The literary period just studied covers the last three
quarters of the seventeenth century. Its limits are very
indefinite, merging into Elizabethan romance on the one side, and
into eighteenth century formalism on the other. Historically, the
period was one of bitter conflict between two main political and
religious parties, the Royalists, or Cavaliers, and the Puritans.
The literature of the age is extremely diverse in character, and is
sadly lacking in the unity, the joyousness, the splendid enthusiasm
of Elizabethan prose and poetry.
The greatest writer of the period was John Milton. He is famous in
literature for his early or Horton poems, which are Elizabethan in
spirit; for his controversial prose works, which reflect the strife
of the age; for his epic of Paradise Lost, and for his
tragedy of Samson.
Another notable Puritan, or rather Independent, writer was John
Bunyan, whose works reflect the religious ferment of the
seventeenth century. His chief works are Grace Abounding, a
kind of spiritual biography, and The Pilgrim's Progress, an
allegory of the Christian life which has been more widely read than
any other English book.
The chief writer of the Restoration period was John Dryden, a
professional author, who often catered to the coarser tastes of the
age. There is no single work by which he is gratefully remembered.
He is noted for his political satires, for his vigorous use of the
heroic couplet, for his modern prose style, and for his literary
Among the numerous minor poets of the period, Robert Herrick and
George Herbert are especially noteworthy. A few miscellaneous prose
works are the Religio Medici of Thomas Browne, The
Compleat Angler of Isaac Walton, and the diaries of Pepys and
Selections for Reading
Minor poems of Milton, and parts of
Paradise Lost, in Standard English Classics, Riverside Literature,
and other school series (see Texts, in General Bibliography).
Selections from Cavalier and Puritan poets in Maynard's English
Classics, Golden Treasury Series, Manly's English Poetry, Century
Readings, Ward's English Poets. Prose selections in Manly's English
Prose, Craik's English Prose Selections, Garnett's English Prose
from Elizabeth to Victoria. Pilgrim's Progress and Grace Abounding
in Standard English Classics, Pocket Classics, Student's Classics.
Religio Medici and Complete Angler in Temple Classics and
Everyman's Library. Selections from Dryden in Manly's English Prose
and Manly's English Poetry. Dryden's version of Palamon and Arcite
(the Knight's Tale of Chaucer) in Standard English Classics,
Riverside Literature, Lake Classics.