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power, Roger naturally looked for a reward. On August 31st, 1663, he was appointed “Surveyor of the printing presses,” and “Licenser of the press,” places of trust and profit. But by means of this office he virtually destroyed the liberty of printing. He had long been connected with the mercuries or newspapers that appeared during the contentions in England; he was in fact one of the boldest and earliest of pioneers in the way of periodical journalism. Disraeli, in the “Curiosities,” says of him, “ he was considered among his rivals, Marchmont, Needham, and Sir John Birkenhead, the most perfect model of political writing,” By virtue of his office he could then restrain the publication of all newspapers sent out without the imprimatur, and he used his power to suppress all the writings which opposed the policy of the government. In January 1664, he started a paper which was published" with privilege” twice a week. The Monday edition was called “The Intelligencer,” and the Thursday edition was named “The Newes.” Roger lost his appointment in 1665, and the "London Gazette" took the place of his paper.
At the accession of James in 1685, Roger L'Estrange was knighted, and at once started a paper called the “Observator,” in defence of the government. The same year, when the English Parliament was to meet, the loyal party held a meeting at the Fountain Tavern, in the Strand. Sir Roger had been returned to Parliament by the city of Winchester, and took a leading part in these consultations. Soon after this he did all he could to bring on the trial and troubles of Richard Baxter, by accusing him, in the “Observator," of disloyal sentiments. For some time Sir Roger was the oracle of the clergy and government; in 1686, he was sent by James to Scotland, in order that he might print and publish, at the royal charge, pamphlets defending the king's policy. But the temper of the clergy was changing under the tyranny of the government, and they received Sir Roger's “ Answer to the letter of a Dissenter" with derision and scorn. Nevertheless, the knight remained the loyal servant of James, and at the Revolution got into trouble. Finally he was allowed to descend into the
peace, on December 10th, 1704, at the great age of eighty-eight.
We have now to consider the literary view of Sir Roger's character, and the moral aspect of his multitudinous writings. In nothing he has written is there either style or morality, but utter commonplace, and often irreligious buffoonery; yet there is much that is useful to thoughtful minds. Disraeli says of him, "his compositions seem to us
coarse, yet I suspect they contain much idiomatic expression. His Æsop's Fables are a curious specimen of familiar style. Queen Mary showed a due contempt for him after the Revolution, by this anagram,
Lye strange Roger.'" Hallam, Lit. Hist. Vol. IV. p. 316, says, “The pattern of bad writing, as to vulgar slang, was Sir Roger L'Estrange; his Æsop's Fables will present everything that is hostile to good taste, yet, by a certain wit and readiness in raillery, L'Estrange was a popular writer, and may even now be read with amusement. His translation of Don Quixote, published in 1682, is incredibly vulgar.”
The above verdicts are no doubt correct and just; the low moral tone which runs through Sir Roger's productions is startling. How could such a man be popular ? It was because the writer wrote to please, and he could only please by descending to the level of his audience; how low that was, we shall see in a future sketch, for the Knight did not sink to the lowest depths in the immoral swamp of
Sir Roger was a creation of the times he lived in, and could only have flourished in such a period. One of the first books that received his imprimatur-Scarronides, or La Virgile Travesty, a mock heroic poem, in English burlesque, is outrageously indelicate. The faults in his Æsop are, the universal violations of a literary style, which is completely subdued by a coarse colloquialism. But there is none of that wicked, underlying impurity in them, which profanes the dramatic writings of this period. The draught is wholesome, if the taste be disgusting Taken all in all this is about the best collection of Apologues that has appeared. They are not, perhaps, so well fitted for the young people of our days, as some more modern editions of Æsop, yet to a properly constituted mind whether young or old, there is much in the book both to instruct and amuse. It is the work of L'Estrange's declining days, when he had leisure to be more careful as being less hasty. Each Fable is rendered into plain homely English; the obvious moral is given, and then follows the Reflection, which is always shrewd, worldly-wise, and never tiresome. Here is one taken at random. The Bee prays to Jupiter that wherever she should set her sting, it might be mortal. In reflecting upon this, Sir Roger observes, "How many men are there in the world that put up as malicious prayers in Christian assemblies to the true God, as the Bee does to Jupiter in the fable. Spiteful prayers are no better than curses in disguise.” One of the fables from Abstemius contains a sly sarcasm upon the Roman Catholic religion. “It blew a terrible tempest at sea once, and there was one seaman took notice that the rest of his fellows were praying severally to so many saints. “Have a care, my masters,' says he, 'what you do; for what if we should be all drowned now before the messenger can deliver his errand; would it not be better without going so far about, to pray to Him that can save us without help?' Upon this they turned their prayers to God Himself, and the wind presently fell.”
The former possessor of my copy, in his manuscript notes falls foul of Sir Roger in this fable, and calls it a dull witticism, to talk of going 80 far about, when the idea of the saints hearing and praying for us is no more than a thought and a wish which are only the work of a moment. Many witty and amusing pieces could be drawn out of this work of Sir Roger's, the first edition of which contained about five hundred fables. The editions have been many; for instance, 1692, folio, 1702, folio, 1704 folio, 1722 8vo., and in one vol. 8vo., with an appendix of 277 more fables, the eighth edition, 1738.
