The Theatre of the Restoration (by Louis Cazamian)
(From A History of English Literature, by Émile Legouis and Louis Cazamian, Dent, 1937; "Literature of the Restoration, 1660-1702" - vii, "The Theatre", viii, "The Transition")
The Theatre [to the 1680s]
1. Limits of the first period
2. The beginnings. D'Avenant. Foreign influences and the national tradition.
3. Heroic tragedy: Dryden, etc.
4. Comedy: Etherege, Wycherley, Shadwell, etc.
5. The National reaction in drama: Dryden, Lee, and Otway.
4. Comedy: Congreve, Vanbrugh, Farquhar; Collier's Criticism
IV. The theatre
1. Limits of the First Period
The greatest literary activity during the Restoration is to be found in the sphere of the theatre, and the authors of comedy form, perhaps, the most brilliant group of writers in their epoch, and one which best illustrates its moral features. On the other hand, they outshine their immediate successors. Therefore histories of literature usually take the Restoration dramatists as a centre for the study of the English theatre at the end of the seventeenth and the beginning of the eighteenth century, the classical age being, so to speak, in this domain, a weaker continuation of that which precedes it.
If one looks at the subject from the point of view of the evolution of kinds, there may be some advantage in not separating the successive phases of a movement which extends over some fifty years, and which, taken altogether, forms a natural whole. Comedy in particular—that of Wycherley, Congreve, Vanbrugh, and Farquhar—would appear to represent an unbroken series of connected works. But if the history of literature is brought into close contact with that of thought, and looked upon as an aspect of the total development of a society, this linked succession must be broken up, leaving room for a division that is more logical, and historically better founded. In reality a generation separates Wycherley from Congreve.
The break, in the interval, is marked by the Revolution of 1688, with the moral changes which accompany it. In every respect English literature between 1688 and 1702 forms a period of transition; both in inspiration and in style, it then bears the stamp of a special character; and each literary kind reveals the influence of a spirit akin, no doubt, to that of the Restoration itself, but still different from it. In order to understand this period, it will be useful to view it as a whole.
The dates 1660 and 1688 therefore, for the time being, limit the field of this survey. No doubt the dramatic career of Dryden is not wholly contained within those years, but the five plays with which his career ends, between 1690 and 1694, may be connected quite naturally with the twenty-three which have preceded them. The works of Dryden, Etherege, Wycherley, Lee, Otway, together with those of their immediate contemporaries, constitute properly speaking the theatre of the Restoration.
2. The Beginnings: D'Avenant. Foreign Influences and National Tradition
The Puritan Revolution had closed the playhouses in 1642; for fourteen years, no regular performance was given, save in private, or under the menace of the law. In fact, the life of the theatre was suspended. The silence of the stage most certainly was impatiently borne by many; but the supporters of an austere code of morals had thus satisfied an ancient grudge, and the severity they displayed in their control of manners made any protest futile in advance. In 1656, the secret lassitude of all wills was groing patent enough, or the rule—however glorious—of the Protectorate was tending plainly enough to a political and social relaxation, for a skilful man to turn the obstacle which no one dared attack openly, Sir William D'Avenant, the author of plays staged before the Civil War, Poet Laurate under Charles I, closely associated with the royal cause, obtained permission to open to the public an 'allegorical entertainment by declamation and music, after the manner of the ancients' (The First Day's Entertainment at Rutland House). This first and discreet attempt—rather hazardous, however, if one stops to ponder over certain remarks of Aristophanes, the advocate of theatrical art—was followed the same year by a more ambitious show, The Siege of Rhodes.
One of the main influences that are preparing a new phase in dramatic art is here clarly apparent. D'Avenant had resided in France; he had come into contact there with an artistic and literary atmosphere rich in suggestions: that of the confused but fertile period when classicism was flowering into full bloom. To England he brought back many confused ideas and preferences, the product of which is a hybrid work, of still uncertain character. In The Siege of Rhodes are to be found suggestions furnished by Corneille, with his conception of love and of noble sentiments; next, the rather similar inspiration of the romances of Gomberville, La Calprenède, and the Scudérys, which were already popular in England; lastly, a taste for the opera, which was being implanted in France with the Italian performances under Mazarin, and with the Andromède of Corneille (1650). And mingling with these elements, we find memories of the national theatre, under the form in which it was being kept alive, about 1640, by the degenerate disciples of Fletcher.
The first part of The Siege of Rhodes is divided into 'entries,' like the ballets of Benserade, which were the rate at the court of the young Louis XIV. It is written in rhymed verse, in a very free and variable measure, adapted, as the author tells us, to the demands of the recitative, then a novelty in England. As for the subject, it is 'heroic, and destined to recommend virtue 'under the forms of valour and conjugal love.' A naïve sincere ardour, in which one feels a youthfulness of spirit, despirte its self-consciousness, animates this romantic work, clumsy in places, but at times raised by the lyricism of honour and passion. It can be regarded as the germ both of English opera and of heroic tragedy. While the scenic displays, the wealth of accessories, the striving after great picturesque effects, the 'machines' on a narrow stage the town of Rhodes, the port, the fleet and the camp of the Turks had to be presented either together or successively) were not unknown in English dramatic art before 1656, it is none the less true that through its material figuration also the play caused a sensation, and marks a date. Lastly, if it is not a fact that an actress, appeared in it for the first time in England, it is certain that an English actress played one of the leading parts, and that this daring and almost unprecedented step became a common feature of the Restoration theatre.
Before 1660, D'Avenant wrote two other plays of the same kind, and tried, by selecting national themes, to prevent the possible revival of Puritan susceptibility. When the king's return brought with it the liberty of the theatre, he with Thomas Killigrew was given charge of one of the two troupes of actors, and one of the two playhouses, which were authorised by letters patent.
In order to understand the development of dramatic art under the Restoration, one must imagine these two companies, that of the king and that of his brother the Duke of York, gathering together talented actors, such as Betterton, and actresses, such as Nell Gwynn, whose charm as much as their stage gifts make them the idols of the public. Greedily attracted to long-forbidden pleasures, elegant society crowded to the plays, which very often were honoured by the favour and the presence of the king; the theatre now became, for the young noblemen, both a fashionable amusement and a daily occasion for meetings and intrigues. The brilliant house, frequented also by the wealthy and cultured part of the middle class, and where Pepys, a citizen of London, liked to rub shoulders with the upper world and to catch a glimpse of the king's favourites, is one of the main social centres of this age, just as it is morally its most complete symbol. The passion for an art, rendered the more pleasing because it has in it the value of a protest, expresses a political preference, triumphs over despised enemies, and gains its freedom at the expense of a conquered austerity; the attraction of unbridled modes of living which actors and spectators encouraged one another to exemplify and to applaud; the atmosphere of gallantry which reigns in the theatre—all these influences explain the cynicism, and the success, of a literature that is singularly free, crude in its boldness, insolent in its self-assertion, and seeming always to pursue, over and above the direct expression of itself, the confusion of an abolished régime of ideas and sentiments that had long been tyrannical.
By this moral reaction, this psychological release, the Restoration theatre is an outcome of the movement itself of national life; it is an aspect of the new age. But in the dramatic form whith which it invests the common spirit of the time, it shows itself wholly impregnated with foreign influences. No other literary kind reveals to the same degree the range and the variety of the suggestions which, coming from the Continent, are spreading at this moment over intellectual England.
It is with France that these contacts are most numerous and easily established. Exiles like D'Avenant, Waller, and Denham bring back with them a taste which has been made more precise and strengthened along its own spontaneous lines; in addition, models, images, and rhythms. The king and the court have a more superficial but just as decided instinct for the same refined, noble, correct art, for the same elegant and luxurious existence; an all-powerful and universal magnetism makes the Paris and the Versailles of Louis XIV the centre whence politeness and culture radiate, and towards which the desire for a more perfect civilization converges from every side. Classical tragedy in France shines with a bright effulgence; translations have already revealed Corneille to English readers, and soon the tragi-comedies of Thomas Corneille, the heroic tragedies of Scudéry or Quinault, the comedies of Molière, and even, though later and with less keenness, the purely French art of Racine, are all eagerly welcomed and imitated. Their presgtige is strengthened by that of kindred or similar forms, such as the romance, the opera, and the ballet. If the influence of France on the dramatic literature of the Restoration has been exaggerated, or expressed in too simple terms, it is because other influences, and notably that of national tradition, have been sometimes neglected, or examined too cursorily. But the precise examples, the definite traces of imitations and borrowings, are so numerous; so strong is the general sense of a diffused suggestion, of an analogy of atmosphere, which the relative parallelism of the contemporary developments of the two peoples do not sufficiently account for, that one cannot hesitate in locating at this point one of the most certain international transfers of influence in European literature. With D'Avenant and The Siege of Rhodes, there opens a phase in the history of English drama characterized by the ascendancy of the French model; and this phase, despite some interruptions, was to last for a whole century.
In borrowing from Corneille something of his romantic pride, and of his rhetoric of feeling—while not the serious, Cartesian doctrine underlying all his drama, his theory of will, his notion of love founded on esteem and reason—it is a little of the spirit of Spain that D'Avenant found in the French writer; and Spanish influence whether direct, or derived through the literature and genius of France, is an element of the original character of the Restoration theatre. This influence, like a recognizable viein, had run through the English drama since the time of the Renascence; but it remained superficial, and generally speaking, influenced scarcely anything save the plot or the exterior delineation of the characters, not the deeper substance of the works. After 1660, the tastes of the court and of the king tend to favour plays which are full of movement, in the manner of those shows where the 'comedia de capa y espada' had triumphed in Spain; and a definite Spanish origin can be assigned to plays such as Sir Samuel Tuke's Adventures of Five Hours, or George Digby's Elvira. Elsewhere, the derivation is only partial, and limited to some episodes, as in Wycherley's Gentleman Dancing-Master; but it is most often indirect, and still points to the popularity of the French model.
Leaving out France, it is to national tradition that one must look for the true sources of the new English theatre, and indeed for the main sources. Restoration drama and comedy are the outcome of a state of manners and of a state of mind; and these manners just as this mind, however strong may be the stamp of foreign influence, are the issue of an inner original rhythm of the English genius. It seems prefereable to say only that this rhythm calls for and permits, after 1660, a widespread and sometimes profound action of the literary or social impulses that come from France: and therefore, that the affinities which are thus revealed ought to enter into the very definition of this phase, and be reckoned among its characteristics.
