The First Half of the Seventeenth Century/Chapter 5
"an immoderate hydroptic thirst of learning"—bacon—jonson. divines—anglo-catholic: andrewes—donne—jeremy taylor; puritan: adams; latitudinarian: hales—chillingworth. controversialists: hall—taylor—milton. "characters": hall—overbury—earle. burton—drummond—browne—urquhart—fuller. philosophy: hobbes. history: clarendon. biography: walton.
The review of English prose in the preceding volume of this series closed with the great name of Hooker. In the Ecclesiastical Polity, English prose, though not yet without faults of cumbrousness and diffuseness, for the first time grappled successfully with the task of setting forth in lucid, weighty, and harmonious periods a sustained philosophic argument, and, so doing, established its right to take the place of Latin even for learned purposes, useful as it might be to retain the latter for works addressed solely to the world of scholars.
The note which Hooker struck, the note of gravity and dignity, remained the dominant one throughout Learning. at any rate that portion of the seventeenth century with which this volume deals. Prose, like poetry, felt the strain of the growing seriousness and combativeness of the age, the increasing intellectuality of temper. Pure poetry is somewhat of an exotic in the seventeenth century; even Milton's purest poetry is his earliest. Both poetry and prose are enlisted in the service of religious controversy or the growing interest in science and philosophy. The earlier seventeenth century cannot be called an age of prose, in the sense that its temper is prosaic. It was not, like the next age, suspicious of enthusiasm: enthusiasm was too much the air it breathed. But that enthusiasm was not, as in the years which produced the Faerie Queene or Shakespeare's historical plays, the joyous enthusiasm of a nation awakened to a sense of its own greatness and the charm of letters, and not yet profoundly divided against itself. It is inquiring and combative, fanatical sometimes, often satirical and scornful, melancholy, occasionally mystical, hardly, even arrogantly, intellectual. Learning is its idol, "an immoderate hydroptic thirst of learning." The old learning, scholastic and traditional, subtle and argumentative, revives with vigour in the work of the ecclesiastical and theological controversialists at the very time that in the writings of Bacon and Hobbes the new spirit of inquiry, distrustful of enthusiasm and distrustful of tradition, is growing active. Such an age naturally begot a rich and strong but varied prose. To a uniform and perfect medium, like that which Balzac, Descartes, and Pascal evolved in France, it did not attain. Yet the prose of the early seventeenth century has great qualities. It has the freshness of forms which have not yet become stereotyped and conventional. Its writers know how to mingle colloquial vigour with dignified and serious eloquence, racy Saxon with musical Latin polysyllables. In splendour of poetic imagery and harmony, the best prose of Donne and Taylor and Milton and Browne has been only occasionally equalled since. Bacon has hardly a rival in condensed felicity of phrase and wealth of illustration, and Hobbes's prose is as clear, forcible, and formed a style as has ever been used in philosophic exposition. The prose of the seventeenth century is not to be dismissed as unformed by Arnold's comparison of extracts from Chapman and Milton with Dryden's prefaces. Neither Chapman nor Milton is quite a characteristic writer. The seventeenth century is the first great period of modern English prose, while it was forming under classical, but independent of French, influence. The advance which it made after the Restoration in uniformity, elegance, and ease was not made without a corresponding loss in freshness, harmony, dignity, and poetic richness of phraseology.
No better proof of what has been said regarding the subordination of the purely literary to other interests could be found than the work of the great Bacon. thinker and author who meets us on the threshold of the century. Francis Bacon (1561-1626), whose life and public career need hardly be detailed here, was as careful a student of the art of clear, dignified, and persuasive utterance as of any other of the many fields of inquiry his restless mind surveyed. The Colours of Good and Evil (1597)—which, with the first draft of the Essays, was his earliest literary publication,—and the Promus of Formalities and Elegancies, show, what is equally clear from everything he wrote, how consciously he studied to speak and to write effectively. But it was not for the sake of style that Bacon studied style. He recognised how frequently "the greatest orators, . . . by observing their well-graced forms of speech, lose the volubility of application." He condemned the Ciceronians of the Renaissance, who "began to hunt more after words than matter, and more after the choiceness of the phrase, and the round and clear composition of the sentence, and the sweet falling of the clauses, and the varying and illustration of their works with tropes and figures, than after the weight of matter, worth of subject, soundness of argument, life of invention, and depth of judgment." Style to Bacon is an instrument of power—a means by which to commend his policy to statesmen and sovereigns, his new instrument for unlocking the secrets of nature to scholars at home and abroad.
The earliest of Bacon's papers which have been preserved—An Advertisement touching the Controversies Controversies. of the Church (1589)—has all the characteristics of his later work,—breadth and subtlety of thought, gravity, heightened by the tinge of archaism in the diction, the well-built sentences, now long, now short, as occasion demands, never getting out of hand, the perfectly chosen phrase, the felicitous illustrations and quotations. There is not an "empty" or "idle" word. "His hearers," Jonson tells us, "could not laugh or look aside from him without loss." His readers cannot afford to overlook a word if they would appreciate his argument or do justice to his art as a writer; though they will recognise in it an art that is always conscious of its end and in methods a little over-elaborate. Neither in rhetoric nor diplomacy did Bacon ever recognise, with Pascal, that there is an "esprit de finesse" which can achieve more than studied method, that "la vraie éloquence se moque de l'éloquence." Bacon excites our admiration: he never carries us away.
The Advancement of Learning (1605) is in the same closely reasoned persuasive style, but more elaborate Advancement
of Learning. in its rhetoric. The first book is a brilliant popular Apologia for learning. After a eulogy of the king, characteristic of the age, but which Bacon alone could have penned, he proceeds to meet the detractors of learning, whether divines or politicians, on their own ground, with arguments consciously adapted to "popular estimation and conceit," expounding texts and meeting text with text, example with example, developing in approved rhetorical style the most telling "topics" his well-stored mind had at command. The analysis that follows, of the errors which have misled learning, is more pregnant with valuable suggestions. But the whole book is confessedly a brilliant and ingenious "concio ad populum." In the second book he addresses himself more seriously to his main task, a review of the existing state of knowledge and its more patent defects, than which, perhaps, nothing he wrote is a more vivid reflection of Bacon's mind—his wide-ranging view (more ample than exact in detail); his fertility of suggestions, often fruitful anticipations, if not seldom fantastic; his exact and discriminating phraseology, and his wealth of felicitous illustration, surprising and illuminating analogies. In science and philosophy Bacon was, indeed, nothing so much as a thrower-out of brilliant and fertile suggestions, and the stater and restater in startling and far-shining phrases of one or two central ideas. Of these almost all are foreshadowed in The Advancement of Learning. For the actual formulation of a logic of science he did less than Kepler and Galileo, because he knew less of the actual methods of science. The methods which he describes in the Sylva Sylvarum (1627), a collection of notes in natural history published posthumously, and in the New Atlantis (1627), a brief sketch of an imaginary republic, and the results which he anticipates transubstantiations of all kinds, including the making of gold), show what a remote glimpse he had caught of the promised land into which Kepler and Gilbert and Galileo were already entered. His notes interest only by their phrasing, as when he concludes that the celestial bodies are made of true fire or flame, which "with them is durable and consistent and in his natural place; but with us is a stranger and momentary and impure: like Vulcan that halted with his fall."
