Imagens das páginas

happy parliament, from the 3rd of November, 1640, to the 3rd of November, 1641 : London, printed for William Cooke, and are to be sold at his shop at Furnival's Inn Gate, in Holborn, 1641.' * More than a hundred newspapers, with different titles, appear to have been published between this date and the death of the king, and upwards of eighty others between that event and the Restoration.f “When hostilities commenced,” says the writer from whom we derive this information, “every event, during a most eventful period, had its own historian, who communicated News from Hull, Truths from York, Warranted Tidings from Ireland, and Special Passages from several places. These were all occasional papers. Impatient, however, as a distracted people were for information, the news were never distributed daily. The various newspapers were published weekly at first; but in the progress of events, and the ardour of curiosity, they were distributed twice or thrice in every week.f Such were the French Intelligencer, the Dutch Spy, the Irish Mercury, and the Scots Dove, the Parliament Kite, and the Secret Owl. Mercurius Acheronticus brought them hebdomadal News from Hell; Mercurius Democritus communicated wonderful news from the World in the Moon; the Laughing Mercury gave perfect news from the Antipodes; and Mercurius Mastic faithfully

* See Chronological List of Newspapers from the Epoch of the Civil Wars, in Chalmers's Life of Ruddiman, pp.404 –442.

*ś, Chalmers's Life of Ruddiman, p. 114.

f In December, 1642, however, Spalding, the Aberdeen annalist, in a passage which Mr. Chalmers has quoted, tells us, that, “ now printed papers daily came from London,

called. Diurnal Occurrences, declaring what is done in parlia: ment.”—Vol. i. p. 336.

lashed all Scouts, Mercuries, Posts, Spies, and other Intelligencers.”* Besides the newspapers, also, the great political and religious questions of the time were debated, as already mentioned, in a prodigious multitude of separate pamphlets, which appear to have been read quite as universally and as eagerly. It has been stated that the number of such pamphlets printed in the twenty years from the meeting of the Long Parliament to the Restoration was not less than thirty thousand, which would give a rate of four or five new ones every day.

Where our modern newspapers begin, the series of our old chroniclers closes with Sir Richard Baker’s “Chronicle of the Kings of England,’ written while its author was confined for debt in the Fleet Prison, where he died in 1645, and first published in a folio volume in 1641. It was several times reprinted, and was a great favourite with our ancestors for two or three succeeding generations; but it has now lost all interest, except for a few passages relating to the author's own time. Baker, however, himself declares it to be compiled “with so great care and diligence, that, if all others were lost, this only will be sufficient to inform posterity of all passages memorable or worthy to be known.” Sir Richard and his Chronicle are now popularly remembered principally as the great historical authorities of Addison's incomparable Sir Roger de Coverley.f


Almost the only great work in the department of ancient scholarship that appeared in England in the reigns of James I. and Charles I. was the magnificent edition

* Chalmers, p. 116. + See Spectator, No 329.

[ocr errors]

of Chrysostom, in eight volumes folio, by Sir Henry Savile, printed at Eton, where Savile was provost of the college, in 1612. “The Greek language, however,” observes Mr. Hallam, “was now much studied; the age of James and Charles was truly learned; our writers are prodigal of an abundant erudition, which embraces a far wider range of authors than are now read; the philosophers of every class, the poets, the historians and orators of Greece, to whom few comparatively had paid regard in the days of Elizabeth, seem as familiar to the miscellaneous writers of her next successors as the fathers of the church are to the theologians. A few, like Jeremy Taylor, are equally copious in their libations from both streams. But, though thus deeply read in ancient learning, our old scholars are not very critical in philology.” ” The glory of English erudition in the days of the Commonwealth, though of erudition formed in the preceding age, and by men all attached to the cause upon the ruin of which the Commonwealth was reared, is the Polyglott Bible, commonly called the London Polyglott, edited by Brian Walton, in six volumes folio, the first of which appeared in 1654, the second in 1655, the third in 1656, and the three last in 1657. In this great work, which, taken altogether, including the ‘Lexicon Heptaglotton' of Dr. Edmund Castell, added, in two volumes folio, in 1669, still remains without a rival, the Scriptures are given, entirely or partially, in nine different languages, namely, Hebrew, Chaldee, Samaritan, Syrian, Arabic, Persian, Ethiopic, Greek, and Latin. Walton was, upon the Restoration, made Bishop of Chester, but he died in 1661. And to the works written by Englishmen in the Latin * Lit. of Eur. iii. 12. 2 language within this period, are to be added, besides the splendid “Defensio pro Populo Anglicano,' and ‘Defensio Secunda” of Milton, which we have already mentioned, the ‘De Primordiis Ecclesiarum Britannicarum’ (afterwards entitled ‘Britannicarum Ecclesiarum Antiquitates'), 1639, and the “Annales Utriusque Testamenti,' 1650 and 1654, of the learned Archbishop Usher.


It thus appears that the age of the Civil War and the Commonwealth does not present an absolute blank in the . history of our highest literature; but, unless we are to except the Areopagitica of Milton, the Liberty of Prophesying and a few other controversial or theological treatises of Jeremy Taylor, some publications by Fuller, and the successive apocalypses of the imperturbable dreamer of Norwich, no work of genius of the first class appeared in England in the twenty years from the meeting of the Long Parliament to the Restoration; and the literary productions having any enduring life in them at all, that are to be assigned to that space, make but a very scanty sprinkling. It was a time when men wrote and thought, as they acted, merely for the passing moment. The unprinted plays of Beaumont and Fletcher, indeed, were now sent to the press, as well as other dramatic works written in the last age, the theatres, by which they used to be published in another way, being shut up—a significant intimation, rather than anything else, that the great age of the drama was at an end. A new play continued to drop occasionally from the commonplace pen of Shirley—almost the solitary successor of the Shakspeares,


the Fletchers, the Jonsons, the Massingers, the Fords, and the rest of that bright throng. All other poetry, as well as dramatic poetry, was nearly silent—hushed partly by the din of arms and of theological and political strife, more by the frown of triumphant puritanism, boasting to itself that it had put down all the other fine arts as well as poetry, never again to lift their heads in England. It is observable that even the confusion of the contest that lasted till after the king's death did not so completely banish the muses, or drown their voice, as did the grim tranquillity under the sway of the parliament that followed. The time of the war, besides the treatises just alluded to of Milton, Taylor, Fuller, and Browne, produced the Cooper's Hill and some other poetical pieces by Denham, and the republication of the Comus and other early poems of Milton; the collection of the plays of Beaumont and Fletcher, and Cowley's volume entitled ‘The Mistress,’ appeared in 1647, in the short interval of doubtful quiet between the first and the second war; the volume of Herrick's poetry was published the next year, while the second war was still raging, or immediately after its close; Lovelace's first volume, in 1649, probably before the execution of the king. Hobbes's Leviathan, and one or two other treatises of his, all written some time before, were printed at London in 1650 and 1651, while the author was resident in Paris. For some years from this date the blank is nearly absolute. Then, when the more liberal despotism of Cromwell had displaced the Presbyterian moroseness of the parliament, we have Fuller's Church History printed in 1655; Harrington's Oceana, and the collection of Cowley's poetry, in 1656; Browne's Hydriotaphia and Garden of

« AnteriorContinuar »