Page images
PDF
EPUB

APPENDIX: BIOGRAPHICAL NOTES

ENGLISH AUTHORS

Geoffrey Chaucer, the father of English poetry, was born in London in 1340. The colleges of Oxford and Cambridge both claim him as a student. He enjoyed the favor of King Edward the Third, and passed much of his time at court. In 1386 he was made a knight, and during the latter part of his life he received an annual pension. He died in 1400. His writings are in a language so different from modern English that many persons cannot enjoy their beauties. His principal poems are Canterbury Tales," " The Legend of Good Women," " The Court of Love,'' and “ Troilus and Cressida."

[ocr errors]

Ile was

6. The

Edmund Spenser was born in London about 1553. graduated at Cambridge in 1576, and soon after wrote Shepherd's Calendar." Sir Philip Sidney and Sir Walter Raleigh were his friends and patrons. In 1598 Spenser was appointed a sheriff in Ireland, and not long afterward in a rebellion his property was destroyed and his child killed. He did not long survive this calamity. His best-known poem is “The Faery Queen."

The reign of Queen Elizabeth is often called the Golden Age of English literature. Not only did Spenser and Shakespeare live then, but a large number of minor poets also rendered the period illustrious. Among the dramatic poets Christopher Marlowe, Beaumont and Fletcher, who wrote together, and Ben Jonson hold an honorable position. The most noted lyric poets of the day were George Herbert, Sir Walter Raleigh, and Sir Philip Sidney.

91

William Shakespeare, the greatest of English poets, was born at Stratford-on-Avon in April, 1564. He is supposed to have been educated at the free school of Stratford. When he was about twenty-two, he went to London, and after a hard struggle with poverty, he became first an actor, then a successful playwright and theater manager. Having gained not only fame but a modest fortune, he retired in 1611 to live at ease in Stratford until his death in 1616. Besides the two long poems, “Venus and Adonis" and "Lucrece, which first won popularity for him, he has written thirty-seven plays, ranging from the lightest comedy, through romance and historical narrative, to the darkest tragedy. Whatever form his verse takes, - sonnet, song, or dramatic poetry,it shows the touch of the master hand, the inspiration of the master mind. Of his plays those which are still most frequently acted are the tragedies“ Hamlet,” “Macbeth," " King Lear,” and “Othello," the comedies “ Midsummer-night's Dream,'' • The Merchant of Venice," " As You Like It,” and “ The Comedy of Errors,” and the historical plays “ Julius Cæsar,” “King Henry IV," “ King Henry V,” and “ Richard III."

Ben Jonson was born at Westminster, England, about 1573. He was the friend of Shakespeare and a famous dramatist in his day, but his plays no longer hold the stage. His best play is “ Every Man in his Humour." His songs and short poems are beautiful. He died in 1637. His tomb in Westminster Abbey is inscribed “O Rare Ben Jonson !"

George Herbert was born in Montgomery Castle, Wales, April 3, 1593. He was educated at Trinity College, Cambridge. Later he studied for the ministry and was appointed vicar of Bremerton. His“ Sacred Poems” are noted for their purity and beauty of sentiment. He died in 1633.

John Milton was born in London, December 9, 1608. He was educated at Christ's College, Cambridge. Later he spent a year in travel, meeting the great Galileo while in Italy. He was an ardent advocate of freedom, and under the Protectorate he was the secretary of the Protector, Oliver Cromwell. When only

APPENDIX: BİOGRAPHICAL NOTES

93

forty-six, he became totally blind, yet his greatest work was done after this misfortune overtook him. As a poet he stands second only to Shakespeare. His early poems, “ Comus,' L'Allegro,” “ Il Penseroso,” and “ Lycidas,” are very beautiful, and his “Paradise Lost” is the finest epic poem in the English language. He died in 1674.

The minor poets of the age of Milton were Edmund Waller, Robert Herrick, George Wither, Sir John Suckling, and Sir Richard Lovelace.

John Dryden was born August 9, 1631. He was educated at Trinity College, Cambridge. His poem in honor of the restoration of Charles II won him the position of Poet Laureate. His bestknown works are the poetic “ Translation of Virgil's Æneid,”? " Alexander's Feast,” 66 The Hind and the Panther,” and the drama “ The Indian Emperor.” He died in 1700.

The reign of Queen Anne was rendered brilliant by the writings of Alexander Pope, Joseph Addison, Edward Young, James Thompson, William Collins, Sir Richard Steele, Jonathan Swift, and Daniel Defoe. Not only were the poems of this period beautiful, but prose also reached a high developinent.

