Home  »  Volume VIII: English THE AGE OF DRYDEN  »  § 19. Clarendon’s Essays

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

XVI. The Essay and the Beginning of Modern English Prose

§ 19. Clarendon’s Essays

There is no trace of Montaigne in the Reflections upon several Christian Duties, Divine and Moral, by way of Essays, which Clarendon wrote, for the most part, at Montpellier, during the years 1669 and 1670. It is true that, in at least six of them, notably those Of Contempt of Death, Of Friendship and Of Repentance, he deals with themes also treated by Montaigne. But the treatment is quite independent; indeed, the essay Of Repentance, with its definitely Christian doctrine, forms a striking contrast to Montaigne’s famous essay on the same subject. The style is that of the History, diffuse and unequal—pregnant phrases of high imaginative beauty alternating with sentences a page long—but always that of a sincere and serious thinker, of one who is learned, high-minded and conversant with affairs. Alike in thought and in style, Clarendon’s essays belong to the Caroline age.