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laurel, Nahum Tate (of whom, for want of any tiling belter to eulogize, it has been recorded that he was a free, good-natured, fuddling companion)—men of a better mold, and worthy of a better age, were guilty of the same profanation. Davenant and Dryden joined in the unworthy office of adapting Shakspeare's Tempest to the taste of Charles the Second's court; and Dryden's rhymed play upon Paradise Lost remains a still more flagrant proof how deeply the spirit of the times had tainted him.
Dnden had persuaded himself that English poetry had not reached its vigour and maturity in the age of Slrakspeare! that our language had received great improvements since his time, and that even the art of versification had not been understood, till it was introduced by Waller! He affirms that Shakspeare frequently fell into a lethargy of thought, and he ascribed die superiority of the dramatic writers of his own age over that of Elizabeth and James's days, to what was, in reality, the most efficient cause of their utter degeneracy. 'I must freely, and without flattery,' he says,' ascribe it to the court; and in it particularly to the king, whose example gives a law to it. His own misfortunes and the nation's afforded him an opportunity, which is rarely allowed to sovereign princes, I- mean of travelling and being conversant in the most polished courts qf Europe; and thereby of cultivating a spirit which, was formed by nature to receive the impressions of a gallant and generous education. At bis return he found a nation lost as much in barbarism as in rebellion. And as the excellency of his nature forgave the one, so the .excellency of his manners reformed the other. The desire of imitating so great a pattern first wakened the dull and heavy spirits of the English from their natural reservedness; loosened them from their stiff forms of conversation, and made them easy and pliant to each other in discourse. Thus insensibly our way of living became more free; and the fire of the English wit, which was before stifled under a constrained melancholy way of breeding, began first to display its force, by mixing the solidity of our nation with the art and gaiety of our neighbours. This being granted to be true, it would be a wonder if the poets, whose work is imitation, should be the only persons in three kingdoms who should not receive advantage by it.'
The stage forming itself to the taste and manners of such a court contributed, as far as its influence extended, to the general corruption. 'He that frequents plays,' said John Dunton,' sports on the devil's ground; and if he dies on the spot, the devil, as lord of the manor, has a right to him.' This was said in the spirit of Prynne, and of those old Waldenses who taught that a dance was the devil's ehurch-service, and that all the ten commandments were broken by the act of dancing. Nor- was it among the Puritans alone that the 'extreme extreme profligacy of the theatre excited fear and abhorrence; those sentiments were partaken by all who retained in their manners and habits of mind, any thing of what was called the old Elizabeth way.' By all such persons, by the sober and moral part of the nation, the theatre was shunned like a house where the redcross upon the door gave warning that the plague was within. The impurity of the drama was therefore less injurious than if it had been covered with a veil of sentiment; plays at which women who wished to preserve a character for modesty thought it necessary to wear masks, were of course religiously avoided by those who in reality possessed the virtue. The stage did not follow the court in its reformation so faithfully as in its corruption. Jeremy Collier's vehement attack was far from producing the immediate effect which has been ascribed to it; though it was seconded by prosecuting and fining some of the performers for repeating profane and indecent words. Many of Fielding's plays are little less objectionable than the worst of Wycherley's or Shadwell's. The eril, however, had been checked, though it was not removed; the act which subjected all pieces intended for representation, to a previous censure, unpopular as it was, operated beneficially in this respect, and from the commencement of the last reign the English stage became irreproachable on the score of decency.
A full century elapsed before this evil, which had grown at once to its height, was thoroughly removed. Had the depravity of manners which the stage in its corruption imitated first and then promoted, continued as long, England would not have been at this time the England that it is. It was happily too opposite to the national character, and too strongly resisted by our excellent institutions, to be of long continuance. Even when it was at the worst there were many things which counteracted it. London did not then communicate its fashions and its follies to the remotest parts of the kingdom: its moral and political diseases hardly spread beyond the atmosphere of its own smoke. But it was from London that foreigners took their estimate of the national manners, and at this distance of time we also are in some degree liable to the same error; for it was London life that the dramatists and other popular .writers represented, and against which the censure of moralists and divines was directed. When therefore we find it said that the Englishwomen who formerly had been of high esteem among foreign nations for the modesty and gravity of their conversation, addicted themselves so much ' to the light garb of the French that they lost much of their honour and reputation among sober persons abroad who before admired them,' it is to be remembered that what was true as relating to the court and the metropolis, was far from being applicable to the great body'of the nation. Beyond that tainted 1 Vol. xxix. No. Lvii. o circle circle the ' old Elizabeth breeding' (at which Dryden sneers) was still retained. The ornamental part (as has already been observed) had unhappily fallen into disuse: but if no attempt was made to elevate the minds of women by opening for them the stores of ancient wisdom, they were still trained up in those modest and decorous manners, those religious principles, wherein we have our best security, not for domestic happiness alone, but for the public weal.