Joseph Addison was born at Milston, England, May 1, 1672. He completed his education at Queen's and Magdalen colleges, Oxford. He entered the diplomatic service and rose steadily, becoming one of the two principal secretaries of state two years before his death. He attained a higher political position than any other writer has ever achieved through his literary ability. With Steele he published The Tatler, and later The Spectator, at first a daily paper and afterward a tri-weekly one. He was a master of English prose, and his poems are elevated and serious in style. He died in 1719.

Isaac Watts was born at Southampton, July 17, 1674. He studied for the ministry. He wrote nearly five hundred hymns besides his “ Divine and Moral Songs for Children.” Many of his hymns are still favorites. He died in 1748.

Alexander Pope was born in London, May 21, 1688. Sickly and deformed, he was unable to attend school, but he was nevertheless a great student. His writings are witty and satirical. His bestknown poems are “Essay on Man,” “Translation of the Iliad,"

Essay on Criticism,” and “ The Rape of the Lock.” He died in 1744.

Thomas Gray was born in London in 1716. He was educated at Eton, and Peter-House College, Cambridge. He lived all his life at Cambridge, ultimately being appointed professor of Modern History. His most famous poem is the “Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard.” He died in 1771.

William Cowper was born at Great Berkhamstead, England, November 26, 1731. He was educated at Westminster School, and studied law at the Middle Temple, being called to the bar in 1754. He was very delicate and afflicted with nervousness that amounted to insanity at times. Not until 1780 did he seriously begin his literary career. Then for a period of a little more than ten years he worked with success and was happy. His most famous poems are “ John Gilpin,” “ The Task,” “Hope,” and “ Lines on my Mother's Portrait.” In the latter part of his life his nervous melancholy again affected him. He died in 1800.

Robert Burns was born at Ayr in Scotland, January 25, 1759. He was the son of a poor farmer, and he himself followed the plow in his earlier days. He was about to seek his fortune in America when his first volume of poems was published and won him fame at once. His style is simple and sincere, with a fire of intensity. His best poems are 6. Tam o'Shanter" and ". The Cottar's Saturday Night.” He died July 21, 1796.

William Wordsworth was born at Cockermouth, in Cumberland, England, on April 7, 1770. He completed his education at St. John's College, Cambridge, taking his degree of B.A. in 1791. He was appointed Poet Laureate in 1843, succeeding Robert Southey. He is the poet of nature and of simple life. Among his best-known poems are “ The Ode to Immortality,” “The Excursion,” and “ Yarrow Revisited." He died April 23, 1850.

APPENDIX: BIOGRAPHICAL NOTES

95

Sir Walter Scott was born in Edinburgh, August 15, 1771. He was educated at Edinburgh University and afterward studied law in his father's office. His energy and tireless work were marvelous. He followed the practice of his profession until he was appointed Clerk of Session. His official duties were scrupulously performed, yet his literary work surpasses in volume and ability that of any of his contemporaries. Novelist, historian, poet, he excelled in whatever style of literature he attempted. His best-known poems are " The Lady of the Lake," Marmion,” and “ The Lay of the Last Minstrel." He died in 1832.

Robert Southey was born at Bristol, August 12, 1774. He was expelled from Westminster School for writing an article against school flogging. Later he studied at Balliol College, Oxford. He was an incessant worker, laboring at all branches of literature, from his famous nursery story, " The Three Bears,” to “ The Life of Nelson.” He was appointed Laureate in 1813. His most successful long poems are “Thalaba ” and “The Curse of Kehama.' He died in 1843.

Thomas Campbell was born in Glasgow, Scotland, in 1777. He was educated at the university of his native town, and he was regarded as its most brilliant scholar; in his later life he was elected Lord Rector of the university. His best-known poems are “ The Pleasures of Hope," " Gertrude of Wyoming,” and “Ye Mariners of England.” He died in 1844.

Thomas Moore was born in Dublin, Ireland, in 1779. He was educated at Trinity College, and afterward studied law at the Middle Temple, London. " Lalla Rookh” and his “ Irish Melodies” have won for him a lasting fame as a poet. He died February 26, 1852.

James Henry Leigh Hunt was born near London in 1784. He left school when only fifteen to become a clerk in the War Office, where he remained until 1808, when he and his brother published The Examiner. From that time he was occupied as an editor and writer, being connected with different periodicals. He was the intimate friend of Byron, Moore, Shelley, and Keats. One of his

« PreviousContinue »