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Literary Fashions
by [?]

In Charles I.’s time, love and honour were heightened by the wits into florid romance; but Lord Goring turned all into ridicule; and he was followed by the Duke of Buckingham, whose happy vein of ridicule was favoured by Charles II., who gave it the vogue it obtained.

Sir William Temple justly observes, that changes in veins of wit are like those of habits, or other modes. On the return of Charles II., none were more out of fashion among the new courtiers than the old Earl of Norwich, who was esteemed the greatest wit, in his father’s time, among the old.

Modern times have abounded with what may be called fashionable literature. Tragedies were some years ago as fashionable as comedies are at this day;[1] Thomson, Mallet, Francis, Hill, applied their genius to a department in which they lost it all. Declamation and rant, and over-refined language, were preferred to the fable, the manners, and to nature–and these now sleep on our shelves! Then too we had a family of paupers in the parish of poetry, in “Imitations of Spenser.” Not many years ago, Churchill was the occasion of deluging the town with political poems in quarto.–These again were succeeded by narrative poems, in the ballad measure, from all sizes of poets.–The Castle of Otranto was the father of that marvellous, which once over-stocked the circulating library and closed with Mrs. Radcliffe.–Lord Byron has been the father of hundreds of graceless sons!–Travels and voyages have long been a class of literature so fashionable, that we begin to prepare for, or to dread, the arrival of certain persons from the Continent!

Different times, then, are regulated by different tastes. What makes a strong impression on the public at one time, ceases to interest it at another; an author who sacrifices to the prevailing humours of his day has but little chance of being esteemed by posterity; and every age of modern literature might, perhaps, admit of a new classification, by dividing it into its periods of fashionable literature.

[Footnote 1: The great feature of the modern stage within the last twenty years has been the Classical Burlesque Drama, which, though originating in the last century in such plays as Midas, really reached its culmination under the auspices of Madame Vestris. ]