In the Essays (1597-1612-1625) Bacon had the advantage of dealing with a subject which he had studied more closely and experimentally than he did physical science. To understand human nature and how to manage it was his constant endeavour, though the motive for which he studied it and sought advancement was leisure, and opportunity for scientific research. The Essays are the fullest and finest expression of the practical wisdom he had acquired from study, experience, and meditation. Profound wisdom, and practical shrewdness amounting almost to cunning, are mingled in them with satire and rich meditative eloquence. His master in political philosophy is Machiavelli, the first "to throw aside the fetters of mediævalism and treat politics inductively." The effect is seen in such essays as that on "Of Greatness of Kingdoms and Estates," "Of Simulation and Dissimulation," "Of Great Places," "Of Cunning," "Of Suspicion," and "Of Negotiating." With scientific detachment he notes every means, important or trifling, worthy or ignoble, by which human nature is worked on, power acquired and maintained. There was, undoubtedly, in Bacon a certain degree of moral obliquity as well as weakness. But he was humane, and by no means without ideals. Behind all his worldly ambition and crooked policies lay an ideal enthusiasm for knowledge; and he was acutely sensitive to both moral and religious motives. The tone of the Essays is not throughout that of cold scientific analysis. Only one side of his nature is represented by such essays as those named. Those "Of Truth," "Of Death," "Of Unity in Religion," "Of Revenge," "Of Friendship," bear witness to another; while others, such as those "Of Regiment of Health," "Of Plantations," "Of Masks and Triumphs,["] "Of Gardens," are delightful results of that wide range of interest, of curious inquiry, which is the chief characteristic of Bacon's thought, as felicitous illustration is of his style.
The spirit of the Essays, the analytic, unsentimental, though not undignified, somewhat Henry VII. Machiavellian temper, is that in which he composed his History of Henry VII. (1622). It is a careful, sympathetic study of a king who played the game of ruling a state with both wisdom and subtlety. Bacon's style is, as befits the form of the work, plainer than in the essays; as pregnant as ever, but less rich in illustration. Yet here, too, he does not disdain a happy figure. "He did make that war rather with an olive-branch than a laurel-branch in his hand." "For his wars were always to him as a mine of treasure of a strange kind of ore: iron at the top and gold and silver at the bottom."
Bacon's Essays are not the only literature of the kind which has come down to us from the seventeenth Jonson. century. Ben Jonson's Discoveries, like Bacon's, are collections of notes and aphorisms on various subjects, cohering at times into regular short essays. In the earlier editions of the Essays, it must be remembered, the note or aphorism character was more obvious than in the later ones. Jonson's never received the final shaping and polishing which Bacon's passed through.
The essays of each are what might be expected from the character, tastes, and life of the two men. Bacon is the statesman, and inductive student of nature and human nature,—one who has mingled in great affairs, and moved in high circles. His Essays are a manual for princes and statesmen. Jonson is the poet and student, poor and a little embittered, looking out on life with a clear and manly gaze, but chiefly interested in letters, and the place assigned to the man of letters. Jonson's morality is robuster than Bacon's, but then he writes from the study, not from the court. His tendency is not towards compliancy, but rather to petulant arrogance. He inveighs against envy and calumny, and pours contempt on courtiers, critics, and bad poets. But it is on literature that he writes most at length, and what he has to say is altogether excellent—the first really valuable notes on style and composition which we have. Beginning with De Stylo, he has a complete essay on what he calls "Eloquentia," which covers prose composition as a whole, especially as supplemented by some notes on epistolary style. Laborious practice and judicious reading are the means of acquiring a good style, which consists, in Swift's phrase, of "proper words in proper places." "Ready writing makes not good writing, but good writing brings on ready writing." Such maxims are an index to Jonson's own practice. We recognise in them the author of the carefully ordered, closely knit, consciously elaborated comedies. He admires in Bacon what it was his own endeavour to attain to; and condemns in Shakespeare a facility he never himself enjoyed.
In many of his critical dogmata, it must be remembered, Jonson is simply reproducing classical and Italian precepts. In his ideal estimate of the poet, the importance he attaches to training (Exercitatio, Imitatio, Lectio) as well as "natural wit," his exaltation of Aristotle ("what other men did by chance or custom, he doth by reason"), his conception of the proper end of comedy, Jonson is the scholar and critic of the Renaissance. But, indeed, the Jonson of the Discoveries is throughout the Jonson of the plays and poems. There is the same high and courageous idealism, passing too readily into arrogant self-assertion, the same learning and industry, the same strength and fulness without charm of style. Jonson has not Bacon's fine rhetoric, his abundant illustrations and images. But his prose is well phrased, and, by its happy mingling of short and long sentences, acquires an easy and dignified movement. The work which Hooker began, the statement and defence of the Anglican position against Rome Divines—
Andrewes. on the one hand and Geneva on the other, with a superabundance of learning, and in grave, elaborate, and sonorous style, was continued in the seventeenth century by a series of controversialists and preachers. To Lancelot Andrewes (1555-1626), indeed, the Laudian school looked back with hardly less reverence than to Hooker. A scholar who had mastered fifteen languages, and was familiar with the whole range of patristic theology, he was not only a controversialist able to enter the lists with Bellarmine, but, during the last years of Elizabeth and the first of James, the greatest preacher of his day, "stella predicantium." His method is characteristic both of his age and of the position which he claimed for the Church whose representative he was. In all the preaching of the day the sermon took the form of a minute analysis of the text, word by word, with a view to eliciting its full significance, doctrinal and practical. But to this exposition Andrewes brought, not the narrow, rigid interpretation of orthodox Calvinism, but all the resources of patristic learning, his aim being to elicit what he considers the primitive and catholic significance. Tracking every word to its last lair, it is not strange that in the fashion of the time he often quibbles and plays on it. "If it be not Immanuel, it will be Immanu—hell; . . . if we have Him, and God by Him, we need no more: Immanuel and Immanu—all." A modern reader misses a well-marshalled, lucidly-developed argument. He feels, as in reading the controversial literature of the day, that he cannot get enough away from the parts to survey the whole. Yet Andrewes' sermons have a charm of their own, if one is not too entirely out of sympathy with the thought to care for reading sermons at all. His style is colloquial, even careless, but saturated with biblical and patristic phraseology; and the unction which these phrases had for himself he communicates to his reader, and doubtless did so in a still higher degree to his audience.
