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which Young's satires had ridiculed in the person of a lady of fashion who gladly entertained the notion that the Deity was too well-bred to call a lady to account for her offenses. Jenyns versified this effeminization of Christianity, charged orthodoxy with attributing cruelty to God, and asserted that faith in divine and human kindness would banish all wrong and discord from the world. In 1735 a far more important poet of sentimentalism arose in Henry Brooke, an undeservedly neglected pioneer, who, likewise drawing his inspiration from Shaftesbury, developed its theories with unusual consistency and fullness. His Universal Beauty voiced his sense of the divine immanence in every part of the cosmos, and emphasized the doctrine that animals, because they unhesitatingly follow the promptings of Nature, are more lovely, happy, and moral than Man, who should learn from them the individual and social virtues, abandon artificial civilization, and follow instinct. Brooke, in the prologue of his Gustavus Vasa, shows that he foresaw the political bearings of this theory; it is, in his opinion, peculiarly a people "guiltless of courts, untainted, and unread" that, illumined by Nature, understands and upholds freedom: but this was a thought too advanced to be general at this time even among Brooke's fellow-sentimentalists.
Though sentimental literature bore the seeds of revolution, its earliest effect upon its devotees was to create, through flattery of human character, a feeling of goodnatured complacency. Against this optimism the traditional school reacted in two ways,—derisive and hortatory. Pope, Young, and Swift satirized with masterful skill the inherent weaknesses and follies of mankind, the vigor of their strokes drawing from the sentimentalist Whitehead the feeble but significant protest, On Ridicule, deprecating satire as discouraging to benevolence. On the other hand, Wesley's hymns fervently summoned to repentance and piety; while Young's Night Thoughts, yielding to the new influence only in its form (blank verse), reasserted the hollowness of earthly existence, the justice of God's stern will, and the need of faith in heavenly immortality as the only adequate satisfaction of the spiritual elements in Man.
The literary powers of Pope, Swift, and Young were far superior to those of the opposed school, which might have been overborne had not a second generation of sentimentalists arisen to voice its claims in a more poetical
These newcomers,-Akenside, J. G. Cooper, the Wartons, and Collins, all of them very young, appeared between 1744 and 1747; and each rendered distinct service to their common cause. The least original of the group, John Gilbert Cooper, versified in The Power of Harmony Shaftesbury's cosmogony. More independently, Mark Akenside developed out of the same doctrine of universal harmony the theory of æsthetics that was to guide the school,—the theory that the true poet is created not by culture and discipline at all, but owes to the impress of Nature—that beauty which is goodness—his imagination, his taste, and his moral vision. Though comparatively ardent and free in manner, Akenside pursued the customary, didactic method. Less abstract, more nearly an utterance of personal feeling, was Joseph Warton's Enthusiast, or the Lover of Nature, historically a remarkable poem, which, through its expression of the author's tastes and preferences, indicated briefly some of the most important touchstones of the sentimentalism (videlicet, “romanticism”) of the future. Warton found odious such things as artificial gardens, commerical interests, social and legal conventions, and a formal Addisonian style; he yearned for mountainous wilds, unspoiled savages, solitudes where the voice of Wisdom was heard above the storms, and poetry that was “wildly warbled.” brother Thomas, who wrote The Pleasures of Melancholy, and sonnets showing an interest in non-classical antiquities, likewise felt the need of new literary gods to sanction the practices of their school: Pope and Dryden were accordingly dethroned; Spenser, Shakespeare, and the young Milton, all of whom were believed to warble wildly, were invoked.
William Collins was the most gifted of this band of enthusiasts. His general views were theirs: poetry is in his mind associated with wonder and ecstacy; and it finds its
His younger true themes, as the Ode on Popular Superstitions shows, in the weird legends, the pathetic mischances, and the blameless manners of a simple-minded folk remote from cities. Unlike his fellows, Collins had moments of great lyric power, and gave posterity a few treasured poems. His further distinction is that he desired really to create that poetical world about which Akenside theorized and for which the Wartons yearned. Unhappily, however, he too often peopled it with allegorical figures who move in a hazy atmosphere; and his melody is then more apparent than his meaning.
The hopeful spirit of these enthusiasts found little encouragement in the poems with which the period closed, Gray's Ode on Eton and Hymn to Adversity, and Johnson's Vanity of Human Wishes.
