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THE PURITAN LITERATURE.
mance of the stage, such as it then was, steeped in a shameless licentiousness which shocked alike good men of every party, should be the object of his utter abhorrence, was a matter of course;
but with it were rejected other sports and pastimes of a less questionable kind, but which were still, in his view, inseparably mixed up with sin as the mistletoe, the boar's head, and the country games around the May-pole, decorated with green and flowing boughs. Opposed, in short, to the riotous and dashing Cavaliers, both in political and religious views, the Puritans strove to draw the line as sharply as possible between themselves and their gaily attired antagonists, and to stand in every respect as far apart from these godless revellers as they could. They went too far, undoubtedly; but they were, in point of morality and religion at least, on the right side of the dividing line; and we can easily forgive the austere tone in which Sergeant Zerubbabel Grace, discoursing to his troopers, proclaimed the truths of the Bible, when we remember that the same brave and honest soldier gave good proofs of his sincerity, by avoiding the ale-house and the dicing-room, and living in constant fear of Him who said, "Swear not at all."
A profound religious thoughtfulness was the root, in the character of the English Puritans, out of which grew their great works
of the pen.
The period of the Civil War was too full of hurry and bloodshed to be prolific in any but controversial writings. One princely work, indeed, the Areopagitica of Milton, lifted its lofty voice above the clash of swords and the roll of musketry, its noble eloquence undimmed by the blackening sulphur-smoke. Liberty was the grand stake, for which the English Puritans were then playing at the game of war; and there was among them one, the grandest intellect of all, who could not stand idly by and see professing champions of the sacred cause—fellow-soldiers by his own side in the great battle of freedom-lay, in their blindness, the heavy fetter of a license on the English press. To Milton the freedom of human thought and speech was a far grander ainı than even the relief of the English people from the tyranny of Charles Stuart.
THE GREAT PURITAN MAN OF LETTERS.
When the Civil War was over, and Charles rested in his bloody grave, the day of Roundhead triumph came. Yet not the proudest period of the Puritan literature. Pure in many things, as its name proclaimed it, the Puritan mind needed to pass through a fiery furnace before its dross was quite purged away, and the fine gold shone out with clearest lustre.
While the Cavalier poets had been stringing their garlands of artificial blossoms in the heated air of the Stuart court, Milton had been weaving his sweet chaplets of unfading wild-flowers in the meadows of Horton. It was not in the nature of things that the great Puritan poet should pass through the trying hours of conflict and of triumph without many stains of earth deepening on his spirit. To purge these away, required suffering in many shapes—blindness, bitterness of soul, threatening ruin, and certain narrowness of
Yet bodily affliction and political disgrace could not break the giant's wing; they but served to give it greater strength. From a fall which would have laid a feebler man still in his coffin, Milton arose with his noblest poem completed in his hand. And Milton's noblest poem is the crown and glory of our English literature. What more needs to be said of Puritan influence upon English letters than that Puritan Milton wrote the Paradise Lost ?
Puritanism acted powerfully, too, upon our English prose, finding its highest expression under this form in the works of John Bunyan and Richard Baxter. Here, also, the fervour of religious earnestness leavens the whole mass. A massive strength and solemn elevation of tone, form the grand characteristics of a school in which the naked majesty of the Divine perhaps too much overshadows the tenderness and gentleness of the human element. The stern work of those sad times was little fitted to nourish in the breasts of good men those feelings from which bright thoughts and happy sunny affections spring; but the worst enemy of these remarkable men cannot deny, that the main-spring of the Puritan mind, as displayed in written works and recorded actions, was a simple fear of God, and an over-mastering desire to fulfil every duty, in the face of any consequences, no matter how perilous or painful.
“WORTHY old Fuller," "quaint old Thomas Fuller," are the affectionate names by which this witty English divine is often called. He was the son of a Northamptonshire clergyman, and was born in 1608 at Aldwinckle, a place rendered illustrious in later days by the birth of the poet Dryden. Passing from under the tuition of his father, he entered Queen's College, Cambridge, in his thirteenth year. Ten years later he became a Fellow of Sidney Sussex. To follow the steps by which he rose in the Church, would be out of place here; it is sufficient to say, that when he was little more than thirty years of age he had already won a distinguished reputation in the London pulpits, and had become Lecturer at the Savoy.