The other works of Sir Roger L'Estrange are too numerous to be considered here. Many of them are poor, slip-shod performances; and some are remarkable for the number of editions produced, which at least testifies to their popularity. Seneca's Morals had reached an eighth edition in 1702, and was reprinted or at least sent out anew, in 1707, 1722, 1775 and 1818. Out of the whole heap of books Sir Roger sent to the press he has left us nothing that is permanently valuable for moulding the thoughts of succeeding generations, but without doubt, the influence of his productions did something towards awakening the English people to a knowledge of good authors. The Knight's choice, as to the authors he translated, was good enough; it was the matter and manner of his rendering, which was often unsatisfactory. Tasso's Godfrey, Tully's Offices, Josepbus, and Erasmus, are all good writers which he sent out in an English dress. Perhaps if he had written in a polished style, the people would not, or could not have understood his books. Unfortunately the superior writers of this period too frequently debased their genius by pandering to the low taste of the people. It was the very nature of this man, Sir Roger, to go with the crowd, as conducive to popularity. We cannot easily estimate the effect such man's ideas and modes of thought and expressions leave behind. He was wise enough to abstain from the quarrels of his learned contemporaries in his olden days. He was only factious in his politics, and when serving his employers. The moral aspect of the man we must condemn; it is loose, free-thinking expediency, with a total deficiency of delicacy or sentiment. He is human, but his humanity appears only in his vices, there is no pathos, no sublimity, no aspiration. He does not seem to be ever thinking of a life, higher than the one he lives every day. Cold, hard, and unfeeling ; careless and sneering, he takes
the good the gods provide him," and advises others to the same course of life.
Such is the man as mirrored in his works : history is not very complimentary to his actions, save in one good quality, to which he held tightly all his life, and that was loyalty to the House of Stuart.
THE CHURCHMAN'S COMPANION TO “HYMNS ANCIENT
BY THE REV. R. YOUNG, M.A.
It has been the fashion to speak of the reign of the uninteresting and illiterate Anne as the English Augustan age. Such a view is altogether a misconception. The drawing-room Lord Froths, and the coffeehouse Modewits of Anne's reign are no worthy representatives of the highest efforts of our English intelligence. They were well enough in their way. They could write sonnets to a lady's eyebrow, and charming idylls on the ravishment of a lady's lock of hair. They were equal to the composition of an ingenious acrostic, and could indite a learned essay on patches for the face, or powders for the complexion, but we shall seek in vain in their lives and writings for any traces of the yearnings of a noble heart, or the aspirations of a lofty mind.
Elsewhere the English Augustan age must be sought for. Nor need we experience much difficulty in our search after it. From the middle of the sixteenth to the middle of the seventeenth century, it may be stated to have flourished. In that era is to be found a roll of great names such as were never clustered together in this country at any earlier or later age, nor in any other country at any age whatsoever. All that is mightiest in the history of the human intellect, not merely of England but of the world, then flourished. In point of strength, energy, and originality of genius, neither the age of Pericles, nor of Augustus, nor of Leo X., nor of Louis XIV., can be compared with it. During that period the names of almost all the very great men that this nation has produced are to be met with—the names of Shakespeare, and Marlow, and Ben Jonson; of Bacon, and Spenser, and Sidney; of Hooker, and Taylor, and Barrow; of Raleigh, and Drake, and Howard; of Camden and Napier, and Hobbes; of Milton, and Herbert, and Herrick. These were men not merely of talents and accomplishments, but of creative and original minds. They did not limit themselves to mere fresh and ingenious combinations of the old, they inaugurated and created the new. Many causes combined to produce this sudden and marvellous efflorescence of genius. The introduction of printing into England by Caxton at the end of the fifteenth century, had multiplied and cheapened books. The eager discussions on abstruse questions of theology and on the most solemn mysteries of the faith that the Reformation had inaugurated, might be attended with a serious diminution of the reverence felt for religion in the minds of the people, but must have necessarily produced quickness of intelligence, skill in reasoning, laborious study and freedom of thought. The revival of Greek learning under such men as Leland and Cheke introduced for the admiration and instruction of Englishmen, the most finished works that the genius of antiquity had produced. The discovery of a new world in America had filled men's minds with golden visions of scenes of inconceivable wealth and luxury and beauty. The increase of maritime and commercial enterprise had originated a large middle class equally free from the confining poverty of the peasant and from the enervating abundance of the peer. The establishment of Grammar Schools throughout the country, almost all of which took their origin in the reigns of Edward VI. and Elizabeth, had diffused a desire for knowledge amongst men, and had at the same time afforded to them an opportunity of gratifying that desire. The Bible, no longer chained as a solitary and valuable copy to the church lectern, but spread abroad in multiplied copies, filled men's minds with sublime and lofty thoughts, and incited them to a cultivation of the treasures, not merely of ancient Latin and Greek literature, but also of oriental genius. The increased intercourse between different nations that the uprise of commerce, of naval strength and of maritime enterprise caused, rendered it desirable for men to acquire some of the languages of modern Europe, and so the