into the work of such thinkers as Carlyle, Galton, Emerson, Ruskin, Shaler, or of such poets as Chaucer and Goethe. For these men have spent the best of their lives in studying and probing into the causes and developments of our moods and characters. Carlyle has given us the most terrific and[54j] stirring account ever written of the battle that is waged in every man's soul between the forces of good and evil. Goethe has dramatized this same problem, revealing the wretchedness of him who only thinks of self, who drags his nearest and dearest down to ruin simply to gratify his lusts or his whims. Ruskin searches architecture, painting, or even the workmanship of everyday trades in order to discover their true merit—their greatness and their weakness. From such writings we can learn more and yet more each time we peruse them. There is no end to the richness and wealth of thought and experience to be gained from these alone.
Poor Richard's Almanac
Choice of Books
Great and Little Things
The Romantic School
Out of the Night
A Doll's House
The Divining Rod
Marshes of Glynn
Ein Feste Burg
Disasters of Cabul
The Piece of String
Rossetti, D. G.
Mme. de Staël
The Last of Earth and Man
Thomas of Celano
Apart from the power to appreciate the thought itself, the reader by this time is surely ready to take pleasure in the style of such writers as Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Matthew Arnold, Walter Pater, Herrick, and Spenser. And with respect to the matter, he surely will profit in the company of Sir Thomas Browne, Thomas à Kempis, Mill, and Plato, presenting four remarkably valuable points of view in their studies of what is most worth man's consideration. Further reading of interest in style and in matter will be found under the headings of "Essay," "Travel," "Drama," "Oratory," "Philosophy," etc., on pages 46-53 of this Handbook.
One of the chief problems of the reader deals with the question of foreign authors. Perhaps one man in a hundred thousand can find time to learn to read more than four languages fluently. If he is to get in touch with the great writers of other tongues than those which he knows, he must perforce read translations. And for most of us translations are the only resource. The modern writers have been translated with but slight difficulty, mainly because their views of life are so closely akin to ours that their thoughts may be put into English with slight trouble. But the ancients, the masters of Greek and Roman Literature, regarded life from other standpoints than ours. They were mainly interested in interpreting fate and the mysteries of life. Their work, then, is for the most part philosophic, even when presented[54l] in the form of drama or of poetry. It is so great, so lofty in tone and so profound in its perception of everlasting truths that we cannot afford to neglect it. But it can only be grasped by a mature mind and by calm and patient meditation. The tragedies of Æschylus, Euripides, and Sophocles, the poetry of Lucretius and Cleanthes, and the meditations of Marcus Aurelius rank among the grandest and most sublime works that mortal mind has ever achieved. For complete lists of foreign authors, see the classified entries on pages 28-35 of this Handbook.
The Use of the Index. The thoughtful and habitual use of the Index will prove of more lasting benefit than any other practice associated with reading. Not only is attention called to authors, to the titles of selections, and to the opening lines of familiar and unfamiliar poems, but hundreds upon hundreds of topics are there listed, dealing with subjects of endless variety as viewed by the ablest minds of the past and the present. Agriculture, for example, is dealt with by ancients and moderns—among others, by Cicero and by Charles Dudley Warner. America's development, we find, has been presented from such diverse viewpoints as those of Ferrero, the modern Italian historian; of Goethe, the master-poet of old Germany, as bitter a foe of Prussia as any who live to-day; of Hamilton, the statesman-economist; of McMaster, the historian; of Henry, the patriot orator; of Leslie Stephen, the English critic, and other leaders of the world's thought. The value of books, the use of chariots of war, the case for and against Charles I of England, the nature of conversation, the progress of the drama in ancient and in more recent times—these topics suggest the amazing diversity of outlook.
Whether for the sake of study or merely as a pastime, every moment employed upon the Index will prove stimulating, will open trains of thought and furnish additional means of enjoyment that otherwise will lie undiscovered.
These fifty pages provide an encyclopedia of intellectual entertainment and cultivation. Through them the reader can pursue a subject or a line of thought as nowhere else. Not the opinion of one man, or of one nation, or of one era alone, but the best and most valued reflections of the great[54n] men of all the ages are here collected under every important heading on which they best expressed themselves.
Throughout this whole work, Opportunity lies in wait, needing only to be recognized; then, she at once enriches your life and your usefulness. Not a page but contains thoughts, suggestions, grave and gay, old and new, matter-of-fact or sublime,—yet all of them leading to a more sincere and purposeful understanding of the deeds and thoughts that make up a sound and full career. But of all these thousands of pages and selections not any contain more hints for the reader than the pages of the Index.
The Use of the Biographical Sketches. The reader who has once grasped the inestimable value of reflecting on the books that he meets, will naturally perceive the worth of the Biographical Sketches that immediately precede the selections in the Library. For although these are purposely terse, yet they have been painstakingly constructed to supply two essential needs; first, an introduction to the author, as well as to his best work; second, a guide to his other works.
As has elsewhere been pointed out (pages 19, 28, 55, etc., of this Handbook), the true appreciation and enjoyment of a writer are unquestionably increased by understanding his personality and his outlook on the world.
In the second place, the selections present the best and only the best achievements of each writer. They obviously cannot include thirty volumes of Scott's novels, for example; nor is it desirable that the quotations from any author should extend beyond complete passages of assured distinction. On the other hand, persons attracted by an author's style or subject matter will naturally desire to read more of his work and even to acquire several of his most characteristic books. The Biographical Sketch lists his principal writings so that you can send for them to bookseller or public library.
The Library of Entertainment will thus form the nucleus of a collection that can become unique, in that it will not contain an author that you have not tested before purchase. To own books that you value and esteem unfailingly leads to reading with increased pleasure day by day; such reading forms the purpose that lies behind these volumes.
Criticism is a term that is commonly misused and misunderstood. It does not mean condemnation and disapproval. It does mean sound judgment, a careful valuation of the work under discussion, weighing its merits and its faults; therefore it follows that sincere criticism may be wholly free from fault-finding, provided the subject proves to be without blemish. The criticism of Milton's minor poems, "L'Allegro," "Il Penseroso," and "Lycidas," must be an appreciation of their beauty and power, since they are practically faultless.
To form a trustworthy opinion regarding a piece of literature is not difficult; all that is necessary is to make a definite, orderly inquiry into certain essential facts.
I. The first of these concern the author himself, his surroundings, and the influences which shaped his thoughts.
1. The period when he lived. Each of the great ages of literature has its special characteristics and tendencies, without a knowledge of which it is impossible to judge a writer's work. (These periods are defined on p. 19 ff.) For example, if Dickens had lived in Shakespeare's time his writings would have been very different in form and in style; he would have probably written comedies for the stage instead of novels.
2. His nation. Nationality also has strong traits that must be taken into account. (These are stated on p. 28 ff.) If Dickens had been a Frenchman, he would have paid more attention to the grace and clearness of his style; if he had been a German, he would have tended to be more philosophical in his thought, his plots would have been deeper, and his characters less vivid.
3. His life and immediate surroundings. Equally significant are the social conditions in which a man is reared, whether noble, like Byron, or poor, like Burns; well-educated, like Macaulay, or self-taught, like Bunyan; unfortunate and dissipated, like Poe, or fortunate and happy, like Holmes. These facts all have a direct bearing on the view we must take of the man's productions. Joel Chandler Harris could never have written his amusing "Uncle Remus" stories, if he had not spent his boyhood on a Southern plantation. De Quincey would never have written "Our Ladies of Sorrow" if he had not been the slave of opium. Stevenson's "Travels With a Donkey," one of his most charming books, is due to the fact that his consumptive tendencies compelled him to go on a walking trip in the pure and bracing air of the mountains of southern France.
II. A second group of facts deals with the work itself.
1. The form; poetry, fiction, history, essay, drama, etc. (These are discussed on p. 36 ff.)
2. The style. The worth of the author's work as a piece of composition is best decided by observing the following elements, which taken all together make up the style and quality of his writing.
What words does he use? Are they commonplace or do they express his exact meaning? Are they simple, or unusual and even unintelligible? Are they forceful or weak? etc.
How are his sentences constructed? Are they straightforward or confused? Do they express a simple, direct thought or do they contain several ideas? If complex and lengthy, are they still powerful? etc.
Are his paragraphs unified; that is, do they contain one leading idea? Do they follow in systematic order, leading from one to the other? Is the development of the author's subject easily followed? etc.
Are the scenes and characters, the plots and purposes clearly shown? Does it require more than one reading to find out what the writer is trying to say? Is his work convincing? Do the characters change, and if so, is the change natural or does it seem unreal and artificial? Are the incidents natural or do some of the events seem forced? If the latter, do you think the author is justified? What is the author's aim? Has he any further purpose than that which is immediately evident? etc.
What is the tone of his work? Realism? Imagination? Mystery? Charm? Beauty? Accuracy? Delicacy? Pathos? Humor? Joy? Sarcasm? etc.
3. The effect. What are your feelings regarding the work? Do you like it or dislike it? Why?
What is your cold judgment regarding it? Note that this is by no means necessarily the same thing as what you may feel. Many people do not care especially for Dickens or Kipling, yet they all grant that both these authors have deserved their fame. They may not like them, but their reason and their judgment compel admission of their ability. It is accordingly important to ask what impression a book makes on your feelings and on your judgment as well, and to ask why that impression has grown upon you.
The value of this systematic consideration of a passage of literature is manifest. The reader's knowledge is increased, and, better still, his ability to arrive at a wise judgment of other literature is greater than before. Efficiency in habits of thought is encouraged, his outlook on life is broader, he becomes more fit to take a prominent part in social and in business life, wherever judgment and thought are needed.
In making use of these Studies, the reader is advised to adopt the following method:
Read the sketches of the author in the Study and in front of the selections and then read the selections themselves. Next answer the questions in the Study, taking care to give reasons for each answer, with illustrations carefully chosen from the author's work, wherever possible. In making comparisons between authors or selections remember that points of contrast as well as of likeness should be considered.
Be sure to keep in mind the essentials of Part II, and refer not only to them but to the Index for references to national characteristics, history, and authors.
Further reading should be selected from the author's works given in the notes which precede the selections and from the biographical and critical works mentioned at the end of each Study.
Robert Burns was born and spent most of his life in Ayrshire, in the lowlands of Scotland. Broad-minded, tolerant, and trusting, he had a place in his heart for all men, whatever their failings. His thoughtless love of good-fellowship was the principal cause of his untimely end.
His best songs, dealing with the common life of the Lowlands and written in the Scottish dialect, were as a rule spontaneous; though "The Cotter's Saturday Night," probably reminiscent of his boyhood home, is a more finished and careful production.
He is the greatest of Scotch poets. Since Shakespeare there has been no better interpreter of the human heart.
1. Why is Burns called the Ayrshire Bard? Locate Ayrshire on the map.
2. From what rank of society did Burns come?
3. What was his attitude toward the humbler classes of society? II, 379. Toward men in general?
4. What can you say as to his patriotism?
5. Was he a favorite with the public?
6. See Carlyle's opinion of his reception by the public, III, 55; of his worth, III, 102.
7. To what may we ascribe his rapid decline and early death?
8. What do you judge his views would be as to the merits of Romanticism and Classicism?
STYLE AND WORKS
1. What portion of Great Britain is the scene of most of Burns' poems?
2. Were they the product of deliberate art or spontaneous impulse?
3. Have his poems any great influence at the present time?
4. Is his best work in English or in the Scotch dialect? Explain why?
5. Do you consider it worth while to master the difficulties of the dialect?
6. What is your opinion as to the love element in his poetry?
7. There have been but few better interpreters of nature.
8. Like many a Scotchman of his day he seems to have had a full appreciation of the joys of conviviality.
9. Had Burns the element of humor in any marked degree?
10. Compare his songs with those of Shakespeare, Jonson, Byron, Shelley, and Tennyson; for feeling, polish, and power.
"THE COTTER'S SATURDAY NIGHT"
1. Is the scene laid in the Highlands or the Lowlands?
2. Does the fact that the poem is written in the Scotch dialect add to or detract from its beauty? The mingling of literary language and dialect is intentional; discuss the value of this.
3. Would you judge Burns to have been at heart a religious man?
4. What comparison does the author draw between Scotch and Italian songs?
5. What contrast is drawn between the worship of the poor and that of the rich?
6. To what does Burns ascribe the grandeur of Scotland?
7. Compare with the "Deserted Village" and the "Elegy in a Country Churchyard," in purpose and in style. Which of the three breathes the greatest moral earnestness?
8. "The Cotter's Saturday Night" is a typical poem of the latter half of the eighteenth century. What other poems of the period resemble it in their treatment of rural life? VI, 94, 106.
9. Does the poem belong to the Age of Classicism or Romanticism or both; in what respects?
10. For other pictures of Scotch life and character see the selections from Barrie, Scott, and Watson.
"Life of Robert Burns."—Cunningham.
"Modern Idols; Studies in Biography and Criticism."—Thorne.
"Critical and Miscellaneous Essays."—Carlyle.
"The Burns Country."—Dougall.
"The Ayrshire Homes and Haunts of Burns."—Shelley.
SIR WALTER SCOTT
Scott first achieved success as a poet; but as his fame began to pale before the rising star of Byron, he wisely dropped verse and appeared as a writer of fiction, in which he was far more successful. Some critics consider "Ivanhoe" the greatest romance ever written. Many of his early novels are of almost equal merit. With "Woodstock" and "Anne of Geierstein," a decline in his powers is perceptible.
Scott may be considered the founder of the historical novel, and it is doubtful if he has ever been excelled. His scenes of medieval life are somewhat overdrawn, it is true, though possibly no more so than the requirements of successful fiction demanded.
Several of his ancestors had taken a prominent part in the warfare of the Border, a fact which largely accounts for his great interest in Scottish legend.
He earned more by his writings than any other literary man of the period. At his country seat, Abbotsford, he entertained with lavish hospitality. It became a resort of scholars; and Washington Irving and many other Americans visited him there. He lived and died practically without an enemy, even Byron, who assailed him so bitterly at one time, being won over by his magnanimity. He refused the post of poet laureate in favor of his friend Southey.
His publishing house failing in 1828 with a shortage of over half a million, Scott chivalrously devoted the last six years of his life to the payment of the debt, a feat which he had almost accomplished when death overtook him.
Although among the first and best of the prose writers of the Romantic period and a decided follower of the Romantic principles in his work, yet Scott was so conservative in politics and so patriotic a supporter of monarchy that the revolutionary spirit of the French Revolution and the passion for liberty that inspired many authors of the day had slight influence on him.
1. What fact in Scott's family history explains his great interest in Scottish history and tradition?
2. What were his earnings from his writings as compared with those of other writers of his time?
3. Would you consider his tastes democratic or the reverse? See illustration opposite X, 388. See also Thackeray's account of him under the title of the Baron of Bradwardine, XII, 66.
4. How did Scott bear himself toward contemporary poets?
5. Your opinion as to his hospitality? His charity? His industry? VIII, 206.
6. What striking event in Scott's life conclusively shows him to have been a man of honor?
7. By what appellation is he often known? XI, 289.
8. His fondness for dumb animals was proverbial. VIII, 208.
STYLE AND WORKS
1. In what branch of literature did Scott first achieve distinction? Why did he abandon it for fiction?
2. Why did the revolutionary wave which so powerfully affected his contemporaries, Wordsworth, Coleridge, Byron, and Southey, leave Scott unaffected?
3. In whose favor did Scott decline the honor of being appointed poet laureate?
4. From what sources did he derive the materials for his poems? I, 181.
5. Of his three best poems, "The Lay of the Last Minstrel" is considered the most natural, "Marmion," the most powerful, and "The Lady of the Lake," the most romantic and picturesque.
6. Which is esteemed his greatest novel? Mention two novels which seem to indicate a decline in his powers.
7. Was he greater in verse or in fiction?
8. Do Scott's works give a true picture of the times to which they relate?
9. Manzoni, Dumas, and Hugo all owe much to Scott. Compare their work.
10. Is Scott more intent on his narrative and general scenes, or on drawing characters clearly and describing their development and change?
11. Compare Scott with Dickens, Eliot, and Balzac as regards the traits mentioned in question 10.
"THE LADY OF THE LAKE"
1. Had Fitz-James formerly visited Roderick Dhu's dominions?
2. What was his errand this time?
3. What period in Scottish history do you understand to be covered by the poem?
4. Is the sense of honor and hospitality towards strangers characteristic of the Highland Scotch?
5. Draw a comparison between the fate of the Highlanders and that of the American Indian. X, 385.
6. In what sense are the terms "Gael" and "Saxon" used?
7. Why does Fitz-James hesitate to fight with Roderick Dhu after being safely led beyond the Coilantogle Ford?
8. In the combat was the victory won by physical strength or skill in the use of weapons?
9. Which is the hero, Fitz-James or Roderick Dhu, and why?
10. Byron surpassed Scott in poetry; can you see how? Compare the two.
"Famous English Authors of the Nineteenth Century."—Bolton.
"Sir Walter Scott."—Crockett and Caw.
"Edinburgh under Sir Walter Scott."—Fyfe.
"Life of Sir Walter Scott."—Lockhart.
"In the Days of Scott."—Jenks.
"Sir Walter Scott."—Lang.
Wordsworth, the first of the English poets of Romanticism, came of age just as the storm of the French Revolution broke over Europe. In 1791, after he had taken his degree at Cambridge University, he went to France, where he spent nearly a year, fascinated by the struggle for freedom, and only returned when his friends stopped his allowance and so compelled him to withdraw from danger.
He deliberately chose poetry as his profession, working with Coleridge for the purpose of establishing new laws of poetic composition. In 1798 they published a little volume, the "Lyrical Ballads," which marked a radical departure from the artificial and affected style of the latter days of the Classic Age. (See also notes on Coleridge, p. 70 of this volume.)
He eventually settled in the Lake District, in the north-west of England, where Coleridge and Southey, the other two 'Lake Poets,' spent many years. His income was a mere trifle, but he and his sister Dorothy lived in tranquil simplicity on the borders of Grasmere until his circumstances improved. In 1802 he was able to marry and soon after he moved to Rydal Mount, a larger abode near by, and also overlooking a stretch of water enclosed by the heathery mountains. Here he spent the last thirty-eight years of his life, dying at the age of eighty. Almost all the greater writers of his day were among his friends and acquaintances.
As a lover of nature, delighting in travel amid lovely scenery, he found his answer to the problem of life in the tranquillity and ever present spirit of law and duty which he perceived in all nature's forms. For him the presence of God was manifest in fields and mountains, in flowers and brooks, as much as in the lives of men and women.
Poetry, in his conception, was the preservation of impressions in such form that when read it would again create those impressions. Its language should be extremely simple, hardly departing from that of everyday life and conversation. The petty incidents of daily experience for him often contained such deep suggestions of beauty and good that he recorded them at length.
It was this utter simplicity of attitude and tone that made him the object of slashing criticism for some time. An absolute innovator, his work was as absurd in the eyes of the critics as the wildest freaks of the cubists are to us. At last he became a subject of discussion instead of ridicule, then of praise, and finally of lasting fame. Yet much of his work is far better unread to-day; only in his earlier verse, when the inspiration of youth and the freshness of his message still urged him, is there any true greatness evident. His later work, like his later years, is cold and conservative. He made no further progress, once he had given expression to his first radical ideas. This tendency was rebuked by Browning in "The Lost Leader."
1. Did Wordsworth take an active part in the life of his time? I, 180.
2. How did Browning look on this side of his character? II, 265.
3. What two poets were intimately associated with Wordsworth? III, 310; XI, 221.
4. The following illustrations are closely associated with his life and work: III, Frontispiece, 322; IV, 178; XI, 228; XII, Frontispiece, 324.
5. What influences molded his ideas of poetry and life?
6. How does his length of life compare with that of his contemporaries, Byron, Keats, Shelley, Southey, Lamb, and De Quincey?
