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Title: Some Diversions of a Man of Letters
Author: Gosse, Edmund, 1849-1928
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.

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SOME DIVERSIONS
OF
A MAN OF LETTERS


BY
EDMUND GOSSE, C.B.


LONDON
WILLIAM HEINEMANN
1920


_First published October 1919_
_New Impressions November 1919; February 1920_



_OTHER WORKS BY MR. EDMUND GOSSE_


_Northern Studies_. 1879.

_Life of Gray_. 1882.

_Seventeenth-Century Studies_. 1883.

_Life of Congreve_. 1888.

_A History of Eighteenth-Century Literature_. 1889.

_Life of Philip Henry Gosse, F.R.S._ 1890.

_Gossip in a Library_. 1891.

_The Secret of Narcisse: A Romance_. 1892.

_Questions at Issue_. 1893.

_Critical Kit-Kats_. 1896.

_A Short History of Modern English Literature_. 1897.

_Life and Letters of John Donne_. 1899.

_Hypolympia_. 1901.

_Life of Jeremy Taylor_. 1904.

_French Profiles_. 1904.

_Life of Sir Thomas Browne_. 1905.

_Father and Son_. 1907.

_Life of Ibsen_. 1908.

_Two Visits to Denmark_. 1911.

_Collected Poems_. 1911.

_Portraits and Sketches_. 1912.

_Inter Arma_. 1916.

_Three French Moralists_. 1918.



TO

EVAN CHARTERIS



CONTENTS


                                                        PAGE

Preface: On Fluctuations of Taste                          1

The Shepherd of the Ocean                                 13

The Songs of Shakespeare                                  29

Catharine Trotter, the Precursor of the Bluestockings     37

The Message of the Wartons                                63

The Charm of Sterne                                       91

The Centenary of Edgar Allen Poe                         101

The Author of "Pelham"                                   115

The Challenge of the Brontës                             139

Disraeli's Novels                                        151

Three Experiments in Portraiture--
    I. Lady Dorothy Nevill                               181
   II. Lord Cromer                                       196
  III. The Last Days of Lord Redesdale                   216

The Lyrical Poetry of Thomas Hardy                       231

Some Soldier Poets                                       259

The Future of English Poetry                             287

The Agony of the Victorian Age                           311

Index                                                    338



PREFACE:

ON FLUCTUATIONS OF TASTE


When Voltaire sat down to write a book on Epic Poetry, he dedicated his
first chapter to "Differences of Taste in Nations." A critic of to-day
might well find it necessary, on the threshold of a general inquiry, to
expatiate on "Differences of Taste in Generations." Changes of standard
in the arts are always taking place, but it is only with advancing
years, perhaps, that we begin to be embarrassed by the recurrence of
them. In early youth we fight for the new forms of art, for the new
æsthetic shibboleths, and in that happy ardour of battle we have no time
or inclination to regret the demigods whom we dispossess. But the years
glide on, and, behold! one morning, we wake up to find our own
predilections treated with contempt, and the objects of our own idolatry
consigned to the waste-paper basket. Then the matter becomes serious,
and we must either go on struggling for a cause inevitably lost, or we
must give up the whole matter in indifference. This week I read, over
the signature of a very clever and very popular literary character of
our day, the remark that Wordsworth's was "a genteel mind of the third
rank." I put down the newspaper in which this airy dictum was printed,
and, for the first time, I was glad that poor Mr. Matthew Arnold was no
longer with us. But, of course, the evolutions of taste must go on,
whether they hurt the living and the dead, or no.

Is there, then, no such thing as a permanent element of poetic beauty?
The curious fact is that leading critics in each successive generation
are united in believing that there is, and that the reigning favourite
conforms to it. The life of a reputation is like the life of a plant,
and seems, in these days, to be like the life of an annual. We watch the
seed, admiration for Wordsworth, planted about 1795, shoot obscurely
from the ground, and gradually clothe itself with leaves till about
1840; then it bursts into blossom of rapturous praise, and about 1870 is
hung with clusters of the fruit of "permanent" appreciation. In 1919,
little more than a century from its first evolution in obscurity, it
recedes again in the raggedness of obloquy, and cumbers the earth, as
dim old "genteel" Wordsworth, whom we are assured that nobody reads. But
why were "the best judges" scornful in 1800 and again in 1919 of what
gave the noblest and the most inspiriting pleasure to "the best judges"
in 1870? The execution of the verse has not altered, the conditions of
imagination seem the same, why then is the estimate always changing? Is
every form of poetic taste, is all trained enjoyment of poetry, merely a
graduated illusion which goes up and down like a wave of the sea and
carries "the best judges" with it? If not, who is right, and who is
wrong, and what is the use of dogmatising? Let us unite to quit all vain
ambition, and prefer the jangle of the music-halls, with its direct
"æsthetic thrill."

So far as I know, the only philosopher who has dared to face this
problem is Mr. Balfour, in the brilliant second chapter of his
"Foundations of Belief." He has there asked, "Is there any fixed and
permanent element in beauty?" The result of his inquiry is
disconcerting; after much discussion he decides that there is not. Mr.
Balfour deals, in particular, with only two forms of art, Music and
Dress, but he tacitly includes the others with them. It is certain that
the result of his investigations is the singularly stultifying one that
we are not permitted to expect "permanent relations" in or behind the
feeling of poetic beauty, which may be indifferently awakened by Blake
to-day and by Hayley to-morrow. If the critic says that the verse of
Blake is beautiful and that of Hayley is not, he merely "expounds
case-made law." The result seems to be that no canons of taste exist;
that what are called "laws" of style are enacted only for those who make
them, and for those whom the makers can bully into accepting their
legislation, a new generation of lawbreakers being perfectly free to
repeal the code. Southey yesterday and Keats to-day; why not Southey
again to-morrow, or perhaps Tupper? Such is the cynical _cul-de-sac_
into which the logic of a philosopher drives us.

We have had in France an example of _volte-face_ in taste which I
confess has left me gasping. I imagine that if Mr. Balfour was able to
spare a moment from the consideration of fiscal reform, he must have
spent it in triumphing over the fate of M. Sully-Prudhomme. In the month
of September 1906 this poet closed, after a protracted agony, "that long
disease, his life." He had compelled respect by his courage in the face
of hopeless pain, and, one might suppose, some gratitude by the
abundance of his benefactions. His career was more than blameless, it
was singularly exemplary. Half-blind, half-paralysed, for a long time
very poor, pious without fanaticism, patient, laborious, devoted to his
friends, he seems to have been one of those extraordinary beings whose
fortitude in the face of affliction knows no abatement. It would be
ridiculous to quote any of these virtues as a reason for admiring the
poetry of Sully-Prudhomme. I mention them merely to show that there was
nothing in his personal temperament to arouse hatred or in his personal
conditions to excuse envy. Nothing to account for the, doubtless,
entirely sincere detestation which his poetry seemed to awaken in all
"the best minds" directly he was dead.

As every one knows, from about 1870 to 1890, Sully-Prudhomme was,
without a rival, the favourite living poet of the French. Victor Hugo
was there, of course, until 1885--and posthumously until much later--but
he was a god, and the object of idolatry. All who loved human poetry,
the poetry of sweetness and light, took Sully-Prudhomme to their heart
of hearts. The _Stances et Poèmes_ of 1865 had perhaps the warmest
welcome that ever the work of a new poet had in France. Théophile
Gautier instantly pounced upon _Le Vase Brisé_ (since too-famous) and
introduced it to a thousand school-girls. Sainte-Beuve, though grown old
and languid, waked up to celebrate the psychology and the music of this
new poetry, so delicate, fresh and transparent. An unknown beauty of
extreme refinement seemed to have been created in it, a beauty made up
of lucidity, pathos and sobriety. Readers who are now approaching
seventy will not forget with what emotion they listened, for instance,
to that dialogue between the long-dead father and the newly-buried son,
which closes:--

    "J' ai laissé ma sœur et ma mère
    Et les beaux livres que j' ai lus;
    Vous n'avez pas de bru, mon père,
    On m'a blesse, je n'aime plus."

    "De tes aïeux compte le nombre,
    Va baiser leurs fronts inconnus,
    Et viens faire ton lit dans l'ombre
    A côté des derniers venus.

    "Ne pleure pas, dors dans l'argile
    En espérant le grand reveit."
    "O père, qu'il est difficile
    De ne plus penser au soleil!"

This body of verse, to which was presently added fresh collections--_Les
Epreuves_ (1886), _Les Vaines Tendresses_ (1875), _Le Prisme_
(1886),--was welcomed by the elder Sanhedrim, and still more
vociferously and unanimously by the younger priesthood of criticism. It
pleased the superfine amateurs of poetry, it was accepted with
enthusiasm by the thousands who enjoy without analysing their enjoyment.
In 1880, to have questioned that Sully-Prudhomme was a very noble poet
would have been like challenging Tennyson in 1870, or Cowley in 1660.
Jules Lemaître claimed that he was the greatest artist in symbols that
France had ever produced. Brunetière, so seldom moved by modern
literature, celebrated with ardour the author of _Les Vaines Tendresses_
as having succeeded better than any other writer who had ever lived in
translating into perfect language the dawn and the twilight of emotion.
That Gaston Paris and M. Anatole France competed in lofty praise of the
lyrics of Sully-Prudhomme, is perhaps less remarkable than that Paul
Verlaine, whom all the younger schools still look upon as their apostle
and guide, declared, in reviewing _Les Ecuries d'Augias_, that the force
of style of Sully-Prudhomme was excelled only by the beauty of his
detail. It is needless to multiply examples of the unanimous praise
given by the divers schools of criticism to Sully-Prudhomme up to about
1890. His was, perhaps, the least contested literary glory of France.

His death startlingly reminded us that this state of things had to be
entirely reversed. It is true that the peculiar talent of
Sully-Prudhomme, being almost exclusively lyrical, scarcely survived his
youth, and that he cumbered his moon of sands with two huge and clumsy
wrecks, _La Justice_ (1878) and _Le Bonheur_ (1898), round which the
feet of the fairies could hardly be expected to trip. One must be an
academician and hopelessly famous before one dares to inflict two
elephantine didactic epics on one's admirers. Unfortunately, too, the
poet undertook to teach the art of verse in his _Réflexions_ (1892) and
his _Testament Poétique_ (1901), brochures which greatly irritated the
young. It is probably wise for academicians, whether poets or the
reverse, to sit beside their nectar, and not to hurl bolts down into the
valley. But, behind these errors of judgment, there they remain--those
early volumes, which seemed to us all so full of exquisite little
masterpieces. Why is it that nobody, except a few elderly persons, any
longer delights in them? The notices which Sully-Prudhomme's death
awakened in the Paris Press were either stamped with the mark of old
contemporary affection, or else, when they were not abusive, were as
frigid as the tomb itself. "Ses tendresses sucrées, sirupeuses, sont
vaines en effet," said a critic of importance! Indeed, it would appear
so; and where are the laurels of yester-year?

To those who were young when Sully-Prudhomme entered into his
immortality it seems impossible to realise that the glory has already
departed. Gaston Paris celebrated "the penetrating sincerity and the
exquisite expression of feeling" which distinguished Sully-Prudhomme
above all other poets. He was the bard of the inner life, sincere and
dignified, full of melancholy reverie. A great critic compared _La Vote
Lactic_ and _Les Stalactites_ with the far-off sound of bells heard down
some lovely valley in a golden afternoon. Yet the images and the
language were precise; Sully-Prudhomme was a mathematician, and if he
was reproached with anything like a fault, it was that his style was
slightly geometrical. It would be otiose to collect any more tributes to
his genius, as it appeared to all Frenchmen, cultivated or
semi-cultivated, about the year 1880. With an analysis of
Sully-Prudhomme's poetry I am not here concerned, but with the question
of why it is that such an authority as Rémy de Gourmont could, in 1907,
without awakening any protest among persons under fifty say that it was
a "sort of social crime" to impose such balderdash as the verse of
Sully-Prudhomme on the public.

It is not needful to quote other living critics, who may think such
prolongation of their severities ungraceful. But a single contrast will
suffice. When, in 1881, Sully-Prudhomme was elected to the French
Academy, expert opinion throughout the Press was unanimous in admitting
that this was an honour deservedly given to the best lyric poet of the
age. In 1906, when a literary journal sent out this question, "Who is
the poet you love best?" and was answered by more than two hundred
writers of verse, the diversity of opinion was indeed excessive; such
poets as Sainte-Beuve, as Brizeux, as Rodenbach, received votes, all the
great masters received many. But Sully-Prudhomme, alone, received not
one vote. A new generation had arisen, and one of its leaders, with
cruel wit, transferred to the reputation of the author his own most
famous line:--"N'y touchez pas, il est brisé."

It is necessary to recollect that we are not dealing with the phenomenon
of the inability of very astute literary people to recognise at once a
startling new sort of beauty. When Robert Browning lent the best poems
of Keats to Mrs. Carlyle, she read them and returned them with the
remark that "almost any young gentleman with a sweet tooth might be
expected to write such things." Mrs. Carlyle was a very clever woman,
but she was not quite "educated up to" Keats. The history of letters is
full of these grotesque limitations of taste, in the presence of great
art which has not yet been "classed." But we are here considering the
much stranger and indeed extremely disconcerting case of a product which
has been accepted, with acclamation, by the judges of one generation,
and is contemptuously hooted out of court by the next. It is not, on
this occasion, Sully-Prudhomme whom we are considering, but his critics.
If Théophile Gautier was right in 1867, Rémy de Gourmont must have been
wrong in 1907; yet they both were honourable men in the world of
criticism. Nor is it merely the dictum of a single man, which, however
ingenious, may be paradoxical. It is worse than that; it is the fact
that one whole generation seems to have agreed with Gautier, and that
another whole generation is of the same mind as Rémy de Gourmont.

Then it is that Mr. Balfour, like Galuppi with his "cold music," comes
in and tells us that this is precisely what we have to expect. All
beauty consists in the possession of certain relations, which being
withdrawn, beauty disappears from the object that seemed to possess it.
There is no permanent element in poetic excellence. We are not to demand
any settled opinion about poetry. So Mr. Balfour seems to creak it, and
we want the heart to scold. But is it quite so certain that there is no
fixed norm of beauty imaginable? Is it the fact that poetic pleasure
cannot "be supposed to last any longer than the transient reaction
between it" and the temporary prejudice of our senses? If this be true,
then are critics of all men most miserable.

Yet, deeply dejected as it leaves me to know that very clever people
despise the "genteel third-rate mind" of Wordsworth, I am not quite
certain that I yield to Mr. Balfour's brilliant and paralysing logic.
That eminent philosopher seems to say "you find the poets, whom you
revered in your youth, treated with contempt in your old age. Well! It
is very sad, and perhaps it would annoy me too, if I were not a
philosopher. But it only shows how right I was to tell, you not to
expect permanent relations behind the feeling of beauty, since all is
illusion, and there is no such thing as a principle of taste, but only
a variation of fashion."

Is it, however, quite so certain, after all, that there is no standard?
It must be admitted that there seems to be no fixed rule of taste, not
even a uniformity of practice or general tendency to agreement in
particular cases. But the whole study of the fine arts would lead to
despair if we allowed ourselves to accept this admission as implying
that no conceivable principle of taste exists. We may not be able to
produce it, like a yard-measure, and submit works of imagination to it,
once and for all, in the eyes of a consternated public. But when we
observe, as we must allow, that art is no better at one age than at
another, but only different; that it is subject to modification, but
certainly not to development; may we not safely accept this stationary
quality as a proof that there does exist, out of sight, unattained and
unattainable, a positive norm of poetic beauty? We cannot define it, but
in each generation all excellence must be the result of a relation to
it. It is the moon, heavily wrapt up in clouds, and impossible exactly
to locate, yet revealed by the light it throws on distant portions of
the sky. At all events, it appears to me that this is the only theory by
which we can justify a continued interest in literature when it is
attacked, now on one side, now on another, by the vicissitudes of
fashion.

The essays which are here collected deal, for the most part, with
figures in the history of English literature which have suffered from
the changes of fortune and the instability of taste. In every case,
there has been something which is calculated to attract the sympathy and
interest of one who, like myself, has been closely concerned with two
distinct but not unrelated branches of his subject, the literary
character and the literary craft. More than fifty years have
passed--like a cloud, like a dream!--since I first saw my name printed
below a passage of critical opinion. How many reputations, within that
half-century, have not been exalted, how many have not been depressed!
We have seen Tennyson advanced beyond Virgil and Victor Hugo beyond
Homer. We have seen the latest freak of futurism preferred to _The Lotus
Eaters_, and the first _Légende des Siècles_ rejected as unreadable. In
face of this whirlwind of doctrine the public ceases to know whether it
is on its head or its feet--"its trembling tent all topsy-turvy wheels,"
as an Elizabethan has it. To me it seems that security can only be found
in an incessant exploration of the by-ways of literary history and
analysis of the vagaries of literary character. To pursue this analysis
and this exploration without bewilderment and without prejudice is to
sum up the pleasures of a life devoted to books.

_August 1919._



THE SHEPHERD OF THE OCEAN[1]


Three hundred years have gone by to-day since Sir Walter Raleigh was
beheaded, in presence of a vast throng of spectators, on the scaffold of
Old Palace Yard in Westminster. General Gordon said that England is what
her adventurers have made her, and there is not in all English history a
more shining and violent specimen of the adventurous type than Raleigh.
I am desired to deliver a brief panegyric on this celebrated freebooter,
and I go behind the modern definition of the word "panegyric" (as a
pompous and ornamented piece of rhetoric) to its original significance,
which was, as I take it, the reminder, to a great assembly of persons,
of the reason why they have been brought together in the name of a man
long dead. Therefore I shall endeavour, in the short space of time
allotted to me, not so much to eulogise as to explain and to define what
Sir Walter Raleigh was and represents.

I suggest, therefore, before we touch upon any of the details of his
career and character, that the central feature of Raleigh, as he appears
to us after three hundred years, is his unflinching determination to see
the name of England written across the forehead of the world. Others
before him had been patriots of the purest order, but Raleigh was the
first man who laid it down, as a formula, that "England shall by the
favour of God resist, repel and confound all whatsoever attempts
against her sacred kingdom." He had no political sense nor skill in
statecraft. For that we go to the Burghleys or the Cecils, crafty men of
experience and judgment. But he understood that England had enemies and
that those enemies must be humbled and confounded. He understood that
the road of England's greatness, which was more to him than all other
good things, lay across the sea. The time was ripe for the assertion of
English liberty, of English ascendancy, too; and the opportunity of the
moment lay in "those happy hands which the Holy Ghost hath guided," the
fortunate adventurers. Of these Raleigh was the most eminent as he was
also, in a sense, the most unfortunate.

A heavy shadow lay all over the Western world, the shadow of a fierce
bird of prey hovering over its victim. Ever since Ferdinand expelled the
Moors out of Granada, Spain had been nursing insensate dreams of
universal empire. She was endeavouring to destroy the infant system of
European civilisation by every means of brutality and intrigue which the
activity of her arrogance could devise. The Kings of Spain, in their
ruthless ambition, encouraged their people in a dream of Spanish
world-dominion. Their bulletins had long "filled the earth with their
vainglorious vaunts, making great appearance of victories"; they had
spread their propaganda "in sundry languages in print," distributing
braggart pamphlets in which they boasted, for the benefit of neutrals,
of their successes against England, France, and Italy. They had "abused
and tormented" the wretched inhabitants of the Low Countries, and they
held that the force of arms which they brandished would weigh against
justice, humanity, and freedom in the servitude which they meant to
inflict upon Europe. It was to be _Spanien über alles_.

But there was one particular nation against which the malignity of the
great enemy blazed most fiercely. The King of Spain blasphemously
regarded himself as the instrument of God, and there was one country
which more than the rest frustrated his pious designs. This was England,
and for that reason England was more bitterly hated than any other
enemy. The Spaniards did "more greedily thirst after English blood than
after the lives of any other people of Europe." The avowed purpose of
Castile was to destroy that maritime supremacy of England on which the
very existence of the English State depends. The significance of Sir
Walter Raleigh consists in the clairvoyance with which he perceived and
the energy with which he combated this monstrous assumption. Other noble
Englishmen of his time, and before his time, had been clear-sighted and
had struck hard against the evil tyranny of Spanish dynastic militarism,
but no other man before or since was so luminously identified with
resistance. He struts upon the stage of battle with the limelight full
upon him. The classic writing of the crisis is contained in the _Last
Fight of the Revenge at Sea_ of 1591, where the splendid defiance and
warning of the Preface are like trumpets blown to the four quarters of
the globe. Raleigh stands out as the man who above all others laboured,
as he said, "against the ambitious and bloody pretences of the
Spaniards, who, seeking to devour all nations, shall be themselves
devoured."

There is a blessing upon the meek of the earth, but I do not present
Raleigh to you as a humble-minded man. In that wonderful Elizabethan age
there were blossoming, side by side, the meekness of Hooker, the
subtlety of Bacon, the platonic dream of Spenser, the imperturbable
wisdom of Shakespeare. Raleigh had no part in any of these, and to
complain of that would be to grumble because a hollyhock is neither a
violet nor a rose. He had his enemies during his life and his detractors
ever since, and we may go so far as to admit that he deserves them. He
was a typical man of that heroic age in that he possessed, even to
excess, all its tropic irregularity of ethics. He lived in a perpetual
alternation of thunderstorm and blazing sunshine. He admitted himself
that his "reason," by which he meant his judgment, "was exceeding weak,"
and his tactlessness constantly precluded a due appreciation of his
courage and nobility. For long years his violent and haughty temper made
him the most unpopular man in England, except in Devonshire, where
everybody doted on him. He was "a man of desperate fortunes," and he did
not shrink from violent methods. In studying his life we are amused, we
are almost scandalised, at his snake-like quality. He moves with
serpentine undulations, and the beautiful hard head is lifted from
ambush to strike the unsuspecting enemy at sight. With his
protestations, his volubility, his torrent of excuses, his evasive
pertinacity, Sir Walter Raleigh is the very opposite of the "strong
silent" type of soldier which the nineteenth century invented for
exclusive British consumption.

In judging his character we must take into consideration not only the
times in which he lived, but the leaders of English policy with whom he
came into collision. He was not thirty years of age, and still at the
height of his vivacity, when he was taken into the close favour of Queen
Elizabeth. There can be no question that he found in the temper of the
monarch something to which his own nature intimately responded. The
Queen was an adventurer at heart, as he was, and she was an Englishman
of Englishmen. We are accustomed to laugh at the extravagance of the
homage which Raleigh paid to a woman old enough to be his mother, at the
bravado which made him fling his new plush cloak across a puddle for the
Queen to tread over gently, as Fuller tells us, "rewarding him
afterwards with many suits for his so free and seasonable tender of so
fair a footcloth," or at the story of the rhymes the couple cut on the
glass with their diamond rings. In all this, no doubt, there was the
fashion of the time, and on Raleigh's part there was ambition and the
desire to push his fortunes without scruple. But there was, you may be
sure, more than that; there was the instinctive sympathy between the two
who hated with the most unflagging and the most burning hate the wicked
aggression of Spain. We may be sure that Elizabeth never for a day
forgot that Pope Alexander VI. had generously bestowed the Western world
on the Crown of Spain. Raleigh spoke a language which might be
extravagant and which might be exasperating, which might, in fact, lead
to outrageous quarrels between his Cynthia and himself, but which, at
least, that Cynthia understood.

But in 1602, when Raleigh was fifty years of age and had his splendours
behind him, there came another Pharaoh who knew not Joseph. James I. was
the type of the cautious man who only looks to the present, who hopes by
staving off a crisis till Tuesday that something fresh will "turn up" by
Wednesday. He was disposed, from the very first, to distrust and to
waylay the plans of Raleigh. We are told, and can well believe it, that
he was "diffident" of Sir Walter's designs. He was uncomfortable in the
presence of that breezy "man of desperate fortunes." A very excellent
example of the opposition of the two types is offered by the discussion
about the golden city of Manoa. Raleigh believed, and after all
disappointments continued to be sure, that in the heart of the swamps of
the Orinoco there existed a citadel of magnificent wealth, an emporium
of diamonds and gold, from which Spain was secretly drawing the riches
with which she proposed to overwhelm civilisation. He struggled for
nearly a quarter of a century to win this marvellous city for England.
James I. chopped in with his cold logic, and declined to believe that
any golden mine existed in Guiana "anywhere in nature," as he craftily
said. When Raleigh returned after his last miserable failure in May
1617, the monarch spared no sneer and no reproof to the pirate of the
seas. Of course, the King was right; there was no mine of diamonds, no
golden city. But the immense treasures that haunted Raleigh's dreams
were more real than reality; they existed in the future; he looked far
ahead, and our sympathies to-day, and our gratitude also, are all for
the noble and valorous knight who sailed out into the West searching for
an unknown El Dorado.

It is not so easy to defend the character of our hero against those who,
like Hume, have objected to his methods in the prosecution of his
designs. To Hume, as to many others before and since, Raleigh seemed
"extremely defective either in solid understanding, or morals, or both."
The excellent historians of the eighteenth century could not make up
their minds whether he was a hero or an impostor. Did he believe in the
Guiana mine, or was he, through all those strenuous years, hoodwinking
the world? Had he any purpose, save to plunder the Spaniard? Perhaps his
own family doubted his sanity, for his son Walter, when he charged the
Spanish settlement at San Thomé, pointed to the house of the little
colony and shouted to his men: "Come on, this is the true mine, and none
but fools would look for any other!" Accusations of bad faith, of
factious behaviour, of disloyal intrigue, were brought up against Sir
Walter over and over again during the "day of his tempestuous life,
drawn on into an evening" of ignominy and blood. These charges were the
"inmost and soul-piercing wounds" of which he spoke, still "aching,"
still "uncured."

There is no need to recount to you the incidents of his life, but I may
remind you that after the failure of the latest expedition to South
America the Privy Council, under pressure from the Spanish Ambassador,
gave orders to Sir Lewis Stukeley to bring the body of Sir Walter
Raleigh speedily to London. This was the culmination of his fall, since,
three days after Raleigh landed at Plymouth, the King had assured Spain
that "not all those who have given security for Raleigh can save him
from the gallows." His examination followed, and the publication of the
_Apology for the Voyage to Guiana_. The trial dragged on, while James
I., in a manner almost inconceivable, allowed himself to be hurried and
bullied by the insolent tyrant Philip II. If the English King did not
make haste to execute Raleigh the Spaniards would fetch him away and
hang him in Madrid. In these conditions, and clutching at life as a man
clutches at roots and branches when he is sliding down a precipice, the
conduct of Raleigh has given cause to his critics to blaspheme. He
wriggled like an eel, he pretended to be sick, he pretended to be mad,
in order to protract his examination. He prevaricated about his mine,
about the French alliance, about the Spanish treaties, about his stores
and instruments. Did he believe, or did he not believe, in the Empire of
the Inca, in the Amazons or Republic of Women, in the gold lying hidden
in the hard white spar of El Dorado? We do not know, and his own latest
efforts at explanation only cloud our counsel. He was perhaps really a
little mad at last, his feverish brain half-crazed by the movement on
land and sea of the triumphant wealth of Spain.

