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Title: Selections from the Prose Works of Matthew Arnold
Author: Arnold, Matthew, 1822-1888
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Selections from the Prose Works of Matthew Arnold" ***

[Transcriber's notes:

Bold text is denoted with ~.

In the original, footnote numbering restarted on each page, and they
were collated at the end of the text in page number order. In this
e-text, footnotes have been renumbered consecutively through the text.
However, they are still to be found in their original position after the
text, and the original page numbers have been retained in the

There is one footnote in the Preface, which is to be found in its
original position at the end of the Preface.]

       *       *       *       *       *

Riverside College Classics







_Professor of English Literature in the University of Kansas_



The Riverside Press Cambridge

_The essays included in this issue of the Riverside College Classics are
reprinted by permission of, and by arrangement with, The Macmillan
Company, the American publishers of Arnold's writings._



The Riverside Press


This book of selections aims to furnish examples of Arnold's prose in
all the fields in which it characteristically employed itself except
that of religion. It has seemed better to omit all such material than to
attempt inclusion of a few extracts which could hardly give any adequate
notion of Arnold's work in this department. Something, however, of his
method in religious criticism can be discerned by a perusal of the
chapter on _Hebraism and Hellenism_, selected from _Culture and
Anarchy_. Most of Arnold's leading ideas are represented in this volume,
but the decision to use entire essays so far as feasible has naturally
precluded the possibility of gathering all the important utterances
together. The basis of division and grouping of the selections is made
sufficiently obvious by the headings. In the division of literary
criticism the endeavor has been to illustrate Arnold's cosmopolitanism
by essays of first-rate importance dealing with the four literatures
with which he was well acquainted. In the notes, conciseness with a
reasonable degree of thoroughness has been the principle followed.






   1. Poetry and the Classics (1853)
   2. The Function of Criticism at the Present Time (1864)
   3. The Study of Poetry (1880)
   4. Literature and Science (1882)


   1. Heinrich Heine (1863)
   2. Marcus Aurelius (1863)
   3. The Contribution of the Celts to English Literature (1866)
   4. George Sand (1877)
   5. Wordsworth (1879)


   1. Sweetness and Light (1867)
   2. Hebraism and Hellenism (1867)
   3. Equality (1878)




[Sidenote: Life and Personality]

"The gray hairs on my head are becoming more and more numerous, and I
sometimes grow impatient of getting old amidst a press of occupations
and labor for which, after all, I was not born. But we are not here to
have facilities found us for doing the work we like, but to make them."
This sentence, written in a letter to his mother in his fortieth year,
admirably expresses Arnold's courage, cheerfulness, and devotion in the
midst of an exacting round of commonplace duties, and at the same time
the energy and determination with which he responded to the imperative
need of liberating work of a higher order, that he might keep himself,
as he says in another letter, "from feeling starved and shrunk up." The
two feelings directed the course of his life to the end, a life
characterized no less by allegiance to "the lowliest duties" than by
brilliant success in a more attractive field.

Matthew Arnold was born at Laleham, December 24, 1822, the eldest son of
Thomas Arnold, the great head master of Rugby. He was educated at
Laleham, Winchester, Rugby, and Balliol College, Oxford. In 1845 he was
elected a fellow of Oriel, but Arnold desired to be a man of the world,
and the security of college cloisters and garden walls could not long
attract him. Of a deep affection for Oxford his letters and his books
speak unmistakably, but little record of his Oxford life remains aside
from the well-known lines of Principal Shairp, in which he is spoken of

  So full of power, yet blithe and debonair,
  Rallying his friends with pleasant banter gay.

From Oxford he returned to teach classics at Rugby, and
in 1847 he was appointed private secretary to Lord Lansdowne, then Lord
President of the Council. In 1851, the year of his marriage, he became
inspector of schools, and in this service he continued until two years
before his death. As an inspector, the letters give us a picture of
Arnold toiling over examination papers, and hurrying from place to
place, covering great distances, often going without lunch or dinner, or
seeking the doubtful solace of a bun, eaten "before the astonished
school." His services to the cause of English education were great, both
in the direction of personal inspiration to teachers and students, and
in thoughtful discussion of national problems. Much time was spent in
investigating foreign systems, and his _Report upon Schools and
Universities on the Continent_ was enlightened and suggestive.

Arnold's first volume of poems appeared in 1849, and by 1853 the larger
part of his poetry was published. Four years later he was appointed
Professor of Poetry at Oxford. Of his prose, the first book to attract
wide notice was that containing the lectures _On Translating Homer_
delivered from the chair of Poetry and published in 1861-62. From this
time until the year of his death appeared the remarkable series of
critical writings which have placed him in the front rank of the men of
letters of his century. He continued faithfully to fulfill his duties as
school inspector until April, 1886, when he resigned after a service of
thirty-five years. He died of heart trouble on April 15, 1888, at

The testimony to Arnold's personal charm, to his cheerfulness, his
urbanity, his tolerance and charity, is remarkably uniform. He is
described by one who knew him as "the most sociable, the most lovable,
the most companionable of men"; by another as "preëminently a good man,
gentle, generous, enduring, laborious." His letters are among the
precious writings of our time, not because of the beauty or
inimitableness of detail, but because of the completed picture which
they make. They do not, like the Carlyle-Emerson correspondence, show a
hand that could not set pen to paper without writing picturesquely, but
they do reveal a character of great soundness and sweetness, and one in
which the affections play a surprisingly important part, the love of
flowers and books, of family and friends, and of his fellow men. His
life was human, kindly and unselfish, and he allowed no clash between
the pursuit of personal perfection and devotion to the public cause,
even when the latter demanded sacrifice of the most cherished projects
and adherence to the most irritating drudgery.


[Sidenote: Arnold's Place among Nineteenth-Century Teachers]

By those who go to literature primarily for a practical wisdom presented
in terms applicable to modern life, the work of Arnold will be reckoned
highly important, if not indispensable. He will be placed by them among
the great humanizers of the last century, and by comparison with his
contemporaries will be seen to have furnished a complementary
contribution of the highest value. Of the other great teachers whose
work may most fitly be compared with his, two were preëminently men of
feeling. Carlyle was governed by an overmastering moral fervor which
gave great weight to his utterances, but which exercised itself in a
narrow field and which often distorted and misinterpreted the facts.
Ruskin was governed by his affections, and though an ardent lover of
truth and beauty, was often the victim of caprice and extravagance.
Emerson and Arnold, on the other hand, were governed primarily by the
intellect, but with quite different results. Emerson presents life in
its ideality; he comparatively neglects life in its phenomenal aspect,
that is, as it appears to the ordinary man. Arnold, while not without
emotional equipment, and inspired by idealism of a high order,
introduces a yet larger element of practical season. _Tendens manus ripæ
ulterioris amore_, he is yet first of all a man of this world. His chief
instrument is common sense, and he looks at questions from the point of
view of the highly intelligent and cultivated man. His dislike of
metaphysics was as deep as Ruskin's, and he was impatient of
abstractions of any sort. With as great a desire to further the true
progress of his time as Carlyle or Ruskin, he joined a greater calmness
and disinterestedness. "To be less and less personal in one's desires
and workings" he learned to look upon as after all the great matter. Of
the lessons that are impressed upon us by his whole life and work rather
than by specific teachings, perhaps the most precious is the inspiration
to live our lives thoughtfully, in no haphazard and hand-to-mouth way,
and to live always for the idea and the spirit, making all things else
subservient. He does not dazzle us with extraordinary power prodigally
spent, but he was a good steward of natural gifts, high, though below
the highest. His life of forethought and reason may be profitably
compared with a life spoiled by passion and animalism like that of Byron
or of Burns. His counsels are the fruit of this well-ordered life and
are perfectly in consonance with it. While he was a man of less striking
personality and less brilliant literary gift than some of his
contemporaries, and though his appeal was without the moving power that
comes from great emotion, we find a compensation in his greater balance
and sanity. He makes singularly few mistakes, and these chiefly of
detail. Of all the teachings of the age his ideal of perfection is the
wisest and the most permanent.


[Sidenote: His Teachers and his Personal Philosophy]

Arnold's poetry is the poetry of meditation and not the poetry of
passion; it comes from "the depth and not the tumult of the soul"; it
does not make us more joyful, but it helps us to greater depth of
vision, greater detachment, greater power of self-possession. Our
concern here is chiefly with its relation to the prose, and this, too,
is a definite and important relation. In his prose Arnold gives such
result of his observation and meditation as he believes may be gathered
into the form of counsel, criticism, and warning to his age. In his
poetry, which preceded the prose, we find rather the processes through
which he reached these conclusions; we learn what is the nature of his
communing upon life, not as it affects society, but as it fronts the
individual; we learn who are the great thinkers of the past who came to
his help in the straits of life, and what is the armor which they
furnished for his soul in its times of stress.

One result of a perusal of the poems is to counteract the impression
often produced by the jaunty air assumed in the prose. The real
substance of Arnold's thought is characterized by a deep seriousness; no
one felt more deeply the spiritual unrest and distraction of his age.
More than one poem is an expression of its mental and spiritual
sickness, its doubt, ennui, and melancholy. Yet beside such poems as
_Dover Beach_ and _Stagirius_ should be placed the lines from
_Westminster Abbey_:--

    For this and that way swings
    The flux of mortal things,
  Though moving inly to one far-set goal.

Out of this entanglement and distraction Arnold turned for help to those
writers who seemed most perfectly to have seized upon the eternal
verities, to have escaped out of the storm of conflict and to have
gained calm and peaceful seats. Carlyle and Ruskin, Byron and Shelley,
were stained with the blood of battle, they raged in the heat of
controversy; Arnold could not accept them as his teachers. But the Greek
poets and the ancient Stoic philosophers have nothing of this dust and
heat about them, and to them Arnold turns to gather truth and to imitate
their spirit. Similarly, two poets of modern times, Goethe and
Wordsworth, have won tranquillity. They, too, become his teachers.
Arnold's chief guides for life are, then, these: two Greek poets,
Sophocles and Homer; two ancient philosophers, Marcus Aurelius and
Epictetus; two modern poets, Goethe and Wordsworth.

In Homer and Sophocles, Arnold sought what we may call the Greek spirit.
What he conceived this spirit to be as expressed in art, we find in the
essay on _Literature and Science_, "fit details strictly combined, in
view of a large general result nobly conceived." In Sophocles, Arnold
found the same spirit interpreting life with a vision that "saw life
steadily and saw it whole." In another Greek idea, that of fate, he is
also greatly interested, though his conception of it is modified by the
influence of Christianity. From the Greek poets, then, Arnold derived a
sense of the large part which destiny plays in our lives and the wisdom
of conforming our lives to necessity; the importance of conceiving of
life as directed toward a simple, large, and noble end; and the
desirability of maintaining a balance among the demands that life makes
on us, of adapting fit details to the main purpose of life.

Among modern writers Arnold turned first to Goethe, "Europe's sagest
head, Physician of the Iron Age." One of the things that he learned from
this source was the value of detachment. In the midst of the turmoil of
life, Goethe found refuge in Art. He is the great modern example of a
man who has been able to separate himself from the struggle of life and
watch it calmly.

  He who hath watch'd, not shared the strife,
  Knows how the day hath gone.

Aloofness, provided it be not selfish, has its own value, and, indeed,
isolation must be recognized as a law of our existence.

  Thin, thin the pleasant human noises grow,
    And faint the city gleams;
  Rare the lone pastoral huts--Marvel not thou!
  The solemn peaks but to the stars are known,
  But to the stars and the cold lunar beams;
  Alone the sun rises, and alone
    Spring the great streams.

From Goethe, also, Arnold derived the gospel of culture and faith in the
intellectual life. It is significant that while Carlyle and Arnold may
both be looked upon as disciples of Goethe, Carlyle's most
characteristic quotation from his master is his injunction to us to "do
the task that lies nearest us," while Arnold's is such a maxim as, "To
act is easy, to think is hard."

In some ways Wordsworth was for Arnold a personality even more congenial
than Goethe. His range, to be sure, is narrow, but he, too, has attained
spiritual peace. His life, secure among its English hills and lakes, was
untroubled in its faith. Wordsworth strongly reinforces three things in
Arnold, the ability to derive from nature its "healing power" and to
share and be glad in "the wonder and bloom of the world"; truth to the
deeper spiritual life and strength to keep his soul

  Fresh, undiverted to the world without,
  Firm to the mark, not spent on other things;

and finally, a satisfaction in the cheerful and serene performance of
duty, the spirit of "toil unsevered from tranquillity," sharing in the
world's work, yet keeping "free from dust and soil."

From the Emperor Marcus Aurelius and from the slave Epictetus alike,
Arnold learned to look within for "the aids to noble life." Overshadowed
on all sides by the "uno'erleaped mountains of necessity," we must learn
to resign our passionate hopes "for quiet and a fearless mind," to merge
the self in obedience to universal law, and to keep ever before our

  The pure eternal course of life,
  Not human combatings with death.

No conviction is more frequently reiterated in Arnold's poetry than that
of the wisdom of resignation and self-dependence.

These great masters, then, strengthened Arnold in those high instincts
which needed nourishment in a day of spiritual unrest. From the Greek
poets he learned to look at life steadily and as a whole, to direct it
toward simple and noble ends, and to preserve in it a balance and
perfection of parts. From Goethe he derived the lessons of detachment
and self-culture. From Wordsworth he learned to find peace in nature, to
pursue an unworldly purpose, and to be content with humble duties. From
the Stoics he learned, especially, self-dependence and resignation. In
general, he endeavored to follow an ideal of perfection and to
distinguish always between temporary demands and eternal values.


[Sidenote: Theory of Criticism and Equipment as a Critic]

In passing from poetry to criticism, Arnold did not feel that he was
descending to a lower level. Rather he felt that he was helping to lift
criticism to a position of equality with more properly creative work.
The most noticeable thing about his definition of criticism is its lofty
ambition. It is "the disinterested endeavor to learn and propagate the
best that is known and thought in the world," and its more ultimate
purpose is "to keep man from a self-satisfaction which is retarding and
vulgarizing, to lead him towards perfection." It is not to be confined
to art and literature, but is to include within its scope society,
politics, and religion. It is not only to censure that which is
blameworthy, but to appreciate and popularize the best.

For this work great virtues are demanded of the critic. Foremost of
these is disinterestedness. "If I know your sect, I anticipate your
argument," says Emerson in the essay on _Self-Reliance_. Similarly
Arnold warns the critic against partisanship. It is better that he
refrain from active participation in politics, social or humanitarian
work. Connected with this is another requisite, that of clearness of
vision. One of the great disadvantages of partisanship is that it blinds
the partisan. But the critical effort is described as "the effort to see
the object as in itself it really is." This is best accomplished by
approaching truth in as many ways and from as many sides as possible.

Another precaution for the critic who would retain clearness of vision
is the avoidance of abstract systems, which petrify and hinder the
necessary flexibility of mind. Coolness of temper is also enjoined and
scrupulously practiced. "It is only by remaining collected ... that the
critic can do the practical man any service"; and again: "Even in one's
ridicule one must preserve a sweetness and good humor" (letter to his
mother, October 27, 1863). In addition to these virtues, which in
Arnold's opinion comprised the qualities most requisite for salutary
criticism, certain others are strikingly illustrated by Arnold's own
mind and methods: the endeavor to understand, to sympathize with, and to
guide intelligently the main tendencies of his age, rather than
violently to oppose them; at the same time the courage to present
unpleasant antidotes to its faults and to keep from fostering a people
in its own conceit; and finally, amidst many discouragements, the
retention of a high faith in spiritual progress and an unwavering belief
that the ideal life is "the normal life as we shall one day see it."

Criticism, to be effective, requires also an adequate style. In Arnold's
discussion of style, much stress is laid on its basis in character, and
much upon the transparent quality of true style which allows that basic
character to shine through. Such words as "limpidness," "simplicity,"
"lucidity," are favorites. Clearness and effectiveness are the qualities
that he most highly valued. The latter he gained especially through the
crystallization of his thought into certain telling phrases, such as
"Philistinism," "sweetness and light," "the grand style," etc. That this
habit was attended with dangers, that his readers were likely to get
hold of his phrases and think that they had thereby mastered his
thought, he realized. Perhaps he hardly realized the danger to the
coiner of apothegms himself, that of being content with a half truth
when the whole truth cannot be conveniently crowded into narrow compass.
Herein lies, I think, the chief source of Arnold's occasional failure to
quite satisfy our sense of adequacy or of justice, as, for instance, in
his celebrated handling of the four ways of regarding nature, or the
passage in which he describes the sterner self of the working-class as
liking "bawling, hustling, and smashing; the lighter self, beer."

By emotionalism, however, he does not allow himself to be betrayed, and
he does not indulge in rhythmical prose or rhapsody, though occasionally
his writing has a truly poetical quality resulting from the quiet but
deep feeling which rises in connection with a subject on which the mind
has long brooded with affection, as in the tribute to Oxford at the
beginning of the _Essay on Emerson_. Sometimes, on the other hand, a
certain pedagogic stiffness appears, as if the writer feared that the
dullness of comprehension of his readers would not allow them to grasp
even the simplest conceptions without a patient insistence on the
literal fact.

One can by no means pass over Arnold's humor in a discussion of his
style, yet humor is certainly a secondary matter with him, in spite of
the frequency of its appearance. It is not much found in his more
intimate and personal writing, his poetry and his familiar letters. In
such a book as _Friendship's Garland_, where it is most in evidence, it
is plainly a literary weapon deliberately assumed. In fact, Arnold is
almost too conscious of the value of humor in the gentle warfare in
which he had enlisted. Its most frequent form is that of playful satire;
it is the product of keen wit and sane mind, and it is always directed
toward some serious purpose, rarely, if ever, existing as an end in


[Sidenote: Literary Criticism]

The first volume of _Essays in Criticism_ was published in 1865. That a
book of essays on literary subjects, apparently so diverse in character,
so lacking in outer unity, and so little subject to system of any sort,
should take so definite a place in the history of criticism and make so
single an impression upon the reader proves its possession of a dominant
and important idea, impelled by a new and weighty power of personality.
What Arnold called his "sinuous, easy, unpolemical mode of proceeding"
tends to disguise the seriousness and unity of purpose which lie behind
nearly all of these essays, but an uninterrupted perusal of the two
volumes of _Essays in Criticism_ and the volume of _Mixed Essays_
discloses what that purpose is. The essays may roughly be divided into
two classes, those which deal with single writers and those discussing
subjects of more general nature. The purpose of both is what Arnold
himself has called "the humanization of man in society." In the former
he selects some person exemplifying a trait, in the latter he selects
some general idea, which he deems of importance for our further
humanization, and in easy, unsystematic fashion unfolds and illustrates
it for us. But in spite of this unlabored method he takes care somewhere
in the essay to seize upon a phrase that shall bring home to us the
essence of his theme and to make it salient enough so as not to escape
us. How much space shall be devoted to exposition, and how much to
illustration, depends largely on the familiarity of his subject to his
readers. Besides the general purpose of humanization, two other
considerations guide him: the racial shortcomings of the English people
and the needs of his age. The English are less in need of energizing and
moralizing than of intellectualizing, refining, and inspiring with the
passion for perfection. This need accordingly determines the choice in
most cases. So Milton presents an example of "sure and flawless
perfection of rhythm and diction"; Joubert is characterized by his
intense care of "perfecting himself"; Falkland is "our martyr of
sweetness and light, of lucidity of mind and largeness of temper";
George Sand is admirable because of her desire to make the ideal life
the normal one; Emerson is "the friend and aider of those who would live
in the spirit."

The belief that poetry is our best instrument for humanization
determines Arnold's loyalty to that form of art; that classical art is
superior to modern in clarity, harmony, and wholeness of effect,
determines his preference for classic, especially for Greek poetry. He
thus represents a reaction against the romantic movement, yet has
experienced the emotional deepening which that movement brought with it.
Accordingly, he finds a shallowness in the pseudo-classicism of Pope and
his contemporaries, and turns rather to Sophocles on the one hand and
Goethe on the other for his exemplars. He feels "the peculiar charm and
aroma of the Middle Age," but retains "a strong sense of the
irrationality of that period and of those who take it seriously, and
play at restoring it" (letter to Miss Arnold, December 17, 1860); and
again: "No one has a stronger and more abiding sense than I have of the
'dæmonic' element--as Goethe called it--which underlies and encompasses
our life; but I think, as Goethe thought, that the right thing is while
conscious of this element, and of all that there is inexplicable round
one, to keep pushing on one's posts into the darkness, and to establish
no post that is not perfectly in light and firm" (letter to his mother,
March 3, 1865).


[Sidenote: Criticism of Society, Politics, and Religion]

Like the work of all clear thinkers, Arnold's writing proceeds from a
few governing and controlling principles. It is natural, therefore, that
we should find in his criticism of society a repetition of the ideas
already encountered in his literary criticism. Of these, the chief is
that of "culture," the theme of his most typical book, _Culture and
Anarchy_, published in 1869. Indeed, it is interesting to see how
closely related his doctrine of culture is to his theory of criticism,
already expounded. True criticism, we have seen, consists in an
"endeavor to learn and propagate the best that is known and thought in
the world." The shortest definition that Arnold gives of culture is "a
study of perfection." But how may one pursue perfection? Evidently by
putting oneself in the way of learning the best that is known and
thought, and by making it a part of oneself. The relation of the critic
to culture thereupon becomes evident. He is the appointed apostle of
culture. He undertakes as his duty in life to seek out and to minister
to others the means of self-improvement, discriminating the evil and the
specious from the good and the genuine, rendering the former
contemptible and the latter attractive. But in a degree all seekers
after culture must be critics also. Both pursue the same objects, the
best that is thought and known. Both, too, must propagate it; for
culture consists in general expansion, and the last degree of personal
perfection is attained only when shared with one's fellows. The critic
and the true man of culture are, therefore, at bottom, the same, though
Arnold does not specifically point this out. But the two ideals united
in himself direct all his endeavor. As a man of culture he is intent
chiefly upon the acquisition of the means of perfection; as a critic,
upon their elucidation and propagation.

This sufficiently answers the charge of selfishness that in frequently
brought against the gospel of culture. It would never have been brought
if its critics had not perversely shut their eyes to Arnold's express
statements that perfection consists in "a general expansion"; that it
"is not possible while the individual remains isolated"; that one of its
characteristics is "increased sympathy," as well as "increased
sweetness, increased light, increased life." The other common charge of
dilettanteism, brought by such opponents as Professor Huxley and Mr.
Frederic Harrison, deserves hardly more consideration. Arnold has made
it sufficiently clear that he does not mean by culture "a smattering of
Greek and Latin," but a deepening and strengthening of our whole
spiritual nature by all the means at our command. No other ideal of the
century is so satisfactory as this of Arnold's. The ideal of social
democracy, as commonly followed, tends, as Arnold has pointed out, to
exalt the average man, while culture exalts man at his best. The
scientific ideal, divorced from a general cultural aim, appeals "to a
limited faculty and not to the whole man." The religious ideal, too
exclusively cultivated, dwarfs the sense of beauty and is marked by
narrowness. Culture includes religion as its most valuable component,
but goes beyond it.

The fact that Arnold, in his social as in his literary criticism, laid
the chief stress upon the intellectual rather than the moral elements of
culture, was due to his constant desire to adapt his thought to the
condition of his age and nation. The prevailing characteristics of the
English people he believed to be energy and honesty. These he contrasts
with the chief characteristics of the Athenians, openness of mind and
flexibility of intelligence. As the best type of culture, that is, of
perfected humanity, for the Englishman to emulate, he turns, therefore,
to Greece in the time of Sophocles, Greece, to be sure, failed because
of the lack of that very Hebraism which England possesses and to which
she owes her strength. But if to this strength of moral fiber could be
added the openness of mind, flexibility of intelligence, and love of
beauty which distinguished the Greeks in their best period, a truly
great civilization would result. That this ideal will in the end
prevail, he has little doubt. The strain of sadness, melancholy, and
depression which appears in Arnold's poetry is rigidly excluded from his
prose. Both despondency and violence are forbidden to the believer in
culture. "We go the way the human race is going," he says at the close
of _Culture and Anarchy_.

Arnold's incursion into the field of religion has been looked upon by
many as a mistake. Religion is with most people a matter of closer
interest and is less discussable than literary criticism. _Literature
and Dogma_, aroused much antagonism on this account. Moreover, it cannot
be denied that Arnold was not well enough equipped in this field to
prevent him from making a good many mistakes. But that the upshot of his
religious teaching is wholesome and edifying can hardly be denied.
Arnold's spirit is a deeply religious one, and his purpose in his
religious books was to save what was valuable in religion by separating
it from what was non-essential. He thought of himself always as a
friend, not as an enemy, of religion. The purpose of all his religious
writings, of which _St. Paul and Protestantism_, 1870, and _Literature
and Dogma_, 1873, are the most important, is the same, to show the
natural truth of religion and to strengthen its position by freeing it
from dependence on dogma and historical evidence, and especially to make
clear the essential value of Christianity. Conformity with reason, true
spirituality, and freedom from materialistic interpretation were for him
the bases of sound faith. That Arnold's religious writing is thoroughly
spiritual in its aim and tendency has, I think, never been questioned,
and we need only examine some of his leading definitions to become
convinced of this. Thus, religion is described as "that which binds and
holds us to the practice of righteousness"; faith is the "power,
preëminently, of holding fast to an unseen power of goodness"; God is
"the power, not ourselves, that makes for righteousness"; immortality is
a union of one's life with an eternal order that never dies. Arnold did
not without reluctance enter into religious controversy, but when once
entered he did his best to make order and reason prevail there. His
attitude is well stated in an early essay not since reprinted:--

  "And you are masters in Israel, and know not these things; and you
  require a voice from the world of literature to tell them to you!
  Those who ask nothing better than to remain silent on such topics, who
  have to quit their own sphere to speak of them, who cannot touch them
  without being reminded that they survive those who touched them with
  far different power, you compel, in the mere interest of letters, of
  intelligence, of general culture, to proclaim truths which it was your
  function to have made familiar. And when you have thus forced the very
  stones to cry out, and the dumb to speak, you call them singular
  because they know these truths, and arrogant because they declare

In political discussion as in all other forms of criticism Arnold aimed
at disinterestedness. "I am a Liberal," he says in the Introduction to
_Culture and Anarchy_, "yet I am a Liberal tempered by experience,
reflection, and self-renouncement." In the last condition he believed
that his particular strength lay. "I do not wish to see men of culture
entrusted with power." In his coolness and freedom from bitterness is to
be found his chief superiority to his more violent contemporaries. This
saved him from magnifying the faults inseparable from the social
movements of his day. In contrast with Carlyle he retains to the end a
sympathy with the advance of democracy and a belief in the principles of
liberty and equality, while not blinded to the weaknesses of Liberalism.
Political discussion in the hands of its express partisans is always
likely to become violent and one-sided. This violence and one-sidedness
Arnold believes it the work of criticism to temper, or as he expresses
it, in _Culture and Anarchy_, "Culture is the eternal opponent of the
two things which are the signal marks of Jacobinism,--its fierceness and
its addiction to an abstract system."


[Sidenote: Conclusion]

"Un Milton jeune et voyageant" was George Sand's description of the
young Arnold. The eager pursuit of high aims, implied in this
description, he carried from youth into manhood and age. The innocence,
the hopefulness, and the noble curiosity of youth he retained to the
end. But these became tempered with the ripe wisdom of maturity, a
wisdom needed for the helpful interpretation of a perplexing period. His
prose writings are surpassed, in that spontaneous and unaccountable
inspiration which we call genius, by those of certain of his
contemporaries, but when we become exhausted by the perversities of
ill-controlled passion and find ourselves unable to breathe the rarified
air of transcendentalism, we may turn to him for the clarifying and
strengthening effect of calm intelligence and pure spirituality.

[Footnote 1: From _Dr. Stanley's Lectures on the Jewish Church,
Macmillan's Magazine_, February, 1863, vol. 7, p. 336.]



1849. _The Strayed Reveller, and other Poems_. 1852. ~Empedocles on
Etna, and other Poems~. 1853. _Poems_. 1855. _Poems_ (Second Series).
1858. _Merope_. 1867. _New Poems_. 1869. _Poems_ (First Collected
Edition). (A few new poems were added in the later collections of 1877,
1881, 1885, and 1890.)


1859. _England and the Italian Question_. 1861. _Popular Education in
France_. 1861. _On Translating Homer_. 1862. _Last Words on Translating
Homer_. 1864. _A French Eton_. 1865. _Essays in Criticism_. 1867. _On
the Study of Celtic Literature_. 1868. _Schools and Universities on the
Continent_. 1869. _Culture and Anarchy_. 1870. _St. Paul and
Protestantism_. 1871. _Friendship's Garland_. 1873. _Literature and
Dogma_. 1875. _God and the Bible_. 1877. _Last Essays on Church and
Religion_. 1879. _Mixed Essays_. 1882. _Irish Essays_. 1885. _Discourses
in America_. 1888. _Essays in Criticism_ (Second Series). 1888.
_Civilization in the United States_. 1891. _On Home Rule for Ireland_.
1910. _Essays in Criticism_ (Third Series).

For a complete bibliography of Arnold's writings and of Arnold
criticism, see _Bibliography of Matthew Arnold_, by T.B. Smart, London,
1892. The letters of Matthew Arnold, 1848-88, were edited by G.W.E.
Russell in 1896.


BIRRELL, AUGUSTINE: _Res Judicatæ_, London, 1892.

BROWNELL, W.C.: _Victorian Prose Masters_, New York, 1902.

BURROUGHS, JOHN: _Indoor Studies_, Boston, 1889.

DAWSON, W.H.: _Matthew Arnold and his Relation to the Thought of our
Time_, New York, 1904.

FITCH, SIR JOSHUA: _Thomas and Matthew Arnold and their Influence on
English Education_, New York, 1897.

GATES, L.E.: _Selections from the Prose Writings of Matthew Arnold_, New
York, 1898.

HARRISON, FREDERIC: _Culture; A Dialogue_. In _The Choice of Books_,
London, 1886.

HUTTON, R.H.: _Modern Guides of English Thought in Matters of Faith_,
London, 1887.

JACOBS, JOSEPH: _Literary Studies_, London, 1895.

PAUL, HERBERT W.: _Matthew Arnold_. In _English Men of Letters Series_,
London and New York, 1902.

ROBERTSON, JOHN M.: _Modern Humanists_, London, 1891.

RUSSELL, G.W.E.: _Matthew Arnold_, New York, 1904.

SAINTSBURY, GEORGE: _Corrected Impressions_, London, 1895. _Matthew
Arnold_. In _Modern English Writers Series_, London, 1899.

SHAIRP, J.C.: _Culture and Religion_, Edinburgh, 1870.

SPEDDING, JAMES: _Reviews and Discussions_, London, 1879.

STEPHEN, SIR LESLIE: _Studies of a Biographer_, vol. 2, London, 1898.

WOODBERRY, GEORGE E.: _Makers of Literature_, London, 1900.




In two small volumes of Poems, published anonymously, one in 1849, the
other in 1852, many of the Poems which compose the present volume have
already appeared. The rest are now published for the first time.

I have, in the present collection, omitted the poem[2] from which the
volume published in 1852 took its title. I have done so, not because the
subject of it was a Sicilian Greek born between two and three thousand
years ago, although many persons would think this a sufficient reason.
Neither have I done so because I had, in my own opinion, failed in the
delineation which I intended to effect. I intended to delineate the
feelings of one of the last of the Greek religious philosophers, one of
the family of Orpheus and Musæus, having survived his fellows, living on
into a time when the habits of Greek thought and feeling had begun fast
to change, character to dwindle, the influence of the Sophists[3] to
prevail. Into the feelings of a man so situated there are entered much
that we are accustomed to consider as exclusively modern; how much, the
fragments of Empedocles himself which remain to us are sufficient at
least to indicate. What those who are familiar only with the great
monuments of early Greek genius suppose to be its exclusive
characteristics, have disappeared; the calm, the cheerfulness, the
disinterested objectivity have disappeared; the dialogue of the mind
with itself has commenced; modern problems have presented themselves; we
hear already the doubts, we witness the discouragement, of Hamlet and of

The representation of such a man's feelings must be interesting, if
consistently drawn. We all naturally take pleasure, says Aristotle,[4]
in any imitation or representation whatever: this is the basis of our
love of poetry: and we take pleasure in them, he adds, because all
knowledge is naturally agreeable to us; not to the philosopher only, but
to mankind at large. Every representation therefore which is
consistently drawn may be supposed to be interesting, inasmuch as it
gratifies this natural interest in knowledge of all kinds. What is _not_
interesting, is that which does not add to our knowledge of any kind;
that which is vaguely conceived and loosely drawn; a representation
which is general, indeterminate, and faint, instead of being particular,
precise, and firm.

Any accurate representation may therefore be expected to be interesting;
but, if the representation be a poetical one, more than this is
demanded. It is demanded, not only that it shall interest, but also that
it shall inspirit and rejoice the reader: that it shall convey a charm,
and infuse delight. For the Muses, as Hesiod[5] says, were born that
they might be "a forgetfulness of evils, and a truce from cares": and it
is not enough that the poet should add to the knowledge of men, it is
required of him also that he should add to their happiness. "All art,"
says Schiller, "is dedicated to joy, and there is no higher and no more
serious problem, than how to make men happy. The right art is that
alone, which creates the highest enjoyment."

A poetical work, therefore, is not yet justified when it has been shown
to be an accurate, and therefore interesting representation; it has to
be shown also that it is a representation from which men can derive
enjoyment. In presence of the most tragic circumstances, represented in
a work of art, the feeling of enjoyment, as is well known, may still
subsist: the representation of the most utter calamity, of the liveliest
anguish, is not sufficient to destroy it: the more tragic the situation,
the deeper becomes the enjoyment; and the situation is more tragic in
proportion as it becomes more terrible.

What then are the situations, from the representation of which, though
accurate, no poetical enjoyment can be derived? They are those in which
the suffering finds no vent in action; in which a continuous state of
mental distress is prolonged, unrelieved by incident, hope, or
resistance; in which there is everything to be endured, nothing to be
done. In such situations there is inevitably something morbid, in the
description of them something monotonous. When they occur in actual
life, they are painful, not tragic; the representation of them in poetry
is painful also.

To this class of situations, poetically faulty as it appears to me, that
of Empedocles, as I have endeavored to represent him, belongs; and I
have therefore excluded the poem from the present collection.

And why, it may be asked, have I entered into this explanation
respecting a matter so unimportant as the admission or exclusion of the
poem in question? I have done so, because I was anxious to avow that the
sole reason for its exclusion was that which has been stated above; and
that it has not been excluded in deference to the opinion which many
critics of the present day appear to entertain against subjects chosen
from distant times and countries: against the choice, in short, of any
subjects but modern ones.

"The poet," it is said,[6] and by an intelligent critic, "the poet who
would really fix the public attention must leave the exhausted past, and
draw his subjects from matters of present import, and _therefore_ both
of interest and novelty."

Now this view I believe to be completely false. It is worth examining,
inasmuch as it is a fair sample of a class of critical dicta everywhere
current at the present day, having a philosophical form and air, but no
real basis in fact; and which are calculated to vitiate the judgment of
readers of poetry, while they exert, so far as they are adopted, a
misleading influence on the practice of those who make it.

What are the eternal objects of poetry, among all nations and at all
times? They are actions; human actions; possessing an inherent interest
in themselves, and which are to be communicated in an interesting manner
by the art of the poet. Vainly will the latter imagine that he has
everything in his own power; that he can make an intrinsically inferior
action equally delightful with a more excellent one by his treatment of
it: he may indeed compel us to admire his skill, but his work will
possess, within itself, an incurable defect.

The poet, then, has in the first place to select an excellent action;
and what actions are the most excellent? Those, certainly, which most
powerfully appeal to the great primary human affections: to those
elementary feelings which subsist permanently in the race, and which are
independent of time. These feelings are permanent and the same; that
which interests them is permanent and the same also. The modernness or
antiquity of an action, therefore, has nothing to do with its fitness
for poetical representation; this depends upon its inherent qualities.
To the elementary part of our nature, to our passions, that which is
great and passionate is eternally interesting; and interesting solely in
proportion to its greatness and to its passion. A great human action of
a thousand years ago is more interesting to it than a smaller human
action of to-day, even though upon the representation of this last the
most consummate skill may have been expended, and though it has the
advantage of appealing by its modern language, familiar manners, and
contemporary allusions, to all our transient feelings and interests.
These, however, have no right to demand of a poetical work that it shall
satisfy them; their claims are to be directed elsewhere. Poetical works
belong to the domain of our permanent passions: let them interest these,
and the voice of all subordinate claims upon them is at once silenced.

Achilles, Prometheus, Clytemnestra, Dido[7]--what modern poem presents
personages as interesting, even to us moderns, as these personages of an
"exhausted past"? We have the domestic epic dealing with the details of
modern life, which pass daily under our eyes; we have poems representing
modern personages in contact with the problems of modern life, moral,
intellectual, and social; these works have been produced by poets the
most distinguished of their nation and time; yet I fearlessly assert
that _Hermann and Dorothea_, _Childe Harold_, _Jocelyn_, the
_Excursion_,[8] leave the reader cold in comparison with the effect
produced upon him by the latter books of the _Iliad_, by the _Oresteia_,
or by the episode of Dido. And why is this? Simply because in the three
last-named cases the action is greater, the personages nobler, the
situations more intense: and this is the true basis of the interest in a
poetical work, and this alone.

It may be urged, however, that past actions may be interesting in
themselves, but that they are not to be adopted by the modern poet,
because it is impossible for him to have them clearly present to his own
mind, and he cannot therefore feel them deeply, nor represent them
forcibly. But this is not necessarily the case. The externals of a past
action, indeed, he cannot know with the precision of a contemporary; but
his business is with its essentials. The outward man of Oedipus[9] or of
Macbeth, the houses in which they lived, the ceremonies of their courts,
he cannot accurately figure to himself; but neither do they essentially
concern him. His business is with their inward man; with their feelings
and behavior in certain tragic situations, which engage their passions
as men; these have in them nothing local and casual; they are as
accessible to the modern poet as to a contemporary.

The date of an action, then, signifies nothing: the action itself, its
selection and construction, this is what is all-important. This the
Greeks understood far more clearly than we do. The radical difference
between their poetical theory and ours consists, as it appears to me, in
this: that, with them, the poetical character of the action in itself,
and the conduct of it, was the first consideration; with us, attention
is fixed mainly on the value of the separate thoughts and images which
occur in the treatment of an action. They regarded the whole; we regard
the parts. With them, the action predominated over the expression of it;
with us, the expression predominates over the action. Not that they
failed in expression, or were inattentive to it; on the contrary, they
are the highest models of expression, the unapproached masters of the
_grand style_:[10] but their expression is so excellent because it is so
admirably kept in its right degree of prominence; because it is so
simple and so well subordinated; because it draws its force directly
from the pregnancy of the matter which it conveys. For what reason was
the Greek tragic poet confined to so limited a range of subjects?
Because there are so few actions which unite in themselves, in the
highest degree, the conditions of excellence; and it was not thought
that on any but an excellent subject could an excellent poem be
constructed. A few actions, therefore, eminently adapted for tragedy,
maintained almost exclusive possession of the Greek tragic stage. Their
significance appeared inexhaustible; they were as permanent problems,
perpetually offered to the genius of every fresh poet. This too is the
reason of what appears to us moderns a certain baldness of expression in
Greek tragedy; of the triviality with which we often reproach the
remarks of the chorus, where it takes part in the dialogue: that the
action itself, the situation of Orestes, or Merope, or Alcmæon,[11] was
to stand the central point of interest, unforgotten, absorbing,
principal; that no accessories were for a moment to distract the
spectator's attention from this, that the tone of the parts was to be
perpetually kept down, in order not to impair the grandiose effect of
the whole. The terrible old mythic story on which the drama was founded
stood, before he entered the theatre, traced in its bare outlines upon
the spectator's mind; it stood in his memory, as a group of statuary,
faintly seen, at the end of a long and dark vista: then came the poet,
embodying outlines, developing situations, not a word wasted, not a
sentiment capriciously thrown in: stroke upon stroke, the drama
proceeded: the light deepened upon the group; more and more it revealed
itself to the riveted gaze of the spectator: until at last, when the
final words were spoken, it stood before him in broad sunlight, a model
of immortal beauty.  This was what a Greek critic demanded; this was
what a Greek poet endeavored to effect. It signified nothing to what
time an action belonged. We do not find that the _Persæ_ occupied a
particularly high rank among the dramas of Æschylus because it
represented a matter of contemporary interest: this was not what a
cultivated Athenian required. He required that the permanent elements of
his nature should be moved; and dramas of which the action, though taken
from a long-distant mythic time, yet was calculated to accomplish this
in a higher degree than that of the _Persæ_, stood higher in his
estimation accordingly. The Greeks felt, no doubt, with their exquisite
sagacity of taste, that an action of present times was too near them,
too much mixed up with what was accidental and passing, to form a
sufficiently grand, detached, and self-subsistent object for a tragic
poem. Such objects belonged to the domain of the comic poet, and of the
lighter kinds of poetry. For the more serious kinds, for _pragmatic_
poetry, to use an excellent expression of Polybius,[12] they were more
difficult and severe in the range of subjects which they permitted.
Their theory and practice alike, the admirable treatise of Aristotle,
and the unrivalled works of their poets, exclaim with a thousand
tongues--"All depends upon the subject; choose a fitting action,
penetrate yourself with the feeling of its situations; this done,
everything else will follow."

But for all kinds of poetry alike there was one point on which they were
rigidly exacting; the adaptability of the subject to the kind of poetry
selected, and the careful construction of the poem.

How different a way of thinking from this is ours! We can hardly at the
present day understand what Menander[13] meant, when he told a man who
enquired as to the progress of his comedy that he had finished it, not
having yet written a single line, because he had constructed the action
of it in his mind. A modern critic would have assured him that the merit
of his piece depended on the brilliant things which arose under his pen
as he went along. We have poems which seem to exist merely for the sake
of single lines and passages; not for the sake of producing any
total-impression. We have critics who seem to direct their attention
merely to detached expressions, to the language about the action, not to
the action itself. I verily think that the majority of them do not in
their hearts believe that there is such a thing as a total-impression to
be derived from a poem at all, or to be demanded from a poet; they think
the term a commonplace of metaphysical criticism. They will permit the
poet to select any action he pleases, and to suffer that action to go as
it will, provided he gratifies them with occasional bursts of fine
writing, and with a shower of isolated thoughts and images. That is,
they permit him to leave their poetical sense ungratified, provided that
he gratifies their rhetorical sense and their curiosity. Of his
neglecting to gratify these, there is little danger; he needs rather to
be warned against the danger of attempting to gratify these alone; he
needs rather to be perpetually reminded to prefer his action to
everything else; so to treat this, as to permit its inherent excellences
to develop themselves, without interruption from the intrusion of his
personal peculiarities: most fortunate when he most entirely succeeds in
effacing himself, and in enabling a noble action to subsist as it did in

But the modern critic not only permits a false practice: he absolutely
prescribes false aims. "A true allegory of the state of one's own mind
in a representative history," the poet is told, "is perhaps the highest
thing that one can attempt in the way of poetry." And accordingly he
attempts it. An allegory of the state of one's own mind, the highest
problem of an art which imitates actions! No assuredly, it is not, it
never can be so: no great poetical work has ever been produced with such
an aim. _Faust_ itself, in which something of the kind is attempted,
wonderful passages as it contains, and in spite of the unsurpassed
beauty of the scenes which relate to Margaret, _Faust_ itself, judged as
a whole, and judged strictly as a poetical work, is defective: its
illustrious author, the greatest poet of modern times, the greatest
critic of all times, would have been the first to acknowledge it; he
only defended his work, indeed, by asserting it to be "something

The confusion of the present times is great, the multitude of voices
counselling different things bewildering, the number of existing works
capable of attracting a young writer's attention and of becoming his
models, immense: what he wants is a hand to guide him through the
confusion, a voice to prescribe to him the aim which he should keep in
view, and to explain to him that the value of the literary works which
offer themselves to his attention is relative to their power of helping
him forward on his road towards this aim. Such a guide the English
writer at the present day will nowhere find. Failing this, all that can
be looked for, all indeed that can be desired, is, that his attention
should be fixed on excellent models; that he may reproduce, at any rate,
something of their excellence, by penetrating himself with their works
and by catching their spirit, if he cannot be taught to produce what is
excellent independently.

Foremost among these models for the English writer stands Shakespeare: a
name the greatest perhaps of all poetical names; a name never to be
mentioned without reverence. I will venture, however, to express a doubt
whether the influence of his works, excellent and fruitful for the
readers of poetry, for the great majority, has been an unmixed advantage
to the writers of it. Shakespeare indeed chose excellent subjects--the
world could afford no better than _Macbeth_, or _Romeo and Juliet_, or
_Othello_: he had no theory respecting the necessity of choosing
subjects of present import, or the paramount interest attaching to
allegories of the state of one's own mind; like all great poets, he knew
well what constituted a poetical action; like them, wherever he found
such an action, he took it; like them, too, he found his best in past
times. But to these general characteristics of all great poets he added
a special one of his own; a gift, namely, of happy, abundant, and
ingenious expression, eminent and unrivalled: so eminent as irresistibly
to strike the attention first in him and even to throw into comparative
shade his other excellences as a poet. Here has been the mischief. These
other excellences were his fundamental excellences, _as a poet_; what
distinguishes the artist from the mere amateur, says Goethe, is
_Architectonicè_ in the highest sense; that power of execution which
creates, forms, and constitutes: not the profoundness of single
thoughts, not the richness of imagery, not the abundance of
illustration. But these attractive accessories of a poetical work being
more easily seized than the spirit of the whole, and these accessories
being possessed by Shakespeare in an unequalled degree, a young writer
having recourse to Shakespeare as his model runs great risk of being
vanquished and absorbed by them, and, in consequence, of reproducing,
according to the measure of his power, these, and these alone. Of this
prepondering quality of Shakespeare's genius, accordingly, almost the
whole of modern English poetry has, it appears to me, felt the
influence. To the exclusive attention on the part of his imitators to
this, it is in a great degree owing that of the majority of modern
poetical works the details alone are valuable, the composition
worthless. In reading them one is perpetually reminded of that terrible
sentence on a modern French poet,--_il dit tout ce qu'il veut, mais
malheureusement il n'a rien a dire._[14]

Let me give an instance of what I mean. I will take it from the works of
the very chief among those who seem to have been formed in the school of
Shakespeare; of one whose exquisite genius and pathetic death render him
forever interesting. I will take the poem of _Isabella, or the Pot of
Basil_, by Keats. I choose this rather than the _Endymion_, because the
latter work (which a modern critic has classed with the Faery Queen!),
although undoubtedly there blows through it the breath of genius, is yet
as a whole so utterly incoherent, as not strictly to merit the name of a
poem at all. The poem of _Isabella_, then, is a perfect treasure-house
of graceful and felicitous words and images: almost in every stanza
there occurs one of those vivid and picturesque turns of expression, by
which the object is made to flash upon the eye of the mind, and which
thrill the reader with a sudden delight. This one short poem contains,
perhaps, a greater number of happy single expressions which one could
quote than all the extant tragedies of Sophocles. But the action, the
story? The action in itself is an excellent one; but so feebly is it
conceived by the poet, so loosely constructed, that the effect produced
by it, in and for itself, is absolutely null. Let the reader, after he
has finished the poem of Keats, turn to the same story in the
_Decameron_:[15] he will then feel how pregnant and interesting the same
action has become in the hands of a great artist, who above all things
delineates his object; who subordinates expression to that which it is
designed to express.

I have said that the imitators of Shakespeare, fixing their attention on
his wonderful gift of expression, have directed their imitation to this,
neglecting his other excellences. These excellences, the fundamental
excellences of poetical art, Shakespeare no doubt possessed them--
possessed many of them in a splendid degree; but it may perhaps be
doubted whether even he himself did not sometimes give scope to his
faculty of expression to the prejudice of a higher poetical duty. For we
must never forget that Shakespeare is the great poet he is from his
skill in discerning and firmly conceiving an excellent action, from his
power of intensely feeling a situation, of intimately associating
himself with a character; not from his gift of expression, which rather
even leads him astray, degenerating sometimes into a fondness for
curiosity of expression, into an irritability of fancy, which seems to
make it impossible for him to say a thing plainly, even when the press
of the action demands the very directest language, or its level
character the very simplest. Mr. Hallam,[16] than whom it is impossible
to find a saner and more judicious critic, has had the courage (for at
the present day it needs courage) to remark, how extremely and faultily
difficult Shakespeare's language often is. It is so: you may find main
scenes in some of his greatest tragedies, _King Lear_, for instance,
where the language is so artificial, so curiously tortured, and so
difficult, that every speech has to be read two or three times before
its meaning can be comprehended. This over-curiousness of expression is
indeed but the excessive employment of a wonderful gift--of the power
of saying a thing in a happier way than any other man; nevertheless, it
is carried so far that one understands what M. Guizot[17] meant when he
said that Shakespeare appears in his language to have tried all styles
except that of simplicity. He has not the severe and scrupulous
self-restraint of the ancients, partly, no doubt, because he had a far
less cultivated and exacting audience. He has indeed a far wider range
than they had, a far richer fertility of thought; in this respect he
rises above them. In his strong conception of his subject, in the
genuine way in which he is penetrated with it, he resembles them, and is
unlike the moderns. But in the accurate limitation of it, the
conscientious rejection of superfluities, the simple and rigorous
development of it from the first line of his work to the last, he falls
below them, and comes nearer to the moderns. In his chief works, besides
what he has of his own, he has the elementary soundness of the ancients;
he has their important action and their large and broad manner; but he
has not their purity of method. He is therefore a less safe model; for
what he has of his own is personal, and inseparable from his own rich
nature; it may be imitated and exaggerated, it cannot be learned or
applied as an art. He is above all suggestive; more valuable, therefore,
to young writers as men than as artists. But clearness of arrangement,
rigor of development, simplicity of style--these may to a certain extent
be learned: and these may, I am convinced, be learned best from the
ancients, who, although infinitely less suggestive than Shakespeare, are
thus, to the artist, more instructive.

What then, it will be asked, are the ancients to be our sole models? the
ancients with their comparatively narrow range of experience, and their
widely different circumstances? Not, certainly, that which is narrow in
the ancients, nor that in which we can no longer sympathize. An action
like the action of the _Antigone_ of Sophocles, which turns upon the
conflict between the heroine's duty to her brother's corpse and that to
the laws of her country, is no longer one in which it is possible that
we should feel a deep interest. I am speaking too, it will be
remembered, not of the best sources of intellectual stimulus for the
general reader, but of the best models of instruction for the individual
writer. This last may certainly learn of the ancients, better than
anywhere else, three things which it is vitally important for him to
know:--the all-importance of the choice of a subject; the necessity of
accurate construction; and the subordinate character of expression. He
will learn from them how unspeakably superior is the effect of the one
moral impression left by a great action treated as a whole, to the
effect produced by the most striking single thought or by the happiest
image. As he penetrates into the spirit of the great classical works, as
he becomes gradually aware of their intense significance, their noble
simplicity, and their calm pathos, he will be convinced that it is this
effect, unity and profoundness of moral impression, at which the ancient
poets aimed; that it is this which constitutes the grandeur of their
works, and which makes them immortal. He will desire to direct his own
efforts towards producing the same effect. Above all, he will deliver
himself from the jargon of modern criticism, and escape the danger of
producing poetical works conceived in the spirit of the passing time,
and which partake of its transitoriness.

The present age makes great claims upon us: we owe it service, it will
not be satisfied without our admiration. I know not how it is, but their
commerce with the ancients appears to me to produce, in those who
constantly practise it, a steadying and composing effect upon their
judgment, not of literary works only, but of men and events in general.
They are like persons who have had a very weighty and impressive
experience; they are more truly than others under the empire of facts,
and more independent of the language current among those with whom they
live. They wish neither to applaud nor to revile their age: they wish to
know what it is, what it can give them, and whether this is what they
want. What they want, they know very well; they want to educe and
cultivate what is best and noblest in themselves: they know, too, that
this is no easy task--[Greek: Chalepon] as Pittacus[18] said,[Greek:
Chalepon esthlonemmenai]--and they ask themselves sincerely whether
their age and its literature can assist them in the attempt. If they are
endeavoring to practise any art, they remember the plain and simple
proceedings of the old artists, who attained their grand results by
penetrating themselves with some noble and significant action, not by
inflating themselves with a belief in the preëminent importance and
greatness of their own times. They do not talk of their mission, nor of
interpreting their age, nor of the coming poet; all this, they know, is
the mere delirium of vanity; their business is not to praise their age,
but to afford to the men who live in it the highest pleasure which they
are capable of feeling. If asked to afford this by means of subjects
drawn from the age itself, they ask what special fitness the present age
has for supplying them. They are told that it is an era of progress, an
age commissioned to carry out the great ideas of industrial development
and social amelioration. They reply that with all this they can do
nothing; that the elements they need for the exercise of their art are
great actions, calculated powerfully and delightfully to affect what is
permanent in the human soul; that so far as the present age can supply
such actions, they will gladly make use of them; but that an age wanting
in moral grandeur can with difficulty supply such, and an age of
spiritual discomfort with difficulty be powerfully and delightfully
affected by them.

A host of voices will indignantly rejoin that the present age is
inferior to the past neither in moral grandeur nor in spiritual health.
He who possesses the discipline I speak of will content himself with
remembering the judgments passed upon the present age, in this respect,
by the men of strongest head and widest culture whom it has produced; by
Goethe and by Niebuhr.[19] It will be sufficient for him that he knows
the opinions held by these two great men respecting the present age and
its literature; and that he feels assured in his own mind that their
aims and demands upon life were such as he would wish, at any rate, his
own to be; and their judgment as to what is impeding and disabling such
as he may safely follow. He will not, however, maintain a hostile
attitude towards the false pretensions of his age; he will content
himself with not being overwhelmed by them. He will esteem himself
fortunate if he can succeed in banishing from his mind all feelings of
contradiction, and irritation, and impatience; in order to delight
himself with the contemplation of some noble action of a heroic time,
and to enable others, through his representation of it, to delight in it

I am far indeed from making any claim, for myself, that I possess this
discipline; or for the following poems, that they breathe its spirit.
But I say, that in the sincere endeavor to learn and practise, amid the
bewildering confusion of our times, what is sound and true in poetical
art, I seemed to myself to find the only sure guidance, the only solid
footing, among the ancients. They, at any rate, knew what they wanted in
art, and we do not. It is this uncertainty which is disheartening, and
not hostile criticism. How often have I felt this when reading words of
disparagement or of cavil: that it is the uncertainty as to what is
really to be aimed at which makes our difficulty, not the
dissatisfaction of the critic, who himself suffers from the same
uncertainty. _Non me tua fervida terrent Dicta; ... Dii me terrent, et
Jupiter hostis._[20]  Two kinds of _dilettanti_, says Goethe, there are
in poetry: he who neglects the indispensable mechanical part, and thinks
he has done enough if he shows spirituality and feeling; and he who
seeks to arrive at poetry merely by mechanism, in which he can acquire
an artisan's readiness, and is without soul and matter. And he adds,
that the first does most harm to art, and the last to himself. If we
must be _dilettanti_: if it is impossible for us, under the
circumstances amidst which we live, to think clearly, to feel nobly, and
to delineate firmly: if we cannot attain to the mastery of the great
artists--let us, at least, have so much respect for our art as to prefer
it to ourselves. Let us not bewilder our successors: let us transmit to
them the practice of poetry, with its boundaries and wholesome
regulative laws, under which excellent works may again, perhaps, at some
future time, be produced, not yet fallen into oblivion through our
neglect, not yet condemned and cancelled by the influence of their
eternal enemy, caprice.


Many objections have been made to a proposition which, in some remarks
of mine[22] on translating Homer, I ventured to put forth; a proposition
about criticism, and its importance at the present day. I said: "Of the
literature of France and Germany, as of the intellect of Europe in
general, the main effort, for now many years, has been a critical
effort; the endeavor, in all branches of knowledge, theology,
philosophy, history, art, science, to see the object as in itself it
really is." I added, that owing to the operation in English literature
of certain causes, "almost the last thing for which one would come to
English literature is just that very thing which now Europe most
desires,--criticism"; and that the power and value of English literature
was thereby impaired. More than one rejoinder declared that the
importance I here assigned to criticism was excessive, and asserted the
inherent superiority of the creative effort of the human spirit over its
critical effort. And the other day, having been led by a Mr.
Shairp's[23] excellent notice of Wordsworth[24] to turn again to his
biography, I found, in the words of this great man, whom I, for one,
must always listen to with the profoundest respect, a sentence passed on
the critic's business, which seems to justify every possible
disparagement of it. Wordsworth says in one of his letters[25]:--

"The writers in these publications" (the Reviews), "while they prosecute
their inglorious employment, cannot be supposed to be in a state of mind
very favorable for being affected by the finer influences of a thing so
pure as genuine poetry."

And a trustworthy reporter of his conversation quotes a more elaborate
judgment to the same effect:--

"Wordsworth holds the critical power very low, infinitely lower than the
inventive; and he said to-day that if the quantity of time consumed in
writing critiques on the works of others were given to original
composition, of whatever kind it might be, it would be much better
employed; it would make a man find out sooner his own level, and it
would do infinitely less mischief. A false or malicious criticism may do
much injury to the minds of others, a stupid invention, either in prose
or verse, is quite harmless."

It is almost too much to expect of poor human nature, that a man capable
of producing some effect in one line of literature, should, for the
greater good of society, voluntarily doom himself to impotence and
obscurity in another. Still less is this to be expected from men
addicted to the composition of the "false or malicious criticism" of
which Wordsworth speaks. However, everybody would admit that a false or
malicious criticism had better never have been written. Everybody, too,
would be willing to admit, as a general proposition, that the critical
faculty is lower than the inventive. But is it true that criticism is
really, in itself, a baneful and injurious employment; is it true that
all time given to writing critiques on the works of others would be much
better employed if it were given to original composition, of whatever
kind this may be? Is it true that Johnson had better have gone on
producing more _Irenes_[26] instead of writing his _Lives of the Poets_;
nay, is it certain that Wordsworth himself was better employed in making
his Ecclesiastical Sonnets than when he made his celebrated Preface[27]
so full of criticism, and criticism of the works of others? Wordsworth
was himself a great critic, and it is to be sincerely regretted that he
has not left us more criticism; Goethe was one of the greatest of
critics, and we may sincerely congratulate ourselves that he has left us
so much criticism. Without wasting time over the exaggeration which
Wordsworth's judgment on criticism clearly contains, or over an attempt
to trace the causes,--not difficult, I think, to be traced,--which may
have led Wordsworth to this exaggeration, a critic may with advantage
seize an occasion for trying his own conscience, and for asking himself
of what real service at any given moment the practice of criticism
either is or may be made to his own mind and spirit, and to the minds
and spirits of others.

The critical power is of lower rank than the creative. True; but in
assenting to this proposition, one or two things are to be kept in mind.
It is undeniable that the exercise of a creative power, that a free
creative activity, is the highest function of man; it is proved to be so
by man's finding in it his true happiness. But it is undeniable, also,
that men may have the sense of exercising this free creative activity in
other ways than in producing great works of literature or art; if it
were not so, all but a very few men would be shut out from the true
happiness of all men. They may have it in well-doing, they may have it
in learning, they may have it even in criticizing. This is one thing to
be kept in mind. Another is, that the exercise of the creative power in
the production of great works of literature or art, however high this
exercise of it may rank, is not at all epochs and under all conditions
possible; and that therefore labor may be vainly spent in attempting it,
which might with more fruit be used in preparing for it, in rendering it
possible. This creative power works with elements, with materials; what
if it has not those materials, those elements, ready for its use? In
that case it must surely wait till they are ready. Now, in literature,--
I will limit myself to literature, for it is about literature that the
question arises,--the elements with which the creative power works are
ideas; the best ideas on every matter which literature touches, current
at the time. At any rate we may lay it down as certain that in modern
literature no manifestation of the creative power not working with these
can be very important or fruitful. And I say _current_ at the time, not
merely accessible at the time; for creative literary genius does not
principally show itself in discovering new ideas: that is rather the
business of the philosopher. The grand work of literary genius is a work
of synthesis and exposition, not of analysis and discovery; its gift
lies in the faculty of being happily inspired by a certain intellectual
and spiritual atmosphere, by a certain order of ideas, when it finds
itself in them; of dealing divinely with these ideas, presenting them in
the most effective and attractive combinations,--making beautiful works
with them, in short. But it must have the atmosphere, it must find
itself amidst the order of ideas, in order to work freely; and these it
is not so easy to command. This is why great creative epochs in
literature are so rare, this is why there is so much that is
unsatisfactory in the productions of many men of real genius; because,
for the creation of a master-work of literature two powers must concur,
the power of the man and the power of the moment, and the man is not
enough without the moment; the creative power has, for its happy
exercise, appointed elements, and those elements are not in its own

Nay, they are more within the control of the critical power. It is the
business of the critical power, as I said in the words already quoted,
"in all branches of knowledge, theology, philosophy, history, art,
science, to see the object as in itself it really is." Thus it tends, at
last, to make an intellectual situation of which the creative power can
profitably avail itself. It tends to establish an order of ideas, if not
absolutely true, yet true by comparison with that which it displaces; to
make the best ideas prevail. Presently these new ideas reach society,
the touch of truth is the touch of life, and there is a stir and growth
everywhere; out of this stir and growth come the creative epochs of

Or, to narrow our range, and quit these considerations of the general
march of genius and of society,--considerations which are apt to become
too abstract and impalpable,--every one can see that a poet, for
instance, ought to know life and the world before dealing with them in
poetry; and life and the world being in modern times very complex
things, the creation of a modern poet, to be worth much, implies a great
critical effort behind it; else it must be a comparatively poor, barren,
and short-lived affair. This is why Byron's poetry had so little
endurance in it, and Goethe's so much; both Byron and Goethe had a great
productive power, but Goethe's was nourished by a great critical effort
providing the true materials for it, and Byron's was not; Goethe knew
life and the world, the poet's necessary subjects, much more
comprehensively and thoroughly than Byron. He knew a great deal more of
them, and he knew them much more as they really are.

It has long seemed to me that the burst of creative activity in our
literature, through the first quarter of this century, had about it in
fact something premature; and that from this cause its productions are
doomed, most of them, in spite of the sanguine hopes which accompanied
and do still accompany them, to prove hardly more lasting than the
productions of far less splendid epochs. And this prematureness comes
from its having proceeded without having its proper data, without
sufficient materials to work with. In other words, the English poetry of
the first quarter of this century, with plenty of energy, plenty of
creative force, did not know enough. This makes Byron so empty of
matter, Shelley so incoherent, Wordsworth even, profound as he is, yet
so wanting in completeness and variety. Wordsworth cared little for
books, and disparaged Goethe. I admire Wordsworth, as he is, so much
that I cannot wish him different; and it is vain, no doubt, to imagine
such a man different from what he is, to suppose that he _could_ have
been different. But surely the one thing wanting to make Wordsworth an
even greater poet than he is,--his thought richer, and his influence of
wider application,--was that he should have read more books, among them,
no doubt, those of that Goethe whom he disparaged without reading him.

But to speak of books and reading may easily lead to a misunderstanding
here. It was not really books and reading that lacked to our poetry at
this epoch: Shelley had plenty of reading, Coleridge had immense
reading. Pindar and Sophocles--as we all say so glibly, and often with
so little discernment of the real import of what we are saying--had not
many books; Shakespeare was no deep reader. True; but in the Greece of
Pindar and Sophocles, in the England of Shakespeare, the poet lived in a
current of ideas in the highest degree animating and nourishing to the
creative power; society was, in the fullest measure, permeated by fresh
thought, intelligent and alive. And this state of things is the true
basis for the creative power's exercise, in this it finds its data, its
materials, truly ready for its hand; all the books and reading in the
world are only valuable as they are helps to this. Even when this does
not actually exist, books and reading may enable a man to construct a
kind of semblance of it in his own mind, a world of knowledge and
intelligence in which he may live and work. This is by no means an
equivalent to the artist for the nationally diffused life and thought of
the epochs of Sophocles or Shakespeare; but, besides that it may be a
means of preparation for such epochs, it does really constitute, if many
share in it, a quickening and sustaining atmosphere of great value. Such
an atmosphere the many-sided learning and the long and widely combined
critical effort of Germany formed for Goethe, when he lived and worked.
There was no national glow of life and thought there as in the Athens of
Pericles or the England of Elizabeth. That was the poet's weakness. But
there was a sort of equivalent for it in the complete culture and
unfettered thinking of a large body of Germans. That was his strength.
In the England of the first quarter of this century there was neither a
national glow of life and thought, such as we had in the age of
Elizabeth, nor yet a culture and a force of learning and criticism such
as were to be found in Germany. Therefore the creative power of poetry
wanted, for success in the highest sense, materials and a basis; a
thorough interpretation of the world was necessarily denied to it.

At first sight it seems strange that out of the immense stir of the
French Revolution and its age should not have come a crop of works of
genius equal to that which came out of the stir of the great productive
time of Greece, or out of that of the Renascence, with its powerful
episode the Reformation. But the truth is that the stir of the French
Revolution took a character which essentially distinguished it from such
movements as these. These were, in the main, disinterestedly
intellectual and spiritual movements; movements in which the human
spirit looked for its satisfaction in itself and in the increased play
of its own activity. The French Revolution took a political, practical
character. The movement, which went on in France under the old régime,
from 1700 to 1789, was far more really akin than that of the Revolution
itself to the movement of the Renascence; the France of Voltaire and
Rousseau told far more powerfully upon the mind of Europe than the
France of the Revolution. Goethe reproached this last expressly with
having "thrown quiet culture back." Nay, and the true key to how much in
our Byron, even in our Wordsworth, is this!--that they had their source
in a great movement of feeling, not in a great movement of mind. The
French Revolution, however,--that object of so much blind love and so
much blind hatred,--found undoubtedly its motive-power in the
intelligence of men, and not in their practical sense; this is what
distinguishes it from the English Revolution of Charles the First's
time. This is what makes it a more spiritual event than our Revolution,
an event of much more powerful and world-wide interest, though
practically less successful; it appeals to an order of ideas which are
universal, certain, permanent. 1789 asked of a thing, Is it rational?
1642 asked of a thing, Is it legal? or, when it went furthest, Is it
according to conscience? This is the English fashion, a fashion to be
treated, within its own sphere, with the highest respect; for its
success, within its own sphere, has been prodigious. But what is law in
one place is not law in another; what is law here to-day is not law even
here to-morrow; and as for conscience, what is binding on one man's
conscience is not binding on another's. The old woman[28] who threw her
stool at the head of the surpliced minister in St. Giles's Church at
Edinburgh obeyed an impulse to which millions of the human race may be
permitted to remain strangers. But the prescriptions of reason are
absolute, unchanging, of universal validity; _to count by tens is the
easiest way of counting_--that is a proposition of which every one, from
here to the Antipodes, feels the force; at least I should say so if we
did not live in a country where it is not impossible that any morning we
may find a letter in the _Times_ declaring that a decimal coinage is an
absurdity. That a whole nation should have been penetrated with an
enthusiasm for pure reason, and with an ardent zeal for making its
prescriptions triumph, is a very remarkable thing, when we consider how
little of mind, or anything so worthy and quickening as mind, comes into
the motives which alone, in general, impel great masses of men. In spite
of the extravagant direction given to this enthusiasm, in spite of the
crimes and follies in which it lost itself, the French Revolution
derives from the force, truth, and universality of the ideas which it
took for its law, and from the passion with which it could inspire a
multitude for these ideas, a unique and still living power; it is,--it
will probably long remain,--the greatest, the most animating event in
history. And as no sincere passion for the things of the mind, even
though it turn out in many respects an unfortunate passion, is ever
quite thrown away and quite barren of good, France has reaped from hers
one fruit--the natural and legitimate fruit though not precisely the
grand fruit she expected: she is the country in Europe where _the
people_ is most alive.

