Reference > Cambridge History > Cavalier and Puritan > The Advent of Modern Thought in Popular Literature > Romances of chivalry
  Letter writing The essay  

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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.

§ 15. Romances of chivalry.


The taste for novels of chivalry 75  had never quite died out and now became again fashionable, because the society of the restoration found in the French romances that art of sentimental courtship which had again become the ideal of refinement and high breeding. W. Browne translated Gomberville’s Polexandre in 1647, and other translators followed him with the romances of La Calprenède and Madeleine de Scudéry. Paraphrases were followed by imitations. Roger Boyle published Parthenissa in 1654, Sir George Mackenzie wrote Aretina in 1661, John Crowne produced his solitary romance Pandion and Amphigenia in 1665; and, although these compositions are interminably long and loosely constructed, the reader could learn therein how to turn a compliment, express his passion, write a love letter and interpret the sentiments of his heart after the style of the Hôtel de Rambouillet. More practical civilisers collected anecdotes and apophthegms which might help to teach good manners. The cult of “ana,” like that of the epistolary art, was of ancient origin, 76  and had flourished through the Middle Ages and the renascence. 77  But, again, new tendencies led men away from antiquity. Though compilers of such miscellanies are particularly liable to draw on familiar material, 78  the present generation preferred anecdotes of king Charles I, the marquis of Worcester or Sir Thomas More, which culminate in some courtly phrase or witty but suave rejoinder; and Selden’s Table Talk, which Richard Milward probably compiled soon after his death, 79  would be welcomed because of its tolerance, moderation and breadth of view.   33

Note 75. See Raleigh, W., The English Novel, 5th ed., 1903, chap. IV, from which these facts are taken. [ back ]
Note 76. See Wolf, J. C., Intro. to Casauboniana, 1710. [ back ]
Note 77E. g. Gregory the Great’s Liber Dialogorum (reminiscences of St. Benedict and his companions, sixth to seventh centuries), Lutheri Colloquia Mensalia, 1566, Melanchthoniana, 1562. [ back ]
Note 78E. g. Witty Apophthegms … by Francis Lord Bacon are current witticisms of antiquity derived originally from Cicero, Suetonius and Plutarch. [ back ]
Note 79. Selden died in 1654; Table Talk, though not published till 1689, is dedicated to “Mr. Justice Hales,” i.e. Sir Matthew Hales, who ceased to be judge of the Common Pleas in 1658. See ed. by Singer, S. W., Library of Old Authors, 1890. [ back ]

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  Letter writing The essay  
 
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