Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

at all hazards on selfish ends. It is enough to mention such names as Boileau, Molière, Swift, Byron and Edgar Allan Poe, in his abuse of Longfellow, to show what is meant by literary malice and the opposing attitude which every high-minded author should assume respecting it. Those forms of satire are to be advocated which deal in ridicule and rebuke in a noble and catholic spirit, and which are never cynical and caustic at the expense of good taste and good feeling.

Viewing the forms of satire more specifically, as based on the particular object at the time, rather than on the animus of the author; we note three or four characteristic types—the Theological, or Religious, the Political, the Literary and the Social.

Theological. This first form is especially illustrated in later Continental and English authorship as distinct from the earlier and classical. The satires of Rabelais and Erasmus, in the latter part of the fifteenth century, may be said to have been of this order, as they vented their indignation against the penances, pilgrimages and corrupt priesthood of the times. In the pages of Langlande, author of "Piers Plowman," there is seen the earliest extended example of English satire in the form of religious rebuke. Partly political, as directed against the corruptions of the nobility; and, partly, social, as condemning the prevalent morality of the age; it was, mainly, theological and ethical, as bearing upon the open vices of the clergy and the gross abuses of the Papal church. In his

[ocr errors]

preference of conscience and reason to Romish dogma, his emphatic exaltation of the Scriptures above all human councils, and of purity of life above external ceremony, he was doing the same necessary work that Wiclif was aiming to do in other forms, and thus preparing the way for the Protestant Reformation in England in the days of Queen Elizabeth. Samuel Butler's “Hudibras" was an indirect attack upon the Puritans in the form of the mock-heroic; similar, in some of its features, to the attack made by Cervantes upon the knight-errantry of Spain. In the pages of John Dryden, we come to one of the most pronounced of English satirists. In his “Hind and Panther," we have his best work along the lines of theological criticism; the “milk-white Hind," representing the Church of Rome, and the “Panther," "the lady of the spotted muff,” representing the Church of England. Other religious orders, as Presbyterians, Independents, Friends, Anabaptists, Arians and Free Thinkers, are symbolized, respectively, by the wolf, bear, hare, boar, fox and ape. James the Second is the Lion; the Lollards are “Wiclif's brood." Christ is “the blessed Pan," and so on through this “Reineke Fuchs” of English

The poem is simply a defence of the Papacy, on behalf of King James in his ambitious schemes as to an English hirerarchy, and is marked throughout by that incisiveness and pertinence of statement for which its author was justly famed. Of a somewhat similar character and motive was

verse.

[ocr errors]

Jonathan Swift's “ Tale of a Tub," in which, under the guise of Peter, Martin and Jack, he deals out his sarcasm relative, respectively, to Romanism, Anglicanism, and the doctrines of the Dissenters. A little later on, we note, in Doctor Johnson's “ London ” and his “Vanity of Human Wishes," conspicuous examples of ethical satire on the despondent side, as representing those disappointments and, often, fruitless struggles of human life with which the author himself was so familiar.

2. Political. In this particular sphere, satire frequently appears in its most pronounced forms. Frequently mingled, as in Langlande and others, with theological references, it has a province of its own and includes unique examples. In “The Peace” of Aristophanes, it is seen, as he treats of the Peloponnesian War; in France, in the person of Beranger, it finds a signal expression in his invectives against the tyranny of Napoleonic rule. Cicero against Catiline illustrates it. Arbuthnot, of England, exemplifies it, as in his, "Law Is a Bottomless Pit,” he refers to the civil discords connected with the French War, on to the Treaty of Utrecht. Gray, in his “Beggars' Opera,” is bold enough to satirize the English court, of the early Georgian era. Andrew Marvell, of Cromwellian days, in his “Hodge's Vision,” fought for liberty of conscience in church and state. Perhaps the most pungent and essective production of this order is found in the “Drapier's Letters" of Dean Swift, published in 1724, directed against Wood's halfpence, so called, as an outrageous monopoly of profit against the common interests of Ireland. Macaulay, in his essays on “Machiavelli,” “The Civil Disabilities of the Jews,” “Warren Hastings ” and“ Frederick the Great," indulges in those home thrusts, of which he was so expert a master; as, also, De Quincey, in such papers as, “Whiggism," “The Cæsars," and "Charlemagne," fails not to embrace the opportunity offered him in the line of political satire.

3. Literary. When we turn to satire of this order, ancient and modern times are full of illustrations of it. The satires of Ennius himself were of this specific cast in the line of scenic representation. Aristophanes, in the "Clouds," ridicules the sophists, while Horace, Persius, Martial and Rabelais deal, more or less largely, in reflections on authors and authorship. The poems of Joseph Hall, who is cited in English Literary History as the first English satirist, in chronological order, directed his lines against the style of the times. Dryden, in his “ Mac Flecknoe," gave to the English public of his day a serio-comic poem, full to the brim of literary sarcasm, excelled only by the “Dunciad” of Pope, his successor, in which masterly poem the third and fourth rate authors of the age were handled in a merciless manner, and, thereby, transmitted to history, with some degree of notoriety. Next to these in pungency and satirical merit, is Pope's “Rape of the Lock," which, after its kind, as a mock-heroic poem, has no approximate rival in

[ocr errors]

any modern tongue. In this particular rôle of literary satirists, the name of Swift again appears, in his “Battle of the Books," wherein the war is waged, as to the comparative merits of the ancient and the modern learning. Churchill, in his “Rosciad,” fulminates against the stage with the incisiveness of Collins himself. Boileau of France, in his unsparing thrusts against Madame de Scudery and others, attacked what he regarded as the bad taste of the time and the inane piety of England, Spain and Italy. Voltaire, with a spirit even more bitter, vented his godless raillery against Shakespeare and less distinguished authors and, in his dramas, gave full scope to what have been well called "his declamatory tirades.” Edward Young, in his “Epistles to Pope,” indulges in sarcastic slurs against contemporaneous authorship. Arbuthnot, in his “ Martinus Scriblerus," ridicules the abuse of learning. Macaulay and De Quincey, Lamb and Sidney Smith, Byron, Hood, Arnold and Lowell write satirically of books and authors, style and language. In such a periodical as, the “Edinburgh Review," and, especially, in such invectives as are found in "English Bards and Scotch Reviewers," we have as signal an instance as could be afforded us, of literary satire. In fact, literary criticism is, in many of its phases, but a form of ironical address, either in the line of humorous banter or in that of stern rebuke and dissent. Those quarrels of authors, to which Mr. Disraeli has called our attention, are largely due to this free

« ZurückWeiter »