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BORN 1630; RESTORED 1660; Died 1685
THE poet of Puritanism, at the beginning of the third
book of - Paradise Lost," rejoices in his re-ascent from the obscure sojourn of the Stygian pool to the realms of heavenly light. From a realm comparatively of light we descend to the Stygian pool in passing from the Revolution to the Restoration. In the Revolutionary period, with all its violence, havoc, and suffering, we have at least been among great men, lofty aspirations, and heroic actions. In the succeeding period we are in the midst of all that is the reverse of great, lofty, or heroic. Such is the nemesis of revolution. Over-tension is followed by collapse ; over-excitement by prostration of spirit;, the wreck of chimerical hopes by loss of faith in rational effort.
Puritanism, aiming at an unattainable standard, had denied the multitude pleasure, not only evil pleasure, such as that of bear-baiting, cock-fighting, and tippling, but the innocent pleasures of the drama, the may-pole, the Sunday dance or archery, the Christmas feast of family love, such pleasure as is a moral necessity of human nature. The consequences, when the Puritan yoke was cast off and the recoil ensued, were the manners, the literature, and the drama of the Restoration.
Religion, associated with a gloomy repression, could not fail to become odious; associated with political power and pelf, it could not fail to become hypocritical ; associated with crazy fanaticism and spiritual mania, it could not fail to incur contempt. The inevitable sequel to a tyranny of godliness was an outburst of ungodliness; the hypocrisy of piety was followed by an ostentation of profanity; and vice became not only a propensity but a fashion.
The political philosopher of this age, and the guide of some of its most active spirits, is Hobbes, who had once been Charles's tutor. Revolution and civil war had bred in Hobbes the belief that man is the natural enemy of man, every man by nature desiring to take everything for himself; and that nothing can limit desire and keep the peace in the human herd but absolute government, that of the great Leviathan, submission to which must be unbounded. Religion, which has been the cause of all the confusion and anarchy, must be regulated by the government, thought alone being left free. He who made religion a matter of state, not of conviction, must have been a practical atheist, whether he was a theoretical atheist or not. Hobbes's own conversation was profane. He was, however, a great intelligence as well as a writer of uncommon vigour, and he had a clear conception of a government.
The spirit of the triumphant party, with its hatred of high aspiration and austere morality, was embodied, to the delight of a merry monarch and his court, in the rhyme of “ Hudibras,” a clever, coarse, and dirty imitation of “Don Quixote”; while over the grave of Puritanism rose " Paradise Lost."