Let us never overlook that the master-passion of his whole career was
hatred of this tyrannous prosperity of England's most formidable rival.
He acted impulsively, and even unjustly; there was much in his methods
that a cool judgment must condemn; but he was fighting, with his back to
the wall, in order that the British race should not be crowded out of
existence by "the proud Iberian." He saw that if Spain were permitted to
extend her military and commercial supremacy unchecked, there would be
an end to civilisation. Democracy was a thing as yet undeveloped, but
the seeds of it were lying in the warm soil of English liberty, and
Raleigh perceived, more vehemently than any other living man, that the
complete victory of Spain would involve the shipwreck of England's hopes
of future prosperity. Nor was he exclusively interested in England,
though all his best hopes were ours. When he had been a lad at Oxford he
had broken away from his studies in 1569 to help the Protestant princes
as a gentleman volunteer in France, and he took part in the famous
battle of Jarnac. He is supposed to have fought in France for six years.
From early youth his mind was "bent on military glory," and always in
opposition to Spain. His escape from the bloody Vespers of Saint
Bartholomew had given him a deep distrust of the policy of Rome. The
Spaniard had "abused and tormented" the wretched inhabitants of
Flanders. Sir Walter Raleigh dreamed that by the combination in arms of
England, France, and the Low Countries, the Spaniards "might not only be
persuaded to live in peace, but all their swelling and overflowing
streams might be brought back into their natural channels and old
banks."

Raleigh stood out, as he put it himself, against "the continuance of
this boundless ambition in mortal men." The rulers in Madrid,
transported by their own arrogance, had determined to impose their
religion, their culture, their form of government, on the world. It was
a question whether the vastly superior moral and intellectual energy of
England and France would not be crushed beneath the heel of Spain.
Raleigh was ready to sacrifice everything, to imperil his own soul, to
prevent that. He says you might as well "root out the Christian religion
altogether" as join "the rest of all Europe to Spain." In his zeal to
prevent "the continuance of this boundless ambition in mortal men," he
lent himself to acts which we must not attempt to condone. There is no
use in trying to explain away the facts of his cruel and even savage
fanaticism in Ireland when he was governor of Munster. He was always apt
to be abruptly brutal to a man who crossed his path. But even his Irish
career offers aspects on which we may dwell with pure pleasure. Nothing
could be more romantic than those adventures, like the feats of a
paladin of the Faerie Queen, which he encountered in the great wood of
Lismore; while the story of how he carried off Lord and Lady Roche from
their breakfast-table in their own castle of Ballyinharsh, and how he
rode with them up ravines and round precipices in that mad flight from
their retainers, is as rousing as any scene ever imagined by Dumas
_père_.

Raleigh called himself the Shepherd of the Ocean, and the name fits him
well, even though his flock were less like sheep than like a leash of
hunting leopards. His theory was that with a pack of small and active
pinnaces he could successfully hunt the lumbering Spanish galleons
without their being able to hit back. He was, in contradistinction to
many preceding English admirals, a cautious fighter at sea, and he says,
in a striking passage of the _History of the World_, written towards the
end of his career, "to clap ships together without any consideration
belongs rather to a madman than to a man of war." He must have taken the
keenest interest in the gigantic failure of the Felicissima Armada in
1588, but, tantalisingly enough, we have no record of his part in it. On
the other hand, the two finest of his prose pamphlets, the _Relation of
the Action in Cadiz Harbour_ and the incomparable _Report on the Fight
in the Revenge_, supply us with ample materials for forming an idea of
his value as a naval strategist. Raleigh's earliest biographer, Oldys
the antiquary, speaks of him as "raising a grove of laurels out of the
sea," and it is certainly upon that element that he reaches his highest
effect of prominence. It was at sea that he could give fullest scope to
his hatred of the tyrannous prosperity of Spain. He had to be at once a
gamekeeper and a poacher; he had to protect the legitimate interests of
English shipping against privateers and pirates, while he was persuaded
to be, or felt himself called upon to become, no little of a pirate
himself. He was a passionate advocate of the freedom of the seas, and
those who look upon Raleigh as a mere hot-brained enthusiast should read
his little book called _Observations on Trade and Commerce_, written in
the Tower, and see what sensible views he had about the causes of the
depression of trade. These sage opinions did not check him, or his
fleets of hunting-pinnaces, from lying in wait for the heavy wallowing
plate-ships, laden with Indian carpets and rubies and sandalwood and
ebony, which came swinging up to the equator from Ceylon or Malabar. The
"freedom of the seas" was for Raleigh's ship, the _Roebuck_; it was by
no means for the _Madre de Dios_. We find these moral inconsistencies in
the mind of the best of adventurers.

A sketch of Raleigh's character would be imperfect indeed if it
contained no word concerning his genius as a coloniser. One of his main
determinations, early in life, was "to discover and conquer unknown
lands, and take possession of them in the Queen's name." We celebrate in
Sir Walter Raleigh one of the most intelligent and imaginative of the
founders of our colonial empire. The English merchantmen before his time
had been satisfied with the determination to grasp the wealth of the New
World as it came home to Spain; it had not occurred to them to compete
with the great rival at the fountain-head of riches. Even men like Drake
and Frobisher had been content with a policy of forbidding Spain, as the
poet Wither said, "to check our ships from sailing where they please."
South America was already mainly in Spanish hands, but North America was
still open to invasion. It was Raleigh's half-brother, Sir Humphrey
Gilbert, who first thought of planting an English settlement in what is
now the United States, in 1578. But Gilbert had "no luck at sea," as
Queen Elizabeth observed, and it was Raleigh who, in 1584, took up the
scheme of colonisation. He did not drop it until the death of Elizabeth,
when, under the east wind of the new _régime_, the blossom of his
colonial enterprises flagged.

The motion for the ceremony of to-day originated with the authorities of
an important American city, which proudly bears the name of our
adventurer. The earliest settlement in what are now the United States
was made at Roanoke, in Virginia, on a day which must always be
prominent in the annals of civilisation, August 17th, 1585. But this
colony lasted only ten months, and it was not until nearly two years
later that the fourth expedition which Raleigh sent out succeeded in
maintaining a perilous foothold in the new country. This was the little
trembling taper to which his own name was given, the twinkling spark
which is now the flourishing city of Raleigh in North Carolina. We may
well marvel at the pertinacity with which Sir Walter persisted, in the
face of innumerable difficulties, in sending out one colonising fleet
after another, although, contrary to common legend, he himself never set
foot in North America. It was fortunate that at this period of his
career he was wealthy, for the attempts to plant settlements in the vast
region which he named Virginia cost him more than £40,000. We note at
all turns of his fortune his extraordinary tenacity of purpose, which he
illustrated, as though by a motto, in the verses he addressed to a
comrade towards the end of his imprisonment in the Tower:--

    "Change not! to change thy fortune 'tis too late;
    Who with a manly faith resolves to die
    May promise to himself a lasting State,
    Though not so great, yet free from infamy."

So we may think of him in his prime, as he stood on the Hoe of Plymouth
twenty years before, a gallant figure of a man, bedizened with precious
stones, velvets, and embroidered damasks, shouting his commands to his
captains in a strong Devonshire accent. We think of him resolutely
gazing westward always, with the light of the sea in his eyes.

We come to the final scene which we are here to-day to commemorate.
Little honour to the rulers of England in 1618 redounds from it, and yet
we may feel that it completed and even redeemed from decay the character
of Raleigh. This tragedy, which was almost a murder, was needed to round
off the accomplishment of so strange and frantic a career of romantic
violence, and to stamp it with meaning. If Raleigh had been thrown from
his horse or had died of the ague in his bed, we should have been
depressed by the squalid circumstances, we should have been less
conscious than we are now of his unbroken magnanimity. His failures and
his excesses had made him unpopular throughout England, and he was both
proud and peevish in his recognition of the fact. He declared that he
was "nothing indebted" to the world, and again that, "the common people
are evil judges of honest things." But the thirteen years of his
imprisonment caused a reaction. People forgot how troublesome he had
been and only recollected his magnificence. They remembered nothing but
that he had spent his whole energy and fortune in resisting the
brutality and avarice of the Spaniard.

Then came the disgraceful scene of his cross-examination at Westminster,
and the condemnation by his venal judges at the order of a paltry king.
It became known, or shrewdly guessed, that Spain had sent to James I. a
hectoring alternative that Raleigh must be executed in London or sent
alive for a like purpose to Madrid. The trial was a cowardly and
ignominious submission of the English Government to the insolence of
England's hereditary enemy. Raleigh seemed for the moment to have failed
completely, yet it was really like the act of Samson, who slew more men
at his death than in all his life. Samuel Pepys, who had some fine
intuitions at a time when the national _moral_ was very low, spoke of
Raleigh as being "given over, as a sacrifice," to our enemies. This has
been, in truth, the secret of his unfailing romantic popularity, and it
is the reason of the emotion which has called us together here three
hundred years after his death upon the scaffold.

[Footnote 1: Address delivered at the Mansion House, October 29th, 1918,
on occasion of the Tercentenary of Sir Walter Raleigh's death.]



THE SONGS OF SHAKESPEARE


Among the "co-supremes and stars of love" which form the constellated
glory of our greatest poet there is one small splendour which we are apt
to overlook in our general survey. But, if we isolate it from other
considerations, it is surely no small thing that Shakespeare created and
introduced into our literature the Dramatic Song. If with statistical
finger we turn the pages of all his plays, we shall discover, not
perhaps without surprise, that these contain not fewer than fifty
strains of lyrical measure. Some of the fifty, to be sure, are mere
star-dust, but others include some of the very jewels of our tongue.
They range in form from the sophisticated quatorzains of _The Two
Gentlemen of Verona_ (where, however, comes "Who is Silvia?") to the
reckless snatches of melody in _Hamlet_. But all have a character which
is Shakespearean, and this regardless of the question so often raised,
and so incapable of reply, as to whether some of the wilder ones are
Shakespeare's composition or no. Whoever originally may have written
such scraps as "They bore him bare-faced on the bier" and "Come o'er the
bourne, Bessy, to me," the spirit of Shakespeare now pervades and
possesses them.

Our poet was a prodigious innovator in this as in so many other matters.
Of course, the idea and practice of musical interludes in plays was not
quite novel. In Shakespeare's early youth that remarkable artist in
language, John Lyly, had presented songs in several of his plays, and
these were notable for what his contemporary, Henry Upchear, called
"their labouring beauty." We may notice that Lyly's songs were not
printed till long after Shakespeare's death, but doubtless he had
listened to them. Peele and Greene had brilliant lyrical gifts, but they
did not exercise them in their dramas, nor did Lodge, whose novel of
Rosalynde (1590) contains the only two precedent songs which we could
willingly add to Shakespeare's juvenile repertory. But while I think it
would be rash to deny that the lyrics of Lodge and Lyly had their direct
influence on the style of Shakespeare, neither of those admirable
precursors conceived the possibility of making the Song an integral part
of the development of the drama. This was Shakespeare's invention, and
he applied it with a technical adroitness which had never been dreamed
of before and was never rivalled after.

This was not apprehended by the early critics of our divine poet, and
has never yet, perhaps, received all the attention it deserves. We may
find ourselves bewildered if we glance at what the eighteenth-century
commentators said, for instance, about the songs in _Twelfth Night_.
They called the adorable rhapsodies of the Clown "absurd" and
"unintelligible"; "O Mistress mine" was in their ears "meaningless";
"When that I was" appeared to them "degraded buffoonery." They did not
perceive the close and indispensable connection between the Clown's song
and the action of the piece, although the poet had been careful to point
out that it was a moral song "dulcet in contagion," and too good, except
for sarcasm, to be wasted on Sir Andrew and Sir Toby. The critics
neglected to note what the Duke says about "Come away, come away,
Death," and they prattled in their blindness as to whether this must not
really have been sung by Viola, all the while insensible to the poignant
dramatic value of it as warbled by the ironic Clown in the presence of
the blinded pair. But indeed the whole of _Twelfth Night_ is burdened
with melody; behind every garden-door a lute is tinkling, and at each
change of scene some unseen hand is overheard touching a harp-string.
The lovely, infatuated lyrics arrive, dramatically, to relieve this
musical tension at its height.

Rather different, and perhaps still more subtle, is the case of _A
Winter's Tale_, where the musical obsession is less prominent, and where
the songs are all delivered from the fantastic lips of Autolycus. Here
again the old critics were very wonderful. Dr. Burney puts "When
daffodils begin to peer" and "Lawn as white as driven snow" into one
bag, and flings it upon the dust-heap, as "two nonsensical songs" sung
by "a pickpocket." Dr. Warburton blushed to think that such "nonsense"
could be foisted on Shakespeare's text. Strange that those learned men
were unable to see, not merely that the rogue-songs are intensely human
and pointedly Shakespearean, but that they are an integral part of the
drama. They complete the revelation of the complex temperament of
Autolycus, with his passion for flowers and millinery, his hysterical
balancing between laughter and tears, his impish mendacity, his sudden
sentimentality, like the Clown's

    "Not a friend, not a friend greet
    My poor corpse, where my bones shall be thrown!"

It is in these subtle lyrical amalgams of humour and tenderness that the
firm hand of the creator of character reveals itself.

But it is in _The Tempest_ that Shakespeare's supremacy as a writer of
songs is most brilliantly developed. Here are seven or eight lyrics, and
among them are some of the loveliest things that any man has written.
What was ever composed more liquid, more elastic, more delicately
fairy-like than Ariel's First Song?

    "Come unto these yellow sands,
      And then take hands:
    Curtsied when you have, and kiss'd,--
      The wild waves whist."

That is, not "kissed the wild waves," as ingenious punctuators pretend,
but, parenthetically, "kissed one another,--the wild waves being silent
the while." Even fairies do not kiss waves, than which no embrace could
be conceived less rewarding. Has any one remarked the echo of Marlowe
here, from _Hero and Leander_,

                  "when all is whist and still,
    Save that the sea playing on yellow sand
    Sends forth a rattling murmur to the land!"

But Marlowe, with all his gifts, could never have written the lyrical
parts of _The Tempest_. This song is in emotional sympathy with
Ferdinand, and in the truest sense dramatic, not a piece of pretty verse
foisted in to add to the entertainment.

Ariel's Second Song has been compared with Webster's "Call for the robin
redbreast" in _The White Devil_, but solemn as Webster's dirge is, it
tolls, it docs not sing to us. Shakespeare's "ditty," as Ferdinand calls
it, is like a breath of the west wind over an æolian harp. Where, in any
language, has ease of metre triumphed more adorably than in Ariel's
Fourth Song,--"Where the bee sucks"? Dowden saw in Ariel the imaginative
genius of English poetry, recently delivered from Sycorax. If we glance
at Dry den's recension of _The Tempest_ we may be inclined to think that
the "wicked dam" soon won back her mastery. With all respect to Dryden,
what are we to think of his discretion in eking out Shakespeare's
insufficiencies with such staves as this:--

    "Upon the floods we'll sing and play
    And celebrate a halcyon day;
    Great Nephew Aeolus make no noise,
          Muzzle your roaring boys."

and so forth? What had happened to the ear of England in seventy years?

As a matter of fact the perfection of dramatic song scarcely survived
Shakespeare himself. The early Jacobeans, Heywood, Ford, and Dekker in
particular, broke out occasionally in delicate ditties. But most
playwrights, like Massinger, were persistently pedestrian. The only man
who came at all close to Shakespeare as a lyrist was John Fletcher,
whose "Lay a garland on my hearse" nobody could challenge if it were
found printed first in a Shakespeare quarto. The three great songs in
"Valentinian" have almost more splendour than any of Shakespeare's,
though never quite the intimate beauty, the singing spontaneity of
"Under the greenwood tree" or "Hark, hark, the lark." It has grown to be
the habit of anthologists to assert Shakespeare's right to "Roses, their
sharp spikes being gone." The mere fact of its loveliness and perfection
gives them no authority to do so; and to my ear the rather stately
procession of syllables is reminiscent of Fletcher. We shall never be
certain; and who would not swear that "Hear, ye ladies that are coy" was
by the same hand that wrote "Sigh no more, ladies," if we were not sure
of the contrary? But the most effective test, even in the case of
Fletcher, is to see whether the trill of song is, or is not, an inherent
portion of the dramatic structure of the play. This is the hall-mark of
Shakespeare, and perhaps of him alone.



CATHARINE TROTTER,

THE PRECURSOR OF THE BLUESTOCKINGS


The practically complete absence of the Woman of Letters from our
tropical and profuse literature of the early and middle seventeenth
century has often been observed with wonder. While France had her
Madeleine de Scudéry and her Mlle. de Gournay and her Mère Angelique
Arnauld, Englishwomen of the Stuart age ventured upon no incursions into
philosophy, fiction, or theology. More and more eagerly, however, they
read books; and as a consequence of reading, they began at last to
write. The precious Margaret, Duchess of Newcastle, hob-a-nobbed with
every Muse in her amazing divagations. But the earliest professional
woman of letters was Aphra Behn, the novelist and playwright, to whose
genius justice has only quite lately been done by Mr. Montague Summers.
Mrs. Behn died in 1689, and it seemed at first that she had left no
heritage to her sex. But there presently appeared a set of female
writers, who enlivened the last years of the century, but who were soon
eclipsed by the wits of the age of Anne, and who have been entirely
forgotten. It is to the most interesting of these "transient phantoms"
that I wish to draw attention.

The extreme precocity of Catharine Trotter makes her seem to belong to
the age of Dryden, but she was in reality younger than Addison and most
of the other contemporaries of Pope. She was born on August 16th, 1679,
the younger daughter of a naval officer, Captain David Trotter, R.N.;
her mother's maiden name had been Sarah Ballenden, probably of the
well-known Catholic family of that ilk. She "had the honour of being
nearly related to the illustrious families of Maitland, Duke of
Lauderdale and Drummond, Earl of Perth." The Jacobite fourth Earl of
Perth seems to have been the patron of Captain Trotter, of whom he wrote
in 1684 that he was "an ornament to his country." Apparently the gallant
captain was attached to Trinity House, where his probity and integrity
earned him the epithet of "honest David," and where he attracted the
notice of George, first Lord Dartmouth, when that rising statesman was
appointed Master. Captain Trotter had served the Crown from his youth,
"with great gallantry and fidelity, both by land and sea," and had been
very successful in the Dutch wars. He had a brother who was a commander
in the Navy. We get an impression of high respectability in the outer,
but not outermost, circles of influential Scottish society. Doubtless
the infancy of Catharine was spent in conditions of dependent
prosperity. These conditions were not to last. When she was four years
old Lord Dartmouth started on the famous expedition to demolish Tangier,
and he took Captain Trotter with him as his commodore. In this affair,
as before, the captain distinguished himself by his ability, and instead
of returning to London after Tangier he was recommended to King Charles
II. as the proper person to convoy the fleet of the Turkey Company to
its destination. Apparently it was understood that this would be the
final reward of his services and that he was to "make his fortune" out
of the Turks. Unhappily, after convoying his charge safely to
Scanderoon, he fell sick of the plague that was raging there, and died,
in the course of January 1684, in company with all the other officers of
his ship. Every misfortune now ensued; the purser, who was thus left to
his own devices, helped himself to the money destined for the expenses
of the voyage, while, to crown all, the London goldsmith in whose hands
the captain had left his private fortune took this occasion to go
bankrupt. The King, in these melancholy circumstances, granted an
Admiralty pension to the widow, but when he died early in the following
year this was no longer paid, and the unfortunate ladies of the Trotter
family might well murmur:--

    "One mischief brings another on his neck,
    As mighty billows tumble in the seas."

From the beginning of her fifth year, then, Catharine experienced the
precarious lot of those who depend for a livelihood on the charity of
more or less distant relatives. We dimly see a presentable mother
piteously gathering up such crumbs as fell from the tables of the
illustrious families with whom she was remotely connected. But the Duke
of Lauderdale himself was now dead, and the Earl of Perth had passed the
zenith of his power. No doubt in the seventeenth century the protection
of poor relations was carried on more systematically than it is to-day,
and certainly Mrs. Trotter contrived to live and to bring up her two
daughters genteelly. The first years were the worst; the accession of
William III. brought back to England and to favour Gilbert Burnet, who
became Bishop of Salisbury in 1688, when Catharine was nine years old.
Mrs. Trotter found a patron and perhaps an employer in the Bishop, and
when Queen Anne came to the throne her little pension was renewed.

There is frequent reference to money in Catharine Trotter's writings,
and the lack of it was the rock upon which her gifts were finally
wrecked. With a competency she might have achieved a much more prominent
place in English literature than she could ever afford to reach. She
offers a curious instance of the depressing effect of poverty, and we
get the impression that she was never, during her long and virtuous
career, lifted above the carking anxiety which deadens the imagination.
As a child, however, she seems to have awakened hopes of a high order.
She was a prodigy, and while little more than an infant she displayed an
illumination in literature which was looked upon, in that age of female
darkness, as quite a portent. She taught herself French, "by her own
application without any instructor," but was obliged to accept some
assistance in acquiring Latin and logic. The last-mentioned subject
became her particular delight, and at a very tender age she drew up "an
abstract" of that science "for her own use." Thus she prepared for her
future communion with Locke and with Leibnitz. When she was very small,
in spite of frequent conferences with learned members of the Church of
England, she became persuaded of the truth of Catholicism and joined the
Roman communion. We may conjecture that this coincided with the
conversion of her kinsman, Lord Chancellor Perth, but as events turned
out it cannot but have added to the sorrows of that much-tried woman,
her mother. (It should be stated that Catharine resumed the Anglican
faith when she was twenty-eight years of age.)

She was in her tenth year when the unhappy reign of James II. came to a
close. Mrs. Trotter's connections were now in a poor plight. The new
Earl of Lauderdale was in great distress for money; Lord Dartmouth,
abandoned by the King in his flight, was thrown into the Tower, where he
died on October 25th, 1691, in which year the estates of the Earl of
Perth were sequestered and he himself hunted out of the country. Ruin
simultaneously fell on all the fine friends of our infant prodigy, and
we can but guess how it affected her. Yet there were plenty of other
Jacobites left in London, and Catharine's first public appearance shows
that she cultivated their friendship. She published in 1693 a copy of
verses addressed to Mr. Bevil Higgons on the occasion of his recovery
from the smallpox; she was then fourteen years of age. Higgons was a
young man of twenty-three, who had lately returned from the exiled court
in France, where he had distinguished himself by his agreeable manners,
and who had just made a name for himself by poems addressed to Dryden
and by a prologue to Congreve's _Old Batchelor_. He was afterwards to
become famous for a little while as a political historian. Catharine
Trotter's verses are bad, but she addresses Higgons as "lovely youth,"
and claims his gratitude for her tribute in terms which are almost
boisterous. This poem was not only her introduction to the public, but,
through Bevil Higgons, was probably the channel of her acquaintance with
Congreve and Dryden.

Throughout her life she was fond of writing letters to celebrated
people; she now certainly wrote to Congreve and doubtless to Dryden. A
freedom in correspondence ran in the family. Her poor mother is revealed
to us as always "renewing her application" to somebody or other. We next
find the youthful poet in relation with the Earl of Dorset, from whom
she must have concealed her Jacobite propensities. Dorset was the great
public patron of poetry under William III., and Catharine Trotter, aged
sixteen, having composed a tragedy, appealed to him for support. It was
very graciously granted, and _Agnes de Castro_, in five acts and in
blank verse, "written by a young lady," was produced at the Theatre
Royal in 1695, under the "protection" of Charles Earl of Dorset and
Middlesex, Lord Chamberlain of His Majesty's Household. The event caused
a considerable commotion. No woman had written for the English stage
since the death of Mrs. Behn, and curiosity was much excited. Mrs.
Verbruggen, that enchanting actress, but in male attire, recited a
clever, ranting epilogue at the close of the performance, in which she
said:--

                        "'tis whispered here
    Our Poetess is virtuous, young and fair,"

but the secret was an open one. Wycherley, who contributed verses, knew
all about it, and so did Mrs. Manley, while Powell and Colley Cibber
were among the actors. We may be sure that little Mistress Trotter's
surprising talents were the subjects of much discussion at Will's Coffee
House, and that the question of securing her for the rival theatre was
anxiously debated at Lincoln's Inn Fields. Her success in Agnes de
Castro was the principal asset which Drury Lane had to set that season
against Congreve's splendid adventure with Love for Love.

Agnes de Castro is an immature production, and shows a juvenile
insensibility to plagiarism, since the subject and treatment are
borrowed implicitly from a French novel by Mlle. de Brillac, published
in Paris and London a few years before.[2] The conception of court life
at Coimbra in the fourteenth century is that of this French lady, and is
innocent of Portuguese local colour. But, as the dramatic work of a girl
of sixteen, the play is rather extraordinary for nimble movement and
adroit theatrical arrangements. It is evident that Catharine Trotter was
well versed in the stage traditions of her own day, and we may wonder
how a highly respectable girl of sixteen found her opportunity. The
English playhouse under William III. was no place for a very young lady,
even if she wore a mask. There is a good deal of meritorious
character-drawing in Agnes de Castro. The conception of a benevolent and
tenderly forgiving Princess is well contrasted with the fierce purity of
Agnes and the infatuation of the Prince. Towards the close of the first
act there is a capital scene of exquisite confusion between this
generous and distracted trio. The opening of the third act, between
Elvira and her brother Alvaro, is not at all young-ladyish, and has some
strong turns of feeling. The end of the play, with the stabbing of the
Princess and the accusation of Agnes by Elvira, is puerile, but was
doubtless welcome to a sentimental audience. It is a bad play, but not
at all an unpromising one.

Early in 1696 _Agnes de Castro_, still anonymous, was published as a
book, and for the next five or six years we find Catharine Trotter
habitually occupied in writing for the stage. Without question she did
so professionally, though in what way dramatists at the close of the
seventeenth century lived by their pens is difficult to conjecture. A
very rare play, _The Female Wits; or, the Triumvirate of Poets_, the
authorship of which has hitherto defied conjecture, was acted at Drury
Lane after Catharine Trotter had been tempted across to Lincoln's Inn
Fields, and is evidently inspired by the intense jealousy which
smouldered between the two great houses. The success of Miss Trotter
incited two older ladies to compete with her; these were Mrs.
Delariviere Manley, who was a discarded favourite of Barbara Villiers,
and fat Mrs. Mary Pix, the stage-struck consort of a tailor. These
rather ridiculous women professed themselves followers of Catharine, and
they produced plays of their own not without some success. With her they
formed the trio of Female Wits who were mocked in the lively but, on the
whole, rather disappointing play I have just mentioned, in the course of
which it is spitefully remarked of Calista--who is Miss Trotter--that
she has "made no small struggle in the world to get into print," and is
"now in such a state of wedlock to pen and ink that it will be very
difficult" for her "to get out of it."

