History of Literature






English literature

 

CONTENTS:

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 18th century. The novel

 

Daniel Defoe  "Robinson Crusoe"  CHARTER I-VII, CHARTER VIII-XX Illustrations by N. C. Wyeth 
Samuel Richardson 
"Pamela, or Virtue Rewarded"  LETTER I-XXXI, LETTER XXXII Illustrations by Joseph Highmore
Henry Fielding 
"The History of Tom Jones, a foundling" BOOK I-IVBOOK V-XIBOOK XII-XVIII
Tobias Smollett  "THE ADVENTURES OF PEREGRINE PICKLE" 
  VOLUME I, VOLUME II

Laurence Sterne  "The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman"  VOLUME I, II, III, IV Illustrations by George Cruikshank
Sarah Fielding
Charlotte Lennox
Richard Graves
John Cleland  
"Fanny Hill: or, the Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure" Illustrations by Avril Paul
Henry Mackenzie
Horace Walpole  "The Castle of Otranto"

William Beckfor  "The History of Caliph Vathek"
Ann Radcliffe  "The Mysteries of Udolpho"   
VOLUME 1-2, VOLUME 3, VOLUME 4
Matthew Lewis   "The Monk"
Fanny Burney
William Collins
Thomas Gray
Thomas Parnell
Robert Blair
James Macpherson
Christopher Smart
William Cowper
Isaac Watts
Lady Mary Montagu
Hannah More
Anna Seward
Charlotte Smith

Robert Burns  "Poems & Songs"  
BOOK I, BOOK II
Oliver Goldsmith  "She Stoops to Conquer"
Samuel Johnson 
PART I "Rasselas, Prince of Abyssinia",  PART II-III "LIVES OF THE POETS"
Nicholas Rowe
Hester Lynch Piozzi
Sir John Hawkins
James Boswell
Edward Gibbon

George Berkeley I. "An Essay Towards a New Theory of Vision", II. "THREE DIALOGUES BETWEEN HYLAS AND PHILONOUS"
Samuel Clarke


 




The major novelists



Defoe


Such ambitious debates on society and human nature ran parallel with the explorations of a literary form finding new popularity with a large audience, the novel.
Daniel Defoe came to sustained prose fiction late in a career of quite various, often disputatious writing. The variety of interests that he had pursued in all his occasional work (much of which is not attributed to him with any certainty) left its mark on his more-lasting achievements. His distinction, though earned in other fields of writing than the polemical, is constantly underpinned by the generous range of his curiosity. Only someone of his catholic interests could have sustained, for instance, the superb Tour Thro’ the Whole Island of Great Britain (1724–27). This is a vivid county-by-county review and celebration of the state of the nation, which combines an antiquarian’s enthusiasm with a passion for trade and commercial progress. He brought the same diversity of enthusiasms into play in writing his novels. The first of these, Robinson Crusoe (1719), an immediate success at home and on the Continent, is a unique fictional blending of the traditions of Puritan spiritual autobiography with an insistent scrutiny of the nature of man as social creature and an extraordinary ability to invent a sustaining modern myth. A Journal of the Plague Year (1722) displays enticing powers of self-projection into a situation of which Defoe can only have had experience through the narrations of others, and both Moll Flanders (1722) and Roxana (1724) lure the reader into puzzling relationships with narrators the degree of whose own self-awareness is repeatedly and provocatively placed in doubt.

 


Daniel Defoe


"Robinson Crusoe"  CHARTER I-VII, CHARTER VIII-XX


Illustrations by N. C. Wyeth 





English author

born 1660, London, Eng.
died April 24, 1731, London

Main
English novelist, pamphleteer, and journalist, author of Robinson Crusoe (1719–22) and Moll Flanders (1722).

Early life.
Defoe’s father, James Foe, was a hard-working and fairly prosperous tallow chandler (perhaps also, later, a butcher), of Flemish descent. By his middle 30s, Daniel was calling himself “Defoe,” probably reviving a variant of what may have been the original family name. As a Nonconformist, or Dissenter, Foe could not send his son to the University of Oxford or to Cambridge; he sent him instead to the excellent academy at Newington Green kept by the Reverend Charles Morton. There Defoe received an education in many ways better, and certainly broader, than any he would have had at an English university. Morton was an admirable teacher, later becoming first vice president of Harvard College; and the clarity, simplicity, and ease of his style of writing—together with the Bible, the works of John Bunyan, and the pulpit oratory of the day—may have helped to form Defoe’s own literary style.

Although intended for the Presbyterian ministry, Defoe decided against this and by 1683 had set up as a merchant. He called trade his “beloved subject,” and it was one of the abiding interests of his life. He dealt in many commodities, traveled widely at home and abroad, and became an acute and intelligent economic theorist, in many respects ahead of his time; but misfortune, in one form or another, dogged him continually. He wrote of himself:

No man has tasted differing fortunes more,

And thirteen times I have been rich and poor.

It was true enough. In 1692, after prospering for a while, Defoe went bankrupt for £17,000. Opinions differ as to the cause of his collapse: on his own admission, Defoe was apt to indulge in rash speculations and projects; he may not always have been completely scrupulous, and he later characterized himself as one of those tradesmen who had “done things which their own principles condemned, which they are not ashamed to blush for.” But undoubtedly the main reason for his bankruptcy was the loss that he sustained in insuring ships during the war with France—he was one of 19 “merchants insurers” ruined in 1692. In this matter Defoe may have been incautious, but he was not dishonourable, and he dealt fairly with his creditors (some of whom pursued him savagely), paying off all but £5,000 within 10 years. He suffered further severe losses in 1703, when his prosperous brick-and-tile works near Tilbury failed during his imprisonment for political offenses, and he did not actively engage in trade after this time.

Soon after setting up in business, in 1684, Defoe married Mary Tuffley, the daughter of a well-to-do Dissenting merchant. Not much is known about her, and he mentions her little in his writings, but she seems to have been a loyal, capable, and devoted wife. She bore eight children, of whom six lived to maturity, and when Defoe died the couple had been married for 47 years.
 


Robinson Crusoe



Mature life and works.
With Defoe’s interest in trade went an interest in politics. The first of many political pamphlets by him appeared in 1683. When the Roman Catholic James II ascended the throne in 1685, Defoe—as a staunch Dissenter and with characteristic impetuosity—joined the ill-fated rebellion of the Duke of Monmouth, managing to escape after the disastrous Battle of Sedgemoor. Three years later James had fled to France, and Defoe rode to welcome the army of William of Orange—“William, the Glorious, Great, and Good, and Kind,” as Defoe was to call him. Throughout William III’s reign, Defoe supported him loyally, becoming his leading pamphleteer. In 1701, in reply to attacks on the “foreign” king, Defoe published his vigorous and witty poem The True-Born Englishman, an enormously popular work that is still very readable and relevant in its exposure of the fallacies of racial prejudice. Defoe was clearly proud of this work, because he sometimes designated himself “Author of ‘The True-Born Englishman’” in later works.

Foreign politics also engaged Defoe’s attention. Since the Treaty of Rijswijk (1697), it had become increasingly probable that what would, in effect, be a European war would break out as soon as the childless king of Spain died. In 1701 five gentlemen of Kent presented a petition, demanding greater defense preparations, to the House of Commons (then Tory-controlled) and were illegally imprisoned. Next morning Defoe, “guarded with about 16 gentlemen of quality,” presented the speaker, Robert Harley, with his famous document “Legion’s Memorial,” which reminded the Commons in outspoken terms that “Englishmen are no more to be slaves to Parliaments than to a King.” It was effective: the Kentishmen were released, and Defoe was feted by the citizens of London. It had been a courageous gesture and one of which Defoe was ever afterward proud, but it undoubtedly branded him in Tory eyes as a dangerous man who must be brought down.

What did bring him down, only a year or so later, and consequently led to a new phase in his career, was a religious question—though it is difficult to separate religion from politics in this period. Both Dissenters and “Low Churchmen” were mainly Whigs, and the “highfliers”—the High-Church Tories—were determined to undermine this working alliance by stopping the practice of “occasional conformity” (by which Dissenters of flexible conscience could qualify for public office by occasionally taking the sacraments according to the established church). Pressure on the Dissenters increased when the Tories came to power, and violent attacks were made on them by such rabble-rousing extremists as Dr. Henry Sacheverell. In reply, Defoe wrote perhaps the most famous and skillful of all his pamphlets, “The Shortest-Way With The Dissenters” (1702), published anonymously. His method was ironic: to discredit the highfliers by writing as if from their viewpoint but reducing their arguments to absurdity. The pamphlet had a huge sale, but the irony blew up in Defoe’s face: Dissenters and High Churchmen alike took it seriously, and—though for different reasons—were furious when the hoax was exposed. Defoe was prosecuted for seditious libel and was arrested in May 1703. The advertisement offering a reward for his capture gives the only extant personal description of Defoe—an unflattering one, which annoyed him considerably: “a middle-size spare man, about 40 years old, of a brown complexion, and dark-brown coloured hair, but wears a wig, a hooked nose, a sharp chin, grey eyes, and a large mole near his mouth.” Defoe was advised to plead guilty and rely on the court’s mercy, but he received harsh treatment, and, in addition to being fined, was sentenced to stand three times in the pillory. It is likely that the prosecution was primarily political, an attempt to force him into betraying certain Whig leaders; but the attempt was evidently unsuccessful. Although miserably apprehensive of his punishment, Defoe had spirit enough, while awaiting his ordeal, to write the audacious “Hymn To The Pillory” (1703); and this helped to turn the occasion into something of a triumph, with the pillory garlanded, the mob drinking his health, and the poem on sale in the streets. In An Appeal to Honour and Justice (1715), he gave his own, self-justifying account of these events and of other controversies in his life as a writer.

Triumph or not, Defoe was led back to Newgate, and there he remained while his Tilbury business collapsed and he became ever more desperately concerned for the welfare of his already numerous family. He appealed to Robert Harley, who, after many delays, finally secured his release—Harley’s part of the bargain being to obtain Defoe’s services as a pamphleteer and intelligence agent.

Defoe certainly served his masters with zeal and energy, traveling extensively, writing reports, minutes of advice, and pamphlets. He paid several visits to Scotland, especially at the time of the Act of Union in 1707, keeping Harley closely in touch with public opinion. Some of Defoe’s letters to Harley from this period have survived. These trips bore fruit in a different way two decades later: in 1724–26 the three volumes of Defoe’s animated and informative Tour Through the Whole Island of Great Britain were published, in preparing which he drew on many of his earlier observations.

Perhaps Defoe’s most remarkable achievement during Queen Anne’s reign, however, was his periodical, the Review. He wrote this serious, forceful, and long-lived paper practically single-handedly from 1704 to 1713. At first a weekly, it became a thrice-weekly publication in 1705, and Defoe continued to produce it even when, for short periods in 1713, his political enemies managed to have him imprisoned again on various pretexts. It was, effectively, the main government organ, its political line corresponding with that of the moderate Tories (though Defoe sometimes took an independent stand); but, in addition to politics as such, Defoe discussed current affairs in general, religion, trade, manners, morals, and so on, and his work undoubtedly had a considerable influence on the development of later essay periodicals (such as Richard Steele and Joseph Addison’s The Tatler and The Spectator) and of the newspaper press.


Later life and works.
With George I’s accession (1714), the Tories fell. The Whigs in their turn recognized Defoe’s value, and he continued to write for the government of the day and to carry out intelligence work. At about this time, too (perhaps prompted by a severe illness), he wrote the best known and most popular of his many didactic works, The Family Instructor (1715). The writings so far mentioned, however, would not necessarily have procured literary immortality for Defoe; this he achieved when in 1719 he turned his talents to an extended work of prose fiction and (drawing partly on the memoirs of voyagers and castaways such as Alexander Selkirk) produced Robinson Crusoe. A German critic has called it a “world-book,” a label justified not only by the enormous number of translations, imitations, and adaptations that have appeared but by the almost mythic power with which Defoe creates a hero and a situation with which every reader can in some sense identify.

Here (as in his works of the remarkable year 1722, which saw the publication of Moll Flanders, A Journal of the Plague Year, and Colonel Jack) Defoe displays his finest gift as a novelist—his insight into human nature. The men and women he writes about are all, it is true, placed in unusual circumstances; they are all, in one sense or another, solitaries; they all struggle, in their different ways, through a life that is a constant scene of jungle warfare; they all become, to some extent, obsessive. They are also ordinary human beings, however, and Defoe, writing always in the first person, enters into their minds and analyzes their motives. His novels are given verisimilitude by their matter-of-fact style and their vivid concreteness of detail; the latter may seem unselective, but it effectively helps to evoke a particular, circumscribed world. Their main defects are shapelessness, an overinsistent moralizing, occasional gaucheness, and naiveté. Defoe’s range is narrow, but within that range he is a novelist of considerable power, and his plain, direct style, as in almost all of his writing, holds the reader’s interest.

In 1724 he published his last major work of fiction, Roxana, though in the closing years of his life, despite failing health, he remained active and enterprising as a writer.


Assessment.
A man of many talents and author of an extraordinary range and number of works, Defoe remains in many ways an enigmatic figure. A man who made many enemies, he has been accused of double-dealing, of dishonest or equivocal conduct, of venality. Certainly in politics he served in turn both Tory and Whig; he acted as a secret agent for the Tories and later served the Whigs by “infiltrating” extremist Tory journals and toning them down. But Defoe always claimed that the end justified the means, and a more sympathetic view may see him as what he always professed to be, an unswerving champion of moderation. At the age of 59 Defoe embarked on what was virtually a new career, producing in Robinson Crusoe the first of a remarkable series of novels and other fictional writings that resulted in his being called the father of the English novel.

Defoe’s last years were clouded by legal controversies over allegedly unpaid bonds dating back a generation, and it is thought that he died in hiding from his creditors. His character Moll Flanders, born in Newgate Prison, speaks of poverty as “a frightful spectre,” and it is a theme of many of his books.

Reginald P.C. Mutter
 

 



Richardson



Pamela; or, Virtue Rewarded


The enthusiasm prompted by Defoe’s best novels demonstrated the growing readership for innovative prose narrative.
Samuel Richardson, a prosperous London printer, was the next major author to respond to the challenge. His Pamela; or, Virtue Rewarded (1740, with a less-happy sequel in 1741), using (like all Richardson’s novels) the epistolary form, tells a story of an employer’s attempted seduction of a young servant woman, her subsequent victimization, and her eventual reward in virtuous marriage with the penitent exploiter. Its moral tone is self-consciously rigorous and proved highly controversial. It was a publishing sensation, not only selling in large numbers but also provoking parodies and imitations, attacks and eulogies. As well as being popular, it was the first such work of prose fiction to aspire to respectability, indeed moral seriousness. For contemporaries, the so-called “rise of the novel” began here. The strength of Pamela was its exploitation of what Richardson was to call “writing to the moment”: the capturing in the texture of her letters the fluctuations of the heroine’s consciousness as she faces her ordeal. Pamela herself is the writer of almost all the letters, and the technical limitations of the epistolary form are strongly felt, though Richardson’s ingenuity works hard to mitigate them. But Pamela’s frank speaking about the abuses of masculine and gentry power sounds the skeptical note more radically developed in Richardson’s masterpiece, Clarissa; or, The History of a Young Lady (1747–48), which has a just claim to being considered the greatest of all English tragic novels. Clarissa uses multiple narrators and develops a profoundly suggestive interplay of opposed voices. At its centre is the taxing soul debate and eventually mortal combat between the aggressive, brilliantly improvisatorial libertine Lovelace and the beleaguered Clarissa, maltreated and abandoned by her family but sternly loyal to her own inner sense of probity. The tragic consummation that grows from this involves an astonishingly ruthless testing of the psychological natures of the two leading characters. Even in its own day, Clarissa was widely accepted as having demonstrated the potential profundity, moral or psychological, of the novel. It was admired and imitated throughout Europe. After such intensities, Richardson’s final novel, The History of Sir Charles Grandison (1753–54), is perhaps inevitably a less ambitious, cooler work, but its blending of serious moral discussion and a comic ending ensured it an influence on his successors, especially Jane Austen.

 


Samuel Richardson


"Pamela, or Virtue Rewarded"   LETTER I-XXXI LETTER XXXII

Illustrations by Joseph Highmore




English novelist

baptized Aug. 19, 1689, Mackworth, near Derby, Derbyshire, Eng.
died July 4, 1761, Parson’s Green, near London

Main
English novelist who expanded the dramatic possibilities of the novel by his invention and use of the letter form (“epistolary novel”). His major novels were Pamela (1740) and Clarissa (1747–48).

Richardson was 50 years old when he wrote Pamela, but of his first 50 years little is known. His ancestors were of yeoman stock. His father, also Samuel, and his mother’s father, Stephen Hall, became London tradesmen, and his father, after the death of his first wife, married Stephen’s daughter, Elizabeth, in 1682. A temporary move of the Richardsons to Derbyshire accounts for the fact that the novelist was born in Mackworth. They returned to London when Richardson was 10. He had at best what he called “only Common School-Learning.” The perceived inadequacy of his education was later to preoccupy him and some of his critics.

Richardson was bound apprentice to a London printer, John Wilde. Sometime after completing his apprenticeship he became associated with the Leakes, a printing family whose presses he eventually took over when he set up in business for himself in 1721 and married Martha Wilde, the daughter of his master. Elizabeth Leake, the sister of a prosperous bookseller of Bath, became his second wife in 1733, two years after Martha’s death. His domestic life was marked by tragedy. All six of the children from his first marriage died in infancy or childhood. By his second wife he had four daughters who survived him, but two other children died in infancy. These and other bereavements contributed to the nervous ailments of his later life.

In his professional life Richardson was hardworking and successful. With the growth in prominence of his press went his steady increase in prestige as a member, an officer, and later master, of the Stationers’ Company (the guild for those in the book trade). During the 1730s his press became known as one of the three best in London, and with prosperity he moved to a more spacious London house and leased the first of three country houses in which he entertained a circle of friends that included Dr. Johnson, the painter William Hogarth, the actors Colley Cibber and David Garrick, Edward Young, and Arthur Onslow, speaker of the House of Commons, whose influence in 1733 helped to secure for Richardson lucrative contracts for government printing that later included the journals of the House.

In this same decade he began writing in a modest way. At some point, he was commissioned to write a collection of letters that might serve as models for “country readers,” a volume that has become known as Familiar Letters on Important Occasions. Occasionally he hit upon continuing the same subject from one letter to another, and, after a letter from “a father to a daughter in service, on hearing of her master’s attempting her virtue,” he supplied the daughter’s answer. This was the germ of his novel Pamela. With a method supplied by the letter writer and a plot by a story that he remembered of an actual serving maid who preserved her virtue and was rewarded by marriage, he began writing the work in November 1739 and published it as Pamela: or, Virtue Rewarded, a year later.

Most of the story is told by the heroine herself. On the death of Pamela’s mistress, her son, Mr. B, begins a series of stratagems designed to end in Pamela’s seduction. These failing, he abducts her and renews his siege in earnest. Pamela preserves her virtue, and halfway through the novel Mr. B offers marriage. In the second half Richardson shows Pamela winning over those who had disapproved of the misalliance. Though the novel was immensely popular, Richardson was criticized by those who thought his heroine a calculating minx or his own morality dubious. Actually his heroine is a vividly imagined blend of the artful and the artless. She is a sadly perplexed girl of 15, with a divided mind, who faces a real dilemma because she wants to preserve her virtue without losing the man with whom she has fallen in love. Since Richardson wrote the novel from Pamela’s point of view, it is less clear that Mr. B’s problem arises from his having fallen in love with a servant, who, traditionally, would have been merely a target for seduction. In a clever twist, he is converted by her letters, which he has been intercepting and reading. The author resolved the conflicts of both characters too facilely, perhaps, because he was firmly committed to the plot of the true story he had remembered. When the instantaneous popularity of Pamela led to a spurious continuation of her story, he wrote his own sequel, Pamela in her Exalted Condition (1742), a two-volume work that did little to enhance his reputation.

By 1744 Richardson seems to have completed a first draft of his second novel, Clarissa: or, The History of a Young Lady, but he spent three years trying to bring it within the compass of the seven volumes in which it was published. He first presents the heroine, Clarissa Harlowe, when she is discovering the barely masked motives of her family, who would force her into a loveless marriage to improve their fortunes. Outside the orbit of the Harlowes stands Lovelace, nephew of Lord M and a romantic who held the code of the Harlowes in contempt. In her desperate straits, Clarissa appraises too highly the qualities that set Lovelace beyond the world of her family, and, when he offers protection, she runs off with him. She is physically attracted by if not actually in love with Lovelace and is responsive to the wider horizons of his world, but she is to discover that he wants her only on his own terms. In Lovelace’s letters to his friend Belford, Richardson shows that what is driving him to conquest and finally to rape is really her superiority. In the correspondence of Clarissa and her friend Anna Howe, Richardson shows the distance that separates her from her confidant, who thinks her quixotic in not accepting a marriage; but marriage as a way out would have been a sacrifice to that same consciousness of human dignity that had led her to defy her family. As the novel comes to its long-drawn-out close, she is removed from the world of both the Harlowes and the Lovelaces, and dies, a child of heaven. In providing confidants for his central characters and in refusing to find a place in the social structure into which to fit his sorely beset heroine, Richardson made his greatest advances over Pamela. He was determined, as his postscript indicates, to write a novel that was also a tragedy.

Richardson’s third novel was his bow to requests for the hero as a good man, a counter-attraction to the errant hero of Henry Fielding’s Tom Jones (1749). Fielding had been among those who thought Pamela a scheming minx, as he had shown in his parody An Apology for the life of Mrs. Shamela Andrews (1741). In spite of Fielding’s critical praise of Clarissa and the friendship that later developed between Richardson and Fielding’s sister, Sarah, Richardson never forgave the author of what he stigmatized as “that vile Pamphlet Shamela.” In The History of Sir Charles Grandison (1753–54), he provides a hero who is a model of benevolence. He faces little that a good heart cannot remedy and extricates himself from the nearest thing to a dilemma that he has to encounter: a “divided love” between an English woman, Harriet Byron, and an Italian, Signora Clementina. He is saved for Harriet by the last-minute refusal of the Roman Catholic Clementina to marry a firmly committed English churchman. The uneasy minds of Clementina and Harriet are explored with some penetration, but Sir Charles faces nothing in his society or within himself that requires much of a struggle. Furthermore, his dilemma is not so central to the novel as were those of Pamela and Clarissa. He is surrounded with a large cast of characters who have their parts to play in social comedy that anticipates the novel of manners of the late 18th century.

Richardson was an indefatigable reviser of his own work, and the various editions of his novels differ greatly. Much of his revision was undertaken in anxious, self-censoring response to criticism; the earliest versions of his novels are generally the freshest and most daring.

Richardson’s Pamela is often credited with being the first English novel. Although the validity of this claim depends on the definition of the term novel, it is not disputed that Richardson was innovative in his concentration on a single action, in this case a courtship. By telling the story in the form of letters, he provided if not the “stream” at least the flow of consciousness of his characters, and he pioneered in showing how his characters’ sense of class differences and their awareness of the conflict between sexual instincts and the moral code created dilemmas that could not always be resolved. These characteristics reappear regularly in the subsequent history of the novel. Above all, Richardson was the writer who made the novel a respectable genre.

Richardson had disciples when he died. Some of them show the influence of Clarissa, which seems to have been most responsible for the cult of Richardson that arose on the European continent. It was Grandison, however, that set the tone of most of Richardson’s English followers and for Jane Austen, who was said to have remembered “every circumstance” in this novel, everything “that was ever said or done.” By the end of the 18th century, Richardson’s reputation was on the wane both in England and abroad. It was reborn in the late 20th century, however, and Clarissa is now widely admired as one of the great psychological novels of European literature.

William Merritt Sale, Jr.

 



 

Fielding


Henry Fielding turned to novel writing after a successful period as a dramatist, during which his most popular work had been in burlesque forms. Sir Robert Walpole’s Licensing Act of 1737, introduced to restrict political satire on the stage, pushed Fielding to look to other genres. He also turned to journalism, of which he wrote a great deal, much of it political. His entry into prose fiction had something in common with the burlesque mode of much of his drama.

An Apology for the Life of Mrs. Shamela Andrews (1741), a travesty of Richardson’s Pamela, transforms the latter’s heroine into a predatory fortune hunter who cold-bloodedly lures her booby master into matrimony. Fielding continued his quarrel with Richardson in The History of the Adventures of Joseph Andrews (1742), which also uses Pamela as a starting point but which, developing a momentum of its own, soon outgrows any narrow parodic intent. His hostility to Richardson’s sexual ethic notwithstanding, Fielding was happy to build, with a calm and smiling sophistication, on the growing respect for the novel to which his antagonist had so substantially contributed. In Joseph Andrews and The History of Tom Jones, a Foundling (1749), Fielding openly brought to bear upon his chosen form a battery of devices from more traditionally reputable modes (including epic poetry, painting, and the drama). This is accompanied by a flamboyant development of authorial presence. Fielding the narrator buttonholes the reader repeatedly, airs critical and ethical questions for the reader’s delectation, and urbanely discusses the artifice upon which his fiction depends. In the deeply original Tom Jones especially, this assists in developing a distinctive atmosphere of self-confident magnanimity and candid optimism. His fiction, however, can also cope with a darker range of experience. The Life of Mr. Jonathan Wild the Great (1743), for instance, uses a mock-heroic idiom to explore a derisive parallel between the criminal underworld and England’s political elite, and Amelia (1751) probes with sombre precision images of captivity and situations of taxing moral paradox.

