Home  »  Volume VIII: English THE AGE OF DRYDEN  »  § 2. Gradual Transition

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

§ 2. Gradual Transition

The transition was gradual. There were no startling moments in the development. Progress was not attained by new departures, by sudden originalities, or by deliberate leadership on new ways. Thus, we find among the divines of the restoration and the revolution but few writers that stand out among their contemporaries. The religious writers, for the most part, accepted the manner of their time rather than influenced it. Bunyan, Walton and Dryden had no peers among the professional writers on religion. In the ecclesiastical writers of the time, with an occasional exception, we find a high level of careful excellence, but nothing that recalls the conspicuous individuality of Andrewes, or Mountague or Jeremy Taylor. Nor can we say that the theological writing of the period can be divided into definite literary schools. The style is very much a matter of date; yet not always that—for there are survivals, and a few anticipations, of other days. The later Caroline divines may be said almost exactly to cover, among them, the seventeenth century; for they include George Morley, who was born in 1597, and Herbert Thorndike, born in the next year; while few of their conspicuous representatives survived the reign of William III.