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THE CLASSIC AGE.
1. The ROISTERERS. 1. The excesses of Puritanism—How they induce excesses of sensuality. II. Picture of these manners by a stranger-The Mémoires de Grammont
Difference of debauchery in France and England. III. Butler's Hudibras—Platitude of his comic style, and harshness of his
rancorous style. IV. Baseness, cruelty, brutality, debauchery of the court-Rochester, his life,
poems, style, morals. V. Philosophy consonant with these manners-Hobbes, his spirit and his style
-His curtailments and his discoveries-His mathematical method-In how much he resembles Descartes-His morality, æsthetics, politics,
logic, psychology, metaphysics—Spirit and aim of his philosophy. VI. The theatre-Alteration in taste, and in the public-Audiences before and
after the Restoration. VII. Dryden-Disparity of his comedies-Gaucherie of his indecencies—How he
translates Molière's Amphitryon. VIII. Wycherley-Life-Character - Melancholy, greed, immodesty-Love in a
Wood, Country Wife, Dancing Master — Licentious pictures, and repugnant details—His energy and realism-Parts of Olivia and Manly in his Plain Dealer--Certain words of Milton.
2. THE WORLDLINGS. 1. Appearance of the worldly life in Europe-Its conditions and causes—How
it was established in England-Etiquette, amusements, conversations,
manners, and talents of the drawing-room. II. Dawn of the classic spirit in Europe-Its origin, Its nature - Difference of
conversation under Elizabeth and Charles 11. III. Sir William Temple—His life, character, spirit, and style. IV. Writers of fashion-Their correct language and gallant bearing—Sir Charles
Sedley, the Earl of Dorset, Edmund Waller-His opinions and style
Wherein consists his polish - Wherein he is not sufficiently polished
style. V. Sir John Denham-His poem of Cooper's Hill — Oratorical swell of his
verse-English seriousness of his moral preoccupations-How people of
fashion and literary men followed then the fashions of France. VI. The comic-authors—Comparison of this theatre with that of Molière
Arrangement of ideas in Molière-General ideas in Molière-How with
man of Molière is a French type. VII. Action-Complication of intrigues — Frivolity of purpose — Crudeness of
the characters-Grossness of manners- Wherein consists the talent of Wycherley, Congreve, Vanbrugh, and Farquhar - Kind of characters
they are able to produce. VIII. Natural characters--Sir John Brute, the husband ; Squire Sullen—Sir Tun
belly, the father-Miss Hoyden, the young lady-Squire Humphry, the
young gentleman-Idea of nature according to this theatre. IX. Artificial characters-Women of the world- Miss Prue, Lady Wishfort,
Lady Pliant, Mrs Millamant-Men of the world-Mirabell—Idea of society according to this theatre-Why this culture and this literature have not produced durable works- Wherein they are opposed to the
English character-Transformation of taste and manners. X. The continuation of comedy-Sheridan-Life-Talent- The School jor
Scandal—How comedy degenerates and is extinguished— Causes of the decay of the theatre in Europe and in England.
1. The ROISTERERS. THEN we alternately look at the works of the court painters of
Charles I. and Charles 11., and pass from the noble portraits of Van Dyk to the figures of Lely, the fall is sudden and great; we have left a palace, and we light on a bagnio.
Instead of the proud and dignified lords, at once cavaliers and courtiers, instead of those fine yet simple ladies who look at the same time princesses and modest maidens, instead of that generous and heroic company, elegant and resplendent, in whom the spirit of the Renaissance yet survived, but who already displayed the refinement of the modern age, we are confronted by perilous and importunate courtesans, with an expression either vile or harsh, incapable of shame or of remorse. Their plump smooth hands toy fondlingly with their dimpled fingers; ringlets of heavy hair fall on their bare shoulders; their swimming eyes languish voluptuously; an insipid smile hovers on their sensual lips. One is listing a mass of dishevelled hair which streams over the curves of her rosy flesh; another languishingly, and without constraint, uncloses a sleeve whose soft folds display the full whiteness of her arms. Nearly
See especially the portraits of Lady Morland, Lady Williams, the Countess of Ossory, the Duchess of Cleveland, Lady Price, and many others.
