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sing of Truth and the Progress of Error, of Hope and Charity, of Conversation and Retirement. His themes and his method of handling them were not poetical, but they were not averse from the good sense with which he illustrated them, and which made readers for him among the serious classes of his countrymen. His didacticism was accepted for all it was worth. The writing of these poems confirmed Cowper in the literary habit, and revealed to him the natural direction of his talents. He cast them in the heroic couplet, which still maintained its ascendency in English Verse, though its most polished master had been dead nearly forty years, but with a force and freedom that would have startled the delicate sensibilities of Pope. He wrote all like a man, as Ben Jonson said of his poetic son Cartwright, but not like the man he was to prove himself in his next work. The Task, which was published in the year after the death of Dr. Johnson, placed him at once at the head of living English poets. A greater than he was singing, but his first volume was not published until a year later than The Task, when it stole into English Verse at Kilmarnock. The long and dreary reign of Pope and his followers, the reign of prose in the singing robes of poetry, was over when Cowper and Burns began to celebrate what they felt and what they saw-one pursuing a suggestion of Lady Austin, which led him from a sofa into the sober world of English thought and the charming world of English rural scenery, the other pursuing the inspiration of his own genius, which, while he followed the plough along the mountain side, led him into the canny world of Scottish wisdom and the stormy world of Scottish passion and indulgence. Long hidden from the priests who had thronged her sanctuary and offered her their empty lip service, the Muse revealed herself to Cowper and Burns, and the face which smiled upon them as she lifted her veil was the face of the Sovereign Mother. Lesser poetic voices in the last two decades of the eighteenth century were Erasmus Darwin, who mistook a Botanic Garden for Tempe and the vales of Arcady : Charlotte Smith and William Lisle Bowles, who prolonged their personal disappointments in indifferent sonnets : William Hayley, who placated the Triumphs of Temper: Samuel Rogers, who, walking in the steps of Akenside, sang The Pleasures of Memory ; Thomas Campbell, who, walking in the steps of Rogers, sang The Pleasures of Hope ; and Robert Bloom-. field, who, trying to walk in the steps of Cowper and Thomson, sang The Farmer's Boy.
Looking back along the literature of the eighteenth century we see that English Verse was largely cultivated therein, but we do not see that the harvest was ever abundant.
Looking upon it as we look upon the nineteenth century, or so much of the nineteenth century as lies behind us, and comparing the one with the other—the sterility of the reigns of Queen Anne and the first two Georges with the fertility of the reigns of the fourth George and Victoria-we are disposed to pity our ancestors and to congratulate ourselves. From whatever point of view we compare ourselves with them we are struck with our own superiority. Waiving our knowledge of the natural sciences, the most advanced branches of which were the merest empiricism in their day, and our proficiency in philology, the
nature and extent of which were scarcely suspected then ; and waiving, also, the perfection of our civilization, of which railways, and steamships, the electric telegraph and the telephone, are the material manifestations; waiving, in short, everything except literature, which depends less than any other intellectual pursuit upon the social condition of the people among whom it is cultivated—what relation, we ask, does the literature of the eighteenth century bear to the literature of the nineteenth century? Let us take one department thereof in which both centuries have produced acknowledged masters; a department which is least liable to change in that it concerns itself with what is least changeable in man-his passions—what did the eighteenth century offer its readers in the shape of prose fiction? Tracing back the succession of English novelists we pass the names of Sophia and Harriet Lee, Matthew Gregory Lewis, Charlotte Smith, Ann Radcliff, Frances Burney, and Henry Mackenzie. When we come to the name of Goldsmith we stop, and yawning over our early recollections of The Man of Feeling, Evelina, and The Mysteries of Udolpho, we take up The Vicar of Wakefield for the twentieth time, and find it as delightful as at the first reading. If we have a strong sense of humor, and are willing to follow it whithersoever it may lead, we can still be amused by Humphrey Clinker and Roderick Random, although they become rather tedious before we finish them. We enjoy portions of Tristram Shandy, but it is with a sort of protest, for we feel that we are being fooled with, and we resent the foolery. We try to read Richardson, but the more we try the less we read; for granting that all the fine things which have been said of him are true, they count for nothing with us, he is such a tiresome old prig. We forgive him, however, as we forgive Southey for writing his Vision of Judgment, for without that we should not have had Byron's Vision of Judgment, as without Pamela we should not have had Joseph Andrews. Fielding is the only eighteenth century novelist whom it is possible to read with pleasure and profit now—with the pleasure that we always receive from masterly delineations of character, and the profit that we always receive from contemporary delineations of manners. We feel that we can trust him as we trust Shakespeare, for though we may never have met them or their kind before, the moment his personages appear they authenticate themselves. Byron summed up the world's verdict upon Fielding when he called him the Prose Homer of human nature. Thirty years before Fielding wrote Tom Jones, a much-writing Englishman, a Dissenter, who had been a hosier in Cornhill, a traitor with Monmouth, a trader in Spain and Portugal, a financial projector, and a political pamphleteer, and who had stood in the Pillory, as Pope took care to inform his polite readers - this restless, adventurous spirit, weary at last of persecutions and arrests, sat down in retirement, at the age of fifty-eight, with a wife and six children, and penned The Life and Surprising Adventures of Robinson Crusoe, of York, Mariner. Like nothing that had ever been written before, it was read with avidity by the common English people, who had not the least suspicion that they were reading fiction. It was so simple and natural indeed, so circumstantial in its enumeration of details, and so thorough in its narration of incidents that it could not have been invented. There was the same air of verisimilitude in The Life and Piracies of Captain Singleton, Moll Flanders, and the Life and Adventures of Colonel Jack, which followed at intervals of a year each, and in The Memoirs of a Cavalier, Roxana, and The Life of Captain Carleton. The literary art of De Foe was so perfect that it deceived Dr. Johnson, who believed the last of these fictions to be a genuine contribution to history. Such, in brief, was English fiction in the eighteenth century, and, think as kindly of it as we may, we must confess that it was not worthy of the genius of the English people. There was something in the condition of that people during the greater portion of that century, which was not favorable to the exercise and development of their nobler qualities, which obstructed the operations of the mind, checked the excursions of the imagination, and suspended if it did not destroy the creative energy. They proved their patriotism by winning victories for Churchill in the Low Countries, and for Walpole in the House of Commons. They set up an idol they called Loyalty-an insular Janus of Church and State, which high and low alike worshipped. The Church upheld the State, and the State upheld the Church, and between the two the subject went to the wall. Authority demanded submission, and if it were refused enforced it. But it was not often refused, for the Englishman of the eighteenth century knew his place. He was Master, or he was