In acting _The Female Wits_ Mrs. Temple, who had played the Princess in
_Agnes de Castro_, took the part of Calista, and doubtless, in the
coarse fashion of those days, made up exactly like poor Catharine
Trotter, who was described as "a Lady who pretends to the learned
Languages, and assumes to herself the name of a Critic." This was a
character, however, which she would not have protested against with much
vigour, for she had now quite definitely taken up the position of a
reformer and a pioneer. She posed as the champion of women's
intellectual rights, and she was accepted as representing in active
literary work the movement which Mary Astell had recently foreshadowed
in her remarkable _Serious Proposal to Ladies_ of 1694. We turn again to
_The Female Wits_, and we find Marsilia (Mrs. Manley) describing Calista
to Mrs. Wellfed (Mrs. Fix) as "the vainest, proudest, senseless Thing!
She pretends to grammar! writes in mood and figure! does everything
methodically!" Yet when Calista appears on the stage, Mrs. Manley rushes
across to fling her arms around her and to murmur: "O charmingest Nymph
of all Apollo's Train, let me embrace thee!" Later on Calista says to
Mrs. Pix, the fat tailoress, "I cannot but remind you, Madam ... I read
Aristotle in his own language"; and of a certain tirade in a play of Ben
Jonson she insists: "I know it so well, as to have turn'd it into
Latin." Mrs. Pix admits her own ignorance of all these things; she "can
go no further than the eight parts of speech." This brings down upon her
an icy reproof from Calista: "Then I cannot but take the Freedom to say
... you impose upon the Town." We get the impression of a preciseness of
manner and purpose which must have given Catharine a certain air of
priggishness, not entirely unbecoming, perhaps, but very strange in that
loose theatre of William III.

Accordingly, in her next appearance, we find her complaining to the
Princess (afterwards Queen Anne) that she has become "the mark of ill
Nature" through recommending herself "by what the other Sex think their
peculiar Prerogative"--that is, intellectual distinction. Catharine
Trotter was still only nineteen years of age when she produced her
tragedy of _Fatal Friendship_, the published copy of which (1698) is all
begarlanded with evidences of her high moral purpose in the shape of a
succession of "applausive copies" of verses. In these we are told that
she had "checked the rage of reigning vice that had debauched the
stage." This was an allusion to the great controversy then just raised
by Jeremy Collier in his famous _Short View of the Immorality and
Profaneness of the Stage_, in which all the dramatists of the day were
violently attacked for their indecency. Catharine Trotter has the
courage to side with Collier, and the tact to do so without quarrelling
with her male colleagues. She takes the side of the decent women.

    "You as your Sex's champion art come forth
    To fight their quarrel and assert their worth,"

one of her admirers exclaims, and another adds:--

    "You stand the first of stage-reformers too."

The young poetess aimed at reconciling the stage with virtue and at
vindicating the right of woman to assume "the tragic laurel."

This was the most brilliant moment in the public career of our
bluestocking. _Fatal Friendship_ enjoyed a success which Catharine
Trotter was not to taste again, and of all her plays it is the only one
which has ever been reprinted. It is very long and extremely
sentimental, and written in rather prosy blank verse. Contemporaries
said that it placed Miss Trotter in the forefront of British drama, in
company with Congreve and Granville "the polite," who had written a
_She-Gallants_, which was everything that Miss Trotter did not wish her
plays to be. _Fatal Friendship_ has an ingenious plot, in which the
question of money takes a prominence very unusual in tragedy. Almost
every character in the piece is in reduced circumstances. Felicia,
sister to Belgard (who is too poor to maintain her), is wooed by the
wealthy Roquelaure, although she is secretly married to Gramont, who is
also too poor to support a wife. Belgard, afraid that Gramont will make
love to Felicia (that is, to his own secret wife), persuades him--in
order that his best friend, Castalio, may be released from a debtor's
prison--bigamously to many Lamira, a wealthy widow. But Castalio is in
love with Lamira, and is driven to frenzy by Gramont's illegal marriage.
It all depends upon income in a manner comically untragical. The quarrel
between the friends in the fifth act is an effective piece of
stage-craft, but the action is spoiled by a ridiculous general butchery
at the close of all. However, the audience was charmed, and even "the
stubbornest could scarce deny their Tears."

_Fatal Friendship_ was played at the Lincoln's Inn Theatre, and no doubt
it was Congreve who brought Miss Trotter over from Drury Lane. His warm
friendship for her had unquestionably a great deal to do with her
success and with the jealousy of her rivals. A letter exists in which
the great dramatist acknowledges, in 1697, the congratulations of his
young admirer, and it breathes an eager cordiality. Congreve requested
Betterton to present him to Catharine Trotter, and his partiality for
her company is mentioned by several writers. The spiteful author of _The
Female Wits_ insinuates that Congreve made the looking-over of
Catharine's scenes "his pretence for daily visits." Another satirist, in
1698, describes Congreve sitting very gravely with his hat over his
eyes, "together with the two she-things called Poetesses which write for
his house," half-hidden from the public in a little side-box. Farquhar,
too, seeing the celebrated writer of _Fatal Friendship_ in the theatre
on the third night of the performance of his _Love and a Bottle_, had
"his passions wrought so high" by a sight of the beautiful author that
he wrote her a letter in which he called her "one of the fairest of the
sex, and the best judge." If Catharine Trotter, as the cynosure of
delicacy, at the age of nineteen, sat through _Love and a Bottle_
without a blush, even _her_ standard of decency was not very exacting.
But in all this rough, coarse world of wit her reputation never suffered
a rebuff.

Encouraged by so much public and private attention, our young dramatist
continued to work with energy and conscientiousness. But her efforts
were forestalled by an event, or rather a condition of the national
temper, of which too little notice has been taken by literary
historians. The attacks on the stage for its indecency and blasphemy had
been flippantly met by the theatrical agents, but they had sunk deeply
into the conscience of the people. There followed with alarming
abruptness a general public repulsion against the playhouses, and to
this, early in 1699, a roughly worded Royal Proclamation gave voice.
During the whole of that year the stage was almost in abeyance, and even
Congreve, with _The Way of the World_, was unable to woo his audience
back to Lincoln's Inn. During this time of depression Catharine Trotter
composed at least two tragedies, which she was unable to get performed,
while the retirement of Congreve in a paroxysm of annoyance must have
been a very serious disadvantage to her.

On May 1st, 1700, Dryden died, and with him a dramatic age passed away.
What Miss Trotter's exact relations with the great poet had been is
uncertain; she not only celebrated his death in a long elegy, in which
she speaks on behalf of the Muses, but wrote another and more important
poem, in which she gives very sound advice to the poetical beginner, who
is to take Dryden as a model, and to be particularly careful to disdain
Settle, Durfey, and Blackmore, typical poetasters of the period. She
recommends social satire to the playwright:--

    "Let the nice well-bred beau himself perceive
    The most accomplished, useless thing alive;
    Expose the bottle-sparks that range the town,--
    Shaming themselves with follies not their own,--
    But chief these foes to virgin innocence,
    Who, while they make to honour vain pretence,
    With all that's base and impious can dispense."

Honour to those who aim high and execute boldly!

    "If Shakespeare's spirit, with transporting fire,
    The animated scene throughout inspire;
    If in the piercing wit of Vanbrugh drest,
    Each sees his darling folly made a jest;
    If Garth's and Dryden's genius, through each line,
    In artful praise and well-turn'd satire shine,--
    To us ascribe the immortal sacred flame."

In this dead period of the stage Catharine Trotter found a warm friend
and doubtless an efficient patron in a Lady Piers, of whom we should be
glad to know more. Sir George Piers, the husband of this lady, was an
officer of rank under the Duke of Marlborough, later to become useful to
Catharine Trotter. Meanwhile the latter returned to the Theatre Royal in
Drury Lane, where, in 1701, under the patronage of Lord Halifax--Pope's
"Bufo"--she produced her third tragedy, _The Unhappy Penitent_. The
dedication of this play to Halifax is a long and interesting essay on
the poetry of the age. The author passes Dryden, Otway, Congreve, and
Lee under examination, and finds technical blemishes in them all:--

     "The inimitable Shakespeare seems alone secure on every side from
     an attack. I speak not here of faults against the rules of poetry,
     but against the natural Genius. He had all the images of nature
     present to him, studied her thoroughly, and boldly copied all her
     various features, for though he has chiefly exerted himself on the
     more masculine passions, 'tis as the choice of his judgment, not
     the restraint of his genius, and he has given us as a proof he
     could be every way equally admirable."

Lady Piers wrote the prologue to _The Unhappy Penitent_ in verses better
turned than might have been expected. She did not stint praise to her
young friend, whom she compares to the rising sun:--

    "Like him, bright Maid, Thy great perfections shine
    As awful, as resplendent, as divine!...
    Minerva and Diana guard your soul!"

_The Unhappy Penitent_ is not a pleasing performance: it is amorous and
violent, but yet dull. Catharine's theory was better than her practice.
Nevertheless, it seems to have been successful, for the author some time
afterwards, speaking of the town's former discouragement of her dramas,
remarks that "the taste is mended." Later in 1701 she brought out at
Drury Lane her only comedy, _Love at a Loss_, dedicated in most
enthusiastic terms to Lady Piers, to whom "I owe the greatest Blessing
of my Fate," the privilege of a share in her friendship. _Love at a
Loss_ was made up of the comic scenes introduced into an old tragedy
which the author had failed to get acted. This is not a fortunate method
of construction, and the town showed no favour to Love at a Loss. The
first and only public section of Catharine Trotter's career was now
over, and she withdrew, a wayworn veteran at the age of twenty-two, to
more elevated studies.

When _Love at a Loss_ was published the author had already left town,
and after a visit to Lady Piers in Kent she now settled at Salisbury, at
the house of a physician, Dr. Inglis, who had married her only sister.
Her growing intimacy with the family of Bishop Burnet may have had
something to do with her determination to make this city her home. She
formed a very enthusiastic friendship with the Bishop's second lady, who
was an active theologian and a very intelligent woman. Our poetess was
fascinated by Mrs. Burnet. "I have not met," she writes in 1701, "such
perfection in any of our sex." She now visited in the best Wiltshire
society. When the famous singer, John Abell, was in Salisbury, he gave a
concert at the palace, and Catharine Trotter was so enchanted that she
rode out after him six miles to Tisbury to hear him sing again at Lord
Arundell of Wardour's house. She had a great appreciation of the
Bishop's "volatile activity." It is now that the name of Locke first
occurs in her correspondence, and we gather that she came into some
personal contact with him through a member of the Bishop's
family--George Burnet of Kemney, in Aberdeenshire--probably a cousin,
with whom she now cultivated an ardent intellectual friendship. He left
England on a mission which occupied him from the middle of 1701 until
1708, and this absence, as we may suspect, alone prevented their
acquaintance from ripening into a warmer feeling. The romance and
tragedy of Catharine Trotter's life gather, it is plain, around this
George Burnet, who was a man of brilliant accomplishments and
interested, like herself, in philosophical studies.

These, it would appear, Catharine Trotter had never abandoned, but she
applied herself to them closely at Salisbury, where she made some
superior acquaintances. One of these was John Norris of Bemerton, whose
_Theory of an Ideal and Intelligible World_ had just made some
sensation. By the intermediary of George Burnet she came in touch with
some of the leading French writers of the moment, such as Malebranche
and Madame Dacier. There is a French poet, unnamed, who understands
English, but he is gone to Rome before he can be made to read _The Fatal
Friendship_. Meanwhile, Catharine Trotter's obsession with the ideas of
Locke was giving some anxiety to her friends. That philosopher had
published his famous _Essay on the Human Understanding_ in 1690, and it
had taken several years for the opposition to his views, and in
particular to his theological toleration, to take effect. But in 1697
there were made a number of almost simultaneous attacks on Locke's
position. The circle at Salisbury was involved in them, for one of these
was written by Norris of Bemerton, and another is attributed to a member
of the Burnet family. Catharine Trotter, who had studied Locke's later
works with enthusiastic approval, was scandalised by the attacks, and
sat down to refute them. This must have been in 1701.

Although the intellectual society of Salisbury was prominent in taking
the conservative view of Locke, our bluestocking could not refrain from
telling Mrs. Burnet what she had done, nor from showing her treatise to
that friend under vows of confidence. But Mrs. Burnet, who was impulsive
and generous, could not keep the secret; she spoke about it to the
Bishop, and then to Norris of Bemerton, and finally (in June 1702) to
Locke himself. Locke was at Oates, confined by his asthma; he was old
and suffering, but still full of benevolence and curiosity, and he was
graciously interested in his remarkable defender at Salisbury. As he
could not himself travel, he sent his adopted son to call on Catharine
Trotter, with a present of books; this was Peter King, still a young
man, but already M.P. for Beer Alston, and later to become Lord
Chancellor and the first Lord King of Ockham. George Burnet, writing
from Paris, had been very insistent that Catharine should not publish
her treatise, but she overruled his objections, and her _Defence of Mr.
Locke's Essay on the Human Understanding_ appeared anonymously in May
1702. People were wonderfully polite in those days, and Locke himself
wrote to his "protectress" a charming letter in which he told her that
her "_Defence_ was the greatest honour my Essay could have procured me."

She sent her _Defence_ to Leibnitz, who criticised it at considerable
length:--[3]

     "J'ai lu livre de Mlle. Trotter. Dans la dedicace elle exhorte M.
     Locke à donner des démonstrations de morale. Je crois qu'il aurait
     eu de la peine à y reussir. L'art de démontrer n'est pas son fait.
     Je tiens que nous nous appercevons sans raisonnement de ce qui est
     juste et injuste, comme nous nous appercevons sans raison de
     quelques theoremes de Geometrie; mais il est tousjours bon de venir
     à la démonstration. Justice et injustice ne dependent seulement de
     la nature humaine, mais de la nature de la substance intelligente
     en général; et Mlle. Trotter remarque fort bien qu'elle vient de la
     nature de Dieu et n'est point arbitraire. La nature de Dieu est
     tousjours fondée en raison."

Notwithstanding all this, the commentators of Locke appear, without
exception, to ignore the _Defence_, and it was probably never much read
outside the cultivated Salisbury circle.

In this year, 1702, the health of Catharine Trotter began to give her
uneasiness, and it was for this reason that she left Salisbury for a
while. She was once more living in that city, however, from May 1703 to
March 1704, making a special study of geography. "My strength," she
writes to George Burnet, "is very much impaired, and God knows whether I
shall ever retrieve it." Her thoughts turned again to the stage, and in
the early months of 1703 she composed her fifth and last play, the
tragedy of _The Revolution in Sweden_; "but it will not be ready for
the stage," she says, "till next winter." Her interest in philosophy
did not flag. She was gratified by some communications, through Burnet,
with Leibnitz, and she would have liked to be the intermediary between
Locke and some philosophical "gentlemen" on the Continent, probably
Malebranche and Leibnitz, in a controversy. But this was hopeless, and
she writes (March 16th, 1704):--

     "Mr. Locke is unwilling to engage in controversy with the gentlemen
     you mention; for, I am informed, his infirmities have obliged him,
     for some time past, to desist from his serious studies, and only
     employ himself in lighter things, which serve to amuse and unbend
     the mind."

Locke, indeed, had but six months more to live, and though he retained
his charming serenity of spirit he was well aware that the end
approached. Never contentious or desirous of making a sensation, he was
least of all, in his present precarious state, likely to enter into
discussion with foreign philosophers. It does not appear that Catharine
Trotter ever enjoyed the felicity of seeing in the flesh the greatest
object of her homage; but he occupied most of her thoughts. She was
rendered highly indignant by the efforts made by the reactionaries at
Oxford and elsewhere to discourage the writings of Locke and to throw
suspicion on their influence. She read over and over again his
philosophical, educational, and religious treatises, and ever found them
more completely to her taste. If she had enjoyed the power to do so she
would have proclaimed the wisdom and majesty of Locke from every
housetop, and she envied Lady Masham her free and constant intercourse
with so beautiful a mind. Catharine Trotter watched, but from a
distance, the extinction of a life thus honoured, which came to a
peaceful end at Oates on October 28th, 1704. The following passage does
not appear--or I am much mistaken--to have attracted the attention of
Locke's biographers:--

     "I was very sensibly touched with the news of Mr. Locke's death.
     All the particulars I hear of it are that he retained his perfect
     senses to the last, and spoke with the same composedness and
     indifference on affairs as usual. His discourse was much on the
     different views a dying man has of worldly things; and that nothing
     gives him any satisfaction, but the reflection of what good he has
     done in his life. Lady Masham went to his chamber to speak to him
     on some, business; when he had answered in the same manner he was
     accustomed to speak, he desired her to leave the room, and,
     immediately after she was gone, turned about and died."

She records that, after the death of Locke, Lady Masham communicated
with Leibnitz, and Catharine is very indignant because a doubt had been
suggested as to whether the writer's thoughts and expressions were her
own. This was calculated to infuriate Catharine Trotter, who outpours in
forcible terms her just indignation:--

     "Women are as capable of penetrating into the grounds of things,
     and reasoning justly, as men are, who certainly have no advantage
     of us, but in their opportunities of knowledge. As Lady Masham is
     allowed by everybody to have great natural endowments, she has
     taken pains to improve them; and no doubt profited much by a long
     intimate society with so extraordinary a man as Mr. Locke. So that
     I see no reason to suspect a woman of her character would pretend
     to write anything that was not entirely her own. I pray, be more
     equitable to her sex than the generality of your's are, who, when
     anything is written by a woman that they cannot deny their
     approbation to, are sure to rob us of the glory of it by
     concluding 'tis not her own."

This is the real voice of Catharine Trotter, raised to defend her sex,
and conscious of the many intellectual indignities and disabilities
which they suffered.

The first draft of _The Revolution in Sweden_ being now completed, she
sent it to Congreve, who was living very quietly in lodgings in Arundell
Street. He allowed some time to go by before, on November 2nd, 1703, he
acknowledged it. His criticism, which is extremely kind, is also
penetrating and full. "I think the design in general," he says, "very
great and noble; the conduct of it very artful, if not too full of
business which may run into length and obscurity." He warns her against
having too much noise of fighting on the stage in her second act, and
against offending probability in the third. The fourth act is confused,
and in the fifth there are too many harangues. Catharine Trotter has
asked him to be frank, and so he is, but his criticism is practical and
encouraging. This excellent letter deserves to be better known.

To continue the history of Miss Trotter's fifth and last play, _The
Revolution in Sweden_ was at length brought out at the Queen's Theatre
in the Haymarket, towards the close of 1704. It had every advantage
which popular acting could give it, since the part of the hero, Count
Arwide, was played by Betterton; that of Constantia, the heroine, by
Mrs. Barry; Gustavus by Booth; and Christina by Mrs. Harcourt. In spite
of this galaxy of talent, the reception of the play was unfavourable.
The Duchess of Marlborough "and all her beauteous family" graced the
theatre on the first night, but the public was cold and inattentive.
Some passages of a particularly lofty moral tone provoked laughter. _The
Revolution in Sweden_, in fact, was shown to suffer from the
ineradicable faults which Congreve had gently but justly suggested. It
was very long, and very dull, and very wordy, and we could scarcely find
a more deadly specimen of virtuous and didactic tragedy. Catharine was
dreadfully disappointed, nor was she completely consoled by being
styled--by no less a person than Sophia Charlotte, Queen of
Prussia--"The Sappho of Scotland." She determined, however, to appeal to
readers against auditors, and when, two years later, after still further
revision, she published _The Revolution in Sweden_, she dedicated it in
most grateful terms to the Duke of Marlborough's eldest daughter,
Henrietta Godolphin.

How Miss Trotter came to be favoured by the Churchills appears from
various sources to be this. Her brother-in-law, Dr. Inglis, was now
physician-general in the army, and was in personal relations with the
General. When the victory at Blenheim (August 1704) was announced,
Catharine Trotter wrote a poem of welcome back to England. It is to be
supposed that a manuscript copy of it was shown by Inglis to the Duke,
with whose permission it was published about a month later. The poem
enjoyed a tremendous success, for the Duke and Duchess and Lord
Treasurer Godolphin "and several others" all liked the verses and said
they were better than any other which had been written on the subject.
George Burnet, who saw the Duke in Germany, reported him highly pleased
with her--"the wisest virgin I ever knew," he writes. She now hoped,
with the Duke's protection, to recover her father's fortune and be no
longer a burden to her brother-in-law. A pension of £20 from Queen Anne
gave her mother now a shadow of independence, but Catharine herself was
wholly disappointed at that "settlement for my life" which she was
ardently hoping for. I think that, if she had secured it, George Burnet
would have come back from Germany to marry her. Instead of that he sent
her learned messages from Bayle and from Leibnitz, who calls her "une
Demoiselle fort spirituelle."

Catharine Trotter now left London and Salisbury, and took up her abode
at Ockham Mills, close to Ripley, in Surrey, as companion to an invalid,
Mrs. De Vere. She probably chose this place on account of the Locke
connection and the friendship of Peter King, since there is now much in
her correspondence about Damaris, Lady Masham, and others in that circle
in which George Burnet himself was intimate. But great changes were
imminent. Although her correspondence at this time is copious it is not
always very intelligible, and it is very carelessly edited. Her constant
interchange of letters with George Burnet leaves the real position
between them on many points obscure. In 1704, when he thought that he
was dying in Berlin, he wrote to Catharine Trotter that he had left her
£100 in his will, and added: "Pray God I might live to give you much
more myself." He regrets that he had so easily "pulled himself from her
company," and suggests that if she had not left London to settle in
Salisbury he would have stayed in England. Years after they had parted
we find him begging her to continue writing to him "at least once a
week." She, on her part, tells him that he well knows that there is but
one person she could ever think of marrying. He seems to have made her
want of vivid religious conviction the excuse for not proposing to her,
but it is not easy to put aside the conviction that it was her want of a
fortune which actuated him most strongly. Finally, he tries to pique her
by telling her that he "knows of parties" in the city of Hanover "who
might bring him much honour and comfort" were he "not afraid of losing
(Catharine Trotter's) friendship." They write to one another with
extreme formality, but that proves nothing. A young woman, passionately
in love with a man whom she had just accepted as her future husband,
was expected, in 1705, to close her letter by describing herself as
"Sir, your very humble servant."

If George Burnet hinted of "parties" in Hanover, Catharine Trotter on
her side could boast of Mr. Fenn, "a young clergyman of excellent
character," who now laid an ardent siege to her heart. Embarrassed by
these attentions, she took the bold step of placing the matter before
Mr. Cockburn, a still younger clergyman, of even more excellent
character. The letter in which she makes this ingenuous declaration as
to a father confessor is one of the tenderest examples extant of the
"Why don't you speak for yourself, John?" form of correspondence. Mr.
Cockburn, one of the minor clergy of the Salisbury set, did speak for
himself, and George Burnet having at length announced his own projected
marriage with a lady of old acquaintance, Catharine Trotter hesitated no
longer but accepted the hand of Mr. Cockburn. They were married early in
1708. Thackeray could have created an amusing romance out of the
relations of these four people to one another, and in particular it
would have been very interesting to see what he would have made of the
character of George Burnet.

Catharine Cockburn was now, after so eventful a life of emotional and
intellectual experience, still a young woman, not far past her
twenty-eighth birthday. She was to survive for more than forty-three
years, during which time she was to correspond much, to write
persistently, and to publish whenever opportunity offered. But I do not
propose to accompany her much further on her blameless career. All
through her married life, which was spent at various places far from
London, she existed almost like a plant in a Leyden jar. Constant
genteel poverty, making it difficult for her to buy books and impossible
to travel was supported by her with dignity and patience, but it dwarfed
her powers. Her later writings, on philosophy, on morality, on the
principles of the Christian religion, are so dull that merely to think
of them brings tears into one's eyes. She who had sparkled as a girl
with Congreve and exchanged polite amenities with Locke lived on to see
modern criticism begin with Samuel Johnson and the modern novel start
with Samuel Richardson, but without observing that any change had come
into the world of letters. Her husband, owing to his having fallen "into
a scruple about the oath of abjuration," lost his curacy and "was
reduced to great difficulties in the support of his family."
Nevertheless--a perfect gentleman at heart--he "always prayed for the
King and Royal family by name." Meanwhile, to uplift his spirits in this
dreadful condition, he is discovered engaged upon a treatise on the
Mosaic deluge, which he could persuade no publisher to print. He reminds
us of Dr. Primrose in _The Vicar of Wakefield_, and, like him, Mr.
Cockburn probably had strong views on the Whistonian doctrine.

So little mark did poor Mrs. Cockburn make on her younger contemporaries
that she disappeared forthwith from literary history. Her works,
especially her plays, have become so excessively rare as to be almost
unprocurable. The brief narrative of her life and her activities which I
have taken the liberty of presenting to-day would be hopelessly engulfed
in obscurity, and we should know as little of Catharine Trotter as we do
of Mary Pix, and Delariviere Manley, and many late seventeenth-century
authors more eminent than they, had it not been that in 1751, two years
after her death, all her papers were placed in the hands of an ingenious
clergyman, the Rev. Dr. Thomas Birch, who printed them for subscribers
in two thick and singularly unpleasing volumes. This private edition was
never reissued, and is now itself a rare book. It is the sort of book
that for two hundred and fifty years must fatally have been destroyed as
lumber whenever an old country mansion that contained it has been
cleared out.

During all that time no one, so far as I can discover, has evinced the
smallest interest in Catharine Trotter. We gain an idea of the blackness
of her obscurity when we say that even Mr. Austin Dobson appears to have
never heard of her. The champion of Locke and Clarke, the correspondent
of Leibnitz and Pope, the friend of Congreve, the patroness of Farquhar,
she seems to have slipped between two ages and to have lost her hold on
time. But I hope her thin little lady-like ghost, still hovering in a
phantom-like transparence round the recognised seats of learning, will
be a little comforted at last by the polite attention of a few of my
readers.

[Footnote 2: Around the story of Agnes de Castro there gathered a whole
literature of fiction, which Mr. Montague Summers has investigated in
his _Works of Aphra Behn_, Vol. V. pp. 211-212.]

[Footnote 3: Printed in Otto Klopp's _Correspondance de Leibnitz avec
l'Electrice Sophie_. Hanover, 1875.]



TWO PIONEERS OF ROMANTICISM:

JOSEPH AND THOMAS WARTON[4]


The origins of the Romantic Movement in literature have been examined so
closely and so often that it might be supposed that the subject must be
by this time exhausted. But no subject of any importance in literature
is ever exhausted, because the products of literature grow or decay,
burgeon or wither, as the generations of men apply their ever-varying
organs of perception to them. I intend, with your permission, to present
to you a familiar phase of the literary life of the eighteenth century
from a fresh point of view, and in relation to two men whose surname
warrants a peculiar emphasis of respect in the mouth of a Warton
Lecturer. It is well, perhaps, to indicate exactly what it is which a
lecturer proposes to himself to achieve during the brief hour in which
you indulge him with your attention; it certainly makes his task the
easier if he does so. I propose, therefore, to endeavour to divine for
you, by scanty signs and indications, what it was in poetry, as it
existed up to the period of their childhood, which was stimulating to
the Wartons, and what they disapproved of in the verse which was
fashionable and popular among the best readers in their day.

There is an advantage, which I think that our critics are apt to
neglect, in analysing the character and causes of poetic pleasure
experienced by any sincere and enthusiastic reader, at any epoch of
history. We are far too much in the habit of supposing that what
we--that is the most instructed and sensitive of us--admire now must
always have been admired by people of a like condition. This has been
one of the fallacies of Romantic criticism, and has led people as
illustrious as Keats into blaming the taste of foregoing generations as
if it were not only heretical, but despicable as well. Young men to-day
speak of those who fifty years ago expatiated in admiration of Tennyson
as though they were not merely stupid, but vulgar and almost wicked,
neglectful of the fact that it was by persons exactly analogous to
themselves that those portions of Tennyson were adored which the young
repudiate to-day. Not to expand too largely this question of the
oscillation of taste--which, however, demands more careful examination
than it has hitherto received--it is always important to discover what
was honestly admired at a given date by the most enthusiastic and
intelligent, in other words by the most poetic, students of poetry. But
to do this we must cultivate a little of that catholicity of heart which
perceives technical merit wherever it has been recognised at an earlier
date, and not merely where the current generation finds it.