For the theatre in particular, it is possible to retrace the stages of the development which leads from the last years of the Renascence to the Restoration. Before the banning of plays, the life of Drama, weakened by an inward exhaustion, had already sought refuge in the complication of the incidents of the plot itself. The outcome of Beaumont and Fletcher's art was tragi-comedy. At the same time, a kind of romantic infection, a fashion of adventure, of high-sounding and complacent heroism, had spread all over Western Europe. The spirit animating the French Fronde, the romances of chivalry, the epic poems, the plays of Hardy, Rotrou, and the young Corneille, is like a sort of second youth, proud and somewhat quarrelsome, on the eve of classical maturity and balance. Already the signs of this spirit had appeared before 1640 at the court of Charles I: it comes with the exiled Cavaliers to the Continent, in as large a measure as they receive it there; even those who remain in England feel it rise from the irresistible suggestions of their age, despite the austere sobriety of the Puritan régime. King Charles II, on his accession to the throne, installs it in favour; among the courtiers, the court ladies, the men of fashion, the poets and authors, a chivalrous gallantry, the love of great exploits, a language strewn with hyperboles, a lofty tone, and a rather hollow pretension to heroism as to tender love, in their contrast to the deep cynicism of this age form an organic group of moral traits, and an essential part of the phyiognomy of the time. The reason is that England, like France, then lives through a period of disturbed intellectual exuberance, when the Romanticism of intellect, of style and imagination replaces that of feelings, which is becoming exhausted, and that of will, which is condemned by the century in its progress towards reason and order. During this transition which goes from Fletcher to Dryden, the daring refinements of the metaphysical poets, and the lyricism of the Cavalier poets, well show in what direction the inner trend of contemporary thought is setting.
Thus, heroic tragedy itself is not exclusively the result, in England, of French examples; it has its true roots in the evolution of the national mind. D'Avenant, before the triumph of the Puritan Parliament, and before his stay in France, had written masques for Charles I, and the English masque may be regarded as one of the origins of the opera. He had written dramas in which the exalted inspiration of honour and love made itself felt (Love and Honour, 1642, etc.); he puts them on the stage again after the Restoration, and their tone chimes with that of the new theatre. The first plays of Killigrew (The Prisoners, The Princess, etc.) performed before the ban upon the theatre, appear as stages in the same transition.
The courtiers of Charles II, besides, do not only look with favour upon the plays written to flatter their preferences, but extend a welcome to the repertory of the English Renascence. No doubt, it is partly through necessity that, from 1660 onwards, Fletcher and his predecessors are again taken up: was not theirs a fund which could be drawn upon, while waiting for the poets to bestir themselves? On the other hand, it is only too certain that the taste of the epoch judges and classifies the masterpieces of the great dramatists from a strange angle of vision. Beaumont and Fletcher are favourites with the public: Ben Jonson, the particular idol of scholars, and praised on every occasion by the critics, follows them very closely. Shakespeare, whose greatness is only felt by a few, pleases the crowd by the secondary aspects of his genius; he is disconcerting to an average though educated mind, such as that of Pepys, more often than he is a delight (1). The limits of incomprehension seem to be reached when theatrical managers and authors rival one another in adorning Macbeth with ballets, or transforming The Tempest into an opera. Dryden himself calmly shared in these profanations. The successes won by the Elizabethan drama under the Restoration seem due, very often, to the superficial resemblance of its Romanticism with the cheaper fanciful instincts of the time; to the appetite of a public eager for sensations, rather than to a sincere understanding of its inherent qualities. But when all is said, this drama was there, revived again and again, recalling itself to the eye and ear alike; the soundest sensibilities were able to feel its incomparable radiance; and the continuity of a national art forced itself upon all as a living tradition. By the very fact of its assertion, it became, in large measure, a reality.
3. Heroic Tragedy: Dryden, etc.—
The main substance of heroic tragedy is contained in the work of Dryden. If he is not the creator of it, he raises it higher than anyone else, and leaves it at the moment when, after a very brilliant vogue, it has ceased to please.
It is difficult exactly to determine the origin of this dramatic kind; many threads go to compose its texture, and many hands have woven it. In one sense, it represents the completion of a long development, and unites the most diverse influences—those that have just been enumerated. On the other hand, the writer who best knew how to manage this form—Dryden—attributes its most direct parentage to Sir William D'Avenant, in The Siege of Rhodes (2). But D'Avenant, he says, has not had the ability or the courage as yet to pursue his effort to its end; he has not given his play all the wealth of incidents, the boldness of plot, the variety of characters, which an heroic poem permits and demands; now, heroic tragedy is nothing else than a poem which has been made manifest to the eye. Love and valour will therefore be its mainsprings, just as with Ariosto; the sentiments, and the style, will freely attain to a grandeur quite beyond the actual mediocrity of human life. And the measure of the play will be the rhymed couplet, which has won a place for itself on the stage, and will henceforth rule over tragedy. It has been said that rhyme is unnatural, and distant from actual conversation: it is therefore all the more fitting, in order to raise actions and images alike above the banality of everyday existence. No doubt it has its difficulties, but no one is forced to express himself in rhyme; and such as have been refused this gift will be wise if they abstain from attempting its beauties or incurring its risks.
The Siege of Rhodes, revisted, increased by a second part, and staged magnificently in 1662, better merits in its more developed form the historic honour which Dryden assigns to it. But other authors can advance their claims; for example, Roger Boyle, Earl of Orrery, whose Henry V, Mustapha, and Black Prince, written in rhymed couplets, were played at uncertain dates between 1662 and 1667; and Sir Robert Howard, Dryden's own brother-in-law, with whom he collaborated in 1664 in a play which some regard as the first really complete heroic drama (The Indian Queen). Already in 1664 Dryden himself had produced an example, though not of the same kind, yet of the most closely related, tragi-comedy, in The Rival Ladies. He was to come back to this on several occasions in the course of his career, and even down to his last years (The Maiden Queen, 1667; The Spanish Friar, 1681; Love Triumphant, 1694); but for a time, it is upon heroic tragedy, properly so called, that his effort is almost exclusively concentrated; and in this we find his most brilliant work: The Indian Empres, 1667: Almanzor and Almahide, or The Conquest of Granada, in two parts 1669 and 1670; Aureng-Zebe, 1675.
It is easy enough to judge these dramas, provided one examines them in themselves, and avoids comparing them with the very different ideal of French classical tragedy. They are, first and foremost, Romantic; in this sense, they would approximate to the English theatre of the Renascence; but their Romanticism is impoverished by the exclusive preoccupation of producing a single kind of effect, just as it does not escape being shackled, for all that, by a the new attention to rules (3). If one had to look for analogies in Elizabeth's time, they would be found in the Tamburlaine of Marlowe, rather than anywhere else. The aim of these plays is to give to sensibility, imagination, and the senses strong impressions of a surprising and superhuman grandeur. In France, Corneille also, it is true, had based tragedy upon admiration; but he had put all the intellectual quality of his Cartesianism into the emotion of a soul overwhelmed by the beauty of noble sacrifices; esteem, with him, was the fruit of a reason sublimated into moral passion, and in this way it bound up the desires of the heart with the decisions of conscience. And if the hero merited our entire sympathy, it was because his nobleness was a conquest, the reward of a cruel struggle against himself. All this subtlety and, it must be said, this idealism, are absent from Dryden's notion of heroism; this, no doubt, does not resolve itself completely into mere physical courage and great strokes of the sword; but its spiritual value seems to depend chiefly upon the lack of any struggle, and upon a victory immediately won over nature and the flesh.
Such a shifting of the centre of gravity gives back predominance to imagination and sensibility; and even with an Aureng-Zebe, the most inward of Dryden's heroes, the one in whom virtue is endued with the most distinctly psychological quality, one can say that generosity is the inborn and purely impulsive gift of temperament. It is not certain but that this view may be after all the truet and the deepest: but here it has scarcely any philosophic value, as it is not the outcome of any deliberate choice; and above all, it has hardly any dramatic worth; its repeated affirmation, at moments of supreme crisis, rouses our adimiring wonder, rather than it touches us with a heartfelt admiration.
Other consequences are of a still more serious nature. If heroism has its way without a struggle, it is always equal to itself, with the result that there is a fatal resemblance between the heroes. This dramatic kind was so soon exhausted, because it is afflicted with an unconquerable monotony. Excluded from the core of the work, as from the characters, the element of variety seeks refuge in the incidents; the plot, and the material devices—exoticism, staging, machines, etc.—assume the importance which the superficial forms of Romantic drama have always given them. Finally, the style has to suffice for effects of intensity, which the purely moral force of conflicting sentiments cannot any longer supply; so that nobleness tends towards bombast, and vigour towards frenzy. This inner degeneration of false grandeur, on the stage, is so constant, and such a commonplace, that it is unnecessary to dwell upon it. Nothing is easier than to underline the defects of Dryden's heroic tragedies. Let it suffice to say that they are great, and such as one would expect.
But their outer and, as it were, surface Romanticism has the qualities of its defects. A certain imaginativa infection emanates from these dramas; they transport the mind into a domain of superiority that is somewhat unreal, but where it is not unpleasant to let one self be persuaded that one actually penetrates; life there has splendour and beauty; the suggestion of generosity which radiates from it may very well be hollow: in its intention it is true, and while it is felt to be illusory, one yields to it in a certain measure. A sincere Romanticism is never entirely a question of words; the reader of these plays finds himself moved at times, and moved in a manner that is inspiring. Lastly, the diction is almost always sonorous, often firm and nervous, with a dense, concentrated power which is evocative, just as much as it is expressive; it has even at times those sudden flashes of poetry which, lighting up the drama, reveal vast glimpses at one stroke. This style is by no means pure; it still drags along many a trace of bad taste—conceits, affected tricks of all kinds. But it is the style of a great writer, who, if he has not yet mastered his best form, is already himself.
The brilliant success of these dramatic ventures, in which he had no rival, despite the account to whicvh his competitors turned some ephemeral stage triumphs, seems to have inspired Dryden with a feeling of confidence in his own powers, which at times got the better of the sureness of his critical judgment. The dedication of The Rival Ladies to Lord Orrery (1664) not only justified the use of rhyme in tragedy, but even went to the length of recognizing in it a useful and necessary check on the exuberance of the poet's imagination.