 


 


 


Henry Fielding


"The History of Tom Jones, a foundling"   BOOK I-IVBOOK V-XI BOOK XII-XVIII





English author

born April 22, 1707, Sharpham Park, Somerset, Eng.
died Oct. 8, 1754, Lisbon

Main
novelist and playwright, who, with Samuel Richardson, is considered a founder of the English novel. Among his major novels are Joseph Andrews (1742) and Tom Jones (1749).

Early life.
Fielding was born of a family that by tradition traced its descent to a branch of the Habsburgs. The 1st earl of Denbigh, William Fielding, was a direct ancestor, while Henry’s father, Col. Edmund Fielding, had served under John Churchill, duke of Marlborough, an early 18th-century general, “with much bravery and reputation.” His mother was a daughter of Sir Henry Gould, a judge of the Queen’s Bench, from whom she inherited property at East Stour, in Dorset, where the family moved when Fielding was three years old. His mother died just before his 11th birthday. His father having married again, Fielding was sent to Eton College, where he laid the foundations of his love of literature and his considerable knowledge of the classics. There he befriended George Lyttelton, who was later to be a statesman and an important patron to him.

Leaving school at 17, a strikingly handsome youth, he settled down to the life of a young gentleman of leisure; but four years later, after an abortive elopement with an heiress and the production of a play at the Drury Lane Theatre in London, he resumed his classical studies at the University of Leiden in Holland. After 18 months he had to return home because his father was no longer able to pay him an allowance. “Having,” as he said, “no choice but to be a hackney-writer or a hackney-coachman,” he chose the former and set up as playwright. In all, he wrote some 25 plays. Although his dramatic works have not held the stage, their wit cannot be denied. He was essentially a satirist; for instance, The Author’s Farce (1730) displays the absurdities of writers and publishers, while Rape upon Rape (1730) satirizes the injustices of the law and lawyers. His target was often the political corruption of the times. In 1737 he produced at the Little Theatre in the Hay (later the Haymarket Theatre), London, his Historical Register, For the Year 1736, in which the prime minister, Sir Robert Walpole, was represented practically undisguised and mercilessly ridiculed. It was not the first time Walpole had suffered from Fielding’s pen, and his answer was to push through Parliament the Licensing Act, by which all new plays had to be approved and licensed by the lord chamberlain before production.

The passing of this act marked the end of Fielding’s career as a playwright. The 30-year-old writer had a wife and two children to support but no source of income. He had married Charlotte Cradock in 1734, this time after a successful elopement, the culmination of a four-year courtship. How much he adored her can be seen from the two characters based on her, Sophia Western in Tom Jones and Amelia in the novel of that name: one the likeness of her as a beautiful, high-spirited, generous-minded girl, the other of her as a faithful, much-troubled, hard-working wife and mother. To restore his fortunes, Fielding began to read for the bar, completing in less than three years a course normally taking six or seven. Even while studying, however, he was editing, and very largely writing, a thrice-weekly newspaper, the Champion; or, British Mercury, which ran from November 1739 to June 1741. This, like some of his later journalism, was strongly anti-Jacobite.


Maturity.
As a barrister, Fielding, who rode the Western Circuit (a judicial subdivision of England) twice a year, had little success. In 1740, however, Samuel Richardson published his novel Pamela: or, Virtue Rewarded, which tells how a servant girl so impressed her master by resistance to his every effort at seduction that in the end “he thought fit to make her his wife.” Something new in literature, its success was unparalleled. A crop of imitations followed. In April 1741 there appeared a parody entitled An Apology for the Life of Mrs. Shamela Andrews, satirizing Richardson’s sentimentality and prudish morality. It was published anonymously and, though Fielding never claimed it, Shamela was generally accepted as his work in his lifetime, and stylistic evidence supports the attribution.

Fielding’s Joseph Andrews was published anonymously in 1742. Described on the title page as “Written in Imitation of the Manner of Cervantes, author of Don Quixote,” it begins as a burlesque of Pamela, with Joseph, Pamela’s virtuous footman brother, resisting the attempts of a highborn lady to seduce him. The parodic intention soon becomes secondary, and the novel develops into a masterpiece of sustained irony and social criticism, with, at its centre, Parson Adams, one of the great comic figures of literature and a striking confirmation of the contention of the 19th-century Russian novelist Fyodor Dostoyevsky that the positively good man can be made convincing in fiction only if rendered to some extent ridiculous. Fielding explains in his preface that he is writing “a comic Epic-Poem in Prose.” He was certainly inaugurating a new genre in fiction.

Joseph Andrews was written in the most unpropitious circumstances: Fielding was crippled with gout, his six-year-old daughter was dying, and his wife was “in a condition very little better.” He was also in financial trouble, from which he was at least temporarily rescued by the generosity of his friend the philanthropist Ralph Allen, who appears in Tom Jones as Mr. Allworthy.

In 1743 Fielding published three volumes of Miscellanies, works old and new, of which by far the most important is The Life of Mr. Jonathan Wild the Great. Here, narrating the life of a notorious criminal of the day, Fielding satirizes human greatness, or rather human greatness confused with power over others. Permanently topical, Jonathan Wild, with the exception of some passages by his older contemporary, the Anglo-Irish satirist Jonathan Swift, is perhaps the grimmest satire in English and an exercise in unremitting irony.

After the Miscellanies Fielding gave up writing for more than two years, partly, perhaps, out of disappointment with the rewards of authorship, partly in order to devote himself to law. His health was bad; his practice at the bar did not flourish; worst of all, his wife was still ill. In the autumn of 1744 he took her to Bath for the medicinal waters; she “caught a fever, and died in his arms.” According to Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, the 18th-century letter writer and Fielding’s cousin, his grief “approached to frenzy,” and it was almost a year before he recovered his fortitude. By then he had taken a house in London in the Strand (on the site of the present law courts), and there he lived with his daughter, his sister Sarah, also a novelist, and Mary Daniel, who had been his wife’s maid. In 1747, to the derision of London, he married Mary, who was pregnant by him. According to Fielding himself, writing shortly before his death, she discharged “excellently well her own, and all the tender offices becoming the female character . . . besides being a faithful friend, an amiable companion, and a tender nurse.”

In 1745 came the Jacobite Rebellion (an attempt to restore the descendants of the deposed Stuart king James II), which led Fielding to write the pamphlet “A Serious Address to the People of Great Britain. In Which the Certain Consequences of the Present Rebellion, Are Fully Demonstrated. Necessary To Be Perused by Every Lover of his Country at This Juncture.” An upholder of the Church of England, he warned of the implications of this rising led by the Roman Catholic pretender to the throne, Prince Charles Edward. A month later, he became editor of a new weekly paper, The True Patriot: And the History of Our Own Times, which he wrote almost single-handedly until it ceased publication on the defeat of the Pretender at the Battle of Culloden (April 16, 1746). A year later, Fielding edited another one-man weekly called The Jacobite’s Journal, the title reflecting its ironical approach to current affairs. Its propaganda value was deemed so great that the government purchased 2,000 copies of each issue for free distribution among the inns and alehouses of the kingdom.

Fielding was now a trusted supporter of the government. His reward came in 1748, when he was appointed justice of the peace (or magistrate) for Westminster and Middlesex, with his own courthouse, which was also his residence, in Bow Street in central London. The office carried no salary; former Bow Street magistrates had made what they could out of the fees paid by persons brought before them and, often, out of bribes. Fielding was a magistrate of a different order. Together with his blind half brother, John Fielding, also a magistrate, he turned an office without honour into one of great dignity and importance and established a new tradition of justice and the suppression of crime in London. Among other things, Fielding strengthened the police force at his disposal by recruiting a small body of able and energetic “thieftakers”—the Bow Street Runners. To improve relations between the law and the public, he started a newspaper, The Covent Garden Journal, in which the following appeared regularly:

All persons who shall for the future suffer by robbers, burglars, etc., are desired immediately to bring or send the best description they can of such robbers, etc., with the time, and place, and circumstances of the fact, to Henry Fielding, Esq., at his house in Bow Street.

Last years.
The History of Tom Jones, a Foundling was published on Feb. 28, 1749. With its great comic gusto, vast gallery of characters, and contrasted scenes of high and low life in London and the provinces, it has always constituted the most popular of his works. Like its predecessor, Joseph Andrews, it is constructed around a romance plot. The hero, whose true identity remains unknown until the denouement, loves the beautiful Sophia Western, and at the end of the book he wins her hand. Numerous obstacles have to be overcome before he achieves this, however, and in the course of the action the various sets of characters pursue each other from one part of the country to another, giving Fielding an opportunity to paint an incomparably vivid picture of England in the mid-18th century. The introductory chapters at the beginning of each Book make it clear how carefully Fielding had considered the problem of planning the novel. No novelist up until then had so clear an idea of what a novel should be, so that it is not surprising that Tom Jones is a masterpiece of literary engineering. The characters fall into several distinct groups—romance characters, villainous characters, Jonsonian “humours,” “low” comic characters, and the virtuous Squire Allworthy, who remains in the background and emerges to ensure the conventional happy ending. The novel is further marked by deft alternations between humour and romance, occasional tricks straight from the theatre, and above all the speed and ease of the dialogue. The reading of this work is essential both for an understanding of 18th-century England and for its revelation of the generosity and charity of Fielding’s view of humanity.

Two years later Amelia was published. Being a much more sombre work, it has always been less popular than Tom Jones and Joseph Andrews. Fielding’s mind must have been darkened by his experiences as a magistrate, as it certainly had been by his wife’s death, and Amelia is no attempt at the comic epic poem in prose. Rather, it anticipates the Victorian domestic novel, being a study of the relationship between a man and his wife and, in the character of Amelia, a celebration of womanly virtues. It is also Fielding’s most intransigent representation of the evils of the society in which he lived, and he clearly finds the spectacle no longer comic.

His health was deteriorating. By 1752 his gout was so bad that his legs were swathed in bandages, and he often had to use crutches or a wheelchair. In August of 1753 he decided to go to Bath for rest and the waters. That year was a particularly bad one for crime in London, however, and on the eve of his leaving he was invited by Thomas Pelham-Holles, Duke of Newcastle (then secretary of war), to prepare a plan for the Privy Council for the suppression of “those murders and robberies which were every day committed in the streets.” His plan, undertaking “to demolish the then reigning gangs” and to establish means of preventing their recurrence, was accepted, and despite the state of his health—to gout had been added asthma and dropsy—he stayed in London for the rest of the year, waging war against criminal gangs with such success that “there was, in the remaining month of November, and in all December, not only no such thing as a murder, but not even a street-robbery committed.”

In the following June, Fielding set out for Portugal to seek the sun, writing an account of his journey, The Journal of a Voyage to Lisbon. This work presents an extraordinarily vivid picture of the tortuous slowness of 18th-century sea travel, the horrors of contemporary medicine, the caprices of arbitrary power as seen in the conduct of customs officers and other petty officials, and, above all, his indomitable courage and cheerfulness when almost completely helpless, for he could scarcely walk and had to be carried on and off ship. Fielding landed at Lisbon on Aug. 7, 1754. He died in October and was buried in the British cemetery at Lisbon.


Assessment.
Sir Walter Scott called Henry Fielding the “father of the English novel,” and the phrase still indicates Fielding’s place in the history of literature. Though not actually the first English novelist, he was the first to approach the genre with a fully worked-out theory of the novel; and in Joseph Andrews, Tom Jones, and Amelia, which a modern critic has called comic epic, epic comedy, and domestic epic, respectively, he had established the tradition of a realism presented in panoramic surveys of contemporary society that dominated English fiction until the end of the 19th century.

Walter E. Allen
 



 

Smollett


Tobias Smollett had no desire to rival Fielding as a formal innovator, and today he seems the less audacious innovator. His novels consequently tend to be rather ragged assemblings of disparate incidents. But, although uneven in performance, all of them include extended passages of real force and idiosyncrasy. His freest writing is expended on grotesque portraiture in which the human is reduced to fiercely energetic automatism. Smollett can also be a stunning reporter of the contemporary scene, whether the subject be a naval battle or the gathering of the decrepit at a spa. His touch is least happy when, complying too facilely with the gathering cult of sensibility, he indulges in rote-learned displays of emotionalism and good-heartedness. His most sustainedly invigorating work can perhaps be found in The Adventures of Roderick Random (1748), The Adventures of Peregrine Pickle (1751), and (an altogether more interesting encounter with the dialects of sensibility) The Expedition of Humphry Clinker (1771). The last was his only epistolary novel and perhaps the outstanding use of this form for comic purposes.

 


Tobias Smollett


"THE ADVENTURES OF PEREGRINE PICKLE"    VOLUME I, VOLUME II





Scottish novelist
in full Tobias George Smollett

baptized March 19, 1721, Cardross, Dumbartonshire, Scot.
died Sept. 17, 1771, near Livorno, Tuscany [Italy]

Main
Scottish satirical novelist, best known for his picaresque novels The Adventures of Roderick Random (1748) and The Adventures of Peregrine Pickle (1751) and his epistolary novel The Expedition of Humphry Clinker (1771).

Smollett came of a family of lawyers and soldiers, Whig in politics and Presbyterian in religion. In 1727 or 1728 he entered Dumbarton grammar school, proceeding from there to the University of Glasgow and apprenticeship to William Stirling and John Gordon, surgeons of that city. His first biographer states that he “attended the anatomical and medical lectures,” and, if his first novel, Roderick Random, may be taken as evidence, he also studied Greek, mathematics, moral and natural philosophy, logic, and belles lettres. He left the university in 1739 without a degree and went to London, taking with him his play The Regicide. A year later he was commissioned surgeon’s second mate in the Royal Navy and appointed to HMS Chichester, which reached Port Royal, Jam., on Jan. 10, 1741. It is probable that Smollett saw action in the naval bombardment of Cartagena (now in Colombia). The expedition was disastrous; he would later describe its horrors in Roderick Random. In Jamaica he met and was betrothed to—and perhaps there married—an heiress, Anne Lassells. He returned to London alone to set up as a surgeon on Downing Street, Westminster, his wife joining him in 1747. He failed to secure a production of The Regicide, but in 1746, after the defeat of the Jacobite rebels at Culloden, he wrote his most famous poem, “The Tears of Scotland.” He had by now moved to cheaper accommodations in Chapel Street, Mayfair, no doubt because, despite litigation, he had managed to recover only a fraction of his wife’s considerable dowry, which was invested in land and slaves. It was in Chapel Street that he wrote Advice and Reproof, verse satires in the manner of the Roman poet Juvenal.

In 1748 Smollett published his novel The Adventures of Roderick Random, in part a graphic account of British naval life at the time, and also translated the great picaresque romance Gil Blas from the French of Alain-René Lesage. In 1750 he obtained the degree of M.D. from Marischal College, Aberdeen. Later in the year he was in Paris, searching out material for The Adventures of Peregrine Pickle. This work contains a great comic figure in Hawser Trunnion, a retired naval officer who, though living on dry land, insists on behaving as though he were still on the quarterdeck of one of his majesty’s ships at sea.

In 1752 he published “An Essay on the External Use of Water,” an attack on the medicinal properties of the waters of a popular English health resort, Bath (he would resume the attack in his later novel The Expedition of Humphry Clinker). The essay made him many enemies and little money. His financial difficulties were intensified by his generosity in lending money to a hack writer called Peter Gordon, who employed legal stratagems to avoid repayment. Smollett came to blows with Gordon and his landlord and was sued by them for £1,000 and £500, respectively, on charges of trespass and assault. In the event, Smollett was required to pay only small damages. He was now living at Monmouth House, Chelsea, where he was host to such leading literary figures as the authors Samuel Johnson and Oliver Goldsmith, as well as to the actor David Garrick and John Hunter, a famous surgeon and anatomist. On Sundays, if one may take a passage in Peregrine Pickle as autobiographical, Smollett threw his house open to “unfortunate brothers of the quill,” whom he regaled with “beer, pudding, and potatoes, port, punch, and Calvert’s entire butt-beer.” He himself seems to have been a man irascible, pugnacious, infinitely energetic, courageous, and generous.

The Adventures of Ferdinand, Count Fathom (now, with The History and Adventures of an Atom, the least regarded of his novels) appeared in 1753. It sold poorly, and Smollett was forced into borrowing from friends and into further hack writing. In June 1753 he visited Scotland for the first time in 15 years; his mother, it is said, recognized him only because of his “roguish smile.” Back in London, Smollett set about a commitment to translate Don Quixote from the Spanish of Miguel de Cervantes, and this translation was published in 1755. Smollett was already suffering from tuberculosis. Early in 1756 he became editor of The Critical Review, a Tory and church paper, at the same time writing his Complete History of England, which was financially successful. This work relieved the financial pressure that he had felt all his adult life. A year later, his farce The Reprisal: or, The Tars of Old England was produced at Drury Lane and brought him a profit of almost £200. In 1758 he became what today might perhaps be called general editor of Universal History, a compilation of 58 volumes; Smollett himself wrote on France, Italy, and Germany. His friendship with the politician John Wilkes enabled him to secure the release of Francis Barber, Samuel Johnson’s black servant, from the press-gang. But a libel on Admiral Sir Charles Knowles in The Critical Review led to Smollett’s being sentenced to a fine of £100 and three months’ imprisonment in the King’s Bench Prison. He seems to have lived there in some comfort and drew on his experiences for his novel The Adventures of Sir Launcelot Greaves (1762), which was serialized in The British Magazine, of which Smollett became editor in 1760.

Two years later he became editor of The Briton, a weekly founded to support the prime minister John Stuart, 3rd Earl of Bute. He was also writing an eight-volume work entitled The Present State of all Nations, and he had begun a translation, in 36 volumes, of the varied works of the French writer Voltaire. Smollett was now seriously ill; attempts to secure a post as physician to the army in Portugal and as British consul in Marseille or Madrid were fruitless. In 1763 the death of his only child, Elizabeth, who was 15 years old, overwhelmed him “with unutterable sorrow.” He severed his connection with The Critical Review and, as he said, “every other literary system,” retiring with his wife to France, where he settled at Nice.

In 1766 Smollett published Travels Through France and Italy, his one nonfiction work that is still read. It is a satire on both tourists and those who batten on them, and its jaundiced version of traveling on the Continent led to Smollett’s appearance as the splenetic Smelfungus in Laurence Sterne’s novel A Sentimental Journey (1768). He returned to England in that year, visited Scotland, and at Christmas was again in England (at Bath), where he probably began what is his finest work, The Expedition of Humphry Clinker, an epistolary novel that recounts the adventures of a family traveling through Britain. In 1768, steadily weakening in health, he retired to Pisa, Italy. During the autumn of 1770 he seems to have written the bulk of Humphry Clinker, which was published on June 15, 1771.

Smollett is not the equal of his older contemporaries, the novelists Samuel Richardson and Henry Fielding, but he is unrivaled for the pace and vigour that sustain his comedy. He is especially brilliant in the rendering of comic characters in their externals, thus harking back to the manner of the Jacobean playwright Ben Jonson and looking forward to that of the novelist Charles Dickens. By modern criteria, his art as a satirical novelist is defective, his model being the “picaresque” novel, relating loosely linked episodes in the life of a rogue hero. But his panoramic picture of the life of his times is surpassed only by that given by Henry Fielding, while his account of conditions in the Royal Navy is especially valuable.

Walter E. Allen

 



 

Sterne



William Hogarth
Illustration to the novel "Tristram Shandy"
 



An experiment of a radical and seminal kind is
Laurence Sterne’s Tristram Shandy (1759–67), which, drawing on a tradition of learned wit from Erasmus and Rabelais to Burton and Swift, provides a brilliant comic critique of the progress of the English novel to date. It was published in five separate installments over the course of some eight years and has an open-endedness all its own. The part-by-part publication also enabled Sterne to manipulate public responses and even to make the reception of one volume the subject matter for satire in a later volume. The focus of attention is shifted from the fortunes of the hero himself to the nature of his family, environment, and heredity, and dealings within that family offer repeated images of human unrelatedness and disconnection. Tristram, the narrator, is isolated in his own privacy and doubts how much, if anything, he can know certainly even about himself. Sterne is explicit about the influence of Lockean psychology on his writing, and the book, fascinated with the fictive energies of the imagination, is filled with characters reinventing or mythologizing the conditions of their own lives. It also draws zestful stimulus from a concern with the limitations of language, both verbal and visual, and teases an intricate drama out of Tristram’s imagining of, and playing to, the reader’s likely responses. Sterne’s A Sentimental Journey Through France and Italy (1768) similarly defies conventional expectations of what a travel book might be. An apparently random collection of scattered experiences, it mingles affecting vignettes with episodes in a heartier, comic mode, but coherence of imagination is secured by the delicate insistence with which Sterne ponders how the impulses of sentimental and erotic feeling are psychologically interdependent. It was a powerful influence on later, less-ironic sentimental writing. In Sterne’s wake it was common for works of fiction to include the declaration “A Sentimental Novel” on their title pages.

 


Laurence Sterne


"The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman"   

VOLUME THE FIRST,
VOLUME THE SECOND, VOLUME THE THIRD, VOLUME THE FOURTH

Illustrations by George Cruikshank





British writer

born Nov. 24, 1713, Clonmel, County Tipperary, Ire.
died March 18, 1768, London, Eng.

Main
Irish-born English novelist and humorist, author of Tristram Shandy (1759–67), an early novel in which story is subordinate to the free associations and digressions of its narrator. He is also known for the novel A Sentimental Journey (1768).

Life.
Sterne’s father, Roger, though grandson of an archbishop of York, was an infantry officer of the lowest rank who fought in many battles during the War of the Spanish Succession (1701–14). In Flanders, Roger married Agnes, the widow of an officer, but of a social class much below Roger’s. The regiment retired to Ireland, and there Laurence was born. Most of his early childhood was spent in poverty, following the troops about Ireland. Later, Sterne expressed his affection for soldiers through his portraits in Tristram Shandy of the gentle uncle Toby and Corporal Trim.

At age 10, Sterne was sent to school at Hipperholme, near Halifax, where his uncle, Richard Sterne, whose estate was nearby, could look out for him. He grew into a tall, thin man, with a long nose but likable face. Sterne attended Jesus College, Cambridge, on a scholarship. At college he met his great friend John Hall-Stevenson (Eugenius in his fiction) and also suffered his first severe hemorrhage of the lungs. He had incurable tuberculosis.

After graduating he took holy orders and became vicar of Sutton-on-the-Forest, north of York. He soon became a prebendary (or canon) of York Minster and acquired the vicarage of Stillington. At first he was helped by another uncle, Jaques Sterne, precentor of York and archdeacon of Cleveland, a powerful clergyman but a mean-tempered man and a rabid politician. In 1741–42 Sterne wrote political articles supporting the administration of Sir Robert Walpole for a newspaper founded by his uncle but soon withdrew from politics in disgust. His uncle became his archenemy, thwarting his advancement whenever possible.

Sterne fell in love with Elizabeth Lumley, a cousin to Elizabeth Montagu, the bluestocking. They married in 1741. According to the account of an acquaintance, Sterne’s infidelities were a cause of discord in the marriage.

As a clergyman Sterne worked hard but erratically. In two ecclesiastical courts he served as commissary (judge), and his frequent sermons at York Minster were popular. Externally, his life was typical of the moderately successful clergy. But Elizabeth, who had several stillborn children, was unhappy. Only one child, Lydia, lived.

In 1759, to support his dean in a church squabble, Sterne wrote A Political Romance (later called The History of a Good Warm Watch-Coat), a Swiftian satire of dignitaries of the spiritual courts. At the demands of embarrassed churchmen, the book was burned. Thus, Sterne lost his chances for clerical advancement but discovered his real talents. Turning over his parishes to a curate, he began Tristram Shandy. An initial, sharply satiric version was rejected by Robert Dodsley, the London printer, just when Sterne’s personal life was upset. His mother and uncle both died. His wife had a nervous breakdown and threatened suicide. Sterne continued his comic novel, but every sentence, he said, was “written under the greatest heaviness of heart.” In this mood, he softened the satire and told about Tristram’s opinions, his eccentric family, and ill-fated childhood with a sympathetic humour, sometimes hilarious, sometimes sweetly melancholic—a comedy skirting tragedy.