But the mania for giving an immediate political and practical
application to all these fine ideas of the reason was fatal. Here an
Englishman is in his element: on this theme we can all go on for hours.
And all we are in the habit of saying on it has undoubtedly a great deal
of truth. Ideas cannot be too much prized in and for themselves, cannot
be too much lived with; but to transport them abruptly into the world of
politics and practice, violently to revolutionize this world to their
bidding,--that is quite another thing. There is the world of ideas and
there is the world of practice; the French are often for suppressing the
one and the English the other; but neither is to be suppressed. A member
of the House of Commons said to me the other day: "That a thing is an
anomaly, I consider to be no objection to it whatever." I venture to
think he was wrong; that a thing is an anomaly _is_ an objection to it,
but absolutely and in the sphere of ideas: it is not necessarily, under
such and such circumstances, or at such and such a moment, an objection
to it in the sphere of politics and practice. Joubert has said
beautifully: "C'est la force et le droit qui règlent toutes choses dans
le monde; la force en attendant le droit."[29] (Force and right are the
governors of this world; force till right is ready.) _Force till right
is ready_; and till right is ready, force, the existing order of things,
is justified, is the legitimate ruler. But right is something moral, and
implies inward recognition, free assent of the will; we are not ready
for right,--_right_, so far as we are concerned, _is not ready_,--until
we have attained this sense of seeing it and willing it. The way in
which for us it may change and transform force, the existing order of
things, and become, in its turn, the legitimate ruler of the world,
should depend on the way in which, when our time comes, we see it and
will it. Therefore for other people enamored of their own newly
discerned right, to attempt to impose it upon us as ours, and violently
to substitute their right for our force, is an act of tyranny, and to be
resisted. It sets at naught the second great half of our maxim, _force
till right is ready_. This was the grand error of the French Revolution;
and its movement of ideas, by quitting the intellectual sphere and
rushing furiously into the political sphere, ran, indeed, a prodigious
and memorable course, but produced no such intellectual fruit as the
movement of ideas of the Renascence, and created, in opposition to
itself, what I may call an _epoch of concentration_. The great force of
that epoch of concentration was England; and the great voice of that
epoch of concentration was Burke. It is the fashion to treat Burke's
writings on the French Revolution[30] as superannuated and conquered by
the event; as the eloquent but unphilosophical tirades of bigotry and
prejudice. I will not deny that they are often disfigured by the
violence and passion of the moment, and that in some directions Burke's
view was bounded, and his observation therefore at fault. But on the
whole, and for those who can make the needful corrections, what
distinguishes these writings is their profound, permanent, fruitful,
philosophical truth. They contain the true philosophy of an epoch of
concentration, dissipate the heavy atmosphere which its own nature is
apt to engender round it, and make its resistance rational instead of

But Burke is so great because, almost alone in England, he brings
thought to bear upon politics, he saturates politics with thought. It is
his accident that his ideas were at the service of an epoch of
concentration, not of an epoch of expansion; it is his characteristic
that he so lived by ideas, and had such a source of them welling up
within him, that he could float even an epoch of concentration and
English Tory politics with them. It does not hurt him that Dr. Price[31]
and the Liberals were enraged with him; it does not even hurt him that
George the Third and the Tories were enchanted with him. His greatness
is that he lived in a world which neither English Liberalism nor English
Toryism is apt to enter;--the world of ideas, not the world of
catchwords and party habits. So far is it from being really true of him
that he "to party gave up what was meant for mankind,"[32] that at the
very end of his fierce struggle with the French Revolution, after all
his invectives against its false pretensions, hollowness, and madness,
with his sincere convictions of its mischievousness, he can close a
memorandum on the best means of combating it, some of the last pages he
ever wrote,--the _Thoughts on French Affairs_, in December 1791,--with
these striking words:--

"The evil is stated, in my opinion, as it exists. The remedy must be
where power, wisdom, and information, I hope, are more united with good
intentions than they can be with me. I have done with this subject, I
believe, forever. It has given me many anxious moments for the last two
years. _If a great change is to be made in human affairs, the minds of
men will be fitted to it; the general opinions and feelings will draw
that way. Every fear, every hope will forward it: and then they who
persist in opposing this mighty current in human affairs, will appear
rather to resist the decrees of Providence itself, than the mere designs
of men. They will not be resolute and firm, but perverse and

That return of Burke upon himself has always seemed to me one of the
finest things in English literature, or indeed in any literature. That
is what I call living by ideas: when one side of a question has long had
your earnest support, when all your feelings are engaged, when you hear
all round you no language but one, when your party talks this language
like a steam-engine and can imagine no other,--still to be able to
think, still to be irresistibly carried, if so it be, by the current of
thought to the opposite side of the question, and, like Balaam,[33] to
be unable to speak anything _but what the Lord has put in your mouth_. I
know nothing more striking, and I must add that I know nothing more

For the Englishman in general is like my friend the Member of
Parliament, and believes, point-blank, that for a thing to be an anomaly
is absolutely no objection to it whatever. He is like the Lord
Auckland[34] of Burke's day, who, in a memorandum on the French
Revolution, talks of "certain miscreants, assuming the name of
philosophers, who have presumed themselves capable of establishing a new
system of society." The Englishman has been called a political animal,
and he values what is political and practical so much that ideas easily
become objects of dislike in his eyes, and thinkers "miscreants,"
because ideas and thinkers have rashly meddled with politics and
practice. This would be all very well if the dislike and neglect
confined themselves to ideas transported out of their own sphere, and
meddling rashly with practice; but they are inevitably extended to ideas
as such, and to the whole life of intelligence; practice is everything,
a free play of the mind is nothing. The notion of the free play of the
mind upon all subjects being a pleasure in itself, being an object of
desire, being an essential provider of elements without which a nation's
spirit, whatever compensations it may have for them, must, in the long
run, die of inanition, hardly enters into an Englishman's thoughts. It
is noticeable that the word _curiosity_, which in other languages is
used in a good sense, to mean, as a high and fine quality of man's
nature, just this disinterested love of a free play of the mind on all
subjects, for its own sake,--it is noticeable, I say, that this word has
in our language no sense of the kind, no sense but a rather bad and
disparaging one. But criticism, real criticism, is essentially the
exercise of this very quality. It obeys an instinct prompting it to try
to know the best that is known and thought in the world, irrespectively
of practice, politics, and everything of the kind; and to value
knowledge and thought as they approach this best, without the intrusion
of any other considerations whatever. This is an instinct for which
there is, I think, little original sympathy in the practical English
nature, and what there was of it has undergone a long benumbing period
of blight and suppression in the epoch of concentration which followed
the French Revolution.

But epochs of concentration cannot well endure forever; epochs of
expansion, in the due course of things, follow them. Such an epoch of
expansion seems to be opening in this country. In the first place all
danger of a hostile forcible pressure of foreign ideas upon our practice
has long disappeared; like the traveller in the fable, therefore, we
begin to wear our cloak a little more loosely. Then, with a long peace,
the ideas of Europe steal gradually and amicably in, and mingle, though
in infinitesimally small quantities at a time, with our own notions.
Then, too, in spite of all that is said about the absorbing and
brutalizing influence of our passionate material progress, it seems to
me indisputable that this progress is likely, though not certain, to
lead in the end to an apparition of intellectual life; and that man,
after he has made himself perfectly comfortable and has now to determine
what to do with himself next, may begin to remember that he has a mind,
and that the mind may be made the source of great pleasure. I grant it
is mainly the privilege of faith, at present, to discern this end to our
railways, our business, and our fortune-making; but we shall see if,
here as elsewhere, faith is not in the end the true prophet. Our ease,
our travelling, and our unbounded liberty to hold just as hard and
securely as we please to the practice to which our notions have given
birth, all tend to beget an inclination to deal a little more freely
with these notions themselves, to canvass them a little, to penetrate a
little into their real nature. Flutterings of curiosity, in the foreign
sense of the word, appear amongst us, and it is in these that criticism
must look to find its account. Criticism first; a time of true creative
activity, perhaps,--which, as I have said, must inevitably be preceded
amongst us by a time of criticism,--hereafter, when criticism has done
its work.

It is of the last importance that English criticism should clearly
discern what rule for its course, in order to avail itself of the field
now opening to it, and to produce fruit for the future, it ought to
take. The rule may be summed up in one word,--_disinterestedness_. And
how is criticism to show disinterestedness? By keeping aloof from what
is called "the practical view of things"; by resolutely following the
law of its own nature, which is to be a free play of the mind on all
subjects which it touches. By steadily refusing to lend itself to any of
those ulterior, political, practical considerations about ideas, which
plenty of people will be sure to attach to them, which perhaps ought
often to be attached to them, which in this country at any rate are
certain to be attached to them quite sufficiently, but which criticism
has really nothing to do with. Its business is, as I have said, simply
to know the best that is known and thought in the world, and by in its
turn making this known, to create a current of true and fresh ideas. Its
business is to do this with inflexible honesty, with due ability; but
its business is to do no more, and to leave alone all questions of
practical consequences and applications, questions which will never fail
to have due prominence given to them. Else criticism, besides being
really false to its own nature, merely continues in the old rut which it
has hitherto followed in this country, and will certainly miss the
chance now given to it. For what is at present the bane of criticism in
this country? It is that practical considerations cling to it and stifle
it. It subserves interests not its own. Our organs of criticism are
organs of men and parties having practical ends to serve, and with them
those practical ends are the first thing and the play of mind the
second; so much play of mind as is compatible with the prosecution of
those practical ends is all that is wanted. An organ like the _Revue des
Deux Mondes_,[35] having for its main function to understand and utter
the best that is known and thought in the world, existing, it may be
said, as just an organ for a free play of the mind, we have not. But we
have the _Edinburgh Review_, existing as an organ of the old Whigs, and
for as much play of the mind as may suit its being that; we have the
_Quarterly Review_, existing as an organ of the Tories, and for as much
play of mind as may suit its being that; we have the _British Quarterly
Review_, existing as an organ of the political Dissenters, and for as
much play of mind as may suit its being that; we have the _Times_,
existing as an organ of the common, satisfied, well-to-do Englishman,
and for as much play of mind as may suit its being that. And so on
through all the various fractions, political and religious, of our
society; every fraction has, as such, its organ of criticism, but the
notion of combining all fractions in the common pleasure of a free
disinterested play of mind meets with no favor. Directly this play of
mind wants to have more scope, and to forget the pressure of practical
considerations a little, it is checked, it is made to feel the chain. We
saw this the other day in the extinction, so much to be regretted, of
the _Home and Foreign Review_.[36] Perhaps in no organ of criticism in
this country was there so much knowledge, so much play of mind; but
these could not save it. The _Dublin Review_ subordinates play of mind
to the practical business of English and Irish Catholicism, and lives.
It must needs be that men should act in sects and parties, that each of
these sects and parties should have its organ, and should make this
organ subserve the interests of its action; but it would be well, too,
that there should be a criticism, not the minister of these interests,
not their enemy, but absolutely and entirely independent of them. No
other criticism will ever attain any real authority or make any real way
towards its end,--the creating a current of true and fresh ideas.

It is because criticism has so little kept in the pure intellectual
sphere, has so little detached itself from practice, has been so
directly polemical and controversial, that it has so ill accomplished,
in this country, its best spiritual work; which is to keep man from a
self-satisfaction which is retarding and vulgarizing, to lead him
towards perfection, by making his mind dwell upon what is excellent in
itself, and the absolute beauty and fitness of things. A polemical
practical criticism makes men blind even to the ideal imperfection of
their practice, makes them willingly assert its ideal perfection, in
order the better to secure it against attack: and clearly this is
narrowing and baneful for them. If they were reassured on the practical
side, speculative considerations of ideal perfection they might be
brought to entertain, and their spiritual horizon would thus gradually
widen. Sir Charles Adderley[37] says to the Warwickshire farmers:--

"Talk of the improvement of breed! Why, the race we ourselves
represent, the men and women, the old Anglo-Saxon race, are the best
breed in the whole world.... The absence of a too enervating climate,
too unclouded skies, and a too luxurious nature, has produced so
vigorous a race of people, and has rendered us so superior to all the

Mr. Roebuck[38] says to the Sheffield cutlers:--

"I look around me and ask what is the state of England? Is not property
safe? Is not every man able to say what he likes? Can you not walk from
one end of England to the other in perfect security? I ask you whether,
the world over or in past history, there is anything like it? Nothing. I
pray that our unrivalled happiness may last."

Now obviously there is a peril for poor human nature in words and
thoughts of such exuberant self-satisfaction, until we find ourselves
safe in the streets of the Celestial City.

  "Das wenige verschwindet leicht dem Blicke
  Der vorwärts sieht, wie viel noch übrig bleibt--"[39]

says Goethe; "the little that is done seems nothing when we look forward
and see how much we have yet to do." Clearly this is a better line of
reflection for weak humanity, so long as it remains on this earthly
field of labor and trial.

But neither Sir Charles Adderley nor Mr. Roebuck is by nature
inaccessible to considerations of this sort. They only lose sight of
them owing to the controversial life we all lead, and the practical form
which all speculation takes with us. They have in view opponents whose
aim is not ideal, but practical; and in their zeal to uphold their own
practice against these innovators, they go so far as even to attribute
to this practice an ideal perfection. Somebody has been wanting to
introduce a six-pound franchise, or to abolish church-rates, or to
collect agricultural statistics by force, or to diminish local
self-government. How natural, in reply to such proposals, very likely
improper or ill-timed, to go a little beyond the mark and to say
stoutly, "Such a race of people as we stand, so superior to all the
world! The old Anglo-Saxon race, the best breed in the whole world! I
pray that our unrivalled happiness may last! I ask you whether, the
world over or in past history, there is anything like it?" And so long
as criticism answers this dithyramb by insisting that the old
Anglo-Saxon race would be still more superior to all others if it had no
church-rates, or that our unrivalled happiness would last yet longer
with a six-pound franchise, so long will the strain, "The best breed in
the whole world!" swell louder and louder, everything ideal and refining
will be lost out of sight, and both the assailed and their critics will
remain in a sphere, to say the truth, perfectly unvital, a sphere in
which spiritual progression is impossible. But let criticism leave
church-rates and the franchise alone, and in the most candid spirit,
without a single lurking thought of practical innovation, confront with
our dithyramb this paragraph on which I stumbled in a newspaper
immediately after reading Mr. Roebuck:--

"A shocking child murder has just been committed at Nottingham. A girl
named Wragg left the workhouse there on Saturday morning with her young
illegitimate child. The child was soon afterwards found dead on Mapperly
Hills, having been strangled. Wragg is in custody."

Nothing but that; but, in juxtaposition with the absolute eulogies of
Sir Charles Adderley and Mr. Roebuck, how eloquent, how suggestive are
those few lines! "Our old Anglo-Saxon breed, the best in the whole
world!"--how much that is harsh and ill-favored there is in this best!
_Wragg!_ If we are to talk of ideal perfection, of "the best in the
whole world," has any one reflected what a touch of grossness in our
race, what an original short-coming in the more delicate spiritual
perceptions, is shown by the natural growth amongst us of such hideous
names,--Higginbottom, Stiggins, Bugg! In Ionia and Attica they were
luckier in this respect than "the best race in the world"; by the
Ilissus there was no Wragg, poor thing! And "our unrivalled happiness";
--what an element of grimness, bareness, and hideousness mixes with it
and blurs it; the workhouse, the dismal Mapperly Hills,--how dismal
those who have seen them will remember;--the gloom, the smoke, the cold,
the strangled illegitimate child! "I ask you whether, the world over or
in past history, there is anything like it?" Perhaps not, one is
inclined to answer; but at any rate, in that case, the world is very
much to be pitied. And the final touch,--short, bleak and inhuman:
_Wragg is in custody_. The sex lost in the confusion of our unrivalled
happiness; or (shall I say?) the superfluous Christian name lopped off
by the straightforward vigor of our old Anglo-Saxon breed! There is
profit for the spirit in such contrasts as this; criticism serves the
cause of perfection by establishing them. By eluding sterile conflict,
by refusing to remain in the sphere where alone narrow and relative
conceptions have any worth and validity, criticism may diminish its
momentary importance, but only in this way has it a chance of gaining
admittance for those wider and more perfect conceptions to which all its
duty is really owed. Mr. Roebuck will have a poor opinion of an
adversary who replies to his defiant songs of triumph only by murmuring
under his breath, _Wragg is in custody_; but in no other way will these
songs of triumph be induced gradually to moderate themselves, to get rid
of what in them is excessive and offensive, and to fall into a softer
and truer key.

It will be said that it is a very subtle and indirect action which I am
thus prescribing for criticism, and that, by embracing in this manner
the Indian virtue of detachment[40] and abandoning the sphere of
practical life, it condemns itself to a slow and obscure work. Slow and
obscure it may be, but it is the only proper work of criticism. The mass
of mankind will never have any ardent zeal for seeing things as they
are; very inadequate ideas will always satisfy them. On these inadequate
ideas reposes, and must repose, the general practice of the world. That
is as much as saying that whoever sets himself to see things as they are
will find himself one of a very small circle; but it is only by this
small circle resolutely doing its own work that adequate ideas will ever
get current at all. The rush and roar of practical life will always have
a dizzying and attracting effect upon the most collected spectator, and
tend to draw him into its vortex; most of all will this be the case
where that life is so powerful as it is in England. But it is only by
remaining collected, and refusing to lend himself to the point of view
of the practical man, that the critic can do the practical man any
service; and it is only by the greatest sincerity in pursuing his own
course, and by at last convincing even the practical man of his
sincerity, that he can escape misunderstandings which perpetually
threaten him.

For the practical man is not apt for fine distinctions, and yet in these
distinctions truth and the highest culture greatly find their account.
But it is not easy to lead a practical man,--unless you reassure him as
to your practical intentions, you have no chance of leading him,--to see
that a thing which he has always been used to look at from one side
only, which he greatly values, and which, looked at from that side,
quite deserves, perhaps, all the prizing and admiring which he bestows
upon it,--that this thing, looked at from another side, may appear much
less beneficent and beautiful, and yet retain all its claims to our
practical allegiance. Where shall we find language innocent enough, how
shall we make the spotless purity of our intentions evident enough, to
enable us to say to the political Englishmen that the British
Constitution itself, which, seen from the practical side, looks such a
magnificent organ of progress and virtue, seen from the speculative
side,--with its compromises, its love of facts, its horror of theory,
its studied avoidance of clear thoughts,--that, seen from this side, our
august Constitution sometimes looks,--forgive me, shade of Lord
Somers![41]--a colossal machine for the manufacture of Philistines? How
is Cobbett[42] to say this and not be misunderstood, blackened as he is
with the smoke of a lifelong conflict in the field of political
practice? how is Mr. Carlyle to say it and not be misunderstood, after
his furious raid into this field with his _Latter-day Pamphlets?_[43]
how is Mr. Ruskin,[44] after his pugnacious political economy? I say,
the critic must keep out of the region of immediate practice in the
political, social, humanitarian sphere, if he wants to make a beginning
for that more free speculative treatment of things, which may perhaps
one day make its benefits felt even in this sphere, but in a natural and
thence irresistible manner.

Do what he will, however, the critic will still remain exposed to
frequent misunderstandings, and nowhere so much as in this country. For
here people are particularly indisposed even to comprehend that without
this free disinterested treatment of things, truth and the highest
culture are out of the question. So immersed are they in practical life,
so accustomed to take all their notions from this life and its
processes, that they are apt to think that truth and culture themselves
can be reached by the processes of this life, and that it is an
impertinent singularity to think of reaching them in any other. "We are
all _terræ filii_,"[45] cries their eloquent advocate; "all
Philistines[46] together. Away with the notion of proceeding by any
other course than the course dear to the Philistines; let us have a
social movement, let us organize and combine a party to pursue truth and
new thought, let us call it _the liberal party_, and let us all stick to
each other, and back each other up. Let us have no nonsense about
independent criticism, and intellectual delicacy, and the few and the
many. Don't let us trouble ourselves about foreign thought; we shall
invent the whole thing for ourselves as we go along. If one of us speaks
well, applaud him; if one of us speaks ill, applaud him too; we are all
in the same movement, we are all liberals, we are all in pursuit of
truth." In this way the pursuit of truth becomes really a social,
practical, pleasurable affair, almost requiring a chairman, a secretary,
and advertisements; with the excitement of an occasional scandal, with a
little resistance to give the happy sense of difficulty overcome; but,
in general, plenty of bustle and very little thought. To act is so easy,
as Goethe says; to think is so hard![47] It is true that the critic has
many temptations to go with the stream, to make one of the party
movement, one of these _terræ filii_; it seems ungracious to refuse to
be a _terræ filius_, when so many excellent people are; but the critic's
duty is to refuse, or, if resistance is vain, at least to cry with
Obermann: _Périssons en résistant_[48].

How serious a matter it is to try and resist, I had ample opportunity of
experiencing when I ventured some time ago to criticize the celebrated
first volume of Bishop Colenso.[49] The echoes of the storm which was
then raised I still, from time to time, hear grumbling round me. That
storm arose out of a misunderstanding almost inevitable. It is a result
of no little culture to attain to a clear perception that science and
religion are two wholly different things. The multitude will forever
confuse them; but happily that is of no great real importance, for while
the multitude imagines itself to live by its false science, it does
really live by its true religion. Dr. Colenso, however, in his first
volume did all he could to strengthen the confusion,[50] and to make it
dangerous. He did this with the best intentions, I freely admit, and
with the most candid ignorance that this was the natural effect of what
he was doing; but, says Joubert, "Ignorance, which in matters of morals
extenuates the crime, is itself, in intellectual matters, a crime of the
first order."[51] I criticized Bishop Colenso's speculative confusion.
Immediately there was a cry raised: "What is this? here is a liberal
attacking a liberal. Do not you belong to the movement? are not you a
friend of truth? Is not Bishop Colenso in pursuit of truth? then speak
with proper respect of his book. Dr. Stanley[52] is another friend of
truth, and you speak with proper respect of his book; why make these
invidious differences? both books are excellent, admirable, liberal;
Bishop Colenso's perhaps the most so, because it is the boldest, and
will have the best practical consequences for the liberal cause. Do you
want to encourage to the attack of a brother liberal his, and your, and
our implacable enemies, the _Church and State Review_ or the _Record_,--
the High Church rhinoceros and the Evangelical hyena? Be silent,
therefore; or rather speak, speak as loud as ever you can! and go into
ecstasies over the eighty and odd pigeons."

But criticism cannot follow this coarse and indiscriminate method. It is
unfortunately possible for a man in pursuit of truth to write a book
which reposes upon a false conception. Even the practical consequences
of a book are to genuine criticism no recommendation of it, if the book
is, in the highest sense, blundering. I see that a lady[53] who herself,
too, is in pursuit of truth, and who writes with great ability, but a
little too much, perhaps, under the influence of the practical spirit of
the English liberal movement, classes Bishop Colenso's book and M.
Renan's[54] together, in her survey of the religious state of Europe, as
facts of the same order, works, both of them, of "great importance";
"great ability, power, and skill"; Bishop Colenso's, perhaps, the most
powerful; at least, Miss Cobbe gives special expression to her gratitude
that to Bishop Colenso "has been given the strength to grasp, and the
courage to teach, truths of such deep import." In the same way, more
than one popular writer has compared him to Luther. Now it is just this
kind of false estimate which the critical spirit is, it seems to me,
bound to resist. It is really the strongest possible proof of the low
ebb at which, in England, the critical spirit is, that while the
critical hit in the religious literature of Germany is Dr. Strauss's[55]
book, in that of France M. Renan's book, the book of Bishop Colenso is
the critical hit in the religious literature of England. Bishop
Colenso's book reposes on a total misconception of the essential
elements of the religious problem, as that problem is now presented for
solution. To criticism, therefore, which seeks to have the best that is
known and thought on this problem, it is, however well meant, of no
importance whatever. M. Renan's book attempts a new synthesis of the
elements furnished to us by the Four Gospels. It attempts, in my
opinion, a synthesis, perhaps premature, perhaps impossible, certainly
not successful. Up to the present time, at any rate, we must acquiesce
in Fleury's sentence on such recastings of the Gospel story: _Quiconque
s'imagine la pouvoir mieux écrire, ne l'entend pas_.[56]  M. Renan had
himself passed by anticipation a like sentence on his own work, when he
said: "If a new presentation of the character of Jesus were offered to
me, I would not have it; its very clearness would be, in my opinion, the
best proof of its insufficiency." His friends may with perfect justice
rejoin that at the sight of the Holy Land, and of the actual scene of
the Gospel story, all the current of M. Renan's thoughts may have
naturally changed, and a new casting of that story irresistibly
suggested itself to him; and that this is just a case for applying
Cicero's maxim: Change of mind is not inconsistency--_nemo doctus unquam
mutationem consilii inconstantiam dixit esse_.[57] Nevertheless, for
criticism, M. Renan's first thought must still be the truer one, as long
as his new casting so fails more fully to commend itself, more fully (to
use Coleridge's happy phrase[58] about the Bible) to _find_ us. Still M.
Renan's attempt is, for criticism, of the most real interest and
importance, since, with all its difficulty, a fresh synthesis of the New
Testament _data_--not a making war on them, in Voltaire's fashion, not a
leaving them out of mind, in the world's fashion, but the putting a new
construction upon them, the taking them from under the old, traditional,
conventional point of view and placing them under a new one--is the very
essence of the religious problem, as now presented; and only by efforts
in this direction can it receive a solution.

Again, in the same spirit in which she judges Bishop Colenso, Miss
Cobbe, like so many earnest liberals of our practical race, both here
and in America, herself sets vigorously about a positive reconstruction
of religion, about making a religion of the future out of hand, or at
least setting about making it. We must not rest, she and they are always
thinking and saying, in negative criticism, we must be creative and
constructive; hence we have such works as her recent _Religious Duty_,
and works still more considerable, perhaps, by others, which will be in
every one's mind. These works often have much ability; they often spring
out of sincere convictions, and a sincere wish to do good; and they
sometimes, perhaps, do good. Their fault is (if I may be permitted to
say so) one which they have in common with the British College of
Health, in the New Road. Every one knows the British College of Health;
it is that building with the lion and the statue of the Goddess Hygeia
before it; at least I am sure about the lion, though I am not absolutely
certain about the Goddess Hygeia. This building does credit, perhaps, to
the resources of Dr. Morrison and his disciples; but it falls a good
deal short of one's idea of what a British College of Health ought to
be. In England, where we hate public interference and love individual
enterprise, we have a whole crop of places like the British College of
Health; the grand name without the grand thing. Unluckily, creditable to
individual enterprise as they are, they tend to impair our taste by
making us forget what more grandiose, noble, or beautiful character
properly belongs to a public institution. The same may be said of the
religions of the future of Miss Cobbe and others. Creditable, like the
British College of Health, to the resources of their authors, they yet
tend to make us forget what more grandiose, noble, or beautiful
character properly belongs to religious constructions. The historic
religions, with all their faults, have had this; it certainly belongs to
the religious sentiment, when it truly flowers, to have this; and we
impoverish our spirit if we allow a religion of the future without it.
What then is the duty of criticism here? To take the practical point of
view, to applaud the liberal movement and all its works,--its New Road
religions of the future into the bargain,--for their general utility's
sake? By no means; but to be perpetually dissatisfied with these works,
while they perpetually fall short of a high and perfect ideal. For
criticism, these are elementary laws; but they never can be popular, and
in this country they have been very little followed, and one meets with
immense obstacles in following them. That is a reason for asserting them
again and again. Criticism must maintain its independence of the
practical spirit and its aims. Even with well-meant efforts of the
practical spirit it must express dissatisfaction, if in the sphere of
the ideal they seem impoverishing and limiting. It must not hurry on to
the goal because of its practical importance. It must be patient, and
know how to wait; and flexible, and know how to attach itself to things
and how to withdraw from them. It must be apt to study and praise
elements that for the fulness of spiritual perfection are wanted, even
though they belong to a power which in the practical sphere may be
maleficent. It must be apt to discern the spiritual shortcomings or
illusions of powers that in the practical sphere may be beneficent. And
this without any notion of favoring or injuring, in the practical
sphere, one power or the other; without any notion of playing off, in
this sphere, one power against the other. When one looks, for instance,
at the English Divorce Court--an institution which perhaps has its
practical conveniences, but which in the ideal sphere is so hideous; an
institution which neither makes divorce impossible nor makes it decent,
which allows a man to get rid of his wife, or a wife of her husband, but
makes them drag one another first, for the public edification, through a
mire of unutterable infamy,--when one looks at this charming
institution, I say, with its crowded trials, its newspaper reports, and
its money compensations, this institution in which the gross
unregenerate British Philistine has indeed stamped an image of himself,
--one may be permitted to find the marriage theory of Catholicism
refreshing and elevating. Or when Protestantism, in virtue of its
supposed rational and intellectual origin, gives the law to criticism
too magisterially, criticism may and must remind it that its
pretensions, in this respect, are illusive and do it harm; that the
Reformation was a moral rather than an intellectual event; that Luther's
theory of grace[59] no more exactly reflects the mind of the spirit than
Bossuet's philosophy of history[60] reflects it; and that there is no
more antecedent probability of the Bishop of Durham's stock of ideas
being agreeable to perfect reason than of Pope Pius the Ninth's. But
criticism will not on that account forget the achievements of
Protestantism in the practical and moral sphere; nor that, even in the
intellectual sphere, Protestantism, though in a blind and stumbling
manner, carried forward the Renascence, while Catholicism threw itself
violently across its path.

I lately heard a man of thought and energy contrasting the want of ardor
and movement which he now found amongst young men in this country with
what he remembered in his own youth, twenty years ago. "What reformers
we were then!" he exclaimed; "What a zeal we had! how we canvassed every
institution in Church and State, and were prepared to remodel them all
on first principles!" He was inclined to regret, as a spiritual
flagging, the lull which he saw. I am disposed rather to regard it as a
pause in which the turn to a new mode of spiritual progress is being
accomplished. Everything was long seen, by the young and ardent amongst
us, in inseparable connection with politics and practical life. We have
pretty well exhausted the benefits of seeing things in this connection,
we have got all that can be got by so seeing them. Let us try a more
disinterested mode of seeing them; let us betake ourselves more to the
serener life of the mind and spirit. This life, too, may have its
excesses and dangers; but they are not for us at present. Let us think
of quietly enlarging our stock of true and fresh ideas, and not, as soon
as we get an idea or half an idea, be running out with it into the
street, and trying to make it rule there. Our ideas will, in the end,
shape the world all the better for maturing a little. Perhaps in fifty
years' time it will in the English House of Commons be an objection to
an institution that it is an anomaly, and my friend the Member of
Parliament will shudder in his grave. But let us in the meanwhile rather
endeavor that in twenty years' time it may, in English literature, be an
objection to a proposition that it is absurd. That will be a change so
vast, that the imagination almost fails to grasp it. _Ab Integro
soeclorum nascitur ordo_.[61]

If I have insisted so much on the course which criticism must take where
politics and religion are concerned, it is because, where these burning
matters are in question, it is most likely to go astray. I have wished,
above all, to insist on the attitude which criticism should adopt
towards things in general; on its right tone and temper of mind. But
then comes another question as to the subject-matter which literary
criticism should most seek. Here, in general, its course is determined
for it by the idea which is the law of its being: the idea of a
disinterested endeavor to learn and propagate the best that is known and
thought in the world, and thus to establish a current of fresh and true
ideas. By the very nature of things, as England is not all the world,
much of the best that is known and thought in the world cannot be of
English growth, must be foreign; by the nature of things, again, it is
just this that we are least likely to know, while English thought is
streaming in upon us from all sides, and takes excellent care that we
shall not be ignorant of its existence. The English critic of
literature, therefore, must dwell much on foreign thought, and with
particular heed on any part of it, which, while significant and fruitful
in itself, is for any reason specially likely to escape him. Again,
judging is often spoken of as the critic's one business, and so in some
sense it is; but the judgment which almost insensibly forms itself in a
fair and clear mind, along with fresh knowledge, is the valuable one;
and thus knowledge, and ever fresh knowledge, must be the critic's great
concern for himself. And it is by communicating fresh knowledge, and
letting his own judgment pass along with it,--but insensibly, and in the
second place, not the first, as a sort of companion and clue, not as an
abstract lawgiver,--that the critic will generally do most good to his
readers. Sometimes, no doubt, for the sake of establishing an author's
place in literature, and his relation to a central standard (and if this
is not done, how are we to get at our _best in the world?_) criticism
may have to deal with a subject-matter so familiar that fresh knowledge
is out of the question, and then it must be all judgment; an enunciation
and detailed application of principles. Here the great safeguard is
never to let oneself become abstract, always to retain an intimate and
lively consciousness of the truth of what one is saying, and, the moment
this fails us, to be sure that something is wrong. Still under all
circumstances, this mere judgment and application of principles is, in
itself, not the most satisfactory work to the critic; like mathematics,
it is tautological, and cannot well give us, like fresh learning, the
sense of creative activity.

But stop, some one will say; all this talk is of no practical use to us
whatever; this criticism of yours is not what we have in our minds when
we speak of criticism; when we speak of critics and criticism, we mean
critics and criticism of the current English literature of the day: when
you offer to tell criticism its function, it is to this criticism that
we expect you to address yourself. I am sorry for it, for I am afraid I
must disappoint these expectations. I am bound by my own definition of
criticism; _a disinterested endeavor to learn and propagate the best
that is known and thought in the world._. How much of current English
literature comes into this "best that is known and thought in the
world"? Not very much I fear; certainly less, at this moment, than of
the current literature of France or Germany. Well, then, am I to alter
my definition of criticism, in order to meet the requirements of a
number of practising English critics, who, after all, are free in their
choice of a business? That would be making criticism lend itself just to
one of those alien practical considerations, which, I have said, are so
fatal to it. One may say, indeed, to those who have to deal with the
mass--so much better disregarded--of current English literature, that
they may at all events endeavor, in dealing with this, to try it, so far
as they can, by the standard of the best that is known and thought in
the world; one may say, that to get anywhere near this standard, every
critic should try and possess one great literature, at least, besides
his own; and the more unlike his own, the better. But, after all, the
criticism I am really concerned with,--the criticism which alone can
much help us for the future, the criticism which, throughout Europe, is
at the present day meant, when so much stress is laid on the importance
of criticism and the critical spirit,--is a criticism which regards
Europe as being, for intellectual and spiritual purposes, one great
confederation, bound to a joint action and working to a common result;
and whose members have, for their proper outfit, a knowledge of Greek,
Roman, and Eastern antiquity, and of one another. Special, local, and
temporary advantages being put out of account, that modern nation will
in the intellectual and spiritual sphere make most progress, which most
thoroughly carries out this program. And what is that but saying that we
too, all of us, as individuals, the more thoroughly we carry it out,
shall make the more progress?

There is so much inviting us!--what are we to take? what will nourish us
in growth towards perfection? That is the question which, with the
immense field of life and of literature lying before him, the critic has
to answer; for himself first, and afterwards for others. In this idea of
the critic's business the essays brought together in the following pages
have had their origin; in this idea, widely different as are their
subjects, they have, perhaps, their unity.

I conclude with what I said at the beginning: to have the sense of
creative activity is the great happiness and the great proof of being
alive, and it is not denied to criticism to have it; but then criticism
must be sincere, simple, flexible, ardent, ever widening its knowledge.
Then it may have, in no contemptible measure, a joyful sense of creative
activity; a sense which a man of insight and conscience will prefer to
what he might derive from a poor, starved, fragmentary, inadequate
creation. And at some epochs no other creation is possible.

Still, in full measure, the sense of creative activity belongs only to
genuine creation; in literature we must never forget that. But what true
man of letters ever can forget it? It is no such common matter for a
gifted nature to come into possession of a current of true and living
ideas, and to produce amidst the inspiration of them, that we are likely
to underrate it. The epochs of Æschylus and Shakespeare make us feel
their preëminence. In an epoch like those is, no doubt, the true life of
literature; there is the promised land, towards which criticism can only
beckon. That promised land it will not be ours to enter, and we shall
die in the wilderness: but to have desired to enter it, to have saluted
it from afar, is already, perhaps, the best distinction among
contemporaries; it will certainly be the best title to esteem with


"The future of poetry is immense, because in poetry, where it is worthy
of its high destinies, our race, as time goes on, will find an ever
surer and surer stay. There is not a creed which is not shaken, not an
accredited dogma which is not shown to be questionable, not a received
tradition which does not threaten to dissolve. Our religion has
materialized itself in the fact, in the supposed fact; it has attached
its emotion to the fact, and how the fact is failing it. But for poetry
the idea is everything; the rest is a world of illusion, of divine
illusion.  Poetry attaches its emotion to the idea; the idea _is_ the
fact. The strongest part of our religion today is its unconscious

Let me be permitted to quote these words of my own, as uttering the
thought which should, in my opinion, go with us and govern us in all our
study of poetry.  In the present work it is the course of one great
contributory stream to the world-river of poetry that we are invited to
follow. We are here invited to trace the stream of English poetry. But
whether we set ourselves, as here, to follow only one of the several
streams that make the mighty river of poetry, or whether we seek to know
them all, our governing thought should be the same. We should conceive
of poetry worthily, and more highly than it has been the custom to
conceive of it. We should conceive of it as capable of higher uses, and
called to higher destinies than those which in general men have
assigned to it hitherto. More and more mankind will discover that we
have to turn to poetry to interpret life for us, to console us, to
sustain us. Without poetry, our science will appear incomplete; and most
of what now passes with us for religion and philosophy will be replaced
by poetry. Science, I say, will appear incomplete without it. For finely
and truly does Wordsworth call poetry "the impassioned expression which
is in a countenance of all science"[64] and what is a countenance
without its expression? Again, Wordsworth finely and truly calls poetry
"the breath and finer spirit of all knowledge":[64] our religion,
parading evidences such as those on which the popular mind relies now;
our philosophy, pluming itself on its reasonings about causation and
finite and infinite being; what are they but the shadows and dreams and
false shows of knowledge? The day will come when we shall wonder at
ourselves for having trusted to them, for having taken them seriously;
and the more we perceive their hollowness, the more we shall prize "the
breath and finer spirit of knowledge" offered to us by poetry.

But if we conceive thus highly of the destinies of poetry, we must also
set our standard for poetry high, since poetry, to be capable of
fulfilling such high destinies, must be poetry of a high order of
excellence. We must accustom ourselves to a high standard and to a
strict judgment. Sainte-Beuve relates that Napoleon one day said, when
somebody was spoken of in his presence as a charlatan: "Charlatan as
much as you please; but where is there _not_ charlatanism?"--"Yes,"
answers Sainte-Beuve,[65] "in politics, in the art of governing mankind,
that is perhaps true. But in the order of thought, in art, the glory,
the eternal honor is that charlatanism shall find no entrance; herein
lies the inviolableness of that noble portion of man's being." It is
admirably said, and let us hold fast to it. In poetry, which is thought
and art in one, it is the glory, the eternal honor, that charlatanism
shall find no entrance; that this noble sphere be kept inviolate and
inviolable. Charlatanism is for confusing or obliterating the
distinctions between excellent and inferior, sound and unsound or only
half-sound, true and untrue or only half-true. It is charlatanism,
conscious or unconscious, whenever we confuse or obliterate these. And
in poetry, more than anywhere else, it is unpermissible to confuse or
obliterate them. For in poetry the distinction between excellent and
inferior, sound and unsound or only half-sound, true and untrue or only
half-true, is of paramount importance. It is of paramount importance
because of the high destinies of poetry. In poetry, as a criticism of
life[66] under the conditions fixed for such a criticism by the laws of
poetic truth and poetic beauty, the spirit of our race will find, we
have said, as time goes on and as other helps fail, its consolation and
stay. But the consolation and stay will be of power in proportion to the
power of the criticism of life. And the criticism of life will be of
power in proportion as the poetry conveying it is excellent rather than
inferior, sound rather than unsound or half-sound, true rather than
untrue or half-true.

The best poetry is what we want; the best poetry will be found to have a
power of forming, sustaining, and delighting us, as nothing else can. A
clearer, deeper sense of the best[67] is the most precious benefit which
we can gather from a poetical collection such as the present. And yet in
the very nature and conduct of such a collection there is inevitably
something which tends to obscure in us the consciousness of what our
benefit should be, and to distract us from the pursuit of it. We should
therefore steadily set it before our minds at the outset, and should
compel ourselves to revert constantly to the thought of it as we

Yes; constantly in reading poetry, a sense for the best, the really
excellent, and of the strength and joy to be drawn from it, should be
present in our minds and should govern our estimate of what we read. But
this real estimate, the only true one, is liable to be superseded, if we
are not watchful, by two other kinds of estimate, the historic estimate
and the personal estimate, both of which are fallacious. A poet or a
poem may count to us historically, they may count to us on grounds
personal to ourselves, and they may count to us really. They may count
to us historically. The course of development of a nation's language,
thought, and poetry, is profoundly interesting; and by regarding a
poet's work as a stage in this course of development we may easily bring
ourselves to make it of more importance as poetry than in itself it
really is, we may come to use a language of quite exaggerated praise in
criticising it; in short, to over-rate it. So arises in our poetic
judgments the fallacy caused by the estimate which we may call historic.
Then, again, a poet or a poem may count to us on grounds personal to
ourselves. Our personal affinities, likings, and circumstances, have
great power to sway our estimate of this or that poet's work, and to
make us attach more importance to it as poetry than in itself it really
possesses, because to us it is, or has been, of high importance. Here
also we over-rate the object of our interest, and apply to it a language
of praise which is quite exaggerated. And thus we get the source of a
second fallacy in our poetic judgments--the fallacy caused by an
estimate which we may call personal.

Both fallacies are natural. It is evident how naturally the study of the
history and development of a poetry may incline a man to pause over
reputations and works once conspicuous but now obscure, and to quarrel
with a careless public for skipping, in obedience to mere tradition and
habit, from one famous name or work in its national poetry to another,
ignorant of what it misses, and of the reason for keeping what it keeps,
and of the whole process of growth in its poetry. The French have become
diligent students of their own early poetry, which they long neglected;
the study makes many of them dissatisfied with their so-called classical
poetry, the court-tragedy of the seventeenth century, a poetry which
Pellisson[68] long ago reproached with its want of the true poetic
stamp, with its _politesse sterile et rampante?_[69] but which
nevertheless has reigned in France as absolutely as if it had been the
perfection of classical poetry indeed. The dissatisfaction is natural;
yet a lively and accomplished critic, M. Charles d'Héricault,[70] the
editor of Clement Marot, goes too far when he says that "the cloud of
glory playing round a classic is a mist as dangerous to the future of a
literature as it is intolerable for the purposes of history." "It
hinders," he goes on, "it hinders us from seeing more than one single
point, the culminating and exceptional point, the summary, fictitious
and arbitrary, of a thought and of a work. It substitutes a halo for a
physiognomy, it puts a statue where there was once a man, and hiding
from us all trace of the labor, the attempts, the weaknesses, the
failures, it claims not study but veneration; it does not show us how
the thing is done, it imposes upon us a model. Above all, for the
historian this creation of classic personages is inadmissible; for it
withdraws the poet from his time, from his proper life, it breaks
historical relationships, it blinds criticism by conventional
admiration, and renders the investigation of literary origins
unacceptable. It gives us a human personage no longer, but a God seated
immovable amidst His perfect work, like Jupiter on Olympus; and hardly
will it be possible for the young student, to whom such work is
exhibited at such a distance from him, to believe that it did not issue
ready made from that divine head."

All this is brilliantly and tellingly said, but we must plead for a
distinction. Everything depends on the reality of a poet's classic
character. If he is a dubious classic, let us sift him; if he is a false
classic, let us explode him. But if he is a real classic, if his work
belongs to the class of the very best (for this is the true and right
meaning of the word _classic, classical_), then the great thing for us
is to feel and enjoy his work as deeply as ever we can, and to
appreciate the wide difference between it and all work which has not the
same high character. This is what is salutary, this is what is
formative; this is the great benefit to be got from the study of poetry.
Everything which interferes with it, which hinders it, is injurious.
True, we must read our classic with open eyes, and not with eyes blinded
with superstition; we must perceive when his work comes short, when it
drops out of the class of the very best, and we must rate it, in such
cases, at its proper value. But the use of this negative criticism is
not in itself, it is entirely in its enabling us to have a clearer sense
and a deeper enjoyment of what is truly excellent. To trace the labor,
the attempts, the weaknesses, the failures of a genuine classic, to
acquaint oneself with his time and his life and his historical
relationships, is mere literary dilettantism unless it has that clear
sense and deeper enjoyment for its end. It may be said that the more we
know about a classic the better we shall enjoy him; and, if we lived as
long as Methuselah and had all of us heads of perfect clearness and
wills of perfect steadfastness, this might be true in fact as it is
plausible in theory. But the case here is much the same as the case with
the Greek and Latin studies of our schoolboys. The elaborate
philological groundwork which we requite them to lay is in theory an
admirable preparation for appreciating the Greek and Latin authors
worthily. The more thoroughly we lay the groundwork, the better we shall
be able, it may be said, to enjoy the authors. True, if time were not so
short, and schoolboys' wits not so soon tired and their power of
attention exhausted; only, as it is, the elaborate philological
preparation goes on, but the authors are little known and less enjoyed.
So with the investigator of "historic origins" in poetry. He ought to
enjoy the true classic all the better for his investigations; he often
is distracted from the enjoyment of the best, and with the less good he
overbusies himself, and is prone to over-rate it in proportion to the
trouble which it has cost him.

The idea of tracing historic origins and historical relationships cannot
be absent from a compilation like the present. And naturally the poets
to be exhibited in it will be assigned to those persons for exhibition
who are known to prize them highly, rather than to those who have no
special inclination towards them. Moreover the very occupation with an
author, and the business of exhibiting him, disposes us to affirm and
amplify his importance. In the present work, therefore, we are sure of
frequent temptation to adopt the historic estimate, or the personal
estimate, and to forget the real estimate; which latter, nevertheless,
we must employ if we are to make poetry yield us its full benefit. So
high is that benefit, the benefit of clearly feeling and of deeply
enjoying the really excellent, the truly classic in poetry, that we do
well, I say, to set it fixedly before our minds as our object in
studying poets and poetry, and to make the desire of attaining it the
one principle to which, as the _Imitation_ says, whatever we may read or
come to know, we always return. _Cum multa legeris et cognoveris, ad
unum semper oportet redire principium._[71]

The historic estimate is likely in especial to affect our judgment and
our language when we are dealing with ancient poets; the personal
estimate when we are dealing with poets our contemporaries, or at any
rate modern. The exaggerations due to the historic estimate are not in
themselves, perhaps, of very much gravity. Their report hardly enters
the general ear; probably they do not always impose even on the literary
men who adopt them. But they lead to a dangerous abuse of language. So
we hear Cædmon,[72] amongst, our own poets, compared to Milton. I have
already noticed the enthusiasm of one accomplished French critic for
"historic origins." Another eminent French critic, M. Vitet,[73]
comments upon that famous document of the early poetry of his nation,
the _Chanson de Roland._[74] It is indeed a most interesting document.
The _joculator_ or _jongleur_ Taillefer, who was with William the
Conqueror's army at Hastings, marched before the Norman troops, so said
the tradition, singing "of Charlemagne and of Roland and of Oliver, and
of the vassals who died at Roncevaux"; and it is suggested that in the
_Chanson de Roland_ by one Turoldus or Theroulde, a poem preserved in a
manuscript of the twelfth century in the Bodleian Library at Oxford, we
have certainly the matter, perhaps even some of the words, of the chant
which Taillefer sang. The poem has vigor and freshness; it is not
without pathos. But M. Vitet is not satisfied with seeing in it a
document of some poetic value, and of very high historic and linguistic
value; he sees in it a grand and beautiful work, a monument of epic
genius. In its general design he finds the grandiose conception, in its
details he finds the constant union of simplicity with greatness, which
are the marks, he truly says, of the genuine epic, and distinguish it
from the artificial epic of literary ages. One thinks of Homer; this is
the sort of praise which is given to Homer, and justly given. Higher
praise there cannot well be, and it is the praise due to epic poetry of
the highest order only, and to no other. Let us try, then, the _Chanson
de Roland_ at its best. Roland, mortally wounded, lays himself down
under a pine-tree, with his face turned towards Spain and the enemy--

  "De plusurs choses à remembrer li prist,
  De tantes teres cume li bers cunquist,
  De dulce France, des humes de sun lign,
  De Carlemagne sun seignor ki l'nurrit."[75]

That is primitive work, I repeat, with an undeniable poetic quality of
its own. It deserves such praise, and such praise is sufficient for it.
But now turn to Homer--

  Os phato tous d aedae katecheu phusizoos aia
  en Lakedaimoni authi, philm en patridi gaim][76]

We are here in another world, another order of poetry altogether; here
is rightly due such supreme praise as that which M. Vitet gives to the
_Chanson de Roland_. If our words are to have any meaning, if our
judgments are to have any solidity, we must not heap that supreme praise
upon poetry of an order immeasurably inferior.

Indeed there can be no more useful help for discovering what poetry
belongs to the class of the truly excellent, and can therefore do us
most good, than to have always in one's mind lines and expressions of
the great masters, and to apply them as a touchstone to other poetry. Of
course we are not to require this other poetry to resemble them; it may
be very dissimilar. But if we have any tact we shall find them, when we
have lodged them well in our minds, an infallible touchstone for
detecting the presence or absence of high poetic quality, and also the
degree of this quality, in all other poetry which we may place beside
them. Short passages, even single lines, will serve our turn quite
sufficiently. Take the two lines which I have just quoted from Homer,
the poet's comment on Helen's mention of her brothers;--or take his

  A delo, to sphoi domen Paelaei anakti
  Thnaeta; umeis d eston agaero t athanato te.
  ae ina dustaenoiosi met andrasin alge echaeton;[77]

the address of Zeus to the horses of Peleus;--or take finally his

  Kai se, geron, to prin men akouomen olbion einar[78]

the words of Achilles to Priam, a suppliant before him. Take that
incomparable line and a half of Dante, Ugolino's tremendous words--

  "Io no piangeva; sì dentro impietrai.
  Piangevan elli ..."[79]

take the lovely words of Beatrice to Virgil--

  "Io son fatta da Dio, sua mercè, tale,
  Che la vostra miseria non mi tange,
  Nè fiamma d'esto incendio non m'assale ..."[80]

take the simple, but perfect, single line--

  "In la sua volontade è nostra pace."[81]

Take of Shakespeare a line or two of Henry the Fourth's expostulation
with sleep--

  "Wilt thou upon the high and giddy mast
  Seal up the ship-boy's eyes, and rock his brains
  In cradle of the rude imperious surge ..."[82]

and take, as well, Hamlet's dying request to Horatio--

  "If thou didst ever hold me in thy heart,
  Absent thee from felicity awhile,
  And in this harsh world draw thy breath in pain
  To tell my story ..."[83]

Take of Milton that Miltonic passage--

                   "Darken'd so, yet shone
  Above them all the archangel; but his face
  Deep scars of thunder had intrench'd, and care
  Sat on his faded cheek ..."[84]

add two such lines as--

  "And courage never to submit or yield
  And what is else not to be overcome ..."[85]

and finish with the exquisite close to the loss of Proserpine, the loss

  " ... which cost Ceres all that pain
  To seek her through the world."[86]

These few lines, if we have tact and can use them, are enough even of
themselves to keep clear and sound our judgments about poetry, to save
us from fallacious estimates of it, to conduct us to a real estimate.

The specimens I have quoted differ widely from one another, but they
have in common this: the possession of the very highest poetical
quality. If we are thoroughly penetrated by their power, we shall find
that we have acquired a sense enabling us, whatever poetry may be laid
before us, to feel the degree in which a high poetical quality is
present or wanting there. Critics give themselves great labor to draw
out what in the abstract constitutes the characters of a high quality of
poetry. It is much better simply to have recourse to concrete examples;
--to take specimens of poetry of the high, the very highest quality, and
to say: The characters of a high quality of poetry are what is expressed
_there_. They are far better recognized by being felt in the verse of
the master, than by being perused in the prose of the critic.
Nevertheless if we are urgently pressed to give some critical account of
them, we may safely, perhaps, venture on laying down, not indeed how and
why the characters arise, but where and in what they arise. They are in
the matter and substance of the poetry, and they are in its manner and
style. Both of these, the substance and matter on the one hand, the
style and manner on the other, have a mark, an accent, of high beauty,
worth, and power. But if we are asked to define this mark and accent in
the abstract, our answer must be: No, for we should thereby be darkening
the question, not clearing it. The mark and accent are as given by the
substance and matter of that poetry, by the style and manner of that
poetry, and of all other poetry which is akin to it in quality.

Only one thing we may add as to the substance and matter of poetry,
guiding ourselves by Aristotle's profound observation[87] that the
superiority of poetry over history consists in its possessing a higher
truth and a higher seriousness ([Greek: philosophoteron kahi
spondaioteron]). Let us add, therefore, to what we have said, this: that
the substance and matter of the best poetry acquire their special
character from possessing, in an eminent degree, truth and seriousness.
We may add yet further, what is in itself evident, that to the style and
manner of the best poetry their special character, their accent, is
given by their diction, and, even yet more, by their movement. And
though we distinguish between the two characters, the two accents, of
superiority, yet they are nevertheless vitally connected one with the
other. The superior character of truth and seriousness, in the matter
and substance of the best poetry, is inseparable from the superiority of
diction and movement marking its style and manner. The two superiorities
are closely related, and are in steadfast proportion one to the other.
So far as high poetic truth and seriousness are wanting to a poet's
matter and substance, so far also, we may be sure, will a high poetic
stamp of diction and movement be wanting to his style and manner. In
proportion as this high stamp of diction and movement, again, is absent
from a poet's style and manner, we shall find, also, that high poetic
truth and seriousness are absent from his substance and matter.

So stated, these are but dry generalities; their whole force lies in
their application. And I could wish every student of poetry to make the
application of them for himself. Made by himself, the application would
impress itself upon his mind far more deeply than made by me. Neither
will my limits allow me to make any full application of the generalities
above propounded; but in the hope of bringing out, at any rate, some
significance in them, and of establishing an important principle more
firmly by their means, I will, in the space which remains to me, follow
rapidly from the commencement the course of our English poetry with them
in my view.

Once more I return to the early poetry of France, with which our own
poetry, in its origins, is indissolubly connected. In the twelfth and
thirteenth centuries, that seed-time of all modern language and
literature, the poetry of France had a clear predominance in Europe. Of
the two divisions of that poetry, its productions in the _langue d'oïl_
and its productions in the _langue d'oc_, the poetry of the _langue
d'oc_,[88] of southern France, of the troubadours, is of importance
because of its effect on Italian literature;--the first literature of
modern Europe to strike the true and grand note, and to bring forth, as
in Dante and Petrarch it brought forth, classics. But the predominance
of French poetry in Europe, during the twelfth and thirteenth centuries,
is due to its poetry of the _langue d'oïl_, the poetry of northern
France and of the tongue which is now the French language. In the
twelfth century the bloom of this romance-poetry was earlier and
stronger in England, at the court of our Anglo-Norman kings, than in
France itself. But it was a bloom of French poetry; and as our native
poetry formed itself, it formed itself out of this. The romance-poems
which took possession of the heart and imagination of Europe in the
twelfth and thirteenth centuries are French; "they are," as Southey
justly says, "the pride of French literature, nor have we anything which
can be placed in competition with them." Themes were supplied from all
quarters: but the romance-setting which was common to them all, and
which gained the ear of Europe, was French. This constituted for the
French poetry, literature, and language, at the height of the Middle
Age, an unchallenged predominance. The Italian Brunetto Latini,[89] the
master of Dante, wrote his _Treasure_ in French because, he says, "la
parleure en est plus délitable et plus commune à toutes gens." In the
same century, the thirteenth, the French romance-writer, Christian of
Troyes,[90] formulates the claims, in chivalry and letters, of France,
his native country, as follows:--

  "Or vous ert par ce livre apris,
  Que Gresse ot de chevalerie
  Le premier los et de clergie;
  Puis vint chevalerie à Rome,
  Et de la clergie la some,
  Qui ore est en France venue.
  Diex doinst qu'ele i soit retenue
  Et que li lius li abelisse
  Tant que de France n'isse
  L'onor qui s'i est arestee!"

"Now by this book you will learn that first Greece had the renown for
chivalry and letters: then chivalry and the primacy in letters passed to
Rome, and now it is come to France. God grant it may be kept there; and
that the place may please it so well, that the honor which has come to
make stay in France may never depart thence!"

Yet it is now all gone, this French romance-poetry, of which the weight
of substance and the power of style are not unfairly represented by this
extract from Christian of Troyes. Only by means of the historic estimate
can we persuade ourselves now to think that any of it is of poetical

But in the fourteenth century there comes an Englishman nourished on
this poetry; taught his trade by this poetry, getting words, rhyme,
meter from this poetry; for even of that stanza[91] which the Italians
used, and which Chaucer derived immediately from the Italians, the basis
and suggestion was probably given in France. Chaucer (I have already
named him) fascinated his contemporaries, but so too did Christian of
Troyes and Wolfram of Eschenbach.[92]  Chaucer's power of fascination,
however, is enduring; his poetical importance does not need the
assistance of the historic estimate; it is real. He is a genuine source
of joy and strength, which is flowing still for us and will flow always.
He will be read, as time goes on, far more generally than he is read
now. His language is a cause of difficulty for us; but so also, and I
think in quite as great a degree, is the language of Burns.  In
Chaucer's case, as in that of Burns, it is a difficulty to be
unhesitatingly accepted and overcome.

If we ask ourselves wherein consists the immense superiority of
Chaucer's poetry over the romance-poetry--why it is that in passing from
this to Chaucer we suddenly feel ourselves to be in another world, we
shall find that his superiority is both in the substance of his poetry
and in the style of his poetry. His superiority in substance is given by
his large, free, simple, clear yet kindly view of human life,--so unlike
the total want, in the romance-poets, of all intelligent command of it.
Chaucer has not their helplessness; he has gained the power to survey
the world from a central, a truly human point of view. We have only to
call to mind the Prologue to _The Canterbury Tales_. The right comment
upon it is Dryden's: "It is sufficient to say, according to the proverb,
that _here is God's plenty_."[93] And again: "He is a perpetual fountain
of good sense." It is by a large, free, sound representation of things,
that poetry, this high criticism of life, has truth of substance; and
Chaucer's poetry has truth of substance.

Of his style and manner, if we think first of the romance-poetry and
then of Chaucer's divine liquidness of diction, his divine fluidity of
movement, it is difficult to speak temperately. They are irresistible,
and justify all the rapture with which his successors speak of his "gold
dew-drops of speech." Johnson misses the point entirely when he finds
fault with Dryden for ascribing to Chaucer the first refinement of our
numbers, and says that Gower[94] also can show smooth numbers and easy
rhymes. The refinement of our numbers means something far more than
this. A nation may have versifiers with smooth numbers and easy rhymes,
and yet may have no real poetry at all. Chaucer is the father of our
splendid English poetry; he is our "well of English undefiled," because
by the lovely charm of his diction, the lovely charm of his movement, he
makes an epoch and founds a tradition.

In Spenser, Shakespeare, Milton, Keats, we can follow the tradition of
the liquid diction, the fluid movement, of Chaucer; at one time it is
his liquid diction of which in these poets we feel the virtue, and at
another time it is his fluid movement. And the virtue is irresistible.

Bounded as is my space, I must yet find room for an example of Chaucer's
virtue, as I have given examples to show the virtue of the great
classics. I feel disposed to say that a single line is enough to show
the charm of Chaucer's verse; that merely one line like this--

  "O martyr souded[95] in virginitee!"

has a virtue of manner and movement such as we shall not find in all the
verse of romance-poetry;--but this is saying nothing. The virtue is such
as we shall not find, perhaps, in all English poetry, outside the poets
whom I have named as the special inheritors of Chaucer's tradition. A
single line, however, is too little if we have not the strain of
Chaucer's verse well in our memory; let us take a stanza. It is from
_The Prioress's Tale_, the story of the Christian child murdered in a

  "My throte is cut unto my nekke-bone
  Saidè this child, and as by way of kinde
  I should have deyd, yea, longè time agone;
  But Jesu Christ, as ye in bookès finde,
  Will that his glory last and be in minde,
  And for the worship of his mother dere
  Yet may I sing _O Alma_ loud and clere."

Wordsworth has modernized this Tale, and to feel how delicate and
evanescent is the charm of verse, we have only to read Wordsworth's
first three lines of this stanza after Chaucer's--

  "My throat is cut unto the bone, I trow,
  Said this young child, and by the law of kind
  I should have died, yea, many hours ago."

The charm is departed. It is often said that the power of liquidness and
fluidity in Chaucer's verse was dependent upon a free, a licentious
dealing with language, such as is now impossible; upon a liberty, such
as Burns too enjoyed, of making words like _neck_, _bird_, into a
dissyllable by adding to them, and words like _cause_, _rhyme_, into a
dissyllable by sounding the _e_ mute. It is true that Chaucer's fluidity
is conjoined with this liberty, and is admirably served by it; but we
ought not to say that it was dependent upon it. It was dependent upon
his talent. Other poets with a like liberty do not attain to the
fluidity of Chaucer; Burns himself does not attain to it. Poets, again,
who have a talent akin to Chaucer's, such as Shakespeare or Keats, have
known how to attain to his fluidity without the like liberty.

And yet Chaucer is not one of the great classics. His poetry transcends
and effaces, easily and without effort, all the romance-poetry of
Catholic Christendom; it transcends and effaces all the English poetry
contemporary with it, it transcends and effaces all the English poetry
subsequent to it down to the age of Elizabeth. Of such avail is poetic
truth of substance, in its natural and necessary union with poetic truth
of style. And yet, I say, Chaucer is not one of the great classics. He
has not their accent. What is wanting to him is suggested by the mere
mention of the name of the first great classic of Christendom, the
immortal poet who died eighty years before Chaucer,--Dante. The accent
of such verse as

  "In la sua volontade è nostra pace ..."

is altogether beyond Chaucer's reach; we praise him, but we feel that
this accent is out of the question for him. It may be said that it was
necessarily out of the reach of any poet in the England of that stage of
growth. Possibly; but we are to adopt a real, not a historic, estimate
of poetry. However we may account for its absence, something is wanting,
then, to the poetry of Chaucer, which poetry must have before it can be
placed in the glorious class of the best. And there is no doubt what
that something is. It is the[Greek: spoudaiotaes] the high and
excellent seriousness, which Aristotle assigns as one of the grand
virtues of poetry. The substance of Chaucer's poetry, his view of things
and his criticism of life, has largeness, freedom, shrewdness,
benignity; but it has not this high seriousness. Homer's criticism of
life has it, Dante's has it, Shakespeare's has it. It is this chiefly
which gives to our spirits what they can rest upon; and with the
increasing demands of our modern ages upon poetry, this virtue of giving
us what we can rest upon will be more and more highly esteemed. A voice
from the slums of Paris, fifty or sixty years after Chaucer, the voice
of poor Villon[96] out of his life of riot and crime, has at its happy
moments (as, for instance, in the last stanza of _La Belle Heaulmière_
[97]) more of this important poetic virtue of seriousness than all the
productions of Chaucer. But its apparition in Villon, and in men like
Villon, is fitful; the greatness of the great poets, the power of their
criticism of life, is that their virtue is sustained.

To our praise, therefore, of Chaucer as a poet there must be this
limitation: he lacks the high seriousness of the great classics, and
therewith an important part of their virtue. Still, the main fact for us
to bear in mind about Chaucer is his sterling value according to that
real estimate which we firmly adopt for all poets. He has poetic truth
of substance, though he has not high poetic seriousness, and
corresponding to his truth of substance he has an exquisite virtue of
style and manner. With him is born our real poetry.

For my present purpose I need not dwell on our Elizabethan poetry, or on
the continuation and close of this poetry in Milton. We all of us
profess to be agreed in the estimate of this poetry; we all of us
recognize it as great poetry, our greatest, and Shakespeare and Milton
as our poetical classics. The real estimate, here, has universal
currency. With the next age of our poetry divergency and difficulty
begin. An historic estimate of that poetry has established itself; and
the question is, whether it will be found to coincide with the real

The age of Dryden, together with our whole eighteenth century which
followed it, sincerely believed itself to have produced poetical
classics of its own, and even to have made advance, in poetry, beyond
all its predecessors. Dryden regards as not seriously disputable the
opinion "that the sweetness of English verse was never understood or
practised by our fathers."[98] Cowley could see nothing at all in
Chaucer's poetry.[99] Dryden heartily admired it, and, as we have seen,
praised its matter admirably; but of its exquisite manner and movement
all he can find to say is that "there is the rude sweetness of a Scotch
tune in it, which is natural and pleasing, though not perfect."[100]
Addison, wishing to praise Chaucer's numbers, compares them with
Dryden's own. And all through the eighteenth century, and down even into
our own times, the stereotyped phrase of approbation for good verse
found in our early poetry has been, that it even approached the verse of
Dryden, Addison, Pope, and Johnson.

Are Dryden and Pope poetical classics? Is the historic estimate, which
represents them as such, and which has been so long established that it
cannot easily give way, the real estimate? Wordsworth and Coleridge, as
is well known, denied it;[101]  but the authority of Wordsworth and
Coleridge does not weigh much with the young generation, and there are
many signs to show that the eighteenth century and its judgments are
coming into favor again. Are the favorite poets of the eighteenth
century classics?

It is impossible within my present limits to discuss the question fully.
And what man of letters would not shrink from seeming to dispose
dictatorially of the claims of two men who are, at any rate, such
masters in letters as Dryden and Pope; two men of such admirable talent,
both of them, and one of them, Dryden, a man, on all sides, of such
energetic and genial power? And yet, if we are to gain the full benefit
from poetry, we must have the real estimate of it. I cast about for some
mode of arriving, in the present case, at such an estimate without
offence. And perhaps the best way is to begin, as it is easy to begin,
with cordial praise.

When we find Chapman, the Elizabethan translator of Homer, expressing
himself in his preface thus: "Though truth in her very nakedness sits in
so deep a pit, that from Gades to Aurora and Ganges few eyes can sound
her, I hope yet those few here will so discover and confirm that, the
date being out of her darkness in this morning of our poet, he shall now
gird his temples with the sun,"--we pronounce that such a prose is
intolerable. When we find Milton writing: "And long it was not after,
when I was confirmed in this opinion, that he, who would not be
frustrate of his hope to write well hereafter in laudable things, ought
himself to be a true poem,"[102]--we pronounce that such a prose has its
own grandeur, but that it is obsolete and inconvenient. But when we find
Dryden telling us: "What Virgil wrote in the vigor of his age, in plenty
and at ease, I have undertaken to translate in my declining years;
struggling with wants, oppressed with sickness, curbed in my genius,
liable to be misconstrued in all I write,"[103]--then we exclaim that
here at last we have the true English prose, a prose such as we would
all gladly use if we only knew how. Yet Dryden was Milton's

But after the Restoration the time had come when our nation felt the
imperious need of a fit prose. So, too, the time had likewise come when
our nation felt the imperious need of freeing itself from the absorbing
preoccupation which religion in the Puritan age had exercised. It was
impossible that this freedom should be brought about without some
negative excess, without some neglect and impairment of the religious
life of the soul; and the spiritual history of the eighteenth century
shows us that the freedom was not achieved without them. Still, the
freedom was achieved; the preoccupation, an undoubtedly baneful and
retarding one if it had continued, was got rid of. And as with religion
amongst us at that period, so it was also with letters. A fit prose was
a necessity; but it was impossible that a fit prose should establish
itself amongst us without some touch of frost to the imaginative life of
the soul. The needful qualities for a fit prose are regularity,
uniformity, precision, balance. The men of letters, whose destiny it may
be to bring their nation to the attainment of a fit prose, must of
necessity, whether they work in prose or in verse, give a predominating,
an almost exclusive attention to the qualities of regularity,
uniformity, precision, balance. But an almost exclusive attention to
these qualities involves some repression and silencing of poetry.

