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in faculties in form and moving, how express and admirable in action, how like an angel! in apprehension, how like a god! the beauty of the world! the paragon of animals! And yet, to me, what is this quintessence of dust? man delights not me, nor woman neither, though, by your smiling, you seem to say so."

Now let me exemplify a quick transition from prose to verse when Coriolanus is soliciting the plebeian votes, citizens tell him he has not loved the common people: the irony of his answer is prose :-" You should account me the more virtuous, that I have not been common in my love. I will, sir, flatter my sworn brother, the people, to earn a dearer estimation of them; 'tis a condition they account gentle; and since the wisdom of their choice is rather to have my hat than my heart, I will practise the insinuating nod, and be off to them most counterfeitly; that is, sir, I will counterfeit the bewitchment of some popular man, and give it bountifully to the desirers. Therefore, beseech you, I may be consul." The bitterness of the soliloquy that follows is verse:

"Better it is to die, better to starve,

Than crave the hire which first we do deserve.
Why in this wolvish gown should I stand here,
To beg of Hob and Dick, that do appear,
Their needless vouches? Custom calls me to't:
What custom wills, in all things should we do't,
The dust on antique time would lie unswep't,
And mountainous error be too highly heap'd
For truth to overpeer. Rather than fool it so,
Let the high office and the honour go

To one that would do thus."

The poet's power over language as an instrument is curiously apparent in this, that when he so purposes, he takes all heart out of the words, and makes them sound

as if they came merely from the lips. Observe how this occurs in the speeches of Goneril and Regan as contrasted with Cordelia's words: or the contrast between the utter hollowness of the king's request to Hamlet, and the reality that there is in his mother's language. The king's is thus:


your intent
In going back to school in Wittenberg:
It is most retrograde to our desire;
And we beseech you, bend you to remain
Here, in the cheer and comfort of our age,
Our chiefest courtier, cousin, and our son."

The queen speaks to her son:

"Let not thy mother lose her prayers, Hamlet,

I pray thee, stay with us, go not to Wittenberg."

I propose in my next lecture to pass to the literature of the seventeenth century, and to connect with it some thoughts on the subject of Sunday reading.


Literature of the Seventeenth Century, with incidental Suggestions on Sunday Reading.*

Hooker's Ecclesiastical Polity-Progress of English literature-Sir Walter Raleigh's History of the World-Bacon's Essays-Milton-Comus-Hymn on the Nativity-Suggestions as to Sunday reading-Sacred books-Forms of Christian faith-Evidences of religion-Butler's Analogy-Charles Lamb's Remarks on Stackhouse-History of the Bible-Jeremy Taylor-Holy Living and Dying-Life of Christ-Pulpit-oratory-Southey's Book of the Church-Thomas Fuller-Wordsworth's Ecclesiastical SonnetsIzaak Walton's Lives-Pilgrim's Progress-The Old Man's HomeGeorge Herbert-Henry Vaughan-Milton resumed-Paradise Lost -Criticism on it as a purely sacred poem-Shakspeare's mode of treating sacred subjects-Spenser-The Faery Queen-John Wesley-Keble's Christian Year-George Wither-Aubrey De VereTrench's sonnet.

IN following the progress of English literature, the difficulty of considering it according to what may be regarded as the successive eras is greatly increased the farther we advance. The literature becomes more abundant in both departments, prose as well as verse, and the influences that affect it, and are affected by it, are found to be more various and complicated. English prose-writing was hardly entitled to be looked on as literature until nearly two hundred years after English poetry had disclosed many of its finest resources. It was not till about


year 1600 that Hooker, in the "Ecclesiastical Polity,"

*February 7, 1850.

accomplished for English prose what Chaucer had done for English poetry before the year 1400. Accustomed, as we now are, to the combination of prose and poetry as making up a literature-language unmetrical filling, too, a larger space than the metrical- —we are apt to forget how long a period there was during which English literature may truly be said to have been without its prose. In the early literature, therefore, Chaucer may be thought of as the solitary rather than the central figure; and thus of such a period a general view may be taken, which, at the same time, may show the individual genius that belonged to it. As we move forward, however, we find a more numerous company of poets, each having claim to attention, and, along with them, an increasing concourse of the prose-writers. You can readily perceive how it becomes more and more difficult to make any such grouping of the many actors in our literature, at the several periods, as may set them before you a well-arranged company rather than a confused throng; to discover which was the great mind of the age, and yet not lose sight of others that circled round it. We trace the progress of the nation's literature more laboriously, because more and varied elements entered into it, and because more minds were contributing to it. It becomes more necessary, in a brief and outline course of lectures like this, to allude, in a very cursory manner, to authors and their productions, well deserving extended consideration under more favourable circumstances.

As I have advanced toward that period of our literature in which names illustrious, both in prose and in poetry, come crowding to our thoughts, I feel the necessity of asking you to bear in mind that this course of lectures

was designed to be merely of a suggestive character, to present a general view of the progress of English literature, and its condition at successive periods, rather than detailed examination of particular authors or books.

It is possible to arrange in our minds the literature of our language into a series of successive eras, and this may be done with somewhat more precision than would at first be anticipated; for it is not a mere arbitrary, chronological distribution, corresponding with centuries or reigns, but an arrangement according to a certain set of influences affecting the English mind and character during a given length of time, more or less definite, to be succeeded by a new set of influences, producing a new phase of the nation's literature. Such a general view of English literature is important, not only as saving one from a great deal of confusion of thought on the subject, but also as enabling us to see the great authors of different times, each in his appropriate grouping, and to carry out special courses of reading. The succession of our literary eras, with a little reflection and effort of memory, may be so familiarized as not to be forgotten. The earliest era-the age of Chaucer, as it may aptly be styled-the last half of the fourteenth century, was characterized by the various influences which marked the medieval civilization; the closing century of which civilization, from 1400 to 1500, was, in consequence chiefly of internal commotion in England, a hundred years' sleep of the English mind, so far as literature was concerned. The first half of the sixteenth century has no more than a comparative interest, as a period in which the English mind was making its transition from mediæval to modern modes of thought and feeling, affected, too, in some degree, by the change

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