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propriate field for the offices of the literary critic. It was so in the time of Aristotle and Horace, in classical letters, as with Lessing and Boileau in modern European letters. The critic seems, first of all, to be a critic of verse. It is, moreover, noteworthy that these three pioneers should have arisen together, and that each of them, as a university man, served to establish English criticism, in its beginnings, on a stable and scholarly basis. Of this notable trio, Sidney was not only the first one to prepare his treatise, but by far the first in the line of mental and literary competency, his "Apologie," as Morley has stated, "being the first piece of intellectual literary criticism in our language." It was specifically, as the name implies, a critical work on the defensive, a work in poetic apologetics, occasioned by what the author regarded as an unjust attack on poetry by Gorson in his "School of Abuse," dedicated, by way of banter, to Sidney himself. It was an attack, more directly, on dramatic poetry, then the dominant type, and on the stage itself. Gorson, however, later modified his views, in his "Apologie for the School of Abuse." He was the Jeremy Collier of the Golden Age.
As to the content of the "Apologie," suffice it to
say, the subject is presented in three primary sections. In the first, a general defense, he contends that poetry is the oldest of all compositions, that the poet is creator, and the best moral teacher among men. In the second section, he answers objections, among others, as to the uselessness, falseness, and immoral tendencies of poetry, insisting that Plato's banishment of it from his commonwealth had reference to its abuse only. In the third section the critic reviews the status of English poetry in his own day and the reasons for its decline, Shakespeare not yet having written. "Before I give my pen a full stop," he quaintly says, "I am to inquire why England, the mother of excellent minds, should be grown so hard a stepmother to poets." It is at the close of this portion that he breaks out in high eulogium of his native English, as he says, " For the uttering sweetly and properly the conceits of the mind, which is the end of speech, that hath it equally with any other tongue in the world." Ending in the line of pleasantry, he wishes the despisers of poetry no greater curse than that, when in love, they have no sonnet to celebrate it, and, when they die, no epitaph in verse to perpetuate their memory.
With the name of Sidney is always identified
that of Puttenham. The special occasion of his work, as that of Sidney's, was the low state of poetry in the earlier years of Elizabeth's reign. As Sidney, also, he divides his treatise into three books or sections. In the first he discusses, among other topics, what poetry is; insists that poets were the first priests, prophets, legislators, and philosophers; examines the causes of poetic decline; how poetry has been made the medium of praise and censure; and, in his mention of the most notable English poets, such as Chaucer, Langland, Wyatt, Surrey, and Sidney, selects Chaucer as the most renowned of all," and speaks of Sidney's and Spenser's special excellence in "pastoral poesie."
Of the second and third books, respectively, on Meter and Ornament, we need not speak in detail. It is thus clear that Puttenham and Sidney were engaged in the same great work of redeeming English poetry from the reproach into which it had fallen and placing it on a plane of deserved respect. Webbe's "Discourse of English Poetrie" was written with the same intent. To these three pioneers the names of two contemporaries greater than any one of them should be added. The one is Ben Jonson, "the great classic dramatist of the
English Renaissance," who "first clearly stated the chief principles of classic criticism, that the knowledge of law is as efficacious for the poet as for the critic." It is in his "Discoveries" that he discourses on such topics as the Criticism of Poets and Poetry, and Shakespeare, whose memory le honored "this side idolatry." His comments as a critic on style are well worth heeding to-day, that for a man to write well there are three necessities" to read the best authors, observe the best speakers, and exercise much his own style." In his "Conversations with Drummond," he reviews his contemporaries, Sidney, Spenser, and Shakespeare, and such foreign authors as Petrarch, Guarini, and Lucan.
The other name is Lord Bacon, who, especially in his "Essays" and "Advancement of Learning," renders invaluable critical service, "sketching the outlines of a criticism, liberal in spirit, philosophical and historic in method." The special significance of the work of Jonson and of Bacon is seen in the fact that they were critics on the side of prose and the first of this order in our literary history. These were the pioneers in Elizabethan criticism, deferent to the past in so far as it was helpful to the new science that they were estab
lishing and, yet, loyal enough to the spirit of the new era to present, at length, a body of critical canons suited to the new awakening in English letters. This is not to say that the first age of the critical art in England was of a brilliant order, but that, in its place and time, it marked a distinctive result along an untried line, definitely opened the history of English criticism, and made it possible for all later critics to carry on the
art to better issues.
THE AGE OF DRYDEN (1625-1702)
We are now brought, in historical order, to the second great era of English criticism, in which the central figure is Dryden. Although, on the principle of action and reaction in literature, the creative epoch of Bacon and Spenser would naturally be followed by an era of criticism, that part of the seventeenth century that lies between the death of Shakespeare (1616) and the restoration of Charles the Second (1660) was, in the main, a non-critical era, in so far as any substantive advance was made over the results already reached. In so far as literary criticism did exist, it marked a decline from established principles, and expressed itself either in the metaphysical