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The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
Volume VIII. The Age of Dryden.

XII. Divines of the Church of England 1660–1700

§ 12. Extempore Preaching begins to be Popular

A special style belonged to a class of discourse which had become very common. Now that prayers for the departed were no longer publicly said, their place was taken by the pomp, gloomy but inferior, of the funeral sermon, where solemn language fell rapidly into a convention like the nodding plumes on the heads of the horses which drew the coffin, or the customary cloak of solemn black which disguised the mourners into a pattern of imposing grief. The mass of extant funeral sermons is enormous: hardly a country squire was suffered to be buried without a eulogium which found its way into print; and, on the deaths of great personages, the chief preachers used the opportunity for impressing a wide circle with the solemnity of mortal things. Extempore preaching was beginning to be popular. Burnet encouraged, and Charles II, apparently, admired, it; but, all through the seventeenth century, the written composition was much the more common. Whether it were written out or not, there can be no doubt of the sermon’s influence or popularity; it still remained the sole class of literature with which everyone was, or might be, brought into contact; and it affords a constant parallel to the literary work of secular writers. During the period of the later Stewarts, there gradually ceased to be a “pulpit style” pure and simple; the preachers were ordinary men and wrote ordinary English. Thus, after Jeremy Taylor, they ceased to lead in the development of prose. No one of them had the charm of Fénelon, nor anything of the dignity and splendour of Bossuet, Massillon or Bourdaloue. They were typically, and almost exclusively, English. Foreign influence hardly touched them.