On the other hand, Bunyan's writing is most simple. He uses strong, plain, purely English words. There is hardly one word in all his writing which a man who knows his Bible cannot easily understand. And it was from the Bible that Bunyan gathered nearly all his learning. He knew it from end to end, and the poetry and grandeur of its language filled his soul. But he read other books, too, among them, we feel sure, the Faery Queen. Some day you may like to compare the adventures of the Red Cross Knight with the adventures of Christian. And perhaps in all the Faery Queen you will find nothing so real and exciting as Christian's fight with Apollyon. Apollyon comes from a Greek word meaning the destroyer. This is how Bunyan tells of the fight:—
"But now in this Valley of Humiliation poor Christian was hard put to it. For he had gone but a little way before he espied a Foul Fiend coming over the field to meet him. His name is Apollyon. Then did Christian begin to be afraid and to cast in his mind whether to go back or to stand his ground. But he considered again, that he had no armour for his back, and therefore thought that to turn the back to him might give him greater advantage, with ease, to pierce him with his darts. Therefore he resolved to venture and stand his ground. For, he thought, had I no more in mine eye than the saving of my life, 'twould be the best way to stand.
"So he went on, and Apollyon met him. Now the Monster was hideous to behold. He was clothed with scales like a fish, and they are his pride. He had wings like a dragon, feet like a bear, and out of his belly came fire and smoke. And his mouth was as the mouth of a lion. When he came up to Christian he beheld him with a disdainful countenance, and thus began to question him.
"APOLLYON. When came you? and whither are you bound?
"CHRISTIAN. I am come from the City of Destruction, which is the place of all evil, and am going to the City of Zion."
After this Apollyon argued with Christian, trying to persuade him to give up his pilgrimage and return to his evil ways. But Christian would listen to nothing that Apollyon could say.
"Then Apollyon straddled quite over the whole breadth of the Way and said, 'I am void of fear in this matter. Prepare thyself to die, for I swear by my Infernal Den that thou shalt go no further. Here will I spill thy soul!'
"And with that he threw a flaming dart at his heart. But Christian had a shield in his hand, with which he caught it, and so prevented the danger of that.
"Then did Christian draw, for he saw it was time to bestir him, and Apollyon as fast made at him, throwing darts as thick as hail, by the which, notwithstanding all that Christian could do to avoid it, Apollyon wounded him in his head, his hand, and foot. This made Christian give a little back. Apollyon therefore followed his work amain, and Christian again took courage and resisted as manfully as he could. This sore combat lasted for above half a day, even till Christian was almost quite spent. For you must know that Christian, by reason of his wounds, must needs grow weaker and weaker.
"Then Apollyon espying his opportunity began to gather up close to Christian, and wrestling with him gave him a dreadful fall. And with that Christian's sword flew out of his hand. Then said Apollyon, 'I am sure of thee now.' And with that he had almost pressed him to death so that Christian began to despair of life. But, as God would have it, while Apollyon was fetching his last blow, thereby to make a full end of this good man, Christian nimbly reached out his hand for his sword and caught it, saying, 'Rejoice not against me, O mine Enemy! when I fall I shall arise!' and with that gave him a deadly thrust which made him give back, as one that had received his mortal wound.
"Christian perceiving that made at him again, saying 'Nay in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him that loved us.' And with that Apollyon spread forth his dragon's wings and sped him away, and Christian saw him no more."
Bunyan wrote a second part or sequel to the Pilgrim's Progress, in which he tells of the adventures of Christian's wife and children on their way to Zion. But the story does not interest us as the story of Christian does. Because we love Christian we are glad to know that his wife and children escaped destruction, but except that they belong to him we do not really care about them.
Bunyan wrote several other books. The best known are The Holy War and Grace Abounding. The Holy War might be called a Paradise Lost and Regained in homely prose. It tells much the same story, the story of the struggle between Good and Evil for the possession of man's soul.
In Grace Abounding Bunyan tells of his own struggle with evil, and it is from that book that we learn much of what we know of his life.
He also wrote the Life and Death of Mr. Badman. Instead of telling how a good man struggles with evil and at last wins rest, it tells of how a bad man yields always to evil and comes at last to a sad end. It is not a pretty story, and is one, I think, which you will not care to read.
Bunyan, too, wrote a good deal of rime, but for the most part it can hardly be called poetry. It is for his prose that we remember him. Yet who would willingly part with the song of the shepherd-boy in the second part of the Pilgrim's Progress:—
"He that is down needs fear no fall; He that is low, no pride: He that is humble, ever shall Have God to be his guide.
I am content with what I have, Little be it or much: And, Lord, contentment still I crave, Because thou savest such.
Fullness to such a burden is That go on pilgrimage: Here little, and hereafter bliss, Is best from age to age."
When Bunyan had been in prison for six years he was set free, but as he at once began to preach he was immediately seized and reimprisoned. He remained shut up for six years longer. Then King Charles II passed an Act called the Declaration of Indulgence. By this Act all the severe laws against those who did not conform to the Church of England were done away with, and, in consequence, Bunyan was set free. Charles passed this Act, not because he was sorry for the Nonconformists—as all who would not conform to the Church of England were called—but because he wished to free the Roman Catholics, and he could not do that without freeing the Nonconformists too. Two years later Bunyan was again imprisoned because "in contempt of his Majesty's good laws he preached or teached in other manner than according to the Liturgy or practice of the Church of England." But this time his imprisonment lasted only six months. And I must tell you that many people now think that it was during this later short imprisonment that Bunyan wrote the Pilgrim's Progress, and not during the earlier and longer.
The rest of Bunyan's life passed peacefully and happily. But we know few details of it, for "he seems to have been too busy to keep any records of his busy life."* We know at least that it was busy. He was now a licensed preacher, and if the people had flocked to hear him before his imprisonment they flocked in far greater numbers now. Even learned men came to hear him. "I marvel," said King Charles to one, "that a learned man such as you can sit and listen to an unlearned tinker."
"May it please your Majesty," replied he, "I would gladly give up all my learning if I could preach like that tinker."
Bunyan became the head of the Baptist Church. Near and far he traveled, preaching and teaching, honored and beloved wherever he went. And his word had such power, his commands had such weight, that people playfully called him Bishop Bunyan. Yet he was "not puffed up in prosperity, nor shaken in adversity, always holding the golden mean."*
Death found Bunyan still busy, still kindly. A young man who lived at Reading had offended his father so greatly that the father cast him off. In his trouble the young man came to Bunyan. He at once mounted his horse and rode off to Reading. There he saw the angry father, and persuaded him to make peace with his repentant son.
Glad at his success, Bunyan rode on to London, where he meant to preach. But the weather was bad, the roads were heavy with mud, he was overtaken by a storm of rain, and ere he could find shelter he was soaked to the skin. He arrived at length at a friend's house wet and weary and shaking with fever. He went to bed never to rise again. The time had come when, like Christian, he must cross the river which all must cross "where there is no bridge to go over and the river very deep." But Bunyan, like Christian, was held up by Hope. He well knew the words, "When thou passest through the waters I will be with thee, and through the rivers they shall not overflow thee." And so he crossed over.
And may we not believe that Bunyan, when he reached the other side, heard again, as he had once before heard in his immortal dream, "all the bells in the city ring again with joy," and that it was said unto him, "Enter ye into the joy of our Lord"?
Chapter LX DRYDEN—THE NEW POETRY
"THE life of Dryden may be said to comprehend a history of the literature of England, and its changes, during nearly half a century." With these words Sir Walter Scott, himself a great writer, began his life of John Dryden. Yet although Dryden stands for so much in the story of our literature, as a man we know little of him. As a writer his influence on the age in which he lived was tremendous. As a man he is more shadowy than almost any other greater writer. We seem to know Chaucer, and Spenser, and Milton, and even Shakespeare a little, but to know Dryden in himself seems impossible. We can only know him through his works, and through his age. And in him we find the expression of his age.
With Milton ended the great romantic school of poetry. He was indeed as one born out of time, a lonely giant. He died and left no follower. With Dryden began a new school of poetry, which was to be the type of English poetry for a hundred and fifty years to come. This is called the classical school, and the rime which the classical poets used is called the heroic couplet. It is a long ten-syllabled line, and rimes in couplets, as, for instance:—
"He sought the storms; but, for a calm unfit, Would stem too nigh the sands, to boast his wit, Great wits are sure to madness near allied, And thin partitions do their bounds divide."*
*Absalom and Achitophel.