No doubt, the celebrated Essay of Dramatic Poesy (1668), in dialogue form, of never-flagging interest, brings to the discussion of the problems of drama the breadth of view which Corneille had exemplified in his Examens and Discours. Here Dryden shows the most original and permanent groundwork of his thought; that realistic understanding of the special qualities and claims of the English national art, in which his incertitudes were finally to find rest. He explains here very skilfully the diverse aspects of the truth; the advantages of the ancients, and those of the moderns; the foundation of the unities and of the rules in nature, and the eminent virtues of the French theatre. While he borrows something from all those theses, including the last, he pays a warm tribute to Shakespeare, Fletcher, and Jonson, and praises them, not only for their substantial accord with the rules, but also for the free genius which has permitted them to find these in themselves. Nor is his justification of rhyme in any way dogmatic; it was not necessary, he says, to our fathers, if we prefer it to-day; and its relative constraint answers to the self-ruling emotion of a more conscious art; the rhythmic scheme, besides, must be free, varied by enjambments and half-lines.
But the epilogue to the second part of The Conquest of Granada flatters the public at the expense of the just claims of the past: a more polished age knows merits which were unknown to a rude epoch, and to a yet unrefined language; a Dryden is a better poet than a Jonson, since his audience demands more from him. . . . These remarks having called forth some epigrams, Dryden repeated his argument in the Essay on the Dramatic Poets of the Last Age (1672), in which the superior merits of the present are established by means of a too facile enumeration of the faults which spoil, for example, the 'vulgar' diction of Measure for Measure or The Winter's Tale. . . . Thus, at the summit of his dramatic career, and championing a form of art which, he affirms, is 'the most pleasing that the ancients or the Moderns have known,' Dryden does not rise above the common thought of his time.
Such a success, however, had in it something artificial. The taste for the 'heroic' is still very strong at the beginning of the Restoration; but it is contradicted by the cynicism and the critical spirit of a rational age; while the first tendency, here rather superficial, is a survival of the past, the second is in deep harmony with political and moral realities, and has the future on its side. Great sentiments and paraded virtues form a strange accompaniment to the mockery of Hudibras. The frivolous, skeptical public which relished Butler, without always understanding him, and which applauded the light comedy of the Restoration, could not raise itself for long, even were it through a complacent imagination, to the sublimity of Almanzor (Conquest of Granada). Early enough, the dry irony of the period revolted against a dramatic kind, which, stiffened in an attitude of affected pretentiousness, offered itself as a broad and defenseless target for ridicule. Soon after 1660 George Villiers, Duke of Buckingham (4), formed the project of writing a satirical play in which the bragging note of the new drama would be scoffed at; he had collaborators, among whom, it is said without any solid proof, was Butler himself. D'Avenant or Sir Robert Howard was, at first, to be parodied, but the repeated triumphs of Dryden pointed him out as a fitter object for attack, and it is he especially, under the name of Baye (5), whom The Rehearsal (1671) assails.
The hero, Drawcansir, is a replica of Almanzor: very obvious allusions are aimed at the personages, situations, and themes of Dryden's theatre, or of other writers. A work of rather mediocre fancy, devoid of any moral bearing or deep artistic motives, the play is often witty and amusing; some hints have the direct accuracy which results from a sharp perception of exaggerations or incongruities; and the harmony of the thesis with a certain average good sense lends it a force that it does not owe fully to its merit. Hatefuld and ridiculous, the portrait of Bayes is too scathing to harm Dryden, who was wise enough not to see himself in it. But despite its scurrility, the comic vein in The Rehearsal sprang from the very nature of things, and served its purpose.
It did not kill heroic drama. For ten years, said Buckingham, we have listened to rhyme, and not to reason: 'Pray let this prove a year of prose and sense.' The wish was perhaps granted; but after an interval in which he had taken up in prose the defence of his Almanzor, Dryden wrote Aureng-Zebe. This play, it is true, already marks a transition towards another ideal. In it the tragic element is purer, and one has been able to discover in it a distant influence of the sober art of Racine. Despite its numerous shortcomings, the style has often a classical restraint; the versification shows more freedom, and blank verse even reappears in places. The character of Aureng-Zebe, with its nobleness and gentleness of a knight without reproach, is almost a fine thing. On the other hand, the comic elements are developing, less, it seems, in the direction of tragi-comedy, than towards the unconsciously imitated model of Shakespearian drama; the happy ending decidedly takes us away from heroic tragedy. Finally, in the prologue, Dryden says that he is tired of rhyme, confesses that he is full of shame 'at Shakesepare's sacred name,' and marks his own place between two periods of poetry, 'the first of this, and hindmost of the last.' The return for the deeper inspirations of national temperament could not be more clearly indicated.
The decisive proof was not long in coming (All for Love, 1678). But in a dramatic species akin to that which he abandoned from now onwards, Dryden was still going to produce an interesting work. His career, moreover, folows a sinuous line, full of such turns. The Spanish Friar (1681) has all the characteristics of tragi-comedy; two plots are combined in it, one principal and tragic, the other comic and secondary (this latter, in fact, being here the better part of the play, as it is the more developed); and Dryden justifies this mixture in principle (Dedication of the work) by arguments in which is expressed the innate preference of English genius for the mixed forms of dramatic art. Besides, he upbraids the turgidness of a style that is falsely heroic, and makes no exception in the case of his own Conquest of Granada. Lastly, the piece is written in blank verse and in prose. Thus the evolution of his taste is leading him to greater sobriety, as to a deliberate independence of 'rules.' In spite of the momentary variations of his thought, chiefly in the expression which he gives it, he has henceforth found a fixed centre to revolve upon.
Heroic tragedy, meanwhile, was reaching the final stage of decay, dying from an inner exhaustion which Buckingham's satire does not seem to have much hastened. The Empress of Morocco by Settle (1673) had been very successful; The Destruction of Jerusalem by Crowne (1677) did not reawaken the languishing interest of the public. While the influence of the heroic kind is still to be felt in Otway and in Lee, it is with them permeated by a very different spirit, which leads us back towards older and deeper elements of English dramatic tradition.
4. Comedy: Etherege, Wycherley, Shadwell, etc.—
Restoration comedy came into being just as early as heroic tragedy. It was no less a natural issue of the general influences of the time, and it was still better able to satisfy contemporary tastes. The spirit of comedy is essentially a social thing; it develops through the reciprocal observation of characters, the refining of the critical sense, the fixing of conventional values. A court, a society that prided themselves upon their intellectual elegance, would make mockery fashionable: does it not call forth all the vivacity of with, the gift of joking, the art of neat speech? All the circumstances which favoured satire, also favoured the satirical notation of manners; and the stage offered the easiest as well as the most pleasing field for the collective exercise of ridicule. So that from 1660 onwards there is a revival of Ben Jonson's 'humours,' as much as of Fletcher's dramas. After several tentative efforts, Etherege and Wycherley create, in different but analogous moulds, the new type of comedy.
Before them, some attempts had been made, where most often is still felt the paramount influence of Ben Jonson, but where other traits are discernible, called into being by the new circumstances.
During the first years which followed the Restoration, one satirical theme dominates all others: the raillery aimed at the fallen Puritan régime. Such was the trend of the deep reaction of the national spirit; and the playwrigths, who had been silenced by their adversaries, were even less incluned than others to pardon them. Therefore, a whole group of plays, with or without the accompaniment of orthodox Royalist sentiments, give vent to a sconrful condemnation of religious and moral hypocrisy (6). Among them is to be noted the work which reveals the vigorous talent of John Wilson (The Cheats, 1662). Here is a full-flavoured, realistic commentary on the great Puritanic fraud, which makes one think of Butler. As in Hudibras, the pious pretence of the preacher, Scruple, is bound up with other vices or other lies which group themselves naturally round it: the usury and sneaking corruption of Alderman Whitebroth, the charlatanry of the astrologer doctor Mopus; and the casuistry, implicit or open, which had been the outcome of the great effort of the 'saints' to build up life on the repression of instinct, is denounced by the very arguments of Pascal (7).
Dryden, meanwhile, turns first of all his versatile talent to comedy (The Wild Gallant, 1663); the play is mediocre, and this first dramatic attempt does not even hold much promise for the future. This was not the field in which he was to win his triumphs; but one must not take him at his word when, in his critical treatises, he declares that he is incapable of achieving any success in it (A Defence of an Essay of Dramatic Poesy, 1668); the comic scenes of The Spanish Friar show that he knew how to impue such work with racy verve and a quality of genuine invention (8). However the case may be, in the intervals of drama-writing, Dryden managed to pen several comedies. Here he displays an even more marked freedom of tone than in his tragedies; the more noticeable, as he claims not to use the gross methods of farce; and as his diealogue sometimes, for instance in Marriage-à-la-Mode, has brilliance and drollery.
Immediately after Dryden's earliest attempts, the first play of Sir George Etherege (9) was staged; and a truly new note was struck this time. Restoration society, with its cynical, frivolous elegance, bore in itself the suggestion and at least the confused ideal of a light and witty art, where comedy, freed from all moralizing realism as from all doctrinal intention, was no longer anything else than the mocking image of a carefree life. To catch these manners in their actual colouring, to attribute to them only the character that is essentially theirs, and to diversify their immorality with the lively variations of fancy, was at the same time to give a picture of them, to extract their philosophy, and to satirize them in the only way that was fit. In order to have the intuitive sense of this attitude, and of the resources it offered to art, a poet must possess a personal experience and the love of fashionable life, the keen perception of finer shades, the gift of expression. Etherege has all the sprightly ease, and intimate knowledge of the elegant world, called for in this type of the comedy of manners. A born writer, he sojourns in France, where he steadies and still further sharpens his faculty for irony and epigram.
Is it possible that he there became acquainted with the work of Molière, and owed something to his influence? This has not been proved. But in the vivacity of turn, the easy dialogue, a certain sober precision, his work bears the very evident mark of french influence. The originality of Etherege comes, above all, from his temperament; still, his temperament could but be encouraged, developed in a literary atmosphere with which it offered such complete affinities.
The perfection of this type, however, is not reached at one stroke. The Comical Revenge is an unequal play, still encumbered by an admixture of tragi-comedy; the parts written in rhymed verse are feeble, but the prose moves with a very pretty deftness. The work is already quite artificial, without substance, but animated by a felicitous touch of gay cynicism and lightheartedness; while the character of Sir Frederick Frollick is the first sketch of the impertinent young fop who is destined to be the favourite hero of Restoration comedy. She Would if She Could marks a decisive progress; the writer has found himself, and is conscious of what he wants and of what he can do. It is entirely and unreservedly the piquant mockery of fashionable vices, the occasion for a satire that is evidently working hand in hand with what it pretends to be engaged in condemning. The tone is still more cynical, the liberty of language more light and witty. Although the dissimulated coarseness only breaks out in sudden and brutal sallies, the abdication of all moral exigencies will never be more complete. The Man of Mode is the example of an art that has reached the perfection of its form, and in which the poverty of the matter, of observation, is revealed in a somewhat dry precision of outline. In contrast with Sir Fopling, the exquisite infatuated with French fashions, Dorimant represents a more subdued and more national replica of the same type; for already the reaction of patriotic instincts against the excess of foreign influence is here perceptible, as in the theatre of Wycherley also. But the coxcomb is buoyed up by a disdainful gaiety of ridiculous spirit, and impudent liveliness, which blunt the edge of comedy; and the satire is lost in the entertainment of a fastidious irony.