We are to regard Dryden as the puissant and glorious founder, Pope as
the splendid high priest, of our age of prose and reason, of our
excellent and indispensable eighteenth century. For the purposes of
their mission and destiny their poetry, like their prose, is admirable.
Do you ask me whether Dryden's verse, take it almost where you will, is
not good?

  "A milk-white Hind, immortal and unchanged,
  Fed on the lawns and in the forest ranged."[104]

I answer: Admirable for the purposes of the inaugurator of an age of
prose and reason. Do you ask me whether Pope's verse, take it almost
where you will, is not good?

  "To Hounslow Heath I point, and Banstead Down;
  Thence comes your mutton, and these chicks my own."[105]

I answer: Admirable for the purposes of the high priest of an age of
prose and reason. But do you ask me whether such verse proceeds from men
with an adequate poetic criticism of life, from men whose criticism of
life has a high seriousness, or even, without that high seriousness, has
poetic largeness, freedom, insight, benignity? Do you ask me whether the
application of ideas to life in the verse of these men, often a powerful
application, no doubt, is a powerful _poetic_ application? Do you ask me
whether the poetry of these men has either the matter or the inseparable
manner of such an adequate poetic criticism; whether it has the accent

  "Absent thee from felicity awhile ... "

or of

  "And what is else not to be overcome ... "

or of

  "O martyr sonded in virginitee!"

I answer: It has not and cannot have them; it is the poetry of the
builders of an age of prose and reason.

Though they may write in verse, though they may in a certain sense be
masters of the art of versification, Dryden and Pope are not classics of
our poetry, they are classics of our prose.

Gray is our poetical classic of that literature and age; the position of
Gray is singular, and demands a word of notice here. He has not the
volume or the power of poets who, coming in times more favorable, have
attained to an independent criticism of life. But he lived with the
great poets, he lived, above all, with the Greeks, through perpetually
studying and enjoying them; and he caught their poetic point of view for
regarding life, caught their poetic manner. The point of view and the
manner are not self-sprung in him, he caught them of others; and he had
not the free and abundant use of them. But whereas Addison and Pope
never had the use of them, Gray had the use of them at times. He is the
scantiest and frailest of classics in our poetry, but he is a classic.

And now, after Gray, we are met, as we draw towards the end of the
eighteenth century, we are met by the great name of Burns. We enter now
on times where the personal estimate of poets begins to be rife, and
where the real estimate of them is not reached without difficulty. But
in spite of the disturbing pressures of personal partiality, of national
partiality, let us try to reach a real estimate of the poetry of Burns.
By his English poetry Burns in general belongs to the eighteenth
century, and has little importance for us.

  "Mark ruffian Violence, distain'd with crimes,
  Rousing elate in these degenerate times;
  View unsuspecting Innocence a prey,
  As guileful Fraud points out the erring way;
  While subtle Litigation's pliant tongue
  The life-blood equal sucks of Right and Wrong!"[106]

Evidently this is not the real Burns, or his name and fame would have
disappeared long ago. Nor is Clarinda's[107] love-poet, Sylvander, the
real Burns either. But he tells us himself: "These English songs gravel
me to death. I have not the command of the language that I have of my
native tongue. In fact, I think that my ideas are more barren in English
than in Scotch. I have been at _Duncan Gray_ to dress it in English, but
all I can do is desperately stupid."[108] We English turn naturally, in
Burns, to the poems in our own language, because we can read them
easily; but in those poems we have not the real Burns.

The real Burns is of course in his Scotch poems. Let us boldly say that
of much of this poetry, a poetry dealing perpetually with Scotch drink,
Scotch religion, and Scotch manners, a Scotchman's estimate is apt to be
personal. A Scotchman is used to this world of Scotch drink, Scotch
religion, and Scotch manners; he has a tenderness for it; he meets its
poet half way. In this tender mood he reads pieces like the _Holy Fair
or Halloween_. But this world of Scotch drink, Scotch religion, and
Scotch manners is against a poet, not for him, when it is not a partial
countryman who reads him; for in itself it is not a beautiful world, and
no one can deny that it is of advantage to a poet to deal with a
beautiful world. Burns's world of Scotch drink, Scotch religion, and
Scotch manners, is often a harsh, a sordid, a repulsive world; even the
world of his _Cotter's Saturday Night_ is not a beautiful world. No
doubt a poet's criticism of life may have such truth and power that it
triumphs over its world and delights us. Burns may triumph over his
world, often he does triumph over his world, but let us observe how and
where. Burns is the first case we have had where the bias of the
personal estimate tends to mislead; let us look at him closely, he can
bear it.

Many of his admirers will tell us that we have Burns, convivial,
genuine, delightful, here--

  "Leeze me on drink! it gies us mair
    Than either school or college;
  It kindles wit, it waukens lair,
    It pangs us fou o' knowledge.
  Be't whisky gill or penny wheep
    Or ony stronger potion,
  It never fails, on drinking deep,
    To kittle up our notion
               By night or day."[109]

There is a great deal of that sort of thing in Burns, and it is
unsatisfactory, not because it is bacchanalian poetry, but because it
has not that accent of sincerity which bacchanalian poetry, to do it
justice, very often has. There is something in it of bravado, something
which makes us feel that we have not the man speaking to us with his
real voice: something, therefore, poetically unsound.

With still more confidence will his admirers tell us that we have the
genuine Burns, the great poet, when his strain asserts the independence,
equality, dignity, of men, as in the famous song _For a' that and a'

  "A prince can mak' a belted knight,
    A marquis, duke, and a' that;
  But an honest man's a boon his might,
    Guid faith he manna fa' that!
        For a' that, and a' that,
           Their dignities, and a' that,
        The pith o' sense, and pride o' worth,
           Are higher rank than a' that."

Here they find his grand, genuine touches; and still more, when this
puissant genius, who so often set morality at defiance, falls

  "The sacred lowe o' weel placed love
    Luxuriantly indulge it;
  But never tempt th' illicit rove,
    Tho' naething should divulge it.
  I waive the quantum o' the sin,
    The hazard o' concealing,
  But och! it hardens a' within,
    And petrifies the feeling."[110]

Or in a higher strain--

  "Who made the heart, 'tis He alone
    Decidedly can try us;
  He knows each chord, its various tone;
    Each spring, its various bias.
  Then at the balance let's be mute,
    We never can adjust it;
  What's _done_ we partly may compute,
    But know not what's resisted."[111]

Or in a better strain yet, a strain, his admirers will say,

  "To make a happy fire-side clime
                 To weans and wife,
  That's the true pathos and sublime
                 Of human life."[112]

There is criticism of life for you, the admirers of Burns will say to
us; there is the application of ideas to life! There is, undoubtedly.
The doctrine of the last-quoted lines coincides almost exactly with what
was the aim and end, Xenophon tells us, of all the teaching of Socrates.
And the application is a powerful one; made by a man of vigorous
understanding, and (need I say?) a master of language.

But for supreme poetical success more is required than the powerful
application of ideas to life; it must be an application under the
conditions fixed by the laws of poetic truth and poetic beauty. Those
laws fix as an essential condition, in the poet's treatment of such
matters as are here in question, high seriousness;--the high seriousness
which comes from absolute sincerity. The accent of high seriousness,
born of absolute sincerity, is what gives to such verse as

     "In la sua volontade è nostra pace..."

to such criticism of life as Dante's, its power. Is this accent felt in
the passages which I have been quoting from Burns? Surely not; surely,
if our sense is quick, we must perceive that we have not in those
passages a voice from the very inmost soul of the genuine Burns; he is
not speaking to us from these depths, he is more or less preaching. And
the compensation for admiring such passages less, for missing the
perfect poetic accent in them, will be that we shall admire more the
poetry where that accent is found.

No; Burns, like Chaucer, comes short of the high seriousness of the
great classics, and the virtue of matter and manner which goes with that
high seriousness is wanting to his work. At moments he touches it in a
profound and passionate melancholy, as in those four immortal lines
taken by Byron as a motto for _The Bride of Abydos_, but which have in
them a depth of poetic quality such as resides in no verse of Byron's

  "Had we never loved sae kindly,
  Had we never loved sae blindly,
  Never met, or never parted,
  We had ne'er been broken-hearted."

But a whole poem of that quality Burns cannot make; the rest, in the
_Farewell to Nancy_, is verbiage.

We arrive best at the real estimate of Burns, I think, by conceiving his
work as having truth of matter and truth of manner, but not the accent
or the poetic virtue of the highest masters. His genuine criticism of
life, when the sheer poet in him speaks, is ironic; it is not--

  "Thou Power Supreme, whose mighty scheme
    These woes of mine fulfil,
  Here firm I rest, they must be best
    Because they are Thy will!"[113]

It is far rather: _Whistle owre the lave o't!_ Yet we may say of him as
of Chaucer, that of life and the world, as they come before him, his
view is large, free, shrewd, benignant,--truly poetic, therefore; and
his manner of rendering what he sees is to match. But we must note, at
the same time, his great difference from Chaucer. The freedom of Chaucer
is heightened, in Burns, by a fiery, reckless energy; the benignity of
Chaucer deepens, in Burns, into an overwhelming sense of the pathos of
things;--of the pathos of human nature, the pathos, also, of non-human
nature. Instead of the fluidity of Chaucer's manner, the manner of Burns
has spring, bounding swiftness. Burns is by far the greater force,
though he has perhaps less charm. The world of Chaucer is fairer,
richer, more significant than that of Burns; but when the largeness and
freedom of Burns get full sweep, as in _Tam o' Shanter_, or still more
in that puissant and splendid production, _The Jolly Beggars_, his world
may be what it will, his poetic genius triumphs over it. In the world of
_The Jolly Beggars_ there is more than hideousness and squalor, there is
bestiality; yet the piece is a superb poetic success. It has a breadth,
truth, and power which make the famous scene in Auerbach's Cellar, of
Goethe's _Faust_, seem artificial and tame beside it, and which are only
matched by Shakespeare and Aristophanes.

Here, where his largeness and freedom serve him so admirably, and also
in those poems and songs where to shrewdness he adds infinite archness
and, wit, and to benignity infinite pathos, where his manner is
flawless, and a perfect poetic whole is the result,--in things like the
address to the mouse whose home he had ruined, in things like _Duncan
Gray, Tarn Glen, Whistle and I'll come to you my Lad, Auld Lang Syne_
(this list might be made much longer),--here we have the genuine Burns,
of whom the real estimate must be high indeed. Not a classic, nor with
the excellent[Greek: spoudaihotaes] of the great classics, nor with a
verse rising to a criticism of life and a virtue like theirs; but a poet
with thorough truth of substance and an answering truth of style, giving
us a poetry sound to the core. We all of us have a leaning towards the
pathetic, and may be inclined perhaps to prize Burns most for his
touches of piercing, sometimes almost intolerable, pathos; for verse

  "We twa hae paidl't i' the burn
    From mornin' sun till dine;
  But seas between us braid hae roar'd
    Sin auld lang syne ..."

where he is as lovely as he is sound. But perhaps it is by the
perfection of soundness of his lighter and archer masterpieces that he
is poetically most wholesome for us. For the votary misled by a personal
estimate of Shelley, as so many of us have been, are, and will be,--of
that beautiful spirit building his many-colored haze of words and images

  "Pinnacled dim in the intense inane"--[114]

no contact can be wholesomer than the contact with Burns at his archest
and soundest. Side by side with the

  "On the brink of the night and the morning
    My coursers are wont to respire,
  But the Earth has just whispered a warning
    That their flight must be swifter than fire ..."[115]

of _Prometheus Unbound_, how salutary, how very salutary, to place this
from _Tam Glen_--

  "My minnie does constantly deave me
  and bids me beware o' young men;
  They flatter, she says, to deceive me;
  But wha can think sae o' Tam Glen?"

But we enter on burning ground as we approach the poetry of times so
near to us--poetry like that of Byron, Shelley, and Wordsworth--of which
the estimates are so often not only personal, but personal with passion.
For my purpose, it is enough to have taken the single case of Burns, the
first poet we come to of whose work the estimate formed is evidently apt
to be personal, and to have suggested how we may proceed, using the
poetry of the great classics as a sort of touchstone, to correct this
estimate, as we had previously corrected by the same means the historic
estimate where we met with it. A collection like the present, with its
succession of celebrated names and celebrated poems, offers a good
opportunity to us for resolutely endeavoring to make our estimates of
poetry real. I have sought to point out a method which will help us in
making them so, and to exhibit it in use so far as to put any one who
likes in a way of applying it for himself.

At any rate the end to which the method and the estimate are designed to
lead, and from leading to which, if they do lead to it, they get their
whole value,--the benefit of being able clearly to feel and deeply to
enjoy the best, the truly classic, in poetry,--is an end, let me say it
once more at parting, of supreme importance. We are often told that an
era is opening in which we are to see multitudes of a common sort of
readers, and masses of a common sort of literature; that such readers do
not want and could not relish anything better than such literature, and
that to provide it is becoming a vast and profitable industry. Even if
good literature entirely lost currency with the world, it would still be
abundantly worth while to continue to enjoy it by oneself. But it never
will lose currency with the world, in spite of momentary appearances; it
never will lose supremacy. Currency and supremacy are insured to it, not
indeed by the world's deliberate and conscious choice, but by something
far deeper,--by the instinct of self-preservation in humanity.


Practical people talk with a smile of Plato and of his absolute ideas;
and it is impossible to deny that Plato's ideas do often seem
unpractical and impracticable, and especially when one views them in
connection with the life of a great work-a-day world like the United
States. The necessary staple of the life of such a world Plato regards
with disdain; handicraft and trade and the working professions he
regards with disdain; but what becomes of the life of an industrial
modern community if you take handicraft and trade and the working
professions out of it? The base mechanic arts and handicrafts, says
Plato, bring about a natural weakness in the principle of excellence in
a man, so that he cannot govern the ignoble growths in him, but nurses
them, and cannot understand fostering any other. Those who exercise such
arts and trades, as they have their bodies, he says, marred by their
vulgar businesses, so they have their souls, too, bowed and broken by
them. And if one of these uncomely people has a mind to seek
self-culture and philosophy, Plato compares him to a bald little
tinker,[117] who has scraped together money, and has got his release
from service, and has had a bath, and bought a new coat, and is rigged
out like a bridegroom about to marry the daughter of his master who has
fallen into poor and helpless estate.

Nor do the working professions fare any better than trade at the hands
of Plato. He draws for us an inimitable picture of the working
lawyer,[118] and of his life of bondage; he shows how this bondage from
his youth up has stunted and warped him, and made him small and crooked
of soul, encompassing him with difficulties which he is not man enough
to rely on justice and truth as means to encounter, but has recourse,
for help out of them, to falsehood and wrong. And so, says Plato, this
poor creature is bent and broken, and grows up from boy to man without a
particle of soundness in him, although exceedingly smart and clever in
his own esteem.

One cannot refuse to admire the artist who draws these pictures. But we
say to ourselves that his ideas show the influence of a primitive and
obsolete order of things, when the warrior caste and the priestly caste
were alone in honor, and the humble work of the world was done by
slaves. We have now changed all that; the modern majesty[119] consists
in work, as Emerson declares; and in work, we may add, principally of
such plain and dusty kind as the work of cultivators of the ground,
handicraftsmen, men of trade and business, men of the working
professions. Above all is this true in a great industrious community
such as that of the United States.

Now education, many people go on to say, is still mainly governed by the
ideas of men like Plato, who lived when the warrior caste and the
priestly or philosophical class were alone in honor, and the really
useful part of the community were slaves. It is an education fitted for
persons of leisure in such a community. This education passed from
Greece and Rome to the feudal communities of Europe, where also the
warrior caste and the priestly caste were alone held in honor, and where
the really useful and working part of the community, though not
nominally slaves as in the pagan world, were practically not much better
off than slaves, and not more seriously regarded. And how absurd it is,
people end by saying, to inflict this education upon an industrious
modern community, where very few indeed are persons of leisure, and the
mass to be considered has not leisure, but is bound, for its own great
good, and for the great good of the world at large, to plain labor and
to industrial pursuits, and the education in question tends necessarily
to make men dissatisfied with these pursuits and unfitted for them!

That is what is said. So far I must defend Plato, as to plead that his
view of education and studies is in the general, as it seems to me,
sound enough, and fitted for all sorts and conditions of men, whatever
their pursuits may be. "An intelligent man," says Plato, "will prize
those studies, which result in his soul getting soberness,
righteousness, and wisdom, and will less value the others."[120] I
cannot consider _that_ a bad description of the aim of education, and of
the motives which should govern us in the choice of studies, whether we
are preparing ourselves for a hereditary seat in the English House of
Lords or for the pork trade in Chicago.

Still I admit that Plato's world was not ours, that his scorn of trade
and handicraft is fantastic, that he had no conception of a great
industrial community such as that of the United States, and that such a
community must and will shape its education to suit its own needs. If
the usual education handed down to it from the past does not suit it, it
will certainly before long drop this and try another. The usual
education in the past has been mainly literary. The question is whether
the studies which were long supposed to be the best for all of us are
practically the best now; whether others are not better. The tyranny of
the past, many think, weighs on us injuriously in the predominance given
to letters in education. The question is raised whether, to meet the
needs of our modern life, the predominance ought not now to pass from
letters to science; and naturally the question is nowhere raised with
more energy than here in the United States. The design of abasing what
is called "mere literary instruction and education," and of exalting
what is called "sound, extensive, and practical scientific knowledge,"
is, in this intensely modern world of the United States, even more
perhaps than in Europe, a very popular design, and makes great and rapid

I am going to ask whether the present movement for ousting letters from
their old predominance in education, and for transferring the
predominance in education to the natural sciences, whether this brisk
and flourishing movement ought to prevail, and whether it is likely that
in the end it really will prevail. An objection may be raised which I
will anticipate. My own studies have been almost wholly in letters, and
my visits to the field of the natural sciences have been very slight and
inadequate, although those sciences have always strongly moved my
curiosity. A man of letters, it will perhaps be said, is not competent
to discuss the comparative merits of letters and natural science as
means of education. To this objection I reply, first of all, that his
incompetence, if he attempts the discussion but is really incompetent
for it, will be abundantly visible; nobody will be taken in; he will
have plenty of sharp observers and critics to save mankind from that
danger. But the line I am going to follow is, as you will soon discover,
so extremely simple, that perhaps it may be followed without failure
even by one who for a more ambitious line of discussion would be quite

Some of you may possibly remember a phrase of mine which has been the
object of a good deal of comment; an observation to the effect that in
our culture, the aim being _to know ourselves and the world_, we have,
as the means to this end, _to know the best which has been thought and
said in the world_.[121] A man of science, who is also an excellent
writer and the very prince of debaters, Professor Huxley, in a discourse
[122] at the opening of Sir Josiah Mason's college at Birmingham, laying
hold of this phrase, expanded it by quoting some more words of mine,
which are these: "The civilized world is to be regarded as now being,
for intellectual and spiritual purposes, one great confederation, bound
to a joint action and working to a common result; and whose members have
for their proper outfit a knowledge of Greek, Roman, and Eastern
antiquity, and of one another. Special local and temporary advantages
being put out of account, that modern nation will in the intellectual
and spiritual sphere make most progress, which most thoroughly carries
out this programme."[123]

Now on my phrase, thus enlarged, Professor Huxley remarks that when I
speak of the above-mentioned knowledge as enabling us to know ourselves
and the world, I assert _literature_ to contain the materials which
suffice for thus making us know ourselves and the world. But it is not
by any means clear, says he, that after having learnt all which ancient
and modern literatures have to tell us, we have laid a sufficiently
broad and deep foundation for that criticism of life, that knowledge of
ourselves and the world, which constitutes culture. On the contrary,
Professor Huxley declares that he finds himself "wholly unable to admit
that either nations or individuals will really advance, if their outfit
draws nothing from the stores of physical science. An army without
weapons of precision, and with no particular base of operations, might
more hopefully enter upon a campaign on the Rhine, than a man, devoid of
a knowledge of what physical science has done in the last century, upon
a criticism of life."

This shows how needful it is for those who are to discuss any matter
together, to have a common understanding as to the sense of the terms
they employ,--how needful, and how difficult. What Professor Huxley
says, implies just the reproach which is so often brought against the
study of _belles lettres_, as they are called: that the study is an
elegant one, but slight and ineffectual; a smattering of Greek and Latin
and other ornamental things, of little use for any one whose object is
to get at truth, and to be a practical man. So, too, M. Renan[124]
talks of the "superficial humanism" of a school-course which treats us
as if we were all going to be poets, writers, preachers, orators, and he
opposes this humanism to positive science, or the critical search after
truth. And there is always a tendency in those who are remonstrating
against the predominance of letters in education, to understand by
letters _belles lettres_, and by _belles lettres_ a superficial humanism
the opposite of science or true knowledge.

But when we talk of knowing Greek and Roman antiquity, for instance,
which is the knowledge people have called the humanities, I for my part
mean a knowledge which is something more than a superficial humanism,
mainly decorative. "I call all teaching _scientific_" says Wolf, the
critic of Homer, "which is systematically laid out and followed up to
its original sources. For example: a knowledge of classical antiquity is
scientific when the remains of classical antiquity are correctly studied
in the original languages." There can be no doubt that Wolf[125] is
perfectly right; that all learning is scientific which is systematically
laid out and followed up to its original sources, and that a genuine
humanism is scientific.

When I speak of knowing Greek and Roman antiquity, therefore, as a help
to knowing ourselves and the world, I mean more than a knowledge of so
much vocabulary, so much grammar, so many portions of authors in the
Greek and Latin languages, I mean knowing the Greeks and Romans, and
their life and genius, and what they were and did in the world; what we
get from them, and what is its value. That, at least, is the ideal; and
when we talk of endeavoring to know Greek and Roman antiquity, as a help
to knowing ourselves and the world, we mean endeavoring so to know them
as to satisfy this ideal, however much we may still fall short of it.

The same also as to knowing our own and other modern nations, with the
like aim of getting to understand ourselves and the world. To know the
best that has been thought and said by the modern nations, is to know,
says Professor Huxley, "only what modern _literatures_ have to tell us;
it is the criticism of life contained in modern literature." And yet
"the distinctive character of our times," he urges, "lies in the vast
and constantly increasing part which is played by natural knowledge."
And how, therefore, can a man, devoid of knowledge of what physical
science has done in the last century, enter hopefully upon a criticism
of modern life?

Let us, I say, be agreed about the meaning of the terms we are using. I
talk of knowing the best which has been thought and uttered in the
world; Professor Huxley says this means knowing _literature_. Literature
is a large word; it may mean everything written with letters or printed
in a book. Euclid's _Elements_ and Newton's _Principia_ are thus
literature. All knowledge that reaches us through books is literature.
But by literature Professor Huxley means _belles lettres_. He means to
make me say, that knowing the best which has been thought and said by
the modern nations is knowing their _belles lettres_ and no more. And
this is no sufficient equipment, he argues, for a criticism of modern
life. But as I do not mean, by knowing ancient Rome, knowing merely more
or less of Latin _belles lettres_, and taking no account of Rome's
military, and political, and legal, and administrative work in the
world; and as, by knowing ancient Greece, I understand knowing her as
the giver of Greek art, and the guide to a free and right use of reason
and to scientific method, and the founder of our mathematics and physics
and astronomy and biology,--I understand knowing her as all this, and
not merely knowing certain Greek poems, and histories, and treatises,
and speeches,--so as to the knowledge of modern nations also. By knowing
modern nations, I mean not merely knowing their _belles lettres_, but
knowing also what has been done by such men as Copernicus, Galileo,
Newton, Darwin. "Our ancestors learned," says Professor Huxley, "that
the earth is the centre of the visible universe, and that man is the
cynosure of things terrestrial; and more especially was it inculcated
that the course of nature had no fixed order, but that it could be, and
constantly was, altered." But for us now, continues Professor Huxley,
"the notions of the beginning and the end of the world entertained by
our forefathers are no longer credible. It is very certain that the
earth is not the chief body in the material universe, and that the world
is not subordinated to man's use. It is even more certain that nature is
the expression of a definite order, with which nothing interferes." "And
yet," he cries, "the purely classical education advocated by the
representatives of the humanists in our day gives no inkling of all

In due place and time I will just touch upon that vexed question of
classical education; but at present the question is as to what is meant
by knowing the best which modern nations have thought and said. It is
not knowing their _belles lettres_ merely which is meant. To know
Italian _belles lettres_, is not to know Italy, and to know English
_belles lettres_ is not to know England. Into knowing Italy and England
there comes a great deal more, Galileo and Newton amongst it. The
reproach of being a superficial humanism, a tincture of _belles
lettres_, may attach rightly enough to some other disciplines; but to
the particular discipline recommended when I proposed knowing the best
that has been thought and said in the world, it does not apply. In that
best I certainly include what in modern times has been thought and said
by the great observers and knowers of nature.

There is, therefore, really no question between Professor Huxley and me
as to whether knowing the great results of the modern scientific study
of nature is not required as a part of our culture, as well as knowing
the products of literature and art. But to follow the processes by which
those results are reached, ought, say the friends of physical science,
to be made the staple of education for the bulk of mankind. And here
there does arise a question between those whom Professor Huxley calls
with playful sarcasm "the Levites of culture," and those whom the poor
humanist is sometimes apt to regard as its Nebuchadnezzars.

The great results of the scientific investigation of nature we are
agreed upon knowing, but how much of our study are we bound to give to
the processes by which those results are reached? The results have their
visible bearing on human life. But all the processes, too, all the items
of fact, by which those results are reached and established, are
interesting. All knowledge is interesting to a wise man, and the
knowledge of nature is interesting to all men. It is very interesting to
know, that, from the albuminous white of the egg, the chick in the egg
gets the materials for its flesh, bones, blood, and feathers; while from
the fatty yolk of the egg, it gets the heat and energy which enable it
at length to break its shell and begin the world. It is less
interesting, perhaps, but still it is interesting, to know that when a
taper burns, the wax is converted into carbonic acid and water.
Moreover, it is quite true that the habit of dealing with facts, which
is given by the study of nature, is, as the friends of physical science
praise it for being, an excellent discipline. The appeal, in the study
of nature, is constantly to observation and experiment; not only is it
said that the thing is so, but we can be made to see that it is so. Not
only does a man tell us that when a taper burns the wax is converted
into carbonic acid and water, as a man may tell us, if he likes, that
Charon is punting his ferry-boat on the river Styx, or that Victor Hugo
is a sublime poet, or Mr. Gladstone the most admirable of statesmen; but
we are made to see that the conversion into carbonic acid and water does
actually happen. This reality of natural knowledge it is, which makes
the friends of physical science contrast it, as a knowledge of things,
with the humanist's knowledge, which is, say they, a knowledge of words.
And hence Professor Huxley is moved to lay it down that, "for the
purpose of attaining real culture, an exclusively scientific education
is at least as effectual as an exclusively literary education." And a
certain President of the Section for Mechanical Science in the British
Association is, in Scripture phrase, "very bold," and declares that if a
man, in his mental training, "has substituted literature and history for
natural science, he has chosen the less useful alternative." But whether
we go these lengths or not, we must all admit that in natural science
the habit gained of dealing with facts is a most valuable discipline,
and that every one should have some experience of it.

More than this, however, is demanded by the reformers. It is proposed to
make the training in natural science the main part of education, for the
great majority of mankind at any rate. And here, I confess, I part
company with the friends of physical science, with whom up to this point
I have been agreeing. In differing from them, however, I wish to proceed
with the utmost caution and diffidence. The smallness of my own
acquaintance with the disciplines of natural science is ever before my
mind, and I am fearful of doing these disciplines an injustice. The
ability and pugnacity of the partisans of natural science make them
formidable persons to contradict. The tone of tentative inquiry, which
befits a being of dim faculties and bounded knowledge, is the tone I
would wish to take and not to depart from. At present it seems to me,
that those who are for giving to natural knowledge, as they call it, the
chief place in the education of the majority of mankind, leave one
important thing out of their account: the constitution of human nature.
But I put this forward on the strength of some facts not at all
recondite, very far from it; facts capable of being stated in the
simplest possible fashion, and to which, if I so state them, the man of
science will, I am sure, be willing to allow their due weight.

Deny the facts altogether, I think, he hardly can. He can hardly deny,
that when we set ourselves to enumerate the powers which go to the
building up of human life, and say that they are the power of conduct,
the power of intellect and knowledge, the power of beauty, and the power
of social life and manners,--he can hardly deny that this scheme,
though drawn in rough and plain lines enough, and not pretending to
scientific exactness, does yet give a fairly true representation of the
matter. Human nature is built up by these powers; we have the need for
them all. When we have rightly met and adjusted the claims of them all,
we shall then be in a fair way for getting soberness, and righteousness
with wisdom. This is evident enough, and the friends of physical science
would admit it.

But perhaps they may not have sufficiently observed another thing:
namely, that the several powers just mentioned are not isolated, but
there is, in the generality of mankind, a perpetual tendency to relate
them one to another in divers ways. With one such way of relating them I
am particularly concerned now. Following our instinct for intellect and
knowledge, we acquire pieces of knowledge; and presently in the
generality of men, there arises the desire to relate these pieces of
knowledge to our sense for conduct, to our sense for beauty,--and there
is weariness and dissatisfaction if the desire is balked. Now in this
desire lies, I think, the strength of that hold which letters have upon

All knowledge is, as I said just now, interesting; and even items of
knowledge which from the nature of the case cannot well be related, but
must stand isolated in our thoughts, have their interest. Even lists of
exceptions have their interest. If we are studying Greek accents it is
interesting to know that _pais_ and _pas_, and some other monosyllables
of the same form of declension, do not take the circumflex upon the last
syllable of the genitive plural, but vary, in this respect, from the
common rule. If we are studying physiology, it is interesting to know
that the pulmonary artery carries dark blood and the pulmonary vein
carries bright blood, departing in this respect from the common rule for
the division of labor between the veins and the arteries. But every one
knows how we seek naturally to combine the pieces of our knowledge
together, to bring them under general rules, to relate them to
principles; and how unsatisfactory and tiresome it would be to go on
forever learning lists of exceptions, or accumulating items of fact
which must stand isolated.

Well, that same need of relating our knowledge, which operates here
within the sphere of our knowledge itself, we shall find operating,
also, outside that sphere. We experience, as we go on learning and
knowing,--the vast majority of us experience,--the need of relating what
we have learnt and known to the sense which we have in us for conduct,
to the sense which we have in us for beauty.

A certain Greek prophetess of Mantineia in Arcadia, Diotima[126] by
name, once explained to the philosopher Socrates that love, and impulse,
and bent of all kinds, is, in fact, nothing else but the desire in men
that good should forever be present to them. This desire for good,
Diotima assured Socrates, is our fundamental desire, of which
fundamental desire every impulse in us is only some one particular form.
And therefore this fundamental desire it is, I suppose,--this desire in
men that good should be forever present to them,--which acts in us when
we feel the impulse for relating our knowledge to our sense for conduct
and to our sense for beauty. At any rate, with men in general the
instinct exists. Such is human nature. And the instinct, it will be
admitted, is innocent, and human nature is preserved by our following
the lead of its innocent instincts. Therefore, in seeking to gratify
this instinct in question, we are following the instinct of
self-preservation in humanity.

But, no doubt, some kinds of knowledge cannot be made to directly serve
the instinct in question, cannot be directly related to the sense for
beauty, to the sense for conduct. These are instrument-knowledges; they
lead on to other knowledges, which can. A man who passes his life in
instrument-knowledges is a specialist. They may be invaluable as
instruments to something beyond, for those who have the gift thus to
employ them; and they may be disciplines in themselves wherein it is
useful for every one to have some schooling. But it is inconceivable
that the generality of men should pass all their mental life with Greek
accents or with formal logic. My friend Professor Sylvester,[127] who is
one of the first mathematicians in the world, holds transcendental
doctrines as to the virtue of mathematics, but those doctrines are not
for common men. In the very Senate House and heart of our English
Cambridge I once ventured, though not without an apology for my
profaneness, to hazard the opinion that for the majority of mankind a
little of mathematics, even, goes a long way. Of course this is quite
consistent with their being of immense importance as an instrument to
something else; but it is the few who have the aptitude for thus using
them, not the bulk of mankind.

The natural sciences do not, however, stand on the same footing with
these instrument-knowledges. Experience shows us that the generality of
men will find more interest in learning that, when a taper burns, the
wax is converted into carbonic acid and water, or in learning the
explanation of the phenomenon of dew, or in learning how the circulation
of the blood is carried on, than they find in learning that the genitive
plural of _pais_ and _pas_ does not take the circumflex on the
termination. And one piece of natural knowledge is added to another, and
others are added to that, and at last we come to propositions so
interesting as Mr. Darwin's famous proposition[128] that "our ancestor
was a hairy quadruped furnished with a tail and pointed ears, probably
arboreal in his habits." Or we come to propositions of such reach and
magnitude as those which Professor Huxley delivers, when he says that
the notions of our forefathers about the beginning and the end of the
world were all wrong, and that nature is the expression of a definite
order with which nothing interferes.

Interesting, indeed, these results of science are, important they are,
and we should all of us be acquainted with them. But what I now wish you
to mark is, that we are still, when they are propounded to us and we
receive them, we are still in the sphere of intellect and knowledge. And
for the generality of men there will be found, I say, to arise, when
they have duly taken in the proposition that their ancestor was "a hairy
quadruped furnished with a tail and pointed ears, probably arboreal in
his habits," there will be found to arise an invincible desire to relate
this proposition to the sense in us for conduct, and to the sense in us
for beauty. But this the men of science will not do for us, and will
hardly even profess to do. They will give us other pieces of knowledge,
other facts, about other animals and their ancestors, or about plants,
or about stones, or about stars; and they may finally bring us to those
great "general conceptions of the universe, which are forced upon us
all," says Professor Huxley, "by the progress of physical science." But
still it will be _knowledge_, only which they give us; knowledge not put
for us into relation with our sense for conduct, our sense for beauty,
and touched with emotion by being so put; not thus put for us, and
therefore, to the majority of mankind, after a certain while,
unsatisfying, wearying.

Not to the born naturalist, I admit. But what do we mean by a born
naturalist? We mean a man in whom the zeal for observing nature is so
uncommonly strong and eminent, that it marks him off from the bulk of
mankind. Such a man will pass his life happily in collecting natural
knowledge and reasoning upon it, and will ask for nothing, or hardly
anything, more. I have heard it said that the sagacious and admirable
naturalist whom we lost not very long ago, Mr. Darwin, once owned to a
friend that for his part he did not experience the necessity for two
things which most men find so necessary to them,--religion and poetry;
science and the domestic affections, he thought, were enough. To a born
naturalist, I can well understand that this should seem so. So absorbing
is his occupation with nature, so strong his love for his occupation,
that he goes on acquiring natural knowledge and reasoning upon it, and
has little time or inclination for thinking about getting it related to
the desire in man for conduct, the desire in man for beauty. He relates
it to them for himself as he goes along, so far as he feels the need;
and he draws from the domestic affections all the additional solace
necessary. But then Darwins are extremely rare. Another great and
admirable master of natural knowledge, Faraday, was a Sandemanian.[129].
That is to say, he related his knowledge to his instinct for conduct and
to his instinct for beauty, by the aid of that respectable Scottish
sectary, Robert Sandeman. And so strong, in general, is the demand of
religion and poetry to have their share in a man, to associate
themselves with his knowing, and to relieve and rejoice it, that,
probably, for one man amongst us with the disposition to do as Darwin
did in this respect, there are at least fifty with the disposition to do
as Faraday.

Education lays hold upon us, in fact, by satisfying this demand.
Professor Huxley holds up to scorn mediæval education, with its neglect
of the knowledge of nature, its poverty even of literary studies, its
formal logic devoted to "showing how and why that which the Church said
was true must be true." But the great mediæval Universities were not
brought into being, we may be sure, by the zeal for giving a jejune and
contemptible education. Kings have been their nursing fathers, and
queens have been their nursing mothers, but not for this. The mediæval
Universities came into being, because the supposed knowledge, delivered
by Scripture and the Church, so deeply engaged men's hearts, by so
simply, easily, and powerfully relating itself to their desire for
conduct, their desire for beauty. All other knowledge was dominated by
this supposed knowledge and was subordinated to it, because of the
surpassing strength of the hold which it gained upon the affections of
men, by allying itself profoundly with their sense for conduct, their
sense for beauty.

But now, says Professor Huxley, conceptions of the universe fatal to the
notions held by our forefathers have been forced upon us by physical
science. Grant to him that they are thus fatal, that the new conceptions
must and will soon become current everywhere, and that every one will
finally perceive them to be fatal to the beliefs of our forefathers. The
need of humane letters, as they are truly called, because they serve the
paramount desire in men that good should be forever present to them,--
the need of humane letters, to establish a relation between the new
conceptions, and our instinct for beauty, our instinct for conduct, is
only the more visible. The Middle Age could do without humane letters,
as it could do without the study of nature, because its supposed
knowledge was made to engage its emotions so powerfully. Grant that the
supposed knowledge disappears, its power of being made to engage the
emotions will of course disappear along with it,--but the emotions
themselves, and their claim to be engaged and satisfied, will remain.
Now if we find by experience that humane letters have an undeniable
power of engaging the emotions, the importance of humane letters in a
man's training becomes not less, but greater, in proportion to the
success of modern science in extirpating what it calls "mediæval

Have humane letters, then, have poetry and eloquence, the power here
attributed to them of engaging the emotions, and do they exercise it?
And if they have it and exercise it, _how_ do they exercise it, so as to
exert an influence upon man's sense for conduct, his sense for beauty?
Finally, even if they both can and do exert an influence upon the senses
in question, how are they to relate to them the results--the modern
results--of natural science? All these questions may be asked. First,
have poetry and eloquence the power of calling out the emotions? The
appeal is to experience. Experience shows that for the vast majority of
men, for mankind in general, they have the power. Next, do they exercise
it? They do. But then, _how_ do they exercise it so as to affect man's
sense for conduct, his sense for beauty? And this is perhaps a case for
applying the Preacher's words: "Though a man labor to seek it out, yet
he shall not find it; yea, farther, though a wise man think to know it,
yet shall he not be able to find it."[130] Why should it be one thing,
in its effect upon the emotions, to say, "Patience is a virtue," and
quite another thing, in its effect upon the emotions, to say with Homer,

  [Greek: tlaeton gar Moirai thnmontheoan anthropoisin]--[131]

"for an enduring heart have the destinies appointed to the children of
men"? Why should it be one thing, in its effect upon the emotions, to
say with the philosopher Spinoza, _Felicitas in ea consistit quod homo
suum esse conservare potest_--"Man's happiness consists in his being
able to preserve his own essence," and quite another thing, in its
effect upon the emotions, to say with the Gospel, "What is a man
advantaged, if he gain the whole world, and lose himself, forfeit
himself?"[132] How does this difference of effect arise? I cannot tell,
and I am not much concerned to know; the important thing is that it does
arise, and that we can profit by it. But how, finally, are poetry and
eloquence to exercise the power of relating the modern results of
natural science to man's instinct for conduct, his instinct for beauty?
And here again I answer that I do not know _how_ they will exercise it,
but that they can and will exercise it I am sure. I do not mean that
modern philosophical poets and modern philosophical moralists are to
come and relate for us, in express terms, the results of modern
scientific research to our instinct for conduct, our instinct for
beauty. But I mean that we shall find, as a matter of experience, if we
know the best that has been thought and uttered in the world, we shall
find that the art and poetry and eloquence of men who lived, perhaps,
long ago, who had the most limited natural knowledge, who had the most
erroneous conceptions about many important matters, we shall find that
this art, and poetry, and eloquence, have in fact not only the power of
refreshing and delighting us, they have also the power,--such is the
strength and worth, in essentials, of their authors' criticism of life,
--they have a fortifying, and elevating, and quickening, and suggestive
power, capable of wonderfully helping us to relate the results of modern
science to our need for conduct, our need for beauty. Homer's
conceptions of the physical universe were, I imagine, grotesque; but
really, under the shock of hearing from modern science that "the world
is not subordinated to man's use, and that man is not the cynosure of
things terrestrial," I could, for my own part, desire no better comfort
than Homer's line which I quoted just now,

  [Greek: tlaeton gar Moirai thnmontheoan anthropoisin--]

"for an enduring heart have the destinies appointed to the children of

And the more that men's minds are cleared, the more that the results of
science are frankly accepted, the more that poetry and eloquence come to
be received and studied as what in truth they really are,--the
criticism of life by gifted men, alive and active with extraordinary
power at an unusual number of points;--so much the more will the value
of humane letters, and of art also, which is an utterance having a like
kind of power with theirs, be felt and acknowledged, and their place in
education be secured.

Let us, therefore, all of us, avoid indeed as much as possible any
invidious comparison between the merits of humane letters, as means of
education, and the merits of the natural sciences. But when some
President of a Section for Mechanical Science insists on making the
comparison, and tells us that "he who in his training has substituted
literature and history for natural science has chosen the less useful
alternative," let us make answer to him that the student of humane
letters only, will, at least, know also the great general conceptions
brought in by modern physical science: for science, as Professor Huxley
says, forces them upon us all. But the student of the natural sciences
only, will, by our very hypothesis, know nothing of humane letters; not
to mention that in setting himself to be perpetually accumulating
natural knowledge, he sets himself to do what only specialists have in
general the gift for doing genially. And so he will probably be
unsatisfied, or at any rate incomplete, and even more incomplete than
the student of humane letters only.

I once mentioned in a school-report, how a young man in one of our
English training colleges having to paraphrase the passage in _Macbeth_

  "Can'st thou not minister to a mind diseased?"[133]

turned this line into, "Can you not wait upon the lunatic?" And I
remarked what a curious state of things it would be, if every pupil of
our national schools knew, let us say, that the moon is two thousand one
hundred and sixty miles in diameter, and thought at the same time that a
good paraphrase for

  "Can'st thou not minister to a mind diseased?"

was, "Can you not wait upon the lunatic?" If one is driven to choose, I
think I would rather have a young person ignorant about the moon's
diameter, but aware that "Can you not wait upon the lunatic?" is bad,
than a young person whose education had been such as to manage things
the other way.

Or to go higher than the pupils of our national schools. I have in my
mind's eye a member of our British Parliament who comes to travel here
in America, who afterwards relates his travels, and who shows a really
masterly knowledge of the geology of this great country and of its
mining capabilities, but who ends by gravely suggesting that the United
States should borrow a prince from our Royal Family, and should make him
their king, and should create a House of Lords of great landed
proprietors after the pattern of ours; and then America, he thinks,
would have her future happily and perfectly secured. Surely, in this
case, the President of the Section for Mechanical Science would himself
hardly say that our member of Parliament, by concentrating himself upon
geology and mineralogy, and so on, and not attending to literature and
history, had "chosen the more useful alternative."

If then there is to be separation and option between humane letters on
the one hand, and the natural sciences on the other, the great majority
of mankind, all who have not exceptional and overpowering aptitudes for
the study of nature, would do well, I cannot but think, to choose to be
educated in humane letters rather than in the natural sciences. Letters
will call out their being at more points, will make them live more.

I said that before I ended I would just touch on the question of
classical education, and I will keep my word. Even if literature is to
retain a large place in our education, yet Latin and Greek, say the
friends of progress, will certainly have to go. Greek is the grand
offender in the eyes of these gentlemen. The attackers of the
established course of study think that against Greek, at any rate, they
have irresistible arguments. Literature may perhaps be needed in
education, they say; but why on earth should it be Greek literature? Why
not French or German? Nay, "has not an Englishman models in his own
literature of every kind of excellence?" As before, it is not on any
weak pleadings of my own that I rely for convincing the gainsayers; it
is on the constitution of human nature itself, and on the instinct of
self-preservation in humanity. The instinct for beauty is set in human
nature, as surely as the instinct for knowledge is set there, or the
instinct for conduct. If the instinct for beauty is served by Greek
literature and art as it is served by no other literature and art, we
may trust to the instinct of self-preservation in humanity for keeping
Greek as part of our culture. We may trust to it for even making the
study of Greek more prevalent than it is now. Greek will come, I hope,
some day to be studied more rationally than at present; but it will be
increasingly studied as men increasingly feel the need in them for
beauty, and how powerfully Greek art and Greek literature can serve this
need. Women will again study Greek, as Lady Jane Grey[134] did; I
believe that in that chain of forts, with which the fair host of the
Amazons are now engirdling our English universities, I find that here in
America, in colleges like Smith College in Massachusetts, and Vassar
College in the State of New York, and in the happy families of the mixed
universities out West, they are studying it already.

_Defuit una mihi symmetria prisca_,--"The antique symmetry was the one
thing wanting to me," said Leonardo da Vinci; and he was an Italian. I
will not presume to speak for the Americans, but I am sure that, in the
Englishman, the want of this admirable symmetry of the Greeks is a
thousand times more great and crying than in any Italian. The results of
the want show themselves most glaringly, perhaps, in our architecture,
but they show themselves, also, in all our art. _Fit details strictly
combined, in view of a large general result nobly conceived_; that is
just the beautiful _symmetria prisca_ of the Greeks, and it is just
where we English fail, where all our art fails. Striking ideas we have,
and well executed details we have; but that high symmetry which, with
satisfying and delightful effect, combines them, we seldom or never
have. The glorious beauty of the Acropolis at Athens did not come from
single fine things stuck about on that hill, a statue here, a gateway
there;--no, it arose from all things being perfectly combined for a
supreme total effect. What must not an Englishman feel about our
deficiencies in this respect, as the sense for beauty, whereof this
symmetry is an essential element, awakens and strengthens within him!
what will not one day be his respect and desire for Greece and its
_symmetria prisca_, when the scales drop from his eyes as he walks the
London streets, and he sees such a lesson in meanness, as the Strand,
for instance, in its true deformity! But here we are coming to our
friend Mr. Ruskin's province, and I will not intrude upon it, for he is
its very sufficient guardian.

And so we at last find, it seems, we find flowing in favor of the
humanities the natural and necessary stream of things, which seemed
against them when we started. The "hairy quadruped furnished with a tail
and pointed ears, probably arboreal in his habits," this good fellow
carried hidden in his nature, apparently, something destined to develop
into a necessity for humane letters. Nay, more; we seem finally to be
even led to the further conclusion that our hairy ancestor carried in
his nature, also, a necessity for Greek.

And, therefore, to say the truth, I cannot really think that humane
letters are in much actual danger of being thrust out from their leading
place in education, in spite of the array of authorities against them at
this moment. So long as human nature is what it is, their attractions
will remain irresistible. As with Greek, so with letters generally: they
will some day come, we may hope, to be studied more rationally but they
will not lose their place. What will happen will rather be that there
will be crowded into education other matters besides, far too many;
there will be, perhaps, a period of unsettlement and confusion and false
tendency; but letters will not in the end lose their leading place. If
they lose it for a time, they will get it back again. We shall be
brought back to them by our wants and aspirations. And a poor humanist
may possess his soul in patience, neither strive nor cry, admit the
energy and brilliancy of the partisans of physical science, and their
present favor with the public, to be far greater than his own, and still
have a happy faith that the nature of things works silently on behalf of
the studies which he loves, and that, while we shall all have to
acquaint ourselves with the great results reached by modern science, and
to give ourselves as much training in its disciplines as we can
conveniently carry, yet the majority of men will always require humane
letters; and so much the more, as they have the more and the greater
results of science to relate to the need in man for conduct, and to the
need in him for beauty.



"I know not if I deserve that a laurel-wreath should one day be laid on
my coffin. Poetry, dearly as I have loved it, has always been to me but
a divine plaything. I have never attached any great value to poetical
fame; and I trouble myself very little whether people praise my verses
or blame them. But lay on my coffin a _sword_; for I was a brave soldier
in the Liberation War of humanity."[136]

Heine had his full share of love of fame, and cared quite as much as his
brethren of the _genus irritabile_ whether people praised his verses or
blamed them. And he was very little of a hero. Posterity will certainly
decorate his tomb with the emblem of the laurel rather than with the
emblem of the sword. Still, for his contemporaries, for us, for the
Europe of the present century, he is significant chiefly for the reason
which he himself in the words just quoted assigns. He is significant
because he was, if not pre-eminently a brave, yet a brilliant, a most
effective soldier in the Liberation War of humanity.

To ascertain the master-current in the literature of an epoch, and to
distinguish this from all minor currents, is one of the critic's highest
functions; in discharging it he shows how far he possesses the most
indispensable quality of his office,--justness of spirit. The living
writer who has done most to make England acquainted with German authors,
a man of genius, but to whom precisely this one quality of justness of
spirit is perhaps wanting,--I mean Mr. Carlyle,--seems to me in the
result of his labors on German literature to afford a proof how very
necessary to the critic this quality is. Mr. Carlyle has spoken
admirably of Goethe; but then Goethe stands before all men's eyes, the
manifest centre of German literature; and from this central source many
rivers flow. Which of these rivers is the main stream? which of the
courses of spirit which we see active in Goethe is the course which will
most influence the future, and attract and be continued by the most
powerful of Goethe's successors?--that is the question. Mr. Carlyle
attaches, it seems to me, far too much importance to the romantic school
of Germany,--Tieck, Novalis, Jean Paul Richter,[137]--and gives to these
writers, really gifted as two, at any rate, of them are, an undue
prominence. These writers, and others with aims and a general tendency
the same as theirs, are not the real inheritors and continuators of
Goethe's power; the current of their activity is not the main current of
German literature after Goethe. Far more in Heine's works flows this
main current; Heine, far more than Tieck or Jean Paul Richter, is the
continuator of that which, in Goethe's varied activity, is the most
powerful and vital; on Heine, of all German authors who survived Goethe,
incomparably the largest portion of Goethe's mantle fell. I do not
forget that when Mr. Carlyle was dealing with German literature, Heine,
though he was clearly risen above the horizon, had not shone forth with
all his strength; I do not forget, too, that after ten or twenty years
many things may come out plain before the critic which before were hard
to be discerned by him; and assuredly no one would dream of imputing it
as a fault to Mr. Carlyle that twenty years ago he mistook the central
current in German literature, overlooked the rising Heine, and attached
undue importance to that romantic school which Heine was to destroy; one
may rather note it as a misfortune, sent perhaps as a delicate
chastisement to a critic, who--man of genius as he is, and no one
recognizes his genius more admirably than I do--has, for the functions
of the critic, a little too much of the self-will and eccentricity of a
genuine son of Great Britain.

Heine is noteworthy, because he is the most important German successor
and continuator of Goethe in Goethe's most important line of activity.
And which of Goethe's lines of activity is this?--His line of activity
as "a soldier in the war of liberation of humanity."

Heine himself would hardly have admitted this affiliation, though he was
far too powerful-minded a man to decry, with some of the vulgar German
liberals, Goethe's genius. "The wind of the Paris Revolution," he writes
after the three days of 1830, "blew about the candles a little in the
dark night of Germany, so that the red curtains of a German throne or
two caught fire; but the old watchmen, who do the police of the German
kingdoms, are already bringing out the fire engines, and will keep the
candles closer snuffed for the future. Poor, fast-bound German people,
lose not all heart in thy bonds! The fashionable coating of ice melts
off from my heart, my soul quivers and my eyes burn, and that is a
disadvantageous state of things for a writer, who should control his
subject-matter and keep himself beautifully objective, as the artistic
school would have us, and as Goethe has done; he has come to be eighty
years old doing this, and minister, and in good condition:--poor German
people! that is thy greatest man!"[138]

But hear Goethe himself: "If I were to say what I had really been to the
Germans in general, and to the young German poets in particular, I
should say I had been their _liberator_."

Modern times find themselves with an immense system of institutions,
established facts, accredited dogmas, customs, rules, which have come to
them from times not modern. In this system their life has to be carried
forward; yet they have a sense that this system is not of their own
creation, that it by no means corresponds exactly with the wants of
their actual life, that, for them, it is customary, not rational. The
awakening of this sense is the awakening of the modern spirit. The
modern spirit is now awake almost everywhere; the sense of want of
correspondence between the forms of modern Europe and its spirit,
between the new wine of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, and the
old bottles of the eleventh and twelfth centuries, or even of the
sixteenth and seventeenth, almost every one now perceives; it is no
longer dangerous to affirm that this want of correspondence exists;
people are even beginning to be shy of denying it. To remove this want
of correspondence is beginning to be the settled endeavor of most
persons of good sense. Dissolvents of the old European system of
dominant ideas and facts we must all be, all of us who have any power of
working; what we have to study is that we may not be acrid dissolvents
of it.

And how did Goethe, that grand dissolvent in his age when there were
fewer of them than at present, proceed in his task of dissolution, of
liberation of the modern European from the old routine? He shall tell us
himself. "Through me the German poets have become aware that, as man
must live from within outwards, so the artist must work from within
outwards, seeing that, make what contortions he will, he can only bring
to light his own individuality. I can clearly mark where this influence
of mine has made itself felt; there arises out of it a kind of poetry of
nature, and only in this way is it possible to be original."

My voice shall never be joined to those which decry Goethe, and if it is
said that the foregoing is a lame and impotent conclusion to Goethe's
declaration that he had been the liberator of the Germans in general,
and of the young German poets in particular, I say it is not. Goethe's
profound, imperturbable naturalism is absolutely fatal to all routine
thinking, he puts the standard, once for all, inside every man instead
of outside him; when he is told, such a thing must be so, there is
immense authority and custom in favor of its being so, it has been held
to be so for a thousand years, he answers with Olympian politeness, "But
_is_ it so? is it so to _me_?" Nothing could be more really subversive
of the foundations on which the old European order rested; and it may be
remarked that no persons are so radically detached from this order, no
persons so thoroughly modern, as those who have felt Goethe's influence
most deeply. If it is said that Goethe professes to have in this way
deeply influenced but a few persons, and those persons poets, one may
answer that he could have taken no better way to secure, in the end, the
ear of the world; for poetry is simply the most beautiful, impressive,
and widely effective mode of saying things, and hence its importance.
Nevertheless the process of liberation, as Goethe worked it, though
sure, is undoubtedly slow; he came, as Heine says, to be eighty years
old in thus working it, and at the end of that time the old Middle-Age
machine was still creaking on, the thirty German courts and their
chamberlains subsisted in all their glory; Goethe himself was a
minister, and the visible triumph of the modern spirit over prescription
and routine seemed as far off as ever. It was the year 1830; the German
sovereigns had passed the preceding fifteen years in breaking the
promises of freedom they had made to their subjects when they wanted
their help in the final struggle with Napoleon. Great events were
happening in France; the revolution, defeated in 1815, had arisen from
its defeat, and was wresting from its adversaries the power. Heinrich
Heine, a young man of genius, born at Hamburg,[139] and with all the
culture of Germany, but by race a Jew; with warm sympathies for France,
whose revolution had given to his race the rights of citizenship, and
whose rule had been, as is well known, popular in the Rhine provinces,
where he passed his youth; with a passionate admiration for the great
French Emperor, with a passionate contempt for the sovereigns who had
overthrown him, for their agents, and for their policy,--Heinrich Heine
was in 1830 in no humor for any such gradual process of liberation from
the old order of things as that which Goethe had followed. His counsel
was for open war. Taking that terrible modern weapon, the pen, in his
hand, he passed the remainder of his life in one fierce battle. What was
that battle? the reader will ask. It was a life and death battle with

_Philistinism!_[140]--we have not the expression in English. Perhaps we
have not the word because we have so much of the thing. At Soli, I
imagine, they did not talk of solecisms;[141] and here, at the very
headquarters of Goliath, nobody talks of Philistinism. The French have
adopted the term _épicier_ (grocer), to designate the sort of being whom
the Germans designate by the Philistine; but the French term--besides
that it casts a slur upon a respectable class, composed of living and
susceptible members, while the original Philistines are dead and buried
long ago--is really, I think, in itself much less apt and expressive
than the German term. Efforts have been made to obtain in English some
term equivalent to _Philister_ or _épicier_; Mr. Carlyle has made
several such efforts: "respectability with its thousand gigs,"[142] he
says;--well, the occupant of every one of these gigs is, Mr. Carlyle
means, a Philistine. However, the word _respectable_ is far too valuable
a word to be thus perverted from its proper meaning; if the English are
ever to have a word for the thing we are speaking of,--and so
prodigious are the changes which the modern spirit is introducing, that
even we English shall perhaps one day come to want such a word,--I think
we had much better take the term _Philistine_ itself.

_Philistine_ must have originally meant, in the mind of those who
invented the nickname, a strong, dogged, unenlightened opponent of the
chosen people, of the children of the light. The party of change, the
would-be remodellers of the old traditional European order, the invokers
of reason against custom, the representatives of the modern spirit in
every sphere where it is applicable, regarded themselves, with the
robust self-confidence natural to reformers as a chosen people, as
children of the light. They regarded their adversaries as humdrum
people, slaves to routine, enemies to light; stupid and oppressive, but
at the same time very strong. This explains the love which Heine, that
Paladin of the modern spirit, has for France; it explains the preference
which he gives to France over Germany: "The French," he says, "are the
chosen people of the new religion, its first gospels and dogmas have
been drawn up in their language; Paris is the new Jerusalem, and the
Rhine is the Jordan which divides the consecrated land of freedom from
the land of the Philistines."[143] He means that the French, as a
people, have shown more accessibility to ideas than any other people;
that prescription and routine have had less hold upon them than upon any
other people; that they have shown most readiness to move and to alter
at the bidding (real or supposed) of reason. This explains, too, the
detestation which Heine had for the English: "I might settle in
England," he says, in his exile, "if it were not that I should find
there two things, coal-smoke and Englishmen; I cannot abide either."
What he hated in the English was the "ächtbrittische Beschränktheit," as
he calls it,--the _genuine British narrowness_. In truth, the English,
profoundly as they have modified the old Middle-Age order, great as is
the liberty which they have secured for themselves, have in all their
changes proceeded, to use a familiar expression, by the rule of thumb;
what was intolerably inconvenient to them they have suppressed, and as
they have suppressed it, not because it was irrational, but because it
was practically inconvenient, they have seldom in suppressing it
appealed to reason, but always, if possible, to some precedent, or form,
or letter, which served as a convenient instrument for their purpose,
and which saved them from the necessity of recurring to general
principles. They have thus become, in a certain sense, of all people the
most inaccessible to ideas and the most impatient of them; inaccessible
to them, because of their want of familiarity with them; and impatient
of them because they have got on so well without them, that they despise
those who, not having got on as well as themselves, still make a fuss
for what they themselves have done so well without. But there has
certainly followed from hence, in this country, somewhat of a general
depression of pure intelligence: Philistia has come to be thought by us
the true Land of Promise, and it is anything but that; the born lover of
ideas, the born hater of commonplaces, must feel in this country, that
the sky over his head is of brass and iron. The enthusiast for the idea,
for reason, values reason, the idea, in and for themselves; he values
them, irrespectively of the practical conveniences which their triumph
may obtain for him; and the man who regards the possession of these
practical conveniences as something sufficient in itself, something
which compensates for the absence or surrender of the idea, of reason,
is, in his eyes, a Philistine. This is why Heine so often and so
mercilessly attacks the liberals; much as he hates conservatism he hates
Philistinism even more, and whoever attacks conservatism itself ignobly,
not as a child of light, not in the name of the idea, is a Philistine.
Our Cobbett[144] is thus for him, much as he disliked our clergy and
aristocracy whom Cobbett attacked, a Philistine with six fingers on
every hand and on every foot six toes, four-and-twenty in number: a
Philistine, the staff of whose spear is like a weaver's beam. Thus he
speaks of him:--

"While I translate Cobbett's words, the man himself comes bodily before
my mind's eye, as I saw him at that uproarious dinner at the Crown and
Anchor Tavern, with his scolding red face and his radical laugh, in
which venomous hate mingles with a mocking exultation at his enemies'
surely approaching downfall. He is a chained cur, who falls with equal
fury on every one whom he does not know, often bites the best friend of
the house in his calves, barks incessantly, and just because of this
incessantness of his barking cannot get listened to, even when he barks
at a real thief. Therefore the distinguished thieves who plunder England
do not think it necessary to throw the growling Cobbett a bone to stop
his mouth. This makes the dog furiously savage, and he shows all his
hungry teeth. Poor old Cobbett! England's dog! I have no love for thee,
for every vulgar nature my soul abhors: but thou touchest me to the
inmost soul with pity, as I see how thou strainest in vain to break
loose and to get at those thieves, who make off with their booty before
thy very eyes, and mock at thy fruitless springs and thine impotent

There is balm in Philistia as well as in Gilead. A chosen circle of
children of the modern spirit, perfectly emancipated from prejudice and
commonplace, regarding the ideal side of things in all its efforts for
change, passionately despising half-measures and condescension to human
folly and obstinacy,--with a bewildered, timid, torpid multitude
behind,--conducts a country to the government of Herr von Bismarck. A
nation regarding the practical side of things in its efforts for change,
attacking not what is irrational, but what is pressingly inconvenient,
and attacking this as one body, "moving altogether if it move at all,"
[146] and treating children of light like the very harshest of
step-mothers, comes to the prosperity and liberty of modern England. For
all that, however, Philistia (let me say it again) is not the true
promised land, as we English commonly imagine it to be; and our
excessive neglect of the idea, and consequent inaptitude for it,
threatens us, at a moment when the idea is beginning to exercise a real
power in human society, with serious future inconvenience, and, in the
meanwhile, cuts us off from the sympathy of other nations, which feel
its power more than we do.

But, in 1830, Heine very soon found that the fire-engines of the German
governments were too much for his direct efforts at incendiarism. "What
demon drove me," he cries, "to write my _Reisebilder_, to edit a
newspaper, to plague myself with our time and its interests, to try and
shake the poor German Hodge out of his thousand years' sleep in his
hole? What good did I get by it? Hodge opened his eyes, only to shut
them again immediately; he yawned, only to begin snoring again the next
minute louder than ever; he stretched his stiff ungainly limbs, only to
sink down again directly afterwards, and lie like a dead man in the old
bed of his accustomed habits. I must have rest; but where am I to find a
resting-place? In Germany I can no longer stay."

This is Heine's jesting account of his own efforts to rouse Germany: now
for his pathetic account of them; it is because he unites so much wit
with so much pathos that he is so effective a writer:--

"The Emperor Charles the Fifth[147] sate in sore straits, in the Tyrol,
encompassed by his enemies. All his knights and courtiers had forsaken
him; not one came to his help. I know not if he had at that time the
cheese face with which Holbein has painted him for us. But I am sure
that under lip of his, with its contempt for mankind, stuck out even
more than it does in his portraits. How could he but contemn the tribe
which in the sunshine of his prosperity had fawned on him so devotedly,
and now, in his dark distress, left him all alone? Then suddenly his
door opened, and there came in a man in disguise, and, as he threw back
his cloak, the Kaiser recognized in him his faithful Conrad von der
Rosen, the court jester. This man brought him comfort and counsel, and
he was the court jester!

"'O German fatherland! dear German people! I am thy Conrad von der
Rosen. The man whose proper business was to amuse thee, and who in good
times should have catered only for thy mirth, makes his way into thy
prison in time of need; here, under my cloak, I bring thee thy sceptre
and crown; dost thou not recognize me, my Kaiser? If I cannot free thee,
I will at least comfort thee, and thou shalt at least have one with thee
who will prattle with thee about thy sorest affliction, and whisper
courage to thee, and love thee, and whose best joke and best blood shall
be at thy service. For thou, my people, art the true Kaiser, the true
lord of the land; thy will is sovereign, and more legitimate far than
that purple _Tel est notre plaisir_, which invokes a divine right with
no better warrant than the anointings of shaven and shorn jugglers; thy
will, my people, is the sole rightful source of power. Though now thou
liest down in thy bonds, yet in the end will thy rightful cause prevail;
the day of deliverance is at hand, a new time is beginning. My Kaiser,
the night is over, and out there glows the ruddy dawn.'

"'Conrad von der Rosen, my fool, thou art mistaken; perhaps thou takest
a headsman's gleaming axe for the sun, and the red of dawn is only

"'No, my Kaiser, it is the sun, though it is rising in the west; these
six thousand years it has always risen in the east; it is high time
there should come a change.'

"'Conrad von der Rosen, my fool, thou hast lost the bells out of thy red
cap, and it has now such an odd look, that red cap of thine!'

"'Ah, my Kaiser, thy distress has made me shake my head so hard and
fierce, that the fool's bells have dropped off my cap; the cap is none
the worse for that.'

"'Conrad von der Rosen, my fool, what is that noise of breaking and
cracking outside there?'

"'Hush! that is the saw and the carpenter's axe, and soon the doors of
thy prison will be burst open, and thou wilt be free, my Kaiser!'

"'Am I then really Kaiser? Ah, I forgot, it is the fool who tells me

"'Oh, sigh not, my dear master, the air of thy prison makes thee so
desponding! when once thou hast got thy rights again, thou wilt feel
once more the bold imperial blood in thy veins, and thou wilt be proud
like a Kaiser, and violent, and gracious, and unjust, and smiling, and
ungrateful, as princes are.'

"'Conrad von der Rosen, my fool, when I am free, what wilt thou do

"'I will then sew new bells on to my cap.'

"'And how shall I recompense thy fidelity?'

"'Ah, dear master, by not leaving me to die in a ditch!'"[148]

I wish to mark Heine's place in modern European literature, the scope of
his activity, and his value. I cannot attempt to give here a detailed
account of his life, or a description of his separate works. In May 1831
he went over his Jordan, the Rhine, and fixed himself in his new
Jerusalem, Paris. There, henceforward, he lived, going in general to
some French watering-place in the summer, but making only one or two
short visits to Germany during the rest of his life. His works, in verse
and prose, succeeded each other without stopping; a collected edition of
them, filling seven closely-printed octavo volumes, has been published
in America;[149] in the collected editions of few people's works is
there so little to skip. Those who wish for a single good specimen of
him should read his first important work, the work which made his
reputation, the _Reisebilder_, or "Travelling Sketches": prose and
verse, wit and seriousness, are mingled in it, and the mingling of these
is characteristic of Heine, and is nowhere to be seen practised more
naturally and happily than in his _Reisebilder_. In 1847 his health,
which till then had always been perfectly good, gave way. He had a kind
of paralytic stroke. His malady proved to be a softening of the spinal
marrow: it was incurable; it made rapid progress. In May 1848, not a
year after his first attack, he went out of doors for the last time; but
his disease took more than eight years to kill him. For nearly eight
years he lay helpless on a couch, with the use of his limbs gone, wasted
almost to the proportions of a child, wasted so that a woman could carry
him about; the sight of one eye lost, that of the other greatly dimmed,
and requiring, that it might be exercised, to have the palsied eyelid
lifted and held up by the finger; all this, and besides this, suffering
at short intervals paroxysms of nervous agony. I have said he was not
preëminently brave; but in the astonishing force of spirit with which he
retained his activity of mind, even his gayety, amid all his suffering,
and went on composing with undiminished fire to the last, he was truly
brave. Nothing could clog that aërial lightness. "Pouvez-vous siffler?"
his doctor asked him one day, when he was almost at his last gasp;--
"siffler," as every one knows, has the double meaning of _to whistle_
and _to hiss_:--"Hélas! non," was his whispered answer; "pas même une
comédie de M. Scribe!" M. Scribe[150] is, or was, the favorite
dramatist of the French Philistine. "My nerves," he said to some one who
asked him about them in 1855, the year of the great Exhibition in Paris,
"my nerves are of that quite singularly remarkable miserableness of
nature, that I am convinced they would get at the Exhibition the grand
medal for pain and misery." He read all the medical books which treated
of his complaint. "But," said he to some one who found him thus engaged,
"what good this reading is to do me I don't know, except that it will
qualify me to give lectures in heaven on the ignorance of doctors on
earth about diseases of the spinal marrow." What a matter of grim
seriousness are our own ailments to most of us! yet with this gayety
Heine treated his to the end. That end, so long in coming, came at last.
Heine died on the 17th of February, 1856, at the age of fifty-eight. By
his will he forbade that his remains should be transported to Germany.
He lies buried in the cemetery of Montmartre, at Paris.