Joseph and Thomas Warton were the sons of an Oxford professor of poetry,
an old Jacobite of no observable merit beyond that of surrounding his
family with an atmosphere of the study of verse. The elder brother was
born in 1722, the younger in 1728. I must be forgiven if I dwell a
little tediously on dates, for our inquiry depends upon the use of them.
Without dates the whole point of that precedency of the Wartons, which I
desire to bring out, is lost. The brothers began very early to devote
themselves to the study of poetry, and in spite of the six years which
divided them, they appear to have meditated in unison. Their writings
bear a close resemblance to one another, and their merits and their
failures are alike identical. We have to form what broken impression we
can of their early habits. Joseph is presented to us as wandering in the
woodlands, lost in a melancholy fit, or waking out of it to note with
ecstasy all the effects of light and colour around him, the flight of
birds, the flutter of foliage, the panorama of cloudland. He and Thomas
were alike in their "extreme thirst after ancient things." They avoided,
with a certain disdain, the affectation of vague and conventional
reference to definite objects.

Above all they read the poets who were out of fashion, and no doubt the
library of their father, the Professor of Poetry, was at their disposal
from a very early hour. The result of their studies was a remarkable
one, and the discovery was unquestionably first made by Joseph. He was,
so far as we can gather, the earliest person in the modern world of
Europe to observe what vain sacrifices had been made by the classicists,
and in particular by the English classicists, and as he walked
enthusiastically in the forest he formed a determination to reconquer
the realm of lost beauty. The moment that this instinct became a
purpose, we may say that the great Romantic Movement, such as it has
enlarged and dwindled down to our own day, took its start. The Wartons
were not men of creative genius, and their works, whether in prose or
verse, have not taken hold of the national memory. But the advance of a
great army is not announced by a charge of field-marshals. In the
present war, the advance of the enemy upon open cities has generally
been announced by two or three patrols on bicycles, who are the heralds
of the body. Joseph and Thomas Warton were the bicyclist-scouts who
prophesied of an advance which was nearly fifty years delayed.

The general history of English literature in the eighteenth century
offers us little opportunity for realising what the environment could be
of two such lads as the Wartons, with their enthusiasm, their
independence, and their revolutionary instinct. But I will take the year
1750, which is the year of Rousseau's first _Discours_ and therefore the
definite starting-point of European Romanticism. You will perhaps find
it convenient to compare the situation of the Wartons with what is the
situation to-day of some very modern or revolutionary young poet. In
1750, then, Joseph was twenty-eight years of age and Thomas twenty-two.
Pope had died six years before, and this was equivalent to the death of
Swinburne in the experience of our young man of to-day. Addison's death
was as distant as is from us that of Matthew Arnold; and Thomson, who
had been dead two years, had left The _Castle of Indolence_ as an
equivalent to Mr. Hardy's _Dynasts_. All the leading writers of the age
of Anne--except Young, who hardly belonged to it--were dead, but the
Wartons were divided from them only as we are from those of the age of
Victoria. I have said that Pope was not more distant from them than
Swinburne is from us, but really a more just parallel is with Tennyson.
The Wartons, wandering in their woodlands, were confronted with a
problem such as would be involved, to a couple of youths to-day, in
considering the reputation of Tennyson and Browning.

There remains no doubt in my mind, after a close examination of such
documents as remain to us, that Joseph Warton, whose attitude has
hitherto been strangely neglected, was in fact the active force in this
remarkable revolt against existing conventions in the world of
imaginative art. His six years of priority would naturally give him an
advantage over his now better-known and more celebrated brother.
Moreover, we have positive evidence of the firmness of his opinions at a
time when his brother Thomas was still a child. The preface to Joseph's
_Odes_ of 1746 remains as a dated document, a manifesto, which admits of
no question. But the most remarkable of his poems, "The Enthusiast," was
stated to have been written in 1740, when he was eighteen and his
brother only twelve years of age. It is, of course, possible that these
verses, which bear no sign of juvenile mentality, were touched up at a
later date. But this could only be a matter of diction, of revision, and
we are bound to accept the definite and repeated statement of Joseph,
that they were essentially composed in 1740. If we accept this as a
fact, "The Enthusiast" is seen to be a document of extraordinary
importance. I do not speak of the positive merit of the poem, which it
would be easy to exaggerate. Gray, in a phrase which has been much
discussed, dismissed the poetry of Joseph Warton by saying that he had
"no choice at all." It is evident to me that Gray meant by this to
stigmatise the diction of Joseph Warton, which is jejune, verbose, and
poor. He had little magic in writing; he fails to express himself with
creative charm. But this is not what constitutes his interest for us,
which is moreover obscured by the tameness of his Miltonic-Thomsonian
versification. What should arrest our attention is the fact that here,
for the first time, we find unwaveringly emphasised and repeated what
was entirely new in literature, the essence of romantic hysteria. "The
Enthusiast" is the earliest expression of full revolt against the
classical attitude which had been sovereign in all European literature
for nearly a century. So completely is this expressed by Joseph Warton
that it is extremely difficult to realise that he could not have come
under the fascination of Rousseau, whose apprenticeship to love and
idleness was now drawing to a close at Les Charmettes, and who was not
to write anything characteristic until ten years later.

But these sentiments were in the air. Some of them had vaguely occurred
to Young, to Dyer, and to Shenstone, all of whom received from Joseph
Warton the ardent sympathy which a young man renders to his immediate
contemporaries. The Scotch resumption of ballad-poetry held the same
relation to the Wartons as the so-called Celtic Revival would to a young
poet to-day; the _Tea-Table Miscellany_ dates from 1724, and Allan
Ramsay was to the author of "The Enthusiast" what Mr. Yeats is to us.
But all these were glimmerings or flashes; they followed no system, they
were accompanied by no principles of selection or rejection. These we
find for the first time in Joseph Warton. He not merely repudiates the
old formulas and aspirations, but he defines new ones. What is very
interesting to observe in his attitude to the accepted laws of poetical
practice is his solicitude for the sensations of the individual. These
had been reduced to silence by the neo-classic school in its
determination to insist on broad Palladian effects of light and line.
The didactic and moral aim of the poets had broken the springs of
lyrical expression, and had replaced those bursts of enthusiasm, those
indiscretions, those rudenesses which are characteristic of a romantic
spirit in literature, by eloquence, by caution, by reticence and
vagueness.

It is not necessary to indicate more than very briefly what the
principles of the classic poetry had been. The time had passed when
readers and writers in England gave much attention to the sources of the
popular poetry of their day. Malherbe had never been known here, and the
vigorous _Art poétique_ of Boileau, which had been eagerly studied at
the close of the seventeenth century, was forgotten. Even the Prefaces
of Dryden had ceased to be read, and the sources of authority were now
the prose of Addison and the verse of Pope. To very young readers these
stood in the same relation as the writings of the post-Tennysonian
critics stand now. To reject them, to question their authority, was
like eschewing the essays of Matthew Arnold and Walter Pater. In
particular, the _Essay on Criticism_ was still immensely admired and
read; it had crystallised around cultivated opinion very much as the
_Studies in the Renaissance_ did from 1875 onwards. It was the last
brilliant word on the aims and experiences of poetical art, and how
brilliant it was can be judged by the pleasure with which we read it
to-day, in spite of our total repudiation of every æsthetic dogma which
it conveys. It is immortal, like every supreme literary expression, and
it stands before us in the history of poetry as an enduring landmark.
This was the apparently impregnable fortress which the Wartons had the
temerity to bombard.

Pope had said that Nature was the best guide to judgment, but what did
he mean by nature? He had meant the "rules," which he declared were
"Nature methodis'd" or, as we should say, systematised. The "rules" were
the maxims, rather than laws, expressed by Aristotle in a famous
treatise. The poet was to follow the Stagirite, "led"--as Pope says in
one of those rare lines in which he catches, in spite of himself, the
Romantic accent--"led by the light of the Mæonian Star." Aristotle
illustrated by Homer--that was to be the standard of all poetic
expression. But literature had wandered far from Homer, and we have to
think of what rules the _Essay on Criticism_ laid down. The poet was to
be cautious, "to avoid extremes": he must be conventional, never
"singular"; there was constant reference to "Wit," "Nature," and "The
Muse," and these were convertible terms. A single instance is luminous.
We have the positive authority of Warburton for saying that Pope
regarded as the finest effort of his skill and art as a poet the
insertion of the machinery of the Sylphs into the revised edition of
_The Rape of the Lock_ (1714). Now this insertion was ingenious,
brilliant, and in strict accordance with the practice of Vida and of
Boileau, both of whom it excelled. But the whole conception of it was as
unlike that of Romanticism as possible.

In particular, the tendency of the classic school, in its later
development, had been towards the exclusion of all but didactic and
ethical considerations from treatment in verse. Pope had given great and
ever-increasing emphasis to the importance of making "morals" prominent
in poetry. All that he wrote after he retired to Twickenham, still a
young man, in 1718, was essentially an attempt to gather together "moral
wisdom" clothed in consummate language. He inculcated a moderation of
feeling, a broad and general study of mankind, an acceptance of the
benefits of civilisation, and a suppression of individuality. Even in so
violent and so personal a work as the _Dunciad_ he expends all the
resources of his genius to make his anger seem moral and his indignation
a public duty. This conception of the ethical responsibility of verse
was universal, and even so late as 1745, long after the composition of
Warton's "Enthusiast," we find Blacklock declaring, with general
acceptance, that "poetical genius depends entirely on the quickness of
moral feeling," and that not to "feel poetry" was the result of having
"the affections and internal senses depraved by vice."

The most important innovation suggested by Joseph Warton was an
outspoken assertion that this was by no means the object or the proper
theme of poetry. His verses and those of his brother, the _Essay on
Pope_ of the elder, the critical and historical writings of the younger,
may be searched in vain for the slightest evidence of moral or didactic
sentiment. The instructive and ethical mannerisms of the later
classicists had produced some beautiful and more accomplished verse,
especially of a descriptive order, but its very essence had excluded
self-revelation. Dennis, at whom Pope taught the world to laugh, but
who was in several respects a better critic than either Addison or
himself, had come close to the truth sometimes, but was for ever edged
away from it by the intrusion of the moral consideration. Dennis feels
things æsthetically, but he blunders into ethical definition. The result
was that the range of poetry was narrowed to the sphere of didactic
reflection, a blunt description of scenery or objects being the only
relief, since

                            "who could take offence
    While pure description held the place of sense?"

To have perceived the bankruptcy of the didactic poem is Joseph Warton's
most remarkable innovation. The lawlessness of the Romantic Movement, or
rather its instinct for insisting that genius is a law unto itself, is
first foreshadowed in "The Enthusiast," and when the history of the
school comes to be written there will be a piquancy in tracing an
antinomianism down from the blameless Wartons to the hedonist essays of,
Oscar Wilde and the frenzied anarchism of the Futurists. Not less
remarkable, or less characteristic, was the revolt against the quietism
of the classical school. "Avoid extremes," Pope had said, and
moderation, calmness, discretion, absence of excitement had been laid
down as capital injunctions. Joseph Warton's very title, "The
Enthusiast," was a challenge, for "enthusiasm" was a term of reproach.
He was himself a scandal to classical reserve. Mant, in the course of
some excellent lines addressed to Joseph Warton, remarks

                    "Thou didst seek
    Ecstatic vision by the haunted stream
    Or grove of fairy: then thy nightly ear,
    As from the wild notes of some airy harp,
    Thrilled with strange music."

The same excess of sensibility is still more clearly divulged in
Joseph's own earliest verses:--

    "All beauteous Nature! by thy boundless charms
    Oppress'd, O where shall I begin thy praise,
    Where turn the ecstatic eye, _how ease my breast
    That pants with wild astonishment and love_?"

The Nature here addressed is a very different thing from the "Nature
methodis'd" of the _Essay on Criticism_. It is not to be distinguished
from the object of pantheistic worship long afterwards to be celebrated
in widely differing language, but with identical devotion, by Wordsworth
and Senancour, by Chateaubriand and Shelley.

Closely connected with this attitude towards physical nature is the
determination to deepen the human interest in poetry, to concentrate
individuality in passion. At the moment when the Wartons put forth their
ideas, a change was taking place in English poetry, but not in the
direction of earnest emotion. The instrument of verse had reached an
extraordinary smoothness, and no instance of its capability could be
more interesting than the poetry of Shenstone, with his perfect
utterance of things essentially not worth saying. In the most important
writers of that very exhausted moment, technical skill seems the only
quality calling for remark, and when we have said all that sympathy can
say for Whitehead and Akenside, the truth remains that the one is vapid,
the other empty. The Wartons saw that more liberty of imagination was
wanted, and that the Muse was not born to skim the meadows, in short low
flights, like a wagtail. They used expressions which reveal their
ambition. The poet was to be "bold, without confine," and "imagination's
chartered libertine"; like a sort of Alastor, he was

            "in venturous bark to ride
    Down turbulent Delight's tempestuous tide."

These are aspirations somewhat absurdly expressed, but the aim of them
is undeniable and noteworthy.

A passion for solitude always precedes the romantic obsession, and in
examining the claim of the Wartons to be pioneers, we naturally look for
this element. We find it abundantly in their early verses. When Thomas
was only seventeen--the precocity of the brothers was remarkable--he
wrote a "Pleasures of Melancholy," in which he expresses his wish to
retire to "solemn glooms, congenial to the soul." In the early odes of
his brother Joseph we find still more clearly indicated the intention to
withdraw from the world, in order to indulge the susceptibilities of the
spirit in solitary reflection. A curious air of foreshadowing the
theories of Rousseau, to which I have already referred, produces an
effect which is faintly indicated, but in its phantom way unique in
English literature up to that date, 1740. There had been a tendency to
the sepulchral in the work of several writers, in particular in the
powerful and preposterous religious verse of Isaac Watts, but nothing
had been suggested in the pure Romantic style.

In Joseph Warton, first, we meet with the individualist attitude to
nature; a slightly hysterical exaggeration of feeling which was to be
characteristic of romance; an intention of escaping from the vanity of
mankind by an adventure into the wilds; a purpose of recovering
primitive manners by withdrawing into primitive conditions; a passion
for what we now consider the drawing-master's theory of the
picturesque--the thatched cottage, the ruined castle with the moon
behind it, the unfettered rivulet, the wilderness of

            "the pine-topped precipice
    Abrupt and shaggy."

There was already the fallacy, to become so irresistibly attractive to
the next generation, that man in a state of civilisation was in a
decayed and fallen condition, and that to achieve happiness he must
wander back into a Golden Age. Pope, in verses which had profoundly
impressed two generations, had taken the opposite view, and had proved
to the satisfaction of theologian and free-thinker alike that

        "God and Nature link'd the general frame,
    And bade Self-love and Social be the same."

Joseph Warton would have nothing to say to Social Love. He designed, or
pretended to design, to emigrate to the backwoods of America, to live

    "With simple Indian swains, that I may hunt
    The boar and tiger through savannahs wild,
    Through fragrant deserts and through citron groves,"

indulging, without the slightest admixture of any active moral principle
in social life, all the ecstasies, all the ravishing emotions, of an
abandonment to excessive sensibility. The soul was to be, no longer the
"little bark attendant" that "pursues the triumph and partakes the gale"
in Pope's complacent _Fourth Epistle_, but an æolian harp hung in some
cave of a primeval forest for the winds to rave across in solitude.

    "Happy the first of men, ere yet confin'd
    To smoky cities."

Already the voice is that of Obermann, of René, of Byron.

Another point in which the recommendations of the Wartons far outran the
mediocrity of their execution was their theory of description. To
comprehend the state of mind in which such pieces of stately verse as
Parnell's _Hermit_ or Addison's _Campaign_ could be regarded as
satisfactory in the setting of their descriptive ornament we must
realise the aim which those poets put before them. Nothing was to be
mentioned by its technical--or even by its exact name; no clear picture
was to be raised before the inner eye; nothing was to be left definite
or vivid. We shall make a very great mistake if we suppose this
conventional vagueness to have been accidental, and a still greater if
we attribute it to a lack of cleverness. When Pope referred to the
sudden advent of a heavy shower at a funeral in these terms--

    "'Tis done, and nature's various charms decay;
    See gloomy clouds obscure the cheerful day!
    Now hung with pearls the dropping trees appear,
    Their faded honours scatter'd on her bier,"

it was not because he had not the skill to come into closer touch with
reality, but that he did not wish to do so. It had been plainly laid
down by Malherbe and confirmed by Boileau that objects should be named
in general, not in precise terms. We are really, in studying the
descriptive parts of the Classicist poets, very close to the theories of
Mallarmé and the Symbolists which occupied us twenty years ago. The
object of the poet was not to present a vivid picture to the reader, but
to start in him a state of mind.

We must recollect, in considering what may seem to us the sterility and
stiffness of the English poets from 1660 to 1740, that they were
addressing a public which, after the irregular violence and anarchical
fancy of the middle of the seventeenth century, had begun to yearn for
regularity, common sense, and a moderation in relative variety. The
simplest ideas should be chosen, and should depend for their poetical
effect, not upon a redundant and gorgeous ornament, but solely upon
elegance of language. There were certain references, certain channels of
imagery, which were purely symbolical, and these could be defended only
on the understanding that they produced on the mind of the reader,
instantly and without effort, the illustrative effect required. For
instance, with all these neo-classicists, the mythological allusions,
which seem vapid and ridiculous to us, were simplified metaphor and a
question of style. In short, it rested the jaded imagination of Europe,
after Gongora and Marini, Donne and D'Aubigné, to sink back on a poetry
which had taken a vow to remain scrupulous, elegant, and selected.

But the imagination of England was now beginning to be impatient of
these bonds. It was getting tired of a rest-cure so prolonged. It asked
for more colour, more exuberance, more precise reproduction of visual
impressions. Thomson had summed up and had carried to greater lengths
the instinct for scenery which had never entirely died out in England,
except for a few years after the Restoration. It was left to Joseph
Warton, however, to rebel against the whole mode in which the cabbage of
landscape was shredded into the classical _pot-au-feu_. He proposes
that, in place of the mention of "Idalia's groves," when Windsor Forest
is intended, and of milk-white bulls sacrificed to Phoebus at
Twickenham, the poets should boldly mention in their verses English
"places remarkably romantic, the supposed habitation of druids, bards,
and wizards," and he vigorously recommends Theocritus as a model far
superior to Pope because of the greater exactitude of his references to
objects, and because of his more realistic appeal to the imagination.
Description, Warton says, should be uncommon, exact, not symbolic and
allusive, but referring to objects clearly, by their real names. He very
pertinently points out that Pope, in a set piece of extraordinary
cleverness--which was to be read, more than half a century later, even
by Wordsworth, with pleasure--confines himself to rural beauty in
general, and declines to call up before us the peculiar beauties which
characterise the Forest of Windsor.

A specimen of Joseph Warton's descriptive poetry may here be given, not
for its great inherent excellence, but because it shows his resistance
to the obstinate classic mannerism:--

    "Tell me the path, sweet wanderer, tell,
    To thy unknown sequestered cell,
    Where woodbines cluster round the door,
    Where shells and moss o'erlay the floor,
    And on whose top an hawthorn blows,
    Amid whose thickly-woven boughs
    Some nightingale still builds her nest,
    Each evening warbling thee to rest;
    Then lay me by the haunted stream,
    Rapt in some wild poetic dream,
    In converse while methinks I rove
    With Spenser through a fairy grove."

To show how identical were the methods of the two brothers we may
compare the foregoing lines with the following from Thomas Warton's "Ode
on the Approach of Summer" (published when he was twenty-five, and
possibly written much earlier):--

    "His wattled cotes the shepherd plaits;
    Beneath her elm the milkmaid chats;
    The woodman, speeding home, awhile
    Rests him at a shady stile;
    Nor wants there fragrance to dispense
    Refreshment o'er my soothèd sense;
    Nor tangled woodbine's balmy bloom,
    Nor grass besprent to breathe perfume,
    Nor lurking wild-thyme's spicy sweet
    To bathe in dew my roving feet;
    Nor wants there note of Philomel,
    Nor sound of distant-tinkling bell,
    Nor lowings faint of herds remote,
    Nor mastiff's bark from bosom'd cot;
    Rustle the breezes lightly borne
    O'er deep embattled ears of corn;
    Round ancient elms, with humming noise,
    Full loud the chafer-swarms rejoice."

The youthful poet is in full revolt against the law which forbade his
elders to mention objects by their plain names. Here we notice at once,
as we do in similar early effusions of both the Wartons, the direct
influence of Milton's lyrics. To examine the effect of the rediscovery
of Milton upon the poets of the middle of the eighteenth century would
lead us too far from the special subject of our inquiry to-day. But it
must be pointed out that _L'Allegro_ and _Il Penseroso_ had been
entirely neglected, and practically unknown, until a date long after the
rehabilitation of _Paradise Lost_. The date at which Handel set them to
music, 1740, is that of the revived or discovered popularity of these
two odes, which then began to be fashionable, at all events among the
younger poets. They formed a bridge, which linked the new writers with
the early seventeenth century across the Augustan Age, and their
versification as well as their method of description were as much
resisted by the traditional Classicists as they were attractive, and
directly preferred above those of Pope, by the innovators. Joseph
Warton, who attributed many of the faults of modern lyrical writing to
the example of Petrarch, sets Milton vehemently over against him, and
entreats the poets "to accustom themselves to contemplate fully every
object before they attempt to describe it." They were above all to avoid
nauseous repetition of commonplaces, and what Warton excellently calls
"hereditary images."

We must not, however, confine ourselves to a consideration of "The
Enthusiast" of 1740 and the preface to the _Odes_ of 1746. Certain of
the expressions, indeed, already quoted, are taken from the two very
important critical works which the brothers published while they were
still quite young. We must now turn particularly to Joseph Warton's
_Essay on the Genius of Pope_ of 1756, and to Thomas Warton's
_Observations on the Faerie Queene_ of 1754. Of these the former is the
more important and the more readable. Joseph's _Essay on Pope_ is an
extraordinary production for the time at which it was produced. Let me
suggest that we make a great mistake in treating the works of old
writers as if they had been always written by old men. I am trying to
present the Wartons to you as I see them, and that is as enthusiastic
youths, flushed with a kind of intellectual felicity, and dreaming how
poetry shall be produced as musicians make airs, by inspiration, not by
rote. Remember that when they took their walks in the forest at
Hackwood, the whole world of culture held that true genius had expired
with Pope, and this view was oracularly supported by Warburton and
such-like pundits. I have already pointed out to you that Pope was
divided from them not more than Swinburne is divided from us. Conceive
two very young men to-day putting their heads together to devise a
scheme of poetry which should entirely supersede that, not of Swinburne
only, but of Tennyson and Browning also, and you have the original
attitude of the Wartons.

It is difficult for us to realise what was the nature of the spell which
Pope threw over the literary conscience of the eighteenth century. Forty
years after the revolt of the Wartons, Pope was still looked upon by the
average critic as "the most distinguished and the most interesting Poet
of the nation." Joseph Warton was styled "the Winton Pedant" for
suggesting that Pope paid too dearly for his lucidity and lightness, and
for desiring to break up with odes and sonnets the oratorical mould
which gave a monotony of form to early eighteenth-century verse. His
_Essay on Pope_, though written with such studied moderation that we
may, in a hasty reading, regard it almost as a eulogy, was so shocking
to the prejudices of the hour that it was received with universal
disfavour, and twenty-six years passed before the author had the moral
courage to pursue it to a conclusion. He dedicated it to Young, who,
alone of the Augustans, had admitted that charm in a melancholy
solitude, that beauty of funereal and mysterious effects, which was to
be one of the leading characteristics of the Romantic School, and who
dimly perceived the sublime and the pathetic to be "the two chief nerves
of all genuine poetry."

Warton's _Essay on the Genius of Pope_ is not well arranged, and, in
spite of eloquent passages, as literature it does not offer much
attraction to the reader of the present day. But its thesis is one which
is very interesting to us, and was of startling novelty when it was
advanced. In the author's own words it was to prove that "a clear head
and acute understanding are not sufficient, alone, to make a poet." The
custom of critics had been to say that, when supported by a profound
moral sense, they were sufficient, and Pope was pointed to as the
overwhelming exemplar of the truth of this statement. Pope had taken
this position himself and, as life advanced, the well of pure poetry in
him had dried up more and more completely, until it had turned into a
sort of fountain of bright, dry sand, of which the _Epilogue to the
Satires_, written in 1738, when Joseph Warton was sixteen years of age,
may be taken as the extreme instance. The young author of the _Essay_
made the earliest attempt which any one made to put Pope in his right
place, that is to say, not to deny him genius or to deprecate the
extreme pleasure readers found in his writings, but to insist that, by
the very nature of his gifts, his was genius of a lower rank than that
of the supreme poets, with whom he was commonly paralleled when he was
not preferred to them all.

Warton admitted but three supreme English poets--Spenser, Shakespeare,
Milton--and he vehemently insisted that moral, didactic and panegyrical
poetry could never rise above the second class in importance. To assert
this was not merely to offend against the undoubted supremacy of Pope,
but it was to flout the claims of all those others to whom the age gave
allegiance. Joseph Warton does not shrink from doing this, and he gives
reason for abating the claims of all the classic favourites--Cowley,
Waller, Dryden, Addison. When it was advanced against him that he showed
arrogance in placing his opinion against that of a multitude of highly
trained judges, he replied that a real "relish and enjoyment of poetry"
is a rare quality, and "a creative and glowing imagination" possessed by
few. When the _dicta_ of Boileau were quoted against him, he repudiated
their authority with scarcely less vivacity than Keats was to display
half a century later.

Joseph Warton's _Essay_ wanders about, and we may acknowledge ourselves
more interested in the mental attitude which it displays than in the
detail of its criticism. The author insists, with much force, on the
value of a grandiose melancholy and a romantic horror in creating a
poetical impression, and he allows himself to deplore that Pope was so
ready to forget that "wit and satire are transitory and perishable, but
nature and passion are eternal." We need not then be surprised when
Joseph Warton boldly protests that no other part of the writings of Pope
approaches _Eloisa to Abelard_ in the quality of being "truly poetical."
He was perhaps led to some indulgence by the fact that this is the one
composition in which Pope appears to be indebted to Milton's lyrics, but
there was much more than that. So far as I am aware, _Eloisa to Abelard_
had never taken a high place with Pope's extreme admirers, doubtless
because of its obsession with horror and passion. But when we read how

        "o'er the twilight groves and dusky caves,
    Long-sounding aisles, and intermingled graves,
    Black melancholy sits, and round her throws
    A death-like silence and a dead repose,"

and still more when we reflect on the perpetual and powerful appeals
which the poem makes to emotion unbridled by moral scruple, we have no
difficulty in perceiving why _Eloisa to Abelard_ exercised so powerful
an attraction on Joseph Warton. The absence of ethical reservation, the
licence, in short, was highly attractive to him, and he rejoiced in
finding Pope, even so slightly, even so briefly, faithless to his
formula. It is worth while to note that Joseph Warton's sympathy with
the sentimental malady of the soul which lies at the core of Romanticism
permitted him to be, perhaps, the first man since the Renaissance who
recognised with pleasure the tumult of the _Atys_ of Catullus and the
febrile sensibility of Sappho.

