History of Literature

English literature



The Old English period

The early Middle English period

The later Middle English and early Renaissance periods

The Renaissance period: 1550–1660

Elizabethan and early Stuart drama

Effect of religion and science on early Stuart prose

The Restoration

The 18th century

The 18th century. The novel

The Romantic period

The later Romantics

The Post-Romantic and Victorian eras

Late Victorian literature

The 20th century. The Modernist revolution

The literature of World War I and the interwar period

Literature after 1945. Fiction. Poetry


English literature


The Restoration


John Bunyan  "The Pilgrim's Progress"  PART 1, PART 2, PART 3, PART 4, PART 5  Illustrations by G. Woolliscraft, F. Rhead, & L. Rhead
Samuel Butler  "Hudibras"  Illustrations by  William Hogarth
Edward Hyde, 1st earl of Clarendon
Isaac Barrow

Thomas Sprat
Joseph Glanvill
Thomas Shadwell
Robert Boyle
Robert Hooke
John Ray
Sir Isaac Newton

John Locke
John Aubrey
John Wilmot  "Poems"
George Savile
John Evelyn
Samuel Pepys
 "The Diary" 
Sir Charles Sedley
John Oldham
Charles Cotton
Thomas Traherne
John Dryden

Thomas Rymer
Jeremy Collier
William Congreve  "Love for Love", "The Way of the World"
Thomas Otway
Nathaniel Lee
Sir George Etherege
William Wycherley
Aphra Behn
Thomas Southerne
Sir John Vanbrugh
George Farquhar



Literary reactions to the political climate

For some, the restoration of King Charles II in 1660 led many to a painful revaluation of the political hopes and millenarian expectations bred during two decades of civil war and republican government. For others, it excited the desire to celebrate kingship and even to turn the events of the new reign into signs of a divinely ordained scheme of things. Violent political conflict may have ceased, but the division between royalists and republicans still ran through literature of the period. Indeed, it is hard to conceive of a single literary culture that could include, on the one hand, John Milton and John Bunyan and, on the other, John Wilmot, earl of Rochester, and John Dryden. Yet these and other such opposites were writing at the same time.

The term Restoration literature is often taken to mean the literature of those who belonged, or aspired to belong, to the restored court culture of Charles II’s reign—the “mob of gentlemen who wrote with ease,” as Alexander Pope later put it. This identification was to allow Pope’s contemporaries to look back on the Restoration as an age of excess and licentiousness. Yet Puritans and republicans had not disappeared. With the Act of Uniformity (1662) and the Test Act (1673), those Protestants not conforming with the Church of England (“Dissenters”) were excluded from most public offices. However, they still formed an important body of opinion within the nation. They were also to make a distinctive contribution to the nation’s intellectual life throughout the following century.

In the first years after Charles II’s return, dissent was stilled or secretive. With the return of an efficient censorship, ambitiously heterodox ideas in theology and politics that had found their way freely into print during the 1640s and ’50s were once again denied publication. For erstwhile supporters of the Commonwealth, the experience of defeat needed time to be absorbed, and fresh strategies had to be devised to encounter the challenge of hostile times. Much caustic and libelous political satire was written during the reigns of Charles II and James II and (because printing was subject to repressive legal constrictions) circulated anonymously and widely in manuscript. Andrew Marvell, sitting as member of Parliament for Hull in three successive Parliaments from 1659 to 1678, experimented energetically with this mode, and his Last Instructions to a Painter (written in 1667) achieves a control of a broad canvas and an alertness to apt detail and to the movement of masses of people that make it a significant forerunner of Pope’s Dunciad, however divergent the two poets’ political visions may be. Marvell also proved himself to be a dexterous, abrasive prose controversialist, comprehensively deriding the anti-Dissenter arguments of Samuel Parker (later bishop of Oxford) in The Rehearsal Transprosed (1672, with a sequel in 1673) and providing so vivid an exposition of Whig suspicions of the restored monarchy’s attraction to absolutism in An Account of the Growth of Popery, and Arbitrary Government in England (1677) that a reward of £100 was offered for revealing its author’s identity.

The defeated republicans

The greatest prose controversialist of the pre-1660 years,
John Milton, did not return to that mode but, in his enforced retirement from the public scene, devoted himself to his great poems of religious struggle and conviction, Paradise Lost (1667, revised 1674) and Paradise Regained and Samson Agonistes (both 1671). Each, in its probing of the intricate ways in which God’s design reveals itself in human history, can justly be read (in one of its dimensions) as a chastened but resolute response to the failure of a revolution in which Milton himself had placed great trust and hope.

Others of the defeated republicans set out to record their own or others’ experiences in the service of what they called the “good old cause.” Lucy Hutchinson composed, probably in the mid-1660s, her remarkable memoirs of the life of her husband, Colonel Hutchinson, the parliamentarian commander of Nottingham during the Civil Wars. Edmund Ludlow, like Hutchinson one of the regicides, fled to Switzerland in 1660, where he compiled his own Memoirs. These were published only in 1698–99, after Ludlow’s death, and the discovery in 1970 of part of Ludlow’s own manuscript revealed that they had been edited and rewritten by another hand before printing. Civil War testimony still had political applications in the last years of the 17th century, but those who sponsored its publication judged that Ludlow’s now old-fashioned, millenarian rhetoric should be suppressed in favour of a soberer commonwealthman’s dialect. Some autobiographers adjusted their testimony themselves in the light of later developments. The Quaker leader George Fox, for example, dictating his Journal to various amanuenses, dubiously claimed for himself an attachment to pacifist principles during the 1650s, whereas it was in fact only in 1661, in the aftermath of the revolution’s defeat, that the peace principle became central to Quakerism. The Journal itself reached print in 1694 (again, after its author’s death) only after revision by a group superintended by William Penn. Such caution suggests a lively awareness of the influence such a text could have in consolidating a sect’s sense of its own identity and continuity.

Charles II entering London, Restoration, 1660

Writings of the Nonconformists

John Bunyan’s Grace Abounding (1666), written while he was imprisoned in Bedford jail for nonconformity with the Church of England, similarly relates the process of his own conversion for the encouragement of his local, dissenter congregation. It testifies graphically to the force, both terrifying and consolatory, with which the biblical word could work upon the consciousness of a scantily educated, but overwhelmingly responsive, 17th-century believer. The form of Grace Abounding has numerous precedents in spiritual autobiography of the period, but with The Pilgrim’s Progress (the first part of which appeared in 1678) Bunyan found himself drawn into a much more novel experiment, developing an ambitious allegorical narrative when his intent had been to write a more conventionally ordered account of the processes of redemption. The resulting work (with its second part appearing in 1684) combines a careful exposition of the logical structure of the Calvinist scheme of salvation with a delicate responsiveness to the ways in which his experience of his own world (of the life of the road, of the arrogance of the rich, of the rhythms of contemporary speech) can be deployed to render with a new vividness the strenuous testing the Christian soul must undergo. His achievement owes scarcely anything to the literary culture of his time, but his masterpiece has gained for itself a readership greater than that achieved by any other English 17th-century work with the exception of the King James Bible. In the 17th and 18th centuries there were chapbook versions, at two or three pence each, for the barely literate, and there were elegant editions for pious gentlefolk. It was the favourite work of both the self-improving artisan and the affluent tradesman. Yet it was below the horizon of polite literary taste.

Perhaps Bunyan, the uneducated son of a tinker, would have found such condescension appropriate. His writing crackles with suspicion of “gentlemen” and those who have learned eloquence, such as the impressive Mr. Worldly-Wiseman, who almost persuades Christian to self-destruction in Pilgrim’s Progress. This work is also rich in disdainful portraits of those who are more than satisfied with the ways of the world: the “honourable friends” of Prince Beelzebub, such as “the Lord Luxurious, the Lord Desire of Vain-glory, my old Lord Lechery, Sir Having Greedy, with all the rest of our nobility.” Bunyan had an ear for the self-satisfied conversational turns of those convinced by their own affluence that “God has bestowed upon us the good things of this life.” Two other works of his, though lesser in stature, are especially worth reading: The Life and Death of Mr. Badman (1680), which, with graphic local detail, remorselessly tracks the sinful temptations of everyday life, and The Holy War (1682), a grandiose attempt at religious mythmaking interlaced with contemporary political allusions.


John Bunyan

"The Pilgrim's Progress"  PART 1, PART 2, PART 3, PART 4, PART 5

Illustrated by three brothers (George Woolliscraft, Frederick Rhead, & Louis Rhead)

English author

born November 1628, Elstow, Bedfordshire, England
died August 31, 1688, London

celebrated English minister and preacher, author of The Pilgrim’s Progress (1678), the book that was the most characteristic expression of the Puritan religious outlook. His other works include doctrinal and controversial writings; a spiritual autobiography, Grace Abounding (1666); and the allegory The Holy War (1682).

Early life

Bunyan, the son of a brazier, or traveling tinker, was brought up “among a multitude of poor plowmen’s children” in the heart of England’s agricultural Midlands. He learned to read and write at a local grammar school, but he probably left school early to learn the family trade. Bunyan’s mind and imagination were formed in these early days by influences other than those of formal education. He absorbed the popular tales of adventure that appeared in chapbooks and were sold at fairs like the great one held at Stourbridge near Cambridge (it provided the inspiration for Vanity Fair in The Pilgrim’s Progress). Though his family belonged to the Anglican church, he also became acquainted with the varied popular literature of the English Puritans: plain-speaking sermons, homely moral dialogues, books of melodramatic judgments and acts of divine guidance, and John Foxe’s The Book of Martyrs. Above all he steeped himself in the English Bible; the Authorized Version was but 30 years old when he was a boy of 12.

Bunyan speaks in his autobiography of being troubled by terrifying dreams. It may be that there was a pathological side to the nervous intensity of these fears; in the religious crisis of his early manhood his sense of guilt took the form of delusions. But it seems to have been abnormal sensitiveness combined with the tendency to exaggeration that caused him to look back on himself in youth as “the very ringleader of all . . . that kept me company into all manner of vice and ungodliness.”

In 1644 a series of misfortunes separated the country boy from his family and drove him into the world. His mother died in June, his younger sister Margaret in July; in August his father married a third wife. The English Civil Wars had broken out, and in November he was mustered in a Parliamentary levy and sent to reinforce the garrison at Newport Pagnell. The governor was Sir Samuel Luke, immortalized as the Presbyterian knight of the title in Samuel Butler’s Hudibras. Bunyan remained in Newport until July 1647 and probably saw little fighting.

His military service, even if uneventful, brought him in touch with the seething religious life of the left-wing sects within Oliver Cromwell’s army, the preaching captains, and those Quakers, Seekers, and Ranters who were beginning to question all religious authority except that of the individual conscience. In this atmosphere Bunyan became acquainted with the leading ideas of the Puritan sectaries, who believed that the striving for religious truth meant an obstinate personal search, relying on free grace revealed to the individual, and condemning all forms of public organization.

Some time after his discharge from the army (in July 1647) and before 1649, Bunyan married. He says in his autobiography, Grace Abounding, that he and his first wife “came together as poor as poor might be, not having so much household-stuff as a dish or spoon betwixt us both.” His wife brought him two evangelical books as her only dowry. Their first child, a blind daughter, Mary, was baptized in July 1650. Three more children, Elizabeth, John, and Thomas, were born to Bunyan’s first wife before her death in 1658. Elizabeth, too, was baptized in the parish church there in 1654, though by that time her father had been baptized by immersion as a member of the Bedford Separatist church.

Conversion and ministry

Bunyan’s conversion to Puritanism was a gradual process in the years following his marriage (1650–55); it is dramatically described in his autobiography. After an initial period of Anglican conformity in which he went regularly to church, he gave up, slowly and grudgingly, his favourite recreations of dancing and bell ringing and sports on the village green and began to concentrate on his inner life. Then came agonizing temptations to spiritual despair lasting for several years. The “storms” of temptation, as he calls them, buffeted him with almost physical violence; voices urged him to blaspheme; the texts of Scriptures, which seemed to him to threaten damnation, took on personal shape and “did pinch him very sore.” Finally one morning he believed that he had surrendered to these voices of Satan and had betrayed Christ: “Down I fell as a bird that is shot from the tree.” In his psychopathic isolation he presents all the features of the divided mind of the maladjusted as they have been analyzed in the 20th century. Bunyan, however, had a contemporary psychological instrument for the diagnosis of his condition: the pastoral theology of 17th-century Calvinism, which interpreted the grim doctrine of election and predestination in terms of the real needs of souls, the evidence of spiritual progress in them, and the covenant of God’s grace. Both techniques, that of the modern analyst and that of the Puritan preacher, have in common the aim of recovering the integrity of the self; and this was what Bunyan achieved as he emerged, from his period of spiritual darkness, gradually beginning to feel that his sin was “not unto death” and that there were texts to comfort as well as to terrify. He was aided in his recovery by his association with the Bedford Separatist church and its dynamic leader, John Gifford. He entered into full communion about 1655.

The Bedford community practiced adult Baptism by immersion, but it was an open-communion church, admitting all who professed “faith in Christ and holiness of life.” Bunyan soon proved his talents as a lay preacher. Fresh from his own spiritual troubles, he was fitted to warn and console others: “I went myself in Chains to preach to them in Chains, and carried that Fire in my own Conscience that I persuaded them to beware of.” He was also active in visiting and exhorting church members, but his main activity in 1655–60 was in controversy with the early Quakers, both in public debate up and down the market towns of Bedfordshire and in his first printed works, Some Gospel Truths Opened (1656) and A Vindication of Some Gospel Truths Opened (1657). The Quakers and the open-communion Baptists were rivals for the religious allegiance of the “mechanics,” or small tradesmen and artificers, in both town and country. Bunyan soon became recognized as a leader among the sectaries.

The Restoration of Charles II brought to an end the 20 years in which the separated churches had enjoyed freedom of worship and exercised some influence on government policy. On Nov. 12, 1660, at Lower Samsell in South Bedfordshire, Bunyan was brought before a local magistrate and, under an old Elizabethan act, charged with holding a service not in conformity with those of the Church of England. He refused to give an assurance that he would not repeat the offense, was condemned at the assizes in January 1661, and was imprisoned in the county jail. In spite of the courageous efforts of his second wife (he had married again in 1659) to have his case brought up at the assizes, he remained in prison for 12 years. A late 17th-century biography, added to the early editions of Grace Abounding, reveals that he relieved his family by making and selling “long Tagg’d laces”; prison conditions were lenient enough for him to be let out at times to visit friends and family and to address meetings.

Literary activity

During this imprisonment Bunyan wrote and published his spiritual autobiography (Grace Abounding, 1666). It reveals his incarceration to have been a spiritual opportunity as well as an ordeal, allowing “an inlet into the Word of God.” Bunyan’s release from prison came in March 1672 under Charles II’s Declaration of Indulgence to the Nonconformists. The Bedford community had already chosen him as their pastor in January, and a new meetinghouse was obtained. In May he received a license to preach together with 25 other Nonconformist ministers in Bedfordshire and the surrounding counties. His nickname “Bishop Bunyan” suggests that he became the organizing genius in the area. When persecution was renewed he was again imprisoned for illegal preaching; the circumstances of this imprisonment have remained more obscure than those of the first, though it does not appear to have lasted longer than six months. A bond of surety for his release, dated June 1677, has survived, so it is likely that this second detention was in the first half of that year. Since The Pilgrim’s Progress was published soon after this, in February 1678, it is probable that he had begun to write it not in the second imprisonment but in the first, soon after the composition of Grace Abounding, and when the examination of his inner life contained in that book was still strong.

Literary style

Bunyan’s literary achievement, in his finest works, is by no means that of a naively simple talent, as has been the view of many of his critics. His handling of language, colloquial or biblical, is that of an accomplished artist. He brings to his treatment of human behaviour both shrewd awareness and moral subtlety, and he demonstrates a gift for endowing the conceptions of evangelical theology with concrete life and acting out the theological drama in terms of flesh and blood.

Bunyan thus presents a paradox, since the impulse that originally drove him to write was purely to celebrate his faith and to convert others, and like other Puritans he was schooled to despise the adornments of style and to treat literature as a means to an end. Bunyan’s effort to reach behind literary adornments so as to obtain an absolutely naked rendering of the truth about his own spiritual experience causes him in Grace Abounding to forge a highly original style. In this style, which is rich in powerful physical imagery, the inner life of the Christian is described; body and soul are so involved that it is impossible to separate bodily from mental suffering in the description of his temptations. He feels “a clogging and a heat at my breast-bone as if my bowels would have burst out”; a preacher’s call to abandon the sin of idle pastimes “did benumb the sinews of my best delights”; and he can say of one of the texts of scripture that seemed to him to spell his damnation that it “stood like a mill-post at my back.” The attempt to communicate the existential crisis of the human person without style had created a style of its own.

The use of a highly subjective prose style to express personal states of mind is Bunyan’s first creative achievement, but he also had at his disposal the more traditional style he used in sermons, treatises, and scriptural exposition. In the allegories some of his greatest imaginative successes are due to his dreamlike, introspective style with its subtle personal music; but it is the workaday vigour and concreteness of the prose technique practiced in the sermons which provide a firm stylistic background to these imaginative flights.

The Pilgrim’s Progress

Bunyan’s great allegorical tale was published by Nathaniel Ponder in 1678. Because it recapitulates in symbolic form the story of Bunyan’s own conversion, there is an intense, life-or-death quality about Christian’s pilgrimage to the Heavenly City in the first part of the book. This sense of urgency is established in the first scene as Christian in the City of Destruction reads in his book (the Bible) and breaks out with his lamentable cry, “What shall I do?” It is maintained by the combats along the road with giants and monsters such as Apollyon and Giant Despair, who embody spiritual terrors. The voices and demons of the Valley of the Shadow of Death are a direct transcription of Bunyan’s own obsessive and neurotic fears during his conversion. Episodes of stirring action like these alternate with more stationary passages, and there are various conversations between the pilgrims and those they encounter on the road, some pious and some providing light relief when hypocrites like Talkative and Ignorance are exposed. The halts at places of refreshment like the Delectable Mountains or the meadow by the River of Life evoke an unearthly spiritual beauty.

The narrative of The Pilgrim’s Progress may seem episodic, but Calvinist theology provides a firm underlying ground plan. Only Christ, the Wicket Gate, admits Christian into the right road, and before he can reach it he has to be shown his error in being impressed by the pompous snob Worldly Wiseman, who stands for mere negative conformity to moral and social codes. Quite early in his journey Christian loses his burden of sin at the Cross, so he now knows that he has received the free pardon of Christ and is numbered among the elect. It might seem that all the crises of the pilgrimage were past, yet this initiation of grace is not the end of the drama but the beginning. Christian, and the companions who join him, Faithful and Hopeful, are fixed in the path of salvation, so that it is the horrors of the temptations they have to undergo that engage the reader’s attention. The reader views Christian’s agonized striving through his own eyes and shares Christian’s uncertainty about the outcome.

Though conscientiously symbolic throughout, the narrative of The Pilgrim’s Progress does not lose the feel of common life. In the character sketches and humorous passages scattered throughout the book, Bunyan’s genius for realistic observation prevents the conversion allegory from becoming too inward and obsessed. Bunyan displays a sharp eye for behaviour and a sardonic sense of humour in his portrayals of such reprobates as Ignorance and Talkative; these moral types are endowed with the liveliness of individuals by a deft etching in of a few dominant features and gestures. And finally, Christian himself is a transcript from life; Bunyan, the physician of souls with a shrewd eye for backsliders, had faithfully observed his own spiritual growth.

The Pilgrim’s Progress was instantly popular with all social classes upon its publication, though it was perhaps the last great expression of the folk tradition of the common people before the divisive effects of modern enlightened education began to be felt.

Later life and works

Bunyan continued to tend the needs of the Bedford church and the widening group of East Anglian churches associated with it. As his fame increased with his literary reputation, he also preached in Congregational churches in London. Bunyan followed up the success of The Pilgrim’s Progress with other works. His The Life and Death of Mr. Badman (1680) is more like a realistic novel than an allegory in its portrait of the unrelievedly evil and unrepentant tradesman Mr. Badman. The book gives an insight into the problems of money and marriage when the Puritans were settling down after the age of persecution and beginning to find their social role as an urban middle class.

The Holy War (1682), Bunyan’s second allegory, has a carefully wrought epic structure and is correspondingly lacking in the spontaneous inward note of The Pilgrim’s Progress. The town of Mansoul is besieged by the hosts of the devil, is relieved by the army of Emanuel, and is later undermined by further diabolic attacks and plots against his rule. The metaphor works on several levels; it represents the conversion and backslidings of the individual soul, as well as the story of mankind from the Fall through to the Redemption and the Last Judgment; there is even a more precise historical level of allegory relating to the persecution of Nonconformists under Charles II. The Pilgrim’s Progress, Second Part (1684), tells the story of the pilgrimage of Christian’s wife, Christiana, and her children to the Celestial City. This book gives a more social and humorous picture of the Christian life than the First Part and shows Bunyan lapsing from high drama into comedy, but the great concluding passage on the summoning of the pilgrims to cross the River of Death is perhaps the finest single thing Bunyan ever wrote.

In spite of his ministerial responsibilities Bunyan found time to publish a large number of doctrinal and controversial works in the last 10 years of his life. He also composed rough but workmanlike verse of religious exhortation; one of his most interesting later volumes is the children’s book A Book for Boys and Girls (1686), vigorous poems serving as comments on emblematic pictures.

Bunyan died in 1688, in London, after one of his preaching visits, and was buried in Bunhill Fields, the Nonconformists’ traditional burying ground.


Until the decline of religious faith and the great increase in books of popular instruction in the 19th century, The Pilgrim’s Progress, like the Bible, was to be found in every English home and was known to every ordinary reader. In literary estimation, however, Bunyan remained beyond the pale of polite literature during the 18th century, though his greatness was acknowledged by Jonathan Swift and Samuel Johnson. Later literary historians noted his indirect influence on the 18th-century novel, particularly the introspective fiction of Daniel Defoe and Samuel Richardson. After the Romantic movement he was recognized as a type of natural genius and placed alongside Homer and Robert Burns. Twentieth-century scholarship has made it possible to see how much he owed to the tradition of homiletic prose and to Puritan literary genres already developed when he began to write. But the sublime tinker remains sublime, if less isolated from his fellows than was formerly thought; the genius of The Pilgrim’s Progress remains valid. Nothing illustrates better the profound symbolic truth of this noted work than its continuing ability, even in translation, to evoke responses in readers belonging to widely separated cultural traditions.

Thomas Babington Macaulay’s biography on John Bunyan appeared in the eighth edition of the Encyclopædia Britannica (see the Britannica Classic: John Bunyan).

Roger Sharrock

Richard Baxter, a Nonconformist cleric who, although enduring persecution after 1660, was by instinct and much of his practice a reconciler, published untiringly on religious issues. Soon after the death of his wife, he wrote the moving Breviate (1681), a striking combination of exemplary narrative and unaffectedly direct reporting of the nature of their domestic life. His finest work, however, is the Reliquiae Baxterianae (published in 1696, five years after his death), an autobiography that is also an eloquent defense of the Puritan impulse in the 17th-century Christian tradition.

In the aftermath of the Restoration, there was much formulaic satirizing of Puritans, especially on the stage. A more engaging voice of anti-Puritan reaction can be heard in Samuel Butler’s extensive mock-heroic satire Hudibras (published in three installments between 1662 and 1678). This was a massively popular work, with an influence stretching well into the 18th century (when Samuel Johnson, for example, greatly admired it and William Hogarth illustrated some scenes from it). It reads partly as a consummately destructive act of revenge upon those who had usurped power in the previous two decades, but although it is easy to identify what Hudibras opposes, it is difficult to say what, if anything, it affirms. Although much admired by royalist opinion, it shows no wish to celebrate the authority or person restored in 1660, and its brazenly undignified use of rhyming tetrameters mirrors, mocks, and lacerates rooted human follies far beyond the power of one political reversal to obliterate. A comparable sardonic disenchantment is apparent in Butler’s shorter verse satires and in his incisive and densely argued collection of prose Characters.


Samuel Butler


Illustrations by  William Hogarth


baptized February 8, 1612, Strensham, Worcestershire, England
died September 25, 1680, London

poet and satirist, famous as the author of Hudibras, the most memorable burlesque poem in the English language and the first English satire to make a notable and successful attack on ideas rather than on personalities. It is directed against the fanaticism, pretentiousness, pedantry, and hypocrisy that Butler saw in militant Puritanism, extremes which he attacked wherever he saw them.

