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no journal of the first rank, of more than the weekly scale, given up to the scientific study of our language and literature; Germany has long had. Anglia’and Englische Studien’; and the • Zeitschrift der vergleichenden Litteraturgeschichte,' after some vicissitudes, started anew last year with generous ambitions. We have nothing like that valuable annual, the ‘Revue d'Histoire littéraire,' which draws on the best talent in France. We have no academic school like that of Columbia University, which issues a series of books—not little theses, but books—on various aspects of Tudor literature. In these works there may be some lack of tint, some oblivion of the truth that criticism is at last a fine art like friendship and requires colour and personality, some symptoms that the scientific training intimidates a little, and teaches self-suppression in the wrong as well as in the right way; but there is clear and strict method, fresh digging, sober statement, and real progress. We may name especially the volumes on Italian Platonism in our Elizabethan verse, by Mr J. Smith Harrison; on the literary critics of our Renaissance, by Mr Spingarn; and on the Elizabethan lyric, by Mr Erskine. A handful of smaller papers comes from the University of Pennsylvania, including a valuable study, by Mr Morris Croll, of Fulke Greville, Lord Brooke. What have we in England like this?
If we do not take heed, the great syndicate-history of English literature, which we have delayed to make, and which must be made, will be made in the States, and made, let us add as Britons, less well than we could make it if we tried. On the whole our scholars write better, and seem to keep closer to the work of art they study than the Americans, who are prone to relapse, in protest against the glare of their popular style, into a decent and whity-brown academicism of language. Englishmen usually write better, because, though they have not been taught method, they have been reared on the classics ; and, after all, for the student of Milton and Berkeley, Virgil and Plato are a rational schooling, while the waste of youth upon a dissertation concerning the metre of Glapthorne or the debts of Lydgate to Boccaccio is an irrational schooling. We want a blended system if we are to train scholars and historians of modern letters; a foundation in knowledge of the classics, a training in
minute method, and the application of this knowledge, of this training, to the literary historian's task. Men of insuppressible bent have wrought well in spite of the chaos, but have often been coerced, as to the scale of their work, by the market rage for manuals. In books like Dr Herford's 'Age of Wordsworth' and Mr Seccombe's * Age of Johnson, there is the knowledge and tact that might shape an ample history.
Also there are larger undertakings of admitted merit, but none of them show the complete organisation of study that is wanted. One of the best is Chambers's Cyclopædia of English Literature,'a familiar work, wholly recast and written by the best British scholars. It is a treasury of extracts, with good biographies and brief bibliographies. Many of the criticisms, signed and unsigned, are excellent, though in the last volume there is some falling-off ; and there is an effort to bind the larger periods together by summaries and prefaces. The • Cyclopædia' is thus, as it professes to be, really halfway towards a history, and it is a pity that the whole step was not taken. Often a chapter consists of a somewhat disorderly list of names, each of them competently handled, but without grouping, perspective, or wide historic views, so that the work remains half shapen.
Another book, in four large volumes, called English Literature, an illustrated record,' is a pleasing gallery of title-pages, portraits, and facsimiles, of true educational worth. The iconography is accompanied by extracts, by biographies, and by an historical and critical record ; this part of the task being divided between two proved scholars, Dr Garnett and Dr Gosse. Their pages would call for respectful review, but the work hardly comes into our argument. The history has been written independently of the pictures; but these and the lives and quotations have so curtailed the space that, especially in the post-Renaissance period, the authors have too little room for full expression and leisurely development. The large and more philosophic side of literary history, though present at first, becomes less and less visible; and there is no scholarly apparatus or bibliography, which is the backbone of scientific history. Therefore our present text is better served by two other books, Dr Courthope's *History of English Poetry,' which has reached the death
of Dryden; and Professor Saintsbury's 'Short History of English Literature.'
Mr Courthope approaches our poetry in the temper special to the historian. He considers not so much what is the unique character of each poet, of each masterpiece, or the unique pleasure that either yields, as the large historic forces, often lying outside art altogether, by which poetic art has been shapen. The determining causes of poetry lie partly in politics and society, partly in metaphysical or ethical theory, and partly within art itself. These causes, all together, form the true environment of poetry, the 'milieu,'though the shallower usage of the term by the school of Taine is not in its favour. The
milieu,' in this larger sense, operates over tracts of space and time; the sway of antique political ideas, of the thoughts of the Church, reaches far both backwards and forwards. We might add that this is also true of the artistic environment, and say truly that the 'milieu' of the Ode on a Grecian Urn' is not so much Hampstead as the workshop of the dead Greek designer, or that that of Spenser's Hymn to Beauty' is the cell of the old Alexandrian or the later Italian mystic. The original force of Mr Courthope lies in his effort to apply such ideas to the story of English poetry, and may be acknowledged all the more frankly that his execution can often be criticised. He wipes out, at all events, the reproach that no Englishman has essayed a full-length philosophical history of the subject.