Both brothers urged that more liberty of imagination was what English
poetry needed; that the lark had been shut up long enough in a gilded
cage. We have a glimpse of Thomas Warton introducing the study of the
great Italian classics into Oxford at a very early age, and we see him
crowned with laurel in the common-room of Trinity College at the age of
nineteen. This was in the year before the death of Thomson. No doubt he
was already preparing his _Observations on the Faerie Queene_, which
came out a little later. He was Professor of Poetry at Oxford before he
was thirty. Both the brothers took great pleasure in the study of
Spenser, and they both desired that the supernatural "machinery" of
Ariosto, in common with the romance of _The Faerie Queene_, should be
combined with a description of nature as untrimmed and unshackled as
possible. Thomas Warton, in his remarkable Oxford poem, "The Painted
Window," describes himself as

    "A faithless truant to the classic page,
    Long have I loved to catch the simple chime
    Of minstrel-harps, and spell the fabling rhyme,"

and again he says:--

    "I soothed my sorrows with the dulcet lore
    Which Fancy fabled in her elfin age,"

that is to say when Spenser was writing "upon Mulla's shore."

After all this, the Observations on the Faerie Queene of 1754 is rather
disappointing. Thomas was probably much more learned as a historian of
literature than Joseph, but he is not so interesting a critic. Still, he
followed exactly the same lines, with the addition of a wider knowledge.
His reading is seen to be already immense, but he is tempted to make too
tiresome a display of it. Nevertheless, he is as thorough as his brother
in his insistence upon qualities which we have now learned to call
Romantic, and he praises all sorts of old books which no one then spoke
of with respect. He warmly recommends the _Morte d'Arthur_, which had
probably not found a single admirer since 1634. When he mentions Ben
Jonson, it is characteristic that it is to quote the line about "the
charmed boats and the enchanted wharves," which sounds like a foretaste
of Keats's "magic casements opening on the foam of perilous seas." The
public of Warton's day had relegated all tales about knights, dragons,
and enchanters to the nursery, and Thomas Warton shows courage in
insisting that they are excellent subjects for serious and adult
literature. He certainly would have thoroughly enjoyed the romances of
Mrs. Radcliffe, whom a later generation was to welcome as "the mighty
magician bred and nourished by the Muses in their sacred solitary
caverns, amid the paler shrines of Gothic superstition," and he despised
the neo-classic make-believe of grottoes. He says, with firmness, that
epic poetry--and he is thinking of Ariosto, Tasso, and Spenser--would
never have been written if the critical judgments current in 1754 had
been in vogue.

Thomas Warton closely studied the influence of Ariosto on Spenser, and
no other part of the _Observations_ is so valuable as the pages in which
those two poets are contrasted. He remarked the polish of the former
poet with approval, and he did not shrink from what is violently
fantastic in the plot of the _Orlando Furioso_. On that point he says,
"The present age is too fond of manner'd poetry to relish fiction and
fable," but perhaps he did not observe that although there is no
chivalry in _The Schoolmistress_, that accomplished piece was the
indirect outcome of the Italian mock-heroic epics. The Classicists had
fought for lucidity and common sense, whereas to be tenebrous and vague
was a merit with the precursors of Romanticism, or at least, without
unfairness, we may say that they asserted the power of imagination to
make what was mysterious, and even fabulous, true to the fancy. This
tendency, which we first perceive in the Wartons, rapidly developed, and
it led to the blind enthusiasm with which the vapourings of Macpherson
were presently received. The earliest specimens of _Ossian_ were
revealed to a too-credulous public in 1760, but I find no evidence of
any welcome which they received from either Joseph or Thomas. The
brothers personally preferred a livelier and more dramatic presentation,
and when Dr. Johnson laughed at Collins because "he loved fairies,
genii, giants, and monsters," the laugh was really at the expense of his
school-fellow Joseph Warton, to whom Collins seems to have owed his
boyish inspiration, although he was by a few months the senior.

Johnson was a resolute opponent of the principles of the Wartons, though
he held Thomas, at least, in great personal regard. He objected to the
brothers that they "affected the obsolete when it was not worthy of
revival," and his boutade about their own poetry is well known:--

    "Phrase that time hath flung away,
    Uncouth words in disarray,
    Trick'd in antique ruff and bonnet,
    Ode and elegy and sonnet."

This conservatism was not peculiar to Johnson; there was a general
tendency to resist the reintroduction into language and literature of
words and forms which had been allowed to disappear. A generation later,
a careful and thoughtful grammarian like Gilpin was in danger of being
dismissed as "a cockscomb" because he tried to enlarge our national
vocabulary. The Wartons were accused of searching old libraries for
glossaries of disused terms in order to display them in their own
writings. This was not quite an idle charge; it is to be noted as one of
the symptoms of active Romanticism that it is always dissatisfied with
the diction commonly in use, and desires to dazzle and mystify by
embroidering its texture with archaic and far-fetched words. Chatterton,
who was not yet born when the Wartons formed and expressed their ideas,
was to carry this instinct to a preposterous extreme in his Rowley
forgeries, where he tries to obtain a mediæval colouring by transferring
words out of an imperfect Anglo-Saxon lexicon, often without discerning
the actual meaning of those words.

Both the Wartons continued, in successive disquisitions, to repeat their
definition of poetry, but it cannot be said that either of them
advanced. So far as Joseph is concerned, he seems early to have
succumbed to the pressure of the age and of his surroundings. In 1766 he
became head master of Winchester, and settled down after curious
escapades which had nothing poetical about them. In the head master of a
great public school, reiterated murmurs against bondage to the Classical
Greeks and Romans would have been unbecoming, and Joseph Warton was a
man of the world. Perhaps in the solitude of his study he murmured, as
disenchanted enthusiasts often murmur, "Say, are the days of blest
delusion fled?" Yet traces of the old fire were occasionally manifest;
still each brother woke up at intervals to censure the criticism of
those who did not see that imagination must be paramount in poetry, and
who made the mistake of putting "discernment" in the place of
"enthusiasm." I hardly know why it gives me great pleasure to learn that
"the manner in which the Rev. Mr. Joseph Warton read the Communion
Service was remarkably awful," but it must be as an evidence that he
carried a "Gothick" manner into daily life.

The spirit of pedantry, so amicably mocked by the Wartons, took its
revenge upon Thomas in the form of a barren demon named Joseph Ritson,
who addressed to him in 1782 what he aptly called _A Familiar Letter_.
There is hardly a more ferocious pamphlet in the whole history of
literature. Ritson, who had the virulence of a hornet and the same
insect's inability to produce honey of his own, was considered by the
reactionaries to have "punched Tom Warton's historick body full of
deadly holes." But his strictures were not really important. In
marshalling some thousands of facts, Warton had made perhaps a couple of
dozen mistakes, and Ritson advances these with a reiteration and a
violence worthy of a maniac. Moreover, and this is the fate of angry
pedants, he himself is often found to be as dustily incorrect as Warton
when examined by modern lights. Ritson, who accuses Warton of "never
having consulted or even seen" the books he quotes from, and of
intentionally swindling the public, was in private life a vegetarian who
is said to have turned his orphan nephew on to the streets because he
caught him eating a mutton-chop. Ritson flung his arrows far and wide,
for he called Dr. Samuel Johnson himself "that great luminary, or rather
dark lantern of literature."

If we turn over Ritson's distasteful pages, it is only to obtain from
them further proof of the perception of Warton's Romanticism by an
adversary whom hatred made perspicacious. Ritson abuses the _History of
English Poetry_ for presuming to have "rescued from oblivion irregular
beauties" of which no one desired to be reminded. He charges Warton with
recommending the poetry of "our Pagan fathers" because it is untouched
by Christianity, and of saying that "religion and poetry are
incompatible." He accuses him of "constantly busying himself with
passages which he does not understand, because they appeal to his ear
or his fancy." "Old poetry," Ritson says to Warton, "is the same thing
to you, sense or nonsense." He dwells on Warton's marked attraction to
whatever is prodigious and impossible. The manner in which these
accusations are made is insolent and detestable; but Ritson had
penetration, and without knowing what he reached, in some of these
diatribes he pierced to the heart of the Romanticist fallacy.

It is needful that I should bring these observations to a close. I hope
I have made good my claim that it was the Wartons who introduced into
the discussion of English poetry the principle of Romanticism. To use a
metaphor of which both of them would have approved, that principle was
to them like the mystical bowl of ichor, the _ampolla_, which Astolpho
was expected to bring down from heaven in the _Orlando Furioso_. If I
have given you an exaggerated idea of the extent to which they foresaw
the momentous change in English literature, I am to blame. No doubt by
extracting a great number of slight and minute remarks, and by putting
them together, the critic may produce an effect which is too emphatic.
But you will be on your guard against such misdirection. It is enough
for me if you will admit the priority of the intuition of the brothers,
and I do not think that it can be contested.

Thomas Warton said, "I have rejected the ideas of men who are the most
distinguished ornaments" of the history of English poetry, and he
appealed against a "mechanical" attitude towards the art of poetry. The
brothers did more in rebelling against the Classic formulas than in
starting new poetic methods. There was an absence in them of "the pomps
and prodigality" of genius of which Gray spoke in a noble stanza. They
began with enthusiasm, but they had no native richness of expression, no
store of energy. It needed a nature as unfettered as Blake's, as wide
as Wordsworth's, as opulent as Keats's, to push the Romantic attack on
to victory. The instinct for ecstasy, ravishment, the caprices and
vagaries of emotion, was there; there was present in both brothers,
while they were still young, an extreme sensibility. The instinct was
present in them, but the sacred fire died out in the vacuum of their
social experience, and neither Warton had the energy to build up a style
in prose or verse. They struggled for a little while, and then they
succumbed to the worn verbiage of their age, from which it is sometimes
no light task to disengage their thought. In their later days they made
some sad defections, and I can never forgive Thomas Warton for arriving
at Marlowe's _Hero and Leander_ and failing to observe its beauties. We
are told that as Camden Professor he "suffered the rostrum to grow
cold," and he was an ineffective poet laureate. His brother Joseph felt
the necessity or the craving for lyrical expression, without attaining
more than a muffled and a second-rate effect.

All this has to be sadly admitted. But the fact remains that between
1740 and 1750, while even the voice of Rousseau had not begun to make
itself heard in Europe, the Wartons had discovered the fallacy of the
poetic theories admitted in their day, and had formed some faint
conception of a mode of escape from them. The Abbé Du Bos had laid down
in his celebrated _Réflexions_ (1719) that the poet's art consists of
making a general moral representation of incidents and scenes, and
embellishing it with elegant images. This had been accepted and acted
upon by Pope and by all his followers. To have been the first to
perceive the inadequacy and the falsity of a law which excluded all
imagination, all enthusiasm, and all mystery, is to demand respectful
attention from the historian of Romanticism, and this attention is due
to Joseph and Thomas Warton.

[Footnote 4: Delivered, as the Warton Lecture, before the British
Academy, October 27th, 1915.]



THE CHARM OF STERNE[5]


It is exactly two hundred years to-night since there was born, at
Clonmel, in Ireland, a son to a subaltern in an English regiment just
home from the Low Countries. "My birthday," Laurence Sterne tells us,
"was ominous to my poor father, who was, the day after our arrival, with
many other brave officers, broke and sent adrift into the wide world
with a wife and two children." The life of the new baby was one of
perpetual hurry and scurry; his mother, who had been an old campaigner,
daughter of what her son calls "a noted suttler" called Nuttle, had been
the widow of a soldier before she married Roger Sterne. In the
extraordinary fashion of the army of those days, the regiment was
hurried from place to place--as was that of the father of the infant
Borrow a century later--and with it hastened the unhappy Mrs. Sterne,
for ever bearing and for ever losing children, "most rueful journeys,"
marked by a long succession of little tombstones left behind. Finally,
at Gibraltar, the weary father, pugnacious to the last, picked a quarrel
about a goose and was pinked through the body, surviving in a thoroughly
damaged condition, to die, poor exhausted pilgrim of Bellona, in
barracks in Jamaica.

It would be difficult to imagine a childhood better calculated than this
to encourage pathos in a humorist and fun in a sentimentalist. His
account, in his brief autobiography, of the appearance and
disappearance of his hapless brothers and sisters is a proof of how
early life appealed to Laurence Sterne in the dappled colours of an
April day. We read there of how at Wicklow "we lost poor Joram, a pretty
boy"; how "Anne, that pretty blossom, fell in the barracks of Dublin";
how little Devijehar was "left behind" in Carrickfergus. We know not
whether to sob or to giggle, so tragic is the rapid catalogue of dying
babies, so ridiculous are their names and fates. Here, then, I think, we
have revealed to us the prime characteristic of Sterne, from which all
his other characteristics branch away, for evil or for good. As no other
writer since Shakespeare, and in a different and perhaps more intimate
way than even Shakespeare, he possessed the key of those tears that
succeed the hysteria of laughter, and of that laughter which succeeds
the passion of tears. From early childhood, and all through youth and
manhood, he had been collecting observations upon human nature in these
rapidly alternating moods.

He observed it in its frailty, but being exquisitely frail himself, he
was no satirist. A breath of real satire would blow down the whole
delicate fabric of _Tristram Shandy_ and the _Sentimental Journey_.
Sterne pokes fun at people and things; he banters the extravagance of
private humour; but it is always with a consciousness that he is himself
more extravagant than any one. If we compare him for a moment with
Richardson, who buttonholes the reader in a sermon; or with Smollett,
who snarls and bites like an angry beast; we feel at once that Sterne
could not breathe in the stuffiness of the one or in the tempest of the
other. Sympathy is the breath of his nostrils, and he cannot exist
except in a tender, merry relation with his readers. His own ideal,
surely, is that which he attributed to the fantastic and gentle Yorick,
who never could enter a village, but he caught the attention of old and
young. "Labour stood still as he passed; the bucket hung suspended in
the middle of the well; the spinning-wheel forgot its round, even
chuck-farthing and shuffle-cap themselves stood gaping till he had got
out of sight." Like Yorick, Sterne loved a jest in his heart.

There are, it seems to me, two distinct strains in the intellectual
development of Sterne, and I should like to dwell upon them for a
moment, because I think a lack of recognition of them has been apt to
darken critical counsel in the consideration of his writings. You will
remember that he was forty-six years of age before he took up the
business of literature seriously. Until that time he had been a country
parson in Yorkshire, carrying his body, that "cadaverous bale of goods,"
from Sutton to Stillington, and from Stillington to Skelton. He had
spent his life in riding, shooting, preaching, joking, and philandering
in company, and after a fashion, most truly reprehensible from a
clerical point of view, yet admirably fitted to prepare such an artist
for his destined labours as a painter of the oddities of average
Englishmen. But by the side of this indolent search after the enjoyment
of the hour, Sterne cultivated a formidable species of literature in
which he had so few competitors that, in after years, his indolence
prompted him to plagiarise freely from sources which, surely, no human
being would discover. He steeped himself in the cumbrous learning of
those writers of the Renaissance in whom congested Latin is found
tottering into colloquial French. He studied Rabelais perhaps more
deeply than any other Englishman of his time, and certainly Beroalde de
Verville, Bruscambille, and other absurdities of the sixteenth century
were familiar to him and to him alone in England.

Hence, when Sterne began to write, there were two streams flowing in his
brain, and these were, like everything else about him, inconsistent with
one another. The faithful tender colour of modern life competed with
the preposterous oddity of burlesque erudition. When he started the
annals of Tristram Shandy, the Rabelais vein was in the ascendant, and
there is plenty of evidence that it vastly dazzled and entertained
readers of that day. But it no longer entertains us very much, and it is
the source of considerable injustice done by modern criticism to the
real merits of Sterne. When so acute a writer as Bagehot condemns much
of _Tristram Shandy_ as "a sort of antediluvian fun, in which uncouth
saurian jokes play idly in an unintelligible world," he hits the nail on
the head of why so many readers nowadays turn with impatience from that
work. But they should persevere, for Sterne himself saw his error, and
gradually dropped the "uncouth saurian jokes" which he had filched out
of Burton and Beroalde, relying more and more exclusively on his own
rich store of observations taken directly from human nature. In the
adorable seventh volume of _Tristram_, and in _The Sentimental Journey_,
there is nothing left of Rabelais except a certain rambling artifice of
style.

The death of Sterne, at the age of fifty-four, is one of those events
which must be continually regretted, because to the very end of his life
he was growing in ease and ripeness, was discovering more perfect modes
of self-expression, and was purging himself of his compromising
intellectual frailties. It is true that from the very first his
excellences were patent. The portrait of my Uncle Toby, which Hazlitt
truly said is "one of the finest compliments ever paid to human nature,"
occurs, or rather begins, in the second volume of _Tristram Shandy_. But
the marvellous portraits which the early sections of that work contain
are to some extent obscured, or diluted, by the author's determination
to gain piquancy by applying old methods to new subjects. Frankly, much
as I love Sterne, I find Kunastrockius and Lithopaedus a bore. I suspect
they have driven more than one modern reader away from the enjoyment of
_Tristram Shandy_.

Towards the end of the eighteenth century a leading Dissenting minister,
the Rev. Joseph Fawcett, said in answer to a question: "Do I _like_
Sterne? Yes, to be sure I should deserve to be hanged if I didn't!" That
was the attitude of thoughtful and scrupulous people of cultivation more
than one hundred years ago. But it was their attitude only on some
occasions. There is no record of the fact, but I am ready to believe
that Mr. Fawcett may, with equal sincerity, have said that Sterne was a
godless wretch. We know that Bishop Warburton presented him with a purse
of gold, in rapturous appreciation of his talents, and then in a
different mood described him as "an irrevocable scoundrel." No one else
has ever flourished in literature who has combined such alternating
powers of attraction and repulsion. We like Sterne extremely at one
moment, and we dislike him no less violently at another. He is attar of
roses to-day and asafœtida to-morrow, and it is not by any means easy
to define the elements which draw us towards him and away from him. Like
Yorick, he had "a wild way of talking," and he wrote impetuously and
impudently "in the naked temper which a merry heart discovered." As he
"seldom shunned occasions of saying what came uppermost, and without
much ceremony, he had but too many temptations in life of scattering his
wit and his humour, his gibes and his jests, about him."

So that even if he had been merely Yorick, Sterne would have had
manifold opportunities of giving offence and causing scandal. But lie
was not only a humorist with "a thousand little sceptical notions to
defend," but he was a sentimentalist as well. Those two characteristics
he was constantly mingling, or trying to mingle, since sentimentality
and humour are in reality like oil and wine. He would exasperate his
readers by throwing his wig in their faces at the moment when they were
weeping, or put them out of countenance by ending a farcical story on a
melancholy note. A great majority of Englishmen like to be quite sure of
the tone of what they read; they wish an author to be straightforward;
they dread irony and they loathe impishness. Now Sterne is the most
impish of all imaginative writers. He is what our grandmothers, in
describing the vagaries of the nursery, used to call "a limb of Satan."
Tristram Shandy, in his light-hearted way, declared that "there's not so
much difference between good and evil as the world is apt to imagine."
No doubt that is so, but the world does not like its preachers to play
fast and loose with moral definitions.

The famous sensibility of Sterne was a reaction against the seriousness,
the ponderosity, of previous prose literature in England. We talk of the
heaviness of the eighteenth century, but the periods of even such
masters of solid rhetoric as Johnson and Gibbon are light as thistledown
in comparison with the academic prose of the seventeenth century. Before
the eighteenth century is called lumbering, let us set a page of Hume
against a page of Hobbes, or a passage out of Berkeley by a passage out
of Selden. Common justice is seldom done to the steady clarification of
English prose between 1660 and 1750, but it was kept within formal lines
until the sensitive recklessness of Sterne broke up the mould, and gave
it the flying forms of a cloud or a wave. He owed this beautiful
inspiration to what Nietzsche calls his "squirrel-soul," which leaped
from bough to bough, and responded without a trace of conventional
restraint to every gust of emotion. Well might Goethe be inspired to
declare that Sterne was the most emancipated spirit of his century.

His very emancipation gives us the reason why Sterne's admirers nowadays
are often divided in their allegiance to him. A frequent part of his
humour deals very flippantly with subjects that are what we have been
taught to consider indelicate or objectionable. It is worse than useless
to try to explain this foible of his away, because he was aware of it
and did it on purpose. He said that "nothing but the more gross and
carnal parts of a composition will go down." His indecency was objected
to in his own age, but not with any excluding severity. And I would like
to call your attention to the curious conventionality of our views on
this subject. Human nature does not change, but it changes its modes of
expression. In the eighteenth century very grave people, even bishops,
allowed themselves, in their relaxed moments, great licence in jesting.
Yet they would have been scandalised by the tragic treatment of sex by
our more audacious novelists of to-day. We are still interested in these
matters, but we have agreed not to joke about them. I read the other day
a dictum of one of those young gentlemen who act as our moral policemen:
he prophesied that a jest on a sexual subject would, in twenty years, be
not merely reprehensible, as it is now, but unintelligible. Very proper,
no doubt, only do not let us call this morality, it is only a change of
habits.

Sterne is not suited to readers who are disheartened at irrelevancy. It
is part of his charm, and it is at the same time his most whimsical
habit, never to proceed with his story when you expect him to do so, and
to be reminded by his own divagations of delightful side-issues which
lead you, entranced, whither you had no intention of going. He did not
merely not shun occasions of being irrelevant, but he sought them out
and eagerly cultivated them. Remember that a whole chapter of _Tristram_
is devoted to the _attitude_ of Corporal Trim as he prepared himself to
read the Sermon. Sterne kept a stable of prancing, plump little
hobby-horses, and he trotted them out upon every occasion. But this is
what makes his books the best conversational writing in the English
language. He writes for all the world exactly as though he were talking
at his ease, and we listen enchanted to the careless, frolicking, idle,
penetrating speaker who builds up for us so nonchalantly, with
persistent but unobtrusive touch upon touch, the immortal figures of Mr.
Shandy, my Uncle Toby, Trim, Yorick, the Widow Wadman, and so many more.

This, I am inclined to think, in drawing this brief sketch to an end, is
Sterne's main interest for ourselves. He broke up the rhetorical manner
of composition, or, rather, he produced an alternative manner which was
gradually accepted and is in partial favour still. I would ask you to
read for yourselves the scene of the ass who blocked the way for
Tristram at Lyons, and to consider how completely new that method of
describing, of facing a literary problem, was in 1765. I speak here to
an audience of experts, to a company of authors who are accustomed to a
close consideration of the workmanship of their _métier_. I ask them
where, at all events in English, anything like that scene had been found
before the days of Sterne. Since those days we have never been without
it.

To trace the Shandean influence down English literature for the last
century and a half would take me much too long for your patience. In
Dickens, in Carlyle, even in Ruskin, the Shandean element is often
present and not rarely predominant. None of those great men would have
expressed himself exactly as he does but for Laurence Sterne. And coming
down to our own time, I see the influence of Sterne everywhere. The
pathos of Sir James Barrie is intimately related to that of the creator
of Uncle Toby and Maria of Moulines, while I am not sure that of all the
books which Stevenson read it was not the _Sentimental Journey_ which
made the deepest impression upon him.

[Footnote 5: Address delivered to the Authors' Club, November 24th,
1913]



THE CENTENARY OF EDGAR ALLAN POE


In the announcements of the approaching celebration of the centenary of
Poe in this country, the fact of his having been a poet was concealed.
Perhaps his admirers hoped that it might be overlooked, as without
importance, or condoned as the result of bad habits. At all events, the
statement that the revels on that occasion would be conducted by Sir
Arthur Conan Doyle was quite enough to prove that it was the prose
writer of "The Black Cat" and "The Murders in the Rue Morgue," and not
the verso writer of "Ulalume" and "Annabel Lee" who would be the centre
of attention. On that side of Poe's genius, therefore, although it is
illustrated by such masterpieces of sullen beauty as "The Fall of the
House of Usher" and such triumphs of fantastic ingenuity as "The Gold
Bug," I feel it needless to dwell here, the more as I think the
importance of these tales very slight by the side of that of the best
poems. Edgar Poe was, in my opinion, one of the most significant poetic
artists of a century rich in poetic artists, and I hold it to be for
this reason, and not because he wrote thrilling "detective" stories,
that he deserves persistent commemoration.

The dominance of Poe as an important poetic factor of the nineteenth
century has not been easily or universally admitted, and it is only
natural to examine both the phenomena and the causes of the objections
so persistently brought against it. In the first instance, if the fame
of Browning and Tennyson advanced slowly, it advanced firmly, and it
was encouraged from the beginning by the experts, by the cultivated
minority. Poe, on the other hand, was challenged, and his credentials
were grudgingly inspected, by those who represented the finest culture
of his own country, and the carpings of New England criticism are not
quite silent yet. When he died, in 1849, the tribunal of American
letters sat at Cambridge, in the neighbourhood of Boston, and it was
ill-prepared to believe that anything poetical could deserve salvation
if it proceeded from a place outside the magic circle. Edgar Poe, the
son of Irish strolling players, called "The Virginia Comedians," settled
in the South and was educated in England. By an odd coincidence, it now
appears that he actually was a native, as it were by accident, of Boston
itself. In the words of the Psalmist, "Lo! there was he born!" This
Gentile poet, such was the then state of American literature, could not
arrive on earth elsewhere than in the Jerusalem of Massachusetts. But
that concession was not known to the high priests, the Lowells, the
Holmeses, the Nortons, to whom Poe seemed a piratical intruder from
Javan or Gadire.

Nothing is so discouraging to a young poet of originality as to find
himself isolated. Everything new is regarded with suspicion and dislike
by the general world of readers, and usually by the leaders of criticism
as well. Yet the daring prophet feels supported if he has but his Aaron
and his Hur. In the generation that immediately preceded Poe, Wordsworth
and Coleridge had been derided, but they had enjoyed the emphatic
approbation of one another and of Southey. Shelley had been a pariah of
letters, yet he was cordially believed in by Byron and by Peacock. Even
Keats could shrink from the mud-storms of the Scotch reviewers behind
the confident zeal of Leigh Hunt and Reynolds. At a still later moment
Rossetti and Morris would shelter themselves securely, and even
serenely, from the obloquy of criticism, within a slender peel-tower of
the praise of friends. In all these cases there could be set against the
stupidity of the world at large the comfortable cleverness of a few
strong persons of taste, founded, as all good taste must be, upon
principles. The poet could pride himself on his eclecticism, on his
recognition within, as Keats said, "a little clan." But Poe's misfortune
was to have no clan of his own, and to be rejected by precisely those
persons who represented, and on the whole justly represented, good taste
in America.

His behaviour in this predicament was what might have been expected from
a man whose genius was more considerable than his judgment or his
manners. He tried, at first, to conciliate the New England authorities,
and he flattered not merely the greater planets but some of the very
little stars. He danced, a plaintive Salome, before Christopher P.
Cranch and Nathaniel P. Willis. When he found that his blandishments
were of no avail, he turned savage, and tried to prove that he did not
care, by being rude to Bryant and Longfellow. He called the whole solemn
Sanhedrim a college of Frog-pondian professors. Thus, of course, he
closed upon himself the doors of mercy, since the central aim and object
of the excellent men who at that time ruled American literature was to
prove that, in what this impertinent young man from Virginia called the
Frog Pond, the United States possessed its Athens and its Weimar, its
home of impeccable distinction. Indeed, but for the recognition of
Europe, which began to flow in richly just as Poe ceased to be able to
enjoy it, the prestige of this remarkable poet might have been
successfully annihilated.