John Donne (1573-1631), satirist, amorist, soldier, courtier, and finally (1615) priest and ascetic, the eloquent Donne. Dean of St Paul's, was a scholar hardly inferior, in profundity and variety of learning, to Andrewes. "An immoderate hydroptic thirst of learning" had been, he complained, a barrier to his worldly advancement in early life. His transition from the Romanism which he inherited from a distinguished ancestry, to Anglicanism, was dictated perhaps by ambitious motives, but was not effected without a thorough study of the points at issue. He assisted Morton in his controversies with Rome, and his first published work was a learned and acute defence of the royal supremacy, the Pseudo-Martyr (1609), a closely reasoned treatise, unadorned with anything of his later eloquence. Accordingly, his method as a preacher does not differ essentially from that of Andrewes. He divides and subdivides his text, and where the question is a refined one of doctrine or conduct, he follows the orthodox scent through a not always lucid labyrinth of fathers and doctors. But his eloquence has a broader sweep than Andrewes. It is less colloquial, less dependent on the unction of scriptural and pious phrases. When he disentangles himself from definitions and controversy to bring home to his hearers a doctrine or an admonition, his style becomes irradiated with the glow of a bizarre and powerful imagination. He has dramatic touches that remind one of Webster, and passages of glowing, sonorous, periodic eloquence not surpassed by Burke. But such passages of pure eloquence are perhaps rare. The scholastic subtlety and learning with which the most impressive passages are generally interwoven, effective in their own day, militate against any wide enjoyment of Donne's intense and imaginative eloquence to-day.
Donne died in 1632, before he had received the bishopric to which he was designated by Laud and Charles. In 1633, the attention of the former, ever on the outlook for talent when conjoined with a conforming spirit, was attracted to a young Cambridge Fellow, who had taken the place of a friend in the pulpit of St Paul's and amazed his hearers by the luxuriant beauty of his eloquence. Jeremy Taylor Jeremy Taylor. (1613-1667), as a pure orator, a master of clear, flowing, picturesque, and poetic language, has perhaps no rival except Ruskin. He was only twenty-one when, as Perse Fellow of Gonville and Caius College, he was taken up by Laud and sent to Oxford to study divinity and casuistry. He was made a Fellow of All Souls (1636) and rector of Uppingham (1638), and took part in the controversies of the day, attacking the Roman Catholics in the Sermon on Gunpowder Treason (1638), and replying to the Puritans in Of the Sacred Order of Episcopacy (1642). In sermons preached at Uppingham, and apparently in conversations with Spencer Compton, Earl of Northampton, he had formed the conception and laid the foundation of his first work of edification. The Great Exemplar—a life of Christ arranged and commented on—which was not published till 1649. During the Civil Wars and the first years of the Commonwealth Taylor found a haven in Wales, where he taught in a school, and acted as chaplain to Lord and Lady Carbery, residing in their house, Golden Grove. Here he wrote and published his Liberty of Prophesying (1647). Here he delivered the golden and famous sermons which ultimately made up the Eniautos (1655), and here he wrote the works by which he is probably best known to-day, his Holy Living (1650) and Holy Dying (1651), as well as other more controversial treatises. A Discourse of Friendship (1657) was addressed to "the most ingenious and excellent Mrs Katherine Philips," better known as the matchless Orinda. The Ductor Dubitantium, on which he spent so much labour, his magnum opus in the rather barren field of casuistry, was published in 1660. The last years of the Commonwealth were years of trouble and bereavement, and although the Restoration brought greater temporal prosperity, the hard fate which sent him to struggle with Presbyterians in the north of Ireland prevented that prosperity from spelling happiness and leisure for congenial work. He died in 1667.
It was not an altogether unkind fate which cut short the career that Laud had mapped out for Taylor. His strength did not really lie in the kind of argumentative, doctrinal, controversial preaching of Andrewes and Donne, which he would have had to cultivate as a champion of the Anglican Church. His controversial works are the least interesting of his writings. The Liberty of Prophesying is the most valuable because it handles the largest question, and is an expression of temperament, not merely a product of learning. Even so it can easily be overrated. It is a symptom rather than a cause of the growth of liberality in thoughtful minds, which the bitter and endless religious controversies were accelerating. Chillingworth and Hales are more thoroughgoing representatives of the movement, and indeed Jeremy Taylor's thought probably owes a good deal to the former. Neither controversy nor casuistry was the latter's forte, but edification, the exposition in eloquence of unsurpassed poetic richness of the beauty of holiness, the folly and misery of sin, the vanity of life, as these appeared to a nature of greater delicacy and purity of feeling than strength and originality of intellect, and endowed with an almost Shakespearean wealth of language. Liberated from the thorns of scholastic theology and patristic quotations, with which the sermons of Andrewes and Donne are beset, Jeremy Taylor is able to develop his own ardent and refined thought in sentences comparatively simple and direct in structure and balance, but matchlessly full in flow, and in imagery shot with all the colours of a poetic imagination. If he quotes, it is not to fix a definition or indicate and refute an error so much as to enrich the setting of his own thought, and the quotation is as often from the poets of Greece and Rome as from the Fathers. No preacher of the day is more golden-mouthed than Jeremy Taylor. If he is not, nevertheless, widely read, it is because of the limitation of his thought and the somewhat Sunday-school character of his ethical teaching. He hardly comes into close enough contact with the realities and conditions of everyday life.
There was no lack of either sermons or treatises on the Puritan side of the controversy which agitated the century. Not many, however, belong to literature. Whoever has turned over the pages of the endless sermons preached by Scottish and other divines before the House of Commons will not find much to reward his search, though he must admire the ingenuity with which the duty of reforming the Church on Presbyterian lines is extracted from the most unlikely texts. A man of very real literary power, however, and a good representative of the strength of Puritanism when directed to moral and not purely ecclesiastical questions, was Thomas Adams (1612-1653) Puritans—Adams., a member of the Calvinist and Puritan wing of the Anglican Church. On matters of Church order his tone is quite moderate. He speaks of "the comely ceremonies" of the Church, and defends public prayer against the over-exaltation of preaching. Indeed he would seem to have been dispossessed by the Commonwealth. To attribute the poverty of his later days to Laud, as the Dictionary of National Biography does, hardly fits the dates. We know, indeed, comparatively little of his life. His sphere as a preacher included Bedfordshire, Bucks, and London.
Adams' strength lies in his vigorous and colloquial yet by no means unlearned denunciation of sin. He comes to much closer quarters with wrong-doing in its concrete manifestations, especially of injustice and oppression, than the refined and ideal Taylor. His style is the best example, till we come to Bunyan, of what could be done in handling effectively and artistically the colloquialism of the pamphlet writers. It is direct, pithy, racy, and full of felicitous, homely metaphors, but without any of the refined beauty of colour or rhythm which shines in Jeremy Taylor's. Yet an analysis of one of his quaintly titled sermons, as The White Devil or The Hypocrite Uncased, will yield perhaps more practical suggestion and trenchant exposure of vice than a similar treatment of a discourse preached at Golden Grove.