The resemblance to the brilliant, fine art of Congreve is striking; and one would be tempted to over-emphasize the fact, if one did not notice in Etherege a more forward note of disrespect, a more pronounced debauchery in thought, something younger, and also a less sustained brilliance. There is also a suggestion, in certain words, of a secret sense of the validity of cynicism, and, as it were, of an ill-satified longing of the heart. But this is only in a kind of farther background, and scarcely perceptible.
Congreve was to take up the comedy of Etherege, and enrich it, raising it still higher. The inspiration which animates the robust and biting plays of Wycherley (10) is quite different. With him, satire remains just as far from an austere ideal, and and lets itself be carried away by the enthusiasm of a gay immorality; but the game is no longer self-satisfying. The elements of an inner protestation show themselves: the revolt of a strong personality, with an inner bent to bitterness, against the madness which is sweeping it along, and which it judges while giving itself up to it. In the realism of Wycherley there is a violence in which can be seen, not an exasperated cynicism, but the impetuosity of a scorn, all the more frank in that it has no apperances to save, and does not except itself from what it condemns. It is the elementary moral reaction of a nature that is not wholly bereft of all sense of a moral life. To venture farther would be hazardous; nothing in Wycherley reveals a romantic sensibility; and his gaiety is not the ironical mask that would serve to conceal a secret melancholy. But one has too often erred in the opposite direction: one has only searched in his workd for a baseness of soul and the cold desire of scandal. The coarseness of his plays is at once due to the observation of manners, to the desire to please public taste, and to the insulting mockery of that taste as of those manners. And if finally, a play, the intention of which is not by any means dishonourable, happens to be far from edifying, it is because the author, like the society to whom he addresses himself, has lost the very sense of delicacy and shame.
In this lies first the interest of Wycherley's work. He fulfilled all the necessary conditions to give a true picture of a social reality that was limited, particular, but intensely characteristic: he was a man of the world, part and parcel of its life; and, on the other hand, his temperament had sufficient solidity to ensure him his independence, a personal angle of vision, distinct from that of the rake, similar enought to that of the average man. Less indolent and less of a dilettante than Etherege, he paints in stronger colours, and lends a greater relief to everything; and what his art emphasizes is just the original traits of his epoch, drawn with a touch both frank and insolent.
His comedy thus shows us a state of manners, the field of which, narrow in itself, requires defining—the court, the fashionable circles of the capital—but the example of which radiates even to the farthermost parts of the provinces, and there creates, as it were, superficial contagions; attracts to it, on the other hand, moral elements of the same nature; and so plays well the part of that typical form of civilization in which an age can most often be summed up. Young noblemen, dressed in the French style, beribonned and bewigged, straining after wit and very susceptible about their honour; ladies for whom face patches and rouge have no longer any secret, and provocative beneath the enigma of their masks; burgesses, as greedy as they are crafty, anxious, and not without reason, about the chastity of their wives; plays, pleasure haunts, fashionable groves and gardens; suggestive conversations, intrigues, billets-doux, and appointments—it is like a fairly brilliant copy, but overcharged and carried to a brutal licentiousness of gallant life such as the personal tastes of Louis XIV encouraged. Wycherley has described all this in a lively, animated, coloured picture, no doubt intensified by the optics of the stage, but in no way exaggerated. There is skill and talent in the portrait, despite the fact that it is simple and even rough in its manner; and the painter has known how to bring in individual traits to set off general effects; how to catch, as for example in The Gentleman Dancing-master, the craze for foreign customs, French or Spanish; or, as in The Plain Dealer, the features of lawyers and of their victims.
The art of Wycherley, robust as it is, is often rudimentary. His plays have conspicuous faults. From the first to the last, no doubt, there is evidence of a marked progress towards the emancipation and purification of the form. The plot in Love in a Wood is of a quite superficial complexity, from which the succeeding comedies tend to free themselves. But the action is still moved by rather conventional springs, and develops according to rhythms that are expected and monotonous; the tricks of construction are crude. There is no very fine psychology in the delineation of character, and it is rarely that the personges cannot be summed up in one single trait. The best known, such as Widow Blackacre (Plain Dealer), are the puppets of too obvious automatisms. Finally, the author's numerous borrowings, chiefly those he has taken from Molière, enable us to make comparisons which are not usually to his advantage. Whatever may be thought of The Plain Dealer, it seems difficult to see in it, as certain critics have seen, an improved replica of the Misanthrope.
But on the other hand, Wycherley has solid merits. The surest is the truth, the life of the dialogue, its self-impelling force which, as with Molière, makes one retort produce another, the verve of which infuses an irresistible movement into many scenes, and draws new effects from banal situations. The dryness of the moral atmosphere is at times mitigated by a breath of freshness, all too fugitive, and at certain moments, around the figure of Hippolita (The Gentleman Dancing-master). And the pleasant, gay play of wit, in some episodes where the pleasure-seekers vie with each other in conversation, comes upon us as a kind of release, which somewhat softens the crudity of the rest. But the most original quality in Wycherley, and the surest sign of the secret idealism of his thought, is the philosophy which instils an after-taste of healthy bitterness into the cynicism, and makes the character of the Plain Dealer, despite everything, a strong and personal creation; the symbol of a furious, incoherent, powerless anger of the traditional English temperament against the treachery of a refined corruption which captures it through the senses, dominates the intellect, and leaves nothing free save the fituful straining of its will. Popular instinct has not erred in the matter, much more than the rather subdued character of Freeman, the Philinte of Wycherley, it is Manly, a brutal and ferocious Alceste, who represents the confused, violent depth of his experience of life.
Restoration comedy is a fruitful kind of literature. Society furnished for the amusement of an idle public certain general oppositions, such as that of the fashionable circles, to which the greater part of the spectators belonged, and of the town middle class, which remained in the majority faithful to the spirit of Puritanism, and which the theatre shows us in the most palicious light. From those antitheses, and from the situations they naturally lead to; from the spectacle of elegant debauchery in its struggle with vulgar hypocrisy; from the theme of conjugal misfortune, above all, treated endlessly under all its aspects, are born the ordinary types of plot, to which the imitation of the foreign theatre brings the chance of renewal, and elements of particularity. Few of those plays are really of no value to the historian, so naïvely faithful is the testimony they bring concerning the manners or spirit of the epoch. A study of less limited proportions than the present would distinguish in them, besides the comedy of manners—the most interesting—that of 'humours' derived from Jonson; that of plot for its own sake, imitated from Spain; that in which farce is the dominant element; lastly, that in which we have a foretaste of sentimental seriousness.
Several works, however, cannot be passed over in this rapid survey: The Mulberry Garden (1668) of the poet Charles Sedley (11), which, with its amusing figures of young coxcombs, its witty repartees, continues the first efforts of Etherege, and seems to mark the transition between them and the earlier works of Wycherley; Epsom Wells (1672), The Squire of Alsatia (1688), and Bury Fair (1689), of Shadwell (12), plays heavily written, clumsily constructed, but curious on account of the picture they give of realistic scenes—watering-places, the lower life of London, popular festivals; The Rover, or the Banished Cavaliers, a play in two parts (1677-80) by Mrs. Behn (13), who with her varied production, her coloured descriptions, her lively dialogue, her adumbration of feminism, her relative decency of bearing, is an original figure in the literature of the time; and The Country Wit (1676), Sir Courtly Nice (1685), of John Crowne (14), where the invention is rather droll, and the tone still very far from delicate, but where the political themes, the moralizing intentions, reveal in a way the secret working of minds.
Very diverse elements, for the most part borrowed, and associated indifferently in a loose action; feebly conceived characters, who almost always can be reduced to types so often repeated as to become conventionsl; verve, movement, sometimes wit, a comic power, exterior but undeniable; realism, scurrility, licentiousness; all of it significant, artistically poor, but rich in documentary value; such is, generally speaking, the comedy of the Restoration, as soon as the two or three main personalities are left out of account.
5. The National Reaction in Drama: Dryden, Lee, and Otway.—
Between 1675 and 1680 a marked renascence of the national spirit reveals itself in English literature. The inevitable reaction of the deeper instincts against the excess of worldly corruption, and the very first signs of a moral awakening; the political opposition to the government of Charles II, the Protestant unrest, the agitation which precedes and accompanies the Popish Plot; the shame of the subjection, suspected, if not fully known, of the English monarchy to France, and the fear inspired by the ambition of Louis XIV; lastly, the fatigue which was at length provoked by the dominating influence of French art and fashions; all contribute to this secret movement towards the re-possession and re-assertion of the national self, which will not henceforth be checked, and of which the Revolution of 1688 will be the decisive success. This reaction is clearly visible in the drama, and more especially can be seen in the work of Dryden.
Some signs, at an early date, had pointed to it. Side by side with heroic tragedy, so steeped in a foreign spirit, could be found the survival of the Elizabethan tradition, very ill understood it is true; an new authors had tried to revive it. Here again we come upon the name of John Wilson. His Andronicus Comnenius (1664) is a forcible drama, of a concentrated intensity, of a firm style, which by striking analogies recalled Shakespeare's Richard III, and through its merits bears such a comparison without dishonour; in order to be classed as worthy of Shakespearian lineage, it lacks only the highest poetic imagination. Save for a very short passage, it is written in blank verse, of fine quality.
The return to blank verse is the sign of the decisive evolution in the dramatic career of Dryden. Scarcely three years after Aureng-Zebe, he is treating a subject upon which Shakespeare has placed his mark; and without plagiarizing, through the very force of his personality, he extracts from it a tragedy, the merit of which may have been exaggerated, but which wins our keen approval, if not our admiration (All for Love). 'In my style, I have professed to imitate the divine Shakespeare; which that I might perform more freely, I have disencumbered myself from rhyme' (Preface). The verse, indeed, if it has not yet all the desirable ease, gains from this liberation a suppleness of movement, in which English criticism seems rightly to see a necessary condition of tragic style.
