Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 23.djvu/23

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WHENEVER we find men's thoughts concerning any one of the main questions of life inclining steadily in a certain direction, there is some probability that we shall not be far astray if we expect to find a similar tendency in the way in which other questions are regarded by the same persons. Our experience tells us that this is true of individuals: a radical in politics is likely to be a radical in religion, and what is true of individuals is true of the race. The more we study the past, the more we shall be convinced of the uniformity of thought at different periods of history. Thus, the general awakening of interest that we call the Renaissance was not confined to art and literature; it became a reaction against every form of medievalism. It aided the great movement of religious thought and produced the Reformation, as it also followed the new channels of scientific investigation. The decay of feudalism that accompanied these new interests was far from being an accidental coincidence.

The pedantic sequel of the Renaissance, the limitation of interest to what was called good sense, which distinguished the age of Louis XIV in France, and, to speak somewhat crudely, what we may call the literature of the last century in England, was far-reaching in its effects: government and religion, as well as letters, rested on conventionalities. They were all affected by the prevailing reaction in favor of authority. In government, this took the form of monarchism; in literature, that of relying on Latin models, and abandoning all the national forms of composition. The French Revolution was more than a mere political outbreak: it was but one form of a wide-spread revolt against the narrow limits which pseudo-classicism and monarchism had imposed on intellectual and personal freedom. The very logical coherence of the French, which had made their chains more binding than the clumsy imitations which other countries forged for themselves, made the revolution, when it came, thorough and terrible. What was a smoldering discontent burst then into a flame of vengeance. Romanticism, again, was not simply a literary movement; its roots lay deep in the recognition of the fact that all human beings, without regard to their social position, are equally objects of interest to literature and art. The discovery was made gradually and almost simultaneously in literature and politics, that the aristocracy had no monopoly of importance. In short, toward the end of the last century there was a Renaissance of humanity; and aristocratic principles received a blow from which they can never wholly recover. The revolution is not yet complete, and its course hitherto has been uneven. Some of the leaders, who in their hatred of classicism discovered that