Social Ideals in English Letters

Social Ideals in English Letters

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Social Ideals in English Letters

Social Ideals in English Letters

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Excerpt

A LONG reach of years -- nearly a century and a half -- lies between the "Visions" of Langland and the "Utopia" of Sir Thomas More. A farther reach of spiritual distance separates the rude and wistful mediæval dreamer, who saw in the laborer at his task the image of the Saviour of the world, from the cultured statesman of the Renascence. More is the representative scholar of the New Learning of the sixteenth century. His winning personality and interesting career surprise us with an almost contemporary freshness, and show that we have passed from the mystery which makes the whole tone of mediæval life at once alluring and strange, to the modern atmosphere and the modern spirit.

Nothing is more distinctive in the period of the Renascence, nothing affords more remarkable witness to the individualism which it everywhere fostered, than the sudden appearance of distinct characters. We no longer look, as in mediæval annals, on shining arms or drooping cowl, half fearful lest they conceal shadows; we gaze straight into expressive faces, alert with intelligence, eager as we are eager, with the same note of question . . .

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