At the same time, Dryden's critical essays reveal the change that has taken place in his thought. The preface he wrote for his adaptation of Troilus and Cressida (The Grounds of Criticism in Tragedy, 1679), shows throughout a just, strong, and yet qualified appreciation of all the greatness of Shakespeare. Between the classical doctrine, derived from Aristotle, explained by Le Bossu and Rapin in France, and by Rymer in England, to which Dryden wishes to remain faithful, and, on the other hand, the technique of the Elizabethan Romanticists, he here establishes a deliberate reconciliation. The irregularities of Shakespeare are admitted, accounted for from the point of view of his time; and the superiority of his genius is established in relation whether to the moderns or to his contemporaries Fletcher and Jonson, or even to the ancients. And in the eyes of Dryden, it is Shakespeare, no doubt, who is thus reunited with the true classicism, of which he appears as the supreme representative; but, in fact, classicism thus broadened is no longer the ideal which English tragedy during the last twenty years had seemed to follow; for Dryden places the deeper vitality of the Shakespearian plays in the creation of characters, and this creation is the work of intuition, not of analysis. Such an inner difference betrays the essential divergence of the two arts, and is reflected in other planes—that of action as that of form. To exalt Shakespeare to the highest degree of dramatic genius, is to propose a model other than that of the unities as understood in France; and of these unities, Dryden now admits but a broad and free application. He claims that the mind of the English requires the mixture of comedy and tragedy (Preface to Don Seebastian).
Even to the close of his life his critical doctrine was subject to fluctuation; and his practice was to be in no wise different. The last twenty years of his career are very mixed: already Troilus and Cressida remodelled Shakespeare rather irreverently; an opera, Albion and Albanius (1685), and a dramatic opera, King Arthur (1691), appear to be little less than sacrifices to contemporary taste. A drama, Cleomenes (1692) is conceived and written, with a certain nobility and purity of line, in close imitation of French tragedy. But these various forms are animated by a new spirit of freedom and artistic virility, to which the use of blank verse, henceforward strictly adhered to (save in opera), only gives a tangible expression. This spirit is to be found concentrated in the tragic parts of The Spanish Friar; and, above all, in a fine drama, Don Sebastian (1690), where the action undoubtedly still recalls tragi-comedy, but where serious scenes, of a sober pathos, alternate without clashing with episodes of frank and crude gaiety. This play is, perhaps, the model of what the dramatic art of Dryden could produce; it is a Romantic work, but of a high Romanticism, and in it are to be felt broad horizons of thought as of heart.
Other writers obey the same influences at the same time. Between 1675 and 1685 we witness a momentary revival of the English drama of the national type, or rather, of a mixed type, in which the national element becomes again more consciously essential. The tragedies of Crowne (Thyestes, 1681, etc.) are hardly to be connected with the Elizabethan tradition, save in the rather clumsy search for effects of imaginative horror. With Lee and Otway, the connection is more brilliantly patent.
Nathaniel Lee (15) is a singular and pitiable figure. The stamp of an unbalanced nature is upon his talent and his work. His short existence was darkened by mental troubles, his end hastened by excesses. He seems to have led, like Wycherley in his youth, a life of feverish excitement and pleasure; and like him, to have reaped from it a sense of bitter disgust (Dedication to The Rival Queens). But this duality of soul is here much more pronounced, and Lee is properly speaking a Romanticist.
He is, above all, a belated Elizabethan. In him reawakens the temperament of some among the decadent dramatists of the Renascence, with their tendency to frenzy and morbidity. This revival is natural; but one also feels it to be, in some measure, artificial or at least voluntary, stimulated by a fashion of the day, by the success of heroic tragedy. This is the kind in which Lee makes his first attempts; then, at the same time as Dryden, he modifies his manner, and adopts blank verse. We really have here the rejection of a discipline, and the return to more instinctive habits. The Rival Queens, Mithridates, Lucius Junius Brutus may have found their subjects in ancient history (or in the contemporary French novel), and make a naïve display of erudition: one cannot conceive of plays less classical. The construction is weak, the psychology almost always rudimentary; and the style, setting aside the work of twenty years, is full of a bombast, a euphuism, a bad taste, whicvh take us back to the eve of the Restoration.
This impulsive liberty spends itself in fiery flights of imagination. The images of Lee are of an extravagant audacity, and animated by an extraordinary sensual ardour. At intervals this frenzy becomes more sober, or better inspired, and then we are surprised by effects of energy, of suggestive power, of poetry, which recall the Elizabethans in a striking way. Or at times the East is evoked with warmth and a grace that are young and full of fancy, recalling the touch of Marlowe. But these flashes of intuitive, spontaneous art are rare; the texture of the plays is of an almost purely verbal intensity, the exaggeration and monotony of which are extremely fatiguing. And in spite of all, the literary consciousness of an already critical age, the atmosphere of reason in which these furies resound, communicate to them something indefinably paradoxical. It seems safe to suppose that Lee's sickly, nervous exaltation is the genuine tone of his sensibility; but he lets himself go without the least control and loses all idea of measure or decency. The way in which he has transposed the Princesse de Clèves is a scandal in art. His work remains interesting as a psychological problem; aided by the playing of great actors, his violence found favour on the stage; but if the renascence of national tradition had not had any other expression, it is not certain that it would have been fruitful. . . .
The still somewhat feverish, but more balanced talent of Otway (16) has better justified this rebirth, and given it its masterpiece in drama. His career, parallel with that of Lee, traverses fairly analogous phases; if he adopts blank verse at a slightly later date, it is as the result of a ripe decision, and in full possession of himself. Among his heroic tragedies, Don Carlos has some merit; but his other attempts are negligible, and everything is eclipsed by the two dramas, The Orphan and Venice Preserved, the brilliant and the durable success of which still assures their author a living fame. It is even permissible to think that the first of these plays is, really, not on a par with the second. Venice Preserved is a unique achievement, and must be looked upon as such; a solitary work, unequalled in the half-century which preceded it, or the century which came after. Its importance in literature is none the less for this; because it remains exceptional by its quality, it is not so by the inspiration that animates it. The tragic temperament of Otway is a last emergence of the Elizabethan vein, on which the various influences of the time have strongly left their mark. It is not of a different nature from that of Lee; it unites scattered tendencies; one might say that it eminently represents the short and late reawakening of the dramatic genius of the Renascence. It is significant that the Restoration, in its troubled and still ill-assured rationalism, should have experienced such a survival of the Romantic past.
The most curious feature of the work is the intimate and coherent fusion of this Romanticism with something at least of the classical spirit. Despite the frenzied outbursts of Venice Preserved, there is evidence of a certain disciplining of the intellect. The intense pathos of the drama is carried on, managed, according to a clever progression, though at times it goes beyond the limits of moral sensibility, and has recourse to wholly physical means. Otway's rhetoric is able to adapt itself to the jerks, the sudden breaks of a passionate, breathless dialogue. His verse, more unequal and rough than that of Lee, has solid merits. There is a sequence, as there is a depth, in the characters. The play is really built upon a psychological base: it is the tragedy of friendship, stronger and higher than love. The action, rapid and concentrated, leads on to an inevitable catastrophe; a bitter, sad emotion radiates from each stage in the unfolding of the fate at work, even if the painting of tenderness and of its sorrows appeals less to the heart than to the nerves.
Despite weak points, lengthy passages, some rant, the play as a whole preserves a fine artistic bearing. The violent, cruel realism of the comic parts, where, under the name of Antonio, the Earl of Shaftesbury is put on the stage, does not destroy the somber atmosphere of the drama; and the effect of harmony through contrast is faithful to the very essence of Shakespearian aesthetics. The most penetrating note of the work is a kind of bitter pessimism, whose personal, tormented accent is explained by the life of Otway, by his unfortunate passion for Mrs. Barry, and his approaching death.
VII. The Transition
1. Limits and Features of the Period.—
The reign of William III (1688-1702) forms a transition in literature. The characteristics of the preceding period continue to be dominant, but in part tend to weaken. Along with these, some new traits appear. One feels that influences are at work, preparing deep changes. They but slightly modify the moral physiognomy of the Restoration, to begin with; they further the definitive advent of classicism, in its completed form. But beyond this immediate action, one already perceives the silent inner working of a force which will progressively overthrow the order of literary values.
The closing years of the Restoration were restless with a feeling of political instability. A hidden or open struggle was being waged between the principle of absolute authority in State and Church, and the idea of tolerance and constitutional liberty. The Revolution of 1688 puts an end to to this crisis. It decrees that henceforth there shall be substituted for the will of one man that of the ruling classes, as incarnated in Parliament, and that the privilege of the Anglican worship shall not extend to the legal interdiction of other cults. Behind this decree, which shapes the course of English history for two centuries, there is to be seen a shifting of the centre of social gravity. The upper middle class of business men and financiers forces its alliance upon the hereditary nobility; it obtains the division of power, and, as a new-comer, immediately makes its own preferences felt. Society after 1688 remains aristocratic; but the spirit of the middle classes begins to impregnate its tone and its manners.
This moral contagion does not spread in a day; it is opposed by the persistence of the former tone, which it limits or destroys. The fashionable and cultured world, from which the literary public is recruited, remains longer than the mass, from which the literary public is recruited, remains longer than the mass of the nation under the sway of the cynical habits of the preceding age. Artistic traditions will survive for some time the needs which called them into being. Hence the hesitant character of the 'transition' that is now defining itself; as yet it is only a Restoration toned down, relaxed, in which one perceives the germs of a a more complete transformation.
In the psychological order of thins, which is probably the most profound and explicative, the tendencies of a rational phase are not abolished ; but in certain directions intellectualism is being sobered, if in others it remains the same; and in aprt of its domain, modes of thought and feeling directly opposed to directly opposed to it are revealing themselves. The empiricism of Locke replaces the fearless logic of Hobbes; Congreve's comedies succeed those of Wycherley; mediocre but worthy poets begin to pen edifying lines. The moralizing taste of the middle class is there, growing conscious of itself, not as yet daring, but preparing and waiting for its hour. The first appearance of the sentimental play dates from these very years, before the turn of the century; the attack of Collier on the immorality of the stage coincides with it. In vain does Vanbrugh try to revive the insolent laughter of a disrespectful generation, and Toland foreshadow the offensive of deism against orthodoxy. A certain free, bold air, brilliant and at the same time coarse, now vanished from literature as from life; the careless, disreputable revel of the Restoration has come to an end.
2. Locke and Philosophical Empiricism.—
In 1688, Locke (17) is fifty-six years old; but as yet he has scarcely published anything. The Revolution realizes his hopes, and enables him to give full expression to his ideas. From every point of view, he must be looked upon as the representative of the age when constitutional liberty and tolerance take definite shape.
