Reference > Cambridge History > The Age of Dryden > The Essay and the Beginning of Modern English Prose > Francis Osborne
  Saint-Evremond and the Renewal of the Popularity of Montaigne in England Cowley’s Essays  

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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.

§ 12. Francis Osborne.


It was possibly owing to St. Évremond that Montaigne’s popularity in this country, which had lain dormant for a season, blossomed afresh after the restoration, and gave a new stimulus to the literary essay, which owed to him its name and original inspiration. For, after 1625, the year in which Bacon’s Essays received their final form, the essay began to lose its popularity. Then, at the beginning of the commonwealth, a versatile writer, named Thomas Forde, produced a volume of essays, Lusus Fortunae (1649), the common topic of which, the mutability of man and human affairs, strongly suggests Montaigne; and, on the eve of the restoration, Francis Osborne published A Miscellany of Sundry Essayes Paradoxes and Problematical Discourses, Letters and Characters (1659), of which the style has all the faults, and none of the virtues, of the older prose. 17  The author, who was master of the horse to Shakespeare’s patron William Herbert, earl of Pembroke, is best known for his Advice to a Son, which, first published in 1656, went through numerous editions. It is a strange admixture of platitude and paradox, much of which might have come straight from the lips of Polonius. The style, when it is not terse and apophthegmatic, as of one trying to imitate Bacon, is stiff with conceits and long-winded sentences   14

Note 17. Cf. ante, Vol. VII, Chap. VIII. [ back ]

CONTENTS · VOLUME CONTENTS · INDEX OF ALL CHAPTERS · BIBLIOGRAPHIC RECORD
  Saint-Evremond and the Renewal of the Popularity of Montaigne in England Cowley’s Essays  
 
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