John Bunyan



Essentials of English and American Literature

Student Work







*         The Age of Chaucer (14th)

*         From Chaucer to the Reign of Queen Elizabeth
*         The Literature of the Age of Elizabeth I  II

*         The Literature of the Commonwealth and the Restoration

*         The Literature of the Eighteenth Century I  II

John Milton

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to John Milton


to the Paradise Lost-1


to the Paradise Lost-2


to the Paradise Lost-3


of the Paradise Lost

Another View

on the Paradise Lost


John Dryden

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Collected Essays

on John Dryden-1

Collected Essays

on John Dryden-2



James I., who succeeded Elizabeth and his son Charles I, believed that the power of the king was God-given, and should not be controlled by the people.  Charles refused to call Parliament together, raised money without the consent of the people, and did many illegal acts.  Civil war, however, soon broke out between him and the people, who were led in military matters by Oliver Cromwell, a Puritan. The fortune of war went against Charles.  Eh was taken prisoner, and was beheaded in 1649.  The form of government was then changed to a commonwealth, or republic, and Cromwell became Protector in 1653.  He continued in power until his death in 1659, and then, in 1660, the people called back to England the son of Charles I. Who had been in exile on the Continent.  His coming restored the old kingly line of rulers, and is spoken of in history as the Restoration.

The Puritans believed in simplicity of life.  They disapproved of the sonnets and the love poetry written in the previous period.  In 1642 the theatres were closed.  The Bible became now the one book of the people.  The Puritan influence in general tended to suppress literary art, yet this hard, stern sect produced a great poet, John Milton, and a great prose writer, John Bunyan.

John Milton as a poet ranks next to Shakespeare.  Some critics call him the last of the Elizabethans, because his writings shoe many of the qualities which they possessed.

Milton's life extends from 1608 to 1674.  He was born in London, attended several private schools, and at the age of sixteen entered Christˇ¦s College, Cambridge.  While at college he showed marked ability as a poet, by composing On the death of the Fair Infant, and On the Morning of Christˇ¦s Nativity. 

Milton's father, who was a Puritan, owned a country seat at Horton, not far from London.  To this country seat young Milton went after leaving college, and there her spent nearly six years reading Greek and Latin authors, leading a quiet, peaceful life, experimenting with poetry.  Even thus early he had resolved to write at some time a grand poem, but he had not decided what his subject should be.

The poems of Milton's Youth.ˇXDuring the time which he spent at Horton, Milton wrote the poems L'Allegro, Il Penseroso, Comus, and Lycidas.

The first two, the titles of which mean ˇ§the cheerful manˇ¨ and ˇ§the thoughtful man, ˇ§ show Milton's observation and appreciation of nature, as well as his attitude toward life.  In L'Allegro he tells the pleasures which would delight him if his mood were mirthful, and in Il Penseroso those that would please him if his mood were sad.  The verse of these poems is musical and the thought is sublime.

Comus, which is a masque touches upon the beauty of the temperance and chastity and the ugliness of riotous indulgence.  It shows Milton to be a true poet, grave and grand, able to write good blank verse and good lyrics.  In fact, the poetry in this masque is finer than that in any other masque in the English language.

In Lycidas Milton mourns for a learned friend who was drowned at sea.  He imitates in some measure the old Greek poems, but he also improves on the lines of the old Greek and produces exquisite poetry.

Trip on the Continent. ˇXIn 1638 Milton set out for a trip on the Continent.  He visited Paris, and than went on to Italy, spending many delightful hours with men of learning.  The news of political troubles in England, however, reached his ear, and in 1639 he returned to aid his countrymen in the struggle against the King.

Mitlon's Prose Period.ˇXAfter Charles I. was beheaded, Milton served the state as Latin Secretary, and continued in that capacity until Charles II's return in 1660.  With the exception of a few sonnets, during this period Milton which they had taken in resisting the tyranny of Charles I.; he wrote on education, and in favor of doing away with the license required for printing books.

Last Years.ˇXFrom 1660 until his death, Milton lived quietly in London, and turned his attention again to poetry.  From overuse of his eyes, in 1652 he became totally blind, and was obliged to ask the assistance of his daughters in writing his thoughts.  The writing of the grand poem which he had in mind in his youth was the task which he now attempted.  Taking his first theme ˇ§manˇ¦s first disobedience,ˇ¨ he wrote the epic, Paradise Lost.  This was published in 1667, and was followed in 1671 by Paradise Regained.

