« AnteriorContinuar »
parliament, and the anecdote is related on the authority of Waller, the poet, who was present), his majesty, turning round, addressed the two prelates—My lords, cannot I take my subjects' money when I want it, without all this formality in parliament? “The Bishop of Durham readily answered, God forbid, Sir, but you should ; you are the breath of our nostrils. Whereupon the king turned, and said to the Bishop of Winchester, Well, my lord, what say you? Sir, replied the Bishop, I have no skill to judge of parliamentary cases. . The king answered, No put-offs, my lord, answer me presently. Then, Sir, said he, I think it is lawful for you to take my brother Neal's money, for he offers it.” Clarendon has expressed his belief that if Archbishop Bancroft had been succeeded in the see of Canterbury by Andrews, instead of Abbot, the infection of the Geneva fire would have been kept out, which could not afterwards be so easily expelled.t Donne, the poet, was also a voluminous writer in prose; having left a folio volume of sermons, besides a treatise against Popery entitled ‘The Pseudo-Martyr,’ another singular performance, entitled ‘Biathanatos, in confutation of the common notion about the necessary sinfulness of suicide, and some other professional disquisitions. His biographer, Izaak Walton, says that he preached “as an angel, from a cloud, but not in a cloud;” but most modern readers will probably be of opinion that he has not quite made his escape from it. His manner is fully as quaint in his prose as in his verse, and his way of thinking as subtle and peculiar. His
* Life of Waller, prefixed to his Poems, 1712.
sermons are also, as well as those of Andrews, overlaid with learning, much of which seems to be only a useless and cumbersome show. Doubtless, however, there are deep and beautiful things in Donne, for those that will seek for them; as has, indeed, been testified by those who in modern times have made themselves the best acquainted with these neglected theological works of his.”
Another of the most learned theologians and eloquent preachers of those times was also an eminent poet, Joseph Hall, born in 1524, and successively Bishop of Exeter and Norwich, from which latter see having been expelle : by the Long Parliament, he died, after protracted sufferings from imprisonment and poverty, in 1656. Hall began his career of authorship by the publication of the first three books of his Satires, in 1597, while he was a student at Cambridge, and only in his twenty-third year. A continuation followed the next year, under the title of ‘Virgidemiarum the Three last Books;’ and the whole were afterwards republished together, as ‘Virgidemiarum Six Books;’ that is, six books of bundles of rods. “These satires,” says Warton, who has given an elaborate analysis of them, “are marked with a classical precision to which English poetry had yet rarely attained. They are replete with animation of style and sentiment. - - - - - - - - - - The characters are delineated in strong and lively colouring, and their discriminations are touched with the masterly traces of genuine humour. The versification is equally energetic and elegant, and the fabric of the couplets approaches to the modern standard.” Hall's English prose works, which are very voluminous, consist of sermons, polemical tracts, paraphrases of Scripture, casuistical divinity, and some pieces on practical religion, of which his Contemplations, his Art of Divine Meditation, and his Enochismus, or Treatise on the Mode of Walking with God, are the most remarkable. The poetic temperament of Hall reveals itself in his prose as well as in his verse, by the fervour of his piety, and the forcible and often picturesque character of his style, in which it has been thought he made Seneca his model. “The writer of the Satires,” observes Warton, “is perceptible in some of his gravest polemical or Scriptural treatises; which are perpetually interspersed with excursive illustrations, familiar allusions, and observations on life.”f It will be perceived, from all this, that both in style and in mind Hall and Donne were altogether opposed; neither in his prose nor in his verse has the former the originality of the latter, or the fineness of thought that will often break out in a sudden streak of light from the midst of his dark sayings; but, on the other hand, he is perfectly free from the dominant vices of Donne's manner, his conceits, his quaintness, his remote and fantastic analogies, his obscurity, his harshness, his parade of a useless and encumbering erudition. Last of all may be mentioned, among the great theological writers of this great theological time, one who stands alone, Richard Hooker, the illustrious author of the “Eight Books of the Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity;’ of which the first four were published in 1594, the fifth • Hist. Eng. Poet. iv. 338. t Id. p. 336.
* The first edition of the collected Works of Dr. Donne has been lately published by the Rev. Henry Alford, M.A., in 6 vols. 8vo. Lond. 1839.
in 1597, the three last not till 1632, many years after the author's death. Hooker's style is almost without a rival for its sustained dignity of march ; but that which makes it most remarkable is its union of all this learned gravity and correctness with a flow of genuine, racy English, almost as little tinctured with pedantry as the most familiar popular writing. The effect also of its evenness of movement is the very reverse of tameness or languor; the full river of the argument dashes over no precipices, but yet rolls along without pause, and with great force and buoyancy.
Undoubtedly the principal figure in English prose literature, as well as in philosophy, during the first quarter of the seventeenth century, is Francis Bacon. Bacon, born in 1561, published the first edition of his ‘Essays’ in 1597; his Two Books of the Advancement of Learning’ in 1605; his ‘Wisdom of the Ancients’ (in Latin) in 1610; a third edition of his ‘Essays,’ greatly extended, in 1612; his Two Books of the * Novum Organum,” or Second Part of the Instauratio Magna, designed to consist of Six Parts (also in Latin), in 1620; his ‘History of the Reign of Henry VII.,’ in 1622; his Nine Books ‘De Augmentis Scientiarum,' a Latin translation and extension of his Advancement of Learning, in 1623. He died in 1626. The originality of the Baconian or Inductive method of philosophy, the actual service it has rendered to science, and even the end which it may be most correctly said to have in view, have all been subjects of dispute since Bacon's time, and still are; but, notwithstanding all differences of opinion upon these points, the acknowledgment that he was intellectually one of the most colossal of the sons of men has been nearly unanimous. They who have not seen his greatness under one form have discovered it in another; there is a discordance among men's ways of looking at him, or their theories respecting him; but the mighty shadow which he projects athwart the two bygone centuries lies there immoveable, and still extending as time extends. The very deductions which are made from his merits in regard to particular points thus only heighten the impression of his general eminence,—of that something about him not fully understood or discerned, which, spite of all curtailment of his claims in regard to one special kind of eminence or another, still leaves the sense of his eminence as strong as ever. As for his Novum Organum, or so-called new instrument of philosophy, it must be conceded that it was not really new when he announced it as such, either as a process followed in the practice of scientific discovery or as a theory of the right method of discovery. In the latter sense it was at least as old as Aristotle: in the former it was as old as science itself. Neither was Bacon the first writer, in his own or the immediately preceding age, who recalled attention to the inductive method, or who pointed out the barrenness of what was then called philosophy in the schools. Nor was it he that brought the reign of that philosophy to a close: it was falling fast into disrepute before he assailed it, and would probably have passed away quite as soon as it did although his writings had never appeared. Nor has he either looked at that old philosophy with a very penetrating or com