7. Is it customary for a person to grow more conservative with age?
STYLE AND WORKS
1. Are his poems uniformly of good quality? III, 265.
2. What peculiarly English characteristic is present in them? VIII, 272.
3. State Wordsworth's historical position in literature.
4. Name some of his choicest short poems.
5. With what school of poets is he classed?
6. What element predominates in Wordsworth's poetry?
7. What elements detract from his power, in your opinion?
8. How do you rank him among nineteenth century poets?
9. Does he fulfil his idea of poetry in his work?
10. Read "The Daffodils," 339, and "Upon Westminster Bridge," 354. These are two of his best short poems. Which do you prefer? Why?
"ODE ON INTIMATIONS OF IMMORTALITY FROM RECOLLECTIONS OF EARLY CHILDHOOD"
1. How does a child view his surroundings?
2. Why cannot an adult see the same objects in like manner?
3. Is the Soul in existence before the body which it is to inhabit?
4. What forces are constantly at work to crush and suppress a child's imaginative power?
5. In what way is the shepherd boy the embodiment of joy?
6. What phases of Nature are most attractive to all people in general?
"Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player
That stands and frets his hour upon the stage
And then is heard no more." ("Macbeth")
Find passages in Wordsworth's poem which contradict this sentiment.
8. Is this the best of his poems here selected? Why?
9. Is the simplicity of style effective? How?
10. Contrast with "We are Seven"; why is there so marked a simplicity in the lesser poem?
"Wordsworth" ("English Men of Letters").—Myers.
"Story-Lives of Great Authors."—Rowbotham.
"Essays in Criticism."—Arnold.
"The Makers of Modern English."—Dawson.
"Essays on the Poets."—De Quincey.
"The Age of Wordsworth" ("Handbooks of English Literature").—Herford.
SAMUEL TAYLOR COLERIDGE
A victim of the opium habit after the age of thirty and by nature irresolute and dreamy, Coleridge led a wandering life, leaving his family with his friend Southey.
Most of his poetry, small in volume, though unexcelled in quality, was written before he was thirty, "The Ancient Mariner," his first poem, having been composed at the age of twenty-four. After this he devoted himself for the most part to metaphysical speculation of no permanent value.
He excelled all other writers of his day in dealing with the supernatural. "The Ancient Mariner," his masterpiece, is a successful attempt to revive the metrical ballad of the middle ages. By the use of rubrics the medieval effect is heightened, while the introduction of the wedding guest relieves the credibility of the reader by making of an improbable account simply 'a tale that is told.'
He lived for some time at Keswick in Cumberland near its group of celebrated lakes, where Wordsworth and Southey also resided, and hence the appellation of "Lake Poets," given to the three distinguished friends.
Joining with Wordsworth in 1798 in the publication of a little volume of verse, "Lyrical Ballads," he became one of the first to give voice to the movement known as Romanticism.
1. What influence had Coleridge on the literature of his day?
2. What is said of him as a conversationalist? As a critic? III, 92 ff.
3. Why is he known as one of the "Lake Poets"?
4. Was he more useful to his friends than they to him, or vice versa?
5. To what do you attribute the early decline of his poetic powers?
6. What other English writer of the same period was addicted to the opium habit? IV, 171.
7. What great mental defect militated most against Coleridge's success? III, 94.
8. What traits of character especially endeared him to his friends?
9. What can you say of his religious faith? III, 91.
STYLE AND WORKS
1. What poets constituted the "Lake School," and from what lakes was the term derived?
2. Name his three principal poems.
3. What can you say as to the volume of his poetry?
4. Between what years was most of it written?
5. Are his other works—philosophical, religious, and critical—quoted to-day?
6. In what one element does Coleridge outdistance the other poets of his day?
7. Read the poems by Wordsworth, XII, 332-339; these were published in the volume, "Lyrical Ballads," with "The Ancient Mariner"; how are they characteristic of Romanticism?
8. "Kubla Khan," like Poe's "Raven," has frequently been attributed to an opium vision. This cannot be proved, but it is well known that he dreamed these lines and many more which he forgot before he could write them down. In character it is closely akin to De Quincey's account of opium dreams, IV, 171 ff.
"THE ANCIENT MARINER"
1. How old was Coleridge when he wrote the poem?
2. What led him to write it?
3. In writing the poem did Coleridge draw his inspiration from classical, medieval, or modern sources?
4. Where is the scene laid?
5. What is the purpose of the rubrics or running commentary in the margin?
6. Why is the wedding guest introduced, and what is the purpose of the constant interruptions in the narrative?
7. Look up the term "albatross" in reference works.
8. What punishment was inflicted on the Ancient Mariner for having shot the Albatross?
9. What broke the spell which had been cast upon him?
10. What would the repeated allusion to the mariner's "glittering eye," seem to indicate?
11. The moral which this tale is supposed to teach?
"Coleridge" ("Bell's Miniature Series.")—Garnett.
"Coleridge" ("Lives of Famous Poets.")—Rossetti.
"Selected Poems of Samuel Taylor Coleridge."—George.
"S. T. Coleridge; a Narrative of the Events of his Life."—Campbell.
"Selections from the Poets; Coleridge."—Lang.
"Table Talk" ("Bohn's Standard Library")—Ed. Ashe.
GEORGE GORDON, LORD BYRON
George Gordon, sixth Lord Byron, was born in London. His father, a profligate captain of the guards, having squandered most of his wife's property, she parted from him, retiring on a small income to Aberdeen, Scotland. In his eleventh year, however, the son inherited the title and estate of his grand-uncle, and the mother and son left Scotland and settled down at Newstead Abbey, near Nottingham, in Sherwood Forest.
Byron prepared for the university at Harrow and then went to Cambridge, where he published "Hours of Idleness," a volume of verse of no merit that brought down the unduly savage review of Brougham, to which Byron replied anonymously with "English Bards and Scotch Reviewers," a dashing satire that he later suppressed, when he became a friend of many whom he there held up to ridicule.
Soon after receiving his M.A. he made a two years' tour of Portugal, Spain, Albania, and Greece, composing meanwhile the first two cantos of "Childe Harold," published in 1812. So immediate was its success that he literally "woke up one morning and found himself famous." Though not so fine as the last two cantos, yet they are full of the new spirit of Romanticism. The poetic tales of "The Giaour," "The Bride of Abydos," "The Corsair," and "Lara" followed in quick succession. All this time he had felt financial pressure and several of his friends had died, including his mother, whom he loved notwithstanding her uncertain temper, so that his life had by no means been happy, and the cynical tone of much of his verse was a direct expression of his feelings. His health was also marred by a tendency to corpulence which he tried to check by a rigid and scanty diet, while a deformed foot gave him both pain and constant embarrassment.
It is true that he was given to the dissipation then so rife in England, yet although a libertine from the modern point of view, there is not sufficient reason for the bitterly relentless tone adopted by many biographers and critics. He determined to remedy matters by marrying, but the experiment proved unfortunate, the couple separated and at the outburst of public indignation that followed, though unjustified, Byron went into voluntary exile, never to return.
Most of his subsequent life was spent at various places in Italy, where he completed "Childe Harold," and wrote "Don Juan" and a number of shorter poems, and tried his hand at drama. For a time he worked together with Leigh Hunt and Shelley at Pisa.
His life in Italy was licentious, a tendency that colored his later works, notably "Don Juan"; although his intellectual powers would seem to have grown up to the time of his premature death.
The close of his life went far toward redeeming his wayward career. He flew to the assistance of the Greeks struggling for independence from the barbaric Turkish rule, and devoted his means and his life to their service. Finding them at sixes and sevens among themselves, he showed the qualities of a statesman and soldier and soon brought order out of chaos. But a few months' exposure led to a fever from which he died.
1. To what is the so-called "satanic" element in his life to be ascribed?
2. Where were Byron's early years spent?
3. In what manner did he acquire Oriental coloring for his poetic romances?
4. What led to his withdrawal from England?
5. Among his intimate friends were Moore and Shelley; Leigh Hunt, Scott, and Coleridge were also appreciative acquaintances. Compare their work with his.
6. Give the circumstances of his death.
7. Goethe refers to Byron's love of exercise. IV, 398.
8. He seems to have been something of a dandy and a snob, but with redeeming features. VII, 38; XII, 89.
9. Why is his life, as well as his work, typical of the extreme tendency of the Romantic Period?
10. Read Hunt's account of Byron. VII, 217 ff.
STYLE AND WORKS
1. Give Matthew Arnold's estimate of Byron. I, 190.
2. Was he as fully equipped as Tennyson for the position of the supreme modern poet? I, 191.
3. Does Chesterton's estimate of Byron coincide with that of Arnold? III, 267.
4. As to Goethe's views of Byron's pictorial powers, see IV, 388.
5. In his choice of themes, did he favor cheerful subjects? IV, 388.
6. Was Byron's early death a real loss to literature? IV, 399.
7. Why were Byron's tragedies his least successful performances? VIII, 357.
8. Is his fame destined to endure? I, 181.
9. Why did Byron fail, while Spenser succeeded, in applying the spirit of his age to English literature? I, 180.
10. What characteristics of Romanticism appear in his work? Contrast it with that of Pope and Goldsmith. Compare it with Burns.
FROM "CHILDE HAROLD"
1. The selections from "Childe Harold" represent Byron at his best in spirit and in style.
2. "Greece"; why does Byron use the phrase, "sad relic of departed worth"?
3. "Waterloo"; show how the poet by skilful changes in wording, as well as in choice of expressions, works steadily to the climax of the last line. Note the breaks and varied measure of the metrical rhythm.
4. Contrast the feeling in "Venice" and in "Rome"; in which is it more melancholy; more profound; more sentimental; more forceful? Why?
5. Which impresses you more, "The Dying Gladiator" or "Laocoon and Apollo"? Which of these pieces of statuary do you think Byron was most affected by? Why?
6. "Solitude" and "The Ocean" are famous examples of the Byronic attitude toward nature. Is this the same as Wordsworth's or Shelley's, apart from the difference in their styles?
7. Does Byron ever leave his own emotions and personality out of his work? Compare him in this respect with Goldsmith, Gray, Bryant, Wordsworth, Tennyson, and Longfellow. Write down the dates of their births and draw conclusions.
"Famous English Authors."—Bolton.
"Recollections of a Long Life."—Broughton.
"The Love Affairs of Lord Byron."—Gribble.
"With Byron in Italy."—McMahan.
"Essays in Criticism."—Arnold.
"Byron and Byronism in America."—Leonard.
PERCY BYSSHE SHELLEY
Shelley was from his earliest youth equally distinguished by poetic gifts of the highest order and by a reckless and ungovernable disposition. After thorough preliminary education, he was sent to Oxford, where he displayed rare literary talent, but from which he was expelled for publishing a tract on "The Necessity of Atheism."
After eloping with the sixteen-year-old daughter of a retired tavern-keeper, Harriet Westbrook, whom he married in Scotland, he led a wandering life for a time until his financial position was improved upon his coming of age in 1813. By this time he and his wife had become estranged, and Shelley eloped with Mary Godwin and settled on the Continent. Two years later his wife committed suicide by drowning, and when Shelley attempted to secure the custody of his two children, it was denied him. Shelley now left England for good, visited one Italian city after another, and finally settled down at Pisa. Keats, Byron, and Hunt were among his close friends. "Adonais" is an elegy to Keats's memory.
His poems may be divided into two classes. In the first class we have his three long poems, "Queen Mab," "The Revolt of Islam," and "Prometheus Unbound," each an attempt to apply the revolutionary principles of the period. In these he displays a progressive improvement, appearing at his best in "Prometheus Unbound."
The second class, embracing "Alastor," "Adonais," and many shorter poems, includes his subjective works. They exceed in melody and illusive and mysterious beauty anything else of the century. The spirit of freedom and the spirit of beauty were the subjects of his muse.
With some faults he had much beauty of character. He was beloved by all who knew him. He was kindness itself and spent much of his time dispensing charity among the poor, even to the point of self-deprivation. Easily excited to indignation at the least suspicion of oppression or wrong, he was at other times the gentlest of men.
1. In what respect was Shelley preëminently a child of the French Revolution?
2. Compare his religious influence with that of Tennyson. XII, 6.
3. Give an account of his unfortunate marriages.
4. What may be said in his defense?
5. In what respect were the lives of Keats and Shelley similar?
6. Read Hunt's account of his death and cremation. VII, 220 ff.
7. Was Shelley irreligious? VII, 223 ff.
STYLE AND WORKS
1. In what three poems does Shelley outline his views on human society?
2. Will his name outlast the interest in his writings? I, 181.
3. Why did Shelley fail in his attempt to apply freely the modern spirit to literature? I, 180.
4. With what great poems is "Adonais" classified, and why? IX, 105; XII, 47.
5. What qualities characterize his shorter poems?
6. In what respects does he outrank all subsequent poets? XI, 95.
7. State the qualities in which he resembles Keats. VII, 380.
"TO A SKYLARK" AND OTHER POEMS
1. Where does the skylark remain while singing?
2. Which of the numerous similes that Shelley uses do you think most appropriate in a description of the skylark?
3. What are the qualities of the skylark's song which make it so famous?
4. To what does Shelley ascribe the unexcelled beauty of the bird's music?
5. Is the skylark a native of America? (See encyclopedia.)
6. Compare this with Wordsworth's "To a Skylark," XII, 340, in language and style, and in spirit.
7. "The Ode to the West Wind" and "The Cloud" are especially characteristic of Shelley in his loftier flights of imaginative beauty. Compare them with Keats's "Ode to a Nightingale" and "Ode on a Grecian Urn," VII, 381, 383. Which of these is most vivid; which most musical?
8. "Arethusa" and "The Invitation," are among his more vigorous light verse.
9. Compare the powerful sonnet, "England in 1819," with Milton's sonnet "On His Blindness," IX, 119; and with Wordsworth's sonnets, XII, 353, 354.
10. In his day Shelley was regarded by many as an atheist; an opinion which is no longer generally held. Does his work indicate atheism to your mind?
11. Much of his work is impalpable, has insufficient strength to grip any but a mind with delicate powers of perception. Find examples of this characteristic.
"Famous English Authors."—Bolton.
"Shelley, the Man and the Poet."—Clutton-Brock.
"Romantic life of Shelley."—Gribble.
"Studies in Poetry."—Brooke.
"Essays on the Poets."—De Quincey.
"Leigh Hunt's Relations with Byron, Shelley, and Keats."—Miller.
The son of an hostler in a livery-stable, with only a partial education, John Keats certainly would not be chosen as a possible equal of Shelley, Byron, Wordsworth, or Coleridge. Yet such was his genius that he attained this position with no other training than came from his love of reading, especially in the fields of mythology and poetry.
After a few years at school he was apprenticed to a surgeon, and studied at the hospitals for a time, but disliking the profession he gave himself up to reading and then to authorship. Shakespeare, Wordsworth, the Italian poets, and later, Milton, were among his favorites. He was well built and strong, yet exposure brought on consumption in 1818, shortly after the publication of "Endymion." Whether the decline in his health was due to the violent attacks upon his poem by the reviewers or to the fact that he nursed a consumptive brother for the three months preceding the latter's death is still considered an open question by many. Shelley and Byron were bitter against the reviews and attributed his steady decline to that source alone. Meanwhile he worked on his last and greatest poems, while his health went to pieces. When it was too late for hope he sailed to Italy with his friend Severn, in whose arms he died a few months later. Not quite two years afterward Shelley's remains were laid beside him in the Protestant Cemetery at Rome, and in 1881 Severn, too, found his last resting-place there.
The epitaph which Keats had inscribed on his tomb,
"Here lies one whose name was writ in water,"
is happily proved false. Even to-day it is probable that he has not reached the highest recognition which he is to win in the world of poetry.
The one idea at the foundation of all his writings is the much-quoted phrase which begins "Endymion,"—"A thing of beauty is a joy forever," or as he expressed it in the "Ode on a Grecian Urn,"—"Beauty is truth." He is the poet of the senses, luxuriant, yet sublime. The Odes, "The Eve of St. Agnes," and "Hyperion" are hardly to be matched in the whole realm of English poetry. Strange to say Keats never studied Greek, leaving school before he reached that subject. Yet his work is nearer that of the Greeks in its exquisite balance of reason and feeling, in its absolute appreciation of beauty, and in purity of tone and style, nearer than that of all other English writers. But this is only true of his best work; in his other verse he lacks in taste and proportion, lavishing description without measure on every object of any charm.
1. What was Keats's origin and education?
2. How do you explain his poetic talent?
3. Who were his contemporaries?
4. What was the probable reason for his early death?
5. What other poets of his time also died at an early age?
6. Where is he buried and with whom?
7. Are modern book reviews commonly unjust or harsh?
8. Shelley's "Adonais" was written as an elegy on Keats, and is more like Keats's own work than any other of his poems. See if you can trace the resemblance in style.
STYLE AND WORKS
1. Keats belongs to the Romantic school, yet he is so great as to possess certain characteristics of the Classic. What are they?
2. What are the best lines in each of the selections? Why?
3. What are the leading differences between Keats and Shelley in style and thought?
4. In the "Ode to a Nightingale" there are several lines which might easily have been taken from Shakespeare, they are so similar to his style: can you find any of them?
5. Have you ever seen a Grecian urn or vase? (See encyclopedia or other reference work for illustrations.)
6. What English poet, much read by Keats, is suggested by "Hyperion"?
7. Judging by "Hyperion," did Keats possess narrative power?
8. Compare Keats with Wordsworth and Swinburne. Which do you prefer and why?
9. How does Arnold sum up Keats's work? I, 181.
"THE EVE OF ST. AGNES"
1. How many stanzas are introductory?
2. Trace the growing sense of action in these.
3. Is Porphyro like Romeo? How?
4. At what general period in history does the action occur?
5. Is the narrative or descriptive quality predominant?
6. Note that the poet appeals to each of the senses.
7. Give examples of Keats's eye for color.
8. Is this poem superior to the two Odes? Why?
"Keats" ("English Men of Letters").—Colvin.
"Studies in Interpretation."—Hudson.
"Life, Letters, and Literary Remains."—Milnes.
"John Keats: a Study."—Owen.
"John Keats. A Literary Biography."—Hancock.
"Studies in Poetry."—Brooke.
ALFRED, LORD TENNYSON
Alfred Tennyson, generally accounted the greatest English poet since Milton, was born at Somersby, Lincolnshire, where his early studies were for the most part personally directed by his father, the rector of the parish. He then studied at Cambridge, where "The Lady of Shalott" and "A Dream of Fair Women," were written.
Criticism and the death of a dearly loved friend, Arthur Hallam, now drove the tender-souled Tennyson into a retirement from which he did not reappear for nine years. He was busy during all this time, composing and perfecting "Locksley Hall," "Dora," "Morte D'Arthur," and other poems whose publication placed him in the front rank as a poet. "The Princess" followed in 1847 and "In Memoriam," his noblest work, an elegy on the death of Arthur Hallam, in 1850, seventeen years after his friend's decease.
In the same year he was appointed poet laureate and married a Miss Sellwood. Nine years later appeared his great epic cycle, "Idylls of the King." In 1884 he was raised to the peerage. "Crossing the Bar," published shortly before his death, was a fitting close to a literary life nobly consecrated to the combat against skepticism and materialism.
1. Would you place Tennyson among the aristocracy of England? He is known as "Alfred, Lord Tennyson": was he of noble extraction?
