The Age of Transition Viva

Q. 1. What is the significance of the Age of Transition?
Ans. There were two movements in the Age of Transition. Firstly, there was the allegiance to the old order of classicism. In this movement chief and almost the only figure is that of Samuel Johnson. Secondly, there was the search after the new order of Romanticism. It began as early as 1730, with the publication of Thomson’s Seasons.

Q. 2. What were the characteristics of the New Romanticism in the Age of Transition?
Ans. Firstly, there was a return to nature—to the real nature of earth and air, and not to the bookish nature, of the artificial pastoral. Secondly, there was a fresh interest in man’s position in the world of nature. This led to great activity in religious and political speculation. Thirdly, there was an enlightened sympathy for the poor and oppressed. Fourthly, there was a revolt against the conventional literary technique such as that of the heroic couplet. On the other hand, there was a desire for strength, simplicity and sincerity in the expression of Romantic themes. The writers turned to supernatural stories, legends, and the more colourful periods of .history, especially the Middle Ages.
Q. 3. Discuss the poetry of Samuel Johnson.
Ans. Dr. Johnson wrote little poetry. Though it has much merit, it cannot be called first class. His first poem, London written in the heroic couplet, is of great and sombre power. It depicts the vanities and the sins of city life. His only other longish poem is The Vanity of Human Wishes. The metre is the same as in London and there is the same bleak pessimism.
Q. 4. Attempt a critical appraisal of ‘The Traveller’ by Oliver Goldsmith?
Ans. Oliver Goldsmith’s first poem The Traveller deals with his wanderings through Europe. The poem, about four hundred lines in length, is written in the heroic couplet, and is a series of descriptions and criticisms of the places and peoples of which he had experience. It contains descriptive passages -of considerable beauty phrased in simple language, and the couplet is melodious and polished. The poem has his characteristic charm and grace and reveals a clear perception of the sufferings of the poor, where “laws grind the poor, and rich men make the laws.”
Q. 5. Comment upon the Pindaric Odes of Thomas Gray.
Ans. At the first glance Gray’s odes are seen to have all the odic splendour of diction; in fact, the adornment is so thickly applied that it can almost stand alone, like a robe stiff with gems and gold lace. Yet the poems have energy and dignity. Johnson, who had a distaste for both the character and the work of Gray, cavils at the work, saying that it has a strutting dignity.
Q. 6. What do you know about ‘The Progress of Poesy’ by Gray?
Ans. The Progress of Poesy is an important landmark in Gray’s poetic development. This poem has romantic elements. It consists of 3 stanzas of 41 lines each. It is written in an eloborately consistent verse form. In each stanza there are 3 regular divisions, ‘Strophe’, ‘Anti-Strophe’, and ‘Epode’. The poem is characterized by a perfect artistic structure rarely to be found among other poets.
Q. 7. What are your views about Gray’s ‘Bard’?
Ans. Gray’s Bard has enjoyed an instant and sustained popularity while Collin’s Ode to Liberty has had few admirers and Blake’s Book of Thel, tell lately has had none. The Bard consists of 3 stanzas, each having 3 divisions, Strophe, Anti-Strophe and Epode. When the poem opens we hear the actual voice of the last survivor of ancient of Celtic Bards. His utterance is marked with a note of dignity. The bard tells that man shall never by wanting to celebrate true virtue and valour in immortal strains, he exposes the vices of the king and badly censures tyranny and oppression.
Q. 8. What are your view about Thomas Gray’s ‘Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard’?
Ans. This poem was smooth and graceful; it contained familiar sentiments turned into admirable, quotable phrases; and so, while it was agreeably familiar it was fresh enough to be attractive. It was the most perfect poem of the age. In fact, it is the beginning and the perfection of that literature of melancholy.
Q. 9. Discuss Collins’s ‘Ode to Evening’.
Ans. The Ode to Evening is one of Collins’s most perfect poems, which he lived to give us all too few. It is here in this young man’s genius that we behold the first delicate unfolding of the romantic dawn, displaying itself in his case mostly in a fine meditative sentiment and melancholy, a fondness for old ruins and pleasing landscape.
