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The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
Volume VII. Cavalier and Puritan.

XVI. The Advent of Modern Thought in Popular Literature.

§ 14. Letter writing.


This friendly interest in the peculiarities of character increased the abhorrence with which men viewed the revilings  70  of the age of the civil war. The age was bent on mutual respect and consideration. So they turned to the study of letter writing to cultivate a more suave spirit of intercourse. Davies 71  describes “the gentler art” as “the cement of all society, the foundation and Superstructure of all Friendship and conversation.” It is true that epistolary correspondence had been recognised as a literary type since the renascence had brought men into touch with Cicero, Seneca and Guevara, and that, as early as 1586, Angell Day had produced a manual of letter writing, 72  while other writers, including Nicholas Breton 73  and Joseph Hall, 74  had appealed in this form to the public; but, then, the art was being cultivated as a literary experiment. The new generation were more interested in courtesy and the expression of mutual respect. For them, letter writing was a civilising influence. So they looked for their models, not among the ancients, but at the French court, where a period of peace and concentrated government had developed a more refined and intellectual ideal of social life. Thus, writers who might, thirty years earlier, have revived and adapted ancient styles of literature, now edited and translated the letters of Balzac, de la Serre and Voiture, or cast their tractates into an epistolary form in which the courtesies of this type of literature were scrupulously observed, as in Metamorphosis Anglorum (1660), addressed to Don Lewis de Haro.   32

Note 70. See J. Pettus’s prefatory letter to Lovedays Letters Domestic and Forreine, edited by his brother in 1659. [ back ]
Note 71. Dedic. to Boswell, G., in Letters of Affaires, Love and Courtship. Written to Several persons of Honour and Quality: By … Monsieur de Voiture, 1657. [ back ]
Note 72English Secretary. [ back ]
Note 73A Poste with a Packet of Mad Letters, 1603. [ back ]
Note 74Six Decads of Epistles, 1607-10. [ back ]

CONTENTS · VOLUME CONTENTS · INDEX OF ALL CHAPTERS · BIBLIOGRAPHIC RECORD
  Coffee-houses Romances of chivalry  
 
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