« AnteriorContinuar »
A SUFFICIENTLY full account of these two courses of Lectures, and of the circumstances under which they were originally delivered, upwards of fifty years since, may be found in the Memoirs of William Hazlitt, 1867, 2 vols., 8vo. The present republication is a faithful copy of the Author's Editions, which appeared, the English Poets in 1818, and the English Comic Writers in 1819. Of the former a second impression was printed in 1819.
W. C. H. Kensington, July, 1869.
AGE OF ELIZABETH, &c.
GENERAL VIEW OF THE SUBJECT.
THE AGE OF ELIZABETH was distinguished beyond, perhaps, any other in our history by a number of great men, famous in different ways, and whose names have come down to us with unblemished honours : statesmen, warriors, divines, scholars, poets, and philosophers; Raleigh, Drake, Coke, Hooker, and-high and more sounding still, and still more frequent in our mouthsShakespear, Spenser, Sidney, Bacon, Jonson, Beaumont and Fletcher, men whom fame has eternised in her long and lasting scroll, and who, by their words and acts, were benefactors of their country, and ornaments of human nature. Their attainments of different kinds bore the same general stamp, and it was sterling; what they did had the mark of their age and country upon it. Perhaps the genius of Great Britain (if I may so speak without offence or flattery) never shone out fuller or brighter, or looked more like itself, than at this period. Our writers and great men had something in them that savoured of the soil from which they grew: they were not French ; they were not Dutch, or German, or Greek, or Latin; they were truly English. They did not look out of themselves to see what they should be; they sought for truth and nature, and found it in themselves. There was no tinsel, and but little art; they were not the spoilt children of affectation and refinement, but a bold, vigorous, independent race of thinkers, with prodigious strength and energy, with none but natural grace, and heartfelt, unobtrusive delicacy. They were not at all sophisticated. The mind of their country was great in them, and it prevailed. With their learning and unexampled acquirement, they did not forget that they were men : with all their endeavours after excellence, they did not lay aside the strong original bent and character of their minds. What they performed was chiefly nature's handiwork; and Time has claimed it for his own. To these, however, might be added others not less learned, nor with a scarce less happy vein, but less fortunate in the event, who, though as renowned in their day, have sunk into “ mere oblivion,” and of whom the only record (but that the noblest) is to be found in their works. Their works and their names, “poor, poor dumb names," are all that remains of such men as Webster, Decker, Marston, Marlowe, Chapman, Heywood, Middleton, and Rowley! “How lov’d, how honour'd once, avails them not:" though they were the friends and fellow-labourers of Shakespear, sharing his fame and fortunes with him, the rivals of Jonson, and the masters of Beaumont and Fletcher's well-sung woes! They went out one by one unnoticed, like evening lights, or were swallowed up in the headlong torrent of puritanic zeal which succeeded, and swept away everything in its unsparing course, throwing up the wrecks of taste and genius at random, and at long fitful intervals, amidst the painted gewgaws and foreign frippery of the reign of Charles II., and from which we