Critical Essays of the Eighteenth Century, 1700-1725


That period of English literature which is commonly styled--with more regard for alliteration than accuracy-- the Age of Anne, is summarily dismissed by the average student of literary history. Here, if anywhere, he is undisturbed by critical doubts. He may question the absolute merit of the minor Elizabethans; he may have misgivings as to his estimate of the Victorians; but in dealing with the Augustans he is happily certain. Especially is this true of Augustan ideals and tendencies. There was the 'Classical School'; one can trace the 'beginnings of Romanticism'; the former is fortunately dead, the latter grown into something of much greater importance. It is all perfectly clear.

To the person, however, who takes pains to read what was written during this period, nothing is clearer than the falsity of such an opinion. The Age of Anne has suffered from adulation and from vituperation, from ignorant generalization and from scholarly misrepresentation, but from nothing so much as from being hastily pigeon-holed. It is possible to conceive how persons so unfortunate as to be blind to a certain type of literary merit might be eager to get this period off their hands. It is much more remarkable that they should suppose they had done so.

Such ungrounded assumption is largely the product of indifference, an indifference fortunately lessening. The mere passage of time is transferring it to the Victorian period. It begins to appear, for example, as if Tennyson . . .

Additional information

Publisher: Place of publication:
  • New York
Publication year:
  • 1961


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