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.

In Jane Shore, he has followed the history of the royal mistress, and has given a moral lesson of great efficacy.

NATHANIEL LEE, 1657-1692:  was a man of dissolute life, for some time insane, and met his death in a drunken brawl.  Of his ten tragedies, the best are The Rival Queens, and Theodosius, or The Force of Love.  The rival queens of Alexander the Great—­Roxana and Statira—­figure in the first, which is still presented upon the stage.  It has been called, with just critical point, “A great and glorious flight of a bold but frenzied imagination, having as much absurdity as sublimity, and as much extravagance as passion; the poet, the genius, the scholar are everywhere visible.”

THOMAS SOUTHERN, 1659-1746:  wrote Isabella, or The Fatal Marriage, and Oronooko.  In the latter, although yielding to the corrupt taste of the time in his comic parts, he causes his captive Indian prince to teach that period a lesson by his pure and noble love for Imoinda.  Oronooko is a prince taken by the English at Surinam and carried captive to England.

These writers are the best representatives of those who in tragedy and comedy form the staple of that age.  Their models were copied in succeeding years; but, with the expulsion of the Stuarts, morals were somewhat mended; and while light, gay, and witty productions for the stage were still in demand, the extreme licentiousness was repudiated by the public; and the plays of Cibber, Cumberland, Colman, and Sheridan, reflecting these better tastes, are free from much of the pollution to which we have referred.



Contemporary History.  Birth and Early Life.  Essay on Criticism.  Rape of the Lock.  The Messiah.  The Iliad.  Value of the Translation.  The Odyssey.  Essay on Man.  The Artificial School.  Estimate of Pope.  Other Writers.

Alexander Pope is at once one of the greatest names in English literature and one of the most remarkable illustrations of the fact that the literature is the interpreter of English history.  He was also a man of singular individuality, and may, in some respects, be considered a lusus naturae among the literary men of his day.

CONTEMPORARY HISTORY.—­He was born in London on the 21st of May, 1688, the year which witnessed the second and final expulsion of the Stuarts, in direct line, and the accession of a younger branch in the persons of Mary and her husband, William of Orange.  Pope comes upon the literary scene with the new order of political affairs.  A dynasty had been overthrown, and the power of the parliament had been established; new charters of right had secured the people from kingly oppression; but there was still a strong element of opposition and sedition in the Jacobite party, which had by no means abandoned the hope of restoring the former rule.  They were kept in check, indeed, during the reign of William and Mary, but they became bolder upon the accession of Queen Anne.  They hoped to find their efforts facilitated by the fact that she was childless; and they even asserted that upon her death-bed she had favored the succession of the pretender, whom they called James III.

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