Butler, the son of a farmer, was educated at the King’s school, Worcester. He afterward obtained employment in the household of the Countess of Kent, at Wrest, Bedfordshire, where he had access to a fine library. He then passed into the service of Sir Samuel Luke, a rigid Presbyterian, a colonel in the Parliamentary army, and scoutmaster general for Bedfordshire. In his service Butler undoubtedly had firsthand opportunity to study some of the fanatics who attached themselves to the Puritan army and whose antics were to form the subject of his famous poem. At the restoration of the monarchy he obtained a post as secretary to Richard Vaughan, Earl of Carbery, lord president of Wales, who made him steward of Ludlow castle, an office he held throughout 1661. About this time he is said to have married a woman with a “competent fortune” that was, however, squandered through “being put out on ill securities.”

The first part of Hudibras was apparently on sale by the end of 1662, but the first edition, published anonymously, is dated 1663. Its immediate success resulted in a spurious second part appearing within the year; the authentic second part, licensed in 1663, was published in 1664. The two parts, plus “The Heroical Epistle of Hudibras to Sidrophel,” were reprinted together in 1674. In 1677 Charles II, who delighted in the poem, issued an injunction to protect Butler’s rights against piratical printers and awarded him an annual pension. In 1678 a third (and last) part was published.

The hero of Hudibras is a Presbyterian knight who goes “a-coloneling” with his squire, Ralpho, an Independent. They constantly squabble over religious questions and, in a series of grotesque adventures, are shown to be ignorant, wrongheaded, cowardly, and dishonest. Butler had derived his outline from Cervantes’s Don Quixote, and his burlesque method (making everything “low” and undignified) from Paul Scarron. However, his brilliant handling of the octosyllabic metre, his witty, clattering rhymes, his delight in strange words and esoteric learning, and his enormous zest and vigour create effects that are entirely original. Its pictures of low life are perhaps the most notable things of their kind in English poetry between John Skelton and George Crabbe, with both of whom Butler has a certain affinity.

According to John Aubrey, the antiquary, after the appearance of Hudibras King Charles and the lord chancellor, Clarendon, promised Butler considerable emoluments that never seem to have materialized. In the latter part of his life he was attached to the suite of George Villiers, 2nd Duke of Buckingham; but there seems little doubt that Butler died a poor and disappointed man who, at the end of an apparently successful literary career, in the words of a contemporary, “found nothing left but poverty and praise.”

Butler’s other works include “The Elephant in the Moon” (1676), mocking the solemnities of the newly founded Royal Society; and “Repartees between Puss and Cat at a Caterwalling,” laughing at the absurdities of contemporary rhymed heroic tragedy. Genuine Remains in Verse and Prose of Mr. Samuel Butler, in two volumes (1759), was edited by Robert Thyer from Butler’s papers and includes more than 100 brilliant prose “Characters” in the manner of Theophrastus, as well as a satiric analysis of the duke of Buckingham, “Duke of Bucks,” that bears comparison with the “Zimri” characterization in Dryden’s Absalom and Achitophel.


Writings of the royalists

Royalists also resorted to biography and autobiography to record their experiences of defeat and restoration. Three of the most intriguing are by women: the life written by Margaret, duchess of Newcastle, of her husband (1667) and the memoirs of Ann, Lady Fanshawe, and of Anne, Lady Halkett. The latter two were both written in the late 1670s but as private texts, with no apparent thought of publication. (They were not published in any complete form until, respectively, 1829 and 1875.) But incomparably the richest account of those years is The History of the Rebellion and Civil Wars in England by Edward Hyde, earl of Clarendon. The work was begun in exile during the late 1640s and was revised and completed in renewed exile after Clarendon’s fall from royal favour in 1667. Clarendon was a close adviser to two kings, and his intimacy with many of the key events is unrivaled. Though his narrative is inevitably partisan, the ambitious range of his analysis and his mastery of character portraiture make the History an extraordinary accomplishment. His autobiography, which he also wrote during his last exile, gravely chronicles the transformations of the gentry world between the 1630s and ’60s.

In 1660, feeling in the country ran strongly in favour of the Church of England, persecution having confirmed in many a deep affection for Anglican rites and ceremonies. The reestablished church, accepting for itself the role of staunch defender of kingly authority, tended to eschew the exploration of ambitious and controversial theological issues and devoted itself instead to expounding codes of sound moral conduct. It was an age of eminent preachers (including Robert South, Isaac Barrow, Edward Stillingfleet, and John Tillotson) and of keen interest in the art of preaching. It was also an age in which representatives of the established church were often suspicious of the power of preaching, fearing its power to arouse “enthusiasm.” This was the power that had helped excite the sectarians who had rebelled against their king. It was the power wielded by men such as Bunyan, who was imprisoned for preaching without a license. In conscious reaction against the obscurantist dialects judged typical of the sects, a plain and direct style of sermon oratory was favoured. Thus, in his funeral sermon on Tillotson in 1694, Gilbert Burnet praised the archbishop because he “said what was just necessary to give clear Ideas of things, and no more” and “laid aside all long and affected Periods.” Sermons continued to be published and to sell in large numbers throughout the late 17th and the 18th centuries.

Edward Hyde, 1st earl of Clarendon

also called (1643–60) Sir Edward Hyde, or (1660–61) Baron Hyde of Hindon

born Feb. 18, 1609, Dinton, Wiltshire, Eng.
died Dec. 9, 1674, Rouen, Fr.

English statesman and historian, minister to Charles I and Charles II and author of the History of the Rebellion and Civil Wars in England.

Early life and career.
Edward Hyde was the eldest surviving son of Henry Hyde of Dinton, Wiltshire. He was educated at Magdalen Hall, Oxford, and was trained in the law in London’s Middle Temple. His first wife, Anne Ayliffe, died in 1632, within six months of their marriage. Two years later he married Frances, daughter of Sir Thomas Aylesbury, who held a high legal office and through whom he was able to pursue a successful career at the bar and become keeper of the writs and rolls of common pleas. He also established himself in literary and philosophical circles and counted the dramatist Ben Jonson, the jurist and scholar John Selden, and the statesman Lord Falkland among his friends.

In 1640 he was drawn into politics as a member in the Short Parliament (April–May 1640), called to finance Charles I’s war against Scotland, and in the Long Parliament, which opposed Charles during the Civil War. Emerging as a critic of Ship Money (a tax levied for defense) and other new policies of the crown, he joined the attack on the misuse of the royal prerogative and helped to abolish oppressive courts and commissions. But he resisted measures that might permanently damage the balanced relations among king, House of Lords, and the Commons and opposed efforts to dictate the king’s choice of ministers. From the first, he championed the Anglican establishment, for which he was commended by Charles I. It was as a Parliamentarian, however, that he opposed the execution of the earl of Strafford, one of the king’s chief advisers, and resisted the Root and Branch Bill, which would have abolished the episcopacy.

With the Commons’ adoption of the Grand Remonstrance of November 1641, which demanded a voice for Parliament in the appointment of the king’s ministers and in the reform of the church, accommodation between Charles I and Parliament became more difficult. Henceforth, Hyde chose to work behind the scenes as an adviser of the crown. He recommended moderate measures, which if consistently pursued might have undermined support for John Pym’s radical leadership in the Commons. But Charles’s attempt to seize five members of Parliament in January 1642 brought Hyde nearly to despair. After that, although civil war was not yet inevitable, few men were able to trust the king. For a while, Hyde’s constructive moderation prevailed.

Joining the king at York about the end of May 1642, Hyde was proscribed by Parliament as an “evil counselor.” Though he became a member of the Royalist council of war, Hyde was never a combatant in the ensuing conflict. From 1643, as a privy councillor and as chancellor of the Exchequer, he tried to moderate the influence of the military leaders. He advised Charles to summon a parliament at Oxford in December 1643. Its success was limited, however, and a year later Hyde agreed to recognize Westminster’s claim to be the true Parliament. In January 1645 he vainly tried to temper parliamentary demands for control of the militia and for a presbyterian type of church government. By then there was little room left for Hyde’s scrupulous constitutionalism, and his appointment as guardian to the prince of Wales was a convenient means of disposing of him.

Hyde left Charles I in March 1645 and accompanied the prince to the island of Jersey in April 1646. Later, the queen ordered the prince to move to Paris, a step that he had advised against. Unable to influence events, Hyde began a draft of his History of the Rebellion and Civil Wars in England in the hope that his interpretation of recent errors might instruct the king for the future.

Although he rejoined the queen and prince in Paris in 1648, Hyde remained a powerless spectator of Charles I’s last efforts to save his throne and his life. He was no less helpless in seeking to guide the new king. Disapproving strongly of Charles II’s policies, he was glad to escape from the quarrelsome court by accompanying a mission to Madrid, one, however, that proved unsuccessful in securing assistance from Spain.

Lord chancellor.
After Charles II’s escape to France from his unsuccessful invasion of England in the fall of 1651, Hyde rejoined him in Paris and followed him to Cologne in 1654 and Bruges in 1656. His object was to keep Charles from renouncing his Anglican faith, a step that would prejudice reconciliation with his subjects. Although he encouraged internal opposition to Oliver Cromwell, who as lord protector had by then become de facto ruler of England, Hyde held out against schemes for reconquest that would simply reunite the republican factions. Meanwhile, he closely followed events in England. After Cromwell’s death in 1658, the overtures of the Presbyterians for a restoration of the monarchy were received. Hyde, who was appointed lord chancellor that same year, answered them. The Declaration of Breda (1660) embodied Hyde’s belief that only a free parliament, matching the king’s intentions with its own good will, could bring about a reconciliation. The final settlement, however, diverged from his own plans in several respects.

As lord chancellor, Hyde pressed for a generous Act of Oblivion, which spared most republicans from royalist vengeance, and for speedy provision of royal revenue. He hastened the disbanding of the army and strove to create a spirit of accommodation among religious leaders. He was not successful, however; the Parliament elected in 1661 at the height of the reaction initiated statutory persecution of Nonconformists far exceeding anything desired by the easygoing Charles II or even by the impeccably Anglican lord chancellor.

Although he denied being a “premier minister,” Hyde, who was created earl of Clarendon in 1661, dominated most aspects of the administration. By the marriage of his daughter Anne to James, duke of York, in 1660 he became related to the royal family and, ultimately, grandfather to two English sovereigns, Queen Mary II and Queen Anne. But he took little pleasure in his distinctions, knowing himself to be hated by those impoverished royalists for whom the Restoration had brought little reward. Clarendon also was held responsible for unpopular decisions, such as the sale of Dunkirk to France. The Anglo-Dutch War of 1665, which he had opposed, proved his final downfall.

Fall from power.
There were personal factors in his disgrace. Never a man to suffer fools gladly, his temper was shortened by attacks of gout that also incapacitated him for business. When he became openly critical of the king’s immorality, the old friendship between them disappeared, and Clarendon became the butt of a young and frivolous court. The death of allies left him exposed, and Parliament was determined to find in him the scapegoat for the disasters of the war. Thus, in August 1667 Clarendon was dismissed from the chancellorship, and in October the House of Commons began his impeachment. The charges lacked foundation, and the House of Lords refused to accept them; but by November, under threat of trial by a special court, Clarendon was forced to flee.

For the rest of his life, Clarendon remained an exile in France, cut off by an act of banishment that made correspondence with him treasonable. Determined to vindicate himself, he began writing an autobiography that narrated his political life from the 1630s to the 1660s. It lacked documentation, but in 1671 his son Lawrence, later earl of Rochester, was allowed to visit him, bringing manuscripts that included the unfinished History of the 1640s. This Clarendon then completed, inserting into it sections of the recently written autobiography. Consequently, the accuracy of the finished History of the Rebellion and Civil Wars in England varies considerably according to the date of its composition. The deficiencies of the History and the Life, which was later published from the remaining fragments of autobiography, do not always derive from inadequate documentation. For all his judicious moderation and the magisterial dignity of his prose, Clarendon was not a particularly objective historian. His accounts of opponents are often unfair, and his analysis of events in which he participated diverges from the judgments guiding him at the time. They are the inevitable blemishes of a work of vindication written in the bitterness of exile. He was buried in Westminster Abbey a month after his death.



Isaac Barrow

born October 1630, London, England
died May 4, 1677, London

English classical scholar, theologian, and mathematician who was the teacher of Isaac Newton. He developed a method of determining tangents that closely approached the methods of calculus, and he first recognized that what became known as the processes of integration and differentiation in calculus are inverse operations.

Barrow entered Trinity College, Cambridge, in 1643. There he distinguished himself as a classical scholar as well as a mathematician, earning his bachelor’s degree in 1648. He was elected a fellow of the college in 1649 and received his master’s degree in 1652. Such precociousness helped to shield him from Puritan rule, for Barrow was an outspoken Royalist and Anglican. By the mid-1650s he contemplated the publication of a full and accurate Latin edition of the Greek mathematicians, yet in a concise manner that utilized symbols for brevity. However, only Euclid’s Elements and Data appeared in 1656 and 1657, respectively, while other texts that Barrow prepared at the time—by Archimedes, Apollonius of Perga, and Theodosius of Bythnia—were not published until 1675. Barrow embarked on a European tour before the Elements was published, as the political climate in England deteriorated and the Regius professorship of Greek at the University of Oxford, to which he had been elected, was given to another. He spent four years in France, Italy, and Constantinople, returning to England with the restoration of the Stuart monarchy in 1660. On his return to England, Barrow was ordained in the Anglican Church and appointed to a Greek professorship at Cambridge. In 1662 he was also elected professor of geometry, but he resigned both positions after his election as Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at Cambridge in 1663.

Barrow was instrumental in institutionalizing the study of mathematics at Cambridge. From 1664 to 1666, he delivered a set of mathematical lectures—predominantly on the foundations of mathematics—that were published posthumously as Lectiones mathematicae (1683). These lectures treated such basic concepts as number, magnitude, and proportion; delved into the relationship between the various branches of mathematics; and considered the relation between mathematics and natural philosophy—most notably the concept of space. Barrow followed these with a series of lectures on geometry, Lectiones geometricae (1669), that were far more technical and novel. In investigating the generation of curves by motion, Barrow recognized the inverse relationship between integration and differentiation and came close to enunciating the fundamental theorem of calculus. His last series of lectures, on optics, Lectiones opticae (1670), built on the work of Johannes Kepler (1571–1630), René Descartes (1596–1650), and Thomas Hobbes (1588–1679), among others. In these lectures Barrow made major contributions to determining image location after reflection or refraction; opened new vistas for the study of astigmatism and caustics (a collection of rays that, emanating from a single point, are reflected or refracted by a curved surface); and made suggestions toward a theory of light and colours.

Barrow’s tenure as mathematics professor coincided with the maturation of Newton’s mathematical studies, and scholars often debate the exact nature of their relationship. Barrow was not Newton’s official tutor, though they were both members of Trinity College. Newton attended Barrow’s lectures, and it is clear that Barrow encouraged and furthered Newton’s studies. Fully cognizant of the young man’s talents, Barrow resigned his professorship in 1669 in Newton’s favour and accepted a position as royal chaplain in London. In 1673 Barrow was appointed master of Trinity College by King Charles II.

Although Barrow was regarded by his mathematical contemporaries in England as second only to Newton, he was more widely esteemed for his sermons and other writings on behalf of the Church of England, and these were often reprinted well into the 19th century.

Mordechai Feingold

Major genres and major authors of the period

A comparable preference for an unembellished and perspicuous use of language is apparent in much of the nontheological literature of the age. Thomas Sprat, in his propagandizing History of the Royal Society of London (1667), and with the needs of scientific discovery in mind, also advocated “a close, naked natural way of speaking, positive expressions, clear senses, a native easiness.” Sprat’s work and a series of books by Joseph Glanvill, beginning with The Vanity of Dogmatizing (1661), argued the case for an experimental approach to natural phenomena against both the old scholastic philosophy and general conservative prejudice. That a real struggle was involved can be seen from the invariably disparaging attitude of contemporary satires to the labours of the Royal Society’s enthusiasts (see, for instance, Butler’s The Elephant in the Moon, probably written in 1670–71, and Thomas Shadwell’s The Virtuoso, 1676)—a tradition to be sustained later by Pope and
Jonathan Swift.

However, evidence of substantial achievement for the new generation of explorers was being published throughout the period, in, for example, Robert Boyle’s Sceptical Chymist (1661), Robert Hooke’s Micrographia (1665), John Ray’s Historia Plantarum (in three volumes, 1686–1704), and, above all, Isaac Newton’s Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica (1687). Newton’s great work, composed in Latin, was written for fellow mathematicians rather than for gentlemen virtuosi. Only a select few were able to follow his workings (though his later Opticks [1704] was aimed at a much wider readership). Yet his theories were popularized by a small regiment of Newtonians, and by the early 18th century he had become a hero of his culture.


Thomas Sprat

Frontispiece to A History of the Royal Society, showing the
crowning of King Charles II. Sir Francis Bacon is shown on the right;
the president of the Society is on the left

born 1635, Beaminster, Dorset, Eng.
died May 20, 1713, Bromley, Kent

English man of letters, bishop of Rochester and dean of Westminster. A prose stylist, wit, and founding member and historian of the Royal Society, he is chiefly remembered for his influence on language reform and for his biography of the poet Abraham Cowley. Sprat was educated at Wadham College, Oxford, a centre of scientific learning in the 17th century. In his History of the Royal Society of London (1667), a propagandist defense rather than a factual account of the new scientific society, he criticizes the “inkhorn terms” (learned jargon) and sonorous stylistic swellings of Restoration prose. He advocated the return to the style of a simpler age.

Sprat was the close friend and literary executor of Cowley, and his An Account of the Life and Writings of Mr. Abraham Cowley (1668) was the first biography of a writer attempting to show the interrelation between the poet’s life and personality and his works. Although he referred to the charm and interest of Cowley’s letters, he considered it an impropriety to publish them and presumably destroyed them.



Joseph Glanvill

born 1636, Plymouth, Devon, Eng.
died Nov. 4, 1680, Bath, Somerset

English self-styled Skeptic and apologist for the Royal Society who defended the reality of witchcraft and ghosts and the preexistence of the soul. Thereby, according to some, he initiated psychical research.

Glanvill was educated at Exeter and Lincoln Colleges, Oxford, and served as rector of Frome Selwood and Streat before transferring (1666) to the Abbey Church, Bath. In 1678 he was installed prebendary of Worcester and acted as chaplain to Charles II from 1672.

The Vanity of Dogmatizing, or Confidence in Opinions (1661) attacked scholastic dogmatism, to which Glanvill opposed the experimental method. He admitted that universal laws could not be established in this way, but for him a scientific approach was the best available method for gaining knowledge and control over nature. His Plus Ultra or the Progress and Advancement of Knowledge Since the Days of Aristotle (1668) defended the Royal Society’s experimental method as religious in nature because it revealed the workings of God. Glanvill’s effort to prove scientifically that witches and ghosts exist was viewed as a refutation of atheism. Essays on Several Important Subjects (1676) contains some of his more mature thinking on religion and reason.




Thomas Shadwell

born 1642?, Norfolk, England
died November 19, 1692, London

English dramatist and poet laureate, known for his broad comedies of manners and as the butt of John Dryden’s satire.

Educated at Caius College, Cambridge, and at the Middle Temple, London, after the Restoration (1660) Shadwell became one of the court wits and an acquaintance of Sir Robert Howard and his brother, Edward. He satirized both Howards in The Sullen Lovers (1668), an adaptation of Molière’s Les Fâcheux.

Shadwell wrote 18 plays, including a pastoral, The Royal Shepherdess (1669), an opera, The Enchanted Island (1674; adapted from Shakespeare’s The Tempest), a tragedy, Psyche (1674–75), and a blank verse tragedy, The Libertine (1675). He translated Juvenal’s The Tenth Satyr (1687) and composed bitter attacks upon John Dryden. He also instituted the New Year and birthday odes when he became poet laureate.

Shadwell’s friendship with Dryden ended with the political crisis of 1678–79, when Shadwell espoused the Whig cause, producing The Lancashire Witches, which caused offense with its antipapist propaganda and attacks upon the Anglican clergy. Their feud produced three satires by each in the course of 1682, of which the best known are Dryden’s Absalom and Achitophel and his mock-heroic verse satire, MacFlecknoe. The issue was partly political, partly a difference of opinion over dramatic technique, particularly Dryden’s scorn for Ben Jonson’s wit and Shadwell’s uncritical reverence for him.

When Dryden was removed from the laureateship and the position of historiographer royal during the Glorious Revolution (1688–89), Shadwell succeeded him. Shadwell continued in Jonson’s style of the comedy of “humours” in many of his plays. They form a link between Jonson’s art and the realistic fiction of the age of Fielding. The Humourists (1670) was a failure because he satirized the vices and follies of an age that did not care for generalized satire. His next play, The Miser (1671–72), was a rhymed adaptation of Molière that showed his gradual shift toward the wit of the comedy of manners. Epsom-Wells (1672) became his greatest success, being played for nearly half a century. The Virtuoso (1676) was an inventive satire of the Royal Society. In The Squire of Alsatia (1688) he presented middle-class people and villains, rascals and thieves. Bury-Fair (1689) showed the influence of the popular farce that was to put his fame in eclipse in his later years. His last play, The Scowrers (1690), was a precursor of sentimental comedy.



Robert Boyle

born January 25, 1627, Lismore Castle, County Waterford, Ireland
died December 31, 1691, London, England

British natural philosopher and theological writer, a preeminent figure of 17th-century intellectual culture. He was best known as a natural philosopher, particularly in the field of chemistry, but his scientific work covered many areas including hydrostatics, physics, medicine, earth sciences, natural history, and alchemy. His prolific output also included Christian devotional and ethical essays and theological tracts on biblical language, the limits of reason, and the role of the natural philosopher as a Christian. He sponsored many religious missions as well as the translation of the Scriptures into several languages. In 1660 he helped found the Royal Society of London.

Early life and education
Boyle was born into one of the wealthiest families in Britain. He was the 14th child and 7th son of Richard Boyle, the 1st Earl of Cork, by his second wife, Catherine, daughter of Sir Geoffrey Fenton, secretary of state for Ireland. At age eight, Boyle began his formal education at Eton College, where his studious nature quickly became apparent. In 1639 he and his brother Francis embarked on a grand tour of the continent together with their tutor Isaac Marcombes. In 1642, owing to the Irish rebellion, Francis returned home while Robert remained with his tutor in Geneva and pursued further studies. Boyle returned to England in 1644, where he took up residence at his hereditary estate of Stalbridge in Dorset. Here he began a literary career writing ethical and devotional tracts, some of which employed stylistic and rhetorical models drawn from French popular literature, especially romance writings. In 1649 he began investigating nature via scientific experimentation, a process that enthralled him. From 1647 until the mid-1650s, Boyle remained in close contact with a group of natural philosophers and social reformers gathered around the intelligencer Samuel Hartlib. This group, the Hartlib Circle, included several chemists—most notably George Starkey, a young immigrant from America—who heightened Boyle’s interest in experimental chemistry.

Scientific career
Boyle spent much of 1652–54 in Ireland overseeing his hereditary lands, and he also performed some anatomic dissections. In 1654 he was invited to Oxford, and he took up residence at the university from c. 1656 until 1668. In Oxford he was exposed to the latest developments in natural philosophy and became associated with a group of notable natural philosophers and physicians, including John Wilkins, Christopher Wren, and John Locke. These individuals, together with a few others, formed the “Experimental Philosophy Club,” which at times convened in Boyle’s lodgings. Much of Boyle’s best-known work dates from this period. In 1659 he and Robert Hooke, the clever inventor and subsequent curator of experiments for the Royal Society, completed the construction of their famous air pump and used it to study pneumatics. Their resultant discoveries regarding air pressure and the vacuum appeared in Boyle’s first scientific publication, New Experiments Physico-Mechanicall, Touching the Spring of the Air and its Effects (1660). Boyle and Hooke discovered several physical characteristics of air, including its role in combustion, respiration, and the transmission of sound. One of their findings, published in 1662, later became known as “Boyle’s law.” This law expresses the inverse relationship that exists between the pressure and volume of a gas, and it was determined by measuring the volume occupied by a constant quantity of air when compressed by differing weights of mercury. Other natural philosophers, including Henry Power and Richard Towneley, concurrently reported similar findings about air.