2. What position did he hold at the Court of St. James?
3. Who preceded and who succeeded him as poet laureate? XII, 324; I, 235.
4. How may we account for his strong religious bent?
5. Locate on the map two districts intimately connected with the life of Tennyson, Lincolnshire and the Isle of Wight.
6. Compare England in his lifetime with conditions in the days of Byron and Shelley. XI, 434 ff.
STYLE AND WORKS
1. What poems are classed with "In Memoriam" as the great elegies of English Literature? VI, 106; IX, 105; XI, 95.
2. What great contribution did Tennyson make to epic poetry?
3. From what sources did Tennyson derive the material for his "Idylls of the King"? VIII, 262; IX, 15.
4. Which of his poems was instrumental in establishing his reputation? XII, 5.
5. What poem indicates his religious feeling?
6. Name some of his best early poems.
7. In memory of whom was "In Memoriam" written?
8. Name three works based on the Arthurian legend; two dealing with the romance of common life; and two dealing with immortality.
9. What are the principal excellences of his style?
10. Compare "The Revenge" with Raleigh's account of the battle, X, 124, from which Tennyson took his facts and even his phrases. What does this show with regard to Raleigh's power as an author?
FROM "IN MEMORIAM"
1. Find the two stanzas which contain the central thought on which the poem is based.
2. What attitude did Tennyson take in regard to his friend's death?
3. Why does nature fail to comfort human beings in this type of sorrow?
4. Was Tennyson interested in social and political problems?
5. To what Scriptural event yet to be fulfilled does "Ring in the Christ that is to be" refer?
6. What traits of character does Tennyson exhibit in this poem?
7. The marriage introduced toward the close of the poem helps to present Tennyson's eventual reconciliation with the earthly separation from his friend.
8. In this marriage scene is Tennyson addressing his dead friend, or other persons? What phrases refer unmistakably to Hallam?
"Tennyson and his Friends."—Tennyson.
"The Story of the Idylls of the King."—McFee.
"Essays in Biography and Criticism."—Bayne.
"Tennyson, his Homes, his Friends and his Work."—Cary.
"Literary Leaders of Modern England."—Dawson.
"Men I Have Known."—Farrar.
"Poets in the Pulpit."—Haweis.
"Nature Knowledge in Modern Poetry."—Mackie.
"The Poetry of Tennyson."—Van Dyke.
"Tennyson" ("English Men of Letters Series").—Lyall.
Of German descent, Browning was, like so many other famous English writers, a native of London. His father was a ready versifier and his mother an accomplished musician, and they encouraged in every possible manner the appearance of like talent in their son. In his youth he drank deep of those fountains of romanticism, Byron, Shelley, and Keats.
His schooling finished and the tour of the Continent made, he devoted his life to literature, producing a number of dramatic poems of more or less merit. It was not, however, until the period 1841 to 1846 that, by the publication of the series of poems entitled "Bells and Pomegranates," which included "Pippa Passes," he attained any great literary fame. The latter play attracted the attention of Miss Barrett, and led to an acquaintance which resulted in their marriage in 1846.
The Brownings left at once for Florence, Italy, where they led an ideal married life until the death of Mrs. Browning in 1861. Like his wife, he took a great interest in Italy, and after her death his time was divided between England, where his son was being educated, and Italy. In the years immediately following Mrs. Browning's death, he composed "The Ring and the Book," a long epic poem commonly accounted his masterpiece; he continued writing until his death in 1889, his last work being published as he lay on his deathbed.
Browning was a short, stocky, active man, mingling freely with all classes of society and totally unlike the generality of poets. His works largely reflect the man, one noticeable feature being the entire absence of poetic melancholy.
Browning and Tennyson loomed above all the other poets of their day, and their comparative merits were a fertile source of argument even then. Both men were, however, too large to be affected by such considerations, and their relations were always of the most cordial nature.
Browning is deeply analytic, a trait perhaps derived from his German ancestors along with his peculiarities of syntax and vocabulary and his obscurity of expression. The latter characteristic has largely discouraged the general public, so that the reading of Browning is limited to people with a literary turn. His poetry is, however, well worth the reading. He is by far the deepest poet of the nineteenth century. He leaves environment to lesser poets and concentrates all his energies upon man himself, his passions and emotions. His nature is essentially dramatic, and had he devoted himself strictly to drama, instead of lyric verse, he doubtless would have been far more appreciated by the public. His poetic monologues, such as "Andrea del Sarto," "Confessions," and "Prospice," dramatic in nature, are rather hampered and confusing because of their form.
1. In what place was Robert Browning born?
2. Account for his musical and poetic proclivities.
3. What incident led to his union with Elizabeth Barrett Browning?
4. Florence has what connection with the lives of the Brownings?
5. Describe Browning's life after the death of his wife.
6. Give a description of his general appearance.
7. What personal relations did Browning and Tennyson sustain toward one another?
8. Who were the leading American contemporaries of Browning? II, 293; VIII, 253; XII, 301.
9. Give "Ouida's" opinion of Browning's moral courage. VIII, 107.
STYLE AND WORKS
1. When did Browning first begin to write poetry?
2. When were his last works written?
3. Upon what models were the poems of his youth written?
4. Which is considered his masterpiece?
5. In what characteristic is he preëminent among nineteenth-century poets?
6. State the defects in his style.
7. Why is it proper to say that Browning is essentially dramatic?
8. State the limitations on Browning's popularity.
9. What form of verse in which Mrs. Browning was preëminent was never attempted by Robert Browning? II, 239, 251.
10. Compare the styles of Browning and Tennyson as shown in "Hervé Riel" and "The Revenge," XII, 39.
"ANDREA DEL SARTO"
1. In what country is this scene laid?
2. Can you name a few contemporaneous artists?
3. Had Andrea Del Sarto attained distinction as a painter yet?
4. How do an artist's circumstances very often affect his paintings?
"When the young man was flaming out his thoughts
Upon a palace-wall for Rome to see"
What great work of Raphael's do these lines suggest?
6. Explain the following quotation of Agnolo's:
"Friend, there's a certain sorry little scrub
Goes up and down our Florence, none cares how,
Who, were he set to plan and execute
As you are, pricked on by your popes and kings,
Would bring the sweat into that brow of yours!"
7. Account for the different spelling of the artist's names (e.g. Rafael for Raphael, etc.).
"Browning, Poet and Man."—Cary.
"The Brownings, Their Life and Art."—Whiting.
"Browning and the Christian Faith."—Berdoe.
"Literary Leaders of Modern England."—Dawson.
ELIZABETH BARRETT BROWNING
Elizabeth Barrett Browning, easily first among English poets of her sex, was born in Durham. The daughter of a rich retired India merchant, she was remarkably precocious, reading Homer in the original, and writing verse at the age of eight years.
In 1836 the family removed to London, where she commenced her life-work. Despite the fact that she was a chronic invalid, she was familiar with the language and literature of several nations. Her poems of this period reflect her deep interest in social and humanitarian questions.
At this very time, when her fame far exceeded his, Robert Browning called on her to thank her for a compliment paid him in one of her poems. It seems to have been a case of love at first sight. They were married in 1846 and soon removed to Florence, Italy.
The "Sonnets from the Portuguese," among the world's noblest love poems, contain the record of her courtship and marriage.
In Italy she regained her health somewhat, and it was here that most of her best works were written. She took a great interest in the cause of Italian independence, as appears from "Casa Guidi Windows," and many lesser poems.
Although she began to write at an early age, she reached maturity slowly, producing her best works only after her fortieth year. She died in 1861.
Her characteristic note is that of sympathy, but her insight into human character was not particularly deep. The greatest faults in her style are vagueness and lack of self-restraint, probably to be attributed to her extremely sensitive temperament and overflowing imagination.
In the "Sonnets" these faults are not so noticeable, the rigid rules of that species of verse restraining her within bounds.
1. How does she rank among the women writers and especially the poets of the nineteenth century?
2. What can you say as to the early development of her faculties; and when did she reach her full poetic power?
3. What was her attitude toward questions of the day?
4. What qualities would make her as much admired at the present time as during the period in which she lived?
5. How were Robert and Elizabeth Browning brought together?
6. Where did they make their home?
7. Which was the better known at the time of their first meeting, Robert or Elizabeth?
8. Where was most of her best poetry written?
9. Why are her writings after marriage colored with Italian hopes and aspirations?
10. With what essentially feminine attribute was she abundantly endowed?
STYLE AND WORKS
1. Name her leading works.
2. What unique position in the English language is filled by the "Sonnets from the Portuguese"?
3. For what purpose did she write "Casa Guidi Windows"?
4. Had she a profound knowledge of man?
5. What particular defects strike one in her style?
6. Why is she at her best when writing in the sonnet form?
7. Compare her verse with that of Mrs. Hemans, Lucy Larcom, Shelley, Keats, and Longfellow.
"THE CRY OF THE CHILDREN"
1. What protest does "The Cry of the Children" voice?
2. Since this poem was written have steps been taken to improve the condition of children who work? Name some of the limitations of child labor in your state.
3. To what country does "our happy Fatherland" refer?
4. What potent evil now partially remedied by law was prevalent in the factories and mines of those days?
5. Were the sanitary conditions of the factories regulated by law, such as light, cleanliness, etc.? (See encyclopedia.)
6. How is the moral and physical life of a child affected by such close and continuous application to work of this character?
7. What would Mrs. Browning make the guiding principle in the solution of economic ills?
"The Book of Noble Englishwomen."—Bruce.
"Elizabeth Barrett Browning" ("Famous Women.")—Ingram.
"The Brownings; Their Life and Art."—Whiting.
"Florence in the Poetry of the Brownings."—McMahan.
"The Letters of E. B. Browning."—Ed. Kenyon.
Washington Irving has the distinction of being the only one of our early writers of eminence born in the metropolis; and, with the exception of Cooper, the only one born outside of New England.
The youngest son of a well-to-do New York merchant, he was born in 1783, just after the close of the Revolutionary War. He was, therefore, very properly christened "Washington." It is said that some years after, he was brought to President Washington, who, on being told that he was a namesake, laid his hand upon him and bestowed his blessing. Little could the Father of His Country have realized that the benediction would bear fruit and that the recipient thereof was to become the Prince of American Letters.
Like many other authors he studied for the bar, but found neither law nor politics congenial. Though well-read, his education was unsystematic. His first literary endeavors appeared in "Salmagundi," a semimonthly periodical in which he collaborated with his brother and James Kirk Paulding. This was followed by his inimitable "Knickerbocker's History of New York," still among the greatest masterpieces of American humor, which established his reputation.
In 1814 he sailed for Europe, where the next seventeen years of his life were spent. Several years were divided between Great Britain and France, where the "Sketch-Book," "Bracebridge Hall," and "Tales of a Traveler" were written. Afterwards he spent some years in Spain writing his striking series of works descriptive of Spanish history and antiquities—"The Conquest of Granada," "The Alhambra," etc.
Returning to America, he built a beautiful home at "Sunnyside" (rightly named for one who always looked on the sunny side of life), where he resided continuously during the remaining twenty-seven years of his life, with the exception of four years spent as minister of the United States at the Court of Spain. These latter years were full of labor, the most notable results being his lives of Goldsmith and Washington.
His writings are distinguished by an easy grace, a flowing rhythm, a light play of fancy and humor, a delicate and tender sentiment sometimes suffused with a gentle melancholy, smooth and unaffected narrative, picturesque description, and graphic delineation of character.
Thackeray describes him as being in his family "gentle, generous, good-humored, and self-denying;" and in society "a delightful example of complete gentlemanliness."
1. What peculiarity of birth distinguishes Irving from all other ante bellum writers?
2. What was his education; his social position?
3. Note points of resemblance between his life and that of Bryant.
4. In what countries was a considerable portion of his life spent?
5. Where did he spend his days after his return from Europe?
6. What public service did Irving render his country?
7. Summarize his character.
8. In view of the many years he voluntarily spent abroad, would you consider him a patriotic man?
STYLE AND WORKS
1. What work established his reputation?
2. What writing did he do abroad?
3. What are his principal serious works?
4. State the prevailing characteristics of his style.
5. Contrast Irving's humor with that of Dickens.
6. Is his humor "American"? Why?
7. Compare his style with Hawthorne's. Which do you prefer? Why?
FROM "KNICKERBOCKER'S NEW YORK"
1. In proportion to its population, how would the record of crime to-day in New York compare with that in the administration of Governor Van Twiller?
2. Give reasons for this difference.
3. What was the Dutch ideal of family life?
4. Judging from this account, was the social distinction between the different classes as great as it is to-day?
5. What was the style of dress worn by the ladies of those days?
6. Discuss its merits or inconveniences as compared with the style of dress to-day.
7. To what extent would you consider this history authoritative?
8. Wherein lies the charm of Irving's power as a writer?
9. Compare the tone of this selection with that of "Rip Van Winkle."
"Four Famous American Writers."—Cody.
"Irving" ("American Men of Letters").—Warner.
"Literary and Social Essays."—Curtis.
"Backgrounds of Literature."—Mabie.
EDGAR ALLAN POE
Although born in Boston, Poe was of Southern descent and received his early education in England and Virginia. He belonged to no school of writers. His works are sui generis and bear no local color or imprint.
Though a loving husband, he was throughout his life practically without friends, his caustic criticism in particular making him many enemies in the world of letters, with disastrous effect on the reception of his writings. His life was consequently one long struggle for bare necessities, in spite of which, working with unflagging energy, he left behind several volumes of poems, tales, and criticism of a high order.
The wonderful technique, faultless form, and painstaking choice of detail, combined with the grotesque and morbid beauty of both his poetry and his prose have secured for Poe an abiding place in our literature. It is the perfection of literary style that has given him his great popularity abroad and especially in France. Indeed, Poe's neglect of the moral point of view and his constant achievement of artistic perfection of form are French rather than English or American characteristics.
1. Poe was born in Boston. Would you class him with the New England school of writers?
2. Where did he receive his early education? Does this account for certain peculiarities in his writings?
3. Was Poe a man of warm sympathies?
4. What were his relations with other writers of his day?
5. Was the circle of his friendship extensive? What effect had this on his ultimate success as a writer?
6. Compare Scott and Poe as money-makers.
7. What is your opinion of Poe as a husband?
8. He was not a hard drinker as compared with men of his time. The malevolence of his literary executor is responsible in part for the belief to the contrary. On the other hand his will was not strong enough to resist the insidious craving for alcohol and opium, and his high-strung temperament was affected by a slight quantity of either poison.
STYLE AND WORKS
1. What rank do you assign to Poe among American poets? Among short-story writers?
2. Wherein lay his strength?
3. What elements of weakness do you observe?
4. In "The Fall of the House of Usher" notice how the atmosphere of horror is fixed in the opening paragraph by a series of adjectives and adverbs expressive of ever increasing gloom and culminating in the word "torture."
5. Compare the nightmare dread that is attained both at the end of "The Fall of the House of Usher" and in "The Cask of Amontillado" with De Quincey's description of the dreams caused by opium and the attendant melancholia. IV, 171-181.
6. However, Poe was not merely recording fragments of opium dreams; the earliest prose work of the romantic period, now forgotten because of its many weaknesses and imperfections, consisted largely of just such tales of horror. Bürger's "Lenore," Walpole's "Castle of Otranto," Mrs. Radcliffe's "Mysteries of Udolpho," and Mrs. Shelley's "Frankenstein" were among the foremost of these.
7. Can you discover any suggestions of religious or moral feeling in either of these tales? If so, do they impress you as Poe's actual conviction or as a part of the picture which he is drawing?
8. Is this type of tale worth preserving apart from its excellence in style? Do you think it easy or difficult to tell such a story? Why?
9. Is Poe immoral or unmoral?
1. Why is the raven chosen as the bird of ill omen?
2. Compare the raven with the albatross in Coleridge's "Ancient Mariner."
3. It has been often claimed that the poem was written by Poe in a fit of delirium. As a matter of fact it was composed during his wife's illness and then polished into its present shape during subsequent months of grief. "The Bells" was written at the same time.
4. "Annabel Lee" is another expression of his passionate love for his wife.
5. "The Raven" is written in the first person. Is this characteristic of Poe? Does he gain anything by it? What does he lose?
6. Whence was the name, Lenore, derived?
7. What do you understand by the reference to "the Night's Plutonian shore"?
8. As "The Raven" may be said to be the masterpiece of American poetry, so the stanza, "Then methought the air grew denser," is considered the supreme moment in the poem. Can you see why?
9. For a critical analysis of the structure of this poem see Poe's essay, "The Philosophy of Composition," in the complete editions of his works.
"Four Famous American Writers."—Cody.
"Life and Letters of Edgar Allan Poe."—Harrison.
"Edgar Allan Poe; the Man, the Master, the Martyr."—Leigh.
"The Home Life of Poe."—Weiss.
"Poe" ("American Men of Letters").—Woodberry.
"The Mind and Art of Poe's Poetry."—Fruit.
Nathaniel Hawthorne, by general repute the greatest of American novelists, was of sound New England lineage, and his forefathers had for generations followed the sea. After graduating from Bowdoin College, where he had formed a close friendship with Longfellow and Pierce, he returned to Salem, resolved to take up literature as a life-work.
Here he wrote for years, but with so little success that he was glad to accept of George Bancroft, the historian, the offer of a subordinate position in the Boston Custom House. He had, however, just previously published his first work, "Twice-Told Tales," to be followed, upon his retirement from the custom house with the change of administration, by "Grandfather's Chair."
Some years after he was appointed surveyor of customs at Salem, then an important port, and the succession of tales which had come from his pen for so many years suddenly ceased. But during the following four years of apparent cessation of literary endeavor, he was but husbanding his forces for a final effort, and the year 1850 witnessed the publication of his masterpiece, "The Scarlet Letter," the epic of sin and remorse, by common consent the best American romance and by many held without an equal, either here or abroad.
His old schoolmate, Franklin Pierce, having become President of the United States, Hawthorne was appointed Consul to Liverpool, and upon the expiration of his term spent two years traveling in France, Switzerland, and Italy. The "English Note Books" and "Our Old Home" tell of his life in England, and "The Marble Faun," one of his greatest works, is the product of his wanderings in Italy.
His writings are distinguished by a wonderful power of analysis, and a singularly graceful diction. He seems in a way the incarnation of the old Puritan spirit, probes the innermost recesses of the heart, and appears to take a strange delight in the darker side of life. But he is in no sense morbid; his musings are merely the offspring of a solitary but eminently manly spirit. All through his works one realizes the dominating and all-pervading supremacy of conscience.
1. With what historic towns do we associate the name of Hawthorne?
2. What led to his deep interest in New England lore?
3. Would you judge him to be a good business man? Why?
4. How did he happen to visit Europe?
5. Under what circumstances was "The Scarlet Letter" produced?
6. How does Hawthorne rank among American writers?
7. To what trait of character must his slow acceptance by the public be attributed?
8. Was he a Puritan? Why?
STYLE AND WORKS
1. Which was the first of Hawthorne's works to attract public attention?
2. What rank does "The Scarlet Letter" hold in American literature? In world literature?
3. Wherein lies its great hold upon the human heart?
4. Name his works dealing with English life.
5. What elements of strength do you discover in his style?
6. In what respects does he resemble Poe; wherein does he differ from him?
7. Is his work indicative of his education as well as of his character? How?
"THE OLD MANSE"
1. How long did Hawthorne live in the "Old Manse"?
2. Does Hawthorne show a detailed knowledge of nature?
3. What qualities must a book possess to retain its interest and value for centuries beyond its time of writing?
4. According to Hawthorne's views, what is the best remedy for a troubled mind or worn body?
5. What qualities does Hawthorne's style possess which make an otherwise uninteresting subject have such charm?
6. Notice the passages which bring out the personal character of the author. From these give a complete character sketch of the man.
7. What places of interest in Concord attract visitors? VI, 312, 316, also Frontispiece and illustrations, 310, 338; V, Frontispiece, 82; XII, 116.
8. Does this selection offer good material for illustration? Find several scenes especially beautiful in color or shading.
9. What was Hawthorne's view of Emerson? Do you agree with it? Why?
"Nathaniel Hawthorne and his Wife."—Hawthorne (Julian).
"Memories of Hawthorne."—Lathrop.
