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tible; but Hooker, in his deep investigation of the subject, contrived to elude its force, by establishing the important inference, that our belief, even in religion itself, is founded on the authority of reason.
Fine literature suffered by these polemical contests. Its progress was also checked from other causes. By the seizure and alienation of impropriations, ecclesiastical preferments were diminished, which produced a proportional diminution in the numbers bred to the church ; or, which was then the same thing, who received a liberal education. Numbers, besides, of vulgar people were admitted to the sacred functions an abuse, which continued to increase to such a degree, that in the year 1560, the bishop of London received an injunction from his metropolitan, to ordain no more artificers and other illiterate persons. This caution, however, was unavailing. About three years after, it is asserted by Wood, that there were only two divines, the president of Magdalene College, and the dean of Christchurch, capable of preaching the public sermons, before the university of Oxford.
But when the commotions, which arose from the fall of the old establishments, had somewhat subsided, and protestantism became substituted for catholicism, knowledge of every kind began to be cultivated with fresh alacrity and ardour. The spirit of enquiry elicited by reading the scriptures,was now communicated to general subjects; and literary attainments were no longer the exclusive property of the priesthood. Curiosity was awake among all ranks; and all who had fortune and leisure were eager to study the classics—an acquaintance with which became an indispensible requisite in the education of a gentleman. Nor did even the ladies remain unaffected by the prevalent enthusiasm. Every young lady of fashion was instituted in classical literature, and as Warton observes,“ the daughter of a duchess was taught alike to distil strong waters and to construe Greek.” This fashion in the study of classical literature was greatly encouraged, and probably excited among those of her own sex, , by the example of the queen, who, under the tuition of her preceptor Roger Ascham, had gained considerable proficiency in the learned languages. The Grecian and Roman writers, too, were not only read in their vernacular tongues; before the year 1600, almost the whole of them were translated into English.
The study of ancient authors entirely changed the character of our national literature. It introduced a different, and a less wild mythology, more taste and method in composition. It created a distaste for the cumbrous magnificence and barbarous manners of the feudal times, and gradually displaced that particular mode of composition founded upon
those manners. “ The books of antiquity being familiarized to the great, every thing (observes Warton) was tinctured with ancient history and mythology.
The heathen gods, although discountenanced by the Calvinists, on a suspicion of their tending to cherish and revive a spirit of idolatry, came into general vogue. When the queen paraded through a country town, almost every pageant was a pantheon. When she paid å visit at the house of any of her nobility, at entering the hall, she was saluted by the Penates, and conducted to her privy chamber by Mercury. Even the pastry-cooks were expert mythologists. At dinner select transformations of Ovid's Metamorphoses were exhibited in confectionary; and the splendid icing of an immense historic plumb-cake was embossed with
a delicious basso-relievo of the destruction of Troy. In the afternoon, when she condescended to walk in the garden, the lake was covered with tritons and nereids; the pages of the family were converted into woodnymphs, who peeped from every bower; and the footmen gamboled over the lawns, in the figure of satyrs. I speak it without designing to insinuate any unfavourable suspicions; but it seems difficult to say, why Elizabeth's virginity should have been made the theme of perpetual and excessive panegyric; nor does it immediately appear, that there is less merit or glory in a married than a maiden queen. Yet the next morning, after sleeping in a room hung with the tapestry of the Voyage of Æneas, when her majesty hunted in the park, she was met by Diana, who, pronouncing our royal prude to be the brightest paragon of unspotted chastity, invited her to groves free from the intrusions of Acteon."
Towards the close of this reign, a juster sense of things began to appear. Roinance eventually gave way to the force of reason and enquiry. The theological discussions and controversies which agitated and divided the world, produced the habit of treating every
subject scientifically; and the art of composition itself (as we have already seen) was subjected to theoretic rules.
From the reign of Elizabeth, we trace the regular and orderly march of society in improvement; and from this period, to the revolution, no country has produced a series of more illustrious writers than England. The Chroniclers and historians, disregarding the idle fables of their predecessors, begin to be attentive only to genuine and authentic history; and among the writers of particular treatises, subjects are discussed of the first importance to human welfare. By these exertions of literary talent the language becomes fixed. There are conparatively few words used by the best writers in this reign, which are not perfectly intelligible to a modern reader.