all are half-draped ; many of them seem to be just rising from their beds; the rumpled dressing-gown clings to the neck, and looks as though it were soiled by the night's debauch; the tumbled undergarment slips down to the hips: their feet crumple the bright and glossy silk. Though shameless, with bosoms uncovered, they are decked out in all the luxurious extravagance of prostitutes; diamond girdles, puffs of lace, the vulgar splendour of gilt, a superfluity of embroidered and rustling fabrics, enormous head-dresses, the curls and fringes of which, rolled up and sticking out, compel notice by the very height of their shameless magnificence. Folding curtains hang round them in the shape of an alcove, and the eyes penetrate through a vista into the recesses of a wide park, whose solitude will not ill serve the purpose of their pleasures.
All this came by way of contrast; Puritanism had brought on an orgie, and fanatics had talked down the virtues. For many years the gloomy English imagination, possessed by religious terrors, had desolated the life of men. Conscience had become disturbed at the thought of death and the dark eternity; half-expressed doubts swarmed within Like a bed of thorns, and the sick heart, starting at every emotion, had ended by taking a disgust at all its pleasures, and a horror at all its natural instincts. Thus poisoned at its spring, the divine sentiment of justice became a mournful madness. Man, confessedly perverse and condemned, believed himself pent in a prison-house of perdition and vice, into which no effort and no chance could dart a ray of light, except a hand from above should come by free grace, to rend the sealed stone of the tomb. Men lived the life of the condemned, amid torments and anguish, oppressed by a gloomy despair, haunted by spectres. Such a one would frequently imagine himself at the point of death; another was weighed down by his grievous hallucinations as by a cross; some would feel within them the motions of an evil spirit; one and all passed the night with their eyes chained to the tales of blood and the impassioned appeals of the Old Testament, listening to the threats and thunders of a terrible God, and renewing in their own hearts the ferocity of murderers and the exaltation of seers. Under such a strain reason gradually left them. While seeking after their Lord, they found but a dream. After long hours of exhaustion, they laboured under a warped and overwrought imagination. Dazzling forms, unwonted ideas, sprang up on a sudden in their heated brain; men were raised and penetrated by extraordinary emotions. So transformed, they knew themselves no longer; they did not ascribe to themselves these violent and sudden inspirations which were forced upon them, which compelled them out of the beaten tracks, which had no connection one with another, which shook and enlightened them when least expected, without being able either to check or to govern them; they saw in thera the agency of a supernatural power, and gave themselves up with enthusiasm to the madness and the stubbornness of faith.
To crown all, the nature of fanaticism had been changed; the sectary had laid down all the steps of mental transfiguration, and reduced the encroachment of his dream to a theory: he set about methodically to drive out reason and enthrone ecstasy. George Fox wrote its history, Bunyan gave it its laws, Parliament worked out its type, all the pulpits lauded its practice. Artisans, soldiers, women discussed it, mastered it, encouraged one another by the details of their experience and the publicity of their exaltations. A new life was inaugurated which had blighted and expelled the old. All secular tastes were suppressed, all sensual joys forbidien; the spiritual man alone remained standing upon the ruins of the past, and the heart, debarred from all its natural safetyvalves, could only direct its views or aspirations towards a sinister Deity. The typical Puritan walked slowly along the streets, his eyes raised towards heaven, with elongated features, yellow and haggard, with cropt hair, clad in brown or black, unadorned, clothed only to cover his nakedness. If a man had round cheeks, he passed for lukewarm.' The whole body, the exterior, the very tone of his voice, all must wear the sign of penitence and divine grace. Man spoke slowly, with a solemn and somewhat nasal tone of voice, as if to destroy the vivacity of conversation and the melody of the natural voice. His speech stuffed with scriptural quotations, his