THE PROSE of the decade was concerned with the same "poetical" subjects: the passions of man, the varieties of natural landscape, the eternal power of heaven. The main difference in the prose was that the conditioning force of the second, or natural, subject was not so strong; morals and eternal verities were less often scenicized. Even so, much of the prose of drama heightened its effects by atmosphere and insisted on the seriousness of its intent, as for example Garrick farcical Miss in Her Teens bespoke in its prologue "nature's laws," "more gen'rous views," real life and passions; and Mallet Alfred, very different in weight and kind, was different not only by the standard variation between farce and tragedy but by the new sublimity of its atmospheric reference. "All the world's a stage" became significant in a new sense: not in the conflict and confrontation of character so much as in the scenic properties, the formal focus and expansive backdrop, the draperies and fitting tonal resonances, the large scale of production, the renewed use of Shakespeare to these large, passionately reforested, ends. Histories of the English stage, like Betterton's and Chetwood's, commentaries like Hanmer's, Upton's, Johnson's, collections like Dodsley's, all contributed to the sense of long view, of temporal survey, and of local immediate participation in the truths of history, the visions and verities of the ancient and great.
The novel in its new solidity was an even stronger localizer of moral problems and spiritual forces in specific times of day, in specific houses, towns, and shires. The reader under the light could live in the panorama. This is not to say that Pamela, Shamela, Joseph Andrews, David Simple, Clarissa Harlowe, Roderick Random, Tom Jones, the novels of the 1740's, were full of "poetic" descriptive passages; rather, they seem to us bare of local fact and atmosphere. Pamela lives in a world of sensi
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Publication information: Book title: The Continuity of Poetic Language:Studies in English Poetry from the 1540's to the 1940's. Contributors: Josephine Miles - Author. Publisher: University of California Press. Place of publication: Berkeley, CA. Publication year: 1951. Page number: 223.