The Broad Churchmen of the day are most adequately represented by Chillingworth and Hales. In Broad Church—
Chillingworth. them the growing spirit of moderation and toleration speaks in plain and straight-forward language. Their common endeavour is to find a basis of agreement for Christians in such points as are "few and clear." William Chillingworth (1602-1644) was converted to Romanism, and reconverted by his own studies and the arguments of Laud. He summed up his position in The Religion of the Protestants a Safe Way to Salvation (1637). In a plain, weighty, nervous style, rising at times to rugged eloquence, he defends the Bible as the sole source of religious knowledge, and the Apostles' Creed as containing all that is necessary to salvation.
If Chillingworth was driven into moderation by Romanism, John Hales (1584-1656) was sent in the same direction by Calvinism. He attended the famous Synod of Dort to report the proceedings to the English ambassador. The result of what he saw there of theological intolerance was that he "bid John Calvin good-night," and expressed in the plainest language his contempt for the infallibility of councils and universal belief as a test of truth,—"human authority at the strongest is but weak, but the multitude is the weakest part of human authority"; while in his tract on Schism and Schismatics, which was not to the taste of Laud (though Hales's explanations or qualifications were accepted as satisfactory), he was equally blunt as to the authority of the Church, "which is none."
These friends of Lord Falkland were the heralds of later toleration and the appeal to reason and reason only, and their plain clear style was the reflection of their thought. The controversy between Anglicanism and Romanism, appealing not only to Controversy—
Milton. Scripture but to history and the Fathers, overshadowed during the whole of James's and the first part of Charles's reign the conflict with Puritanism. That conflict was carried on with other weapons than the pen; and it was not till the Long Parliament met that the Marprelate controversy was renewed in fiercer tones than under Elizabeth, and that the Anglican Church awoke to the fact that her most serious antagonist was not Rome. From the mass of pamphlets which began to pour from the press after 1640, Hall's Humble Remonstrance in Favour of Episcopacy (1640) and Jeremy Taylor's Episcopacy Asserted (1643) are still known, at any rate, by name; but the most famous are those on which Milton  set the impress of his unique, intense, and exalted personality. The "dread voice," which had spoken already in Lycidas, thundered in sublime and truculent periods against Episcopacy in Of Reformation in England Church
Government. (1641), Of Prelatical Episcopacy (1641), Animadversions on the Remonstrants' Defence against Smectymnuus (a scurrilous onslaught upon Hall), the Reason of Church Government urged against Prelaty (1644), and an Apology for Smectymnuns (1642). The Reason of Church Government is brightened by an eloquent apologia for entering on controversy, and a discussion of the forms appropriate for a great poem, and of the high function of poetry. The Apology for Smectymnuus contains a similar parenthetic defence of his own character, his college career, and his life of studious retirement at Horton—passages in which prose of an exalted beauty that has no parallel outside the prophetic books in the English Bible is found side by side with abuse unmeasured, pedantic, and even petty.
Milton did not long keep in line with his Presbyterian friends. In the Areopagitica, A Speech for the Liberty of Unlicensed Printing (1644), the noblest, purest, most restrained and ordered of his prose writings, it is already for him almost "out of controversy that bishops and presbyters are the same to us, both name and thing." And it was not a purely abstract zeal for liberty of thought which evoked his eloquent appeal and aroused his impatience of presbyters, but the desire to speak his mind freely on a subject that touched him closely; for in the same year he issued without licence an enlarged version of his Doctrine and Discipline of Divorce, which had appeared in 1642, Divorce. and he followed it up with two expository and one controversial pamphlet on the same subject. The boldness which the Divorce pamphlets revealed did not forsake Milton as the Rebellion advanced. He identified himself with the extreme wing of the Independents, placed his faith in the strong man Cromwell, and became the champion of regicide in pamphlets, Latin and English. Of the former the most famous was the Defensio pro Populo Anglicano (1651) against Claude Somaise or Salmasius, of the latter the Eikonoklastes (1649) and Tenure of Kings and Magistrates (1649). Regicide. At the very moment of the Restoration he published his Ready and Easy Way to Establish a Free Commonwealth (1660), denouncing servitude to kings and planning government by a perpetual parliament presiding over almost independent county councils.
Through Milton's prose pamphlets runs the same double strain—the classical and the biblical—which blend and conflict in his poetry. On matters of religion and church government he is for the Bible as the sole guide, without respect for tradition or councils, interpreted by the individual reason subject to no authority that has any power beyond instruction, admonition, and reproof. In matters political he can appeal to the Bible also. Kings are unlawful because Christ forbade his followers to exercise lordship; but his ground principle is that of the Levellers, who, Edwards declared in his Gangræna (1646), "go from the laws and constitution of kingdoms, and will be governed by rules according to nature and right reason." To Milton, in like manner, "the law of nature is the only law of laws truly and properly to all mankind fundamental: the beginning and the end of all government: to which no parliament or people that will thoroughly reform but must have recourse." And to the defence of this position, and the denunciation of kings, he brought the temper and the "topics" of classical antiquity, the sentiment which made Hobbes declare, "I think I may truly say, there was never anything so dearly bought as these Western parts have bought the learning of the Greek and Latin tongues."
But Milton was not one of the great thinkers of the century. He had not the philosophic breadth of Hooker, or the penetrating if limited vision of Hobbes. His pamphlets are read not for their political wisdom, or because they represent the feeling of the great mass of Englishmen on either side, but because of the high and confident temper of their faith in freedom and reason, the deep interest of the "autobiographical oases," and the strength and beauty of their prose. Milton's prose is pedantic in structure and frequently scurrilous in phraseology, but it rises to heights English prose has not often attained. His command of word, phrase, and figure, learned and poetical, homely and sublime, is unlimited; and if the rhythm of his sentences is not as regular as Hooker's and Browne's, or so flowing as Taylor's, it has at its best a larger compass, and in none is the poet's fine ear for musical combinations of consonants and vowels so obvious. Rich in prose poetry as English literature is, it has nothing that in sustained elevation of thought and splendour of phrase surpasses Areopagitica.
A form of prose literature which touches the sermon literature of the seventeenth century on the one hand and its comedy on the other is the character sketches suggested Characters. by the Characters of Theophrastus. Bishop Hall, the trenchant Anglican preacher and controversialist, who, like Donne, had begun his career as a satirist, was one of the earliest in the field with his Characters of Virtues and Vices (1608),—the "penurious book of characters" to which Milton refers contemptuously,—avowedly modelled on the Greek. They are written with the vigour and point, if also with the want of any high distinction, which belong to Hall's Hall. work in general. The virtues especially suffer from the abstract handling, which is the weakness of the Characters generally. It is only occasionally that they are enlivened by concrete detail or happy image, as when he says of the Good Magistrate, in a figure that recalls Bacon, "Displeasure, Revenge, Recompense stand on both sides the bench, but he scorns to turn his eye towards them, looking only right forward at Equity, which stands full before him." In treating of the Vices, Hall is the trenchant satirist who wrote Virgidemiarium, somewhat subdued. He gets his blows home in a style which is vigorous and effective.