Nor was it only the synod of Boston wits who issued the edict that he
should be ignored, but in England also many good judges of literature,
especially those who belonged to the intellectual rather than the
artistic class, could not away with him. I recollect hearing Leslie
Stephen say, now nearly thirty years ago, that to employ strong terms of
praise for Poe was "simply preposterous." And one whom I admire so
implicitly that I will not mention his name in a context which is not
favourable to his judgment, wrote (in his haste) of Poe's "singularly
valueless verses."

This opposition, modified, it is true, by the very different attitude
adopted by Tennyson and most subsequent English poets, as well as by
Baudelaire, Mallarmé and the whole younger school in France, was
obstinately preserved, and has not wholly subsided. It would be a
tactical mistake for those who wish to insist on Poe's supremacy in his
own line to ignore the serious resistance which has been made to it. In
the canonisation-trial of this whimsical saint, the Devil's advocates,
it may be confessed, are many, and their objections are imposing. It is
possible that local pique and a horror of certain crude surroundings may
have had something to do with the original want of recognition in New
England, but such sources of prejudice would be ephemeral. There
remained, and has continued to remain, in the very essence of Poe's
poetry, something which a great many sincere and penetrating lovers of
verse cannot endure to admit as a dominant characteristic of the art.

To recognise the nature of this quality is to take the first step
towards discovering the actual essence of Poe's genius. His detractors
have said that his verses are "singularly valueless." It is therefore
necessary to define what it is they mean by "value." If they mean an
inculcation, in beautiful forms, of moral truth; if they mean a
succession of ideas, clothed in exalted and yet definite language; if
they are thinking of what stirs the heart in reading parts of _Hamlet_
and _Comus_, of what keeps the pulse vibrating after the "Ode to Duty"
has been recited; then the verses of Poe are indeed without value. A
poet less gnomic than Poe, one from whom less, as they say in the
suburbs, "can be learned," is scarcely to be found in the whole range of
literature. His lack of curiosity about moral ideas is so complete that
evil moves him no more than good. There have been writers of eccentric
or perverse morality who have been so much irritated by the preaching of
virtue that they have lent their genius to the recommendation of vice.
This inversion of moral fervour is perhaps the source of most that is
vaguely called "immoral" in imaginative literature. But Edgar Poe is as
innocent of immorality as he is of morality. No more innocuous flowers
than his are grown through the length and breadth of Parnassus. There is
hardly a phrase in his collected writings which has a bearing upon any
ethical question, and those who look for what Wordsworth called "chains
of valuable thoughts" must go elsewhere.

In 1840 they might, in New England, go to Bryant, to Emerson, to
Hawthorne; and it is more than excusable that those who were
endeavouring to refine the very crude community in the midst of which
they were anxiously holding up the agate lamp of Psyche, should see
nothing to applaud in the vague and shadowy rhapsodies then being issued
by a dissipated hack in Philadelphia. What the New England critics
wanted, patriotically as well as personally, was as little like
"Ulalume" as can possibly be conceived. They defined what poetry should
be--there was about that time a mania for defining poetry--and what
their definition was may be seen no less plainly in the American _Fable
for Critics_ than in the preface to the English _Philip van Artevelde_.
It was to be picturesque, intellectual, pleasing; it was to deal, above
all, with moral "truths"; it was to avoid vagueness and to give no
uncertain sound; it was to regard "passion" with alarm, as the siren
which was bound sooner or later to fling a bard upon the rocks. It is
not necessary to treat this conception of poetry with scorn, nor to
reject principles of precise thought and clear, sober language, which
had been illustrated by Wordsworth in the present and by Gray in the
past. The ardent young critics of our own age, having thrown off all
respect for the traditions of literature, speak and write as if to them,
and them alone, had been divinely revealed the secrets of taste. They do
not give themselves time to realise that in Apollo's house there are
many mansions.

It is sufficient for us to note here that the discomfort of Poe's
position resided in the fact that he was not admitted into so much as
the forecourt of the particular mansion inhabited by Bryant and Lowell.
There is a phrase in one of his own rather vague and "valueless" essays
(for Poe was a poor critic) which, as it were accidentally, describes
his ideal in poetry, although it is not his own verse of which he is
speaking. He described--in 1845, when his ripe genius had just brought
forth "The Raven"--the poetic faculty as producing "a sense of dreamy,
wild, indefinite, and he would perhaps say, indefinable delight." This
shadowy but absorbing and mastering pleasure impregnated his own best
writings to such a degree that it gives us the measure of his unlikeness
to his contemporaries, and states the claim of his individuality.
Without precisely knowing it or perceiving his revolution, in an age of
intelligent, tame, lucid and cautiously-defined poetry, Edgar Poe
expressed the emotions which surged within him in numbers that were,
even to excess, "dreamy, wild, indefinite and indefinable."

His early verses are remarkably exempt from the influences which we
might expect to find impressed on them. He imitated, as every man of
genuine originality imitates while he learns his trade, but his models
were not, as might have been anticipated, Coleridge and Shelley; they
were Byron and Scott. In the poetry of Byron and Scott, Poe found
nothing to transfer to his own nature, and the early imitations,
therefore, left no trace on him. Brief as is the volume of his poems,
half of it might be discarded without much regret. Scattered among his
Byron and Scott imitations, however, we find a few pieces which reveal
to us that, while he was still almost a child, the true direction of his
genius was occasionally revealed to him. The lyric "To Helen," which is
said to have been composed in his fourteenth year, is steeped in the
peculiar purity, richness and vagueness which were to characterise his
mature poems:--

    "On desperate seas long wont to roam,
      Thy hyacinth hair, thy classic face,
    Thy Naiad airs have brought me home
      To the glory that was Greece,
    And the grandeur that was Rome."

This was not published, however, until the author was two-and-twenty,
and it may have been touched up. Here is a fragment of a suppressed
poem, "Visit of the Dead," which Poe certainly printed in his eighteenth
year:--

    "The breeze, the breath of God, is still,
    And the mist upon the hill,
    Shadowy, shadowy, yet unbroken,
    Is a symbol and a token;
    How it hangs upon the trees,
    A mystery of mysteries!"

This is not so perfect, but it is even more than "To Helen" symptomatic
of Poe's peculiar relation to the poetic faculty as fostering a state of
indefinite and indeed indefinable delight. And from these faint
breathings how direct is the advance to such incomparable specimens of
symbolic fancy as "The City in the Sea," "The Sleeper," and finally
"Ulalume"!

The determination to celebrate, in a minor key, indefinite and
melancholy symbols of fancy, is a snare than which none more dangerous
can be placed in the path of a feeble foot. But Poe was not feeble, and
he was protected, and permanent value was secured for his poetry, by the
possession of one or two signal gifts to which attention must now be
paid. He cultivated the indefinite, but, happily for us, in language so
definite and pure that when he succeeds it is with a cool fulness, an
absence of all fretting and hissing sound, such as can rarely be
paralleled in English literature. The finest things in Milton's 1645
volume, Wordsworth at his very best, Tennyson occasionally, Collins in
some of his shorter odes, have reached that perfection of syllabic
sweetness, that clear sound of a wave breaking on the twilight sands,
which Poe contrives to render, without an effort, again and again:--

    "By a route obscure and lonely,
    Haunted by ill angels only,
    Where an Eidolon,[6] nam'd Night,
    On a black throne reigns upright,
    I have reached these lands but newly
    From an ultimate dim Thule,
    From a wild weird clime, that lieth, sublime.
    Out of space, out of time."

The present moment is one in which the reaction against plastic beauty
in poetry has reached such a height that it is almost vain to appeal
against it. There is scarcely a single English poet of consequence in
the younger school who does not treat the strings of his lyre as though
he were preluding with a slate-pencil upon a slate. That this is done
purposely, and in accordance with mysterious harmonic laws entirely
beyond the comprehension of ordinary ears, makes the matter worse. There
is no heresiarch so dangerous as the priest of holy and self-abnegating
life, and it is to a poet no less learned than Mr. Robert Bridges, that
the twentieth century seems to owe the existing rage for cacophony. He
holds something of the same place in relation to Swinburne and Poe, that
Donne did to Spenser three hundred years ago. In this condition of
things it may seem useless to found any claim for Poe on the ground of
the exquisite mellifluousness of his versification. We may hope,
however, some day to regain the use of our ears, and to discover once
more that music and metre are utterly distinct arts. When that
re-discovery has been made, Poe will resume his position as one of the
most uniformly melodious of all those who have used the English
language.

Critics who have admitted the extraordinary perfection of his prosody
have occasionally objected that in the most popular examples of it, "The
Raven" and "The Bells," he obtains his effect by a trick. It might be
objected, with equal force, that Victor Hugo in "Les Djinns" and even
Tennyson in "The Lotus Eaters" made use of "tricks." On the other hand,
if the charge be deserved, it seems odd that in the course of nearly
seventy years no other juggler or conjurer has contrived to repeat the
wonderful experiment. In each poem there are what must be judged
definite errors against taste in detail--Poe's taste was never very
sure--but the skill of the long voluptuous lamentation, broken at equal
intervals by the croak of the raven, and that of the verbal translation,
as if into four tones or languages, of the tintinabulation of the bells,
is so extraordinary, so original, and so closely in keeping with the
personal genius of the writer, that it is surely affectation to deny its
value.

It is not, however, in "The Bells" or in "The Raven," marvellous as are
these _tours de force_, that we see the essential greatness of Poe
revealed. The best of his poems are those in which he deals less
boisterously with the sentiment of mystery. During the latest months of
his unhappy life, he composed three lyrics which, from a technical
point of view, must be regarded not only as the most interesting, which
he wrote, but as those which have had the most permanent effect upon
subsequent literature, not in England merely, but in France. These are
"Ulalume," "Annabel Lee," "For Annie." One of Poe's greatest inventions
was the liquidation of stanzaic form, by which he was able to mould it
to the movements of emotion without losing its essential structure. Many
poets had done this with the line; it was left for Poe to do it with the
stanza. In the three latest lyrics this stanzaic legerdemain is
practised with an enchanting lightness, an ecstasy of sinuous and
elastic grace. Perhaps, had it been subjected to the poet's latest
revision, "For Annie" would have been the most wonderful of all in the
sensitive response of its metre to the delicate fluctuations of
sentiment.

We may, then, briefly summarise that Poe's first claim to commemoration
is that he was the pioneer in restoring to the art of poetry a faculty
which it had almost lost in its attempt to compete with science and
philosophy. It had become the aim of the poets to state facts; it was
given to Poe to perceive that no less splendid a future lay before those
who only hinted feelings. He was the earliest modern poet who
substituted the symbol for the exact description of an object or an
event. That "expression directe," about which the French have been
debating for the last quarter of a century, and over which M. Adolphe
Retté and M. Albert Mockel periodically dispute like Fathers of the
Church, was perceived and was deliberately repudiated by Poe eighty
years ago. He was deeply impregnated with the sense that the harmony of
imagination is not destroyed, but developed, by drawing over a subject
veil after veil of suggestion. His native temperament aided him in his
research after the symbol. He was naturally a cultivator of terror, one
who loved to people the world with strange and indefinable powers. His
dreams were innocent and agitating, occupied with supernatural terrors,
weighed upon by the imminence of shadowy presentments. He trembled at he
knew not what; in this he was related to the earliest poets of the
world, and in his perpetual recurrence to symbol he recalls the action
of their alarms.

The cardinal importance, then, of Poe as a poet is that he restored to
poetry a primitive faculty of which civilisation seemed successfully to
have deprived her. He rejected the doctrinal expression of positive
things, and he insisted upon mystery and symbol. He endeavoured to
clothe unfathomable thoughts and shadowy images in melody that was like
the wind wandering over the strings of an æolian harp. In other words,
he was the pioneer of a school which has spread its influence to the
confines of the civilised world, and is now revolutionising literature.
He was the discoverer and the founder of Symbolism.

1909.

[Footnote 6: A shocking false quantity; but how little that would matter
to Poe]



THE AUTHOR OF "PELHAM"


One hundred and twenty years have nearly passed since the birth of
Bulwer-Lytton, and he continues to be suspended in a dim and ambiguous
position in the history of our literature. He combined extraordinary
qualities with fatal defects. He aimed at the highest eminence, and
failed to reach it, but he was like an explorer, who is diverted from
the main ascent of a mountain, and yet annexes an important table-land
elsewhere. Bulwer-Lytton never secured the ungrudging praise of the best
judges, but he attained great popularity, and has even now not wholly
lost it. He is never quoted as one of our great writers, and yet he
holds a place of his own from which it is improbable that he will ever
be dislodged. Although he stood out prominently among his fellows, and
although his career was tinged with scandal and even with romance, very
little has been known about him. Curiosity has been foiled by the
discretion of one party and the malignity of another. The public has not
been in a position to know the truth, nor to possess the real portrait
of a politician and a man of letters who has been presented as an angel
and as a gargoyle, but never as a human being. Forty years after his
death the candour and the skill of his grandson reveal him to us at last
in a memoir of unusual excellence.

In no case would Lord Lytton's task have been an easy one, but it must
have been made peculiarly difficult by the work of those who had
preceded him. Of these, the only one who deserves serious attention is
Robert Lytton, who published certain fragments in 1883. That the son
wished to support the memory of his father is unquestionable. But it is
difficult to believe that he intended his contribution to be more than
an aid to some future biographer's labour. He scattered his material
about him in rough heaps. Apart from the "Literary Remains," which
destroyed the continuity of even such brief biography as he gave, Robert
Lytton introduced a number of chapters which are more or less of the
nature of essays, and are often quite foreign to his theme. Moreover, he
dedicated several chapters to literary criticism of his father's works.
It is, in fact, obvious to any one who examines the two volumes of 1883
which Robert Lytton contrived to fill, that he was careful to contribute
as little as he possibly could to the story which he had started out to
relate. Although there is much that is interesting in the memoirs of
1883, the reader is continually losing the thread of the narrative. The
reason is, no doubt, that Robert Lytton stood too close to his parents,
had seen too much of their disputes, was too much torn by the agonies of
his own stormy youth, and was too sensitively conscious of the scandal,
to tell the story at all. We have the impression that, in order to
forestall any other biography, he pretended himself to write a book
which he was subtle enough to make unintelligible.

This baffling discretion, this feverish race from hiding-place to
hiding-place, has not only not been repeated by Lord Lytton in the new
_Life_, but the example of his father seems to have positively
emphasised his own determination to be straightforward and lucid. I know
no modern biography in which the writer has kept more rigidly to the
business of his narrative, or has less successfully been decoyed aside
by the sirens of family vanity. It must have been a great difficulty to
the biographer to find his pathway cumbered by the volumes of 1883, set
by his father as a plausible man-trap for future intruders. Lord
Lytton, however, is the one person who is not an intruder, and he was
the only possessor of the key which his father had so diplomatically
hidden. His task, however, was further complicated by the circumstance
that Bulwer-Lytton himself left in MS. an autobiography, dealing very
fully with his own career and character up to the age of twenty-two. The
redundancy of all the Lyttons is amazing. Bulwer-Lytton would not have
been himself if he had not overflowed into reflections which swelled his
valuable account of his childhood into monstrous proportions. Lord
Lytton, who has a pretty humour, tells an anecdote which will be read
with pleasure:--

     "An old woman, who had once been one of Bulwer-Lytton's trusted
     domestic servants, is still living in a cottage at Knebworth. One
     day she was talking to me about my grandfather, and inadvertently
     used an expression which summed him up more perfectly than any
     elaborate description could have done. She was describing his house
     at Copped Hall, where she had been employed as caretaker, and
     added: 'In one of his attacks of _fluency_, I nursed him there for
     many weeks.' 'Pleurisy,' I believe, was what she meant."

The bacillus of "_fluency_" interpenetrates the Autobiography, the
letters, the documents of every kind, and at any moment this disease
will darken Bulwer-Lytton's brightest hours. But curtailed by his
grandson, and with its floral and heraldic ornaments well pared away,
the Autobiography is a document of considerable value. It is written
with deliberate candour, and recalls the manner of Cobbett, a writer
with whom we should not expect to find Bulwer-Lytton in sympathy. It is
probable that the author of it never saw himself nor those who
surrounded him in precisely their true relation. There was something
radically twisted in his image of life, which always seems to have
passed through a refracting surface on its way to his vision. No doubt
this is more or less true of all experience; no power has given us the
gift "to see ourselves as others see us." But in the case of
Bulwer-Lytton this refractive habit of his imagination produced a
greater swerving aside from positive truth than is usual. The result is
that an air of the fabulous, of the incredible, is given to his
narratives, and often most unfairly.

A close examination, in fact, of the Autobiography results in confirming
the historic truth of it. What is surprising is not, when we come to
consider them, the incidents themselves, but Bulwer-Lytton's odd way of
narrating them. Lord Lytton, without any comment, provides us with
curious material for the verification of his grandfather's narrative. He
prints, here and there, letters from entirely prosaic persons which
tally, often to a surprising degree, with the extravagant statements of
Bulwer-Lytton. To quote a single instance, of a very remarkable
character, Bulwer-Lytton describes the effect his scholarship produced,
at the age of seventeen, upon sober, elderly people, who were dazzled
with his accomplishments and regarded him as a youthful prodigy. It is
the sort of confession, rather full-blooded and lyrical, which we might
easily set down to that phenomenon of refraction. But Lord Lytton prints
a letter from Dr. Samuel Parr (whom, by the way, he calls "a man of
sixty-four," but Parr, born in 1747, was seventy-four in 1821), which
confirms the autobiographer's account in every particular. The aged Whig
churchman, who boasted a wider knowledge of Greek literature than any
other scholar of his day, and whose peremptory temper was matter of
legend, could write to this Tory boy a long letter of enthusiastic
criticism, and while assuring Bulwer-Lytton that he kept "all the
letters with which you have honoured me," could add: "I am proud of
such a correspondent; and, if we lived nearer to each other, I should
expect to be very happy indeed in such a friend." Letters of this kind,
judiciously printed by Lord Lytton in his notes, serve to call us back
from the nebulous witchcraft in which Bulwer-Lytton was so fond of
wrapping up the truth, and to remind us that, in spite of the
necromancer, the truth is there.

From the point where the fragment of autobiography closes, although for
some time much the same material is used and some of the same letters
are quoted, as were quoted and used by Robert Lytton, the presentation
of these is so different that the whole effect is practically one of
novelty. But with the year 1826, when Edward Bulwer-Lytton, at the age
of three-and-twenty, became engaged to Rosina Doyle Wheeler, all is
positively new. The story of the marriage, separation, and subsequent
relations has never before been presented to the world with any approach
to accuracy or fulness. No biographical notices of Bulwer-Lytton even
touch on this subject, which has been hitherto abandoned to the gossip
of irresponsible contemporaries. It is true that a Miss Devey composed a
"Life of Rosina, Lady Lytton," in which the tale was told. This work was
immediately suppressed, and is inaccessible to the public; but the only
person who is known to be familiar with its contents reports that it
"contains fragments of the narrative, obviously biassed, wholly
inaccurate, and evidently misleading." So far as the general public is
concerned, Lord Lytton's impartial history of the relations between his
grandfather and his grandmother is doubtless that portion of his book
which will be regarded as the most important. I may, therefore, dwell
briefly upon his treatment of it.

The biographer, in dealing with a subject of this incalculable
difficulty, could but lay himself open to the censure of those who
dislike the revelation of the truth on any disagreeable subject. This
lion, however, stood in the middle of his path, and he had either to
wrestle with it or to turn back. Lord Lytton says in his preface that it
was necessary to tell all or nothing of the matrimonial adventures of
his grandparents, but, in reality, this was not quite the alternative,
which was to tell the truth or to withdraw from the task of writing a
Life of Bulwer-Lytton. The marriage and its results were so predominant
in the career of the man, and poisoned it so deeply to the latest hour
of his consciousness, that to attempt a biography of him without clear
reference to them would have been like telling the story of Nessus the
Centaur without mentioning the poisoned arrow of Heracles. But Lord
Lytton shall give his own apology:--

     "As it was impossible to give a true picture of my grandfather
     without referring to events which overshadowed his whole life, and
     which were already partially known to the public, I decided to tell
     the whole story as fully and as accurately as possible, in the firm
     belief that the truth can damage neither the dead nor the living.
     The steps which led to the final separation between my
     grandparents, and the forces which brought about so disastrous a
     conclusion of a marriage of love, apart from their biographical
     interest, afford a study of human nature of the utmost value; and
     so great are the moral lessons which this story contains, that I
     venture to hope that the public may find in much that is tragic and
     pitiful much also that is redeeming, and that the ultimate verdict
     of posterity may be that these two unfortunate people did not
     suffer entirely in vain."

His story, therefore, is not written with any partiality, and it seems
to be as full and as truthful as the ample materials at the author's
disposal permitted. The reader will conjecture that Lord Lytton could
have given many more details, but apart from the fact that they would
often have been wholly unfit for publication, it is difficult to see
that they would in any degree have altered the balance of the story, or
modified our judgment, which is quite sufficiently enlightened by the
copious letters on both sides which are now for the first time printed.

Voltaire has remarked of love that it is "de toutes les passions la plus
forte, parce qu'elle attaque, à la fois, la tête, le cœur, le corps."
It is a commonplace to say that Edward Bulwer's whole career might have
been altered if he had never met Rosina Wheeler, because this is true in
measure of every strong juvenile attachment: but it is rarely indeed so
copiously or so fatally true as it was in his case. His existence was
overwhelmed by this event; it was turned topsy-turvey, and it never
regained its equilibrium. In this adventure all was exaggerated; there
was excess of desire, excess of gratification, an intense weariness, a
consuming hatred.

On the first evening when the lovers met, in April 1826, an observer,
watching them as they talked, reflected that Bulwer's "bearing had that
aristocratic something bordering on _hauteur_" which reminded the
onlooker "of the passage, 'Stand back; I am holier than thou!'" The same
observer, dazzled, like the rest of the world, by the loveliness of Miss
Wheeler, judged that it would be best "to regard her as we do some
beautiful caged wild creature of the woods--at a safe and secure
distance." It would have preserved a chance of happiness for
Bulwer-Lytton to possess something of this stranger's clairvoyance. It
was not strange perhaps, but unfortunate, that he did not notice--or
rather that he was not repelled by, for he did notice--the absence of
moral delicacy in the beautiful creature, the radiant and seductive
Lamia, who responded so instantly to his emotion. He, the most
fastidious of men, was not offended by the vivacity of a young lady who
called attention to the vulgarity of her father's worsted stockings and
had none but words of abuse for her mother. These things, indeed,
disconcerted the young aristocrat, but he put them down to a lack of
training; he persuaded himself that these were superficial blemishes and
could be remedied; and he resigned his senses to the intoxication of
Rosina's beauty.

At first--and indeed to the last--she stimulated his energy and his
intellect. His love and his hatred alike spurred him to action. In
August 1826, in spite of the violent opposition of his mother, he and
Rosina were betrothed. By October Mrs. Bulwer had so far prevailed that
the engagement was broken off, and Edward tossed in a whirlpool of
anger, love, and despair. It took the form of such an attack of
"fluency" as was never seen before or after. Up to that time he had been
an elegant although feverish idler. Now he plunged into a strenuous life
of public and private engagements. He prepared to enter the House of
Commons; he finished _Falkland_, his first novel; he started the
composition of _Pelham_ and of another "light prose work," which may
have disappeared; he achieved a long narrative in verse, _O'Neill, or
the Rebel_; and he involved himself in literary projects without bound
and without end. The aim of all this energy was money. It is true that
he had broken off his betrothal; but it was at first only a pretence at
estrangement, to hoodwink his mother. He was convinced that he could not
live without possessing Rosina, and as his mother held the strings of
the common purse, he would earn his own income and support a wife.

Mrs. Bulwer-Lytton, who had a Roman firmness, was absolutely determined
that her son should not marry "a penniless girl whose education had been
so flagrantly neglected, who was vain and flighty, with a mocking humour
and a conspicuous lack of principle." At this point the story becomes
exceedingly interesting. A Balzac would strip it of its romantic
trappings, and would penetrate into its physiology. Out of Rosina's
sight, and diverted by the excess of his literary labours, Edward's
infatuation began to decline. His mother, whose power of character would
have been really formidable if it had been enforced by sympathy or even
by tact, relaxed her opposition; and instantly her son, himself, no
longer attacked, became calmer and more clear-sighted. Rosina's faults
were patent to his memory; the magic of her beauty less invincible.
Within a month all was changed again. Rosina fretted herself into what
she contrived to have reported to Bulwer-Lytton as an illness. She
begged for an interview, and he went with reluctance to bid her farewell
for ever. It was Bulwer-Lytton's habit to take with him a masterpiece of
literature upon every journey. It seems unfortunate that on this
occasion _The Tempest_ was not his companion, for it might have warned
him, as Prospero warned Ferdinand, against the fever in the blood:--

    "No sweet aspersion shall the heavens let fall
    To make this contract grow; but barren hate,
    Sour-eyed disdain, and discord, shall bestrew
    The union of your bed, with weeds so loathly
    That you shall hate it, both."

When his short interview, which was to have been a final one, was over,
that had happened which made a speedy marriage necessary, whatever the
consequences might be.

The new conditions were clearly stated to old Mrs. Bulwer-Lytton, but
that formidable lady belonged to an earlier generation, and saw no
reason for Quixotic behaviour. Her conscience had been trained in the
eighteenth century, and all her blame was for Rosina Wheeler. Torn
between his duty and his filial affection, Bulwer-Lytton now passed
through a period of moral agony. He wrote to his mother: "I am far too
wretched, and have had too severe a contest with myself, not to look to
the future rather with despondency than pleasure, and the view you take
of the matter is quite enough to embitter my peace of mind." Miss
Wheeler, not unnaturally stung to anger, used disrespectful expressions
regarding Mrs. Bulwer-Lytton, and these bickerings filled the lover and
son with indignation. His life, between these ladies, grew to be hardly
worth living, and in the midst of one such crisis this brilliant young
dandy of four-and-twenty wrote:--"I feel more broken-hearted,
despondent, and sated than any old valetudinarian who has seen all his
old hopes and friends drop off one by one, and finds himself left for
the rest of his existence to the solitary possession of gloom and gout."
Mrs. Bulwer-Lytton fought fiercely to the last, and Edward determined to
close the matter; on August 29th, 1827, he married Rosina.

At first, in spite of, and even because of, the wild hostility of his
mother, the marriage seemed successful. The rage of the mother drove the
husband to the wife. Lord Lytton has noted that in later years all that
his grandfather and his grandmother said about one another was
unconsciously biassed by their memory of later complications. Neither
Bulwer-Lytton nor Rosina could give an accurate history of their
relations at the beginning, because the mind of each was prejudiced by
their knowledge of the end. Each sought to justify the hatred which both
had lived to feel, by representing the other as hateful from the first.
But the letters survive, and the recollections of friends, to prove that
this was entirely untrue. It must be admitted that their union was never
based upon esteem, but wholly upon passion, and that from the first they
lacked that coherency of relation, in moral respects, which was needed
to fix their affections. But those who have dimly heard how bitterly
these two unfortunate people hated one another in later life will be
astonished to learn that they spent the two first years together like
infatuated turtle-doves.