At his own expense, Sterne published the first two volumes of The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman at York late in 1759, but he sent half of the imprint to Dodsley to sell in London. By March 1760, when he went to London, Tristram Shandy was the rage, and he was famous. Dodsley’s brother James, the new proprietor, brought out a second edition of the novel, and two volumes of sermons followed. The witty, naughty “Tristram Shandy,” or “Parson Yorick,” as Sterne was called after characters in his novel, was the most sought-after man in town. Although the timing was coincidental, Lord Fauconberg, a Yorkshire neighbour, presented him with a third parish, Coxwold. Sterne returned north joyfully to settle at Coxwold in his beloved “Shandy Hall,” a charming old house that is now a museum. He began to write at Shandy Hall during the summers, going to London in the winter to publish what he had written. James Dodsley brought out two more volumes of Tristram Shandy; thereafter, Sterne became his own publisher. In London he enjoyed the company of many great people, but his nights were sometimes wild. In 1762, after almost dying from lung hemorrhages, he fled the damp air of England into France, a journey he described as Tristram’s flight from death. This and a later trip abroad gave him much material for his later Sentimental Journey. Elizabeth, now recovered, followed him to France, where she and their daughter settled permanently. Sterne returned to England virtually a single man.

In 1767 he published the final volume of Tristram Shandy. Soon thereafter he fell in love with Eliza Draper, who was half his age and unhappily married to an official of the East India Company. They carried on an open, sentimental flirtation, but Eliza was under a promise to return to her husband in Bombay. After she sailed, Sterne finished A Sentimental Journey Through France and Italy, by Mr. Yorick, published it to acclaim early in 1768, and collapsed.

Lying in his London lodgings, he put up his arm as though to ward off a blow, saying, “Now it is come,” and died. Soon after burial at London, Sterne’s body was stolen by grave robbers, taken to Cambridge, and used for an anatomy lecture. Someone recognized the body, and it was quietly returned to the grave. The story, only whispered at the time, was confirmed in 1969: Sterne’s remains were exhumed and now rest in the churchyard at Coxwold, close to Shandy Hall.


Works.
Sterne’s Tristram Shandy was published in nine slim volumes (released in five installments) from 1759 to 1767. In it the narrator, Tristram, sets out to do the impossible—to tell the story of his life. He begins with the story of his conception—an innocent remark of his mother upsetting his father’s concentration and causing poor Tristram to be conceived a weakling. To understand that, Tristram must then explain John Locke’s principle of the association of ideas. This, in turn, embroils him in a discussion of his parents’ marriage contract, his Uncle Toby, Parson Yorick, the midwife, and Dr. Slop. He has so much to tell that he does not get himself born until the third volume. Finally reality dawns upon Tristram: it takes more time to tell the story of his life than it does to live it; he can never catch himself.

At one level Tristram Shandy is a satire upon intellectual pride. Walter Shandy thinks he can beget and rear the perfect child, yet Tristram is misconceived, misbaptized, miseducated, and circumcised by a falling window sash. He grows to manhood an impotent weakling whose only hope of transcending death is to tell the story of himself and his family. Finally, Tristram turns to the sweet, funny story of his Uncle Toby’s amours with the Widow Wadman, concluding the novel at a point in time years before Tristram was born. A hilarious, often ribald novel, Tristram Shandy nevertheless makes a serious comment on the isolation of people from each other caused by the inadequacies of language and describes the breaking-through of isolation by impulsive gestures of sympathy and love. A second great theme of the novel is that of time—the discrepancy between clock time and time as sensed, the impinging of the past upon the present, the awareness that a joyous life inexorably leads to death. Modern commentators regard Tristram Shandy as the ancestor of psychological and stream-of-consciousness fiction.

Sterne’s second and last novel, A Sentimental Journey, is the story of Yorick’s travels through France; Sterne did not live to complete the part on Italy. He called it a “sentimental” journey because the point of travel was not to see sights or visit art collections, but to make meaningful contact with people. Yorick succeeds, but in every adventure, his ego or inappropriate desires and impulses get in the way of “sentimental commerce.” The result is a light-hearted comedy of moral sentiments. A Sentimental Journey was translated into many languages, but the translations tended to lose the comedy and emphasize the sentiments. Abroad Sterne became the “high priest of sentimentalism,” and as such had a profound impact upon continental letters in the second half of the 18th century.

Arthur H. Cash

 




Other novelists

The work of these five giants was accompanied by experiments from a number of other novelists. Sarah Fielding, for instance, Henry’s sister, wrote penetratingly and gravely about friendship in The Adventures of David Simple (1744, with a sequel in 1753). Charlotte Lennox in The Female Quixote (1752) and Richard Graves in The Spiritual Quixote (1773) responded inventively to the influence of Miguel de Cervantes, also discernible in the writing of Fielding, Smollett, and Sterne. Cervantes’s influence was much increased by a series of translations of his Don Quixote, including Smollett’s of 1755. This particular work of fiction had become an honorary work of English literature.

John Cleland’s Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure (known as Fanny Hill; 1748–49) chose a more contentious path; in his charting of a young girl’s sexual initiation, he experiments with minutely detailed ways of describing the physiology of intercourse.

In emphatic contrast, Henry Mackenzie’s The Man of Feeling (1771) offers an extremist and rarefied version of the sentimental hero, while Horace Walpole’s The Castle of Otranto (1765) playfully initiated the vogue for Gothic fiction.

William Beckford
’s Vathek (1786), Ann Radcliffe’s The Mysteries of Udolpho (1794), and Matthew Lewis’s The Monk (1796) are among the more distinctive of its successors. But the most engaging and thoughtful minor novelist of the period is Fanny Burney, who was also an evocative and self-revelatory diarist and letter writer. Her first novel, Evelina (1778), best shows Burney’s satirical talents. Written in letters, it charts the fortunes and misfortunes of an ingenuous heroine encountering the delights and dangers of Georgian London for the first time. Of Burney’s novels, Evelina and Camilla (1796) in particular handle with independence of invention and emotional insight the theme of a young woman negotiating her first encounters with a dangerous social world.
 


Gothic novel





European Romantic, pseudomedieval fiction having a prevailing atmosphere of mystery and terror. Its heyday was the 1790s, but it underwent frequent revivals in subsequent centuries.

Called Gothic because its imaginative impulse was drawn from medieval buildings and ruins, such novels commonly used such settings as castles or monasteries equipped with subterranean passages, dark battlements, hidden panels, and trapdoors. The vogue was initiated in England by Horace Walpole’s immensely successful Castle of Otranto (1765). His most respectable follower was Ann Radcliffe, whose Mysteries of Udolpho (1794) and Italian (1797) are among the best examples of the genre. A more sensational type of Gothic romance exploiting horror and violence flourished in Germany and was introduced to England by Matthew Gregory Lewis with The Monk (1796). Other landmarks of Gothic fiction are William Beckford’s Oriental romance Vathek (1786) and Charles Robert Maturin’s story of an Irish Faust, Melmoth the Wanderer (1820). The classic horror stories Frankenstein (1818), by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, and Dracula (1897), by Bram Stoker, are in the Gothic tradition but introduce the existential nature of humankind as its definitive mystery and terror.
 

Easy targets for satire, the early Gothic romances died of their own extravagances of plot, but Gothic atmospheric machinery continued to haunt the fiction of such major writers as the Brontë sisters, Edgar Allan Poe, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and even Dickens in Bleak House and Great Expectations. In the second half of the 20th century, the term was applied to paperback romances having the same kind of themes and trappings similar to the originals.

 



 


Sarah Fielding

born Nov. 8, 1710, East Stour, Dorset, Eng.
died April 9, 1768, Bath, Somerset

English author and translator whose novels were among the earliest in the English language and the first to examine the interior lives of women and children.

Fielding was the younger sister of the novelist Henry Fielding, whom many readers believed to be the author of novels she published anonymously, although he denied these speculations in print. She lived with her brother following the death of his wife in 1744. That year she published her first book, The Adventures of David Simple, a novel whose comic prose style imitated that of both her brother and his chief literary rival, Samuel Richardson, who was also one of her close friends. With the sequel, The Adventures of David Simple, Volume the Last: In Which His History Is Concluded (1753), she developed a style more distinctly her own, which shows greater intricacy of feeling, fuller development of character, and a reduced reliance on plot.

The Governess (1749) is didactic and portrays with comic sensibility the hazards of British social life for the moral development of women. Considered the first novel for girls in the English language, it was an immediate success and went through five editions in Fielding’s lifetime while inspiring numerous imitations.

She published only one book under her own name, a translation from the ancient Greek of Xenophon’s Memoirs of Socrates (1762), a significant achievement in that few women of Fielding’s time acquired a scholarly command of Classical languages. Other works include a collaboration with her friend Jane Collier titled The Cry: A New Dramatic Fable (1754). Although didacticism frequently overshadows the narrative drive of Fielding’s prose, critics credit her as an innovator with a shrewd sense of human motive and keen ironic humour.
 

 

 


Charlotte Lennox

born 1729/30, probably Gibraltar
died Jan. 4, 1804, London, Eng.

English novelist whose work, especially The Female Quixote, was much admired by leading literary figures of her time, including Samuel Johnson and the novelists Henry Fielding and Samuel Richardson.

Charlotte Ramsay was the daughter of a British army officer who was said to have been lieutenant governor of the colony of New York. This claim has been dismissed, however, in light of evidence that she went to live in or near Albany, New York, in 1739, when her father was posted there as captain of a company of foot soldiers. In 1743, after her father’s death, she returned to England, apparently to live with relatives. She attempted to earn a living as an actress but was not successful and is said to have turned to literary work. Her Poems on Several Occasions was published in 1747, and that same year she married Alexander Lennox. She made the first comparative study of William Shakespeare’s source material, called Shakespear Illustrated; . . . (1753–54), a project in which she may have been assisted by Dr. Johnson. The book takes Shakespeare to task for his plot adaptations and his lack of morality.

Lennox’s first novel was The Life of Harriot Stuart (1751). The Female Quixote (1752) and Henrietta (1758) followed. She attempted to write for the stage as well but met with only slight success.

Despite the friendship of Johnson and Richardson and the approbation of Fielding, Lennox made little from the sale of her books. She died in poverty.
 

 

 


Richard Graves

Richard Graves (4 May 1715 – 23 November 1804) was an English minister, poet, and novelist.

Born at Mickleton Manor, Mickleton, Gloucestershire, to Richard Graves, gentleman, and his wife, Elizabeth, Graves was a student at Abingdon School and Pembroke College, Oxford. He was a Fellow of All Souls College, Oxford, until January 1749, when the college revoked his fellowship because of his marriage to Lucy Bartholomew, a farmer's daughter from Aldworth. (At the time, All Souls College automatically withdrew funding from any fellow who married.) He also served as rector of Claverton, near Bath, and was an enthusiastic collector of poems, a translator, essayist and correspondent. His best-known work is the picaresque novel, The Spiritual Quixote (1773). The Spiritual Quixote was a satire of John Wesley, George Whitefield, and Methodism in general, which he saw as a threat to his Anglican congregation.

He served as chaplain to Mary Townshend, Countess Chatham and as private tutor to Prince Hoare and Thomas Malthus. He was a close friend of William Shenstone, Anthony Whistler, lowborn Ralph Allen, and William Warburton.

He and Lucy had five children, including a son of the same name who was vicar of Great Malvern.
 

 

 


John Cleland 


"Fanny Hill: or, the Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure"


Illustrations by Avril Paul



 

born 1709
died Jan. 23, 1789, London

English novelist, author of the notorious Fanny Hill; or, Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure.


After serving as a consul at Smyrna and later as an agent of the British East India Company in Bombay, Cleland became a penniless wanderer who drifted from place to place and was apparently confined several times in English debtors’ prisons. In such reduced circumstances, he wrote Fanny Hill (1748–49) for a fee of 20 guineas. An elegant, flowery work of pornography describing the activities of a London prostitute, this novel has enjoyed enormous popularity for more than two centuries as a classic of erotic literature. When originally published, it was immediately suppressed (an action later repeated many times), and Cleland was called before the Privy Council. He pleaded his extreme poverty and was not sentenced. Instead, Lord Granville, thinking him talented, secured him a yearly pension of £100, that he might put his gifts to better use. Thereafter, he became a journalist, playwright, and amateur philologist.
 

 

 


Henry Mackenzie




born , Aug. 26, 1745, Edinburgh
died Jan. 14, 1831, Edinburgh

Scottish novelist, playwright, poet, and editor, whose most important novel, The Man of Feeling, established him as a major literary figure in Scotland. His work had considerable influence on Sir Walter Scott, who dedicated his Waverley novels to him in 1814.

Mackenzie’s early works include imitations of traditional Scottish ballads, but, on moving to London to study law after 1765, he began to imitate English literary styles in which “sentiment” was then becoming a powerful literary influence. His mawkish novel The Man of Feeling (begun 1767, published 1771) was a best-seller. Settling in Scotland from 1768, Mackenzie wrote two more novels: The Man of the World (1773), portraying a villainous hero, and Julia de Roubigné (1777), imitating Richardson’s Clarissa. He also wrote a play, edited two periodicals, and helped found learned societies.
 

 

 


Horace Walpole

"The Castle of Otranto"



 

born Sept. 24, 1717, London
died March 2, 1797

English writer, connoisseur, and collector who was famous in his day for his medieval horror tale The Castle of Otranto, which initiated the vogue for Gothic romances. He is remembered today as perhaps the most assiduous letter writer in the English language.

The youngest son of the prime minister Sir Robert Walpole, he was educated at Eton and at King’s College, Cambridge. In 1739 he embarked with his Eton schoolmate, the poet Thomas Gray (later to write “An Elegy Written in a Country Church Yard”), on a grand tour of France and Italy, in the midst of which they quarrelled and separated. They were later reconciled, and Walpole remained throughout his life an enthusiastic admirer of Gray’s poetry. On his return to England in 1741, Walpole entered Parliament, where his career was undistinguished, although he attended debates regularly until 1768. In 1791 he inherited the peerage from a nephew, a grandson of Robert Walpole. He remained unmarried, and on his death the earldom became extinct.

The most absorbing interests of his life were his friendships and a small villa that he acquired at Twickenham in 1747 and transformed into a pseudo-Gothic showplace known as Strawberry Hill. Over the years he added cloisters, turrets, and battlements, filled the interior with pictures and curios, and amassed a valuable library. The house was open to tourists and became widely known in Walpole’s own lifetime. He established a private press on the grounds, where he printed his own works and those of his friends, notably Gray’s Odes of 1757. Strawberry Hill was the stimulus for the Gothic revival in English domestic architecture.

Walpole’s literary output was extremely varied. The Castle of Otranto (1765), which was first published anonymously, succeeded in restoring the element of romance to contemporary fiction. In it he furnished the machinery for a genre of fiction wherein the wildest fancies found refuge. He also wrote The Mysterious Mother (1768), a tragedy with the theme of incest; amateur historical speculations such as Historic Doubts on the Life and Reign of King Richard the Third (1768); and a genuine contribution to art history, Anecdotes of Painting in England, 4 vol. (1762–71).

His most important works were intended for posthumous publication. His private correspondence of some 4,000 letters constitutes a survey of the history, manners, and taste of his age. Walpole revered the letters of Mme de Sévigné (1626–96) and, following her example, consciously cultivated letter writing as an art. His most substantial correspondence was with Horace Mann, a British diplomat whom Walpole met on his grand tour and with whom he maintained contact for 45 years, although the two never met again. Walpole’s correspondence, edited by W.S. Lewis and others, was published in 48 volumes (1937–83).

Walpole also left Memoirs (first published 1822–59) of the reigns of George II and III, a record of political events of his time.
 

 

 


William Beckford

"The History of Caliph Vathek"

born Sept. 29, 1760, London, Eng.
died May 2, 1844, Bath, Somerset

eccentric English dilettante, author of the Gothic novel Vathek (1786). Such writers as George Gordon, Lord Byron, and Stéphane Mallarmé acknowledged his genius. He also is renowned for having built Fonthill Abbey, the most sensational building of the English Gothic revival.

Beckford was the only legitimate son of William Beckford the Elder, twice lord mayor of London, and was the heir to a vast fortune accumulated by three generations of his Beckford ancestors, who were sugar planters in Jamaica. His mother was descended from Mary Stuart. He was a precocious child, and his natural talents were given every encouragement. At five he received piano lessons from the nine-year-old W.A. Mozart. He also received training in architecture and drawing from prominent teachers. He inherited his fortune in 1770, upon the death of his father.

In 1778, after a period of travel and study in Europe, Beckford returned to England, where he later met the 11-year-old son and heir of Viscount Courtenay, a boy for whom Beckford felt strong romantic (but probably not sexual) attraction. Following a lavish three-day Christmas party held in the boy’s honour at Fonthill, Beckford conceived the story of the caliph Vathek, a monarch as impious as he is voluptuous, who builds a tower so high that from it he can survey all the kingdoms of the world. Vathek challenges Mohammed in the seventh heaven and so brings about his own damnation and his banishment to the subterranean kingdom ruled by Eblis, prince of darkness.

Completed in outline in three days and two nights, the tale was written in French during the first four months of 1782, in all the gaiety of a London society greeting the inheritor of a fortune. A protégé of Lord Chancellor Thurlow, with a seat in the House of Commons, and married to the beautiful Lady Margaret Gordon, Beckford was expecting to be elevated to the peerage in December 1784. In the autumn of that year, scandal broke when he was charged with sexual misconduct with young Courtenay. Reports of the scandal were quickly spread, and, though Beckford’s guilt was never proved, in mid-1785 he, with his wife and baby daughter, was forced into exile. In May 1786, in Switzerland, his wife died of puerperal fever after giving birth to a second daughter. About that time, Beckford also learned that Vathek, which he had given to the Reverend Samuel Henley for translation, would be published anonymously, with a preface in which Henley claimed that it had been taken directly from the Arabic. Beckford remained abroad for many years. From 1796, after his return to England, he devoted his energies to his Gothic “abbey” at Fonthill. His architect was James Wyatt, but Beckford himself supervised the planning and building of what became the most extraordinary house in England. He lived there as a recluse, collecting curios, costly furnishings and works of art and reading the library of Edward Gibbon, which he had purchased in its entirety. In 1807 the house’s great central tower collapsed and was rebuilt. Beckford’s extravagances forced him to sell his estate in 1822. The tower later collapsed again, destroying part of the building.

Beckford’s literary reputation rests solely on Vathek. Though all agree that it is uneven and stylistically uncertain, the strength of its final image has sustained Beckford’s reputation for more than two centuries. A classic among Gothic novels, the book is a masterpiece of fantastic invention and bizarre detail. Among Beckford’s other published works are accounts of his travels, two parodies of Gothic and sentimental novels, and a journal, Life at Fonthill, 1807–22.
 

 

 


Ann Radcliffe


"The Mysteries of Udolpho"   
VOLUME 1-2, VOLUME 3, VOLUME 4

born July 9, 1764, London, Eng.
died Feb. 7, 1823, London

the most representative of English Gothic novelists. She stands apart in her ability to infuse scenes of terror and suspense with an aura of romantic sensibility.

Radcliffe’s father was in trade, and the family lived in well-to-do gentility. In 1787, at the age of 23, she married William Radcliffe, a journalist who encouraged her literary pursuits. Ann Radcliffe led a retired life and never visited the countries where the fearful happenings in her novels took place. Her only journey abroad, to Holland and Germany, was made in 1794 after most of her books were written. The journey was described in her A Journey Made in the Summer of 1794 (1795).

Her first novels, The Castles of Athlin and Dunbayne (1789) and A Sicilian Romance (1790) were published anonymously. She achieved fame with her third novel, The Romance of the Forest (1791), a tale of 17th-century France. Her next work, The Mysteries of Udolpho (1794), by which she became the most popular novelist in England, tells how the orphaned Emily St. Aubert is subjected to cruelties by guardians, threatened with the loss of her fortune, and imprisoned in castles but is finally freed and united with her lover. Strange and fearful events take place in the haunted atmosphere of the solitary castle of Udolpho, set high in the dark and majestic Apennines.

With The Italian (1797), Radcliffe realized her full stature as a writer. It shows not only improved dialogue and plot construction, but its villain, Schedoni, a monk of massive physique and sinister disposition, is treated with a psychological insight unusual in her work. She made considerable sums of money from The Mysteries of Udolpho and The Italian, selling the copyright of the former for £500 and that of the latter for £800. Radcliffe published no more fiction in her lifetime; it seems likely that she ceased to write novels as soon as it was no longer financially necessary to do so. She was notoriously shy about being addressed in person as an author.

In the last 20 years of her life Radcliffe wrote mostly poetry. Her poems (1816) and her posthumous novel Gaston de Blondeville (1826), which includes a good deal of verse, were comparatively unsuccessful.

There is little physical horror in Radcliffe’s “tales of terror,” and elements that seem to be supernatural are usually found to have some rather disappointing natural explanation. Her characterization is usually weak, her historical insight is almost nonexistent, and her stories abound in anachronisms and impossibilities. But Radcliffe’s admirers cared as little for “realism” or accuracy as she did. They reveled in her romanticized views of nature, her intimations of evil, and her prolonged scenes of suspense.

Sir Walter Scott called her “the first poetess of romantic fiction,” and her many admirers included Lord Byron, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, and Christina Rossetti. Writing in the tradition of the novel of sensibility, she boldly focused the themes of nascent Romanticism in her stories and paved the way for the greater talents of Scott and the Romantic poets.
 




 


"The Monk"


 


Matthew Lewis


"The Monk"


born July 9, 1775, London, Eng.
died May 14, 1818, at sea

English novelist and dramatist who became famous overnight after the sensational success of his Gothic novel The Monk (1796). Thereafter he was known as “Monk” Lewis.

Educated at Westminster School and Christ Church, Oxford, Lewis served as attaché to the British embassy at The Hague and was a member of Parliament from 1796 to 1802. In 1812 he inherited a fortune and large properties in Jamaica. Sincerely interested in the conditions of his 500 slaves, he made two West Indian voyages, contracted yellow fever on his return from the second, and died at sea.

The Monk, written when Lewis was 19, was influenced by the leading Gothic novelist, Ann Radcliffe, and also by stronger contemporary German Gothic literature. Its emphasis on horror rather than romance, its violence, and its eroticism made it avidly read, though universally condemned. Its success was followed by a popular musical drama in the same vein, The Castle Spectre (performed 1797; published 1798), which was produced by the dramatist Richard Brinsley Sheridan. Lewis’ other lasting work was a triumph of a very different nature, the Journal of a West India Proprietor (published 1834), attesting to his humane and liberal attitudes.
 

 

 


Fanny Burney




byname of Frances d’Arblay, née Burney

born June 13, 1752, King’s Lynn, Norfolk, England
died January 6, 1840, London

English novelist and letter writer, daughter of the musician Charles Burney, and author of Evelina, a landmark in the development of the novel of manners.

Fanny educated herself by omnivorous reading at home. Her literary apprenticeship was much influenced by her father’s friend Samuel Crisp, a disappointed author living in retirement. It was to “Daddy” Crisp that she addressed her first journal letters, lively accounts of the musical evenings at the Burneys’ London house where the elite among European performers entertained informally for gatherings that might include David Garrick, Dr. Johnson, Edmund Burke, and Richard Sheridan. Considered the least promising of the clever Burney children, Fanny moved unnoticed in the circles of the great, confiding her observations to Crisp.

Her practice of observing and recording society led eventually to her novel Evelina, or The History of a Young Lady’s Entrance into the World. Evelina revealed its author to be a keen social commentator with an attentive ear for dialect and the differentiation of London speech. It concerns the development of a young girl, unsure of herself in society and subject to errors of manners and judgment. The plot terminates with Evelina’s marriage after the mistakes stemming from her untutored girlhood have been surmounted. A novel treating contemporary manners in an elegant and decorous way and depending for the development of its plot upon the erring and uncertain conduct of the heroine was an innovation that pointed the way for the novels of Jane Austen. Published anonymously in 1778, Evelina took London by storm. No one guessed it was by shy Fanny Burney, then 26.

When the secret was out, Burney’s debut into literary society was launched by the fashionable hostess Mrs. Thrale. Once the young woman overcame her shyness she could match wits with Dr. Johnson himself, who was very kind to her between 1779 and 1783 when they both made long visits to the Thrales. Burney’s journals from this period have been prized for their vignettes of contemporary scenes and celebrities and for Burney’s own secretly expressed delight in being famous.

Her next novel, Cecilia, or Memoirs of an Heiress, 5 vol. (1782), incorporated morally didactic themes along with the social satire of Burney’s first novel into a more complex plot. Though lacking the freshness and spontaneity of Evelina, this novel was equally well received, but Burney’s success was shadowed by the death of Henry Thrale in 1781, of Crisp in 1783, and of Dr. Johnson in 1784. These years also brought a disappointment in love, when the ambiguous attentions of a young clergyman came to nothing.

In 1785 Burney was presented to Queen Charlotte and King George III and in 1786 was invited to court as second keeper of the robes, where she remained for five unhappy years. Eventually her health suffered, and she was allowed to resign in 1791. Her journals of the period loyally repress court gossip of the years of the king’s madness (1788–89) but contain interesting accounts of public events like the trial of Warren Hastings.

