AD's English Literature : Development of English Essays from Bacon to Addison

Development of English Essays from Bacon to Addison

An essay is short composition in prose. Sainsbury calls 'a work of prose arts’. Dr., Johnson defines it as 'a loose sally of the mind, an irregular, undigested piece , not a regular and orderly  performance’. There are various types of essay-personal, giving the author’s own experiences, impression or reactions: Aphoristic, giving impersonal reflection on wisdom and philosophy; periodical, Read More Essay published in dailies, weeklies or monthlies detailing contemporary social or political problems etc. Now we should carry to the different stages of its development in English particularly from Bacon to Addison.

To trace the history of the English Essay we shall have to go back to the Elizabethan Age, The Miscellaneous work of a few University wits like Lyly, Greene, Lodge, and Nashe has some Traces of novel. It has also the first anticipation of the Essay. Apologia For Poetries of Sir Philip Sidney has a semblance of essay though in uncertain style.

Francis Bacon
The essay in its real from came in to existence in England in 1597 with the publication of a short series of essays by Francis Bacon. There is in his essays aphoristic touch, sentence toils wisdom, and astute expediency. After Bacon Sir William Cornwallis tried to write in the Aphoristic style, But he failed to reach thou heights. He had little in common with Bacon. Ben Jonson the great poet and dramatist was also a renowned critic of his time. His prose work is a [ice of first rate criticism. The most important name after Bacon in the realm of Essay writing is that of Abraham Cowley. He is an important connecting link between Bacon and Addison. The defects of Bacon were remedied by Cowley. While Bacon’s essays are aphoristic and impersonal, Cowley’s essays have intimate and personal thought which characterizes the true essay. Cowley cultivated a from of essay more intimate and confidential, though less profound, less rightly and philosophical than the Balconies. After Abraham lowly comes in the age of modern English prose. However, much had transpired in the field of Essay between Bacon and Cowley before the modern prose came in to existence. A host of character-writers emerged on the literary scene whose contribution to the English Essay in on less important, therefore, it does deserve a bright mention.
 Joseph Hall, Sir Thomas Overbury and John Earle are of the first rank among the  character writers. Hall wrote in a satirical and pungent style. Overbury wrote in a hopelessly artificial style. Instead of being content with the superficiality of the character like Overbury, Earle thrived to penetrate in to the depths of the character. Overbury's  character sketches are the direct fore-runners to sir Roger and the whole group of personal belonging to the Spectators Club. Sir Thomas Browne, another important name in the history of essay writing, has Religion Medici, A classic in prose in his account. 
Then come the Restoration prose which marks the real moment of the birth of our modern English prose. The notable names of the are Locke, Temple, Halifax and Dryden of these, the last is the most important. He is not only the first great modern prose writer but also a pioneer of eroticism. His prose writing consists of mainly essay and prefaces. His Essay of pragmatic Poesie (1669) is a major piece of litery criticism in the language. Direct and fluent in style, prickled shows keen critical perception. His other works include Essay on satire, Essay on Epic poetry and Preface  to Fables. Dryden’s prose, indeed, marks a definite progress in the development, and never stilted. It’s the first example of modern English prose.
Ref: Clarendon: Politics, History and Religion- B. H. G. Wormald   

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