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Download English Literature and Society in the Eighteenth Century epub

by Leslie Stephen

This Elibron Classics book is a facsimile reprint of a 1904 edition by Duckworth and Co., London.
Download English Literature and Society in the Eighteenth Century epub
ISBN: 1402183348
ISBN13: 978-1402183348
Category: Literature
Subcategory: History & Criticism
Author: Leslie Stephen
Language: English
Publisher: Adamant Media Corporation (December 4, 2000)
Pages: 232 pages
ePUB size: 1989 kb
FB2 size: 1840 kb
Rating: 4.1
Votes: 102
Other Formats: rtf doc lit lrf

In about 200 pp., Sir Leslie gives a course of lectures on an entire century of English literature:

... There were coffee-houses frequented by merchants and stock-jobbers carrying on the game which suggested the new nickname bulls and bears: and coffee-houses where the talk was Whig and Tory, of the last election and change of ministry: and literary resorts such as the Grecian, where, as we are told, a fatal duel was provoked by a dispute over a Greek accent, in which, let us hope, it was the worst scholar who was killed; and Wills', where Pope as a boy went to look reverently at Dryden; and Buttons', where, at a later period, Addison met his little senate. Addison, according to Pope, spent five or six hours a day lounging at Buttons'; while Pope found the practice and the consequent consumption of wine too much for his health.

This useful survey was in print as a textbook or study guide into the 1960s. The lecture style is informal, if not breezy. I can do no better than quote a few remarkable passages:

"... I may perhaps note, in passing, that we do not always remember what classical literature meant to that generation. In the first place, the education of a gentleman meant nothing then except a certain drill in Greek and Latin—whereas now it includes a little dabbling in other branches of knowledge. In the next place, if a man had an appetite for literature, what else was he to read? Imagine every novel, poem, and essay written during the last two centuries to be obliterated and further, the literature of the early seventeenth century and all that went before to be regarded as pedantic and obsolete, the field of study would be so limited that a man would be forced in spite of himself to read his Homer and Virgil... "

"... The nobleman has ceased to consider the patronage of authors as any part of his duty, and the tradition which made him consider writing poetry as a proper accomplishment is dying out. Since that time our aristocracy as such has been normally illiterate. Peers—Byron, for example—have occasionally written books; and more than one person of quality has, like Fox, kept up the interest in classical literature which he acquired at a public school, and added a charm to his parliamentary oratory. [...]
But a certain contempt for the professional writer is becoming characteristic, even of men like Horace Walpole, who have a real taste for literature. He is inclined to say, as Chesterfield put it in a famous speech, 'We, my lords, may thank Heaven that we have something better than our brains to depend upon.' ..."

Worth reading, even today.
This is an interesting analysis of 18th century English literature, and the mutual influence between the authors of that period and the society in which they lived. However, it is a rather short text, consisting of just a couple of lectures from the 19th or early 20th century, meaning that it comes off more as an introduction to a non-existent larger work rather than a complete survey of the topic in its own right.