The system of Hobbes is an extreme, almost exceptional form of English thought; that of Locke is an average form of it, broadly founded upon the instincts and desires of practical men who are prepared to find complexities in truth, and anxious to adapt themselves flexibly to what exists. It is a preliminary motive of prudence and wisdom that is at the source of his Essay on the Human Understanding; before dogmatically solving thorny problems, and pitting doctrine against doctrine, we must assure ourselves as to what man is able to know; the critical attitude of mind here springs from an experimental good sense. It is a genuinely English tendency, also, which shows itself in the negation of any innate idea, if not of any innate activity of consciousness. The world is built up of the work of reflection upon the simple data of perception; and all the adventurous and often verbal wranglings of a scholastic philosophy vanish before the cold, clear light of a notion of mental life which modern psychology has singularly outdistanced, but the realism of which at that epoch was fruitful. General concepts originate in the operation of thought on the particular; and essential certitudes are founded; our 'ego,' by a direct intuitional feeling; the existence of God, by a rational demonstration; that of nature, by the repeated perception of its sensible characteristics.
In this, no doubt, we have only a relativist theory of knowledge; if geometry, that ideal science, which is a product of the mind itself, retains all its solidity, the science of nature is no longer anything else than a probable linking-up of empirical observations. Such a conclusion was a discomfort to traditional philosophy, and almost an avowal of impotence. But Locke is not in the least perturbed by it. The probability of natural sequences is sufficient for our intellectual desires, since it suffices for our needs; the normal use of our faculties is to employ them for the preservation and conduct of our lives. If knowledge is necessary, it is with a view to action.
The rest of Locke's doctrines is a series of practical applications of empiricism. His political theory, like that of Hobbes, admits a primitive state of nature and a social contract; but instead of simplifying these notions and developing their logical consequences to the farthest possible limit, Locke turns to the observation of facts—contemporary facts—and here he discovers another 'nature.' Individuals are born free; they are subject to one law, that of moral behaviour. As this law is not always respected, citizens of the same state delegate the judicial powers to certain representatives; this delegation, limited and revocable, implies reciprocal obligation; and government is but a public service. Ths spirit of the English constitution could not be more accurately defined. As for property, it is fournded, at least originally, upon labour. The economic theory of Locke is liberal, and sees the sources of English prosperity in commerce.
In theology, there is the same tranquil respect shown to facts—to these facts, the Scriptures and the moral needs of conscience. Questioned by a reasoning mind, which wants to find rules and motives of action, the Bible teaches a quite reasonable Christianity. In this atmosphere of lucid, calm belief, how could tolerance not be born? Experience shows us the varied nature of sects; religion is a purely personal matter; a church is a free grouping of believers; let all the churches therefore be given their liberty, with one reserve, the security of the State. The law will only intervene to ensure the observation of the social pact. The Roman Catholic and the atheist, according to Locke, thus find themselves, throught their own fault, debarred from tolerance. . . . Finally his pedagogy emphasized the practical virtues of education, as a formative agent of character; prefers the tuition of life to that of the universities; protests against the traditional exercised of the schools; and finds the best instrument of culture in the child's maternal language.
We have here no longer the intoxication of reason, the biting criticism of a Butler, or the ardent logic of a Hobbes; but a rationalism incorporated with the temperament itself, sobered, and interwoven with the exigencies of life. It is the properly English form of rationalism; and one feels that, by virtue of its calm, easy adaptability, it has no longer any of that fixity of principle, of that impassioned single-mindedness in the search for a systematic theory of the world, without both of which, in fact, there can be no pure rationalism. What Locke establishes is the original tradition of English philosophical empiricism; much more plainly than Bacon, he expresses the intellectual requirements of a people for whom the success of knowledge is the proof and substance itself of truth. It is not only among the utilitarians but among the pragmatists of to-day that one must look for the direct posterity of Locke.
A thinker of this temperament does not bring any art into the expression of his thought. The Essay on the Human Understanding is of a somewhat monotonous simplicity; in other parts of his work, the style does not lack animation nor even vigour; ut on the whole, Locke is not a writer. However, he has definitely brought within the reach of the educated public problems which had till then been inaccessible. As others with morality, he has popularized psychology, and some aspects, at least, of metaphysics.
3. Halifax and Opportunism.—
The same wisdom, practical, concrete, and so remarkably modern, constitutes the originality of Halifax (18) among the moralists and political writers.
An aristocrat, statesman, and man of the world, he possesses a wide and penetrating experience of life; he interprets it in a style of compact brevity, rich in implicit meaning, which recalls La Rochefoucauld and La Bruyère. But instead of a strained, brilliant style, whose aim is effect, we find in his work more simplicity, a veiled irony, a calmer and franker acceptance of the hundred and one petty human mediocrities. His moral pessimism, as cruel at bottom as that of Swift, is restrained and mitigated by the tolerance of resignation. His attitude is that of a man who wants to live and let live, without illusions, but without bitterness; and who instinctively seeks all that protects, sweetens, and safeguards the frail life of the individual or of the State—tranquil affections, reciprocal indulgence, a wise mean in everything, the respect of order. This philosophy is not the most noble, nor is it the most fruitful; but it is indeed the most natural to the social genius of the English people; and Halifax is a writer of a high representative value. His thought is too fine, his language too reserved, to permit of his being really popular: but his Advice to a Daughter was read throughout the eighteenth century; his Character of a Trimmer defined for the general public the doctrine of compromise upon which the Revolution of 1688 was about to take its stand. Reasonable, but not dry, bold without cynicism, he judges the problems of religion, like those of private conduct or of government, in a spirit of supple realism which is decidedly the special character of the closing years of the century.
4. Comedy: Congreve, Vanbrugh, Farquhar; Collier's Criticism.—
This character Restoration comedy could easily make its own; had it not established itself deliberately in the plane of realism? But the atmosphere has changed; and the brilliant talents which reveal themselves in the theatre after 1688 no longer ring with quite the same note as those of Wycherley and Shadwell.
The difference is at times slight; it is not, either, equally perceptible everywhere. Generally speaking, the plays of Congreve, Vanbrugh, and Farquhar show the persistence of a literary tone, by the force alone of an acquired habit, while the social realities that justified it have begun to change. These plays none the less, and in the strictest sense, belong to their time. Each author expresses in his own way the spirit of the transitional period.
In the case of Congreve (19), the connection to be established is rather subtle. His refined fancy starts with realism, outgrows it, and gives itself full scope in a domain of pure intellectual imagination. Irony, wit, an insolent verve, are all elements with which the Restoration had been familiar. But here they are combined, harmonized, through the virtue of a superior temperament of a writer and artist; the product of their fusion has a purity of matter, a delicacy of form, unknown to the Restoration. One feels that elegant raillery has now been bred in; that a new generation has risen which has this inborn gift, and carries it to perfection by means of conscious culture. One also feels that certain themes are worn out, and that comedy, from the pure and simple satire of manners, can now rise to their satirical idealization.
However interesting the first plays of Congreve may be, they form, each with its special traits, an artistic progression, leading up to one, the failure of which abruptly checked the career of a fastidious writer, but which is the masterpiece of his style, and of modern English comedy: The Way of the World. Here one must look, in a brief study such as this, for the features of an original art, of which only Etherege had given a sketch worthy to be compared with it.
A plot carefully contrived, but not too obviously artificial; contrasted effects, a repressed vigour which bursts out in certain realistic traits; moments of comic liveliness, and farcical scenes: such are the elements of variety which save the play from too constant a distinction, from too dry a preciosity. In this solid framework, which ofers nothing exceptional, psychological raillery and dialogue are displayed with incomparable brilliance. Congreve's heroes are animated by a greatness which is above circumstance, which seems to be its own end, to raise life higher than itself, and to carry the painting of character on to the plane of a poetic and charming creation. There is here, with a personal touch, with an accent of cynical impertinence in which one catches the ring of the epoch, a rapture of imagination recalling the early comedies of Shakespeare; at the same time idealized and strikingly true to life, Millamant and Mirabell are the decisive types of a passion which, welling up from the heart, intoxicates the brain with its light vapours, and excites the intellect without depriving it of its self-command. The exact and restrained skill of a master tones down the radiance of these figures, who come very near to the realm of romantic fancy, without actually entering it. At times the sparkle of the dialogue reminds one not only of Shakespeare, but of Marivaux, when in its finesse it sets about analysing sentiment; still, it is of a less highly quintessential turn than that of the French writer, and less uniformly busied with shades of meaning; it revels rather in impertinent sallies and witty diversions, aided by a wonderful gift for repartee and neat phrasing.
However intellectual, in fact, it may be at tis source, the art of Congreve would not show its full power, were it not for the exceptional felicity of a language in which, to tell the truth, nothing is left to chance. Behind that elegant exactness, that perfect propriety, that easy tone, that balanced and firm rhythm, very scrupulous care is bestowed upon details. No English writer has better possessed the natural art of making witty people speak, of lending to the most idle of their remrks the piquant touch of the unexpected; but here nature is enhanced by the most artistic desire to give each word its proper value, by the sense of its connection with its fellows, and of the general harmony in which it plays its part. Congreve's prose is the finest and the most brilliant of the age of classicism.
Capable of imbuing characters with life, a master of dialogue of style, has Congreve added to our knowledge of man? In this perhaps lies the weak point of an author who by virtue of several merits is equal to the greatest. But if the nonchalance of his temperament, and the lightness of his art, do not allow his comedy to penetrate veery deeply into the study of the human heart, it probes well below the surface. Without having the value of revelations, the analyses he gives us of the feminine soul, and of a certain conscious and seductive coquetry, are of a very precious quality. And from all his art there emanates, like a discreet suggestion, a softened and almost indulgent pessimism. With much less brutality, Congreve is more of the true cynic than Wycherley; in his more sober tints is depicted a deeper vice, which sinks to the very conscience, and snaps the spring of moral indignation. The only virtue which is held up to us—and it is perhaps in itself a sufficient antidote—is sincerity.
Shocked by this indifference to orthodox rules, the taste of posterity has been somewhat severe on Congreve; and Lamb, in order to save him from the common jurisdiction, has had to plead that his fancy is innocuous, because it creates in the realm of unreality.
The contemporaries of Congreve had not the intuition of this paradox, which conceals a truth. In his last play, he had to struggle against a revolt of the demands of morality—a reaction which in their entire careers Vanbrugh and Farquhar had to reckon with.