Boyle’s scientific work is characterized by its reliance on experiment and observation and its reluctance to formulate generalized theories. He advocated a “mechanical philosophy” that saw the universe as a huge machine or clock in which all natural phenomena were accountable purely by mechanical, clockwork motion. His contributions to chemistry were based on a mechanical “corpuscularian hypothesis”—a brand of atomism which claimed that everything was composed of minute (but not indivisible) particles of a single universal matter and that these particles were only differentiable by their shape and motion. Among his most influential writings were The Sceptical Chymist (1661), which assailed the then-current Aristotelian and especially Paracelsian notions about the composition of matter and methods of chemical analysis, and the Origine of Formes and Qualities (1666), which used chemical phenomena to support the corpuscularian hypothesis. Boyle also maintained a lifelong pursuit of transmutational alchemy, endeavouring to discover the secret of transmuting base metals into gold and to contact individuals believed to possess alchemical secrets. Overall, Boyle argued so strongly for the need of applying the principles and methods of chemistry to the study of the natural world and to medicine that he later gained the appellation of the “father of chemistry.”

Theological activities
Boyle was a devout and pious Anglican who keenly championed his faith. He sponsored educational and missionary activities and wrote a number of theological treatises. Whereas the religious writings of Boyle’s youth were primarily devotional, his mature works focused on the more complex philosophical issues of reason, nature, and revelation and particularly on the relationship between the emergent new science and religion. Boyle was deeply concerned about the widespread perception that irreligion and atheism were on the rise, and he strove to demonstrate ways in which science and religion were mutually supportive. For Boyle, studying nature as a product of God’s handiwork was an inherently religious duty. He argued that this method of study would, in return, illuminate God’s omnipresence and goodness, thereby enhancing a scientist’s understanding of the divine. The Christian Virtuoso (1690) summarized these views and may be seen as a manifesto of Boyle’s own life as the model of a Christian scientist.

Mature years in London
In 1668 Boyle left Oxford and took up residence with his sister Katherine Jones, Vicountess Ranelagh, in her house on Pall Mall in London. There he set up an active laboratory, employed assistants, received visitors, and published at least one book nearly every year. Living in London also provided him the opportunity to participate actively in the Royal Society.

Boyle was a genial man who achieved both national and international renown during his lifetime. He was offered the presidency of the Royal Society (in 1680) and the episcopacy but declined both. Throughout his adult life, Boyle was sickly, suffering from weak eyes and hands, recurring illnesses, and one or more strokes. He died at age 64 after a short illness exacerbated by his grief over Katherine’s death a week earlier. He left his papers to the Royal Society and a bequest for establishing a series of lectures in defense of Christianity. These lectures, now known as the Boyle Lectures, continue to this day.

Lawrence M. Principe



Robert Hooke

born July 18, 1635, Freshwater, Isle of Wight, Eng.
died March 3, 1703, London

English physicist who discovered the law of elasticity, known as Hooke’s law, and who did research in a remarkable variety of fields.

In 1655 Hooke was employed by Robert Boyle to construct the Boylean air pump. Five years later, Hooke discovered his law of elasticity, which states that the stretching of a solid body (e.g., metal, wood) is proportional to the force applied to it. The law laid the basis for studies of stress and strain and for understanding of elastic materials. He applied these studies in his designs for the balance springs of watches. In 1662 he was appointed curator of experiments to the Royal Society of London and was elected a fellow the following year.

One of the first men to build a Gregorian reflecting telescope, Hooke discovered the fifth star in the Trapezium, an asterism in the constellation Orion, in 1664 and first suggested that Jupiter rotates on its axis. His detailed sketches of Mars were used in the 19th century to determine that planet’s rate of rotation. In 1665 he was appointed professor of geometry in Gresham College. In Micrographia (1665; “Small Drawings”) he included his studies and illustrations of the crystal structure of snowflakes, discussed the possibility of manufacturing artificial fibres by a process similar to the spinning of the silkworm, and first used the word cell to name the microscopic honeycomb cavities in cork. His studies of microscopic fossils led him to become one of the first proponents of a theory of evolution.

He suggested that the force of gravity could be measured by utilizing the motion of a pendulum (1666) and attempted to show that the Earth and Moon follow an elliptical path around the Sun. In 1672 he discovered the phenomenon of diffraction (the bending of light rays around corners); to explain it, he offered the wave theory of light. He stated the inverse square law to describe planetary motions in 1678, a law that Newton later used in modified form. Hooke complained that he was not given sufficient credit for the law and became involved in bitter controversy with Newton. Hooke was the first man to state in general that all matter expands when heated and that air is made up of particles separated from each other by relatively large distances.



John Ray


born Nov. 29, 1627, Black Notley, Essex, Eng.
died Jan. 17, 1705, Black Notley

leading 17th-century English naturalist and botanist who contributed significantly to progress in taxonomy. His enduring legacy to botany was the establishment of species as the ultimate unit of taxonomy.

Ray was the son of the village blacksmith in Black Notley and attended the grammar school in nearby Braintree. In 1644, with the aid of a fund that had been left in trust to support needy scholars at the University of Cambridge, he matriculated at one of the colleges there, St. Catherine’s Hall, and moved to Trinity College in 1646. Ray had come to Cambridge at the right time for one with his talents, for he found a circle of friends with whom he pursued anatomical and chemical studies. He also progressed well in the curriculum, taking his bachelor’s degree in 1648 and being elected to a fellowship at Trinity the following year; during the next 13 years he lived quietly in his collegiate cloister.

Ray’s string of fortunate circumstances ended with the Restoration. Although he was never an excited partisan, he was thoroughly Puritan in spirit and refused to take the oath that was prescribed by the Act of Uniformity. In 1662 he lost his fellowship. Prosperous friends supported him during the subsequent 43 years while he pursued his career as a naturalist.

That career had already begun with the publication of his first work in 1660, a catalog of plants growing around Cambridge. After he had exhausted the Cambridge area as a subject for his studies, Ray began to explore the rest of Britain. An expedition in 1662 to Wales and Cornwall with the naturalist Francis Willughby was a turning point in his life. Willughby and Ray agreed to undertake a study of the complete natural history of living things, with Ray responsible for the plant kingdom and Willughby the animal.

The first fruit of the agreement, a tour of the European continent lasting from 1663 to 1666, greatly extended Ray’s first-hand knowledge of flora and fauna. Back in England, the two friends set to work on their appointed task. In 1670 Ray produced a Catalogus Plantarum Angliae (“Catalog of English Plants”). Then in 1672 Willughby suddenly died, and Ray took up the completion of Willughby’s portion of their project. In 1676 Ray published F. Willughbeii . . . Ornithologia (The Ornithology of F. Willughby . . .) under Willughby’s name, even though Ray had contributed at least as much as Willughby. Ray also completed F. Willughbeii . . . de Historia Piscium (1685; “History of Fish”), with the Royal Society, of which Ray was a fellow, financing its publication.

Important publications
Ray had never interrupted his research in botany. In 1682 he had published a Methodus Plantarum Nova (revised in 1703 as the Methodus Plantarum Emendata . . . ), his contribution to classification, which insisted on the taxonomic importance of the distinction between monocotyledons and dicotyledons, plants whose seeds germinate with one leaf and those with two, respectively. Ray’s enduring legacy to botany was the establishment of species as the ultimate unit of taxonomy. On the basis of the Methodus, he constructed his masterwork, the Historia Plantarum, three huge volumes that appeared between 1686 and 1704. After the first two volumes, he was urged to compose a complete system of nature. To this end he compiled brief synopses of British and European plants, a Synopsis Methodica Avium et Piscium (published posthumously, 1713; “Synopsis of Birds and Fish”), and a Synopsis Methodica Animalium Quadrupedum et Serpentini Generis (1693; “Synopsis of Quadrupeds”). Much of his final decade was spent on a pioneering investigation of insects, published posthumously as Historia Insectorum.

In all this work, Ray contributed to the ordering of taxonomy. Instead of a single feature, he attempted to base his systems of classification on all the structural characteristics, including internal anatomy. By insisting on the importance of lungs and cardiac structure, he effectively established the class of mammals, and he divided insects according to the presence or absence of metamorphoses. Although a truly natural system of taxonomy could not be realized before the age of Darwin, Ray’s system approached that goal more than the frankly artificial systems of his contemporaries. He was one of the great predecessors who made possible Carolus Linnaeus’ contributions in the following century.

Nor was this the sum of his work. In the 1690s Ray also published three volumes on religion. The Wisdom of God Manifested in the Works of the Creation (1691), an essay in natural religion that called on the full range of his biological learning, was his most popular and influential book. It argued that the correlation of form and function in organic nature demonstrates the necessity of an omniscient creator. This argument from design, common to most of the leading scientists of the 17th century, implied a static view of nature that was distinctly different from the evolutionary ideas of the early and mid-19th century. Still working on his Historia Insectorum, John Ray died at the age of 77.

Richard S. Westfall



Sir Isaac Newton

English physicist and mathematician

born December 25, 1642 [January 4, 1643, New Style], Woolsthorpe, Lincolnshire, England
died March 20 [March 31], 1727, London

English physicist and mathematician, who was the culminating figure of the scientific revolution of the 17th century. In optics, his discovery of the composition of white light integrated the phenomena of colours into the science of light and laid the foundation for modern physical optics. In mechanics, his three laws of motion, the basic principles of modern physics, resulted in the formulation of the law of universal gravitation. In mathematics, he was the original discoverer of the infinitesimal calculus. Newton’s Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica (Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy), 1687, was one of the most important single works in the history of modern science.

Formative influences
Born in the hamlet of Woolsthorpe, Newton was the only son of a local yeoman, also Isaac Newton, who had died three months before, and of Hannah Ayscough. That same year, at Arcetri near Florence, Galileo Galilei had died; Newton would eventually pick up his idea of a mathematical science of motion and bring his work to full fruition. A tiny and weak baby, Newton was not expected to survive his first day of life, much less 84 years. Deprived of a father before birth, he soon lost his mother as well, for within two years she married a second time; her husband, the well-to-do minister Barnabas Smith, left young Isaac with his grandmother and moved to a neighbouring village to raise a son and two daughters. For nine years, until the death of Barnabas Smith in 1653, Isaac was effectively separated from his mother, and his pronounced psychotic tendencies have been ascribed to this traumatic event. That he hated his stepfather we may be sure. When he examined the state of his soul in 1662 and compiled a catalog of sins in shorthand, he remembered “Threatning my father and mother Smith to burne them and the house over them.” The acute sense of insecurity that rendered him obsessively anxious when his work was published and irrationally violent when he defended it accompanied Newton throughout his life and can plausibly be traced to his early years.
After his mother was widowed a second time, she determined that her first-born son should manage her now considerable property. It quickly became apparent, however, that this would be a disaster, both for the estate and for Newton. He could not bring himself to concentrate on rural affairs—set to watch the cattle, he would curl up under a tree with a book. Fortunately, the mistake was recognized, and Newton was sent back to the grammar school in Grantham, where he had already studied, to prepare for the university. As with many of the leading scientists of the age, he left behind in Grantham anecdotes about his mechanical ability and his skill in building models of machines, such as clocks and windmills. At the school he apparently gained a firm command of Latin but probably received no more than a smattering of arithmetic. By June 1661, he was ready to matriculate at Trinity College, Cambridge, somewhat older than the other undergraduates because of his interrupted education.

Influence of the scientific revolution
When Newton arrived in Cambridge in 1661, the movement now known as the scientific revolution was well advanced, and many of the works basic to modern science had appeared. Astronomers from Copernicus to Kepler had elaborated the heliocentric system of the universe. Galileo had proposed the foundations of a new mechanics built on the principle of inertia. Led by Descartes, philosophers had begun to formulate a new conception of nature as an intricate, impersonal, and inert machine. Yet as far as the universities of Europe, including Cambridge, were concerned, all this might well have never happened. They continued to be the strongholds of outmoded Aristotelianism, which rested on a geocentric view of the universe and dealt with nature in qualitative rather than quantitative terms.
Like thousands of other undergraduates, Newton began his higher education by immersing himself in Aristotle’s work. Even though the new philosophy was not in the curriculum, it was in the air. Some time during his undergraduate career, Newton discovered the works of the French natural philosopher René Descartes and the other mechanical philosophers, who, in contrast to Aristotle, viewed physical reality as composed entirely of particles of matter in motion and who held that all the phenomena of nature result from their mechanical interaction. A new set of notes, which he entitled “Quaestiones Quaedam Philosophicae” (“Certain Philosophical Questions”), begun sometime in 1664, usurped the unused pages of a notebook intended for traditional scholastic exercises; under the title he entered the slogan “Amicus Plato amicus Aristoteles magis amica veritas” (“Plato is my friend, Aristotle is my friend, but my best friend is truth”). Newton’s scientific career had begun.
The “Quaestiones” reveal that Newton had discovered the new conception of nature that provided the framework of the scientific revolution. He had thoroughly mastered the works of Descartes and had also discovered that the French philosopher Pierre Gassendi had revived atomism, an alternative mechanical system to explain nature. The “Quaestiones” also reveal that Newton already was inclined to find the latter a more attractive philosophy than Cartesian natural philosophy, which rejected the existence of ultimate indivisible particles. The works of the 17th-century chemist Robert Boyle provided the foundation for Newton’s considerable work in chemistry. Significantly, he had read Henry More, the Cambridge Platonist, and was thereby introduced to another intellectual world, the magical Hermetic tradition, which sought to explain natural phenomena in terms of alchemical and magical concepts. The two traditions of natural philosophy, the mechanical and the Hermetic, antithetical though they appear, continued to influence his thought and in their tension supplied the fundamental theme of his scientific career.
Although he did not record it in the “Quaestiones,” Newton had also begun his mathematical studies. He again started with Descartes, from whose La Géometrie he branched out into the other literature of modern analysis with its application of algebraic techniques to problems of geometry. He then reached back for the support of classical geometry. Within little more than a year, he had mastered the literature; and, pursuing his own line of analysis, he began to move into new territory. He discovered the binomial theorem, and he developed the calculus, a more powerful form of analysis that employs infinitesimal considerations in finding the slopes of curves and areas under curves.
By 1669 Newton was ready to write a tract summarizing his progress, De Analysi per Aequationes Numeri Terminorum Infinitas (“On Analysis by Infinite Series”), which circulated in manuscript through a limited circle and made his name known. During the next two years he revised it as De methodis serierum et fluxionum (“On the Methods of Series and Fluxions”). The word fluxions, Newton’s private rubric, indicates that the calculus had been born. Despite the fact that only a handful of savants were even aware of Newton’s existence, he had arrived at the point where he had become the leading mathematician in Europe.

Work during the plague years
When Newton received the bachelor’s degree in April 1665, the most remarkable undergraduate career in the history of university education had passed unrecognized. On his own, without formal guidance, he had sought out the new philosophy and the new mathematics and made them his own, but he had confined the progress of his studies to his notebooks. Then, in 1665, the plague closed the university, and for most of the following two years he was forced to stay at his home, contemplating at leisure what he had learned. During the plague years Newton laid the foundations of the calculus and extended an earlier insight into an essay, “Of Colours,” which contains most of the ideas elaborated in his Opticks. It was during this time that he examined the elements of circular motion and, applying his analysis to the Moon and the planets, derived the inverse square relation that the radially directed force acting on a planet decreases with the square of its distance from the Sun—which was later crucial to the law of universal gravitation. The world heard nothing of these discoveries.

Career » The optics » Inaugural lectures at Trinity
Newton was elected to a fellowship in Trinity College in 1667, after the university reopened. Two years later, Isaac Barrow, Lucasian professor of mathematics, who had transmitted Newton’s De Analysi to John Collins in London, resigned the chair to devote himself to divinity and recommended Newton to succeed him. The professorship exempted Newton from the necessity of tutoring but imposed the duty of delivering an annual course of lectures. He chose the work he had done in optics as the initial topic; during the following three years (1670–72), his lectures developed the essay “Of Colours” into a form which was later revised to become Book One of his Opticks.
Beginning with Kepler’s Paralipomena in 1604, the study of optics had been a central activity of the scientific revolution. Descartes’s statement of the sine law of refraction, relating the angles of incidence and emergence at interfaces of the media through which light passes, had added a new mathematical regularity to the science of light, supporting the conviction that the universe is constructed according to mathematical regularities. Descartes had also made light central to the mechanical philosophy of nature; the reality of light, he argued, consists of motion transmitted through a material medium. Newton fully accepted the mechanical nature of light, although he chose the atomistic alternative and held that light consists of material corpuscles in motion. The corpuscular conception of light was always a speculative theory on the periphery of his optics, however. The core of Newton’s contribution had to do with colours. An ancient theory extending back at least to Aristotle held that a certain class of colour phenomena, such as the rainbow, arises from the modification of light, which appears white in its pristine form. Descartes had generalized this theory for all colours and translated it into mechanical imagery. Through a series of experiments performed in 1665 and 1666, in which the spectrum of a narrow beam was projected onto the wall of a darkened chamber, Newton denied the concept of modification and replaced it with that of analysis. Basically, he denied that light is simple and homogeneous—stating instead that it is complex and heterogeneous and that the phenomena of colours arise from the analysis of the heterogeneous mixture into its simple components. The ultimate source of Newton’s conviction that light is corpuscular was his recognition that individual rays of light have immutable properties; in his view, such properties imply immutable particles of matter. He held that individual rays (that is, particles of given size) excite sensations of individual colours when they strike the retina of the eye. He also concluded that rays refract at distinct angles—hence, the prismatic spectrum, a beam of heterogeneous rays, i.e., alike incident on one face of a prism, separated or analyzed by the refraction into its component parts—and that phenomena such as the rainbow are produced by refractive analysis. Because he believed that chromatic aberration could never be eliminated from lenses, Newton turned to reflecting telescopes; he constructed the first ever built. The heterogeneity of light has been the foundation of physical optics since his time.
There is no evidence that the theory of colours, fully described by Newton in his inaugural lectures at Cambridge, made any impression, just as there is no evidence that aspects of his mathematics and the content of the Principia, also pronounced from the podium, made any impression. Rather, the theory of colours, like his later work, was transmitted to the world through the Royal Society of London, which had been organized in 1660. When Newton was appointed Lucasian professor, his name was probably unknown in the Royal Society; in 1671, however, they heard of his reflecting telescope and asked to see it. Pleased by their enthusiastic reception of the telescope and by his election to the society, Newton volunteered a paper on light and colours early in 1672. On the whole, the paper was also well received, although a few questions and some dissent were heard.

Career » The optics » Controversy
Among the most important dissenters to Newton’s paper was Robert Hooke, one of the leaders of the Royal Society who considered himself the master in optics and hence he wrote a condescending critique of the unknown parvenu. One can understand how the critique would have annoyed a normal man. The flaming rage it provoked, with the desire publicly to humiliate Hooke, however, bespoke the abnormal. Newton was unable rationally to confront criticism. Less than a year after submitting the paper, he was so unsettled by the give and take of honest discussion that he began to cut his ties, and he withdrew into virtual isolation.
In 1675, during a visit to London, Newton thought he heard Hooke accept his theory of colours. He was emboldened to bring forth a second paper, an examination of the colour phenomena in thin films, which was identical to most of Book Two as it later appeared in the Opticks. The purpose of the paper was to explain the colours of solid bodies by showing how light can be analyzed into its components by reflection as well as refraction. His explanation of the colours of bodies has not survived, but the paper was significant in demonstrating for the first time the existence of periodic optical phenomena. He discovered the concentric coloured rings in the thin film of air between a lens and a flat sheet of glass; the distance between these concentric rings (Newton’s rings) depends on the increasing thickness of the film of air. In 1704 Newton combined a revision of his optical lectures with the paper of 1675 and a small amount of additional material in his Opticks.
A second piece which Newton had sent with the paper of 1675 provoked new controversy. Entitled “An Hypothesis Explaining the Properties of Light,” it was in fact a general system of nature. Hooke apparently claimed that Newton had stolen its content from him, and Newton boiled over again. The issue was quickly controlled, however, by an exchange of formal, excessively polite letters that fail to conceal the complete lack of warmth between the men.
Newton was also engaged in another exchange on his theory of colours with a circle of English Jesuits in Liège, perhaps the most revealing exchange of all. Although their objections were shallow, their contention that his experiments were mistaken lashed him into a fury. The correspondence dragged on until 1678, when a final shriek of rage from Newton, apparently accompanied by a complete nervous breakdown, was followed by silence. The death of his mother the following year completed his isolation. For six years he withdrew from intellectual commerce except when others initiated a correspondence, which he always broke off as quickly as possible.

Career » The optics » Influence of the Hermetic tradition
During his time of isolation, Newton was greatly influenced by the Hermetic tradition with which he had been familiar since his undergraduate days. Newton, always somewhat interested in alchemy, now immersed himself in it, copying by hand treatise after treatise and collating them to interpret their arcane imagery. Under the influence of the Hermetic tradition, his conception of nature underwent a decisive change. Until that time, Newton had been a mechanical philosopher in the standard 17th-century style, explaining natural phenomena by the motions of particles of matter. Thus, he held that the physical reality of light is a stream of tiny corpuscles diverted from its course by the presence of denser or rarer media. He felt that the apparent attraction of tiny bits of paper to a piece of glass that has been rubbed with cloth results from an ethereal effluvium that streams out of the glass and carries the bits of paper back with it. This mechanical philosophy denied the possibility of action at a distance; as with static electricity, it explained apparent attractions away by means of invisible ethereal mechanisms. Newton’s “Hypothesis of Light” of 1675, with its universal ether, was a standard mechanical system of nature. Some phenomena, such as the capacity of chemicals to react only with certain others, puzzled him, however, and he spoke of a “secret principle” by which substances are “sociable” or “unsociable” with others. About 1679, Newton abandoned the ether and its invisible mechanisms and began to ascribe the puzzling phenomena—chemical affinities, the generation of heat in chemical reactions, surface tension in fluids, capillary action, the cohesion of bodies, and the like—to attractions and repulsions between particles of matter. More than 35 years later, in the second English edition of the Opticks, Newton accepted an ether again, although it was an ether that embodied the concept of action at a distance by positing a repulsion between its particles. The attractions and repulsions of Newton’s speculations were direct transpositions of the occult sympathies and antipathies of Hermetic philosophy—as mechanical philosophers never ceased to protest. Newton, however, regarded them as a modification of the mechanical philosophy that rendered it subject to exact mathematical treatment. As he conceived of them, attractions were quantitatively defined, and they offered a bridge to unite the two basic themes of 17th-century science—the mechanical tradition, which had dealt primarily with verbal mechanical imagery, and the Pythagorean tradition, which insisted on the mathematical nature of reality. Newton’s reconciliation through the concept of force was his ultimate contribution to science.

Career » The Principia » Planetary motion
Newton originally applied the idea of attractions and repulsions solely to the range of terrestrial phenomena mentioned in the preceding paragraph. But late in 1679, not long after he had embraced the concept, another application was suggested in a letter from Hooke, who was seeking to renew correspondence. Hooke mentioned his analysis of planetary motion—in effect, the continuous diversion of a rectilinear motion by a central attraction. Newton bluntly refused to correspond but, nevertheless, went on to mention an experiment to demonstrate the rotation of the Earth: let a body be dropped from a tower; because the tangential velocity at the top of the tower is greater than that at the foot, the body should fall slightly to the east. He sketched the path of fall as part of a spiral ending at the centre of the Earth. This was a mistake, as Hooke pointed out; according to Hooke’s theory of planetary motion, the path should be elliptical, so that if the Earth were split and separated to allow the body to fall, it would rise again to its original location. Newton did not like being corrected, least of all by Hooke, but he had to accept the basic point; he corrected Hooke’s figure, however, using the assumption that gravity is constant. Hooke then countered by replying that, although Newton’s figure was correct for constant gravity, his own assumption was that gravity decreases as the square of the distance. Several years later, this letter became the basis for Hooke’s charge of plagiarism. He was mistaken in the charge. His knowledge of the inverse square relation rested only on intuitive grounds; he did not derive it properly from the quantitative statement of centripetal force and Kepler’s third law, which relates the periods of planets to the radii of their orbits. Moreover, unknown to him, Newton had so derived the relation more than ten years earlier. Nevertheless, Newton later confessed that the correspondence with Hooke led him to demonstrate that an elliptical orbit entails an inverse square attraction to one focus—one of the two crucial propositions on which the law of universal gravitation would ultimately rest. What is more, Hooke’s definition of orbital motion—in which the constant action of an attracting body continuously pulls a planet away from its inertial path—suggested a cosmic application for Newton’s concept of force and an explanation of planetary paths employing it. In 1679 and 1680, Newton dealt only with orbital dynamics; he had not yet arrived at the concept of universal gravitation.