"Hawthorne" ("English Men of Letters").—James.
"Life and Genius of Nathaniel Hawthorne."—Stearns.
"American Prose Masters."—Brownell.
WILLIAM CULLEN BRYANT
William Cullen Bryant was born among the Berkshire hills, in Western Massachusetts, the son of a country physician of limited means. He did not complete his college course, and after devoting several years to the practice of law, he removed to New York, where for nearly fifty years he remained as editor of one of the principal metropolitan papers. He took a leading part in all public affairs, and was a most uncompromising abolitionist.
In appearance patriarchal, a "grand old man," he was lofty, self-contained, and cold. He died at the age of 83, his mental powers still in full vigor.
He was the first poet of high rank which America produced; and above all, the first to paint American scenes with a discerning eye. His poems are American in subject, imagery, and spirit. The volume of his poetry is not large, nor is its range wide, but it is characterized by a dignity and simplicity which imparts a peculiar charm.
His "Thanatopsis," written at the remarkably early age of eighteen, was the first poem written on the American continent destined to win enduring fame.
His works are almost entirely devoted to nature. Man is generally treated merely in the abstract. In all his verse the tendency to moralize is strongly apparent; but his writings, though instinct with morality and religion, never rise above the teachings of natural theology.
1. What were his antecedents?
2. To what extent was he an educated man?
3. What was Bryant's calling?
4. Where did Bryant's political sympathies lie?
5. Was his personal appearance in keeping with his profession?
6. What celebrity of antiquity would you say he most resembled in this respect?
7. For what reason does Bryant lack in popularity?
8. Though his first poem was his greatest, can we say that there was any decline in Bryant's mental powers?
9. Does he belong to the New England authors or to the New York group? Why?
STYLE AND WORKS
1. At what age did he write "Thanatopsis"?
2. What unique position does "Thanatopsis" occupy in American literature?
3. Were his literary remains extensive?
4. What pleasing qualities characterize his style?
5. His rank as a poet of nature?
6. For what scenes does Bryant appear to have a special predilection?
7. In which was Bryant more deeply versed, nature or man?
8. What other poets does his work suggest?
1. What is the connection between the title of the poem and its subject-matter?
2. How does communion with nature affect the thought of death?
3. Is the description of death effective?
4. What consolation is derived from the manner of our burial?
5. Does Bryant consider preparation for death essential?
6. Are there indications of youthfulness in the poem?
7. Do any passages suggest Bryant's early home?
"William Cullen Bryant" ("American Authors").—Hill.
"Bryant and His Friends."—Wilson.
"Studies in Bryant" ("Literature Primers").—Alden.
HENRY WADSWORTH LONGFELLOW
Longfellow was born at Portland, Maine, a lineal descendant of "Priscilla, the Puritan Maiden." He was educated at Bowdoin College, in which he was subsequently offered a professorship. To prepare himself for the position he traveled extensively in Europe, acquainting himself with its languages and institutions.
After some years at Bowdoin he was appointed to the chair of modern languages and literature at Harvard. He now settled down at Cambridge, which remained his home till the day of his death, though he made several trips to Europe.
After several ineffectual essays at authorship, he won recognition with his "Voices of the Night." Some years later appeared a second collection of poems, "Poems of Slavery," which, with Whittier's poems and Mrs. Stowe's works, were largely instrumental in stirring up New England to the evils of slave-holding. Finally, in 1847, appeared the greatest of all his works, "Evangeline." It is also remarkable as introducing the dactylic hexameter of the ancients, ever since popular in America.
In his choice of subjects Longfellow oscillated between America and Europe, and, although he doubtless was not conscious of the fact, his American poems were easily best; especially "Hiawatha" (based on a Finnish epic, the "Kalevala"), "The Courtship of Miles Standish," and the "Tales of a Wayside Inn,"—all three of which may vie with "Evangeline" for excellence. He was less successful with his European poems, though "The Golden Legend," and his translation of the "Divine Comedy" are good.
Longfellow made several attempts at writing prose fiction, notably in "Hyperion" and "Kavanaugh," but none of his prose works proved to be of any permanent value.
Longfellow was neither original nor deep. He attempts to discover no new secrets in nature. But, like Scott, he was a lover of the heroic, of the spirit of self-sacrifice. His poems, whatever their form, are ever subjective, have ever a moral to teach. And so, like Scott, he has ever been and ever will be popular. In England and Canada he is said to be even more popular than Tennyson.
Of all American authors, Longfellow was the model Christian; noted for his superabundant sympathy, love, and charity. It is recorded that when Poe lashed him with his merciless criticism, he was delivering enthusiastic discourses on Poe's poetry to his classes.
1. What was Longfellow's origin; his education?
2. In what respect does his life resemble that of Irving?
3. His profession was literature. What chair did he occupy, and in what colleges?
4. What interest, if any, did Longfellow take in public affairs?
5. Give the salient points in his character.
6. Was his foreign experience as significant as that of Irving, Hawthorne, and Lowell?
STYLE AND WORKS
1. With what collection of poems did Longfellow first win public notice?
2. What work links his name with those of Whittier and Harriet Beecher Stowe?
3. Name his best poems.
4. In which is the dactylic hexameter popularized?
5. From what two sources was his "Hiawatha" derived?
6. How is Longfellow's name connected with that of Dante?
7. What are the merits of his style; the defects?
8. Longfellow is easily the most popular American poet. Why?
9. What British poet does he most resemble in his shorter poems? In what respects?
10. What can you say as to his popularity abroad?
1. Who were the Druids, and why are they appropriately associated with the "forest primeval"?
2. What is the present name of the territory once called Acadie?
3. What lines express the central thought underlying the tale?
4. What is there peculiarly appropriate in the words "turbulent tides"? (See geography on Bay of Fundy, etc.)
5. Select a few of the most beautiful similes or metaphors which illustrate the poet's power of imagination.
6. Is the cruelty of the English exaggerated?
7. During what period of history did this event occur?
8. What picture of Acadian life pleases you most?
9. Compare this narrative style with that of the narrative poems of Scott, Tennyson, Macaulay, and Homer.
"Life of Longfellow."—Longfellow (Samuel).
"Henry W. Longfellow, Life, Works, Friendships."—Austin.
"Henry Wadsworth Longfellow."—Carpenter.
"Four American Poets."—Cody.
"Authors and Friends."—Fields.
JOHN GREENLEAF WHITTIER
Whittier was born at Haverhill, Mass., the son of a poor Quaker farmer. His boyhood was spent at work on his father's farm and he had few opportunities for schooling. But he showed his talent for verse at an early age, and in this manner attracted the interest and friendship of William Lloyd Garrison. Determined to obtain an education, he learned the trade of making slippers, and with this as a means of support was able to attend two years at Haverhill Academy.
For some years after this he led a shifting life, sometimes editing one of a number of periodicals with which he was successively connected, and at other times working the ancestral farm. In 1836 the farm was sold and the Whittiers removed to Amesbury, destined to remain his home until his death in 1892, fifty-six years after.
Whittier was a Quaker, and, like most of that sect, a zealous champion of abolition. To that cause he sacrificed ambition and love; and, like most of the early abolitionists, he suffered for his faith. While editor of the "Pennsylvania Freeman," at Philadelphia, his printing plant was sacked and burned by the mob.
Whittier never married. His sister Elizabeth, who became his lifelong companion, and whose verse is preserved with his own, shared likewise in the war he made on slavery.
His poems may be divided into two classes: those descriptive of rural life and scenery, among which the best are "Snow Bound," his masterpiece, "The Tent on the Beach," "Maud Muller," and "Among the Hills"; and his polemics against slavery, including "Voices of Freedom," "Barbara Frietchie," and "The Slaves of Martinique." He also collaborated with Lucy Larcom in the compilation of "Child Life," "Child Life in Prose," and "Songs of Three Centuries."
Poetry was no fine art with him, and his verse seldom rises above the ballad; but his style is characterized by great simplicity, sincerity, directness, and fervor. The elements of passion and sturdier humor are lacking, but he was the master-painter of New England scenery, as evidenced in his "Snow Bound," the best verse of that kind since "The Deserted Village," and "The Cotter's Saturday Night." Rustic winter scenes have never been more beautifully described.
1. From what rank in life did Whittier come?
2. What can you say of his childhood?
3. How would his education compare with that of most of the authors of his day?
4. The formation of what friendship had a lasting effect on his life?
5. What profession did he enter in common with many other American authors?
6. Of what faith was he an adherent?
7. At what place did he live during the greater part of his life?
8. Explain the part taken by him in political matters.
9. What can you tell of his sister Elizabeth?
10. Why is he called "The Quaker Poet," and "The Amesbury Sage"?
STYLE AND WORKS
1. Wherein does his style resemble that of Mrs. Browning?
2. What great poems of Burns and Whittier are properly classed together, and why?
3. Name four poems descriptive of New England life and scenery.
4. What are his best poems on slavery?
5. In what field do he and Longfellow meet? VIII, 222.
6. State what shows his great interest in children.
7. What form did his verse generally take?
8. How does he compare as to form with Poe and Bryant?
9. Why is he esteemed the New England poet par excellence?
10. In the description of what particular scenes does he excel?
11. Give the elements of strength in his style.
1. What is meant by the "mock-bird" in the third couplet? Are these mocking birds in New England?
2. Of what class is Maud with her "vague unrest" a type?
3. Is city life still as attractive to country girls and boys?
4. Is the Judge's aimless talk well worked out by the poet?
5. Had Maud and the Judge married, would they have been happier in the end?
6. Have lawyers changed with the flight of years?
7. Is it true that "humming" is a telltale habit?
8. What do you understand by "spinnet," "astral," and "chimney lug"?
9. Point out a couplet which has passed into a proverb.
10. What "sweet hope" is intended in the next to the last stanza?
"Life of John Greenleaf Whittier" ("Great Writers Series").—Linton.
"John Greenleaf Whittier" ("American Men of letters").—Carpenter.
"Reminiscences of Whittier's life at Oak Knoll."—Woodman.
"Authors and Friends."—Fields.
"John Greenleaf Whittier" ("English Men of Letters").—Higginson.
JAMES RUSSELL LOWELL
JAMES RUSSELL LOWELL, the son of a Unitarian minister, was born in Cambridge, Massachusetts, the home of so many of our eminent authors. Educated at Harvard University, where he also prepared for the practice of law, he entered that profession, but finding it little to his taste quickly abandoned it for literature. In 1855 he succeeded Longfellow in the chair of modern languages at Harvard, a position which he held for the following twenty-two years. During this period he was for a time editor of the Atlantic Monthly, and the North American Review. In 1877 he was appointed minister to Spain, and in 1880 was transferred to the Court of St. James, where he remained five years. He died in 1891 at the age of seventy-two years.
Lowell was a many-sided character, eminent as a poet, an essayist, a critic, and a public speaker. His friends included all the New England writers of his day and many English authors, who for the first time appreciated America's intellectual standing. His poetry is very uneven; this is due largely to the fact that he wrote principally for immediate effect, and, while his poems sparkle with wit and humor, they very commonly lack polish and form. This criticism would hardly apply to "The Vision of Sir Launfal," his best poem, or to the "Commemoration Ode."
Lowell is probably better known as an essayist and critic, his best works in this line being "Fireside Travels," "My Study Windows," and "Among my Books." He was the leading American critic of his time.
In closing, two anomalous works should be mentioned. His "Biglow Papers" are two series of satirical poems, ordinary verse rather than actual poetry, but very fine as satire. The former series, published in 1846, was directed against the Mexican war, and the latter, published during the Civil War, against the slavery party. They served to popularize the 'Yankee dialect,' here used for the first time.
The second is the "Fable for Critics," a criticism in verse of his leading contemporaries, like the "Biglow Papers," full of wit and striking puns and keenly critical, though lacking in true poetic value.
1. What similarity between Lowell's antecedents and those of Emerson?
2. How does his first choice of a profession resemble that of Bryant and Irving?
3. Whom did he succeed at Harvard and what chair did he fill in that institution?
4. Give his connection with journalism.
5. What diplomatic missions did he fill, and what other famous American authors had filled the same positions?
6. Did he, like Irving, Prescott, and Hawthorne, make any great use of his European experience for literary purposes?
7. What impression did he make in England?
STYLE AND WORKS
1. Mention seven different lines along which Lowell directed his energies.
2. What is the principal defect in his style?
3. What are his strong points?
4. Mention his three best poems. His three best collections of essays.
5. Against what evil were the "Biglow Papers" directed?
6. What new element did they bring into American literature?
7. Name a favorite poem in the Yankee dialect.
8. Why is some of his verse scarcely to be considered poetry?
FROM "THE VISION OF SIR LAUNFAL"
1. Compare "druid wood" with the opening lines of Longfellow's "Evangeline," VIII, 231, and explain the allusion.
2. Point out the best couplet in the extract.
3. What beautiful metaphor is near the close of the poem?
4. What analogy may we draw between the tide and the year-cycle?
5. What is the purpose of the first stanza?
6. Explain the line "Each ounce of dross costs its ounce of gold," and find examples in life to verify it.
7. What are the signs of summer?
8. How does this season of the year affect the human heart?
9. Compare the second stanza with the theme and the style of Wordsworth's "Ode on Immortality," XII, 324.
"Four Famous American Writers."—Cody.
"James Russell Lowell."—Scudder.
"American Prose Masters."—Brownell.
"James Russell Lowell."—Curtis.
"Essays in London and Elsewhere."—James.
"Nature Knowledge in Modern Poetry."—Mackie.
"Stelligeri, and other Essays."—Wendell.
OLIVER WENDELL HOLMES
The "genial Autocrat" was born in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and was the son of a Congregational minister. After graduating at Harvard, he began the study of law, but, like so many other authors, not finding it to his taste, changed to medicine. After finishing his studies in Paris he returned to America, and opened office in Boston. Despite his fondness for literature, he gained a fair practice.
In 1847, however, he was elected Professor of Anatomy in Harvard University, a position he held for thirty-five years. His duties were far from arduous, so that like Emerson, he was able to devote much of his time to lecturing and poetry.
The founding of The Atlantic Monthly was an important event in his life. He was engaged to write for it, and the result was his greatest work, "The Autocrat of the Breakfast Table," a series of talks on many subjects, interspersed with some poems. Of the same nature are "The Professor at the Breakfast Table," "The Poet at the Breakfast Table," and "Over the Teacups," written at intervals of many years. They are distinguished by careless grace and irrepressible humor. The "Autocrat" is the most original and brilliant, and the series became successively more serious as the doctor grew older.
These are the works by which he will be remembered, but, like Lowell, he was a man of many parts, and chose to work in several fields. He was eminent as a physician, lecturer, poet, and essayist, as we have seen, and he even tried his hand at fiction. "The Guardian Angel," his best novel, "Elsie Venner," and "A Mortal Antipathy," have been called 'medicated novels,' dealing as they do with questions of heredity and prenatal influence.
He also appeared in the rôle of biographer, with the lives of his friends, Motley and Emerson.
Holmes was a lovable man, genial, brilliant, witty, and yet deeply in earnest for all that. He was a thoroughly religious man and a firm believer in immortality, holding his life to be merely the avenue or vestibule to a greater beyond. He was, however, conservative, and took little part in the abolitionist movement which so agitated his brethren.
He died at the advanced age of eighty-five, having outlived all his companions in the field of letters.
1. Give a brief account of Holmes's birth and antecedents.
2. Where was he educated, and on what lines?
3. What connection did he subsequently form with Harvard University?
4. In what respect does his life resemble that of Emerson, and how does he resemble Lowell?
5. Mention several different fields in which he achieved distinction.
6. Give a summary of his character.
7. According to Holmes, what is it that makes life worth living?
STYLE AND WORKS
1. Which is esteemed to be Holmes's best work?
2. Enumerate the four books of the Autocrat series.
3. What is the general character of these books?
4. What progressive difference is noted in the successive books of the series?
5. Give the main elements of his style.
6. Name three novels written by Holmes.
7. For what biographies are we indebted to him?
8. As a humorist compare him with Lowell, VIII, 255; with Irving, VII, 271; with Lamb, VIII, 73, 86.
FROM "THE AUTOCRAT OF THE BREAKFAST TABLE"
1. Is there a moral to the poem "The Wonderful One-hoss-shay"? If so, what is it?
2. When is slang permissible, according to Holmes?
3. To whom does the title of this selection refer?
4. Account for the sudden changes of topic and their diversity of character.
5. What is the effect of the quotation connected with the poem "Contentment"?
6. Is the intermingling of poetry and prose common? How is it peculiarly suitable here?
7. What are Holmes's views concerning the literary talent of the United States?
8. If the works of an author portray his character, how would you classify Oliver Wendell Holmes as a man?
"Holmes: The Autocrat and his Fellow Boarders."—Crothers.
"Authors and Friends."—Fields.
"Old Cambridge" ("National Studies in American Letters").—Higginson.
"The Poet Among the Hills."—Smith.
The ancient Greek tradition assigned the authorship of the "Iliad" and the "Odyssey" to the blind bard, Homer, of whose origin and personality nothing is known, although seven cities claimed to be his birthplace. More than a century of the closest study and research, including the investigation of ancient Troy, has shown that these two immortal epic poems are hardly to be called the work of one man, but that they have been compiled and unified by one poet from several shorter works, dealing with incidents leading to the fall of Troy and the wanderings of Odysseus.
The site of Troy, close to the entrance to the Dardanelles, has been occupied by nine cities, excavations showing their remains resting in distinct layers, five of which belong to the pre-Homeric times, the sixth being the city of the "Iliad," sacked in the year 1184 B.C. Its fall was due, originally, to a dispute among the gods as to which was the fairest, Hera, the wife of Zeus, goddess of earthly dominion, Athene, goddess of wisdom, or Aphrodite, goddess of love. Paris, the son of Priam, king of Troy, was chosen judge and awarded the prize to Aphrodite, tempted by her offer of the most beautiful woman in the world for his wife and rejecting the bribes of empire and of wisdom which were offered by the others.
Helen, the wife of Menelaus, whose beauty was acclaimed as divine, accordingly was abducted by Paris. Menelaus and his brother, both powerful kings in Greece, collected an army with the aid of several other Greek princes and set sail at once for Troy, which they besieged in vain for nine years and finally captured by the stratagem of the Trojan horse. This was a huge wooden figure of a horse, in which certain of the Greek leaders lay hid while the rest sailed away, apparently giving up the siege and leaving the horse as an offering to the gods. The Trojans, rejoicing, dragged the monster within their walls, broken down to admit it, and at nightfall the concealed Greeks came out and opened the gates to the rest of their army, which had landed again under cover of darkness.
Helen's life was spared, as she seems to have been regarded as a being of another world, guiltless of wrong intent, driven by fate into these misfortunes. The tragedies that befell upon the return of Agamemnon and his brother Menelaus form the subject of the great dramas of Æschylus, Euripides, and Sophocles.
The "Iliad" narrates events in the course of the siege, in which Achilles is the Greek hero, angered by Agamemnon and refusing to lead the troops to battle, until roused by the death of his friend Patroclus he rushes to the fray and slays Hector, the Trojan prince and leader, with whose funeral rites the poem closes.
The fall of Troy is not treated by Homer; in fact it did not receive the consideration due its dramatic possibilities until a thousand years later, when Vergil, the Roman poet, described it in his "Æneid." This may be explained by the fact that the Greeks desired to hear the tale of their heroism and their leader's triumph rather than the sorrows of the enemy, while the Roman emperor Augustus, at whose request Vergil composed the "Æneid," wished to glorify Rome by tracing her origin back to the son of the Trojan prince, Æneas, who fled to Italy after Troy's downfall.
The "Odyssey" recounts the wanderings of the Greek prince, Odysseus, detained by various casualties on his way home round the south of Greece to Ithaca, his island home in the Adriatic, and also deals with his vengeance on the suitors whom he found endeavoring to win the hand of his faithful wife Penelope.