In 1793, when she was 41, Burney married Alexandre d’Arblay, a former adjutant general to Lafayette, then a penniless French émigré living in England. They had one son. In 1796 she wrote a potboiler, Camilla: or a Picture of Youth, and on its proceeds the d’Arblays built a house in Surrey, where they moved in 1797. While on a visit to France with her husband and son in 1802, she was forced by the renewal of the Napoleonic Wars to stay for 10 years. After Waterloo (1815) the d’Arblays returned and settled at Bath, where d’Arblay died in 1818. Mme d’Arblay then retired to London, where she devoted her attention to her son’s career and to the publication of her father’s Memoirs (1832). An edition of her journals and letters in eight volumes was published 1972–80.
 





Poets and poetry after Pope

Eighteenth-century poetry after Pope produced nothing that can compete with achievements on the scale of Clarissa and Tristram Shandy, but much that was vital was accomplished. William Collins’s Odes on Several Descriptive and Allegoric Subjects (1747), for instance, displays great technical ingenuity and a resonant insistence on the imagination and the passions as poetry’s true realm. The odes also mine vigorously the potentiality of personification as a medium for poetic expression. In An Elegy Written in a Country Church Yard (1751), Thomas Gray revisited the terrain of such recent poems as Thomas Parnell’s Night-Piece on Death (1722) and Robert Blair’s The Grave (1743) and discovered a tensely humane eloquence far beyond his predecessors’ powers. In later odes, particularly The Progress of Poesy (1757), Gray successfully sought close imitation of the original Pindaric form, even emulating Greek rhythms in English, while developing ambitious ideas about cultural continuity and renewal. Gray’s fascination with the potency of primitive art (as evidenced in another great ode, The Bard, 1757) is part of a larger movement of taste, of which the contemporary enthusiasm for James Macpherson’s alleged translations of Ossian (1760–63) is a further indicator.

Another eclectically learned and energetically experimental poet is Christopher Smart, whose renown rests largely on two poems. Jubilate Agno (written during confinement in various asylums between 1758/59 and 1763 but not published until 1939) is composed in free verse and experiments with applying the antiphonal principles of Hebrew poetry to English. A Song to David (1763) is a rhapsodic hymn of praise, blending enormous linguistic vitality with elaborate structural patterning. Both contain encyclopaedic gatherings of recondite and occult lore, numerous passages of which modern scholarship has yet to explicate satisfactorily, but the poetry is continually energized by minute alterations of tone, startling conjunctions of material, and a unique alertness to the mystery of the commonplace. Smart was also a superb writer of hymns, a talent in which his major contemporary rival was William Cowper in his Olney Hymns (1779). Both are worthy successors to the richly inventive work of Isaac Watts in the first half of the century. Elsewhere, Cowper can write with buoyant humour and satiric relaxation, as when, for instance, he wryly observes from the safety of rural seclusion the evils of town life. But some of his most characterful poetry emerges from a painfully intense experience of withdrawal and isolation. His rooted Calvinism caused him periods of acute despair when he could see no hope of admission to salvation, a mood chronicled with grim precision in his masterly short poem The Castaway (written 1799). His most extended achievement is The Task (1785), an extraordinary fusion of disparate interests, working calmly toward religious praise and pious acceptance.

There was also a significant number of inventive and sometimes popular women poets in the period. “Literary ladies” were often celebrated and sometimes became respected public figures. Their poetic ventures were encouraged by the growth in publishing generally and, in particular, by the invention of magazines and literary journals. Many of the leading women poets of the period first published in the Gentleman’s Magazine. The most notable woman poet of the early 18th century is probably Lady Mary Montagu, who still composed for manuscript circulation rather than publication. She also wrote, in letters, her sparkling Embassy to Constantinople (often called Turkish Letters), published posthumously in 1763. Notable female poets later in the century include Mary Leapor, a Northhamptonshire kitchen servant who was also a witty verse satirist, celebrated by contemporaries only after her early death. Much admired in their own lifetimes were Anna Seward and Hannah More, both of whom wrote much miscellaneous prose as well as poetry, and Charlotte Smith, whose sonnets were hugely popular in the 1780s.

 


William Collins

born Dec. 25, 1721, Chichester, Sussex, Eng.
died June 12, 1759, Chichester

pre-Romantic English poet whose lyrical odes adhered to Neoclassical forms but were Romantic in theme and feeling. Though his literary career was brief and his output slender, he is considered one of the finest English lyric poets of the 18th century.

He was educated at Winchester College, where he formed one of the most stable and fruitful relationships of his unstable life: his friendship with the poet and critic Joseph Warton. When only 17, under the influence of Pope’s Pastorals, he composed his four Persian Eclogues (1742; 2nd ed., Oriental Eclogues, 1757), the only one of his works to be esteemed in his lifetime. In 1744 he published his verse Epistle: Addrest to Sir Thomas Hanmer on his Edition of Shakespeare’s Works, containing his exquisite “Dirge from Cymbeline.”

Collins graduated from Magdalen College, Oxford (1743), and went to London in 1744. An inheritance, supplemented by an allowance from his uncle, enabled him to live as a man-about-town. He made friends with Dr. Johnson, who expressed respect for his talents and, later, concern for his fate. By 1746 extravagance and dissipation had put Collins deeply in debt. He agreed to collaborate with Warton on a volume of odes. The two men’s poems eventually appeared separately that December (the title page of Collins’ Odes being dated 1747). Warton’s collection was well received, but Collins’ Odes on Several Descriptive and Allegorical Subjects was barely noticed. Though disappointed, Collins continued to perfect the style exemplified in his “Ode to Simplicity.”

In 1749 Collins’ uncle died, leaving him enough money to extricate himself from debt. In the next few months he wrote his “Ode on the Popular Superstitions of the Highlands of Scotland,” which anticipates many of the attitudes and interests of the Romantic poets. Threatened after 1751 by mental illness and physical debility, which he tried to cure by travel, Collins was confined in a mental asylum in 1754. Released to the care of his sister, he survived wretchedly in Chichester for five more years, neglected and forgotten by his literary friends, who believed him dead. His work, however, became influential and admired after his death.

The standard edition of his poems, The Poems of Thomas Gray, William Collins, Oliver Goldsmith (1976), was edited by Roger Lonsdale.
 

 

 


Thomas Gray


born Dec. 26, 1716, London
died July 30, 1771, Cambridge, Cambridgeshire, Eng.

English poet whose “An Elegy Written in a Country Church Yard” is one of the best known of English lyric poems. Although his literary output was slight, he was the dominant poetic figure in the mid-18th century and a precursor of the Romantic movement.

Born into a prosperous but unhappy home, Gray was the sole survivor of 12 children of a harsh and violent father and a long-suffering mother, who operated a millinery business to educate him. A delicate and studious boy, he was sent to Eton in 1725 at the age of eight. There he formed a “Quadruple Alliance” with three other boys who liked poetry and classics and disliked rowdy sports and the Hogarthian manners of the period. They were Horace Walpole, the son of the prime minister; the precocious poet Richard West, who was closest to Gray; and Thomas Ashton. The style of life Gray developed at Eton, devoted to quiet study, the pleasures of the imagination, and a few understanding friends, was to persist for the rest of his years.

In 1734 he entered Peterhouse, Cambridge, where he began to write Latin verse of considerable merit. He left in 1738 without a degree and set out in 1739 with Walpole on a grand tour of France, Switzerland, and Italy at Sir Robert Walpole’s expense. At first all went well, but in 1741 they quarreled—possibly over Gray’s preferences for museums and scenery to Walpole’s interest in lighter social pursuits—and Gray returned to England. They were reconciled in 1745 on Walpole’s initiative and remained somewhat cooler friends for the rest of their lives.

In 1742 Gray settled at Cambridge. That same year West died, an event that affected him profoundly. Gray had begun to write English poems, among which some of the best were “Ode on the Spring,” “Sonnet on the Death of Mr. Richard West,” “Hymn to Adversity,” and “Ode on a Distant Prospect of Eton College.” They revealed his maturity, ease and felicity of expression, wistful melancholy, and the ability to phrase truisms in striking, quotable lines, such as “where ignorance is bliss, ’Tis folly to be wise.” The Eton ode was published in 1747 and again in 1748 along with “Ode on the Spring.” They attracted no attention.

It was not until “An Elegy Written in a Country Church Yard,” a poem long in the making, was published in 1751 that Gray was recognized. Its success was instantaneous and overwhelming. A dignified elegy in eloquent classical diction celebrating the graves of humble and unknown villagers was, in itself, a novelty. Its theme that the lives of the rich and poor alike “lead but to the grave” was already familiar, but Gray’s treatment—which had the effect of suggesting that it was not only the “rude forefathers of the village” he was mourning but the death of all men and of the poet himself—gave the poem its universal appeal. Gray’s newfound celebrity did not make the slightest difference in his habits. He remained at Peterhouse until 1756, when, outraged by a prank played on him by students, he moved to Pembroke College. He wrote two Pindaric odes, “The Progress of Poesy” and “The Bard,” published in 1757 by Walpole’s private Strawberry Hill Press. They were criticized, not without reason, for obscurity, and in disappointment, Gray virtually ceased to write. He was offered the laureateship in 1757 but declined it. He buried himself in his studies of Celtic and Scandinavian antiquities and became increasingly retiring and hypochondriacal. In his last years his peace was disrupted by his friendship with a young Swiss nobleman, Charles Victor de Bonstetten, for whom he conceived a romantic devotion, the most profound emotional experience of his life.

Gray died at 55 and was buried in the country churchyard at Stoke Poges, Buckinghamshire, celebrated in his “Elegy.”
 

 

 


Thomas Parnell


born 1679, Dublin
died 1718, Chester, Eng.

Irish poet, essayist, and friend of Alexander Pope, who relied on Parnell’s scholarship in his translation of the Iliad. Parnell’s poetry, written in heroic couplets, was esteemed by Pope for its lyric quality and stylistic ease. Among his best poems are “An Elegy to an Old Beauty” and “Night Piece on Death,” said to have influenced Thomas Gray’s “An Elegy Written in a Country Church Yard.”

Parnell contributed to The Spectator and the Guardian and was a member, with Swift and Gay, of the literary Scriblerus Club. After Parnell’s death, Pope collected his poetry and published it in a volume called Poems on Several Occasions (1722). The work was republished in 1770 with additional poems and a life of Parnell by Oliver Goldsmith.
 

 

 


Robert Blair

born 1699, Edinburgh, Scot.
died Feb. 4, 1746, Athelstaneford, East Lothian

Scottish poet remembered for a single poem, The Grave, which was influential in giving rise to the graveyard school of poetry.

Educated in Edinburgh and Holland, Blair was ordained in 1731 and appointed to Athelstaneford, East Lothian. He was happily married, had six children, and devoted his leisure to poetry, botany, and optical experiments.

The Grave (1743), a long, uneven poem in blank verse, is a reflection on human mortality in mortuary imagery. Though it appeared a year after Edward Young’s The Complaint: Or, Night-Thoughts on Life, Death, & Immortality, it is apparently uninfluenced by that work but reflects the general tendency to exploit sensibility and pathos that coexisted peacefully with 18th-century Rationalism. The Grave has none of the oppressive self-pity or pretentiousness of Night-Thoughts. Its blend of Scottish ghoulishness and brisk sermonizing is presented in Shakespearean rhythms with a certain natural cheerfulness. William Blake made 12 illustrations that appeared in the 1808 edition.
 

 

 


James Macpherson


 

born October 27, 1736, Ruthven, Inverness, Scotland
died February 17, 1796, Belville, Inverness

Scottish poet whose initiation of the Ossianic controversy has obscured his genuine contributions to Gaelic studies.

Macpherson’s first book of poems, The Highlander (1758), was undistinguished; but after collecting Gaelic manuscripts and having orally transmitted Gaelic poems transcribed with the encouragement of the poet John Home and the financial support of the rhetorician Hugh Blair, he published Fragments of Ancient Poetry…Translated from the Gallic or Erse Language (1760), Fingal (1762), and Temora (1763), claiming that much of their content was based on a 3rd-century Gaelic poet, Ossian. No Gaelic manuscripts date back beyond the 10th century. The authenticity of Ossian was supported by Blair, looked on with skepticism by the Scottish philosopher David Hume, admired with doubt by the English poet Thomas Gray, and denied by the panjandrum of English letters, Samuel Johnson. None of the critics knew Gaelic. Macpherson often injected a good deal of Romantic mood into the originals, sometimes closely followed them, and other times did not. His language was strongly influenced by the Authorized Version of the Bible. The originals were published only after Macpherson’s death.
 

 

 


Christopher Smart


born April 11, 1722, Shipbourne, Kent, Eng.
died May 21, 1771, London

English religious poet, best known for A Song to David (1763), in praise of the author of the Psalms, notable for flashes of childlike penetration and vivid imagination. In some respects his work anticipated that of William Blake and John Clare.

After his education at the University of Cambridge, Smart was elected a fellow of Pembroke Hall (1745), but at about the age of 27 he became a hack writer in London. He was three times confined for madness (a mild religious mania), but his strange yet engaging personality won him such friends as Samuel Johnson, actor-manager David Garrick, playwright Oliver Goldsmith, and both Dr. Charles Burney, the musicologist, and his daughter, Fanny, the novelist. Smart died in a debtor’s prison.
 

 

 


William Cowper




born Nov. 26, 1731, Great Berkhamstead, Hertfordshire, Eng.
died April 25, 1800, East Dereham, Norfolk

one of the most widely read English poets of his day, whose most characteristic work, as in The Task or the melodious short lyric “The Poplar Trees,” brought a new directness to 18th-century nature poetry.

Cowper wrote of the joys and sorrows of everyday life and was content to describe the minutiae of the countryside. In his sympathy with rural life, his concern for the poor and downtrodden, and his comparative simplicity of language, he may be seen as one in revolt against much 18th-century verse and as a forerunner of Robert Burns, William Wordsworth, and Samuel Taylor Coleridge. While he is often gently humorous in his verse, the sense of desolation that was never far below the surface of his mind is revealed in many of his poems, notably “The Castaway.”

After the death of his mother when he was six, Cowper (pronounced “Cooper”), the son of an Anglican clergyman, was sent to a local boarding school. He then moved to Westminster School, in London, and in 1750 began to study law. He was called to the bar in 1754 and took chambers in London’s Middle Temple in 1757. During his student days he fell in love with his cousin, Theodora Cowper, and for a while the two were engaged. But Cowper was beginning to show signs of the mental instability that plagued him throughout his life. His father had died in 1756, leaving little wealth, and Cowper’s family used its influence to obtain two administrative posts for him in the House of Lords, which entailed a formal examination. This prospect so disturbed him that he attempted suicide and was confined for 18 months in an asylum, troubled by religious doubts and fears and persistently dreaming of his predestined damnation.

Religion, however, also provided the comfort of Cowper’s convalescence, which he spent at Huntingdon, lodging with the Reverend Morley Unwin, his wife Mary, and their small family. Pious Calvinists, the Unwins supported the evangelical revival, then a powerful force in English society. In 1767 Morley Unwin was killed in a riding accident, and his family, with Cowper, took up residence at Olney, in Buckinghamshire. The curate there, John Newton, a leader of the revival, encouraged Cowper in a life of practical evangelism; however, the poet proved too frail, and his doubt and melancholy returned. Cowper collaborated with Newton on a book of religious verse, eventually published as Olney Hymns (1779).

In 1773 thoughts of marriage with Mary Unwin were ended by Cowper’s relapse into near madness. When he recovered the following year, his religious fervour was gone. Newton departed for London in 1780, and Cowper again turned to writing poetry; Mrs. Unwin suggested the theme for “The Progress of Error,” six moral satires. Other works, such as “Conversation” and “Retirement,” reflected his comparative cheerfulness at this time.

Cowper was friendly with Lady Austen, a widow living nearby, who told him a story that he made into a ballad, “The Journey of John Gilpin,” which was sung all over London after it was printed in 1783. She also playfully suggested that he write about a sofa—an idea that grew into The Task. This long discursive poem, written “to recommend rural ease and leisure,” was an immediate success on its publication in 1785. Cowper then moved to Weston, a neighbouring village, and began translating Homer. His health suffered under the strain, however, and there were occasional periods of mental illness. His health continued to deteriorate, and in 1795 he moved with Mary Unwin to live near a cousin in Norfolk, finally settling at East Dereham. Mrs. Unwin, a permanent invalid since 1792, died in December 1796, and Cowper sank into despair from which he never emerged.

Robert Southey edited his writings in 15 volumes between 1835 and 1837. Cowper is also considered one of the best letter writers in English, and some of his hymns, such as “God Moves in a Mysterious Way” and “Oh! For a Closer Walk with God,” have become part of the folk heritage of Protestant England. The Letters and Prose Writings, in two volumes, edited by James King and Charles Ryskamp, was published in 1979–80.
 

 

 


Isaac Watts



 

born July 17, 1674, Southampton, Hampshire, Eng.
died Nov. 25, 1748, Stoke Newington, London

English Nonconformist minister, regarded as the father of English hymnody.

Watts, whose father was a Nonconformist, studied at the Dissenting Academy at Stoke Newington, London, which he left in 1694. In 1696 he became tutor to the family of Sir John Hartopp of Stoke Newington (a centre of religious dissent) and of Freeby, Leicestershire, and preached his first sermons in the family chapel at Freeby. He was appointed assistant to the minister of Mark Lane Independent (i.e., Congregational) Chapel, London, in 1699 and in March 1702 became full pastor. He was apparently an inspiring preacher. Because of a breakdown in health (1712) he went to stay, intending a week’s visit, with Sir Thomas Abney in Hertfordshire; he remained with the Abneys for the rest of his life.

Watts wrote educational books on geography, astronomy, grammar, and philosophy, which were widely used throughout the 18th century. He is now best known, however, for his hymns. The famous hymns were written during Watts’s Mark Lane ministry. His first collection of hymns and sacred lyrics was Horae Lyricae (1706), quickly followed by Hymns and Spiritual Songs (1707), which included “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross,” “There is a Land of Pure Delight,” and others that have become known throughout Protestant Christendom. The most famous of all his hymns, “Our God, Our Help in Ages Past” (from his paraphrase of Ps. 90), and “Jesus Shall Reign” (part of his version of Ps. 72), almost equally well known, were published in The Psalms of David Imitated in the Language of the New Testament . . . (1719). He also wrote religious songs especially for children; these were collected in Divine Songs for the Use of Children (1715).
 

 

 


Lady Mary Montagu




baptized May 26, 1689, London, Eng.
died Aug. 21, 1762, London

the most colourful Englishwoman of her time and a brilliant and versatile writer.

Her literary genius, like her personality, had many facets. She is principally remembered as a prolific letter writer in almost every epistolary style; she was also a distinguished minor poet, always competent, sometimes glittering and genuinely eloquent. She is further remembered as an essayist, feminist, traveler, and eccentric. Her beauty was marred by a severe attack of smallpox while she was still a young woman, and she later pioneered in England the practice of inoculation against the disease, having noticed the effectiveness of this precaution during a stay in Turkey.

The daughter of the 5th Earl of Kingston and Lady Mary Fielding (a cousin of the novelist Henry Fielding), she eloped with Edward Wortley Montagu, a Whig member of Parliament, rather than accept a marriage that had been arranged by her father. In 1714 the Whigs came to power, and Edward Wortley Montagu was in 1716 appointed ambassador to Turkey, taking up residence with his wife in Constantinople (now Istanbul). After his recall in 1718, they bought a house in Twickenham, west of London. For reasons not wholly clear, Lady Mary’s relationship with her husband was by this time merely formal and impersonal.

At Twickenham Lady Mary embarked upon a period of intense literary activity. She had earlier written a set of six “town eclogues” that were witty adaptations of the Roman poet Virgil. In these, she was helped by her friends John Gay and Alexander Pope (who later turned against her, satirizing her in The Dunciad and elsewhere, to which attacks Lady Mary replied with spirit, though she quickly abandoned poetic warfare). Among the works that she then composed was an anonymous and lively attack on the satirist Jonathan Swift (1734), a play, Simplicity (written c. 1735), adapted from the French of Pierre Marivaux, and a series of crisp essays dealing obliquely with politics and directly with feminism and the moral cynicism of her time.

In 1736 Lady Mary became infatuated with Francesco Algarotti, an Italian writer on the arts and sciences who had come to London to further his career, and she proposed that they live together in Italy. She set out in 1739, pretending to her husband and friends that she was traveling to the continent for reasons of health. Algarotti, however, did not join her, for he had been summoned to Berlin by Frederick II the Great, from whom he could expect greater rewards; and, when at length they met in Turin (1741), it proved a disagreeable experience. In 1742 she settled in the papal state of Avignon, France, where she lived until 1746. She then returned to Italy with the young Count Ugo Palazzi, with whom she lived for the next 10 years in the Venetian province of Brescia. Her letters from there to her daughter Mary, the Countess of Bute, contain descriptions of her essentially simple life. In 1756 she moved to Venice and, after her husband’s death in 1761, began planning her return to England. She set out in September of that year and was reunited with her daughter. Discontented in London, she would have returned to Italy; but she was seriously ill with cancer and died only seven months after her homecoming.

Lady Mary’s literary reputation chiefly rests on 52 superb Turkish embassy letters, which she wrote after her return as the ambassador’s wife in Constantinople, using her actual letters and journals as source material. The letters were published in 1763 from an unauthorized copy and were acclaimed throughout Europe. Later editions of her letters, sanctioned by her family, added selections from her personal letters together with most of her poetry. The Complete Letters of Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, 3 vol. (ed. Robert Halsband, 1965–67), was the first full edition of Lady Mary’s letters.
 

 

 


Hannah More



born Feb. 2, 1745, Stapleton, Gloucestershire, Eng.
died Sept. 7, 1833, Bristol, Gloucestershire

English religious writer, best known as a writer of popular tracts and as an educator of the poor.

As a young woman with literary aspirations, More made the first of her visits to London in 1773–74. She was welcomed into a circle of Bluestocking wits and was befriended by Sir Joshua Reynolds, Dr. Johnson, and Edmund Burke and, particularly, by David Garrick, who produced her plays The Inflexible Captive (1775) and Percy (1777). After Garrick’s death in 1779 she forsook writing for the stage, and her strong piety and Christian attitudes, already intense, became more marked.

Through her friendship with the abolitionist philanthropist William Wilberforce, she was drawn to the Evangelicals. From her cottage in Somerset, she began to admonish society in a series of treatises beginning with Thoughts on the Importance of the Manners of the Great to General Society (1788). In the climate of alarm over the French Revolution, her fresh and forceful defense of traditional values met with strong approval.

Her Village Politics (1792; under the pseudonym of Will Chip), written to counteract Thomas Paine’s Rights of Man, was so successful that it led to the production of a series of “Cheap Repository Tracts.” Produced at the rate of three a month for three years with the help of her sisters and friends, the tracts sold for a penny each, 2,000,000 being circulated in a single year. They advised the poor in ingeniously homely language to cultivate the virtues of sobriety and industry and to trust in God and in the kindness of the gentry.

Like most of her educated contemporaries, More believed that society was static and that civilization depended upon a large body of the poor, for whom the best education was one that reconciled them to their fate. Hence she established clubs for women and schools for children, in which the latter were taught the Bible, catechism, and skills thought to befit their station. She persevered in her efforts in spite of much opposition and abuse from country neighbours, who thought that even the most limited education of the poor would destroy their interest in farming, and from the clergy, who accused her of Methodism.

Her final popular success as a writer was her didactic novel Coelebs in Search of a Wife (1808). The feminist movement in the second half of the 20th century revived interest in her Strictures on the Modern System of Female Education, 2 vol. (1799; edited by Gina Luria, 1974).

 

 

 


Anna Seward




born Dec. 12, 1747, Eyam, Derbyshire, Eng.
died March 25, 1809, Lichfield, Staffordshire

English poet and author of a sentimental and poetical novel, Louisa (1784); she was popular in her day because of her rarity value as a woman poet and for her cult of sentiment.

Often called the “Swan of Lichfield,” she became a member there of a literary circle that included William Hayley, Erasmus Darwin, Thomas Day, and Richard Lovell Edgeworth. Her verse was inferior, however, and she embarrassed Sir Walter Scott (with whom she had corresponded) by making him her literary executor.
 

 

 

 
Charlotte Smith



born May 4, 1749, London, Eng.
died Oct. 28, 1806, Tilford, near Farnham, Surrey

née Turner
English novelist and poet, highly praised by the novelist Sir Walter Scott. Her poetic attitude toward nature was reminiscent of William Cowper’s in celebrating the “ordinary” pleasures of the English countryside. Her radical attitudes toward conventional morality (the novel Desmond tells of the innocent love of a man for a married woman) and political ideas of class equality (inspired by the French Revolution) gained her notoriety, but her work belongs essentially with that of the derivative 18th-century romantic tradition of women novelists.

Smith’s husband fled to France to escape his creditors. She joined him there, until, thanks largely to her, he was able to return to England. In 1787, however, she left him and began writing to support her 12 children. Elegiac Sonnets and Other Essays, which she had published in 1784, had been well received, but because novels promised greater financial rewards, she wrote, after some free translations of French novels, Emmeline; or, The Orphan of the Castle (1788) and Ethelinde; or, The Recluse of the Lake (1789). Desmond appeared in 1792 and was followed by her best work, The Old Manor-House (1793). Toward the end of her life, she turned to writing instructive books for children, the best being Conversations Introducing Poetry for the Use of Children (1804).
 






