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LECTURES

ON THE

BRITISH POETS.

HENRY REED,

AUTHOR OF "INTRODUCTION TO ENGLISH LITERATURE," AND "LECTURES ON ENGLISH
HISTORY AND TRAGIC POETRY, AS ILLUSTRATED BY SHAKSPEARE."

LONDON:
JOHN FARQUHAE SHAW,
27, SOUTHAMPTON ROW, AND 36, PATERNOSTER ROW.

1857.

JOHN CHILDS AND SON, PRINTERS. PREFACE.

The great success of the two volumes of my brother's Lectures—the first on " English Literature," and the second on "History as illustrated by Shakspeare's Plays,"—has induced me to publish another series, still more complete, on the "British Poets," which was delivered by Mr. Reed in 1841. These lectures are printed from the author's manuscript, with no other alteration than the omission of passages which he had used in his second course.

An addition has been made to these volumes of two essays on kindred subjects,—one on "English Sonnets," and another on "Hartley Coleridge."

The present volumes are probably the last of my brother's works which I shall publish. The lectures already issued have been most kindly received on both sides of the Atlantic; and it would be ungraceful were I to omit, for myself and his still nearer family, an expression of the deep feeling with which this appreciation has inspired us.

W. B. K.

Philadelphia, February 13, 1857.

CONTENTS.

LECTURE I.

Object of the course—Poetry the eminence of litersture—The history of litera-

ture illustrated by general history and biography—The lives of Spenser and

Milton—A catholic taste in poetry—Variety of Poetry—Intolerance of liter-

ary judgment—Rymer and Voltaire on Shakspeare—Johnson on Milton—

Jeffrey on Wordsworth—Qualifications of an enlightened critic—Utilitarian

criticism—The true use of Poetry—Its depreciation and abuse—Albums and

scrap-books—Ben Jonson's panegyric on his art—Wordsworth—Object of

these lectures not to encourage poetical composition—Sydney's Defence—

Connection of Poetry and science—The spirit of our times—Materialism and

infidelity—Influence on imaginative power—Vindication of Poetry. Page 1

LECTURE II.

The nature of Poetry and its ministrations—Imaginative capacity—Lord Ba-

con's view—Milton's—Poetry a divine emanation—Its foundation is truth—

The truth of inner life—Painting and Sculpture—Poetry an imitative art—

The Child and the Shell—Scientific investigation of truth—Human sympa-

thy cultivated by Poetry—Immortality—Spiritual aspirations—Stoicism

irreconcilable with Poetry—Loyalty and chivalry—The songs of Israel—

Taste, a wrong name—Mental inactivity inconsistent with criticism—Due

proportion of intellectual powers—Walter Scott and Sir Philip Sydney.

Page 22

LECTURE III.

CHAUCER.

The dawn of English Poesy—Difficulties of describing it—Obsolete language

—Chaucer the father of English Poetry—Latin Poetry—Revival of learning

—English language — Its transition—Statutes of Edward the Third—

Gower—Age of chivalry—Invasion of France—Cressy and Poitiers—The

Black Prince—The Church—Wiclif—Chaucer's birth, A.d. 1328—Friend-

ship with Gower—Taste for natural scenery—The Flower and the Leaf—

Burns's Daisy—Romaunt of the Rose—Canterbury Tales—Its outline—His

respect for the female sex—Chaucer's influence on the English language—

"The Well of English undefiled"—His versification—His death, A.d. 1400.

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LECTURE IV.

BPENSEB AND THE MINSTRELSY.

Relapse in English Poetry after Chaucer from 1400 to 1553—Its causes—The

Wars of the Roses—Ecclesiastical disturbance—The Reformation and Queen

Elizabeth—Wyatt and Surrey—The Sonnet—Blank Verse—Sackvule—

Elizabeth's reign and character—Classical learning—The British Church—

Spenser's birth, in A.d. 1553—The Shepherd's Calendar—Its allegory—

The friendship of Sydney—Spenser's residence in Ireland—The Fairy

Queen, in 1590—Sir 'Walter Raleigh—The great work of Spenser—Mil-

ton's praise—Spenser's mighty imagination—Appeal to human sympathies

—Chivalric spirit — Religious aim—Mr. Hallam's criticism—Hymn to

Beauty—The Spenserian Stanza—Alliteration—His blemishes—The Epi-

thalamium—Death, A.d. 1598—The British Minstrelsy and Ballads—Kin-

mont Willie—Sir Patrick Spens—Armstrong's Good-night Page 66

LECTURE V.

BHAKSPEARE.

Spenser's death and Shakspeare's birth—Influence of the age—Independence

of his imaginary creations—Small knowledge of the individual—Unselfish-

ness of genius—A spiritual voice in all time—Shakspeare traditions—His

birth, A.d. 1564—Death, A.d. 1616—Cervantes's death—Epitaph—Educa-

tion—Ben Jonson—Power over language—The Dramatic Art congenial to

his genius—Kenilworth and Queen Elizabeth—Shakspeare in London—The

Armada—His patriotism and loyalty—Subjectiveness of the modern Eu-

ropean mind—Shakspeare and Bacon—Venus and Adonis—Lucrece—The

Dramas—The Sonnets—Dramatic Art in England—Sacred Dramas—

Mysteries and Moralities—Heywood—Minor Dramatists—"The gentle

Shakspeare"—The acting Drama—Primitive theatres—Modern adaptations

—Lear and Richard III.—The' supernatural of the Drama—Macbeth—The

Tempest his last poem ....... Page 97

LECTURE VI.

MILTON.

Abundance of biographical materials—Dr. Johnson's Life—Milton among the

great prose writers—Milton's conception of his calling as a poet—Poetry

the highest aim of human intellect—Milton's youthful genius—Study of

Hebrew poetry—Latin poem to his father—The rural home—Poetic genius

improved by study—Visits to the London theatres—Thoughtful culture of

his powers—Allegro and Penseroso—Lycidas—Dr. Johnson's judgments on

this poem—Masque of Comus—Faith and Hope and Chastity—The Hymn

on the Nativity—Power and melody of the Miltonic versification—Visit to

Galileo—Milton in Rome—Story of Tasso's life—Influence over Milton—

The Rebellion—The condition of the English monarchy—The poet's domes-

tic troubles—Sonnets—Johnson's criticisms on them—Milton's Latin de-

spatches—-Sonnet on the Piedmont persecution—Coleridge and Wordsworth

on the moral sublimity of the poet's life—The Paradise Lost—The character

of Satan—Coleridge's criticism—The grandeur of the epic—The Paradise

Regained—The Samson Agonisfes—Poetry a relief to the poet's overcharged

heart Page 122

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