Q. 10. What is the significance of the New    School of poetry of the Age of Transition?    
                Ans. These poets wrote in the middle and later years of the eighteenth century, and who abandoned the classical tradition. In their generation they came too early to be definitely included in the school of Wordsworth and Coleridge, but in their works they are often as romantically inclined as any of their great successors. With the appearance of Burns we can say that the day of Romanticism has come.
Q. 11. State the poetical features of Robert Burns.
                Ans. Firstly, the best work of Burns was almost entirely lyrical in motive. He is one of the rare examples, like Shelley, of the born singer who can give to human emotion a precious and imperishable utterance. Secondly, the feelings he describes are those of the Scottish peasant, but the genius of, the poet makes them germane to every member of the human race. Thirdly, his humour and pathos are as copious and varied as his subject-matter. Fourthly, his style is noteworthy for the curious double tendency that is typical of the transition. When he writes in the ‘correct’ manner he has all the petty vices of the early school. Finally, as the national poet of Scotland his position is unique.
Q. 12. What was Robert Burns’ contribution to the Romantic Revival?
Ans. Burns’ contributions to the romantic revival were: firstly, the restoration of passion element, which was as in a way a return to nature, the presentation of man in a natural state. Secondly, the restoration of humour, which is closely allied to the highest kind of pathos. There is a pathetic note in his poetry, a great contribution to the romantic art. Finally, it was poetry of revolt which was a great contribution to the romantic movement.
Q. 13. What was William Blake s contribution to the Romantic Revival?
Ans. Blake’s contributions to the Romantic Revival are (i) spirit of lyricism; (ii) absolute sincerity of feeling; (iii) a touch of tenderness overshadowed by a deepening note of mysticism, (iv) symbolism, and (v) love of lower animals, as evinced in his Songs of Innocence. Blake also recreated, after Burns, the poetry, regarding childhood. Poetry of man and Nature poetry are also his contributions to English literature.
Q. 14. Examine the poetical style of the Age of Transition.
Ans. In poetical style the transitional features are well marked. The earlier authors reveal many artificial mannerisms—for example extreme regularity of metre and the frequent employment of the more formal figures of speech, such as personification and apostrophy. As the century draws to a close we have many of the newer styles appearing; the more regular blank verse of Cowper; the lighter heroic couplet of Goldsmith; the archaic medley of Chatterton; and the intense simplicity of the lyrics of Burns and Blake.
Q. 15. Evaluate the dramatic art of Samuel Johnson.
Ans. Samuel Johnson attempted the first play Irene which is a solemn, ponderous, undramatic and blank verse tragedy. Even Johnson’s best friends had to admit that it was no success.
Q. 16. Examine the prose comedies of Oliver Goldsmith.
Ans. Goldsmith wrote two prose comedies, both of which rank high among their class. The first, called Good Natur’d Man is not so good as the second, She Stoops to Conquer. Each, but especially the latter, is endowed with an ingenious and lively plot, a cast of excellent characters, and a vivacious delightful style. Based on the Restoration comedy, they lack the Restoration grossness. The second play had an immense popularity, and even yet it is sometimes staged.
Q. 17. How will you appreciate the dramatic art of Goldsmith?
Ans. Goldsmith in The Good Natured Man and in She Stoops to Conquer has a real sense of character, especially of the pleasantly grotesque, comic invention, natural sentiment and amusing dialogue. He despised the sentimental comedy, ridiculed it, and introduced in his plays comic situation, humour, and character all of which sentimental comedy lacked.
Q. 18. What are the salient features of the prose comedies of Sheridan?
Ans. Sheridan’s prose comedies all resemble the best restoration comedies without the immorality of the Restoration play. Again we see the polite world of fashion, but Sheridan makes its views appear foolish by exaggerating them in humorous portraiture. The plots are ingenious and effective, though they depend largely on a stagy complexity of intrigue. The characters, among whom are the immortal figures of Mrs. Malaprop, Bob Acres, and Sir Fretful Plagiary, are stage types, but they are struck off with daring skill, and we find them quite irresistible. The dialogue is brilliant in its picturesque, epigrammatic repartee—indeed, the wit sometimes obscures the characters, nearly of all whom speak with the same brilliance. The plays are remarkable for their vivacity and charm.