Burns

The 1780s brought publishing success to
Robert Burns for his Poems, Chiefly in the Scottish Dialect (1786). Drawing on the precedents of Allan Ramsay and Robert Fergusson, Burns demonstrated how Scottish idioms and ballad modes could lend a new vitality to the language of poetry. Although born a poor tenant farmer’s son, Burns had made himself well versed in English literary traditions, and his innovations were fully premeditated. His range is wide, from uninhibitedly passionate love songs to sardonic satires on moral and religious hypocrisy, of which the monologue Holy Willie’s Prayer (written 1785) is an outstanding example. His work bears the imprint of the revolutionary decades in which he wrote, and recurrent in much of it are a joyful hymning of freedom, both individual and national, and an instinctive belief in the possibility of a new social order.
 

 

Robert Burns


"Poems & Songs"   BOOK I, BOOK II



 

born Jan. 25, 1759, Alloway, Ayrshire, Scot.
died July 21, 1796, Dumfries, Dumfriesshire

Main
national poet of Scotland, who wrote lyrics and songs in the Scottish dialect of English. He was also famous for his amours and his rebellion against orthodox religion and morality.

Life
Burns’s father had come to Ayrshire from Kincardineshire in an endeavour to improve his fortunes, but, though he worked immensely hard first on the farm of Mount Oliphant, which he leased in 1766, and then on that of Lochlea, which he took in 1777, ill luck dogged him, and he died in 1784, worn out and bankrupt. It was watching his father being thus beaten down that helped to make Robert both a rebel against the social order of his day and a bitter satirist of all forms of religious and political thought that condoned or perpetuated inhumanity. He received some formal schooling from a teacher as well as sporadically from other sources. He acquired a superficial reading knowledge of French and a bare smattering of Latin, and he read most of the important 18th-century English writers as well as Shakespeare, Milton, and Dryden. His knowledge of Scottish literature was confined in his childhood to orally transmitted folk songs and folk tales together with a modernization of the late 15th-century poem “Wallace.” His religion throughout his adult life seems to have been a humanitarian deism.

Proud, restless, and full of a nameless ambition, the young Burns did his share of hard work on the farm. His father’s death made him tenant of the farm of Mossgiel to which the family moved and freed him to seek male and female companionship where he would. He took sides against the dominant extreme Calvinist wing of the church in Ayrshire and championed a local gentleman, Gavin Hamilton, who had got into trouble with the Kirk Session for sabbath breaking. He had an affair with a servant girl at the farm, Elizabeth Paton, who in 1785 bore his first illegitimate child, and on the child’s birth he welcomed it with a lively poem.

Burns developed rapidly throughout 1784 and 1785 as an “occasional” poet who more and more turned to verse to express his emotions of love, friendship, or amusement or his ironical contemplation of the social scene. But these were not spontaneous effusions by an almost-illiterate peasant. Burns was a conscious craftsman; his entries in the commonplace book that he had begun in 1783 reveal that from the beginning he was interested in the technical problems of versification.
 

Though he wrote poetry for his own amusement and that of his friends, Burns remained restless and dissatisfied. He won the reputation of being a dangerous rebel against orthodox religion, and, when in 1786 he fell in love with Jean Armour, her father refused to allow her to marry Burns even though a child was on the way and under Scots law mutual consent followed by consummation constituted a legal marriage. Jean was persuaded by her father to go back on her promise; Robert, hurt and enraged, took up with another girl, Mary Campbell, who died soon after; on September 3 Jean bore him twins out of wedlock. Meanwhile, the farm was not prospering, and Burns, harassed by insoluble problems, thought of emigrating. But he first wanted to show his country what he could do. In the midst of his troubles he went ahead with his plans for publishing a volume of his poems at the nearby town of Kilmarnock. It was entitled Poems, Chiefly in the Scottish Dialect and appeared on July 31, 1786. Its success was immediate and overwhelming. Simple country folk and sophisticated Edinburgh critics alike hailed it, and the upshot was that Burns set out for Edinburgh on Nov. 27, 1786, to be lionized, patronized, and showered with well-meant but dangerous advice.

The Kilmarnock volume was a remarkable mixture. It included a handful of first-rate Scots poems: “The Twa Dogs,” “Scotch Drink,” “The Holy Fair,” “An Address to the Deil,” “The Death and Dying Words of Poor Maillie,” “To a Mouse,” “To a Louse,” and some others, including a number of verse letters addressed to various friends. There were also a few Scots poems in which he was unable to sustain his inspiration or that are spoiled by a confused purpose. In addition, there were six gloomy and histrionic poems in English, four songs, of which only one, “It Was Upon a Lammas Night,” showed promise of his future greatness as a song writer, and what to contemporary reviewers seemed the stars of the volume, “The Cotter’s Saturday Night” and “To a Mountain Daisy.”

Burns selected his Kilmarnock poems with care: he was anxious to impress a genteel Edinburgh audience. In his preface he played up to contemporary sentimental views about the natural man and the noble peasant, exaggerated his lack of education, pretended to a lack of natural resources and in general acted a part. The trouble was that he was only half acting. He was uncertain enough about the genteel tradition to accept much of it at its face value, and though, to his ultimate glory, he kept returning to what his own instincts told him was the true path for him to follow, far too many of his poems are marred by a naïve and sentimental moralizing.

Edinburgh unsettled Burns, and, after a number of amorous and other adventures there and several trips to other parts of Scotland, he settled in the summer of 1788 at a farm in Ellisland, Dumfriesshire. At Edinburgh, too, he arranged for a new and enlarged edition (1787) of his Poems, but little of significance was added to the Kilmarnock selection. He found farming at Ellisland difficult, though he was helped by Jean Armour, with whom he had been reconciled and whom he finally married in 1788.

In Edinburgh Burns had met James Johnson, a keen collector of Scottish songs who was bringing out a series of volumes of songs with the music and who enlisted Burns’s help in finding, editing, improving, and rewriting items. Burns was enthusiastic and soon became virtual editor of Johnson’s The Scots Musical Museum. Later, he became involved with a similar project for George Thomson, but Thomson was a more consciously genteel person than Johnson, and Burns had to fight with him to prevent him from “refining” words and music and so ruining their character. Johnson’s The Scots Musical Museum (1787–1803) and the first five volumes of Thomson’s A Select Collection of Original Scotish Airs for the Voice (1793–1818) contain the bulk of Burns’s songs. Burns spent the latter part of his life in assiduously collecting and writing songs to provide words for traditional Scottish airs. He regarded his work as service to Scotland and quixotically refused payment. The only poem he wrote after his Edinburgh visit that showed a hitherto unsuspected side of his poetic genius was Tam o’Shanter (1791), a spirited, narrative poem in brilliantly handled eight-syllable couplets based on a folk legend.

Meanwhile, Burns corresponded with and visited on terms of equality a great variety of literary and other people who were considerably “above” him socially. He was an admirable letter writer and a brilliant talker, and he could hold his own in any company. At the same time, he was still a struggling tenant farmer, and the attempt to keep himself going in two different social and intellectual capacities was wearing him down. After trying for a long time, he finally obtained a post in the excise service in 1789 and moved to Dumfries in 1791, where he lived until his death. His life at Dumfries was active. He wrote numerous “occasional” poems and did an immense amount of work for the two song collections, in addition to carrying out his duties as exciseman. The outbreak of the French Revolution excited him, and some indiscreet outbursts nearly lost him his job, but his reputation as a good exciseman and a politic but humiliating recantation saved him.

Assessment
Burns was a man of great intellectual energy and force of character who, in a class-ridden society, never found an environment in which he could fully exercise his personality. The fact is that Scottish culture in his day could provide no intellectual background that might replace the Calvinism that Burns rejected. The Edinburgh literati of Burns’s day were second raters, but the problem was more than one of personalities. The only substitute for the rejected Calvinism seemed to be a sentimental deism, a facile belief in the good heart as all, and this was not a creed rich or complex enough to nourish great poetry. That Burns in spite of this produced so much fine poetry shows the strength of his unique genius, and that he has become the Scottish national poet is a tribute to his hold on the popular imagination.

Burns perhaps exhibited his greatest poetic powers in his satires. There is also a remarkable craftsmanship in his verse letters, which display a most adroit counterpointing of the colloquial and the formal. But it is by his songs that Burns is best known, and it is his songs that have carried his reputation round the world. Burns is without doubt the greatest songwriter Great Britain has produced.

Burns wrote all his songs to known tunes, sometimes writing several sets of words to the same air in an endeavour to find the most apt poem for a given melody. Many songs which, it is clear from a variety of evidence, must have been substantially written by Burns he never claimed as his. He never claimed “Auld Lang Syne,” for example, which he described simply as an old fragment he had discovered, but the song we have is almost certainly his, though the chorus and probably the first stanza are old. (Burns wrote it for a simple and moving old air that is not the tune to which it is now sung, as Thomson set it to another tune.) The full extent of Burns’s work on Scottish song will probably never be known.

It is positively miraculous that Burns was able to enter into the spirit of older folk song and re-create, out of an old chorus, such songs as “I’m O’er Young to Marry Yet,” “Green Grow the Rashes, O,” and a host of others. It is this uncanny ability to speak with the great anonymous voice of the Scottish people that explains the special feeling that Burns arouses, feelings that manifest themselves in the “Burns cult.”

David Daiches
 

   

 


Goldsmith

Two other major poets, both of whom also achieved distinction in an impressive array of nondramatic modes, demand attention:
Goldsmith and Johnson. Oliver Goldsmith’s contemporary fame as a poet rested chiefly on The Traveller (1764), The Deserted Village (1770), and the incomplete Retaliation (1774). The last, published 15 days after his own death, is a dazzling series of character portraits in the form of mock epitaphs on a group of his closest acquaintances. The Traveller, a philosophical comparison of the differing national cultures of western Europe and the degrees of happiness their citizens enjoy, is narrated by a restless wanderer whose heart yet yearns after his own native land, where his brother still dwells. In The Deserted Village the experience is one of enforced exile, as an idealized village community is ruthlessly broken up in the interests of landed power. A comparable story of a rural idyll destroyed (though this time narrative artifice allows its eventual restoration) is at the centre of his greatly popular novel, The Vicar of Wakefield (1766). He was also a deft and energetic practitioner of the periodical essay, contributing to at least eight journals between 1759 and 1773. His Citizen of the World, a series of essays originally published in The Public Ledger in 1760–61, uses the device of a Chinese traveler whose letters home comment tolerantly but shrewdly on his English experiences. He also produced two stage comedies, one of which, She Stoops to Conquer (1773), is one of the few incontrovertible masterpieces of the theatre after the death of Farquhar in 1707.





 


Oliver Goldsmith


"She Stoops to Conquer"





Irish author

born Nov. 10, 1730, Kilkenny West, County Westmeath, Ire.
died April 4, 1774, London

Main
Anglo-Irish essayist, poet, novelist, dramatist, and eccentric, made famous by such works as the series of essays The Citizen of the World, or, Letters from a Chinese Philosopher (1762), the poem The Deserted Village (1770), the novel The Vicar of Wakefield (1766), and the play She Stoops to Conquer (1773).

Life
Goldsmith was the son of an Anglo-Irish clergyman, the Rev. Charles Goldsmith, curate in charge of Kilkenny West, County Westmeath. At about the time of his birth, the family moved into a substantial house at nearby Lissoy, where Oliver spent his childhood. Much has been recorded concerning his youth, his unhappy years as an undergraduate at Trinity College, Dublin, where he received the B.A. degree in February 1749, and his many misadventures before he left Ireland in the autumn of 1752 to study in the medical school at Edinburgh. His father was now dead, but several of his relations had undertaken to support him in his pursuit of a medical degree. Later on, in London, he came to be known as Dr. Goldsmith—Doctor being the courtesy title for one who held the Bachelor of Medicine—but he took no degree while at Edinburgh nor, so far as anyone knows, during the two-year period when, despite his meagre funds, which were eventually exhausted, he somehow managed to make his way through Europe. The first period of his life ended with his arrival in London, bedraggled and penniless, early in 1756.

Goldsmith’s rise from total obscurity was a matter of only a few years. He worked as an apothecary’s assistant, school usher, physician, and as a hack writer—reviewing, translating, and compiling. Much of his work was for Ralph Griffiths’s Monthly Review. It remains amazing that this young Irish vagabond, unknown, uncouth, unlearned, and unreliable, was yet able within a few years to climb from obscurity to mix with aristocrats and the intellectual elite of London. Such a rise was possible because Goldsmith had one quality, soon noticed by booksellers and the public, that his fellow literary hacks did not possess—the gift of a graceful, lively, and readable style. His rise began with the Enquiry into the Present State of Polite Learning in Europe (1759), a minor work. Soon he emerged as an essayist, in The Bee and other periodicals, and above all in his Chinese Letters. These essays were first published in the journal The Public Ledger and were collected as The Citizen of the World in 1762. The same year brought his Life of Richard Nash, of Bath, Esq. Already Goldsmith was acquiring those distinguished and often helpful friends whom he alternately annoyed and amused, shocked and charmed—Samuel Johnson, Sir Joshua Reynolds, Thomas Percy, David Garrick, Edmund Burke, and James Boswell. The obscure drudge of 1759 became in 1764 one of the nine founder-members of the famous Club, a select body, including Reynolds, Johnson, and Burke, which met weekly for supper and talk. Goldsmith could now afford to live more comfortably, but his extravagance continually ran him into debt, and he was forced to undertake more hack work. He thus produced histories of England and of ancient Rome and Greece, biographies, verse anthologies, translations, and works of popular science. These were mainly compilations of works by other authors, which Goldsmith then distilled and enlivened by his own gift for fine writing. Some of these makeshift compilations went on being reprinted well into the 19th century, however.

By 1762 Goldsmith had established himself as an essayist with his Citizen of the World, in which he used the device of satirizing Western society through the eyes of an Oriental visitor to London. By 1764 he had won a reputation as a poet with The Traveller, the first work to which he put his name. It embodied both his memories of tramping through Europe and his political ideas. In 1770 he confirmed that reputation with the more famous Deserted Village, which contains charming vignettes of rural life while denouncing the evictions of the country poor at the hands of wealthy landowners. In 1766 Goldsmith revealed himself as a novelist with The Vicar of Wakefield (written in 1762), a portrait of village life whose idealization of the countryside, sentimental moralizing, and melodramatic incidents are underlain by a sharp but good-natured irony. In 1768 Goldsmith turned to the theatre with The Good Natur’d Man, which was followed in 1773 by the much more effective She Stoops to Conquer, which was immediately successful. This play has outlived almost all other English-language comedies from the early 18th to the late 19th century by virtue of its broadly farcical horseplay and vivid, humorous characterizations.

During his last decade Goldsmith’s conversational encounters with Johnson and others, his foolishness, and his wit were preserved in Boswell’s Life of Samuel Johnson. Goldsmith eventually became deeply embroiled in mounting debts despite his considerable earnings as an author, though, and after a short illness in the spring of 1774 he died.


Assessment
When Oliver Goldsmith died he had achieved eminence among the writers of his time as an essayist, a poet, and a dramatist. He was one “who left scarcely any kind of writing untouched and who touched nothing that he did not adorn”—such was the judgment expressed by his friend Dr. Johnson. His contemporaries were as one in their high regard for Goldsmith the writer, but they were of different minds concerning the man himself. He was, they all agreed, one of the oddest personalities of his time. Of established Anglo-Irish stock, he kept his brogue and his provincial manners in the midst of the sophisticated Londoners among whom he moved. His bearing was undistinguished, and he was unattractive physically—ugly, some called him—with ill-proportioned features and a pock-marked face. He was a poor manager of his own affairs and an inveterate gambler, wildly extravagant when in funds, generous sometimes beyond his means to people in distress. The graceful fluency with words that he commanded as a writer deserted him totally when he was in society—his conversational mishaps were memorable things. Instances were also cited of his incredible vanity, of his constant desire to be conspicuous in company, and of his envy of others’ achievements. In the end what most impressed Goldsmith’s contemporaries was the paradox he presented to the world: on the one hand the assured and polished literary artist, on the other the person notorious for his ineptitudes in and out of society. Again it was Johnson who summed up the common sentiment. “No man,” he declared, “was more foolish when he had not a pen in his hand, or more wise when he had.”

Goldsmith’s success as a writer lay partly in the charm of personality emanated by his style—his affection for his characters, his mischievous irony, and his spontaneous interchange of gaiety and sadness. He was, as a writer, “natural, simple, affecting.” It is by their human personalities that his novel and his plays succeed, not by any brilliance of plot, ideas, or language. In the poems again it is the characters that are remembered rather than the landscapes—the village parson, the village schoolmaster, the sharp, yet not unkindly portraits of Garrick and Burke. Goldsmith’s poetry lives by its own special softening and mellowing of the traditional heroic couplet into simple melodies that are quite different in character from the solemn and sweeping lines of 18th-century blank verse. In his novel and plays Goldsmith helped to humanize his era’s literary imagination, without growing sickly or mawkish. Goldsmith saw people, human situations, and indeed the human predicament from the comic point of view; he was a realist, something of a satirist, but in his final judgments unfailingly charitable.

 





Johnson’s poetry and prose

Goldsmith belonged to the circle of a writer of still ampler range and outstanding intellect,
Samuel Johnson. Pope recognized Johnson’s poetic promise as it was exhibited in London (1738), an invigorating reworking of Juvenal’s third satire as a castigation of the decadence of contemporary Britain. Johnson’s finest poem, The Vanity of Human Wishes (1749), also takes its cue from Juvenal, this time his 10th satire. It is a tragic meditation on the pitiful spectacle of human unfulfillment, yet it ends with an urgent prayer of Christian hope.

But, great poet though he was, the lion’s share of Johnson’s formidable energies was expended on prose and on editorial work. From his early years in London, he lived by his pen and gave himself unstintingly to satisfy the booksellers’ demands. Yet he managed to sustain a remarkable coherence of ethical ambition and personal presence throughout his voluminous labours. His twice-weekly essays for The Rambler (1750–52), for instance, consistently show his powers at their fullest stretch, handling an impressive array of literary and moral topics with a scrupulous intellectual gravity and attentiveness. Many of the preoccupations of The Vanity of Human Wishes and the Rambler essays reappear in Rasselas (1759), which catalogues with profound resource the vulnerability of human philosophies of life to humiliation at the hands of life itself.



Samuel Johnson. "LIVES OF THE POETS". SWIFT, ROWE, THOMSON, WATTS, ADDISON, HALIFAX.

 


Samuel Johnson


PART I
 "Rasselas, Prince of Abyssinia"

PART II-III  "LIVES OF THE POETS"
 




born Sept. 18, 1709, Lichfield, Staffordshire, Eng.
died Dec. 13, 1784, London

English critic, biographer, essayist, poet, and lexicographer, regarded as one of the greatest figures of 18th-century life and letters.

Johnson once characterized literary biographies as “mournful narratives,” and he believed that he lived “a life radically wretched.” Yet his career can be seen as a literary success story of the sickly boy from the Midlands who by talent, tenacity, and intelligence became the foremost literary figure and the most formidable conversationalist of his time. For future generations, Johnson was synonymous with the later 18th century in England. The disparity between his circumstances and achievement gives his life its especial interest.

Early life
Samuel Johnson was the son of Michael Johnson, a bookseller, and his wife, Sarah. From childhood he suffered from a number of physical afflictions. By his own account, he was born “almost dead,” and he early contracted scrofula (tuberculosis of the lymphatic glands). Because of a popular belief that the sovereign’s touch was able to cure scrofula, he was taken to London at the age of 30 months and touched by the queen, whose gold “touch piece” he kept about him for the rest of his life. This was succeeded by various medical treatments that left him with disfiguring scars on his face and neck. He was nearly blind in his left eye and suffered from highly noticeable tics that may have been indications of Tourette syndrome. Until he began to speak, new acquaintances sometimes took him for an idiot, as did the artist William Hogarth, who came to admire him greatly. Despite his many physical afflictions, Johnson was strong, vigorous, and, after a fashion, athletic. He liked to ride, walk, and swim, even in later life. He was tall and became huge. A few accounts bear witness to his physical strength—as well as his character—such as his hurling an insolent theatregoer together with his seat from the stage into the pit or his holding off would-be robbers until the arrival of the watch.

From his earliest years Johnson was recognized not only for his remarkable intelligence but also for his pride and indolence. In 1717 he entered grammar school in Lichfield. The master of the school, John Hunter, was a learned though brutal man who “never taught a boy in his life—he whipped and they learned.” This regime instilled such terror in the young boy that even years later the resemblance of the poet Anna Seward to her grandfather Hunter caused him to tremble. At school he made two lifelong friends: Edmund Hector, later a surgeon, and John Taylor, future prebendary of Westminster and justice of the peace for Ashbourne. In 1726 Johnson visited his cousin, the urbane Reverend Cornelius Ford in Stourbridge, Worcestershire, who may have provided a model for him, though it was Ford’s conviviality and scholarship rather than his dissipation (he is thought to be one of those depicted carousing in Hogarth’s A Midnight Modern Conversation [1733]) that attracted Johnson.

In 1728 Johnson entered Pembroke College, Oxford. He stayed only 13 months, until December 1729, because he lacked the funds to continue. Yet it proved an important year. While an undergraduate, Johnson, who claimed to have been irreligious in adolescence, read a new book, William Law’s A Serious Call to a Devout and Holy Life, which led him to make concern for his soul the polestar of his life. Despite the poverty and pride that caused him to leave, he retained great affection for Oxford. He would later say with reference to the poets of his college, “We were a nest of singing birds.” In 1731, the year of his father’s death, his first publication, a translation of Pope’s Messiah into Latin, appeared in A Miscellany of Poems, along with the poetry of other Oxford students. Pope was the leading poet of the age, and throughout most of his lifetime Johnson would comment on Pope’s achievement in various writings.

In the following year Johnson became undermaster at Market Bosworth grammar school, a position made untenable by the overbearing and boorish Sir Wolstan Dixie, who controlled appointments. With only £20 inheritance from his father, Johnson left his position with the feeling that he was escaping prison. After failing in his quest for another teaching position, he joined his friend Hector in Birmingham. In 1732 or 1733 he published some essays in The Birmingham Journal, none of which have survived. Dictating to Hector, he translated into English Joachim Le Grand’s translation of the Portuguese Jesuit Jerome Lobo’s A Voyage to Abyssinia, an account of a Jesuit missionary expedition. Published in 1735, this work shows signs of the mature Johnson, such as his praise of Lobo, in the preface, for not attempting to present marvels: “He meets with no basilisks that destroy with their eyes, his crocodiles devour their prey without tears, and his cataracts fall from the rock without deafening the neighbouring inhabitants.”

In 1735 Johnson married Elizabeth Porter, a widow 20 years his senior. Convinced that his parents’ marital unhappiness was caused by his mother’s want of learning, he would not follow their example, choosing instead a woman whom he found both attractive and intelligent. His wife’s marriage settlement enabled him to open a school in Edial, near Lichfield, the following year. One of his students, David Garrick, would become the greatest English actor of the age and a lifelong friend, though their friendship was not without its strains. It was with Garrick that some of the unflattering accounts of Johnson’s wife originated, and his mimicry of the couple later became a favourite comic setpiece of his. While at Edial, Johnson began his historical tragedy Irene, which dramatizes the love of Sultan Mahomet (Mehmed II) for the lovely Irene, a Christian slave captured in Constantinople. The school soon proved a failure, and he and Garrick left for London in 1737.

The Gentleman’s Magazine and early publications
In 1738 Johnson began his long association with The Gentleman’s Magazine, often considered the first modern magazine. He soon contributed poetry and then prose, including panegyrics on Edward Cave, the magazine’s proprietor, and another contributor, the learned Elizabeth Carter. Johnson intended to translate the Venetian Paolo Sarpi’s The History of the Council of Trent but was forestalled by the coincidence of another Johnson at work on the same project. However, his biography of Sarpi, designed as a preface to that work, appeared in The Gentleman’s Magazine, as did a number of his early biographies of European scholars, physicians, and British admirals.

In 1738 and 1739 he published a series of satiric works that attacked the government of Sir Robert Walpole and even the Hanoverian monarchy: London (his first major poem), Marmor Norfolciense, and A Compleat Vindication of the Licensers of the Stage. London is an “imitation” of the Roman satirist Juvenal’s third satire. (A loose translation, an imitation applies the manner and topics of an earlier poet to contemporary conditions.) Thales, the poem’s main speaker, bears some resemblance to the poet Richard Savage, of whom Johnson knew and with whom he may have become friendly at this time. Before he leaves the corrupt metropolis for Wales, Thales rails against the pervasive deterioration of London (and English) life, evident in such ills as masquerades, atheism, the excise tax, and the ability of foreign nations to offend against “English honour” with impunity. The most famous line in the poem (and the only one in capitals) is: “SLOW RISES WORTH, BY POVERTY DEPRESSED,” which may be taken as Johnson’s motto at this time. When the poem appeared anonymously in 1738, Pope was led to predict that its author would be “déterré” (unearthed). Pope undoubtedly approved of Johnson’s politics along with admiring his poetry and tried unsuccessfully to arrange patronage for him. Marmor Norfolciense satirizes Walpole and the house of Hanover. A Compleat Vindication of the Licensers of the Stage is an ironic defense of the government’s Stage Licensing Act of 1737 requiring the lord chamberlain’s approval of all new plays, which in 1739 led to the prohibition of Henry Brooke’s play Gustavus Vasa attacking the English monarch and his prime minister by Swedish analogy. The latter two works show the literary influence of the Irish writer Jonathan Swift.