The "Iliad," as a piece of literature, seems to belong to a somewhat earlier day than the "Odyssey." The latter is more unified in construction, and shows greater knowledge of travel and a higher religious and social standard.
The selections of the former are from the two great metrical translations of Pope and of Chapman. Pope's work (1715) is in the full flower of the Age of Classicism, and is thoroughly characteristic of that period. Chapman's (1611), less polished, belongs to the late Renaissance, whose rugged, adventurous spirit was far nearer that of the Homeric age and is preferred by many on this account.
The prose translation, from which the passages of the "Odyssey" are taken, is better suited to present-day taste, trained by prose fiction rather than verse. It retains as far as has ever been done the Greek feeling and ideas, with all its richness of imagery and none of the affectation which we feel to-day in lengthy verse.
THE MAN AND THE AGE
1. Who was Homer?
2. What is the history of Troy?
3. What was the value of its geographical situation in those days? (Consult an atlas, classical, if possible.)
4. What was the character of social conditions in those days? See V, 432.
5. Apart from scientific progress, what distinctions can you make between this era and that of Homer?
6. The fall and sack of Troy is told by whom, in what epic? Explain why Homer did not deal with this dramatic episode.
STYLE AND WORKS
1. Why has Achilles' fame lasted two thousand years? III, 266.
2. What is one of Homer's leading merits? VIII, 356.
3. What was Alexander the Great's opinion of the "Iliad"? IX, 8.
4. Which do you prefer, the prose or the verse translation? Why?
5. In what respects are the verse translations molded by the spirit of the periods when they were made?
6. How is it that the Renaissance, when Chapman made his translation, was more like the Homeric period than the twentieth century?
FROM THE "ODYSSEY"
1. What phrases suggest the Greek love of beauty?
2. Do you conclude that the poet was observant of life in times of peace as well as in times of war?
3. Had he ever lived on a farm? What makes you think so?
4. How did Odysseus treat the minstrel? Was the writer himself probably just such a bard?
5. Compare Circe's palace and the home of Odysseus; what was the probable status of the hero, king or chieftain? Why?
6. Note the use of sulphur for purifying the house. What does this show you regarding early Greek civilization?
7. Outline the social and political conditions of life in the Homeric period as shown in the "Odyssey."
The "Iliad," translated by Lang, Leaf, and Myers.
The "Odyssey," translated by Butcher and Lang.
"Homer and his Age."—Lang.
"The World of Homer."—Lang.
"On Translating Homer."—Arnold.
"Ethics of the Heroic Age."—Gladstone.
"Life in the Homeric Age."—Seymour.
(70 B.C.–19 B.C.)
Unlike most distinguished Roman writers, Vergil was country born, coming from the district of Andes, near Mantua—hence 'the Mantuan,' as he was known to the scholastics.
After studying at Cremona and Rome, he returned to his father's small estate and wrote pastoral poetry; but being obliged to flee when the lands of Italy were assigned by the Triumvirs to their adherents, he again visited Rome, where he speedily became a favorite of Augustus. The liberality of Augustus and his own thrift enabled him to live in comparative opulence. Most of his life he spent in retirement on his estate in Campania. Here his time was given wholly to his art, except in so far as he was taken up with scientific and antiquarian studies, which he thought essential to elevate his thought and strengthen his grasp of profound subjects.
His character is universally commended. He was gentle, innocent, modest, and of a singular sweetness of disposition. He is generally conceded to be the greatest Roman poet and the most patriotic. Like other epic poets he was of a philosophic nature, and unlike the generality of Roman writers, he was reserved as to his personal feelings. He never married.
Before coming to Rome he had written his "Eclogues," the first of Latin pastorals, in imitation of Theocritus. His next poems, the "Georgics," were written to create fresh interest in agriculture, which had been the mainstay of republican Rome but was fast falling into decay. But his enduring fame rests upon the "Æneid," written at the request of Augustus, which treats of the founding of Rome by a colony from ancient Troy under the leadership of Æneas. In it Vergil sums up the glory of Rome and its culmination under Augustus. The "Æneid," the "Divine Comedy," and "Paradise Lost" enjoy the distinction of being the only great epics written in the full light of civilized society, and the inspiration of the latter works was largely drawn from Vergil.
He was a master of literary form, seen at its best in the "Georgics" and the "Æneid," though the latter is an unfinished work with which Vergil was so little satisfied that in his will he directed its destruction. This wish was rightly regarded as the fastidious, nervous whim of the poet and was therefore unheeded.
The "Messianic Eclogue" prophesies the birth of a child under whose rule the Golden Age with prosperity and happiness should be restored to the earth. It is not certain what child the poet had in mind, though the phrase, "a world by righteous father tamed," would indicate a flattering reference to Antony or Augustus, who then shared the control of the world. In the Middle Ages it was firmly believed by the scholars that Vergil had been divinely inspired with the knowledge of the coming of Christ, and his fame as a magician was partly based on this idea.
1. In what part of Italy was the childhood of Vergil spent?
2. Why do subsequent epic poets refer to him as 'the Mantuan' and 'father Vergil'?
3. Of what court may we call him the poet laureate?
4. Did Vergil realize that in the reign of Augustus the Roman world had reached its zenith? XII, 188, 189.
5. Where was most of his literary work done?
6. Give the salient points in Vergil's character.
7. What element in his character especially fitted him for the post of Rome's epic poet?
8. Did he enjoy "a long life's evening" to sing the praises of Pollio? XII, 190.
9. Compare the civilization of Vergil's time with that of the Homeric age. V, 143, 432.
STYLE AND WORKS
1. What rank is generally accorded Vergil among Roman poets?
2. Name his three principal productions.
3. The "Eclogues" or "Bucolics" were written in imitation of what Greek author?
4. What field of literature did the Romans cultivate, which is best treated in the "Georgics," and almost entirely neglected by the writers of the other nations of antiquity?
5. Give Montaigne's opinion of the "Georgics." IX, 209.
6. Why was Vergil regarded as an enchanter in the Middle Ages? VIII, 95. Give another reason.
7. What two good qualities of Vergil's character ennoble his verse?
FROM THE "ÆNEID"
1. Æneas, after fleeing from Troy, sacked by the Greeks, encountered various misfortunes, like Odysseus, and at last arrived at Carthage, recently founded by Dido, of Phœnicia. He narrates his adventures to her, and she, doomed by the gods, who desire to keep Æneas out of Italy, is consumed with love for him. Warned by friendly divinities to sail for Italy at once, Æneas has already begun preparations for departure.
2. The "Iliad" and the "Odyssey" were composed and listened to by men of action, familiar with battlefield, shipwreck, and the whole outdoor struggle for existence. The "Æneid" was written in a library by a gentle scholar for an audience whose culture was far advanced beyond that of Homer's warriors. In the main this fact is not immediately apparent, for Vergil was a consummate artist and took pains to prevent his work from 'smelling of the lamp'; that is, from showing its bookish and studied origin. But his phrases are hackneyed by comparison with Homer's "rosy-fingered Dawn" and "Odysseus of many counsels."
3. Find contrasting passages from Vergil and Homer, VII, 79, illustrating the comparison in 2.
4. Is Dido true to life; is her rash self-destruction convincingly handled by the poet?
5. Æneas figures in this episode as the villain; what excuse could Vergil make for him which would be valid in the eyes of the Romans?
6. What series of wars that almost overwhelmed Rome was carried on by Carthage centuries later? VIII, 198 ff.
"The World's Leading Poets."—Boynton.
"Stories from Vergil."—Church.
"The Æneid of Vergil" ("Everyman's Library").—Taylor.
"The Story of the Æneid."—Brooks.
"The Country of Horace and Vergil."—Boissier.
"Roman Poets of the Augustan Age."—Sellar.
"Old Pictures of Life."—Swing.
Dante Alighieri, who ranks with Homer and Shakespeare as one of the three greatest poets of all time, was a citizen of the Republic of Florence. Though we commonly think of him only as a poet, his youth was distinguished by gallant feats of arms, and he was later one of the principal officers of the republic. But it was impossible to hold office long under the turbulent city states of that age. Two factions, the Whites and the Blacks, contended for the supremacy at Florence, and in 1302 Dante, with many of his followers, was banished from the city.
The remaining nineteen years of Dante's life were spent in exile, the victorious party at Florence steadily refusing to remove the ban. He appears to have spent the years wandering from one seat of learning to another, and from one court to another, though but little is actually known relative to the matter. His last years were certainly spent at Ravenna, at the court of his friend, Guido da Polenta.
Upon his death the fickle republic attempted to secure the return of the remains of its first citizen, but the request was denied, and he still lies at Ravenna.
His great poem, the "Vita Nuova" (new life) would well have served to immortalize him, but it does not compare with his "Divine Comedy," an account of his journey through hell, purgatory, and heaven. It is one of the world's greatest epics. The machinery of the poem was largely derived from the medieval legends and passion plays. But whether this be so or not, we know that Dante was thoroughly competent to have originated everything which the work contains. He calls Vergil his master, but while Vergil may have been his equal in style, he was far inferior to Dante in constructive genius.
When about nine years of age Dante met and was filled with poetic love for Beatrice Portinari. She married another, and after her death a couple of years later, Dante married Gemma Donati, by whom he had several children. Gemma, it seems, was something of a shrew, and perhaps she cannot be blamed for not sympathizing with Dante's continued love for Beatrice. At any rate, she seems to have been a competent person, and when Dante was banished she successfully claimed a part of his property as dower and maintained the family in comfort.
We cannot of course know at this time whether Beatrice was a person worthy of the adoration so abundantly bestowed. However this may be, the undying devotion of Dante, whose nature neither time nor adversity could change, has sufficed to immortalize her name.
1. Of what stock was Dante descended? VIII, 263.
2. Of what state was he a citizen?
3. Under what circumstances did he leave Florence?
4. How did he spend the last nineteen years of his life?
5. What one element is most conspicuous in Dante's character? VIII, 368.
6. State the facts in regard to Beatrice.
7. Read Michelangelo's sonnet on Dante. IX, 93.
8. Where are his remains interred, and why?
STYLE AND WORKS
1. Compare Dante's view of life with that of Chaucer. VIII, 263.
2. Whence did he derive the precision which characterizes his narrative? VIII, 263.
3. Did Dante have a broad outlook on the life of his day? III, 253.
4. Compare Dante with Petrarch. VIII, 262.
5. What was Dante's opinion of the Arthurian legends? VIII, 262.
6. What was the effect of Dante's work on the language of Italy? VIII, 267.
7. Compare the different modes in which Milton and Dante handle the imagery of their epics. VIII, 361.
8. Why does Dante enter into such minute detail in describing the scenes he attempts to depict? VIII, 362.
9. Which succeeded best in introducing the agency of supernatural beings? VIII, 363.
10. In what sense is Dante's description of supernatural beings picturesque? VIII, 366.
11. In what two respects do Dante and Milton present an exact parallel? VIII, 368.
FROM THE "PARADISO"
1. The "Singer" is an appellation given to what Biblical character?
2. According to this poem, are all souls of equal rank in heaven?
3. What determines a person's rank there?
4. Find verses which describe Adam and St. Peter.
5. To whom does the following refer:
"That leader under whom on manna lived
The people ingrate, fickle, and stiff-necked." (See Exodus XXXII, 9.)
6. How was Dante's life connected with the life of Beatrice?
7. What do the "three circles" represent which Dante saw when he looked on Christ?
"The World's Leading Poets."—Boynton.
"Witnesses of the Light."—Gladden.
"Dante and the Divine Comedy."—Wright.
"The Moral System of Dante's Inferno."—Reade.
"Introduction to the Study of Dante."—Botta.
"Dante, his Times and his Work."—Butler.
"Aids to the Study of Dante."—Dinsmore.
John Milton, the son of a scrivener of some means, was born in London. He studied in succession at St. Paul's School, London, and Christ's College, Cambridge, and on account of his beauty, and the purity of his morals, was known as the "lady of Christ's Church." Upon graduation from Cambridge he went to live with his father (who had in the meantime removed to the village of Horton, Buckinghamshire), determined to devote his life to literature. At Horton he wrote his early poems, "L'Allegro," "Il Penseroso," "Lycidas," and "Comus." "Lycidas" is an elegy in memory of his intimate friend Henry King, drowned off the Welsh coast.
After six years at Horton, he spent fifteen months making the Continental tour, and would have stayed longer; but the civil war breaking out, he returned, considering it dishonorable to be enjoying himself abroad while his countrymen were striking a blow for freedom. He laid aside all thought of belles lettres and devoted his pen to the cause of Puritanism, writing many pamphlets in defense of regicide, freedom of the press, divorce, etc. In 1849 he was appointed Latin Secretary to the Council of State, and became the recognized literary champion of the Government in the fierce controversies of that age.
Upon the restoration of the monarchy Milton was for a time in hiding, but after 1660 was permitted to go unmolested. In his blind old age he again reverted to poetry, and wrote the immortal epics, "Paradise Lost," "Paradise Regained," and the tragedy, "Samson Agonistes."
1. What political opinions did Milton hold? VIII, 390.
2. Give your impression of his morals and personal appearance.
3. Account for the three main divisions of his works—lyric poems, prose, and epic poems, with their differing tone—by his condition in life at different times.
4. In what remarkable respect does Milton's character resemble that of the Satan of his epic? VIII, 367, 369.
5. With what religious and political party did he ally himself?
6. What office did he hold under the Commonwealth?
7. In what virtues was he preëminent?
8. State two circumstances illustrating the heroism of his nature.
STYLE AND WORKS
1. What was the extent of Milton's education? VIII, 354.
2. In what field does "Comus" stand among the foremost? VIII, 359.
3. Which did Milton consider his best poem? VIII, 360.
4. Compare "Paradise Lost" with the "Divine Comedy" as to the different modes pursued by Milton and Dante in exciting the imagination. VIII, 361.
5. Are Milton's grand visions the result of inspiration or of industry? I, 404.
6. Why is Milton so little read at the present time? VI, 279.
7. Were the civilization with which he was surrounded and the learning which he had acquired helps or hindrances to the composition of a great epic poem? VIII, 350.
8. Characterize the style of his prose writings. VIII, 394.
1. What qualities are attributed to laurel, myrtle, and ivy by the 'language of the flowers'?
2. Lycidas is the poetic appellation of what deceased friend of Milton?
3. Who were the "sisters of the sacred well"?
4. To what circumstance does the allusion to "the remorseless deep" closing o'er the head of Lycidas refer? And what is the propriety of referring to Druids and Mona in that connection?
5. Who is meant by "The pilot of the Galilean lake"? Note the symbols of his office which he carries, "two massy keys."
6. "Shepherd" and "sheep" are used in a metaphorical sense. Explain their real meaning. To whom do these terms refer in the Bible?
7. Why are the pansy, primrose, jessamine, violet, etc., used as emblems of mourning?
8. Tennyson's "In Memoriam," XII, 47; Shelley's "Adonais," XI, 95; and Gray's "Elegy," VI, 106, are all laments of the same nature. Compare the four in style, mood, etc.
"The World's Leading Poets."—Boynton.
"Story-Lives of Great Authors."—Rowbotham.
"Criticisms on Paradise Lost."—Addison.
"Among my Books."—Lowell.
"Essay on Milton" (VIII, 347).—Macaulay.
"The Age of Milton" ("Handbooks of English Literature ").—Masterman.
Masson's annotated edition of Milton's poems is invaluable for the student's use.
Comparatively little is known of Shakespeare's life. His education was slight, with but "small Latin and less Greek," as his friend Ben Jonson puts it. There is little doubt that the financial depression of the times brought poverty upon his family, that he was charged with deer-stealing by a local landlord, Sir Thomas Lucy, and that he soon after went to London to seek his fortune, at the age of twenty-one, in 1585. There he seems to have held horses at the theater entrances, then to have served as "call-boy" for the players, and by 1592 had begun to patch and revise plays. By 1594 he was an actor, and made more money than by play-writing, although he is nowhere mentioned as more than passable on the stage. Original plays had already appeared from his pen, comedies and historical drama first, followed by the tragedies, and ending with "A Winter's Tale," and "The Tempest"; the order of appearance as usually accepted is given in X, 424. What with the success of his dramatic work, his acting, and the patronage of the Earl of Southampton, to whom he dedicated "Venus and Adonis" and "Lucrece," he was able to take shares in the Globe theater, invest in land and houses at Stratford, and at last retire, as he long had wished, to New Place, his Stratford residence, there to spend his last years as a prosperous landlord. He died in 1616 and was buried in the chancel of Trinity Church, on the banks of the Avon. On the stone floor over his grave is the familiar inscription:
"Good friend, for Jesus sake forbeare
To digg the dust encloased heare;
Blest be the man that spares thes stones,
And curst be he that moves my bones."
What books did Shakespeare read? Few, as compared with the average author of his or any other age. Apart from the plays which he remade, he gleaned material and plot from Plutarch (North's translation), Holinshed, Geoffrey of Monmouth's history of British kings, now almost forgotten because of its mythical medley and inaccuracy, Boccaccio, Chaucer, and Montaigne. But the book of human life spread open before him is the source of his characters and the descriptive touches that lend vividness to his scenes. Falstaff, Lear, Rosalind, Antony, Macbeth, and Hamlet are all taken from his knowledge and observation of human nature in the living flesh.
1. What can be said as to Shakespeare's private life and anecdotes in reference thereto? VI, 132.
2. Did he take to the stage from choice? VI, 133.
3. What was his reputation among his fellow playwrights? VI, 134.
4. Of what faith was Shakespeare, and what was his attitude toward Puritanism? VI, 138.
5. What led him to turn from comedy to tragedy after his fortieth year? VI, 142.
6. Through what occupations did Shakespeare pass to reach the position of dramatist?
7. Was he able to turn his experience to practical account? Explain.
8. Was Shakespeare what would be called in these days a man of the world?
9. Why do you suppose he wrote plays if acting was more lucrative?
10. Show his application of business sense to his poetry.
STYLE AND WORKS
1. Did Shakespeare make any considerable use of the pun? I, 13.
2. To what do Shakespeare and his contemporaries owe their unique greatness in English literature? I, 180.
3. Are his dramas all of the first quality? III, 265.
4. Was it ever necessary for Shakespeare to 'court the muse' before writing? IV, 397.
5. Give a classification of his works. (See encyclopedia.)
6. Name his first poetic productions, and state when they were published. VI, 135.
7. What is known as to the order of publication of his dramas? VI, 135.
8. Which of Shakespeare's plays have endeared him most with his countrymen? VI, 137, 138.
9. What plays were written in the retirement of his latter years at Stratford? VI, 143.
10. Compare Marlowe's "Faustus," IX, 43, with "King Lear," XI, 3; and Jonson's "Every Man in his Humor" and "The Alchemist," VII, 346-354, with "Henry IV," X, 424. What are the divergences in style; in method of portraying character?
FROM "KING LEAR"
1. This act from "King Lear" is the most masterful passage in all Shakespeare's work. The characters are all of them tense with emotion, either grief-stricken or insane. Lear himself, at first vexed, then infuriated (XI, 7), broken with anguish (11), and apprehending madness (16), collapses and goes completely insane (19). Kent, his faithful retainer, whom he had previously sent into exile, watches him with a sorrow that is almost more than he can bear. The Fool, crack-brained and simple, is the blending of idiocy and shrewdness sometimes known as 'an innocent.' Edgar, Gloucester's good son, cast out by his shortsighted father, feigns madness for the sake of disguise. Each of these four characters represents a different psychological condition. Such a task as the dramatic manipulation of these personalities has never been attempted before or since. Madness, though a common subject with Shakespeare's contemporaries, has not elsewhere been handled with success.
