English Literature, Considered as an Interpreter of English History eBook

Henry Coppée
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 540 pages of information about English Literature, Considered as an Interpreter of English History.

John Locke, 1632-1704.  In a history of philosophy, the name of this distinguished philosopher would occupy a prominent place, and his works would require extended notice.  But it is not amiss to introduce him briefly in this connection, because his works all have an ethical significance.  He was educated as a physician, and occupied several official positions, in which he suffered from the vicissitudes of political fortune, being once obliged to retreat from persecution to Holland.  His Letters on Toleration is a noble effort to secure the freedom of conscience:  his Treatises on Civil Government were specially designed to refute Sir John Filmer’s Patriarcha, and to overthrow the principle of the Jus Divinum.  His greatest work is an Essay on the Human Understanding.  This marks an era in English thought, and has done much to invite attention to the subject of intellectual philosophy.  He derives our ideas from the two sources, sensation and reflection; and although many of his views have been superseded by the investigations of later philosophers, it is due to him in some degree that their inquiries have been possible.

DIARISTS AND ANTIQUARIANS.

John Evelyn, 1620-1705.  Among the unintentional historians of England, none are of more value than those who have left detailed and gossiping diaries of the times in which they lived:  among these Evelyn occupies a prominent place.  He was a gentleman of education and position, who, after the study of law, travelled extensively, and resided several years in France.  He had varied accomplishments.  His Sylva is a discourse on forest trees and on the propagation of timber in his majesty’s dominions.  To this he afterwards added Pomona, or a treatise on fruit trees.  He was also the author of an essay on A Parallel of the Ancient Architecture with the Modern.  But the work by which he is now best known is his Diary from 1641 to 1705; it is a necessary companion to the study of the history of that period; and has been largely consulted by modern writers in making up the historic record of the time.

Samuel Pepys, 1637-1703.  This famous diarist was the son of a London tailor.  He received a collegiate education, and became a connoisseur in literature and art.  Of a prying disposition, he saw all that he could of the varied political, literary, and social life of England; and has recorded what he saw in a diary so quaint, simple, and amusing, that it has retained its popularity to the present day, and has greatly aided the historian both in facts and philosophy.  He held an official position as secretary in the admiralty, the duties of which he discharged with great system and skill.  In addition to this Diary, we have also his Correspondence, published after his death, which is historically of great importance.  In both diary and correspondence he has the charm of great naivete,—­as of a curious and gossiping observer, who never dreamed that his writings would be made public.  Men and women of social station are painted in pre-Raphaelite style, and figure before us with great truth and vividness.

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