Dryden did not invent the heroic couplet, but it was he who first made it famous. "It was he," says Scott, "who first showed that the English language was capable of uniting smoothness and strength." But when you come to read Dryden's poems you may perhaps feel that in gaining the smoothness of Art they have lost something of the beauty of Nature. The perfect lines with their regular sounding rimes almost weary us at length, and we are glad to turn to the rougher beauty of some earlier poet.
But before speaking more of what Dryden did let me tell you a little of what we know of his life.
John Dryden was the son of a Northamptonshire gentleman who had a small estate and a large family, for John was the eldest of fourteen children. The family was a Puritan one, although in 1631, when John was born, the Civil War had not yet begun.
When John Dryden left school he went, like nearly all the poets, to Cambridge. Of what he did at college we know very little. He may have been wild, for more than once he got into trouble, and once he was "rebuked on the head" for speaking scornfully of some nobleman. He was seven years at Cambridge, but he looked back on these years with no joy. He had no love for his University, and even wrote:—
"Oxford to him a dearer name shall be, Than his own Mother University."
Already at college Dryden had begun to write poetry, but his poem on the death of Cromwell is perhaps the first that is worth remembering:—
"Swift and relentless through the land he past, Like that bold Greek, who did the East subdue; And made to battles of such heroic haste As if on wings of victory he flew.
He fought secure of fortune as of fame, Till by new maps the island might be shown Of conquests, which he strewed where'er he came, This as the galaxy with stars is sown.
Nor was he like those stars which only shine, When to pale mariners they storms portend, He had a calmer influence, and his mien Did love and majesty together blend.
Nor died he when his ebbing fame went less, But when fresh laurels courted him to live: He seemed but to prevent some new success, As if above what triumphs earth could give.
His ashes in a peaceful urn shall rest; His name a great example stands, to show, How strangely high endeavours may be blessed, Where piety and valour jointly go."
So wrote Dryden. But after the death of Cromwell came the Restoration. Dryden had been able to admire Cromwell, but although he came of a Puritan family he could never have been a Puritan at heart. What we learn of him in his writings show us that. He was not of the stern stuff which makes martyrs and heroes. There was no reason why he should suffer for a cause in which he did not whole-heartedly believe. So Dryden turned Royalist, and the very next poem he wrote was On the Happy Restoration and Return of His Majesty Charles the Second.
"How easy 'tis when destiny proves kind, With full spread sails to run before the wind!"*
So Dryden ran before the wind.
About three years after the Restoration Dryden married an earl's daughter, Lady Elizabeth Howard. We know very little about their life together, but they had three children of whom they were very fond.
With the Restoration came the re-opening of the theaters, and for fourteen years Dryden was known as a dramatic poet. There is little need to tell you anything about his plays, for you would not like to read them. During the reign of Puritanism in England the people had been forbidden even innocent pleasures. The Maypole dances had been banished, games and laughter were frowned upon. Now that these too stern laws had been taken away, people plunged madly into pleasure: laughter became coarse, merriment became riotous. Puritan England had lost the sense of where innocent pleasure ends and wickedness begins. In another way Restoration England did the same. The people of the Restoration saw fun and laughter in plays which seem to us now simply vulgar and coarse as well as dull. The coarseness, too, is not the coarseness of an ignorant people who know no better, but rather of a people who do know better and who yet prefer to be coarse. I do not mean to say that there are no well-drawn characters, no beautiful lines, in Dryden's plays for that would not be true. Many of them are clever, the songs in them are often beautiful, but nearly all are unpleasant to read. The taste of the Restoration times condemned Dryden to write in a way unworthy of himself for money. "Neither money nor honour—that in two words was the position of writers after the Restoration."*
*Beljame, Le Public et les Hommes de Lettres in Angleterre.
"And Dryden, in immortal strain, Had raised the table-round again But that a ribald King and Court Bade him toil on to make them sport, Demanding for their niggard pay, Fit for their souls, a loser lay."*
*Walter Scott, Marmion.
Had Dryden written nothing but plays we should not remember him as one of our great poets. Yet it was during this time of play- writing that Dryden was made Poet Laureate and Historiographer Royal with the salary of 200 pounds a year and a butt of sack. It was after he became Poet Laureate that Dryden began to write his satires, the poems for which he is most famous. Although a satire is a poem which holds wickedness up to scorn, sometimes it was used, not against the wicked and the foolish, but against those who merely differed from the writer in politics or religion or any other way of life or thought. Such was Dryden's best satire—thought by some people the best in the English language. It is called Absalom and Achitophel. To understand it we must know and understand the history of the times. Here in the guise of the old Bible story Dryden seeks to hold Lord Shaftesbury up to scorn because he tried to have a law passed which would prevent the King's brother James from succeeding to the throne, and which would instead place the Duke of Monmouth there. When the poem was published Shaftesbury was in the Tower awaiting his trial for high treason. The poem had a great effect, but Shaftesbury was nevertheless set free.
In spite of the fine sounding lines you will perhaps never care to read Absalom and Achitophel save as a footnote to history. But Dryden's was the age of satire. Those he wrote called forth others. He was surrounded and followed by many imitators, and it is well to remember Dryden as the greatest of them all. His satires were so powerful, too, that the people against whom they were directed felt them keenly, and no wonder. "There are passages in Dryden's satires in which every couplet has not only the force but the sound of a slap in the face," says a recent writer.*
Among the younger writers Dryden took the place Ben Jonson used hold. He kinged it in the coffee-house, then the fashionable place at which the wits gathered, as Jonson had in the tavern. He was given the most honored seat, in summer by the window, in winter by the fire. And although he was not a great talker like Jonson, the young wits crowded around him, eager for the honor of a word or a pinch from the great man's snuff-box.
Besides his plays and satires Dryden wrote a poem in support of the English Church called Religio Laici. Then a few years later, when Charles II died and James II came to the throne, Dryden turned Roman Catholic and wrote a poem called The Hind and the Panther in praise of the Church of Rome.
But the reign of James II was short. The "Glorious Revolution" came, and with a Protestant King and Queen upon the throne, the Catholic Poet Laureate lost his post and pension and all his other appointments. Dryden was now nearly sixty; and although he had made what was then a good deal of money by his plays and other poems he had spent it freely, and always seemed in need. Now he had to face want and poverty. But he faced them bravely. Dryden all his life had been a flatterer; he had always sailed with the wind. Now, whether he could not or would not, he changed no more, he flattered no more. A kind friend, it is said, still continued to pay him the two hundred pounds he had received as Poet Laureate, and he now wrote more plays which brought him money. Then, thus late in life, he began the work which for you at present will have the greatest interest. Dryden was a great poet, but he could create nothing, he had to have given him ideas upon which to work. Now he began translations from Latin poets, and for those who cannot read them in the original they are still a great pleasure and delight.
True, Dryden did not translate literally, that is word for word. He paraphrased rather, and in doing so he Drydenized the originals, often adding whole lines of his own. Among his translations was Virgil's Aeneid, which long before, you remember, Surrey had begun in blank verse. But blank verse was not what the age in which Dryden lived desired, and he knew it. So he wrote in rimed couplets. Long before this he had turned Milton's Paradise Lost into rimed couplets, making it into an opera, which he called The State of Innocence. An opera is a play set to music, but this opera was never set to music, and never sung or acted. Dryden, we know, admired Milton's poetry greatly. "This man cuts us all out," he had said. Yet he thought he could make the poem still better, and asked Milton's leave to turn it into rime. "Ay, you may tag my verses if you will," replied the great blind man.
It is interesting to compare the two poems, and when you come to read The State of Innocence you will find that not all the verses are "tagged." So that in places you can compare Milton's blank verse with Dryden's. And although Dryden must have thought he was improving Milton's poem, he says himself: "Truly I should be sorry, for my own sake, that any one should take the pains to compare them (the poems) together, the original being, undoubtedly, one of the greatest, most noble, and most sublime poems which either this age or nation has produced."
Dryden begins his poem with the speech of Satan, Lucifer he calls him, on finding himself cast out from heaven:—
"Is this the seat our conqueror has given? And this the climate we must change for heaven? These regions and this realm my wars have got; This mournful empire is the loser's lot; In liquid burnings, or on dry, to dwell, Is all the sad variety of hell."
If you turn back to page 401 you can compare this with Milton's own version.