His direct political action was null, and this is neither to be wondered
at nor regretted; direct political action is not the true function of
literature, and Heine was a born man of letters. Even in his favorite
France the turn taken by public affairs was not at all what he wished,
though he read French politics by no means as we in England, most of us,
read them. He thought things were tending there to the triumph of
communism; and to a champion of the idea like Heine, what there is gross
and narrow in communism was very repulsive. "It is all of no use," he
cried on his death-bed, "the future belongs to our enemies, the
Communists, and Louis Napoleon[151] is their John the Baptist." "And
yet,"--he added with all his old love for that remarkable entity, so
full of attraction for him, so profoundly unknown in England, the French
people,--"do not believe that God lets all this go forward merely as a
grand comedy. Even though the Communists deny him to-day, he knows
better than they do, that a time will come when they will learn to
believe in him." After 1831, his hopes of soon upsetting the German
Governments had died away, and his propagandism took another, a more
truly literary, character.

It took the character of an intrepid application of the modern spirit to
literature. To the ideas with which the burning questions of modern life
filled him, he made all his subject-matter minister. He touched all the
great points in the career of the human race, and here he but followed
the tendency of the wide culture of Germany; but he touched them with a
wand which brought them all under a light where the modern eye cares
most to see them, and here he gave a lesson to the culture of Germany,--
so wide, so impartial, that it is apt to become slack and powerless, and
to lose itself in its materials for want of a strong central idea round
which to group all its other ideas. So the mystic and romantic school of
Germany lost itself in the Middle Ages, was overpowered by their
influence, came to ruin by its vain dreams of renewing them. Heine, with
a far profounder sense of the mystic and romantic charm of the Middle
Age than Goerres, or Brentano, or Arnim,[152] Heine the chief romantic
poet of Germany, is yet also much more than a romantic poet: he is a
great modern poet, he is not conquered by the Middle Age, he has a
talisman by which he can feel--along with but above the power of the
fascinating Middle Age itself--the power of modern ideas.

A French critic of Heine thinks he has said enough in saying that Heine
proclaimed in German countries, with beat of drum, the ideas of 1789,
and that at the cheerful noise of his drum the ghosts of the Middle Age
took to flight. But this is rather too French an account of the matter.
Germany, that vast mine of ideas, had no need to import ideas, as such,
from any foreign country; and if Heine had carried ideas, as such, from
France into Germany, he would but have been carrying coals to Newcastle.
But that for which, France, far less meditative than Germany, is
eminent, is the prompt, ardent, and practical application of an idea,
when she seizes it, in all departments of human activity which admit it.
And that in which Germany most fails, and by failing in which she
appears so helpless and impotent, is just the practical application of
her innumerable ideas. "When Candide," says Heine himself, "came to
Eldorado, he saw in the streets a number of boys who were playing with
gold-nuggets instead of marbles. This degree of luxury made him imagine
that they must be the king's children, and he was not a little
astonished when he found that in Eldorado gold-nuggets are of no more
value than marbles are with us, and that the schoolboys play with them.
A similar thing happened to a friend of mine, a foreigner, when he came
to Germany and first read German books. He was perfectly astounded at
the wealth of ideas which he found in them; but he soon remarked that
ideas in Germany are as plentiful as gold-nuggets in Eldorado, and that
those writers whom he had taken for intellectual princes, were in
reality only common schoolboys."[153]  Heine was, as he calls himself,
a "Child of the French Revolution," an "Initiator," because he
vigorously assured the Germans that ideas were not counters or marbles,
to be played with for their own sake; because he exhibited in literature
modern ideas applied with the utmost freedom, clearness, and
originality. And therefore he declared that the great task of his life
had been the endeavor to establish a cordial relation between France and
Germany. It is because he thus operates a junction between the French
spirit and German ideas and German culture, that he founds something
new, opens a fresh period, and deserves the attention of criticism far
more than the German poets his contemporaries, who merely continue an
old period till it expires. It may be predicted that in the literature
of other countries, too, the French spirit is destined to make its
influence felt,--as an element, in alliance with the native spirit, of
novelty and movement,--as it has made its influence felt in German
literature; fifty years hence a critic will be demonstrating to our
grandchildren how this phenomenon has come to pass.

We in England, in our great burst of literature during the first thirty
years of the present century, had no manifestation of the modern spirit,
as this spirit manifests itself in Goethe's works or Heine's. And the
reason is not far to seek. We had neither the German wealth of ideas,
nor the French enthusiasm for applying ideas. There reigned in the mass
of the nation that inveterate inaccessibility to ideas, that
Philistinism,--to use the German nickname,--which reacts even on the
individual genius that is exempt from it. In our greatest literary
epoch, that of the Elizabethan age,[154] English society at large was
accessible to ideas, was permeated by them, was vivified by them, to a
degree which has never been reached in England since. Hence the unique
greatness in English literature of Shakespeare and his contemporaries.
They were powerfully upheld by the intellectual life of their nation;
they applied freely in literature the then modern ideas,--the ideas of
the Renascence and the Reformation. A few years afterwards the great
English middle class, the kernel of the nation, the class whose
intelligent sympathy had upheld a Shakespeare, entered the prison of
Puritanism, and had the key turned on its spirit there for two hundred
years. _He enlargeth a nation_, says Job, _and straiteneth it again._

In the literary movement of the beginning of the nineteenth century the
signal attempt to apply freely the modern spirit was made in England by
two members of the aristocratic class, Byron and Shelley. Aristocracies
are, as such, naturally impenetrable by ideas; but their individual
members have a high courage and a turn for breaking bounds; and a man of
genius, who is the born child of the idea, happening to be born in the
aristocratic ranks, chafes against the obstacles which prevent him from
freely developing it. But Byron and Shelley did not succeed in their
attempt freely to apply the modern spirit in English literature; they
could not succeed in it; the resistance to baffle them, the want of
intelligent sympathy to guide and uphold them, were too great. Their
literary creation, compared with the literary creation of Shakespeare
and Spenser, compared with the literary creation of Goethe and Heine, is
a failure. The best literary creation of that time in England proceeded
from men who did not make the same bold attempt as Byron and Shelley.
What, in fact, was the career of the chief English men of letters, their
contemporaries? The gravest of them, Wordsworth, retired (in Middle-Age
phrase) into a monastery. I mean, he plunged himself in the inward life,
he voluntarily cut himself off from the modern spirit. Coleridge took to
opium. Scott became the historiographer-royal of feudalism. Keats
passionately gave himself up to a sensuous genius, to his faculty for
interpreting nature; and he died of consumption at twenty-five.
Wordsworth, Scott, and Keats have left admirable works; far more solid
and complete works than those which Byron and Shelley have left. But
their works have this defect,--they do not belong to that which is the
main current of the literature of modern epochs, they do not apply
modern ideas to life; they constitute, therefore, _minor currents_, and
all other literary work of our day, however popular, which has the same
defect, also constitutes but a minor current. Byron and Shelley will
long be remembered, long after the inadequacy of their actual work is
clearly recognized, for their passionate, their Titanic effort to flow
in the main stream of modern literature; their names will be greater
than their writings; _stat magni nominis umbra_.[156] Heine's literary
good fortune was superior to that of Byron and Shelley. His theatre of
operations was Germany, whose Philistinism does not consist in her want
of ideas, or in her inaccessibility to ideas, for she teems with them
and loves them, but, as I have said, in her feeble and hesitating
application of modern ideas to life. Heine's intense modernism, his
absolute freedom, his utter rejection of stock classicism and stock
romanticism, his bringing all things under the point of view of the
nineteenth century, were understood and laid to heart by Germany,
through virtue of her immense, tolerant intellectualism, much as there
was in all Heine said to affront and wound Germany. The wit and ardent
modern spirit of France Heine joined to the culture, the sentiment, the
thought of Germany. This is what makes him so remarkable: his wonderful
clearness, lightness, and freedom, united with such power of feeling,
and width of range. Is there anywhere keener wit than in his story of
the French abbé who was his tutor, and who wanted to get from him that
_la religion_ is French for _der Glaube_: "Six times did he ask me the
question: 'Henry, what is _der Glaube_ in French?' and six times, and
each time with a greater burst of tears, did I answer him--'It is _le
crédit_' And at the seventh time, his face purple with rage, the
infuriated questioner screamed out: 'It is _la religion_'; and a rain of
cuffs descended upon me, and all the other boys burst out laughing.
Since that day I have never been able to hear _la religion_ mentioned,
without feeling a tremor run through my back, and my cheeks grow red
with shame."[157] Or in that comment on the fate of Professor Saalfeld,
who had been addicted to writing furious pamphlets against Napoleon, and
who was a professor at Göttingen, a great seat, according to Heine, of
pedantry and Philistinism. "It is curious," says Heine, "the three
greatest adversaries of Napoleon have all of them ended miserably.
Castlereagh[158] cut his own throat; Louis the Eighteenth rotted upon
his throne; and Professor Saalfeld is still a professor at Göttingen."
[159] It is impossible to go beyond that.

What wit, again, in that saying which every one has heard: "The
Englishman loves liberty like his lawful wife, the Frenchman loves her
like his mistress, the German loves her like his old grandmother." But
the turn Heine gives to this incomparable saying is not so well known;
and it is by that turn he shows himself the born poet he is,--full of
delicacy and tenderness, of inexhaustible resource, infinitely new and

"And yet, after all, no one can ever tell how things may turn out. The
grumpy Englishman, in an ill-temper with his wife, is capable of some
day putting a rope round her neck, and taking her to be sold at
Smithfield. The inconstant Frenchman may become unfaithful to his adored
mistress, and be seen fluttering about the Palais Royal after another.
_But the German will never quite abandon his old grandmother_; he will
always keep for her a nook by the chimney-corner, where she can tell her
fairy stories to the listening children."[160]

Is it possible to touch more delicately and happily both the weakness
and the strength of Germany; pedantic, simple, enslaved, free,
ridiculous, admirable Germany?

And Heine's verse,--his _Lieder?_ Oh, the comfort, after dealing with
French people of genius, irresistibly impelled to try and express
themselves in verse, launching out into a deep which destiny has sown
with so many rocks for them,--the comfort of coming to a man of genius,
who finds in verse his freest and most perfect expression, whose voyage
over the deep of poetry destiny makes smooth! After the rhythm, to us,
at any rate, with the German paste in our composition, so deeply
unsatisfying, of--

  "Ah! que me dites-vous, et qne vous dit mon âme?
  Que dit le ciel a l'aube et la flamme à la flamme?"

what a blessing to arrive at rhythms like--

  "Take, oh, take those lips away,
  That so sweetly were forsworn--"[161]


  "Siehst sehr sterbeblässlich aus,
  Doch getrost! du bist zu Haus--"[162]

in which one's soul can take pleasure! The magic of Heine's poetical
form is incomparable; he chiefly uses a form of old German popular
poetry, a ballad-form which has more rapidity and grace than any
ballad-form of ours; he employs this form with the most exquisite
lightness and ease, and yet it has at the same time the inborn fulness,
pathos, and old-world charm of all true forms of popular poetry. Thus in
Heine's poetry, too, one perpetually blends the impression of French
modernism and clearness, with that of German sentiment and fulness; and
to give this blended impression is, as I have said, Heine's great
characteristic. To feel it, one must read him; he gives it in his form
as well as in his contents, and by translation I can only reproduce it
so far as his contents give it. But even the contents of many of his
poems are capable of giving a certain sense of it. Here, for instance,
is a poem in which he makes his profession of faith to an innocent
beautiful soul, a sort of Gretchen, the child of some simple mining
people having their hut among the pines at the foot of the Hartz
Mountains, who reproaches him with not holding the old articles of the
Christian creed:--

"Ah, my child, while I was yet a little boy, while I yet sate upon my
mother's knee, I believed in God the Father, who rules up there in
Heaven, good and great;

"Who created the beautiful earth, and the beautiful men and women
thereon; who ordained for sun, moon, and stars their courses.

"When I got bigger, my child, I comprehended yet a great deal more than
this, and comprehended, and grew intelligent; and I believe on the Son

"On the beloved Son, who loved us, and revealed love to us; and, for his
reward, as always happens, was crucified by the people.

"Now, when I am grown up, have read much, have travelled much, my heart
swells within me, and with my whole heart I believe on the Holy Ghost.

"The greatest miracles were of his working, and still greater miracles
doth he even now work; he burst in sunder the oppressor's stronghold,
and he burst in sunder the bondsman's yoke.

"He heals old death-wounds, and renews the old right; all mankind are
one race of noble equals before him.

"He chases away the evil clouds and the dark cobwebs of the brain, which
have spoilt love and joy for us, which day and night have loured on us.

"A thousand knights, well harnessed, has the Holy Ghost chosen out to
fulfil his will, and he has put courage into their souls.

"Their good swords flash, their bright banners wave; what, thou wouldst
give much, my child, to look upon such gallant knights?

"Well, on me, my child, look! kiss me, and look boldly upon me! one of
those knights of the Holy Ghost am I."[163]

One has only to turn over the pages of his _Romancero_,[164]--a
collection of poems written in the first years of his illness, with his
whole power and charm still in them, and not, like his latest poems of
all, painfully touched by the air of his _Matrazzen-gruft_, his
"mattress-grave,"--to see Heine's width of range; the most varied
figures succeed one another,--Rhampsinitus,[165] Edith with the Swan
Neck,[166] Charles the First, Marie Antoinette, King David, a heroine of
_Mabille_, Melisanda of Tripoli,[167] Richard Coeur de Lion, Pedro the
Cruel[168], Firdusi[169], Cortes, Dr. Döllinger[170];--but never does
Heine attempt to be _hubsch objectiv_, "beautifully objective," to
become in spirit an old Egyptian, or an old Hebrew, or a Middle-Age
knight, or a Spanish adventurer, or an English royalist; he always
remains Heinrich Heine, a son of the nineteenth century. To give a
notion of his tone, I will quote a few stanzas at the end of the
_Spanish Atridæ_[171]  in which he describes, in the character of a
visitor at the court of Henry of Transtamare[172] at Segovia, Henry's
treatment of the children of his brother, Pedro the Cruel. Don Diego
Albuquerque, his neighbor, strolls after dinner through the castle with

"In the cloister-passage, which leads to the kennels where are kept the
king's hounds, that with their growling and yelping let you know a long
way off where they are,

"There I saw, built into the wall, and with a strong iron grating for
its outer face, a cell like a cage.

"Two human figures sate therein, two young boys; chained by the leg,
they crouched in the dirty straw.

"Hardly twelve years old seemed the one, the other not much older; their
faces fair and noble, but pale and wan with sickness.

"They were all in rags, almost naked; and their lean bodies showed
wounds, the marks of ill-usage; both of them shivered with fever.

"They looked up at me out of the depth of their misery; 'Who,' I cried
in horror to Don Diego, 'are these pictures of wretchedness?'

"Don Diego seemed embarrassed; he looked round to see that no one was
listening; then he gave a deep sigh; and at last, putting on the easy
tone of a man of the world, he said:--

"'These are a pair of king's sons, who were early left orphans; the name
of their father was King Pedro, the name of their mother, Maria de

"'After the great battle of Navarette, when Henry of Transtamare had
relieved his brother, King Pedro, of the troublesome burden of the

"'And likewise of that still more troublesome burden, which is called
life, then Don Henry's victorious magnanimity had to deal with his
brother's children.

"'He has adopted them, as an uncle should; and he has given them free
quarters in his own castle.

"'The room which he has assigned to them is certainly rather small, but
then it is cool in summer, and not intolerably cold in winter.

"'Their fare is rye-bread, which tastes as sweet as if the goddess Ceres
had baked it express for her beloved Proserpine.

"'Not unfrequently, too, he sends a scullion to them with
garbanzos,[173]and then the young gentlemen know that it is Sunday in

"'But it is not Sunday every day, and garbanzos do not come every day;
and the master of the hounds gives them the treat of his whip.

"'For the master of the hounds, who has under his superintendence the
kennels and the pack, and the nephews' cage also,

"'Is the unfortunate husband of that lemon-faced woman with the white
ruff, whom we remarked to-day at dinner.

"'And she scolds so sharp, that often her husband snatches his whip, and
rushes down here, and gives it to the dogs and to the poor little boys.

"'But his majesty has expressed his disapproval of such proceedings, and
has given orders that for the future his nephews are to be treated
differently from the dogs.

"'He has determined no longer to entrust the disciplining of his nephews
to a mercenary stranger, but to carry it out with his own hands.'

"Don Diego stopped abruptly; for the seneschal of the castle joined us,
and politely expressed his hope that we had dined to our satisfaction."

Observe how the irony of the whole of that, finishing with the grim
innuendo of the last stanza but one, is at once truly masterly and truly

No account of Heine is complete which does not notice the Jewish element
in him. His race he treated with the same freedom with which he treated
everything else, but he derived a great force from it, and no one knew
this better than he himself. He has excellently pointed out how in the
sixteenth century there was a double renascence,--a Hellenic renascence
and a Hebrew renascence--and how both have been great powers ever since.
He himself had in him both the spirit of Greece and the spirit of Judæa;
both these spirits reach the infinite, which is the true goal of all
poetry and all art,--the Greek spirit by beauty, the Hebrew spirit by
sublimity. By his perfection of literary form, by his love of clearness,
by his love of beauty, Heine is Greek; by his intensity, by his
untamableness, by his "longing which cannot be uttered,"[174] he is
Hebrew. Yet what Hebrew ever treated the things of the Hebrews like
this?--"There lives at Hamburg, in a one-roomed lodging in the Baker's
Broad Walk, a man whose name is Moses Lump; all the week he goes about
in wind and rain, with his pack on his back, to earn his few shillings;
but when on Friday evening he comes home, he finds the candlestick with
seven candles lighted, and the table covered with a fair white cloth,
and he puts away from him his pack and his cares, and he sits down to
table with his squinting wife and yet more squinting daughter, and eats
fish with them, fish which has been dressed in beautiful white garlic
sauce, sings therewith the grandest psalms of King David, rejoices with
his whole heart over the deliverance of the children of Israel out of
Egypt, rejoices, too, that all the wicked ones who have done the
children of Israel hurt, have ended by taking themselves off; that King
Pharaoh, Nebuchadnezzar, Haman, Antiochus, Titus, and all such people,
are well dead, while he, Moses Lump, is yet alive, and eating fish with
wife and daughter; and I can tell you, Doctor, the fish is delicate and
the man is happy, he has no call to torment himself about culture, he
sits contented in his religion and in his green bedgown, like Diogenes
in his tub, he contemplates with satisfaction his candles, which he on
no account will snuff for himself; and I can tell you, if the candles
burn a little dim, and the snuffers-woman, whose business it is to snuff
them, is not at hand, and Rothschild the Great were at that moment to
come in, with all his brokers, bill discounters, agents, and chief
clerks, with whom he conquers the world, and Rothschild were to say:
'Moses Lump, ask of me what favor you will, and it shall be granted
you';--Doctor, I am convinced, Moses Lump would quietly answer: 'Snuff
me those candles!' and Rothschild the Great would exclaim with
admiration: 'If I were not Rothschild, I would be Moses Lump.'"[175]

There Heine shows us his own people by its comic side; in the poem of
the _Princess Sabbath_[176] he shows it to us by a more serious side.
The Princess Sabbath, "the _tranquil Princess_, pearl and flower of all
beauty, fair as the Queen of Sheba, Solomon's bosom friend, that blue
stocking from Ethiopia, who wanted to shine by her _esprit_, and with
her wise riddles made herself in the long run a bore" (with Heine the
sarcastic turn is never far off), this princess has for her betrothed a
prince whom sorcery has transformed into an animal of lower race, the
Prince Israel.

"A dog with the desires of a dog, he wallows all the week long in the
filth and refuse of life, amidst the jeers of the boys in the street.

"But every Friday evening, at the twilight hour, suddenly the magic
passes off, and the dog becomes once more a human being.

"A man with the feelings of a man, with head and heart raised aloft, in
festal garb, in almost clean garb he enters the halls of his Father.

"Hail, beloved halls of my royal Father! Ye tents of Jacob, I kiss with
my lips your holy door-posts!"

Still more he shows us this serious side in his beautiful poem on Jehuda
ben Halevy,[176] a poet belonging to "the great golden age of the
Arabian, Old-Spanish, Jewish school of poets," a contemporary of the

"He, too,--the hero whom we sing,--Jehuda ben Halevy, too, had his
lady-love; but she was of a special sort.

"She was no Laura,[177] whose eyes, mortal stars, in the cathedral on
Good Friday kindled that world-renowned flame.

"She was no chatelaine, who in the blooming glory of her youth presided
at tourneys, and awarded the victor's crown.

"No casuistess in the Gay Science was she, no lady _doctrinaire_, who
delivered her oracles in the judgment-chamber of a Court of Love.[178]

"She, whom the Rabbi loved, was a woe-begone poor darling, a mourning
picture of desolation ... and her name was Jerusalem."

Jehuda ben Halevy, like the Crusaders, makes his pilgrimage to
Jerusalem; and there, amid the ruins, sings a song of Sion which has
become famous among his people:--

"That lay of pearled tears is the wide-famed Lament, which is sung in
all the scattered tents of Jacob throughout the world.

"On the ninth day of the month which is called Ab, on the anniversary of
Jerusalem's destruction by Titus Vespasianus.

"Yes, that is the song of Sion, which Jehuda ben Halevy sang with his
dying breath amid the holy ruins of Jerusalem.

"Barefoot, and in penitential weeds, he sat there upon the fragment of a
fallen column; down to his breast fell,

"Like a gray forest, his hair; and cast a weird shadow on the face which
looked out through it,--his troubled pale face, with the spiritual

"So he sat and sang, like unto a seer out of the foretime to look upon;
Jeremiah, the Ancient, seemed to have risen out of his grave.

"But a bold Saracen came riding that way, aloft on his barb, lolling in
his saddle, and brandishing a naked javelin;

"Into the breast of the poor singer he plunged his deadly shaft, and
shot away like a winged shadow.

"Quietly flowed the Rabbi's life-blood, quietly he sang his song to an
end; and his last dying sigh was Jerusalem!"

But, most of all, Heine shows us this side in a strange poem describing
a public dispute, before King Pedro and his Court, between a Jewish and
a Christian champion, on the merits of their respective faiths. In the
strain of the Jew all the fierceness of the old Hebrew genius, all its
rigid defiant Monotheism, appear:--

"Our God has not died like a poor innocent lamb for mankind; he is no
gushing philanthropist, no declaimer.

"Our God is not love, caressing is not his line; but he is a God of
thunder, and he is a God of revenge.

"The lightnings of his wrath strike inexorably every sinner, and the
sins of the fathers are often visited upon their remote posterity.

"Our God, he is alive, and in his hall of heaven he goes on existing
away, throughout all the eternities.

"Our God, too, is a God in robust health, no myth, pale and thin as
sacrificial wafers, or as shadows by Cocytus.

"Our God is strong. In his hand he upholds sun, moon, and stars; thrones
break, nations reel to and fro, when he knits his forehead.

"Our God loves music, the voice of the harp and the song of feasting;
but the sound of church-bells he hates, as he hates the grunting of

Nor must Heine's sweetest note be unheard,--his plaintive note, his note
of melancholy. Here is a strain which came from him as he lay, in the
winter night, on his "mattress-grave" at Paris, and let his thoughts
wander home to Germany, "the great child, entertaining herself with her
Christmas-tree." "Thou tookest,"--he cries to the German exile,--

"Thou tookest thy flight towards sunshine and happiness; naked and poor
returnest thou back. German truth, German shirts,--one gets them worn to
tatters in foreign parts.

"Deadly pale are thy looks, but take comfort, thou art at home! one lies
warm in German earth, warm as by the old pleasant fireside.

"Many a one, alas, became crippled, and could get home no more!
longingly he stretches out his arms; God have mercy upon him!"[180]

God have mercy upon him! for what remain of the days of the years of his
life are few and evil. "Can it be that I still actually exist? My body
is so shrunk that there is hardly anything of me left but my voice, and
my bed makes me think of the melodious grave of the enchanter Merlin,
which is in the forest of Broceliand in Brittany, under high oaks whose
tops shine like green flames to heaven. Ah, I envy thee those trees,
brother Merlin, and their fresh waving! for over my mattress-grave here
in Paris no green leaves rustle; and early and late I hear nothing but
the rattle of carriages, hammering, scolding, and the jingle of the
piano. A grave without rest, death without the privileges of the
departed, who have no longer any need to spend money, or to write
letters, or to compose books What a melancholy situation!"[181]

He died, and has left a blemished name; with his crying faults,--his
intemperate susceptibility, his unscrupulousness in passion, his
inconceivable attacks on his enemies, his still more inconceivable
attacks on his friends, his want of generosity, his sensuality, his
incessant mocking,--how could it be otherwise? Not only was he not one
of Mr. Carlyle's "respectable" people, he was profoundly
_dis_respectable; and not even the merit of not being a Philistine can
make up for a man's being that. To his intellectual deliverance there
was an addition of something else wanting, and that something else was
something immense: the old-fashioned, laborious, eternally needful moral
deliverance. Goethe says that he was deficient in _love_; to me his
weakness seems to be not so much a deficiency in love as a deficiency in
self-respect, in true dignity of character. But on this negative side of
one's criticism of a man of great genius, I for my part, when I have
once clearly marked that this negative side is and must be there, have
no pleasure in dwelling. I prefer to say of Heine something positive. He
is not an adequate interpreter of the modern world. He is only a
brilliant soldier in the Liberation War of humanity. But, such as he is,
he is (and posterity too, I am quite sure, will say this), in the
European poetry of that quarter of a century which follows the death of
Goethe, incomparably the most important figure.

What a spendthrift, one is tempted to cry, is Nature! With what
prodigality, in the march of generations, she employs human power,
content to gather almost always little result from it, sometimes none!
Look at Byron, that Byron whom the present generation of Englishmen are
forgetting; Byron, the greatest natural force, the greatest elementary
power, I cannot but think, which has appeared in our literature since
Shakespeare. And what became of this wonderful production of nature? He
shattered himself, he inevitably shattered himself to pieces against the
huge, black, cloud-topped, interminable precipice of British
Philistinism. But Byron, it may be said, was eminent only by his genius,
only by his inborn force and fire; he had not the intellectual equipment
of a supreme modern poet; except for his genius he was an ordinary
nineteenth-century English gentleman, with little culture and with no
ideas. Well, then, look at Heine. Heine had all the culture of Germany;
in his head fermented all the ideas of modern Europe. And what have we
got from Heine? A half-result, for want of moral balance, and of
nobleness of soul and character. That is what I say; there is so much
power, so many seem able to run well, so many give promise of running
well;--so few reach the goal, so few are chosen. _Many are called, few


Mr. Mill[183] says, in his book on Liberty, that "Christian morality is
in great part merely a protest against paganism; its ideal is negative
rather than positive, passive rather than active." He says, that, in
certain most important respects, "it falls far below the best morality
of the ancients." Now, the object of systems of morality is to take
possession of human life, to save it from being abandoned to passion or
allowed to drift at hazard, to give it happiness by establishing it in
the practice of virtue; and this object they seek to attain by
prescribing to human life fixed principles of action, fixed rules of
conduct. In its uninspired as well as in its inspired moments, in its
days of languor and gloom as well as in its days of sunshine and energy,
human life has thus always a clue to follow, and may always be making
way towards its goal. Christian morality has not failed to supply to
human life aids of this sort. It has supplied them far more abundantly
than many of its critics imagine. The most exquisite document after
those of the New Testament, of all the documents the Christian spirit
has ever inspired,--the _Imitation_,[184]--by no means contains the
whole of Christian morality; nay, the disparagers of this morality would
think themselves sure of triumphing if one agreed to look for it in the
_Imitation_ only. But even the _Imitation_ is full of passages like
these: "Vita sine proposito languida et vaga est";--"Omni die renovare
debemus propositum nostrum, dicentes: nunc hodie perfecte incipiamus,
quia nihil est quod hactenus fecimus";--"Secundum propositum nostrum
est cursus profectus nostri";--"Raro etiam unum vitium perfecte
vincimus, et ad _quotidianum_ profectum non accendimur"; "Semper aliquid
certi proponendum est"; "Tibi ipsi violentiam frequenter fac." (_A life
without a purpose is a languid, drifting thing;--Every day we ought to
renew our purpose, saying to ourselves: This day let us make a sound
beginning, for what we have hitherto done is nought;--Our improvement is
in proportion to our purpose;--We hardly ever manage to get completely
rid even of one fault, and do not set our hearts on _daily_
improvement;--Always place a definite purpose before thee;--Get the
habit of mastering thine inclination._) These are moral precepts, and
moral precepts of the best kind. As rules to hold possession of our
conduct, and to keep us in the right course through outward troubles and
inward perplexity, they are equal to the best ever furnished by the
great masters of morals--Epictetus and Marcus Aurelius.

But moral rules, apprehended as ideas first, and then rigorously
followed as laws, are, and must be, for the sage only. The mass of
mankind have neither force of intellect enough to apprehend them clearly
as ideas, nor force of character enough to follow them strictly as laws.
The mass of mankind can be carried along a course full of hardship for
the natural man, can be borne over the thousand impediments of the
narrow way, only by the tide of a joyful and bounding emotion. It is
impossible to rise from reading Epictetus[185]or Marcus Aurelius
without a sense of constraint and melancholy, without feeling that the
burden laid upon man is well-nigh greater than he can bear. Honor to the
sages who have felt this, and yet have borne it! Yet, even for the sage,
this sense of labor and sorrow in his march towards the goal constitutes
a relative inferiority; the noblest souls of whatever creed, the pagan
Empedocles[186] as well as the Christian Paul, have insisted on the
necessity of an inspiration, a joyful emotion, to make moral action
perfect; an obscure indication of this necessity is the one drop of
truth in the ocean of verbiage with which the controversy on
justification by faith has flooded the world. But, for the ordinary man,
this sense of labor and sorrow constitutes an absolute disqualification;
it paralyzes him; under the weight of it, he cannot make way towards the
goal at all. The paramount virtue of religion is, that it has _lighted
up_ morality; that it has supplied the emotion and inspiration needful
for carrying the sage along the narrow way perfectly, for carrying the
ordinary man along it at all. Even the religions with most dross in them
have had something of this virtue; but the Christian religion manifests
it with unexampled splendor. "Lead me, Zeus and Destiny!" says the
prayer of Epictetus, "whithersoever I am appointed to go; I will follow
without wavering; even though I turn coward and shrink, I shall have to
follow all the same."[187] The fortitude of that is for the strong, for
the few; even for them the spiritual atmosphere with which it surrounds
them is bleak and gray. But, "Let thy loving spirit lead me forth into
the land of righteousness";[188]--"The Lord shall be unto thee an
everlasting light, and thy God thy glory";[189]--"Unto you that fear my
name shall the sun of righteousness arise with healing in his wings,"
[190] says the Old Testament; "Born, not of blood, nor of the will of
the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God";[191]--"Except a man be
born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God";[192]--"Whatsoever is
born of God, overcometh the world,"[193] says the New. The ray of
sunshine is there, the glow of a divine warmth;--the austerity of the
sage melts away under it, the paralysis of the weak is healed; he who is
vivified by it renews his strength; "all things are possible to him
";[194] "he is a new creature."[195]

Epictetus says: "Every matter has two handles, one of which will bear
taking hold of, the other not. If thy brother sin against thee, lay not
hold of the matter by this, that he sins against thee; for by this
handle the matter will not bear taking hold of. But rather lay hold of
it by this, that he is thy brother, thy born mate; and thou wilt take
hold of it by what will bear handling."[196] Jesus, being asked whether
a man is bound to forgive his brother as often as seven times, answers:
"I say not unto thee, until seven times, but until seventy times seven."
[197] Epictetus here suggests to the reason grounds for forgiveness of
injuries which Jesus does not; but it is vain to say that Epictetus is
on that account a better moralist than Jesus, if the warmth, the
emotion, of Jesus's answer fires his hearer to the practice of
forgiveness of injuries, while the thought in Epictetus's leaves him
cold. So with Christian morality in general: its distinction is not that
it propounds the maxim, "Thou shalt love God and thy neighbor,"[198]
with more development, closer reasoning, truer sincerity, than other
moral systems; it is that it propounds this maxim with an inspiration
which wonderfully catches the hearer and makes him act upon it. It is
because Mr. Mill has attained to the perception of truths of this
nature, that he is,--instead of being, like the school from which he
proceeds, doomed to sterility,--a writer of distinguished mark and
influence, a writer deserving all attention and respect; it is (I must
be pardoned for saying) because he is not sufficiently leavened with
them, that he falls just short of being a great writer.

That which gives to the moral writings of the Emperor Marcus Aurelius
their peculiar character and charm, is their being suffused and softened
by something of this very sentiment whence Christian morality draws its
best power. Mr. Long[199] has recently published in a convenient form a
translation of these writings, and has thus enabled English readers to
judge Marcus Aurelius for themselves; he has rendered his countrymen a
real service by so doing. Mr. Long's reputation as a scholar is a
sufficient guarantee of the general fidelity and accuracy of his
translation; on these matters, besides, I am hardly entitled to speak,
and my praise is of no value. But that for which I and the rest of the
unlearned may venture to praise Mr. Long is this: that he treats Marcus
Aurelius's writings, as he treats all the other remains of Greek and
Roman antiquity which he touches, not as a dead and dry matter of
learning, but as documents with a side of modern applicability and
living interest, and valuable mainly so far as this side in them can be
made clear; that as in his notes on Plutarch's Roman Lives he deals with
the modern epoch of Cæsar and Cicero, not as food for schoolboys, but as
food for men, and men engaged in the current of contemporary life and
action, so in his remarks and essays on Marcus Aurelius he treats this
truly modern striver and thinker not as a Classical Dictionary hero, but
as a present source from which to draw "example of life, and instruction
of manners." Why may not a son of Dr. Arnold[200] say, what might
naturally here be said by any other critic, that in this lively and
fruitful way of considering the men and affairs of ancient Greece and
Rome, Mr. Long resembles Dr. Arnold?

One or two little complaints, however, I have against Mr. Long, and I
will get them off my mind at once. In the first place, why could he not
have found gentler and juster terms to describe the translation of his
predecessor, Jeremy Collier,[201]--the redoubtable enemy of stage
plays,--than these: "a most coarse and vulgar copy of the original?" As
a matter of taste, a translator should deal leniently with his
predecessor; but putting that out of the question, Mr. Long's language
is a great deal too hard. Most English people who knew Marcus Aurelius
before Mr. Long appeared as his introducer, knew him through Jeremy
Collier. And the acquaintance of a man like Marcus Aurelius is such an
imperishable benefit, that one can never lose a peculiar sense of
obligation towards the man who confers it. Apart from this claim upon
one's tenderness, however, Jeremy Collier's version deserves respect for
its genuine spirit and vigor, the spirit and vigor of the age of Dryden.
Jeremy Collier too, like Mr. Long, regarded in Marcus Aurelius the
living moralist, and not the dead classic; and his warmth of feeling
gave to his style an impetuosity and rhythm which from Mr. Long's style
(I do not blame it on that account) are absent. Let us place the two
side by side. The impressive opening of Marcus Aurelius's fifth book,
Mr. Long translates thus:--

"In the morning when thou risest unwillingly, let this thought be
present: I am rising to the work of a human being. Why then am I
dissatisfied if I am going to do the things for which I exist and for
which I was brought into the world? Or have I been made for this, to lie
in the bed clothes and keep myself warm?--But this is more pleasant.--
Dost thou exist then to take thy pleasure, and not at all for action or

Jeremy Collier has:--

"When you find an unwillingness to rise early in the morning, make this
short speech to yourself: 'I am getting up now to do the business of a
man; and am I out of humor for going about that which I was made for,
and for the sake of which I was sent into the world? Was I then designed
for nothing but to doze and batten beneath the counterpane? I thought
action had been the end of your being.'"

In another striking passage, again, Mr. Long has:--

"No longer wonder at hazard; for neither wilt thou read thy own memoirs,
nor the acts of the ancient Romans and Hellenes, and the selections from
books which thou wast reserving for thy old age. Hasten then to the end
which thou hast before thee, and, throwing away idle hopes, come to
thine own aid, if thou carest at all for thyself, while it is in thy

Here his despised predecessor has:--

"Don't go too far in your books and overgrasp yourself. Alas, you have
no time left to peruse your diary, to read over the Greek and Roman
history: come, don't flatter and deceive yourself; look to the main
chance, to the end and design of reading, and mind life more than
notion: I say, if you have a kindness for your person, drive at the
practice and help yourself, for that is in your own power."

It seems to me that here for style and force Jeremy Collier can (to say
the least) perfectly stand comparison with Mr. Long. Jeremy Collier's
real defect as a translator is not his coarseness and vulgarity, but his
imperfect acquaintance with Greek; this is a serious defect, a fatal
one; it rendered a translation like Mr. Long's necessary. Jeremy
Collier's work will now be forgotten, and Mr. Long stands master of the
field, but he may be content, at any rate, to leave his predecessor's
grave unharmed, even if he will not throw upon it, in passing, a handful
of kindly earth.

Another complaint I have against Mr. Long is, that he is not quite
idiomatic and simple enough. It is a little formal, at least, if not
pedantic, to say _Ethic_  and _Dialectic_, instead of _Ethics_ and
_Dialectics_, and to say "_Hellenes_ and Romans" instead of "_Greeks_
and Romans." And why, too,--the name of Antoninus being preoccupied by
Antoninus Pius,[203]--will Mr. Long call his author Marcus _Antoninus_
instead of Marcus _Aurelius?_ Small as these matters appear, they are
important when one has to deal with the general public, and not with a
small circle of scholars; and it is the general public that the
translator of a short masterpiece on morals, such as is the book of
Marcus Aurelius, should have in view; his aim should be to make Marcus
Aurelius's work as popular as the _Imitation_, and Marcus Aurelius's
name as familiar as Socrates's. In rendering or naming him, therefore,
punctilious accuracy of phrase is not so much to be sought as
accessibility and currency; everything which may best enable the Emperor
and his precepts _volitare per ora virum_[204] It is essential to
render him in language perfectly plain and unprofessional, and to call
him by the name by which he is best and most distinctly known. The
translators of the Bible talk of _pence_ and not _denarii_, and the
admirers of Voltaire do not celebrate him under the name of Arouet.[205]

But, after these trifling complaints are made, one must end, as one
began, in unfeigned gratitude to Mr. Long for his excellent and
substantial reproduction in English of an invaluable work. In general
the substantiality, soundness, and precision of Mr. Long's rendering are
(I will venture, after all, to give my opinion about them) as
conspicuous as the living spirit with which he treats antiquity; and
these qualities are particularly desirable in the translator of a work
like that of Marcus Aurelius, of which the language is often corrupt,
almost always hard and obscure. Any one who wants to appreciate Mr.
Long's merits as a translator may read, in the original and in Mr.
Long's translation, the seventh chapter of the tenth book; he will see
how, through all the dubiousness and involved manner of the Greek, Mr.
Long has firmly seized upon the clear thought which is certainly at the
bottom of that troubled wording, and, in distinctly rendering this
thought, has at the same time thrown round its expression a
characteristic shade of painfulness and difficulty which just suits it.
And Marcus Aurelius's book is one which, when it is rendered so
accurately as Mr. Long renders it, even those who know Greek tolerably
well may choose to read rather in the translation than in the original.
For not only are the contents here incomparably more valuable than the
external form, but this form, the Greek of a Roman, is not exactly one
of those styles which have a physiognomy, which are an essential part of
their author, which stamp an indelible impression of him on the reader's
mind. An old Lyons commentator finds, indeed, in Marcus Aurelius's
Greek, something characteristic, something specially firm and imperial;
but I think an ordinary mortal will hardly find this: he will find
crabbed Greek, without any great charm of distinct physiognomy. The
Greek of Thucydides and Plato has this charm, and he who reads them in a
translation, however accurate, loses it, and loses much in losing it;
but the Greek of Marcus Aurelius, like the Greek of the New Testament,
and even more than the Greek of the New Testament, is wanting in it. If
one could be assured that the English Testament were made perfectly
accurate, one might be almost content never to open a Greek Testament
again; and, Mr. Long's version of Marcus Aurelius being what it is, an
Englishman who reads to live, and does not live to read, may henceforth
let the Greek original repose upon its shelf.

The man whose thoughts Mr. Long has thus faithfully reproduced, is
perhaps the most beautiful figure in history. He is one of those
consoling and hope-inspiring marks, which stand forever to remind our
weak and easily discouraged race how high human goodness and
perseverance have once been carried, and may be carried again. The
interest of mankind is peculiarly attracted by examples of signal
goodness in high places; for that testimony to the worth of goodness is
the most striking which is borne by those to whom all the means of
pleasure and self-indulgence lay open, by those who had at their command
the kingdoms of the world and the glory of them. Marcus Aurelius was the
ruler of the grandest of empires; and he was one of the best of men.
Besides him, history presents one or two sovereigns eminent for their
goodness, such as Saint Louis or Alfred. But Marcus Aurelius has, for us
moderns, this great superiority in interest over Saint Louis or Alfred,
that he lived and acted in a state of society modern by its essential
characteristics, in an epoch akin to our own, in a brilliant centre of
civilization. Trajan talks of "our enlightened age" just as glibly as
the _Times_[206] talks of it. Marcus Aurelius thus becomes for us a man
like ourselves, a man in all things tempted as we are. Saint Louis[207]
inhabits an atmosphere of mediæval Catholicism, which the man of the
nineteenth century may admire, indeed, may even passionately wish to
inhabit, but which, strive as he will, he cannot really inhabit. Alfred
belongs to a state of society (I say it with all deference to the
_Saturday Review_[208] critic who keeps such jealous watch over the
honor of our Saxon ancestors) half barbarous. Neither Alfred nor Saint
Louis can be morally and intellectually as near to us as Marcus

The record of the outward life of this admirable man has in it little of
striking incident. He was born at Rome on the 26th of April, in the year
121 of the Christian era. He was nephew and son-in-law to his
predecessor on the throne, Antoninus Pius. When Antoninus died, he was
forty years old, but from the time of his earliest manhood he had
assisted in administering public affairs. Then, after his uncle's death
in 161, for nineteen years he reigned as emperor. The barbarians were
pressing on the Roman frontier, and a great part of Marcus Aurelius's
nineteen years of reign was passed in campaigning. His absences from
Rome were numerous and long. We hear of him in Asia Minor, Syria, Egypt,
Greece; but, above all, in the countries on the Danube, where the war
with the barbarians was going on,--in Austria, Moravia, Hungary. In
these countries much of his Journal seems to have been written; parts of
it are dated from them; and there, a few weeks before his fifty-ninth
birthday, he fell sick and died.[209] The record of him on which his
fame chiefly rests is the record of his inward life,--his _Journal_, or
_Commentaries_, or _Meditations_, or _Thoughts_, for by all these names
has the work been called. Perhaps the most interesting of the records of
his outward life is that which the first book of this work supplies,
where he gives an account of his education, recites the names of those
to whom he is indebted for it, and enumerates his obligations to each of
them. It is a refreshing and consoling picture, a priceless treasure for
those, who, sick of the "wild and dreamlike trade of blood and guile,"
which seems to be nearly the whole of what history has to offer to our
view, seek eagerly for that substratum of right thinking and well-doing
which in all ages must surely have somewhere existed, for without it the
continued life of humanity would have been impossible. "From my mother I
learnt piety and beneficence, and abstinence not only from evil deeds
but even from evil thoughts; and further, simplicity in my way of
living, far removed from the habits of the rich." Let us remember that,
the next time we are reading the sixth satire of Juvenal.[210] "From my
tutor I learnt" (hear it, ye tutors of princes!) "endurance of labor,
and to want little and to work with my own hands, and not to meddle with
other people's affairs, and not to be ready to listen to slander." The
vices and foibles of the Greek sophist or rhetorician--the _Græculus
esuriens_[211]--are in everybody's mind; but he who reads Marcus
Aurelius's account of his Greek teachers and masters, will understand
how it is that, in spite of the vices and foibles of individual
_Græculi_, the education of the human race owes to Greece a debt which
can never be overrated. The vague and colorless praise of history leaves
on the mind hardly any impression of Antoninus Pius: it is only from the
private memoranda of his nephew that we learn what a disciplined,
hard-working, gentle, wise, virtuous man he was; a man who, perhaps,
interests mankind less than his immortal nephew only because he has left
in writing no record of his inner life,--_caret quia vate sacro_.[212]

Of the outward life and circumstances of Marcus Aurelius, beyond these
notices which he has himself supplied, there are few of much interest
and importance. There is the fine anecdote of his speech when he heard
of the assassination of the revolted Avidius Cassius,[213] against whom
he was marching; _he was sorry_, he said, _to be deprived of the
pleasure of pardoning him_. And there are one or two more anecdotes of
him which show the same spirit. But the great record for the outward
life of a man who has left such a record of his lofty inward aspirations
as that which Marcus Aurelius has left, is the clear consenting voice of
all his contemporaries,--high and low, friend and enemy, pagan and
Christian,--in praise of his sincerity, justice, and goodness. The
world's charity does not err on the side of excess, and here was a man
occupying the most conspicuous station in the world, and professing the
highest possible standard of conduct;--yet the world was obliged to
declare that he walked worthily of his profession. Long after his death,
his bust was to be seen in the houses of private men through the wide
Roman empire. It may be the vulgar part of human nature which busies
itself with the semblance and doings of living sovereigns, it is its
nobler part which busies itself with those of the dead; these busts of
Marcus Aurelius, in the homes of Gaul, Britain, and Italy, bear witness,
not to the inmates' frivolous curiosity about princes and palaces, but
to their reverential memory of the passage of a great man upon the

Two things, however, before one turns from the outward to the inward
life of Marcus Aurelius, force themselves upon one's notice, and demand
a word of comment; he persecuted the Christians, and he had for his son
the vicious and brutal Commodus.[214] The persecution at Lyons, in which
Attalus[215] and Pothinus suffered, the persecution at Smyrna, in which
Polycarp[216] suffered, took place in his reign. Of his humanity, of his
tolerance, of his horror of cruelty and violence, of his wish to refrain
from severe measures against the Christians, of his anxiety to temper
the severity of these measures when they appeared to him indispensable,
there is no doubt: but, on the one hand, it is certain that the letter,
attributed to him, directing that no Christian should be punished for
being a Christian, is spurious; it is almost certain that his alleged
answer to the authorities of Lyons, in which he directs that Christians
persisting in their profession shall be dealt with according to law, is
genuine. Mr. Long seems inclined to try and throw doubt over the
persecution at Lyons, by pointing out that the letter of the Lyons
Christians relating it, alleges it to have been attended by miraculous
and incredible incidents. "A man," he says, "can only act consistently
by accepting all this letter or rejecting it all, and we cannot blame
him for either." But it is contrary to all experience to say that
because a fact is related with incorrect additions, and embellishments,
therefore it probably never happened at all; or that it is not, in
general, easy for an impartial mind to distinguish between the fact and
the embellishments. I cannot doubt that the Lyons persecution took
place, and that the punishment of Christians for being Christians was
sanctioned by Marcus Aurelius. But then I must add that nine modern
readers out of ten, when they read this, will, I believe, have a
perfectly false notion of what the moral action of Marcus Aurelius, in
sanctioning that punishment, really was. They imagine Trajan, or
Antoninus Pius, or Marcus Aurelius, fresh from the perusal of the
Gospel, fully aware of the spirit and holiness of the Christian saints,
ordering their extermination because he loved darkness rather than
light. Far from this, the Christianity which these emperors aimed at
repressing was, in their conception of it, something philosophically
contemptible, politically subversive, and morally abominable. As men,
they sincerely regarded it much as well-conditioned people, with us,
regard Mormonism; as rulers, they regarded it much as Liberal statesmen,
with us, regard the Jesuits. A kind of Mormonism, constituted as a vast
secret society, with obscure aims of political and social subversion,
was what Antoninus Pius and Marcus Aurelius believed themselves to be
repressing when they punished Christians. The early Christian apologists
again and again declare to us under what odious imputations the
Christians lay, how general was the belief that these imputations were
well-grounded, how sincere was the horror which the belief inspired. The
multitude, convinced that the Christians were atheists who ate human
flesh and thought incest no crime, displayed against them a fury so
passionate as to embarrass and alarm their rulers. The severe
expressions of Tacitus, _exitiabilis superstitio--odio humani generis
convicti_,[217] show how deeply the prejudices of the multitude imbued
the educated class also. One asks oneself with astonishment how a
doctrine so benign as that of Jesus Christ can have incurred
misrepresentation so monstrous. The inner and moving cause of the
misrepresentation lay, no doubt, in this,--that Christianity was a new
spirit in the Roman world, destined to act in that world as its
dissolvent; and it was inevitable that Christianity in the Roman world,
like democracy in the modern world, like every new spirit with a similar
mission assigned to it, should at its first appearance occasion an
instinctive shrinking and repugnance in the world which it was to
dissolve. The outer and palpable causes of the misrepresentation were,
for the Roman public at large, the confounding of the Christians with
the Jews, that isolated, fierce, and stubborn race, whose stubbornness,
fierceness, and isolation, real as they were, the fancy of a civilized
Roman yet further exaggerated; the atmosphere of mystery and novelty
which surrounded the Christian rites; the very simplicity of Christian
theism. For the Roman statesman, the cause of mistake lay in that
character of secret assemblages which the meetings of the Christian
community wore, under a State-system as jealous of unauthorized
associations as is the State-system of modern France.

A Roman of Marcus Aurelius's time and position could not well see the
Christians except through the mist of these prejudices. Seen through
such a mist, the Christians appeared with a thousand faults not their
own; but it has not been sufficiently remarked that faults really their
own many of them assuredly appeared with besides, faults especially
likely to strike such an observer as Marcus Aurelius, and to confirm him
in the prejudices of his race, station, and rearing. We look back upon
Christianity after it has proved what a future it bore within it, and
for us the sole representatives of its early struggles are the pure and
devoted spirits through whom it proved this; Marcus Aurelius saw it with
its future yet unshown, and with the tares among its professed progeny
not less conspicuous than the wheat. Who can doubt that among the
professing Christians of the second century, as among the professing
Christians of the nineteenth, there was plenty of folly, plenty of rabid
nonsense, plenty of gross fanaticism? who will even venture to affirm
that, separated in great measure from the intellect and civilization of
the world for one or two centuries, Christianity, wonderful as have been
its fruits, had the development perfectly worthy of its inestimable
germ? Who will venture to affirm that, by the alliance of Christianity
with the virtue and intelligence of men like the Antonines,--of the best
product of Greek and Roman civilization, while Greek and Roman
civilization had yet life and power,--Christianity and the world, as
well as the Antonines themselves, would not have been gainers? That
alliance was not to be. The Antonines lived and died with an utter
misconception of Christianity; Christianity grew up in the Catacombs,
not on the Palatine. And Marcus Aurelius incurs no moral reproach by
having authorized the punishment of the Christians; he does not thereby
become in the least what we mean by a _persecutor_. One may concede that
it was impossible for him to see Christianity as it really was;--as
impossible as for even the moderate and sensible Fleury[218] to see the
Antonines as they really were;--one may concede that the point of view
from which Christianity appeared something anti-civil and anti-social,
which the State had the faculty to judge and the duty to suppress, was
inevitably his. Still, however, it remains true that this sage, who made
perfection his aim and reason his law, did Christianity an immense
injustice and rested in an idea of State-attributes which was illusive.
And this is, in truth, characteristic of Marcus Aurelius, that he is
blameless, yet, in a certain sense, unfortunate; in his character,
beautiful as it is, there is something melancholy, circumscribed, and

For of his having such a son as Commodus, too, one must say that he is
not to be blamed on that account, but that he is unfortunate.
Disposition and temperament are inexplicable things; there are natures
on which the best education and example are thrown away; excellent
fathers may have, without any fault of theirs, incurably vicious sons.
It is to be remembered, also, that Commodus was left, at the perilous
age of nineteen, master of the world; while his father, at that age, was
but beginning a twenty years' apprenticeship to wisdom, labor, and
self-command, under the sheltering teachership of his uncle Antoninus.
Commodus was a prince apt to be led by favorites; and if the story is
true which says that he left, all through his reign, the Christians
untroubled, and ascribes this lenity to the influence of his mistress
Marcia, it shows that he could be led to good as well as to evil. But
for such a nature to be left at a critical age with absolute power, and
wholly without good counsel and direction, was the more fatal. Still one
cannot help wishing that the example of Marcus Aurelius could have
availed more with his own only son. One cannot but think that with such
virtue as his there should go, too, the ardor which removes mountains,
and that the ardor which removes mountains might have even won Commodus.
The word _ineffectual_ again rises to one's mind; Marcus Aurelius saved
his own soul by his righteousness, and he could do no more. Happy they
who can do this! but still happier, who can do more!

Yet, when one passes from his outward to his inward life, when one turns
over the pages of his _Meditations_,--entries jotted down from day to
day, amid the business of the city or the fatigues of the camp, for his
own guidance and support, meant for no eye but his own, without the
slightest attempt at style, with no care, even, for correct writing, not
to be surpassed for naturalness and sincerity,--all disposition to carp
and cavil dies away, and one is overpowered by the charm of a character
of such purity, delicacy, and virtue. He fails neither in small things
nor in great; he keeps watch over himself both that the great springs of
action may be right in him, and that the minute details of action may be
right also. How admirable in a hard-tasked ruler, and a ruler too, with
a passion for thinking and reading, is such a memorandum as the

"Not frequently nor without necessity to say to any one, or to write in
a letter, that I have no leisure; nor continually to excuse the neglect
of duties required by our relation to those with whom we live, by
alleging urgent occupation."[219]

And, when that ruler is a Roman emperor, what an "idea" is this to be
written down and meditated by him:--

"The idea of a polity in which there is the same law for all, a polity
administered with regard to equal rights and equal freedom of speech,
and the idea of a kingly government which respects most of all the
freedom of the governed."[220]  And, for all men who "drive at
practice," what practical rules may not one accumulate out of these

"The greatest part of what we say or do being unnecessary, if a man
takes this away, he will have more leisure and less uneasiness.
Accordingly, on every occasion a man should ask himself: 'Is this one of
the unnecessary things?' Now a man should take away not only unnecessary
acts, but also unnecessary thoughts, for thus superfluous acts will not
follow after."[221]

And again:--

"We ought to check in the series of our thoughts everything that is
without a purpose and useless, but most of all the over curious feeling
and the malignant; and a man should use himself to think of those things
only about which if one should suddenly ask, 'What hast thou now in thy
thoughts?' with perfect openness thou mightest immediately answer, 'This
or That'; so that from thy words it should be plain that everything in
thee is simple and benevolent, and such as befits a social animal, and
one that cares not for thoughts about sensual enjoyments, or any rivalry
or envy and suspicion, or anything else for which thou wouldst blush if
thou shouldst say thou hadst it in thy mind."[222]

So, with a stringent practicalness worthy of Franklin, he discourses on
his favorite text, _Let nothing be done without a purpose_. But it is
when he enters the region where Franklin cannot follow him, when he
utters his thoughts on the ground-motives of human action, that he is
most interesting; that he becomes the unique, the incomparable Marcus
Aurelius. Christianity uses language very liable to be misunderstood
when it seems to tell men to do good, not, certainly, from the vulgar
motives of worldly interest, or vanity, or love of human praise, but
"that their Father which, seeth in secret may reward them openly." The
motives of reward and punishment have come, from the misconception of
language of this kind, to be strangely overpressed by many Christian
moralists, to the deterioration and disfigurement of Christianity.
Marcus Aurelius says, truly and nobly:--

"One man, when he has done a service to another, is ready to set it down
to his account as a favor conferred. Another is not ready to do this,
but still in his own mind he thinks of the man as his debtor, and he
knows what he has done. A third in a manner does not even know what he
has done, _but he is like a vine which has produced grapes, and seeks
for nothing more after it has once produced its proper fruit_. As a
horse when he has run, a dog when he has caught the game, a bee when it
has made its honey, so a man when he has done a good act, does not call
out for others to come and see, but he goes on to another act, as a vine
goes on to produce again the grapes in season. Must a man, then, be one
of these, who in a manner acts thus without observing it? Yes."[223]

And again:--

"What more dost thou want when thou hast done a man a service? Art thou
not content that thou hast done something conformable to thy nature, and
dost thou seek to be paid for it, _just as if the eye demanded a
recompense for seeing, or the feet for walking_?"[224]

Christianity, in order to match morality of this strain, has to correct
its apparent offers of external reward, and to say: _The kingdom of God
is within you._

I have said that it is by its accent of emotion that the morality of
Marcus Aurelius acquires a special character, and reminds one of
Christian morality. The sentences of Seneca[225] are stimulating to the
intellect; the sentences of Epictetus are fortifying to the character;
the sentences of Marcus Aurelius find their way to the soul. I have said
that religious emotion has the power to _light up_ morality: the emotion
of Marcus Aurelius does not quite light up his morality, but it suffuses
it; it has not power to melt the clouds of effort and austerity quite
away, but it shines through them and glorifies them; it is a spirit, not
so much of gladness and elation, as of gentleness and sweetness; a
delicate and tender sentiment, which is less than joy and more than
resignation. He says that in his youth he learned from Maximus, one of
his teachers, "cheerfulness in all circumstances as well as in illness;
_and a just admixture in the moral character of sweetness and dignity_":
and it is this very admixture of sweetness with his dignity which makes
him so beautiful a moralist. It enables him to carry even into his
observation of nature, a delicate penetration, a sympathetic tenderness,
worthy of Wordsworth; the spirit of such a remark as the following has
hardly a parallel, so far as my knowledge goes, in the whole range of
Greek and Roman literature:--

"Figs, when they are quite ripe, gape open; and in the ripe olives the
very circumstance of their being near to rottenness adds a peculiar
beauty to the fruit. And the ears of corn bending down, and the lion's
eyebrows, and the foam which flows from the mouth of wild boars, and
many other things,--though they are far from being beautiful, in a
certain sense,--still, because they come in the course of nature, have a
beauty in them, and they please the mind; so that if a man should have a
feeling and a deeper insight with respect to the things which are
produced in the universe, there is hardly anything which comes in the
course of nature which will not seem to him to be in a manner disposed
so as to give pleasure."[226]

But it is when his strain passes to directly moral subjects that his
delicacy and sweetness lend to it the greatest charm. Let those who can
feel the beauty of spiritual refinement read this, the reflection of an
emperor who prized mental superiority highly:--

"Thou sayest, 'Men cannot admire the sharpness of thy wits.' Be it so;
but there are many other things of which thou canst not say, 'I am not
formed for them by nature.' Show those qualities, then, which are
altogether in thy power,--sincerity, gravity, endurance of labor,
aversion to pleasure, contentment with thy portion and with few things,
benevolence, frankness, no love of superfluity, freedom from trifling,
magnanimity. Dost thou not see how many qualities thou art at once able
to exhibit, as to which there is no excuse of natural incapacity and
unfitness, and yet thou still remainest voluntarily below the mark? Or
art thou compelled, through being defectively furnished by nature, to
murmur, and to be mean, and to flatter, and to find fault with thy poor
body, and to try to please men, and to make great display, and to be so
restless in thy mind? No, indeed; but thou mightest have been delivered
from these things long ago. Only, if in truth thou canst be charged with
being rather slow and dull of comprehension, thou must exert thyself
about this also, not neglecting nor yet taking pleasure in thy dulness."

The same sweetness enables him to fix his mind, when he sees the
isolation and moral death caused by sin, not on the cheerless thought of
the misery of this condition, but on the inspiriting thought that man is
blest with the power to escape from it:--

"Suppose that thou hast detached thyself from the natural unity,--for
thou wast made by nature a part, but thou hast cut thyself off,--yet
here is this beautiful provision, that it is in thy power again to unite
thyself. God has allowed this to no other part,--after it has been
separated and cut asunder, to come together again. But consider the
goodness with which he has privileged man; for he has put it in his
power, when he has been separated, to return and to be united and to
resume his place."[228]

It enables him to control even the passion for retreat and solitude, so
strong in a soul like his, to which the world could offer no abiding

"Men seek retreat for themselves, houses in the country, seashores, and
mountains; and thou, too, art wont to desire such things very much. But
this is altogether a mark of the most common sort of men, for it is in
thy power whenever thou shalt choose to retire into thyself. For nowhere
either with more quiet or more freedom from trouble does a man retire
than into his own soul, particularly when he has within him such
thoughts that by looking into them he is immediately in perfect
tranquillity. Constantly, then, give to thyself this retreat, and renew
thyself; and let thy principles be brief and fundamental, which as soon
as thou shalt recur to them, will be sufficient to cleanse the soul
completely, and to send thee back free from all discontent with the
things to which thou returnest."[229]

Against this feeling of discontent and weariness, so natural to the
great for whom there seems nothing left to desire or to strive after,
but so enfeebling to them, so deteriorating, Marcus Aurelius never
ceased to struggle. With resolute thankfulness he kept in remembrance
the blessings of his lot; the true blessings of it, not the false:--

"I have to thank Heaven that I was subjected to a ruler and a father
(Antoninus Pius) who was able to take away all pride from me, and to
bring me to the knowledge that it is possible for a man to live in a
palace without either guards, or embroidered dresses, or any show of
this kind; but that it is in such a man's power to bring himself very
near to the fashion of a private person, without being for this reason
either meaner in thought or more remiss in action with respect to the
things which must be done for public interest.... I have to be thankful
that my children have not been stupid nor deformed in body; that I did
not make more proficiency in rhetoric, poetry, and the other studies, by
which I should perhaps have been completely engrossed, if I had seen
that I was making great progress in them; ... that I knew Apollonius,
Rusticus, Maximus; ... that I received clear and frequent impressions
about living according to nature, and what kind of a life that is, so
that, so far as depended on Heaven, and its gifts, help, and
inspiration, nothing hindered me from forthwith living according to
nature, though I still fall short of it through my own fault, and
through not observing the admonitions of Heaven, and, I may almost say,
its direct instructions; that my body has held out so long in such a
kind of life as mine; that though it was my mother's lot to die young,
she spent the last years of her life with me; that whenever I wished to
help any man in his need, I was never told that I had not the means of
doing it; that, when I had an inclination to philosophy, I did not fall
into the hands of a sophist."[230]

And, as he dwelt with gratitude on these helps and blessings vouchsafed
to him, his mind (so, at least, it seems to me) would sometimes revert
with awe to the perils and temptations of the lonely height where he
stood, to the lives of Tiberius, Caligula, Nero, Domitian,[231] in their
hideous blackness and ruin; and then he wrote down for himself such a
warning entry as this, significant and terrible in its abruptness:--

"A black character, a womanish character, a stubborn character, bestial,
childish, animal, stupid, counterfeit, scurrilous, fraudulent,

Or this:--

"About what am I now employing my soul? On every occasion I must ask
myself this question, and inquire, What have I now in this part of me
which they call the ruling principle, and whose soul have I now?--that
of a child, or of a young man, or of a weak woman, or of a tyrant, or of
one of the lower animals in the service of man, or of a wild

The character he wished to attain he knew well, and beautifully he has
marked it, and marked, too, his sense of shortcoming:--

"When thou hast assumed these names,--good, modest, true, rational,
equal-minded, magnanimous,--take care that thou dost not change these
names; and, if thou shouldst lose them, quickly return to them. If thou
maintainest thyself in possession of these names without desiring that
others should call thee by them, thou wilt be another being, and wilt
enter on another life. For to continue to be such as thou hast hitherto
been, and to be torn in pieces and defiled in such a life, is the
character of a very stupid man, and one overfond of his life, and like
those half-devoured fighters with wild beasts, who though covered with
wounds and gore still entreat to be kept to the following day, though
they will be exposed in the same state to the same claws and bites.
Therefore fix thyself in the possession of these few names: and if thou
art able to abide in them, abide as if thou wast removed to the Happy

For all his sweetness and serenity, however, man's point of life
"between two infinities" (of that expression Marcus Aurelius is the real
owner) was to him anything but a Happy Island, and the performances on
it he saw through no veils of illusion. Nothing is in general more
gloomy and monotonous than declamations on the hollowness and
transitoriness of human life and grandeur: but here, too, the great
charm of Marcus Aurelius, his emotion, comes in to relieve the monotony
and to break through the gloom; and even on this eternally used topic he
is imaginative, fresh, and striking:--

"Consider, for example, the times of Vespasian. Thou wilt see all these
things, people marrying, bringing up children, sick, dying, warring,
feasting, trafficking, cultivating the ground, flattering, obstinately
arrogant, suspecting, plotting, wishing for somebody to die, grumbling
about the present, loving, heaping up treasure, desiring to be consuls
or kings. Well then that life of these people no longer exists at all.
Again, go to the times of Trajan. All is again the same. Their life too
is gone. But chiefly thou shouldst think of those whom thou hast thyself
known distracting themselves about idle things, neglecting to do what
was in accordance with their proper constitution, and to hold firmly to
this and to be content with it."[235]


"The things which are much valued in life are empty, and rotten, and
trifling; and people are like little dogs, biting one another, and
little children quarrelling, crying, and then straightway laughing. But
fidelity, and modesty, and justice, and truth, are fled

  'Up to Olympus from the wide-spread earth.'