The use of prose indicates disorder of the mind; thus Lear speaks in blank verse until his intellect gives way (19), and thereafter only when showing the power of reasoning, as in the speech (35) on which Edgar makes the comment: "O, matter and impertinency mix'd!" The Fool uses prose or nonsense rhyme throughout; Edgar while playing the madman does the same, and assumes blank verse when he drops the disguise.
FROM "AS YOU LIKE IT"
1. How is the title of the play appropriately suggestive of its tenor?
2. Compare Rosalind of this play with Juliet of "Romeo and Juliet."
3. What is Rosalind's object in deceiving Orlando concerning her identity?
4. What part does Touchstone take in the play?
FROM "ROMEO AND JULIET"
1. Select several lines which indicate the outcome of this youthful passion.
2. Both "As You Like It" and "Romeo and Juliet" have the same theme—young lovers; compare the style of treatment of each.
3. In each case does the language used suit the scene in which the play is laid?
4. What difficulties does Romeo have to encounter to see Juliet?
"Shakespeare, a Critical Study of his Mind and Art."—Dowden.
"Introduction to Shakespeare."—Dowden.
"Studies in Shakespeare."—Collins.
"The Age of Shakespeare."—Seccombe and Allen.
"On Ten Plays of Shakespeare."—Brooke.
"Shakespeare" ("English Men of Letters").—Raleigh.
"Tales from Shakespeare."—Lamb.
JOHANN WOLFGANG VON GOETHE
The greatest literary genius that Germany has produced was born and spent his early years at Frankfort-on-the-Main, then capital of the German confederation. His later youth was spent in preparation for the bar at Leipsic and Strasburg.
By 1775 he had rendered himself famous by his drama "Götz von Berlichingen" and his novel, "The Sorrows of Werther." In that year he removed to Weimar, which soon because of him became the intellectual Mecca of Germany. He found a true friend in Karl August, Duke of Weimar, and throughout his long life occupied one after another of the chief offices of that little state. In the succeeding years appeared many dramas and other works, principal among the former being "Iphigenia," "Tasso," and "Egmont."
The year 1789 witnessed the beginning of his acquaintance with Schiller, then professor of history at Jena. Schiller had established a literary journal "Die Horen," to which Goethe contributed his "Wilhelm Meister's Apprenticeship." And in the same year, 1796, Goethe and Schiller wrote between them some six hundred "Xenien," pithy sayings on the philosophic tendencies of the age. The next year Goethe published his "Hermann and Dorothea," a romance in verse and one of his best works. Schiller removed to Weimar in 1799, and Germany's two foremost poets worked together until the death of Schiller in 1805.
Until his death, twenty-seven years later, Goethe was unceasingly busy. Not satisfied with being preëminent in literature, he plunged into anatomy, vegetable physiology, and optics, in each of which, far from simply playing the amateur, he rendered permanent service to science.
Throughout his whole life he labored at that greatest of all German dramas, "Faust." Begun as early as 1774, it first appeared in 1790 and then only as a 'fragment.' Urged by Schiller, he took it up again, and in 1808 the First Part was issued; the Second Part, only after his death, in 1833. This Second Part is as deep in its thought and philosophy as any poetic work that has been written; it has been the subject of study and meditation by all the great thinkers since its publication.
1. Give Heine's description of Goethe's personal appearance. VI, 389.
2. What was Goethe's education?
3. Were Goethe's love affairs limited to his youth? IV, 372.
4. What part did Goethe take in scientific research? VI, 237.
5. What part did he take in political affairs?
6. Name three eminent writers who visited Goethe at Weimar. VI, 377; VIII, 174, 180.
7. How late in life did Goethe retain his physical vigor? IV, 403.
8. Did Goethe conceive of God as a personal being? I, 392.
9. What great composer was among his intimate friends? I, 418.
10. See Goethe's forecast of the construction of the Panama Canal by the United States. IV, 385.
STYLE AND WORKS
1. Give Goethe's own statement of his influence upon German poetry and institutions. I, 170.
2. For what reason is Faust not fully appreciated by the reading public? IV, 382.
3. What was Napoleon's opinion of Goethe's works? IV, 401.
4. During what portion of Goethe's life was "Faust" written?
5. Name three other dramas of note by Goethe.
6. The position assigned to "Hermann and Dorothea"?
7. Who was the continuator of Goethe's work? I, 168.
8. What was Heine's opinion of Goethe? I, 169.
9. Was he the author of any prose works?
10. From what you read of him in I, 168-171; IV, 371 ff.; VI, 388-390; VIII, 172 ff.; do you think he belonged to the Age of Classicism or of Romanticism, or both? What conclusion do you draw from his work, its subject-matter, and its style?
1. The selection from "Faust" includes practically the whole tragedy of Margaret's temptation, and forms a complete drama in itself. This is the central theme of the First Part of "Faust"; in the Second Part Faust saves himself from damnation by abandoning selfishness and solitude and becoming a worker for the good of humanity, at one with the world.
2. What is Faust's first purpose?
3. Mephistopheles is to be regarded either as an evil spirit or else as Faust's own baser side, endeavoring to defeat the ideals of his better self.
4. What does the character of Martha add to the drama?
5. Compare with Marlowe's "Doctor Faustus," IX, 43, ff.
6. Which is the more immediately powerful? Both are derived from a medieval tale and are related to the medieval morality plays, in which virtues and vices are represented struggling for the souls of men. Does Goethe or Marlowe come nearer to this simple form of drama in style? in spirit?
"Life of Goethe."—Bielschowsky.
"Goethe and Schiller."—Boyesen.
"The World's Leading Poets."—Boynton.
"Goethe and his Woman Friends."—Crawford.
"Critical and Miscellaneous Essays."—Carlyle.
"Conversations with Goethe."—Eckermann.
"Life of Goethe."—Lewes.
FRIEDRICH VON SCHILLER
Schiller, the most beloved of German poets, was a native of the Duchy of Würtemberg. Abandoning the study of the law for that of medicine, he gave vent to his literary powers by writing the romantic drama of "The Robbers," produced in 1782. Meanwhile he had become regimental surgeon and was obliged to leave his regiment without permission in order to witness the performance. As a result he was put under arrest and involved in further trouble, fleeing at last into hiding, under a false name.
Drifting through the literary centers of Germany, studying history and writing drama the while, he came in 1787 to Weimar, where he was received kindly by the duke, Goethe's patron and friend, and soon after met Goethe himself. Through the latter's influence Schiller received a post at the University of Jena as professor of history, and devoted himself to that subject; his "History of the Thirty Years' War" belongs to this period.
By 1795 he had become intimate with Goethe and renewed his poetic work, his principal dramas and "The Song of the Bell," all belonging to this period. Of the former, "Maria Stuart" and "The Maid of Orleans" deserve high praise beside his masterpieces, the "Wallenstein" trilogy, and "Wilhelm Tell," his last and most popular play.
His character was noble and lovable, and his work possesses a high finish in style and a lofty vein of idealism which gives it a resemblance to those passages and plays of Shakespeare in which princes and potentates appear. He was a lover of the Bard of Avon and translated several of his plays into German. But Schiller did not attempt the many-sided portrayal of life that was Shakespeare's forte; for him the presentation of high ideals and a majestic plot involving the great motives of human action was sufficient.
Yet his thought is not so profound as Goethe's, and its expression, on the other hand, is not so simple. The story of Margaret's tragedy, in "Faust," is bare as compared with the plots of "Tell" or "Maria Stuart" and the character development therein; but the lesson which Goethe drove home to the hearts of men was more forcible than any of Schiller's.
1. What terms of intimacy existed between Goethe and Schiller? VIII, 182.
2. Was his education calculated to fit him for the calling of a poet?
3. Was Jean Paul Richter right in supposing Schiller to be of a strong nature? VIII, 175.
4. What was the nature of his connection with Jena?
5. In what respect did he resemble Shelley? VII, 222.
6. Where, and in whose company, were his latter years spent?
7. Compare Goethe and Schiller in character and in work.
STYLE AND WORKS
1. In what two departments of literature did Schiller attain eminence?
2. Which works treat of scenes outside of Germany?
3. Name his four greatest dramas.
4. Which of these is esteemed the masterpiece?
5. Which first brought him to public notice?
6. For what two great historical works are we indebted to him?
FROM "WILHELM TELL"
1. What are the social and political conditions in Switzerland at the beginning of the play? How did they compare with those of other lands?
2. From what class in society do the characters come? Is their style of speech consistent with their social position? Is absolute adherence to realism desirable? Why, and also why not?
3. What is the date of this play and what great social upheavals had recently taken place?
4. Why is Tell's son introduced?
5. Is the character of Gessler too harshly drawn?
6. The scene on p. 363 occurs at the close of the play; meanwhile previous acts have shown the development of the spirit of freedom in the hearts of the people and the determination to do away with tyranny. Does this justify Tell's act?
7. "The Robbers" was one of the first products of Romanticism; is "Tell" also a good example of this age?
8. Compare the style in "Tell" with that of Shakespeare and Goethe, making allowance for loss in translation.
"Life of Friedrich Schiller."—Carlyle.
"Biographical Essays."—De Quincey.
"Goethe and Schiller."—Boyesen.
Charles Dickens was born at Portsmouth, England. His parents were poor and luckless. His early years were spent in moving from place to place, and as a boy he performed the services of a drudge and was rewarded with a mere pittance. Such education as he received was gained in the severe school of experience.
Hence it is not surprising that, after having been connected with various newspapers in a subordinate capacity, when he finally tried his hand at serial fiction he astounded the world in "Pickwick Papers" by his wonderful descriptions of middle and lower class English life; a work also unexcelled in its good-natured merriment.
"Pickwick Papers" and its successors were among the first of those social novels which form so marked a feature of modern literature. They waged open and successful warfare against many of the crying evils of the day, such as the work-houses, the barbarous school system in vogue, and the legal and prison systems.
Dickens was too kind-hearted to sneer, but his mocking humor was quite as effective. He won the hearts of high and low alike, and the sale of his novels was phenomenal.
In addition to rollicking humor, touches of satire and a pronounced tendency toward exaggerated pathos appear in his work, the latter quality especially in "The Old Curiosity Shop" and "Dombey and Son."
His creative powers were immense, the numbers of his characters running into the hundreds. Though some of these serve the purpose of lay figures, yet they are redeemed from mere puppetry by some whimsical oddity that stamps the character indelibly on one's mind. "David Copperfield," "Bleak House," and "Pickwick Papers" are usually held to be the best of his work.
1. Where did Dickens receive his education? Compare it with that of other novelists.
2. Give the sources of his intimate acquaintance with conditions among the lower class.
3. What moral characteristic of the man took the sting out of his satire?
4. What great quality will ever endear him to the public?
5. Where did Dickens make his home after his reputation had become established? V, 220.
6. What was his attitude toward the poor after he had become a man of substance?
7. Have social conditions in England improved since his day? In what lines and how?
STYLE AND WORKS
1. In what is Dickens related to the period of Romanticism? Is he characteristically English? Compare him with Dumas, Daudet, and Harte.
2. What beneficial effect has the reading of his novels had on everyday life?
3. Explain his custom of running several stories at the same time in a novel. III, 254, 259.
4. What is the true secret of his popularity? III, 250.
5. Whence did Dickens obtain the numerous characters that crowd his pages?
6. What art lies at the bottom of his comic masterpiece? III, 258.
7. To what extent have Dickens's characters become common property of the race? III, 248.
8. How does Dickens compare with the other novelists of the nineteenth century? III, 264.
9. Does Dickens's continued popularity prove the contention that the public likes bad literature? III, 252.
10. Which novel will endure the longer, that in which the characters are exaggerated and impossible, as his often are, or that in which the characters are carefully and realistically drawn? III, 266.
11. Which is more popular at the present time, Dickens or Kipling? III, 249.
12. What work brought Dickens into public notice?
13. Name three novels in which pathos predominates.
14. Which is considered his greatest work?
15. Dickens and Hood were masters of both humor and pathos, the one as a novelist, the other as a poet. Compare them in these qualities.
FROM "PICKWICK PAPERS"
1. Is this style clear and forcible? Why?
2. Is Mr. Magnus a common character of to-day whom one may meet while traveling?
3. Would you expect to see the White Horse Inn at Ipswich if you were in England?
4. Draw a character sketch of Mr. Pickwick.
5. When reading a story is it more effective when dialect is introduced? How far may the use of dialect be carried?
6. Do you notice any exaggeration in incident or description? If so what purpose does it serve?
7. Contrast the description of the temperance meeting with Dickens's attitude on other social reforms.
8. Is this satire justified on any grounds then or now?
"The Life of Charles Dickens."—Forster.
"Life of Charles Dickens as Revealed in his Writings."—Fitzgerald.
"Great English Novelists."—Dawson.
"Charles Dickens and His Girl Heroines."—Moses.
"Dickens" ("English Men of Letters").—Ward.
"Masters of the English Novel."—Burton.
WILLIAM MAKEPEACE THACKERAY
The novelist was born in Calcutta, India; he was sent to Cambridge University. Here he was an intimate friend of Tennyson and Fitzgerald (translator of the "Rubáiyát"). After losing his money in various newspaper deals, he settled down in London as a literary hack. His genius soon attracted the attention of "Punch," which welcomed his sketches and satires against snobbery.
"Vanity Fair" in 1847 finally raised him to the highest rank among writers of fiction. "Pendennis" followed, and a little later "Henry Esmond," the equal of "Vanity Fair." Its sequel, "The Virginians," was not so powerful.
Thackeray came to the United States in 1852 and delivered his lectures on "The English Humorists." So pleased was he with the country that he returned again three years later and lectured on "The Four Georges." During these trips he became acquainted with the leading American writers of the day.
1. With what noted English periodical was he connected?
2. Did he soon show an aptitude for fiction?
3. What authors were numbered among his most intimate friends?
4. What other eminent English writer was born in India? VIII, 3.
5. Describe his American visits.
6. Is the vein of cynicism which runs through his writings indicative of his real character?
STYLE AND WORKS
1. Was Thackeray a realist? III, 266, 267.
2. Upon what was his creation of character based?
3. What great service did he render English society?
4. Which of his works were delivered in America in the form of lectures?
5. Which were particularly aimed at British snobbery?
6. Why is Dickens more popular than Thackeray? III, 248.
7. For which may we expect the more enduring fame? III, 264.
8. Read his metrical translations from Beranger. I, .
9. Which two novels are considered his masterpieces?
10. Was his work characteristically English, as contrasted with that of other nations?
1. Why should bachelors be excluded from the luxuries of Clubs?
2. To whom should the privilege of attending these institutions be given and during what hours?
3. What evils are attributed to these institutions; wrongly or otherwise?
4. In general do women's clubs or men's clubs exert a more beneficial influence on the surrounding community?
5. How serious is the author?
"THE SNOB ROYAL"
1. What queen of England is alluded to by "her present Majesty"? (See the dates of Thackeray's life.)
2. How does Thackeray's definition of a "Snob" compare with your conception of this type of person?
3. From your own knowledge of Charles II, do you consider him worthy of the title "snob"?
4. Compare Chesterfield's ideas of a gentleman with Thackeray's. III, 240-247.
5. Thackeray wrote several parodies of successful novels; which type does he satirize in the opening paragraph of this essay?
6. 'The Baron of Bradwardine' refers to Scott; do you agree with Thackeray's condemnation of Scott's conduct? Why? Why not?
"Life of Thackeray."—Benjamin.
"Great English Novelists."—Jackson.
"The Thackeray Country."—Benjamin.
"Victorian Prose Masters."—Brownell.
"Thackeray's Haunts and Homes."—Crowe.
"With Thackeray in America."—Crowe.
Johnson was born at Lichfield, Staffordshire, and studied at Oxford. His early years were one continuous struggle with poverty, first as a teacher at Lichfield and other places and afterwards as a hack writer in London. During the latter period, besides his ordinary duties as an editor of various magazines, he found time to turn his hand to the most diverse forms of literature. He wrote poems, "London" and the "Vanity of Human Wishes"; a drama, "Irene"; a philosophic romance, "Rasselas, Prince of Abyssinia"; two series of essays, the "Rambler" and the "Idler," after the model of Addison's "Spectator"; and prepared the first English dictionary.
In 1862 he was granted a pension of £300 by Lord Bute, from which time dates his literary dictatorship. His only subsequent works of importance were his "Journey to the Western Islands of Scotland" and his "Lives of the Poets." The latter is his best work and one of the monuments of English criticism in spite of its prejudiced tone.
During the latter half of his life he gathered about him a coterie of the most intellectual men of the day, nearly all of whom belonged to the literary society known as the Club. Burke, Goldsmith, Gibbon, Garrick, Reynolds, and Boswell were among his intimates.
1. To see Johnson, the thinker and the man, read Boswell's "Life," II, 100 ff., and then take up the following questions:
2. What attitude did Johnson maintain toward religious questions?
3. Quote Goldsmith on his roughness of manner.
4. What was Johnson's opinion of the married state?
5. Would you judge him to have been of a harsh or tender disposition?
6. See Frances Burney's account of his sociability. II, 339 ff.
7. In what respect was the Doctor a typical Anglo-Saxon? VIII, 259.
8. What distinguishes Boswell from most biographers? II, 100.
9. Where did Johnson win his fame, in writing, or in society?
10. Is he a true follower of the spirit of Classicism?
STYLE AND WORKS
1. What peculiar position did Johnson occupy in the literary world of his day?
2. If Johnson is to be called heroic for having kept at his dictionary until its completion, why should not the term be applied to later lexicographers, whose dictionaries are much more extensive?
3. Under what circumstances does Johnson justify dissimulation?
4. Was his criticism of Milton fair? VIII, 350.
5. Why was he a poor critic of the Latin productions of modern writers? VIII, 354.
6. Give Johnson's view of death.
7. By what works is he best known?
8. Is he comparable with Addison as an essayist in your opinion? Why?
"THE VALLEY OF HAPPINESS"
1. 'The father of waters' is an appellation applied to what African stream?
2. Can man be truly happy with luxury alone?
3. What occupations give the greatest pleasure to the normal person?
4. How long is the active life of the average man or woman?
5. The power to enjoy our blessings is enhanced by what knowledge or experience?
6. In the description of the Valley of Happiness, find some combinations of setting which would not hold in real life.
7. Judging from this selection, would the human race be contented in utter idleness?
8. What moral did Johnson wish to teach by this piece?
9. Would Johnson deserve immortality simply on the merits of this, one of his best pieces of literary work?
"Life of Johnson."—Boswell.
"Dr. Johnson" ("Bell's Miniature series").—Dennis.
"Life of Johnson."—Macaulay.
"Six Essays on Johnson."—Raleigh.
"Doctor Johnson and Mrs. Thrale."—Broadley.
"Essay on Boswell's Johnson."—Carlyle.
Goldsmith was born in central Ireland, where his father was a clergyman of the Established Church of England. His youth gave little promise of future eminence. Educated at Trinity College, Dublin, after various escapades he was sent by his uncle to study medicine in Edinburgh. After a few months of study he started on a four years' vagabond trip, during which he made the tour of Western Europe on foot, paying his way with his flute.
Returning to England he was by turns a physician, proofreader, teacher, and hack writer. In the latter capacity he came in contact with Dr. Johnson, and was one of the nine charter members of the Club, a literary society over which Johnson held genial sway. The next year appeared his first work of any value, the poem, "The Traveler." A year later he published his only novel, "The Vicar of Wakefield," still one of the most popular of stories. From this he turned to the drama and produced "The Good-Natured Man," and "She Stoops to Conquer," the latter unsurpassed among later English comedies. At some time prior to this appeared his greatest poem, "The Deserted Village."
In character he was a strange mixture of generosity and vanity; the butt and yet the envy of his many friends, uncouth in appearance and yet gifted with so lucid a style.