Ten years after the Revolution, a cleric, Jeremy Collier (20), published an indictment against the 'profaneness and immorality of the English stage.' Already the uneasiness of middle-class feeling at the cynicism in literature had allowed itself to be felt in various ways. But here the attack was direct, full, and authorized; the Church was rising in arms against the theatre, to defend not only morality, but further, and especially, religion and the clergy, which comedy had often placed in a compromising light. The work of Collier has nothing of the nature of a popular argument, simple and naïve; it is a regular denunciation, scholarly and pedantic, and based—only Aristophanes being excepted—on the example of the ancients, as on that of the French. Shakespeare, Dryden, Wycherley, D'Urfey, and most often Congreve and Vanbrugh, are taken to task. The sermon has weight, and Collier knows how to marshal his arguments; the intentional vehemence of his language avoids, generally speaking, the faults with which he reproaches his adversaries; but it is a sermon, and reveals a singular aesthetic incomprehension. The fundamental identity of art and morality is affirmed with a dogmatism that suppresses all problems, by forcing upon art very explicit moral ends. The reasons for the favour with which the painting of vice had been received among a large part of the public are not sought out. The hidden link which connects this diatribe, justified in many respects, but superficial and summary, with the feeling which the middle classes had of their growing influence, is seen in the satirical remarks which Collier passes upon the 'fine gentlemen'; in his defence of the 'rich citizens' against the gibes of the writers of comedy. . . .
The lists were now open. The authors involved did not refuse the challenge. They defended themselves by direct replies, and allusions in their prologues, epilogues, and prefaces; Dryden alone, confessed his faults, without, however, renouncing his principles. The history of this controversy cannot be summed up here. Its immediate influence has been, upon the whole, exaggerated. The tone of the English theatre shows no very appreciable change after the pamphlet of Collier; it will alter by degrees, and not by a unanimous movement, but along several lines; and the liberty of the stage will reassert itself more than once. But apart from the immediate object in view, and when studied in the light of the evolution of manners, these pages assume an historical value. They encouraged the rallying of ordinary opinion to the necessity of a reform; they were the centre of a veritable crusade against licentiousness both in literature and in life, which did not produce very deep effects, but reassured alarmed consciences, repressed some outstanding excesses, and created the atmosphere of moral order and balance indispensable to the advent of classicism. The transition here studied owes to it one of its characteristics.
The first play of Vanbrugh (21) had done much to call forth the ire of Collier. With The Relapse, in fact, freedom of verve and boldness of situation reach their limit. Here realism is again given full play, with a somewhat heavy touch, that tempts one to liken it to the brushwork of the Flemish masters; and one might also say that, setting aside the example of Congreve, it is to Wycherley that comedy returns if the tone of the play were not so different from that of The Plain Dealer. In place of a harsh, bitter vigour, we have here a force of invention and a Rabelaisian humour which spreads itself out, lively, huge, rollicking, sweeping off all the reserves of the spectator in an irresistible mirth. At bottom, there is behind this verve a pessimism of intelligence, a moral sincerity, a sanity of taste; and the work would not be properly understood, if one did not see in it at once a satire upon the new ideal of sentimentalism, already outlined by Cibber (22), and the trace of the hold that this ideal was exercising even then over rebellious temperaments, for some touches are intorduced in The Relapse with a view to sentimental effect. This, however, is only a secondary aspect; Vanbrugh, above all, reveals his wit, his humour, his joy of a builder who constructs his play of solid workmanship, and who in it—one hardly knows how—joins two plots in one. This vigour, which tends to mere brutality, develops frankly into such in The Provoked Wife, and singularly contradicts the edifying intentions which the author proclaims at times—perhaps under the influence of Collier, with whom he was even then bandying argument.
Viewed as a whole, Vanbrugh's comedies are above all valuable as studies in manners; not that they do not magnify reality, according to a system of deliberate exaggeration; but because they give us the deformation of the truth which the public accepted, and thus enlighten us as to the tastes and special bents of that public; while permitting us, when they are reviewed with other works, to form a probable opinion as to what the truth really was. A Sir Tunbely Clumsey, a Sir John Brute, a Miss Hoyden, are caricatures as much as types; but their interest is not less in one capacity than in the other.
It is permissible to find in Farquhar (23), despite his merits, a somewhat tame copy of the fine audacity of his predecessors. He also was born with the temperament of a writer of comedy, gifted with facility and talent; but he came under the full influence of the wave of sentimentalism, which seems to have shaken the inner conviction of his art. His first plays are very licentious; and to the end, they show a natural indelicacy, in keeping with the tone of the age. But although he thinks himself obliged, from time to time, to show fight against the attacks of Collier, one feels that at bottom he approves of the enemy's cause, and often he himself takes no trouble to disguise the fact. His Irish nature led him to mingle laughter and tears; but it would appear that the desire, perhaps unconscious, to flatter the tastes of the middle-class public, who were more and more asserting their own preferences, explains the deviation of his art towards sentimentality.
In order to do justice to Farquhar, one must not judge him from the same angle of vision as Congreve or Vanbrugh. The interest of his work lies in the expression of an attractive and sincere personality, despite the sacrifices which he chose to make to the fashion of the day; and it is also to be found in the varied nature of his inspiration, which has widened the field of the manners studied, bringing into it new aspects of society and life: the army, the highways and inns, the serious problems of the family, divorce, etc. A taste for nature and truth reveals itself there. He has, on the other hand, verve and wit, knows how to sketch a character, and build up a plot; but none of these qualities is outstanding. A likable man and writer, he lacks vigour, and his best moments do not attain to decisive originality.
Tragedy, however, did not show a vitality equal to that of comedy. By the side of Dryden in his old age, the period 1688 to 1702 saw no new talent arise, except the mediocre one of Southerne (24). The late revival of drama with Rowe is posterior by several years; and the middle-class spirit has not as yet followed up its invasion of cmedy by reaching the field of tragic art.
5. Poetry: Walsh, Garth, Blackmore, etc.—
The spirit of the transition is also represented in poetry, by a group of writers who share in certain common tendencies. None of them rises above an ordinary level of honourable talent; their merit lies more in their conscientiousness than in their inspiration; and this very mediocrity is a sign of the times.
Lustre is shed on the last years of the seventeenth century by one eminent poet, Dryden; but he no longer belongs, properly speaking, to this age. With Walsh, Pomfret, Garth, and Blackmore (25), something exterior to poetry itself comes into the foreground. One must not try to disvover too precise reasons in order to explain this interval between the generation of Dryden and that of Pope; chance, which did not bring Pope into the world some years earlier, is above all responsible. But in some measure, it can be explained by the atmosphere itself of a moment when the progress of technique and form on the one hand, and the moralizing preocuppations of the middle class, on the other, threaten to weigh down wnd damp the flight of poetic imagination.
So that there scarcely remains anything worthy of praise in these writers, save their intentions; the correct and polished regularity of the verse of Walsh; the soberness, the amiable good sense of Pomfret; the laboured imitation of the Lutrin, not without wit and skill, which Garth effected in his poem; and with Blackmore, a certain noble ambition, which is too frequently given over to edifying nonsense, and loses itself in arid deserts, but which shows itself capable upon occasion of vigour, of subtle and compact argumentation, of enthusiasm even, and eloquence. Neither the beauties of single passages, nor the occasional gleams of poetry, can redeem—despite the interest of these secondary figures, who show so well the passage from one epoch to antother, and who recompense an attentive study—the essential mediocrity of authors who just apply methods and formulae, or seek in the moral conscience alone the reasons for writing in verse.
(IV) Restoration theatre [to 1680s]. To be consulted: Beljame, Public et hommes de lettres en Angleterre, etc., 1897; Cambridge History of English Literature, vol. viii, chaps. V, VII; Canfield, Corneille and Racine in England, 1904; Charlanne, Influence française en Angleterre au XVIIe siècle, 1906; L. N. Chase, The English Heroic Play, 1903; Courthope, History of English Poetry, vol. iv, 1903; B. Dobrée, Restoration Comedy, 1660-1720, 1924; idem, Restoration Tragedy, 1929; Eccles, Racine in England, 1922; Fitzmaurice-Kelly, Relations between Spanish and English Literature, 1910; Genest, Some Account of the English Stage from the Restoration . . . to 1830, 10 vols., 1832; Hazlitt, Lecturs on the English Comic Writers, 1819; Harvey-Jellie, Les Sources du théâtre anglais de la Restauration, 1906; K. M. Lynch, The Social Mode of Restoration Comedy,1926; Macaulay, 'Essay on Leigh Hunt' (The Dramatic Works of Wycherley, etc.), 1841; Miles, The Influence of Molière on Restoration Comedy, 1910; Nettleton, English Drama of the Restoration, etc.,1914; A. Nicoll, History of Restoration Drama, 1660-1700, 1923; Palmer, The Comedy of Manners, 1913; Pendlebury, Dryden's Heroic Plays, 1923; H. T. E. Perry, The Comic Spirit in Restoration Drama, 1925; Restoration Plays,etc., introduced by Gosse (Everyman's Library), 1912; H. E. Rollins, 'A Contribution to the History of English Commonwealth Drama' (Studies in Philology, July 1921); Schelling, English Drama, 1914; A. H. Thorndyke, Tragedy, 1928; Ward, History of English Dramatic Literature, 1899.
(VII). The Transition. To be consulted: Ballein, Jeremy Collier's Angriff auf die englische Bühne, 1910; Beljame, Public et Hommes de Lettres, etc. 1897; Cambridge History of English Literature, vol. viii, Chaps. VI, XIV, XVI; vol. ix, Chaps. VI and VII; Charlanne, Influence française, etc. 1906; Gosse, From Shakespeare to Pope, 1885; W. Graham, The Beginnings of English Literary Periodicals, 1665-1715, 1926; J. W. Krutch, Comedy and Conscience after the Restoration, 1924; Meredith, An Essay on Comedy, etc., 1897; A. Nicoll, History of Restoration Drama, 1660-1700, 1923.
(1). A Midsummer Night's Dream is 'the most insipid, ridiculous play that ever I saw in my life' (29th Sept., 1662). Othello was only 'a mean thing' after The Adventures of Five Hours, by Tuke (20th Aug. 1666).–For Pepys and his diary, see below, Chap. V.
(2). An Essay of Heroic Plays, prefixed to The Conquest of Granada, 1672.
(3). In the preface to his Maiden Queen, Dryden presents the play as regular according to the strictest laws of drama.
(5). i.e. 'laurels'; Dryden was poet laureate from 1670.
(6). For example: The Rump, or The Mirror of the Late Times, by John Tatham, 1660; The Committee, by Sir Robert Howard, 1665, etc.
(7). The Provincials had been translated into English as early as 1657 and 1658. From the same John Wilson, in 1665, we have a comedy, The Projectors, which is strangely analogous to the Avare of Molière (1668), a coincidence that cannot be explained by the common imitation of Plautus. The problem requires investigation.