In Sir Thomas Overbury's Characters (1614), the type of this particular kind of literature was more Overbury. definitely fixed than by Hall. Overbury's original Characters were added to by various hands, and they became the model of succeeding attempts. To get a witticism into every sentence was the ambition of the writers, and the result is often very strained. But seventeenth-century wit, if it is often fantastical to and beyond the verge of absurdity, passes readily into poetry. Overbury's Fair and Happy Milkmaid is quite a little pastoral; and in the Microcosmographie (1628) of John Earle (1601?-1665), the friend of Falkland and Clarendon, and Bishop, after the Restoration, of Worcester and of Salisbury, observation, true wit, sense, and feeling are all blended. The tone is infinitely pleasanter than the hard and arrogant satire of Overbury. Their closest parallel in the combination of wit, feeling, and philosophy are the poetic characters, the Zedeprinten (1625) of the Dutch poet Huyghens, who strikes at times, however, a higher note. But Earle's characters are sympathetically studied and artistically drawn. A Child, A Grave Divine, A Young Raw Preacher,Earle. A Discontented Man, A Downright Scholar, are good examples of his range—poetic, dignified, satiric, and humorous. His Antiquary, compared with Scott's Jonathan Oldbuck, shows the limitations of the author's sympathies, and also of the kind. The abstract character at its best will not bear comparison with the concreter creations of the later essay and novel.
Analysis of character and criticism of life connect the Characters with the pamphlet literature of the later sixteenth century, and with the comedy of Jonson and Middleton. They connect them also with such works as the Anatomy of Melancholy (1621) of Robert Burton (1577-1639), whose life was spent in omnivorous reading at Christ Church, Oxford. The novel had not yet appeared to absorb all this critical tendency, which has a much more legitimate outlet in Burton. prose than poetry. Accordingly we find it abounding in works that are, or profess to be, scientific, and which show distinctly the influence of the great essayist and informal critic of life Montaigne. A more extraordinary book than the Anatomy of Melancholy is hardly to be found. It has a plan, although Sterne learned from it, as well as from Rabelais, the art of digression which he used to such remarkable effect in Tristram Shandy. Burton's object is to analyse, describe in its effects, and prescribe for human melancholy. By melancholy he practically means, or comes to mean, unhappiness, discontent. His book is thus a survey, enormously erudite, occasionally eloquent, always shrewd, and quietly humorous, of "the ills that flesh is heir to." Democritus Junior the author calls himself, after the philosopher who, according to tradition, always laughed at the follies and vanities of mankind. In a long ironical and humorous preface, which contains the quintessence of the whole work, he gives some account of himself, and a broad survey of human misery. Thereafter he plunges into a systematic discussion of the causes, symptoms, and cure of melancholy. This is followed by a more particular description of Love Melancholy and Religious Melancholy. There is a certain parade of anatomy and medicine, but the author takes a wider range than the merely medical. Everything is a cause of melancholy—God, the devil and other evil spirits, magicians and witches, nurses, education, study, &c.; and on each and every one of these sources he dilates with an infinite display of learning—there is not a sentence without a quotation—occasionally passages of real eloquence, and a never-failing undercurrent of irony. In the division entitled Love of Learning or Overmuch Study, with a Digression of the Misery of Scholars and why the Muses are Melancholy, he discusses with a gusto, fully appreciated by Dr Johnson, who strikes the same note in The Vanity of Human Wishes, the sorrows of scholars, and closes with a vigorous, partly English, partly Latin, denunciation of Simony. He opens the discussion of Love Melancholy, again, with a serious and eloquent eulogy of Charity. Thereafter he proceeds to a discussion of "heroical love," elaborated especially from Latin poets and Italian writers, in a way that is not always edifying, but closes—ironically or seriously, who can say?—with the prescription of a happy marriage as the only cure for the woes of lovers. Burton's style, apart from its excess of quotation, has nothing particularly notable about it. It is simple, straightforward, and can be vigorous, but is not specially distinguished in phrase or rhythm.
Beauty of phrase and musical cadence are the charms which have given enduring life to the musings Browne. of an author not more learned than Burton, nor with more claim to be classed among the original thinkers of the century, but possessing in a higher degree the impassioned imagination of the poet. This was Sir Thomas Browne (1605-1682) the antiquarian and philosophic doctor at Norwich. The son of a London merchant, Browne was educated at Oxford, but pursued his medical studies at Montpellier, Padua, and Leyden. He returned to England in 1633, and practised for some time at Halifax in Yorkshire, where, in all probability, he composed the Religio Medici, a meditative and eloquent survey of his beliefs and sympathies. The work, circulating in manuscript was published without authority in 1642, when it elicited a small volume of Observations upon Religio Medici (1643) by Sir Kenelm Digby (1603-1665), another enthusiast—as Browne was himself—for strange phenomena and the mysteries of science. The first authorised edition of the Religio Medici appeared the same year, when it excited great interest, was translated into Latin, and circulated on the Continent. Meantime Browne had settled at Norwich, where the rest of his life was spent in practice as a physician, and in study scientific and antiquarian. Of his private and family life details are preserved in the Correspondence. His most elaborate contribution to science was the Pseudodoxia Epidemica (1646), an examination of many accepted beliefs in the sphere of natural science. More occasional productions were the famous Hydriotaphia: Urn Burial, or A Discourse of the Sepulchral Urns lately found at Norfolk (1658), The Garden of Cyrus (1658), the posthumous Christian Morals, and other short tracts.
There is, it seems to me, more truth in Mr Pater's contrast between Browne and Pascal than in Mr Gosse's parallel. Nothing is further from the mind of the author of the Religio Medici than any absolute separation of theology from science or philosophy. Theology rests on tradition, philosophy on free inquiry; but Browne is far from making the distinction logical and complete. To his religious beliefs he had obtained by grace certainly, but also by "the law of mine own reason." The "wingy mysteries in divinity and airy subtleties in religion" transcend but do not contradict reason ("they have not only been illustrated but maintained by syllogism and the rule of reason"), and so far from being willing to resign them to theologians while he turns to science, they are his favourite subject of meditation. "'Tis my solitary recreation to pose my apprehension with these involved enigmas and riddles of the Trinity, with Incarnation and Resurrection." And when Browne turns from divinity to philosophy it is not to find, with Descartes and Kepler and Galileo, nature a mechanism, whose laws are to be deduced mathematically, a homeless world from which Pascal fled to the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, not of the philosophers and men of science. In nature Browne finds a second book wherein the hand of God may be traced. "'Beware of Philosophy' is a precept not to be received in too large a sense, for in the mass of nature there is a set of things that carry in their front, though not in capital letters yet in stenography and short characters, something of divinity, which to wiser reasons serve as luminaries in the abyss of knowledge, and to judicious beliefs as scales and roundles to mount the pinnacles and highest pieces of divinity." Browne's science is theological, his deepest interest in final causes. The miracles of religion do not surprise one who knows the marvels of nature and the miracles of his own life. If Browne's Religio Medici startled the readers of his day, it was not in virtue of any divorce of reason from faith, but rather of the confident, rationalist though devout tone in which he approached questions religious and philosophical,—that, and the tolerant character of his sympathies. It is not of the sombre Jansenist Pascal that he reminds the reader, but—despite his orthodoxy, his belief in witches, and the imaginative vein in his reflections—of the later optimistic rationalists and their superficial natural religion, of Addison and his planets—
"singing as they shine
'The hand that made us is divine.'