Besides translating some Latin and a few Greek poems Dryden translated stories from Boccaccio, Chaucer's old friend, and last of all he translated Chaucer himself into Drydenese. For in Dryden's day Chaucer's language had already become so old- fashioned that few people troubled to read him. "It is so obsolete," says Dryden, "that his sense is scarce to be understood." "I find some people are offended that I have turned these tales into modern English, because they think them unworthy of my pains, and look on Chaucer as a dry, old-fashioned wit not worthy reviving."
Again he says: "But there are other judges, who think I ought not to have translated Chaucer into English, out of a quite contrary notion. They suppose there is a certain veneration due to his old language, and that it is little less than profanation and sacrilege to alter it. They are further of opinion that somewhat of his good sense will suffer in this transfusion, and much of the beauty of his thoughts will infallibly be lost, which appear with more grace in their old habit." I think all of us who can read Chaucer in his own language must agree with these judges. But Dryden goes on to say he does not write for such, but for those who cannot read Chaucer's English. Are they who can understand Chaucer to deprive the greater part of their countrymen of the same advantage, and hoard him up, as misers do their gold, only to look on it themselves and hinder others from making use of it? he asks.
This is very good reasoning, and all that can be said against it is that when Dryden has done with Chaucer, although he tells the same tales, they are no longer Chaucer's but Dryden's. The spirit is changed. But that you will be able to feel only when you grow older and are able to read the two and balance them one against the other. Dryden translated only a few of the Canterbury Tales, and the one he liked best was the knight's tale of Palamon and Arcite. He published it in a book which he called Fables, and it is, I think, as a narrative or story-telling poet in these fables, and in his translations, that he keeps most interest for the young people of to-day.
You have by this time, I hope, read the story of Palamon and Arcite at least in Tales from Chaucer, and here I will give you a few lines first from Dryden and then from Chaucer, so that you can judge for yourselves of the difference. In them the poets describe Emelia as she appeared on that May morning when Palamon first looked forth from his prison and saw her walk in the garden:—
"Thus year by year they pass, and day by day, Till once,—'twas on the morn of cheerful May,— The young Emila, fairer to be seen Than the fair lily on the flowery green, More flesh than May herself in blossoms new, For with the rosy colour strove her hue, Waked, as her custom was, before the day, To do the observance due to sprightly May; For sprightly May commands our youth to keep The vigils of her night, and breaks their sluggard sleep; Each gentle breast with kindly warmth she moves; Inspires new flames, revives extinguished loves. In this remembrance, Emily, ere day, Arose, and dressed herself in rich array; Fresh as the month, and as the morning fair, Adown her shoulders fell her length of hair; A ribbon did the braided tresses bind, The rest was loose, and wantoned in the wind: Aurora had but newly chased the night, And purpled o'er the sky with blushing light, When to the garden walk she took her way, To sport and trip along in cool of day, And offer maiden vows in honour of the May. At every turn she made a little stand, And thrust among the thorns her lily hand To draw the rose, and every rose she drew, She shook the stalk, and brushed away the dew; Then party-coloured flowers of white and red She wove, to make a garland for her head. This done, she sang and carolled out so clear, That men and angels might rejoice to hear; Even wondering Philomel forgot to sing, And learned from her to welcome in the Spring."
That is Dryden's, and this is how Chaucer tells of the same May morning:—
"This passeth yeer by yeer, and day by day, Till it fel oones in a morwe of May That Emelie, that farier was to seene Than is the lilie on his stalke grene, And fressher than the May with floures newe— For with the rose colour strof hire hewe, I not which was the fairer of hem two— Er it were day, as was hir wone to do, She was arisen and al redy dight. For May wol have no sloggardy anight. The seson priketh every gentil herte, And maketh him out of his sleep to sterte, And seith, 'Arise and do thin observance'. This maked Emelye have remembraunce To don honour to May, and for to rise. I-clothed was she fressh for to devise, Hir yelowe heer was broyded in a tresse, Behinde hir bak, a yerde long I gesse; And in the gardyn at the sunne upriste She walketh up and doun, and as hir liste
She gadereth floures, party white and rede, To make a subtil garland for hir hede, And as an angel hevenly she song."
In this quotation from Chaucer I have not changed the old spelling into modern as I did in the chapter on Chaucer, so that you may see the difference between the two styles more clearly.
If you can see the difference between these two quotations you can see the difference between the poetry of Dryden's age and all that went before him. It is the difference between art and nature. Chaucer sings like a bird, Dryden like a trained concert singer who knows that people are listening to him. There is room for both in life. We want and need both.
If you can feel the difference between Chaucer and Dryden you will understand in part what I meant by saying that Dryden was the expression of his time. For in Restoration times the taste was for art rather than for natural beauty. The taste was for what was clever, witty, and polished rather than for the simple, stately grandeur of what was real and true. Poetry was utterly changed. It no longer went to the heart but to the brain. Dryden's poetry does not make the tears start to our eye or the blood come to our cheek, but it flatters our ear with its smoothness and elegance; it tickles our fancy with its wit.
You will understand still better what the feeling of the times was when I tell you that Dryden, with the help of another poet, re-wrote Shakespeare's Tempest and made it to suit the fashion of the day. In doing so they utterly spoiled it. As literature it is worthless; as helping us to understand the history of those times it is useful. But although The Tempest, as re-written by Dryden, is bad, one of the best of his plays is founded upon another of Shakespeare's. This play is called All for Love or the World Well Lost, and is founded upon Shakespeare's Antony and Cleopatra. It is not written in Dryden's favorite heroic couplet but in blank verse. "In my style," he says, "I have professed to imitate the divine Shakespeare, which, that I might perform more freely, I have disencumbered myself from rhyme. Not that I condemn my former way, but that this is more proper to my present purpose." And when you come to read this play you will find that, master as Dryden was of the heroic couplet, he could write, too, when he chose, fine blank verse.
Perhaps the best-known of all Dryden's shorter poems is the ode called Alexander's Feast. It was written for a London musical society, which gave a concert each year on St. Cecilia's day, when an original ode was sung in her honor. Dryden in this ode, which was sung in 1697, pictures Timotheus, the famous Greek musician and poet, singing before Alexander, at a great feast which was held after the conquest of Persia. Alexander listens while
"The lovely Thais, by his side, Sate like a blooming Eastern Bride, In flower of youth and beauty's pride. Happy, happy, happy pair! None but the brave, None but the brave, None but the brave deserves the fair!"
As Timotheus sings he stirs at will his hearers' hearts to love, to pity, or to revenge.
"Timotheus, to his breathing flute And sounding lyre, Could swell the soul to rage, or kindle soft desire."
But those were heathen times. In Christian times came St. Cecilia and she
"Enlarged the former narrow bounds, And added length to solemn sounds, With nature's Mother-wit, and arts unknown before. Let old Timotheus yield the prize. Or both divide the crown: He raised a mortal to the skies She drew an angel down."
Dryden was a great poet, and he dominated his own age and the age to come. But besides being a poet he was a great prose-writer. His prose is clear and fine and almost modern. We do not have to follow him through sentences so long that we lose the sense before we come to the end. "He found English of brick and left it marble," says a late writer, and when we read his prose we almost believe that saying to be true. He was the first of modern critics, that is he was able to judge the works of others surely and well. And many of his criticisms of men were so true that we accept them now even as they were accepted then. Here is what he says of Chaucer in his preface to The Fables:—
"He [Chaucer] must have been a man of a most wonderful comprehensive nature, because as it has been truly observed of him, he has taken into the compass of his Canterbury Tales the various manners and humours (as we now call them) of the whole English nation, in his age. Not a single character has escaped him. All his pilgrims are severally distinguished from each other; and not only in their inclinations, but in their very physiognomies persons. . . . The matter and manner of their tales, and of their telling are so suited to their different educations, humours, and callings, that each of them would be improper in any other mouth. Even the grave and serious characters are distinguished by their several sorts of gravity. Their discourses are such as belong to their age, their calling, and their breeding; such as are becoming to them and to them only. Some of his persons are vicious, and some virtuous; some are unlearned, or (as Chaucer calls them) lewd, and some are learned. Even the ribaldry of the low characters is different: the Reeve, the Miller, and the Cook are several men, and distinguished from each other as much as the mincing Lady- Prioress and the broad-speaking, gap-toothed Wife of Bath. . . . It is sufficient to say, according to the proverb, that here is God's plenty. We have our forefathers and great-grand-dames all before us, as they were in Chaucer's days. Their general characters are still remaining in mankind, and even in England, though they are called by other names than those of monks, and friars, and canons, and lady abbesses, and nuns; for mankind is ever the same, and nothing lost out of nature though everything is altered."