Career » The Principia » Universal gravitation
Nearly five years later, in August 1684, Newton was visited by the British astronomer Edmond Halley, who was also troubled by the problem of orbital dynamics. Upon learning that Newton had solved the problem, he extracted Newton’s promise to send the demonstration. Three months later he received a short tract entitled De Motu (“On Motion”). Already Newton was at work improving and expanding it. In two and a half years, the tract De Motu grew into Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica, which is not only Newton’s masterpiece but also the fundamental work for the whole of modern science.
Significantly, De Motu did not state the law of universal gravitation. For that matter, even though it was a treatise on planetary dynamics, it did not contain any of the three Newtonian laws of motion. Only when revising De Motu did Newton embrace the principle of inertia (the first law) and arrive at the second law of motion. The second law, the force law, proved to be a precise quantitative statement of the action of the forces between bodies that had become the central members of his system of nature. By quantifying the concept of force, the second law completed the exact quantitative mechanics that has been the paradigm of natural science ever since.
The quantitative mechanics of the Principia is not to be confused with the mechanical philosophy. The latter was a philosophy of nature that attempted to explain natural phenomena by means of imagined mechanisms among invisible particles of matter. The mechanics of the Principia was an exact quantitative description of the motions of visible bodies. It rested on Newton’s three laws of motion: (1) that a body remains in its state of rest unless it is compelled to change that state by a force impressed on it; (2) that the change of motion (the change of velocity times the mass of the body) is proportional to the force impressed; (3) that to every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. The analysis of circular motion in terms of these laws yielded a formula of the quantitative measure, in terms of a body’s velocity and mass, of the centripetal force necessary to divert a body from its rectilinear path into a given circle. When Newton substituted this formula into Kepler’s third law, he found that the centripetal force holding the planets in their given orbits about the Sun must decrease with the square of the planets’ distances from the Sun. Because the satellites of Jupiter also obey Kepler’s third law, an inverse square centripetal force must also attract them to the centre of their orbits. Newton was able to show that a similar relation holds between the Earth and its Moon. The distance of the Moon is approximately 60 times the radius of the Earth. Newton compared the distance by which the Moon, in its orbit of known size, is diverted from a tangential path in one second with the distance that a body at the surface of the Earth falls from rest in one second. When the latter distance proved to be 3,600 (60 × 60) times as great as the former, he concluded that one and the same force, governed by a single quantitative law, is operative in all three cases, and from the correlation of the Moon’s orbit with the measured acceleration of gravity on the surface of the Earth, he applied the ancient Latin word gravitas (literally, “heaviness” or “weight”) to it. The law of universal gravitation, which he also confirmed from such further phenomena as the tides and the orbits of comets, states that every particle of matter in the universe attracts every other particle with a force that is proportional to the product of their masses and inversely proportional to the square of the distance between their centres.
When the Royal Society received the completed manuscript of Book I in 1686, Hooke raised the cry of plagiarism, a charge that cannot be sustained in any meaningful sense. On the other hand, Newton’s response to it reveals much about him. Hooke would have been satisfied with a generous acknowledgment; it would have been a graceful gesture to a sick man already well into his decline, and it would have cost Newton nothing. Newton, instead, went through his manuscript and eliminated nearly every reference to Hooke. Such was his fury that he refused either to publish his Opticks or to accept the presidency of the Royal Society until Hooke was dead.

Career » International prominence
The Principia immediately raised Newton to international prominence. In their continuing loyalty to the mechanical ideal, Continental scientists rejected the idea of action at a distance for a generation, but even in their rejection they could not withhold their admiration for the technical expertise revealed by the work. Young British scientists spontaneously recognized him as their model. Within a generation the limited number of salaried positions for scientists in England, such as the chairs at Oxford, Cambridge, and Gresham College, were monopolized by the young Newtonians of the next generation. Newton, whose only close contacts with women were his unfulfilled relationship with his mother, who had seemed to abandon him, and his later guardianship of a niece, found satisfaction in the role of patron to the circle of young scientists. His friendship with Fatio de Duillier, a Swiss-born mathematician resident in London who shared Newton’s interests, was the most profound experience of his adult life.

Career » International prominence » Warden of the mint
Almost immediately following the Principia’s publication, Newton, a fervent if unorthodox Protestant, helped to lead the resistance of Cambridge to James II’s attempt to Catholicize it. As a consequence, he was elected to represent the university in the convention that arranged the revolutionary settlement. In this capacity, he made the acquaintance of a broader group, including the philosopher John Locke. Newton tasted the excitement of London life in the aftermath of the Principia. The great bulk of his creative work had been completed. He was never again satisfied with the academic cloister, and his desire to change was whetted by Fatio’s suggestion that he find a position in London. Seek a place he did, especially through the agency of his friend, the rising politician Charles Montague, later Lord Halifax. Finally, in 1696, he was appointed warden of the mint. Although he did not resign his Cambridge appointments until 1701, he moved to London and henceforth centred his life there.
In the meantime, Newton’s relations with Fatio had undergone a crisis. Fatio was taken seriously ill; then family and financial problems threatened to call him home to Switzerland. Newton’s distress knew no limits. In 1693 he suggested that Fatio move to Cambridge, where Newton would support him, but nothing came of the proposal. Through early 1693 the intensity of Newton’s letters built almost palpably, and then, without surviving explanation, both the close relationship and the correspondence broke off. Four months later, without prior notice, Samuel Pepys and John Locke, both personal friends of Newton, received wild, accusatory letters. Pepys was informed that Newton would see him no more; Locke was charged with trying to entangle him with women. Both men were alarmed for Newton’s sanity; and, in fact, Newton had suffered at least his second nervous breakdown. The crisis passed, and Newton recovered his stability. Only briefly did he ever return to sustained scientific work, however, and the move to London was the effective conclusion of his creative activity.
As warden and then master of the mint, Newton drew a large income, as much as £2,000 per annum. Added to his personal estate, the income left him a rich man at his death. The position, regarded as a sinecure, was treated otherwise by Newton. During the great recoinage, there was need for him to be actively in command; even afterward, however, he chose to exercise himself in the office. Above all, he was interested in counterfeiting. He became the terror of London counterfeiters, sending a goodly number to the gallows and finding in them a socially acceptable target on which to vent the rage that continued to well up within him.

Career » International prominence » Interest in religion and theology
Newton found time now to explore other interests, such as religion and theology. In the early 1690s he had sent Locke a copy of a manuscript attempting to prove that Trinitarian passages in the Bible were latter-day corruptions of the original text. When Locke made moves to publish it, Newton withdrew in fear that his anti-Trinitarian views would become known. In his later years, he devoted much time to the interpretation of the prophecies of Daniel and St. John, and to a closely related study of ancient chronology. Both works were published after his death.

Career » International prominence » Leader of English science
In London, Newton assumed the role of patriarch of English science. In 1703 he was elected President of the Royal Society. Four years earlier, the French Académie des Sciences (Academy of Sciences) had named him one of eight foreign associates. In 1705 Queen Anne knighted him, the first occasion on which a scientist was so honoured. Newton ruled the Royal Society magisterially. John Flamsteed, the Astronomer Royal, had occasion to feel that he ruled it tyrannically. In his years at the Royal Observatory at Greenwich, Flamsteed, who was a difficult man in his own right, had collected an unrivalled body of data. Newton had received needed information from him for the Principia, and in the 1690s, as he worked on the lunar theory, he again required Flamsteed’s data. Annoyed when he could not get all the information he wanted as quickly as he wanted it, Newton assumed a domineering and condescending attitude toward Flamsteed. As president of the Royal Society, he used his influence with the government to be named as chairman of a body of “visitors” responsible for the Royal Observatory; then he tried to force the immediate publication of Flamsteed’s catalog of stars. The disgraceful episode continued for nearly 10 years. Newton would brook no objections. He broke agreements that he had made with Flamsteed. Flamsteed’s observations, the fruit of a lifetime of work, were, in effect, seized despite his protests and prepared for the press by his mortal enemy, Edmond Halley. Flamsteed finally won his point and by court order had the printed catalog returned to him before it was generally distributed. He burned the printed sheets, and his assistants brought out an authorized version after his death. In this respect, and at considerable cost to himself, Flamsteed was one of the few men to best Newton. Newton sought his revenge by systematically eliminating references to Flamsteed’s help in later editions of the Principia.
In Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz, the German philosopher and mathematician, Newton met a contestant more of his own calibre. It is now well established that Newton developed the calculus before Leibniz seriously pursued mathematics. It is almost universally agreed that Leibniz later arrived at the calculus independently. There has never been any question that Newton did not publish his method of fluxions; thus, it was Leibniz’s paper in 1684 that first made the calculus a matter of public knowledge. In the Principia Newton hinted at his method, but he did not really publish it until he appended two papers to the Opticks in 1704. By then the priority controversy was already smouldering. If, indeed, it mattered, it would be impossible finally to assess responsibility for the ensuing fracas. What began as mild innuendoes rapidly escalated into blunt charges of plagiarism on both sides. Egged on by followers anxious to win a reputation under his auspices, Newton allowed himself to be drawn into the centre of the fray; and, once his temper was aroused by accusations of dishonesty, his anger was beyond constraint. Leibniz’s conduct of the controversy was not pleasant, and yet it paled beside that of Newton. Although he never appeared in public, Newton wrote most of the pieces that appeared in his defense, publishing them under the names of his young men, who never demurred. As president of the Royal Society, he appointed an “impartial” committee to investigate the issue, secretly wrote the report officially published by the society, and reviewed it anonymously in the Philosophical Transactions. Even Leibniz’s death could not allay Newton’s wrath, and he continued to pursue the enemy beyond the grave. The battle with Leibniz, the irrepressible need to efface the charge of dishonesty, dominated the final 25 years of Newton’s life. It obtruded itself continually upon his consciousness. Almost any paper on any subject from those years is apt to be interrupted by a furious paragraph against the German philosopher, as he honed the instruments of his fury ever more keenly. In the end, only Newton’s death ended his wrath.

Career » Final years
During his final years Newton brought out further editions of his central works. After the first edition of the Opticks in 1704, which merely published work done 30 years before, he published a Latin edition in 1706 and a second English edition in 1717–18. In both, the central text was scarcely touched, but he did expand the “Queries” at the end into the final statement of his speculations on the nature of the universe. The second edition of the Principia, edited by Roger Cotes in 1713, introduced extensive alterations. A third edition, edited by Henry Pemberton in 1726, added little more. Until nearly the end, Newton presided at the Royal Society (frequently dozing through the meetings) and supervised the mint. During his last years, his niece, Catherine Barton Conduitt, and her husband lived with him.

Richard S. Westfall



The greatest philosopher of the period,
John Locke, explicitly acknowledges Newton and some of his fellow “natural philosophers” in the opening of his An Essay Concerning Human Understanding (1690). Locke declared himself to be an “underlabourer” to what today is called a “scientist.” The philosopher’s role, according to Locke, was to clear up misunderstandings, purge language of its mystifications, and call us to acknowledge the modesty of what we can know. The Essay was a founding text of empiricism, arguing that all knowledge comes from experience, rationally reflected upon. Empiricism rejects a belief in innate ideas and argues that the mind at birth is a tabula rasa. Experience of the world can be accumulated only through the senses, which are themselves prone to unreliability. The Essay, cautiously concerned to define the exact limits of what the mind can truly claim to know, threw exciting new light on the workings of human intelligence and stimulated further debate and exploration through the fertility of its suggestions—for example, about the way in which ideas come to be associated. It was hugely influential throughout the 18th century. Locke was also a pioneer in political thought. He came from Puritan stock and was closely linked during the Restoration with leading Whig figures, especially the most controversial of them all, Anthony Ashley Cooper, 1st earl of Shaftesbury. Locke’s Two Treatises of Government, published in 1690 but written mainly during the Exclusion Crisis—the attempt to exclude Charles II’s brother James, a Roman Catholic, from succeeding to the throne—10 years earlier, asserts the right of resistance to unjust authority and, in the last resort, of revolution. To make this argument, he had to think radically about the origins of civil society, the mutual obligations of subjects and rulers, and the rights of property. The resulting work became the crucial reference point from which subsequent debate took its bearings.


John Locke

English philosopher

born Aug. 29, 1632, Wrington, Somerset, Eng.
died Oct. 28, 1704, High Laver, Essex, Eng.

English philosopher whose works lie at the foundation of modern philosophical empiricism and political liberalism. He was an inspirer of both the European Enlightenment and the Constitution of the United States. His philosophical thinking was close to that of the founders of modern science, especially Robert Boyle, Sir Isaac Newton, and other members of the Royal Society. His political thought was grounded in the notion of a social contract between citizens and in the importance of toleration, especially in matters of religion. Much of what he advocated in the realm of politics was accepted in England after the Glorious Revolution of 1688–89 and in the United States after the country’s declaration of independence in 1776.

Early years
Locke’s family was sympathetic to Puritanism but remained within the Church of England, a situation that coloured Locke’s later life and thinking. Raised in Pensford, near Bristol, Locke was 10 years old at the start of the English Civil Wars between the monarchy of Charles I and parliamentary forces under the eventual leadership of Oliver Cromwell. Locke’s father, a lawyer, served as a captain in the cavalry of the parliamentarians and saw some limited action. From an early age, one may thus assume, Locke rejected any claim by the king to have a divine right to rule.

After the first Civil War ended in 1646, Locke’s father was able to obtain for his son, who had evidently shown academic ability, a place at Westminster School in distant London. It was to this already famous institution that Locke went in 1647, at age 14. Although the school had been taken over by the new republican government, its headmaster, Richard Busby (himself a distinguished scholar), was a royalist. For four years Locke remained under Busby’s instruction and control (Busby was a strong disciplinarian who much favoured the birch). In January 1649, just half a mile away from Westminster School, Charles was beheaded on the order of Cromwell. The boys were not allowed to attend the execution, though they were undoubtedly well aware of the events taking place nearby.

The curriculum of Westminster centred on Latin, Greek, Hebrew, Arabic, mathematics, and geography. In 1650 Locke was elected a King’s Scholar, an academic honour and financial benefit that enabled him to buy several books, primarily classic texts in Greek and Latin. Although Locke was evidently a good student, he did not enjoy his schooling; in later life he attacked boarding schools for their overemphasis on corporal punishment and for the uncivil behaviour of pupils. In his enormously influential work Some Thoughts Concerning Education (1693), he would argue for the superiority of private tutoring for the education of young gentlemen (see below Other works).

In the autumn of 1652 Locke, at the comparatively late age of 20, entered Christ Church, the largest of the colleges of the University of Oxford and the seat of the court of Charles I during the Civil Wars. But the royalist days of Oxford were now behind it, and Cromwell’s Puritan followers filled most of the positions. Cromwell himself was chancellor, and John Owen, Cromwell’s former chaplain, was vice-chancellor and dean. Owen and Cromwell were, however, concerned to restore the university to normality as soon as possible, and this they largely succeeded in doing.

Locke later reported that he found the undergraduate curriculum at Oxford dull and unstimulating. It was still largely that of the medieval university, focusing on Aristotle (especially his logic) and largely ignoring important new ideas about the nature and origins of knowledge that had been developed in writings by Francis Bacon (1561–1626), René Descartes (1596–1650), and other natural philosophers. Although their works were not on the official syllabus, Locke was soon reading them. He graduated with a bachelor’s degree in 1656 and a master’s two years later, about which time he was elected a student (the equivalent of fellow) of Christ Church. At Oxford Locke made contact with some advocates of the new science, including Bishop John Wilkins, the astronomer and architect Christopher Wren, the physicians Thomas Willis and Richard Lower, the physicist Robert Hooke, and, most important of all, the eminent natural philosopher and theologian Robert Boyle. Locke attended classes in iatrochemistry (the early application of chemistry to medicine), and before long he was collaborating with Boyle on important medical research on human blood. Medicine from now on was to play a central role in his life.

The restoration of the English monarchy in 1660 was a mixed blessing for Locke. It led many of his scientific collaborators to return to London, where they soon founded the Royal Society, which provided the stimulus for much scientific research. But in Oxford the new freedom from Puritan control encouraged unruly behaviour and religious enthusiasms among the undergraduates. These excesses led Locke to be wary of rapid social change, an attitude that no doubt partly reflected his own childhood during the Civil Wars.

In his first substantial political work, Two Tracts on Government (composed in 1660 but not published until 1967), Locke defended a very conservative position: in the interest of political stability, a government is justified in legislating on any matter of religion that is not directly relevant to the essential beliefs of Christianity. This view, a response to the perceived threat of anarchy posed by sectarian differences, was diametrically opposed to the doctrine that he would later expound in Two Treatises of Government (1690).

In 1663 Locke was appointed senior censor in Christ Church, a post that required him to supervise the studies and discipline of undergraduates and to give a series of lectures. The resulting Essays on the Law of Nature (first published in 1954) constitutes an early statement of his philosophical views, many of which he retained more or less unchanged for the rest of his life. Of these probably the two most important were, first, his commitment to a law of nature, a natural moral law that underpins the rightness or wrongness of all human conduct, and, second, his subscription to the empiricist principle that all knowledge, including moral knowledge, is derived from experience and therefore not innate. These claims were to be central to his mature philosophy, both with regard to political theory and epistemology.

Association with Shaftesbury
In 1666 Locke was introduced to Lord Anthony Ashley Cooper, later 1st earl of Shaftesbury, by a mutual acquaintance. As a member and eventually the leader of a group of opposition politicians known as the Whigs, Ashley was one of the most powerful figures in England in the first two decades after the Restoration. Ashley was so impressed with Locke at their first meeting that in the following year he asked him to join his London household in Exeter House in the Strand as his aide and personal physician, though Locke did not then have a degree in medicine. Politically, Ashley stood for constitutional monarchy, a Protestant succession, civil liberty, toleration in religion, the rule of Parliament, and the economic expansion of England. Locke either shared or soon came to share all these objectives with him, and it was not long before a deep—and for each an important—mutual understanding existed between them. Locke drafted papers on toleration, possibly for Ashley to use in parliamentary speeches. In his capacity as a physician, Locke was involved in a remarkable operation to insert a silver tube into a tumour on Ashley’s liver, which allowed it to be drained on a regular basis and relieved him of much pain. It remained in place for the remainder of Ashley’s life. Locke also found a suitable bride for Ashley’s son.

By 1668 Locke had become a fellow of the Royal Society and was conducting medical research with his friend Thomas Sydenham, the most distinguished physician of the period. Although Locke was undoubtedly the junior partner in their collaboration, they worked together to produce important research based on careful observation and a minimum of speculation. The method that Locke acquired and helped to develop in this work reinforced his commitment to philosophical empiricism. But it was not only medicine that kept Locke busy, for he was appointed by Ashley as secretary to the lords proprietors of Carolina, whose function was to promote the establishment of the North American colony. In that role Locke helped to draft The Fundamental Constitutions for the Government of Carolina (1669), which, among other provisions, guaranteed freedom of religion for all save atheists.

Throughout his time in Exeter House, Locke kept in close contact with his friends. Indeed, the long gestation of his most important philosophical work, An Essay Concerning Human Understanding (1689), began at a meeting with friends in his rooms, probably in February 1671. The group had gathered to consider questions of morality and revealed religion (knowledge of God derived through revelation). Locke pointed out that, before they could make progress, they would need to consider the prior question of what the human mind is (and is not) capable of comprehending. It was agreed that Locke should prepare a paper on the topic for their next meeting, and it was this paper that became the first draft of his great work.

Exile in France
In 1672 Ashley was raised to the peerage as the 1st earl of Shaftesbury, and at the end of that year he was appointed lord chancellor of England. He was soon dismissed, however, having lost favour with Charles II. For a time Shaftesbury and Locke were in real danger, and it was partly for this reason that Locke traveled to France in 1675. By this time he had received his degree of bachelor of medicine from Oxford and been appointed to a medical studentship at Christ Church.

Locke remained in France for nearly four years (1675–79), spending much time in Paris and Montpelier; the latter possessed a large Protestant minority and the most important medical school in Europe, both of which were strong attractions for Locke. He made many friends in the Protestant community, including some leading intellectuals. His reading, on the other hand, was dominated by the works of French Catholic philosophers. But it was his medical interests that were the major theme of the journals he kept from this period. He was struck by the poverty of the local population and contrasted this unfavourably with conditions in England and with the vast amounts that the French king (Louis XIV) was spending on the Palace of Versailles. From time to time Locke turned to philosophical questions and added notes to his journal, some of which eventually found a place in An Essay Concerning Human Understanding.

Back in England, Shaftesbury had been imprisoned for a year in the Tower of London but was released in February 1678. By the time Locke returned to England in 1679, Shaftesbury had been restored to favour as lord president of the Privy Council. The country, however, was torn by dissension over the exclusion controversy—the debate over whether a law could be passed to forbid (exclude) the succession of Charles II’s brother James, a Roman Catholic, to the English throne. Shaftesbury and Locke strongly supported exclusion. The controversy reached its apex in the hysteria of the so-called Popish Plot, a supposed Catholic conspiracy to assassinate Charles and replace him with James. The existence of the plot was widely accepted and resulted in the execution of many innocent people before its fabricator, the Anglican priest Titus Oates, was discredited.

Two Treatises of Government
When Shaftesbury failed to reconcile the interests of the king and Parliament, he was dismissed; in 1681 he was arrested, tried, and finally acquitted of treason by a London jury. A year later he fled to Holland, where in 1683 he died. None of Shaftesbury’s known friends was now safe in England. Locke himself, who was being closely watched, crossed to Holland in September 1683.

Out of this context emerged Locke’s major work in political philosophy, Two Treatises of Government (1690). Although scholars disagree over the exact date of its composition, it is certain that it was substantially composed before Locke fled to Holland. In this respect the Two Treatises was a response to the political situation as it existed in England at the time of the exclusion controversy, though its message was of much more lasting significance. In the preface to the work, composed at a later date, Locke makes clear that the arguments of the two treatises are continuous and that the whole constitutes a justification of the Glorious Revolution, which brought the Protestant William III and Mary II to the throne following the flight of James II to France.

It should be noted that Locke’s political philosophy was guided by his deeply held religious commitments. Throughout his life he accepted the existence of a creating God and the notion that all humans are God’s servants in virtue of that relationship. God created humans for a certain purpose, namely to live a life according to his laws and thus to inherit eternal salvation; most importantly for Locke’s philosophy, God gave humans just those intellectual and other abilities necessary to achieve this end. Thus, humans, using the capacity of reason, are able to discover that God exists, to identify his laws and the duties they entail, and to acquire sufficient knowledge to perform their duties and thereby to lead a happy and successful life. They can come to recognize that some actions, such as failing to care for one’s offspring or to keep one’s contracts, are morally reprehensible and contrary to natural law, which is identical to the law of God. Other specific moral laws can be discovered or known only through revelation—e.g., by reading the Bible or the Qurʾān.

The essentially Protestant Christian framework of Locke’s philosophy meant that his attitude toward Roman Catholicism would always be hostile. He rejected the claim of papal infallibility (how could it ever be proved?), and he feared the political dimensions of Catholicism as a threat to English autonomy, especially after Louis XIV in 1685 revoked the Edict of Nantes, which had granted religious liberty to the Protestant Huguenots.

Two Treatises of Government » The first treatise
The first treatise was aimed squarely at the work of another 17th-century political theorist, Sir Robert Filmer, whose Patriarcha (1680, though probably written in the 1630s) defended the theory of divine right of kings: the authority of every king is divinely sanctioned by his descent from Adam—according to the Bible, the first king and the father of humanity. Locke claims that Filmer’s doctrine defies “common sense.” The right to rule by descent from Adam’s first grant could not be supported by any historical record or any other evidence, and any contract that God and Adam entered into would not be binding on remote descendants thousands of years later, even if a line of descent could be identified. His refutation was widely accepted as decisive, and in any event the theory of the divine right of kings ceased to be taken seriously in England after 1688.

Two Treatises of Government » The second treatise
Locke’s importance as a political philosopher lies in the argument of the second treatise. He begins by defining political power as a right of making Laws with Penalties of Death, and consequently all less Penalties, for the Regulating and Preserving of Property, and of employing the force of the Community, in the Execution of such Laws and in defence of the Common-wealth from Foreign Injury, and all this only for the Publick Good.

Much of the remainder of the Treatise is a commentary on this paragraph.

Two Treatises of Government » The second treatise » The state of nature and the social contract
Locke’s definition of political power has an immediate moral dimension. It is a “right” of making laws and enforcing them for “the public good.” Power for Locke never simply means “capacity” but always “morally sanctioned capacity.” Morality pervades the whole arrangement of society, and it is this fact, tautologically, that makes society legitimate.