Their existence was romantic and absurd. Cut off from all support by the
implacable anger of old Mrs. Bulwer-Lytton, they depended on a combined
income of £380 a year and whatever the husband could make to increase
it. Accordingly they took a huge country house, Woodcot in Oxon, and
lived at the rate of several thousands a year. There they basked in an
affluent splendour of bad taste which reminds us of nothing in the world
so much as of those portions of _The Lady Flabella_ which Mrs.
Wititterly was presently to find so soft and so voluptuous. The
following extract from one of Rosina's lively letters-and she was a very
sprightly correspondent--gives an example of her style, of her husband's
Pelhamish extravagance, and of the gaudy recklessness of their manner of
life. They had now been married nearly two years:--

     "How do you think my audacious husband has spent his time since he
     has been in town? Why, he must needs send me down what he termed a
     little Christmas box, which was a huge box from Howel and James's,
     containing only eight Gros de Naples dresses of different colours
     not made up, four Gros des Indes, two merino ones, four satin ones,
     an amber, a black, a white and a blue, eight pocket handkerchiefs
     that look as if they had been spun out of lilies and air and
     _brodée_ by the fairies, they are so exquisitely fine and so
     beautifully worked. Four pieces (16 yards in each) of beautiful
     white blonde, two broad pieces and two less broad, a beautiful and
     very large blue real cashmere shawl, a Chantilly veil that would
     reach from this to Dublin, and six French long pellerines very
     richly embroidered on the finest India muslin, three dozen pair of
     white silk stockings, one dozen of black, a most beautiful black
     satin cloak with very pretty odd sort of capes and trimmed round
     and up the sides with a very broad band of a new kind of figured
     plush--I forget what they call it (it came from Paris), and a hat
     of the same--such a hat as can only be made in the Rue Vivienne.
     You would think that this 'little Christmas box' would have been
     enough to have lasted for some time. However, he thought
     differently, for on New Year's morning before I was out of bed,
     there came a parcel by the mail, which on opening proved to be a
     large red Morocco case containing a bright gold chain, a yard and a
     half long, with the most beautiful and curious cross to it that I
     ever saw--the chain is as thick as my dead gold necklace, and you
     may guess what sort of a thing it is when I tell you that I took it
     to a jeweller here to have it weighed, and it weighed a pound all
     but an ounce. The man said it never was made for less than fifty
     guineas, but that he should think it had cost more."

Rosina, who has only £80 a year of her own, will not be outdone, and
cannot "resist ordering" Edward "a gold toilette, which he has long
wished for.... Round the rim of the basin and the handle of the ewer I
have ordered a wreath of _narcissus_ in dead gold, which, for Mr.
Pelham, you'll own, is not a bad idea."

It would be expected that all this crazy display would lead the young
couple rapidly and deeply into debt. That it did not do so is the most
curious phase of the story. Bulwer-Lytton immediately, and apparently
without the slightest difficulty, developed a literary industry the
sober record of which approaches the fabulous. Walter Scott alone may be
held to have equalled it. The giants of popular fiction did, indeed,
enjoy larger single successes than Bulwer-Lytton did, but none of them,
not Dickens himself, was so uniformly successful. Everything he wrote
sold as though it were bread displayed to a hungry crowd. Even his
poetry, so laboriously and lifelessly second-hand, always sold. He did
not know what failure was; he made money by _Devereux_; even _The New
Timon_ went into many editions. To earn what was required, however--and
in these early years he seems to have made £3000 his minimum of needful
return--to live in the insane style which his wife and he demanded, an
enormous nervous strain was required. Edward Bulwer-Lytton's temper had
always been warm and eager; it now grew irritable to the highest degree.
His mother continued to exasperate him; his wife suddenly failed to
please him; his health waned; and he became the most miserable of men;
yet without ceasing for a moment to be the most indefatigable of
authors. The reader will follow the evolution of the tragedy, which is
of poignant interest, in Lord Lytton's pages. The whole story is one of
the most extraordinary in the history of literature.

It has been a feature of Bulwer-Lytton's curious posthumous fortune that
he has seemed solitary in his intellectual if not in his political and
social action. We think of him as one of those morose and lonely bees
that are too busy gathering pollen to join the senate of the hive, and
are dwellers in the holes of the rocks. It is quite true that, with a
painful craving for affection, he had not the genius of friendship. The
general impression given by his biography is one of isolation; in "the
sea of life" he was one of those who are most hopelessly "enisled."
Nothing is sadder than this severance of a delicate and sensitive
temperament from those who surround it closely and to whom it stretches
out its arms in vain. But a careful reading of these interesting volumes
leaves us in no doubt of the cause of this loneliness. Bulwer-Lytton,
with all his ardour and his generosity, was devoid of the gift of
sympathy. In characters of a simpler mould a natural kindliness may take
the place of comprehension. But Bulwer-Lytton had a lively and protean
fancy which perpetually deceived him. In human relations he was always
moving, but always on the wrong track.

The letters to his mother, to his wife, to his son, exemplify this
unfortunate tendency. They are eloquent, they are even too eloquent, for
Bulwer-Lytton intoxicated himself with his own verbosity; they are meant
to be kind, they are meant to be just, they are meant to be wise and
dignified and tender; but we see, in Lord Lytton's impartial narrative,
that they scarcely ever failed to exasperate the receiver. His dealings
with his son, of whom he was exquisitely proud and sensitively fond, are
of the saddest character, because of the father's want of comprehension,
haste of speech and intolerance of temper. The very fact that a son, a
wife, or a mother could with impunity be addressed in terms of
exaggerated sensibility, because there could be no appeal, was a snare
to the too-ready pen of Bulwer-Lytton, which, poured out its oceans of
ink without reflection and without apprehension. If violent offence were
given, the post went out again later in the day, and equally violent
self-humiliation would restore the emotional balance. But what could not
be restored was the sense of confidence and domestic security.

In his contact with other literary men of his own age more restraint was
necessary, and we learn from Lord Lytton's pages of valuable and
prolonged acquaintanceships which were sometimes almost friendships. His
company was much sought after, and occasionally by very odd persons.
Lord Lytton prints a series of most diverting letters from the notorious
Harriette Wilson, who, in spite of the terror into which her "Memoirs"
had thrown society, desired to add the author of _Pelham_ to the aviary
of her conquests. But the snare was set in vain before the eyes of so
shrewd a bird as Bulwer-Lytton; he declined to see the lady, but he kept
her amazing letters. This was in 1829, when the novelist seems to have
had no literary or political associates. But by 1831, we find him
editing the _New Monthly Magazine_, and attaching himself to Lord
Melbourne and Lord Durham on the one hand and to Disraeli and Dickens on
the other. When to these we have added Lady Blessington and Letitia
Landon, we have mentioned all those public persons with whom
Bulwer-Lytton seems to have been on terms of intimacy during his early
manhood. All through these years he was an incessant diner-out and
party-goer, and the object of marvellous adulation, but he passed
through all this social parade as though it had been a necessary portion
of the exterior etiquette of life. Why he fatigued himself by these
formal exercises, in which he seems to have found no pleasure, it is
impossible to conceive, but a sense of the necessity of parade was
strangely native to him.

He had, however, one close and constant friend. John Forster was by far
the most intimate of all his associates throughout his career.
Bulwer-Lytton seems to have met him first about 1834, when he was
twenty-eight and Forster only twenty-two. In spite of this disparity in
age, the younger man almost at once took a tone of authority such as the
elder seldom permitted in an acquaintance. Forster had all the gifts
which make a friend valuable. He was rich in sympathy and resource, his
temper was reasonable, he comprehended a situation, he knew how to hold
his own in argument and yet yield with grace. Lord Lytton prints a very
interesting character-sketch of Forster, which he has found among his
grandfather's MSS. It is a tribute which does equal credit to him who
makes it and to him of whom it is made:--

     "John Forster.... A most sterling man, with an intellect at once
     massive and delicate. Few, indeed, have his strong practical sense
     and sound judgment; fewer still unite with such qualities his
     exquisite appreciation of latent beauties in literary art. Hence,
     in ordinary life, there is no safer adviser about literary work,
     especially poetry; no more refined critic. A large heart naturally
     accompanies so masculine an understanding. He has the rare capacity
     for affection which embraces many friendships without loss of depth
     or warmth in one. Most of my literary contemporaries are his
     intimate companions, and their jealousies of each other do not
     diminish their trust in him. More than any living critic, he has
     served to establish reputations. Tennyson and Browning owed him
     much in their literary career. Me, I think, he served in that way
     less than any of his other friends. But, indeed, I know of no
     critic to whom I have been much indebted for any position I hold in
     literature. In more private matters I am greatly indebted to his
     counsels. His reading is extensive. What faults he has lie on the
     surface. He is sometimes bluff to rudeness. But all such faults of
     manner (and they are his only ones) are but trifling inequalities
     in a nature solid and valuable as a block of gold."

This was written with full experience, as the names of Tennyson and
Browning will remind us, for Bulwer-Lytton was slow to admit the value
of these younger talents. His relations with Tennyson have always been
known to be unfortunate; as they are revealed in Lord Lytton's biography
they approach the incredible. He met Browning at Covent Garden Theatre
during the Macready "revival" of the poetic stage, but it was not until
after the publication of _Men and Women_ that he became conscious of
Browning's claim, which he then very grudgingly admitted. He was
grateful to Browning for his kindness to Robert Lytton in Italy, but he
never understood his genius or his character.

What, however, we read with no less pleasure than surprise are the
evidences of Bulwer-Lytton's interest in certain authors of a later
generation, of whom the general public has never suspected him to have
been aware. Something almost like friendship sprang up as lately as 1867
between him and a man whom nobody would suppose him to admire, Matthew
Arnold. It sometimes happens that a sensitive and petulant artist finds
it more easy to acknowledge the merits of his successors than to endure
those of his immediate contemporaries. The _Essays in Criticism_ and
_The Study of Celtic Literature_ called forth from the author of _My
Novel_ and _The Caxtons_ such eulogy as had never been spared for the
writings of Thackeray or Carlyle. Matthew Arnold appeared to
Bulwer-Lytton to have "brought together all that is most modern in
sentiment, with all that is most scholastic in thought and language."
Arnold was a guest at Knebworth, and brought the Duke of Genoa with him.
He liked Bulwer-Lytton, and their relations became very cordial and
lasted for some years; Arnold has given an amusing, but very
sympathetic, account of the dignified hospitalities of Knebworth.

No revelation in Lord Lytton's volumes is, however, more pleasing or
more unexpected than his grandfather's correspondence with Swinburne. It
is thought that he heard of him through Monckton Milnes; at all events,
he was an early reader of _Atalanta in Calydon_. When, in 1866, all the
furies of the Press fell shrieking on _Poems and Ballads_, Bulwer-Lytton
took a very generous step. He wrote to Swinburne, expressing his
sympathy and begging him to be calm. The young poet was extremely
touched, and took occasion to beg the elder writer for his advice, the
publisher having, without consulting him, withdrawn his volume from
sale. Bulwer-Lytton's reply was a most cordial invitation to stay with
him at Knebworth and talk the matter over. Swinburne gratefully
accepted, and John Forster was asked to meet him. It was Bulwer-Lytton,
it appears, who found another publisher for the outraged volume, and
helped Swinburne out of the scrape. He was always kindness itself if an
appeal was made to his protection, and to his sense of justice. However,
pleasant as the visit to Knebworth was, there is no evidence that it was
repeated. Bulwer-Lytton considered Swinburne's opinions preposterous,
and indeed if he told Swinburne, as in 1869 he told his son Robert, that
Victor Hugo was "but an epileptic dwarf in a state of galvanism," there
must have been wigs on the green at Knebworth.

The student of the biography, if he is already familiar with the more
characteristic works of Bulwer-Lytton, will find himself for the first
time provided with a key to much that has puzzled him in the nature of
that author. The story itself, apart from the tragic matrimonial trouble
which runs through it like a blood-red cord, is of unusual interest. It
is a story of strife, without repose, without enjoyment, but with a good
deal of splendour and satisfaction. Almost to the end Bulwer-Lytton was
engaged in struggle. As an ambitious social being he was fighting the
world; as an author he was battling with his critics; as a statesman he
was always in the wild storm of party politics. As a private individual
he was all the time keeping his head up against the tide of social
scandal which attacked him when he least expected it, and often
threatened to drown him altogether. This turmoil contrasts with the calm
of the evening years, after the peerage had been won, the ambition
satisfied, the literary reputation secured.

Few writers have encountered, in their own time and after their death,
so much adverse criticism, and yet have partly survived it. It is hardly
realised, even perhaps by Lord Lytton, how unwilling the reviewers were
to give credit to his grandfather. He never found favour in their eyes,
and it was a matter of constant resentment with him that they did him,
as he thought, injustice. The evidence of his wounded feelings is
constant in his letters. The Quarterly Review never mentioned him
without contempt until 1865, when the publication of his works, in
forty-three volumes, forced it to consider this indefatigable and
popular writer with a measure of respect. Sir Walter Scott, with his
universal geniality, read _Pelham_ in 1828 and "found it very
interesting: the light is easy and gentlemanlike, the dark very grand
and sombrous." He asked who was the author, and he tried to interest his
son-in-law in the novel. But Lockhart was implacable: "_Pelham_," he
replied, "is writ by a Mr. Bulwer, a Norfolk squire, and horrid puppy. I
have not read the book, from disliking the author." Lockhart, however,
did read _Devereux_, and three years afterwards, when reviewing some
other novel, he said of the historical characters in that romance: "It
seems hard to disquiet so many bright spirits for the sole purpose of
showing that they _could_ be dull." That was the attitude of the higher
criticism to Bulwer-Lytton from, let us say, 1830 to 1860; he was "a
horrid puppy" and he was also "dull."

But this was far from being the opinion of the reading public. We have
seen that he never failed, and sometimes he soared into the very
empyrean of popularity. In 1834, when he published _The Last Days of
Pompeii_, again in 1837 when he published _Ernest Maltravers_, the
ecstasy of his adorers discovered their favourite in a moment under the
mask of anonymity which he chose to assume. This was just before the
outburst of the great school of Victorian novelists; Bulwer had as yet
practically no one but Disraeli to compete with. These two, the author
of _Pelham_ and the author of _Vivian Grey_, raced neck and neck at the
head of the vast horde of "fashionable" novel-writers; now all but them
forgotten. In Bulwer-Lytton's romances the reader moved among exalted
personages, alternately flippant and sinister; a "mournful enthusiasm"
was claimed for the writer by the readers of his day. It was the latest
and most powerful development of that Byronic spirit which had been so
shortlived in verse, but which was to survive in prose until
Bulwer-Lytton adopted his _Caxtons_ manner in the middle of the century.
As always in Byronic periods, the portrait of the author himself was
searched for among his most fatal conceptions. To the young library
subscriber the stoical, solitary figure of Mordaunt, in _The Disowned_,
was exactly what was wanted as a representation of the mysterious
novelist himself. Pelham was the apotheosis of the man of fashion, and
it is amusing to read how, when the Bulwer-Lyttons travelled, they were
gazed at in reverence as the Pelham and the Pelhamess.

It would be difficult to improve upon the language used so early as 1832
by one of the very few critics who attempted to do justice to
Bulwer-Lytton's merits. The _Edinburgh Review_ found in him "a style
vigorous and pliable, sometimes strangely incorrect, but often rising
into a touching eloquence." Ten years later such was the private opinion
of D.G. Rossetti, who was "inspired by reading _Rienzi_ and _Ernest
Maltravers_, which is indeed a splendid work." Now that we look back at
Bulwer-Lytton's prodigious compositions, we are able to perceive more
justly than did the critics of his own day what his merits were. For one
thing, he was extraordinarily versatile. If we examine his books, we
must be astonished at their variety. He painted the social life of his
own day, he dived into spectral romance, he revived the beautiful
ceremonies of antiquity, he evoked the great shades of English and of
Continental history, he made realistic and humorous studies of
middle-class life, he engaged in vehement controversy on topics of the
hour, he prophesied of the order of the future, he wrote comedies and
tragedies, epics and epistles, satires and lyrics. His canvasses were
myriad and he crowded every one of them with figures. At his most
Byronic moment he flung his dark cloak aside, and danced in motley
through _Paul Clifford_, with its outrageous caricature of George IV.
and his Ministers as a gang of Hounslow highwaymen. Perhaps his best
claim to regard is the insatiability of his human curiosity, evinced in
the almost infinite variety of his compositions.

The singular being who wrote so large a library of works and whose
actual features have so carefully been concealed from the public, will
be known at last. The piety of his grandson has presented him to us with
no reservations and no false lights. Here he stands, this half-fabulous
being, not sheathed in sham armour and padding the stage in buskins, but
a real personality at length, "with all his weaknesses and faults, his
prejudices, affectations, vanities, susceptibilities, and
eccentricities, and also with all his great qualities of industry,
courage, kindness of heart; sound judgment, patience, and perseverance."
Lord Lytton has carried through to the close a biographical enterprise
of unusual difficulty, and he deserves the thanks of all students of
English literature.



THE CHALLENGE OF THE BRONTËS[7]


Although I possess in no degree the advantage which so many of the
members of your society enjoy in being personally connected with the
scenes and even, perhaps, with the characters associated with the Brontë
family, I cannot begin my little address to you to-day without some
invocation of the genius of the place. We meet at Dewsbury because the
immortal sisters were identified with Dewsbury. Is it then not
imperative that for whatever picture of them I may endeavour to present
before you this afternoon, Dewsbury should form the background?
Unfortunately, however, although in the hands of a skilful painter the
figures of the ladies may glow forth, I fear that in the matter of
taking Dewsbury as the background some vagueness and some darkness are
inevitable. In the biographies of Mrs. Gaskell and of Mr. Clement
Shorter, as well as in the proceedings of your society, I have searched
for evidences of the place Dewsbury took in the lives of the Brontës.
What I find--I expect you to tell me that it is not exhaustive--is this.
Their father, the Rev. Patrick Brontë, was curate here from 1809 to
1811. In 1836, when Charlotte was twenty, Miss Wooler transferred her
school from Roe Head to Heald's House at the top of Dewsbury Moor. In
this school, where Charlotte had been a pupil since 1831, she was now a
governess, and a governess she remained until early in 1838. In April of
that year Miss Wooler was taken ill and Charlotte was for a little while
in charge. Then there was an explosion of temper, of some kind, and
Charlotte went back to Haworth.

That, then, in the main, is the limit of what the scrupulous Muse of
history vouchsafes to tell us about Charlotte Brontë's relation to
Dewsbury. But it also supplies us with one or two phrases which I cannot
bring myself to spare you. In January 1838, Charlotte reviews her
experience at Dewsbury Moor; "I feel," she says, "in nothing better,
nothing humbler nor purer." Again, in 1841, after there had passed time
enough to mellow her exacerbations, she continues to express herself
with vigour. Miss Wooler is making overtures to Charlotte and Emily to
take over the school at Heald's House; perhaps a place might be found
for Anne as well. Miss Wooler, one of the kindest of women, is most
thoughtful, most conciliatory. Charlotte will have none of the idea; she
puts it roughly from her. Of Dewsbury she has nothing to say but that
"it is a poisoned place for me." This is all we know of Charlotte's
relation to Dewsbury, yet nothing, you will tell me, in Froude's phrase,
to what the angels know. Well, I must be frank with you and say that I
am afraid the angels have been inclined to record exceedingly little of
Charlotte Brontë's residence in your inoffensive neighbourhood. I have
to paint a background to my picture, and I find none but the gloomiest
colours. They have to be what the art-critics of the eighteenth century
called "sub-fusc." But it is not the fault of Dewsbury, it is the fault,
or the misfortune, of our remarkable little genius. She was here, in
this wholesome and hospitable vicinity, for several months, during which
time "she felt in nothing better, neither humbler nor purer," and
looking back upon it, she had to admit that it was "a poisoned place"
to her.

I cannot help fancying that you will agree with me, that on such an
occasion as the present, and especially when dealing with a group of
writers about whom so much as has been said as about the Brontës, it is
wise not to cover too wide a ground, but to take, and keep to, one
aspect of the subject. Our little excursion into the history seems to
have given us, under the heading "Dewsbury," a rather grim text, from
which, nevertheless, we may perhaps extract some final consolation. Let
me say at the outset that for the grimness, for the harshness, Dewsbury
is not at all to blame. I fancy that if, in the years from 1836 to 1838,
the Brontë girls had been visitors to Kubla Khan, and had been fed on
honey by his myrmidons at Xanadu, that pleasure-dome would yet have been
"poisoned" to them. It was not poverty, and cold, and the disagreeable
position of a governess, it was not the rough landscape of your moors,
nor its lack of southern amenity which made Charlotte wretched here. It
was not in good Miss Wooler, nor in the pupils, nor in the visitors at
Heald's House that the mischief lay, it was in the closed and patient
crater of Charlotte's own bosom. And I am almost persuaded that, if you
had lived in Dewsbury sixty-five years ago, you would have heard on very
quiet days a faint subterranean sound which you would never have been
able to guess was really the passion, furiously panting, shut up in the
heart of a small, pale governess in Heald's House schoolroom.

If you accuse me of fatalism, I am helpless in your hands, for I confess
I do not see how it could be otherwise, and do scarcely wish that it
could have been. Let us not be too sentimental in this matter. Figures
in literature are notable and valuable to us for what they give us. The
more personal and intense and definite that is, the greater the gift,
the more strenuous the toil and the more severe the initiation which
lead to its expression. The Brontës had a certain thing to learn to
give; what that was we shall presently try to note. But whatever we find
it to be, we start with allowing that it was extremely and boldly
original. It was not to be mastered by lying upon padded sofas and
toying with a little Berlin wool-work. It involved pain, resistance, a
stern revision of things hitherto taken for granted. The secrets which
they designed to wring from nature and from life were not likely to be
revealed to the self-indulgent and the dilettante. The sisters had a
message from the sphere of indignation and revolt. In order that they
should learn it as well as teach it, it was necessary that they should
arrive on the scene at an evil hour for their own happiness. _Jane Eyre_
and _Shirley_ and _Villette_ could not have been written unless, for
long years, the world had been "a poisoned place" for Charlotte Brontë.

It has been excellently said by Mrs. Humphry Ward that in many respects,
and to the very last, the Brontës challenge no less than they attract
us. This is an aspect which, in the midst of rapturous modern
heroine-worship, we are apt to forget. Thackeray, who respected the
genius of the family, and was immensely kind to the author of _Jane
Eyre_, never really felt comfortable in her company. We know how he
stole out of his own front-door, and slipped away into the night to
escape her. "A very austere little person," he called her, and we may
put what emphasis on the austerity we will. I feel sure that any
maladroit "white-washing of Charlotte" will tend, sooner or later,
good-natured though it may be, in a failure to comprehend what she
really was, in what her merit consisted, what the element in her was
that, for instance, calls us here together nearly half a century after
she completed her work and passed away. Young persons of genius very
commonly write depressing books; since, the more vivid an unripe
creature's impression of life is, the more acute is its distress. It is
only extremely stupid Sunday-school children who shout in chorus, "We
are so happy, happy, happy!" Genius thrown naked, with exposed nerves,
on a hard indifferent world, is never "happy" at first. Earth is a
"poisoned place" to it, until it has won its way and woven its garments
and discovered its food.

But in the case of Charlotte Brontë, unhappiness was more than juvenile
fretfulness. All her career was a revolt against conventionality,
against isolation, against irresistible natural forces, such as climate
and ill-health and physical insignificance. Would this insubmissive
spirit have passed out of her writings, as it passed, for instance, out
of those of George Sand? I am not sure, for we see it as strongly,
though more gracefully and skilfully expressed, in _Villette_ as in the
early letters which her biographers have printed. Her hatred of what was
commonplace and narrow and obvious flung her against a wall of
prejudice, which she could not break down. She could only point to it by
her exhausting efforts; she could only invite the generation which
succeeded her to bring their pickaxes to bear upon it. Hence, to the
very last, she seems, more than any other figure in our literature, to
be forever ruffled in temper, for ever angry and wounded and indignant,
rejecting consolation, crouched like a sick animal in the cavern of her
own quenchless pride. This is not an amiable attitude, nor is it
historically true that this was Charlotte Brontë's constant aspect. But
I will venture to say that her amiabilities, her yielding moods, are
really the unessential parts of her disposition, and that a certain
admirable ferocity is the notable feature of her intellectual character.

Her great heart was always bleeding. Here at Dewsbury, in the years we
are contemplating, the hemorrhage was of the most doleful kind, for it
was concealed, suppressed, it was an inward flow. When once she became
an author the pain of her soul was relieved. She said, in 1850, looking
back on the publication of the hapless first volume of poems, "The mere
effort to succeed gave a wonderful zest to existence." Then, a little
later, when no one had paid the slightest attention to the slender trio
of maiden voices, "Something like the chill of despair began to invade
their hearts." With a less powerful inspiration, they must have ceased
to make the effort; they must have succumbed in a melancholy oblivion.
But they were saved by the instinct of a mission. It was not their
private grief which primarily stirred them. What urged them on was the
dim consciousness that they gave voice to a dumb sense of the suffering
of all the world. They had to go on working; they had to pursue their
course, though it might seem sinister or fatal; their business was to
move mankind, not to indulge or please it. They "must be honest; they
must not varnish, soften, or conceal."

What Charlotte Brontë was learning to do in her grim and, let us admit
it, her unlovely probation on Dewsbury Moor, was to introduce a fresh
aspect of the relations of literature to life. Every great writer has a
new note; hers was--defiance. All the aspects in which life presented
itself to her were distressing, not so much in themselves as in herself.
She rebelled against the outrages of poverty, and she drank to its dregs
the cup of straitened circumstances. She was proud, as proud as Lucifer,
and she was forced into positions which suppleness and cheerfulness
might have made tolerable, if not agreeable. She wrung from these
positions their last drop of bitterness. A very remarkable instance of
this may be found in her relation to the Sidgwick family, who, by
universal report, were generous, genial, and unassuming. To Charlotte
Brontë these kindly, if somewhat commonplace folk, grew to seem what a
Turkish pasha seems to the inhabitants of a Macedonian village. It was
not merely the surroundings of her life--it was life itself, in its
general mundane arrangements, which was intolerable to her. She fretted
in it, she beat her wings against its bars, and she would have done the
same if those bars had been of gold, and if the fruits of paradise had
been pushed to her between them. This, I think, is why the expression of
her anger seems too often disproportionate, and why her irony is so apt
to be preposterous. She was born to resist being caged in any form. Her
defiance was universal, and often it was almost indiscriminate.

Do not let us presume to blame this insubmission. Still less let us
commit the folly of minimising it. A good cheerful little Charlotte
Brontë, who thought the best of everybody, who gaily took her place
without a grudging sigh, whose first aim was to make those about her
happy and to minister to their illusions, would have been a much more
welcome inmate of Miss Wooler's household than the cantankerous
governess whom nobody could please, whose susceptibilities were always
on edge, whose lonely arrogance made her feared by all but one or two
who timidly persisted in loving her. But such a paragon of the obvious
virtues would have passed as the birds pass and as the flowers. She
would have left no mark behind. She would never have enriched the
literature of England by one of its master-evidences of the force of
human will. She would never have stirred hundreds of thousands of
consciences to a wholesome questioning of fate and their own souls.

