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  V. Henry Fielding

  1. 一般识记:His life & career

  English author, born in Sharpham Park, England, April. 22. 1707, and died in Lisbon, Portugal, Oct. & 1754.

  During his career as a dramatist, Fielding had attempted a considerable number of forms of plays. Witty comedies of manners or intrigues in the Restoration tradition, farce or ballad operas with political implication, & burlesques & satires that been heavily upon the status quo of England. Of all his plays, the best known are The coffee-House Politician ((1730), The Tragedy of Tragedies (1730), Pasquin (1736) & The Historical Register for the Year 1736(1737)。

  Fielding started to write novels when he was preparing himself for the Bar. In 1742 appeared his first novel, The History of the Adventures of Joseph Andrews & of his friend Mr. Abraham Adams, Written in Imitation of the Manner of Cervantes, which was first intended as a burlesque of the dubious morality & false sentimentality of Richardson's Pamela. The next year came The History of Jonathan Wild the Great, a satiric biography that harks back to Fielding's early plays. The novel was followed by The History of Tom Jones, a Foundling (1749) & The History of Amelia (1751)。 The former is a masterpiece on the subject of human nature & the latter the story of the unfortunate life of an idealized woman, a maudlin picture of the social life at the time.

  2. 识记: His major works

  1) Joseph Andrews

  In this novel, Joseph supposedly the young handsome & chaste brother of Richardson's virtuous heroine Pamela, is tempted by his amorous mistress, supposedly aunt of Pamela's husband, Mr. B. Here, instead of being rewarded for his virtue, Joseph is turned out of doors by his mistress. But the burlesque ends here; the book quickly turns into a great novel of the open road, a "comic epic in prose", whose subject is "the true ridiculous" in human nature, as exposed in all its variety as Joseph & the amiable quixotic parson journey homeward through the heart of England. The dominating qualities of the novel are its excellent character-portrayal, timely entrances & exits, robustness of tone &hilarious, hearty humor.

  2) The History of Jonathan Wild the Great

  It's a satiric biography that harks back to Fielding's early plays. It takes the life of a notorious real-life thief as a theme for demonstrating the petty division between a great rogue & a great politician such as Sir Robert Walpole, the Prime Minister. The ironical praises for the very qualities of the unscrupulous self-aggrandizement of wild point out the way the Prime Minister had achieved his "greatness." The Great Man, properly considered, is no letter than a great gangster.

  3. 领会:His achievement in English novel

  Fielding has been regarded by some as "Father of the English Novel," for his contribution to the establishment of the form of the modern novel. Of all the eighteenth-century novelists he was the first to set out, both in theory & practice, to write specifically a "comic epic in prose," the first to give the modern novel its structure & style. Before him, the relating of a story in a novel was either in the epistolary form (a series of letters), as in Richardson's Pamela, or the picaresque form (adventurous wanderings) through the mouth of the principal character, as in Defoe's Robinson Crusoe, but Fielding adopted " the third-person narration," in which the author becomes the "all-knowing God." He "thinks the thought" of all his characters, so he is able-to present not only their external behaviors but also the internal workings of their minds. In planning his stories, he tries to retain the grand epical form of the classical works but at the same time keeps faithful to his realistic presentation of common life as it is.

  4. 领会:Characteristics of his language

  His language is easy, unlabored & familiar, but extremely vivid & vigorous. His sentences are always distinguished by logic & rhythm, & his structure carefully planned towards an inevitable ending. His works are also noted for lively, dramatic dialogues & other theatrical devices such as suspense, coincidence & unexpectedness.

  5.应用:Selected Reading

  An Excerpt from chapter VIII, Book Four of Tom Jones.

  Tom Jones, generally considered Fielding's masterpiece, brings its author the name of the "Pose Homer." The panoramic view it provides of the 18th century English country & city life with different places & about 40 characters is unsurpassed. The language is one of clarity & suppleness. And last of all, the plot construction is excellent. Its 18 books of epic form are divided into 3 sections, 6 books each, clearly marked out by the change of scenes: in the country, on the high way & in London. By this, Fielding has indeed achieved his goal of writing a "comic epic in prose."