style borrowed from the prophets, his name and the names of his children drawn from the Bible, bore witness that his thoughts were confined to the terrible world of the seers and ministers of divine vengeance. From within, the contagion spread outwards. The fears of conscience were converted into laws of the state. Personal asceticism grew into public tyranny. The Puritan proscribed pleasure as an enemy, for others as well as for himself. Parliament closed the gambling-houses and theatres, and had the actors whipped at the cart's tail; oaths were fined; the May-trees were cut down; the bears, whose fights amused the people, were put to death; the plaster of Puritan masons reduced nude statues to decency; the beautiful poetic festivals were forbidden. Fines and corporal punishments shut out, even fronu children, games, dancing, bell-ringing, rejoicings, junketings, wrestling, the chase, all exercises and anusements which might profane the Sabbath. The ornaments, pictures, and statues in the churches were pulled down or mutilated. The only pleasure which they retained and permitted was the singing of psalms through the nose, the edification of long sermons, the excitement of acrimonious controversies, the eager and sombre joy of a victory gained over the enemy of mankind, and of the tyranny exercised against the demon's supposed abettors. In Scotland, a colder and sternur land, intolerance reached the utmost limits of ferocity and
Colonel Hutchinson was at one time held in suspicion because he wore long hair and dressed well.
pettiness, instituting a surveillance over the private life and the secret devotions of every member of a family, depriving Catholics of their children, imposing an oath of abjuration under pain of perpetual imprisonment or death, dragging crowds of witches to the stake. It seemed as though a black cloud had weighed down the life of man, drowning all light, wiping out all beauty, extinguishing all joy, pierced here and there by the glitter of the sword and by the flickering of torches, beneath which one might perceive the indistinct forms of gloomy despots, of bilious sectarians, of silent victims.
The king once re-established, a deliverance ensued. Like a checked and flooded stream, public opinion dashed with all its natural force and all its acquired momentum, into the bed from which it had been debarred. The outburst carried away the dams. The violent return to the senses drowned morality. Virtue had the semblance of Puritanism. Duty and fanaticism became mingled in a common reproach. In this great reaction, devotion and honesty, swept away together, left to mankind but the wreck and the mire. The more excellent parts of human nature disappeared ; there remained but the animal, without bridle or guide, urged by his desires beyond justice and shame.
we can tolerate them. Their French varnish deceives us. Debauchery iu a Frenchman is only half disgusting; with them, if the animal breaks loose, it is without abandoning itself to excess. The foundation is not,
1 1648; thirty in one day. One of them confessed that she had been at a gathering of more than five hundred witches.- Pictorial History, iii. 489.
? In 1652, the kirk-session of Glasgow brot boyes and servants before them, for breaking the Sabbath, and other faults. They had clandestine censors, and gave money to some for this end.'-Note 28, taken from Wodrow's Collection ; Buckle, History of Civilization in England, 3 vols. 1867, iii. 208.
Even yearly in the eighteenth century, the most popular divines' in Scotland affirmed that Satan 'frequently appears clothed in a corporeal substance.'-Ibid. iii. 233, note 76, taken from Memoirs of C. L. Lewes.
•No husband shall kiss his wife, and no mother shall kiss her child on the Sabbath day.'--Ibid. iii. 253, note from Revd. Lyon, with regard to government of a colony.
(Sept. 22, 1649) The quhilk day the Sessioune caused mak this act, that ther sould be no pypers at brydels,' etc.--Ibid. iii. 258, note 153. In 1719, the Presbytery of Edinburgh indignantly declares : ‘Yea, some have arrived at that height of impiety, as not to be ashamed of washing in waters, and swimming in rivers upon the holy Sabbath.'-Ibid. ii. 266, note 187.
I think David had never so sweet a time as then, when he was pursued as a partridge by his son Absalom.'-Gray's Great and Precious Promises.
See the whole of chapter iii. vol. iii., in which Buckle has described, by similar quotations, the condition of Scotland, chiefly in the seventeenth century.