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


What we call eighteenth-century literature appeared between two great political upheavals, the English Revolution of 1688 and the French Revolution of 1789. Some of the chief characteristics of that literature--such as the emphasis on form, the union of poetry with politics, the prevalence of satire, the interest in historical subjects--have been accounted for, in part at least, in our summary of the history of the period.

The writings of the century are here arranged in three main divisions: the reign of formalism (miscalled classicism), the revival of romantic poetry, and the development of the modern novel. Our study of the so-called classic period includes: (1) The meaning of classicism in literature. (2) The life and works of Pope, the leading poet of the age; of Swift, a master of satire; of Addison and Steele, the graceful essayists who originated the modern literary magazine. (3) The work of Dr. Johnson and his school; in which we have included, for convenience, Edmund Burke, most eloquent of English orators, and Gibbon the historian, famous for his Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire.

Our review of the romantic writers of the age covers: (1) The work of Collins and Gray, whose imaginative poems are in refreshing contrast to the formalism of Pope and his school. (2) The life and works of Goldsmith, poet, playwright, novelist; and of Burns, the greatest of Scottish song writers. (3) A glance at other poets, such as Cowper and Blake, who aided in the romantic revival. (4) The renewed interest in ballads and legends, which showed itself in Percy's Reliques of Ancient English Poetry, and in two famous forgeries, the Ossian poems of Macpherson and The Rowley Papers of the boy Chatterton.

Our study of the novel includes: (1) The meaning of the modern novel, as distinct from the ancient romance. (2) A study of Defoe, author of Robinson Crusoe, who was a forerunner of the modern realistic novelist. (3) The works of Richardson and of Fielding, contrasting types of eighteenth-century story-tellers. (4) The influence of Richardson's sentimentality, of Fielding's realism, and of Goldsmith's moral purity on subsequent English fiction.

Selections for Reading

Typical selections are given in Manly, English Poetry and English Prose, Century Readings, and other miscellaneous collections. Important works of major writers are published in inexpensive editions for school use, a few of which are named below.

Pope's poems, selected, in Standard English Classics, Pocket Classics, Riverside Literature, and other series. (See Texts, in General Bibliography.)

Selections from Swift's works, in Athenĉum Press, Holt's English Readings, Clarendon Press. Gulliver's Travels, in Standard English Classics, in Ginn and Company's Classics for Children, in Carisbrooke Library, in Temple Classics.

Selections from Addison and Steele, in Athenĉum Press, Golden Treasury, Maynard's English Classics. Sir Roger de Coverley Papers, in Standard English Classics, Riverside Literature, Academy Classics.

Chesterfield's Letters to his son, selected, in Ginn and Company's Classics for Children, and in Maynard's English Classics.

Boswell's Life of Johnson, in Clarendon Press, Temple Classics, Everyman's Library.

Burke's Speeches, selected, in Standard English Classics, Pocket Classics, English Readings.

Selections from Gray, in Athenĉum Press, Canterbury Poets, Riverside Literature.

Goldsmith's Deserted Village and Vicar of Wakefield, in Standard English Classics, King's Classics; She Stoops to Conquer, in Pocket Classics, Belles Lettres Series, Cassell's National Library.

Sheridan's The Rivals, in Athenĉum Press, Camelot Series, Riverside Literature, Everyman's Library.

Poems of Burns, selected, in Standard English Classics, Riverside Literature, Silver Classics.

Defoe's Robinson Crusoe, school edition by Ginn and Company; the same in Everyman's Library, Pocket Classics.

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