Page:Poems of Anne Countess of Winchilsea 1903.djvu/112

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cviii INTRODUCTION ���were still fresh in memory. Its chief value is in descriptive �passages which will be spoken of later. �At the beginning of the eighteenth century there was a �new and- wide spread interest in fables. English prose ver- sions of ^3sop had held their place in popular �Her Fables �favor from the days of Caxton down, and the �Latin dSsop was in use in the schools, but it is to La Fon- taine that this striking revival of interest is chiefly due. The first six books of his Fables were published in France in 1668, other parts appearing in 1671, 1678, 1679, and the twelve books in 1694. Their popularity in England is shown by a remark of Addison, who, writing in 1711 in praise of fables, says that La Fontaine " by this way of writ- ing is come into vogue more than any other Author of our times." In 1692 appeared the first edition of Sir Roger L'Estrange's collection, in which he added to the fables of JEsop most of the new sets of fables that had been published abroad. In spite of the size of this extensive compilation it quickly passed through seven editions. L'Estrange's idio- matic and telling prose versions of the old tales were weighted down by "morals" and "reflexions," written purely from the point of view of a Tory statesman. In 1722 the ever-useful .ZEsop was used by the Rev. Samuel Croxall to establish Whig doctrines. These versions served to make the fables widely known, but it was not till the appearance of Gay's Fables in 1728 that there was any notable attempt to follow in English the versified fable of La Fontaine, and Gay has always been counted the progenitor of the race of verse fable-writers in England. It seems rather surprising that the first quarter of the eighteenth century should not have been a fable-writing as well as a fable-reading age. One is led to join in Shenstone's regret that Addison did not write fables, his purity of style, his dry humor, his easy manner, being qualities likely to insure success. Swift, too, ��� �