The Fables was the last book Dryden wrote. He was growing to be an old man, and a few months after it was published he became very ill. "John Dryden, Esq., the famous poet, lies a-dying," said the newspapers on the 30th April, 1700. One May morning he closed his eyes for ever, just as
"Aurora had but newly chased the night, And purpled o'er the sky with blushing light."
Chapter LXI DEFOE—THE FIRST NEWSPAPERS
TO almost every house in the land, as regular as the milk man, more regular than the postman, there comes each morning the newspaper boy. To most of us breakfast means, as well as things to eat, mother pouring out the tea and father reading the newspaper. As mother passes father's tea she says, "Anything in the paper, John?" And how often he answers, "Nothing, nothing whatever."
Although father says there is nothing in the paper there is a great deal of reading in it, that we can see. And now comes the question, Who writes it all? Who writes this thin, flat book of six or eight great pages which every morning we buy for a penny or a halfpenny? But perhaps you think it does not matter who writes the newspapers, for the newspaper is not literature. Literature means real books with covers—dear possessions to be loved and taken care of, to be read and read again. But a newspaper is hardly read at all when it is crumpled up and used to light the fire. And no one minds, for who could love a newspaper, who cares to treasure it, and read it again and yet again?
We do not want even to read yesterday's newspapers, for newspapers seem to hold for us only the interest of the day. The very name by which they used to be called, journal, seems to tell us that, for it comes from the French word "jour," meaning "a day." Newspapers give us the news of the day for the day. Yet in them we find the history of our own times, and we are constantly kept in mind of how important they are in our everyday life by such phrases as "the freedom of the Press," "the opinion of the Press," the Press meaning all the newspapers, journals and magazines and the people who write for them.
So we come back again to our question, Who writes for the newspapers? The answer is, the journalists. A newspaper is not all the work of one man, but of many whose names we seldom know, but who work together so that each morning we may have our paper. And in this chapter I want to tell you about one of our first real journalists, Daniel Defoe. Of course you know of him already, for he wrote Robinson Crusoe, and he is perhaps your favorite author. But before he was an author he was a journalist, and as I say one of our first.
For there was a time when there were no newspapers, nothing for father to read at breakfast-time, and no old newspapers to crumple up and light fires with. The first real printed English newspaper was called the Weekly News. It was published in 1622, while King Charles I was still upon the throne.
But this first paper and others that came after it were very small. The whole paper was not so large as a page of one of our present halfpenny papers. The news was told baldly without any remarks upon it, and when there was not enough news it was the fashion to fill up the space with chapters from the Bible. Sometimes, too, a space was left blank on purpose, so that those who bought the paper in town might write in their own little bit of news before sending it off to country friends.
Defoe was one of the first to change this, to write articles and comments upon the news. Gradually newspapers became plentiful. And when Government by party became the settled form of our Government, each party had its own newspaper and used it to help on its own side and abuse the other.
Milton and Dryden were really journalists; Milton when he wrote his political pamphlets, and Dryden when he wrote Absalom and Achitophel and other poems of that kind. But they were poets first, journalists by accident. Defoe was a journalist first, though by nature ever a story-teller.
Daniel Defoe, born in 1661, was the son of a London butcher names James Foe. Why Daniel, who prided himself on being a true-born Englishman, Frenchified his name by adding a "De" to it we do not know, and he was over forty before he changed plain Foe into Defoe.
Daniel's father and mother were Puritans, and he was sent to school with the idea that he should become a Nonconformist minister. But Defoe did not become a minister; perhaps he felt he was unsuited for such solemn duty. "The pulpit," he says later, "is none of my office. It was my disaster first to be set apart for, and then to be set apart from the honor of that sacred employ."
Defoe never went to college, and because of this many a time in later days his enemies taunted him with being ignorant and unlearned. He felt these taunts bitterly, and again and again answered them in his writings. "I have been in my time pretty well master of five languages," he says in one place. "I have also, illiterate though I am, made a little progress in science. I have read Euclid's Elements. . . . I have read logic. . . . I went some length in physics. . . . I thought myself master of geography and to possess sufficient skill in astronomy." Yet he says I am "no scholar."
When Defoe left school he went into the office of a merchant hosier. It was while he was in this office that King Charles II died and King James II came to the throne. Almost at once there followed the Duke of Monmouth's rebellion. The Duke was a Protestant and James was a Catholic. There were many in the land who feared a Catholic King, and who believed too that the Duke had more right to the throne than James, so they joined the rebellion. Among them was Daniel. But the Rebellion came to nothing. In a few weeks the Duke's army was scattered in flight, and he himself a wretched prisoner in the Tower.
Happier than many of his comrades, Defoe succeeded in escaping death or even punishment. Secretly and safely he returned to London and there quietly again took up his trade of merchant hosier. But he did not lose his interest in the affairs of his country. And when the glorious Revolution came he was one of those who rode out to meet and welcome William the Deliverer.
But perhaps he allowed politics to take up too much of his time and thought, for although he was a good business man he failed and had to hide from those to whom he owed money. But soon we find him setting to work again to mend his fortunes. He became first secretary to and then part owner of a tile and brick factory, and in a few years made enough money to pay off all his old debts.
By this time Defoe had begun to write, and was already known as a clever author. Now some one wrote a book accusing William among many other "crimes" of being a foreigner. Defoe says, "this filled me with a kind of rage"; and he replied with a poem called The True-born Englishman. It became popular at once, thousands of copies being sold in the first few months. Every one read it from the King in his palace to the workman in his hut, and long afterwards Defoe was content to sign his books "By the author of 'The True-born Englishman.'" It made Defoe known to the King. "This poem," he said, "was the occasion of my being known to his Majesty." He was received and employed by him and "above the capacity of my deserving, rewarded." He was given a small appointment in the Civil Service. All his life after Defoe loved King William and was his staunch friend, using all the power of his clever pen to make the unloved Dutch King better understood of his people. But when King William died and Queen Anne ruled in his stead Defoe fell on evil times.
In those days the quarrels about religion were not yet over. There was a party in the Church which would very willingly have seen the Nonconformists or Dissenters persecuted. Dissenters were like to have an evil time. To show how wrong persecution was, Defoe wrote a little pamphlet which he called The Shortest Way with the Dissenters. He wrote as if he were very angry indeed with the Dissenters. He said they had been far too kindly treated and that if he had his way he would make a law that "whoever was found at a conventicle should be banished the nation and the preacher be hanged. We should soon see an end of the tale—they would all come to Church, and one age would make us all one again."
Defoe meant this for satire. A satire is, you remember, a work which holds up folly or wickedness to ridicule. He meant to show the High Churchmen how absurd and wicked was their desire to punish the Dissenters for worshiping God in their own way. He meant to make the world laugh at them. But at first the High Churchmen did not see that it was meant to ridicule them. They greeted the author of this pamphlet as a friend and ally. The Dissenters did not see the satire either, and found in the writer a new and most bitter enemy.
But when at last Defoe's meaning became plain the High Church party was very angry, and resolved to punish him. Defoe fled into hiding. But a reward of fifty pounds was offered for his discovery, and, "rather than others should be ruined by his mistake," Defoe gave himself up.
For having written "a scandalous and seditious pamphlet" Defoe was condemned to pay a large fine, to stand three times in the pillory, and to be imprisoned during the Queen's pleasure. Thus quickly did Fortune's wheel turn round. "I have seen the rough side of the world as well as the smooth," he said long after. "I have, in less than half a year, tasted the difference between the closet of a King, and the dungeon of Newgate."
The pillory was a terrible punishment. In a public place, raised on a platform, in full view of the passing crowd, the victim stood. Round his neck was a heavy collar of wood, and in this collar his hands were also confined. Thus he stood helpless, unable to protect himself either from the sun or rain or from the insults of the crowd. For a man in the pillory was a fitting object for laughter and rude jests. To be jeered at, to have mud thrown at him, was part of his punishment.
