Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 55.djvu/231

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bécile" indicates how attempered and attenuated by spiritual faith were the dictates of pure reason in his day, and the reason of Boileau, as I have already observed, was strongly tinged with æstheticism. I need not, with reference to eighteenth-century reason worship, go further than to refer the curious of enlightenment on the subject to the masterly works of Morley on the period in question, in which it is precisely this unflinching devotion to reason or unreason (if the sage of Chelsea will have it thus) which stimulates his calm and logical temperament to positive enthusiasm.

A last element of contrast between the centuries is of interest in connection with the habitual mode of thought which Godwin and his political disciple Shelley borrowed from eighteenth-century French sources with reference to the true relations subsisting between laws and morals. The seventeenth-century mind held tenaciously enough to the theory that it is the moeurs of a nation that inspire the laws, but the encyclopedists were inspired in their undying hope of amelioration and human progress to perfectibility by the contrary theory that men, after all, are only bad because the laws have made them so.

It may be conceded, then, that these broad relations of literary movements one with the other, the conflict of converging tendencies, and the more evident causes of the growth and decay of powerful manifestations of a nation's thought, are of quite sufficient moment to have merited fuller treatment at the hands of the eminent critic who has in all other respects fulfilled his task so admirably, that having regard to the necessary conditions of the subject, it would be above criticism if anything could be.


THE universality of Shakespeare is the common remark of critics. Other great men have been versatile; Shakespeare alone is universal. He alone of all great men seems to have been able to follow his own advice, "to hold as it were the mirror up to Nature." On the clear surface of his thought, as on a deep Alpine lake, the whole shore lies reflected—not alone the clouds, the sky, the woods, the castles, the rocks, the mountain path by which the shepherd strolls; not alone the broad highway by which may march the king in splendor the peasant with his wain; but even the humbler objects by the still water's edge, the trodden grass, the fluttering sedge, the broken reed, the tiniest flower, all things, all Nature in action or repose finds counterpart within the glassy depths.