What then is there which still detains thee here?"[236]

And once more:--

"Look down from above on the countless herds of men, and their countless
solemnities, and the infinitely varied voyagings in storms and calms,
and the differences among those who are born, who live together, and
die. And consider too the life lived by others in olden time, and the
life now lived among barbarous nations, and how many know not even thy
name, and how many will soon forget it, and how they who perhaps now are
praising thee will very soon blame thee and that neither a posthumous
name is of any value, nor reputation, nor anything else."[237]

He recognized, indeed, that (to use his own words) "the prime principle
in man's constitution is the social";[238] and he labored sincerely to
make not only his acts towards his fellow-men, but his thoughts also,
suitable to this conviction:--

"When thou wishest to delight thyself, think of the virtues of those who
live with thee; for instance, the activity of one, and the modesty of
another, and the liberality of a third, and some other good quality of a

Still, it is hard for a pure and thoughtful man to live in a state of
rapture at the spectacle afforded to him by his fellow-creatures; above
all it is hard, when such a man is placed as Marcus Aurelius was placed,
and has had the meanness and perversity of his fellow-creatures thrust,
in no common measure, upon his notice,--has had, time after time, to
experience how "within ten days thou wilt seem a god to those to whom
thou art now a beast and an ape." His true strain of thought as to his
relations with his fellow-men is rather the following. He has been
enumerating the higher consolations which may support a man at the
approach of death, and he goes on:--

"But if thou requirest also a vulgar kind of comfort which shall reach
thy heart, thou wilt be made best reconciled to death by observing the
objects from which thou art going to be removed, and the morals of those
with whom thy soul will no longer be mingled. For it is no way right to
be offended with men, but it is thy duty to care for them and to bear
with them gently; and yet to remember that thy departure will not be
from men who have the same principles as thyself. For this is the only
thing, if there be any, which could draw us the contrary way and attach
us to life, to be permitted to live with those who have the same
principles as ourselves. But now thou seest how great is the distress
caused by the difference of those who live together, so that thou mayest
say: 'Come quick, O death, lest perchance I too should forget

_O faithless and perverse generation! how long shall I be with you? how
long shall I suffer you?_[241] Sometimes this strain rises even to

"Short is the little which remains to thee of life. Live as on a
mountain. Let men see, let them know, a real man, who lives as he was
meant to live. If they cannot endure him, let them kill him. For that is
better than to live as men do."[242]

It is remarkable how little of a merely local and temporary character,
how little of those _scoriæ_ which a reader has to clear away before he
gets to the precious ore, how little that even admits of doubt or
question, the morality of Marcus Aurelius exhibits. Perhaps as to one
point we must make an exception. Marcus Aurelius is fond of urging as a
motive for man's cheerful acquiescence in whatever befalls him, that
"whatever happens to every man _is for the interest of the
universal_";[243] that the whole contains nothing _which is not for its
advantage_; that everything which happens to a man is to be accepted,
"even if it seems disagreeable, _because it leads to the health of the
universe_."[244] And the whole course of the universe, he adds, has a
providential reference to man's welfare: "_all other things have been
made for the sake of rational beings_."[245] Religion has in all ages
freely used this language, and it is not religion which will object to
Marcus Aurelius's use of it; but science can hardly accept as severely
accurate this employment of the terms _interest_ and _advantage_. To a
sound nature and a clear reason the proposition that things happen "for
the interest of the universal," as men conceive of interest, may seem to
have no meaning at all, and the proposition that "all things have been
made for the sake of rational beings" may seem to be false. Yet even to
this language, not irresistibly cogent when it is thus absolutely used,
Marcus Aurelius gives a turn which makes it true and useful, when he
says: "The ruling part of man can make a material for itself out of that
which opposes it, as fire lays hold of what falls into it, and rises
higher by means of this very material";[246]--when he says: "What else
are all things except exercises for the reason? Persevere then until
thou shalt have made all things thine own, as the stomach which is
strengthened makes all things its own, as the blazing fire makes flame
and brightness out of everything that is thrown into it";[247]--when he
says: "Thou wilt not cease to be miserable till thy mind is in such a
condition, that, what luxury is to those who enjoy pleasure, such shall
be to thee, in every matter which presents itself, the doing of the
things which are conformable to man's constitution; for a man ought to
consider as an enjoyment everything which it is in his power to do
according to his own nature,--and it is in his power everywhere."[248]
In this sense it is, indeed, most true that "all things have been made
for the sake of rational beings"; that "all things work together for

In general, however, the action Marcus Aurelius prescribes is action
which every sound nature must recognize as right, and the motives he
assigns are motives which every clear reason must recognize as valid.
And so he remains the especial friend and comforter of all clear-headed
and scrupulous, yet pure-hearted and upward striving men, in those ages
most especially that walk by sight, not by faith, but yet have no open
vision. He cannot give such souls, perhaps, all they yearn for, but he
gives them much; and what he gives them, they can receive.

Yet no, it is not for what he thus gives them that such souls love him
most! it is rather because of the emotion which lends to his voice so
touching an accent, it is because he too yearns as they do for something
unattained by him. What an affinity for Christianity had this persecutor
of the Christians! The effusion of Christianity, its relieving tears,
its happy self-sacrifice, were the very element, one feels, for which
his soul longed; they were near him, they brushed him, he touched them,
he passed them by. One feels, too, that the Marcus Aurelius one reads
must still have remained, even had Christianity been fully known to him,
in a great measure himself; he would have been no Justin;--but how would
Christianity have affected him? in what measure would it have changed
him? Granted that he might have found, like the _Alogi_[249] of modern
times, in the most beautiful of the Gospels, the Gospel which has
leavened Christendom most powerfully, the Gospel of St. John, too much
Greek metaphysics, too much _gnosis_;[250] granted that this Gospel
might have looked too like what he knew already to be a total surprise
to him: what, then, would he have said to the Sermon on the Mount, to
the twenty-sixth chapter of St. Matthew? What would have become of his
notions of the _exitiabilis superstitio_, of the "obstinacy of the
Christians"? Vain question! yet the greatest charm of Marcus Aurelius is
that he makes us ask it. We see him wise, just, self-governed, tender,
thankful, blameless; yet, with all this, agitated, stretching out his
arms for something beyond,--_tendentemque manus ripæ ulterioris


If I were asked where English poetry got these three things, its turn
for style, its turn for melancholy, and its turn for natural magic, for
catching and rendering the charm of nature in a wonderfully near and
vivid way,--I should answer, with some doubt, that it got much of its
turn for style from a Celtic source; with less doubt, that it got much
of its melancholy from a Celtic source; with no doubt at all, that from
a Celtic source it got nearly all its natural magic.

Any German with penetration and tact in matters of literary criticism
will own that the principal deficiency of German poetry is in style;
that for style, in the highest sense, it shows but little feeling. Take
the eminent masters of style, the poets who best give the idea of what
the peculiar power which lies in style is--Pindar, Virgil, Dante,
Milton. An example of the peculiar effect which these poets produce, you
can hardly give from German poetry. Examples enough you can give from
German poetry of the effect produced by genius, thought, and feeling
expressing themselves in clear language, simple language, passionate
language, eloquent language, with harmony and melody: but not of the
peculiar effect exercised by eminent power of style. Every reader of
Dante can at once call to mind what the peculiar effect I mean is; I
spoke of it in my lectures on translating Homer, and there I took an
example of it from Dante, who perhaps manifests it more eminently than
any other poet.

But from Milton, too, one may take examples of it abundantly; compare
this from Milton:--

      "... nor sometimes forget
  Those other two equal with me in fate,
  So were I equall'd with them in renown,
  Blind Thamyris and blind Mæonides--"[253]

with this from Goethe:--

  "Es bildet ein Talent sich in der Stille,
  Sich ein Character in dem Strom der Welt."[254]

Nothing can be better in its way than the style in which Goethe there
presents his thought, but it is the style of prose as much as of poetry;
it is lucid, harmonious, earnest, eloquent, but it has not received that
peculiar kneading, heightening, and recasting which is observable in the
style of the passage from Milton--a style which seems to have for its
cause a certain pressure of emotion, and an ever-surging, yet bridled,
excitement in the poet, giving a special intensity to his way of
delivering himself. In poetical races and epochs this turn for style is
peculiarly observable; and perhaps it is only on condition of having
this somewhat heightened and difficult manner, so different from the
plain manner of prose, that poetry gets the privilege of being loosed,
at its best moments, into that perfectly simple, limpid style, which is
the supreme style of all, but the simplicity of which is still not the
simplicity of prose. The simplicity of Menander's[255] style is the
simplicity of prose, and is the same kind of simplicity as that which
Goethe's style, in the passage I have quoted, exhibits; but Menander
does not belong to a great poetical moment, he comes too late for it; it
is the simple passages in poets like Pindar or Dante which are perfect,
being masterpieces of _poetical_ simplicity. One may say the same of the
simple passages in Shakespeare; they are perfect, their simplicity being
a _poetical_ simplicity. They are the golden, easeful, crowning moments
of a manner which is always pitched in another key from that of prose, a
manner changed and heightened; the Elizabethan style, regnant in most of
our dramatic poetry to this day, is mainly the continuation of this
manner of Shakespeare's. It was a manner much more turbid and strewn
with blemishes than the manner of Pindar, Dante, or Milton; often it was
detestable; but it owed its existence to Shakespeare's instinctive
impulse towards _style_ in poetry, to his native sense of the necessity
for it; and without the basis of style everywhere, faulty though it may
in some places be, we should not have had the beauty of expression,
unsurpassable for effectiveness and charm, which is reached in
Shakespeare's best passages. The turn for style is perceptible all
through English poetry, proving, to my mind, the genuine poetical gift
of the race; this turn imparts to our poetry a stamp of high
distinction, and sometimes it doubles the force of a poet not by nature
of the very highest order, such as Gray, and raises him to a rank beyond
what his natural richness and power seem to promise. Goethe, with his
fine critical perception, saw clearly enough both the power of style in
itself, and the lack of style in the literature of his own country; and
perhaps if we regard him solely as a German, not as a European, his
great work was that he labored all his life to impart style into German
literature, and firmly to establish it there. Hence the immense
importance to him of the world of classical art, and of the productions
of Greek or Latin genius, where style so eminently manifests its power.
Had he found in the German genius and literature an element of style
existing by nature and ready to his hand, half his work, one may say,
would have been saved him, and he might have done much more in poetry.
But as it was, he had to try and create, out of his own powers, a style
for German poetry, as well as to provide contents for this style to
carry; and thus his labor as a poet was doubled.

It is to be observed that power of style, in the sense in which I am
here speaking of style, is something quite different from the power of
idiomatic, simple, nervous, racy expression, such as the expression of
healthy, robust natures so often is, such as Luther's was in a striking
degree. Style, in my sense of the word, is a peculiar recasting and
heightening, under a certain condition of spiritual excitement, of what
a man has to say, in such a manner as to add dignity and distinction to
it; and dignity and distinction are not terms which suit many acts or
words of Luther. Deeply touched with the _Gemeinheit_[256] which is the
bane of his nation, as he is at the same time a grand example of the
honesty which is his nation's excellence, he can seldom even show
himself brave, resolute, and truthful, without showing a strong dash of
coarseness and commonness all the while; the right definition of Luther,
as of our own Bunyan, is that he is a Philistine of genius. So Luther's
sincere idiomatic German,--such language as this: "Hilf, lieber Gott,
wie manchen Jammer habe ich gesehen, dass der gemeine Mann doch so gar
nichts weiss von der christlichen Lehre!"--no more proves a power of
style in German literature, than Cobbett's[257] sinewy idiomatic English
proves it in English literature. Power of style, properly so-called, as
manifested in masters of style like Dante or Milton in poetry, Cicero,
Bossuet[258] or Bolingbroke[259] in prose, is something quite different,
and has, as I have said, for its characteristic effect, this: to add
dignity and distinction.

       *       *       *       *       *

This something is _style_, and the Celts certainly have it in a
wonderful measure. Style is the most striking quality of their poetry.
Celtic poetry seems to make up to itself for being unable to master the
world and give an adequate interpretation of it, by throwing all its
force into style, by bending language at any rate to its will, and
expressing the ideas it has with unsurpassable intensity, elevation, and
effect. It has all through it a sort of intoxication of style--a
_Pindarism_, to use a word formed from the name of the poet, on whom,
above all other poets, the power of style seems to have exercised an
inspiring and intoxicating effect; and not in its great poets only, in
Taliesin, or Llywarch Hen, or Ossian,[260] does the Celtic genius show
this Pindarism, but in all its productions:--

  "The grave of March is this, and this the grave of Gwythyr;
  Here is the grave of Gwgawn Gleddyfreidd;
  But unknown is the grave of Arthur."[261]

That comes from the _Welsh Memorials of the Graves of the Warriors_, and
if we compare it with the familiar memorial inscriptions of an English
churchyard (for we English have so much Germanism in us that our
productions offer abundant examples of German want of style as well as
of its opposite):--

  "Afflictions sore long time I bore,
  Physicians were in vain,
  Till God did please Death should me seize
  And ease me of my pain--"

if, I say, we compare the Welsh memorial lines with the English, which
in their _Gemeinheit_ of style are truly Germanic, we shall get a clear
sense of what that Celtic talent for style I have been speaking of is.

       *       *       *       *       *

Its chord of penetrating passion and melancholy, again, its _Titanism_
as we see it in Byron,--what other European poetry possesses that like
the English, and where do we get it from? The Celts, with their vehement
reaction against the despotism of fact, with their sensuous nature,
their manifold striving, their adverse destiny, their immense
calamities, the Celts are the prime authors of this vein of piercing
regret and passion,--of this Titanism in poetry. A famous book,
Macpherson's _Ossian_,[262] carried in the last century this vein like a
flood of lava through Europe. I am not going to criticize Macpherson's
_Ossian_ here. Make the part of what is forged, modern, tawdry,
spurious, in the book, as large as you please; strip Scotland, if you
like, of every feather of borrowed plumes which on the strength of
Macpherson's _Ossian_ she may have stolen from that _vetus et major
Scotia_, the true home of the Ossianic poetry, Ireland; I make no
objection. But there will still be left in the book a residue with the
very soul of the Celtic genius in it, and which has the proud
distinction of having brought this soul of the Celtic genius into
contact with the genius of the nations of modern Europe, and enriched
all our poetry by it. Woody Morven, and echoing Sora, and Selma with its
silent halls!--we all owe them a debt of gratitude, and when we are
unjust enough to forget it, may the Muse forget us! Choose any one of
the better passages in Macpherson's _Ossian_ and you can see even at
this time of day what an apparition of newness and power such a strain
must have been to the eighteenth century:--

"I have seen the walls of Balclutha, but they were desolate. The fox
looked out from the windows, the rank grass of the wall waved round her
head. Raise the song of mourning, O bards, over the land of strangers.
They have but fallen before us, for one day we must fall. Why dost thou
build the hall, son of the winged days? Thou lookest from thy towers
today; yet a few years, and the blast of the desert comes; it howls in
thy empty court, and whistles round thy half-worn shield. Let the blast
of the desert come! we shall be renowned in our day."

All Europe felt the power of that melancholy; but what I wish to point
out is, that no nation of Europe so caught in its poetry the passionate
penetrating accent of the Celtic genius, its strain of Titanism, as the
English. Goethe, like Napoleon, felt the spell of Ossian very
powerfully, and he quotes a long passage from him in his _Werther_.[263]
But what is there Celtic, turbulent, and Titanic about the German
Werther, that amiable, cultivated and melancholy young man, having for
his sorrow and suicide the perfectly definite motive that Lotte cannot
be his? Faust, again, has nothing unaccountable, defiant, and Titanic in
him; his knowledge does not bring him the satisfaction he expected from
it, and meanwhile he finds himself poor and growing old, and balked of
the palpable enjoyment of life; and here is the motive for Faust's
discontent. In the most energetic and impetuous of Goethe's creations,--
his _Prometheus_,[264]--it is not Celtic self-will and passion, it is
rather the Germanic sense of justice and reason, which revolts against
the despotism of Zeus. The German _Sehnsucht_ itself is a wistful, soft,
tearful longing, rather than a struggling, fierce, passionate one. But
the Celtic melancholy is struggling, fierce, passionate; to catch its
note, listen to Llywarch Hen in old age, addressing his crutch:--

"O my crutch! is it not autumn, when the fern is red, the water-flag
yellow? Have I not hated that which I love?

O my crutch! is it not winter-time now, when men talk together after
that they have drunken? Is not the side of my bed left desolate?

O my crutch! is it not spring, when the cuckoo passes through the air,
when the foam sparkles on the sea? The young maidens no longer love me.

O my crutch! is it not the first day of May? The furrows, are they not
shining; the young corn, is it not springing? Ah! the sight of thy
handle makes me wroth.

O my crutch! stand straight, thou wilt support me the better; it is very
long since I was Llywarch.

Behold old age, which makes sport of me, from the hair of my head to my
teeth, to my eyes, which women loved.

The four things I have all my life most hated fall upon me together,--
coughing and old age, sickness and sorrow.

I am old, I am alone, shapeliness and warmth are gone from me; the couch
of honor shall be no more mine; I am miserable, I am bent on my crutch.

How evil was the lot allotted to Llywarch, the night when he was brought
forth! sorrows without end, and no deliverance from his burden."[265]

There is the Titanism of the Celt, his passionate, turbulent,
indomitable reaction against the despotism of fact; and of whom does it
remind us so much as of Byron?

  "The fire which on my bosom preys
  Is lone as some volcanic isle;
  No torch is kindled at its blaze;
  A funeral pile!"[266]

Or, again:--

  "Count o'er the joys thine hours have seen,
  Count o'er thy days from anguish free,
  And know, whatever thou hast been,
  'Tis something better not to be."[267]

One has only to let one's memory begin to fetch passages from Byron
striking the same note as that passage from Llywarch Hen, and she will
not soon stop. And all Byron's heroes, not so much in collision with
outward things, as breaking on some rock of revolt and misery in the
depths of their own nature; Manfred, self-consumed, fighting blindly and
passionately with I know not what, having nothing of the consistent
development and intelligible motive of Faust,--Manfred, Lara, Cain,[268]
what are they but Titanic? Where in European poetry are we to find this
Celtic passion of revolt so warm-breathing, puissant, and sincere;
except perhaps in the creation of a yet greater poet than Byron, but an
English poet, too, like Byron,--in the Satan of Milton?

  "... What though the field be lost?
  All is not lost; the unconquerable will,
  And study of revenge, immortal hate,
  And courage never to submit or yield,
  And what is else not to be overcome."[269]

There, surely, speaks a genius to whose composition the Celtic fibre was
not wholly a stranger!

       *       *       *       *       *

The Celt's quick feeling for what is noble and distinguished gave his
poetry style; his indomitable personality gave it pride and passion; his
sensibility and nervous exaltation gave it a better gift still, the gift
of rendering with wonderful felicity the magical charm of nature. The
forest solitude, the bubbling spring, the wild flowers, are everywhere
in romance. They have a mysterious life and grace there; they are
Nature's own children, and utter her secret in a way which makes them
something quite different from the woods, waters, and plants of Greek
and Latin poetry. Now of this delicate magic, Celtic romance is so
pre-eminent a mistress, that it seems impossible to believe the power
did not come into romance from the Celts.[270] Magic is just the word
for it,--the magic of nature; not merely the beauty of nature,--that the
Greeks and Latins had; not merely an honest smack of the soil, a
faithful realism,--that the Germans had; but the intimate life of
Nature, her weird power and her fairy charm. As the Saxon names of
places, with the pleasant wholesome smack of the soil in them,--
Weathersfield, Thaxted, Shalford,--are to the Celtic names of places,
with their penetrating, lofty beauty,--Velindra, Tyntagel, Caernarvon,--
so is the homely realism of German and Norse nature to the fairy-like
loveliness of Celtic nature. Gwydion wants a wife for his pupil: "Well,"
says Math, "we will seek, I and thou, by charms and illusions, to form a
wife for him out of flowers. So they took the blossoms of the oak, and
the blossoms of the broom, and the blossoms of the meadow-sweet, and
produced from them a maiden, the fairest and most graceful that
man ever saw. And they baptized her, and gave her the name of
Flower-Aspect."[271] Celtic romance is full of exquisite touches like
that, showing the delicacy of the Celt's feeling in these matters, and
how deeply Nature lets him come into her secrets. The quick dropping of
blood is called "faster than the fall of the dewdrop from the blade of
reed-grass upon the earth, when the dew of June is at the heaviest." And
thus is Olwen described: "More yellow was her hair than the flower of
the broom, and her skin was whiter than the foam of the wave, and fairer
were her hands and her fingers than the blossoms of the wood-anemony
amidst the spray of the meadow fountains."[272] For loveliness it would
be hard to beat that; and for magical clearness and nearness take the

"And in the evening Peredur entered a valley, and at the head of the
valley he came to a hermit's cell, and the hermit welcomed him gladly,
and there he spent the night. And in the morning he arose, and when he
went forth, behold, a shower of snow had fallen the night before, and a
hawk had killed a wild-fowl in front of the cell. And the noise of the
horse scared the hawk away, and a raven alighted upon the bird. And
Peredur stood and compared the blackness of the raven, and the whiteness
of the snow, and the redness of the blood, to the hair of the lady whom
best he loved, which was blacker than the raven, and to her skin, which
was whiter than the snow, and to her two cheeks which were redder than
the blood upon the snow appeared to be."[273]

And this, which is perhaps less striking, is not less beautiful:--

"And early in the day Geraint and Enid left the wood, and they came to
an open country, with meadows on one hand and mowers mowing the meadows.
And there was a river before them, and the horses bent down and drank
the water. And they went up out of the river by a steep bank, and there
they met a slender stripling with a satchel about his neck; and he had a
small blue pitcher in his hand, and a bowl on the mouth of the

And here the landscape, up to this point so Greek in its clear beauty,
is suddenly magicalized by the romance touch,--

"And they saw a tall tree by the side of the river, one-half of which
was in flames from the root to the top, and the other half was green and
in full leaf."

Magic is the word to insist upon,--a magically vivid and near
interpretation of nature; since it is this which constitutes the special
charm and power of the effect I am calling attention to, and it is for
this that the Celt's sensibility gives him a peculiar aptitude. But the
matter needs rather fine handling, and it is easy to make mistakes here
in our criticism. In the first place, Europe tends constantly to become
more and more one community, and we tend to become Europeans instead of
merely Englishmen, Frenchmen, Germans, Italians; so whatever aptitude or
felicity one people imparts into spiritual work, gets imitated by the
others, and thus tends to become the common property of all. Therefore
anything so beautiful and attractive as the natural magic I am speaking
of, is sure, nowadays, if it appears in the productions of the Celts, or
of the English, or of the French, to appear in the productions of the
Germans also, or in the productions of the Italians; but there will be a
stamp of perfectness and inimitableness about it in the literatures
where it is native, which it will not have in the literatures where it
is not native. Novalis[275] or Rückert,[276] for instance, have their
eye fixed on nature, and have undoubtedly a feeling for natural magic; a
rough-and-ready critic easily credits them and the Germans with the
Celtic fineness of tact, the Celtic nearness to nature and her secret;
but the question is whether the strokes in the German's picture of
nature[277] have ever the indefinable delicacy, charm, and perfection of
the Celt's touch in the pieces I just now quoted, or of Shakespeare's
touch in his daffodil,[278] Wordsworth's in his cuckoo,[279] Keats's in
his Autumn, Obermann's in his mountain birch-tree, or his Easter-daisy
among the Swiss farms.[280] To decide where the gift for natural magic
originally lies, whether it is properly Celtic or Germanic, we must
decide this question.

In the second place, there are many ways of handling nature, and we are
here only concerned with one of them; but a rough-and-ready critic
imagines that it is all the same so long as nature is handled at all,
and fails to draw the needful distinction between modes of handling her.
But these modes are many; I will mention four of them now: there is the
conventional way of handling nature, there is the faithful way of
handling nature, there is the Greek way of handling nature, there is the
magical way of handling nature. In all these three last the eye is on
the object, but with a difference; in the faithful way of handling
nature, the eye is on the object, and that is all you can say; in the
Greek, the eye is on the object, but lightness and brightness are added;
in the magical, the eye is on the object, but charm and magic are added.
In the conventional way of handling nature, the eye is not on the
object; what that means we all know, we have only to think of our
eighteenth-century poetry:--

  "As when the moon, refulgent lamp of night--"[281]

to call up any number of instances. Latin poetry supplies plenty of
instances too; if we put this from Propertius's _Hylas_:--

    "... manus heroum ...
  Mollia composita litora fronde tegit--"[282]

side by side with the line of Theocritus by which it was suggested:--

[Greek: leimon gar sphin ekeito megas, stibadessin oneiar--][283]

we get at the same moment a good specimen both of the conventional and
of the Greek way of handling nature. But from our own poetry we may get
specimens of the Greek way of handling nature, as well as of the
conventional: for instance, Keats's:--

  "What little town by river or seashore,
  Or mountain-built with quiet citadel,
  Is emptied of its folk, this pious morn?"[284]

is Greek, as Greek as a thing from Homer or Theocritus; it is composed
with the eye on the object, a radiancy and light clearness being added.
German poetry abounds in specimens of the faithful way of handling
nature; an excellent example is to be found in the stanzas called
_Zueignung_[285], prefixed to Goethe's poems; the morning walk, the
mist, the dew, the sun, are as faithful as they can be, they are given
with the eye on the object, but there the merit of the work, as a
handling of nature, stops; neither Greek radiance nor Celtic magic is
added; the power of these is not what gives the poem in question its
merit, but a power of quite another kind, a power of moral and spiritual
emotion. But the power of Greek radiance Goethe could give to his
handling of nature, and nobly too, as any one who will read his
_Wanderer_,--the poem in which a wanderer falls in with a peasant woman
and her child by their hut, built out of the ruins of a temple near
Cuma,--may see. Only the power of natural magic Goethe does not, I
think, give; whereas Keats passes at will from the Greek power to that
power which is, as I say, Celtic; from his

  "What little town, by river or seashore--"

to his

  "White hawthorn and the pastoral eglantine,
  Fast-fading violets cover'd up in leaves--"[286]

or his

  "... magic casements, opening on the foam
  Of perilous seas, in fairy lands forlorn--"[287]

in which the very same note is struck as in those extracts which I
quoted from Celtic romance, and struck with authentic and unmistakable

Shakespeare, in handling nature, touches this Celtic note so
exquisitely, that perhaps one is inclined to be always looking for the
Celtic note in him, and not to recognize his Greek note when it comes.
But if one attends well to the difference between the two notes, and
bears in mind, to guide one, such things as Virgil's "moss-grown springs
and grass softer than sleep:"--

  "Muscosi fontes et somno mollior herba--"[288]

as his charming flower-gatherer, who--

  "Pallentes violas et summa papavera carpens
  Narcissum et florem jungit bene olentis anethi--"[289]

as his quinces and chestnuts:--

  " ... cana legam tenera lanugine mala
  Castaneasque nuces ..."[290]

then, I think, we shall be disposed to say that in Shakespeare's

  "I know a bank where the wild thyme blows,
  Where oxlips and the nodding violet grows,
  Quite over-canopied with luscious woodbine,
  With sweet musk-roses and with eglantine--"[291]

it is mainly a Greek note which is struck. Then, again in his

  " ... look how the floor of heaven
  Is thick inlaid with patines of bright gold!"[292]

we are at the very point of transition from the Greek note to the
Celtic; there is the Greek clearness and brightness, with the Celtic
aërialness and magic coming in. Then we have the sheer, inimitable
Celtic note in passages like this:--

  "Met we on hill, in dale, forest or mead,
  By paved fountain or by rushy brook,
  Or in the beached margent of the sea--"[293]

or this, the last I will quote:--

  "The moon shines bright. In such a night as this,
  When the sweet wind did gently kiss the trees,
  And they did make no noise, in such a night
  Troilus, methinks, mounted the Trojan walls--

                   ... in such a night
  Did Thisbe fearfully o'ertrip the dew--
                    ... in such a night
  _Stood Dido, with a willow in her hand,
  Upon the wild sea-banks, and waved her love
  To come again to Carthage._"[294]

And those last lines of all are so drenched and intoxicated with the
fairy-dew of that natural magic which is our theme, that I cannot do
better than end with them.

And now, with the pieces of evidence in our hand, let us go to those who
say it is vain to look for Celtic elements in any Englishman, and let us
ask them, first, if they seize what we mean by the power of natural
magic in Celtic poetry: secondly, if English poetry does not eminently
exhibit this power; and, thirdly, where they suppose English poetry got
it from?


The months go round, and anniversaries return; on the ninth of June
George Sand will have been dead just one year. She was born in 1804; she
was almost seventy-two years old when she died. She came to Paris after
the revolution of 1830, with her _Indiana_[296] written, and began her
life of independence, her life of authorship, her life as _George Sand_.
She continued at work till she died. For forty-five years she was
writing and publishing, and filled Europe with her name.

It seems to me but the other day that I saw her, yet it was in the
August of 1846, more than thirty years ago. I saw her in her own Berry,
at Nohant,[297] where her childhood and youth were passed, where she
returned to live after she became famous, where she died and has now her
grave. There must be many who, after reading her books, have felt the
same desire which in those days of my youth, in 1846, took me to Nohant,
--the desire to see the country and the places of which the books that
so charmed us were full. Those old provinces of the centre of France,
primitive and slumbering,--Berry, La Marche, Bourbonnais; those sites
and streams in them, of name once so indifferent to us, but to which
George Sand gave such a music for our ear,--La Châtre, Ste. Sévère, the
_Vallée Noire_, the Indre, the Creuse; how many a reader of George Sand
must have desired, as I did, after frequenting them so much in thought,
fairly to set eyes upon them!

I had been reading _Jeanne_.[298] I made up my mind to go and see Toulx
Ste. Croix, Boussac, and the Druidical stones on Mont Barlot, the
_Pierres Jaunâtres_.[299]

I remember looking out Toulx in Cassini's great map[300] at the
Bodleian Library. The railway through the centre of France went in those
days no farther than Vierzon. From Vierzon to Châteauroux one travelled
by an ordinary diligence, from Châteauroux to La Châtre by a humbler
diligence, from La Châtre to Boussac by the humblest diligence of all.
At Boussac diligence ended, and _patache_[301] began. Between
Châteauroux and La Châtre, a mile or two before reaching the latter
place, the road passes by the village of Nohant. The Château of Nohant,
in which Madame Sand lived, is a plain house by the road-side, with a
walled garden. Down in the meadows, not far off, flows the Indre,
bordered by trees. I passed Nohant without stopping, at La Châtre I
dined and changed diligence, and went on by night up the valley of the
Indre, the _Vallée Noire_, past Ste. Sévère to Boussac. At Ste. Sévère
the Indre is quite a small stream. In the darkness we quitted its
valley, and when day broke we were in the wilder and barer country of La
Marche, with Boussac before us, and its high castle on a precipitous
rock over the Little Creuse.

That day and the next I wandered through a silent country of heathy and
ferny _landes_,[302] a region of granite boulders, holly, and broom, of
copsewood and great chestnut trees; a region of broad light, and fresh
breezes and wide horizons. I visited the _Pierres Jaunâtres._ I stood at
sunset on the platform of Toulx Ste. Croix, by the scrawled and almost
effaced stone lions,--a relic, it is said, of the English rule,--and
gazed on the blue mountains of Auvergne filling the distance, and
southeastward of them, in a still further and fainter distance, on what
seemed to be the mountains over Le Puy and the high valley of the Loire.

From Boussac I addressed to Madame Sand the sort of letter of which she
must in her lifetime have had scores, a letter conveying to her, in bad
French, the homage of a youthful and enthusiastic foreigner who had read
her works with delight. She received the infliction good-naturedly, for
on my return to La Châtre I found a message left at the inn by a servant
from Nohant that Madame Sand would be glad to see me if I called. The
mid-day breakfast at Nohant was not yet over when I reached the house,
and I found a large party assembled. I entered with some trepidation, as
well I might, considering how I had got there; but the simplicity of
Madame Sand's manner put me at ease in a moment. She named some of those
present; amongst them were her son and daughter, the Maurice and Solange
[303] so familiar to us from her books, and Chopin[304] with his
wonderful eyes. There was at that time nothing astonishing in Madame
Sand's appearance. She was not in man's clothes, she wore a sort of
costume not impossible, I should think (although on these matters I
speak with hesitation), to members of the fair sex at this hour amongst
ourselves, as an outdoor dress for the country or for Scotland. She made
me sit by her and poured out for me the insipid and depressing beverage,
_boisson fade et mélancolique_, as Balzac called it, for which English
people are thought abroad to be always thirsting,--tea. She conversed of
the country through which I had been wandering, of the Berry peasants
and their mode of life, of Switzerland, whither I was going; she touched
politely, by a few questions and remarks, upon England and things and
persons English,--upon Oxford and Cambridge, Byron, Bulwer. As she
spoke, her eyes, head, bearing, were all of them striking; but the main
impression she made was an impression of what I have already mentioned,
--of _simplicity_, frank, cordial simplicity. After breakfast she led
the way into the garden, asked me a few kind questions about myself and
my plans, gathered a flower or two and gave them to me, shook hands
heartily at the gate, and I saw her no more. In 1859 M. Michelet[305]
gave me a letter to her, which would have enabled me to present myself
in more regular fashion. Madame Sand was then in Paris. But a day or two
passed before I could call, and when I called, Madame Sand had left
Paris and had gone back to Nohant. The impression of 1846 has remained
my single impression of her.

Of her gaze, form, and speech, that one impression is enough; better
perhaps than a mixed impression from seeing her at sundry times and
after successive changes. But as the first anniversary of her death
[306] draws near, there arises again a desire which I felt when she
died, the desire, not indeed to take a critical survey of her,--very far
from it. I feel no inclination at all to go regularly through her
productions, to classify and value them one by one, to pick out from
them what the English public may most like, or to present to that
public, for the most part ignorant of George Sand and for the most part
indifferent to her, a full history and a judicial estimate of the woman
and of her writings. But I desire to recall to my own mind, before the
occasion offered by her death passes quite away,--to recall and collect
the elements of that powerful total-impression which, as a writer, she
made upon me; to recall and collect them, to bring them distinctly into
view, to feel them in all their depth and power once more. What I here
attempt is not for the benefit of the indifferent; it is for my own
satisfaction, it is for myself. But perhaps those for whom George Sand
has been a friend and a power will find an interest in following me.

_Le sentiment de la vie idéale, qui n'est autre que la vie normale telle
que nous sommes appelés à la connaître_;[307]--"the sentiment of the
ideal life, which is none other than man's normal life as we shall some
day know it,"--those words from one of her last publications give the
ruling thought of George Sand, the ground-_motive_, as they say in
music, of all her strain. It is as a personage inspired by this motive
that she interests us.

The English public conceives of her as of a novel-writer who wrote
stories more or less interesting; the earlier ones objectionable and
dangerous, the later ones, some of them, unexceptionable and fit to be
put into the hands of the youth of both sexes. With such a conception of
George Sand, a story of hers like _Consuelo_[308] comes to be elevated
in England into quite an undue relative importance, and to pass with
very many people for her typical work, displaying all that is really
valuable and significant in the author. _Consuelo_ is a charming story.
But George Sand is something more than a maker of charming stories, and
only a portion of her is shown in _Consuelo_. She is more, likewise,
than a creator of characters. She has created, with admirable truth to
nature, characters most attractive and attaching, such as Edmee,
Genevieve, Germain.[309] But she is not adequately expressed by them.
We do not know her unless we feel the spirit which goes through her work
as a whole.

In order to feel this spirit it is not, indeed, necessary to read all
that she ever produced. Even three or four only out of her many books
might suffice to show her to us, if they were well chosen; let us say,
the _Lettres d'un Voyageur, Mauprat, François le Champi_,[310] and a
story which I was glad to see Mr. Myers,[311] in his appreciative
notice of Madame Sand, single out for praise,--_Valvèdre_.[312] In these
may be found all the principal elements of their author's strain: the
cry of agony and revolt, the trust in nature and beauty, the aspiration
towards a purged and renewed human society.

Of George Sand's strain, during forty years, these are the grand
elements. Now it is one of them which appears most prominently, now it
is another. The cry of agony and revolt is in her earlier work only, and
passes away in her later. But in the evolution of these three elements,
--the passion of agony and revolt, the consolation from nature and from
beauty, the ideas of social renewal,--in the evolution of these is
George Sand and George Sand's life and power. Through their evolution
her constant motive declares and unfolds itself, that motive which we
have set forth above: "the sentiment of the ideal life, which is none
other than man's normal life as we shall one day know it." This is the
motive, and through these elements is its evolution: an evolution
pursued, moreover, with the most unfailing resolve, the most absolute

The hour of agony and revolt passed away for George Sand, as it passed
away for Goethe, as it passes away for their readers likewise. It passes
away and does not return; yet those who, amid the agitations, more or
less stormy, of their youth, betook themselves to the early works of
George Sand, may in later life cease to read them, indeed, but they can
no more forget them than they can forget _Werther_[313]. George Sand
speaks somewhere of her "days of _Corinne_."[314]  Days of _Valentine_,
many of us may in like manner say,--days of _Valentine_, days of
_Lélia_[315], days never to return! They are gone, we shall read the
books no more, and yet how ineffaceable is their impression! How the
sentences from George Sand's works of that period still linger in our
memory and haunt the ear with their cadences! Grandiose and moving, they
come, those cadences, like the sighing of the wind through the forest,
like the breaking of the waves on the seashore. Lélia in her cell on the
mountain of the Camaldoli--

"Sibyl, Sibyl forsaken; spirit of the days of old, joined to a brain
which rebels against the divine inspiration; broken lyre, mute
instrument, whose tones the world of to-day, if it heard them, could not
understand, but yet in whose depth the eternal harmony murmurs
imprisoned; priestess of death, I, I who feel and know that before now I
have been Pythia, have wept before now, before now have spoken, but who
cannot recollect, alas, cannot utter the word of healing! Yes, yes! I
remember the cavern of truth and the access of revelation; but the word
of human destiny, I have forgotten it; but the talisman of deliverance,
it is lost from my hand. And yet, indeed, much, much have I seen! and
when suffering presses me sore, when indignation takes hold of me, when
I feel Prometheus wake up in my heart and beat his puissant wings
against the stone which confines him,--oh! then, in prey to a frenzy
without a name, to a despair without bounds, I invoke the unknown master
and friend who might illumine my spirit and set free my tongue; but I
grope in darkness, and my tired arms grasp nothing save delusive
shadows. And for ten thousand years, as the sole answer to my cries, as
the sole comfort in my agony, I hear astir, over this earth accurst, the
despairing sob of impotent agony. For ten thousand years I have cried in
infinite space: _Truth! Truth!_ For ten thousand years infinite space
keeps answering me: _Desire, Desire_. O Sibyl forsaken! O mute Pythia!
dash then thy head against the rocks of thy cavern, and mingle thy
raging blood with the foam of the sea; for thou deemest thyself to have
possessed the almighty Word, and these ten thousand years thou art
seeking him in vain."[316]

Or Sylvia's cry over Jacques[317] by his glacier in the Tyrol--

"When such a man as thou art is born into a world where he can do no
true service; when, with the soul of an apostle and the courage of a
martyr, he has simply to push his way among the heartless and aimless
crowds which vegetate without living; the atmosphere suffocates him and
he dies. Hated by sinners, the mock of fools, disliked by the envious,
abandoned by the weak, what can he do but return to God, weary with
having labored in vain, in sorrow at having accomplished nothing? The
world remains in all its vileness and in all its hatefulness; this is
what men call, 'the triumph of good sense over enthusiasm.'"[318]

Or Jacques himself, and his doctrine--

"Life is arid and terrible, repose is a dream, prudence is useless; mere
reason alone serves simply to dry up the heart; there is but one virtue,
the eternal sacrifice of oneself."

Or George Sand speaking in her own person, in the _Lettres d'un

"Ah, no, I was not born to be a poet, I was born to love. It is the
misfortune of my destiny, it is the enmity of others, which have made me
a wanderer and an artist. What I wanted was to live a human life; I had
a heart, it has been torn violently from my breast. All that has been
left me is a head, a head full of noise and pain, of horrible memories,
of images of woe, of scenes of outrage. And because in writing stories
to earn my bread I could not help remembering my sorrows, because I had
the audacity to say that in married life there were to be found
miserable beings, by reason of the weakness which is enjoined upon the
woman, by reason of the brutality which is permitted to the man, by
reason of the turpitudes which society covers and protects with a veil,
I am pronounced immoral, I am treated as if I were the enemy of the
human race."[319]

If only, alas, together with her honesty and her courage, she could feel
within herself that she had also light and hope and power; that she was
able to lead those whom she loved, and who looked to her for guidance!
But no; her very own children, witnesses of her suffering, her
uncertainty, her struggles, her evil report, may come to doubt her:--

"My poor children, my own flesh and blood, will perhaps turn upon me and
say: 'You are leading us wrong, you mean to ruin us as well as yourself.
Are you not unhappy, reprobated, evil spoken of? What have you gained by
these unequal struggles, by these much trumpeted duels of yours with
custom and belief? Let us do as others do; let us get what is to be got
out of this easy and tolerant world.'

"This is what they will say to me. Or at best, if, out of tenderness for
me, or from their own natural disposition, they give ear to my words and
believe me, whither shall I guide them? Into what abysses shall we go
and plunge ourselves, we three?--for we shall be our own three upon
earth, and not one soul with us. What shall I reply to them if they come
and say to me; 'Yes, life is unbearable in a world like this. Let us die
together. Show us the path of Bernica, or the lake of Sténio, or the
glaciers of Jacques.'"[320]

Nevertheless the failure of the impassioned seekers of a new and better
world proves nothing, George Sand maintains, for the world as it is.
Ineffectual they may be, but the world is still more ineffectual, and it
is the world's course which is doomed to ruin, not theirs. "What has it
done," exclaims George Sand in her preface to Guérin's _Centaure_, "what
has it done for our moral education, and what is it doing for our
children, this society shielded with such care?" Nothing. Those whom it
calls vain complainers and rebels and madmen, may reply:--

"Suffer us to bewail our martyrs, poets without a country that we are,
forlorn singers, well versed in the causes of their misery and of our
own. You do not comprehend the malady which killed them; they themselves
did not comprehend it. If one or two of us at the present day open our
eyes to a new light, is it not by a strange and unaccountable good
Providence; and have we not to seek our grain of faith in storm and
darkness, combated by doubt, irony, the absence of all sympathy, all
example, all brotherly aid, all protection and countenance in high
places? Try yourselves to speak to your brethren heart to heart,
conscience to conscience! Try it!--but you cannot, busied as you are
with watching and patching up in all directions your dykes which the
flood is invading. The material existence of this society of yours
absorbs all your care, and requires more than all your efforts.
Meanwhile the powers of human thought are growing into strength, and
rise on all sides around you. Amongst these threatening apparitions,
there are some which fade away and reënter the darkness, because the
hour of life has not yet struck, and the fiery spirit which quickened
them could strive no longer with the horrors of this present chaos; but
there are others that can wait, and you will find them confronting you,
up and alive, to say: 'You have allowed the death of our brethren, and
we, we do not mean to die.'"

She did not, indeed. How should she faint and fail before her time,
because of a world out of joint, because of the reign of stupidity,
because of the passions of youth, because of the difficulties and
disgusts of married life in the native seats of the _homme sensuel
moyen_, the average sensual man, she who could feel so well the power of
those eternal consolers, nature and beauty? From the very first they
introduce a note of suavity in her strain of grief and passion. Who can
forget the lanes and meadows of _Valentine_?

George Sand is one of the few French writers who keep us closely and
truly intimate with rural nature. She gives us the wild-flowers by their
actual names,--snowdrop, primrose, columbine, iris, scabious. Nowhere
has she touched her native Berry and its little-known landscape, its
_campagnes ignorées_, with a lovelier charm than in _Valentine_. The
winding and deep lanes running out of the high road on either side, the
fresh and calm spots they take us to, "meadows of a tender green,
plaintive brooks, clumps of alder and mountain ash, a whole world of
suave and pastoral nature,"--how delicious it all is! The grave and
silent peasant whose very dog will hardly deign to bark at you, the
great white ox, "the unfailing dean of these pastures," staring solemnly
at you from the thicket; the farmhouse "with its avenue of maples, and
the Indre, here hardly more than a bright rivulet, stealing along
through rushes and yellow iris, in the field below,"--who, I say, can
forget them? And that one lane in especial, the lane where Athenais puts
her arm out of the side window of the rustic carriage and gathers May
from the overarching hedge,--that lane with its startled blackbirds, and
humming insects, and limpid water, and swaying water-plants, and
shelving gravel, and yellow wagtails hopping, half-pert,
half-frightened, on the sand,--that lane with its rushes, cresses, and
mint below, its honeysuckle and traveller's-joy above,--how gladly might
one give all that strangely English picture in English, if the charm of
Madame Sand's language did not here defy translation! Let us try
something less difficult, and yet something where we may still have her
in this her beloved world of "simplicity, and sky, and fields and trees,
and peasant life,--peasant life looked at, by preference, on its good
and sound side." _Voyez donc la simplicité, vous autres, voyez le ciel
et les champs, et les arbres, et les paysans, surtout dans ce qu'ils ont
de bon et de vrai._

The introduction to _La Mare au Diable_ will give us what we want.
George Sand has been looking at an engraving of Holbein's _Laborer._
[321] An old thick-set peasant, in rags, is driving his plough in the
midst of a field. All around spreads a wild landscape, dotted with a few
poor huts. The sun is setting behind a hill; the day of toil is nearly
over. It has been a hard one; the ground is rugged and stony, the
laborer's horses are but skin and bone, weak and exhausted. There is but
one alert figure, the skeleton Death, who with a whip skips nimbly along
at the horses' side and urges the team. Under the picture is a quotation
in old French, to the effect that after the laborer's life of travail
and service, in which he has to gain his bread by the sweat of his brow,
here comes Death to fetch him away. And from so rude a life does Death
take him, says George Sand, that Death is hardly unwelcome; and in
another composition by Holbein, where men of almost every condition,--
popes, sovereigns, lovers, gamblers, monks, soldiers,--are taunted with
their fear of Death and do indeed see his approach with terror, Lazarus
alone is easy and composed, and sitting on his dunghill at the rich
man's door, tells Death that he does not dread him.

With her thoughts full of Holbein's mournful picture, George Sand goes
out into the fields of her own Berry:--

"My walk was by the border of a field which some peasants were getting
ready for being sown presently. The space to be ploughed was wide, as in
Holbein's picture. The landscape was vast also; the great lines of green
which it contained were just touched with russet by the approach of
autumn; on the rich brown soil recent rain had left, in a good many
furrows, lines of water, which shone in the sun like silver threads. The
day was clear and soft, and the earth gave out a light smoke where it
had been freshly laid open by the ploughshare. At the top of the field
an old man, whose broad back and severe face were like those of the old
peasant of Holbein, but whose clothes told no tale of poverty, was
gravely driving his plough of an antique shape, drawn by two tranquil
oxen, with coats of a pale buff, real patriarchs of the fallow, tall of
make, somewhat thin, with long and backward-sloping horns, the kind of
old workmen who by habit have got to be _brothers_ to one another, as
throughout our country-side they are called, and who, if one loses the
other, refuse to work with a new comrade, and fret themselves to death.
People unacquainted with the country will not believe in this affection
of the ox for his yoke-fellow. They should come and see one of the poor
beasts in a corner of his stable, thin, wasted, lashing with his
restless tail his lean flanks, blowing uneasily and fastidiously on the
provender offered to him, his eyes forever turned towards the stable
door, scratching with his foot the empty place left at his side,
sniffing the yokes and bands which his companion has worn, and
incessantly calling for him with piteous lowings. The ox-herd will tell
you: There is a pair of oxen done for! his _brother_ is dead, and this
one will work no more. He ought to be fattened for killing; but we
cannot get him to eat, and in a short time he will have starved himself
to death."[322]

How faithful and close it is, this contact of George Sand with country
things, with the life of nature in its vast plenitude and pathos! And
always in the end the human interest, as is right, emerges and
predominates. What is the central figure in the fresh and calm rural
world of George Sand? It is the peasant. And what is the peasant? He is
France, life, the future. And this is the strength of George Sand, and
of her second movement, after the first movement of energy and revolt
was over, towards nature and beauty, towards the country, towards
primitive life, the peasant. She regarded nature and beauty, not with
the selfish and solitary joy of the artist who but seeks to appropriate
them for his own purposes, she regarded them as a treasure of immense
and hitherto unknown application, as a vast power of healing and delight
for all, and for the peasant first and foremost. Yes she cries, the
simple life is the true one! but the peasant, the great organ of that
life, "the minister in that vast temple which only the sky is vast
enough to embrace," the peasant is not doomed to toil and moil in it
forever, overdone and unawakened, like Holbein's laborer, and to have
for his best comfort the thought that death will set him free. _Non,
nous n'avons plus affaire à la mort, mais à la vie._[323] "Our business
henceforth is not with death, but with life."

Joy is the great lifter of men, the great unfolder. _Il faut que la vie
soit bonne afin qu'elle soit féconde._ "For life to be fruitful, life
must be felt as a blessing":--

"Nature is eternally young, beautiful, bountiful. She pours out beauty
and poetry for all that live, she pours it out on all plants, and the
plants are permitted to expand in it freely. She possesses the secret of
happiness, and no man has been able to take it away from her. The
happiest of men would be he who possessing the science of his labor and
working with his hands, earning his comfort and his freedom by the
exercise of his intelligent force, found time to live by the heart and
by the brain, to understand his own work and to love the work of God.
The artist has satisfactions of this kind in the contemplation and
reproduction of nature's beauty; but when he sees the affliction of
those who people this paradise of earth, the upright and human-hearted
artist feels a trouble in the midst of his enjoyment. The happy day will
be when mind, heart, and hands shall be alive together, shall work in
concert; when there shall be a harmony between God's munificence and
man's delight in it. Then, instead of the piteous and frightful figure
of Death, skipping along whip in hand by the peasant's side in the
field, the allegorical painter will place there a radiant angel, sowing
with full hands the blessed grain in the smoking furrow.

"And the dream of a kindly, free, poetic, laborious, simple existence
for the tiller of the field is not so hard to realize that it must be
banished into the world of chimæras. Virgil's sweet and sad cry: 'O
happy peasants, if they but knew their own blessings!' is a regret; but
like all regrets, it is at the same time a prediction. The day will come
when the laborer may be also an artist;--not in the sense of rendering
nature's beauty, a matter which will be then of much less importance,
but in the sense of feeling it. Does not this mysterious intuition of
poetic beauty exist in him already in the form of instinct and of vague

It exists in him, too, adds Madame Sand, in the form of that
_nostalgia_, that homesickness, which forever pursues the genuine French
peasant if you transplant him. The peasant has here, then, the elements
of the poetic sense, and of its high and pure satisfactions.

"But one part of the enjoyment which we possess is wanting to him, a
pure and lofty pleasure which is surely his due, minister that he is in
that vast temple which only the sky is vast enough to embrace. He has
not the conscious knowledge of his sentiment. Those who have sentenced
him to servitude from his mother's womb, not being able to debar him
from reverie, have debarred him from reflection.

"Well, for all that, taking the peasant as he is, incomplete and
seemingly condemned to an eternal childhood, I yet find him a more
beautiful object than the man in whom his acquisition of knowledge has
stifled sentiment. Do not rate yourselves so high above him, many of you
who imagine that you have an imprescriptible right to his obedience; for
you yourselves are the most incomplete and the least seeing of men. That
simplicity of his soul is more to be loved than the false lights of

In all this we are passing from the second element in George Sand to the
third,--her aspiration for a social new-birth, a _renaissance sociale_.
It is eminently the ideal of France; it was hers. Her religion connected
itself with this ideal. In the convent where she was brought up, she had
in youth had an awakening of fervent mystical piety in the Catholic
form. That form she could not keep. Popular religion of all kinds, with
its deep internal impossibilities, its "heaven and hell serving to cover
the illogical manifestations of the Divinity's apparent designs
respecting us," its "God made in our image, silly and malicious, vain
and puerile, irritable or tender, after our fashion," lost all sort of
hold upon her:--

"Communion with such a God is impossible to me, I confess it. He is
wiped out from my memory: there is no corner where I can find him any
more. Nor do I find such a God out of doors either; he is not in the
fields and waters, he is not in the starry sky. No, nor yet in the
churches where men bow themselves; it is an extinct message, a dead
letter, a thought that has done its day. Nothing of this belief, nothing
of this God, subsists in me any longer."[326]

She refused to lament over the loss, to esteem it other than a

"It is an addition to our stock of light, this detachment from the
idolatrous conception of religion. It is no loss of the religious sense,
as the persisters in idolatry maintain. It is quite the contrary, it is
a restitution of allegiance to the true Divinity. It is a step made in
the direction of this Divinity, it is an abjuration of the dogmas which
did him dishonor."[327]

She does not attempt to give of this Divinity an account much more
precise than that which we have in Wordsworth,--"_a presence that
disturbs me with the joy of animating thoughts_."[328]

"Everything is divine (she says), even matter; everything is superhuman,
even man. God is everywhere; he is in me in a measure proportioned to
the little that I am. My present life separates me from him just in the
degree determined by the actual state of childhood of our race. Let me
content myself, in all my seeking, to feel after him, and to possess of
him as much as this imperfect soul can take in with the intellectual
sense I have."[329]

And she concludes:--

"The day will come when we shall no longer talk about God idly, nay,
when we shall talk about him as little as possible. We shall cease to
set him forth dogmatically, to dispute about his nature. We shall put
compulsion on no one to pray to him, we shall leave the whole business
of worship within the sanctuary of each man's conscience. And this will
happen when we are really religious."[330]

Meanwhile the sense of this spirit or presence which animates us, the
sense of the divine, is our stronghold and our consolation. A man may
say of it: "It comes not by my desert, but the atom of divine sense
given to me nothing can rob me of." _Divine sense_,--the phrase is a
vague one; but it stands to Madame Sand for that to which are to be
referred "all the best thoughts and the best actions of life, suffering
endured, duty achieved, whatever purifies our existence, whatever
vivifies our love."

Madame Sand is a Frenchwoman, and her religion is therefore, as we might
expect, with peculiar fervency social. Always she has before her mind
"the natural law which _will have it_ (the italics are her own) that the
species _man_ cannot subsist and prosper but by _association_." Whatever
else we may be in creation, we are, first and foremost, "at the head of
the species which are called by instinct, and led by necessity, to the
life of _association_." The word _love_--the great word, as she justly
says, of the New Testament--acquires from her social enthusiasm a
peculiar significance to her:--

"The word is a great one, because it involves infinite consequences. To
love means to help one another, to have joint aspirations, to act in
concert, to labor for the same end, to develop to its ideal consummation
the fraternal instinct, thanks to which mankind have brought the earth
under their dominion. Every time that he has been false to this instinct
which is his law of life, his natural destiny, man has seen his temples
crumble, his societies dissolve, his intellectual sense go wrong, his
moral sense die out. The future is founded on love."[331]

So long as love is thus spoken of in the general, the ordinary serious
Englishman will have no difficulty in inclining himself with respect
while Madame Sand speaks of it. But when he finds that love implies,
with her, social equality, he will begin to be staggered. And in truth
for almost every Englishman Madame Sand's strong language about
equality, and about France as the chosen vessel for exhibiting it, will
sound exaggerated. "The human ideal," she says, "as well as the social
ideal, is to achieve equality."[332] France, which has made equality its
rallying cry, is therefore "the nation which loves and is loved," _la
nation qui aime et qu'on aime_. The republic of equality is in her eyes
"an ideal, a philosophy, a religion." She invokes the "holy doctrine of
social liberty and fraternal equality, ever reappearing as a ray of love
and truth amidst the storm." She calls it "the goal of man and the law
of the future." She thinks it the secret of the civilization of France,
the most civilized of nations. Amid the disasters of the late war she
cannot forbear a cry of astonishment at the neutral nations,
_insensibles à l'égorgement d'une civilisation comme la nôtre_, "looking
on with insensibility while a civilization such as ours has its throat
cut." Germany, with its stupid ideal of corporalism and _Kruppism_, is
contrasted with France, full of social dreams, too civilized for war,
incapable of planning and preparing war for twenty years, she is so
incapable of hatred;--_nous sommes si incapables de haïr!_ We seem to be
listening, not to George Sand, but to M. Victor Hugo, half genius, half
charlatan; to M. Victor Hugo, or even to one of those French declaimers
in whom we come down to no genius and all charlatan.

The form of such outbursts as we have quoted will always be distasteful
to an Englishman. It is to be remembered that they came from Madame Sand
under the pressure and anguish of the terrible calamities of 1870. But
what we are most concerned with, and what Englishmen in general regard
too little, is the degree of truth contained in these allegations that
France is the most civilized of nations, and that she is so, above all,
by her "holy doctrine of equality." How comes the idea to be so current;
and to be passionately believed in, as we have seen, by such a woman as
George Sand? It was so passionately believed in by her, that when one
seeks, as I am now seeking, to recall her image, the image is incomplete
if the passionate belief is kept from appearing.

I will not, with my scanty space, now discuss the belief; but I will
seek to indicate how it must have commended itself, I think, to George
Sand. I have somewhere called France "the country of Europe where _the
people_ is most alive."[333] _The people_ is what interested George
Sand. And in France _the people_ is, above all, the peasant. The workman
in Paris or in other great towns of France may afford material for such
pictures as those which M. Zola[334] has lately given us in
_L'Assommoir_--pictures of a kind long ago labelled by Madame Sand as
"_the literature of mysteries of iniquity_, which men of talent and
imagination try to bring into fashion." But the real _people_ in France,
the foundation of things there, both in George Sand's eyes and in
reality, is the peasant. The peasant was the object of Madame Sand's
fondest predilections in the present, and happiest hopes in the future.
The Revolution and its doctrine of equality had made the French peasant.
What wonder, then, if she saluted the doctrine as a holy and paramount

And the French peasant is really, so far as I can see, the largest and
strongest element of soundness which the body social of any European
nation possesses. To him is due that astonishing recovery which France
has made since her defeat, and which George Sand predicted in the very
hour of ruin. Yes, in 1870 she predicted _ce reveil général qui va
suivre, à la grande surprise des autres nations, l'espèce d'agonie où
elles nous voient tombés_,[335] "the general re-arising which, to the
astonishment of other nations, is about to follow the sort of agony in
which they now see us lying." To the condition, character, and qualities
of the French peasant this recovery is in the main due. His material
well-being is known to all of us. M. de Laveleye,[336] the well-known
economist, a Belgian and a Protestant, says that France, being the
country of Europe where the soil is more divided than anywhere except in
Switzerland and Norway, is at the same time the country where well-being
is most widely spread, where wealth has of late years increased most,
and where population is least outrunning the limits which, for the
comfort and progress of the working classes themselves, seem necessary.
George Sand could see, of course, the well-being of the French peasant,
for we can all see it.

But there is more. George Sand was a woman, with a woman's ideal of
gentleness, of "the charm of good manners," as essential to
civilization. She has somewhere spoken admirably of the variety and
balance of forces which go to make up true civilization; "certain forces
of weakness, docility, attractiveness, suavity, are here just as real
forces as forces of vigor, encroachment, violence, or brutality." Yes,
as real _forces_, although Prince Bismarck cannot see it; because human
nature requires them, and, often as they may be baffled, and slow as may
be the process of their asserting themselves, mankind is not satisfied
with its own civilization, and keeps fidgeting at it and altering it
again and again, until room is made for them. George Sand thought the
French people,--meaning principally, again, by the French people the
_people_ properly so called, the peasant,--she thought it "the most
kindly, the most amiable, of all peoples." Nothing is more touching than
to read in her _Journal_, written in 1870, while she was witnessing what
seemed to be "the agony of the Latin races," and undergoing what seemed
to be the process of "dying in a general death of one's family, one's
country, and one's nation," how constant is her defence of the people,
the peasant, against her Republican friends. Her Republican friends were
furious with the peasant; accused him of stolidity, cowardice, want of
patriotism; accused him of having given them the Empire, with all its
vileness; wanted to take away from him the suffrage. Again and again
does George Sand take up his defence, and warn her friends of the folly
and danger of their false estimate of him. "The contempt of the masses,
there," she cries, "is the misfortune and crime of the present
moment!"[337] "To execrate the people," she exclaims again, "is real
blasphemy; the people is worth more than we are."

If the peasant gave us the Empire, says Madame Sand, it was because he
saw the parties of liberals disputing, gesticulating, and threatening to
tear one another asunder and France too; he was told _the Empire is
peace_, and he accepted the Empire. The peasant was deceived, he is
uninstructed, he moves slowly; but he moves, he has admirable virtues,
and in him, says George Sand, is our life:--

"Poor Jacques Bonhomme! accuse thee and despise thee who will; for my
part I pity thee, and in spite of thy faults I shall always love thee.
Never will I forget how, a child, I was carried asleep on thy shoulders,
how I was given over to thy care and followed thee everywhere, to the
field, the stall, the cottage. They are all dead, those good old people
who have borne me in their arms; but I remember them well, and I
appreciate at this hour, to the minutest detail, the pureness, the
kindness, the patience, the good humor, the poetry, which presided over
that rustic education amidst disasters of like kind with those which we
are undergoing now. Why should I quarrel with the peasant because on
certain points he feels and thinks differently from what I do? There are
other essential points on which we may feel eternally at one with him,--
probity and charity."[338]

Another generation of peasants had grown up since that first
revolutionary generation of her youth, and equality, as its reign
proceeded, had not deteriorated but improved them.

 "They have advanced greatly in self-respect and well-being, these
peasants from twenty years old to forty: they never ask for anything.
When one meets them they no longer take off their hat. If they know you
they come up to you and hold out their hand. All foreigners who stay
with us are struck with their good bearing, with their amenity, and the
simple, friendly, and polite ease of their behavior. In presence of
people whom they esteem they are, like their fathers, models of tact and
politeness; but they have more than that mere _sentiment_ of equality
which was all that their fathers had,--they have the _idea_ of equality,
and the determination to maintain it. This step upwards they owe to
their having the franchise. Those who would fain treat them as creatures
of a lower order dare not now show this disposition to their face; it
would not be pleasant."[339]

Mr. Hamerton's[340] interesting book about French life has much, I
think, to confirm this account of the French peasant. What I have seen
of France myself (and I have seen something) is fully in agreement with
it. Of a civilization and an equality which makes the peasant thus
_human_, gives to the bulk of the people well-being, probity, charity,
self-respect, tact, and good manners, let us pardon Madame Sand if she
feels and speaks enthusiastically. Some little variation on our own
eternal trio of Barbarians, Philistines, Populace,[341] or on the
eternal solo of Philistinism among our brethren of the United States and
the Colonies, is surely permissible.

Where one is more inclined to differ from Madame Sand is in her estimate
of her Republican friends of the educated classes. They may stand, she
says, for the genius and the soul of France; they represent its "exalted
imagination and profound sensibility," while the peasant represents its
humble, sound, indispensable body. Her protégé, the peasant, is much
ruder with those eloquent gentlemen, and has his own name for one and
all of them, _l'avocat_, by which he means to convey his belief that
words are more to be looked for from that quarter than seriousness and
profit. It seems to me by no means certain but that the peasant is in
the right.

George Sand herself has said admirable things of these friends of hers;
of their want of patience, temper, wisdom; of their "vague and violent
way of talking"; of their interminable flow of "stimulating phrases,
cold as death." Her own place is of course with the party and propaganda
of organic change. But George Sand felt the poetry of the past; she had
no hatreds; the furies, the follies, the self-deceptions of secularist
and revolutionist fanatics filled her with dismay. They are, indeed, the
great danger of France, and it is amongst the educated and articulate
classes of France that they prevail. If the educated and articulate
classes in France were as sound in their way as the inarticulate peasant
is in his, France would present a different spectacle. Not "imagination
and sensibility" are so much required from the educated classes of
France, as simpler, more serious views of life; a knowledge how great a
part _conduct_ (if M. Challemel-Lacour[342] will allow me to say so)
fills in it; a better example. The few who see this, such as Madame Sand
among the dead, and M. Renan[343] among the living, perhaps awaken on
that account, amongst quiet observers at a distance, all the more
sympathy; but in France they are isolated.

All the later work of George Sand, however, all her hope of genuine
social renovation, take the simple and serious ground so necessary. "The
cure for us is far more simple than we will believe. All the better
natures amongst us see it and feel it. It is a good direction given by
ourselves to our hearts and consciences;--_une bonne direction donnée
par nous-mêmes à nos coeurs et à nos consciences_."[344] These are among
the last words of her _Journal_ of 1870.

       *       *       *       *       *

Whether or not the number of George Sand's works--always fresh, always
attractive, but poured out too lavishly and rapidly--is likely to prove
a hindrance to her fame, I do not care to consider. Posterity, alarmed
at the way in which its literary baggage grows upon it, always seeks to
leave behind it as much as it can, as much as it dares,--everything but
masterpieces. But the immense vibration of George Sand's voice upon the
ear of Europe will not soon die away. Her passions and her errors have
been abundantly talked of. She left them behind her, and men's memory of
her will leave them behind also. There will remain of her to mankind the
sense of benefit and stimulus from the passage upon earth of that large
and frank nature, of that large and pure utterance,--the _the large
utterance of the early gods_. There will remain an admiring and ever
widening report of that great and ingenuous soul, simple, affectionate,
without vanity, without pedantry, human, equitable, patient, kind. She
believed herself, she said, "to be in sympathy, across time and space,
with a multitude of honest wills which interrogate their conscience and
try to put themselves in accord with it." This chain of sympathy will
extend more and more.

It is silent, that eloquent voice! it is sunk, that noble, that speaking
head! we sum up, as we best can, what she said to us, and we bid her
adieu. From many hearts in many lands a troop of tender and grateful
regrets converge towards her humble churchyard in Berry. Let them be
joined by these words of sad homage from one of a nation which she
esteemed, and which knew her very little and very ill. Her guiding
thought, the guiding thought which she did her best to make ours too,
"the sentiment of the ideal life, which is none other than man's normal
life as we shall one day know it," is in harmony with words and promises
familiar to that sacred place where she lies. _Exspectat resurrectionem
mortuorum, et vitam venturi sæculi._[345]


I remember hearing Lord Macaulay say, after Wordsworth's death, when
subscriptions were being collected to found a memorial of him, that ten
years earlier more money could have been raised in Cambridge alone, to
do honor to Wordsworth, than was now raised all through the country.
Lord Macaulay had, as we know, his own heightened and telling way of
putting things, and we must always make allowance for it. But probably
it is true that Wordsworth has never, either before or since, been so
accepted and popular, so established in possession of the minds of all
who profess to care for poetry, as he was between the years 1830 and
1840, and at Cambridge. From the very first, no doubt, he had his
believers and witnesses. But I have myself heard him declare that, for
he knew not how many years, his poetry had never brought him in enough
to buy his shoe-strings. The poetry-reading public was very slow to
recognize him, and was very easily drawn away from him. Scott effaced
him with this public. Byron effaced him.

The death of Byron seemed, however, to make an opening for Wordsworth.
Scott, who had for some time ceased to produce poetry himself, and stood
before the public as a great novelist; Scott, too genuine himself not to
feel the profound genuineness of Wordsworth, and with an instinctive
recognition of his firm hold on nature and of his local truth, always
admired him sincerely, and praised him generously. The influence of
Coleridge upon young men of ability was then powerful, and was still
gathering strength; this influence told entirely in favor of
Wordsworth's poetry. Cambridge was a place where Coleridge's influence
had great action, and where Wordsworth's poetry, therefore, flourished
especially. But even amongst the general public its sale grew large, the
eminence of its author was widely recognized, and Rydal Mount[347]
became an object of pilgrimage. I remember Wordsworth relating how one
of the pilgrims, a clergyman, asked him if he had ever written anything
besides the _Guide to the Lakes_. Yes, he answered modestly, he had
written verses. Not every pilgrim was a reader, but the vogue was
established, and the stream of pilgrims came.

Mr. Tennyson's decisive appearance dates from 1842.[348] One cannot say
that he effaced Wordsworth as Scott and Byron had effaced him. The
poetry of Wordsworth had been so long before the public, the suffrage of
good judges was so steady and so strong in its favor, that by 1842 the
verdict of posterity, one may almost say, had been already pronounced,
and Wordsworth's English fame was secure. But the vogue, the ear and
applause of the great body of poetry-readers, never quite thoroughly
perhaps his, he gradually lost more and more, and Mr. Tennyson gained
them. Mr. Tennyson drew to himself, and away from Wordsworth, the
poetry-reading public, and the new generations. Even in 1850, when
Wordsworth died, this diminution of popularity was visible, and
occasioned the remark of Lord Macaulay which I quoted at starting.

The diminution has continued. The influence of Coleridge has waned, and
Wordsworth's poetry can no longer draw succor from this ally. The poetry
has not, however, wanted eulogists; and it may be said to have brought
its eulogists luck, for almost every one who has praised Wordsworth's
poetry has praised it well. But the public has remained cold, or, at
least, undetermined. Even the abundance of Mr. Palgrave's fine and
skilfully chosen specimens of Wordsworth, in the _Golden Treasury_,
surprised many readers, and gave offense to not a few. To tenth-rate
critics and compilers, for whom any violent shock to the public taste
would be a temerity not to be risked, it is still quite permissible to
speak of Wordsworth's poetry, not only with ignorance, but with
impertinence. On the Continent he is almost unknown.

