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b. 1506. d. 1582.
George Buchanan, less deeply immersed in the vor
tex of the times, and enjoying, in more than one stage of his life, the benefits of academical seclusion, found time to earn for himself a fame which can never be lost, unless the revival of learning in Europe should be followed by a total loss of all preceding memorials of civilisation. He is admitted, by those who most keenly dislike his ecclesiastical and political opinions, to have been not only a man of eminent and versatile genius, but one of the finest and most correct classical scholars that ever appeared in Christendom. There have been Latinists more deeply versed in the philosophy of the language, and others more widely informed in the knowledge to which it is the clue; but hardly, perhaps, has there been, since the fall of Rome, any one who has written Latin with an excellence so complete and uniform. The chief of his Prose Works are his History of Scotland, and his Treatise on the Constitution of the Kingdom. The former, certainly the work of a partisan, is nevertheless historically important; the latter is remarkable for the manly independence of its opinions: and both of them tell their tale with an antique dignity and purity, which the Roman tongue has seldom been made to wear by a modern pen. The merit of his Latin Poems is yet higher. They are justly declared to unite, more than
other compositions of their kind, originality of matter with classic elegance of style. The most famous of them is his Translation of the Psalms; besides which, the list includes satires, didactic verses, and lyrics, one of these being the exquisite Ode on the month of May.
After the great name of Buchanan, a poor show is made by that of Bishop Lesley, the friend and defender of the unfortunate and misguided queen : yet he, too, was no mean scholar, and no bad Latin writer. Much more learned, probably, was Ninian Winzet, another advocate of the old creed, who had to seek refuge in the southern regions of the continent. A scholar more distinguished than either of them withdrew himself very soon from innovation and turmoil, and closed his days peacefully as a teacher in France. This was Florence Wilson, who translates his name into Volusenus in the Latin treatise, “On Tranquillity of Mind,” which has preserved his name with high honour among those who take interest in classical studies.
In closing our separate record of northern literature, we must go forward a little to notice, as having been really eminent both for scholarship and talent, the energetic and restless Andrew Mel. ville, the founder of the Presbyterian polity of the Scottish Church.
We must also mark how, the University of Saint Andrews having been established first of all, the other academical institutions of the country arose before the close of the sixteenth century. That of Glasgow dates from 1450; King's College in Aberdeen, from 1494 ; the University of Edinburgh was founded by King James in 1582, and Marischal College of Aberdeen in 1593. Still more important, perhaps, was the foundation which was now laid for a system of popular education in Scotland. There had long been, in the towns, grammar-schools where Latin was taught. The establishment of schools throughout the country was proposed by the Reformed clergy in 1560, the
very year in which Parliament sanctioned the Reformation; and the principle was again laid down, a few years later, in the Second Book of Discipline. A considerable number of parochial schools were founded before King James's removal to England; and the setting down of a school in each parish, if it were possible, was ordered for the first time by an Act of the Privy Council
, issued in 1616, and ratified by Parliament in 1633.
THE AGE OF SPENSER, SHAKSPEARE, BACON, AND MILTON.
INTRODUCTION. 1. The Early Years of Elizabeth's Reign-Summary of their Litera
ture.-2. Literary Greatness of the next Eighty Years-Division into Four Eras.REIGN OF ELIZABETH FROM 1580. 3. Social Character of the Time-Its Religious Aspect-Effects on Literature.-4.--Minor Elizabethan Writers-Their Literary Importance—The Three Great Names.-5. The Poetry of Spenser and ShakspeareThe Eloquence of Hooker.-REIGN OF JAMES. 6. Its Social and Literary Character -Distinguished Names-Bacon—Theologians-Poets.—The Two FOLLOWING ERAS. 7. Political and Ecclesiastical Changes-Effects on Thinking-Effects on PoetryMilton's Youth.-8. Moral Aspect of the Time-Effects on Literature.—REIGN OF CHARLES. 9. Literary Events-Poetry-Eloquence—Theologians–Erudition.—THE COMMONWEALTH AND PROTECTORATE.-10. Literary Events--Poetry CheckedModern Symptoms-Philosophy-Hobbes-- Theology-Hall, Taylor, and Baxter.11. Eloquence-Milton's Prose Works— Modern Symptoms--Style of the Old English Prose Writers.
INTRODUCTION. 1. The era which is now to open on our view, is the most brilliant in the literary history of England. Thought, and imagination, and eloquence, combine to illuminate it with their most • dazzling light; its literature assumes the most various forms, and expatiates over the most distant regions of speculation and invention; and its intellectual chiefs, while they breathe the spirit of modern knowledge and freedom, speak to us in tones which borrow an irregular stateliness from the chivalrous past. But the magnificent panorama does not meet the eye at once, as a scenic spectacle is displayed on the rising of the curtain. Standing at the point which we have now reached, we must wait for the unveiling of its features, as we should watch while the mists of dawn, shrouding a beautiful landscape, melt away before the morning sun.