1. Goldsmith was educated at the same college as Burke: did he benefit as greatly?
2. Under what circumstances did he make the tour of the Continent?
3. Were his habits of dress eccentric? II, 115.
4. He was a member of what celebrated literary coterie?
5. What were his principal traits?
6. What was his opinion of his friend Johnson? II, 110, 122.
STYLE AND WORKS
1. Give Johnson's estimate of the "Good-Natured Man." II, 103.
2. Was Goldsmith a productive poet? See Goethe's statement to Eckermann. IV, 393.
3. Name the principal prose writers of his time. II, 100, 331; V, 193, 406; VII, 334; XI, 294.
4. What other poet wrote at this period? VI, 106.
5. The style of Goldsmith is in imitation of what poet? X, 64.
6. What defects mar his writings?
7. Name three of his works in different departments of literature, any one of which would have served to establish his reputation.
8. What poem brought him into public notice?
"THE DESERTED VILLAGE"
1. What is the economic effect on a community when one large landholder possesses the entire land?
2. The "bold peasantry" of England are similar to what class in America?
3. What was Goldsmith's ideal of a happy old age?
4. To what qualities of character was the attracting power of the village preacher due?
5. What were the qualifications of a rustic school teacher in Goldsmith's time?
6. Why is wealth a barren possession?
7. Name some of the disagreeable surroundings of a life in the tropics.
8. What plan does Goldsmith recommend to remedy the evils of the present social system?
9. What is your judgment of the style of this poem?
10. Does Goldsmith's description ring true?
11. As an example of the influence of Classicism, compare it with Milton's "L'Allegro" and "Il Penseroso," IX, 110, of the Renaissance, and "The Cotter's Saturday Night," II, 343, of the Romantic Period.
"Goldsmith" ("English Men of Letters").—Black.
"Oliver Goldsmith" ("Bell's Miniature Series").—Buckland.
"Story-Lives of Great Authors."—Rowbotham.
"Essays on the Poets."—De Quincey.
"A Paladin of Philanthropy."—Dobson.
After studying at Eton and at Cambridge University, Gray made the customary tour of the Continent and then settled down to a retired life among his books. His circle of friends was small but intellectual. He spent most of his life at Cambridge, reading and thinking.
In disposition he was very reserved, seldom revealing his feelings. As he was sensitive and also rather melancholy it was natural that he should find few intimates. Always a student, he none the less applied himself to those topics only which attracted him, neglecting such portions of the subject as did not appeal to him, so that although one of the most learned men of his time he did not receive public recognition until his appointment as regius professor of history and modern languages at Cambridge, three years before his death.
The Age of Classicism, in which he lived, was repugnant to him; its formal standards, as expressed especially by the poetry of Pope, offended his fastidious taste, which was charmed by the wild beauty of nature and longed for freedom of expression and avoidance of convention in literary art.
He was the forerunner of the Romantic spirit. Had he lived forty years later he would have been far more productive; the poetry of Wordsworth, Byron, and the rest of that dazzling group of poets would have strengthened and enthused him.
What little he wrote bears witness to the scholarship, refinement, and depth of feeling of the recluse. His "Elegy," meditated in Stoke Pogis churchyard near his mother's home, where he spent the summer, is probably the most thoroughly English poem ever written. It was begun in 1742 and finished in 1750; during the interval it was polished and revised so effectively that not a word can be altered without detracting from its symmetry and splendor. The dignity of the classic spirit and the wistful grace of Romanticism are both apparent, but the keynote is quiet, simple love of everyday life tinged with moral reflection, the note sounded again and again in English poetry and prose.
1. What was Gray's education; did he travel?
2. What was his nature?
3. How did he spend his life?
4. What was the character of the age in which he lived?
5. What influence did this period have upon Gray?
6. In what period would he have been more active?
7. How did he show national tendencies in his work?
"ELEGY WRITTEN IN A COUNTRY CHURCHYARD"
1. Select stanzas representative of the Romantic spirit.
2. Select stanzas that are Classic in tone.
3. Point out the ideas or phrases in each which lead you to make the classification.
4. Sketch roughly on separate sheets of paper the outlines of the pictures in each stanza.
5. Compare the pictures in the poem with those in Milton's "L'Allegro" and "Il Penseroso," IX, 110.
6. Compare the poem also with Goldsmith's "Deserted Village," VI, 94.
7. What phrases or passages impress you as being especially English in tone? Why?
8. What changes would you expect to find in a modern English village neighborhood?
9. Where do you observe traces of Gray's scholarship?
10. Select the best stanzas and explain their superiority.
11. Do any lines suggest Gray's sensitive dislike of the spirit of his times and the melancholy reserve in his nature? Which lines?
"Life of Gray."—Mason.
"Life of Gray" ("English Men of Letters").—Gosse.
"Gray and his Friends."—Tovey.
Edmund Burke was a native of Dublin, Ireland. After a careful preparatory training, he entered Trinity College, Dublin, where he showed marked ability in eloquence, history, poetry, and philosophy. After receiving his master's degree, he went to England, with the intention of becoming a barrister, but found the profession not to his taste. He accordingly spent the next six years making the tour of Great Britain and the Continent, and forming the acquaintance of the leading literary men.
The first years after his return to England were devoted to literary work, resulting in two philosophical essays, "Vindication of Natural Society," and "The Sublime and Beautiful." He also collaborated with his cousin William Burke in "An Account of the European Settlements in America."
But he soon turned his attention to politics. In 1766 he was elected to Parliament, of which he remained a member for twenty-eight years. He held many other positions under the Government, and his actions were always distinguished by the strictest integrity. He labored earnestly in the cause of humanity, against the slave trade and the oppression of India and the American Colonies. His most widely read works are his "Speech at the Trial of Warren Hastings," and the speech on "Conciliation with America." But owing to his increasing conservatism he failed to appreciate the causes of the French Revolution and his "Reflections on the Revolution in France" is of little critical value.
Burke was distinguished by great nobility of mind and purity of life, both public and private. He possessed great oratorical powers, a vigorous imagination, a rare gift of observation, and prodigious industry.
Yet on the other hand, he appears not to have known how to contain himself, but scattered his eloquence on all occasions, until the public ear became dulled. He was also of a passionate and intractable disposition, qualities which in the course of time left him in political isolation.
Among his friends were Dr. Johnson, Goldsmith, Boswell, Sir Joshua Reynolds, the famous painter, and Garrick, the great actor. These were members of the Club, a society of the most brilliant intellects in England at that day. Burke's learning and power were greatly venerated by them, and by none more than by Johnson, who admitted that he must be at his best to meet Burke in argument.
1. Of what city was Burke a native?
2. In what branches of learning did he achieve distinction?
3. State the mode he adopted for completing his education.
4. Were his first years in England devoted to oratory?
5. What was the extent of his connection with the British Parliament?
6. Give his views with regard to contemporary conditions in India, France, and the American Colonies.
7. Where did he die?
8. What was his social environment?
STYLE AND WORKS
1. What qualities distinguished Burke's oratory? V, 424.
2. Taking his utterances out of their forensic setting, how would they compare with the finest of Milton's prose passages? VIII, 394.
3. Were his rhetorical sallies always in good taste? XI, 199.
4. What great service did he render to the British Constitution? XI, 204.
5. Aside from his oration on Conciliation with the Colonies, what evidence have we that Burke was thoroughly informed on American affairs?
6. What great works did he compose in addition to speeches?
7. What are the principal elements of beauty and power in his productions?
8. What characteristics detracted from permanent popularity?
9. Is his work characteristic of the Age of Classicism?
FROM "CONCILIATION WITH THE AMERICAN COLONIES"
1. What reasons does Burke give for concession on England's part toward the American colonies?
2. Why did this statesman consider the use of force impractical?
3. What nation was very likely meant by "foreign enemy"?
4. Account for the excessive spirit of liberty which predominates in the character of most Americans.
5. In what respect was England at a great disadvantage in governing her colonies? How is this remedied now?
6. How was religion instrumental in making the colonists more dissatisfied with English rule?
7. What was the condition of education in America at this time?
8. If England had followed Burke's plan of conciliation, is it likely that the American Colonies would have revolted either then or in a subsequent generation?
"Edmund Burke; an Historical Sketch."—Morley.
"Appreciations and Addresses."—Rosebery.
Born at Salisbury (now Franklin), New Hampshire, Daniel Webster received his education at Dartmouth College. He afterward studied law and then removed to Massachusetts, where he soon obtained distinction as a politician, and was in 1812 sent to Congress. He championed the New England cause against the embargo and the other measures of the administration, yet although his great oratorical powers were already manifest, he displayed little of that breadth of character which afterwards distinguished him.
To the years which followed we owe some of his most popular forensic efforts and public addresses, the "Dartmouth College Case," the "Girard Will," and the addresses at Plymouth and Bunker Hill.
In 1827 he was elected to the United States Senate. Three years later he delivered his masterpiece, "The Reply to Hayne," on the floor of the Senate. Under Presidents Harrison and Tyler he was Secretary of State, and was instrumental in negotiating the celebrated "Webster-Ashburton Treaty."
For many years the leading man of the Whig party, his presidential aspirations were doomed to disappointment. His last years in the Senate were, like those of Clay, consecrated to the effort to preserve the Union. But his pleas for compromise fell in the North on dull ears, and his pleas for concessions to the South were looked on as treason. The time for compromise was passing.
The Whigs being returned to power in 1850, Webster again became Secretary of State, but again failing to secure the nomination for President, he returned to Marshfield, where, after a brief illness, he died in October, 1852.
1. Of what college was Webster a graduate?
2. State the extent to which he filled the public eye at the time of his death. III, 271.
3. In what respect did he "wear the double wreath of professional and public supremacy"? III, 273.
4. What ties bound him to New Hampshire, and what to Massachusetts? III, 275.
5. As a statesman, what division of the country did Webster especially represent?
6. To what political party did he adhere?
7. To what do you ascribe the unpopularity which embittered his declining years?
8. What important public positions did he fill?
FROM "REPLY TO HAYNE"
1. State the "nullification doctrine" propounded by Senator Hayne.
2. Why does Webster defend Massachusetts against the charge of having formerly attempted to nullify an act of Congress?
3. Explain the of state nullification.
4. Was the federal government created by the States?
5. State how the mere existence of the federal constitution implies the subordination of the States.
6. Show how Webster brings ridicule of his opponent to the aid of his argument.
7. What would be the inevitable and direct result of nullification?
8. Do you think the statement of Webster that he was "drawn into the debate, with no previous deliberation," etc., to be literally true?
9. Read carefully the peroration, pp. 281-283; one of the grandest passages in American eloquence.
10. Does Webster show the influence of the classics as well as the moderns? Compare his style with that of Demosthenes, IV, 161.
"Famous American Statesmen."—Bolton.
"The True Daniel Webster."—Fisher.
"John Adams, and Other Essays."—Chamberlain.
"Daniel Webster, the Expounder of the Constitution."—Wheeler.
"American Literature and other Papers."—Whipple.
(427 B.C.–347 B.C.)
An Athenian by birth, Plato's youth was spent in the midst of the tumult and gloom in which Athens, the flower of Greek civilization, fell victim to her greed and arrogance and succumbed to the sturdy, rising power of Sparta. But his maturity and later years saw the growth of a purified and enlightened spirit of culture which raised Greek thought above local pettiness and prepared for the day of alliance with Roman enterprise.
His youth was passed under the inspiring guidance of Socrates, whose searching inquiries into the depths of human nature marked the beginning of the loftiest philosophy of ancient times. Plato, and Aristotle, his pupil, carried on the work begun by Socrates, involving the discussion of the entire experience of Greek life and the criticism of its principles.
Upon the condemnation and death of Socrates in 399 B.C. the circle of his disciples was broken up, Plato fleeing with others to Megara. He spent the next twelve years in travel, visiting most of the centers of learning of the ancient world. On his return to Athens about 388 B.C. he founded the famous school of the Academy, and settled down to the study and teaching of philosophy.
His teachings have come down to us in the form of dialogues between Socrates and his disciples, but as they were written for the purpose of setting forth Plato's system of philosophy, which differed in some respects from that of Socrates, we do not of course know to what extent the narrative is colored. It would appear, however, that in the simpler dialogues, such as the "Apology," "Crito," "Laches," and "Charmides," we may possess the unvarnished teachings of Socrates.
In some of his later dialogues the speculative interest is allowed to become so absorbing that the dialogue form is rather inappropriate; but the others have been generally acknowledged as comprising the greatest masterpieces of dialogue that literature has to show, in the skill with which the scene is suggested, the charm of the conversation, and the artistic truth with which the characters are set forth in the changing course of the discussion.
The "Republic" is the best summing up of his philosophy. In it is best represented his Theory of Ideas, which has made his work the great type of idealistic philosophy.
He ranks with Aristotle and Kant as one of the three greatest thinkers of all ages.
1. During what period of the world's history did Plato live?
2. From what sources did he derive the principles set forth in his teachings?
3. Of whom was he the disciple, and who in turn was his disciple?
4. What rank is generally accorded him as a philosopher?
5. How did Plato look upon pleasure? III, 291.
6. What is said to have been the manner of his death? III, 281.
7. By what name is his school of philosophy known?
8. Who are the three greatest philosophers of the ages?
9. What was the nature of his education?
STYLE AND WORKS
1. Are Plato's writings addressed to the select few, or to the people of all classes? III, 253.
2. Give Milton's estimate of the "Republic." IX, 126.
3. What were Plato's views as to the proper age for marriage? IX, 190.
4. And what his views anent the right of the owner of property to devise or bequeath it, as he sees fit? IX, 200.
5. Did the use of dialogue render his writings more effective than they otherwise would have been?
6. Which of his dialogues are most read at the present day, and why?
7. Would Plato have made a successful dramatist if he had turned his energies in that direction? Your reason for so thinking?
8. Which is his greatest work from a philosophical point of view?
9. Explain his parable of the cave, in the selection from the "Republic."
"THE TRIAL OF SOCRATES"
1. Why was Socrates brought to trial?
2. What was his refutation to these charges?
3. What was Socrates's view of death?
4. Does it seem likely that he might have been acquitted if he had used ordinary methods of defense?
5. Wherein did Socrates's methods of teaching differ from ordinary methods of to-day?
6. What were the customary penalties inflicted for serious crimes?
7. Did Socrates practise what he preached?
8. How do the teachings of Socrates compare with those of Christianity?
9. What is the fundamental difference, in your understanding, between philosophy and religion?
10. Did Socrates believe in one God or in many?
"Plato" ("The World's Epoch-Makers").—Ritchie.
"Dialogues," translated by Jowett.
"Plato the Teacher."—Bryan.
"The Myths of Plato."—Stewart.
"Plato's Republic" ("Historical and Critical Essays").—De Quincey.
(121 A.D.–180 A.D.)
Marcus Aurelius (Antoninus), emperor and philosopher, was the child of noble parents. His wonderful character, both intellectual and moral, early attracted the attention of the emperor, Hadrian, who, when Marcus had attained his seventeenth year, adopted Antoninus Pius as his successor, upon the condition that the latter adopt Marcus.
Accordingly Marcus was adopted by Pius, who proceeded to lavish upon him as heir presumptive to the Empire every position for which his high character and thorough education fitted him; and upon the death of Pius he ascended the throne, at the age of forty.
His reign covered a period of nineteen years, over two-thirds of which he spent on the borders of the empire in ceaseless struggles to sustain the tottering empire against the ravages of the outer barbarians.
It was during these campaigns that his "Meditations," or "Thoughts," his only work, was written. In its present form, at least, it was never intended for publication, nor is it probable that it was, as some think, written for the instruction of his son, Commodus. It was written in Greek, and consists of mere memoranda, disconnected thoughts, and confessions, evidently hastily noted, a circumstance which accounts for its repetitions, its obscurity, and its elliptical form of expression. But in spite of this it has been an inspiration to the despondent in all ages. Its tone and temper are sweet yet dignified, courageous yet resigned, philosophical and speculative yet intensely practical. It stands preëminent among those world-books which teach men how to live and how to die.
The great blots on his memory, in popular estimation, are the massacres of Christians in his reign, and his blindness to the frailty of his wife and the worthlessness of his son. But the Christians were in those days commonly looked upon as a pernicious secret cult, and those who comprehend his philosophy will know why he could see only good in the members of his family.
1. What circumstance illustrates the great value he set upon time?
2. Was he considered a man of letters by his contemporaries?
3. What two others deserve to be remembered with him as Roman stoics? V, 90; X, 419.
4. Why would one hardly expect to find a great philosopher in Marcus Aurelius?
5. Under what circumstances did he become Emperor of Rome?
6. How were his early years spent?
7. What was the extent of his education?
8. Why did he permit the persecution of the Christians?
9. What circumstances indicate the nobility of his character?
10. What other author wrote a work for the instruction of his son, and, like Aurelius, was blind to the son's faults? III, 240.
11. Summarize his character.
STYLE AND WORKS
1. To what are his literary remains confined?
2. Were they written in Latin?
3. Under what circumstances were the "Meditations" composed?
4. For what purpose were they written?
5. In what form have they come down to us?
6. Does Aurelius consider that the absence of an overruling Providence would relax moral obligations?
7. What position do the "Meditations" hold in the world's literature?
8. What is the spirit of the philosophy which they breathe?
9. Probably no other book of the ancients is as widely read to-day. Why is this?
10. Do its defects of form detract from its value?
1. From the viewpoint of this philosopher, are poverty, death, and sickness inflicted on people as punishment for sins?
2. To what frame of mind does a righteous person school himself?
3. What prescription is given for the making of a happy man?
4. Would Marcus Aurelius have been in sympathy with the medieval custom of pious people who shut themselves up in monasteries or other secluded places?
5. Explain the relationship of man to his fellow beings.
6. Does this environment have an influence in the altering of an adult's character?
7. Why does each of us live a complete life, whether we die young or old?
8. Judging the Emperor's character from his writings, would you consider him a wise ruler?
"Essays in Criticism."—Arnold.
"Marcus Aurelius and the Later Stoics."—Bussell.
"Seekers after God."—Farrar.
"Glimpses of Truth."—Spalding.
"Excursions in Art and Letters."—Story.
Francis Bacon was born three years before his great contemporary, William Shakespeare, but survived him many years. He was born in high station and had every educational advantage which the times afforded. He was the nephew of William Cecil, Elizabeth's great minister, and, entering public life, himself became the favorite minister of James I and Lord High Chancellor of England. But his character was not in keeping with his literary merits and ability. He was venal and corrupt, took bribes as a judge and sold justice for a price. He has been called the wisest and meanest of mankind.
By the introduction of the inductive method in logic, Bacon overthrew the scholastic system and facilitated the study of modern science. It is true the inductive method was known before Bacon, but it had been in general neglected. The great philosophical works which accomplished this revolution were the "Advancement of Learning," and the "Novum Organum." The latter and others of his metaphysical works were written in Latin in order to reach a wider circle of readers!
His "Essays" are the best known and most popular of his writings. The style is all his own; elaborate, sententious, often witty, often metaphorical, and possessing a degree of conciseness rarely found in the compositions of the Elizabethan age. Every sentence is pregnant with thought. He alone of the writers of his time strikes straight at the root of the matter.
What peculiarly impresses one in his "Essays" is the undoubted truthfulness of the propositions advanced, and the manner in which he illuminates his thought by the form in which he casts it. The slight tinge of casuistry noticeable in his writings is in keeping with the times.
The "Essays" were at first mere jottings down of desultory ideas, mere note-book memoranda. They were revised and expanded from time to time until they reached their present shape.