In the preface to his first volume, Mr Courthope discriminates his method alike from that of Warton, who did not think about currents and forces, and from a later one, of which he seems to imply that Mr Pater was a practitioner, and which seeks 'to interpret the phenomena of the remote past by mere personal sympathy. Here a protest is required. Mr Pater did not choose the form of a history, but he gave himself a hard historic schooling, and he is more at home in the deeper streams of old poetic sentiment, and in the actual recesses of the Renaissance intellect, than his critic. He rather read his own experience and problems in the light of history than read them into history. In the , wer to recapture and express the fugitive essence of a "ead author Mr Courthope is somewhat wanting, whilė Mr Pater had more of
that power than any of our writers since Coleridge. It is a happier task to speak of the value and freshness of what Mr Courthope has achieved.
He begins very far back. We are not complaining that his picture of the Empire and the Papacy, and of mediæval polity, is a portico to a history rather of all literature, or of all culture, than of English poetry. By English poetry is meant‘metrical compositions written in our language from the period at which it becomes fairly intelligible to readers of the present day’; that is, from about the fourteenth century onwards. On this showing we regret that the somewhat inappreciative chapter on Old English poetry was inserted. It is true that the thread of artistic continuity between Old and Middle English verse becomes very slender, and that the true formative influences on the latter came from Latin, from the South, from romance and satire. Yet it would have been accurate to dwell more clearly on the iron link forged by the Latin, as the medium of thought and devotion and hymnody, and of some secular things as well, between Old and Middle English sentiment. And the alliterative romances of Chaucer's time might have been better recognised; for the Troy-Book' and the long Morte Arthure' both fall within the definition above given of English poetry; they contain stately matter, and they are of note in history, since their form links two ages of our verse together, while their matter links England with Europe. Mr Courthope, however, not professing an exhaustive chronicle, leaves himself free to choose whatever illuminates his thesis. So long as he does not leave out too much good literature, there can be no demur. Wider natural sympathy might have saved him from comparing Boccaccio, in whom there is a noble quality, with Milton's Belial, and from lecturing Chaucer, whose homelier tales are as fresh as ever, for illegitimate coarseness and materialism.'
When Mr Courthope quits his relative and historic standpoint, it is often not to appreciate but to moralise. But an admirable fruit of his method is found in his chapter on The Earld Renaissance. There he traces some of the sentiment that in the fourteenth century began to be transmitted 'rom the ancient to the modern world, not only by Petrarch, whose work, as a torch
bearer, is well understood, but, as is less often perceived, by Dante, whose conception of civic duty and nobility is by no means strictly mediæval, resting on • the antique image of Roman citizenship.' The very useful essay on Chaucer and Petrarch,' in the Studi
• Petrarcheschi' of Signor Carlo Segrè, has come out much more recently than Mr Courthope's chapter. The account of the 'Romance of the Rose,' of its influence, and of the course of allegory at the close of the Middle Ages, shows Mr Courthope's hold on those remote causes and subtle uniformities without which our poetry is unintelligible. We must abridge his page on the subject.
* Allegory' (he tells us), 'as it was understood and used by Dante, the accepted method of interpreting nature and Scripture, derived from the Platonised theology of the fifth and sixth centuries, and methodised in the system of the schoolmen, first becomes a mechanical part of poetry, and then slowly falls into disuse, in proportion as the scholastic logic itself gives way before the new experimental tests applied to the interpretation of nature. Allegory, again, regarded as a literary form of expression, has its original source in the genius for abstraction peculiar to the Latin language, which encouraged the use of the figure of personification in poetry In this sphere it enjoyed a longer life than in philosophy. Lastly, the habit, common to the mediæval poets, of inventing allegories, in which all these abstract personages should be grouped round the central figure of Love, had, doubtless, its far-off origin in the metaphysical conception of Eros pervading the Platonic philosophy. ... A stream of kindred sentiment ... coloured the whole code of chivalrous manners; and, from the new impulse thus given to the ancient Teutonic reverence for women, the troubadours, by the aid of Ovid and of models borrowed from the Arabs, developed the elaborate system of Provençal love poetry. The lyrical fervour of the Provençals, in the cooling atmosphere of the times, gradually became in its turn conventional and didactic; and the long series of allegories following the “Romance of the Rose" is mainly interesting as marking the fall of temperature in the institutions of chivalry' (vol. i, pp. 391, 392).
Such a passage, with its wide sweep of learned vision, shows the author at his very best; we thus win an observatory for the whole range of fifteenth century poetry in Scotland, and for much in sixteenth century England. The true method of history is here applied to