  VI. Samuel Johnson

  1. 一般识记:His life & literary career

  Samuel Johnson, English writer, critic, & lexicographer, born in Richfield, England, Sept. 18.1709, and died in London. England, Dec, 13,1784.

  Samuel Johnson, commonly called Dr. Johnson, was one of the greatest figures of 18th-century English literature. He was an energetic & versatile writer. He had a hand in all the different branches of literary activities. He was a poet, dramatist, prose romancer, biographer, essayist, critic, lexicographer & publicist.

  2. 识记:His major works

  His major works include poems: "London"(1738), & "The vanity of Human Wishes"(1749); a romance: The History of Rasselas, Prince of Abyssinia (1759); a tragedy: Irene (1749); several hundred essays which appeared in the two periodicals under his editorship-The Rambler & The Idler; & literary criticism as found in the preface to his edition of Shakespeare & in his comments on 52 poet in Lives of the Poets (1779-1781)。 As a lexicographer, Johnson distinguished himself as the author of the first English dictionary by an Englishman-A Dictionary of the English Language (1755), a gigantic task which Johnson undertook single-handedly & finished in over seven years.

  3. 领会:His neoclassical literary outlook &style

  Samuel Johnson was the last great neoclassicist enlightener in the late 18th century. He was very much concerned with the theme of the vanity bear this theme. He tried to warn men against this folly & hoped to care then of it through his writings. In literary creation & criticism, be was rather conservative, openly showing his dislike for some newly rising form of literature &his appreciation for those writings which carried a lot of moralizing & his appreciation for those writings which carried a lot of moralizing & philosophizing. He held that a writer must adhere to universal truth & experience, i.e. Nature; he must please, but he must also instruct; he must not offend against religion or promote immorality; & he must let himself be guided by old principles. Like Pope, he was particularly fond of moralizing & didacticism.

  Samuel Johnson's language is characteristically general, often Latinate & polysyllabic. His sentences are long & well structured with parallel words & phrases. However, no matter how complex his sentences are, his idea is always clearly expressed; & though he tends to use "learned words," they are always accurately used Reading his works gives the reader the impression that he is talking with a very learned man.

  4. 领会:His contribution to English language-A Dictionary of the English Language

  In 1746, a group of booksellers commissioned Johnson to prepare a dictionary. Published in 1755, A dictionary of the English Language was the first real attempt at a systematic & interestingly written survey of English usage & the first dictionary to quote from poets & other writers to illustrate definitions. On the whole, the work showed great scholarship, although it contained humor & reflected a number of Johnson's prejudices.

  5. 应用:Selected Reading

  To the Right Honorable the Earl of chesterfield

  The letter is written in a refined & very polite language, with a bitter undertone of defiance & anger. The seemingly peaceful retrospection, reasoning & questioning express, to the best satiric effect, the author's strong indignation at the lord's fame-fishing & his firm resolution not to be reconciled to the hypocritical lord. It expresses explicitly the author's assertion of his independence, signifying the opening of a new era in the development of literature.

  VII. Richard Brinsley Sheridan

  1. 一般识记: His dramatic career

  Richard B. Sheridan, British dramatist & statesman, born in Dublin, Ireland, Oct. 30, 1751, and died in London, England, July 7, 1816.

  Sheridan is ranked among the important comic playwrights of the English drama. His masterpiece. The School for Scandal (1777) is considered one of the finest English comedies of manners. A satire on gossip, hypocrisy, & the corrupting influence of fashionable city life, it is also admired for its ingenious plot construction & witty dissection of character. Sheridan's other outstanding comedy. The Rivals (1775), is famous for the character Mrs. Malaprop, whose misuse of words has made her one of the great comic creation of the English theater. Both plays, in their attack on false sentimentalism & moralizing, represent a rebirth of the type of polished, sophisticated comedy written during the Restoration(1660-1700)

  2.识记The theme of his plays

  Morality is the constant theme of Richard B. Sheridan's plays. He is much concerned with the current moral issues & lashes harshly at the social vices of the day.

  3.领会: His writing techniques

  Sheridan's greatness also lies in his theatrical art. He seems to have inherited from his parents a natural ability &inborn knowledge about the theatre. His plays are the product of a dramatic genius as well as of a well-versed theatrical man. Though his dramatic techniques are largely conventional. They are exploited to the best advantage. His plots are well organized, his characters, either major or miner. Are all sharply drawn, & his manipulation of such devices as disguise, mistaken identity & dramatic irony is masterly. Witty dialogues & neat &decent language also make a characteristic of his plays.

