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.

Hugh Blair, 1718-1800:  a Presbyterian divine in Edinburgh, Dr. Blair deserves special mention for his lectures on Rhetoric and Belles-Lettres, which for a long time constituted the principal text-book on those subjects in our schools and colleges.  A better understanding of the true scope of rhetoric as a science has caused this work to be superseded by later text-books.  Blair’s lectures treat principally of style and literary criticism, and are excellent for their analysis of some of the best authors, and for happy illustrations from their works.  Blair wrote many eloquent sermons, which were published, and was one of the strong champions of Macpherson, in the controversy concerning the poems of Ossian.  He occupied a high place as a literary critic during his life.

William Paley, 1743-1805:  a clergyman of the Established Church, he rose to the dignity of Archdeacon and Chancellor of Carlisle.  At first thoughtless and idle, he was roused from his unprofitable life by the earnest warnings of a companion, and became a severe student and a vigorous writer on moral and religious subjects.  Among his numerous writings, those principally valuable are:  Horae Paulinae, and A View of the Evidences of Christianity—­the former setting forth the life and character of St. Paul, and the latter being a clear exposition of the truth of Christianity, which has long served as a manual of academic instruction.  His treatise on Natural Theology is, in the words of Sir James Mackintosh, “the wonderful work of a man who, after sixty, had studied anatomy in order to write it.”  Later investigations of science have discarded some of his facts; but the handling of the subject and the array of arguments are the work of a skilful and powerful hand.  He wrote, besides, a work on Moral and Political Philosophy, and numerous sermons.  His theory of morals is, that whatever is expedient is right; and thus he bases our sense of duty upon the ground of the production of the greatest amount of happiness.  This low view has been successfully refuted by later writers on moral science.

CHAPTER XXXIV.

THE NEW ROMANTIC POETRY:  SCOTT.

   Walter Scott.  Translations and Minstrelsy.  The Lay of the Last
   Minstrel.  Other Poems.  The Waverly Novels.  Particular Mention. 
   Pecuniary Troubles.  His Manly Purpose.  Powers Overtasked.  Fruitless
   Journey.  Return and Death.  His Fame.

The transition school, as we have seen, in returning to nature, had redeemed the pastoral, and had cultivated sentiment at the expense of the epic.  As a slight reaction, and yet a progress, and as influenced by the tales of modern fiction, and also as subsidizing the antiquarian lore and taste of the age, there arose a school of poetry which is best represented by its Tales in verse;—­some treating subjects of the olden time, some laying their scenes in distant countries, and some describing home incidents of the simplest kind.  They were all minor epics:  such were the poetic stories of Scott, the Lalla Rookh of Moore, The Bride and The Giaour of Byron, and The Village and The Borough of Crabbe; all of which mark the taste and the demand of the period.

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