english literature in the eighteenth century

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Purchase of this book includes free trial access to www.million-books.com where you can read more than a million books for free. This is an OCR edition with typos. Excerpt from book: CHAPTER III. I. So far we have seen no very striking instances of any close resemblance between the English and the French styles. Dryden's asperities, as well as his vigor, are very unlike the polish of the French, yet in the imitations of the French thoughtfulness and reason we see a continual effort to model the Englishman after his neighbor across the Channel. In fact, there was hardly any period when the French and English were more unlike than they were just at the time when Dryden lived. In France, after the great civil and religious wars of the sixteenth century, there was a very marked movement towards refinement and social cultivation, and the advance of civilization was very swift. Those who took an interest in literature were quick to respond to their guides, who showed great intelligence in discovering and directing the tastes of the French people. The court, too, was not in hostility to the rest of the country, as was the case in England after the Restoration. There was in France no public outside of fashionable circles, and these responded quickly to the polish which waspreached and illustrated by the literary leaders. The romances of the time were not mere accumulations of vapid sentiment: they inculcated virtue and refinement; their heroes were knightly persons—tedious, to be sure, but true to a high ideal. The French tragedians expressed the same civilizing qualities. If it be objected that the Greeks and Romans whom they put upon the stage are really Frenchmen with classical names, that is, after all, a conventionalism which, if once acknowledged to exist, need not trouble us longer. There is a certain amount of pedantry in demanding faithfulness to an ideal when nobody knows with precision what the ideal really is. Then, too, even Greeks and Romans who are l...
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