Locke’s account of political society is based on a hypothetical consideration of the human condition before the beginning of communal life. In this “state of nature,” humans are entirely free. But this freedom is not a state of complete license, because it is set within the bounds of the law of nature. It is a state of equality, which is itself a central element of Locke’s account. In marked contrast to Filmer’s world, there is no natural hierarchy among humans. Each person is naturally free and equal under the law of nature, subject only to the will of “the infinitely wise Maker.” Each person, moreover, is required to enforce as well as to obey this law. It is this duty that gives to humans the right to punish offenders. But in such a state of nature, it is obvious that placing the right to punish in each person’s hands may lead to injustice and violence. This can be remedied if humans enter into a contract with each other to recognize by common consent a civil government with the power to enforce the law of nature among the citizens of that state. Although any contract is legitimate as long as it does not infringe upon the law of nature, it often happens that a contract can be enforced only if there is some higher human authority to require compliance with it. It is a primary function of society to set up the framework in which legitimate contracts, freely entered into, may be enforced, a state of affairs much more difficult to guarantee in the state of nature and outside civil society.

Two Treatises of Government » The second treatise » Property
Before discussing the creation of political society in greater detail, Locke provides a lengthy account of his notion of property, which is of central importance to his political theory. Each person, according to Locke, has property in his own person—that is, each person literally owns his own body. Other people may not use a person’s body for any purpose without his permission. But one can acquire property beyond one’s own body through labour. By mixing one’s labour with objects in the world, one acquires a right to the fruits of that work. If one’s labour turns a barren field into crops or a pile of wood into a house, then the valuable product of that labour, the crops or the house, becomes one’s property. Locke’s view was a forerunner of the labour theory of value, which was expounded in different forms by the 19th-century economists David Ricardo and Karl Marx (see also classical economics).

Clearly, each person is entitled to as much of the product of his labour as he needs to survive. But, according to Locke, in the state of nature one is not entitled to hoard surplus produce—one must share it with those less fortunate. God has “given the World to Men in common…to make use of to the best advantage of Life, and convenience.” The introduction of money, while radically changing the economic base of society, was itself a contingent development, for money has no intrinsic value but depends for its utility only on convention.

Locke’s account of property and how it comes to be owned faces difficult problems. For example, it is far from clear how much labour is required to turn any given unowned object into a piece of private property. In the case of a piece of land, for example, is it sufficient merely to put a fence around it? Or must it be plowed as well? There is, nevertheless, something intuitively powerful in the notion that it is activity, or work, that grants one a property right in something.

Two Treatises of Government » The second treatise » Organization of government
Locke returns to political society in Chapter VIII of the second treatise. In the community created by the social contract, the will of the majority should prevail, subject to the law of nature. The legislative body is central, but it cannot create laws that violate the law of nature, because the enforcement of the natural law regarding life, liberty, and property is the rationale of the whole system. Laws must apply equitably to all citizens and not favour particular sectional interests, and there should be a division of legislative, executive, and judicial powers. The legislature may, with the agreement of the majority, impose such taxes as are required to fulfill the ends of the state—including, of course, its defense. If the executive power fails to provide the conditions under which the people can enjoy their rights under natural law, then the people are entitled to remove him, by force if necessary. Thus, revolution, in extremis, is permissible—as Locke obviously thought it was in 1688.

The significance of Locke’s vision of political society can scarcely be exaggerated. His integration of individualism within the framework of the law of nature and his account of the origins and limits of legitimate government authority inspired the U.S. Declaration of Independence (1776) and the broad outlines of the system of government adopted in the U.S. Constitution. George Washington, the first president of the United States, once described Locke as “the greatest man who had ever lived.” In France too, Lockean principles found clear expression in the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen and other justifications of the French Revolution of 1789.

An Essay Concerning Human Understanding
Locke remained in Holland for more than five years (1683–89). While there he made new and important friends and associated with other exiles from England. He also wrote his first Letter on Toleration, published anonymously in Latin in 1689, and completed An Essay Concerning Human Understanding.

An Essay Concerning Human Understanding » Theory of ideas
A dominant theme of the Essay is the question with which the original discussion in Exeter House began: What is the capacity of the human mind for understanding and knowledge? In his prefatory chapter, Locke explains that the Essay is not offered as a contribution to knowledge itself but as a means of clearing away some of the intellectual rubbish that stands in the way of knowledge. He had in mind not only the medieval Scholastics and their followers but also some of his older contemporaries. The Scholastics—those who took Aristotle and his commentators to be the source of all philosophical knowledge and who still dominated teaching in universities throughout Europe—were guilty of introducing technical terms into philosophy (such as substantial form, vegetative soul, abhorrence of a vacuum, and intentional species) that upon examination had no clear sense—or, more often, no sense at all. Locke saw the Scholastics as an enemy that had to be defeated before his own account of knowledge could be widely accepted, something about which he was entirely right.

Locke begins the Essay by repudiating the view that certain kinds of knowledge—knowledge of the existence of God, of certain moral truths, or of the laws of logic or mathematics—are innate, imprinted on the human mind at its creation. (The doctrine of innate ideas, which was widely held to justify religious and moral claims, had its origins in the philosophy of Plato [428/427–348/347bce], who was still a powerful force in 17th-century English philosophy.) Locke argues to the contrary that an idea cannot be said to be “in the mind” until one is conscious of it. But human infants have no conception of God or of moral, logical, or mathematical truths, and to suppose that they do, despite obvious evidence to the contrary, is merely an unwarranted assumption to save a position. Furthermore, travelers to distant lands have reported encounters with people who have no conception of God and who think it morally justified to eat their enemies. Such diversity of religious and moral opinion cannot not be explained by the doctrine of innate ideas but can be explained, Locke held, on his own account of the origins of ideas.

In Book II he turns to that positive account. He begins by claiming that the sources of all knowledge are, first, sense experience (the red colour of a rose, the ringing sound of a bell, the taste of salt, and so on) and, second, “reflection” (one’s awareness that one is thinking, that one is happy or sad, that one is having a certain sensation, and so on). These are not themselves, however, instances of knowledge in the strict sense, but they provide the mind with the materials of knowledge. Locke calls the materials so provided “ideas.” Ideas are objects “before the mind,” not in the sense that they are physical objects but in the sense that they represent physical objects to consciousness.

All ideas are either simple or complex. All simple ideas are derived from sense experience, and all complex ideas are derived from the combination (“compounding”) of simple and complex ideas by the mind. Whereas complex ideas can be analyzed, or broken down, into the simple or complex ideas of which they are composed, simple ideas cannot be. The complex idea of a snowball, for example, can be analyzed into the simple ideas of whiteness, roundness, and solidity (among possibly others), but none of the latter ideas can be analyzed into anything simpler. In Locke’s view, therefore, a major function of philosophical inquiry is the analysis of the meanings of terms through the identification of the ideas that give rise to them. The project of analyzing supposedly complex ideas (or concepts) subsequently became an important theme in philosophy, especially within the analytic tradition, which began at the turn of the 20th century and became dominant at Cambridge, Oxford, and many other universities, especially in the English-speaking world.

An Essay Concerning Human Understanding » Primary and secondary qualities
In the course of his account, Locke raises a host of related issues, many of which have since been the source of much debate. One of them is his illuminating distinction between the “primary” and “secondary” qualities of physical objects. Primary qualities include size, shape, weight, and solidity, among others, and secondary qualities include colour, taste, and smell. Ideas of primary qualities resemble the qualities as they are in the object—as one’s idea of the roundness of a snowball resembles the roundness of the snowball itself. However, ideas of secondary qualities do not resemble any property in the object; they are instead a product of the power that the object has to cause certain kinds of ideas in the mind of the perceiver. Thus, the whiteness of the snowball is merely an idea produced in the mind by the interaction between light, the primary qualities of the snowball, and the perceiver’s sense organs.

An Essay Concerning Human Understanding » Personal identity
Locke discussed another problem that had not before received sustained attention: that of personal identity. Assuming one is the same person as the person who existed last week or the person who was born many years ago, what fact makes this so? Locke was careful to distinguish the notion of sameness of person from the related notions of sameness of body and sameness of man, or human being. Sameness of body requires identity of matter, and sameness of human being depends on continuity of life (as would the sameness of a certain oak tree from acorn to sapling to maturity); but sameness of person requires something else. Locke’s proposal was that personal identity consists of continuity of consciousness. One is the same person as the person who existed last week or many years ago if one has memories of the earlier person’s conscious experiences. Locke’s account of personal identity became a standard (and highly contested) position in subsequent discussions.

An Essay Concerning Human Understanding » Association of ideas
A further influential section of Book II is Locke’s treatment of the association of ideas. Ideas, Locke observes, can become linked in the mind in such a way that having one idea immediately leads one to form another idea, even though the two ideas are not necessarily connected with each other. Instead, they are linked through their having been experienced together on numerous occasions in the past. The psychological tendency to associate ideas through experience, Locke says, has important implications for the education of children. In order to learn to adopt good habits and to avoid bad ones, children must be made to associate rewards with good behaviour and punishments with bad behaviour. Investigations into the associations that people make between ideas can reveal much about how human beings think. Through his influence on researchers such as the English physician David Hartley (1705–57), Locke contributed significantly to the development of the theory of associationism, or associationist psychology, in the 18th century. Association has remained a central topic of inquiry in psychology ever since.

An Essay Concerning Human Understanding » Language
Having shown to his satisfaction that no idea requires for its explanation the hypothesis of innate ideas, Locke proceeds in Book III to examine the role of language in human mental life. His discussion is the first sustained philosophical inquiry in modern times into the notion of linguistic meaning. As elsewhere, he begins with rather simple and obvious claims but quickly proceeds to complex and contentious ones. Words, Locke says, stand for ideas in the mind of the person who uses them. It is by the use of words that people convey their necessarily private thoughts to each other. In addition, Locke insists, nothing exists except particulars, or individual things. There are, for example, many triangular things and many red things, but there is no general quality or property, over and above these things, that may be called “triangle” (“triangularity”) or “red” (“redness”) (see universal). Nevertheless, a large number of words are general in their application, applying to many particular things at once. Thus, words must be labels for both ideas of particular things (particular ideas) and ideas of general things (general ideas). The problem is, if everything that exists is a particular, where do general ideas come from?

Locke’s answer is that ideas become general through the process of abstraction. The general idea of a triangle, for example, is the result of abstracting from the properties of specific triangles only the residue of qualities that all triangles have in common—that is, having three straight sides. Although there are enormous problems with this account, alternatives to it are also fraught with difficulties.

An Essay Concerning Human Understanding » Knowledge
In Book IV of the Essay, Locke reaches the putative heart of his inquiry, the nature and extent of human knowledge. His precise definition of knowledge entails that very few things actually count as such for him. In general, he excludes knowledge claims in which there is no evident connection or exclusion between the ideas of which the claim is composed. Thus, it is possible to know that white is not black whenever one has the ideas of white and black together (as when one looks at a printed page), and it is possible to know that the three angles of a triangle equal two right angles if one knows the relevant Euclidean proof. But it is not possible to know that the next stone one drops will fall downward or that the next glass of water one drinks will quench one’s thirst, even though psychologically one has every expectation, through the association of ideas, that it will. These are cases only of probability, not knowledge—as indeed is virtually the whole of scientific knowledge, excluding mathematics. Not that such probable claims are unimportant: humans would be incapable of dealing with the world except on the assumption that such claims are true. But for Locke they fall short of genuine knowledge.

There are, however, some very important things that can be known. For example, Locke agreed with Descartes that each person can know immediately and without appeal to any further evidence that he exists at the time that he considers it. One can also know immediately that the colour of the print on a page is different from the colour of the page itself—i.e., that black is not white—and that two is greater than one. It can also be proved from self-evident truths by valid argument (by an argument whose conclusion cannot be false if its premises are true) that a first cause, or God, must exist. Various moral claims also can be demonstrated—e.g., that parents have a duty to care for their children and that one should honour one’s contracts. People often make mistakes or poor judgments in their dealings with the world or each other because they are unclear about the concepts they use or because they fail to analyze the relevant ideas. Another great cause of confusion, however, is the human propensity to succumb to what Locke calls “Enthusiasm,” the adoption on logically inadequate grounds of claims that one is already disposed to accept.

One major problem that the Essay appeared to raise is that if ideas are indeed the immediate objects of experience, how is it possible to know that there is anything beyond them—e.g., ordinary physical objects? Locke’s answer to this problem, insofar as he recognized it as a problem, appears to have been that, because perception is a natural process and thus ordained by God, it cannot be generally misleading about the ontology of the universe. In the more skeptical age of the 18th century, this argument became less and less convincing. This issue dominated epistemology in the 18th century.

The Essay’s influence was enormous, perhaps as great as that of any other philosophical work apart from those of Plato and Aristotle. Its importance in the English-speaking world of the 18th century can scarcely be overstated. Along with the works of Descartes, it constitutes the foundation of modern Western philosophy.

Other works
Locke’s writings were not confined to political philosophy and epistemology. Some Thoughts Concerning Education (1693), for example, remains a standard source in the philosophy of education. It developed out of a series of letters that Locke had written from Holland to his friend Edward Clarke concerning the education of Clarke’s son, who was destined to be a gentleman but not necessarily a scholar. It emphasizes the importance of both physical and mental development—both exercise and study. The first requirement is to instill virtue, wisdom, and good manners. This is to be followed by book learning. For the latter, Locke gives a list of recommended texts on Latin, French, mathematics, geography, and history, as well as civil law, philosophy, and natural science. There should also be plenty of scope for recreation, including dancing and riding.

Locke’s The Reasonableness of Christianity(1695) is the most important of his many theological writings. Central to all of them is his belief that every individual has within him the abilities necessary to comprehend his duty and to achieve salvation with the aid of the Scriptures. Locke was constantly trying to steer a course that would allow individuals to accept the essential doctrines of Christianity while retaining a certain freedom of conscience. According to Locke, all Christians must accept Jesus as the Messiah and live in accordance with his teachings. Within this minimum framework, however, differences of worship could and should be tolerated. Locke was thus in many ways close to the Latitudinarian movement and other liberal theological trends. His influence on Protestant Christian thought for at least the next century was substantial.

Locke wrote no major work of moral philosophy. Although he sometimes claimed that it would be possible in principle to produce a deductive system of ethics comparable to Euclid’s geometry, he never actually produced one, and there is no evidence that he ever gave the matter more than minimal attention. He was quite sure, however, that through the use of reason human beings can gain access to and knowledge of basic moral truths, which ultimately arise from a moral order in “the soil of human nature.” As he expressed the point in Essays on the Law of Nature (1664), an early work expressing a position from which he never diverted,

since man has been made such as he is, equipped with reason and his other faculties and destined for this mode of life, there necessarily result from his inborn constitution some definite duties for him, which cannot be other than they are.

Just as one can discover from the nature of the triangle that its angles equal two right angles, so this moral order can be discovered by reason and is within the grasp of all human beings.

Last years and influence
Locke remained in Holland until James II was overthrown in the Glorious Revolution. Indeed, Locke himself in February 1689 crossed the English Channel in the party that accompanied the princess of Orange, who was soon crowned Queen Mary II of England. Upon his return he became actively involved in various political projects, including helping to draft the English Bill of Rights, though the version eventually adopted by Parliament did not go as far as he wanted in matters of religious toleration. He was offered a senior diplomatic post by William but declined. His health was rarely good, and he suffered especially in the smoky atmosphere of London. He was therefore very happy to accept the offer of his close friend Damaris Masham, herself a philosopher and the daughter of Ralph Cudworth, to make his home with her family at Oates in High Laver, Essex. There he spent his last years revising the Essay and other works, entertaining friends, including Newton, and responding at length to his critics. After a lengthy period of poor health, he died while Damaris read him the Bible. He was buried in High Laver church.

As a final comment on his achievement, it may be said that, in many ways, to read Locke’s works is the best available introduction to the intellectual environment of the modern Western world. His faith in the salutary, ennobling powers of knowledge justifies his reputation as the first philosopher of the Enlightenment. In a broader context, he founded a philosophical tradition, British empiricism, that would span three centuries. In developing the Whig ideology underlying the exclusion controversy and the Glorious Revolution, he formulated the classic expression of liberalism, which was instrumental in the great revolutions of 1776 and 1789. His influence remains strongly felt in the West, as the notions of mind, freedom, and authority continue to be challenged and explored.

Graham A.J. Rogers




The Restoration, in its turn, bred its own chroniclers. Anthony à Wood, the Oxford antiquarian, made in his Athenae Oxonienses (1691–92) the first serious attempt at an English biographical dictionary. His labours were aided by John Aubrey, whose own unsystematic but enticing manuscript notes on the famous have been published in modern times under the title Brief Lives. After 1688, secret histories of the reigns of Charles II and James II were popular, of which the outstanding instance, gossipy but often reliable, is the Memoirs of the Count Grammont, compiled in French by Anthony Hamilton and first translated into English in 1714. A soberer but still free-speaking two-volume History of My Own Time (published posthumously, 1724–34) was composed by the industrious Gilbert Burnet, bishop of Salisbury from 1689. In the last months of the life of the court poet John Wilmot, 2nd earl of Rochester, Burnet had been invited to attend him, and, in Some Passages of the Life and Death of John, Earl of Rochester (1680), he offered a fascinating account of their conversations as the erstwhile rake edged toward a rapprochement with the faith he had spurned. Burnet’s account of Rochester’s final faith and penitence has been doubted by many, yet some of the dialogues that he records seem too unorthodox to be inventions.

A sparer, more finely focused prose was written by George Savile, 1st marquess of Halifax, who, closely involved in the political fray for 35 years but remaining distrustful of any simple party alignments, wrote toward the end of his life a series of thoughtful, wryly observant essays, including The Character of a Trimmer (circulated in manuscript in late 1684 or very early 1685), A Letter to a Dissenter (published clandestinely in 1687), and A Character of King Charles the Second (written after about 1688). He also composed for his own daughter The Lady’s New-Year’s-Gift; or, Advice to a Daughter (1688), in which he anatomizes, with a sombre but affectionate wit, the pitfalls awaiting a young gentlewoman in life, especially in marriage.


John Aubrey

born March 12, 1626, Easton Piercy, Wiltshire, Eng.
died June 1697, Oxford

antiquarian and biographer, best known for his vivid, intimate, and sometimes acid sketches of his contemporaries. Educated at Oxford at Trinity College, he studied law in London at the Middle Temple. He early displayed his interest in antiquities by calling attention to the prehistoric stones at Avebury, Wiltshire. His literary and scientific interests won him a fellowship of the Royal Society in 1663. Meanwhile, in his travels in England and Europe, he became entangled in love suits and lawsuits (from which he was never free until he sold the remainder of his estates in 1670) and avoided creditors. His easy, equable temper won him many friends, among them the architect Sir Christopher Wren and the philosopher Thomas Hobbes.

In 1667 Aubrey met the historian and antiquarian Anthony à Wood and began gathering materials for Wood’s projected Athenae Oxonienses, a vast biographical dictionary of Oxford writers and ecclesiastics (though portions of Aubrey’s contribution were eventually withheld after disagreements with Wood). He also continued gathering antiquities. His Miscellanies (1696), a collection of stories of apparitions and curiosities, was the only work that appeared during his lifetime. After his death, some of his antiquarian materials were included in The Natural History and Antiquities of . . . Surrey (1719) and The Natural History of Wiltshire (1847).

His biographies first appeared as Lives of Eminent Men (1813). The definitive presentation of Aubrey’s biographical manuscripts, however, is Brief Lives (2 vol., 1898; edited by Andrew Clark). Though not biographies in the strict sense of the word, Aubrey’s Lives, based on observation and gossip, are profiles graced by picturesque and revealing detail that have found favour with later generations. They also convey a delightful impression of their easygoing author.




John Wilmot



born April 1, 1647, Ditchley Manor House, Oxfordshire, Eng.
died July 26, 1680, Woodstock, Eng.

court wit and poet who helped establish English satiric poetry.

Wilmot succeeded his father to the earldom in 1658, and he received his M.A. at Oxford in 1661. Charles II, probably out of gratitude to the 1st earl, who had helped him to escape after the Battle of Worcester (1651), gave the young earl an annual pension and appointed Sir Andrew Balfour, a Scottish physician, as his tutor. They travelled on the Continent for three years until 1664.

On his return, as a leader of the court wits, Rochester became known as one of the wildest debauchees at the Restoration court, the hero of numerous escapades, and the lover of various mistresses. Among them was the actress Elizabeth Barry, whom he is said to have trained for the stage, and an heiress, Elizabeth Malet. He volunteered for the navy and served with distinction in the war against the Dutch (1665–67). In 1667 he married Elizabeth Malet and was appointed a gentleman of the bedchamber to the king. In 1673 John Dryden dedicated to Rochester his comedy Marriage A-la-Mode in complimentary terms, acknowledging his help in writing it.

Rochester is generally considered to be the most considerable poet and the most learned among the Restoration wits. A few of his love songs have passionate intensity; many are bold and frankly erotic celebrations of the pleasures of the flesh. He is also one of the most original and powerful of English satirists. His “History of Insipids” (1676) is a devastating attack on the government of Charles II, and his “Maim’d Debauchee” has been described as “a masterpiece of heroic irony.” A Satyr Against Mankind (1675) anticipates Swift in its scathing denunciation of rationalism and optimism and in the contrast it draws between human perfidy and folly and the instinctive wisdom of the animal world.

In 1674 Rochester was appointed ranger of Woodstock Forest, where much of his later poetry was written. His health was declining, and his thoughts were turning to serious matters. His correspondence (dated 1679–80) with the Deist Charles Blount shows a keen interest in philosophy and religion, further stimulated by his friendship with Gilbert Burnet, later bishop of Salisbury. Burnet recorded their religious discussions in Some Passages of the Life and Death of John, Earl of Rochester (1680). In 1680 he became seriously ill and experienced a religious conversion, followed by a recantation of his past; he ordered “all his profane and lewd writings” burned.

His single dramatic work, the posthumous Valentinian (1685), an attempt to rehandle a tragedy of John Fletcher’s, contains two of his finest lyrics. His letters to his wife and to his friend Henry Savile are among the best of the period and show an admirable mastery of easy, colloquial prose.



George Savile

born Nov. 11, 1633, Thornhill, Yorkshire, Eng.
died April 5, 1695, London

English statesman and political writer known as “The Trimmer” because of his moderating position in the fierce party struggles of his day. Although his conciliatory approach frequently made him a detached critic rather than a dynamic politician, the principles he espoused have appealed to many 20th-century political thinkers.

Savile sat in the Convention Parliament that restored King Charles II to the throne in 1660, and in 1668 he became Viscount Halifax. Admitted to the Privy Council in 1672, he opposed Charles’s covert pro-French and pro-Roman Catholic policies. Nevertheless, he balanced this opposition by fighting the anti-Catholic Test Act of 1673. In 1676 Halifax was dismissed from the Council for repeatedly showing hostility to the King’s chief minister, Thomas Osborne, earl of Danby; he regained his seat, however, in 1679 and in the same year was created marquess of Halifax. Adhering to his principles of moderation, he successfully led the fight in the House of Lords (Nov. 15, 1680) against a bill that would have excluded Charles’s Roman Catholic brother James, duke of York, from succession to the throne. In October 1682 he became lord privy seal. But upon the accession of the Duke of York as James II in February 1685, Halifax was demoted to lord president of the council, from which office he was summarily dismissed on October 21. He spent the next three years writing political pamphlets. His Character of King Charles the Second was written during this period, and The Character of a Trimmer, a statement of his political creed, was published in 1688.

When James’s enemy William of Orange invaded England in November 1688, Halifax tried, at the behest of James, to arrange a compromise between the two men. After he failed, he sided with William. It was largely a result of his efforts that the Convention Parliament of 1689 accepted William and Mary as joint sovereigns of England. In the new regime, Halifax was lord privy seal and chief minister of the crown until his enemies in both the Whig and Tory parties forced him to resign in February 1690.



Two great diarists are among the most significant witnesses to the development of the Restoration world. Both possessed formidably active and inquisitive intelligences. John Evelyn was a man of some moral rectitude and therefore often unenamoured of the conduct he observed in court circles; but his curiosity was insatiable, whether the topic in question happened to be Tudor architecture, contemporary horticulture, or the details of sermon rhetoric. Samuel Pepys, whose diary, unlike Evelyn’s, covers only the first decade of the Restoration, was the more self-scrutinizing of the two, constantly mapping his own behaviour with an alert and quizzical eye. He also described major public events from close up, including the Great Plague and the Great Fire of London and a naval war against the Dutch. Though not without his own moral inhibitions and religious gravity, Pepys immersed himself more totally than Evelyn in the new world of the 1660s, and it is he who gives the more resonant and idiosyncratic images of the changing London of the time. Pepys’s diary is full of the oddities of everyday life: food, places, singular characters encountered only once. It was written in cipher for no reader other than himself and gives an often disarming sense of the writer’s weaknesses and his self-interest. (It was not decoded until the 19th century.)