I cannot think, then, that Wordsworth has, up to this time, at all
obtained his deserts. "Glory," said M. Renan the other day, "glory after
all is the thing which has the best chance of not being altogether
vanity." Wordsworth was a homely man, and himself would certainly never
have thought of talking of glory as that which, after all, has the best
chance of not being altogether vanity. Yet we may well allow that few
things are less vain than _real_ glory. Let us conceive of the whole
group of civilized nations as being, for intellectual and spiritual
purposes, one great confederation, bound to a joint action and working
towards a common result; a confederation whose members have a due
knowledge both of the past, out of which they all proceed, and of one
another. This was the ideal of Goethe, and it is an ideal which will
impose itself upon the thoughts of our modern societies more and more.
Then to be recognized by the verdict of such a confederation as a
master, or even as a seriously and eminently worthy workman, in one's
own line of intellectual or spiritual activity, is indeed glory; a glory
which it would be difficult to rate too highly. For what could be more
beneficent, more salutary? The world is forwarded by having its
attention fixed on the best things; and here is a tribunal, free from
all suspicion of national and provincial partiality, putting a stamp on
the best things, and recommending them for general honor and acceptance.
A nation, again, is furthered by recognition of its real gifts and
successes; it is encouraged to develop them further. And here is an
honest verdict, telling us which of our supposed successes are really,
in the judgment of the great impartial world, and not in our private
judgment only, successes, and which are not.

It is so easy to feel pride and satisfaction in one's own things, so
hard to make sure that one is right in feeling it! We have a great
empire. But so had Nebuchadnezzar. We extol the "unrivalled happiness"
of our national civilization. But then comes a candid friend,[349] and
remarks that our upper class is materialized, our middle class
vulgarized, and our lower class brutalized. We are proud of our
painting, our music. But we find that in the judgment of other people
our painting is questionable, and our music non-existent. We are proud
of our men of science. And here it turns out that the world is with us;
we find that in the judgment of other people, too, Newton among the
dead, and Mr. Darwin among the living, hold as high a place as they hold
in our national opinion.

Finally, we are proud of our poets and poetry. Now poetry is nothing
less than the most perfect speech of man, that in which he comes nearest
to being able to utter the truth. It is no small thing, therefore, to
succeed eminently in poetry. And so much is required for duly estimating
success here, that about poetry it is perhaps hardest to arrive at a
sure general verdict, and takes longest. Meanwhile, our own conviction
of the superiority of our national poets is not decisive, is almost
certain to be mingled, as we see constantly in English eulogy of
Shakespeare, with much of provincial infatuation. And we know what was
the opinion current amongst our neighbors the French--people of taste,
acuteness, and quick literary tact--not a hundred years ago, about our
great poets. The old _Biographie Universelle_[350] notices the
pretension of the English to a place for their poets among the chief
poets of the world, and says that this is a pretension which to no one
but an Englishman can ever seem admissible. And the scornful,
disparaging things said by foreigners about Shakespeare and Milton, and
about our national over-estimate of them, have been often quoted, and
will be in every one's remembrance.

A great change has taken place, and Shakespeare is now generally
recognized, even in France, as one of the greatest of poets. Yes, some
anti-Gallican cynic will say, the French rank him with Corneille and
with Victor Hugo! But let me have the pleasure of quoting a sentence
about Shakespeare, which I met with by accident not long ago in the
_Correspondant_, a French review which not a dozen English people, I
suppose, look at. The writer is praising Shakespeare's prose. With
Shakespeare, he says, "prose comes in whenever the subject, being more
familiar, is unsuited to the majestic English iambic." And he goes on:
"Shakespeare is the king of poetic rhythm and style, as well as the king
of the realm of thought: along with his dazzling prose, Shakespeare has
succeeded in giving us the most varied, the most harmonious verse which
has ever sounded upon the human ear since the verse of the Greeks." M.
Henry Cochin,[351] the writer of this sentence, deserves our gratitude
for it; it would not be easy to praise Shakespeare, in a single
sentence, more justly. And when a foreigner and a Frenchman writes thus
of Shakespeare, and when Goethe says of Milton, in whom there was so
much to repel Goethe rather than to attract him, that "nothing has been
ever done so entirely in the sense of the Greeks as _Samson Agonistes_,"
and that "Milton is in very truth a poet whom we must treat with all
reverence," then we understand what constitutes a European recognition
of poets and poetry as contradistinguished from a merely national
recognition, and that in favor both of Milton and of Shakespeare the
judgment of the high court of appeal has finally gone.

I come back to M. Renan's praise of glory, from which I started. Yes,
real glory is a most serious thing, glory authenticated by the
Amphictyonic Court[352] of final appeal, definite glory. And even for
poets and poetry, long and difficult as may be the process of arriving
at the right award, the right award comes at last, the definitive glory
rests where it is deserved. Every establishment of such a real glory is
good and wholesome for mankind at large, good and wholesome for the
nation which produced the poet crowned with it. To the poet himself it
can seldom do harm; for he, poor man, is in his grave, probably, long
before his glory crowns him.

Wordsworth has been in his grave for some thirty years, and certainly
his lovers and admirers cannot flatter themselves that this great and
steady light of glory as yet shines over him. He is not fully recognized
at home; he is not recognized at all abroad. Yet I firmly believe that
the poetical performance of Wordsworth is, after that of Shakespeare and
Milton, of which all the world now recognizes the worth, undoubtedly the
most considerable in our language from the Elizabethan age to the
present time. Chaucer is anterior; and on other grounds, too, he cannot
well be brought into the comparison. But taking the roll of our chief
poetical names, besides Shakespeare and Milton, from the age of
Elizabeth downwards, and going through it,--Spenser, Dryden, Pope, Gray,
Goldsmith, Cowper, Burns, Coleridge, Scott, Campbell, Moore, Byron,
Shelley, Keats (I mention those only who are dead),--I think it certain
that Wordsworth's name deserves to stand, and will finally stand, above
them all. Several of the poets named have gifts and excellences which
Wordsworth has not. But taking the performance of each as a whole, I say
that Wordsworth seems to me to have left a body of poetical work
superior in power, in interest, in the qualities which give enduring
freshness, to that which any one of the others has left.

But this is not enough to say. I think it certain, further, that if we
take the chief poetical names of the Continent since the death of
Molière, and, omitting Goethe, confront the remaining names with that of
Wordsworth, the result is the same. Let us take Klopstock,[353]
Lessing,[354] Schiller, Uhland,[355] Ruckert,[356] and Heine[357] for
Germany; Filicaja,[358] Alfieri,[359] Manzoni,[360] and Leopardi[361]
for Italy; Racine,[362] Boileau,[363] Voltaire, André Chénier,[364]
Béranger,[365] Lamartine,[366] Musset,[367] M. Victor Hugo (he has been
so long celebrated that although he still lives I may be permitted to
name him) for France. Several of these, again, have evidently gifts and
excellences to which Wordsworth can make no pretension. But in real
poetical achievement it seems to me indubitable that to Wordsworth, here
again, belongs the palm. It seems to me that Wordsworth has left behind
him a body of poetical work which wears, and will wear, better on the
whole than the performance of any one of these personages, so far more
brilliant and celebrated, most of them, than the homely poet of Rydal.
Wordsworth's performance in poetry is on the whole, in power, in
interest, in the qualities which give enduring freshness, superior to

This is a high claim to make for Wordsworth. But if it is a just claim,
if Wordsworth's place among the poets who have appeared in the last two
or three centuries is after Shakespeare, Molière, Milton, Goethe,
indeed, but before all the rest, then in time Wordsworth will have his
due. We shall recognize him in his place, as we recognize Shakespeare
and Milton; and not only we ourselves shall recognize him, but he will
be recognized by Europe also. Meanwhile, those who recognize him already
may do well, perhaps, to ask themselves whether there are not in the
case of Wordsworth certain special obstacles which hinder or delay his
due recognition by others, and whether these obstacles are not in some
measure removable.

The _Excursion_ and the _Prelude_, his poems of greatest bulk, are by no
means Wordsworth's best work. His best work is in his shorter pieces,
and many indeed are there of these which are of first-rate excellence.
But in his seven volumes the pieces of high merit are mingled with a
mass of pieces very inferior to them; so inferior to them that it seems
wonderful how the same poet should have produced both. Shakespeare
frequently has lines and passages in a strain quite false, and which are
entirely unworthy of him. But one can imagine him smiling if one could
meet him in the Elysian Fields and tell him so; smiling and replying
that he knew it perfectly well himself, and what did it matter? But with
Wordsworth the case is different. Work altogether inferior, work quite
uninspired, flat and dull, is produced by him with evident
unconsciousness of its defects, and he presents it to us with the same
faith and seriousness as his best work. Now a drama or an epic fill the
mind, and one does not look beyond them; but in a collection of short
pieces the impression made by one piece requires to be continued and
sustained by the piece following. In reading Wordsworth the impression
made by one of his fine pieces is too often dulled and spoiled by a very
inferior piece coming after it.

Wordsworth composed verses during a space of some sixty years; and it is
no exaggeration to say that within one single decade of those years,
between 1798 and 1808, almost all his really first-rate work was
produced. A mass of inferior work remains, work done before and after
this golden prime, imbedding the first-rate work and clogging it,
obstructing our approach to it, chilling, not unfrequently, the
high-wrought mood with which we leave it. To be recognized far and wide
as a great poet, to be possible and receivable as a classic, Wordsworth
needs to be relieved of a great deal of the poetical baggage which now
encumbers him. To administer this relief is indispensable, unless he is
to continue to be a poet for the few only,--a poet valued far below his
real worth by the world.

There is another thing. Wordsworth classified his poems not according to
any commonly received plan of arrangement, but according to a scheme of
mental physiology. He has poems of the fancy, poems of the imagination,
poems of sentiment and reflection, and so on. His categories are
ingenious but far-fetched, and the result of his employment of them is
unsatisfactory. Poems are separated one from another which possess a
kinship of subject or of treatment far more vital and deep than the
supposed unity of mental origin, which was Wordsworth's reason for
joining them with others.

The tact of the Greeks in matters of this kind was infallible. We may
rely upon it that we shall not improve upon the classification adopted
by the Greeks for kinds of poetry; that their categories of epic,
dramatic, lyric, and so forth, have a natural propriety, and should be
adhered to. It may sometimes seem doubtful to which of two categories a
poem belongs; whether this or that poem is to be called, for instance,
narrative or lyric, lyric or elegiac. But there is to be found in every
good poem a strain, a predominant note, which determines the poem as
belonging to one of these kinds rather than the other; and here is the
best proof of the value of the classification, and of the advantage of
adhering to it. Wordsworth's poems will never produce their due effect
until they are freed from their present artificial arrangement, and
grouped more naturally.

Disengaged from the quantity of inferior work which now obscures them,
the best poems of Wordsworth, I hear many people say, would indeed stand
out in great beauty, but they would prove to be very few in number,
scarcely more than a half a dozen. I maintain, on the other hand, that
what strikes me with admiration, what establishes in my opinion
Wordsworth's superiority, is the great and ample body of powerful work
which remains to him, even after all his inferior work has been cleared
away. He gives us so much to rest upon, so much which communicates his
spirit and engages ours!

This is of very great importance. If it were a comparison of single
pieces, or of three or four pieces, by each poet, I do not say that
Wordsworth would stand decisively above Gray, or Burns, or Coleridge, or
Keats, or Manzoni, or Heine. It is in his ampler body of powerful work
that I find his superiority. His good work itself, his work which
counts, is not all of it, of course, of equal value. Some kinds of
poetry are in themselves lower kinds than others. The ballad kind is a
lower kind; the didactic kind, still more, is a lower kind. Poetry of
this latter sort counts, too, sometimes, by its biographical interest
partly, not by its poetical interest pure and simple; but then this can
only be when the poet producing it has the power and importance of
Wordsworth, a power and importance which he assuredly did not establish
by such didactic poetry alone. Altogether, it is, I say, by the great
body of powerful and significant work which remains to him, after every
reduction and deduction has been made, that Wordsworth's superiority is

To exhibit this body of Wordsworth's best work, to clear away
obstructions from around it, and to let it speak for itself, is what
every lover of Wordsworth should desire. Until this has been done,
Wordsworth, whom we, to whom he is dear, all of us know and feel to be
so great a poet, has not had a fair chance before the world. When once
it has been done, he will make his way best, not by our advocacy of him,
but by his own worth and power. We may safely leave him to make his way
thus, we who believe that a superior worth and power in poetry finds in
mankind a sense responsive to it and disposed at last to recognize it.
Yet at the outset, before he has been duly known and recognized, we may
do Wordsworth a service, perhaps, by indicating in what his superior
power and worth will be found to consist, and in what it will not.

Long ago, in speaking of Homer, I said that the noble and profound
application of ideas to life is the most essential part of poetic
greatness[Transcriber's note: no punctuation here] I said that a great
poet receives his distinctive character of superiority from his
application, under the conditions immutably fixed by the laws of poetic
beauty and poetic truth, from his application, I say, to his subject,
whatever it may be, of the ideas

  "On man, on nature, and on human life,"[368]

which he has acquired for himself. The line quoted is Wordsworth's own;
and his superiority arises from his powerful use, in his best pieces, his
powerful application to his subject, of ideas "on man, on nature, and on
human life."

Voltaire, with his signal acuteness, most truly remarked that "no nation
has treated in poetry moral ideas with more energy and depth than the
English nation." And he adds; "There, it seems to me, is the great merit
of the English poets." Voltaire does not mean by treating in poetry
moral ideas, the composing moral and didactic poems;--that brings us
but a very little way in poetry. He means just the same thing as was
meant when I spoke above "of the noble and profound application of ideas
to life"; and he means the application of these ideas under the
conditions fixed for us by the laws of poetic beauty and poetic truth.
If it is said that to call these ideas _moral_ ideas is to introduce a
strong and injurious limitation, I answer that it is to do nothing of
the kind, because moral ideas are really so main a part of human life.
The question, _how to live_, is itself a moral idea; and it is the
question which most interests every man, and with which, in some way or
other, he is perpetually occupied. A large sense is of course to be
given to the term _moral_. Whatever bears upon the question, "how to
live," comes under it.

"Nor love thy life, nor hate; but, what thou liv'st, Live well; how long
or short, permit to heaven."[369]

In those fine lines Milton utters, as every one at once perceives, a
moral idea. Yes, but so too, when Keats consoles the forward-bending
lover on the Grecian Urn, the lover arrested and presented in immortal
relief by the sculptor's hand before he can kiss, with the line,

"Forever wilt thou love, and she be fair--"

he utters a moral idea. When Shakespeare says, that

                      "We are such stuff
As dreams are made of, and our little life
Is rounded with a sleep,"[370]

he utters a moral idea.

Voltaire was right in thinking that the energetic and profound treatment
of moral ideas, in this large sense, is what distinguishes the English
poetry. He sincerely meant praise, no dispraise or hint of limitation;
and they err who suppose that poetic limitation is a necessary
consequence of the fact, the fact being granted as Voltaire states it.
If what distinguishes the greatest poets is their powerful and profound
application of ideas to life, which surely no good critic will deny,
then to prefix to the term ideas here the term moral makes hardly any
difference, because human life itself is in so preponderating a degree

It is important, therefore, to hold fast to this: that poetry is at
bottom a criticism of life;[371] that the greatness of a poet lies in
his powerful and beautiful application of ideas to life,--to the
question: How to live. Morals are often treated in a narrow and false
fashion; they are bound up with systems of thought and belief which have
had their day; they are fallen into the hands of pedants and
professional dealers; they grow tiresome to some of us. We find
attraction, at times, even in a poetry of revolt against them; in a
poetry which might take for its motto Omar Khayyám's words: "Let us make
up in the tavern for the time which we have wasted in the mosque." Or we
find attractions in a poetry indifferent to them; in a poetry where the
contents may be what they will, but where the form is studied and
exquisite. We delude ourselves in either case; and the best cure for our
delusion is to let our minds rest upon that great and inexhaustible word
_life_, until we learn to enter into its meaning. A poetry of revolt
against moral ideas is a poetry of revolt against _life_; a poetry of
indifference towards moral ideas is a poetry of indifference towards

Epictetus had a happy figure for things like the play of the senses, or
literary form and finish, or argumentative ingenuity, in comparison with
"the best and master thing" for us, as he called it, the concern, how to
live. Some people were afraid of them, he said, or they disliked and
undervalued them. Such people were wrong; they were unthankful or
cowardly. But the things might also be over-prized, and treated as final
when they are not. They bear to life the relation which inns bear to
home. "As if a man, journeying home, and finding a nice inn on the road,
and liking it, were to stay forever at the inn! Man, thou hast
forgotten thine object; thy journey was not _to_ this, but _through_
this. 'But this inn is taking.' And how many other inns, too, are
taking, and how many fields and meadows! but as places of passage
merely, you have an object, which is this: to get home, to do your duty
to your family, friends, and fellow-countrymen, to attain inward
freedom, serenity, happiness, contentment. Style takes your fancy,
arguing takes your fancy, and you forget your home and want to make your
abode with them and to stay with them, on the plea that they are taking.
Who denies that they are taking? but as places of passage, as inns. And
when I say this, you suppose me to be attacking the care for style, the
care for argument. I am not; I attack the resting in them, the not
looking to the end which is beyond them."[372]

Now, when we come across a poet like Théophile Gautier,[373] we have a
poet who has taken up his abode at an inn, and never got farther. There
may be inducements to this or that one of us, at this or that moment, to
find delight in him, to cleave to him; but after all, we do not change
the truth about him,--we only stay ourselves in his inn along with him.
And when we come across a poet like Wordsworth, who sings

  "Of truth, of grandeur, beauty, love and hope,
  And melancholy fear subdued by faith,
  Of blessed consolations in distress,
  OF moral strength and intellectual power,
  Of joy in widest commonalty spread--"[374]

then we have a poet intent on "the best and master thing," and who
prosecutes his journey home. We say, for brevity's sake, that he deals
with _life_, because he deals with that in which life really consists.
This is what Voltaire means to praise in the English poets,--this
dealing with what is really life. But always it is the mark of the
greatest poets that they deal with it; and to say that the English poets
are remarkable for dealing with it, is only another way of saying, what
is true, that in poetry the English genius has especially shown its

Wordsworth deals with it, and his greatness lies in his dealing with it
so powerfully. I have named a number of celebrated poets above all of
whom he, in my opinion, deserves to be placed. He is to be placed above
poets like Voltaire, Dryden, Pope, Lessing, Schiller, because these
famous personages, with a thousand gifts and merits, never, or scarcely
ever, attain the distinctive accent and utterance of the high and
genuine poets--

  "Quique pii vates et Phoebo digna locuti,"[375]

at all. Burns, Keats, Heine, not to speak of others in our list, have
this accent;--who can doubt it? And at the same time they have treasures
of humor, felicity, passion, for which in Wordsworth we shall look in
vain. Where, then, is Wordsworth's superiority? It is here; he deals
with more of _life_ than they do; he deals with _life_ as a whole, more

No Wordsworthian will doubt this. Nay, the fervent Wordsworthian will
add, as Mr. Leslie Stephen[376] does, that Wordsworth's poetry is
precious because his philosophy is sound; that his "ethical system is as
distinctive and capable of exposition as Bishop Butler's"; that his
poetry is informed by ideas which "fall spontaneously into a scientific
system of thought." But we must be on our guard against the
Wordsworthians, if we want to secure for Wordsworth his due rank as a
poet. The Wordsworthians are apt to praise him for the wrong things, and
to lay far too much stress upon what they call his philosophy. His
poetry is the reality, his philosophy--so far, at least, as it may put
on the form and habit of "a scientific system of thought," and the more
that it puts them on--is the illusion. Perhaps we shall one day learn to
make this proposition general, and to say: Poetry is the reality,
philosophy the illusion. But in Wordsworth's case, at any rate, we
cannot do him justice until we dismiss his formal philosophy.

The _Excursion_ abounds with philosophy and therefore the _Excursion_ is
to the Wordsworthian what it never can be to the disinterested lover of
poetry,--a satisfactory work. "Duty exists," says Wordsworth, in the
_Excursion_; and then he proceeds thus--

      " ... Immutably survive,
  For our support, the measures and the forms,
  Which an abstract Intelligence supplies,
  Whose kingdom is, where time and space are not."[377]

And the Wordsworthian is delighted, and thinks that here is a sweet
union of philosophy and poetry. But the disinterested lover of poetry
will feel that the lines carry us really not a step farther than the
proposition which they would interpret; that they are a tissue of
elevated but abstract verbiage, alien to the very nature of poetry.

Or let us come direct to the centre of Wordsworth's philosophy, as "an
ethical system, as distinctive and capable of systematical exposition as
Bishop Butler's"--

  "... One adequate support
  For the calamities of mortal life
  Exists, one only;--an assured belief
  That the procession of our fate, howe'er
  Sad or disturbed, is ordered by a Being
  Of infinite benevolence and power;
  Whose everlasting purposes embrace
  All accidents, converting them to good."[378]

That is doctrine such as we hear in church too, religious and
philosophic doctrine; and the attached Wordsworthian loves passages of
such doctrine, and brings them forward in proof of his poet's
excellence. But however true the doctrine may be, it has, as here
presented, none of the characters of _poetic_ truth, the kind of truth
which we require from a poet, and in which Wordsworth is really strong.

Even the "intimations" of the famous Ode,[379] those corner-stones of
the supposed philosophic system of Wordsworth,--the idea of the high
instincts and affections coming out in childhood, testifying of a divine
home recently left, and fading away as our life proceeds,--this idea, of
undeniable beauty as a play of fancy, has itself not the character of
poetic truth of the best kind; it has no real solidity. The instinct of
delight in Nature and her beauty had no doubt extraordinary strength in
Wordsworth himself as a child.

But to say that universally this instinct is mighty in childhood, and
tends to die away afterwards, is to say what is extremely doubtful.  In
many people, perhaps with the majority of educated persons, the love of
nature is nearly imperceptible at ten years old, but strong and
operative at thirty. In general we may say of these high instincts of
early childhood, the base of the alleged systematic philosophy of
Wordsworth, what Thucydides says of the early achievements of the Greek
race: "It is impossible to speak with certainty of what is so remote;
but from all that we can really investigate, I should say that they were
no very great things."

Finally, the "scientific system of thought" in Wordsworth gives us at
least such poetry as this, which the devout Wordsworthian accepts--

  "O for the coming of that glorious time
  When, prizing knowledge as her noblest wealth
  And best protection, this Imperial Realm,
  While she exacts allegiance, shall admit
  An obligation, on her part, to _teach_
  Them who are born to serve her and obey;
  Binding herself by statute to secure,
  For all the children whom her soil maintains,
  The rudiments of letters, and inform
  The mind with moral and religious truth."[380]

Wordsworth calls Voltaire dull, and surely the production of these
un-Voltairian lines must have been imposed on him as a judgment! One can
hear them being quoted at a Social Science Congress; one can call up the
whole scene. A great room in one of our dismal provincial towns; dusty
air and jaded afternoon daylight; benches full of men with bald heads
and women in spectacles; an orator lifting up his face from a manuscript
written within and without to declaim these lines of Wordsworth; and in
the soul of any poor child of nature who may have wandered in thither,
an unutterable sense of lamentation, and mourning, and woe!

"But turn we," as Wordsworth says, "from these bold, bad men," the
haunters of Social Science Congresses. And let us be on our guard, too,
against the exhibitors and extollers of a "scientific system of thought"
in Wordsworth's poetry. The poetry will never be seen aright while they
thus exhibit it. The cause of its greatness is simple, and may be told
quite simply. Wordsworth's poetry is great because of the extraordinary
power with which Wordsworth feels the joy offered to us in nature, the
joy offered to us in the simple primary affections and duties; and
because of the extraordinary power with which, in case after case, he
shows us this joy, and renders it so as to make us share it.

The source of joy from which he thus draws is the truest and most
unfailing source of joy accessible to man. It is also accessible
universally. Wordsworth brings us word, therefore, according to his own
strong and characteristic line, he brings us word

  "Of joy in widest commonalty spread."[381]

Here is an immense advantage for a poet. Wordsworth tells of what all
seek, and tells of it at its truest and best source, and yet a source
where all may go and draw for it.

Nevertheless, we are not to suppose that everything is precious which
Wordsworth, standing even at this perennial and beautiful source, may
give us. Wordsworthians are apt to talk as if it must be. They will
speak with the same reverence of _The Sailor's Mother_, for example, as
of _Lucy Gray_. They do their master harm by such lack of
discrimination. _Lucy Gray_ is a beautiful success; _The Sailor's
Mother_ is a failure. To give aright what he wishes to give, to
interpret and render successfully, is not always within Wordsworth's own
command. It is within no poet's command; here is the part of the Muse,
the inspiration, the God, the "not ourselves."[382] In Wordsworth's
case, the accident, for so it may almost be called, of inspiration, is
of peculiar importance. No poet, perhaps, is so evidently filled with a
new and sacred energy when the inspiration is upon him; no poet, when it
fails him, is so left "weak as is a breaking wave." I remember hearing
him say that "Goethe's poetry was not inevitable enough." The remark is
striking and true; no line in Goethe, as Goethe said himself, but its
maker knew well how it came there. Wordsworth is right, Goethe's poetry
is not inevitable; not inevitable enough. But Wordsworth's poetry, when
he is at his best, is inevitable, as inevitable as Nature herself. It
might seem that Nature not only gave him the matter for his poem, but
wrote his poem for him. He has no style. He was too conversant with
Milton not to catch at times his master's manner, and he has fine
Miltonic lines; but he has no assured poetic style of his own, like
Milton. When he seeks to have a style he falls into ponderosity and
pomposity. In the _Excursion_ we have his style, as an artistic product
of his own creation; and although Jeffrey completely failed to recognize
Wordsworth's real greatness, he was yet not wrong in saying of the
_Excursion_, as a work of poetic style: "This will never do."[383]. And
yet magical as is that power, which Wordsworth has not, of assured and
possessed poetic style, he has something which is an equivalent for it.

Every one who has any sense for these things feels the subtle turn, the
heightening, which is given to a poet's verse by his genius for style.
We can feel it in the

  "After life's fitful fever, he sleeps well"--[384]

of Shakespeare; in the

      "... though fall'n on evil days,
  On evil days though fall'n, and evil tongues"--[385]

of Milton. It is the incomparable charm of Milton's power of poetic
style which gives such worth to _Paradise Regained_, and makes a great
poem of a work in which Milton's imagination does not soar high.
Wordsworth has in constant possession, and at command, no style of this
kind; but he had too poetic a nature, and had read the great poets too
well, not to catch, as I have already remarked, something of it
occasionally. We find it not only in his Miltonic lines; we find it in
such a phrase as this, where the manner is his own, not Milton's--

      "the fierce confederate storm
  Of sorrow barricadoed evermore
  Within the walls of cities;"[386]

although even here, perhaps, the power of style which is undeniable, is
more properly that of eloquent prose than the subtle heightening and
change wrought by genuine poetic style. It is style, again, and the
elevation given by style, which chiefly makes the effectiveness of
_Laodameia_. Still, the right sort of verse to choose from Wordsworth,
if we are to seize his true and most characteristic form of expression,
is a line like this from _Michael_--

  "And never lifted up a single stone."

There is nothing subtle in it, no heightening, no study of poetic style,
strictly so called, at all; yet it is expression of the highest and most
truly expressive kind.

Wordsworth owed much to Burns, and a style of perfect plainness, relying
for effect solely on the weight and force of that which with entire
fidelity it utters, Burns could show him.

  "The poor inhabitant below
  Was quick to learn and wise to know,
  And keenly felt the friendly glow
    And softer flame;
  But thoughtless follies laid him low
    And stain'd his name."[387]

Every one will be conscious of a likeness here to Wordsworth; and if
Wordsworth did great things with this nobly plain manner, we must
remember, what indeed he himself would always have been forward to
acknowledge, that Burns used it before him.

Still Wordsworth's use of it has something unique and unmatchable.
Nature herself seems, I say, to take the pen out of his hand, and to
write for him with her own bare, sheer, penetrating power. This arises
from two causes; from the profound sincereness with which Wordsworth
feels his subject, and also from the profoundly sincere and natural
character of his subject itself. He can and will treat such a subject
with nothing But the most plain, first-hand, almost austere naturalness.
His expression may often be called bald, as, for instance, in the poem
of _Resolution and Independence_; but it is bald as the bare mountain
tops are bald, with a baldness which is full of grandeur.

Wherever we meet with the successful balance, in Wordsworth, of profound
truth of subject with profound truth of execution, he is unique. His
best poems are those which most perfectly exhibit this balance. I have a
warm admiration for _Laodameia_ and for the great _Ode_; but if I am to
tell the very truth, I find _Laodameia_ not wholly free from something
artificial, and the great _Ode_ not wholly free from something
declamatory. If I had to pick out poems of a kind most perfectly to show
Wordsworth's unique power, I should rather choose poems such as
_Michael, The Fountain, The Highland Reaper_.[388] And poems with the
peculiar and unique beauty which distinguishes these, Wordsworth
produced in considerable number; besides very many other poems of which
the worth, although not so rare as the worth of these, is still
exceedingly high.

On the whole, then, as I said at the beginning, not only is Wordsworth
eminent by reason of the goodness of his best work, but he is eminent
also by reason of the great body of good work which he has left to us.
With the ancients I will not compare him. In many respects the ancients
are far above us, and yet there is something that we demand which they
can never give. Leaving the ancients, let us come to the poets and
poetry of Christendom. Dante, Shakespeare, Molière, Milton, Goethe, are
altogether larger and more splendid luminaries in the poetical heaven
than Wordsworth. But I know not where else, among the moderns, we are to
find his superiors.

To disengage the poems which show his power, and to present them to the
English-speaking public and to the world, is the object of this volume.
I by no means say that it contains all which in Wordsworth's poems is
interesting. Except in the case of _Margaret_, a story composed
separately from the rest of the _Excursion_, and which belongs to a
different part of England, I have not ventured on detaching portions of
poems, or on giving any piece otherwise than as Wordsworth himself gave
it. But under the conditions imposed by this reserve, the volume
contains, I think, everything, or nearly everything, which may best
serve him with the majority of lovers of poetry, nothing which may
disserve him.

I have spoken lightly of Wordsworthians; and if we are to get Wordsworth
recognized by the public and by the world, we must recommend him not in
the spirit of a clique, but in the spirit of disinterested lovers of
poetry. But I am a Wordsworthian myself. I can read with pleasure and
edification _Peter Bell_, and the whole series of _Ecclesiastical
Sonnets_, and the address to Mr. Wilkinson's spade, and even the
_Thanksgiving Ode_;--everything of Wordsworth, I think, except
_Vaudracour and Julia_. It is not for nothing that one has been brought
up in the veneration of a man so truly worthy of homage; that one has
seen him and heard him, lived in his neighborhood, and been familiar
with his country. No Wordsworthian has a tenderer affection for this
pure and sage master than I, or is less really offended by his defects.
But Wordsworth is something more than the pure and sage master of a
small band of devoted followers, and we ought not to rest satisfied
until he is seen to be what he is. He is one of the very chief glories
of English Poetry; and by nothing is England so glorious as by her
poetry. Let us lay aside every weight which hinders our getting him
recognized as this, and let our one study be to bring to pass, as widely
as possible and as truly as possible, his own word concerning his poems:
"They will coöoperate with the benign tendencies in human nature and
society, and will, in their degree, be efficacious in making men wiser,
better, and happier."



The disparagers of culture make its motive curiosity;
sometimes, indeed, they make its motive mere exclusiveness
and vanity. The culture which is supposed to plume itself on a
smattering of Greek and Latin is a culture which is begotten by nothing
so intellectual as curiosity; it is valued either out of sheer vanity
and ignorance or else as an engine of social and class distinction,
separating its holder, like a badge or title, from other people who have
not got it. No serious man would call this _culture_, or attach any
value to it, as culture, at all. To find the real ground for the very
differing estimate which serious people will set upon culture, we must
find some motive for culture in the terms of which may lie a real
ambiguity; and such a motive the word _curiosity_ gives us.

I have before now pointed out that we English do not, like the
foreigners, use this word in a good sense as well as in a bad sense.
With us the word is always used in a somewhat disapproving sense. A
liberal and intelligent eagerness about the things of the mind may be
meant by a foreigner when he speaks of curiosity, but with us the word
always conveys a certain notion of frivolous and unedifying activity. In
the _Quarterly Review_, some little time ago, was an estimate of the
celebrated French critic, M. Sainte-Beuve,[390] and a very inadequate
estimate it in my judgment was. And its inadequacy consisted chiefly in
this: that in our English way it left out of sight the double sense
really involved in the word _curiosity_, thinking enough was said to
stamp M. Sainte-Beuve with blame if it was said that he was impelled in
his operations as a critic by curiosity, and omitting either to perceive
that M. Sainte-Beuve himself, and many other people with him, would
consider that this was praiseworthy and not blameworthy, or to point out
why it ought really to be accounted worthy of blame and not of praise.
For as there is a curiosity about intellectual matters which is futile,
and merely a disease, so there is certainly a curiosity,--a desire after
the things of the mind simply for their own sakes and for the pleasure
of seeing them as they are,--which is, in an intelligent being, natural
and laudable. Nay, and the very desire to see things as they are,
implies a balance and regulation of mind which is not often attained
without fruitful effort, and which is the very opposite of the blind and
diseased impulse of mind which is what we mean to blame when we blame
curiosity. Montesquieu says: "The first motive which ought to impel us
to study is the desire to augment the excellence of our nature, and to
render an intelligent being yet more intelligent."[391] This is the true
ground to assign for the genuine scientific passion, however manifested,
and for culture, viewed simply as a fruit of this passion; and it is a
worthy ground, even though we let the term _curiosity_ stand to describe
it.  But there is of culture another view, in which not solely the
scientific passion, the sheer desire to see things as they are, natural
and proper in an intelligent being, appears as the ground of it. There
is a view in which all the love of our neighbor, the impulses towards
action, help, and beneficence, the desire for removing human error,
clearing human confusion, and diminishing human misery, the noble
aspiration to leave the world better and happier than we found it,--
motives eminently such as are called social,--come in as part of the
grounds of culture, and the main and preëminent part. Culture is then
properly described not as having its origin in curiosity, but as having
its origin in the love of perfection; it is _a study of perfection_. It
moves by the force, not merely or primarily of the scientific passion
for pure knowledge, but also of the moral and social passion for doing
good. As, in the first view of it, we took for its worthy motto
Montesquieu's words: "To render an intelligent being yet more
intelligent!" so, in the second view of it, there is no better motto
which it can have than these words of Bishop Wilson:[392] "To make
reason and the will of God prevail!"[393]

Only, whereas the passion for doing good is apt to be overhasty in
determining what reason and the will of God say, because its turn is for
acting rather than thinking and it wants to be beginning to act; and
whereas it is apt to take its own conceptions, which proceed from its
own state of development and share in all the imperfections and
immaturities of this, for a basis of action; what distinguishes culture
is, that it is possessed by the scientific passion as well as by the
passion of doing good; that it demands worthy notions of reason and the
will of God, and does not readily suffer its own crude conceptions to
substitute themselves for them. And knowing that no action or
institution can be salutary and stable which is not based on reason and
the will of God, it is not so bent on acting and instituting, even with
the great aim of diminishing human error and misery ever before its
thoughts, but that it can remember that acting and instituting are of
little use, unless we know how and what we ought to act and to

This culture is more interesting and more far-reaching than that other,
which is founded solely on the scientific passion for knowing. But it
needs times of faith and ardor, times when the intellectual horizon is
opening and widening all around us, to flourish in. And is not the close
and bounded intellectual horizon within which we have long lived and
moved now lifting up, and are not new lights finding free passage to
shine in upon us? For a long time there was no passage for them to make
their way in upon us, and then it was of no use to think of adapting the
world's action to them. Where was the hope of making reason and the will
of God prevail among people who had a routine which they had christened
reason and the will of God, in which they were inextricably bound, and
beyond which they had no power of looking? But now, the iron force of
adhesion to the old routine,--social, political, religious,--has
wonderfully yielded; the iron force of exclusion of all which is new has
wonderfully yielded. The danger now is, not that people should
obstinately refuse to allow anything but their old routine to pass for
reason and the will of God, but either that they should allow some
novelty or other to pass for these too easily, or else that they should
underrate the importance of them altogether, and think it enough to
follow action for its own sake, without troubling themselves to make
reason and the will of God prevail therein. Now, then, is the moment for
culture to be of service, culture which believes in making reason and
the will of God prevail, believes in perfection, is the study and
pursuit of perfection, and is no longer debarred, by a rigid invincible
exclusion of whatever is new, from getting acceptance for its ideas,
simply because they are new.

The moment this view of culture is seized, the moment it is regarded not
solely as the endeavor to see things as they are, to draw towards a
knowledge of the universal order which seems to be intended and aimed at
in the world, and which it is a man's happiness to go along with or his
misery to go counter to,--to learn, in short, the will of God,--the
moment, I say, culture is considered not merely as the endeavor to _see_
and _learn_ this, but as the endeavor, also, to make it _prevail_, the
moral, social, and beneficent character of culture becomes manifest. The
mere endeavor to see and learn the truth for our own personal
satisfaction is indeed a commencement for making it prevail, a preparing
the way for this, which always serves this, and is wrongly, therefore,
stamped with blame absolutely in itself and not only in its caricature
and degeneration. But perhaps it has got stamped with blame, and
disparaged with the dubious title of curiosity, because in comparison
with this wider endeavor of such great and plain utility it looks
selfish, petty, and unprofitable.

And religion, the greatest and most important of the efforts by which
the human race has manifested its impulse to perfect itself,--religion,
that voice of the deepest human experience,--does not only enjoin and
sanction the aim which is the great aim of culture, the aim of setting
ourselves to ascertain what perfection is and to make it prevail; but
also, in determining generally in what human perfection consists,
religion comes to a conclusion identical with that which culture,--
culture seeking the determination of this question through _all_ the
voices of human experience which have been heard upon it, of art,
science, poetry, philosophy, history, as well as of religion, in order
to give a greater fulness and certainty to its solution,--likewise
reaches. Religion says: _The kingdom of God_ _is within you_; and
culture, in like manner, places human perfection in an _internal_
condition, in the growth and predominance of our humanity proper, as
distinguished from our animality. It places it in the ever-increasing
efficacy and in the general harmonious expansion of those gifts of
thought and feeling, which make the peculiar dignity, wealth, and
happiness of human nature. As I have said on a former occasion: "It is
in making endless additions to itself, in the endless expansion of its
powers, in endless growth in wisdom and beauty, that the spirit of the
human race finds its ideal. To reach this ideal, culture is an
indispensable aid, and that is the true value of culture." Not a having
and a resting, but a growing and a becoming, is the character of
perfection as culture conceives it; and here, too, it coincides with

And because men are all members of one great whole, and the sympathy
which is in human nature will not allow one member to be indifferent to
the rest or to have a perfect welfare independent of the rest, the
expansion of our humanity, to suit the idea of perfection which culture
forms, must be a _general_ expansion. Perfection, as culture conceives
it, is not possible while the individual remains isolated. The
individual is required, under pain of being stunted and enfeebled in his
own development if he disobeys, to carry others along with him in his
march towards perfection, to be continually doing all he can to enlarge
and increase the volume of the human stream sweeping thitherward. And,
here, once more, culture lays on us the same obligation as religion,
which says, as Bishop Wilson has admirably put it, that "to promote the
kingdom of God is to increase and hasten one's own happiness."[394]

But, finally, perfection,--as culture from a thorough disinterested
study of human nature and human experience learns to conceive it,--is a
harmonious expansion of _all_ the powers which make the beauty and worth
of human nature, and is not consistent with the over-development of any
one power at the expense of the rest. Here culture goes beyond religion
as religion is generally conceived by us.

If culture, then, is a study of perfection, and of harmonious
perfection, general perfection, and perfection which consists in
becoming something rather than in having something, in an inward
condition of the mind and spirit, not in an outward set of
circumstances,--it is clear that culture, instead or being the
frivolous and useless thing which Mr. Bright,[395] and Mr. Frederic
Harrison,[396] and many other Liberals are apt to call it, has a very
important function to fulfil for mankind. And this function is
particularly important in our modern world, of which the whole
civilization is, to a much greater degree than the civilization of
Greece and Rome, mechanical and external, and tends constantly to become
more so. But above all in our own country has culture a weighty part to
perform, because here that mechanical character, which civilization
tends to take everywhere, is shown in the most eminent degree. Indeed
nearly all the characters of perfection, as culture teaches us to fix
them, meet in this country with some powerful tendency which thwarts
them and sets them at defiance. The idea of perfection as an _inward_
condition of the mind and spirit is at variance with the mechanical and
material civilization in esteem with us, and nowhere, as I have said, so
much in esteem as with us. The idea of perfection as a _general_
expansion of the human family is at variance with our strong
individualism, our hatred of all limits to the unrestrained swing of the
individual's personality, our maxim of "every man for himself." Above
all, the idea of perfection as a _harmonious_ expansion of human nature
is at variance with our want of flexibility, with our inaptitude for
seeing more than one side of a thing, with our intense energetic
absorption in the particular pursuit we happen to be following. So
culture has a rough task to achieve in this country. Its preachers have,
and are likely long to have, a hard time of it, and they will much
oftener be regarded, for a great while to come, as elegant or spurious
Jeremiahs than as friends and benefactors. That, however, will not
prevent their doing in the end good service if they persevere. And,
meanwhile, the mode of action they have to pursue, and the sort of
habits they must fight against, ought to be made quite clear for every
one to see, who may be willing to look at the matter attentively and

Faith in machinery is, I said, our besetting danger; often in machinery
most absurdly disproportioned to the end which this machinery, if it is
to do any good at all, is to serve; but always in machinery, as if it
had a value in and for itself. What is freedom but machinery? what is
population but machinery? what is coal but machinery? what are railroads
but machinery? what is wealth but machinery? what are, even, religious
organizations but machinery? Now almost every voice in England is
accustomed to speak of these things as if they were precious ends in
themselves, and therefore had some of the characters of perfection
indisputably joined to them. I have before now noticed Mr.
Roebuck's[397] stock argument for proving the greatness and happiness of
England as she is, and for quite stopping the mouths of all gainsayers.
Mr. Roebuck is never weary of reiterating this argument of his, so I do
not know why I should be weary of noticing it. "May not every man in
England say what he likes?"--Mr. Roebuck perpetually asks: and that, he
thinks, is quite sufficient, and when every man may say what he likes,
our aspirations ought to be satisfied. But the aspirations of culture,
which is the study of perfection, are not satisfied, unless what men
say, when they may say what they like, is worth saying,--has good in
it, and more good than bad. In the same way the _Times_, replying to
some foreign strictures on the dress, looks, and behavior of the English
abroad, urges that the English ideal is that every one should be free to
do and to look just as he likes. But culture indefatigably tries, not to
make what each raw person may like, the rule by which he fashions
himself; but to draw ever nearer to a sense of what is indeed beautiful,
graceful, and becoming, and to get the raw person to like that.

And in the same way with respect to railroads and coal. Every one must
have observed the strange language current during the late discussions
as to the possible failure of our supplies of coal. Our coal, thousands
of people were saying, is the real basis of our national greatness; if
our coal runs short, there is an end of the greatness of England. But
what _is_ greatness?--culture makes us ask. Greatness is a spiritual
condition worthy to excite love, interest, and admiration; and the
outward proof of possessing greatness is that we excite love, interest,
and admiration. If England were swallowed up by the sea to-morrow, which
of the two, a hundred years hence, would most excite the love, interest,
and admiration of mankind,--would most, therefore, show the evidences of
having possessed greatness,--the England of the last twenty years, or
the England of Elizabeth, of a time of splendid spiritual effort, but
when our coal, and our industrial operations depending on coal, were
very little developed? Well, then, what an unsound habit of mind it must
be which makes us talk of things like coal or iron as constituting the
greatness of England, and how salutary a friend is culture, bent on
seeing things as they are, and thus dissipating delusions of this kind
and fixing standards of perfection that are real!

Wealth, again, that end to which our prodigious works for material
advantage are directed,--the commonest of commonplaces tells us how men
are always apt to regard wealth as a precious end in itself: and
certainly they have never been so apt thus to regard it as they are in
England at the present time. Never did people believe anything more
firmly than nine Englishmen out of ten at the present day believe that
our greatness and welfare are proved by our being so very rich. Now, the
use of culture is that it helps us, by means of its spiritual standard
of perfection, to regard wealth as but machinery, and not only to say as
a matter of words that we regard wealth as but machinery, but really to
perceive and feel that it is so. If it were not for this purging effect
wrought upon our minds by culture, the whole world, the future as well
as the present, would inevitably belong to the Philistines. The people
who believe most that our greatness and welfare are proved by our being
very rich, and who most give their lives and thoughts to becoming rich,
are just the very people whom we call Philistines. Culture says:
"Consider these people, then, their way of life, their habits, their
manners, the very tones of their voice; look at them attentively;
observe the literature they read, the things which give them pleasure,
the words which come forth out of their mouths, the thoughts which make
the furniture of their minds; would any amount of wealth be worth having
with the condition that one was to become just like these people by
having it?" And thus culture begets a dissatisfaction which is of the
highest possible value in stemming the common tide of men's thoughts in
a wealthy and industrial community, and which saves the future, as one
may hope, from being vulgarized, even if it cannot save the present.

Population, again, and bodily health and vigor, are things which are
nowhere treated in such an unintelligent, misleading, exaggerated way as
in England. Both are really machinery; yet how many people all around us
do we see rest in them and fail to look beyond them! Why, one has heard
people, fresh from reading certain articles of the _Times_ on the
Registrar-General's returns of marriages and births in this country, who
would talk of our large English families in quite a solemn strain, as if
they had something in itself beautiful, elevating, and meritorious in
them; as if the British Philistine would have only to present himself
before the Great Judge with his twelve children, in order to be received
among the sheep as a matter of right!

But bodily health and vigor, it may be said, are not to be classed with
wealth and population as mere machinery; they have a more real and
essential value. True; but only as they are more intimately connected
with a perfect spiritual condition than wealth or population are. The
moment we disjoin them from the idea of a perfect spiritual condition,
and pursue them, as we do pursue them, for their own sake and as ends in
themselves, our worship of them becomes as mere worship of machinery, as
our worship of wealth or population, and as unintelligent and
vulgarizing a worship as that is. Every one with anything like an
adequate idea of human perfection has distinctly marked this
subordination to higher and spiritual ends of the cultivation of bodily
vigor and activity. "Bodily exercise profiteth little; but godliness is
profitable unto all things,"[398] says the author of the Epistle to
Timothy. And the utilitarian Franklin says just as explicitly:--"Eat and
drink such an exact quantity as suits the constitution of thy body, _in
reference to the services of the mind_."[399] But the point of view of
culture, keeping the mark of human perfection simply and broadly in
view, and not assigning to this perfection, as religion or
utilitarianism assigns to it, a special and limited character, this
point of view, I say, of culture is best given by these words of
Epictetus: "It is a sign of[Greek: aphuia]," says he,--that is, of a
nature not finely tempered,--"to give yourselves up to things which
relate to the body; to make, for instance, a great fuss about exercise,
a great fuss about eating, a great fuss about drinking, a great fuss
about walking, a great fuss about riding. All these things ought to be
done merely by the way: the formation of the spirit and character must
be our real concern."[400] This is admirable; and, indeed, the Greek
word[Greek: euphuia], a finely tempered nature, gives exactly the
notion of perfection as culture brings us to conceive it: a harmonious
perfection, a perfection in which the characters of beauty and
intelligence are both present, which unites "the two noblest of
things,"--as Swift, who of one of the two, at any rate, had himself all
too little, most happily calls them in his _Battle of the Books_,--"the
two noblest of things, _sweetness and light_."[401] The[Greek:
euphuaes] is the man who tends towards sweetness and light; the[Greek:
aphuaes], on the other hand, is our Philistine. The immense spiritual
significance of the Greeks is due to their having been inspired with
this central and happy idea of the essential character of human
perfection; and Mr. Bright's misconception of culture, as a smattering
of Greek and Latin, comes itself, after all, from this wonderful
significance of the Greeks having affected the very machinery of our
education, and is in itself a kind of homage to it.

In thus making sweetness and light to be characters of perfection,
culture is of like spirit with poetry, follows one law with poetry. Far
more than on our freedom, our population, and our industrialism, many
amongst us rely upon our religious organizations to save us. I have
called religion a yet more important manifestation of human nature than
poetry, because it has worked on a broader scale for perfection, and
with greater masses of men. But the idea of beauty and of a human nature
perfect on all its sides, which is the dominant idea of poetry, is a
true and invaluable idea, though it has not yet had the success that the
idea of conquering the obvious faults of our animality, and of a human
nature perfect on the moral side,--which is the dominant idea of
religion,--has been enabled to have; and it is destined, adding to
itself the religious idea of a devout energy, to transform and govern
the other.

The best art and poetry of the Greeks, in which religion and poetry are
one, in which the idea of beauty and of a human nature perfect on all
sides adds to itself a religious and devout energy, and works in the
strength of that, is on this account of such surpassing interest and
instructiveness for us, though it was,--as, having regard to the human
race in general, and, indeed, having regard to the Greeks themselves, we
must own,--a premature attempt, an attempt which for success needed the
moral and religious fibre in humanity to be more braced and developed
than it had yet been. But Greece did not err in having the idea of
beauty, harmony, and complete human perfection, so present and
paramount. It is impossible to have this idea too present and paramount;
only, the moral fibre must be braced too. And we, because we have braced
the moral fibre, are not on that account in the right way, if at the
same time the idea of beauty, harmony, and complete human perfection, is
wanting or misapprehended amongst us; and evidently it _is_ wanting or
misapprehended at present. And when we rely as we do on our religious
organizations, which in themselves do not and cannot give us this idea,
and think we have done enough if we make them spread and prevail, then,
I say, we fall into our common fault of overvaluing machinery.

Nothing is more common than for people to confound the inward peace and
satisfaction which follows the subduing of the obvious faults of our
animality with what I may call absolute inward peace and satisfaction,--
the peace and satisfaction which are reached as we draw near to complete
spiritual perfection, and not merely to moral perfection, or rather to
relative moral perfection. No people in the world have done more and
struggled more to attain this relative moral perfection than our English
race has. For no people in the world has the command to _resist the
devil_, to _overcome the wicked one_, in the nearest and most obvious
sense of those words, had such a pressing force and reality. And we have
had our reward, not only in the great worldly prosperity which our
obedience to this command has brought us, but also, and far more, in
great inward peace and satisfaction. But to me few things are more
pathetic than to see people, on the strength of the inward peace and
satisfaction which their rudimentary efforts towards perfection have
brought them, employ, concerning their incomplete perfection and the
religious organizations within which they have found it, language which
properly applies only to complete perfection, and is a far-off echo of
the human soul's prophecy of it. Religion itself, I need hardly say,
supplies them in abundance with this grand language. And very freely do
they use it; yet it is really the severest possible criticism of such an
incomplete perfection as alone we have yet reached through our religious

The impulse of the English race towards moral development and
self-conquest has nowhere so powerfully manifested itself as in
Puritanism. Nowhere has Puritanism found so adequate an expression as in
the religious organization of the Independents.[402] The modern
Independents have a newspaper, the _Nonnconformist_, written with great
sincerity and ability. The motto, the standard, the profession of faith
which this organ of theirs carries aloft, is: "The Dissidence of Dissent
and the Protestantism of the Protestant religion."[403] There is
sweetness and light, and an ideal of complete harmonious human
perfection! One need not go to culture and poetry to find language to
judge it. Religion, with its instinct for perfection, supplies language
to judge it, language, too, which is in our mouths every day. "Finally,
be of one mind, united in feeling,"[404] says St. Peter. There is an
ideal which judges the Puritan ideal: "The Dissidence of Dissent and the
Protestantism of the Protestant religion!" And religious organizations
like this are what people believe in, rest in, would give their lives
for! Such, I say, is the wonderful virtue of even the beginnings of
perfection, of having conquered even the plain faults of our animality,
that the religious organization which has helped us to do it can seem to
us something precious, salutary, and to be propagated, even when it
wears such a brand of imperfection on its forehead as this. And men have
got such a habit of giving to the language of religion a special
application, of making it a mere jargon, that for the condemnation which
religion itself passes on the shortcomings of their religious
organizations they have no ear; they are sure to cheat themselves and to
explain this condemnation away. They can only be reached by the
criticism which culture, like poetry, speaking a language not to be
sophisticated, and resolutely testing these organizations by the ideal
of a human perfection complete on all sides, applies to them.

But men of culture and poetry, it will be said, are again and again
failing, and failing conspicuously, in the necessary first stage to a
harmonious perfection, in the subduing of the great obvious faults of
our animality, which it is the glory of these religious organizations to
have helped us to subdue. True, they do often so fail. They have often
been without the virtues as well as the faults of the Puritan; it has
been one of their dangers that they so felt the Puritan's faults that
they too much neglected the practice of his virtues. I will not,
however, exculpate them at the Puritan's expense. They have often failed
in morality, and morality is indispensable. And they have been punished
for their failure, as the Puritan has been rewarded for his performance.
They have been punished wherein they erred; but their ideal of beauty,
of sweetness and light, and a human nature complete on all its sides,
remains the true ideal of perfection still; just as the Puritan's ideal
of perfection remains narrow and inadequate, although for what he did
well he has been richly rewarded. Notwithstanding the mighty results of
the Pilgrim Fathers' voyage, they and their standard of perfection are
rightly judged when we figure to ourselves Shakespeare or Virgil,--souls
in whom sweetness and light, and all that in human nature is most
humane, were eminent,--accompanying them on their voyage, and think what
intolerable company Shakespeare and Virgil would have found them! In the
same way let us judge the religious organizations which we see all
around us. Do not let us deny the good and the happiness which they have
accomplished; but do not let us fail to see clearly that their idea of
human perfection is narrow and inadequate, and that the Dissidence of
Dissent and the Protestantism of the Protestant religion will never
bring humanity to its true goal. As I said with regard to wealth: Let us
look at the life of those who live in and for it,--so I say with regard
to the religious organizations. Look at the life imaged in such a
newspaper as the _Nonnconformist_,--a life of jealousy of the
Establishment, disputes, tea-meetings, openings of chapels, sermons; and
then think of it as an ideal of a human life completing itself on all
sides, and aspiring with all its organs after sweetness, light, and

Another newspaper, representing, like the _Nonconformist_, one of the
religious organizations of this country, was a short time ago giving an
account of the crowd at Epsom[405] on the Derby day, and of all the vice
and hideousness which was to be seen in that crowd; and then the writer
turned suddenly round upon Professor Huxley, and asked him how he
proposed to cure all this vice and hideousness without religion. I
confess I felt disposed to ask the asker this question: and how do you
propose to cure it with such a religion as yours? How is the ideal of a
life so unlovely, so unattractive, so incomplete, so narrow, so far
removed from a true and satisfying ideal of human perfection, as is the
life of your religious organization as you yourself reflect it, to
conquer and transform all this vice and hideousness? Indeed, the
strongest plea for the study of perfection as pursued by culture, the
clearest proof of the actual inadequacy of the idea of perfection held
by the religious organizations,--expressing, as I have said, the most
widespread effort which the human race has yet made after perfection,--
is to be found in the state of our life and society with these in
possession of it, and having been in possession of it I know not how
many hundred years. We are all of us included in some religious
organization or other; we all call ourselves, in the sublime and
aspiring language of religion which I have before noticed, _children of
God_. Children of God;--it is an immense pretension!--and how are we to
justify it? By the works which we do, and the words which we speak. And
the work which we collective children of God do, our grand centre of
life, our _city_ which we have builded for us to dwell in, is London!
London, with its unutterable external hideousness, and with its internal
canker of _publice egestas, privatim opulentia_,[406]--to use the words
which Sallust puts into Cato's mouth about Rome,--unequalled in the
world! The word, again, which we children of God speak, the voice which
most hits our collective thought, the newspaper with the largest
circulation in England, nay, with the largest circulation in the whole
world, is the _Daily Telegraph_![407] I say that when our religious
organizations--which I admit to express the most considerable effort
after perfection that our race has yet made--land us in no better result
than this, it is high time to examine carefully their idea of
perfection, to see whether it does not leave out of account sides and
forces of human nature which we might turn to great use; whether it
would not be more operative if it were more complete. And I say that the
English reliance on our religious organizations and on their ideas of
human perfection just as they stand, is like our reliance on freedom, on
muscular Christianity, on population, on coal, on wealth,--mere belief
in machinery, and unfruitful; and that it is wholesomely counteracted by
culture, bent on seeing things as they are, and on drawing the human
race onwards to a more complete, a harmonious perfection.

Culture, however, shows its single-minded love of perfection, its desire
simply to make reason and the will of God prevail, its freedom from
fanaticism, by its attitude towards all this machinery, even while it
insists that it _is_ machinery. Fanatics, seeing the mischief men do
themselves by their blind belief in some machinery or other,--whether it
is wealth and industrialism, or whether it is the cultivation of bodily
strength and activity, or whether it is a political organization,--or
whether it is a religious organization,--oppose with might and main the
tendency to this or that political and religious organization, or to
games and athletic exercises, or to wealth and industrialism, and try
violently to stop it. But the flexibility which sweetness and light
give, and which is one of the rewards of culture pursued in good faith,
enables a man to see that a tendency may be necessary, and even, as a
preparation for something in the future, salutary, and yet that the
generations or individuals who obey this tendency are sacrificed to it,
that they fall short of the hope of perfection by following it; and that
its mischiefs are to be criticized, lest it should take too firm a hold
and last after it has served its purpose.

Mr. Gladstone well pointed out, in a speech at Paris,--and others have
pointed out the same thing,--how necessary is the present great
movement towards wealth and industrialism, in order to lay broad
foundations of material well-being for the society of the future. The
worst of these justifications is, that they are generally addressed to
the very people engaged, body and soul, in the movement in question; at
all events, that they are always seized with the greatest avidity by
these people, and taken by them as quite justifying their life; and that
thus they tend to harden them in their sins. Now, culture admits the
necessity of the movement towards fortune-making and exaggerated
industrialism, readily allows that the future may derive benefit from
it; but insists, at the same time, that the passing generations of
industrialists,--forming, for the most part, the stout main body of
Philistinism,--are sacrificed to it. In the same way, the result of all
the games and sports which occupy the passing generation of boys and
young men may be the establishment of a better and sounder physical type
for the future to work with. Culture does not set itself against the
games and sports; it congratulates the future, and hopes it will make a
good use of its improved physical basis; but it points out that our
passing generation of boys and young men is, meantime, sacrificed.
Puritanism was perhaps necessary to develop the moral fibre of the
English race, Nonconformity to break the yoke of ecclesiastical
domination over men's minds and to prepare the way for freedom of
thought in the distant future; still, culture points out that the
harmonious perfection of generations of Puritans and Nonconformists has
been, in consequence, sacrificed. Freedom of speech may be necessary for
the society of the future, but the young lions[408] of the _Daily
Telegraph_ in the meanwhile are sacrificed. A voice for every man in his
country's government may be necessary for the society of the future, but
meanwhile Mr. Beales[409]and Mr. Bradlaugh[410] are sacrificed.

Oxford, the Oxford of the past, has many faults; and she has heavily
paid for them in defeat, in isolation, in want of hold upon the modern
world. Yet we in Oxford, brought up amidst the beauty and sweetness of
that beautiful place, have not failed to seize one truth,--the truth
that beauty and sweetness are essential characters of a complete human
perfection. When I insist on this, I am all in the faith and tradition
of Oxford. I say boldly that this our sentiment for beauty and
sweetness, our sentiment against hideousness and rawness, has been at
the bottom of our attachment to so many beaten causes, of our opposition
to so many triumphant movements. And the sentiment is true, and has
never been wholly defeated, and has shown its power even in its defeat.
We have not won our political battles, we have not carried our main
points, we have not stopped our adversaries' advance, we have not
marched victoriously with the modern world; but we have told silently
upon the mind of the country, we have prepared currents of feeling which
sap our adversaries' position when it seems gained, we have kept up our
own communications with the future. Look at the course of the great
movement which shook Oxford to its centre some thirty years ago! It was
directed, as any one who reads Dr. Newman's _Apology_[411] may see,
against what in one word may be called "Liberalism." Liberalism
prevailed; it was the appointed force to do the work of the hour; it was
necessary, it was inevitable that it should prevail. The Oxford movement
was broken, it failed; our wrecks are scattered on every shore:--

  "Quæ regio in terris nostri non plena laboris?"[412]

But what was it, this liberalism, as Dr. Newman saw it, and as it really
broke the Oxford movement? It was the great middle-class liberalism,
which had for the cardinal points of its belief the Reform Bill of
1832,[413] and local self-government, in politics; in the social sphere,
free-trade, unrestricted competition, and the making of large industrial
fortunes; in the religious sphere, the Dissidence of Dissent and the
Protestantism of the Protestant religion. I do not say that other and
more intelligent forces than this were not opposed to the Oxford
movement: but this was the force which really beat it; this was the
force which Dr. Newman felt himself fighting with; this was the force
which till only the other day seemed to be the paramount force in this
country, and to be in possession of the future; this was the force whose
achievements fill Mr. Lowe[414] with such inexpressible admiration, and
whose rule he was so horror-struck to see threatened. And where is this
great force of Philistinism now? It is thrust into the second rank, it
is become a power of yesterday, it has lost the future. A new power has
suddenly appeared, a power which it is impossible yet to judge fully,
but which is certainly a wholly different force from middle-class
liberalism; different in its cardinal points of belief, different in its
tendencies in every sphere. It loves and admires neither the legislation
of middle-class Parliaments, nor the local self-government of
middle-class vestries, nor the unrestricted competition of middle-class
industrialists, nor the dissidence of middle-class Dissent and the
Protestantism of middle-class Protestant religion. I am not now praising
this new force, or saying that its own ideals are better; all I say is,
that they are wholly different. And who will estimate how much the
currents of feeling created by Dr. Newman's movements, the keen desire
for beauty and sweetness which it nourished, the deep aversion it
manifested to the hardness and vulgarity of middle-class liberalism, the
strong light it turned on the hideous and grotesque illusions of
middle-class Protestantism,--who will estimate how much all these
contributed to swell the tide of secret dissatisfaction which has mined
the ground under self-confident liberalism of the last thirty years, and
has prepared the way for its sudden collapse and supersession? It is in
this manner that the sentiment of Oxford for beauty and sweetness
conquers, and in this manner long may it continue to conquer!

In this manner it works to the same end as culture, and there is plenty
of work for it yet to do. I have said that the new and more democratic
force which is now superseding our old middle-class liberalism cannot
yet be rightly judged. It has its main tendencies still to form. We hear
promises of its giving us administrative reform, law reform, reform of
education, and I know not what; but those promises come rather from its
advocates, wishing to make a good plea for it and to justify it for
superseding middle-class liberalism, than from clear tendencies which it
has itself yet developed. But meanwhile it has plenty of
well-intentioned friends against whom culture may with advantage
continue to uphold steadily its ideal of human perfection; that this is
_an inward spiritual activity, having for its characters increased
sweetness, increased light, increased life, increased sympathy_. Mr.
Bright, who has a foot in both worlds, the world of middle-class
liberalism and the world of democracy, but who brings most of his ideas
from the world of middle-class liberalism in which he was bred, always
inclines to inculcate that faith in machinery to which, as we have seen,
Englishmen are so prone, and which has been the bane of middle-class
liberalism. He complains with a sorrowful indignation of people who
"appear to have no proper estimate of the value of the franchise"; he
leads his disciples to believe--what the Englishman is always too ready
to believe--that the having a vote, like the having a large family, or
a large business, or large muscles, has in itself some edifying and
perfecting effect upon human nature. Or else he cries out to the
democracy,--"the men," as he calls them," upon whose shoulders the
greatness of England rests,"--he cries out to them: "See what you have
done! I look over this country and see the cities you have built, the
railroads you have made, the manufactures you have produced, the cargoes
which freight the ships of the greatest mercantile navy the world has
ever seen! I see that you have converted by your labors what was once a
wilderness, these islands, into a fruitful garden; I know that you have
created this wealth, and are a nation whose name is a word of power
throughout all the world." Why, this is just the very style of laudation
with which Mr. Roebuck or Mr. Lowe debauches the minds of the middle
classes, and makes such Philistines of them. It is the same fashion of
teaching a man to value himself not on what he _is_, not on his progress
in sweetness and light, but on the number of the railroads he has
constructed, or the bigness of the tabernacle he has built. Only the
middle classes are told they have done it all with their energy,
self-reliance, and capital, and the democracy are told they have done it
all with their hands and sinews. But teaching the democracy to put its
trust in achievements of this kind is merely training them to be
Philistines to take the place of the Philistines whom they are
superseding; and they, too, like the middle class, will be encouraged to
sit down at the banquet of the future without having on a wedding
garment, and nothing excellent can then come from them. Those who know
their besetting faults, or those who have watched them and listened to
them, or those who will read the instructive account recently given of
them by one of themselves, the _Journeyman Engineer_, will agree that
the idea which culture sets before us of perfection,--an increased
spiritual activity, having for its characters increased sweetness,
increased light, increased life, increased sympathy,--is an idea which
the new democracy needs far more than the idea of the blessedness of the
franchise, or the wonderfulness of its own industrial performances.

Other well-meaning friends of this new power are for leading it, not in
the old ruts of middle-class Philistinism, but in ways which are
naturally alluring to the feet of democracy, though in this country they
are novel and untried ways. I may call them the ways of Jacobinism.[415]
Violent indignation with the past, abstract systems of renovation
applied wholesale, a new doctrine drawn up in black and white for
elaborating down to the very smallest details a rational society for the
future,--these are the ways of Jacobinism. Mr. Frederic Harrison[416]
and other disciples of Comte,[417]--one of them, Mr. Congreve,[418] is
an old friend of mine, and I am glad to have an opportunity of publicly
expressing my respect for his talents and character,--are among the
friends of democracy who are for leading it in paths of this kind. Mr.
Frederic Harrison is very hostile to culture, and from a natural enough
motive; for culture is the eternal opponent of the two things which are
the signal marks of Jacobinism,--its fierceness, and its addiction to
an abstract system. Culture is always assigning to system-makers and
systems a smaller share in the bent of human destiny than their friends
like. A current in people's minds sets towards new ideas; people are
dissatisfied with their old narrow stock of Philistine ideas,
Anglo-Saxon ideas, or any other; and some man, some Bentham[419] or
Comte, who has the real merit of having early and strongly felt and
helped the new current, but who brings plenty of narrowness and mistakes
of his own into his feeling and help of it, is credited with being the
author of the whole current, the fit person to be entrusted with its
regulation and to guide the human race.

The excellent German historian of the mythology of Rome, Preller,[420]
relating the introduction at Rome under the Tarquins of the worship of
Apollo, the god of light, healing, and reconciliation, will have us
observe that it was not so much the Tarquins who brought to Rome the new
worship of Apollo, as a current in the mind of the Roman people which
set powerfully at that time towards a new worship of this kind, and away
from the old run of Latin and Sabine religious ideas. In a similar way,
culture directs our attention to the natural current there is in human
affairs, and to its continual working, and will not let us rivet our
faith upon any one man and his doings. It makes us see not only his good
side, but also how much in him was of necessity limited and transient;
nay, it even feels a pleasure, a sense of an increased freedom and of an
ampler future, in so doing.