Some bold adventurers disdain
wrote Gray, adding with the wisdom of disillusion,
Gay hopes are theirs, by fancy fed,
He was speaking of schoolboys whose ignorance is bliss; but the general tenor of his mind allows us to surmise that he also smiled pityingly upon some of the aspirations of the youthful sentimentalists. Dr. Johnson's hostility to them was, of course, outspoken. He laughed uproariously at their ecstatic manner, and ridiculed the cant of sensibility; and in solemn mood he struck in The Vanity of Human Wishes another blow at the heresy of optimism. In style the contrast between these poems and those of the Wartons and Collins is marked. Heirs of the Augustans, Johnson and Gray have perfect control over their respective diction and metres: here are no obscurities or false notes; Johnson sustains with superb dignity the tone of moral grandeur; Gray is ever felicitous. Up to the mid-century then, despite assailants, the classical school held its supremacy; for its literary art was incomparably more skillful than that of its enemies.
III. THE PROGRESS OF SENTIMENTALISM
During the 1750's sentimental poetry did not fulfill the expectations which the outburst of 1744 had seemed to promise. It sank to lower levels, and its productions are noteworthy only as signs of the times and presages of the future. Richard Jago wrote some bald verses intended to foster opposition to hunting, and love for the lower animals, according to the sentimental view really the "little brothers" of Man. John Dalton's crude Descriptive Poem apostrophized what was regarded as the “savage grandeur" of the Lake country; it is interesting only because it mentions Keswick, Borrowdale, Lodore, and Skiddaw, half a century later to become sacred ground. The practical dilemma of the sentimentalist, -drawn toward solitude by his worship of Nature, and toward society by his love for Man,-was described by Whitehead in The Enthusiast, the humanitarian impulse being finally given the preference. Though the last of these pieces is not contemptible in style, none of these writers had sufficient ardor to compel attention; and if sentimentalism had not been steadily disseminated through other literary forms, especially the novel, it might well have been regarded as a lost cause.
The great poet of this decade was Gray, whose Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard, by many held the noblest English lyric, appeared in 1751. His classical ideal of style, according to which poetry should have, in his words, "extreme conciseness of expression,” yet be "pure, perspicuous, and musical,” was realized both in the Elegy and in the otherwise very different Pindaric Odes. The ethical and religious implications of the Elegy, its piety, its sense of the frailties as well as the merits of mankind, are conservative. Nor is there in the Pindaric Odes any violation of classical principles. Gray never deviates into a pantheistic faith, a belief in human perfection, a conception of poetry as instinctive imagination unrestrained, or any other essential tenet of sentimentalism. Yet the influence of the new spirit upon him may be discerned. It modified his choice of subjects, and slightly colored their interpretation, without causing him to abandon the classical attitude. The Elegy treats with reverence what the Augustans had neglected,the tragic dignity of obscure lives; The Progress of Poesy emphasizes qualities (emotion and sublimity) which the Essay on Criticism had not stressed; and The Bard presents a wildly picturesque figure of ancient days. Gray felt that classicism might quicken its spirit and widen its interests without surrendering its principles, that a classical poem might be a popular poem; and the admiration of posterity supports his belief.
An astounding and epochal event was the publication (1760 ff.) of the poems attributed to Ossian. Their "editor and translator," James Macpherson, author of a forgotten sentimental epic, alleged that Ossian was a Gaelic poet of the third century A. D., who sang the loves and wars of the heroes of his people, brave warriors fighting the imperial legions of Rome; and that his poems had been orally transmitted until now, fifteen centuries later, they had been taken down from the lips of Scotch peasants. It was a fabrication as ingenious as brazen. As a matter of fact, Macpherson had found only an insignificant portion of his extensive work in popular ballads; and what little he had found he had expanded and changed out of all semblance to genuine ancient legend. Both the guiding motive of his prose-poem (it is his as truly as King Lear is Shakespeare's), and the furore of welcome which greeted it, may be understood by recalling the position of the sentimental school on the eve of its appearance. The sentimentalists were maintaining that civilization had corrupted tastes, morals, and poetry, that it had perverted Man from his instinctive goodness, and that only by a return to communion with Nature could humanity and poetry be redeemed. But all this was based merely on philosophic theory, and could find no confirmation in history or literature: history knew of no innocent savages; and even as unsophisticated literature as Homer was then supposed to be, disclosed no heroes perfect in the sentimental virtues.