In the Pseudodoxia Epidemica Browne discusses at considerable length the sources of error, and includes among them not only Satan but, like Hobbes and Pascal, respect for antiquity, and undue subservience to authority. He is, however, very far from attaining to any clear distinction between the legitimate spheres of tradition and experiment (the borrowings of poets are arraigned alongside the transmission of untested tenets in science), or to any right understanding of the conditions of valid experimental proof. In none of his works is his style more obscured by Latin neologisms.
The crowning example of Browne's meditative, sonorous, imaginative eloquence is the Hydriotaphia. Here his antiquarian rather than scientific turn of mind, his imaginative piety, his musical polysyllables and periods, combined to produce a harmonious and impressive whole. He had read of and reflected on the burial customs of different times and nations, their origin and their significance (burying and burning, urns and funeral lamps, rites and beliefs), and each detail had its charm for his, not sombre but meditative, poetical imagination. Vessels, he tells us, containing wines have been found in ancient tombs which if any have tasted they have far exceeded the palates of antiquity, liquors not to be computed by years of annual magistrates, but by great conjunctions and the fatal periods of kingdoms. The draughts of consulary date were but crude unto these, and Opimian wine but in the must unto them." So he muses, most eloquent when the topic is most fanciful. The last chapter of the five is a not always equal but, for him, wonderfully sustained peroration on the vanity of human "inquietude for the diuturnity of our memories," not leading to any Hamlet-like disparagement of life, but to the exaltation of the Christian hope of immortality, "ready to be anything in the ecstacy of being ever, and as content with six foot as the Moles of Adrianus."
The Garden of Cyrus, which accompanied the Hydriotaphia, is a fantastic trifle, an excursus on the quincunx, a favourite arrangement for plants and trees in old gardens, which Browne, with an extraordinary parade of learning and the mystical ardour of an ancient philosopher dealing with number, finds everywhere, in the macrocosm without and the microcosm within. Of his posthumous works the most characteristic is the Letter to a Friend, composed about 1672,—a strange description of the death of a common friend, in which he analyses and comments on every symptom of his last days, with the same parade of erudition and the same studied eloquence as he had bestowed in the Hydriotaphia on burial rites and their significance. Nothing is more characteristic of Browne, antiquarian and rhetorician, saved, and at times just saved, from being merely these by being also a humane and Christian moralist. Sense and absurdity, fancy and wisdom, are inextricably blended in all he wrote. The wisdom does not venture outside the beaten track: the fancy is ready at any moment for the most unexpected flights. Browne's eloquence is not, like Pascal's, a wisdom which is eloquence, an eloquence which is wisdom. It is only at times that the thought of one of Browne's paragraphs is as suggestive and illuminating as the phrasing is imaginative, and the cadence musical. Often the thought is purely fanciful, almost freakish, for one must not overlook the vein of humour in Browne. In general, when he is most serious, his subjects are the familiar topics of Christian morality arrayed in new and splendid, if occasionally quaint and overwrought, garb. Browne's prose and Milton's verse are the finest fruits of seventeenth century Latinism. It is difficult to conceive of a purely Teutonic language achieving such at once sonorous and melodious effects as Browne and Milton produced, in different ways, by the admixture of racy English with Latin polysyllables rich in labials and open vowels. In impassioned and sustained eloquence Browne is not the compeer of Hooker, or Donne, or Milton, or Taylor. He is too prone in the midst of a noble flight to check at some passing sparrow of antiquarian fancy. But of prose as an artistic medium no writer of the century had so easy and conscious a mastery, could produce at will such varied and wonderful effects.
Montaigne is doubtless principally responsible for the egotistic, rambling reflections of Burton and Browne. In Urquhart. the still more egotistical and much more eccentric Scotchman, Sir Thomas Urquhart (1611-1660?), was found a felicitous translator of the other great French prose author of the sixteenth century. Indeed Urquhart translated Rabelais rather too literally into his own conduct and serious, or professedly serious, writings. Educated at Aberdeen, he spent some years abroad, when apparently he studied the histories of Gargantua and Pantagruel with the same perfervid enthusiasm as Drummond earlier had felt for Petrarch and Marino and Ronsard. On his return, he devoted such time as he could spare from struggles with creditors and the support of the royalist cause (for which he appeared in arms at the Trot of Turriff and the Battle of Worcester) to writings on very miscellaneous subjects, including epigrams and a treatise on trigonometry, but mainly concerned with himself, his pedigree, his learned projects, his persecutions at the hands of his creditors, and the famous exploits of the Scot abroad. His translation of the first two books of Rabelais' work appeared in 1653. The third by Pierre Antoine Motteux was not issued till 1693.
There was certainly a streak of madness in Urquhart, but there was also a strain of genius. His command of language is extraordinary, and shows to advantage not only in his Rabelais but when he describes his own adventures or the life and death of the Admirable Crichton. This, and his own exuberant imagination, made him a wonderfully sympathethic and felicitous translator of Rabelais, though his own extravagance was not humorous. He writes as an enthusiastic interpreter of his original, interpolating an explanatory paragraph when he thinks it is required, adding synonyms, racy colloquialisms or coinages of his own, and giving his sentences a full and harmonious flow. For his synonyms he was often indebted to Cotgrave's rich storehouse of French and English colloquialisms, A Dictionarie of the French and English Tougues (1611), and at times he sows them with a somewhat lavish hand. Still his version is, as Mr Whibley says, "a translation unique in its kind which has no rival in profane letters." Nothing can equal the "race" of his Elizabethan English. Mr Smith's scholarly and accurate version is invaluable for the student, but, read closely along with Urquhart, it seems to stand to it a little as the revised to the authorised English Bible.
Thomas Fuller (1608-1662) merits a place among the erudite humourists and wits of the century rather than among the more serious and heavy divines. His History of the Holy Warre (1639) shows, a critic has said, "much reading but more wit"; and his Holy and Profane State (1642), a series of characters illustrated by historic examples, is one of the happiest and most amusing collections of the kind. Whatever Fuller wrote,—history, as the Church History of Britain (1655-56); sermons and reflections, as Good Thoughts in Bad Times (1645) or Mixed Reflections in Better Times (1660); or local description and history, as in the England's Worthies (1662),—his genial humour, nimble wit, clear arrangement, and short pithy sentences make his work eminently readable, if never profound. He had the wit's quick eye for superficial resemblances, without either the poet's or the man of science's deeper sense of identity in difference.