But for Defoe it was a triumph rather than a punishment. To the common people he was already a hero. So they formed a guard round him to protect him from the mud and rotten eggs his enemies would now thrown. They themselves threw flowers, they wreathed the pillory with roses and with laurel till it seemed a place of honor rather than of disgrace. They sang songs in his praise and drank to his health and wished those who had sent him there stood in his place. Thus through all the long, hot July hours Defoe was upheld and comforted in his disgrace. And to show that his spirit was untouched by his sentence he wrote A Hymn to the Pillory. This was bought and read and shouted in the ears of his enemies by thousands of the people. It was a more daring satire than even The Shortest Way. In the end of it Defoe calls upon the Pillory, "Thou Bugbear of the Law," to speak and say why he stands there:—
"Tell them, it was, because he was too bold, And told those truths which should not have been told! Extol the justice of the land, Who punish what they will not understand!
Tell them, he stands exalted there For speaking what we would not hear: And yet he might have been secure, Had he said less, or would he have said more!
Tell them the men that placed him here Are scandals to the Times! Are at a loss to find his guilt, And can't commit his crimes!"
But although Defoe's friends could take the sting out of the terrible hours during which he stood as an object for mockery they could do little else for him. So he went back to prison to remain there during the Queen's pleasure.
This, of course, meant ruin to him. For himself he could bear it, but he had a wife and children, and to know that they were in poverty and bitter want was his hardest punishment.
From prison Defoe could not manage his factory. He had to let that go, losing with it thousands of pounds. For the second time he saw himself ruined. But he had still left to him his pen and his undaunted courage. So, besides writing many pamphlets in prison, Defoe started a paper called the Review. It appeared at first once, then twice, and at last three times a week. Unlike our papers of to-day, which are written by many hands, Defoe wrote the whole of the Review himself, and continued to do so for years. It contained very little news and many articles, and when we turn these worn and yellowing pages we find much that, interesting in those days, has lost interest for us. But we also find articles which, worded in clear, strong, truly English English, seem to us as fresh and full of life as when they were written more than two hundred years ago. We find as well much that is of keen historical interest, and we gain some idea of the undaunted courage of the author when we remember that the first numbers of the Review at least were penned in a loathsome prison where highwaymen, pirates, cut-throats, and common thieves were his chief companions.
Chapter LXII DEFOE—"ROBINSON CRUSOE"
FOR more than a year and a half Defoe remained in prison; then he was set free.
A new Government had come into power. It was pointed out to the Queen that it was a mistake to make an enemy of so clever an author as Defoe. Then he was set at liberty, but on condition that he should use his pen to support the Government. So although Defoe was now free to all seeming, this was really the beginning of bondage. He was no longer free in mind, and by degrees he became a mere hanger-on of Government, selling the support of his pen to whichever party was in power.
We cannot follow him through all the twists and turns of his politics, nor through all his ups and downs in life, nor mention all the two hundred and fifty books and pamphlets that he wrote. It was an adventurous life he led, full of dark and shadowy passages which we cannot understand and so perhaps cannot pardon. But whether he sold his pen or no we are bound to confess that Defoe's desire was towards the good, towards peace, union, and justice.
One thing he fought for with all his buoyant strength was the Union between England and Scotland. It had been the desire of William III ere he died, it had now become the still stronger desire of Queen Anne and her ministers. So Defoe took "a long winter, a chargeable, and, as it proved, hazardous journey" to Scotland. There he threw himself into the struggle, doing all he could for the Union. He has left for us a history of that struggle,* which perhaps better than any other makes us realize the unrest of the Scottish people, the anger, the fear, the indecision, with which they were filled. "People went up and down wondering and amazed, expecting every day strange events, afraid of peace, afraid of war. Many knew not which way to fix their resolution. They could not be clear for the Union, yet they saw death at the door in its breaking off—death to their liberty, to their religion, and to their country." Better than any other he gives a picture of the "infinite struggles, clamor, railing, and tumult of party." Let me give, in his own words, a description of a riot in the streets of Edinburgh:—
*History of the Union of Great Britain.
"The rabble by shouting and noise having increased their numbers to several thousands, they began with Sir Patrick Johnston, who was one of the treaters, and the year before had been Lord Provost. First they assaulted his lodging with stones and sticks, and curses not a few. But his windows being too high they came up the stairs to his door, and fell to work at it with sledges or great hammers. And had they broke it open in their first fury, he had, without doubt, been torn to pieces without mercy; and this only because he was a treater in the Commission to England, for, before that, no man was so well beloved as he, over the whole city.
"His lady, in the utmost despair with this fright, came to the window, with two candles in her hand, that she might be known; and cried out, for God's sake to call the guards. An honest Apothecary in the town, who knew her voice, and saw the distress she was in, and to whom the family, under God, is obliged for their deliverance, ran immediately down to the town guard. But they would not stir without the Lord Provost's order. But that being soon obtained, one Captain Richardson, who commanded, taking about thirty men with him, marched bravely up to them; and making his way with great resolution through the crowd, they flying, but throwing stones and hallooing at him, and his men. He seized the foot of the stair case; and then boldly went up, cleared the stair, and took six of the rabble in the very act, and so delivered the gentleman and his family.
"But this did not put a stop to the general tumult, though it delivered this particular family. For the rabble, by this time, were prodigiously increased, and went roving up and down the town, breaking the windows of the Members of Parliament and insulting them in their coaches in the streets. They put out all the lights that they might not be discovered. And the author of this had one great stone thrown at him for but looking out of a window. For they suffered nobody to look out, especially with any lights, lest they should know faces, and inform against them afterwards.
"By this time it was about eight or nine o'clock at night, and now they were absolute masters of the city. And it was reported they were going to shut up all the ports.* The Lord Commissioner being informed of that, sent a party of the foot guards, and took possession of the Netherbow, which is a gate in the middle of the High Street, as Temple Bar between the City of London and the Court.
*Gates in the City Wall.
"The city was now in a terrible fright, and everybody was under concern for their friends. The rabble went raving about the streets till midnight, frequently beating drums, raising more people. When my Lord Commissioner being informed, there were a thousand of the seamen and rabble come up from Leith; and apprehending if it were suffered to go on, it might come to a dangerous head, and be out of his power to suppress, he sent for the Lord Provost, and demanded that the guards should march into the city.
"The Lord Provost, after some difficulty, yielded; though it was alleged, that it was what never was known in Edinburgh before. About one o'clock in the morning a battalion of the guards entered the town, marched up to the Parliament Close, and took post in all the avenues of the city, which prevented the resolutions taken to insult the houses of the rest of the treaters. The rabble were entirely reduced by this, and gradually dispersed, and so the tumult ended."
Although Defoe did all he could to bring the Union about he felt for and with the poor distracted people. He saw that amid the strife of parties, proud, ignorant, mistaken, it may be, the people were still swayed by love of country, love of freedom.
Even after the Union was accomplished Defoe remained in Scotland. He still wrote his Review every week, and filled it so full of Union matters that his readers began to think he could speak of nothing else and that he was grown dull. In his Review he wrote:—
"Nothing but Union, Union, says one now that wants diversion; I am quite tired of it, and we hope, 'tis as good as over now. Prithee, good Mr. Review, let's have now and then a touch of something else to make us merry." But Defoe assures his readers he means to go on writing about the Union until he can see some prospect of calm among the men who are trying to make dispeace. "Then I shall be the first that shall cease calling upon them to Peace."
The years went on, Defoe always living a stormy life amid the clash of party politics, always writing, writing. More than once his noisy, journalistic pen brought him to prison. But he was never a prisoner long, never long silenced. Yet although Defoe wrote so much and lived at a time when England was full of witty writers he was outside the charmed circle of wits who pretended not to know of his existence. "One of these authors," says another writer, "(the fellow that was pilloried, I have forgotten his name), is indeed so grave, sententious, dogmatical a rogue that there is no enduring him."*
At length when Defoe was nearly sixty years old he wrote the book which has brought him world-wide and enduring fame. Need I tell you of that book? Surely not. For who does not know Robinson Crusoe, or, as the first title ran, "The Life and Strange Surprising Adventures of Robinson Crusoe, of York, Mariner, who lived eight-and-twenty years all alone in an uninhabited Island on the Coast of America near the Mouth of the great River Oroonoque, having been cast on shore by shipwreck, wherein all the men perished but himself. With an account how he was at last strangely delivered by Pirates. Written by himself." In those days, you see, they were not afraid of long titles. The book, too, is long. "Yet," as another great writer says,* "was there ever anything written by mere man that was wished longer by its readers, except Don Quixote, Robinson Crusoe, and the Pilgrim's Progress?"