John Evelyn

born Oct. 31, 1620, Wotton, Surrey, Eng.
died Feb. 27, 1706, Wotton

English country gentleman, author of some 30 books on the fine arts, forestry, and religious topics. His Diary, kept all his life, is considered an invaluable source of information on the social, cultural, religious, and political life of 17th-century England.

Son of a wealthy landowner, after studying in the Middle Temple, London, and at Balliol College, Oxford, Evelyn decided not to join the Royalist cause in the English Civil War for fear of endangering his brother’s estate at Wotton, then in parliamentary territory. In 1643, therefore, he went abroad, first to France and then to Rome, Venice, and Padua, returning to Paris in 1646, where the following year he married Mary, daughter of Sir Richard Browne, Charles I’s diplomatic representative to France. In 1652, during the Commonwealth, he returned to England and acquired his father-in-law’s estate, Sayes Court, at Deptford. In 1659 he published two Royalist pamphlets.

At the Restoration of the monarchy in 1660, Evelyn was well received by Charles II; he served on a variety of commissions, including those concerned with London street improvement (1662), the Royal Mint (1663), and the repair of old St. Paul’s (1666). Far more important was the commission for sick and wounded mariners and for prisoners of war in Charles II’s Dutch Wars (1665–67, 1672–74), during which Evelyn exposed himself to plague and incurred personal expenses, reimbursement for which he was still petitioning in 1702. At that time he received help from Samuel Pepys (a navy official and, likewise, a diarist), with whom he formed a lifelong friendship.

Evelyn served on a council for colonial affairs from 1671 to 1674. He was appointed to the council of the Royal Society by its first and second charters in 1662 and 1663 and remained a lifelong member. In this capacity in 1664 he produced for the commissioners of the navy Sylva, or a Discourse of Forest-trees, and the Propagation of Timber, a description of the various kinds of trees, their cultivation, and uses. The study, with numerous modifications, had gone through 10 editions by 1825. In 1662 Evelyn produced Sculptura, a small book on engraving and etching, in which he announced a new process, the mezzotint.

About 1670 Evelyn formed a paternal affection for Margaret Blagge, a maid of honour at court, who later secretly married Sidney Godolphin, future lord high treasurer. She died after giving birth to a child in 1678; Evelyn’s Life of Mrs. Godolphin (1847; ed. H. Sampson, 1939), is one of the most moving of 17th-century biographies.

In 1685, a few months after James II’s accession, Evelyn was appointed one of three commissioners for the privy seal, an office he held for 15 months. Evelyn’s last important book, Numismata, was published in 1697.

His Diary, begun when he was 11 years old and first published in 1818 (ed. E.S. de Beer, 6 vol., 1955), was written for himself alone but with relatively little about himself in it. It ranges from bald memoranda to elaborate set pieces. With its descriptions of places and events, characters of contemporaries, and many reports of sermons, it bears witness to more than 50 years of English life and, as such, is of great historical value.



Samuel Pepys

"The Diary"   PART I, PART II

born February 23, 1633, London, England
died May 26, 1703, London

English diarist and naval administrator, celebrated for his Diary (first published in 1825), which gives a fascinating picture of the official and upper-class life of Restoration London from Jan. 1, 1660, to May 31, 1669.

Pepys was the son of a working tailor who had come to London from Huntingdonshire, in which county, and in Cambridgeshire, his family had lived for centuries as monastic reeves, rent collectors, farmers, and, more recently, small gentry. His mother, Margaret Kite, was the sister of a Whitechapel butcher. But, though of humble parentage, Pepys rose to be one of the most important men of his day, becoming England’s earliest secretary of the Admiralty and serving in his time as member of Parliament, president of the Royal Society (in which office he placed his imprimatur on the title page of England’s greatest scientific work, Sir Isaac Newton’s Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica), master of Trinity House and of the Clothworkers’ Company, and a baron of the Cinque Ports. He was the trusted confidant both of Charles II, from whom he took down in shorthand the account of his escape after the Battle of Worcester, and of James II, whose will he witnessed before the royal flight in 1688. The friends of his old age included Sir Christopher Wren, Sir Isaac Newton, John Evelyn, Sir Godfrey Kneller, John Dryden, and almost every great scholar of the age.

Early career.
Samuel Pepys (pronounced peeps) was sent, after early schooling at Huntingdon, to St. Paul’s School, London. In 1650 he was entered at Trinity Hall, Cambridge, but instead went as a sizar to Magdalene College, obtaining a scholarship on the foundation. In March 1653 he took his B.A. degree and in 1660 that of M.A. Little is known of his university career save that he was once admonished for being “scandalously overserved with drink.” In later years he became a great benefactor of his college, to which he left his famous library of books and manuscripts. He was also once offered—but refused—the provostship of King’s College, Cambridge.

In December 1655 he married a penniless beauty of 15, Elizabeth Marchant de Saint-Michel, daughter of a French Huguenot refugee. At this time he was employed as factotum in the Whitehall lodgings of his cousin Adm. Edward Montagu, later 1st earl of Sandwich, who was high in the lord protector Cromwell’s favour. In his diary Pepys recalls this humble beginning, when his young wife “used to make coal fires and wash my foul clothes with her own hand for me, poor wretch! in our little room at Lord Sandwich’s; for which I ought forever to love and admire her, and do.” While there, on March 26, 1658, he underwent a serious abdominal operation, thereafter always celebrating the anniversary of his escape by a dinner—“This being my solemn feast for my cutting of the stone.”

In 1659 Pepys accompanied Montagu on a voyage to the Sound. About the same time he was appointed to a clerkship of £50 per annum in the office of George Downing, one of the tellers of the Exchequer, after whom Downing Street was later named. It was while working in Downing’s office and living in a small house in Axe Yard that on Jan. 1, 1660, he began his diary. A few months later he sailed, as his cousin’s secretary, with the fleet that brought back Charles II from exile. Appointed, through Montagu’s interest at court, clerk of the acts of the navy at a salary of £350 per annum and given an official residence in the navy office in Seething Lane, he became in the next few years a justice of the peace, a commissioner for and, later, treasurer of, Tangier, and surveyor of naval victualling. When he entered upon his functions, he was ignorant of almost everything that belonged to them. His chief use of his position was to enjoy his newfound importance and the convivial companionship of his colleagues, admirals Sir William Batten and Sir William Penn. But early in 1662 there came a change. The colleagues whose bacchanalian habits and social position had made them so attractive began to prove irksome, and their insistence on their superior experience and status galled Pepys’s pride. In his isolation, he sought for ways by which he could show himself their equal. He had not far to look, for his fellow officers were anything but attentive to business. “So to the office,” Pepys wrote, “where I do begin to be exact in my duty there and exacting my privileges and shall continue to do so.” He had found his vocation.

Naval administration.
It was not in Pepys’s nature to do things by halves. Having resolved to do his duty, he set out to equip himself for its performance. In the summer of 1662 he occupied his leisure moments by learning the multiplication table, listening to lectures on shipbuilding, and studying the prices of naval stores: “into Thames Street, beyond the Bridge, and there enquired among the shops the price of tar and oil, and do find great content in it, and hope to save the King money by this practise.” At the same time, he began his habit of making careful entries of all contracts and memoranda in large vellum books—beautifully ruled by Elizabeth Pepys and her maids—and of keeping copies of his official letters.

The qualities of industry and devotion to duty that Pepys brought to the service of the Royal Navy became realized during the Second Dutch War of 1665–67—years in which he remained at his post throughout the Plague and saved the navy office in the Great Fire of London. Before trouble with his eyesight caused him to discontinue his diary in 1669—an event followed by the death of his wife—these qualities had won him the trust of the King and his brother James, the duke of York, the lord high admiral. In 1673, in the middle of the Third Dutch War, when York’s unpopular conversion to Catholicism forced him to resign his office, Pepys was appointed secretary to the new commission of Admiralty and, as such, administrative head of the navy. In order to represent it in Parliament—before whom he had conducted a masterly defense of his office some years before—he became member first for Castle Rising and, later, for Harwich. For the next six years he was engaged in stamping out the corruption that had paralyzed the activities of the navy. His greatest achievement was carrying through Parliament a program that, by laying down 30 new ships of the line, restored the balance of sea power, upset by the gigantic building programs of France and the Netherlands. In his work both at the Admiralty and in Parliament, Pepys’s unbending passion for efficiency and honesty (combined with a certain childlike insistence on his own virtue and capacity for being always in the right) made for him powerful and bitter enemies. One of these was Lord Shaftesbury, who in 1678 endeavoured to strike at the succession and at the Catholic successor, the Duke of York, by implicating Pepys in the mysterious murder of the London magistrate Sir Edmund Berry Godfrey, the crime on which the full credulity of the populace in the Popish Plot depended. When Pepys produced an unanswerable alibi, his enemies endeavoured to fasten Godfrey’s murder on him indirectly by accusing his confidential clerk, Samuel Atkins. Despite the third-degree methods employed against him, Pepys also proved an alibi for Atkins, who would otherwise almost certainly have perished. Six months later, his enemies brought into England a picturesque scoundrel and blackmailer called John Scott, who had begun his life of crime in what today is Long Island, New York, and whom Pepys had endeavoured to have arrested at the time of Godfrey’s death on account of his mysterious activities disguised as a Jesuit. Pepys was flung into the Tower on an absurd charge of treason brought against him by Scott and supported by the Exclusionists in Parliament, as also on a minor and equally unjust charge of popery, brought against him by a dismissed butler whom he had caught in bed with his favourite maid. Had not Charles II almost immediately dissolved Parliament and prevented a new one from meeting for a further year and a half, Pepys would have paid the penalty for his loyalty, efficiency, and incorruptibility with his life. He employed his respite with such energy that by the time Parliament met again he had completely blasted the reputation of his accuser.

In 1683, when the King felt strong enough to ignore his opponents, Pepys was taken back into the public service. He had accompanied the Duke of York in the previous year on a voyage to Scotland, and he now sailed as adviser to the Earl of Dartmouth to evacuate the English garrison of Tangier—a voyage that he described in a further journal.

On his return, in the spring of 1684, he was recalled by Charles II to his old post. Entitled secretary of the affairs of the Admiralty of England and remunerated by a salary of £500 per annum, he combined the modern offices of first lord and secretary of the Admiralty, both administering the service and answering for it in Parliament. For the next four and a half years, including the whole of James II’s reign, Pepys was one of the greatest men in England, controlling the largest spending department of state. With his habitual courage and industry, he set himself to rebuild the naval edifice that the inefficiency and corruption of his enemies had shattered, securing in 1686 the appointment of a special commission “for the Recovery of the Navy.” When, at the beginning of 1689, after James II had been driven from the country, Pepys retired, he had created a navy strong enough to maintain a long ascendancy in the world’s seas. When Pepys became associated with the navy in 1660, the line of battle had consisted of 30 battleships of a total burden of approximately 25,000 tons and carrying 1,730 guns. When he laid down his office, he left a battle line of 59 ships of a total burden of 66,000 tons and carrying 4,492 guns. Not only had he doubled the navy’s fighting strength, but he had given it what it had never possessed before and what it never again lost—a great administrative tradition of order, discipline, and service.

“To your praises,” declared the orator of Oxford University, “the whole ocean bears witness; truly, sir, you have encompassed Britain with wooden walls.” Pepys’s last 14 years, despite attempts by his political adversaries to molest him, were spent in honourable retirement in his riverside house in York Buildings, amassing and arranging the library that he ultimately left to Magdalene College, Cambridge, corresponding with scholars and artists, and collecting material for a history of the navy that he never lived to complete, though he published a prelude to it in 1690, describing his recent work at the Admiralty, entitled Memoires relating to the State of the Royal Navy of England for ten years determined December 1688. He died at the Clapham home of his former servant and lifelong friend William Hewer. His fellow diarist John Evelyn wrote of him: “He was universally belov’d, hospitable, generous, learned in many things, skilled in music, a very greate cherisher of learned men of whom he had the conversation.”

The diary
The diary by which Pepys is chiefly known was kept between his 27th and 36th years. Written in Thomas Shelton’s system of shorthand, or tachygraphy, with the names in longhand, it extends to 1,250,000 words, filling six quarto volumes in the Pepys Library. It is far more than an ordinary record of its writer’s thoughts and actions; it is a supreme work of art, revealing on every page the capacity for selecting the small, as well as the large, essential that conveys the sense of life; and it is probably, after the Bible and James Boswell’s Life of Samuel Johnson, the best bedside book in the English language. One can open it on any page and lose oneself in the life of Charles II’s London, and of this vigorous, curious, hardworking, pleasure-loving man. Pepys wanted to find out about everything because he found everything interesting. He never seemed to have a dull moment; he could not, indeed, understand dullness. One of the more comical entries in his diary refers to a country cousin, named Stankes, who came to stay with him in London. Pepys had been looking forward to showing him the sights of the town—

But Lord! what a stir Stankes makes, with his being crowded in the streets, and wearied in walking in London, and would not be wooed by my wife and Ashwell to go to a play, nor to White Hall, or to see the lions, though he was carried in a coach. I never could have thought there had been upon earth a man so little curious in the world as he is.

Pepys possessed the journalist’s gift of summing up a scene or person in a few brilliant, arresting words. He makes us see what he sees in a flash: his Aunt James, “a poor, religious, well-meaning, good soul, talking of nothing but God Almighty, and that with so much innocence that mightily pleased me”; and his sister Pall, “a pretty, good-bodied woman and not over thick, as I thought she would have been, but full of freckles and not handsome in the face.” He could describe with wonderful vividness a great scene: as, for example, the day General George Monck’s soldiers unexpectedly marched into a sullen City and proclaimed there should be a free Parliament—“And Bow bells and all the bells in all the churches as we went home were a-ringing; it was past imagination, both the greatness and suddenness of it.” He described, too, the Restoration and coronation; the horrors of the Plague; and the Fire of London, writing down his account—so strong was the artist in him—even as his home and its treasures were being threatened with destruction:

We saw the fire as only one entire arch of fire from this to the other side of the bridge, and in a bow up the hill for an arch of above a mile long: it made me weep to see it. The churches, houses, and all on fire and flaming at once; and a horrid noise the flames made, and the cracking of houses at their ruine.

Above all, Pepys possessed the artist’s gift of being able to select the vital moment. He makes his readers share the very life of his time: “I staid up till the bell-man came by with his bell just under my window as I was writing of this very line, and cried, ‘Past one of the clock, and a cold, and frosty, windy morning.’ ” He tells of the guttering candle, “which makes me write thus slobberingly”; of his new watch—“But Lord! to see how much of my old folly and childishness hangs on me still that I cannot forebear carrying my watch in my hand in the coach all the afternoon and seeing what o’clock it is one hundred times”; of being awakened in the night—

About 3 o’clock this morning I waked with the noise of the rain, having never in my life heard a more violent shower; and then the cat was locked in the chamber and kept a great mewing and leapt upon the bed, which made me I could not sleep a great while.

Pepys excluded nothing from his journal that seemed to him essential, however much it told against himself. He not only recorded his major infidelities and weaknesses; he put down all those little meannesses of thought and conduct of which all men are guilty but few admit, even to themselves. He is frank about his vanity—as, for example, in his account of the day he went to church for the first time in his new periwig: “I found that my coming in a perriwig did not prove so strange to the world as I was afeared it would, for I thought that all the church would presently have cast their eyes upon me, but I found no such thing”; about his meannesses over money, his jealousies, and his injustices—“Home and found all well, only myself somewhat vexed at my wife’s neglect in leaving her scarfe, waistcoat and night dressings in the coach today; though I confess she did give them to me to look after.” For he possessed in a unique degree the quality of complete honesty. His diary paints not only his own infirmities but the frailty of all mankind.

After the successful publication of John Evelyn’s diary in 1818, Pepys’s diary was transcribed—with great accuracy—by John Smith, later rector of Baldock, Hertfordshire.

Sir Arthur Bryant

The court wits

Among the subjects for gossip in London, the group known as the court wits held a special place. Their conduct of their lives provoked censure from many, but among them were poets of some distinction who drew upon the example of gentlemen-authors of the preceding generation (especially Sir John Suckling, Abraham Cowley, and Edmund Waller, the last two of whom themselves survived into the Restoration and continued to write impressive verse). The court wits’ best works are mostly light lyrics—for example, Sir Charles Sedley’s Not, Celia, that I juster am or Charles Sackville, earl of Dorset’s Dorinda’s sparkling wit, and eyes. However, one of their number, John Wilmot, the earl of Rochester, possessed a wider range and richer talent. Though some of his surviving poetry is in the least-ambitious sense occasional work, he also produced writing of great force and authority, including a group of lyrics (for example, All my past life is mine no more and An age in her embraces past) that, in psychological grasp and limpid deftness of phrasing, are among the finest of the century. He also wrote the harsh and scornfully dismissive Satire Against Reason and Mankind (probably before 1676), in which, as elsewhere in his verse, his libertinism seems philosophical as well as sexual. He doubts religious truths and sometimes seems to be versifying the scandalous materialism of Thomas Hobbes. Indeed, some of his verse that vaunts its obscenity has an aspect of nihilism, as if the amoral sexual epicure were but fending off fear of oblivion. More lightly, Rochester experimented ingeniously with various forms of verse satire on contemporary society. The most brilliant of these, A Letter from Artemisia in the Town, to Chloë in the Country (written about 1675), combines a shrewd ear for currently fashionable idioms with a Chinese box structure that masks the author’s own thoughts. Rochester’s determined use of strategies of indirection anticipates Swift’s tactics as an ironist.

John Oldham, a young schoolmaster, received encouragement as a poet from Rochester. His career, like his patron’s, was to be cut short by an early death (in 1683, at age 30); but of his promise there can be no doubt. (Dryden wrote a fine elegy upon him.) Oldham’s Satires upon the Jesuits (1681), written during the Popish Plot, makes too unrelenting use of a rancorous, hectoring tone, but his development of the possibilities (especially satiric) of the “imitation” form, already explored by Rochester in, for example, An Allusion to Horace (written 1675–76), earns him an honourable place in the history of a mode that Pope was to put to such dazzling use. His imitation of the ninth satire of Horace’s first book exemplifies the agility and tonal resource with which Oldham could adapt a Classical original to, and bring its values to bear upon, Restoration experience.

A poet who found early popularity with Restoration readers is Charles Cotton, whose Scarronides (1664–65), travesties of Books I and IV of Virgil’s Aeneid, set a fashion for poetic burlesque. He is valued today, however, for work that attracted less contemporary interest but was to be admired by the Romantics William Wordsworth, Samuel Coleridge, and Charles Lamb. The posthumous Poems on Several Occasions (1689) includes deft poetry of friendship and love written with the familiar, colloquial ease of the Cavalier tradition and carefully observed, idiosyncratically executed descriptions of nature. He also added a second part to his friend Izaak Walton’s The Compleat Angler in 1676. A writer whose finest work was unknown to his contemporaries, much of it not published until the 20th century, is the poet and mystic Thomas Traherne. Influenced by the Hermetic writings attributed to the Egyptian god Thoth and by the lengthy Platonic tradition, he wrote, with extreme transparency of style, out of a conviction of the original innocence and visionary illumination of infancy. His poetry, though uneven, contains some remarkable writing, but his richest achievements are perhaps to be found in the prose Centuries of Meditations (first published in 1908).


Sir Charles Sedley

born March 1639, Aylesford, Kent, Eng.
died Aug. 20, 1701, Hampstead, London

English Restoration poet, dramatist, wit, and courtier.

Sedley attended the University of Oxford but left without taking a degree. He inherited the baronetcy on the death of his elder brother. After the Restoration (1660) he was a prominent member of the group of court wits. Charles II delighted in his conversation. The dramatists John Dryden and Thomas Shadwell were among his friends, and Dryden introduced him into his essay Of Dramatick Poesie under the name of Lisideius. Sedley was an active supporter of William and Mary at the time of the 1688 revolution. In later life he seems to have become a serious legislator. He sat in all the parliaments of William III as member for New Romney, and his speeches were considered to be thoughtful and sensible.

Sedley’s plays span the period 1668–87; notable among them is Bellamira (1687), a racy, amusing rehandling of the theme of the Eunuchus of the Roman playwright Terence. Sedley’s literary reputation, however, rests on his lyrics and verse translations. His best lyrics, such as the well-known “Phillis is my only Joy,” have grace and charm. His verse translations of the eighth ode of Book II of Horace and the fourth Georgic of Virgil have been highly praised. The first collected edition of his works was published in 1702; a later one, edited by Vivian de Sola Pinto, in two volumes, was published in 1928 with a study of the author.

Sedley’s son predeceased him, and the baronetcy became extinct upon Sedley’s death.



John Oldham


born Aug. 9, 1653, Shipton Moyne, Gloucestershire, Eng.
died Dec. 9, 1683, Holm Pierrepont, near Nottingham

pioneer of the imitation of classical satire in English.

Oldham was the son of a scholarly vicar who was responsible for much of his education; he also studied at Tetbury Grammar School for two years. From 1670 to 1674 he attended St. Edmund Hall, Oxford, and in 1676 he became an usher at Whitgift School, Croydon. His poems attracted the attention of the earl of Rochester, who visited him at Croydon and is said to have “much delighted” in his poetry. Oldham’s imitation of Moschus’s elegy on Bion, written at Rochester’s death, contains a touching expression of his gratitude to him. In 1677 he attempted, apparently unsuccessfully, to win recognition at court by writing a poem on the marriage of the Princess Mary to William of Orange. While a resident of London, he was on the fringe of the “court wits” and composed several satires, some obscene, to amuse this circle. He also met John Dryden, who was to mourn him in a noble elegy.

Oldham has a notable place in the development of Augustan poetry. The four Satyrs upon the Jesuits (1681), including “Garnet’s Ghost,” previously published as a broadsheet in 1679, met with considerable contemporary success and constitute his most widely known work. They are forceful but melodramatic, crowded with coarse images and uneven versification, an attempt to imitate the invective of Juvenal. While seeking patronage as a writer, Oldham earned his living by working as a private tutor. In his last year he composed a series of satirical pieces, including imitations of Juvenal and the French poet Nicolas Boileau. His satires have the novelty of being directed toward general subjects rather than being personal lampoons.



Charles Cotton

born April 28, 1630, Beresford Hall, Staffordshire, Eng.
died Feb. 16, 1687, London

English poet and country squire, chiefly remembered for his share in Izaak Walton’s The Compleat Angler.

Cotton made a number of translations from the French, including, in 1685, his often-reprinted version of Montaigne’s Essays, Corneille’s Horace (1671), and several historical and philosophical works. Following the French fashion, he wrote Scarronides (1664, 1665), which is a coarse burlesque of the Aeneid, books 1 and 4, and the Burlesque upon Burlesque . . . Being some of Lucians Dialogues newly put into English fustian (1675).

His original writings include The Compleat Gamester (1674); The Planter’s Manual (1675); and the second part, on fly fishing, which he added at Walton’s suggestion, to the 5th edition of The Compleat Angler (1676). The Wonders of the Peake (1681), a long topographical poem popular throughout the 18th century, and his other poetry, published in the posthumous and unauthorized Poems on several occasions (1689), reflect Cotton’s enjoyment of life.

The standard edition of Cotton’s poetry is Poems (1958), edited by John Buxton.




Thomas Traherne

born 1637, Hereford, Eng.
died 1674, Teddington

last of the mystical poets of the Anglican clergy, which included most notably George Herbert and Henry Vaughan.

The son of a shoemaker, Traherne was educated at Brasenose College, Oxford, ordained in 1660, and presented in 1661 to the living of Credenhill, which he held until 1674. From 1669 to 1674 Traherne lived in London and Teddington, serving as chaplain to Sir Orlando Bridgeman, lord keeper from 1667 to 1672. That year he became minister of Teddington Church, where he was buried when he died two years later.

The only work by Traherne published during his lifetime was Roman Forgeries (1673), an anti-Catholic polemic. His Christian Ethicks appeared posthumously in 1675, and his Thanksgivings in rhythmical prose were published anonymously as A Serious and Patheticall Contemplation of the Mercies of God in 1699. The greater part of Traherne’s poetry and his prose meditations remained unknown until their recovery in modern times. The chance discovery in 1896 in a London street bookstall of the manuscripts of Traherne’s Poetical Works (published 1903) and his Centuries of Meditations (published 1908) created a literary sensation. The manuscript of Poems of Felicity was subsequently found in the British Museum and published in 1910. Other substantial manuscripts were discovered in the 1960s and in 1997.