The clouds of the Civil War, charged with fire and blood, were fast darkening over Britain, as Fuller laboured in this prominent sphere. Remembering that his Master had said, "Blessed are the peace-makers," he lost no opportunity of striving to reconcile the parties, that were every day drifting further apart. His sermons all pointed to this great and noble end; his conversation in society was all woven of this golden thread. At last the deluge burst upon the land ; and the eloquent clergyman, upon whom the Parliament looked with jealous eyes, was forced to leave his pulpit, and betake himself to Oxford, where the King had fixed his court. Fuller's moderation had obtained for him in London, with the Parliament at least, the name of a keen Royalist; but now in the head
FULLER'S LIFE IN THE CAMP.
quarters of the royal party, all hot for carnage, the same peaceloving temper caused him to be accused of a Puritan taint. His books and manuscripts, dear companions of his quietest hours, were taken from him; and there was no resource left him but to join the royal army in the field. As chaplain to Lord Hopton, he moved with the royal troops from place to place, fulfilling his sacred duties faithfully, but employing his leisure in the collection of materials for a literary work. Wherever the tents were pitched, or the soldiers quartered, he took care to note down all the old legends afloat in the district, and to visit every place within reach, which possessed any interest for the historian or the archæologist. No better preparation could have been made for the composition of The Worthies of England; and when we add to his own personal observations the gleanings of a wide correspondence, we shall form some idea of the industrious care with which Fuller built up a work that has contributed so largely to make his name famous. Camp life seems to have kindled something of warlike ardour in the peaceful chaplain's breast; for we read that, when Basing Hall was assailed by the Roundheads under Waller, after the battle of Cheriton Down, Fuller, who had been left by his patron in command of the garrison, bestirred himself so bravely in its defence, that the besiegers were repulsed with heavy loss. After the downfall of the royal cause he lived for some years at Exeter, constantly engaged in preaching or writing. Good Thoughts in Bad Times, and Good Thoughts in Worse Times are the titles of the two books which he is said to have written in this capital of southwestern England.
After about two years of wandering he found himself once more in London, a worn man in what was in truth a changed place. For some time he preached where he could, until he obtained a
permanent pulpit in St. Bride's, Fleet Street. Then, having 1648 passed the examination of the “Triers," he settled down in A.D. 1648 at Waltham Abbey in Essex, to the rectory of which
he had been presented by the Earl of Carlisle. During the bloody year which followed, and the eleven years of interregnum, bis pen and voice were busy as ever in the cause of truth.
WIT AND WISDOM OF THOMAS FULLER.
In spite of Cromwell's interdict he continued to preach, and in 1656 his Church History of Britain from the Birth of Christ to the Year 1648 was given to the world.
The Restoration brought him once more prominently into view. He received again his lectureship at the Savoy, and his prebendal stall at Salisbury; he was chosen chaplain to the King, and created Doctor of Divinity by the authorities of Cambridge. But Fuller's day on earth was near its close. This gleam of sunshine, which followed the grey mist of its afternoon, was brief and passing. Scarcely had he worn these honours for a year, Aug. 16, when he sank into the grave, smitten by a violent fever, 1661 which was then known as “the new disease.” Two hundred of bis brother ministers in sad procession followed his coffin to the tomb.
Thomas Fuller is chiefly remembered for two works, — his “ Church History of Britain," published in 1656, and his “Worthies of England,” published the year after his death. The latter is his greatest work. Begun during his wanderings with the royal army, and continued through all the changes of his after life, this quaint, delightful collection of literary odds and ends, deals not alone with the personal history of eminent Englishmen, as the name would seem to imply, but also with botany, topography, architecture, antiquities, and a host of other things connected with the shires in which they were born. The queer
very telling wit of Fuller sparkles in every line. He possessed in an eminent degree that curious felicity of language which condenses a vast store of wisdom into a few brief and pithy words; so that maxims and aphorisms may be culled by the hundred from the pages of his books. We have lately had the “Wit and Wisdom of Sydney Smith," from a London publisher; a still better book would be the “Wit and Wisdom of Thomas Fuller.” The “Church History” was condemned in the author's own day for its “fun and quibble;” but there was nothing venomous or foul in the fun of Fuller, which has well been called “the sweetest-blooded wit that was ever infused into man or book.” As well might we chide the lark for its joyous song, as this gentle parson for his pleasant jokes