Q. 19. Examine Richard Brinsley Sheridan’s ‘The Rivals’.
Ans. The Rivals presents not an admixture of Shakespearean humour with features of the school of manners, but the very atmosphere of Congreve modified by exaggerated humours of the Jonsonian type. The names of the characters are mostly of the humorous sort—Sir Lucius O’Trigger, Sir Anthony Absolute, and Lydia Languish may be taken as examples—and the exaggeration of special traits is well shown in the notorious Mrs. malaprop. In the main this comedy presents a direct challenge to the sentimentalists. The Rivals, as a whole, is a somewhat disappointing play. Some scenes in it are so excellent that we notice all the more clearly the weaknesses in the whole plan. About the whole play, too, breathes an atmosphere of farce, and although there is something of farce in every great comedy, this lower strain tends to weaken the general effect of Sheridan’s work.
Q. 20. Evaluate Richard Brinsley Sheridan’s ‘The School for Scandal’.
Ans. The School for Scandal is a more homogeneous work of art. Nothing truly disturbs the constant glitter of its wit, and the situations are never exaggerated or bizarre; rather do they stand forward as among the most perfect in the English theatre. With The School for Scandal we reach the culmination of the anti-sentimental movement.
Q. 21. Who are the chief novelists of Transition?
Ans. The chief novelists of the Age of Transition are Samuel Richardson, Henry Fielding, Tobias Smollett and Laurence Sterne.
Q. 22. Discuss Richardson’s art of characterization.
Ans. Richardson’s greatest ability lies in characterization. His psychological insight into human motives and feelings, and particularly his understanding of the feminine heart, has seldom been surpassed since his day. Clarissa is his finest portrait, but each successive novel shows a greater range and variety of character. Part of Richardson’s importance in the history of the novel lies in his introduction of characters of the lower-middle class, whom he portrays with great accuracy.
Q. 23. Comment upon Richardson’s ‘Pamela’.
Ans. The first of Richardson’s three novels Pamela or Virtue Rewarded was published in 1740. It is considered to be the first modern English novel of character. The story is told in a series of letters from the heroine, Pamela Andrews, a young maid-servant whose mistress has just died when the story opens. The lady’s son, Mr. B., becomes enamoured of Pamela, and taking a dishonourable advantage of her position, pursues her with his advances. She indognantly repels them, leaves the house, is pursued by B. and she was considerable astuteness in defending herself. Finally B, being much in love with her, comes to terms and decides to marry her. The second part of the book, which is less interesting, presents Pamela married, suffering with dignity and sweetness the burden of a profligate husband.
Q. 24. Discuss Henry Fielding’s ‘Joseph Andrews’ as a ‘parody.
Ans. In 1742 appeared Joseph Andrews, which begins in laughter at the namby-pamby Pamela of Richardson. In the story of Joseph Andrews,’ the hero is a footman, and the brother of Pamela. Along with a poor and simple curate called Abraham Adams he survives numerous ridiculous adventures. In a short time Fielding forgets about the burlesque, becomes interested in his own story, and we then see a novel of a new and powerful kind. From the very beginning we get the Fielding touch; the complete rejection of the letter method; the bustle and sweep of the tale; the broad and vivacious humour; the genial and half-contemptuous insight into human nature; and the forcible and pithy prose style.
Q. 25. What is Henry Fielding’s art of characterization?
Ans. Like Richardson, Fielding had a genius for sounding the emotions of the human heart, but his methods are different Richardson pours over human weaknesses with puckered brow and with many a sight Fielding looks, laughs, and passes on. He does not seek to analyse or over-refine, and so his characters possess a breadth, humanity, and attraction denied to Richardson’s Even a sneaking rogue like Blifil in Tom Jones has a Shakespearean roundness of contour that keeps him from being quite revolting.
Q. 26. Comment upon Henry Fielding’s ‘Tom Jones’.
Ans. In Tome Jones, we have all the virtues of his previous novels “with the addition of greater symmetry of plot, clearer and steadier vision into human life and human frailty, and a broader and more thickly peopled stage.” Moreover, although the hero travels from place to place and meets with a variety of adventures, relates each character, each thread of plot, to the main theme, although he does not follow the more formal dramatic structure of Richardson. The new element in Tom Jones is Fielding’s architectonic quality. No plot has ever been carried through with more consummate skill, and the skill can be truly appreciated only after the book has closed. In reading, one is delighted with sweiftness of the narration, the economy, the nimble and inexhaustible invention.