As a poet Traherne possessed originality of thought and intensity of feeling, particularly in his mystical evocations of the joy and innocence of childhood, but he lacked discipline in his use of metre and rhyme. Indeed, his poetry is overshadowed by the prose work Centuries of Meditations, in which he instructs an acquaintance in his personal philosophy of “felicity”; the latter was based on Traherne’s Christian training, his retention of vivid impressions of the wonder and joy of childhood, and his desire to regain that sense in a mature form.


A poetic accomplishment of quite another order is that of John Dryden. He was 29 years old when Charles II returned from exile, and little writing by him survives from before that date. However, for the remaining 40 years of his life, he was unwearyingly productive, responding to the challenges of an unstable world with great formal originality and a mastery of many poetic styles. Contemporaries perhaps saw his achievements differently from 21st-century readers. In the early part of his career, he was above all a successful dramatist: he wrote heroic plays in rhyming verse, topical comedies, adaptations of Shakespeare, operas, and subtle tragicomedies. The great achievements of his later career were in the field of translation, especially from Latin. This culminated in his magisterial version of the works of Virgil (1697). His demonstration that English verse could, in some sense, match its Classical models deeply impressed later writers, notably Alexander Pope. Dryden was profoundly a poet of the public domain, but the ways in which he addressed himself to the issues of the day varied greatly in the course of his career. Thus, his poem to celebrate the Restoration itself, Astraea Redux (1660), invokes Roman ideas of the return of a golden age under Augustus Caesar in order to encourage similar hopes for England’s future; whereas in 1681 the Exclusion Crisis drew from Dryden one of his masterpieces, Absalom and Achitophel, in which the Old Testament story of King David, through an ingenious mingling of heroic and satiric tones, is made to shadow and comment decisively upon the current political confrontation. Another of his finest inventions, Mac Flecknoe (written mid-1670s, published 1682), explores, through agile mock-heroic fantasy, the possibility of a world in which the profession of humane letters has been thoroughly debased through the unworthiness of its practitioners. The 1680s also saw the publication of two major religious poems: Religio Laici; or, A Layman’s Faith (1682), in which Dryden uses a plain style to handle calmly the basic issues of faith, and The Hind and the Panther (1687), in which an elaborate allegorical beast fable is deployed to trace the history of animosities between Anglicanism and Roman Catholicism. In the Glorious Revolution (1688) Dryden stayed loyal to the Catholicism to which he had converted a few years earlier and thus lost his public offices. Financial need spurred him into even more literary activity thereafter, and his last years produced not only his version of Virgil but also immensely skilled translations of Juvenal and Persius, handsome versions of Giovanni Boccaccio and Geoffrey Chaucer, and further fine original poetry.

John Dryden

born Aug. 9 [Aug. 19, New Style], 1631, Aldwinkle, Northamptonshire, Eng.
died May 1 [May 12], 1700, London

English poet, dramatist, and literary critic who so dominated the literary scene of his day that it came to be known as the Age of Dryden.

Youth and education
The son of a country gentleman, Dryden grew up in the country. When he was 11 years old the Civil War broke out. Both his father’s and mother’s families sided with Parliament against the king, but Dryden’s own sympathies in his youth are unknown.

About 1644 Dryden was admitted to Westminster School, where he received a predominantly classical education under the celebrated Richard Busby. His easy and lifelong familiarity with classical literature begun at Westminster later resulted in idiomatic English translations.

In 1650 he entered Trinity College, Cambridge, where he took his B.A. degree in 1654. What Dryden did between leaving the university in 1654 and the Restoration of Charles II in 1660 is not known with certainty. In 1659 his contribution to a memorial volume for Oliver Cromwell marked him as a poet worth watching. His “heroic stanzas” were mature, considered, sonorous, and sprinkled with those classical and scientific allusions that characterized his later verse. This kind of public poetry was always one of the things Dryden did best.

When in May 1660 Charles II was restored to the throne, Dryden joined the poets of the day in welcoming him, publishing in June Astraea Redux, a poem of more than 300 lines in rhymed couplets. For the coronation in 1661, he wrote To His Sacred Majesty. These two poems were designed to dignify and strengthen the monarchy and to invest the young monarch with an aura of majesty, permanence, and even divinity. Thereafter, Dryden’s ambitions and fortunes as a writer were shaped by his relationship with the monarchy. On Dec. 1, 1663, he married Elizabeth Howard, the youngest daughter of Thomas Howard, 1st earl of Berkshire. In due course she bore him three sons.

Dryden’s longest poem to date, Annus Mirabilis (1667), was a celebration of two victories by the English fleet over the Dutch and the Londoners’ survival of the Great Fire of 1666. In this work Dryden was once again gilding the royal image and reinforcing the concept of a loyal nation united under the best of kings. It was hardly surprising that when the poet laureate, Sir William Davenant, died in 1668, Dryden was appointed poet laureate in his place and two years later was appointed royal historiographer.

Writing for the stage
Soon after his restoration to the throne in 1660, Charles II granted two patents for theatres, which had been closed by the Puritans in 1642. Dryden soon joined the little band of dramatists who were writing new plays for the revived English theatre. His first play, The Wild Gallant, a farcical comedy with some strokes of humour and a good deal of licentious dialogue, was produced in 1663. It was a comparative failure, but in January 1664 he had some share in the success of The Indian Queen, a heroic tragedy in rhymed couplets in which he had collaborated with Sir Robert Howard, his brother-in-law. Dryden was soon to successfully exploit this new and popular genre, with its conflicts between love and honour and its lovely heroines before whose charms the blustering heroes sank down in awed submission. In the spring of 1665 Dryden had his own first outstanding success with The Indian Emperour, a play that was a sequel to The Indian Queen.

In 1667 Dryden had another remarkable hit with a tragicomedy, Secret Love, or the Maiden Queen, which appealed particularly to the king. The part of Florimel, a gay and witty maid of honour, was played to perfection by the king’s latest mistress, Nell Gwynn. In Florimel’s rattling exchanges with Celadon, the Restoration aptitude for witty repartee reached a new level of accomplishment. In 1667 Dryden also reworked for the stage Molière’s comedy L’Étourdi (translated by William Cavendish, duke of Newcastle) under the title Sir Martin Mar-all.

In 1668 Dryden published Of Dramatick Poesie, an Essay, a leisurely discussion between four contemporary writers of whom Dryden (as Neander) is one. This work is a defense of English drama against the champions of both ancient Classical drama and the Neoclassical French theatre; it is also an attempt to discover general principles of dramatic criticism. By deploying his disputants so as to break down the conventional oppositions of ancient and modern, French and English, Elizabethan and Restoration, Dryden deepens and complicates the discussion. This is the first substantial piece of modern dramatic criticism; it is sensible, judicious, and exploratory and combines general principles and analysis in a gracefully informal style. Dryden’s approach in this and all his best criticism is characteristically speculative and shows the influence of detached scientific inquiry. The prefaces to his plays and translations over the next three decades were to constitute a substantial body of critical writing and reflection.

In 1668 Dryden agreed to write exclusively for Thomas Killigrew’s company at the rate of three plays a year and became a shareholder entitled to one-tenth of the profits. Although Dryden averaged only a play a year, the contract apparently was mutually profitable. In June 1669 he gave the company Tyrannick Love, with its blustering and blaspheming hero Maximin. In December of the next year came the first part of The Conquest of Granada by the Spaniards, followed by the second part about a month later. All three plays were highly successful; and in the character Almanzor, the intrepid hero of The Conquest of Granada, the theme of love and honour reached its climax. But the vein had now been almost worked out, as seen in the 1671 production of that witty burlesque of heroic drama The Rehearsal, by George Villiers, 2nd duke of Buckingham, in which Dryden (Mr. Bayes) was the main satirical victim. The Rehearsal did not kill the heroic play, however; as late as November 1675, Dryden staged his last and most intelligent example of the genre, Aureng-Zebe. In this play he abandoned the use of rhymed couplets for that of blank verse.

In writing those heroic plays, Dryden had been catering to an audience that was prepared to be stunned into admiration by drums and trumpets, rant and extravagance, stage battles, rich costumes, and exotic scenes. His abandonment of crowd-pleasing rant and bombast was symbolized in 1672 with his brilliant comedy Marriage A-la-Mode, in which the Restoration battle of the sexes was given a sophisticated and civilized expression that only Sir George Etherege and William Congreve at their best would equal. Equally fine in a different mode was his tragedy All for Love (1677), based on Shakespeare’s Antony and Cleopatra and written in a flowing but controlled blank verse. He had earlier adapted The Tempest (1667), and later he reworked yet another Shakespeare play, Troilus and Cressida (1679). Dryden had now entered what may be called his Neoclassical period, and, if his new tragedy was not without some echoes of the old extravagance, it was admirably constructed, with the action developing naturally from situation and character.

By 1678 Dryden was at loggerheads with his fellow shareholders in the Killigrew company, which was in grave difficulties owing to mismanagement. Dryden offered his tragedy Oedipus, a collaboration with Nathaniel Lee, to a rival theatre company and ceased to be a Killigrew shareholder.

 Verse satires
Since the publication of Annus Mirabilis 12 years earlier, Dryden had given almost all his time to playwriting. If he had died in 1680, it is as a dramatist that he would be chiefly remembered. Now, in the short space of two years, he was to make his name as the greatest verse satirist that England had so far produced. In 1681 the king’s difficulties—arising from political misgivings that his brother, James, the Roman Catholic duke of York, might succeed him—had come to a head. Led by the earl of Shaftesbury, the Whig Party leaders had used the Popish Plot to try to exclude James in favour of Charles’s illegitimate Protestant son, the duke of Monmouth. But the king’s shrewd maneuvers eventually turned public opinion against the Whigs, and Shaftesbury was imprisoned on a charge of high treason.

As poet laureate in those critical months Dryden could not stand aside, and in November 1681 he came to the support of the king with his Absalom and Achitophel, so drawing upon himself the wrath of the Whigs. Adopting as his framework the Old Testament story of King David (Charles II), his favourite son Absalom (Monmouth), and the false Achitophel (Shaftesbury), who persuaded Absalom to revolt against his father, Dryden gave a satirical version of the events of the past few years as seen from the point of view of the king and his Tory ministers and yet succeeded in maintaining the heroic tone suitable to the king and to the seriousness of the political situation. As anti-Whig propaganda, ridiculing their leaders in a succession of ludicrous satirical portraits, Dryden’s poem is a masterpiece of confident denunciation; as pro-Tory propaganda it is equally remarkable for its serene and persuasive affirmation. When a London grand jury refused to indict Shaftesbury for treason, his fellow Whigs voted him a medal. In response Dryden published early in 1682 The Medall, a work full of unsparing invective against the Whigs, prefaced by a vigorous and plainspoken prose “Epistle to the Whigs.” In the same year, anonymously and apparently without Dryden’s authority, there also appeared in print his famous extended lampoon, Mac Flecknoe, written about four years earlier. What triggered this devastating attack on the Whig playwright Thomas Shadwell has never been satisfactorily explained; all that can be said is that in Mac Flecknoe Shadwell’s abilities as a literary artist and critic are ridiculed so ludicrously and with such good-humoured contempt that his reputation has suffered ever since. The basis of the satire, which represents Shadwell as a literary dunce, is the disagreement between him and Dryden over the quality of Ben Jonson’s wit. Dryden thinks Jonson deficient in this quality, while Shadwell regards the Elizabethan playwright with uncritical reverence. This hilarious comic lampoon was both the first English mock-heroic poem and the immediate ancestor of Alexander Pope’s The Dunciad.

Late works
In 1685, after the newly acceded king James II seemed to be moving to Catholic toleration, Dryden was received into the Roman Catholic church. In his longest poem, the beast fable The Hind and the Panther (1687), he argued the case for his adopted church against the Church of England and the sects. His earlier Religio Laici (1682) had argued in eloquent couplets for the consolations of Anglicanism and against unbelievers, Protestant dissenters, and Roman Catholics. Biographical debate about Dryden has often focused on his shifts of political and religious allegiance; critics, like his hostile contemporaries, have sometimes charged him with opportunism.

The abdication of James II in 1688 destroyed Dryden’s political prospects, and he lost his laureateship to Shadwell. He turned to the theatre again. The tragedy Don Sebastian (1689) failed, but Amphitryon (1690) succeeded, helped by the music of Henry Purcell. Dryden collaborated with Purcell in a dramatic opera, King Arthur (1691), which also succeeded. His tragedy Cleomenes was long refused a license because of what was thought to be the politically dangerous material in it, and with the failure of the tragicomedy Love Triumphant in 1694, Dryden stopped writing for the stage.

In the 1680s and ’90s Dryden supervised poetical miscellanies and translated the works of Juvenal and Persius for the publisher Jacob Tonson with success. In 1692 he published Eleonora, a long memorial poem commissioned for a handsome fee by the husband of the Countess of Abingdon. But his great late work was his complete translation of Virgil, contracted by Tonson in 1694 and published in 1697. Dryden was now the grand old man of English letters and was often seen at Will’s Coffee-House chatting with younger writers. His last work for Tonson was Fables Ancient and Modern (1700), which were mainly verse adaptations from the works of Ovid, Geoffrey Chaucer, and Giovanni Boccaccio, introduced with a critical preface. He died in 1700 and was buried in Westminster Abbey between Chaucer and Abraham Cowley in the Poets’ Corner.

Besides being the greatest English poet of the later 17th century, Dryden wrote almost 30 tragedies, comedies, and dramatic operas. He also made a valuable contribution in his commentaries on poetry and drama, which are sufficiently extensive and original to entitle him to be considered, in the words of Dr. Samuel Johnson, as “the father of English criticism.”

After Dryden’s death his reputation remained high for the next 100 years, and even in the Romantic period the reaction against him was never so great as that against Alexander Pope. In the 20th century there was a notable revival of interest in his poems, plays, and criticism, and much scholarly work was done on them. In the late 20th century his reputation stood almost as high as at any time since his death.

Sir James R. Sutherland

Dryden was, in addition, in Samuel Johnson’s words, the father of English criticism. Throughout his career he wrote extensively on matters of critical precept and poetic practice. Such sustained effort for which there was no precedent not only presumed the possibility of an interested audience but also contributed substantially to the creation of one. His tone is consistently exploratory and undogmatic. He writes as a working author, with an eye to problems he has himself faced, and is skeptical of theoretical prescriptions, even those that seem to come with Classical authority. His discussion of Ben Jonson’s Epicoene; or, The Silent Woman in Of Dramatic Poesie, an Essay (1668) is remarkable as the first extended analysis of an English play, and his Discourse Concerning the Origin and Progress of Satire (1693) and the preface to the Fables Ancient and Modern (1700) both contain detailed commentary of the highest order.

A contrary critical philosophy was espoused by Thomas Rymer, an adherent of the most-rigid Neoclassical notions of dramatic decorum, who surveyed the pre-1642 English drama in Tragedies of the Last Age (1678) and A Short View of Tragedy (1693) and found it wanting. His zealotry reads unattractively today, but Dryden was impressed by him, if disinclined to accept his judgments without protest. In due course the post-1660 playwrights were to find their own scourge in Jeremy Collier, whose A Short View of the Immorality and Profaneness of the English Stage (1698) comprehensively indicted the Restoration stage tradition. The theoretical frame of Collier’s tract is crude, but his strength lay in his dogged citation of evidence from published play texts, especially when the charge was blasphemy, a crime still liable to stiff penalties in the courts. Even so clever a man as the dramatist William Congreve was left struggling when attempting to deny in print the freedoms he had allowed his wit.


Thomas Rymer

born 1641, near Northallerton, Yorkshire, Eng.
died Dec. 14, 1713, London

English literary critic who introduced into England the principles of French formalist Neoclassical criticism. As historiographer royal, he also compiled a collection of treaties of considerable value to the medievalist.

Rymer left Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge, without taking a degree and began to study law at Gray’s Inn, London. Although called to the bar in 1673, he almost immediately turned his attention to literary criticism. He translated René Rapin’s Réflexions sur la poétique d’Aristote as Reflections on Aristotle’s treatise of Poesie, in 1674. He required that dramatic action be probable and reasonable, that it instruct by moral precept and example (it was Rymer who coined the expression “poetic justice”), and that characters behave either as idealized types or as average representatives of their class. In 1678 he wrote The Tragedies of the Last Age, in which he criticized plays by the Jacobean dramatists Francis Beaumont and John Fletcher for not adhering to the principles of classical tragedy. He himself published in the same year a play in rhyming verse, Edgar; or, The English Monarch. In 1693 he published A Short View of Tragedy, in which his Neoclassicism was at its narrowest (and in which he criticized Shakespeare’s Othello as “a . . . Bloody farce, without salt or savour”). In A Short View, Rymer rejected all modern drama and advocated a return to the Greek tragedy of Aeschylus. Rymer’s influence was considerable during the 18th century, but he was ridiculed in the 19th century; Thomas Babington Macaulay called him “the worst critic that ever lived.”

In 1692 Rymer was appointed historiographer royal, and, when William III’s government decided to publish for the first time copies of all past treaties entered into by England, Rymer was appointed editor of the project. The first volume, which covered the years 1101–1273, was published in 1704. The 15th volume, covering 1543–86, appeared in 1713, the year of Rymer’s death. His successor brought out a further five volumes. Despite its deficiencies, the work, whose short title is Foedera (“Treaties”), is a considerable and valuable achievement.



Jeremy Collier

Jeremy Collier (23 September 1650 – 26 April 1726) was an English theatre critic, non-juror bishop and theologian.

Born in Stow cum Quy, Cambridgeshire, Collier was educated at Caius College, University of Cambridge, receiving the BA (1673) and MA (1676). A supporter of James II, he refused to take the oath of allegiance to William and Mary after the Glorious Revolution. In 1713 he was consecrated a non-juror bishop by George Hickes and two Scottish bishops, Archibald Campbell and James Gadderar.


Collier was the primus of the nonjuring line and a strong supporter of the four usages. In the years following the Revolution he wrote a series of tracts questioning the legitimacy of the new monarchs and the deprival of the Non-juror bishops. He was well known for his Ecclesiastical History of Great Britain, 1708-1714, which was attacked for its tendentious political and theological comments, but nevertheless widely used. His Reasons for restoring some prayers and directions, as they stand in the communion-service of the first English reform’d liturgy, 1717 was the first salvo in the usages debate. His Essays were popular in his own day but are now little read.

Collier Controversy

In the history of English drama, Collier is known for his attack on the comedy of the 1690s in his Short View of the Immorality and Profaneness of the English Stage (1698), which draws for its ammunition mostly on the plays of William Congreve and John Vanbrugh. During the English Interregnum, the Puritans, under Oliver Cromwell, had control of most of the English government. They placed heavy restrictions on entertainment and entertainment venues that were perceived as being pagan or immoral. Most plays were considered immoral and thus theaters were shut down all over England. In the English Restoration (1660), playwrights reacted against the Puritanical restrictions with much more decadent plays. The plays produced in the Restoration drew comparisons to the great Elizabethan dramas by critics of the day. Collier's pamphlets sought to stem the spread of vice but turned out to be the sparks that kindled a controversial flame between like-minded Puritans and Restoration dramatists.

Collier devotes nearly 300 pages to decrying what he perceived as profanity and moral degeneration in the stage productions of the era. This ranged from general attacks on the morality of Restoration theater to very specific indictments of playwrights of the day. Collier argued that a venue as influential as the theater--it was believed then that the theater should be providing moral instruction--should not have content that is morally detrimental. Many of the playwrights responded with equally vehement attacks, but some were so deeply affected, they withdrew from theater permanently, William Congreve amongst them.

Collier's copious writings included The Great Historical, Geographical, Genealogical and Poetical Dictionary, published in 1688, with a second edition in 1701. This was a precursor to later encyclopedic works, such as that of Ephraim Chambers.




William Congreve

"Love for Love"

"The Way of the World"

born January 24, 1670, Bardsey, near Leeds, Yorkshire, England
died January 19, 1729, London

English dramatist who shaped the English comedy of manners through his brilliant comic dialogue, his satirical portrayal of the war of the sexes, and his ironic scrutiny of the affectations of his age. His major plays were The Old Bachelour (1693), The Double-Dealer (1693), Love for Love (1695), and The Way of the World (1700).

Early life
In 1674 Congreve’s father was granted a commission in the army to join the garrison at Youghal, in Ireland. When he was transferred to Carrickfergus, Congreve, in 1681, was sent to school at Kilkenny, the Eton of Ireland. In April 1686 he entered Trinity College, Dublin (where he received his M.A. in 1696). He studied under the distinguished philosopher and mathematician St. George Ashe, who also tutored his elder schoolfellow and ultimate lifelong friend Jonathan Swift. It was probably during the Glorious Revolution (1688–89) that the family moved to the Congreve home at Stretton in Staffordshire, Congreve’s father being made estate agent to the earl of Cork in 1690. In 1691 he was entered as a law student at the Middle Temple. Never a serious reader in law, he published in 1692 under the pseudonym Cleophil a light but delightfully skillful near-parody of fashionable romance, possibly drafted when he was 17, Incognita: or, Love and Duty reconcil’d. He quickly became known among men of letters, had some verses printed in a miscellany of the same year, and became a protégé of John Dryden. In that year Dryden published his translation of the satires of Juvenal and Persius (dated 1693), in which Congreve collaborated, contributing the complimentary poem “To Mr. Dryden.”

Literary career
It was in March 1693 that he achieved sudden fame with the production at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, of The Old Bachelour, written, he said, in 1690 to amuse himself during convalescence. Warmly heralded by Dryden, who declared that he had never read so brilliant a first play, though it needed to be given “the fashionable Cutt of the Town,” it was an enormous success, running for the then unprecedented length of a fortnight. His next play, The Double-Dealer, played in November or December at Drury Lane but did not meet with the same applause (it later became the more critically admired work, however). Its published form contained a panegyrical introduction by Dryden. Love for Love almost repeated the success of his first play. Performed in April 1695, it was the first production staged for the new theatre in Lincoln’s Inn Fields, which was opened after protracted crises in the old Theatre Royal, complicated by quarrels among the actors. Congreve became one of the managers of the new theatre, promising to provide a new play every year.

In 1695 he began to write his more public occasional verse, such as his pastoral on the death of Queen Mary II and his “Pindarique Ode, Humbly Offer’d to the King on his taking Namure”; and John Dennis, then a young, unsoured critic, collecting his Letters upon Several Occasions (published 1696), extracted from Congreve his “Letter Concerning Humour in Comedy.” By this time, Congreve’s position among men of letters was so well established that he was considered worthy of one of those sinecure posts by which men of power in government rewarded literary merit: he was made one of the five commissioners for licensing hackney coaches, though at a reduced salary of £100 per annum.

Though Congreve signally failed to carry out his promise of writing a play a year for the Lincoln’s Inn theatre, he showed his good intentions by letting them stage The Mourning Bride. Although it is now his least regarded drama, this tragedy, produced early in 1697, swelled his reputation enormously and became his most popular play. No further dramatic work appeared until March 1700, when Congreve’s masterpiece, The Way of the World, was produced—with a brilliant cast—at Lincoln’s Inn Fields; though it is now his only frequently revived piece, it was a failure with the audience. This was Congreve’s last attempt to write a play, though he did not entirely desert the theatre. He wrote librettos for two operas, and in 1704 he collaborated in translating Molière’s Monsieur de Pourceaugnac for Lincoln’s Inn Fields. In 1705 he associated himself for a short time with the playwright and architect Sir John Vanbrugh in the Queen’s theatre, or Italian Opera house, writing an epilogue to its first production. It is likely that Congreve’s retreat from the stage was partly a result of a campaign against the supposed immorality of contemporary comedies. This attack was led most notably by Jeremy Collier, author of the tract A Short View of the Immorality and Profaneness of the English Stage (1698), which specifically censured Congreve and Dryden, among others. In reply, Congreve wrote Amendments of Mr. Collier’s False and Imperfect Citations (1698).

