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.

Elias Ashmole, 1617-1693.  This antiquarian and virtuoso is principally known as the founder of the Ashmolean Museum at Oxford.  He studied law, chemistry, and natural philosophy.  Besides an edition of the manuscript works of certain English chemists, he wrote Bennevennu,—­the description of a Roman road mentioned in the Itinerary of Antoninus,—­and a History of the Order of the Garter.  His Diary was published nearly a century after his death, but is by no means equal in value to those of Evelyn and Pepys.

John Aubrey, 1627-1697:  a man of curious mind, Aubrey investigated the supernatural topics of the day, and presented them to the world in his Miscellanies.  Among these subjects it is interesting to notice “blows invisible,” and “knockings,” which have been resuscitated in the present day.  He was a “perambulator,” and, in the words of one of his critics, “picked up information on the highway, and scattered it everywhere as authentic.”  His most valuable contribution to history is found in his Letters Written by Eminent Persons in the 17th and 18th Centuries, with Lives of Eminent Men.  The searcher for authentic material must carefully scrutinize Aubrey’s facts; but, with much that is doubtful, valuable information may be obtained from his pages.



   The License of the Age.  Dryden.  Wycherley.  Congreve.  Vanbrugh. 
   Farquhar.  Etherege.  Tragedy.  Otway.  Rowe.  Lee.  Southern.


There is no portion of the literature of this period which so fully represents and explains the social history of the age as the drama.  With the restoration of Charles it returned to England, after a time in which the chief faults had been too great rigor in morals.  The theatres had been closed, all amusements checked, and even poetry and the fine arts placed under a ban.  In the reign of Charles I., Prynne had written his Histrio Mastix, or Scourge of the Stage, in which he not only denounced all stage plays, but music and dancing; and also declaimed against hunting, festival days, the celebration of Christmas, and Maypoles.  For this he was indicted in the Star Chamber for libel, and was sentenced to stand in the pillory, to lose his ears, to pay the king a fine of L5000, and to be imprisoned for life.  For his attack there was much excuse in the license of the former period; but when puritanism, in its turn, was brought under the three spears, the drama was to come back tenfold more injurious and more immoral than before.

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