In philosophy, history, and biography, three names—Hobbes, Clarendon, and Walton—stand with Bacon's pre-eminent in the century, and a word or two on each must close this sketch of a period filled with writers not easy to classify.
Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679) was one of the acutest and most independent minds that the agitations Hobbes. of the century turned to political speculation. At Oxford he distasted the schoolmen, but formed no distinct design of pursuing any new line in speculation and inquiry. His first visit to the Continent with his pupil and patron, Lord William Cavendish, sent him back to his neglected classical studies, to acquire a useful Latin style, and translate Thucydides into clear, strong English. It was the reading of Euclid, and a second tour in 1634 with the son of his former pupil, that brought him into contact with the scientific thought of the Continent, opened his eyes to the charm of the deductive method of mathematics, and gave him the conception of a work on body, human nature, and the body politic. The first sketch was contained in the originally entitled Elements of Law, consisting of two parts, Human Nature and De Corpore Politico, which circulated in manuscript. The latter was further elaborated in the De Cive, published at Paris in 1642 and 1647. Finally, the sketch of human nature, and the more fully elaborated political doctrine, were combined in the English Leviathan, or the Matter, Form, and Power of a Commonwealth, Ecclesiastical and Civil, which appeared in London in 1651. Hobbes' later Latin treatises, and his unfortunate excursions into mathematics, need not be enumerated. He composed verse translations of the Iliad and Odyssey, and in the dialogue Behemoth (1679) described the origin and progress of the Civil War from his own absolutist and Erastian point of view.
Hobbes was the friend and occasional secretary of Bacon; but the method he pursued in his treatises was not the inductive one, but the deductive method of Descartes, extolled by Pascal in the De l'Esprit Géométrique. His theory of the Commonwealth, its origin, and the absolute character of the sovereign, are presented as a deduction from the description or definition of human nature which he gives in the first book, as that itself is from the materialistic principle that sense and appetite are ultimately movement. The strength and clearness of Hobbes' reasoning follow from his method; while its weaknesses illustrate the difficulties which beset the method when applied to subjects whose definitions are not so simple and arbitrary as those of geometry. Hobbes' conclusions follow from his principles; but these are incomplete, or fictions, or ambiguous terms. The materialistic account of human nature which he gives in the first book is acute and suggestive, but necessarily superficial and inadequate. The state of nature and the contract from which civil society originates are fictions; and the effectiveness of the contract depends upon an ambiguity in his use of the word "right." Equivalent to "might" in the state of nature, when all men are equal and life "nasty, brutish, and short," it becomes in the sovereign, the Leviathan whom men, guided by the law of nature, establish by covenant among themselves, a "right" that Hobbes would have to be independent both of the sovereign's power to enforce it and the subject's contented acquiescence. It is clear that no covenant could establish such a right unless those who formed it had already in a state of nature a conception of right different from might,—a conception of right which implies already the mutual recognition of each other's claims. But overlook Hobbes' fallacy, and all that he says of sovereignty in the second book, and in the third (where he disputes the Church's claim to an "imperium in imperio," and gives to the sovereign the sole right of determining men's opinions, at least as shown in outward action) follows by a clear and invincible logic. He saw, with the clear vision of an acute rather than comprehensive mind, a vision sharpened by the anxiety of a timid temperament living in troubled times, certain aspects of human nature and civil society. He saw how deeply the competitive instinct enters into man's intellectual and moral constitution; how much positive right depends on might; and he saw these truths so clearly that he ignored others which modify and complicate them. And Hobbes' style is the image of his thought, lucid, precise, ordered,—no prose of the century is more so,—but wanting in nuances and harmonies; not so complex ever as Descartes', but a little hard, and wearing after a time; never irradiated with poetry like Bacon's, though he has some of his command of felicitous figure and aphorism; with none of the delicacy, swiftness, and eloquence of Pascal's.
A century so erudite as the seventeenth was not neglectful of history, and the number of works coming under this head is large. Bacon and Raleigh, Daniel and Speed, Drummond and Lord Herbert of Cherbury (poet also and philosopher), Knollys (first historian of the Turks) and Heylin (History of the Reformation, 1640), Fuller (whose work has been mentioned) and Thomas May, who wrote from the opposite point of view from Clarendon his History of the Parliament of England which began November 1640, are all writers whose work would demand consideration in a fuller history of the thought and learning of the period than this volume pretends to be. One work, however, stands pre-eminent in virtue of its literary and personal interest.
Edward Hyde, Lord Clarendon (1608-1674), was a principal actor in the great events which he History—Clarendon. chronicled, and intimate with the characters whose portraits he limned "with such natural and lively touches." Such conversance with men and affairs he pronounced, in reviewing D'Avila and other predecessors, essential to the historian. Whether for strictly scientific history it is such an advantage may be questioned, but it certainly lends to an historian's work a personal note and an interest in individual men which heightens the human and literary value. A poignant personal note runs through all Clarendon's great work, begun in Jersey (1646-48) with the treble purpose of providing an historical narrative, guidance for the future, and a vindication of the king, and completed twenty years later with the additional purpose of defending his own career and conduct. Though it did not seem so to Sir Edmund Verney, Clarendon's position was a harder one than that of those whose judgment was on one side while their loyalty and gratitude forced them to espouse the other, for the issue was to Clarendon, as to Falkland, more complex. A constitutionalist and a loyal Churchman, he had to choose between a king whose unconstitutional conduct he had condemned and resisted, and a parliament whose love for the constitution was never so strong as their hatred of bishops. He chose his part: he gave the king, when his violence had left him isolated, a policy and party; and he wrote an account of the war, its causes and leading actors, which remained the accepted one until modified and corrected by the researches of the historians of the later nineteenth century.
Clarendon's reverence for law, "that great and admirable mystery," was inspired not a little by the study of Hooker, and his style perhaps owed something to the same influence. His sentences are cast in the same long and complex mould, tending at times to unwieldiness and even confusion. But the short, clipped style of later historians is not in the long-run less wearisome, and Clarendon's prose has the virtues as well as the faults of its age—dignity, feeling, pregnancy, felicitous phrase and figure. His portraits, whether of friend or foe, if not, as Evelyn said to Pepys, "without the least ingredient of passion or tincture of revenge," are works of art,—full, significant, and suggestive of more than is always said. Charles's weaknesses disengage themselves unmistakably from the eulogy in which they are conveyed, and the picture of the "brave bad man" Cromwell, read fully and dispassionately, is still one of the finest tributes to that great but confessedly complex character.