The book was a tremendous success. It pleased the men and women and children of two hundred years ago as much as it pleases them to-day. Within a few months four editions had been sold. Since then, till now, there has never been a time when Robinson Crusoe has not been read. The editions of it have been countless. It has been edited and re-edited, it has been translated and abridged, turned into shorthand and into poetry, and published in every form imaginable, and at every price, from one penny to many pounds.
Defoe got the idea of his story from the adventures of a Scots sailor named Alexander Selkirk. This sailor quarreled with his captain, and was set ashore upon an uninhabited island where he remained alone for more than four years. At the end of that time he was rescued by a passing ship and brought home to England. Out of this slender tale Defoe made his fascinating story so full of adventure.
What holds us in the story is its seeming truth. As we read it we forget altogether that it is only a story, we feel sure that Crusoe really lived, that all his adventures really happened. And if you ever read any more of Defoe's books you will find that this feeling runs through them all. Defoe was, in fact, a born story-teller—like Sir John Mandeville. With an amazing show of truth he was continually deceiving people. "He was a great, a truly great liar, perhaps the greatest liar that ever lived."*
Finding that Robinson Crusoe was such a success, Defoe began to write other stories. He wrote of thieves, pirates and rogues. These stories have the same show of truth as Robinson Crusoe. Defoe, no doubt, got the ideas for them from the stories of the rogues with whom he mixed in prison. But they have nearly all been forgotten, for although they are clever the heroes and heroines are coarse and the story of their adventures is unpleasant reading. Yet as history, showing us the state of the people in the days of Queen Anne and of George I, they are useful.
Defoe was now well off. He had built himself a handsome house surrounded by a pleasant garden. He had carriages and horses and lived in good style with his wife and beautiful daughters. There seemed to be no reason why he should not live happily and at ease for the rest of his life. But suddenly one day, for some unknown reason, he fled from his comfortable home into hiding. Why he did this no one can tell. For two years he lived a homeless, skulking fugitive. Then in 1731 he died, if not in poverty at least in loneliness and distress of mind.
BOOKS TO READ
Robinson Crusoe, abridged by John Lang. Robinson Crusoe, retold by Edith Robarts, illustrated by J. Hassall, R. I. Robinson Crusoe (Everyman's Library).
Chapter LXIII SWIFT—THE "JOURNAL TO STELLA"
WE all know what it is to feel hurt and angry, to feel that we are misunderstood, that no one loves us. At such times it may be we want to hurt ourselves so that in some mysterious way we may hurt those who do not love us. We long to die so that they may be sorry. But these feelings do not come often and they soon pass. We cry ourselves to sleep perhaps and wake up to find the evil thoughts are gone. We forget all about them, or if we remember them we remember to smile at our own foolishness, for we know that after all we are understood, we are loved. And when we grow old enough to look back upon those times, although we may remember the pain of them, we can see that sometimes they came from our own fault, it was not that we were misunderstood so much as that we were misunderstanding. Yet whether it be our own fault or not, when such times do come, the world seems very dark and life seems full of pain. Then think of what a whole life filled with these evil thoughts must be. Think of a whole life made terrible with bitter feelings. That would be misery indeed.
Yet when we read the sad story of the life of Jonathan Swift who has in Gulliver's Travels given to countless children, and grown- up people too, countless hours of pleasure, we are forced to believe that so he passed a great part of his life. Swift was misunderstood and misunderstanding. It was not that he had no love given to him, for all his life through he found women to love him. But it was his unhappiness that he took that love only to turn it to bitterness in his heart, that he took that love so as to leave a stain on him and it ever after. He had friendship too. But in the hands stretched out to help him in his need he saw only insult. In the kindness that was given to him he saw only a grudging charity, and yet he was angry with the world and with man that he did not receive more.
In the life of Jonathan Swift there are things which puzzle even the wisest. Children would find those things still harder to understand, so I will not try to explain them, but will tell you a little that you will readily follow about the life of this lonely man with the biting pen and aching heart.
Jonathan Swift's father and mother were very poor, so poor indeed that their friends said it was folly for them to marry. And when after about two years of married life the husband died, he left his young wife burdened with debts and with a little baby girl to keep. It was not until a few months after his father's death that Jonathan was born.
His mother was a brave-hearted, cheerful woman, and although her little son came to her in the midst of such sorrow she no doubt loved him, and his nurse loved him too. Little Jonathan's father and mother were English, but because he was born in Dublin, and because he spent a great deal of his life there, he has sometimes been looked upon as an Irishman.
Jonathan's nurse was also an Englishwoman, and when he was about a year old she was called home to England to a dying friend. She saw that she must go to her friend, but she loved her baby-charge so much that she could not bear to part from him. He had been a sickly child, often ill, but that seemed only to make him dearer to her. She held him in her arms thinking how empty they would fell without their dear burden. She kissed him, jealous at the thought that he might learn to know and love another nurse, and she felt that she could not part with him. Making up her mind that she would not, she wrapped him up warmly and slipped quietly from the house carrying the baby in her arms. She then ran quickly to the boat, crept on board, and was well out on the Irish Sea before it was discovered that she had stolen little Jonathan from his mother. Mrs. Swift was poor, Jonathan was not strong so the fond and daring nurse was allowed by the mother to keep her little charge until he was nearly four. Thus for three years little Jonathan lived with his nurse at Whitehaven, growing strong and brown in the sea air. She looked after him lovingly, and besides feeding and clothing him, taught him so well that Swift tells us himself, though it seems a little hard to believe, that he could spell and could read any chapter in the Bible before he was three.
After Jonathan's return to Ireland his uncle, Godwin Swift, seems to have taken charge of him, and when he was six to have sent him to a good school. His mother, meanwhile, went home to her own people in England, and although mother and son loved each other they were little together all through life. At fourteen Godwin Swift sent his nephew from school to Trinity College, Dublin. But Swift was by this time old enough to know that he was living on the charity of his uncle and the knowledge was bitter to his proud spirit. Instead of spurring him on the knowledge weighed him down. He became gloomy, idle, and wild. He afterwards said he was a dunce at college and "was stopped of his degree for dulness and insufficiency." But although at first the examiners refused to pass him, he was later, for some reason, given a special degree, granted by favor rather than gained by desert "in a manner little to his credit," says bitter Swift. Jonathan gave his uncle neither love nor thanks for his schooling. "He gave me the education of a dog," was how he spoke of it years after. Yet he had been sent to the best school in Ireland and to college later. But perhaps it was not so much the gift as the manner of giving which Swift scorned. We cannot tell.
Soon after Jonathan left college he went to live in the house of Sir William Temple. Temple was a great man in his day. He had been an Ambassador, the friend of kings and princes, and he considered himself something of a scholar. To him Swift acted as a kind of secretary. To a proud man the post of secretary or chaplain in a great house was, in those days, no happy one. It was a position something between that of a servant and a friend, and in it Swift's haughty soul suffered torments. Sir William, no doubt, meant to be kind, but he was cold and condescending, and not a little pompous and conceited. Swift's fierce pride was ready to fancy insults where none were meant, he resented being "treated like a schoolboy," and during the years he passed in Sir William's house he gathered a store of bitterness against the world in his heart.
But in spite of all his miseries real or imaginary, Swift had at least one pleasure. Among the many people making up the great household there was a little girl of seven named Esther Johnson. She was a delicate little girl with large eyes and black hair. She and Swift soon grew to be friends, and he spent his happiest hours teaching her to read and write. It is pleasant to think of the gloomy, untrained genius throwing off his gloom and bending all his talents to the task of teaching and amusing this little delicate child of seven.
With intervals between, Swift remained in Sir William's household for about five years. Here he began to write poetry, but when he showed his poems to Dryden, who was a distant kinsman, he got little encouragement. "Cousin Swift," said the great man, "you will never be a poet." Here was another blow from a hostile world which Swift could never either forget or forgive.
As the years went on Swift found his position grow more and more irksome. At last he began to think of entering the Church as a means of earning an independent livelihood and becoming his own master. And one day, having a quarrel with Sir William, he left his house in a passion and went back to Ireland. Here after some trouble he was made a priest and received a little seaside parish worth about a hundred pounds a year.
Swift was now his own master, but he found it dull. He had so few parishioners that it is said he used to go down to the seashore and skiff stones in order to gather a congregation. For he thought if the people would not come to hear sermons they would come at least to stare at the mad clergyman, and for years he was remembered as the "mad clergyman." And now because he found his freedom dull, and for various other reasons, when Sir William asked him to come back he gladly came. This time he was much happier as a member of Sir William's household than he had been before.
