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

V. The Restoration Drama

§ 16. Influence of French Literature on the Restoration Drama

In turning to a consideration of the influences of French literature on the drama of the restoration, it is customary to give unusual weight to the example of the romans de longue haleine, those extraordinary expressions in protracted hyperbole of ideal conduct, sentiment and conversation, with which the finer spirits of the days of Louis XIV sought to elevate and ennoble social life. But, as a matter of fact, much of this influence was already in full flood far back in the reign of king Charles I, as the cult of Platonic love, about 1633, and the ideals of love and honour which it fostered are alone sufficient to attest. To what extent the ideals of this one time fashionable cult may be surmised to have persisted to affect appreciably the conduct of the returning exiles is a question for the historian of social conditions. On the drama, such ideals had a marked, if superficial, effect. The life of the court of king Charles II was, at best, a coarse replica of that of Versailles; and the heroic drama, the roots of which lie deeper than in the supersoil of romance, reproduced mostly externals, grandiloquence of language, loftiness of sentiment, incredible valour, with courtesy and honour drawn and twisted into an impossible code. More immediate in its effects was the contemporary French stage, in which much of the literature of exaggerated sentiment was reproduced by forgotten authors, who live now only in the satire which their extravagance inspired in the common-sense of Boileau. But the subject of this influence, and of that of the classicism of Corneille and Racine in particular, as well as the use of the rimed couplet in the English drama, and its relations to the heroic play are treated elsewhere; our concern here is with comedy.