I remember, when I was under the influence of a mind to which I feel the
greatest obligations, the mind of a man who was the very incarnation of
sanity and clear sense, a man the most considerable, it seems to me,
whom America has yet produced,--Benjamin Franklin,--I remember the
relief with which, after long feeling the sway of Franklin's
imperturbable common-sense, I came upon a project of his for a new
version of the Book of Job,[421] to replace the old version, the style
of which, says Franklin, has become obsolete, and thence less
agreeable. "I give," he continues, "a few verses, which may serve as a
sample of the kind of version I would recommend." We all recollect the
famous verse in our translation: "Then Satan answered the Lord and said:
'Doth Job fear God for nought?'" Franklin makes this: "Does your Majesty
imagine that Job's good conduct is the effect of mere personal
attachment and affection?" I well remember how, when first I read that,
I drew a deep breath of relief and said to myself: "After all, there is
a stretch of humanity beyond Franklin's victorious good sense!" So,
after hearing Bentham cried loudly up as the renovator of modern
society, and Bentham's mind and ideas proposed as the rulers of our
future, I open the _Deontology._[422] There I read: "While Xenophon was
writing his history and Euclid teaching geometry, Socrates and Plato
were talking nonsense under pretense of talking wisdom and morality.
This morality of theirs consisted in words; this wisdom of theirs was
the denial of matters known to every man's experience."  From the moment
of reading that, I am delivered from the bondage of Bentham! the
fanaticism of his adherents can touch me no longer. I feel the
inadequacy of his mind and ideas for supplying the rule of human
society, for perfection.

Culture tends always thus to deal with the men of a system, of
disciples, of a school; with men like Comte, or the late Mr. Buckle,
[423] or Mr. Mill.[424] However much it may find to admire in these
personages, or in some of them, it nevertheless remembers the text: "Be
not ye called Rabbi!" and it soon passes on from any Rabbi. But
Jacobinism loves a Rabbi; it does not want to pass on from its Rabbi in
pursuit of a future and still unreached perfection; it wants its Rabbi
and his ideas to stand for perfection, that they may with the more
authority recast the world; and for Jacobinism, therefore, culture,--
eternally passing onwards and seeking,--is an impertinence and an
offence. But culture, just because it resists this tendency of
Jacobinism to impose on us a man with limitations and errors of his own
along with the true ideas of which he is the organ, really does the
world and Jacobinism itself a service.

So, too, Jacobinism, in its fierce hatred of the past and of those whom
it makes liable for the sins of the past, cannot away with the
inexhaustible indulgence proper to culture, the consideration of
circumstances, the severe judgment of actions joined to the merciful
judgment of persons. "The man of culture is in politics," cries Mr.
Frederic Harrison, "one of the poorest mortals alive!" Mr. Frederic
Harrison wants to be doing business, and he complains that the man of
culture stops him with a "turn for small fault-finding, love of selfish
ease, and indecision in action." Of what use is culture, he asks, except
for "a critic of new books or a professor of _belles-lettres_?"[425]
Why, it is of use because, in presence of the fierce exasperation which
breathes, or rather, I may say, hisses through the whole production in
which Mr. Frederic Harrison asks that question, it reminds us that the
perfection of human nature is sweetness and light. It is of use,
because, like religion,--that other effort after perfection,--it
testifies that, where bitter envying and strife are, there is confusion
and every evil work.

The pursuit of perfection, then, is the pursuit of sweetness and light.
He who works for sweetness and light, works to make reason and the will
of God prevail. He who works for machinery, he who works for hatred,
works only for confusion. Culture looks beyond machinery, culture hates
hatred; culture has one great passion, the passion for sweetness and
light. It has one even yet greater!--the passion for making them
_prevail_. It is not satisfied till we _all_ come to a perfect man; it
knows that the sweetness and light of the few must be imperfect until
the raw and unkindled masses of humanity are touched with sweetness and
light. If I have not shrunk from saying that we must work for sweetness
and light, so neither have I shrunk from saying that we must have a
broad basis, must have sweetness and light for as many as possible.
Again and again I have insisted how those are the happy moments of
humanity, how those are the marking epochs of a people's life, how those
are the flowering times for literature and art and all the creative
power of genius, when there is a _national_ glow of life and thought,
when the whole of society is in the fullest measure permeated by
thought, sensible to beauty, intelligent and alive. Only it must be
_real_ thought and _real_ beauty; _real_ sweetness and _real_ light.
Plenty of people will try to give the masses, as they call them, an
intellectual food prepared and adapted in the way they think proper for
the actual condition of the masses. The ordinary popular literature is
an example of this way of working on the masses. Plenty of people will
try to indoctrinate the masses with the set of ideas and judgments
constituting the creed of their own profession or party. Our religious
and political organizations give an example of this way of working on
the masses. I condemn neither way; but culture works differently. It
does not try to teach down to the level of inferior classes; it does not
try to win them for this or that sect of its own, with ready-made
judgments and watchwords. It seeks to do away with classes; to make the
best that has been thought and known in the world current everywhere; to
make all men live in an atmosphere of sweetness and light, where they
may use ideas, as it uses them itself, freely,--nourished, and not bound
by them.

This is the _social idea_; and the men of culture are the true apostles
of equality. The great men of culture are those who have had a passion
for diffusing, for making prevail, for carrying from one end of society
to the other, the best knowledge, the best ideas of their time; who have
labored to divest knowledge of all that was harsh, uncouth, difficult,
abstract, professional, exclusive; to humanize it, to make it efficient
outside the clique of the cultivated and learned, yet still remaining
the _best_ knowledge and thought of the time, and a true source,
therefore, of sweetness and light. Such a man was Abelard[426] in the
Middle Ages, in spite of all his imperfections; and thence the boundless
emotion and enthusiasm which Abelard excited. Such were Lessing[427]
and Herder[428] in Germany, at the end of the last century; and their
services to Germany were in this way inestimably precious. Generations
will pass, and literary monuments will accumulate, and works far more
perfect than the works of Lessing and Herder will be produced in
Germany; and yet the names of these two men will fill a German with a
reverence and enthusiasm such as the names of the most gifted masters
will hardly awaken. And why? Because they _humanized_ knowledge; because
they broadened the basis of life and intelligence; because they worked
powerfully to diffuse sweetness and light, to make reason and the will
of God prevail. With Saint Augustine they said: "Let us not leave thee
alone to make in the secret of thy knowledge, as thou didst before the
creation of the firmament, the division of light from darkness; let the
children of thy spirit, placed in their firmament, make their light
shine upon the earth, mark the division of night and day, and announce
the revolution of the times; for the old order is passed, and the new
arises; the night is spent, the day is come forth; and thou shalt crown
the year with thy blessing, when thou shalt send forth laborers into thy
harvest sown by other hands than theirs; when thou shalt send forth new
laborers to new seed-times, whereof the harvest shall be not yet."[429]


This fundamental ground is our preference of doing to thinking. Now this
preference is a main element in our nature and as we study it we find
ourselves opening up a number of large questions on every side.

Let me go back for a moment to Bishop Wilson,[431] who says: "First,
never go against the best light you have; secondly, take care that your
light be not darkness." We show, as a nation, laudable energy and
persistence in walking according to the best light we have, but are not
quite careful enough, perhaps, to see that our light be not darkness.
This is only another version of the old story that energy is our strong
point and favorable characteristic, rather than intelligence. But we may
give to this idea a more general form still, in which it will have a yet
larger range of application. We may regard this energy driving at
practice, this paramount sense of the obligation of duty, self-control,
and work, this earnestness in going manfully with the best light we
have, as one force. And we may regard the intelligence driving at those
ideas which are, after all, the basis of right practice, the ardent
sense for all the new and changing combinations of them which man's
development brings with it, the indomitable impulse to know and adjust
them perfectly, as another force. And these two forces we may regard as
in some sense rivals,--rivals not by the necessity of their own nature,
but as exhibited in man and his history,--and rivals dividing the empire
of the world between them. And to give these forces names from the two
races of men who have supplied the most signal and splendid
manifestations of them, we may call them respectively the forces of
Hebraism and Hellenism. Hebraism and Hellenism,--between these two
points of influence moves our world. At one time it feels more
powerfully the attraction of one of them, at another time of the other;
and it ought to be, though it never is, evenly and happily balanced
between them.

The final aim of both Hellenism and Hebraism, as of all great spiritual
disciplines, is no doubt the same: man's perfection or salvation. The
very language which they both of them use in schooling us to reach this
aim is often identical. Even when their language indicates by
variation,--sometimes a broad variation, often a but slight and subtle
variation,--the different courses of thought which are uppermost in each
discipline, even then the unity of the final end and aim is still
apparent. To employ the actual words of that discipline with which we
ourselves are all of us most familiar, and the words of which,
therefore, come most home to us, that final end and aim is "that we
might be partakers of the divine nature."[432] These are the words of a
Hebrew apostle, but of Hellenism and Hebraism alike this is, I say, the
aim. When the two are confronted, as they very often are confronted, it
is nearly always with what I may call a rhetorical purpose; the
speaker's whole design is to exalt and enthrone one of the two, and he
uses the other only as a foil and to enable him the better to give
effect to his purpose. Obviously, with us, it is usually Hellenism which
is thus reduced to minister to the triumph of Hebraism. There is a
sermon on Greece and the Greek spirit by a man never to be mentioned
without interest and respect, Frederick Robertson,[433] in which this
rhetorical use of Greece and the Greek spirit, and the inadequate
exhibition of them necessarily consequent upon this, is almost
ludicrous, and would be censurable if it were not to be explained by the
exigencies of a sermon. On the other hand, Heinrich Heine,[434] and
other writers of his sort give us the spectacle of the tables completely
turned, and of Hebraism brought in just as a foil and contrast to
Hellenism, and to make the superiority of Hellenism more manifest. In
both these cases there is injustice and misrepresentation. The aim and
end of both Hebraism and Hellenism is, as I have said, one and the same,
and this aim and end is august and admirable.

Still, they pursue this aim by very different courses. The uppermost
idea with Hellenism is to see things as they really are; the uppermost
idea with Hebraism is conduct and obedience. Nothing can do away with
this ineffaceable difference. The Greek quarrel with the body and its
desires is, that they hinder right thinking; the Hebrew quarrel with
them is, that they hinder right acting. "He that keepeth the law, happy
is he";[435] "Blessed is the man that feareth the Eternal, that
delighteth greatly in his commandments";--[436] that is the Hebrew
notion of felicity; and, pursued with passion and tenacity, this notion
would not let the Hebrew rest till, as is well known, he had at last got
out of the law a network of prescriptions to enwrap his whole life, to
govern every moment of it, every impulse, every action. The Greek notion
of felicity, on the other hand, is perfectly conveyed in these words of
a great French moralist: "_C'est le bonheur des hommes_,"--when? when
they abhor that which is evil?--no; when they exercise themselves in the
law of the Lord day and night?--no; when they die daily?--no; when they
walk about the New Jerusalem with palms in their hands?--no; but when
they think aright, when their thought hits: "_quand ils pensent juste_."
At the bottom of both the Greek and the Hebrew notion is the desire,
native in man, for reason and the will of God, the feeling after the
universal order,--in a word, the love of God. But, while Hebraism seizes
upon certain plain, capital intimations of, the universal order, and
rivets itself, one may say, with unequalled grandeur of earnestness and
intensity on the study and observance of them, the bent of Hellenism is
to follow, with flexible activity, the whole play of the universal
order, to be apprehensive of missing any part of it, of sacrificing one
part to another, to slip away from resting in this or that intimation of
it, however capital. An unclouded clearness of mind, an unimpeded play
of thought, is what this bent drives at. The governing idea of Hellenism
is _spontaneity of consciousness_; that of Hebraism, _strictness of

Christianity changed nothing in this essential bent of Hebraism to set
doing above knowing. Self-conquest, self-devotion, the following not our
own individual will, but the will of God, _obedience_, is the
fundamental idea of this form, also, of the discipline to which we have
attached the general name of Hebraism. Only, as the old law and the
network of prescriptions with which it enveloped human life were
evidently a motive-power not driving and searching enough to produce the
result aimed at,--patient continuance in well-doing, self-conquest,--
Christianity substituted for them boundless devotion to that inspiring
and affecting pattern of self-conquest offered by Jesus Christ; and by
the new motive-power, of which the essence was this, though the love and
admiration of Christian churches have for centuries been employed in
varying, amplifying, and adorning the plain description of it,
Christianity, as St. Paul truly says, "establishes the law,"[437] and in
the strength of the ampler power which she has thus supplied to fulfill
it, has accomplished the miracles, which we all see, of her history.

So long as we do not forget that both Hellenism and Hebraism are
profound and admirable manifestations of man's life, tendencies, and
powers, and that both of them aim at a like final result, we can hardly
insist too strongly on the divergence of line and of operation with
which they proceed. It is a divergence so great that it most truly, as
the prophet Zechariah says, "has raised up thy sons, O Zion, against thy
sons, O Greece!"[438] The difference whether it is by doing or by
knowing that we set most store, and the practical consequences which
follow from this difference, leave their mark on all the history of our
race and of its development. Language may be abundantly quoted from both
Hellenism and Hebraism to make it seem that one follows the same current
as the other towards the same goal. They are, truly, borne towards the
same goal; but the currents which bear them are infinitely different. It
is true, Solomon will praise knowing: "Understanding is a well-spring of
life unto him that hath it."[439] And in the New Testament, again, Jesus
Christ is a "light,"[440] and "truth makes us free."[441] It is true,
Aristotle will undervalue knowing: "In what concerns virtue," says he,
"three things are necessary--knowledge, deliberate will, and
perseverance; but, whereas the two last are all-important, the first is
a matter of little importance."[442] It is true that with the same
impatience with which St. James enjoins a man to be not a forgetful
hearer, but a _doer of the work_,[443] Epictetus[444] exhorts us to _do_
what we have demonstrated to ourselves we ought to do; or he taunts us
with futility, for being armed at all points to prove that lying is
wrong, yet all the time continuing to lie. It is true, Plato, in words
which are almost the words of the New Testament or the Imitation, calls
life a learning to die.[445] But underneath the superficial agreement
the fundamental divergence still subsists. The understanding of Solomon
is "the walking in the way of the commandments"; this is "the way of
peace," and it is of this that blessedness comes. In the New Testament,
the truth which gives us the peace of God and makes us free, is the love
of Christ constraining us[446] to crucify, as he did, and with a like
purpose of moral regeneration, the flesh with its affections and lusts,
and thus establishing, as we have seen, the law. The moral virtues, on
the other hand, are with Aristotle but the porch[447] and access to the
intellectual, and with these last is blessedness. That partaking of the
divine life, which both Hellenism and Hebraism, as we have said, fix as
their crowning aim, Plato expressly denies to the man of practical
virtue merely, of self-conquest with any other motive than that of
perfect intellectual vision. He reserves it for the lover of pure
knowledge, of seeing things as they really are,--the[Greek:

Both Hellenism and Hebraism arise out of the wants of human nature, and
address themselves to satisfying those wants. But their methods are so
different, they lay stress on such different points, and call into being
by their respective disciplines such different activities, that the face
which human nature presents when it passes from the hands of one of them
to those of the other, is no longer the same. To get rid of one's
ignorance, to see things as they are, and by seeing them as they are to
see them in their beauty, is the simple and attractive ideal which
Hellenism holds out before human nature; and from the simplicity and
charm of this ideal, Hellenism, and human life in the hands of
Hellenism, is invested with a kind of aërial ease, clearness, and
radiancy; they are full of what we call sweetness and light.
Difficulties are kept out of view, and the beauty and rationalness of
the ideal have all our thoughts. "The best man is he who most tries to
perfect himself, and the happiest man is he who most feels that he _is_
perfecting himself,"[449]--this account of the matter by Socrates, the
true Socrates of the _Memorabilia_, has something so simple,
spontaneous, and unsophisticated about it, that it seems to fill us with
clearness and hope when we hear it. But there is a saying which I have
heard attributed to Mr. Carlyle about Socrates--a very happy saying,
whether it is really Mr. Carlyle's or not,--which excellently marks the
essential point in which Hebraism differs from Hellenism. "Socrates,"
this saying goes, "is terribly _at ease in Zion_." Hebraism--and here is
the source of its wonderful strength--has always been severely
preoccupied with an awful sense of the impossibility of being at ease in
Zion; of the difficulties which oppose themselves to man's pursuit or
attainment of that perfection of which Socrates talks so hopefully, and,
as from this point of view one might almost say, so glibly. It is all
very well to talk of getting rid of one's ignorance, of seeing things in
their reality, seeing them in their beauty; but how is this to be done
when there is something which thwarts and spoils all our efforts?

This something is _sin_; and the space which sin fills in Hebraism, as
compared with Hellenism, is indeed prodigious. This obstacle to
perfection fills the whole scene, and perfection appears remote and
rising away from earth, in the background. Under the name of sin, the
difficulties of knowing oneself and conquering oneself which impede
man's passage to perfection, become, for Hebraism, a positive, active
entity hostile to man, a mysterious power which I heard Dr. Pusey[450]
the other day, in one of his impressive sermons, compare to a hideous
hunchback seated on our shoulders, and which it is the main business of
our lives to hate and oppose. The discipline of the Old Testament may be
summed up as a discipline teaching us to abhor and flee from sin; the
discipline of the New Testament, as a discipline teaching us to die to
it. As Hellenism speaks of thinking clearly, seeing things in their
essence and beauty, as a grand and precious feat for man to achieve, so
Hebraism speaks of becoming conscious of sin, of awakening to a sense of
sin, as a feat of this kind. It is obvious to what wide divergence these
differing tendencies, actively followed, must lead. As one passes and
repasses from Hellenism to Hebraism, from Plato to St. Paul, one feels
inclined to rub one's eyes and ask oneself whether man is indeed a
gentle and simple being, showing the traces of a noble and divine
nature; or an unhappy chained captive, laboring with groanings that
cannot be uttered to free himself from the body of this death.

Apparently it was the Hellenic conception of human nature which was
unsound, for the world could not live by it. Absolutely to call it
unsound, however, is to fall into the common error of its Hebraizing
enemies; but it was unsound at that particular moment of man's
development, it was premature. The indispensable basis of conduct and
self-control, the platform upon which alone the perfection aimed at by
Greece can come into bloom, was not to be reached by our race so easily;
centuries of probation and discipline were needed to bring us to it.
Therefore the bright promise of Hellenism faded, and Hebraism ruled the
world. Then was seen that astonishing spectacle, so well marked by the
often-quoted words of the prophet Zechariah, when men of all languages
and nations took hold of the skirt of him that was a Jew, saying:--"_We
will go with you, for we have heard that God is with you_."[451] And the
Hebraism which thus received and ruled a world all gone out of the way
and altogether become unprofitable, was, and could not but be, the
later, the more spiritual, the more attractive development of Hebraism.
It was Christianity; that is to say, Hebraism aiming at self-conquest
and rescue from the thrall of vile affections, not by obedience to the
letter of a law, but by conformity to the image of a self-sacrificing
example. To a world stricken with moral enervation Christianity offered
its spectacle of an inspired self-sacrifice; to men who refused
themselves nothing, it showed one who refused himself everything;--"_my
Saviour banished joy!_"[452] says George Herbert. When the _alma Venus_,
the life-giving and joy-giving power of nature, so fondly cherished by
the pagan world, could not save her followers from self-dissatisfaction
and ennui, the severe words of the apostle came bracingly and
refreshingly: "Let no man deceive you with vain words, for because of
these things cometh the wrath of God upon the children of
disobedience."[453] Through age after age and generation after
generation, our race, or all that part of our race which was most living
and progressive, was _baptized into a death_; and endeavored, by
suffering in the flesh, to cease from sin. Of this endeavor, the
animating labors and afflictions of early Christianity, the touching
asceticism of mediæval Christianity, are the great historical
manifestations. Literary monuments of it, each in its own way
incomparable, remain in the _Epistles_ of St. Paul, in St. Augustine's
_Confessions_, and in the two original and simplest books of the

Of two disciplines laying their main stress, the one, on clear
intelligence, the other, on firm obedience; the one, on comprehensively
knowing the ground of one's duty, the other, on diligently practising
it; the one, on taking all possible care (to use Bishop Wilson's words
again) that the light we have be not darkness, the other, that according
to the best light we have we diligently walk,--the priority naturally
belongs to that discipline which braces all man's moral powers, and
founds for him an indispensable basis of character. And, therefore, it
is justly said of the Jewish people, who were charged with setting
powerfully forth that side of the divine order to which the words
_conscience_ and _self-conquest_ point, that they were "entrusted with
the oracles of God";[455] as it is justly said of Christianity, which
followed Judaism and which set forth this side with a much deeper
effectiveness and a much wider influence, that the wisdom of the old
pagan world was foolishness[456] compared to it. No words of devotion
and admiration can be too strong to render thanks to these beneficent
forces which have so borne forward humanity in its appointed work of
coming to the knowledge and possession of itself; above all, in those
great moments when their action was the wholesomest and the most

But the evolution of these forces, separately and in themselves, is not
the whole evolution of humanity,--their single history is not the whole
history of man; whereas their admirers are always apt to make it stand
for the whole history. Hebraism and Hellenism are, neither of them, the
_law_ of human development, as their admirers are prone to make them;
they are, each of them, _contributions_ to human development,--august
contributions, invaluable contributions; and each showing itself to us
more august, more invaluable, more preponderant over the other,
according to the moment in which we take them, and the relation in which
we stand to them. The nations of our modern world, children of that
immense and salutary movement which broke up the pagan world, inevitably
stand to Hellenism in a relation which dwarfs it, and to Hebraism in a
relation which magnifies it. They are inevitably prone to take Hebraism
as the law of human development, and not as simply a contribution to it,
however precious. And yet the lesson must perforce be learned, that the
human spirit is wider than the most priceless of the forces which bear
it onward, and that to the whole development of man Hebraism itself is,
like Hellenism, but a contribution.

Perhaps we may help ourselves to see this clearer by an illustration
drawn from the treatment of a single great idea which has profoundly
engaged the human spirit, and has given it eminent opportunities for
showing its nobleness and energy. It surely must be perceived that the
idea of immortality, as this idea rises in its generality before the
human spirit, is something grander, truer, and more satisfying, than it
is in the particular forms by which St. Paul, in the famous fifteenth
chapter of the Epistle to the Corinthians, and Plato, in the
_Phaedo_[457] endeavor to develop and establish it. Surely we cannot but
feel, that the argumentation with which the Hebrew apostle goes about to
expound this great idea is, after all, confused and inconclusive; and
that the reasoning, drawn from analogies of likeness and equality, which
is employed upon it by the Greek philosopher, is over-subtle and
sterile. Above and beyond the inadequate solutions which Hebraism and
Hellenism here attempt, extends the immense and august problem itself,
and the human spirit which gave birth to it. And this single
illustration may suggest to us how the same thing happens in other cases

But meanwhile, by alternations of Hebraism and Hellenism, of a man's
intellectual and moral impulses, of the effort to see things as they
really are, and the effort to win peace by self-conquest, the human
spirit proceeds; and each of these two forces has its appointed hours of
culmination and seasons of rule. As the great movement of Christianity
was a triumph of Hebraism and man's moral impulses, so the great
movement which goes by the name of the Renascence[458] was an uprising
and reinstatement of man's intellectual impulses and of Hellenism. We in
England, the devoted children of Protestantism, chiefly know the
Renascence by its subordinate and secondary side of the Reformation. The
Reformation has been often called a Hebraizing revival, a return to the
ardor and sincereness of primitive Christianity. No one, however, can
study the development of Protestantism and of Protestant churches
without feeling that into the Reforrmation, too,--Hebraizing child of
the Renascence and offspring of its fervor, rather than its
intelligence, as it undoubtedly was,--the subtle Hellenic leaven of the
Renascence found its way, and that the exact respective parts, in the
Reformation, of Hebraism and of Hellenism, are not easy to separate. But
what we may with truth say is, that all which Protestantism was to
itself clearly conscious of, all which it succeeded in clearly setting
forth in words, had the characters of Hebraism rather than of Hellenism.
The Reformation was strong, in that it was an earnest return to the
Bible and to doing from the heart the will of God as there written. It
was weak, in that it never consciously grasped or applied the central
idea of the Renascence,--the Hellenic idea of pursuing, in all lines of
activity, the law and science, to use Plato's words, of things as they
really are. Whatever direct superiority, therefore, Protestantism had
over Catholicism was a moral superiority, a superiority arising out of
its greater sincerity and earnestness,--at the moment of its apparition
at any rate,--in dealing with the heart and conscience. Its pretensions
to an intellectual superiority are in general quite illusory. For
Hellenism, for the thinking side in man as distinguished from the acting
side, the attitude of mind of Protestantism towards the Bible in no
respect differs from the attitude of mind of Catholicism towards the
Church. The mental habit of him who imagines that Balaam's ass spoke, in
no respect differs from the mental habit of him who imagines that a
Madonna of wood or stone winked; and the one, who says that God's Church
makes him believe what he believes, and the other, who says that God's
Word makes him believe what he believes, are for the philosopher
perfectly alike in not really and truly knowing, when they say _God's
Church_ and _God's Word_, what it is they say, or whereof they affirm.

In the sixteenth century, therefore, Hellenism re-entered the world,
and again stood in presence of Hebraism,--a Hebraism renewed and purged.
Now, it has not been enough observed, how, in the seventeenth century, a
fate befell Hellenism in some respects analogous to that which befell it
at the commencement of our era. The Renascence, that great reawakening
of Hellenism, that irresistible return of humanity to nature and to
seeing things as they are, which in art, in literature, and in physics,
produced such splendid fruits, had, like the anterior Hellenism of the
pagan world, a side of moral weakness and of relaxation or insensibility
of the moral fibre, which in Italy showed itself with the most startling
plainness, but which in France, England, and other countries was very
apparent, too. Again this loss of spiritual balance, this exclusive
preponderance given to man's perceiving and knowing side, this unnatural
defect of his feeling and acting side, provoked a reaction. Let us trace
that reaction where it most nearly concerns us.

Science has now made visible to everybody the great and pregnant
elements of difference which lie in race, and in how signal a manner
they make the genius and history of an Indo-European people vary from
those of a Semitic people. Hellenism is of Indo-European growth,
Hebraism is of Semitic growth; and we English, a nation of Indo-European
stock, seem to belong naturally to the movement of Hellenism. But
nothing more strongly marks the essential unity of man, than the
affinities we can perceive, in this point or that, between members of
one family of peoples and members of another. And no affinity of this
kind is more strongly marked than that likeness in the strength and
prominence of the moral fibre, which, notwithstanding immense elements
of difference, knits in some special sort the genius and history of us
English, and our American descendants across the Atlantic, to the genius
and history of the Hebrew people. Puritanism, which has been so great a
power in the English nation, and in the strongest part of the English
nation, was originally the reaction in the seventeenth century of the
conscience and moral sense of our race, against the moral indifference
and lax rule of conduct which in the sixteenth century came in with the
Renascence. It was a reaction of Hebraism against Hellenism; and it
powerfully manifested itself, as was natural, in a people with much of
what we call a Hebraizing turn, with a signal affinity for the bent
which, was the master-bent of Hebrew life. Eminently Indo-European by
its _humor_, by the power it shows, through this gift, of imaginatively
acknowledging the multiform aspects of the problem of life, and of thus
getting itself unfixed from its own over-certainty, of smiling at its
own over-tenacity, our race has yet (and a great part of its strength
lies here), in matters of practical life and moral conduct, a strong
share of the assuredness, the tenacity, the intensity of the Hebrews.
This turn manifested itself in Puritanism, and has had a great part in
shaping our history for the last two hundred years. Undoubtedly it
checked and changed amongst us that movement of the Renascence which we
see producing in the reign of Elizabeth such wonderful fruits.
Undoubtedly it stopped the prominent rule and direct development of that
order of ideas which we call by the name of Hellenism, and gave the
first rank to a different order of ideas. Apparently, too, as we said of
the former defeat of Hellenism, if Hellenism was defeated, this shows
that Hellenism was imperfect, and that its ascendency at that moment
would not have been for the world's good.

Yet there is a very important difference between the defeat inflicted on
Hellenism by Christianity eighteen hundred years ago, and the check
given to the Renascence by Puritanism. The greatness of the difference
is well measured by the difference in force, beauty, significance, and
usefulness, between primitive Christianity and Protestantism. Eighteen
hundred years ago it was altogether the hour of Hebraism. Primitive
Christianity was legitimately and truly the ascendant force in the world
at that time, and the way of mankind's progress lay through its full
development. Another hour in man's development began in the fifteenth
century, and the main road of his progress then lay for a time through
Hellenism. Puritanism was no longer the central current of the world's
progress, it was a side stream crossing the central current and checking
it. The cross and the check may have been necessary and salutary, but
that does not do away with the essential difference between the main
stream of man's advance and a cross or side stream. For more than two
hundred years the main stream of man's advance has moved towards knowing
himself and the world, seeing things as they are, spontaneity of
consciousness; the main impulse of a great part, and that the strongest
part, of our nation has been towards strictness of conscience. They have
made the secondary the principal at the wrong moment, and the principal
they have at the wrong moment treated as secondary. This contravention
of the natural order has produced, as such contravention always must
produce, a certain confusion and false movement, of which we are now
beginning to feel, in almost every direction, the inconvenience. In all
directions our habitual causes of action seem to be losing
efficaciousness, credit, and control, both with others and even with
ourselves. Everywhere we see the beginnings of confusion, and we want a
clue to some sound order and authority. This we can only get by going
back upon the actual instincts and forces which rule our life, seeing
them as they really are, connecting them with other instincts and
forces, and enlarging our whole view and rule of life.


When we talk of man's advance towards his full humanity, we think of an
advance, not along one line only, but several. Certain races and
nations, as we know, are on certain lines preëminent and representative.
The Hebrew nation was preëminent on one great line. "What nation," it
was justly asked by their lawgiver, "hath statutes and judgments so
righteous as the law which I set before you this day? Keep therefore and
do them; for this is your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of
the nations which shall hear all these statutes and say: Surely this
great nation is a wise and understanding people!" The Hellenic race was
preëminent on other lines. Isocrates[460] could say of Athens: "Our city
has left the rest of the world so far behind in philosophy and
eloquence, that those educated by Athens have become the teachers of the
rest of mankind; and so well has she done her part, that the name of
Greeks seems no longer to stand for a race but to stand for intelligence
itself, and they who share in our culture are called Greeks even before
those who are merely of our own blood." The power of intellect and
science, the power of beauty, the power of social life and manners,--
these are what Greece so felt, and fixed, and may stand for. They are
great elements in our humanization. The power of conduct is another
great element; and this was so felt and fixed by Israel that we can
never with justice refuse to permit Israel, in spite of all his
shortcomings, to stand for it.

So you see that in being humanized we have to move along several lines,
and that on certain lines certain nations find their strength and take a
lead. We may elucidate the thing yet further. Nations now existing may
be said to feel or to have felt the power of this or that element in our
humanization so signally that they are characterized by it. No one who
knows this country would deny that it is characterized, in a remarkable
degree, by a sense of the power of conduct. Our feeling for religion is
one part of this; our industry is another. What foreigners so much
remark in us--our public spirit, our love, amidst all our liberty, for
public order and for stability--are parts of it too. Then the power of
beauty was so felt by the Italians that their art revived, as we know,
the almost lost idea of beauty, and the serious and successful pursuit
of it. Cardinal Antonelli,[461] speaking to me about the education of
the common people in Rome, said that they were illiterate, indeed, but
whoever mingled with them at any public show, and heard them pass
judgment on the beauty or ugliness of what came before them,--"_e
brutto_," "_e bello_,"--would find that their judgment agreed admirably,
in general, with just what the most cultivated people would say. Even at
the present time, then, the Italians are preëminent in feeling the power
of beauty. The power of knowledge, in the same way, is eminently an
influence with the Germans. This by no means implies, as is sometimes
supposed, a high and fine general culture. What it implies is a strong
sense of the necessity of knowing _scientifically_, as the expression
is, the things which have to be known by us; of knowing them
systematically, by the regular and right process, and in the only real
way. And this sense the Germans especially have. Finally, there is the
power of social life and manners. And even the Athenians themselves,
perhaps, have hardly felt this power so much as the French.

Voltaire, in a famous passage[462] where he extols the age of Louis the
Fourteenth and ranks it with the chief epochs in the civilization of our
race, has to specify the gift bestowed on us by the age of Louis the
Fourteenth, as the age of Pericles, for instance, bestowed on us its art
and literature, and the Italian Renascence its revival of art and
literature. And Voltaire shows all his acuteness in fixing on the gift
to name. It is not the sort of gift which we expect to see named. The
great gift of the age of Louis the Fourteenth to the world, says
Voltaire, was this: _l'esprit de société_, the spirit of society, the
social spirit. And another French writer, looking for the good points in
the old French nobility, remarks that this at any rate is to be said in
their favor: they established a high and charming ideal of social
intercourse and manners, for a nation formed to profit by such an ideal,
and which has profited by it ever since. And in America, perhaps, we see
the disadvantages of having social equality before there has been any
such high standard of social life and manners formed.

We are not disposed in England, most of us, to attach all this
importance to social intercourse and manners. Yet Burke says: "There
ought to be a system of manners in every nation which a well-formed mind
would be disposed to relish." And the power of social life and manners
is truly, as we have seen, one of the great elements in our
humanization. Unless we have cultivated it, we are incomplete. The
impulse for cultivating it is not, indeed, a moral impulse. It is by no
means identical with the moral impulse to help our neighbor and to do
him good. Yet in many ways it works to a like end. It brings men
together, makes them feel the need of one another, be considerate of one
another, understand one another. But, above all things, it is a promoter
of equality. It is by the humanity of their manners that men are made
equal. "A man thinks to show himself my equal," says Goethe, "by being
_grob_,--that is to say, coarse and rude; he does not show himself my
equal, he shows himself _grob_." But a community having humane manners
is a community of equals, and in such a community great social
inequalities have really no meaning, while they are at the same time a
menace and an embarrassment to perfect ease of social intercourse. A
community with the spirit of society is eminently, therefore, a
community with the spirit of equality. A nation with a genius for
society, like the French or the Athenians, is irresistibly drawn towards
equality. From the first moment when the French people, with its
congenital sense for the power of social intercourse and manners, came
into existence, it was on the road to equality. When it had once got a
high standard of social manners abundantly established, and at the same
time the natural, material necessity for the feudal inequality of
classes and property pressed upon it no longer, the French people
introduced equality and made the French Revolution. It was not the
spirit of philanthropy which mainly impelled the French to that
Revolution, neither was it the spirit of envy, neither was it the love
of abstract ideas, though all these did something towards it; but what
did most was the spirit of society.

The well-being of the many comes out more and more distinctly, in
proportion as time goes on, as the object we must pursue. An individual
or a class, concentrating their efforts upon their own well-being
exclusively, do but beget troubles both for others and for themselves
also. No individual life can be truly prosperous, passed, as Obermann
says, in the midst of men who suffer; _passée au milieu des générations
qui souffrent_. To the noble soul, it cannot be happy; to the ignoble,
it cannot be secure. Socialistic and communistic schemes have generally,
however, a fatal defect; they are content with too low and material a
standard of well-being. That instinct of perfection, which is the
master-power in humanity, always rebels at this, and frustrates the
work. Many are to be made partakers of well-being, true; but the ideal
of well-being is not to be, on that account, lowered and coarsened. M.
de Laveleye,[463] the political economist, who is a Belgian and a
Protestant, and whose testimony, therefore, we may the more readily take
about France, says that France, being the country of Europe where the
soil is more divided than anywhere except in Switzerland and Norway, is
at the same time the country where material well-being is most widely
spread, where wealth has of late years increased most, and where
population is least outrunning the limits, which, for the comfort and
progress of the working classes themselves, seem necessary. This may go
for a good deal. It supplies an answer to what Sir Erskine May[464] says
about the bad effects of equality upon French prosperity. But I will
quote to you from Mr. Hamerton[465] what goes, I think, for yet more.
Mr. Hamerton is an excellent observer and reporter, and has lived for
many years in France. He says of the French peasantry that they are
exceedingly ignorant. So they are. But he adds: "They are at the same
time full of intelligence; their manners are excellent, they have
delicate perceptions, they have tact, they have a certain refinement
which a brutalized peasantry could not possibly have. If you talk to one
of them at his own home, or in his field, he will enter into
conversation with you quite easily, and sustain his part in a perfectly
becoming way, with a pleasant combination of dignity and quiet humor.
The interval between him and a Kentish laborer is enormous."

This is, indeed, worth your attention. Of course all mankind are, as Mr.
Gladstone says, of our own flesh and blood. But you know how often it
happens in England that a cultivated person, a person of the sort that
Mr. Charles Sumner[466] describes, talking to one of the lower class, or
even of the middle class, feels and cannot but feel, that there is
somehow a wall of partition between himself and the other, that they
seem to belong to two different worlds. Thoughts, feelings, perceptions,
susceptibilities, language, manners,--everything is different. Whereas,
with a French peasant, the most cultivated man may find himself in
sympathy, may feel that he is talking to an equal. This is an experience
which has been made a thousand times, and which may be made again any
day. And it may be carried beyond the range of mere conversation, it may
be extended to things like pleasures, recreations, eating and drinking,
and so on. In general the pleasures, recreations, eating and drinking of
English people, when once you get below that class which Mr. Charles
Sumner calls the class of gentlemen, are to one of that class
unpalatable and impossible. In France there is not this incompatibility.
Whether he mix with high or low, the gentleman feels himself in a world
not alien or repulsive, but a world where people make the same sort of
demands upon life, in things of this sort, which he himself does. In all
these respects France is the country where the people, as distinguished
from a wealthy refined class, most lives what we call a humane life, the
life of civilized man.

Of course, fastidious persons can and do pick holes in it. There is just
now, in France, a _noblesse_ newly revived, full of pretension, full of
airs and graces and disdains; but its sphere is narrow, and out of its
own sphere no one cares very much for it. There is a general equality in
a humane kind of life. This is the secret of the passionate attachment
with which France inspires all Frenchmen, in spite of her fearful
troubles, her checked prosperity, her disconnected units, and the rest
of it. There is so much of the goodness and agreeableness of life there,
and for so many. It is the secret of her having been able to attach so
ardently to her the German and Protestant people of Alsace,[467] while
we have been so little able to attach the Celtic and Catholic people of
Ireland. France brings the Alsatians into a social system so full of the
goodness and agreeableness of life; we offer to the Irish no such
attraction. It is the secret, finally, of the prevalence which we have
remarked in other continental countries of a legislation tending, like
that of France, to social equality. The social system which equality
creates in France is, in the eyes of others, such a giver of the
goodness and agreeableness of life, that they seek to get the goodness
by getting the equality.

Yet France has had her fearful troubles, as Sir Erskine May justly says.
She suffers too, he adds, from demoralization and intellectual stoppage.
Let us admit, if he likes, this to be true also. His error is that he
attributes all this to equality. Equality, as we have seen, has brought
France to a really admirable and enviable pitch of humanization in one
important line. And this, the work of equality, is so much a good in Sir
Erskine May's eyes, that he has mistaken it for the whole of which it is
a part, frankly identifies it with civilization, and is inclined to
pronounce France the most civilized of nations.

But we have seen how much goes to full humanization, to true
civilization, besides the power of social life and manners. There is the
power of conduct, the power of intellect and knowledge, the power of
beauty. The power of conduct is the greatest of all. And without in the
least wishing to preach, I must observe, as a mere matter of natural
fact and experience, that for the power of conduct France has never had
anything like the same sense which she has had for the power of social
life and manners. Michelet,[468] himself a Frenchman, gives us the
reason why the Reformation did not succeed in France. It did not
succeed, he says, because _la France ne voulait pas de réforme morale_--
moral reform France would not have; and the Reformation was above all a
moral movement. The sense in France for the power of conduct has not
greatly deepened, I think, since. The sense for the power of intellect
and knowledge has not been adequate either. The sense for beauty has not
been adequate. Intelligence and beauty have been, in general, but so far
reached, as they can be and are reached by men who, of the elements of
perfect humanization, lay thorough hold upon one only,--the power of
social intercourse and manners. I speak of France in general; she has
had, and she has, individuals who stand out and who form exceptions.
Well, then, if a nation laying no sufficient hold upon the powers of
beauty and knowledge, and a most failing and feeble hold upon the power
of conduct, comes to demoralization and intellectual stoppage and
fearful troubles, we need not be inordinately surprised. What we should
rather marvel at is the healing and bountiful operation of Nature,
whereby the laying firm hold on one real element in our humanization has
had for France results so beneficent.

And thus, when Sir Erskine May gets bewildered between France's equality
and fearful troubles on the one hand, and the civilization of France on
the other, let us suggest to him that perhaps he is bewildered by his
data because he combines them ill. France has not exemplary disaster and
ruin as the fruits of equality, and at the same time, and independently
of this, an exemplary civilization. She has a large measure of happiness
and success as the fruits of equality, and she has a very large measure
of dangers and troubles as the fruits of something else.

We have more to do, however, than to help Sir Erskine May out of his
scrape about France. We have to see whether the considerations which we
have been employing may not be of use to us about England.

We shall not have much difficulty in admitting whatever good is to be
said of ourselves, and we will try not to be unfair by excluding all
that is not so favorable. Indeed, our less favorable side is the one
which we should be the most anxious to note, in order that we may mend
it. But we will begin with the good. Our people has energy and honesty
as its good characteristics. We have a strong sense for the chief power
in the life and progress of man,--the power of conduct. So far we speak
of the English people as a whole. Then we have a rich, refined, and
splendid aristocracy. And we have, according to Mr. Charles Sumner's
acute and true remark, a class of gentlemen, not of the nobility, but
well-bred, cultivated, and refined, larger than is to be found in any
other country. For these last we have Mr. Sumner's testimony. As to the
splendor of our aristocracy, all the world is agreed. Then we have a
middle class and a lower class; and they, after all, are the immense
bulk of the nation.

Let us see how the civilization of these classes appears to a Frenchman,
who has witnessed, in his own country, the considerable humanization of
these classes by equality. To such an observer our middle class divides
itself into a serious portion and a gay or rowdy portion; both are a
marvel to him. With the gay or rowdy portion we need not much concern
ourselves; we shall figure it to our minds sufficiently if we conceive
it as the source of that war-song produced in these recent days of

  "We don't want to fight, but by jingo, if we do,
  We've got the ships, we've got the men, and we're got the money

We may also partly judge its standard of life, and the needs of its
nature, by the modern English theatre, perhaps the most contemptible in
Europe. But the real strength of the English middle class is in its
serious portion. And of this a Frenchman, who was here some little time
ago as the correspondent, I think, of the _Siècle_ newspaper, and whose
letters were afterwards published in a volume, writes as follows. He had
been attending some of the Moody and Sankey[470] meetings, and he says:
"To understand the success of Messrs. Moody and Sankey, one must be
familiar with English manners, one must know the mind-deadening
influence of a narrow Biblism, one must have experienced the sense of
acute ennui, which the aspect and the frequentation of this great
division of English society produce in others, the want of elasticity
and the chronic ennui which characterize this class itself, petrified in
a narrow Protestantism and in a perpetual reading of the Bible."

You know the French;--a little more Biblism, one may take leave to say,
would do them no harm. But an audience like this--and here, as I said,
is the advantage of an audience like this--will have no difficulty in
admitting the amount of truth which there is in the Frenchman's picture.
It is the picture of a class which, driven by its sense for the power of
conduct, in the beginning of the seventeenth century entered,--as I have
more than once said, and as I may more than once have occasion in future
to say,--_entered the prison of Puritanism, and had the key turned upon
its spirit there for two hundred years_.[471] They did not know, good
and earnest people as they were, that to the building up of human life
there belong all those other powers also,--the power of intellect and
knowledge, the power of beauty, the power of social life and manners.
And something, by what they became, they gained, and the whole nation
with them; they deepened and fixed for this nation the sense of conduct.
But they created a type of life and manners, of which they themselves,
indeed, are slow to recognize the faults, but which is fatally condemned
by its hideousness, its immense ennui, and against which the instinct of
self-preservation in humanity rebels.

Partisans fight against facts in vain. Mr. Goldwin Smith,[472] a writer
of eloquence and power, although too prone to acerbity, is a partisan of
the Puritans, and of the nonconformists who are the special inheritors
of the Puritan tradition. He angrily resents the imputation upon that
Puritan type of life, by which the life of our serious middle class has
been formed, that it was doomed to hideousness, to immense ennui. He
protests that it had beauty, amenity, accomplishment. Let us go to
facts. Charles the First, who, with all his faults, had the just idea
that art and letters are great civilizers, made, as you know, a famous
collection of pictures,--our first National Gallery. It was, I suppose,
the best collection at that time north of the Alps. It contained nine
Raphaels, eleven Correggios, twenty-eight Titians. What became of that
collection? The journals of the House of Commons will tell you. There
you may see the Puritan Parliament disposing of this Whitehall or York
House collection as follows: "Ordered, that all such pictures and
statues there as are without any superstition, shall be forthwith
sold.... Ordered, that all such pictures there as have the
representation of the Second Person in the Trinity upon them, shall be
forthwith burnt. Ordered, that all such pictures there as have the
representation of the Virgin Mary upon them, shall be forthwith burnt."
There we have the weak side of our parliamentary government and our
serious middle class. We are incapable of sending Mr. Gladstone to be
tried at the Old Bailey because he proclaims his antipathy to Lord
Beaconsfield. A majority in our House of Commons is incapable of
hailing, with frantic laughter and applause, a string of indecent jests
against Christianity and its Founder. But we are not, or were not
incapable of producing a Parliament which burns or sells the
masterpieces of Italian art. And one may surely say of such a Puritan
Parliament, and of those who determine its line for it, that they had
not the spirit of beauty.

What shall we say of amenity? Milton was born a humanist, but the
Puritan temper, as we know, mastered him. There is nothing more unlovely
and unamiable than Milton the Puritan disputant. Some one answers his
_Doctrine and Discipline of Divorce_. "I mean not," rejoins Milton, "to
dispute philosophy with this pork, who never read any." However, he does
reply to him, and throughout the reply Milton's great joke is, that his
adversary, who was anonymous, is a serving-man. "Finally, he winds up
his text with much doubt and trepidation; for it may be his trenchers
were not scraped, and that which never yet afforded corn of favor to his
noddle--the salt-cellar--was not rubbed; and therefore, in this haste,
easily granting that his answers fall foul upon each other, and praying
you would not think he writes as a prophet, but as a man, he runs to the
black jack, fills his flagon, spreads the table, and serves up
dinner."[473] There you have the same spirit of urbanity and amenity, as
much of it, and as little, as generally informs the religious
controversies of our Puritan middle class to this day.

But Mr. Goldwin Smith[474] insists, and picks out his own exemplar of
the Puritan type of life and manners; and even here let us follow him.
He picks out the most favorable specimen he can find,--Colonel
Hutchinson,[475] whose well-known memoirs, written by his widow, we have
all read with interest. "Lucy Hutchinson," says Mr. Goldwin Smith, "is
painting what she thought a perfect Puritan would be; and her picture
presents to us not a coarse, crop-eared, and snuffling fanatic, but a
highly accomplished, refined, gallant, and most amiable, though
religious and seriously minded, gentleman." Let us, I say, in this
example of Mr. Goldwin Smith's own choosing, lay our finger upon the
points where this type deflects from the truly humane ideal.

Mrs. Hutchinson relates a story which gives us a good notion of what the
amiable and accomplished social intercourse, even of a picked Puritan
family, was. Her husband was governor of Nottingham. He had occasion,
she said, "to go and break up a private meeting in the cannoneer's
chamber"; and in the cannoneer's chamber "were found some notes
concerning pædobaptism,[476] which, being brought into the governor's
lodgings, his wife having perused them and compared them with the
Scriptures, found not what to say against the truths they asserted
concerning the mis-application of that ordinance to infants." Soon
afterwards she expects her confinement, and communicates the cannoneer's
doubts about pædobaptism to her husband. The fatal cannoneer makes a
breach in him too. "Then he bought and read all the eminent treatises on
both sides, which at that time came thick from the presses, and still
was cleared in the error of the pædobaptists." Finally, Mrs. Hutchinson
is confined. Then the governor "invited all the ministers to dinner, and
propounded his doubt and the ground thereof to them. None of them could
defend their practice with any satisfactory reason, but the tradition of
the Church from the primitive times, and their main buckler of federal
holiness, which Tombs and Denne had excellently overthrown. He and his
wife then, professing themselves unsatisfied, desired their opinions."
With the opinions I will not trouble you, but hasten to the result:
"Whereupon that infant was not baptised."

No doubt to a large division of English society at this very day, that
sort of dinner and discussion, and indeed, the whole manner of life and
conversation here suggested by Mrs. Hutchinson's narrative, will seem
both natural and amiable, and such as to meet the needs of man as a
religious and social creature. You know the conversation which reigns in
thousands of middle-class families at this hour, about nunneries,
teetotalism, the confessional, eternal punishment, ritualism,
disestablishment. It goes wherever the class goes which is moulded on
the Puritan type of life. In the long winter evenings of Toronto Mr.
Goldwin Smith has had, probably, abundant experience of it. What is its
enemy? The instinct of self-preservation in humanity. Men make crude
types and try to impose them, but to no purpose. "_L'homme s'agite, Dieu
le mene_,"[477] says Bossuet. "There are many devices in a man's heart;
nevertheless the counsel of the Eternal, that shall stand."[478] Those
who offer us the Puritan type of life offer us a religion not true, the
claims of intellect and knowledge not satisfied, the claim of beauty not
satisfied, the claim of manners not satisfied. In its strong sense for
conduct that life touches truth; but its other imperfections hinder it
from employing even this sense aright. The type mastered our nation for
a time. Then came the reaction. The nation said: "This type, at any
rate, is amiss; we are not going to be all like _that!_" The type
retired into our middle class, and fortified itself there. It seeks to
endure, to emerge, to deny its own imperfections, to impose itself
again;--impossible! If we continue to live, we must outgrow it. The very
class in which it is rooted, our middle class, will have to acknowledge
the type's inadequacy, will have to acknowledge the hideousness, the
immense ennui of the life which this type has created, will have to
transform itself thoroughly. It will have to admit the large part of
truth which there is in the criticisms of our Frenchman, whom we have
too long forgotten.

After our middle class he turns his attention to our lower class. And of
the lower and larger portion of this, the portion not bordering on the
middle class and sharing its faults, he says: "I consider this multitude
to be absolutely devoid, not only of political principles, but even of
the most simple notions of good and evil. Certainly it does not appeal,
this mob, to the principles of '89, which you English make game of; it
does not insist on the rights of man; what it wants is beer, gin, and

That is a description of what Mr. Bright[480] would call the residuum,
only our author seems to think the residuum a very large body. And its
condition strikes him with amazement and horror. And surely well it may.
Let us recall Mr. Hamerton's account of the most illiterate class in
France; what an amount of civilization they have notwithstanding! And
this is always to be understood, in hearing or reading a Frenchman's
praise of England. He envies our liberty, our public spirit, our trade,
our stability. But there is always a reserve in his mind. He never means
for a moment that he would like to change with us. Life seems to him so
much better a thing in France for so many more people, that, in spite of
the fearful troubles of France, it is best to be a Frenchman. A
Frenchman might agree with Mr. Cobden,[481] that life is good in England
for those people who have at least £5000 a year. But the civilization of
that immense majority who have not £5000 a year, or, £500, or even
£100,--of our middle and lower class,--seems to him too deplorable.

And now what has this condition of our middle and lower class to tell us
about equality? How is it, must we not ask, how is it that, being
without fearful troubles, having so many achievements to show and so
much success, having as a nation a deep sense for conduct, having signal
energy and honesty, having a splendid aristocracy, having an
exceptionally large class of gentlemen, we are yet so little civilized?
How is it that our middle and lower classes, in spite of the individuals
among them who are raised by happy gifts of nature to a more humane
life, in spite of the seriousness of the middle class, in spite of the
honesty and power of true work, the _virtus verusque labor_, which are
to be found in abundance throughout the lower, do yet present, as a
whole, the characters which we have seen?

And really it seems as if the current of our discourse carried us of
itself to but one conclusion. It seems as if we could not avoid
concluding, that just as France owes her fearful troubles to other
things and her civilizedness to equality, so we owe our immunity from
fearful troubles to other things, and our uncivilizedness to inequality.
"Knowledge is easy," says the wise man, "to him that understandeth";[482]
easy, he means, to him who will use his mind simply and rationally, and
not to make him think he can know what he cannot, or to maintain, _per
fas et nefas_, a false thesis with which he fancies his interests to be
bound up. And to him who will use his mind as the wise man recommends,
surely it is easy to see that our shortcomings in civilization are due
to our inequality; or, in other words, that the great inequality of
classes and property, which came to us from the Middle Age and which we
maintain because we have the religion of inequality, that this
constitution of things, I say, has the natural and necessary effect,
under present circumstances, of materializing our upper class,
vulgarizing our middle class, and brutalizing our lower class.[483] And
this is to fail in civilization.

For only just look how the facts combine themselves. I have said little
as yet about our aristocratic class, except that it is splendid. Yet
these, "our often very unhappy brethren," as Burke calls them, are by no
means matter for nothing but ecstasy. Our charity ought certainly, Burke
says, to "extend a due and anxious sensation of pity to the distresses
of the miserable great." Burke's extremely strong language about their
miseries and defects I will not quote. For my part, I am always disposed
to marvel that human beings, in a position so false, should be so good
as these are. Their reason for existing was to serve as a number of
centres in a world disintegrated after the ruin of the Roman Empire, and
slowly re-constituting itself. Numerous centres of material force were
needed, and these a feudal aristocracy supplied. Their large and
hereditary estates served this public end. The owners had a positive
function, for which their estates were essential. In our modern world
the function is gone; and the great estates, with an infinitely
multiplied power of ministering to mere pleasure and indulgence, remain.
The energy and honesty of our race does not leave itself without witness
in this class, and nowhere are there more conspicuous examples of
individuals raised by happy gifts of nature far above their fellows and
their circumstances. For distinction of all kinds this class has an
esteem. Everything which succeeds they tend to welcome, to win over, to
put on their side; genius may generally make, if it will, not bad terms
for itself with them. But the total result of the class, its effect on
society at large and on national progress, are what we must regard. And
on the whole, with no necessary function to fulfil, never conversant
with life as it really is, tempted, flattered, and spoiled from
childhood to old age, our aristocratic class is inevitably materialized,
and the more so the more the development of industry and ingenuity
augments the means of luxury. Every one can see how bad is the action of
such an aristocracy upon the class of newly enriched people, whose great
danger is a materialistic ideal, just because it is the ideal they can
easiest comprehend. Nor is the mischief of this action now compensated
by signal services of a public kind. Turn even to that sphere which
aristocracies think specially their own, and where they have under other
circumstances been really effective,--the sphere of politics. When there
is need, as now, for any large forecast of the course of human affairs,
for an acquaintance with the ideas which in the end sway mankind, and
for an estimate of their power, aristocracies are out of their element,
and materialized aristocracies most of all. In the immense spiritual
movement of our day, the English aristocracy, as I have elsewhere said,
always reminds me of Pilate confronting the phenomenon of Christianity.
Nor can a materialized class have any serious and fruitful sense for the
power of beauty. They may imagine themselves to be in pursuit of beauty;
but how often, alas, does the pursuit come to little more than dabbling
a little in what they are pleased to call art, and making a great deal
of what they are pleased to call love!

Let us return to their merits. For the power of manners an aristocratic
class, whether materialized or not, will always, from its circumstances,
have a strong sense. And although for this power of social life and
manners, so important to civilization, our English race has no special
natural turn, in our aristocracy this power emerges and marks them. When
the day of general humanization comes, they will have fixed the standard
of manners. The English simplicity, too, makes the best of the English
aristocracy more frank and natural than the best of the like class
anywhere else, and even the worst of them it makes free from the
incredible fatuities and absurdities of the worst. Then the sense of
conduct they share with their countrymen at large. In no class has it
such trials to undergo; in none is it more often and more grievously
overborne. But really the right comment on this is the comment of
Pepys[484] upon the evil courses of Charles the Second and the Duke of
York and the court of that day: "At all which I am sorry; but it is the
effect of idleness, and having nothing else to employ their great
spirits upon."

Heaven forbid that I should speak in dispraise of that unique and most
English class which Mr. Charles Sumner extols--the large class of
gentlemen, not of the landed class or of the nobility, but cultivated
and refined. They are a seemly product of the energy and of the power to
rise in our race. Without, in general, rank and splendor and wealth and
luxury to polish them, they have made their own the high standard of
life and manners of an aristocratic and refined class. Not having all
the dissipations and distractions of this class, they are much more
seriously alive to the power of intellect and knowledge, to the power of
beauty. The sense of conduct, too, meets with fewer trials in this
class. To some extent, however, their contiguousness to the aristocratic
class has now the effect of materializing them, as it does the class of
newly enriched people. The most palpable action is on the young amongst
them, and on their standard of life and enjoyment. But in general, for
this whole class, established facts, the materialism which they see
regnant, too much block their mental horizon, and limit the
possibilities of things to them. They are deficient in openness and
flexibility of mind, in free play of ideas, in faith and ardor.
Civilized they are, but they are not much of a civilizing force; they
are somehow bounded and ineffective.

So on the middle class they produce singularly little effect. What the
middle class sees is that splendid piece of materialism, the
aristocratic class, with a wealth and luxury utterly out of their reach,
with a standard of social life and manners, the offspring of that wealth
and luxury, seeming utterly out of their reach also. And thus they are
thrown back upon themselves--upon a defective type of religion, a narrow
range of intellect and knowledge, a stunted sense of beauty, a low
standard of manners. And the lower class see before them the
aristocratic class, and its civilization, such as it is, even infinitely
more out of _their_ reach than out of that of the middle class; while
the life of the middle class, with its unlovely types of religion,
thought, beauty, and manners, has naturally, in general, no great
attractions for them either. And so they, too, are thrown back upon
themselves; upon their beer, their gin, and their _fun_. Now, then, you
will understand what I meant by saying that our inequality materializes
our upper class, vulgarizes our middle class, brutalizes our lower.

And the greater the inequality the more marked is its bad action upon
the middle and lower classes. In Scotland the landed aristocracy fills
the scene, as is well known, still more than in England; the other
classes are more squeezed back and effaced. And the social civilization
of the lower middle class and of the poorest class, in Scotland, is an
example of the consequences. Compared with the same class even in
England, the Scottish lower middle class is most visibly, to vary Mr.
Charles Sumner's phrase, _less_ well-bred, _less_ careful in personal
habits and in social conventions, _less_ refined. Let any one who doubts
it go, after issuing from the aristocratic solitudes which possess Loch
Lomond, let him go and observe the shopkeepers and the middle class in
Dumbarton, and Greenock, and Gourock, and the places along the mouth of
the Clyde. And for the poorest class, who that has seen it can ever
forget the hardly human horror, the abjection and uncivilizedness of

What a strange religion, then, is our religion of inequality! Romance
often helps a religion to hold its ground, and romance is good in its
way; but ours is not even a romantic religion. No doubt our aristocracy
is an object of very strong public interest. The _Times_ itself bestows
a leading article by way of epithalamium on the Duke of Norfolk's
marriage. And those journals of a new type, full of talent, and which
interest me particularly because they seem as if they were written by
the young lion[485] of our youth,--the young lion grown mellow and, as
the French say, _viveur_, arrived at his full and ripe knowledge of the
world, and minded to enjoy the smooth evening of his days,--those
journals, in the main a sort of social gazette of the aristocracy, are
apparently not read by that class only which they most concern, but are
read with great avidity by other classes also. And the common people,
too, have undoubtedly, as Mr. Gladstone says, a wonderful preference for
a lord. Yet our aristocracy, from the action upon it of the Wars of the
Roses, the Tudors, and the political necessities of George the Third, is
for the imagination a singularly modern and uninteresting one. Its
splendor of station, its wealth, show, and luxury, is then what the
other classes really admire in it; and this is not an elevating
admiration. Such an admiration will never lift us out of our vulgarity
and brutality, if we chance to be vulgar and brutal to start with; it
will rather feed them and be fed by them. So that when Mr. Gladstone
invites us to call our love of inequality "the complement of the love of
freedom or its negative pole, or the shadow which the love of freedom
casts, or the reverberation of its voice in the halls of the
constitution," we must surely answer that all this mystical eloquence is
not in the least necessary to explain so simple a matter; that our love
of inequality is really the vulgarity in us, and the brutality, admiring
and worshipping the splendid materiality.

Our present social organization, however, will and must endure until our
middle class is provided with some better ideal of life than it has now.
Our present organization has been an appointed stage in our growth; it
has been of good use, and has enabled us to do great things. But the use
is at an end, and the stage is over. Ask yourselves if you do not
sometimes feel in yourselves a sense, that in spite of the strenuous
efforts for good of so many excellent persons amongst us, we begin
somehow to flounder and to beat the air; that we seem to be finding
ourselves stopped on this line of advance and on that, and to be
threatened with a sort of standstill. It is that we are trying to live
on with a social organization of which the day is over. Certainly
equality will never of itself alone give us a perfect civilization. But,
with such inequality as ours, a perfect civilization is impossible.

To that conclusion, facts, and the stream itself of this discourse, do
seem, I think, to carry us irresistibly. We arrive at it because they so
choose, not because we so choose. Our tendencies are all the other way.
We are all of us politicians, and in one of two camps, the Liberal or
the Conservative. Liberals tend to accept the middle class as it is, and
to praise the nonconformists; while Conservatives tend to accept the
upper class as it is, and to praise the aristocracy. And yet here we are
at the conclusion, that whereas one of the great obstacles to our
civilization is, as I have often said, British nonconformity, another
main obstacle to our civilization is British aristocracy! And this while
we are yet forced to recognize excellent special qualities as well as
the general English energy and honesty, and a number of emergent humane
individuals, in both nonconformists and aristocracy. Clearly such a
conclusion can be none of our own seeking.

Then again, to remedy our inequality, there must be a change in the law
of bequest, as there has been in France; and the faults and
inconveniences of the present French law of bequest are obvious. It
tends to over-divide property; it is unequal in operation, and can be
eluded by people limiting their families; it makes the children, however
ill they may behave, independent of the parent. To be sure, Mr.
Mill[486] and others have shown that a law of bequest fixing the
maximum, whether of land or money, which any one individual may take by
bequest or inheritance, but in other respects leaving the testator quite
free, has none of the inconveniences of the French law, and is in every
way preferable. But evidently these are not questions of practical
politics. Just imagine Lord Hartington[487] going down to Glasgow, and
meeting his Scotch Liberals there, and saying to them: "You are ill at
ease, and you are calling for change, and very justly. But the cause of
your being ill at ease is not what you suppose. The cause of your being
ill at ease is the profound imperfectness of your social civilization.
Your social civilization is, indeed, such as I forbear to characterize.
But the remedy is not disestablishment. The remedy is social equality.
Let me direct your attention to a reform in the law of bequest and
entail." One can hardly speak of such a thing without laughing. No, the
matter is at present one for the thoughts of those who think. It is a
thing to be turned over in the minds of those who, on the one hand, have
the spirit of scientific inquirers, bent on seeing things as they really
are; and, on the other hand, the spirit of friends of the humane life,
lovers of perfection. To your thoughts I commit it. And perhaps, the
more you think of it, the more you will be persuaded that Menander[488]
showed his wisdom quite as much when he said _Choose equality_, as when
he assured us that _Evil communications corrupt good manners_.




[1] ~Poetry and the Classics~. Published as Preface to _Poems_: 1853
(dated Fox How, Ambleside, October 1, 1853). It was reprinted in Irish
Essays, 1882.

[2] ~the poem~. _Empedocles on Etna_.

[3] ~the Sophists~. "A name given by the Greeks about the middle of the
fifth century B.C. to certain teachers of a superior grade who,
distinguishing themselves from philosophers on the one hand and from
artists and craftsmen on the other, claimed to prepare their pupils, not
for any particular study or profession, but for civic life."
_Encyclopædia Britannica_.


[4] _Poetics_, 4.

[5] _Theognis_, ll. 54-56.


[6] ~"The poet," it is said~. In the _Spectator_ of April 2, 1853. The
words quoted were not used with reference to poems of mine.[Arnold.]


[7] ~Dido~. See the _Iliad_, the _Oresteia_ (_Agamemnon, Choëpharæ_, and
_Eumenides_) of Æschylus, and the _Æneid_.

[8] ~Hermann and Dorothea, Childe Harold, Jocelyn, the Excursion~. Long
narrative poems by Goethe, Byron, Lamartine, and Wordsworth.


[9] ~Oedipus~. See the _Oedipus Tyrannus_ and _Oedipus Coloneus_ of


[10] ~grand style~. Arnold, while admitting that the term ~grand~ style,
which he repeatedly uses, is incapable of exact verbal definition,
describes it most adequately in the essay _On Translating Homer_: "I
think it will be found that the grand style arises in poetry when a
noble nature, poetically gifted, treats with simplicity or with severity
a serious subject." See _On the Study of Celtic Literature and on
Translating Homer_, ed. 1895, pp. 264-69.

[11] ~Orestes, or Merope, or Alcmæon~. The story of ~Orestes~ was
dramatized by Æschylus, by Sophocles, and by Euripides. Merope was the
subject of a lost tragedy by Euripides and of several modern plays,
including one by Matthew Arnold himself. The story of ~Alcmæon~ was the
subject of several tragedies which have not been preserved.


[12] ~Polybius~. A Greek historian (c. 204-122 B.C.)


[13]. ~Menander~. See _Contribution of the Celts, Selections_, Note 3,
p. 177.[Transcriber's note: this is Footnote 255 in this e-text.]


[14] ~rien à dire~. He says all that he wishes to, but unfortunately he
has nothing to say.


[15] Boccaccio's _Decameron_, 4th day, 5th novel.

[16] ~Henry Hallam~ (1777-1859). English historian. See his
_Introduction to the Literature of Europe in the Fifteenth, Sixteenth
and Seventeenth Centuries_, chap. 23, §§ 51, 52.


[17] ~François Pierre Guillaume Guizot~ (1787-1874), historian, orator,
and statesman of France.


[18] ~Pittacus~, of Mytilene in Lesbos (c. 650-569 B.C.), was one of the
Seven Sages of Greece. His favorite sayings were: "It is hard to be
excellent" ([Greek: chalepon esthlon emenai]), and "Know when to act."


[19] ~Barthold Georg Niebuhr~ (1776-1831) was a German statesman and
historian. His _Roman History_ (1827-32) is an epoch-making work. For
his opinion of his age see his Life and Letters, London, 1852, II, 396.


[20] _Æneid_, XII, 894-95.



[21] Reprinted from _The National Review_, November, 1864, in the
_Essays in Criticism_, Macmillan & Co., 1865.

[22] In _On Translating Homer_, ed. 1903, pp. 216-17.

[23] An essay called _Wordsworth: The Man and the Poet_, published in
_The North British Review_ for August, 1864, vol. 41. ~John Campbell
Shairp~ (1819-85), Scottish critic and man of letters, was professor of
poetry at Oxford from 1877 to 1884. The best of his lectures from this
chair were published in 1881 as _Aspects of Poetry_.

[24] I cannot help thinking that a practice, common in England during
the last century, and still followed in France, of printing a notice of
this kind,--a notice by a competent critic,--to serve as an introduction
to an eminent author's works, might be revived among us with advantage.
To introduce all succeeding editions of Wordsworth, Mr. Shairp's notice
might, it seems to me, excellently serve; it is written from the point
of view of an admirer, nay, of a disciple, and that is right; but then
the disciple must be also, as in this case he is, a critic, a man of
letters, not, as too often happens, some relation or friend with no
qualification for his task except affection for his author.[Arnold.]

[25] See _Memoirs of William Wordsworth_, ed. 1851, II, 151, letter to
Bernard Barton.


[26] ~Irene~. An unsuccessful play of Dr. Johnson's.


[27] ~Preface~. Prefixed to the second edition (1800) of the _Lyrical


[28] ~The old woman~. At the first attempt to read the newly prescribed
liturgy in St. Giles's Church, Edinburgh, on July 23, 1637, a riot took
place, in which the "fauld-stools," or folding stools, of the
congregation were hurled as missiles. An untrustworthy tradition
attributes the flinging of the first stool to a certain Jenny or Janet


[29] _Pensées de J. Joubert_, ed. 1850, I, 355, titre 15, 2.