Q. 27. Differentiate between Richardson’s and Fielding’s attitude to morality,
Ans. Fielding had no sympathy with the kind of sentimentality that Richardson was making so popular. But really he too was a moralist and an emotionalist in his own way He trusts the natural emotions and values highly the sentiments as guides to conduct; it is against affectation, pretence, and hypocrisy that he appeals for sincerity and naturalness. On the other hand, Samuel Richardson suffused his scenes with a sentimental pathos which promptly took the town. His sentimentality was mawkish. Fielding was against the cloying sentimentality of Richardson. He revolted against contemporary morality.
Q. 28. Discuss the chief characteristics of Laurence Sterne’s novels.
Ans. His two novels are The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gent, which won him immediate recognition and A Sentimental Journey through France and Italy. Unique in English literature, they are the accurate reflection of the singular personality of their author. They are made up of Sterne’s peculiar blend of pathos and humour, and, though the pathos is sometimes overdone to the point of becoming offensively sentimental, the humour is subtle and intellectual, and constantly surprises by the unusual forms in which it is found. Indeed, for many, Sterne is merely the eccentric who appealed to his own age by such unusual devices as a completely black page in the middle of his story. But his characters are his chief claim to greatness.
Q. 29. How will you justify that there was no .real novel before publication of Richardson’s ‘Pamela’?
Ans. Notwithstanding this long history of fiction, to which we have called attention, it is safe to say that, until the publication of Richardson’s Pamela, in 1740, no true novel had appeared in any literature. By a true novel we mean simply a work of fiction which relates the story of a plain human life, under stress of emotion, which depends for its interest not on incident or adventure, but on its truth to nature. A number of English novelists—Goldsmith, Richardson, Fielding, Smollett, Sterne—all seem to have seized upon the idea of reflecting life as it is in the form of a story, and to have developed it simultaneously. The result was an extraordinary awakening of interest, especially among people who had never before been greatly concerned with literature.
Q. 30. Give a critical appraisal of Goldsmith’s ‘Vicar of Wakefield.’
Ans. The Vicar of Wakefield is the only novel of the period which can be freely recommended to all readers, as giving an excellent idea of the new literary type, which was perhaps more remarkable for its promise than for its achievement. In the short space of twenty-five years there suddenly appeared and flourished a new form of literature, which influenced all Europe for nearly a century, and which still furnishes the largest part of our literary enjoyment of English literature. Each successive novelist brought some new element to the work, as when Fielding supplied animal vigour and humour to Richardson’s analysis of a human heart, and Sterne added brilliancy, and Goldsmith emphasized purity and the honest domestic sentiments which are still the greatest ruling force among men.
Q. 31. Comment upon the critical works of Dr. Johnson?
Ans. In Johnson’s Lives of the English Poets we find that he was less sympathetic to many poets. To Cowley and specially to Milton he was unfair, though he himself preferred his Life of Cowley to all the rest “on account of the dissertation it contains on the ‘Metaphysical Poets.” The dissertation is indeed a brilliant and justly famous passage, still the classic verdict on all the metaphysicals. Johnson was not altogether kind in his estimates of certain contemporaries, notable’ Gray, Lyttleton, Shenstone, and even Collins. His worst case of critical blindness is Milton, for whom he had a dislike grounded on religious and political issues which carried over to the poet’s language and versification. Nevertheless, Johnson’s views of the poetry surveyed in Lives are normally judicious and beautifully articulated.
Q. 32. Estimate Dr. Johnson as a critic.
Ans. Dr. Johnson has been called “a hanging judge”. In other words, he had preconceived notions and grievances. He was very unjust to Spenser, Milton and Gray. But he was enthusiastic about Dryden and Pope. His attitude was firm and decided. His views were only formal. His criticism on poets was generally based on principles alien to modern taste. His approach to literature was moralistic.

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