The Peace of the Augustans: A Survey of Eighteenth Century Literature as a Place of Rest and Refreshment

The Peace of the Augustans: A Survey of Eighteenth Century Literature as a Place of Rest and Refreshment

The Peace of the Augustans: A Survey of Eighteenth Century Literature as a Place of Rest and Refreshment

The Peace of the Augustans: A Survey of Eighteenth Century Literature as a Place of Rest and Refreshment

Excerpt

The Peace of the Augustans was, I think, the last of Saintsbury's contributions to purely literary criticism, certainly the last composed in his professorial capacity. Freed from what he deemed the responsibilities of such an office he was to find a new public by his Notes on a Cellar Book, and greatly to extend the number of his readers by the successive Scrap Books. The date affixed to the Preface here is that on which the present writer took over from him, and received a moriturus te salutat letter which he has retained but has never been able to decipher in its entirety.

The book has all the characteristics of Saintsbury's literary criticism--the extraordinary gusto with which he wrote of whatever gave him pleasure, unabated by years and indeed brought into clearer relief from the fact that he is dealing with a period some aspects of which he thoroughly enjoyed while of one of its special glories in its own eyes he was, with the best will in the world, not a whole-hearted admirer. For there are two things to be kept in mind in reading and estimating his criticism of poetry and literature generally, two characteristics which explain its attractiveness to many readers and to some indicate certain limitations.

The two things I have in view are, first, that literature was for him one, if poetry perhaps the chief, of the good things this world has to give us. He judged it simply and frankly by the pleasure which it gave him, as he judged of wine and food. He told the late Mr. J. M. Dent the publisher, for a meeting with whom he had characteristically prepared a carefully chosen dinner with the wines appropriate thereto, that he had set himself throughout life to cultivate a taste for the best in things material and spiritual.

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