There were many preserving principles at work. Puritanism itself, which had recently raged like a virulent poison in the body of the state, being then subdued, served as a prophylactic against the prevailing pestilence of licentiousness. Owen, Baxter, and Howe, (a milder and happier spirit than either,) and others of the nonconformist divines, atoned now, in some degree, to the nation by the services which they rendered in the cause of Christian morals, for the offence which they had committed in blowing the trumpet of rebellion, or in assisting at its triumphs. Meanwhile our mother church, whose venerable head had been raised from the dust, exerted what may truly be called a saving influence. To the better part of the nation, (and they were the great majority,) the clergy were deservedly endeared by their constancy and their sufferings. They had indeed, through all their unexampled wrongs, been true to their king, their country, and their order; and the influence which they had gloriously obtained was well supported, for never in any age could they boast of greater ability, sounder learning and more exemplary worth among their members. Few prelates, in times when more abundant means were at their disposal, have surpassed the Caroline bishops in munificence, and fewer of their successors have equalled them. Nor can any age or country boast of greater names than then adorned the English church; it suffices to name Taylor and Barrow and South, the most eloquent, the most cogent, the most powerful of our divines. Among many others who might be specified Burnet himself is not to be omitted. His life of the excellent Bishop Bedel is one of those books which ought to be in every parochial library, if every parish had its library, as it is religiously to be desired that it may before another generation shall have passed away. To his powers as a preacher, Speaker Onslow bears testimony in his notes which are now made public. Burnet mentions the sermon against popery preached by himself at the end of King Charles's reign, from a text which, if not chosen with a political intention, (as he affirms it was not) had at least a strong appearance of being so, and for that reason perhaps was heard with greedier ears. 'Sir John Jekyl,' says the speaker, 'told me that he was present at the sermon, (I think it was this,) and that when the author had preached out the hour-glass, he took it
up *p and held it aloft in his hand, and then turned it up for another hour: upon which the audience (a very large one for the place) set up almost a shout for joy. I once heard him preach at the Temple church on the subject of popery; it was on the fastday for the negociations of peace at Utrecht. He set forth all the horrors of that religion with such force of speech and action, (for he had much of that in his preaching and action at all times,) that I have never seen an audience any where so much affected as we all were who were present at this discourse. He preached then, as he generally did, without notes. He was, in his exterior too, the finest figure I ever saw in a pulpit.' Onslow speaks also of one of the lectures which Burnet used to deliver in his own house on Sunday evenings. 'It was upon the new heavens and the new earth after the general conflagration. He first read to us the chapter iff St. Peter where this is described; then enlarged upon it with that force of imagination and solemnity of speech and manner, (the subject suiting his genius,) as to make this remembrance of it affect me extremely even now, although it is near forty years ago since I heard it. I remember it the more, because I never heard a preacher equal to him. There was an earnestness of heart, and voice, and look, that is scarcely to be conceived, as it is not the fashion of the present times; and by the want of which, as much as any thing, religion is every day failing with us.' Evelyn confirms this character of Burnet as an orator. In his diary he says, 'I first heard that famous and excellent preacher, Dr. Burnet, with such a flow of eloquence and fulness of matter as shewed him to be a person of extraordinary parts.'
In another place, Evelyn, noticing a sermon which he had heard,' much after Bishop Andrews's method, full of logical divisions, in short and broken periods and Latin sentences,' observes, that that method was now quite of fashion in the pulpit, ' which is grown,' he adds, 'into a far more profitable way of plain and practical discourses, of which neither this nation, or any other, ever had greater plenty, or more profitable (I am confident); so much has it to answer for thriving no better.' The effect was undoubtedly greater than Evelyn then apprehended. It was gradual and silent; but how powerful it was, was seen when the nation was called upon to make a stand against Popery; how permanent it has been, (God be thanked!) we feel at this day; and the best prayer which can be breathed for our country is, that our children's children may continue to feel it through all generations.
Dryden, in an unworthy scoff at those persons who preferred the dramatic taste of the Elizabethan age to that, at once extravagant and corrupted, which he prostituted his talents to introduce, says of them, 'they were unlucky to have been bred in an unpolished
o 2 age, -sage, and more unlucky lo live to a refined one. They have lasted beyond their own and are cast behind ours.' Happily indeed lor England, in that disgraceful age there were many from whose hearts and minds the stamp of better times had not been effaced. The age of Shaftesbury and Buckingham was also that of Ormond and Newcastle and Southampton and Sandwich, of Sir William Temple, of Hale and Evelyn and Boyle, the noblest and the most accomplished and the best of men. At the time when Dryden composed comedies to the taste of the court, and Elkanah Settle tragedies to the taste of the city; when Wycherley and Etherege published their impurities, and the press was polluted by the tilth and ribaldry of Tom D'Urfey and Tom Brown, at that very time Clarendon was completing in exile his noble history, the most precious legacy that ever statesman bequeathed to his country: Milton, in poverty and blindness, was composing the Paradise Lost; and Izaak Walton, in the enjoyment of a green and cheerful old age, the reward of an innocent and tranquil life, produced, without art or study, his inimitable pieces of biography, not unconscious how rich a treasure he was preserving for posterity, but not dreaming of the honour in which his own name would lastmgly be held for those labours of love. Mr. Wordsworth has properly noticed these delightful lives in his Ecclesiastical Sketches^ and in a strain worthy of the subject*
There are no colours in the fairest sky • <
. So fair as these. The feather whence the pen
Was shaped that traced the lives of these good men ,
Dropped from an angel's wing. With moistened eye
We read of faith and purest charity
In statesman, priest and humble citizen.
Oh, could we copy their mild virtues, then
What joy to live, what blessedness to die \
Methinks their very names shine still and bright,
Apart, like glow-worms in the woods of spring,
Or lonely tapers shooting far a light
That guides and cheers,-"—or seen, like stars on high,
Satellites turning in a lucid ring
Around meek Walton's heavenly memory. Political as well as moral causes contributed to the recovery of the nation. The death of Charles produced a salutary effect. The face of the whole court, says Evelyn, was exceedingly changed into a more solemn and moral behaviour, the new king affecting neither profaneness nor buffoonery. The suddenness of Charles's fate might well indeed excite awful feelings in all who had witnessed the life which he had continued to lead till the stroke of death arrested him. January 25 Evelyn enters in his Diary: 'I saw this evening such a scene of profuse gaming, and the king in