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After a life of literary toil, productive of many splendid works, yet scarcely one whose splendour is not crusted over with
May 1, the foul, obscuring fungus of a vicious age, Dryden let
1700 fall his pen from a dying hand. At sixty-eight, a ne
A.D. glected inflammation of the foot carried him off after a short illness. His body was buried in Westminster Abbey, where his name may be read among the names of many wiser and purer
Most of this poet's faults sprang from the corrupting spread of French influences. Ever since the days of the Confessor and the Conqueror, France has been the arbiter of English fashions in the way of dress : our British ladies still prize the bonnets, silks, and gloves of Paris and Lyons far beyond those of their native land. Little harm in all this. But it was a black day for England, when the ship which carried Charles the Second to a throne bore also over the narrow sea a cargo of French vices and false tastes, to spread their poison through court and coffee-house, and even to mingle with the ink that dropped from the poet's pen. The trick of writing tragedies in rhyme—the trick of intermingling firm, strong English sense, with tinsel-scraps of French, like fraicheur and fougue—the trick of often substituting cold, glittering mannerisms, for the sweet fresh light of natural language-are the chief symptoms of this foreign disease in Dryden's work. In that marble palace which, according to Johnson, he reared from the rude blocks of the English tongue, there are too many gilded cornices and panellings from Versailles. Yet in this foreign adornment he was far surpassed by his imitator and admirer of the next generation, little Alexander Pope, who unquestionably ranks facile princeps among the painters and decorators of the literary guild.
CHARACTER OF SHAFTESBURY.
(FROM ABSALOM AND ACHITOPHEL.")
SPECIMENS OF DRYDEN'S VERSE.
Restless, unfixed in principles and place;
CHARACTER OF BUCKINGHAM.
Some of their chiefs were princes of the land :
LOCKE's great work, An Essay concerning Human Understanding, has done more than any other book to popularize the study of mental philosophy. He, therefore, well deserves a place among the great names of English literature.
Born in 1632, at Wrington near Bristol, he received his education at Westminster School, and Christ Church, Oxford; and in the halls of that venerable college he learned, as the illustrious Bacon had learned at Cambridge, to dislike the philosophy of old Aristotle, at least when applied to the production of mere wordy bubbles by the schoolmen of Western Europe. Choosing the profession of medicine, he bent his great mind to the mastery of its details ; but the feebleness of his constitution prevented him from facing the hard and wearing work of a physician's life. Well for England that it was so; else one of the greatest of our mental philosophers might have drudged his life away in the dimness of a poor country surgery, had he not most luckily possessed a pair of delicate lungs. So the thin student turned diplomatist, and went to Germany as secretary to Sir Walter Vane. Declining an invitation to enter the Church, he afterwards found a home in the house of Lord Ashley, where he acted as tutor to the
son, and afterwards to the grandson, of his patron. The lastnamed pupil became that distinguished moralist whose lofty periods delighted the literati of Queen Anne's reign. To the fortunes of Lord Ashley, who received the earldom of Shaftesbury in 1672,
AN EXILE AT AMSTERDAM.
Locke attached himself with tender fidelity; and with these fortunes his own brightened or grew dark. At the table of his noble friend he met the first Englishmen of the day; and when, in 1675, fears of consumption led him to seek health in the sunnier air of France, his residence at Montpelier and at Paris brought him into contact with many eminent French scholars and literary men. When Shaftesbury regained power in 1679, he called Locke to his side ; and when misfortune came, the Earl and his faithful friend found a refuge in hospitable Holland. There Locke lived for six years (1682–88), enjoying the society of learned friends,—especially the weekly meeting which they established for the discussion of philosophical questions, and patiently bringing on towards its end the great book, which has made his name famous. It mattered little to the invalid scholar, in his quiet lodging at Amsterdam, that his name had, by command of the King, been blotted out from the list of Christ Church men. A real danger threatened him, when the English ambassador demanded that he, with many others, should be given up by the Dutch government, as aiders and abettors of Monmouth in that ill-fated invasion which ended on the field of Sedgemoor. But the clouds blew past, and the Revolution soon re-opened his native land to the exile. A man so distinguished would have been a strong pillar of William's throne, had his health permitted him to engage actively in the public service. As it was, he became a Commissioner of Appeals at £200 a year, and afterwards, for a short time, one of the members of the Board of Trade ; but London fog and smoke soon drove the poor asthmatic old man into the purer air of the country. Oates in Essex,
the mansion of his friend, Sir Francis Masham, opened 1704 its kindly doors to him; and there, with his Bible in his A.D. hand, he faded gently out of life. We cannot help lov
ing the simple and unpretending scholar, with a heart full of the milk of human kindness, who did life's work so humbly,
yet so well.
Locke's Essay, published in 1690, was the fruit of nearly twenty years' laborious thought. One day, while he was conversing with five or six friends, doubts and difficulties rose so thick around the
ORIGIN AND NATURE OF LOCKE'S “ESSAY."
subject of their talk, that they could not see their way. Locke, to use his own words, proposed that “it was necessary to examine their own abilities, and see what objects their understandings were, or were not, fitted to deal with.” So the four books of the “Essay" began, and his exile enabled him to bring them to a close. In clear, plain, homely English, sometimes rather tawdrily dressed with figures of speech, he lays down his doctrine of ideas, which he derives from two great sources—sensation and reflection. The third book, which treats of words, their defects and their abuse, is considered to be the most valuable part of this celebrated work.
His chief minor works are, Letters concerning Toleration, written partiy in Holland—two Treatises on Civil Government, designed to maintain the title of King William to the English throneThoughts concerning Education, in which he deals not only with book-learning, but with dress, food, accomplishments, morality, recreation, health, all things that belong to the development of the mind or the body of a child—and a sequel to this, called The Conduct of the Understanding, which was published after his death.
THE POWER OF PRACTICE.
Some men are remarked for pleasantness in raillery; others, for apologues, and apposite, diverting stories. This is apt to be taken for the effect of pure nature, and that the rather, because it is not got by rules, and those who excel in either of them, never purposely set themselves to the study of it as an art to be learnt. But yet it is true, that at first some lucky hit, which took with somebody, and gained him commendation, encouraged him to try again, inclined his thoughts and endeavours that way, till at last he insensibly got a facility in it without perceiving how; and that is attributed wholly to nature, which was much more the effect of use and practice. I do not deny that natural disposition may often give the first rise to it; but that never carries a man far without use and exercise, and it is practice alone that brings the powers of the mind as well as those of the body to their perfection. Many a good poetic vein is buried under a trade, and never produces anything for want of improvement. We see the ways of discourse and reasoning are very different, even concerning the same matter, at court and in the university. And he that will go but from Westminster Hall to the Exchange, will find a different genius and turn in their ways of talking; and one cannot think that all whose lot fell in the city were born with different parts from those who were bred at the university or inns of court.