Johnson at this time clearly supported the governmental opposition, which was composed of disaffected Whigs, Tories, Jacobites (those who continued their allegiance to the Stuart line of James II), and Nonjurors (those who refused to take either the oath of allegiance to the Hanover kings or the oath of abjuration of James II and the Stuarts). Despite claims to the contrary, Johnson was neither a Jacobite nor a Nonjuror. His Toryism, which he sometimes expressed for shock value, was based upon his conviction that the Tories could be counted upon to support the Church of England as a state institution. When Johnson attacked Whiggism or defended Toryism (an ideology for him more than a practical politics, especially since Tories remained a minority throughout most of his lifetime), he always took an outsider’s position. Later in life he expressed a high regard for Walpole.

In 1739 Johnson published a translation and annotation of the Swiss philosopher Jean-Pierre de Crousaz’s Commentary on Pope’s philosophical poem An Essay on Man. Although he was able to show that many of Crousaz’s critical observations rested on a faulty French translation, Johnson often agreed with his judgment that some of Pope’s philosophical and social ideas are marred by complacency. About this time Johnson tried again to obtain a position as a schoolteacher. His translations and magazine writings barely supported him; a letter to Cave is signed “impransus,” signifying that he had gone without dinner. Despite his claim that “no man but a blockhead ever wrote except for money,” he never made a hard bargain with a bookseller and often received relatively little payment, even for large projects. He also contradicted his assertion frequently by contributing prefaces and dedications to the books of friends without payment.

From 1741 to 1744 Johnson’s most substantial contribution to The Gentleman’s Magazine was a series of speeches purporting to represent the actual debates in the House of Commons. This undertaking was not without risk because reporting the proceedings of Parliament, which had long been prohibited, was actually punished since the spring of 1738. The series was dubbed Debates in the Senate of Magna Lilliputia, and this Swiftian expedient gives the speeches satiric overtones. Their status was complicated by the fact that Johnson, who had visited the House of Commons only once, wrote the debates on the basis of scant information about the speakers’ positions. Hence they were political fictions, though paradoxically they appeared to be fact masquerading as fiction. Johnson later had misgivings about his role in writing speeches that were taken as authentic and may have stopped writing them for this reason. While Johnson’s claim that he “took care that the Whig dogs should not have the best of it” has become notorious, Johnson’s Walpole defends himself skillfully, and many of the debates seem even-handed.

In the early 1740s Johnson continued his strenuous work for The Gentleman’s Magazine; collaborated with William Oldys, antiquary and editor, on a catalog of the great Harleian Library; helped Dr. Robert James, his Lichfield schoolfellow, with A Medicinal Dictionary; and issued proposals for an edition of Shakespeare. His Miscellaneous Observations on the Tragedy of Macbeth (1745), intended as a preliminary sample of his work, was his first significant Shakespeare criticism. In 1746 he wrote The Plan of a Dictionary of the English Language and signed a contract for A Dictionary of the English Language. His major publication of this period was An Account of the Life of Mr. Richard Savage, Son of the Earl Rivers (1744). If, as Johnson claimed, the best biographies were written by those who had eaten and drunk and “lived in social intercourse” with their subjects, this was the most likely of his many biographies to succeed. The Life was widely admired by, among others, the painter Joshua Reynolds, and it was reviewed in translation by the French philosopher Denis Diderot. Although Johnson had few illusions about his self-publicizing friend’s conduct and character, he nonetheless became his defender to a significant extent. Johnson’s title supports Savage’s claim to be the bastard son of a nobleman—a claim of which others have been highly skeptical—but his biography, in its mixture of pathos and satire, at once commemorates and criticizes Savage. Johnson thought that Savage’s poverty cost society a great deal:

On a bulk, in a cellar, or in a glasshouse among thieves and beggars, was to be found the author of The Wanderer, …the man whose remarks on life might have assisted the statesman, whose ideas of virtue might have enlightened the moralist, whose eloquence might have influenced senates, and whose delicacy might have polished courts.

Yet the conclusion leaves no doubt about Johnson’s ultimate judgment: “negligence and irregularity, long continued, will make knowledge useless, wit ridiculous, and genius contemptible.” If Johnson served as defense attorney throughout much of the biography, no prosecutor could have summed up the case against Savage more devastatingly.

Maturity and recognition
The Vanity of Human WishesIn 1749 Johnson published The Vanity of Human Wishes, his most impressive poem as well as the first work published with his name. It is a panoramic survey of the futility of human pursuit of greatness and happiness. Like London, the poem is an imitation of one of Juvenal’s satires, but it emphasizes the moral over the social and political themes of Juvenal. Some of the definitions Johnson later entered under “vanity” in his Dictionary suggest the range of meaning of his title, including “emptiness,” “uncertainty,” “fruitless desire, fruitless endeavour,” “empty pleasure; vain pursuit; idle show; unsubstantial enjoyment; petty object of pride,” and “arrogance.” He portrays historical figures, mainly from England and continental Europe (Thomas Cardinal Wolsey, Charles XII of Sweden, the Persian king Xerxes I), alternating them with human types (the traveler, the rich man, the beauty, the scholar), often in juxtaposition with their opposites, to show that all are subject to the same disappointment of their desires. The Vanity of Human Wishes is imbued with the Old Testament message of Ecclesiastes that “all is vanity” and replaces Juvenal’s Stoic virtues with the Christian virtue of “patience.” The poem surpasses any of Johnson’s other poems in its richness of imagery and powerful conciseness.

The theatreJohnson’s connections to the theatre in these years included writing several prologues, one for Garrick’s farce Lethe in 1740 and one for the opening of the Drury Lane theatre. Garrick, now its manager, returned the favours. Early in 1749 Johnson’s play Irene was at last performed. Thanks to Garrick’s production, which included expensive costumes, an excellent cast (including Garrick himself), and highly popular afterpieces for the last three performances, the tragedy ran a respectable nine nights. The audience objected to seeing the apostate Greek Christian Irene strangled by Sultan Mahomet—an innovation of Garrick’s—and the murder was performed offstage thereafter. Irene is Johnson’s least appealing major work, and he is reported to have said when hearing someone read it aloud, “I thought it had been better.”

From The Rambler to The AdventurerWith The Rambler (1750–52), a twice-weekly periodical, Johnson entered upon the most successful decade of his career. He wrote over 200 numbers, and stories abound of his finishing an essay while the printer’s boy waited at the door; in his last essay he confessed to “the anxious employment of a periodical writer.” The essays cover a wide range of subjects. A large number of them appropriately stress daily realities; others are devoted to literature, including criticism and the theme of authorship (particularly the early ones, driven by the writer’s consciousness of his own undertaking) and to literary forms, such as the novel and biography, that had not received much examination. Whatever their topic, Johnson intended his essays to “inculcate wisdom or piety” in conformity with Christianity. In tone these essays are far more serious than those of his most important predecessor, Joseph Addison, published in The Spectator (1711–12; 1714). Johnson himself ranked them highly among his achievements, commenting “My other works are wine and water; but my Rambler is pure wine.” Although The Rambler may have sold only 500 copies an issue on its first appearance—in his last number he claimed he had “never been much a favourite of the public”—it was widely reprinted in provincial newspapers and sold well in later editions.

Johnson’s Rambler series also was admired by his wife Elizabeth, who praised its author by saying, “I thought very well of you before this; but I did not imagine you could have written any thing equal to this.” She died on March 17, 1752, just three days after the publication of its last number. In her later years “Tetty” frequently lived away from him in Hampstead. Signs of marital tensions may be glimpsed in surviving letters and in Johnson’s prayers, which were published after his death. He wrote a sermon for her funeral that praises her submissive piety—her “exact and regular” devotions—as well as her charitable disposition.

A diary entry suggests that a year after Elizabeth’s death Johnson was seeking a new wife “without any derogation from dear Tetty’s memory.” The one he most probably had in mind was the pious Hill Boothby, to whom he wrote with some frequency in the years immediately following this resolve. Three dozen of her letters to him, rarely quoted by biographers, are in print. The relationship, however, came to an end with her death in 1756.

During the course of one year starting in March 1753, Johnson contributed 29 essays to his friend John Hawkesworth’s periodical The Adventurer, written in imitation of The Rambler. Johnson purposely (and ineffectively) lightened his style in order to hide his authorship. He wanted his essays unrecognized, for he had given them to Dr. Richard Bathurst, the friend whom he said he loved more than any other, to sell as his own, but he confessed his part to the persistent Hill Boothby.

The Dictionary A Dictionary of the English Language was published in two volumes in 1755, six years later than planned but remarkably quickly for so extensive an undertaking. The degree of Master of Arts, conferred on him by the University of Oxford for his Rambler essays and the Dictionary, was proudly noted on the title page. Johnson henceforth would be known in familiar 18th-century style as “Dictionary Johnson” or “The Rambler.” There had been earlier English dictionaries, but none on the scale of Johnson’s. In addition to giving etymologies, not the strong point of Johnson and his contemporaries, and definitions, in which he excelled, Johnson illustrated usage with quotations drawn almost entirely from writing from the Elizabethan period to his own time, though few living authors were quoted (the novelists Samuel Richardson and Charlotte Lennox, Garrick, Reynolds, and Johnson himself among them). His preface boldly asserts that the “chief glory of every people arises from its authors,” and his book (the phrase he always used for it) was his own claim to be ranked among them. He was pleased that what took the French Academy 40 years to perform for their language was accomplished by one Englishman in 9 years. It may have been his desire to fix the language by his work, yet he realized that languages do not follow prescription but are continually changing. Johnson did not work systematically from a word list but marked up the books he read for copying. Thus it is no surprise that some earlier dictionaries contain more words and that Johnson’s has striking omissions (“literary” for one). Yet his definitions were a great improvement over those of his predecessors, and his illustrations from writers since the Elizabethan Age form an anthology and established a canon. Because he insisted not only on correct usage but also on morality and piety, the illustrations of words often come from sermons and conduct books as well as from a range of literature. The skeptical philosopher Thomas Hobbes and the writer Bernard de Mandeville, who praised the public benefits of brothels, were excluded on moral grounds, and in the Plan for the Dictionary Johnson explains that the inclusion of a writer could be taken as an invitation to read his work.

Johnson had been persuaded to address his Plan to the Earl of Chesterfield as his patron, but his appeal had been met with years of neglect. Johnson’s defensive pride was awakened when the nobleman, learning of the impending publication of the Dictionary, praised it in two essays in The World, a weekly paper of entertainment. His letter to Chesterfield is often taken as sounding “the death-knell of patronage,” which it did not. But it did assert the dignity of the author.

Is not a patron, my Lord, one who looks with unconcern on a man struggling for life in the water, and, when he has reached ground, encumbers him with help. The notice which you have been pleased to take of my labours, had it been early, had been kind; but it has been delayed till I am indifferent and cannot enjoy it, till I am solitary and cannot impart it, till I am known, and do not want it.

The Dictionary defines “patron” as “one who countenances, supports, or protects. Commonly a wretch who supports with insolence, and is paid with flattery.”

In its choice of authors and of illustrative selections, the Dictionary is a personal work. These give the whole the aspect of both an encyclopaedia and a conduct book. Even though Johnson defined “lexicographer” as “a writer of dictionaries; a harmless drudge,” the drudgery of the Dictionary fell into the decade of Johnson’s most important writing and must be seen in part as enabling it. The payment for the Dictionary amounted to relatively little after deductions were made for his six amanuenses and his own expenses. He left his house in Gough Square (now the most famous of Johnson museums) for smaller lodgings in 1759, ending the major decade of his literary activity famous and poor.

The Literary MagazineFrom 1756 onward Johnson wrote harsh criticism and satire of England’s policy in the Seven Years’ War (1756–63) fought against France (and others) in North America, Europe, and India. This work appeared initially in a new journal he was editing, The Literary Magazine, where he also published his biography of the Prussian king, Frederick II (the Great). He also contributed important book reviews when reviewing was still in its infancy. His bitingly sardonic dissection of a dilettantish and complacent study of the nature of evil and of human suffering, A Free Enquiry into the Nature and Origin of Evil, by the theological writer Soame Jenyns, may well be the best review in English during the 18th century:

This author and Pope perhaps never saw the miseries which they imagine thus easy to be borne. The poor indeed are insensible of many little vexations which sometimes embitter the possessions and pollute the enjoyments of the rich. They are not pained by casual incivility, or mortified by the mutilation of a compliment; but this happiness is like that of a malefactor who ceases to feel the cords that bind him when the pincers are tearing his flesh.

The Idler
Johnson’s busiest decade was concluded with yet another series of essays, called The Idler. Lighter in tone and style than those of The Rambler, its 104 essays appeared from 1758 to 1760 in a weekly newspaper, The Universal Chronicle. While not admired as greatly as The Rambler, Johnson’s last essay series contained many impressive numbers, such as No. 84, in which he praised autobiography over biography and drew his self-portrait as “Mr. Sober,” a consummate idler. The original No. 22, his account of an old vulture explaining to her offspring man’s propensities as a killer and concluding that man more than any other animal is “a friend to vultures,” was considered too strong to be included in the collected editions.

RasselasJohnson’s essays included numerous short fictions, but his only long fiction is Rasselas (originally published as The Prince of Abissinia: A Tale), which he wrote in 1759, during the evenings of a single week, in order to be able to pay for the funeral of his mother. This “Oriental tale,” a popular form at the time, explores and exposes the futility of the pursuit of happiness, a theme that links it to The Vanity of Human Wishes. Prince Rasselas, weary of life in the Happy Valley, where ironically all are dissatisfied, escapes with his sister and the widely traveled poet Imlac to experience the world and make a thoughtful “choice of life.” Yet their journey is filled with disappointment and disillusionment. They examine the lives of men in a wide range of occupations and modes of life in both urban and rural settings—rulers and shepherds, philosophers, scholars, an astronomer, and a hermit. They discover that all occupations fail to bring satisfaction. Rulers are deposed. The shepherds exist in grubby ignorance, not pastoral ease. The Stoic’s philosophy proves hollow when he experiences personal loss. The hermit, miserable in his solitude, leaves his cell for Cairo. In his “conclusion in which nothing is concluded,” Johnson satirizes the wish-fulfilling daydreams in which all indulge. His major characters resolve to substitute the “choice of eternity” for the “choice of life,” and to return to Abyssinia (but not the Happy Valley) on their circular journey.

Johnson never again had to write in order to raise funds. In 1762 he was awarded a pension of £300 a year, “not,” as Lord Bute, the prime minister, told him, “given you for anything you are to do, but for what you have done.” This in all likelihood meant not only his literary accomplishments but also his opposition to the Seven Years’ War, which the new king, George III, and his prime minister had also opposed. Although in his Dictionary Johnson had added to his definition of “pension,” “In England it is generally understood to mean pay given to a state hireling for treason to his country,” he believed that he could accept his with a clear conscience.

Friendships and householdIn 1763 Johnson met the 22-year-old James Boswell, who would go on to make him the subject of the best-known and most highly regarded biography in English. The first meeting with this libertine son of a Scottish laird and judge was not auspicious, but Johnson quickly came to appreciate the ingratiating and impulsive young man. Boswell kept detailed journals, published only in the 20th century, which provided the basis for his biography of Johnson and also form his own autobiography.

Johnson participated actively in clubs. In 1764 he and his close friend Sir Joshua Reynolds founded The Club (later known as The Literary Club), which became famous for the distinction of its members. The original nine members included the politician Edmund Burke, the playwright Oliver Goldsmith, and Sir John Hawkins, the historian of music whom Johnson was to call “unclubable.” Boswell, whose 1768 account of the Corsican struggle against Genoese rule and its revolutionary leader, General Pasquale Paoli, earned him a reputation throughout Europe, was admitted in 1773. Other members elected later included Garrick, the historian Edward Gibbon, the dramatist Richard Brinsley Sheridan, the economist and moral philosopher Adam Smith, and the Orientalist Sir William Jones. In 1749 Johnson had been one of 10 members of the Ivy Lane Club, and the year before his death he founded The Essex Head Club. These clubs, at which he often “talked for victory,” provided the conversation and society he desired and kept him from the loneliness and insomnia that he faced at home.

This is not to say that his house was empty after the death of his wife. He had living with him at various times Anna Williams, a blind poet; Elizabeth Desmoulins, the daughter of his godfather Dr. Samuel Swynfen, and her daughter; Poll Carmichael, probably a former prostitute; “Dr.” Robert Levett, a medical practitioner among the poor; Francis Barber, Johnson’s black servant, whom he treated in many ways like a son and made his heir; and Barber’s wife Betsy. They were at once recipients of Johnson’s charity and providers of company, but the relationship among them was not always amicable. In a letter of 1778 Johnson says, “We have tolerable concord at home, but no love. Williams hates everybody; Levett hates Desmoulins, and does not love Williams; Desmoulins hates them both; Poll loves none of them.”

In 1765 Johnson established a friendship that soon enabled him to call another place “home.” Henry Thrale, a wealthy brewer and member of Parliament for Southwark, and his lively and intelligent wife, Hester, opened their country house at Streatham to him and invited him on trips to Wales and, in 1775, to France, his only tour outside Great Britain. Their friendship and hospitality gave the 56-year-old Johnson a new interest in life. Following her husband’s death in 1781 and her marriage to her children’s music master, Gabriel Piozzi, Hester Thrale’s and Johnson’s close friendship came to an end. His letters to Mrs. Thrale, remarkable for their range and intimacy, helped make him one of the great English letter writers.

The edition of Shakespeare The pension Johnson had received in 1762 had freed him from the necessity of writing for a living, but it had not released him from his obligation to complete the Shakespeare edition, for which he had taken money from subscribers. His long delay in bringing that project to fruition provoked some satiric notice from the poet Charles Churchill:

He for subscribers baits his hook,

And takes their cash—but where’s the book?

The edition finally appeared in eight volumes in 1765. Johnson edited and annotated the text and wrote a preface, which is his greatest work of literary criticism. As editor and annotator he sought to establish the text, freed from later corruptions, and to explain diction that by then had become obsolete and obscure. Johnson’s approach was to immerse himself in the books Shakespeare had read—his extensive reading for his Dictionary eased this task—and to examine the early editions as well as those of his 18th-century predecessors. His annotations are often shrewd, though his admiration reveals at times different concerns from those of some of his contemporaries and of later scholars.

In his Preface Johnson addressed several critical issues. For one, he vigorously defends Shakespeare against charges of failing to adhere to the Neoclassical doctrine of the dramatic unities of time, place, and action. Johnson alertly observes that time and place are subservient to the mind: since the audience does not confound stage action with reality, it has no trouble with a shift in scene from Rome to Alexandria. Some critics had made similar points before, but Johnson’s defense was decisive. He also questions the need for purity of dramatic genre. In defending Shakespearian tragicomedy against detractors, he asserts that “there is always an appeal open from criticism to nature.” Echoing Hamlet, Johnson claims that Shakespeare merits praise, above all, as “the poet of nature; the poet that holds up to his readers a faithful mirror of manners and of life.” He goes on to say that “in the writings of other poets a character is too often an individual: in those of Shakespeare it is commonly a species” and that “Shakespeare has no heroes; his scenes are occupied only by men.” These comments inveigh against the rigid notions of decorum upheld by critics, such as Voltaire, who would not allow kings to be drunkards or senators to be buffoons. Johnson’s concern for “general nature” means that he is not much interested in accidental traits of a character, such as the “Romanness” of Julius Caesar or Brutus, but in traits that are common to all humanity.

Dr. Johnson
In 1765 Johnson received an honorary Doctor of Laws degree from Trinity College, Dublin, and 10 years later he was awarded the Doctor of Civil Laws from the University of Oxford. He never referred to himself as Dr. Johnson, though a number of his contemporaries did, and Boswell’s consistent use of the title in The Life of Samuel Johnson, LL.D. made it popular. The completion of the Shakespeare edition left Johnson free to write by choice, and one such choice was his secret collaboration with Robert Chambers, professor of English law at the University of Oxford from 1766 to 1773. While it is difficult to determine just how much of Chambers’ lectures Johnson may have written, his help was clearly substantial, and the skilled editor was valued by the dilatory professor.

Political pamphletsIn the early 1770s Johnson wrote a series of political pamphlets supporting positions favourable to the government but in keeping with his own views. These have often appeared reactionary to posterity but are worth considering on their own terms. The False Alarm (1770) supported the resolution of the House of Commons not to readmit one of its members, the scandalous John Wilkes, who had been found guilty of libel. The pamphlet ridiculed those who thought the case precipitated a constitutional crisis. Thoughts on the Late Transactions Respecting Falkland’s Islands (1771) argued against a war with Spain over who should become “the undisputed lords of tempest-beaten barrenness.” This pamphlet, his most admired and least attacked, disputes the “feudal gabble” of the Earl of Chatham and the complaints of the pseudonymous political controversialist who wrote the Junius letters. The Patriot (1774) was designed to influence an upcoming election. Johnson had become disillusioned in the 1740s with those members of the political opposition who attacked the government on “patriotic” grounds only to behave similarly once in power. This essay examines expressions of false patriotism and includes in that category justifications of “the ridiculous claims of American usurpation,” the subject of his longest tract, Taxation No Tyranny (1775). The title summarizes his position opposing the American Continental Congress, which in 1774 had passed resolutions against taxation by England, perceived as oppression, especially since the colonies had no representation in parliament. Johnson argues that the colonists had not been denied representation but rather had willingly left the country where they had votes, that England had expended vast sums on the colonies, and that they were rightly required to support the home country. The tract became notorious in the colonies, contributing considerably to the caricature of Johnson the arch-Tory. Yet this view is too simplistic. His rhetorical question to the colonists, “How is it that we hear the loudest yelps for liberty from the drivers of Negroes?” can be traced in large part to a principled and consistent stance against colonial oppression.

Journey to the HebridesIn 1773 Johnson set forth on a journey to the Hebrides. Given his age, ailments, and purported opinion of the Scots, Johnson may have seemed a highly unlikely traveler to this distant region, but in the opening pages of his A Journey to the Western Islands of Scotland (1775) he confessed to a longstanding desire to make the trip and the inducement of having Boswell as his companion. He was propelled by a curiosity to see strange places and study modes of life unfamiliar to him. His book, a superb contribution to 18th-century travel literature, combines historical information with what would now be considered sociological and anthropological observations about the lives of common people. (Boswell’s complementary narrative of their journey, The Journal of a Tour to the Hebrides, with its rich store of Johnson’s conversation, was published only in 1785, the year after Johnson’s death.)

The Lives of the Poets
Johnson’s last great work, Prefaces, Biographical and Critical, to the Works of the English Poets (conventionally known as The Lives of the Poets), was conceived modestly as short prefatory notices to an edition of English poetry. When Johnson was approached by some London booksellers in 1777 to write what he thought of as “little Lives, and little Prefaces, to a little edition of the English Poets,” he readily agreed. He loved anecdote and “the biographical part” of literature best of all. The project, however, expanded in scope; Johnson’s prefaces alone filled the first 10 volumes (1779–81), and the poetry grew to 56 volumes. Johnson was angered by the appearance of his name on the spines because he had neither “recommended” nor “revised” these poets, except for adding Isaac Watts, Sir Richard Blackmore, John Pomfret, Thomas Yalden, and James Thomson to the list.

The lives are ordered chronologically by date of death, not birth, and range in length from a few pages to an entire volume. Among the major lives are those of Abraham Cowley, John Milton, John Dryden, Joseph Addison, and Alexander Pope; some of the minor ones, such as those of William Collins and William Shenstone, are striking. Johnson’s personal dislike of some of the poets whose lives he wrote, such as John Milton and Thomas Gray, has been used as a basis for arguing that he was prejudiced against their poetry, but too much has been made of this. His opinions of a poet and his work diverge at times as, for example, in the case of Collins. Johnson liked the man but disapproved of his poetic manner: “he puts his words out of the common order, seeming to think, with some later candidates for fame, that not to write prose is certainly to write poetry.” He was justly proud of The Life of Cowley, especially of its lengthy discussion of the 17th-century Metaphysical poets, of whom Cowley may be considered the last representative. The Life of Pope is at once the longest and best. Pope’s life and career were fresh enough and public enough to provide ample biographical material. Johnson found Pope’s poetry highly congenial. His moving, unsentimental account of Pope’s life is sensitive to his physical sufferings and yet unwilling to accept them as an excuse. His riposte to Pope’s detractors, such as the poet Joseph Warton, is vigorous and memorable: “It is surely superfluous to answer the question that has once been asked, whether Pope was a poet? otherwise than by asking, in return, if Pope be not a poet, where is poetry to be found?” Yet in his masterly comparison of Pope and Dryden he acknowledges Dryden as the greater poet.