(8). Sir Martin Mar-all, adapted from the Étourdi of Molière; The Assignation, 1672, Marriage-à-la-Mode, 1672; Limberham, 1678, Amphytrion, imitated from Plautus and Molière, 1690.
(9). Born about 1634, he resided for a considerable time in France; wrote three comedies: The Comical Revenge, or Love in a Tub, 1664; She Would if She Could, 1668; The Man of Mode, or Sir Fopling Flutter, 1676, and some light verse; sent as a diplomatic agent to Ratisbon, he exchanged with his friends, among them Dryden, an amusing correspondence, and died in Paris, it is believed, in 1690. Works, ed. by Verity, 1888; Dramatic Works, ed. by Brett-Smith, 1927; see B. Dobrée, Essays in Biography, 1670-1726, 1925.
(10). Born in 1640, in Shropshire, came of an old family, sojourned as a young man in France and frequented the salon of the Duchess de Montausier, where he found an atmosphere impregnated by the spirit of the Hôtel de Rambouillet. Returning to England at the Restoration, he entered upon a life of pleasure in London. The success of his first play, Love in a Wood, staged in 1671, brought him into touch with the court. The Gentleman Dancing-master (1671 or 1672), The Country Wife (1673), The Plain Dealer (1674), followed in quick succession. Then Wycherley retired from the stage, contracted a rich marriage, which proved disappointing, passed through a period of financial embarrassment, and lived until 1715, enjoying the pleasures of his literary friendships. In his last years he was connected with Pope, to whom he submitted his poems for correction. Plays, ed. by W. C. Ward (Mermaid Series), 1888; Complete Works, ed. by M. Summers, 1924. See Chas. Perromat, Wycherley, Paris, 1921; G. B. Churchill, 'The Originality of William Wycherley' (Schelling Anniv. Papers), 1923.
(11). See above, Chap. II, sect. 6.
(12). Thomas Shadwell, 1642-92. Select Plays, ed. by Saintsbury, Mermaid Series, 1903; Complete Works, ed. by M. Summers, 1927. It seems difficult to find in him a writer of the first order, or to pronounce him, despite certain analogies, a predecessor of Congreve. (For the opposite argument see A. Nicoll, Restoration Drama, 1923.)—See A. S. Borgman, Thomas Shadwell, 1929.
(13). 1640-89. See Chap. II, sect 6. Works, ed. by Summers, 6 vols.; study by V. Sackville-West, 1927.
(14). 1640-1712. Dramatic Works, ed. by Maidment and Logan, 1873-7. See A. H. White, Joh Crowne, his Life and Dramatic Works, 1922.
(15). Born about 1653, a graduate of Cambridge, he essayed acting as a profession but without success; his first play was Nero (1675); he then wrote heroic tragedies (Sophonisba, Gloriana, 1676); next came dramas in blank verse: The Rival Queens (1677); Mithridates (1678); Theodosius (1680); Caesar Borgia (1680); Lucius Junius Brutus (1681); The Princess of Cleve (1681); Constantine the Great (1682). He was confined in a madhouse in 1684, was liberated in 1689, and died as a result of his drinking excesses in 1692. Works, 2 vols., 1713; 3 vols., 1734-6. See the study by Auer. Berlin, 1904; R. G. Ham, Otway and Lee, etc., 1930.
(16). Thomas Otway, born in 1652, took to acting like Lee; despite several brilliant successes, his life was one of struggle, and he died in poverty in 1685. His career opened with heroic tragedies in rhymed verse: Alcibiades, 1675; Don Carlos, 1676; he translated the Bérénice of Racine and the Scapin of Molière; worter mediocre comedies (The Soldier's Fortune, 1681, etc.); and two tragedies in blank verse: The Orphan, 1680; Venice Preserved, 1682. Select Plays, ed. by Roden Noel (Mermaid Series), 1891; Complete Works, ed. by M. Summers, 1926. See the studies by de Grisy, Paris, 1868; Luick, Vienna, 1902.
(17). John Locke, born in 1623, in Somersetshire, studied at Oxford, and was attached to Christ Church 1659; he interested himself in science (elected a member of the Royal Society in 1668), and in medicine, which he practised occasionally. Political agent, medical adviser, and confidential counsellor to Shaftesbury, he took part in public affairs from 1660 to 1675. Then he travelled in France, sojourned at Montpellier. On his return to England he was compromised in the disgrace of Shaftesbury and followed his master's example by seeking refuge in Holland, where he waited for the Revolution. William III made him a commissioner of trade and plantations. From 1691 until his death in 1704, he resided with Sir Francis Masham, whose wife was the daughter of Cudworth, the philosopher. The three Letters on Toleration appeared, the first in Latin, the others in English, from 1689 to 1692. He published in succession: Two Treatises of Government, 1690; An Essay concerning Human Understanding, 1690; Some Considerations of the Consequences of the Lowering of Interest, 1691; Some Thoughts Concerning Education, 1693; The Reasonableness of Christianity, 1695; he left several posthumous works, among them an examination of the theory of Malebranche on vision in God, and The Conduct of the Understanding. His writings on moral and religious philosophy provoked lively attacks, to which he replied (controversy with Stillingfleet, 1696-9, etc.). Philosophical Works, ed. by St. John, 1854; Essay Concerning Human Understanding, ed. by Fraser, 1894; Thoughts Concerning Education, ed. by Quick, 1880. See T. Fowler, Locke (English Men of Letters), 1907; studies by Fraser, 1890; Alexander, 1906; Hefelbower (Relation of John Locke to English Deism), 1919; S. T. Lamprecht (Moral and Political Philosophy of John Locke), 1921.
(18) George Savile, born in 1633, in Yorkshire, entered Parliament on the Restoration, served the Royal cause against Shaftesbury, and was created Viscount Halifax; he afforded the example and outlined the theory of political opportunism during the crises which succeeded one another from 1680 to 1688. He took part in the first ministry of William III, and died in retirement in 1695. An orator of great talent, he left behind several short pamphlets, full of substance (Character of a Trimmer, 1685, circulated in manuscript, and published in 1688; A Letter to a Dissenter, 1687; Advice to a Daughter, 1688; Character of King Charles the Second, etc.), published either without the author's name or posthumously. These were collected in a volume of Miscellanies; ed. by Walter Raleigh, Oxford, 1912. See the study by Foxcroft, 1898, and by Gooch, Political Thought in England from Bacon to Halifax, 1914.
(19) William Congreve, born in 1670, near Leeds, came of an old-established family; prided himself on being at all times a man of the world and not a writer by profession; passed a part of his youth in Ireland, studied law in London, and at the age of twenty-three obtained a very great success with his first comedy, The Old Bachelor (1693). The plays which followed (The Double Dealer, 1693; Love for Love, 1695) added to his reputation; a tragedy (The Mourning Bride, 1697) did not lessen his fame. In 1700 his comedy The Way of the World was received coldly, and Congreve, at thirty, abandoned the theatre. Henceforth, he only indulged his talent in verse, and until his death in 1729, led a full and happy life, surrounded by his friends and enjoying a Government pension. Dramatic Works, ed. by A. C. Ewald (Mermaid Series); ed. by G. Street (Henley's English Classics), 1895; Complete Works, 4 vols., ed. by M. Summers, 1923; Comedies, ed. by B. Dobrée, 1925. Incognita, a short novel written in the youth of Congreve, was republished by Breet-Smith, 1923. See E. Gosse, William Congreve, 1888, new edition, 1924; G. Meredith, An Essay on Comedy, etc., 1897; study by D. Protopopesco (Un Classique moderne, William Congreve), 1924; B. Dobrée, Restoration Comedy, 1924; D. Crane Taylor, William Congreve, 1931.
(20) 1650-1726. A Short View of the Profaneness and Immorality of the English Stage, 1698. See study by Ballein, 1910.
(21). Sir John Vanbrugh, born in 1664, came of a Flemish family, established for two generations in England. Very little is known of his youth save that he was imprisoned in the Bastille in 1691. His plays, The Relapse, or Virtue in Danger (end of 1696), and The Provoked Wife (1697), were performed with great success. With the exception of a posthumous fragment (A Journey to London), the rest of his work is composed of imitations or translations (Boursault, Le Sage, Molière: Squire Trelooby, 1704; Dancourt: The Confederacy, 1705, etc.). His tasts, however, were in the province of architecture; he built several country seats and important buildings, among which were the Haymarket Theatre and Blenheim, the sumptuous mansion presented to Marlborough. He died in 1726. Dramatic Works, ed. by A. E. H. Swain (Mermaid Series), 1896; Complete Works, ed by Dobrée and Webb, 1929. See the sstudy by Lovegrove (Life, Work and Influence of Sir John Vanbrugh), 1902; B. Dobrée, Essays in Biography, 1925.
(22). See below, Book II, Chap. V.
(23) George Farquhar, born in Ireland (1677), studied in Dublin, tried the profession of actor and had his first comedy, Love and a Bottle (1698), successfully performed in London. Then followed The Constant Couple, 1699; Sir Harry Wildair, 170; The Twin Rivals, 1703; The Recruiting Officer, 1706; The Beaux' Stratagem, 1707. His life had all the uncertainty and adventure attending a careless character; he died in poverty in 1707. Dramatic Works, ed. by W. Archer (Mermaid Series), 1908; Complete Works, ed. by Stonehill, 1930. See study by Schmid, 1904.
(24). Thomas Southerne, 1660-1746, already known by his comedies, enjoyed two great successes with his dramas, The Fatal Marriage, 1694, and Oroonoko, 1696, the latter a strange play, inspired by Mrs. Behn, not without a certain brilliance, and at times revealing a little of the fire of Lee.
(25). William Walsh, 1663-1708, the friend of Dryden and Pope, is in certain respects and intermediary between the two poets; his best-known poems are Jealousy and The Despairing Lover. Poems, in Chalmers and Johnson, English Poets, vol. viii. John Pomfret, 1667-1702, published in 1700 The Choice, which won a great and lasting success. Poems, ibid., vol. viii. Sir Samuel Garth, 1661-1719, is remembered for his poem The Dispensary, 1699. Poems, ibid., vol. ix. Sir Richard Blackmore (1650?-1729), a medical practitioner, wrote an epic poem (Prince Arthur, 1695), a philosophical poem (Creation, 1712), a Satire on Wit (1700), and heroic poem, Eliza ( 1705), etc.; essays in prose, a translation of the Psalms, etc.; was praised by Addison, ranked highly in middle-class opinion, but later fell into discredit. Poems, ibid., vol. x.