It was now that Swift wrote the two little books which first made him famous. These were The Battle of the Books and A Tale of a Tub. The Battle of the Books rose out of a silly quarrel in which Sir William Temple had taken part as to whether the ancient or the modern writers were the best. Swift took Temple's side and wrote to prove that the ancient writers were best. But, as it has been said, he wrote so cleverly that he proved the opposite against his will, for nowhere in the writings of the ancients is there anything so full or humor and satire as The Battle of the Books.
Swift imagines a real battle to have taken place among the books in the King's library at St. James's Palace. The books leave the shelves, some on horseback, some on foot, and armed with sword and spear throw themselves into the fray, but we are left quite uncertain as to who gained the victory. This little book is a satire, and, like all Swift's famous satires, is in prose not in poetry. In the preface he says, "Satire is a sort of glass, wherein beholders do generally discover everybody's face but their own; which is the chief reason for that kind reception it meets with in the world, and that so very few are offended with it." It is not a book that you will care to read for a long time, for to find it interesting you must know both a good deal about Swift's own times and about the books that fight the battle.
You will not care either for A Tale of a Tub. And yet it is the book above all others which one must read, and read with understanding, if one would get even a little knowledge of Swift's special genius. It was the book, nevertheless, which more than any other stood in his way in after life.
A Tale of a Tub like The Battle of the Books is a satire, and Swift wrote it to show up the abuses of the Church. He tells the story of three brothers, Peter, Martin and Jack. Peter represents the Roman Catholic, Martin the Anglican, and Jack the Presbyterian Church. He meant, he says, to turn the laugh only against Peter and Jack. That may be so, but his treatment of Martin cannot be called reverent. Indeed, reverence was impossible to Swift. There is much good to be said of him. There was a fierce righteousness about his spirit which made him a better parish priest than many a more pious man. He hated shams, he hated cant, he hated bondage. "Dr. Swift," it was said, "hated all fanatics: all fanatics hated Dr. Swift."* But with all his uprightness and breadth he was neither devout nor reverent.
When Sir William Temple died Swift went back to Ireland, and after a little time he once more received a Church living there. But here, as before, his parish was very small, so that sometimes he had only his clerk as congregation. Then he would begin the service with "Dearly beloved Roger, the Scripture moveth you and me," instead of "Dearly beloved brethren," as the Prayer Book has it.
Sir William had left Swift some money; he had also left some to Esther Johnson, the little girl Swift used to teach. She had grown into a beautiful and witty woman and now she too, with a friend, went to Ireland, and for the rest of her life lived there near Swift.
The strange friendship between these two, between Esther Johnson and Swift, is one of the puzzles in Swift's life. That they loved each other, that they were life-long friends, every one knows. But were they ever married? Were they man and wife? That question remains unanswered.
Esther is the Persian word for star; Stella the Latin. Swift called his girl-friend Stella, and as Stella she has become famous in our literature. For when Swift was away from home he wrote letters to her which we now have under the name of the Journal to Stella. Here we see the great man in another light. Here he is no longer armed with lightning, his pen is no longer dipped in poison, but in friendly, simple fashion he tells all that happens to him day by day. He tells what he thinks and what he feels, where and when he dines, when he gets up, and when he goes to bed, all the gossiping details interesting to one who loves us and whom we love. And with it all we get a picture of the times in which he lived, of the politics of the day, of the great men he moved among. Swift always addresses both Stella and her companion Mistress Dingley, and the letters are everywhere full of tender, childish nonsense. He invented what he called a "little language," using all sorts of quaint and babyish words and strange strings of capital letters, M. D., for instance, meaning my dears, M. E., Madam Elderly, or D. D., Dear Dingley, and so on. Throughout, too, we come on little bits of doggerel rimes, bad puns, simple jokes, mixed up with scraps of politics, with threatenings of war, with party quarrels, with all kinds of stray fragments of news which bring the life of the times vividly before us. The letters were never meant for any one but Stella and Mistress Dingley to see, and sometimes when we are reading the affectionate nonsense we feel as if no one ought to have seen it but these two. And yet it gives us one whole side of Swift that we should never have known but for it. It is not easy to give an idea of this book, it must be read to be understood, but I will give you a few extracts from it:—
"Pshaw, I must be writing to those dear saucy brats every night, whether I will or no, let me have what business I will, or come home ever so late, or be ever so sleepy; but an old saying and a true one,
'Be you lords, or be you earls, You must write to saucy girls.'
"I was to-day at Court and saw Raymond among the beefeaters, staying to see the Queen; so I put him in a better station, made two or three dozen of bows, and went to Church, and then to Court again to pick up a dinner, as I did with Sir John Stanley, and then we went to visit Lord Mountjoy, and just now left him, and 'tis near eleven at night, young women."
"The Queen was abroad to-day in order to hunt, but finding it disposed to rain she kept in her coach; she hunts in a chaise with one horse, which she drives herself, and drives furiously, like Jehu, and is a mighty hunter, like Nimrod. Dingley has heard of Nimrod, but not Stella, for it is in the Bible. . . . The Queen and I were going to take the air this afternoon, but not together: and were both hindered by a sudden rain. Her coaches and chaises all went back, and the guards too; and I scoured into the marketplace for shelter."
Another day he writes:—
"Pish, sirrahs, put a date always at the bottom of your letter, as well as the top, that I may know when you send it; your last is of November 3, yet I had others at the same time, written a fortnight after. . . . Pray let us have no more bussiness, busyness. Take me if I know how to spell it! Your wrong spelling, Madam Stella, has put me out: it does not look right; let me see, bussiness, busyness, business, bisyness, bisness, bysness; faith, I known not which is right, I think the second; I believe I never writ the word in my life before; yes, sure I must, though; business, busyness, bisyness.— I have perplexed myself, and can't do it. Prithee ask Walls. Business, I fancy that's right. Yes it is; I looked in my own pamphlet, and found it twice in ten lines, to convince you that I never writ it before. O, now I see it as plain as can be; so yours is only an s too much."
Chapter LXIV SWIFT—"GULLIVER'S TRAVELS"
DURING the years in which Swift found time to write these playful letters to Stella he was growing into a man of power. Like Defoe he was a journalist, but one of far more authority. The power of his pen was such that he was courted by his friends, feared by his enemies. He threw himself into the struggle of party, first as a Whig, then as a Tory; but as a friend said of him later, "He was neither Whig nor Tory, neither Jacobite nor Republican. He was Dr. Swift."* He was now, he says:—
"Grown old in politicks and wit, Caress'd by ministers of State, Of half mankind the dread and hate."*
*Cadenus and Vanessa.
And he felt that he deserved reward for what he had done for his party. He thought that he should have been made a bishop. But even in those days, when little thought was given to the fitness of a man for such a position, the Queen steadily refused to make the author of A Tale of a Tub a bishop.
Again Swift felt that he was unjustly treated, and even when he was at length made Dean of St. Patrick's that consoled him little. He longed for power, and owned that he was never so happy as when treated like a lord. He longed for wealth, for "wealth," he said, "is liberty, and liberty is a blessing fittest for a philosopher." And if Swift was displeased at being made only a Dean, the Irish people were equally displeased with him as their Dean. As he rode through the streets of Dublin to take possession of his Deanery, the people threw stones and mud at him and hooted him as he passed. The clergy, too, made his work as Dean as hard as possible. But Swift set himself to conquer them, and soon he had his own way even in trifles.
We cannot follow Swift through all his political adventures and writings. In those days the misgovernment of Ireland was terrible, and Swift, although he loved neither Ireland nor the Irish, fought for their rights until, from being hated by them, he became the idol of the people, and those who had thrown mud and stones now cheered him as he passed. Wherever he went he was received with honor, his birthday was kept as a day of rejoicing by Irishmen with gratitude. But even in his hour of triumph Swift was a lonely and discontented man as we may learn from his letters.
It was now that he published the book upon which his fame most surely rests—Gulliver's Travels. It is a book which has given pleasure to numberless people ever since. Yet Swift said himself: "The chief end I propose to myself in all my labours is to vex the world rather than divert it, and if I could compass that design without hurting my own person or fortune, I would be the most indefatigable writer you have ever seen. . . . I hate and detest that animal called man, although I heartily love John, Peter, Thomas, and so forth. . . . Upon this great foundation of misanthropy, the whole building of my Travels is erected."
