Reference > Cambridge History > Cavalier and Puritan > Jacobean and Caroline Criticism > Reynolds’s Mythomystes
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The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
Volume VII. Cavalier and Puritan.

XI. Jacobean and Caroline Criticism.

§ 5. Reynolds’s Mythomystes.

The critical trend toward simplicity, which, also, received an impetus from French influence, was especially directed to the elimination of the conceits of the metaphysical school and the current perversions of poetry and prose. That school had not had any adequate expression in English criticism, just as the Elizabethan drama was really without its true critical expounders and defenders; but Henry Reynolds’s Mythomystes (1632) illustrates the perverse effect of the school in the realms of criticism. In this work, the friend of Drayton and translator of Tasso’s Aminta has systematically applied Neoplatonism to the interpretation of poetry. Bacon had already indicated the road, but Reynolds follows it into a tropical forest of strange fancies. The cabalists and neoplatonists, Philo and Reuchlin, but especially Pico della Mirandola and Alessandro Farra, here find an English voice. Mythomystes has another historical interest in its relation to the controversy respecting ancients and moderns. It professes to contain a brief for the ancients; but it argues their claims on grounds utterly repugnant to neo-classicism, not their superior portrayal of the fundamentals of human nature but their defter manipulation of the cabalistic mysteries. For Bacon, allegorical interpretation seemed to furnish an opportunity for the scientific explanation of poetry; Reynolds’s method implies the negation of science. It was against such perversities of taste as these that the new exponents of simplicity now directed sporadic attacks; but no systematic expression of this new movement is to be found at this period, and it did not gain real headway until the age of Dryden.   10

  The new theory of translation Milton  
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