Johnson divided his biographies into three distinct parts: a narrative of the poet’s life, a presentation of his character (summarized traits), and a critical assessment of his main poems. He adopted this method not because he failed to perceive relationships between a poet’s life and his works but because he did not think that a good poet was necessarily a good man. His method allowed him to make use of his recognition that “a manifest and striking contrariety between the life of an author and his writings” can exist and to assign different purposes to his analysis of his subjects’ lives and their poetry. Johnson expressed a hope that the biographical parts of his lives were composed “in such a manner, as may tend to the promotion of Piety,” and his moral intent is borne out in his readiness to chastise failings and to commend virtue. Johnson responded most favourably to the works of poets from Dryden to Pope and was skeptical of those produced in his own generation, including the poetry of Gray, Collins, and Shenstone, though he admired Gray’s An Elegy Written in a Country Church Yard.


Last years
Throughout much of his adult life Johnson suffered from physical ailments as well as depression (“melancholy”). After the loss of two friends, Henry Thrale in 1781 and Robert Levett in 1782, and the conclusion of The Lives of the Poets, his health deteriorated. Above all, his chronic bronchitis and “dropsy” (edema), a swelling of his legs and feet, caused great discomfort. In 1783 he suffered a stroke. His last year was made still bleaker by his break with Mrs. Thrale over her remarriage. He compared himself at one point to those from whom confessions were extorted by the placement of heavy stones upon their chests. Yet he insisted on fighting: “I will be conquered; I will not capitulate.” A profoundly devout Anglican, Johnson was in dread at the prospect of death and judgment, for he feared damnation. Yet in the winter of 1784, following a day of prayer after which his edema spontaneously disappeared, he entered into a previously unknown state of serenity. He accepted this release from illness as a sign that he might be saved after all and referred to it as a “late conversion.” He died on December 13 and was buried in Westminster Abbey.

Achievement and reputation
Johnson is well remembered for his aphorisms, which contributed to his becoming, after Shakespeare, the most frequently quoted of English writers. Many of these are recorded in Boswell’s The Life of Samuel Johnson, LL.D., including his famous assertion: “Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel” and his admonition: “Clear your mind of cant.” Others appear in his own writings, including: “Marriage has many pains, but celibacy has no pleasures.” He possessed the gift of contracting “the great rules of life into short sentences.”

Johnson’s criticism is, perhaps, the most significant part of his writings. His assessment of Dryden’s critical works holds good for his own: “the criticism of Dryden is the criticism of a poet; not a dull collection of theorems, nor a rude detection of faults, which perhaps the censorer was not able to have committed; but a gay and vigorous dissertation, where delight is mingled with instruction, and where the author proves his right of judgment by his power of performance.” Although some have spoken of Johnson as a “literary dictator,” he rejected the role for himself and in general spoke against the notion of enforcing precepts. As a critic and editor, through his Dictionary, his edition of Shakespeare, and his Lives of the Poets in particular, he helped invent what we now call “English Literature.”

Religion was central to Johnson’s understanding of literature and of the moral life generally. His personal uneasiness about religion seems traceable to an orthodox fear that he might be among the damned. He saw himself as someone who did not practice what he preached and lived in dread that he would be, in the words of St. Paul, a castaway. His watch bore in Greek the biblical text, “The night cometh,” a reminder of death and work left undone.

Johnson is more complex than he is often taken to be. His wide range of interests included science and manufacturing processes, and his knowledge seemed encyclopaedic. Although his late political tracts in defense of the government are antidemocratic, Johnson combined a high regard for monarchy with a low opinion of most kings. He frequently expressed minority or unpopular views, such as his principled stands against slavery, colonialism, and mistreatment of indigenous peoples. He also urged better treatment of prisoners of war, prostitutes, and the poor generally, and he once tried to save a convicted forger from the gallows.

If, as has often been claimed—largely because of Boswell’s biography—we know Johnson as we know few other people in history (or few other characters in literature), we know him primarily as a man who overcame a host of difficulties to become the leading scholar and writer of his age. His imposing scope made him what might now be called a public intellectual. In the 19th century the interest in Johnson centred on his personality, the subject of Boswell’s biography. In the 20th century his writings regained their rightful prominence.

Robert Folkenflik

 



Johnson’s forensic brilliance can be seen in his relentless review of Soame Jenyns’s Free Inquiry into the Nature and Origin of Evil (1757), which caustically dissects the latter’s complacent attitude to human suffering, and his analytic capacities are evidenced at their height in the successful completion of two major projects, his innovative Dictionary of the English Language (1755) and the great edition of Shakespeare’s plays (1765). The former of these is in some ways his greatest work of literary criticism, for it displays the uses of words by means of illustrations culled from the best writing in English. The latter played a major part in the establishment of Shakespeare as the linchpin of a national literary canon. It should be noted, however, that Johnson’s was but the most critically inspired of a series of major Shakespeare editions in the 18th century. These include editions by Nicholas Rowe (1709), Pope (1725), Lewis Theobald (1734), Sir Thomas Hanmer (1744), and William Warburton (1747). Others, by Edward Capell (1768), George Steevens (1773), and Edmund Malone (1790), would follow. Johnson was but one of those helping to form a national literature.
 

Johnson’s last years produced much political writing (including the humanely resonant Thoughts on the Late Transactions Respecting Falkland’s Islands, 1771); the socially and historically alert Journey to the Western Islands of Scotland, 1775; and the consummate Lives of the Poets, 1779–81. The latter was the climax of 40 years’ writing of poetic biographies, including the multifaceted An Account of the Life of Mr. Richard Savage (1744). These last lives, covering the period from Cowley to the generation of Gray, show Johnson’s mastery of the biographer’s art of selection and emphasis and (together with the preface and notes to his Shakespeare edition) contain the most provocative critical writing of the century. Although his allegiances lay with Neoclassical assumptions about poetic form and language, his capacity for improvisatory responsiveness to practice that lay outside the prevailing decorums should not be underrated. His final faith, however, in his own creative practice as in his criticism, was that the greatest art eschews unnecessary particulars and aims toward carefully pondered and ambitious generalization. The same creed was eloquently expounded by another member of the Johnson circle, Sir Joshua Reynolds, in his 15 Discourses (delivered to the Royal Academy between 1769 and 1790, but first published collectively in 1797).
 

The other prime source of Johnson’s fame, his reputation as a conversationalist of epic genius, rests on the detailed testimony of contemporary memorialists including Burney, Hester Lynch Piozzi, and Sir John Hawkins. But the key text is James Boswell’s magisterial Life of Samuel Johnson (1791). This combines in unique measure a deep respect for its subject’s ethical probity and resourceful intellect with a far from inevitably complimentary eye for the telling details of his personal habits and deportment. Boswell manifests rich dramatic talent and a precise ear for conversational rhythms in his re-creation and orchestration of the debates that lie at the heart of this great biography. Another dimension of Boswell’s literary talent came to light in the 1920s and ’30s when two separate hoards of unpublished manuscripts were discovered. In these he is his own subject of study. The 18th century had not previously produced much autobiographical writing of the first rank, though the actor and playwright Colley Cibber’s flamboyant Apology for the Life of Mr. Colley Cibber (1740) and Cowper’s sombre Memoir (written about 1766, first published in 1816) are two notable exceptions. But the drama of Boswell’s self-observations has a richer texture than either of these. In the London Journal especially (covering 1762–63, first published in 1950), he records the processes of his dealings with others and of his own self-imaginings with a sometimes unnerving frankness and a tough willingness to ask difficult questions of himself.

Boswell narrated his experiences at the same time as, or shortly after, they occurred. Edward Gibbon, on the other hand, taking full advantage of hindsight, left in manuscript at his death six autobiographical fragments, all having much ground in common, but each telling a subtly different version of his life. Though he was in many ways invincibly more reticent than Boswell, Gibbon’s successive explorations of his own history yet form a movingly resolute effort to see the truth clearly. These writings were undertaken after the completion of the great work of his life, The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire (1776–88). He brought to the latter an untiring dedication in the gathering and assimilation of knowledge, an especial alertness to evidence of human fallibility and failure, and a powerful ordering intelligence supported by a delicate sense of aesthetic coherence. His central theme—that the destruction of the Roman Empire was the joint triumph of barbarism and Christianity—is sustained with formidable ironic resource.
 

Michael Cordner
John Mullan

 


Nicholas Rowe


born June 20, 1674, Little Barford, Bedfordshire, Eng.
died Dec. 6, 1718, London


English writer who was the first to attempt a critical edition of the works of Shakespeare. Rowe succeeded Nahum Tate as poet laureate in 1715 and was also the foremost 18th-century English tragic dramatist, doing much to assist the rise of domestic tragedy.

Rowe was called to the bar in 1696 and, an ardent Whig, afterward held several minor government posts. His early plays, The Ambitious Step-Mother (1700) and Tamerlane (1702), are reminiscent of John Dryden’s heroic drama in their pomp and bluster but contain elements presaging the spirit of sentiment that characterizes The Fair Penitent (1703) and later works. This latter play is of some literary significance; its hero, Lothario, besides giving a new word for an attractive rake to the English language, was apparently the prototype of Lovelace, the hero of Samuel Richardson’s novel Clarissa. Rowe composed The Tragedy of Jane Shore (1714) in imitation of Shakespeare’s style, as he did The Tragedy of the Lady Jane Grey (1715). His only comedy, The Biter (1704), was a failure.

In The Works of Mr. William Shakespear; Revis’d and Corrected, 6 vol. (1709; 9 vol., including poems, 1714), Rowe essentially followed the fourth folio edition of 1685, although he claimed to have arrived at the text by comparing “the several editions.” He did, however, restore some passages in Hamlet, Romeo and Juliet, Henry V, and King Lear from early texts. He abandoned the clumsy folio format (a 9 × 12-inch page size), listed the characters in the plays, attempted act and scene divisions, and supplied a life of Shakespeare that, although composed for the most part of dubious tradition, remained the basis for all Shakespeare biographies until the early 19th century. Rowe’s own poetic output included occasional odes and some translations. His version of the Roman poet Lucan’s Pharsalia, written in heroic couplets and published posthumously in 1718, was greatly admired throughout the 18th century.

 

 


Hester Lynch Piozzi



 

born Jan. 27, 1740, Bodvel, Carnarvonshire, Wales
died May 2, 1821, Clifton, Bristol, Eng.


English writer and friend of Samuel Johnson.

In 1763 she married a wealthy brewer named Henry Thrale. In January 1765 Samuel Johnson was brought to dinner, and the next year, following a severe illness, Johnson spent most of the summer in the country with the Thrales. Gradually, he became part of the family circle, living about half the time in their homes. A succession of distinguished visitors came there to see Johnson and socialize with the Thrales.

In 1781 Thrale died, and his wife was left a wealthy widow. To everyone’s dismay, she fell in love with her daughter’s music master, Gabriel Piozzi, an Italian singer and composer, married him in 1784, and set off for Italy on a honeymoon. Dr. Johnson openly disapproved. The resulting estrangement saddened his last months of life.

When news reached her of Johnson’s death, she hastily compiled and sent back to England copy for Anecdotes of the late Samuel Johnson, LL.D., during the last Twenty Years of his Life (1786), which thrust her into open rivalry with James Boswell. The breach was further widened when, after her return to England in 1787, she brought out a two-volume edition of Letters to and from the late Samuel Johnson, LL.D. (1788). Although less accurate in some details than Boswell’s, her accounts show other aspects of Johnson’s character, especially the more human and affectionate side of his nature.

When many old friends remained aloof, Mrs. Piozzi drew around her a new artistic circle, including the actress Sarah Siddons. Her pen remained active, and thousands of her entertaining, gossipy letters have survived. She retained to the end her unflagging vivacity and zest for life.

 

 

 


Sir John Hawkins



born , March 30, 1719, London
died May 21, 1789, London

English magistrate, writer, and author of the first history of music in English.

Hawkins was apprenticed as a clerk and became a solicitor. In 1759 a legacy enabled him to sell his practice. A Middlesex magistrate from 1761, Hawkins was elected chairman of the quarter sessions in 1765. He was knighted in 1772.

Hawkins wrote, among other works, an annotated edition of Izaak Walton’s Compleat Angler (1760) and legal articles. His biography of Samuel Johnson, published with his 1787 edition of Johnson’s works, was superseded only by Boswell’s. Hawkins was among Johnson’s closest friends and was an executor of Johnson’s will.

Hawkins’ General History of the Science and Practice of Music occupied him for 16 years. It was published in five volumes in 1776, a few weeks before Charles Burney’s celebrated General History of Music. Hawkin’s book continues to be invaluable as a mine of detailed information, some of it unavailable elsewhere, but it was eclipsed by Burney’s.

 

 

 


James Boswell



born October 29, 1740, Edinburgh, Scotland
died May 19, 1795, London, England

friend and biographer of Samuel Johnson (Life of Johnson, 2 vol., 1791). The 20th-century publication of his journals proved him to be also one of the world’s greatest diarists.

Edinburgh and London
Boswell’s father, Alexander Boswell, advocate and laird of Auchinleck in Ayrshire from 1749, was raised to the bench with the judicial title of Lord Auchinleck in 1754. The Boswells were an old and well-connected family, and James was subjected to the strong pressure of an ambitious family.

Boswell hated the select day school to which he was sent at age 5, and from 8 to 13 he was taught at home by tutors. From 1753 to 1758 he went through the arts course at the University of Edinburgh. Returning to the university in 1758 to study law, he became enthralled by the theatre and fell in love with a Roman Catholic actress. Lord Auchinleck thought it prudent to send him to the University of Glasgow, where he attended the lectures of Adam Smith. In the spring of 1760 he ran away to London. He was, he soon found, passionately fond of metropolitan culture, gregarious, high-spirited, sensual, and attractive to women; and London offered just the combination of gross and refined pleasures that seemed to fulfill him. At this time he contracted gonorrhea, an affliction that he was to endure many times in the course of his life.

From 1760 to 1762 Boswell studied law at home under strict supervision and sought release from boredom in gallantry, in a waggish society called the Soaping Club, and in scribbling. His publications (many in verse and most of them anonymous) give no indication of conspicuous talent.

When Boswell came of age, he was eager to enter the foot guards. Lord Auchinleck agreed that if he passed his trials in civil law, he would receive a supplementary annuity and be allowed to go to London to seek a commission through influence. Boswell passed the examination in July 1762.

Anticipating great happiness, Boswell began, in the autumn, the journal that was to be the central expression of his genius. His great zest for life was not fully savoured until life was all written down, and he had a rare faculty for imaginative verbal reconstruction. His journal is much more dramatic than most because he wrote up each event as though he were still living through it, as if he had no knowledge of anything that had happened later. People in his journal talk and are given their characteristic gestures.

Boswell’s second London visit lasted from November 1762 to August 1763. Soon after his arrival, he was informed of the birth in Scotland of a son, Charles, for whom he arranged Anglican Baptism. The mother (Peggy Doig) was probably a servant. He met Oliver Goldsmith, the novelist, playwright, and poet, as well as John Wilkes, the radical politician and polemicist. And on May 16, 1763, in the back parlour of the actor and bookseller Thomas Davies, he secured an unexpected introduction to Samuel Johnson, whose works he admired and whom he had long been trying to meet. Johnson was rough with him, but Boswell kept his temper, went to call a week later, and found himself liked—a great friendship was initiated. Johnson was 53 years old when they met, Boswell 22. There was condescension on both sides on account of differences in rank and intelligence. Having become genuinely convinced that the scheme to join the guards was not practicable, Boswell capitulated to his father and consented to become a lawyer. It was agreed that he should spend a winter studying civil law at Utrecht and should then make a modest foreign tour.


Continental tour
In Holland Boswell befriended and unsuccessfully courted the novelist Isabella van Tuyll van Serooskerken (later called Isabelle de Charrière). He had been deeply affected by Johnson’s piety and on Christmas Day, in the ambassador’s chapel at The Hague, received communion for the first time in the Church of England. His pious program proved stimulating for a time but palled when it had lost its novelty. He received word that his little boy had died. In the depression that ensued he had recurring nightmares of being hanged. He was discouraged to find that dissipation brought him more happiness than chastity and hard work, and he soon lapsed into his former promiscuity.

From Utrecht, Boswell traveled to Berlin in the company of the old Jacobite Earl Marischal, friend and counselor of Frederick the Great, but he was never able to meet the king. Passing through Switzerland (December 1764), he secured interviews with both Jean-Jacques Rousseau and Voltaire. Boswell stayed nine months in Italy, devoting himself systematically to sightseeing. At Naples he established an intimacy with Wilkes (then outlawed) and traveled with Lord Mountstuart, eldest son of the earl of Bute, the chief target of Wilkes’s scurrilities.

The most original act of his life followed when he made a six weeks’ tour of the island of Corsica (autumn 1765) to interview the heroic Corsican chieftain Pasquale de Paoli, then engaged in establishing his country’s independence of Genoa. Paoli succumbed to his charm and became his lifelong friend. On his return to the mainland, Boswell sent off paragraphs to the newspapers, mingling facts with fantastic political speculation.


Scottish lawyer and laird
Back in Scotland, Boswell was admitted to the Faculty of Advocates on July 26, 1766, and for 17 years practiced law at Edinburgh with complete regularity and a fair degree of assiduity. His cherished trips to London were by no means annual and until 1784 were always made during the vacations. He was an able courtroom lawyer, especially in criminal cases, but in Scotland neither fortune nor fame could be won in the criminal court.

In February 1768 Boswell published An Account of Corsica, The Journal of a Tour to That Island; and Memoirs of Pascal Paoli and stepped into fame. France had unmasked its intention of annexing the island, and people were greedy for information about Corsica and Paoli. Motives of propaganda caused him to present himself in the book as completely naive and to cut the tour to a mere frame for the memoirs of Paoli, but the result is still pleasing. Paoli, probably wisely, is presented in a manner reminiscent of that which the ancient Greek biographer Plutarch employed in his lives of great men.

Between 1766 and 1769 Boswell amused himself with various well-hedged schemes of marriage, maintaining meantime a liaison with a young Mrs. Dodds. Their daughter, Sally, like Charles, seems to have died in infancy. Boswell ended by marrying (November 1769) his first cousin, Margaret Montgomerie.

During the first few years of his marriage, Boswell was on the whole happy, hard-working, faithful to his wife, and confident of getting a seat in Parliament, a good post in the government, or at the very least a Scots judgeship. Paoli visited him in Scotland in 1771; in 1773 he was elected to The Club, the brilliant circle that Sir Joshua Reynolds had formed around Dr. Johnson; and later in the year Johnson made with him the famous tour of the Hebrides. He ultimately had five healthy and promising children. He was made an examiner of the Faculty of Advocates and one of the curators of the Advocates’ Library; he served twice as master of the Canongate Kilwinning Lodge of Masons and declined nomination for the grand mastership of Scotland. But by 1776 he began to feel strong intimations of failure. A headlong entry into Ayrshire politics had ranged him in opposition to Henry Dundas, who was then emerging as a political despot in the management of the Scottish elections. His practice was not becoming more notable. He began to drink heavily to replenish his spirits, not, as formerly, to give them vent. He returned to his old traffic with women of the town when separated from his wife by distance, by her pregnancy, or by her frequent complaints. As early as 1778 it was obvious that she was critically ill with tuberculosis.

Between 1777 and 1783 Boswell published in The London Magazine a series of 70 essays, significantly entitled The Hypochondriack, which deserve to be better known, though they do not engage his full powers. At the end of 1783, in the hope of attracting the attention of William Pitt’s new government, he published a pamphlet attacking the East India Bill that had been introduced by Charles James Fox, Pitt’s great rival. Pitt sent a note of thanks but made no move to employ him. Boswell succeeded to Auchinleck in 1782 and managed his estate with attention and some shrewdness. But he thought he could be happy only in London and encouraged himself in the groundless notion that he could be more successful at the English than at the Scottish bar.


Life of Johnson and London
Johnson died on December 13, 1784. Boswell decided to take his time in writing the Life but to publish his journal of the Hebridean tour as a first installment. In the spring of 1785 he went to London to prepare the work for the press. The Journal of a Tour to the Hebrides, with Samuel Johnson, LL.D. (1785) tops all the others published later. It comes from the soundest and happiest period of Boswell’s life, the narrative of the tour is interesting in itself, and it provides us with 101 consecutive days with Johnson. The book was a best-seller, but it provoked the scornful charge of personal fatuity that has dogged Boswell’s name ever since. His intelligence was not really in question. But he deliberately defied the basic literary rule that no author who wishes respect as a man may publish his own follies without suggesting compensatory strengths of character. Boswell analyzed and recorded his own vanity and weakness with the objectivity of a historian, and in his Johnsonian scenes he ruthlessly subordinated his own personality, reporting the blows that Johnson occasionally gave him without constantly reassuring the reader that he understood the implications of what he had written.

In 1786 Boswell was called to the English bar from the Inner Temple and moved his family to London. Thereafter he had almost no legal practice. His principal business was the writing of the Life of Johnson, which he worked at irregularly but with anxious attention.

Though straitened in income, Boswell gave his children expensive educations. He visited Edinburgh only once after his emigration and then almost surreptitiously. His wife pined for Auchinleck and insisted on being taken there when her health grew desperate. Boswell felt that he had to be in London in order to finish the Life and to be at the call of the earl of Lonsdale, who had given him unexpected encouragement and caused him to be elected recorder of Carlisle. When his wife died (June 4, 1789), he was not at her side; and when he tried to detach himself from Lonsdale, he was treated with shocking brutality.

The Life of Samuel Johnson, LL.D. was published in two volumes on May 16, 1791. Contemporary criticism set the pattern of acclaim for the work and derision for its author. Boswell took intense pleasure in his literary fame but felt himself to be a failure. His later years were prevailingly unhappy. His eccentricities of manner seemed merely self-indulgent in a man of 50 or more: people were afraid to talk freely in his presence, fearing that their talk would be reported, and his habit of getting drunk and noisy at other people’s tables (he was never a solitary drinker) made him a difficult guest in any case. His five children, however, loved him deeply, and he never lost the solicitous affection of a few friends, including the great Shakespeare editor Edmund Malone, who had encouraged him in his writing of the Life of Johnson. Boswell saw the second edition of the Life through the press (July 1793) and was at work on the third when he died in 1795.
 

 

 


Edward Gibbon



born May 8 [April 27, old style], 1737, Putney, Surrey, Eng.
died Jan. 16, 1794, London

English rationalist historian and scholar best known as the author of The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire (1776–88), a continuous narrative from the 2nd century ad to the fall of Constantinople in 1453.

Life.
Gibbon’s grandfather, Edward, had made a considerable fortune and his father, also Edward, was able to live an easygoing life in society and Parliament. He married Judith, a daughter of James Porten, whose family had originated in Germany. Edward, too, had independent means throughout his life. He was the eldest and the only survivor of seven children, the rest dying in infancy.

Gibbon’s own childhood was a series of illnesses and more than once he nearly died. Neglected by his mother, he owed his life to her sister, Catherine Porten, whom he also called “the mother of his mind,” and after his mother’s death in 1747 he was almost entirely in his aunt’s care. He early became an omnivorous reader and could indulge his tastes the more fully since his schooling was most irregular. He attended a day school in Putney and, in 1746, Kingston grammar school, where he was to note in his Memoirs “at the expense of many tears and some blood, [he] purchased a knowledge of Latin syntax.” In 1749 he was admitted to Westminster School. He was taken in 1750 to Bath and Winchester in search of health and after an unsuccessful attempt to return to Westminster was placed for the next two years with tutors from whom he learned little. His father took him on visits to country houses where he had the run of libraries filled with old folios. He noted his 12th year as one of great intellectual development and says in his Memoirs that he had early discovered his “proper food,” history. By his 14th year he had already covered the main fields of his subsequent masterpiece, applying his mind as well to difficult problems of chronology. The keynote of these early years of study was self-sufficiency. Apart from his aunt’s initial guidance, Gibbon followed his intellectual bent in solitary independence. This characteristic remained with him throughout his life. His great work was composed without consulting other scholars and is impressed with the seal of his unique personality.

In his Memoirs Gibbon remarked that with the onset of puberty his health suddenly improved and remained excellent throughout his life. Never a strong or active man, he was of diminutive stature and very slightly built and he became corpulent in later years. The improvement in his health apparently accounts for his father’s sudden decision to enter him at Magdalen College, Oxford, on April 3, 1752, about three weeks before his 15th birthday. He was now privileged and independent. Any expectations of study at Oxford were soon disappointed. The authorities failed to look after him intellectually or spiritually or even to note his absences from the college. Left to himself, Gibbon turned to theology and read himself into the Roman Catholic faith. It was a purely intellectual conversion. Yet he acted on it and was received into the Roman Catholic Church by a priest in London on June 8, 1753.

