Home  »  Volume VIII: English THE AGE OF DRYDEN  »  § 13. Tillotson

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

§ 13. Tillotson

This is clearly seen when we turn to the most popular of all the preachers of the revolution period, John Tillotson, a “latitudinarian” who rose as much through the pulpit as through politics to be archbishop of Canterbury. It was said of him that “his sermons were so well heard and liked, and so much read, that all the nation proposed him as a pattern and studied to copy after him”; and, after his death, two thousand five hundred guineas were given for the copyright of two volumes of his discourses. Little more than a century later, they could be bought for waste paper; and it is in the last degree unlikely that they will ever be reprinted or studied again. Here, public taste can unhesitatingly be said to have formed a sound judgment. Tillotson’s style is simple and easy, in comparison with much that was written in his day; but it is utterly without charm, or distinction, or interest. The thought is commonplace, and the language matches it. A comparison of Tillotson with Addison shows at once how differently a simple style can be used, how effectively the general aim of goodness can be expressed in prose, and how unexpected touches can redeem the exposition of thoughts which are the common stock of intelligent men.