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Outlines of English and American Literature
Summary
by Long, William J.


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 criticisms.

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 Evelyn.

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.

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