  4.领会:His major works

  His plays, especially The Rivals & The School for scandal, are generally regarded as important links between the masterpieces of Shakespeare & those of Bernard Shaw, & as true classics in English comedy. In The Rivals, a comedy of manners, he is satirizing the traditional practice of the parents to arrange marriages for their children without considering the latter's opinion. The school for Scandal is a sharp satire on the moral degeneracy of the aristocratic-bourgeois society in the 18th century England, on the vicious scandal-mongering among the idle rich, on the reckless life of extravagance & love intrigues in the high society, and above all, on the immorality & hypocrisy behind the mask of honorable living & high-sounding moral principles.

  Besides The Rivals & The School for Scandal, Sheridan's other works include: St. Patrick's Day, or the Scheming Lieutenant (1775), a two act farce; The Duenna(1775), a comic opera; The Critic(1779), a burlesque & a satire on sentimental drama; & Pizarro (1799), a tragedy adapted from a German play.

  5.应用:Select reading

  An Excerpt from Act 4, Scene III of The School for Scandal

  1) Brief Introductions

  The School for Scandal is mainly a story about 2 brothers, the hypocritical Joseph Surface & the good-natured, imprudent, spendthrift Charles Surface.

  2) Theme

  The School for Scandal is one of the great classics in English drama. It is a sharp satire on the moral degeneracy of the aristocratic-bourgeois society in the 18th-century England, on the vicious scandal mongering among the idle rich, on the reckless life of extravagance & love intrigues in the high society & above all, on the immorality & hypocrisy behind the mask of honorable living & high-sounding moral principles. And in terms of theatrical art, it shows the playwright at his best. No wonder, the play has been regarded as the best comedy since Shakespeare.

  VIII. Thomas Gray

  1. 一般识记:His life

  Thomas Gray (1716-1771), son of a London exchange broker, was born in Cornhill, London on Dec. 26, 1716. He was first educated at Eton. In 1734 he went to Cambridge University & left it in 1738 without taking a degree. In 1768 he was made professor of History & Modern Languages at Cambridge. He died at Cambridge, England, on July 30, 1771.

  2. 识记: His major works

  In contrast to those professional writers, Gray's literary output was small. His masterpiece, "Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard" was published in 1751. The poem once & for all established his fame as the leader of the sentimental poetry of the day, especially "the Graveyard School." His poems, as a whole, are mostly devoted to a sentimental lamentation or meditation on life, past & present.

  In addition to his elegiac masterpiece, Gray is known for his odes, including "Ode on the Spring"(1742), "Ode on a Distant Prospect of Eton College"(1747), "Ode on the Death of a Favorite Cat" (1748), "Hymn to Adversity"(1742), & two translations from old Norse: The Descent of Odin(1761) & The Fatal Sisters(1761)。

  3. 领会His style

  A conscientious artist of the first rate, Gray wrote slowly & carefully, painstakingly seeking perfection of form & phrase. His poems are characterized by an exquisite sense of form. His style is sophisticated & allusive. His poems are often marked with the trait of a highly artificial diction & a distorted word order.

  4. 应用:Selected Reading

  "Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard"

  1) Theme: It is a meditation on human mortality, the tragic dignity it gives to all mankind, & the stability & serenity of rustic life. The Elegy lies in Gray's perfect expression of what all men feel about life & death. In this poem, Gray reflects on death, the sorrows of life & the mysteries of human life with a touch of his personal melancholy. The poet compares the ordinary people with the great ones, wondering what the commons could have achieved if they had had the chance. Here he reveals his sympathy for the poor & the unknown, but mocks the great ones who despise the poor & bring havoc on them.


  The poem abounds in images & arouses sentiment in the bosom of every reader. Though the use of artificial poetic diction & distorted word order make understanding of the poem somewhat difficult, the artistic polish-the sure control of language, imagery, rhythm, & his subtle moderation of style & tone-gives the poem a unique charm of its own. The poem has been ranked among the best of the 18th century English poetry.


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