His father, outraged because under the existing laws his son had disqualified himself for all public service and office, acted swiftly, and Edward was dispatched to Lausanne and lodged with a Calvinist minister, the Rev. Daniel Pavillard. Though the change was complete, and Gibbon was under strict surveillance, in great discomfort, and with the scantiest allowance, he later spoke of this period with gratitude. To Pavillard he owed kindly and competent instruction and the formation of regular habits of study. He mastered the bulk of classical Latin literature and studied mathematics and logic. He also became perfectly conversant with the language and literature of France, which exercised a permanent influence on him. These studies made him not only a man of considerable learning but a stylist for life. He began his first work, written in French, Essai sur l’étude de la littérature (1761; An Essay on the Study of Literature, 1764). Meanwhile, the main purpose of his exile had not been neglected. Not without weighty thought, Gibbon at last abjured his new faith and was publicly readmitted to the Protestant communion at Christmas 1754. “It was here,” Gibbon says somewhat ambiguously, “that I suspended my religious enquiries, acquiescing with implicit belief in the tenets and mysteries which are adopted by the general consent of Catholics and Protestants.”

In the latter part of his exile Gibbon entered more freely into Lausanne society. He attended Voltaire’s parties. He formed an enduring friendship with a young Swiss, Georges Deyverdun, and also fell in love with and rashly plighted himself to Suzanne Curchod, a pastor’s daughter of great charm and intelligence. In 1758 his father called Gibbon home shortly before his 21st birthday and settled an annuity of £300 on him. On the other hand, he found that his father and his stepmother were implacably opposed to his engagement, and he was compelled to break it off. (“I sighed as a lover, I obeyed as a son.”) He never again thought seriously of marriage. After a natural estrangement he and Curchod became lifelong friends. She was well known as the wife of Jacques Necker, the French finance minister under Louis XVI. During the next five years Gibbon read widely and considered many possible subjects for a historical composition. From 1760 until the end of 1762, his studies were seriously interrupted by his service on home defense duties with the Hampshire militia. With the rank of captain he did his duty conscientiously and later claimed that his experience of men and camps had been useful to him as a historian.

Gibbon left England on Jan. 25, 1763, and spent some time in Paris, making the acquaintance of several Philosophes, Denis Diderot and Jean Le Rond d’Alembert among others. During the autumn and winter spent in study and gaiety at Lausanne, he gained a valuable friend in John Baker Holroyd (later Lord Sheffield), who was to become his literary executor. In 1764 Gibbon went to Rome, where he made an exhaustive study of the antiquities and, on Oct. 15, 1764, while musing amid the ruins of the Capitol, was inspired to write of the decline and fall of the city. Some time was yet to pass before he decided on the history of the empire.

At home, the next five years were the least satisfactory in Gibbon’s life. He was dependent on his father and although nearly 30 had achieved little in life. Although bent on writing a history, he had not settled on a definite subject. Impressed by the supremacy of French culture in Europe, he began in that language a history of the liberty of the Swiss, but was dissuaded from continuing it. He and Deyverdun published two volumes of Mémoires littéraires de la Grande Bretagne (1768–69). In 1770 he sought to attract some attention by publishing Critical Observations on the Sixth Book of the Aeneid.

His father died intestate in 1770. After two years of tiresome business, Gibbon was established in Bentinck Street, London, and concentrated on his Roman history. At the same time he entered fully into social life. He joined the fashionable clubs and was also becoming known among men of letters. In 1775 he was elected to the Club, the brilliant circle that the painter Sir Joshua Reynolds had formed round the writer and lexicographer Dr. Samuel Johnson. Although Johnson’s biographer, James Boswell, openly detested Gibbon, and it may be inferred that Johnson disliked him, Gibbon took an active part in the Club and became intimate with Reynolds and the actor David Garrick. In the previous year he had entered Parliament and was an assiduous, though silent, supporter of Lord North.

The “Decline and Fall.” The first quarto volume of his history, published on Feb. 17, 1776, immediately scored a success that was resounding, if somewhat scandalous because of the last two chapters in which he dealt with great irony with the rise of Christianity. Reactions to Gibbon’s treatment of Christianity have displayed various phases. Both in his lifetime and after, he was attacked and personally ridiculed by those who feared that his skepticism would shake the existing establishment. In the 19th century he was hailed as a champion by militant agnostics. Gibbon himself was not militant. He did not cry with Voltaire, “Écrasez l’Infâme!” (“Crush the Infamy!”) because in his England and Switzerland he saw no danger in the ecclesiastical systems. His concern was past history. One may say, however, with confidence, that he had no belief in a divine revelation and little sympathy with those who had such a belief. While he treated the supernatural with irony, his main purpose was to establish the principle that religions must be treated as phenomena of human experience. In this his successors have followed him and added to the collateral causes of Christianity’s growth those that he had overlooked or could not know of, such as the various mystery religions of the empire and particularly the Mithraic cult. Although Gibbon’s best known treatment of Christianity is found mainly in the 15th and 16th chapters, no less significant are later chapters in which he traced the developments of theology and ecclesiasticism in relation to the breakup of the empire.

Gibbon went on to prepare the next volumes. Meanwhile, he was assailed by many pamphleteers and subjected to much ridicule. His ugliness and elaborate clothes made him an easy target. For the most part he ignored his critics. The historians David Hume and William Robertson recognized him as their equal if not their superior. Only to those who had accused him of falsifying his evidence did he make a devastating reply in A Vindication of Some Passages in the Fifteenth and Sixteenth Chapters of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire (1779).

In the same year he obtained a valuable sinecure as a commissioner of trade and plantations. Shortly after that he composed Mémoire justificatif (1779; a French and English version, 1780), a masterly state paper in reply to continental criticism of the British government’s policy in America. In 1781 he published the second and third volumes of his history, bringing the narrative down to the end of the empire in the West. Gibbon paused at this point to consider continuing his history. In 1782, however, Lord North’s government fell, and soon Gibbon’s commission was abolished. This was a serious loss of income. To economize he left England and joined Deyverdun in a house at Lausanne. There he quietly completed his history in three more volumes, writing the last lines of it on June 27, 1787. He soon returned to England with the manuscript, and these volumes were published on his 51st birthday, May 8, 1788. The completion of this great work was acclaimed on all sides.

The Decline and Fall is thus comprised of two divisions, equal in bulk but inevitably different in treatment. The first half covers a period of about 300 years to the end of the empire in the West, about ad 480. In the second half nearly 1,000 years are compressed. Yet the work is a coherent whole by virtue of its conception of the Roman Empire as a single entity throughout its long and diversified course. Gibbon imposed a further unity on his narrative by viewing it as an undeviating decline from those ideals of political and, even more, intellectual freedom that he had found in classical literature. The material decay that had inspired him in Rome was the effect and symbol of moral decadence. However well this attitude suited the history of the West, its continuance constitutes the most serious defect of the second half of Gibbon’s history and involved him in obvious contradictions. He asserted, for example, that the long story of empire in the East is one of continuous decay, yet for 1,000 years Constantinople stood as a bulwark of eastern Europe. The fact is that Gibbon was not only out of sympathy with Byzantine civilization; he was less at home with Greek sources than with Latin and had no access to vast stores of material in other languages that subsequent scholars have assembled. Consequently there are serious omissions in his narrative, as well as unsatisfactory summaries.

Nevertheless, this second half contains much of Gibbon’s best. With all its shortcomings, it marshals with masterly lucidity the successive forces that eventually overthrew Constantinople. Many of his most famous chapters occur there. These include sections on Justinian, the Trinitarian controversies, the rise of Islām, and the history of Roman law. There is, in addition, a brilliant and moving story of the last siege and capture of Constantinople and, finally, the epilogue of chapters describing medieval and Renaissance Rome, which gives some hope that the long decline is over and that mankind has some prospect of recovering intellectual freedom. The vindication of intellectual freedom is a large part of Gibbon’s purpose as a historian. When toward the end of his work he remarks, “I have described the triumph of barbarism and religion,” he reveals epigrammatically his view of the causes of the decay of the Greco-Roman world. They can hardly be disputed. But there is the further question of whether the changes brought about are to be regarded as ones of progress or retrogression. Writing as a mid-18th-century “philosopher,” Gibbon saw the process as retrogression, and his judgment remains of perpetual interest.

Returning to Lausanne, Gibbon turned mainly to writing his memoirs. His happiness was broken first by Deyverdun’s death in 1789, quickly followed by the outbreak of the French Revolution and the subsequent apprehension of an invasion of Switzerland. He had now become very fat and his health was declining. In 1793 he suddenly returned to England on hearing of Lady Sheffield’s death. The journey aggravated his ailments, and he died in a house in St. James’s Street, London. His remains were placed in Lord Sheffield’s family vault in Fletching Church, Sussex.


Assessment.
Modern knowledge of history, in Gibbon’s field alone, has increased conspicuously. Economic, social, and constitutional history have grown up. The study of coins, inscriptions, and archaeology generally has brought in a great harvest. Above all, the scientific examination of literary sources, so rigorously practiced now, was unknown to Gibbon. Yet he often exhibits a flair and an acumen that seem to anticipate these systematic studies. He had genius in large measure, as well as untiring industry and accuracy in consulting his sources. Though he was unsympathetic to Christianity, his sense of fairness and probity made him respectful of honest opinion and true devotion, even among those with whom he disagreed. These qualities, expressed with his command of historical perspective and his incomparable literary style, justify a modern historian’s dictum that “whatever else is read Gibbon must be read too,” or the conclusion of the great Cambridge historian J.B. Bury:

That Gibbon is behind date in many details and in some departments of importance, simply signifies that we and our fathers have not lived in an absolutely incompetent world. But in the main things he is still our master above and beyond “date.”

David Morrice Low
 

 

  
APPENDIX
 


George Berkeley
 

I. "An Essay Towards a New Theory of Vision"

II.
"THREE DIALOGUES BETWEEN HYLAS AND PHILONOUS, IN OPPOSITION TO SCEPTICS AND ATHEISTS"





Irish philosopher

born March 12, 1685, near Dysert Castle, near Thomastown?, County Kilkenny, Ire.
died Jan. 14, 1753, Oxford

Main
Anglo-Irish Anglican bishop, philosopher, and scientist, best known for his Empiricist philosophy, which holds that everything save the spiritual exists only insofar as it is perceived by the senses.

Early life and works.
Berkeley was the eldest son of William Berkeley, described as a “gentleman” in George’s matriculation entry, and as a commissioned officer, a cornet of dragoons, in the entry of a younger brother. Brought up at Dysert Castle, Berkeley entered Kilkenny College in 1696 and Trinity College, Dublin, in 1700, where he was graduated with a B.A. degree in 1704. While awaiting a fellowship vacancy, he made a critical study of time, vision, and the hypothesis that there is no material substance. The principal influences upon his thinking were Empiricism, represented by the English philosopher John Locke, and Continental Skepticism, represented by Nicolas Malebranche and Pierre Bayle. His first publication, Arithmetica and Miscellanea Mathematica (published together in 1707), was probably a fellowship thesis.

Elected fellow of Trinity College in 1707, Berkeley began to “examine and revise” his “first arguings” in his revision notebooks. The revision was drastic and its results revolutionary. His old principle was largely superseded by his new principle; i.e., his original line of argument for immaterialism, based on the subjectivity of colour, taste, and the other sensible qualities, was replaced by a simple, profound analysis of the meaning of “to be” or “to exist.” “To be,” said of the object, means to be perceived; “to be,” said of the subject, means to perceive.

Berkeley called attention to the whole situation that exists when a person perceives something, or imagines it. He argued that, when a person imagines trees or books “and no body by to perceive them,” he is failing to appreciate the whole situation: he is “omitting” the perceiver, for imagined trees or books are necessarily imagined as perceivable. The situation for him is a two-term relation of perceiver and perceived; there is no third term; there is no “idea of ” the object, coming between perceiver and perceived.

The revision was a gradual development. At the start Berkeley held that nothing exists but “conscious things.” “On second thoughts,” he was certain of the existence of bodies and knew intuitively “the existence of other things besides ourselves.” His expressions, “in the mind” and “without the mind,” must be understood accordingly. As he wrote in his notebook, heat and colour (which philosophers had classed as secondary qualities because of their supposed subjectivity) are “as much without the mind” as figure and motion (classed as primary qualities) or as time; for both primary and secondary qualities are so in the mind as to be in the thing, and are so in the thing as to be in the mind. The mind does not become red, blue, or extended when those qualities are in it; they are not modes or attributes of mind. Colour and extension are not mental qualities for Berkeley: colour can be seen, and extension can be touched; they are “sensible ideas,” or sense-data, the direct objects of percipient mind.

Berkeley accepted possible perception as well as actual perception; i.e., he accepted the existence of what a person is not actually perceiving but might perceive if he took the appropriate steps. The opposite view was held by some philosophers, including Materialists, who (in Berkeley’s words) “are by their own principles forced” to accept it. They are forced to accept that objects actually seen and touched have only an intermittent existence, that they come into existence when perceived and pass into nothingness when no longer perceived. Berkeley treated those views with respect; he denied that they are absurd; but he did not hold them, and he explicitly denied that they follow from his principles. In effect he said to his readers, “You may hold, if you will, that objects of sense have only an ‘in-and-out’ existence, that they are created and annihilated with every turn of man’s attention; but do not father those views on me. I do not hold them.” In his notebook he wrote, “Existence is percipi or percipere. The horse is in the stable, the Books are in the study as before.” Horse and books, when not being actually perceived by man, are still there, still perceivable “still with relation to perception.” To a nonphilosophical friend Berkeley wrote, “I question not the existence of anything that we perceive by our senses.”

Berkeley’s immaterialism is open to “gross misinterpretation,” as he said in his preface; rightly understood, it is common sense. Like most people, he accepted and built on “two heads,” “two kinds entirely distinct and heterogeneous”: (1) active mind or spirit, perceiving, thinking, and willing; and (2) passive objects of mind, viz., sensible ideas (sense-data) or imaginable ideas.


Period of his major works.
Berkeley’s golden period of authorship followed the revision. In An Essay Towards a New Theory of Vision (1709), he examined visual distance, magnitude, position, and problems of sight and touch, and concluded that “the proper (or real) objects of sight” are not without the mind, though “the contrary be supposed true of tangible objects.” In his Treatise Concerning the Principles of Human Knowledge, Part I (1710), he brought all objects of sense, including tangibles, within the mind; he rejected material substance, material causes, and abstract general ideas; he affirmed spiritual substance; and he answered many objections to his theory and drew the consequences, theological and epistemological. His Three Dialogues between Hylas and Philonous (1713), by its attractive literary form and its avoidance of technicalities, reinforced the main argument of the Principles; the two books speak with one voice about immaterialism.

Berkeley was made a deacon in 1709 and ordained a priest in 1710. He held his fellowship for 17 years, acting as librarian (1709), junior dean (1710–11), and tutor and lecturer in divinity, Greek, and Hebrew.

In politics Berkeley was a Hanoverian Tory, and he defended the ethics of that position in three sermons, published as Passive Obedience (1712). Thus, with four major books in five years, the foundations of his fame were laid; and, when he first left Ireland in 1713 on a leave of absence, he was already a man of mark in the learned world; his books were reviewed on the Continent, and Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz, the wide-ranging author of the Monadology, knew of his immaterialism and commented upon it.

Among the London wits he was an immediate success. Jonathan Swift, dean of St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Dublin, presented him at court. For Sir Richard Steele, an essayist, he wrote essays in The Guardian against the freethinkers. He was in the theatre with Joseph Addison, essayist and poet, on the first night of Cato and has left a spirited description of the experience. Alexander Pope credited him with “ev’ry virtue under heav’n.” In 1713–14 he went on an embassy to Sicily as chaplain with Charles Mordaunt, 3rd earl of Peterborough, whom Berkeley called an “ambassador extraordinary.” In 1715 during the Jacobite rebellion (on behalf of the exiled Stuarts) he proved his loyalty by publishing his Advice to the Tories Who Have Taken the Oaths. He was abroad again from 1716 to 1720 in Italy, acting as tutor to George Ashe, son of the Bishop of Clogher (later, of Derry); his four travel diaries give vivid pictures of sightseeing in Rome and of tours in southern Italy. On his return he published his De motu (1721), which rejected Sir Isaac Newton’s absolute space, time, and motion, gave a veiled hint of his immaterialism, and has recently earned him the title “precursor of Mach and Einstein.”

Resuming his work in Dublin, he took a full part in teaching and administration for more than three years. In 1724 he was appointed dean of Derry, and his 24 years’ connection with Trinity College ended.

His American venture and ensuing years. The deanery and legacy from Hester van Homrigh (Swift’s Vanessa) were seen by Berkeley as providences, furthering his “scheme of Bermuda,” in the New World. The frenzied speculation that preceded the bursting of the South Sea Bubble had shaken his faith in the Old World, and he looked in hope to the New. His Essay Towards preventing the Ruin of Great-Britain (1721) was soon succeeded by his prophetic verses on “Westward the course of empire takes its way.” Already by 1722 he had resolved to build a college in Bermuda for the education of young Americans (Indians), publishing the plan in A Proposal For the better Supplying of Churches . . . (1724). The scheme caught the public imagination; the King granted a charter; the Archbishop of Canterbury acted as trustee; subscriptions poured in; and Parliament passed a contingent grant of £20,000. But there was opposition; an alternative charity for Georgia was mooted; and the prime minister, Sir Robert Walpole, hesitated.

In 1728 Berkeley married Anne, daughter of Chief Justice Forster, a talented and well-educated woman, who defended her husband’s philosophy after his death. Soon after the wedding, they sailed for America, settling at Newport, R.I., where Berkeley bought land, built a house (Whitehall), and waited. Berkeley preached often in Newport and its neighbourhood, and a philosophical study group met at Whitehall. Eventually, word came that the grant would not be paid, and Berkeley returned to London in October 1731. Several American universities, Yale in particular, benefitted by Berkeley’s visit; and his correspondence with Samuel Johnson, later president of King’s College (Columbia University), is of philosophical importance.

Alciphron; or, The Minute Philosopher (1732) was written at Newport, and the setting of the dialogues reflects local scenes and scenery. It is a massive defense of theism and Christianity with attacks on deists and freethinkers and discussions of visual language and analogical knowledge and of the functions of words in religious argument.

Upon his return to London in 1731, Berkeley’s pen, never idle for long, became active. A writer in the Daily Post-boy commended Alciphron but attacked the appended Essay on vision. Berkeley replied with The Theory of Vision, or Visual Language . . . Vindicated and Explained (1733). This fine work brought the metaphysics (theory of being) of the Essay into line with the Principles and added his doctrine of cause, admitting defects in the premises of the original Essay. Alciphron provoked replies from the satirist Bernard de Mandeville; John Hervey, Baron Hervey of Ickworth; the statesman Henry St. John, 1st Viscount Bolingbroke; and Peter Browne, Berkeley’s former teacher and provost. To Browne, Berkeley sent a long, private letter on analogy—first published in Mind (July 1969)—which constitutes an important supplement to his 4th dialogue.

In 1734 Berkeley published The Analyst; or, a Discourse Addressed to an Infidel Mathematician, which Florian Cajori, a historian of mathematics, has called “the most spectacular event of the century in the history of British mathematics.” Besides being a contribution to mathematics, it was an argument ad hominem for religion. “He who can digest a second or third fluxion,” wrote Berkeley, “need not, methinks, be squeamish about any point in divinity.” A long and fruitful controversy followed. James Jurin, a Cambridge physician and scientist, John Walton of Dublin, and Colin Maclaurin, a Scottish mathematician, took part. Berkeley answered Jurin in his lively satire A Defence of Free-Thinking in Mathematics (1735) and answered Walton in an appendix to that work and again in his Reasons For Not Replying (1735).


Years as bishop of Cloyne.
Berkeley was consecrated as bishop of Cloyne in Dublin in 1734. He found Trinity College flourishing: its new library was completed, and John Stearne’s Doric printing house was being built. To the latter, Berkeley contributed a font of Greek type and also founded the Berkeley gold medal for Greek. His episcopate, as such, was uneventful. He took a seat in the Irish House of Lords in 1737 and, while in Dublin, published A Discourse Addressed to Magistrates and Men in Authority (1738), condemning the Blasters whose Hell-Fire Club, now in ruins, still can be seen near Dublin.

The see-house at Cloyne was a cultured home and a social centre and, during epidemics, a dispensary. On arrival, the family consisted of his wife and two sons; and two more sons and two daughters were born at Cloyne.

In 1745 Berkeley addressed open letters to his clergy and to the Roman Catholics of his diocese about the Stuart uprising. In letters to the press over his own name or through a friend, he expressed himself on several public questions, political, social, and scientific. Two major works stand out, The Querist and Siris. The Querist, published in three parts from 1735 to 1737, deals with basic economics—credit, demand, industry, and “the true idea of money”—and with special problems, such as banking, currency, luxury, and the wool trade. The final query puts the central question, “Whose fault is it if poor Ireland still continues poor?”

Siris (1744) passed through some six editions in six months. It is at once a treatise on the medicinal virtues of tar-water, its making and dosage, and a philosopher’s vision of a chain of being, “a gradual evolution or ascent” from the world of sense to “the mind, her acts and faculties” and, thence, to the supernatural and God, the three in one.

In August 1752, Berkeley commissioned his brother, Dr. Robert Berkeley, as vicar-general and arranged with the bishop of Cork as to his episcopal duties and, with his wife and his children George and Julia, went to Oxford and took a house in Holywell Street, where he resided until his death. He was buried in Christ Church Chapel.


Additional Reading
The definitive edition of the philosopher’s writings is The Works of George Berkeley, Bishop of Cloyne, 9 vol. (1948–57, reprinted in 3 vol., 1979). An informative bibliography is provided in A.A. Luce, The Life of George Berkeley, Bishop of Cloyne (1949, reprinted 1968). Other biographical studies include J.M. Hone and M.M. Rossi, Bishop Berkeley: His Life, Writings, and Philosophy (1931); John Wild, George Berkeley: A Study of His Life and Philosophy (1936, reissued 1962); and Edwin S. Gaustad, George Berkeley in America (1979). For broad analyses of Berkeley’s philosophy, see Jonathan Dancy, Berkeley, an Introduction (1987); G.A. Johnston, The Development of Berkeley’s Philosophy (1923, reprinted 1988); A.A. Luce, Berkeley and Malebranche: A Study in the Origins of Berkeley’s Thought (1934, reprinted 1988); Kenneth P. Winkler, Berkeley: An Interpretation (1989); Warren E. Steinkraus (ed.), New Studies in Berkeley’s Philosophy (1966, reprinted 1981); George Pitcher, Berkeley (1977, reprinted 1984); and C.B. Martin and D.M. Armstrong, Berkeley: A Collection of Critical Essays (1988). Special studies focusing on particular theories and arguments include D.M. Armstrong, Berkeley’s Theory of Vision (1960, reprinted 1988); I.C. Tipton, Berkeley: The Philosophy of Immaterialism (1974, reprinted 1988); Harry M. Bracken, The Early Reception of Berkeley’s Immaterialism, 1710–1733, rev. ed. (1965); A.A. Luce, Berkeley’s Immaterialism (1945, reprinted 1968), and The Dialectic of Immaterialism (1963); A.C. Grayling, Berkeley, the Central Arguments (1986); Stephen R.L. Clark (ed.), Money, Obedience, and Affection: Essays on Berkeley’s Moral and Political Thought (1989); and Willis Doney, Berkeley on Abstraction and Abstract Ideas (1989).

 

 

 


Samuel Clarke





English theologian and philosopher

born Oct. 11, 1675, Norwich, Norfolk, Eng.
died May 17, 1729, Leicestershire

Main
theologian, philosopher, and exponent of Newtonian physics, remembered for his influence on 18th-century English theology and philosophy.

In 1698 Clarke became a chaplain to the bishop of Norwich and in 1706 to Queen Anne. In 1704–05 he gave two sets of lectures, published as A Demonstration of the Being and Attributes of God (1705) and A Discourse Concerning the Unchangeable Obligations of Natural Religion (1706). In the first set he attempted to prove the existence of God by a method “as near to Mathematical, as the nature of such a Discourse would allow.” In the second he argued that the principles of morality are as certain as the propositions of mathematics and thus can be known by reason unassisted by faith, an approach sometimes called ethical rationalism. The criticism of religion by David Hume resulted in part from his dissatisfaction with Clarke’s effort to prove the existence of God. Clarke also spurred a vehement and prolonged controversy with his Scripture Doctrine of the Trinity (1712), which led many of his opponents to accuse him of Arianism, the belief that Christ is neither fully man nor fully God.

Clarke was a friend and disciple of Isaac Newton at the University of Cambridge and helped to spread Newton’s views. In 1697 he made a Latin translation of the physicist Jacques Rohault’s Traité de physique (1671; “Treatise on Physics”), adding numerous footnotes explaining Newton’s improvements on Rohault’s work. In 1706 he published a Latin translation of Newton’s Opticks. A correspondence of 1715–16 between Clarke and Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz, important for its defense of the reality of space and time, was published in 1717 and in several later editions. Clarke’s collected works were issued in four volumes in 1738–42.

 

 

 
 
 
 

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