In an age that was so addicted to the study and portrayal of character, in drama, history, essay, or Biography—Walton. epigram, it would have been strange if biography had not been cultivated, even though the time had not yet come for ponderous reminiscences and collections of letters. Jonson and Clarendon etched their own portraits; Milton found it difficult to keep himself out of anything he wrote; and Lord Herbert of Cherbury and Hobbes indulged themselves in more detailed autobiography. The puritan Mrs Hutcheson and the cavalier Duchess of Newcastle heralded, in very different ways, that form of biography from which a later age has perhaps suffered too much; but it was of divines especially that biographies were written. Christopher Wordsworth's collection runs to four volumes, and of them all—and few are destitute of interest—the most delightful are those of Isaac Walton (1593-1683), who wrote short biographies of Donne, Wotton, Hooker, Herbert, and Sanderson. A peculiar and ineffable charm breathes from the works of Walton, their gentle and pious spirit, their natural and felicitous style, careless in structure but never obscure. The Complete Angler (1653-76) is itself a character-sketch as well as a treatise on the mysteries of an art; and in his five lives he is less concerned about accurate details than about all that illustrates the goodness, learning, and devotion of his subjects. Complexity he does not care for. Donne's early life is hastened over, and there was more in Herbert than Walton saw; but the side he chooses to elaborate is presented with extraordinary distinctness and charm.
- Minto, A Manual of English Prose Literature, 3rd ed., Edinburgh, 1886; Saintsbury, Elizabethan Literature, 1903, Short History, 1898; Craik, English Prose Selections, vol. ii., London, 1893; Chambers, Cyclopædia of English Literature, ed. David Patrick, Edin., 1901-3.
- Works, ed. Spedding, Ellis, and Heath, 14 vols., London, 1857-1874. Life by S. R. Gardiner, D. of N. B. Innumerable studies, including Life and Philosophy, Nicol, 1890 (Philosophic Classics), Bacon, Dean Church, 1884 (Men of Letters).
- Ed. F. E. Schelling, Boston, 1892, and in The Temple Classics, Lond., 1896. For a criticism see Swinburne's Study of Ben Jonson, Lond., 1889.
- Sermons (in six vols.) and other works, ed. J. P. Wilson, in Library of Anglo-Catholic Theology, Oxford, 1841-54. Study by North in Classic Preachers of the English Church, Lond., 1878.
- LXXX. Sermons: Life by Walton, 1640. Works, Alford, 6 vols., London, 1839; text carelessly edited. Studies by Lightfoot in Classic Preachers, &c., and Beeching, Religio Laici, Lond., 1902.
- Works, ed. Heber, 15 vols., Lond., 1820-22; ed. Eden, 10 vols., Lond., 1847-54; Gosse, Jeremy Taylor, 1904 (English Men of Letters); Tulloch, Rational Theology, Lond., 1872; Alfred Barry in Classic Preachers, &c.
- Works, Lond., 1629.
- Works, 3 vols., 1838. Tulloch, op. cit.
- Golden Remains, ed. (with Life) by Bishop Pearson, 1657; reprinted and enlarged, 1673 and 1688. Tulloch, op. cit.
- Prose Works, ed. Toland, 1698; rep. 1738 and 1753; ed. Symons, 1806, Fletcher, 1833, Mitford, 1851. St John, 4 vols., Lond., 1848-53. The Areopagitica has been frequently edited separately, and the Tractate of Education also.
- Works, ed. Rev. Josiah Pratt, 10 vols., Lond., 1808; Peter Hall, 12 vols., Lond., 1837-39; Rev. Philip Wynter, 10 vols., Oxford, 1863.
- Works, ed. (with Life) by Rimbault, Lond., 1856. Characters in Morley's Character Writings of the Seventeenth Century, Lond., 1891 (Carisbrooke Library).
- The Microcosmographie passed through three editions in 1628. The first edition contained fifty-four characters, the sixth (1635) seventy-eight. The most elaborate edition is that of A. S. West, Lond., 1898. Morley, op. cit.
- Anatomy of Melancholy, ed. Rev. A. R. Shilleto, with preface by A. H. Bullen, 3 vols., Lond., 1893. Most of the quotations are identified and verified.
- Works, ed. Simon Wilkins, 3 vols., Lond., 1852. Religio Medici, A Letter to a Friend, Christian Morals, ed. William Alexander Greenhill, Lond., 1881. Urn-Burial and Garden of Cyrus, ed. do., and completed by E. H. Marshall, 1896. Pater, Appreciations, Lond., 1889. Gosse, Sir Thomas Browne, Lond., 1905 (English Men of Letters).
- Life, written with scholarship and humour by the Rev. John Willcock, Edin., 1899. Works, ed. Maitland Club, Edin., 1854. Rabelais, ed. Charles Whibley (Tudor Translations), Lond., 1900.
- Lives of Fuller by Russell (1844), John Eglington Bailey (1874), and Morris Fuller (1886). No complete modern edition. Worthies of England, 3 vols., Lond., 1840. Collected Sermons, Bailey, 2 vols., Lond., 1891.
- Works, ed. Sir W. Molesworth, 16 vols., Lond., 1839-46. Hobbes, by the late Professor Croom Robertson, Edin., 1886 (Philosophic Classics), and by the late Mr Leslie Stephen, London, 1904 (Men of Letters). See also T. H. Green, Lectures on the Principles of Political Obligation, Lond., 1895. The Leviathan has been reproduced in the Cambridge Classics, 1904.
- The History was begun at Scilly in 1646, and continued in Jersey down to the end of what is now the seventh book (1647-48). In his second exile he began to write his life, trusting to his memory and unaided by papers, and by 1670 had brought it down to the Restoration. On recovering his papers he completed the History of the Rebellion by incorporating excerpts from the Life into the narrative composed in Jersey, and by completing this from the Life with additions. The composite character of the work is shown very clearly in the edition of W. Dunn Macray, Oxford, 1888, and Professor Firth has pointed out in a couple of articles in the English Historical Review, 1905, how much the accuracy of the work varies according as Clarendon was writing from memory or was aided by documents. From a literary point of view, also, he has shown there are differences between the earlier and later work. In the parts taken from the Life there are numerous French terms and phrases, and all the portraits, except those of Falkland, Pym, and Hampden, are additions to the original narrative. In its final form, accordingly, those features were emphasised which connect the history with the famous memoirs of the seventeenth century, rather than with the work of later historians who discover the source of the rebellion less in the character of individual statesmen, than in causes more general and deep-seated.
Clarendon's other works were essays, controversial writings, a History of the Civil War in Ireland, and Contemplations on the Psalms.
- Autobiography (pr. 1764).
- Vita carmine expressa a seipso (1681).
- Memoirs of her husband's life pub. 1806, ed. C. H. Firth, Lond., 1885. The Duchess's autobiography (1656) and life of her husband (1667), whom she portrays in the elevated style of seventeenth century romance, have been edited by Prof. Firth, 1886.
- Ecclesiastical Biography of England to 1688, 4 vols., Lond., 1839.
- Of the Compleat Angler there are over 120 editions. Those of the Lives are also numerous—e.g., by A. H. Bullen, with W. Dowling's Life, Lond., 1884, with preface by Vernon Blackburn, Lond., 1895. The Temple Classics, 1898.