Paradise Lost is Milton's greatest work.  It tells of the revolt of the angels under Satan, of their expulsion from Heave, and of their plans for revenge by coming to earth and tempting man to disobey God.

In telling this story, strong imagination is needed to picture the scenes in heaven and hell and elsewhere.  A lofty conception of the characters is also necessary, for God and the angels, as well as Satan and his followers, have parts to play.  Exalted sentiments, too, must be expressed by characters raised so high above mortals, and dignified, stately expression must voice their sentiments.  That Paradise Lost is grand in imagination and poetic expression, no one will deny.

John Bunyan (1628-1688) was the author of the most imaginative prose which this period produced.  His talent lay in writing allegoriesˇXstories with a double meaning, where characters are named according to certain properties which they possess.  In Pilgrimˇ¦s Progress, which is Bunyanˇ¦s greatest book, abstract qualities, as wisdom and flattery, are made to act as persons.  Pilgrim, the hero, stands for the true Christian, and the story is the record of his journey from the ˇ§City of Destructionˇ¨ to the Celestial City.ˇ¨

Besides vivid imagination, Bunyan shows strong dramatic power.  His language is earnest and simple, and was formed from reading the Bible, which he knew almost by heart.  He wrote several other books besides Pilgrimˇ¦s Progress; namely, The Life and Death of Mr. Badman and The Holy War, but his fame rests on Pilgrimˇ¦s Progress, which is the greatest prose allegory in the English language.

Bunyanˇ¦s writings are the result of genius, for Bunyan had no literary training, and hardly any education whatever.  He was the son of the traveling tinker, and grew up amid most uncouth surroundings.  When he was about twenty, he became deeply concerned for the welfare of his soul, and when he thought his own salvation had been attained, he became a preacher to others.  Many of his talks were given out of doors, and as he preached without the sanction of the English Church, he was arrested and thrown into jail, where he was kept for nearly twelve years.  While in jail he wrote the first part of Pilgrimˇ¦s Progress.

John Dryden (1631-1700) was the son of a clergyman, had a university education, and made up his mind to earn his livelihood by writing.  He forms the connecting link between the age of Puritan influence and the age of the Restoration.  He knew Milton, and sometimes visited him; but he lacked Milton's firmness of Character.  Having made up his mind to support himself by his pen, he was careful to keep in favor with the ruling powers.  When Charles II. was king, Dryden was an Episcopalian; when James II. took the throne, he became a Catholic, and he did his best in writing for each religious sect in turn.  He devoted his whole life to literature, and became the acknowledged literary leader of the time.

His Poetry.ˇXDrydenˇ¦s greatest poem is a satire called Absalom and Achitophel.  Under these names from the Bible tow prominent political leaders of the day, the Earl of Shaftesbury and the Duke of Monmouth, are satirized.  Their friends and associates also come in for a share of ridicule.  For skilful drawing of character and situation, and for keenness of attack on individuals, this poem ranks first among English political satires.

Religio Laici and the Hind and the Panther are two other poems by Dryden.  The former is a defense of the Church of Englandˇ¦ in the latter Dryden gives his reasons for becoming a Catholic.

An ode called Alexanderˇ¦s Feast is the most popular of Drydenˇ¦s poems, and comes nearer to true poetry than anything else that he wrote.

Dryden has been called ˇ§the greatest poet that ever was or could be made wholly out of prose.ˇ¨  He delighted to argue in verse.  Dryden was Poet Laureate from 1670 to 1688.

His Dramatic Work.ˇXDryden wrote many plays, including both tragedy an comedy.  Among his best plays are the Indian Emperor and the Conquest of Granada.

His Prose.ˇXDryden is another ˇ§Father of English Prose;ˇ¨ this time, however, it is as the father of modern English prose that we wish to distinguish him.  He set the example of clear, direct expression which modern prose follows, and broke away from the scholarly language of the age which preceded him.  In An Essay on Dramatic Poesy he uses simple, forceful, and natural language.


The Eighteenth Century
Commonwealth & Restoration
The Age of Elizabeth
Chaucer to Queen Elizabeth

The Age of Chaucer