Our period covers a century. But the first quarter of it was very unproductive in all departments of literature : it was much more so than the age that had just closed. Of the poets, and philosophers, and theologians, who have immortalized the name
of Queen Elizabeth, hardly one was born so much as five years before she ascended the throne.
In whatever direction we look during the first half of her reign, we discover an equal inaptitude, among men of letters, to build on the foundations that had been laid in the generation before. A respectable muster-roll of literary names could not be collected from those twenty or twenty-five years, unless it were to include a few of those writers who, properly belonging to the preceding time, continued to labour in this.
In poetry, the Mirror of Magistrates continued merely to heap up bad verses.
The miscellaneous collection, called “ The Paradise of Dainty Devices,” contains hardly any pieces that are above mediocrity; and old Tusser’s “ Five Hundred Points of Good Husbandry," though Southey has thought it worthy of republication, teaches agriculture in verse, but does not aim at making it poetical. It is only towards the end of this interregnum of genius, that we reach something of poetical promise; and then we have only “ The Steel Glass” of Gascoigne, a tolerable satirical poem in indifferent blank verse, with some smaller poems of his which are more lively.
The drama lingered in the state in which Udall and Sackville left it, till about the very time of Shakspeare's youth. Even its best writers deserve but slight commendation. Edwards, however, who hardly improved the art at all, was the best of the contributors to the “Paradise;" and Gascoigne the satirist, though merely a dramatic translator, not only used blank verse in tragic dialogue, but wrote our earliest prose comedy. John Still, who in maturer age became a bishop, composed the best of the original comedies, “Gammer Gurton's Needle ;" which, however, is in every way inferior to “Roister Doister.”
In English prose, again, the time was equally barren. Its reputation is redeemed by one great event only; the appearance of the Bishops' Bible, which will soon be commemorated more particularly. Of original writers, it possessed none that are generally remembered, except the venerable Bishop Jewell. But the “ Apology for the Church of England,” the most celebrated work of this learned, able and pious man, was written in Latin. must not, however, forget Stow's unpretending Chronicles of England and Survey of London; and the readers of Shakspeare may be reminded, that to these obscure years belong the plain but useful historical works of Hall and Holinshed, of which he made so free use.
Learning in the ancient tongues, which had received a check during the ecclesiastical troubles, was now allowed to resume its
The Oriental languages were studied sufficiently to.give great aid to the Scriptural critics and translators. But classical knowledge, which is said to have declined almost everywhere in the latter half of the century, produced in England no very valuable fruits. Its first effect was the setting afloat a shoal of metrical translations from the Latin poets, with some from the Greek. These were very far from being useless. They not only diffused a taste for the antique, but served as convenient manuals for some of the less instructed among the later poets ; Shakspeare himself being, in all likelihood, not slow to appropriate their treasures. But, as specimens either of style or of poetry, they are, one and all, exceedingly bad.
2. The writers being thus finally disposed of, who appeared in the first half of Elizabeth's long reign, our inquiries must dwell very particularly on those by whom they were succeeded. The immense and invaluable series of literary works, which embellished the period now in question, might be regarded as beginning with Spenser's earliest poem, which was published in the year 1579.
“ There never was, anywhere, anything like the sixty or seventy years that elapsed from the middle of Elizabeth's reign to the Restoration. In point of real force and originality of genius, neither the age of Pericles, nor the åge of Augustus, nor the times of Leo the Tenth, or of Louis the Fourteenth, can come at all into comparison. For, in that short period, we shall find the names of almost all the very great men that this nation has ever produced; the names of Shakspeare, and Bacon, and Spenser, and Sidney, of Raleigh, and Hooker, and Taylor, of Napier, and Milton, and Cudworth, and Hobbes, and many others; men, all of them, not merely of great talents and accomplishments, but of vast compass and reach of understanding, and of minds truly creative and original; not men who perfected art by the delicacy of their taste, or digested knowledge by the justness of their rea- • sonings ; but men who made vast and substantial additions to the materials
upon which taste and reason must hereafter be employed, and who enlarged, to an incredible and unparalleled extent, both the stores and the resources of the human faculties."* No
age in our literature deserves to be studied so deeply, as that which, in respect of its innate power of thought and invention, is thus justly ranked above the most brilliant eras of ancient Greece and Rome, of modern Italy and France. Nor, when we survey that energetic period from its beginning to its close, do we
* Lord Jeffrey : Contributions to the Edinburgh Review ; Vol. II.