[30] ~French Revolution~. The latter part of Burke's life was largely
devoted to a conflict with the upholders of the French Revolution.
_Reflections on the Revolution in France_, 1790, and _Letters on a
Regicide Peace_, 1796, are his most famous writings in this cause.


[31] ~Richard Price, D.D.~ (1723-91), was strongly opposed to the war
with America and in sympathy with the French revolutionists.

[32] From Goldsmith's epitaph on Burke in the _Retaliation_.


[33] ~Num. XXII~, 35.

[34] ~William Eden, First Baron Auckland~ (1745-1814), English
statesman. Among other services he represented English interests in
Holland during the critical years 1790-93.


[35] ~Revue des deux Mondes~. The best-known of the French magazines
devoted to literature, art, and general criticism, founded in Paris in
1831 by Francois Buloz.


[36] ~Home and Foreign Review~. Published in London 1862-64.


[37] ~Charles Bowyer Adderley, First Baron Norton~ (1814-1905), English
politician, inherited valuable estates in Warwickshire. He was a strong
churchman and especially interested in education and the colonies.

[38] ~John Arthur Roebuck~ (1801-79), a leading radical and utilitarian
reformer, conspicuous for his eloquence, honesty, and strong hostility
to the government of his day. He held a seat for Sheffield from 1849
until his death.


[39] From Goethe's _Iphigenie auf Tauris_, I, ii, 91-92.


[40] ~detachment~. In the Buddhistic religion salvation is found through
an emancipation from the craving for the gratification of the senses,
for a future life, and for prosperity.


[41] ~John Somers, Baron Somers~ (1651-1716), was the most trusted
minister of William III, and a stanch supporter of the English
Constitution. See Addison, _The Freeholder_, May 14, 1716, and
Macauley's _History_, iv, 53.

[42] ~William Cobbett~ (1762-1835). English politician and writer. As a
pamphleteer his reputation was injured by his pugnacity, self-esteem,
and virulence of language. See _Heine, Selections_, p. 120,
[Transcriber's note: This is Footnote 144 in this e-text] and _The
Contribution of the Celts, Selections_, p. 179.[Transcriber's note:
This is Footnote 257 in this e-text.]

[43] ~Carlyle's~ _Latter-Day Pamphlets_ (1850) contain much violent
denunciation of the society of his day.

[44] ~Ruskin~ turned to political economy about 1860. In 1862, he
published _Unto this Last_, followed by other works of similar nature.

[45] ~terrae filii~. Sons of Mother Earth; hence, obscure, mean persons.

[46] See _Heine, Selections_, Note 2, p. 117.[Transcriber's note: This
is Footnote 140 in this e-text.]


[47] ~To think is so hard~. Goethe's _Wilhelm Meister's Apprenticeship_,
Book VII, chap. IX.

[48] See Sénancour's _Obermann_, letter 90. Arnold was much influenced
by this remarkable book. For an account of the author (1770-1846) and
the book see Arnold's _Stanzas in Memory of the Author of "Obermann_,"
with note on the poem, and the essay on Obermann in _Essays in
Criticism_, third series.

[49] So sincere is my dislike to all personal attack and controversy,
that I abstain from reprinting, at this distance of time from the
occasion which called them forth, the essays in which I criticized Dr.
Colenso's book; I feel bound, however, after all that has passed, to
make here a final declaration of my sincere impenitence for having
published them. Nay, I cannot forbear repeating yet once more, for his
benefit and that of his readers, this sentence from my original remarks
upon him; _There is truth of science and truth of religion; truth of
science does not become truth of religion till it is made religious._
And I will add: Let us have all the science there is from the men of
science; from the men of religion let us have religion.[Arnold.]

~John William Colenso~ (1814-83), Bishop of Natal, published a series of
treatises on the _Pentateuch_, extending from 1862-1879, opposing the
traditional views about the literal inspiration of the Scriptures and
the actual historical character of the Mosaic story. Arnold's censorious
criticism of the first volume of this work is entitled _The Bishop and
the Philosopher_ (_Macmillan's Magazine_, January, 1863). As an example
of the Bishop's cheap "arithmetical demonstrations" he describes him as
presenting the case of Leviticus as follows: "'_If three priests have to
eat 264 pigeons a day, how many must each priest eat?_' That disposes of
Leviticus." The essay is devoted chiefly to contrasting Bishop Colenso's
unedifying methods with those of the philosopher Spinoza. In passing,
Arnold refers also to Dr. Stanley's _Sinai and Palestine_ (1856),
quotations from which are characterized as "the refreshing spots" in the
Bishop's volume.

[50] It has been said I make it "a crime against literary criticism and
the higher culture to attempt to inform the ignorant." Need I point out
that the ignorant are not informed by being confirmed in a confusion?


[51] Joubert's _Pensées_, ed. 1850, II, 102, titre 23, 54.

[52] ~Arthur Penrhyn Stanley~ (1815-81), Dean of Westminster. He was the
author of a _Life_ of (Thomas) _Arnold_, 1844. In university politics
and in religious discussions he was a Liberal and the advocate of
toleration and comprehension.

[53] ~Frances Power Cobbe~ (1822-1904), a prominent English
philanthropist and woman of letters. The quotation below is from _Broken
Lights_ (1864), p. 134. Her _Religious Duty_ (1857), referred to on p.
46, is a book of religious and ethical instruction written from the
Unitarian point of view.

[54] ~Ernest Renan~ (1823-92), French philosopher and Orientalist. The
_Vie de Jésus_ (1863), here referred to, was begun in Syria and is
filled with the atmosphere of the East, but is a work of literary rather
than of scholarly importance.


[55] ~David Friedrich Strauss~ (1808-74), German theologian and man of
letters. The work referred to is the _Leben Jesu_ 1835. A popular
edition was published in 1864.

[56] From "Fleury (Preface) on the Gospel."--Arnold's _Note Book_.


[57] Cicero's _Att._ 16. 7. 3.

[58] ~Coleridge's happy phrase~. Coleridge's _Confessions of an
Inquiring Spirit_, letter 2.


[59] ~Luther's theory of grace~. The question concerning the "means of
grace," i.e. whether the efficacy of the sacraments as channels of the
divine grace is _ex opere operato_, or dependent on the faith of the
recipient, was the chief subject of controversy between Catholics and
Protestants during the period of the Reformation.

[60] ~Jacques Bénigne Bossuet~ (1627-1704), French divine, orator, and
writer. His _Discours sur l'histoire universelle_ (1681) was an attempt
to provide ecclesiastical authority with a rational basis. It is
dominated by the conviction that "the establishment of Christianity was
the one point of real importance in the whole history of the world."


[61] From Virgil's _Eclogues_, iv, 5. Translated in Shelley's _Hellas_:
"The world's great age begins anew."



[62] Published in 1880 as the General Introduction to _The English
Poets_, edited by T.H. Ward. Reprinted in _Essays in Criticism_, Second
Series, Macmillan & Co., 1888.

[63] This quotation is taken, slightly condensed, from the closing
paragraph of a short introduction contributed by Arnold to _The Hundred
Greatest Men_, Sampson, Low & Co., London, 1885.


[64] From the Preface to the second edition of the _Lyrical Ballads_,

[65] ~Charles Augustin Sainte-Beuve~ (1804-69), French critic, was
looked upon by Arnold as in certain respects his master in the art of


[66] ~a criticism of life~. This celebrated phrase was first used by
Arnold in the essay on _Joubert_ (1864), though the theory is implied in
_On Translating Homer_, 1861. In _Joubert_ it is applied to literature:
"The end and aim of all literature, if one considers it attentively, is,
in truth, nothing but that." It was much attacked, especially as applied
to poetry, and is defended as so applied in the essay on _Byron_ (1881).
See also _Wordsworth, Selections_, p. 230.[Transcriber's note: This is
Footnote 371 in this e-text.]

[67] Compare Arnold's definition of the function of criticism,
_Selections_, p. 52.[Transcriber's note: This approximates to the
section following the text reference for Footnote 61 in this e-text.]


[68] ~Paul Pellisson~ (1624-93). French author, friend of Mlle. Scudéry,
and historiographer to the king.

[69] Barren and servile civility.

70. ~M. Charles d' Hericault~ was joint editor of the Jannet edition
(1868-72) of the poems of ~Clément Marot~ (1496-1544).


[71] _Imitation of Christ_, Book III, chap. 43, 2.

[72] ~Cædmon~. The first important religious poet in Old English
literature. Died about 680 A.D.

[73] ~Ludovic Vitet~ (1802-73). French dramatist and politician.

[74] ~Chanson de Roland~. The greatest of the _Chansons des Gestes_,
long narrative poems dealing with warfare and adventure popular in
France during the Middle Ages. It was composed in the eleventh century.
Taillefer was the surname of a bard and warrior of the eleventh century.
The tradition concerning him is related by Wace, _Roman de Rou_, third
part, v., 8035-62, ed. Andreson, Heilbronn, 1879. The Bodleian _Roland_
ends with the words: "ci folt la geste, que Turoldus declinet." Turold
has not been identified.


[75] "Then began he to call many things to remembrance,--all the lands
which his valor conquered, and pleasant France, and the men of his
lineage, and Charlemagne his liege lord who nourished him."--_Chanson de
Roland_, III, 939-42.[Arnold.]

  "So said she; they long since in Earth's soft arms were reposing,
  There, in their own dear land, their fatherland, Lacedæmon."
_Iliad_, III, 243, 244 (translated by Dr. Hawtrey).[Arnold.]


[77] "Ah, unhappy pair, why gave we you to King Peleus, to a mortal? but
ye are without old age, and immortal. Was it that with men born to
misery ye might have sorrow?"--_Iliad_, XVII, 443-445.[Arnold.]

[78] "Nay, and thou too, old man, in former days wast, as we hear,
happy."--_Iliad_, XXIV, 543.[Arnold.]

[79] "I wailed not, so of stone grew I within;--_they_ wailed."--
_Inferno_, XXXIII, 39, 40.[Arnold.]

[80] "Of such sort hath God, thanked be His mercy, made me, that your
misery toucheth me not, neither doth the flame of this fire strike me."
--_Inferno_, II, 91-93.[Arnold.]

[81] "In His will is our peace."--_Paradiso_, III, 85.[Arnold.]

[82] _Henry IV_, part 2, III, i, 18-20.


[83] _Hamlet_, V, ii, 361-62.

[84] _Paradise Lost_, I, 599-602.

[85] _Ibid._, I, 108-9.

[86] _Ibid._, IV, 271.


[87] _Poetics_, § 9.


[88] ~Provençal~, the language of southern France, from the southern
French _oc_ instead of the northern _oïl_ for "yes."


[89] Dante acknowledges his debt to ~Latini~ (c. 1230-c. 1294), but the
latter was probably not his tutor. He is the author of the _Tesoretto_,
a heptasyllabic Italian poem, and the prose _Livres dou Trésor_, a sort
of encyclopedia of medieval lore, written in French because that
language "is more delightful and more widely known."

[90] ~Christian of Troyes~. A French poet of the second half of the
twelfth century, author of numerous narrative poems dealing with legends
of the Round Table. The present quotation is from the _Cligés_, ll.


[91] Chaucer's two favorite stanzas, the seven-line and eight-line
stanzas in heroic verse, were imitated from Old French poetry. See B.
ten Brink's _The Language and Meter of Chaucer_, 1901, pp. 353-57.

[92] ~Wolfram von Eschenbach~. A medieval German poet, born in the end
of the twelfth century. His best-known poem is the epic _Parzival_.


[93] From Dryden's _Preface to the Fables_, 1700.

[94] The _Confessio Amantis_, the single English poem of ~John Gower~
(c. 1330-1408), was in existence in 1392-93.


[95] ~souded~. The French _soudé_, soldered, fixed fast.[Arnold.] From
the _Prioress's Tale_, ed. Skeat, 1894, B. 1769. The line should read,
"O martir, souded to virginitee."


[96] ~François Villon~, born in or near Paris in 1431, thief and poet.
His best-known poems are his _ballades_. See R.L. Stevenson's essay.

[97] The name _Heaulmière_ is said to be derived from a headdress (helm)
worn as a mark by courtesans. In Villon's ballad, a poor old creature of
this class laments her days of youth and beauty. The last stanza of the
ballad runs thus:

  "Ainsi le bon temps regretons
  Entre nous, pauvres vieilles sottes,
  Assises bas, à croppetons,
  Tout en ung tas comme pelottes;
  A petit feu de chenevottes
  Tost allumées, tost estainctes.
  Et jadis fusmes si mignottes!
  Ainsi en prend à maintz et maintes."

"Thus amongst ourselves we regret the good time, poor silly old things,
low-seated on our heels, all in a heap like so many balls; by a little
fire of hemp-stalks, soon lighted, soon spent. And once we were such
darlings! So fares it with many and many a one."[Arnold.]


[98] From _An Essay of Dramatic Poesy_, 1688.

[99] A statement to this effect is made by Dryden in the _Preface to the

[100] From _Preface to the Fables_.


[101] See Wordsworth's _Essay, Supplementary to the Preface_, 1815, and
Coleridge's _Biographia Literaria_.

[102] _An Apology for Smectymnuus_, Prose Works, ed. 1843, III, 117-18.
Milton was thirty-four years old at this time.


[103] The opening words of Dryden's _Postscript to the Reader_ in the
translation of Virgil, 1697.


[104] The opening lines of _The Hind and the Panther_.

[105] _Imitations of Horace_, Book II, Satire 2, ll. 143-44.


[106] From _On the Death of Robert Dundas, Esq._


[107] ~Clarinda~. A name assumed by Mrs. Maclehose in her sentimental
connection with Burns, who corresponded with her under the name of

[108] Burns to Mr. Thomson, October 19, 1794.


[109] From _The Holy Fair_.


[110] From _Epistle: To a Young Friend_.

[111] From _Address to the Unco' Quid, or the Rigidly Righteous_.

[112] From _Epistle: To Dr. Blacklock_.

[Footnote 4: See his _Memorabilia_.][Transcriber's note: The reference
for this footnote is missing from the original text.]


[113] From _Winter: A Dirge_.


[114] From Shelley's _Prometheus Unbound_, III, iv, last line.

[115] _Ibid._, II, v.



[116] Reprinted (considerably revised) from the _Nineteenth Century_,
August, 1882, vol. XII, in _Discourses in America_, Macmillan & Co.,
1885. It was the most popular of the three lectures given by Arnold
during his visit to America in 1883-84.

[117] Plato's _Republic_, 6. 495, _Dialogues_, ed. Jowett, 1875, vol. 3,
p. 194.

[118] ~working lawyer~. Plato's _Theoetetus,_ 172-73, _Dialogues_, IV,


[119] ~majesty~. All editions read "majority." What Emerson said was
"majesty," which is therefore substituted here. See Emerson's _Literary
Ethics, Works_, Centenary ed., I, 179.


[120] "His whole soul is perfected and ennobled by the acquirement of
justice and temperance and wisdom. ... And in the first place, he will
honor studies which impress these qualities on his soul and will
disregard others."--_Republic_, IX, 591, _Dialogues_, III, 305.


[121] See _The Function of Criticism, Selections_, p. 52.[Transcriber's
note: This approximates to the section following the text reference for
Footnote 61 in this e-text.]

[122] Delivered October 1, 1880, and printed in _Science and Culture and
Other Essays_, Macmillan & Co., 1881.

[123] See _The Function of Criticism, Selections_, pp. 52-53.
[Transcriber's note: This approximates to the section following the text
reference for Footnote 61 in this e-text.]


[124] See _L'Instruction supérieur en France_ in Renan's _Questions
Contemporaines_, Paris, 1868.


[125] ~Friedrich August Wolf~ (1759-1824), German philologist and


[126] See Plato's _Symposium, Dialogues_, II, 52-63.

PAGE 100

[127] ~James Joseph Sylvester~ (1814-97), English mathematician. In
1883, the year of Arnold's lecture, he resigned a position as teacher in
Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, to accept the Savilian Chair of
Geometry at Oxford.

PAGE 101

[128] Darwin's famous proposition. _Descent of Man_, Part III, chap.
XXI, ed. 1888, II, 424.

PAGE 103

[129] ~Michael Faraday~ (1791-1867), English chemist and physicist, and
the discoverer of the induction of electrical currents. He belonged to
the very small Christian sect called after ~Robert Sandeman~, and his
opinion with respect to the relation between his science and his
religion is expressed in a lecture on mental education printed at the
end of his _Researches in Chemistry and Physics_.

PAGE 105

[130] Eccles. VIII, 17.[Arnold.]

[131] _Iliad_, XXIV, 49.[Arnold.]

[132] Luke IX, 25.

PAGE 107

[133] _Macbeth_, V, iii.

PAGE 109

[134] A touching account of the devotion of ~Lady Jane Grey~ (1537-54)
to her studies is to be found in Ascham's _Scholemaster_, Arber's ed.,


PAGE 112

[135] Reprinted from the _Cornhill Magazine_, vol. VIII, August, 1863,
in _Essays in Criticism_, 1st series, 1865.

[136] Written from Paris, March 30, 1855. See Heine's _Memoirs_, ed.
1910, II, 270.

PAGE 113

[137] The German Romantic school of ~Tieck~ (1773-1853), ~Novalis~
(1772-1801), and ~Richter~ (1763-1825) followed the classical school of
Schiller and Goethe. It was characterized by a return to individualism,
subjectivity, and the supernatural. Carlyle translated extracts from
Tieck and Richter in his _German Romance_ (1827), and his _Critical and
Miscellaneous Essays_ contain essays on Richter and Novalis.

PAGE 114

[138] From _English Fragments; Conclusion_, in _Pictures of Travel_, ed.
1891, Leland's translation, _Works_, III, 466-67.

PAGE 117

[139] ~Heine's~ birthplace was not ~Hamburg~, but ~Düsseldorf~.

[140] ~Philistinism~. In German university slang the term _Philister_
was applied to townsmen by students, and corresponded to the English
university "snob." Hence it came to mean a person devoid of culture and
enlightenment, and is used in this sense by Goethe in 1773. Heine was
especially instrumental in popularizing the expression outside of
Germany. Carlyle first introduced it into English literature in 1827. In
a note to the discussion of Goethe in the second edition of _German
Romance_, he speaks of a Philistine as one who "judged of Brunswick mum,
by its _utility_." He adds: "Stray specimens of the Philistine nation
are said to exist in our own Islands; but we have no name for them like
the Germans." The term occurs also in Carlyle's essays on _The State of
German Literature_, 1827, and _Historic Survey of German Poetry_, 1831.
Arnold, however, has done most to establish the word in English usage.
He applies it especially to members of the middle class who are swayed
chiefly by material interests and are blind to the force of ideas and
the value of culture. Leslie Stephen, who is always ready to plead the
cause of the Philistine, remarks: "As a clergyman always calls every one
from whom he differs an atheist, and a bargee has one or two favorite
but unmentionable expressions for the same purpose, so a prig always
calls his adversary a Philistine." _Mr. Matthew Arnold and the Church of
England, Fraser's Magazine_, October, 1870.

[141] The word ~solecism~ is derived from[Greek: soloi], in Cilicia,
owing to the corruption of the Attic dialect among the Athenian
colonists of that place.

PAGE 118

[142] The "~gig~" as Carlyle's symbol of philistinism takes its origin
from a dialogue which took place in Thurtell's trial: "I always thought
him a respectable man." "What do you mean by 'respectable'?" "He kept a
gig." From this he coins the words "gigman," "gigmanity," "gigmania,"
which are of frequent occurrence in his writings.

PAGE 119

[143] _English Fragments, Pictures of Travel, Works_, III, 464.

PAGE 120

[144] See _The Function of Criticism, Selections_, Note 2, p. 42.
[Transcriber's note: This is Footnote 42 in this e-text.]

PAGE 121

[145] _English Fragments_, chap. IX, in _Pictures of Travel, Works_,
III, 410-11.

[146] Adapted from a line in Wordsworth's _Resolution and Independence_.

PAGE 122

[147] ~Charles the Fifth~. Ruler of The Holy Roman Empire, 1500-58.

PAGE 124

[148] _English Fragments, Conclusion_, in _Pictures of Travel, Works_,
III, 468-70.

[149] A complete edition has at last appeared in Germany.[Arnold.]

PAGE 125

[150] ~Augustin Eugène Scribe~ (1791-1861), French dramatist, for fifty
years the best exponent of the ideas of the French middle class.

PAGE 126

[151] ~Charles Louis Napoleon Bonaparte~ (Napoleon III), 1808-73, son of
Louis Bonaparte, brother of Napoleon I, by the _coup d'état_ of
December, 1851, became Emperor of France. This was accomplished against
the resistance of the Moderate Republicans, partly through the favor of
his democratic theories with the mass of the French people. Heine was
mistaken, however, in believing that the rule of Louis Napoleon had
prepared the way for Communism. An attempt to bring about a Communistic
revolution was easily crushed in 1871.

PAGE 127

[152] ~J.J. von Goerres~ (1776-1848), ~Klemens Brentano~ (1778-1842),
and ~Ludwig Achim von Arnim~ (1781-1831) were the leaders of the second
German Romantic school and constitute the Heidelberg group of writers.
They were much interested in the German past, and strengthened the
national and patriotic spirit. Their work, however, is often marred by
exaggeration and affectation.

PAGE 128

[153] From _The Baths of Lucca_, chap. X, in _Pictures of Travel,
Works_, III, 199.

PAGE 129

[154] Cf. _Function of Criticism, Selections_, p. 26.[Transcriber's
note: This approximates to the section following the text reference for
Footnote 27 in this e-text.]

[155] Job XII, 23: "He enlargeth the nations and straiteneth them

PAGE 131

[156] Lucan, _Pharsalia_, book I, 135: "he stands the shadow of a great

PAGE 132

[157] From _Ideas_, in _Pictures of Travel, Works_, II, 312-13.

[158] ~Robert Stewart, Viscount Castlereagh~ (1769-1822), as Foreign
Secretary under Lord Liverpool, became the soul of the coalition against
Napoleon, which, during the campaigns of 1813-14, was kept together by
him alone. He committed suicide with a penknife in a fit of insanity in
August, 1822.

[159] From _Ideas_, in _Pictures of Travel, Works_, II, 324.

[160] From _English Fragments_, 1828, in _Pictures of Travel, Works_,
III, 340-42.

PAGE 133

[161] Song in _Measure for Measure_, IV, i.

[162][Transcriber's note: "From _The Dying One_: for translation see p.
142." in original. Please see reference in text for Footnote 180.]

PAGE 135

[163] From _Mountain Idyll, Travels in the Hartz Mountains, Book of
Songs. Works_, ed. 1904, pp. 219-21.

[164] Published 1851.

[165] ~Rhampsinitus~. A Greek corruption of _Ra-messu-pa-neter_, the
popular name of Rameses III, King of Egypt.

[166] ~Edith with the Swan Neck~. A mistress of King Harold of England.

[167] ~Melisanda of Tripoli~. Mistress of Geoffrey Rudel, the

[168] ~Pedro the Cruel~. King of Castile (1334-69).

[169] ~Firdusi~. A Persian poet, author of the epic poem, the
_Shahnama_, or "Book of Kings," a complete history of Persia in nearly
sixty thousand verses.

[170] ~Dr. Döllinger~. A German theologian and church historian

[171] _Spanish Atrides, Romancero, Works_, ed. 1905, pp. 200-04.

[172] ~Henry of Trastamare~. King of Castile (1369-79).

PAGE 137

[173] ~garbanzos~. A kind of pulse much esteemed in Spain.

PAGE 138

[174] Adapted from Rom. VIII, 26.

PAGE 139

[175] From _The Baths of Lucca_, chap. IX, in _Pictures of Travel,
Works_, III, 184-85.

[176] _Romancero_, book III.

PAGE 140

[177] ~Laura~. The heroine of Petrarch's famous series of love lyrics
known as the _Canzoniere_.

[178] ~Court of Love~. For a discussion of this supposed medieval
tribunal see William A. Neilson's _The Origins and Sources of the Court
of Love, Studies and Notes in Philology and Literature_, Boston, 1899,
chap. VIII.

PAGE 142

[179] _Disputation, Romancero_, book III.

[180] _The Dying One, Romancero_, book II, quoted entire.

PAGE 143

[181] Written from Paris, September 30, 1850. See _Memoirs_, ed. 1910,
II, 226-27.


PAGE 145

[182] Reprinted from _The Victoria Magazine_, II, 1-9, November, 1863,
in _Essays in Criticism_, 1865.

[183] ~John Stuart Mill~ (1806-73), English philosopher and economist.
_On Liberty_ (1859) is his most finished writing.

[184] The _Imitation of Christ_ (_Imitatio Christi_), a famous medieval
Christian devotional work, is usually ascribed to Thomas à Kempis
(1380-1471), an Augustinian canon of Mont St. Agnes in the diocese of

PAGE 146

[185] ~Epictetus~. Greek Stoic philosopher (born c. A.D. 60). He is an
earnest preacher of righteousness and his philosophy is eminently
practical. For Arnold's personal debt to him see his sonnet _To a

PAGE 147

[186] ~Empedocles~. A Greek philosopher and statesman (c. 490-430 B.C.).
He is the subject of Arnold's early poetical drama, _Empedocles on
Etna_, which he later suppressed for reasons which he states in the
Preface to the _Poems_ of 1853. See _Selections_, pp. 1-3.
[Transcriber's note: This approximates to the section following the text
reference for Footnote 1 in this e-text.]

[187] _Encheiridion_, chap. LII.

[188] Ps. CXLIII, 10; incorrectly quoted.

[189] Is. LX, 19.

[190] Mal. IV, 2.

[191] John I, 13.

[192] John III, 5.

PAGE 148

[193] 1 John V, 4.

[194] Matt. XIX, 26.

[195] 2 Cor. V, 17.

[196] _Encheiridion_, chap. XLIII.

[197] Matt. XVIII, 22.

[198] Matt. XXII, 37-39, etc.

PAGE 149

[199] ~George Long~ (1800-79), classical scholar. He published
_Selections from Plutarch's Lives_, 1862; _Thoughts of Marcus Aurelius_,
1862; etc.

[200] ~Thomas Arnold~ (1795-1842), English clergyman and headmaster of
Rugby School, father of Matthew Arnold.

PAGE 150

[201] ~Jeremy Collier~ (1650-1726). His best-known work is his _Short
View of the Immorality and Profaneness of the English Stage_, 1698, a
sharp and efficacious attack on the Post-Restoration drama. _The Emperor
M. Aurelius Antoninus, his Conversation with himself_, appeared in 1701.

PAGE 151

[202] _Meditations_, III, 14.

PAGE 152

203. ~Antoninus Pius~. Roman Emperor, A.D. 138-161, and foster-father of
M. Aurelius.

[204] To become current in men's speech.

[205] The real name of ~Voltaire~ was ~François Marie Arouet~. The name
Voltaire was assumed in 1718 and is supposed to be an anagram of Arouet
le j(eune).

PAGE 154

[206] See _Function of Criticism, Selections_, p. 36.[Transcriber's
note: This approximates to the section following the text reference for
Footnote 36 in this e-text.]

[207] ~Louis IX of France~ (1215-70), the leader of the crusade of 1248.

PAGE 155

[208] ~The Saturday Review~, begun in 1855, was pronouncedly
conservative in politics. It devoted much space to pure criticism and
scholarship, and Arnold's essays are frequently criticized in its

[209] He died on the 17th of March, A.D. 180.[Arnold.]

PAGE 156

[210] ~Juvenal's sixth satire~ is a scathing arraignment of the vices
and follies of the women of Rome during the reign of Domitian.

[211] See Juvenal, _Sat._ 3, 76.

[212] Because he lacks an inspired poet (to sing his praises). Horace,
_Odes_, IV, 9, 28.

PAGE 157

[213] ~Avidius Cassius~, a distinguished general, declared himself
Emperor in Syria in 176 A.D. Aurelius proceeded against him, deploring
the necessity of taking up arms against a trusted officer. Cassius was
slain by his own officers while M. Aurelius was still in Illyria.

[214] ~Commodus~. Emperor of Rome, 180-192 A.D. He was dissolute and

[215] ~Attalus~, a Roman citizen, was put to death with other Christians
in A.D. 177.

[216] ~Polycarp~, Bishop of Smyrna, and one of the Apostolic Fathers,
suffered martyrdom in 155 A.D.

PAGE 159

[217] ~Tacitus~, _Ab Excessu Augusti_, XV, 44.

PAGE 161

[218] ~Claude Fleury~ (1640-1723), French ecclesiastical historian,
author of the _Histoire Ecclésiastique_, 20 vols., 1691.

PAGE 163

[219] _Med._, I, 12.

[220] _Ibid._, I, 14.

[221] _Ibid._, IV, 24.

PAGE 164

[222] _Ibid._, III, 4.

PAGE 165

[223] _Ibid._, V, 6.

[224] _Ibid._, IX, 42.

[225] ~Lucius Annæus Seneca~ (c. 3 B.C.-A.D. 65), statesman and
philosopher. His twelve so-called _Dialogues_ are Stoic sermons of a
practical and earnest character.

PAGE 166

[226] _Med._, III, 2.

PAGE 167

[227] _Ibid._, V, 5.

[228] _Ibid._, VIII, 34.

PAGE 168

[229] _Ibid._, IV, 3.

PAGE 169

[230] _Ibid._, I, 17.

[231] ~Tiberius, Caligula, Nero, Domitian~. Roman Emperors, 14-37 A.D.,
37-41 A.D., 54-68 A.D., and 81-96 A.D.

[232] _Med._, IV, 28.

[233] _Ibid._, V, 11.

PAGE 170

[234] _Ibid._, X, 8.

PAGE 171

[235] _Ibid._, IV, 32.

[236] _Ibid._, V, 33.

[237] _Ibid._, IX, 30.

[238] _Ibid._, VII, 55.

PAGE 172

[239] _Ibid._, VI, 48.

[240] _Ibid._, IX, 3.

PAGE 173

[241] Matt. XVII, 17.

[242] _Med._, X, 15.

[243] _Ibid._, VI, 45.

[244] _Ibid._, V, 8.

[245] _Ibid._, VII, 55.

PAGE 174

[246] _Ibid._, IV, 1.

[247] _Ibid._, X, 31.

[248] _Ibid._

PAGE 175

[249] ~Alogi~. An ancient sect that rejected the Apocalypse and the
Gospel of St. John.

[250] ~Gnosis~. Knowledge of spiritual truth or of matters commonly
conceived to pertain to faith alone, such as was claimed by the
Gnostics, a heretical Christian sect of the second century.

[251] The correct reading is _tendebantque_ (_Æneid_, VI, 314), which
Arnold has altered to apply to the present case.


PAGE 176

[252] From _On The Study of Celtic Literature_, London, 1867, chap. VI.
It was previously published in the _Cornhill Magazine_, vols. XIII and
XIV, March-July, 1866. In the Introduction to the book Arnold says: "The
following remarks on the study of Celtic literature formed the substance
of four lectures given by me last year and the year before in the chair
of poetry at Oxford." The chapter is slightly abridged in the present

PAGE 177

[253] _Paradise Lost_, III, 32-35.

[254] _Tasso_, I, 2, 304-05.

[255] ~Menander~. The most famous Greek poet of the New Comedy (342-291

PAGE 179

[256] ~Gemeinheit~. Arnold defines the word five lines below.

[257] See _The Function of Criticism, Selections_, Note 2, p. 42.
[Transcriber's note: This is Footnote 42 in this e-text.]

[258] ~Bossuet~. See _The Function of Criticism, Selections_, Note 2, p.
49.[Transcriber's note: This is Footnote 60 in this e-text.]

[259] ~Henry St. John, Viscount Bolingbroke~ (1678-1751), English
statesman and man of letters, was author of the _Idea of a Patriot
King_. Arnold is inclined to overestimate the quality of his style.

PAGE 180

[260] ~Taliessin~ and ~Llywarch Hen~ are the names of Welsh bards,
supposedly of the late sixth century, whose poems are contained in the
_Red Book of Hergest_, a manuscript formerly preserved in Jesus College,
Oxford, and now in the Bodleian. Nothing further is known of them.
~Ossian~, ~Ossin~, or ~Oisin~, was a legendary Irish third century hero
and poet, the son of Finn. In Scotland the Ossianic revival was due to
James Macpherson. See Note 1, p. 181.[Transcriber's note: This is
Footnote 262 in this e-text.]

[261] From the _Black Book of Caermarthen_, 19.

PAGE 181

[262] ~James Macpherson~ (1736-96) published anonymously in 1760 his
_Fragments of Ancient Poetry, collected in the Highlands of Scotland and
translated from the Gaelic or Erse language_. This was followed by an
epic _Fingal_ and other poems. Their authenticity was early doubted and
a controversy followed. They are now generally believed to be forgeries.
The passage quoted, as well as references to Selma, "woody Morven," and
"echoing Lora" (not _Sora_), is from _Carthon: a Poem_.

PAGE 182

[263] ~Werther~. Goethe's _Die Leiden des jungen Werthers_ (1774) was a
product of the _Sturm und Drang_ movement in German literature, and
responsible for its sentimental excesses. Goethe mentions Ossian in
connection with Homer in _Werther_, book II, "am 12. October," and
translates several passages of considerable length toward the close of
this book.

[264] ~Prometheus~. An unfinished drama of Goethe's, of which a fine
fragment remains.

PAGE 183

[265] For ~Llywarch Hen~, see Note 1, p. 180.[Transcriber's note: This
is Footnote 260 in this e-text.] The present quotation is from book II
of the _Red Book_. A translation of the poem differing somewhat from the
one quoted by Arnold is contained in W.F. Skene's _The Four Ancient
Books of Wales_, Edinburgh, 1868.

[266] From _On this day I complete my thirty-sixth year_, 1824.

[267] From _Euthanasia_, 1812.

PAGE 184

[268] ~Manfred, Lara, Cain~. Heroes of Byron's poems so named.

[269] From _Paradise Lost_, I, 105-09.

PAGE 185

[270] Rhyme,--the most striking characteristic of our modern poetry as
distinguished from that of the ancients, and a main source, to our
poetry, of its magic and charm, of what we call its _romantic element_--
rhyme itself, all the weight of evidence tends to show, comes into our
poetry from the Celts.[Arnold.] A different explanation is given by J.
Schipper, _A History of English Versification_, Oxford, 1910: "End-rhyme
or full-rhyme seems to have arisen independently and without historical
connection in several nations.... Its adoption into all modern
literature is due to the extensive use made of it in the hymns of the

[271] Lady Guest's _Mabinogion, Math the Son of Mathonwy_, ed. 1819,
III, 239.

[272] _Mabinogion, Kilhwch and Olwen_, II, 275.

PAGE 186

[273] _Mabinogion, Peredur the Son of Evrawc_, I, 324.

[274] _Mabinogion, Geraint the Son of Erbin_, II, 112.

PAGE 187

[275] ~Novalis~. The pen-name of ~Friedrich von Hardenberg~ (1772-1801),
sometimes called the "Prophet of Romanticism." See Carlyle's essay on

[276] For ~Rückert~, see _Wordsworth, Selections_, Note 4, p. 224.
[Transcriber's note: This is Footnote 356 in this e-text.]

[277] Take the following attempt to render the natural magic supposed to
pervade Tieck's poetry: "In diesen Dichtungen herrscht eine
geheimnissvolle Innigkeit, ein sonderbares Einverständniss mit der
Natur, besonders mit der Pflanzen-und Steinreich. Der Leser fühlt sich
da wie in einem verzauberten Walde; er hört die unterirdischen Quellen
melodisch rauschen; wildfremde Wunderblumen schauen ihn an mit ihren
bunten sehnsüchtigen Augen; unsichtbare Lippen küssen seine Wangen mit
neckender Zärtlichkeit; _hohe Pilze, wie goldne Glocken, wachsen
klingend empor am Fusse der Bäume_"; and so on. Now that stroke of the
_hohe Pilze_, the great funguses, would have been impossible to the tact
and delicacy of a born lover of nature like the Celt; and could only
have come from a German who has _hineinstudirt_ himself into natural
magic. It is a crying false note, which carries us at once out of the
world of nature-magic, and the breath of the woods, into the world of
theatre-magic and the smell of gas and orange-peel.[Arnold.]

~Johann Ludwig Tieck~ (1773-1853) was one of the most prominent of the
German romanticists. He was especially felicitous in the rehandling of
the old German fairy tales. The passage quoted above is from Heine's
_Germany_, Part II, book II, chap. II. The following is the translation
of C.G. Leland, slightly altered: "In these compositions we feel a
mysterious depth of meaning, a marvellous union with nature, especially
with the realm of plants and stones. The reader seems to be in an
enchanted forest; he hears subterranean springs and streams rustling
melodiously and his own name whispered by the trees. Broad-leaved
clinging plants wind vexingly about his feet, wild and strange
wonderflowers look at him with vari-colored longing eyes, invisible lips
kiss his cheeks with mocking tenderness, great funguses like golden
bells grow singing about the roots of trees."

[278] _Winter's Tale_, IV, iii, 118-20.

[279] Arnold doubtless refers to the passage in _The Solitary Reaper_
referred to in a similar connection in the essay on Maurice de Guérin,
though Wordsworth has written two poems _To the Cuckoo_.

[280] The passage on the mountain birch-tree, which is quoted in the
essay on Maurice de Guérin, is from Sénancour's _Obermann_, letter 11.
For his delicate appreciation of the Easter daisy see _Obermann_, letter

PAGE 188

[281]. Pope's _Iliad_, VIII, 687.

[282] Propertius, _Elegies_, book I, 20, 21-22: "The band of heroes
covered the pleasant beach with leaves and branches woven together."

[283] _Idylls_, XIII, 34. The present reading of the line gives[Greek:
hekeito, mega]: "A meadow lay before them, very good for beds."

[284] From the _Ode to a Grecian Urn_.

PAGE 189

[285] That is, _Dedication_.

[286] From the _Ode to a Nightingale_.

[287] _Ibid._

PAGE 190

[288] Virgil, _Eclogues_, VII, 45.

[289] _Ibid._, II, 47-48: "Plucking pale violets and the tallest
poppies, she joins with them the narcissus and the flower of the
fragrant dill."

[290] _Ibid._, II, 51-52: "I will gather quinces, white with delicate
down, and chestnuts."

[291] _Midsummer Night's Dream_, II, i, 249-52.

[292] _Merchant of Venice_, V, i, 58-59.

[293] _Midsummer Night's Dream_, II, i, 83-85.

PAGE 191

[294] _Merchant of Venice_, V, i, 1 ff.


PAGE 192

[295] Reprinted from the _Fortnightly Review_ for June, 1877, in _Mixed
Essays_, Smith, Elder & Co., 1879. ~Amandine Lucile Aurore Dudevant~,
née ~Dupin~ (1804-76), was the most prolific woman writer of France. The
pseudonym ~George Sand~ was a combination of George, the typical
Berrichon name, and Sand, abbreviated from (Jules) Sandeau, in
collaboration with whom she began her literary career.

[296] ~Indiana~, George Sand's first novel, 1832.

[297] ~Nohant~ is a village of Berry, one of the ancient provinces of
France, comprising the modern departments of Cher and Indre. The ~Indre~
and the ~Creuse~ are its chief rivers. ~Vierzon, Châteauroux, Le
Châtre~, and ~Ste.-Sévère~ are towns of the province. ~Le Puy~ is in the
neighboring department of Haute-Loire, and ~La Marche~ is in the
department of Vosges. For the ~Vallée Noire~ see Sand's _The Miller of
Angibault_, chap. III, etc.

[298] ~Jeanne~. The first of a series of novels in which the pastoral
element prevails. It was published in 1844.

[299] The ~Pierres Jaunâtres~ (or ~Jomâtres~) is a district in the
mountains of the Creuse (see _Jeanne, Prologue_). ~Touix Ste.-Croix~ is
a ruined Gallic town (_Jeanne_, chap. I). For the druidical stones of
~Mont Barlot~ see _Jeanne_, chap. VII.

PAGE 193

[300] ~Cassini's great map~. A huge folio volume containing 183 charts
of the various districts of France, published by Mess. Maraldi and
Cassini de Thury, Paris, 1744.

[301] For an interesting description of the patache, or rustic carriage,
see George Sand's _Miller of Angibault_, chap. II.

[302] ~landes~. An infertile moor.

PAGE 194

[303] ~Maurice and Solange~. See, for example, the _Letters of a

[304] ~Chopin~. George Sand's friendship for the composer Chopin began
in 1837.

PAGE 195

[305] ~Jules Michelet~ (1798-1874), French historian.

[306] ~her death~. George Sand died at Nohant, June 8, 1876.

PAGE 196

[307]. From the _Journal d'un Voyageur_, September 15, 1870, ed. 1871,
p. 2.

[308] ~Consuelo~ (1842-44) is George Sand's best-known novel.

[309] ~Edmée, Geneviève, Germain~. Characters in the novels _Mauprat,
André_, and _La Mare au Diable_.

[310] ~Lettres d'un Voyageur, Mauprat, François le Champi~. Published in
1830-36, 1836, and 1848.

[311] ~F.W.H. Myers~ (1843-1901), poet and essayist. See his _Essays,
Modern_, ed. 1883, pp. 70-103.

PAGE 197

[312] ~Valvèdre~. Published in 1861.

[313] ~Werther~. See _The Contribution of the Celts, Selections_, Note
1, p. 182.[Transcriber's note: This is Footnote 263 in this e-text.]

[314] ~Corinne~. An esthetic romance (1807) by Mme. de Staël.

[315] ~Valentine~ (1832), George Sand's second novel, pointed out "the
dangers and pains of an ill-assorted marriage." ~Lélia~ (1833) was a
still more outspoken diatribe against society and the marriage law.

PAGE 199

[316] From _Lélia_, chap. LXVII.

[317] ~Jacques~ (1834), the hero of which is George Sand in man's
disguise, sets forth the author's doctrine of free love.

[318] From _Jacques_, letter 95.

PAGE 200

[319] From _Lettres d'un Voyageur_, letter 9.

[320] _Ibid._, à Rollinat, September, 1834.

PAGE 203

[321] ~Hans Holbein~, the younger (1497-1543), German artist.

PAGE 205

[322] From _La Mare au Diable_, chap. 1.

[323] _Ibid._, _The Author to the Reader_.

PAGE 206

[324] _Ibid._, chap. 1.

PAGE 207

[325] _Ibid._, chap. 1.

PAGE 208

[326] From _Impressions et Souvenirs_, ed. 1873, p. 135.

[327] _Ibid._, p. 137.

[328] From Wordsworth's _Lines Composed a few Miles above Tintern

[329] From _Impressions et Souvenirs_, p. 136.

PAGE 209

[330] _Ibid._, p. 139.

PAGE 210

[331] _Ibid._, p. 269.

[332] _Ibid._, p. 253.

PAGE 211

[333] See _The Function of Criticism, Selections_, p. 29.[Transcriber's
note: This approximates to the section following the text reference for
Footnote 29 in this e-text.]

[334] ~Émile Zola~ (1840-1902), French novelist, was the apostle of the
"realistic" or "naturalistic" school. _L'Assommoir_ (1877) depicts
especially the vice of drunkenness.

PAGE 212

[335] From _Journal d'un Voyageur_, February 10, 1871, p. 305.

[336] ~Émile Louis Victor de Laveleye~ (1822-92), Belgian economist. He
was especially interested in bimetallism, primitive property, and

PAGE 213

[337] From _Journal d'un Voyageur_, December 21, 1870, p. 202.

PAGE 214

[338] _Ibid._, December 21, 1870, p. 220.

PAGE 215

[339] _Ibid._, February 7, 1871, p. 228.

[340] _Round my House: Notes of Rural Life in France in Peace and War_
(1876), by ~Philip Gilbert Hamerton~. See especially chapters XI and

[341] ~Barbarians, Philistines, Populace~. Arnold's designations for the
aristocratic, middle, and lower classes of England in _Culture and

PAGE 216

[342] ~Paul Amand Challemel-Lacour~ (1827-96), French  statesman and man
of letters.

[343] See _The Function of Criticism, Selections_, Note 4, p. 44.
[Transcriber's note: This is Footnote 54 in this e-text.]

[344] From _Journal d'un Voyageur_, February 10, 1871, p. 309.

PAGE 217

[345] The closing sentence of the Nicene Creed with _expecto_ changed to
_exspectat_. For the English translation see Morning Prayer in the
Episcopal Prayer Book; for the Greek and Latin see Schaff, _Creeds of
Christendom_, II, 58, 59.


PAGE 218

[346] Published in _Macmillan's Magazine_, July, 1879, vol. XL; as
Preface to _The Poems of Wordsworth_, chosen and edited by Arnold in
1879; and in _Essays in Criticism_, Second Series, 1888.

PAGE 219

[347] ~Rydal Mount~. Wordsworth's home in the Lake District from 1813
until his death in 1850.

[348] ~1842~. The year of publication of the two-volume edition of
Tennyson's poems, containing _Locksley Hall_, _Ulysses_, etc.

PAGE 221

[349] ~candid friend~. Arnold himself.

PAGE 222

[350] The _Biographie Universelle, ou Dictionnaire historique_ of F.X.
de Feller (1735-1802) was originally published in 1781.

[351] ~Henry Cochin~. A brilliant lawyer and writer of Paris, 1687-1747.

PAGE 223

[352] ~Amphictyonic Court~. An association of Ancient Greek communities
centering in a shrine.

PAGE 224

[353] ~Gottlieb Friedrich Klopstock~ (1724-1803) was author of _Der

[354] ~Lessing~. See _Sweetness and Light, Selections_, Note 2, p.
271.[Transcriber's note: This is Footnote 427 in this e-text.]

[355] ~Johann Ludwig Uhland~ (1787-1862), romantic lyric poet.

[356] ~Friedrich Rückert~ (1788-1866) was the author of _Liebesfrühling_
and other poems.

[357] ~Heine~. See _Heinrich Heine, Selections_, pp. 112-144.

[358] The greatest poems of ~Vicenzo da Filicaja~ (1642-1707) are six
odes inspired by the victory of Sobieski.

[359] ~Vittorio, Count Alfieri~ (1749-1803), Italian dramatist. His
best-known drama is his _Saul_.

[360] ~Manzoni~ (1785-1873) was a poet and novelist, author of _I
Promessi Sposi_.

[361] ~Giacomo, Count Leopardi~ (1798-1837), Italian poet. His writings
are characterized by deep-seated melancholy.

[362] ~Jean Racine~ (1639-99), tragic dramatist.

[363] ~Nicolas Boileau-Despréaux~ (1636-1711), poet and critic.

[364] ~André de Chénier~ (1762-94), poet, author of _Jeune Captive_,

[365] ~Pierre Jean de Béranger~ (1780-1857), song-writer.

[366] ~Alphonse Marie Louis de Prat de Lamartine~ (1790-1869), poet,
historian, and statesman.

[367] ~Louis Charles Alfred de Musset~ (1810-57), poet, play-writer, and

PAGE 228

[368] From _The Recluse_, l. 754.

PAGE 229

[369] _Paradise Lost_, II, 553-54.

PAGE 230

[370] _The Tempest_, IV, i, 156-58.

[371] ~criticism of life~. See _The Study of Poetry, Selections_, Note
1, p. 57.[Transcriber's note: This is Footnote 66 in this e-text.]

PAGE 231

[372] _Discourses_ of Epictetus, trans. Long, 1903, vol. I, book II,
chap. XXIII, p. 248.

PAGE 232

[373] ~Théophile Gautier~. A noted French poet, critic, and novelist,
and a leader of the French Romantic Movement (1811-72).

[374] _The Recluse_, ll. 767-71.

[375] _Æneid_, VI, 662.

PAGE 233

[376] ~Leslie Stephen~. English biographer and literary critic
(1832-1904). He was the first editor of the _Dictionary of National
Biography_. Arnold quotes from the essay on _Wordsworth's Ethics_ in
_Hours in a Library_ (1874-79), vol. III.

[377] _Excursion_, IV, 73-76.

PAGE 234

[378] _Ibid._, II, 10-17.

[379] _Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early

PAGE 235

[380] _Excursion_, IX, 293-302.

PAGE 236

[381] See p. 232.[Transcriber's note: This approximates to the section
following the text reference for Footnote 373 in this e-text.]

PAGE 237

[382] ~the "not ourselves."~ Arnold quotes his own definition of God as
"the enduring power, not ourselves, which makes for righteousness." See
_Literature and Dogma_, chap. I.

[383] The opening sentence of a famous criticism of the _Excursion_
published in the _Edinburgh Review_ for November, 1814, no. 47. It was
written by ~Francis Jeffrey, Lord Jeffrey~ (1773-1850), Scottish judge
and literary critic, and first editor of the _Edinburgh Review_.

PAGE 238

[384] _Macbeth_, III, ii.

[385] _Paradise Lost_, VII, 23-24.

[386] _The Recluse_, l. 831.

PAGE 239

[387] From Burns's _A Bard's Epitaph_.

PAGE 240

[388] The correct title is _The Solitary Reaper_.


PAGE 242

[389] This selection is the first chapter of _Culture and Anarchy_. It
originally formed a part of the last lecture delivered by Arnold as
Professor of Poetry at Oxford. _Culture and Anarchy_ was first printed
in _The Cornhill Magazine_, July 1867,-August, 1868, vols. XVI-XVIII. It
was published as a book in 1869.

[390] For ~Sainte-Beuve~, see _The Study of Poetry, Selections_, Note 2,
p. 56.[Transcriber's note: This is Footnote 65 in this e-text.]
 The article referred to appeared in the _Quarterly Review_ for January,
1866, vol. CXIX, p. 80. It finds fault with Sainte-Beuve's lack of
conclusiveness, and describes him as having "spent his life in fitting
his mind to be an elaborate receptacle for well-arranged doubts." In
this respect a comparison is made with Arnold's "graceful but perfectly
unsatisfactory essays."

PAGE 243

[391] From Montesquieu's _Discours sur les motifs qui doivent nous
encourager aux sciences, prononcé le 15 Novembre, 1725_. Montesquieu's
_Oeuvres complètes_, ed. Laboulaye, VII, 78.

PAGE 244

[392] ~Thomas Wilson~ (1663-1755) was consecrated Bishop of Sodor and
Man in 1698. His episcopate was marked by a number of reforms in the
Isle of Man. The opening pages of Arnold's _Preface_ to _Culture and
Anarchy_ are devoted to an appreciation of Wilson. He says: "On a lower
range than the _Imitation_, and awakening in our nature chords less
poetical and delicate, the _Maxims_ of Bishop Wilson are, as a religious
work, far more solid. To the most sincere ardor and unction, Bishop
Wilson unites, in these _Maxims_, that downright honesty and plain good
sense which our English race has so powerfully applied to the divine
impossibilities of religion; by which it has brought religion so much
into practical life, and has done its allotted part in promoting upon
earth the kingdom of God."

[393] ~will of God prevail~. _Maxim_ 450 reads: "A prudent Christian
will resolve at all times to sacrifice his inclinations to reason, and
his reason to the will and word of God."

PAGE 247

[394] From Bishop Wilson's _Sacra Privata_, Noon Prayers, _Works_, ed.
1781, I, 199.

PAGE 248

[395] ~John Bright~ (1811-89) was a leader with Cobden in the agitation
for repeal of the Corn Laws and other measures of reform, and was one of
England's greatest masters of oratory.

[396] ~Frederic Harrison~ (1831-), English jurist and historian, was
president of the English Positivist Committee, 1880-1905. His _Creed of
a Layman_ (1907) is a statement of his religious position.

PAGE 249

[397] See _The Function of Criticism, Selections_, Note 2, p. 37.
[Transcriber's note: This is Footnote 38 in this e-text.]

PAGE 253

[398] 1 Tim., IV, 8.

[399] The first of the "Rules of Health and Long Life" in _Poor
Richard's Almanac_ for December, 1742. The quotation should read: "as
the Constitution of thy Body allows of."

[400] Epictetus, _Encheiridion_, chap. XLI.

[401] ~Sweetness and Light~. The phrase is from Swift's _The Battle of
the Books, Works_, ed. Scott, 1824, X, 240. In the apologue of the
Spider and the Bee the superiority of the ancient over the modern
writers is thus summarized: "Instead of dirt and poison we have rather
chose to fill our hives with honey and wax, thus furnishing mankind with
the two noblest of things, which are sweetness and light."

PAGE 256

[402] ~Independents~. The name applied in England during the seventeenth
and eighteenth centuries to the denomination now known as

[403] From Burke's Speech on _Conciliation with America, Works_, ed.
1834, I, 187.

[404] 1 Pet., III, 8.

PAGE 258

[405] ~Epsom~. A market town in Surrey, where are held the famous Derby
races, founded in 1780.

PAGE 259

[406] Sallust's _Catiline_, chap. LII, § 22.

[407] The ~Daily Telegraph~ was begun in June, 1855, as a twopenny
newspaper. It became the great organ of the middle classes and has been
distinguished for its enterprise in many fields. Up to 1878 it was
consistently Liberal in politics. It is a frequent object of Arnold's
irony as the mouthpiece of English philistinism.

PAGE 261

[408] ~Young Leo~ (or ~Leo Adolescens~) is Arnold's name for the typical
writer of the _Daily Telegraph_ (see above). He is a prominent character
of _Friendship's Garland_.

PAGE 262

[409] ~Edmond Beales~ (1803-81), political agitator, was especially
identified with the movement for manhood suffrage and the ballot, and
was the leading spirit in two large popular demonstrations in London in

[410] ~Charles Bradlaugh~ (1833-91), freethought advocate and
politician. His efforts were especially directed toward maintaining the
freedom of the press in issuing criticisms on religious belief and
sociological questions. In 1880 he became a Member of Parliament, and
began a long and finally successful struggle for the right to take his
seat in Parliament without the customary oath on the Bible.

[411] ~John Henry Newman~ (1801-90) was the leader of the Oxford
Movement in the English Church. His _Apologia pro Vita Sua_ (1864) was a
defense of his religious life and an account of the causes which led him
from Anglicanism to Romanism. For his hostility to Liberalism see the
_Apologia_, ed. 1907, pp. 34, 212, and 288.

[412] _Æneid_, I, 460.

PAGE 263

[413] ~The Reform Bill of 1832~ abolished fifty-six "rotten" boroughs
and made other changes in representation to Parliament, thus
transferring a large share of political power from the landed
aristocracy to the middle classes.

[414] ~Robert Lowe~ (1811-92), afterwards Viscount Sherbrooke, held
offices in the Board of Education and Board of Trade. He was liberal,
but opposed the Reform Bill of that party in 1866-67. His speeches on
the subject were printed in 1867.

PAGE 266

[415] ~Jacobinism~. The _Société des Jacobins_ was the most famous of
the political clubs of the French Revolution. Later the term ~Jacobin~
was applied to any promulgator of extreme revolutionary or radical

[416] See _ante_, Note 2, p. 248.

[417] ~Auguste Comte~ (1798-1857), French philosopher and founder of
Positivism. This system of thought attempts to base religion on the
verifiable facts of existence, opposes devotion to the study of
metaphysics, and substitutes the worship of Humanity for supernatural

[418] ~Richard Congreve~ (1818-99) resigned a fellowship at Oxford in
1855, and devoted the remainder of his life to the propagation of the
Positive philosophy.

PAGE 267

[419] ~Jeremy Bentham~ (1748-1832), philosopher and jurist, was leader
of the English school of Utilitarianism, which recognizes "the greatest
happiness of the greatest number" as the proper foundation of morality
and legislation.

[420] ~Ludwig Preller~ (1809-61), German philologist and antiquarian.

PAGE 268

[421] ~Book of Job~. Arnold must have read Franklin's piece hastily,
since he has mistaken a bit of ironic trifling for a serious attempt to
rewrite the Scriptures. The _Proposed New Version of the Bible_ is
merely a bit of amusing burlesque in which six verses of the Book of Job
are rewritten in the style of modern politics. According to Mr. William
Temple Franklin the _Bagatelles_, of which the _Proposed New Version_ is
a part, were "chiefly written by Dr. Franklin for the amusement of his
intimate society in London and Paris." See Franklin's _Complete Works_,
ed. 1844, II, 164.

[422] ~The Deontology~, or _The Science of Morality_, was arranged and
edited by John Bowring, in 1834, two years after Bentham's death, and it
is doubtful how far it represents Bentham's thoughts.

[423] ~Henry Thomas Buckle~ (1821-62) was the author of the _History of
Civilization in England_, a book which, though full of inaccuracies, has
had a great influence on the theory and method of historical writing.

[424] ~Mr. Mill~. See _Marcus Aurelius, Selections_, Note 2, p. 145.
[Transcriber's note: This is Footnote 183 in this e-text.]

PAGE 269

[425] The article from which Arnold quotes these extracts is not
Frederic Harrison's _Culture: A Dialogue_, but an earlier essay in the
_Fortnightly Review_ for March 1, 1867, called _Our Venetian
Constitution_, See pages 276-77 of the article.

PAGE 271

[426] ~Peter Abelard~ (1079-1142) was a scholastic philosopher and a
leader in the more liberal thought of his day.

[427] ~Gotthold Ephraim Lessing~ (1729-81), German critic and dramatist.
His best-known writings are the epoch-making critical work, _Laokoön_
(1766), and the drama _Minna van Barnhelm_ (1767). His ideas were in the
highest degree stimulating and fruitful to the German writers who
followed him.

[428] ~Johann Gottfried von Herder~ (1744-1803), a voluminous and
influential German writer, was a pioneer of the Romantic Movement. He
championed adherence to the national type in literature, and helped to
found the historical method in literature and science.

PAGE 272

[429] _Confessions of St. Augustine_, XIII, 18, 22, Everyman's
Library ed., p. 326.


PAGE 273

[430] The present selection comprises chapter IV, of _Culture and
Anarchy_. In the preceding chapter Arnold has been pointing out the
imperfection of the various classes of English society, which he
describes as "Barbarians, Philistines, and Populace." For the correction
of this imperfection he pleads for "some public recognition and
establishment of our best self, or right reason." In chapter III, he has
shown how "our habits and practice oppose themselves to such a
recognition." He now proposes to find, "beneath our actual habits and
practice, the very ground and cause out of which they spring." Then
follows the selection here given.

Professor Gates has pointed out the fact that Arnold probably borrows
the terms here contrasted from Heine. In _Über Ludwig Börne_ (_Werke_,
ed. Stuttgart, X, 12), Heine says: "All men are either Jews or Hellenes,
men ascetic in their instincts, hostile to culture, spiritual fanatics,
or men of vigorous good cheer, full of the pride of life, Naturalists."
For Heine's own relation to Hebraism and Hellenism, see the present
selection, p. 275.

[431] See _Sweetness and Light, Selections_, Note 1, p. 244.
[Transcriber's note: This is Footnote 392 in this e-text.] _Maxim_ 452
reads: "Two things a Christian will never do--never go against the best
light he has, this will prove his sincerity, and, 2, to take care that
his light be not darkness, i.e., that he mistake not his rule by which
he ought to go."

PAGE 274

[432] 2 Pet. I, 4.

[433] ~Frederick William Robertson~ (1816-53) began his famous ministry
at Brighton in 1847. He was a man of deep spirituality and great
sincerity. The latter part of his life was clouded by opposition roused
by his sympathy with the revolutionary ideas of the 1848 epoch and by
the mental trouble which eventually resulted in his death. The sermon
referred to seems to be the first Advent Lecture on _The Greek_. Arnold
objects to Robertson's rather facile summarizing. Four characteristics
are mentioned as marking Grecian life and religion: restlessness,
worldliness, worship of the beautiful, and worship of the human. The
second of these has three results, disappointment, degradation,
disbelief in immortality.

PAGE 275

[434] ~Heinrich Heine~. See _Heine, Selections_, pp. 112-144.
[Transcriber's note: This section begins at the text reference for
Footnote 135 in this e-text.]

[435] Prov. XXIX, 18.

[436] Ps. CXII, 1.

PAGE 277

[437] Rom. III, 31.

[438] Zech. IX, 13.

[439] Prov. XVI, 22.

[440] John I, 4-9; 8-12; Luke II, 32, etc.

[441] John VIII, 32.

[442] _Nichomachæan Ethics_, bk. II, chap. III.

[443] Jas. I, 25.

[444] _Discourses of Epictetus_, bk. II, chap. XIX, trans. Long, I,
214 ff.

PAGE 278

[445] ~Learning to die~. Arnold seems to be thinking of _Phædo_, 64,
_Dialogues_, II, 202: "For I deem that the true votary of philosophy is
likely to be misunderstood by other men; they do not perceive that he is
always pursuing death and dying; and if this be so, and he has had the
desire of death all his life long, why when his time comes should he
repine at that which he has been always pursuing and desiring?" Plato
goes on to show that life is best when it is most freed from the
concerns of the body. Cf. also _Phædrus_ (_Dialogues_, II, 127) and
_Gorgias_ (_Dialogues_, II, 369).

[446] 2 Cor. V, 14.

[447] See Aristotle, _Nichomachæan Ethics_, bk. X, chaps. VIII, IX.

[448] _Phædo_, 82D, _Dialogues_, I, 226.

PAGE 279

[449] Xenophon's _Memorabilia_, bk. IV, chap. VIII, § 6.

PAGE 280

[450] ~Edward Bouverie Pusey~ (1800-82), English divine and leader of
the High Church party in the Oxford Movement.

PAGE 281

[451] Zech. VIII, 23.

[452] ~my Saviour banished joy~. The sentence is an incorrect quotation
from George Herbert's _The Size_, the fifth stanza of which begins:--

        "Thy Savior sentenced joy,
  And in the flesh condemn'd it as unfit,--
  At least in lump."

[453] Eph. V, 6.

PAGE 282

[454] The first two books.[Arnold.]

[455] See Rom. III, 2.

[456] See Cor. III, 19.

PAGE 283

[457] ~Phædo~. In this dialogue Plato attempts to substantiate the
doctrine of immortality by narrating the last hours of Socrates and his
conversation on this subject when his own death was at hand.

PAGE 284

[458] ~Renascence~. I have ventured to give to the foreign word
_Renaissance_--destined to become of more common use amongst us as the
movement which it denotes comes, as it will come, increasingly to
interest us,--an English form.[Arnold.]


PAGE 289

[459] This essay, originally an address delivered at the Royal
Institution, was published in the _Fortnightly Review_, for March, 1878,
and reprinted in _Mixed Essays_, 1879. In the present selection the
opening pages have been omitted. Arnold begins with a statement of
England's tendency to maintain a condition of inequality between
classes. This is reinforced by the English freedom of bequest, a freedom
greater than in most of the Continental countries. The question of the
advisability of altering the English law of bequest is a matter not of
abstract right, but of expediency. That the maintenance of inequality is
expedient for English civilization and welfare is generally assumed.
Whether or not this assumption is well founded, Arnold proposes to
examine in the concluding pages. As a preliminary step he defines
civilization as the humanization of man in society. Then follows the
selected passage.

[460] ~Isocrates~. An Attic orator (436-338 B.C.). He was an ardent
advocate of Greek unity. The passage quoted occurs in the _Panegyricus_,
§ 50, _Orations_, ed. 1894, p. 67.

PAGE 290

[461] ~Giacomo Antonelli~ (1806-76), Italian cardinal. From 1850 until
his death his activity was chiefly devoted to the struggle between the
Papacy and the Italian Risorgimento.

PAGE 291

[462] ~famous passage~. The _Introduction_ to his _Age of Louis XIV_.

PAGE 293

[463] ~Laveleye~. See _George Sand_, _Selections_, Note 2, p. 212.
[Transcriber's note: This is Footnote 336 in this e-text.]

[464] ~Sir Thomas Erskine May, Lord Farnborough~ (1815-86),
constitutional jurist. Arnold in the omitted portion of the present
essay has quoted several sentences from his _History of Democracy_:
"France has aimed at social equality. The fearful troubles through which
she has passed have checked her prosperity, demoralised her society, and
arrested the intellectual growth of her people. Yet is she high, if not
the first, in the scale of civilised nations."

[465] ~Hamerton~. See _George Sand_, _Selections_, Note 2, p. 215.
[Transcriber's note: This is Footnote 340 in this e-text.] The quotation
is from _Round My House_, chap, XI, ed. 1876, pp. 229-30.

PAGE 294

[466] ~Charles Sumner~ (1811-74), American statesman, was the most
brilliant and uncompromising of the anti-slavery leaders.

PAGE 295

[467] ~Alsace~. The people of Alsace, though German in origin, showed a
very strong feeling against Prussian rule in the Franco-Prussian War of
1870-71. In September, 1872, 45,000 elected to be still French and
transferred their domicile to France.

PAGE 296

[468] ~Michelet~. See _George Sand_, _Selections_, Note 1, p. 195.
[Transcriber's note: This is Footnote 305 in this e-text.]

PAGE 298

[469] The chorus of a popular music-hall song of the time. From it was
derived the word _jingoism_. For the original application of this term
see Webster's _Dictionary_.

[470] ~Dwight L. Moody~ (1837-99) and ~Ira D. Sankey~ (1840-1908), the
famous American evangelists, held notable revival meetings in England in

PAGE 299

[471] See, e.g., _Heine_, _Selections_, p. 129.[Transcriber's note:
This approximates to the section following the text reference for
Footnote 154 in this e-text.]

[472] ~Goldwin Smith~. See Note 2, p. 301.

PAGE 301

[473] See Milton's _Colasterion_, _Works_, ed. 1843, III, 445 and 452.

[474] ~Goldwin Smith~ (1824-1910), British publicist and historian, has
taken an active part in educational questions both in England and
America. The passage quoted below is from an article entitled _Falkland
and the Puritans_, published in the _Contemporary Review_ as a reply to
Arnold's essay on Falkland. See _Lectures and Essays_, New York, 1881.

[475] ~John Hutchinson~ (1616-64), Puritan soldier. The _Memoirs of the
Life of Colonel Hutchinson_, written by his wife Lucy, but not published
until 1806, are remarkable both for the picture which they give of the
man and the time, and also for their simple beauty of style. For the
passage quoted see Everyman's Library ed., pp. 182-83.

[476] ~pædobaptism~. Infant baptism.

PAGE 303

[477] Man disquiets himself, but God manages the matter. For ~Bossuet~
see _The Function of Criticism_, _Selections_, Note 2, p. 49.
[Transcriber's note: This is Footnote 60 in this e-text.]

[478] Prov. XIX, 21.

[479] So in the original.[Arnold.]

PAGE 304

[480] ~Bright~. See _Sweetness and Light_, _Selections_, Note 1, p.
248.[Transcriber's note: This is Footnote 395 in this e-text.]

[481] ~Richard Cobden~ (1804-65), English manufacturer and Radical
politician. He was a leader in the agitation for repeal of the Corn Laws
and in advocacy of free trade.

PAGE 305

[482] Prov. XIV, 6.

[483] Compare _Culture and Anarchy_, chaps. II and III, and _Ecce
Convertimur ad Gentes, Irish Essays_, ed. 1903, p. 115.

PAGE 307

[484] ~Samuel Pepys~ (1633-1703), English diarist.

PAGE 310

[485] ~young lion~. See _Sweetness and Light_, _Selections_, Note 1, p.
261.[Transcriber's note: This is Footnote 408 in this e-text.]

PAGE 312

[486] ~Mill~. See _Marcus Aurelius_, _Selections_, Note 2, p. 145.
[Transcriber's note: This is Footnote 183 in this e-text.]

[487] ~Spencer Compton Cavendish~ (1833-1908), Marquis of ~Hartington~
(since 1891 Duke of Devonshire), became Liberal leader in the House of
Commons after the defeat and withdrawal of Gladstone in January, 1875.

PAGE 313

[488] ~Menander~. See _Contribution of the Celts_, _Selections_, Note 3,
p. 177.[Transcriber's note: This is Footnote 255 in this e-text.]

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