But whether Swift at the time vexed the world with Gulliver or not, ever since he has succeeded in diverting it. Gulliver's Travels is an allegory and a satire, but there is no need now to do more than enjoy it as a story.
The story is divided into four parts. In the first Captain Lemuel Gulliver being wrecked finds himself upon an island where all the people are so small that he can pick them up in his thumb and finger, and it requires six hundred of their beds to make one for him.
In the second part Gulliver comes to a country where the people are giants. They are so large that they in their turn can lift Gulliver up between thumb and finger.
In the third voyage Gulliver is taken by pirates and at last lands upon a flying island, and from there he passes on to other wonderful places.
In the fourth his men mutiny and put him ashore on an unknown land. There he finds that horses are the rulers, and a terrible kind of degraded human being their slaves and servants.
In the last part the satire is too bitter, the degradation of man too terribly insisted upon to make it pleasant reading, and altogether the first two stories are the most interesting.
Here is how Swift tells us of Gulliver's arrival in Lilliput, the country of the tiny folk. After the shipwreck and a long battle with the waves he has at length reached land:—
"I lay down on the grass, which was very short and soft, where I slept sounder than ever I remember to have done in my life, and, as I reckoned, about nine hours; for when I awaked, it was just daylight. I attempted to rise, but was not able to stir: for as I happened to lie on my back, I found my arms and legs were strongly fastened on each side to the ground; and my hair, which was long and thick, tied down in the same manner.
"I could only look upwards, the sun began to grow hot, and the light offended my eyes. I heard a confused noise about me, but in the posture I lay, could see nothing except the sky. In a little time I felt something alive moving on my left leg, which advancing gently forward over my breast, came almost up to my chin; when bending my eyes downwards as much as I could, I perceived it to be a human creature not six inches high, with a bow and arrow in his hands, and a quiver at his back.
"In the meantime, I felt at least fifty more of the same kind (as I conjectured) following the first. I was in the utmost astonishment, and roared so loud, that they all ran back in a fright; and some of them, as I was afterwards told, were hurt with the falls they got by leaping from my sides upon the ground. However, they soon returned, and one of them, who ventured so far as to get a full sight of my face, lifting up his hands and eyes by way of admiration, cried out in a shrill, but distinct voice, Hekinah degul: the others repeated the same words several times, but then I knew not what they meant.
"I lay all this while, as the reader may believe, in great uneasiness: at length, struggling to get loose, I had the fortune to break the strings, and wrench out the pegs that fastened my left arm to the ground; for, by lifting it up to my face, I discovered the methods they had taken to bind me, and at the same time with a violent pull, which game me excessive pain, I a little loosened the strings that tied down my hair on the left side, so that I was just able to turn my head about two inches.
"But the creatures ran off a second time, before I could seize them; whereupon there was a great shout in a very shrill accent, and after it ceased, I heard one of them cry aloud Tolgo phonac; when in an instant I felt above an hundred arrows discharged on my left hand, which pricked me like so many needles; and besides, they shot another flight into the air, as we do bombs in Europe, whereof many, I suppose, fell on my body (though I felt them not) and some on my face, which I immediately covered with my left hand.
"When this shower of arrows was over, I fell a-groaning with grief and pain, and then striving again to get loose, they discharged another volley larger than the first, and some of them attempted with spears to stick me in the sides, but, by good luck, I had on a buff jerkin, which they could not pierce."
Gulliver decided that the best thing he could do was to lie still until night came and then, having his left hand already loose, he would soon be able to free himself. However, he did not need to wait so long, for very soon, by orders of a mannikin, who seemed to have great authority over the others, his head was set free. The little man then made a long speech, not a word of which Gulliver understood, but he replied meekly, showing by signs that he had no wicked intentions against the tiny folk and that he was also very hungry.
"The Hurgo (for so they call a great lord, as I afterwards learnt) understood me very well. He commanded that several ladders should be applied to my sides, on which above an hundred of the inhabitants mounted and walked towards my mouth, laden with baskets full of meat, which had been provided and sent thither by the King's orders, upon the first intelligence he received of me. I observed there was the flesh of several animals, but could not distinguish them by the taste. There were shoulders, legs, and loins, shaped like those of mutton, and very well dressed, but smaller than the wings of a lark. I ate them by two or three at a mouthful, and took three loaves at a time, about the bigness of musket bullets. They supplied me as fast as they could, showing a thousand marks of wonder and astonishment at my bulk and appetite. I then made another sign that I wanted to drink. They found by my eating, that a small quantity would not suffice me; and being a most ingenious people, they slung up with great dexterity one of their largest hogsheads, then rolled it towards my hand, and beat out the top; I drank it off at a draught, which I might well do, for it did not hold half a pint, and tasted like a small wine of Burgundy, but much more delicious. They brought me a second hogshead, which I drank in the same manner, and made signs for more, but they had none to give me. When I had performed these wonders, they shouted for joy, and danced upon my breast, repeating several times as they did at first Hekinah degul."
And now having introduced you and Gulliver to the Lilliputians, I must leave you to hear about his further adventures among them from the book itself. There you will learn how Gulliver received his freedom, and how he lived happily among the little people until at length Swift falls upon the quaint idea of having him impeached for treason. Gulliver then, hearing of this danger, escapes, and after a few more adventures arrives at home.
As a contrast to what you have just read you may like to hear of Gulliver's first adventures in Brobdingnag, the land of giants. Gulliver had been found by a farmer and carried home. When the farmer's wife first saw him "she screamed and ran back, as women in England do at the sight of a toad or a spider." However, when she saw that he was only a tiny man, she soon grew fond of him.
"It was about twelve at noon, and a servant brought in dinner. It was only one substantial dish of meat (fit for the plain condition of a husbandman) in a dish of about four-and-twenty foot diameter. The company were the farmer and his wife, three children, and an old grand-mother. When they were sat down, the farmer placed me at some distance from him on the table, which was thirty foot high from the floor. I was in a terrible fright, and kept as far as I could from the edge for fear of falling. The wife minced a bit of meat, then crumbled some bread on a trencher, and placed it before me. I made her a low bow, took out my knife and fork, and fell to eat, which gave them exceeding delight. The mistress sent her maid for a small dram cup, which held about two gallons, and filled it with drink. I took up the vessel with much difficulty in both hands, and in a most respectful manner drank to her ladyship's health, expressing the words as loud as I could in English, which made the company laugh so heartily, that I was almost deafened with the noise. . . .
"In the midst of dinner, my mistress's favourite cat leapt into her lap. I heard a noise behind me like that of a dozen stocking-weavers at work; and turning my head, I found it proceeded from the purring of this animal, who seemed to be three times larger than an ox, as I computed by the view of her head, and one of her paws, while her mistress was feeding and stroking her. The fierceness of this creature's countenance altogether discomposed me; though I stood at the further end of the table, above fifty foot off; and although my mistress held her fast for fear she might give a spring, and seize me in her talons. But it happened there was no danger; for the cat took not the least notice of me when my master placed me within three yards of her. And as I have been always told, and found true by experience in my travels, that flying, or discovering fear before a fierce animal, is a certain way to make it pursue or attack you, so I resolved in this dangerous juncture to show no manner of concern. I walked with intrepidity five or six times before the very head of the cat, and came within half a yard of her; whereupon she drew herself back, as if she were more afraid of me."
When it was published Gulliver's Travels was at once a great success. Ten days after it appeared, two poets wrote to Swift that "the whole town, men, women, and children are quite full of it."
For nearly twenty years longer Swift lived, then sad to say the life of the man who wrote for us these fascinating tales closed in gloom without relief. Stella, his life-long friend, died. That left him forlorn and desolate. Then, as the years passed, darker and darker gloom settled upon his spirit. Disease crept over both mind and body, he was tortured by pain, and when at length the pain left him he sank into torpor. It was not madness that had come upon him, but a dumb stupor. For more than two years he lived, but it was a living death. Without memory, without hope, the great genius had become the voiceless ruin of a man. But at length a merciful end came. On an October day in 1745 Swift died. He who had torn his own heard with restless bitterness, who had suffered and caused others to suffer, had at last found rest.
He was buried at dead of night in his own cathedral and laid by Stella's side, and over his grave were carved words chosen by himself which told the wayfarer that Jonathan Swift had gone "Where savage indignation can no longer tear at his heart. Go, wayfarer, and imitate, if thou canst, a man who did all a man may do as a valiant champion of liberty."