The rest of his life he passed quietly enough, being in easy circumstances thanks to his private income, the royalties on his plays, and his not very exacting posts in the civil service. In 1705 he was made a commissioner for wines, a post that he retained by virtue of Swift’s good offices at the change of government in 1710 but which he relinquished in 1714 when he joined the customs service; his position was improved at the end of 1714 with the addition of the secretaryship of the island of Jamaica. He wrote a considerable number of poems, some of the light social variety, some soundly scholarly translations from Homer, Juvenal, Ovid, and Horace, and some Pindaric odes. The volume containing these odes also comprised his timely Discourse on the Pindarique Ode (1706), which brought some order to a form that had become wildly unrestrained since the days of the poet Abraham Cowley. Congreve’s friendships were numerous, warm, and constant, as much with insignificant people, such as his early companions in Ireland, as with the literary figures of his time. No quarrels are attributed to him, except for a very brief one with Jacob Tonson, a publisher. Swift, whose friendship with him had begun in early days in Ireland, was unvarying in his affection; for John Gay, poet and author of The Beggar’s Opera, he was the “unreproachful man”; Alexander Pope dedicated his Iliad to him; and Sir Richard Steele his edition of Joseph Addison’s The Drummer. As to his relations with the other sex, his affection for Mrs. Anne Bracegirdle—who acted most of his female leads—is well known; they were always close friends, but whether the intimacy was of a deeper nature is undetermined. In his later years he was devotedly attached to the second duchess of Marlborough, and it is almost certain that he was the father of her second daughter, Lady Mary Godolphin, later duchess of Leeds. This would account for the large legacy, of almost all his fortune, which he left to the duchess of Marlborough. He died after a carriage accident.

Congreve’s character was praised in Giles Jacob’s Poetical Register (1719), where he is described as being “so far from being puff’d up with Vanity…that he abounds with Humility and good Nature. He does not shew so much the Poet as the Gentleman.” The last phrase will serve as a comment on the notorious meeting with Voltaire, who in 1726 had come celebrity-seeking in England and wished to extract what he could from the great English writer of comedy. Congreve, failing, fatigued, attacked by gout, and half-blind, did not feel equal to discussing the minutiae of comic writing or a play he had written some 30 years earlier. He told Voltaire that he would be delighted to talk on general subjects, “on the footing of a gentleman” as he phrased it, but not on subjects of which he would be expected to display expert critical knowledge and affect the pundit.

Congreve is the outstanding writer of the English comedy of manners, markedly different in many respects from others of this period of the drama. Taking as its main theme the manners and behaviour of the class to which it was addressed, that is, the antipuritanical theatre audience drawn largely from the court, it dealt with imitators of French customs, conceited wits, and fantastics of all kinds; but its main theme was the sexual life led by a large number of courtiers, with their philosophy of freedom and experimentation. Restoration comedy was always satirical and sometimes cynical. Congreve rises above other dramatists of his time in both the delicacy of his feeling and the perfection of his phrasing.

The latter is strikingly exhibited in the opening speeches of The Old Bachelour, a play that no doubt appealed to the audiences because it handled with a new brilliance themes they were familiar with. Some of the repartee may seem superficial to modern readers, but that was the manner of the time. As Congreve progressed, his speeches became more modulated, more musical, but always sure in their cadence. “Every sentence is replete with sense and satire,” William Hazlitt wrote, “conveyed in the most polished and pointed terms.” As George Meredith stated, “He is at once precise and voluble…in this he is a classic, and is worthy of treading a measure with Molière.” Congreve’s most successful work is his last play, The Way of the World. Here he is doing more than holding up to ridicule the assumptions that governed the society of his time. He could not regard love merely as the gratification of lust, a matter of appetite rather than of feeling, but he was equally averse to “rationalizing” love. Congreve goes deeper than any of his contemporaries, has more feeling for the individual, and is far subtler. He was a sensitive craftsman, and nothing came from his hand that was not thoughtfully conceived and expertly contrived. Though not the equal of Molière, he was the nearest English approach to him.

Drama by Dryden and others

Dryden, as dramatist, experimented vigorously in all the popular stage modes of the day, producing some distinguished tragic writing in All for Love (1677) and Don Sebastian (1689); but his greatest achievement, Amphitryon (1690), is a comedy. In this he was typical of his age. Though there were individual successes in tragedy (especially Thomas Otway’s Venice Preserved [1682] and Nathaniel Lee’s Lucius Junius Brutus [1680]), the splendour of the Restoration theatre lies in its comic creativity. Several generations of dramatists contributed to that wealth. In the 1670s the most original work can be found in Sir George Etherege’s The Man of Mode (1676), William Wycherley’s The Country Wife (1675) and The Plain Dealer (1676), and Aphra Behn’s two-part The Rover (1677, 1681). Commentary has often claimed to detect a disabling repetitiveness in even the best Restoration comic invention, but an attentive reading of The Country Wife and The Man of Mode will reveal how firmly the two authors, close acquaintances, devised dramatic worlds significantly dissimilar in atmosphere that set distinctive challenges for their players. Both plays were to scandalize future generations with their shared acceptance that the only credible virtues were intelligence and grace, together producing “wit.” The disturbed years of the Popish Plot produced comic writing of matching mood, especially in Otway’s abrasive Soldier’s Fortune (1680) and Lee’s extraordinary variation on the Madame de La Fayette novella, The Princess of Cleve (1681–82). After the Glorious Revolution a series of major comedies hinged on marital dissension and questions (not unrelated to contemporary political traumas) of contract, breach of promise, and the nature of authority. These include, in addition to Amphitryon, Thomas Southerne’s The Wives’ Excuse (1691), Sir John Vanbrugh’s The Relapse (1696) and The Provoked Wife (1697), and George Farquhar’s The Beaux’ Stratagem (1707). These years also saw the premieres of William Congreve’s four comedies and one tragedy, climaxing with his masterpiece, The Way of the World (1700), a brilliant combination of intricate plotting and incisively humane portraiture. The pressures brought upon society at home by continental wars against the French also began to make themselves felt, the key text here being Farquhar’s The Recruiting Officer (1706), in which the worlds of soldier and civilian are placed in suggestive proximity.

After 1710, contemporary writing for the stage waned in vitality. The 18th century is a period of great acting and strong popular enthusiasm for the theatre, but only a few dramatists—John Gay, Henry Fielding, Oliver Goldsmith, and Richard Brinsley Sheridan—achieved writing of a quality to compete with their predecessors’ best, and even a writer of Sheridan’s undeniable resource produced in his best plays—The Rivals (1775), The School for Scandal (1777), and The Critic (1779)—work that seems more like a technically ingenious, but cautious, rearrangement of familiar materials than a truly innovative contribution to the corpus of English comic writing for the stage. A number of the Restoration masterpieces, however, continued to be performed well into the new century, though often in revised, even bowdlerized, form, and the influence of this comic tradition was also strongly apparent in satiric poetry and the novel in the decades that followed.


Thomas Otway

born March 3, 1652, Trotton, near Midhurst, Sussex, Eng.
died April 14, 1685, London

English dramatist and poet, one of the forerunners of sentimental drama through his convincing presentation of human emotions in an age of heroic but artificial tragedies. His masterpiece, Venice Preserved, was one of the greatest theatrical successes of his period.

Otway studied at Winchester College and at the University of Oxford but left in 1671 without taking a degree. He went to London, where he was offered a part by Aphra Behn in one of her plays. He was overcome by stage fright, and his first performance was his last. His first play, a rhyming tragedy called Alcibiades, was produced at the Duke’s Theatre at Dorset Garden in September 1675. The part of Draxilla in this play was created by the well-known actress Elizabeth Barry, and Otway fell violently in love with her. Six unsigned love letters, said to be addressed to Barry, were published in a collection that appeared in 1697, 12 years after Otway’s death. His second play, Don Carlos, produced in June 1676, had an immense success on the stage and is the best of his rhymed heroic plays. Titus and Berenice, adapted from Molière, and The Cheats of Scapin, adapted from Jean Racine, were published together in 1677.

In 1678 Otway obtained a commission in an English regiment serving in the Netherlands, and he was abroad when his first comedy, Friendship in Fashion, was staged. His next play, Caius Marius, a curious mixture of a story from Plutarch with an adaptation of Romeo and Juliet, was staged in 1679. He published his powerful, gloomy autobiographical poem, The Poet’s Complaint of His Muse, in 1680.

Otway’s most memorable dramatic work was done in the last years of his short life. In the spring of 1680 his fine blank-verse domestic tragedy The Orphan had great success on the stage. On March 1 in the same year his best comedy, The Souldier’s Fortune, probably drawn from his military experience, was produced. Venice Preserved, also written in blank verse, was first performed at the Duke’s Theatre in 1682. Until the middle of the 19th century it was probably revived more often than any poetic play except those of Shakespeare. John Dryden, who wrote the prologue, praised it highly. Otway’s tragedies, particularly Venice Preserved, are notable for their psychological credibility and their clear and powerful presentation of human passions.



Nathaniel Lee


Nathaniel Lee (c. 1653 – 6 May 1692) was an English dramatist.

He was the son of Dr Richard Lee, a Presbyterian clergyman who was rector of Hatfield and held many preferments under the Commonwealth. He was chaplain to George Monck, afterwards Duke of Albemarle, but after the Restoration he conformed to the Church of England, and withdrew his approval for Charles I's execution.

Lee was educated at Charterhouse School, and at Trinity College, Cambridge, taking his B.A. degree in 1668. Coming to London, perhaps under the patronage of George Villiers, 2nd Duke of Buckingham, he tried to earn his living as an actor, but acute stage fright made this impossible. His earliest play, Nero, Emperor of Rome, was acted in 1675 at Drury Lane. Two tragedies written in rhymed heroic couplets, in imitation of John Dryden, followed in 1676, Sophonisba, or Hannibal's Overthrow and Gloriana, or the Court of Augustus Caesar. Both are extravagant in design and treatment.

Lee's reputation was made in 1677 with a blank verse tragedy, The Rival Queens, or the Death of Alexander the Great. The play, which deals with the jealousy of Alexander's first wife, Roxana, for his second wife, Statira, was a favourite on the English stage right up to the days of Edmund Kean. Mithridates, King of Pontus (acted 1678), Theodosius, or the Force of Love (acted 1680), Caesar Borgia (acted 1680), an imitation of the worst blood and thunder Elizabethan tragedies: Lucius Junius Brutus, Father of His Country (acted 1681), and Constantine the Great (acted 1684) followed.

The Princess of Cleve (1681) is a gross adaptation of Madame de La Fayette's exquisite novel of that name. The Massacre of Paris (published 1690) was written about this time. Lee had given offence at court by his Brutus, which had been suppressed after its third representation for some lines on Tarquin's character that were taken to be a reflection on King Charles II. He therefore joined Dryden, who had already admitted him as a collaborator in an adaptation of Oedipus, in The Duke of Guise (1683), a play which directly advocated the Tory point of view. In it part of the Massacre of Paris was incorporated. Lee was now thirty, and had already achieved a considerable reputation. He had lived in the dissipated society of John Wilmot, Earl of Rochester and his associates, and imitated their excesses. As he grew more disreputable, his patrons neglected him, and by 1684 his mind was allegedly completely unhinged. He spent five years in the notorious Bethlehem Hospital. He said: "They called me mad, and I called them mad, and damn them, they outvoted me" He recovered and was released only to die in a drunken fit in 1692. He was buried in St. Clement Danes, Strand, on 6 May.

Lee's Dramatic Works were published in 1784. In spite of their extravagance, they contain many passages of great beauty.



Sir George Etherege

born c. 1635, Maidenhead, Berkshire, Eng.?
died c. May 10, 1692

English diplomat and creator of the Restoration-era comedy of manners.

Etherege probably accompanied his father to France in the 1640s. About 1653 his grandfather apprenticed him to an attorney in Beaconsfield, Buckinghamshire.

Etherege’s first comedy, The Comical Revenge; or, Love in a Tub, was premiered at Lincoln’s Inn Fields Theatre in 1664. An immediate success, it was novel in its exploitation of contemporary manners, especially in the intrigue of the stylish Sir Frederick Frollick. It still followed earlier tradition, with its romantic plot, in heroic couplets and blank verse, and farcical subplot. Its success gave Etherege an entrée into the world of fashion, where he became the boon companion of the literary rakes Sir Charles Sedley, the Earl of Rochester, and the Earl of Dorset.

She wou’d if she cou’d, Etherege’s second comedy (1668), failed because of poor acting. It was the first comedy of manners to attain unity of tone by shedding the incongruous romantic verse element.

From 1668 to 1671 Etherege was in Turkey as secretary to the English ambassador, Sir Daniel Harvey. After his return he wrote the prologue for the opening in 1671 of the new Dorset Garden Theatre. There his last and wittiest comedy, The Man of Mode, or, Sir Fopling Flutter, was produced with acclaim in 1676. He was knighted in 1680.

Etherege was appointed envoy to the Diet in Ratisbon in 1685. His two Letterbooks from there include personal, as well as official, correspondence. Although irresponsible, Etherege showed qualities of loyalty, and he followed his king, James II, to Paris after that monarch was deposed in the Glorious Revolution (1688).

Known to his friends as easy and gentle, Etherege had a relish for life and a shrewd knowledge of men. His style of comedy was successfully cultivated by his successors and persisted to modern times. His own plays, however, failed to hold the stage after the mid-18th century. His love lyrics are among the most charming of their day.



William Wycherley


born 1641
died Jan. 1, 1716, London

English dramatist who attempted to reconcile in his plays a personal conflict between deep-seated puritanism and an ardent physical nature. He perhaps succeeded best in The Country-Wife (1675), in which satiric comment on excessive jealousy and complacency was blended with a richly comic presentation, the characters unconsciously revealing themselves in laughter-provoking colloquies. It was as satirist that his own age most admired him: William Congreve regarded Wycherley as one appointed “to lash this crying age.”

Wycherley’s father was steward to the marquess of Winchester. Wycherley was sent to be educated in France at age 15. There he became a Roman Catholic. After returning to England to study law, in 1660 he entered Queen’s College, Oxford. He soon left without a degree, though he had converted back to Protestantism. Little is known of his life in the 1660s; he may have traveled to Spain as a diplomat, and he probably fought in the naval war against the Dutch in 1665. In this period he drafted his first play, Love in a Wood; or, St. James’s Park, and in the autumn of 1671 it was presented in London, bringing its author instant acclaim. Wycherley was taken up by Barbara Villiers, duchess of Cleveland, whose favours he shared with King Charles II, and he was admitted to the circle of wits at court. His next play, The Gentleman Dancing-Master, was presented in 1672 but proved unsuccessful. These early plays—both of which have some good farcical moments—followed tradition in “curing excess” by presenting a satiric portrait of variously pretentious characters—fops, rakes, would-be wits, and the solemn of every kind. The Plain-Dealer, presented in 1676, satirizes rapacious greed. The satire is crude and brutal, but pointed and effective. In The Country-Wife, acted a year earlier, the criticism of manners and society remains severe, but there is no longer a sense of the author despising his characters.

Wycherley, who had led a fashionably dissolute life during these years, fell ill in 1678. In 1680 he secretly married the countess of Drogheda, a rigid puritan who kept him on such a short rein that he lost his favour at court. A year later the lady died, leaving her husband a considerable fortune. But the will was contested, and Wycherley ruined himself fighting the case. Cast into a debtor’s prison, he was rescued seven years later by King James II, who paid off most of his debts and allowed him a small pension. This was lost when James was deposed in 1688. In the early 18th century, Wycherley befriended the young Alexander Pope, who helped revise his poems. On his deathbed, Wycherley received the last rites of the Roman Catholic church, to which he had apparently reverted after being rescued from prison.



Aphra Behn

born 1640?, Harbledown?, Kent, Eng.
died April 16, 1689, London

English dramatist, fiction writer, and poet who was the first Englishwoman known to earn her living by writing.

Her origin remains a mystery, in part because Behn may have deliberately obscured her early life. One tradition identifies Behn as the child known only as Ayfara or Aphra who traveled in the 1650s with a couple named Amis to Suriname, which was then an English possession. She was more likely the daughter of a barber, Bartholomew Johnson, who may or may not have sailed with her and the rest of her family to Suriname in 1663. She returned to England in 1664 and married a merchant named Behn; he died (or the couple separated) soon after. Her wit and talent having brought her into high esteem, she was employed by King Charles II in secret service in the Netherlands in 1666. Unrewarded and briefly imprisoned for debt, she began to write to support herself.

Behn’s early works were tragicomedies in verse. In 1670 her first play, The Forc’d Marriage, was produced, and The Amorous Prince followed a year later. Her sole tragedy, Abdelazer, was staged in 1676. However, she turned increasingly to light comedy and farce over the course of the 1670s. Many of these witty and vivacious comedies, notably The Rover (two parts, produced 1677 and 1681), were commercially successful. The Rover depicts the adventures of a small group of English Cavaliers in Madrid and Naples during the exile of the future Charles II. The Emperor of the Moon, first performed in 1687, presaged the harlequinade, a form of comic theatre that evolved into the English pantomime.

Though Behn wrote many plays, her fiction today draws more interest. Her short novel Oroonoko (1688) tells the story of an enslaved African prince whom Behn claimed to have known in South America. Its engagement with the themes of slavery, race, and gender, as well as its influence on the development of the English novel, helped to make it, by the turn of the 21st century, her best-known work. Behn’s other fiction includes the multipart epistolary novel Love-Letters Between a Nobleman and His Sister (1684–87) and The Fair Jilt (1688).

Behn’s versatility, like her output, was immense; she wrote other popular works of fiction, and she often adapted works by older dramatists. She also wrote poetry, the bulk of which was collected in Poems upon Several Occasions, with A Voyage to the Island of Love (1684) and Lycidus; or, The Lover in Fashion (1688). Behn’s charm and generosity won her a wide circle of friends, and her relative freedom as a professional writer, as well as the subject matter of her works, made her the object of some scandal.



Thomas Southerne

born 1660, Oxmantown, Dublin, Ire.
died May 26, 1746, London, Eng.

Irish dramatist, long famous for two sentimental tragedies that were acted until well into the 19th century—The Fatal Marriage (performed 1694; adapted 1757 by the actor-manager David Garrick as Isabella, or the Fatal Marriage) and Oroonoko (performed 1695).

Southerne was educated at Trinity College, Dublin, but spent his life after about 1680 in London, where he began to study law. His first play, The Loyal Brother, was produced at London’s Drury Lane Theatre in 1682. From 1685 to 1688 he was soldiering, but he wrote several other plays and contributed prologues and epilogues to John Dryden’s plays.

Both of Southerne’s principal works were based on novels by Aphra Behn, a popular 17th-century novelist and poet. In their mingling of pathos with a sometimes flaccid rhetoric, they owed much to the 17th-century dramatist Thomas Otway, as well. The Fatal Marriage anticipated 18th-century domestic tragedy, and Oroonoko showed affiliations with the earlier heroic plays of Dryden. The role of Isabella, which was first played by the great English actress Elizabeth Barry, gave Sarah Siddons one of her major successes a century later. The character of Oroonoko, an African prince enslaved in the English colony of Surinam, marked one of the first literary appearances of the “noble savage,” and the play was a notably early English condemnation of the slave trade. As well as writing several other plays—lively comedies of manners and frigid tragedies in Roman settings—Southerne also revised and finished Dryden’s tragedy Cleomenes (1692).



Sir John Vanbrugh

baptized Jan. 24, 1664, London, Eng.
died March 26, 1726, London

British architect who brought the English Baroque style to its culmination in Blenheim Palace, Oxfordshire. He was also one of the dramatists of the Restoration comedy of manners.

Vanbrugh’s grandfather was a Flemish merchant, and his father was a businessman in Chester, Cheshire, Eng., where the young Vanbrugh (by tradition) went to the King’s School. In 1686 he was commissioned in a regiment of foot soldiers and in 1690, while visiting Calais, France, was arrested as a suspected English agent. While imprisoned in the Bastille, he wrote the first draft of a comedy. After his release in 1692, he was a soldier again for six years but appears to have seen no active service.

Vanbrugh’s first comedy, The Relapse: Or Virtue in Danger, was written as a sequel to Colley Cibber’s Love’s Last Shift. It opened in 1696 and was highly successful. His next important piece, The Provok’d Wife (1697), was also a triumph. In 1698 the churchman Jeremy Collier published an attack on the immorality of the theatre aimed especially at Vanbrugh, whose plays were more robust than those of such contemporaries as William Congreve. Vanbrugh and others responded, but to little effect, and Vanbrugh kept silent until 1700. Then came a sequence of free and lively adaptations from the French, more farce than comedy, including The Country House (first performed 1703) and The Confederacy (1705).

In 1702 Vanbrugh entered another field: he designed Castle Howard in Yorkshire, for Lord Carlisle. His first design was far simpler than the richly articulated palace that resulted. Probably he was untrained, but aptly at hand was Nicholas Hawksmoor, the accomplished clerk of the great architect Sir Christopher Wren. Hawksmoor played the assistant to Vanbrugh but was in effect the partner. These two men brought to its peak English Baroque—an architecture concerned with the rhythmic effect of diversified masses, using Classical architectural elements to that end. The Vanbrugh-Hawksmoor Baroque manner is often called “heavy,” but the heaviness is in the service of the dramatic. The style they evolved was a joint creation: Hawksmoor had already begun to develop it in the 1690s and acted as draftsman, administrator, and architectural detailer, while Vanbrugh is credited with the buildings’ general plan and heroic scale.

Through Lord Carlisle, who was head of the Treasury, Vanbrugh became in 1702 comptroller of the queen’s works. In 1703 he designed the Queen’s Theatre, or Opera House, in the Haymarket. Though a magnificent building, it proved a failure, partly because of its poor acoustics, and he lost considerable money in the venture.

In 1705 Vanbrugh was chosen by John Churchill, 1st duke of Marlborough, to design the palace at Woodstock, Oxfordshire, which was the nation’s gift to that hero of many campaigns. Blenheim Palace, named for Marlborough’s most famous victory, was the architectural prize of Queen Anne’s reign. Again Hawksmoor was indispensable to Vanbrugh: Blenheim (1705–16) is their joint masterpiece. Any one of its powerful components may have been of Hawksmoor’s shaping, but the planning and broad conception were surely Vanbrugh’s, and the massive effect was the result of the hero-worshipping soldier-architect. Though the duke approved the plans, the duchess did not; there was trouble over costs and payments, and Vanbrugh left the project. He continued to design picturesque country houses in the style of castles, however, and in such buildings as Kimbolton Castle in Huntingdon (1707–10) and Kings Weston in Gloucestershire (now in Bristol; c. 1710–14), his style became simpler in its use of decoration and of starkly geometric masses of masonry. The setting of the houses was important, and Vanbrugh appears to have been engaged to some extent in considerations of landscape. However, he was never credited as a garden designer.

Under George I, Vanbrugh was knighted in 1714 and made comptroller again in 1715. Influenced by the art of fortification and Elizabethan building, Vanbrugh’s great last works were Eastbury (1718–26) in Dorset, Seaton Delaval (1720–28) in Northumberland (1720–28), and Grimsthorpe Castle (1722–26) in Lincolnshire. Without Hawksmoor, he adopted a simple style in these designs, using a few elementary forms with increasing audacity, until in Seaton Delaval he achieved the height of drama with a comparatively small house.



George Farquhar


born 1678, Londonderry, County Derry, Ire.
died April 29, 1707, London, Eng.

Irish playwright of real comic power who wrote for the English stage at the beginning of the 18th century. He stood out from his contemporaries for originality of dialogue and a stage sense that doubtless stemmed from his experience as an actor.

The son of a clergyman, Farquhar entered Trinity College, Dublin, as a sizar (one who received a college allowance in return for performing menial duties), but he preferred working as an unsuccessful actor at the Smock Alley Theatre in Dublin. During a performance of John Dryden’s Indian Emperour, he failed to distinguish between a tipped foil and a deadly rapier, gravely wounding a fellow actor. After this incident he abandoned acting, and, encouraged by a leading actor, Robert Wilks, with whom he had acted in Dublin, Farquhar decided to go to London to write comedy. His early plays were primarily spirited variations on a theme: young men have their fling for four acts and reform, unconvincingly, in the fifth. The plays have freshness, however, as well as wit and a lively human sympathy.

His first play, Love and a Bottle, was well received at London’s Drury Lane Theatre in 1699 and was followed in the same year by The Constant Couple. A sequel to the latter, Sir Harry Wildair, appeared in 1701. Between 1702 and 1704 he wrote The Inconstant (adapted from John Fletcher’s Wild-Goose Chase), The Twin-Rivals, and The Stage-Coach, a farce translated from French.

Farquhar’s real contribution to the English drama came in 1706 with The Recruiting Officer and, in the following year, with The Beaux’ Stratagem, which he finished on his deathbed. In these plays he introduced a verbal vigour and love of character that are more usually associated with Elizabethan dramatists.



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