1. Of what great English poet was Bacon a contemporary?
2. From what walk of life did Bacon come? What can you say of his preparation for literature?
3. What were his political connections?
4. How do Bacon's moral qualities compare with his intellectual ability?
5. As a judge, did Bacon have a high regard for justice and the 'judicial ermine'?
6. What popular saying aptly describes his character?
STYLE AND WORKS
1. What services did Bacon render to the scientific world?
2. Was Bacon the first to make use of the inductive method in investigations?
3. Name his leading philosophical works.
4. Why are his philosophical works not accessible to the ordinary reader?
5. Which of his works are most read at the present day?
6. Does Bacon imitate any former authors or borrow from any former school of thought?
7. What are the distinguishing characteristics of Bacon's style?
8. Contrast his style with that of his contemporaries.
9. Why is it that the matters stated in the "Essays" strike you as being things which you have always known?
10. Knowing as we do in advance the truth of most of what he says, why do we derive such peculiar pleasure from reading his works?
11. What can you say as to the suggestiveness of his writings?
12. What trait, constantly appearing in his writings, is displeasing to the modern reader?
13. How can you account for the lack of system in the choice of subjects treated in the "Essays"?
"THE PRAISE OF KNOWLEDGE"
1. Which are the greater and truer pleasures, those of the intellect or those of the affections?
2. What is Bacon's method of reasoning, and what are its advantages over the method of Aristotle?
3. Did Aristotle have many followers in the universities of Europe in Bacon's day?
4. What was Bacon's criticism of Greek philosophy and science?
5. What arguments does Bacon give to show the importance of knowledge above all other possessions?
6. What sarcasm do you detect in Bacon's reference to the universities?
7. What great intellectual movement resulted in part, at least, from the three inventions mentioned, viz., printing, artillery, and the compass?
8. What familiar quotation do you note in this essay?
9. Does Bacon attain as high intellectual levels as Plato? As Marcus Aurelius?
"Bacon" ("English Men of Letters").—Church.
"Francis Bacon; a Sketch of His Life, Works, etc."—Steeves.
"Bacon" ("Critical and Miscellaneous Essays").—Macaulay.
"Account of the Life and Times of Lord Bacon."—Spedding.
Carlyle was the son of a stone mason. He entered the University of Edinburgh at the age of thirteen and remained there five years, proving himself an omnivorous reader but impractical in many respects, so that he took no degree. After several years of hardship in Scotland as a teacher and a hack writer he married Jane Welsh, whose intellect was almost the equal of his own and whose eccentricity of temper was also similar to his, with the result that much of their life was marred by bickering; yet there is no question of their mutual affection. After a long fight against poverty in London, he eventually won the esteem of Europe for his bold personality and titanic literary power and died full of years and honors, but sensitive and harsh to the last. It is only fair to mention that he was the victim of lifelong dyspeptic trouble and the depression resultant therefrom.
His writings all make a study of life, seeking the answer in the lives of the great men, the Heroes, whether of literature or of history. His early studies in German literature, especially the work of Goethe, influenced him not only in his outlook on the universe but in his literary style. Sacrificing everything to force, he adopts every expedient to drive home each point in the lesson he wishes to convey. This intense earnestness and unprecedented unconventionality, although united with phenomenal descriptive powers, resulted in an ungainly style, yet so filled with sincerity and the hatred of shams and falsity as to hold and inspire not merely a select circle of readers but a whole nation. His influence was that of a living personality, a prophet to all English-speaking peoples.
"Sartor Resartus" expresses the doubts and hesitancies of youth, when confronted with the materialism and apparent relentlessness of nature, together with the bold, sturdy defiance which youth's courage creates for its protection. In "Heroes and Hero-Worship," the "Essay on Burns," "The French Revolution," and the "History of Frederick the Great" he holds up examples of heroism as he sees them, searchingly and vividly. So in the "Life of John Sterling," he studies the character of one of his dearest friends, recently dead, and there finds the same qualities of manly nobility. His work becomes not only biographical but historical, obviously, and such volumes as "Past and Present" and "Latter-Day Pamphlets" attack flagrant weaknesses of his day. Work that is so daring and furious in tone could not be utterly free from error; his conclusions are not always justified. Yet he will always remain the prophet and seer of his century.
1. Of what extraction was Carlyle?
2. What was the nature of his education?
3. What occupations did he follow?
4. What places were the scenes of his literary life?
5. Do you think he can be called a genial soul?
6. Would you call him a typical or an exceptional Scotchman?
STYLE AND WORKS
1. What was the purpose of his writings? Is he a philosopher?
2. What particular phase of history interested him most?
3. Is he at his best in narration or description?
4. What is the source and the cause of his style?
5. Account for the distinct feeling of reality which arises from a reading of his descriptive passages.
6. What work best illustrates his element of strength?
7. What defects are apparent in much of his writing?
8. Are his accounts of Coleridge, Burns, and Mahomet sympathetic? Which do you prefer? Why?
9. Is he religious or unreligious in your opinion? Why do you think so?
10. Among what people have his writings the greatest vogue? Why?
11. What trait renders Carlyle unreliable as a critic? I, 168.
12. Into what did Carlyle transmute the principles of German philosophy? XI, 445.
"THE FALL OF THE BASTILLE"
1. What act on the part of Louis XVI caused the smouldering flame of revolution to break out in this demonstration of violence?
2. How is the term Eumenides appropriate when applied to the Parisian mob of the French Revolution? (Consult a classical dictionary.)
3. Contrast the French and the English in revolutions.
4. Why did Carlyle choose the subject of the French Revolution?
5. What was the form of government at Paris during the Revolution?
6. Briefly describe the condition of the lower classes as indicated in this account.
7. Are any of the other selections from Carlyle equal to this? Why?
"Reminiscences."—Caryle, ed. Norton.
"Carlyle, Personally and in his Writings."—Masson.
The son of a Scotch millionaire who had settled in London, Ruskin received from private masters the best possible preparation for his future and also traveled extensively with his father and mother. Shortly after his graduation from Oxford he astonished the world with the first volume of "Modern Painters," a work designed primarily to show the superiority of Turner, and a few other modern artists, over the older painters of landscape; in later volumes he wanders over the whole field of art criticism, the burden of his advice being a return to the study of nature itself.
"The Seven Lamps of Architecture" discusses the moral principles which should underlie architecture. This subject was suggested to him by his continual studies of the work of painters and architects in Italy and France while in pursuit of material for his earlier work. "The Stones of Venice" carries on the task set in both these works, namely the problem of the moral basis underneath all art, the purpose which should lie at the back of the artist's mind.
As he grew older his religious views, formerly rather narrow, became broader, in common with the progress of the times, yet he laid more and more stress on the need of upright and godly character in all who have any purpose of attempting good work.
His later volumes, then, are filled with this moral teaching and also take up the errors of the social conditions of the period. Old age pensions, state education, radical improvements in the houses and home life of the common people were among the needs which he saw, now accomplished, but then regarded as rampant and foolish socialism.
In his style, as in his theories, there is a tendency to exaggerate, a fault that is common among reformers, as in the cases of Dickens and Carlyle. But the lofty ideals which he maintained and the grace and power of his style far more than atone for the occasional error of overstatement. In "Præterita," a brilliant autobiographical fragment, he accounts for the rare clarity and beauty of his style, for it was his custom for many years during his childhood and youth to read the Bible through aloud to his mother every year in daily selections. The simplicity and majesty of the Biblical language left its impress on his own prose.
His economic theories have not been adopted in England or elsewhere, but he himself lived up to them and spent his whole fortune in the philanthropic endeavor to put his plans for the betterment of the working classes into operation. In spite of the fact that his fortune was great and that he received as much as $20,000 a year royalty from the sale of his works in his latter days, his property at the time of his death was inconsiderable.
1. What was Ruskin's education; his position in the world?
2. In what two rôles did he appear?
3. What cardinal doctrine did he preach?
4. What extraneous elements did he attempt to read into art?
5. At what university was he successively student and professor?
6. Was he merely a theorist in the matter of public reform?
7. Did he justify his economic teaching in his own conduct?
STYLE AND WORKS
1. Which of his works treats of the effect of human traits upon architecture?
2. Name four works treating of Italian art specifically.
3. In what work does he seek to demonstrate the superiority of modern over classical painters?
4. Had Ruskin any practical knowledge of the technique of art?
5. Which of his works is autobiographical?
6. Where did he get the inspiration for his style?
7. How, then, can his style be called original?
8. Is his style clear; logical; powerful? Why?
FROM "THE STONES OF VENICE"
1. What two orders of architecture are fundamental?
2. From what country are they primarily derived?
3. What is the distinguishing character of each?
4. How did Christianity affect architecture?
5. When the progress of advancement in architecture was losing its vitality with the Romans, who took up their work?
6. What two nations played the most important part?
7. Describe the effects of each upon the older forms of architecture.
8. Why is Venice the best place to study the different forms of architecture?
"THE LAMP OF TRUTH"
1. Is falsity permissible under any circumstances?
2. Upon what does the pardonableness of a fault depend?
3. Which temptation is the harder to resist, that to tell a "little lie," or a great one?
4. Is all imagination or fiction reprehensible as being untruthful?
5. How may truth be violated in Architecture?
6. What three forms does architectural deceit take?
7. Give examples of each.
8. Why are machine work and cast work bad?
9. Concrete was unknown in Ruskin's day; what are its faults and its values?
10. Explain the decay and deterioration of Gothic tracery.
"Life of John Ruskin."—Collingwood.
"Ruskin and his Circle."—Earland.
"Studies in Ruskin."—Cook.
"Witnesses of the Light."—Gladden.
"Essays in Biography and Criticism."—Bayne.
"Literary Leaders of Modern England."—Dawson.
"John Ruskin" ("English Men of Letters").—Harrison.
RALPH WALDO EMERSON
Emerson, the 'Sage of Concord,' was born a Bostonian, of the ecclesiastical class. He prepared for the ministry and for some time occupied a Unitarian pulpit; but, disagreeing with his congregation as to the nature of the Lord's Supper, he resigned his charge and became a public lecturer, a popular profession in ante-bellum days when every community had its Literary Society, or else its Debating Club. His home from 1833, or for the last fifty years of his life, was at Concord, Massachusetts. He shares with Longfellow the distinction of being the best known abroad of all American writers. No other American has measurably approached him as an essayist.
He is a transcendentalist of the most advanced school. Where he wishes to be clear, no one can be clearer, but he often chooses to clothe his thoughts in mystery. This trait is also noticeable in his poems, some of which glitter like diamonds, while others are enigmatic and baffling. His poetry is like his essays in being pointed and laconic, but while this may be a merit in the essay, it is not so in poetry, and his verse can hardly be considered first class. Few people read his poetry except as an adjunct to the study of his essays.
He had no reasoned and complete system of philosophy, but, like Bacon, merely gave birth to grand principles from which a new philosophy was to spring. He resembles Bacon also in that he oftentimes does not reason, but utters the truth oracularly.
1. Where was Emerson born?
2. What can you say of his antecedents?
3. With what religious denomination was he at one time connected?
4. What part did Emerson take in public life?
5. What pseudonym is often applied to him?
6. For what two things is Concord equally famous? I, 340; V, 59.
7. How do the circumstances of his life contrast with Ruskin's, Carlyle's, Plato's, Marcus Aurelius's?
STYLE AND WORKS
1. To what school of philosophy did Emerson belong?
2. What effect had Emerson on the thinkers of his generation? VI, 332-334.
3. Did Hawthorne prize his philosophy highly? His poetry? VI, 333.
4. How does he rank as an essayist?
5. Why are some of Emerson's thoughts so hard to grasp?
6. To what may his poems be compared?
7. Does he rank high as a poet?
8. What standing has Emerson among foreign critics as compared with other American authors?
9. How does his style compare with Ruskin's and Carlyle's? with Plato's?
"WORKS AND DAYS"
1. How does Emerson define the nineteenth century? Why?
2. "Works and days were offered us and we took works;" does Emerson belittle the value of work?
3. Name some of the 'illusions' that hide values from us at the present time.
4. "'Tis the measure of a man,—his apprehension of a day;" how is this true?
5. Does Emerson prove his statements, or do you think that he is playing the oracle in this essay?
6. "What has been best done in the world ... cost nothing;" do you agree wholly with this doctrine?
7. Do we live up to the teaching of the last paragraph; should we attempt to do so?
1. Give Emerson's definition of friendship.
2. Why are most so-called friendships of short duration?
3. Does age, sex, individual character, or circumstance influence the formation of this compact?
4. What are the two most important elements in friendship?
5. Can a perfect friendship exist between more than two people at one time?
6. Does friendship necessarily require an intimate personal association of the participants in their home life?
7. Must friendship be reciprocal?
8. Would you accept Emerson's views on this subject for your own use?
"Emerson; his Life, Writings and Philosophy."—Cooke.
"Four American Leaders."—Eliot.
"Leading American Essayists."—Payne.
"Ralph Waldo Emerson" ("Beacon Biographies").—Sanborn.
"Emerson" ("English Men of Letters").—Woodberry.
"Discourses in America."—Arnold.
"Emerson as a Poet."—Benton.
"American Prose Masters."—Brownell.
"On Emerson, and Other Essays."—Maeterlinck.
Heinrich Heine, the nephew of a rich Hamburg Jew, is the most gifted German lyric poet since Goethe. Intended for the bar, he studied at Bonn, Göttingen, and Berlin. He then traveled extensively for some years, until publication of his "Journey in the Hartz Mountains" and "Book of Songs" brought him to public notice.
But his tactless attacks on various authors, and upon several of the petty German governments of the day began to make his native country an uncomfortable place, and in 1831 he removed to Paris. His chief occupation there was as correspondent for German newspapers. His long poems, "Deutschland" and "Atta Troll," were written during this period. For the last eight years of his life he was confined to his bed, suffering terrible agonies from a disease of the spinal column.
Though born a Jew and baptized into the Christian faith, he was neither Jew nor Christian; and his character was marred by many defects.
1. In what city was he born? I, 171.
2. When did he take up his residence in Paris? I, 176.
3. What great faults stained his character? I, 190.
4. And how have they affected the character of his writings? I, 191.
5. See Heine's account of his first interview with Goethe. VIII, 174.
6. What caused his exile from Germany?
7. How does his early life resemble that of Goethe?
8. What position does he occupy among the German lyric poets of the nineteenth century?
STYLE AND WORKS
1. Upon what service to modern society does Heine's fame rest? I, 167.
2. Of what great German writer is he the continuator? I, 168.
3. Did he have a true conception of Goethe's work? I, 169.
4. Upon what grounds did Heine prefer the French spirit to that of the Germans and English? I, 172, 173.
5. Why has his fame proved more lasting than that of Byron and Shelley? I, 181.
6. To what school of poetry did he belong? I, 178.
7. State the form which most of his poetry assumes. I, 183.
8. Is his Hebrew extraction apparent in his verse? I, 186.
FROM "TRAVEL PICTURES"
1. The German nation as a whole is noted for what special qualities of character?
2. In connection with what great event would you associate the name of Blücher? IV, 37.
3. Of what cause do the Swiss claim to be the champions?
4. During Heine's life was Germany politically at rest?
5. Would you consider the carousing scene of this selection typical of Germany, or has Heine exaggerated it to make the situation more ridiculous?
6. What impression of the author's personal character do you receive from these selections?
7. Characterize Heine's wit.
"Life of Heinrich Heine."—Sharp.
"Poems and Ballads," translated by Martin.
"Wrecked lives; or, Men who have Failed."—Adams.
"Old Love Stories Retold."—Le Gallienne.
(61 A.D.–113? A.D.)
Pliny the Younger was born in the year A.D. 61, at Como, Italy. Like most famous Roman writers whose works have come down to us, he was of high station. He accompanied his uncle, Pliny the Elder, when the latter was summoned to Rome by the Emperor Vespasian in A.D. 72, and devoted several years to the study of Roman and Greek literature under the best instructors.
After the death of his uncle, in 79, he made his appearance as an advocate, a profession in which he won great eminence. Ten years later he entered upon an official career of remarkable success, holding in succession most of the great offices of the Roman State, until in 111 he was selected by Trajan as Governor of Bithynia. His correspondence ceases in 113, and nothing is known of his life thereafter.
While moving in the highest circles, the intimate of Tacitus, Suetonius, Martial, and all of the senatorial class, he was distinguished by great conscientiousness and public spirit, endowing temples, baths, libraries, and schools. He was humane and even affectionate toward his slaves and courteous to his dependents.
He sought fame as a poet and orator, as well as letter-writer, but neither his "Panegyric on Trajan," nor the two sets of verses which alone have escaped the ravages of time, would indicate that the world is much the worse for the loss of the remainder of his orations and poems.
But in his "Letters" he conferred an inestimable boon on future ages. They are voluminous, in ten books, and covering almost every topic of the times, our most valuable commentary upon Roman life in the second century after Christ. They were undoubtedly written with a direct view to publication, for he is careful to confine each one to a single topic, and generally closes it with an epigrammatic point. But they are models of graceful thought and refined expression. Only twice is any one of whom an unfavorable opinion is expressed mentioned by name.
The tenth book, the "Correspondence with Trajan," is valuable for another reason—for the light it throws on early Christianity. It reflects the greatest credit on the strict and almost punctilious conscientiousness of Pliny, and on the assiduity and high principle which animated the Emperor.
1. What does Pliny the Elder say of the form of money used in early Rome? XI, 189.
2. To what class of society did Pliny the Younger belong?
3. Give a brief account of the death of his uncle.
4. What other author do you associate with the Lake of Como? I, 8, illustration.
5. What regular profession did Pliny follow during the earlier years of his life? The latter?
6. Locate Bithynia on the map. Also Lake Como. (See classical atlas.)
7. What authors were intimate associates of Pliny?
8. Enumerate the good points in his character.
STYLE AND WORKS
1. In what way does Pliny say we may add to the length of our lives? V, 71.
2. Are his writings confined to his "Letters"?
3. Of what special use are the "Letters" to us?
4. How do we know that Pliny wrote his letters with publication in mind?
5. What does he say of Phidias's attention to detail in his sculpture? VI, 359.
6. Why should his correspondence with Trajan be of special interest to us?
7. What do we glean from the correspondence as to the character of Trajan?
8. Compare his account of the destruction of Pompeii with that of Lytton. VIII, 285.
9. State what proficiency the Romans had attained in the art of landscape gardening.
10. What would you judge to have been the climate of Tuscany, from the allusion to plane, cypress, and other trees and plants mentioned?
11. What reason lay behind the persecution of the Christians? Do you think it was entirely religious?
12. What was the social condition of Rome at this time?
13. Did persecution lessen the number of adherents to Christianity?
14. What was Pliny's estimate of this religion?
15. Was Trajan a just ruler, if his short letter be taken as an indication of his character?
"Roman Life in Pliny's Time."—Pellison.
"Roads from Rome."—Allinson.
 These authors represent the transition from the Renaissance to Classicism.
 Josephus is a remarkable example of the authority and influence of Rome. He was a Jew, whose work might be classed as Hebrew and hence as Oriental literature, and likewise as Greek literature since he wrote in Greek. But he was educated at Rome and trained so thoroughly upon Roman ideas and thought that his writings must be included under this head.
 See Latin Lit., note.
A section was inserted by the original printer between pages 54 and 55. The numbering of these pages, 54a to 54n, has been retained in the etext.
Obvious typographical errors and punctuation errors have been corrected after careful comparison with other occurrences within the text and consultation of external sources.
Footnote  is referenced multiple times from page 25.
Footnote  ("See Latin Lit., note") is in fact referencing Footnote .
Except for those changes noted below, all misspellings in the text, and inconsistent or archaic usage, have been retained. For example, death-bed, deathbed; Snow Image, Snow-Image; skilful; unexcelled; unreligious; unmoral; enigmatical.
Pg 8, 'Knights Templars' replaced by 'Knights Templar'.
Pg 24, 'inelegancies' replaced by 'inelegances'.
Pg 48, 'sublety' replaced by 'subtlety'.
Pg 54k, 'Dies Irae' replaced by 'Dies Iræ' for consistency.
Pg 135, '428-31' replaced by '428-431' for consistency.
Pg 147, 'impracticability' replaced by 'impracticality'.