Let us endeavour to pursue the inquiry a few steps further. It is
impossible to separate the ethical conditions of an author's mind from
the work that he produces. The flower requires the soil; it betrays in
its colour and its perfume the environment of its root. The moral
constitution of the writer is reflected in the influence of the written
page. This is the incessant contention; on one hand the independence of
art asserts itself; on the other, it is impossible to escape from the
implicit influence of conduct upon art. There have been few writers of
any age in whom this battle raged more fiercely than it did in Charlotte
Brontë. Her books, and those of her sisters, seem anodyne enough to-day;
to readers of a sensitive species they seemed, when they were published,
as dangerous as _Werther_ had been, as seductive as the _Nouvelle
Heloïse_. The reason of this was, in the main, the spirit of revolt
which inspired them. There was something harsh and glaring in their
landscape; there was that touch of Salvator Rosa which one of their
earliest critics observed in them. But more essential was the
stubbornness, the unflinching determination to revise all accepted
formulas of conduct, to do this or that, not because it was usual to do
it, but because it was rational, and in harmony with human nature.

Into an age which had become almost exclusively utilitarian, and in
which the exercise of the imagination, in its real forms, was sedulously
discountenanced, Charlotte Brontë introduced passion in the sphere of
prose fiction, as Byron had introduced it in the sphere of verse thirty
years earlier. It was an inestimable gift; it had to come to us, from
Charlotte Brontë or another, to save our literature from a decline into
triviality and pretension. But she suffered, as Byron had suffered, in
the direct ratio of her originality. If a writer employs passion in an
age which has ceased to recognise it as one of the necessities of
literary vitality he is safe to be accused of perverting his readers.
Balzac says, "When nothing else can be charged against an author, the
reproach of immorality is thrown at his head." When we study the record
of the grim life of the sisters at Haworth, like that of three young
soldiers round a camp-fire with the unseen enemy prowling in the
darkness just out of their sight--when we think of the strenuous vigil,
the intractable and indomitable persistence, the splendour of the
artistic result--we may console ourselves in our anger at the insults
they endured, by reflecting how little they cared. And their noble
indifference to opinion further endears them to us. We may repeat of
them all what Charlotte in a letter once said of Emily, "A certain
harshness in her powerful and peculiar character only makes me cling to
her more."

This insubmissiveness, which was the unconscious armour given to protect
her against the inevitable attacks of fortune, while, on the other hand,
it was the very sign-manual of Charlotte's genius, was, on the other, a
drawback from which she did not live long enough to emancipate her
nature. It is responsible for her lack of interest in what is delicate
and complex; it excused to herself a narrowness of vision which we are
sometimes tempted to find quite distressing. It is probably the cause of
a fault that never quits her for long, a tendency to make her characters
express themselves with a lyrical extravagance which sometimes comes
close to the confines of rodomontade. Charlotte Brontë never arrives at
that mastery of her material which permits the writer to stand apart
from his work, and sway the reader with successive tides of emotion
while remaining perfectly calm himself. Nor is she one of those whose
visible emotion is nevertheless fugitive, like an odour, and evaporates,
leaving behind it works of art which betray no personal agitation. On
the contrary, her revolt, her passion, all the violence of her
sensibility, are present on her written page, and we cannot read it with
serenity or with a merely captious curiosity, because her own eager
spirit, immortal in its active force, seems to throb beside it.

The aspect of Charlotte Brontë which I have tried to indicate to you
to-day, and which I have sketched thus hastily and slightly against the
background of her almost voiceless residence in Dewsbury, is far from
being a complete or unique one. I offer it to you only as a single facet
of her wonderful temperament, of the rich spectacle of her talent. I
have ventured to propose it, because, in the multiplication of honours
and attentions, the tendency to deify the human, to remove those
phenomena of irregularity which are the evidence of mortal strength,
grows irresistible, and we find ourselves, unconsciously, substituting a
waxen bust, with azure eyes and golden hair, for the homely features
which (if we could but admit it) so infinitely better match the honest
stories. Let us not busy ourselves to make excuse for our austere little
genius of the moors. Let us be content to take her exactly as she was,
with her rebellion and her narrowness, her angers and her urgencies,
perceiving that she had to be this sorrowful offspring of a poisoned
world in order to clear the wells of feeling for others, and to win from
emancipated generations of free souls the gratitude which is due to a
precursor.

[Footnote 7: Address delivered before the Brontë Society in the Town
Hall of Dewsbury, March 28th, 1903.]



THE NOVELS OF BENJAMIN DISRAELI


It is not easy for a man whose sovereign ambition is seen to be leading
him with great success in a particular direction to obtain due credit
for what he accomplishes with less manifest success in another. There is
no doubt that Disraeli as an author has, at all events until very
lately, suffered from the splendour of his fame as a politician. But he
was an author long before he became a statesman, and it certainly is a
little curious that even in his youth, although he was always
commercially successful with his books, they were never, as we say,
"taken seriously" by the critics. His earliest novels were largely
bought, and produced a wide sensation, but they were barely accepted as
contributions to literature. If we look back to the current criticism of
those times, we find such a book as _Dacre_, a romance by the Countess
of Morley, which is now absolutely forgotten, treated with a dignity and
a consideration never accorded to _The Young Duke_ or to _Henrietta
Temple_. Even Disraeli's satiric squibs, in the manner of Lucian and
Swift, which seem to us among the most durable ornaments of light
literature in the days of William IV., were read and were laughed at,
but were not critically appraised.

So, too, at the middle period of Disraeli's literary life, such books as
_Coningsby_ and _Tancred_ were looked upon as amusing commentaries on
the progress of a strenuous politician, not by any means, or by any
responsible person, as possible minor classics of our language. And at
his third period, the ruling criticism of the hour was aghast at faults
which now entertain us, and was blind to sterling merits which we are
now ready to acknowledge. Shortly after his death, perhaps his most
brilliant apologist was fain to admit that if Disraeli had been
undistinguished as a speaker, his novels would have been "as the flowers
of the field, charming for the day which was passing over them, and then
forgotten." It is only since the beginning of the present century that a
conviction has been gaining ground that some of these books were in
themselves durable, not because they were the work of a man who became
Prime Minister of England and made his sovereign Empress of India, but
as much or as little as if they had been composed by a recluse in a
hermitage. This impression has now become so general with enlightened
critics that the danger seems to be that we should underrate certain
excesses of rhetoric and the Corinthian mode the errors of which used to
be over-emphasised, but should not, in a comparative survey of Victorian
literature, be neglected as serious drawbacks to our perfect enjoyment
of the high-spirited, eloquent, and ardent writings of Benjamin
Disraeli. It is in this spirit of moderation that I now attempt a rapid
sketch of his value as an English author.


I

There is, perhaps, no second example of a writer whose work is divided,
as is that of Disraeli, into three totally distinct periods. Other
authors, as for example, the poet Crabbe, and in a less marked degree
Rogers, have abandoned the practice of writing for a considerable number
of years, and then have resumed it. But the case of Disraeli seems to be
unique as that of a man who pursued the writing, of books with great
ardour during three brief and independent spaces of time. We have his
first and pre-Parliamentarian period, which began with _Vivian Grey_
(1826) and closed with _Venetia_ (1837). We have a second epoch, opening
with _Coningsby_ (1844) and ending with _Tancred_ (1847), during which
time he was working out his political destiny; and we have the novels
which he wrote after he had won the highest distinction in the State.
Certain general characteristics are met with in all these three classes,
but they have also differences which require to be noted and accounted
for. It will, therefore, be convenient to treat them successively.

As oblivion scatters its poppy over the prose fiction of the reigns of
George IV. and William IV., it becomes in creasingly dangerous that
criticism should take the early "fashionable" novels of Disraeli as
solitary representations of literary satire or observation. It is true
that to readers of to-day this class of romance is exclusively
suggestive of _Vivian Grey_ and its fellows, with perhaps the _Pelham_
of Bulwer. But this was not the impression of the original readers of
these novels, who were amused by them, but found nothing revolutionary
in their treatment of society. In the course of _The Young Duke_,
written in 1829, Disraeli suggests an amiable rivalry with the romances
"written by my friends Mr. Ward and Mr. Bulwer." The latter name had
only just risen above the horizon, but that of Plumer Ward, forgotten as
it now is, was one to conjure by. Ward was the author of _Tremaine_
(1825) and _De Vere_ (1827), two novels of the life of a modern English
gentleman, which seems to a reader to-day to be insipid and dull enough.
But they contained "portraits" of public persons, they undertook to hold
the mirror up to the political and fashionable world of London, and they
lashed that fastidiousness which was considered to be the foible of the
age.

The books of Plumer Ward, who was an accomplished personage in advancing
years, were treated with marked distinction in the press, and were
welcomed by critics who deigned to take little notice of even such books
as _Granby_ and _Dacre_. But the stories of the youthful Disraeli
belonged to a class held in still less esteem than those just mentioned.
They had to hold their own as best they might in rivalry with a huge
flight of novels of fashionable life, all of them curiously similar in
general treatment. Above these the romances of Plumer Ward rose in a
sort of recognised dignity, as two peaks around which were crowded
innumerable hillocks. It is necessary to recall readers of to-day, who
think of _Vivian Grey_ as a work of amazing novelty, to the fact that
the _genre_ it represents to us was one which had been lifted into high
credit the year before by the consecrated success of _Tremaine_, and was
at that moment cultivated by a multitude of minor novelists.

There was, however, a distinction, and it lay in the greater fund of
animal spirits which Disraeli brought to his business. _Vivian Grey_ was
absurd, but it was fresh and popular, and it pleased at once. As the
opening work of a literary career, it promised well; the impertinent
young gentleman dashed off to Parnassus at a gallop. It was a bold bid
for personal distinction, which the author easily perceived already to
be "the only passport to the society of the great in England." _Vivian
Grey_ is little more than a spirited and daring boy's book; Disraeli
himself called it "a hot and hurried sketch." It was a sketch of what he
had never seen, yet of what he had begun to foresee with amazing
lucidity. It is a sort of social fairy-tale, where every one has
exquisite beauty, limitless wealth, and exalted rank, where the
impossible and the hyperbolic are the only homely virtues. There has
always been a tendency to exalt _Vivian Grey_ at the expense of _The
Young Duke_ (1831), Disraeli's next leading permanence; and, indeed, the
former has had its admirers who have preferred it to all the others in
this period. The difference is, however, not so marked as might be
supposed. In _The Young Duke_ the manner is not so burlesque, but there
is the same roughness of execution, combined with the same rush and
fire. In either book, what we feel to-day to be the great objection to
our enjoyment is the lack of verisimilitude. Who can believe in the
existence of persons whose titles are the Earl of Fitz-Pompey and Baron
Deprivyseal, or whose names are Lady Aphrodite and Sir Carte Blanche?
The descriptions are "high-falutin" beyond all endurance, and there is
particularly noticeable a kind of stylistic foppery, which is always
hovering between sublimity and a giggle.

But here is an example, from _Vivian Grey_, of Disraeli's earliest
manner:--

     "After a moment had passed, he was pouring forth in a rapid voice,
     and incoherent manner, such words as men speak only once. He spoke
     of his early follies, his misfortunes, his misery; of his matured
     views, his settled principles, his plans, his prospects, his hopes,
     his happiness, his bliss; and when he had ceased, he listened, in
     his turn, to some small still words, which made him the happiest of
     human beings. He bent down, he kissed the soft silken cheek which
     now he could call his own. Her hand was in his; her head sank upon
     his breast. Suddenly she clung to him with a strong clasp. 'Violet!
     my own, my dearest; you are overcome. I have been rash, I have been
     imprudent. Speak, speak, my beloved! say, you are not ill!'

     "She spoke not, but clung to him with a fearful strength, her head
     still upon his breast, her full eyes closed. Alarmed, he raised her
     off the ground, and bore her to the river-side. Water might revive
     her. But when he tried to lay her a moment on the bank, she clung
     to him gasping, as a sinking person clings to a stout swimmer. He
     leant over her; he did not attempt to disengage her arms; and, by
     degrees, by very slow degrees, her grasp loosened. At last her arms
     gave way and fell by her side, and her eyes partly opened.

     "'Thank God! Violet, my own, my beloved, say you are better!'

     "She answered not, evidently she did not know him, evidently she
     did not see him. A film was on her sight, and her eye was glassy.
     He rushed to the water-side, and in a moment he had sprinkled her
     temples, now covered with a cold dew. Her pulse beat not, her
     circulation seemed suspended. He rubbed the palms of her hands, he
     covered her delicate feet with his coat, and then rushing up the
     bank into the road, he shouted with frantic cries on all sides. No
     one came, no one was near. Again, with a cry of fearful anguish, he
     shouted as if an hyena were feeding on his vitals. No sound; no
     answer. The nearest cottage was above a mile off. He dared not
     leave her. Again he rushed down to the water-side. Her eyes were
     still open, still fixed. Her mouth also was no longer closed. Her
     hand was stiff, her heart had ceased to beat. He tried with the
     warmth of his own body to revive her. He shouted, he wept, he
     prayed. All, all in vain. Again he was in the road, again shouting
     like an insane being. There was a sound. Hark! It was but the
     screech of an owl!

     "Once more at the river-side, once more bending over her with
     starting eyes, once more the attentive ear listening for the
     soundless breath. No sound! not even a sigh! Oh! what would he have
     given for her shriek of anguish! No change had occurred in her
     position, but the lower part of her face had fallen; and there was
     a general appearance which struck him with awe. Her body was quite
     cold, her limbs stiffened. He gazed, and gazed, and gazed. He bent
     over her with stupor rather than grief stamped on his features. It
     was very slowly that the dark thought came over his mind, very
     slowly that the horrible truth seized upon his soul. He gave a loud
     shriek, and fell on the lifeless body of VIOLET FANE!"

A line in Disraeli's unfortunate tragedy of _Alarcos_ pathetically
admits: "Ay! ever pert is youth that baffles age!" The youth of Disraeli
was "pert" beyond all record, and those who cannot endure to be teased
should not turn to his early romances, or, indeed, to any of his
writings. _Henrietta Temple_ is the boldest attempt he ever made to tell
a great consecutive story of passion, and no doubt there have been those
who have palpitated over the love-at-first-sight of Ferdinand Armine and
Henrietta Temple. But Disraeli's serious vein is here over-luscious; the
love-passages are too emphatic and too sweet. An early critic spoke of
this _dulcia vitia_ of style which we meet with even in _Contarini
Fleming_ as the sin by which the young author was most easily beset. His
attempts at serious sentiment and pompous reflection are too often
deplorable, because inanimate and stilted. When he warns a heroine
against an error of judgment by shouting, "'Tis the madness of the fawn
who gazes with adoration on the lurid glare of the anaconda's eye," or
murmurs, "Farewell, my lovely bird; I'll soon return to pillow in thy
nest," we need all the stimulus of his irony and his velocity to carry
us over such marshlands of cold style.

Of these imperfections, fewer are to be found in _Venetia_ and fewest in
_Contarini Fleming_. This beautiful romance is by far the best of
Disraeli's early books, and that in which his methods at this period can
be most favourably studied. A curious shadow of Disraeli himself is
thrown over it all; it cannot be styled in any direct sense an
autobiography, and yet the mental and moral experiences of the author
animate every chapter of it. This novel is written with far more ease
and grace than any previous book of the author's, and Contarini gives a
reason which explains the improvement in his creator's manner when he
remarks: "I wrote with greater facility than before, because my
experience of life was so much increased that I had no difficulty in
making my characters think and act." _Contarini Fleming_ belongs to
1831, when its writer, at the comparatively ripe age of twenty-seven,
had already seen a vast deal of man and of the world of Europe.

We are not to believe the preposterous account that Contarini-Disraeli
gives of his methods of composition:--

     "My thoughts, my passion, the rush of my invention, were too quick
     for my pen. Page followed page; as a sheet was finished I threw it
     on the floor; I was amazed at the rapid and prolific production,
     yet I could not stop to wonder. In half a dozen hours I sank back
     exhausted, with an aching frame. I rang the bell, ordered some
     refreshment, and walked about the room. The wine invigorated me and
     warmed up my sinking fancy, which, however, required little fuel. I
     set to it again, and it was midnight before I retired to bed."

At this rate we may easily compute that the longest of his novels would
be finished in a week. _Contarini Fleming_ seems to have occupied him
the greater part of a year. He liked the public to think of him,
exquisitely habited, his long essenced hair falling about his eyes,
flinging forth a torrent of musky and mellifluous improvisation; as a
matter of fact he was a very hard worker, laborious in the arts of
composition.

It is to be noted that the whole tone of _Contarini Fleming_ is
intensely literary. The appeal to the intellectual, to the fastidious
reader is incessant. This is an attitude always rare in English fiction,
but at that epoch almost unknown, and its presence in the writings of
Disraeli gives them a cachet. Under all the preposterous conversation,
all the unruly turmoil of description, there runs a strong thread of
entirely sober, political, and philosophical ambition. Disraeli striving
with all his might to be a great poet, of the class of Byron and Goethe,
a poet who is also a great mover and master of men--this is what is
manifest to us throughout _Contarini Fleming_. It is almost pathetically
manifest, because Disraeli--whatever else he grew to be--never became a
poet. And here, too, his wonderful clairvoyance, and his command over
the vagaries of his own imagination, come into play, for he never
persuades himself, with all his dithyrambics, that Contarini is quite a
poet.

A new influence is felt upon his style, and it is a highly beneficial
one. Up to this date, Disraeli had kept Byron before him, and in his
serious moments he had endeavoured to accomplish in prose what the
mysterious and melancholy poet of the preceding generation had done in
verse. The general effect of this Byronism, in spite of a certain
buoyancy which carried the reader onwards, had been apt to be wearisome,
in consequence of the monotony of effort. The fancy of the author had
been too uniformly grandiose, and in the attempt to brighten it up he
had sometimes passed over into positive failure. The most unyielding
admirers of his early novels can hardly contradict a reader who
complains that he finds the adventures of the bandits at Jonstorna
insupportable and the _naïveté_ of Christiana mawkish. There are pages
in _Alroy_ that read as if they were written for a wager, to see how
much balderdash the public will endure. Disraeli seems to have been
conscious of this weakness, and he tried to relieve the pompous gravity
of his passionate scenes by episodes of irony and satire. From his
earliest days these were apt to be very happy; they were inspired,
especially in the squibs, by Lucian and Swift.

But in _Contarini Fleming_ we detect a new flavour, and it is a very
fortunate one. The bitterness of Swift was never quite in harmony with
the genius of Disraeli, but the irony of Voltaire was. The effect of
reading _Zadig_ and _Candide_ was the completion of the style of
Disraeli; that "strange mixture of brilliant fantasy and poignant truth"
which he rightly perceived to be the essence of the philosophic _contes_
of Voltaire, finished his own intellectual education. Henceforth he does
not allow his seriousness to overweigh his liveliness; if he detects a
tendency to bombast, he relieves it with a brilliant jest. Count de
Moltke and the lampoons offer us a case to our hand; "he was just the
old fool who would make a cream cheese," says Contarini, and the
startled laugh which greets him is exactly of the same order as those
which were wont to reward the statesman's amazing utterances in
Parliament.

In spite of a certain undeniable insipidity, the volumes of _Contarini
Fleming_ cannot but be read with pleasure. The mixture of Byron and
Voltaire is surprising, but it produces some agreeable effects. There is
a dash of Shelley in it, too, for the life on the isle of Paradise with
Alcesté Contarini is plainly borrowed from _Epiphsychidion_. Disraeli
does not even disdain a touch of "Monk" Lewis without his
voluptuousness, and of Mrs. Radcliffe without her horrors, for he is
bent on serving up an olio entirely in the taste of the day. But through
it all he is conspicuously himself, and the dedication to beauty and the
extraordinary intellectual exultation of such a book as _Contarini
Fleming_ are borrowed from no exotic source.

It is impossible to overlook the fascination which Venice exercises
over Disraeli in these early novels. Contarini's great ambition was to
indite "a tale which should embrace Venice and Greece." Byron's _Life
and Letters_ and the completion of Rogers' _Italy_ with Turner's
paradisaical designs had recently awakened to its full the romantic
interest which long had been gathering around "the sun-girt city."
Whenever Disraeli reaches Venice his style improves, and if he mourns
over her decay, his spirits rise when he has to describe her
enchantments by moonlight. He reserves his most delicate effects for
Greece and Venice:--

     "A Grecian sunset! The sky is like the neck of a dove! the rocks
     and waters are bathed with a violet light. Each moment it changes;
     each moment it shifts into more graceful and more gleaming shadows.
     And the thin white moon is above all; the thin white moon, followed
     by a single star, like a lady by a page."

There are many passages as sumptuous as this in _Venetia_, the romance
about Byron and Shelley, which Disraeli was thought indiscreet in
publishing so soon after Byron's death. In the story the heroine Venetia
is the daughter of Shelley (Marmion Herbert) and the bride of Byron
(Lord Cadurcis). Marmion is a most melodramatic figure, but the
indiscretions are not noticeable nowadays, while the courage with which
the reviled and hated Shelley is described in the preface to Lord
Lyndhurst as one of "the most renowned and refined spirits that have
adorned these our latter days" is highly characteristic of Disraeli. The
reception of Lord Cadurcis in the House of Peers and the subsequent riot
in Palace Yard mark, perhaps, the highest point in direct narrative
power which the novelist had yet reached; but _Venetia_ was not liked,
and Disraeli withdrew from literature into public life.


II

When Disraeli resumed the art of the novelist, he was no longer talking
of what lay outside his experience when he touched on politics. In 1837
he had entered the House at last, as Member for Maidstone, and although
his enemies roared him down on the first occasion of his rising to
speak, he soon learned how to impose his voice on Parliament. In 1839
his declaration that "the rights of labour are as sacred as the rights
of property" made him famous, and in 1841 he was one of Sir Robert
Peel's Conservative army in the House. Then followed the formation of
the Young England Party, with Disraeli as one of its leaders; these men
broke away from Peel, and held that the Tory Party required stringent
reform from within. It was in 1843 that Henry Thomas Hope, of Deepdene,
urged, at a meeting of the Young Englanders, the expediency of
Disraeli's "treating in a literary form those views and subjects which
were the matter of their frequent conversations." Disraeli instantly
returned to literary composition, and produced in quick succession the
four books which form the second section of his work as an author; these
are _Coningsby_, _Sybil_, _Tancred_, and the _Life of Lord George
Bentinck_.

In this group of books we observe, in the first place, a great advance
in vitality and credibility over the novels of the earlier period.
Disraeli is now describing what he knows, no longer what he hopes in
process of time to know. He writes from within, no longer from without
the world of political action. These three novels and a biography are
curiously like one another in form, and all equally make a claim to be
considered not mere works of entertainment, but serious contributions to
political philosophy. The assumption is borne out by the character of
the books, each of which had a definite aim and purpose. _Coningsby_
was designed to make room for new talent in the Tory Party by an
unflinching attack on the "mediocrities." In _Sybil_ the heartless abuse
of capital and the vices of class distinction are exposed. _Tancred_ is
a vision of better things to follow upon the reforms already indicated.
In _Lord George Bentinck_, under the guise of a record of the struggle
between Protection and Free Trade, we have a manual of personal conduct
as applied to practical politics.

In all these works narrative pure and simple inclines to take a
secondary place. It does so least in _Coningsby_ which, as a story, is
the most attractive book of Disraeli's middle period, and one of the
most brilliant studies of political character ever published. The tale
is interspersed with historical essays, which impede its progress but
add to its weight and value. Where, however, the author throws himself
into his narrative, the advance he has made in power, and particularly
in truth of presentment, is very remarkable. In the early group of his
novels he had felt a great difficulty in transcribing conversations so
as to produce a natural and easy effect. He no longer, in _Coningsby_,
is confronted by this artificiality. His dialogues are now generally
remarkable for their ease and nature. The speeches of Rigby (who
represents John Wilson Croker), of Lord Monmouth (who stands for Lord
Hertford), of the Young Englanders themselves, of the laughable chorus
of Taper and Tadpole, who never "despaired of the Commonwealth," are
often extremely amusing. In _Coningsby_ we have risen out of the
rose-coloured mist of unreality which hung over books like _The Young
Duke_ and _Henrietta Temple_. The agitated gentleman whose peerage hangs
in the balance, and who on hearing that the Duke of Wellington is with
the King breathes out in a sigh of relief "Then there _is_ a
Providence," is a type of the subsidiary figure which Disraeli had now
learned to introduce with infinite lightness of irony.

Disraeli had a passion for early youth, and in almost all his books he
dwells lovingly upon its characteristics. It is particularly in
_Contarini Fleming_ and in _Coningsby_--that is to say, in the best
novels of his first and of his second period--that he lingers over the
picture of schoolboy life with tenderness and sympathy. We have only to
compare them, however, to see how great an advance he had made in ten
years in his power of depicting such scenes. The childish dreams of
Contarini are unchecked romance, and though the friendship with Musæus
is drawn with delicacy and insight, and though that is an extremely
pretty scene where Christiana soothes the pride of Contarini, yet a
manliness and a reality are missing which we find in the wonderful Eton
scenes of _Coningsby_.

Disraeli's comprehension of the feelings of half-grown ambitious boys of
good family was extraordinary, and when we consider that he had never
been to a public school, his picture of the life and conversation at
Eton is remarkable for its fidelity to nature. The relation of the elder
schoolboys to one another--a theme to which he was fond of recurring--is
treated in a very adroit and natural spirit, not without a certain
Dorian beauty. This preoccupation with the sentiments and passions of
schoolboys was rather crudely found fault with at the time. We need have
no difficulty in comprehending the pleasure he felt in watching the
expansion of those youthful minds from whom he hoped for all that was to
make England wise and free. The account of Coningsby's last night at
Eton is one of the most deeply felt pages which Disraeli ever composed,
and here it may be said that the careful avoidance of all humour--an act
of self-denial which a smaller writer would not have been capable of--is
justified by the dignified success of a very dangerous experiment.

The portraiture of living people is performed with the greatest
good-nature. It is difficult to believe that the most sensitive and the
most satirised could really be infuriated, so kindly and genial is the
caricaturing. We are far here from Swift's bludgeon and from Voltaire's
poisoned needle. The regeneration of the social order in England, as
Disraeli dreamed it, involved the removal of some mediocrities, but he
was neither angry nor impatient. The "brilliant personages who had just
scampered up from Melton, thinking it probable that Sir Robert might
want some moral Lords of the Bedchamber," and the Duke, who "might have
acquired considerable information, if he had not in his youth made so
many Latin verses," were true to their principles, and would scarcely
have done more than blush faintly when he poked his fun at them. Of all
the portraits none is more interesting than that of the dark, pale
stranger, Sidonia, as he revealed himself to Coningsby at the inn in the
forest, over the celebrated dish of "still-hissing bacon and eggs that
looked like tufts of primroses." This was a figure which was to recur,
and to become in the public mind almost coincident with that of Disraeli
himself.

When we pass from _Coningsby_ to _Sybil_ we find the purely narrative
interest considerably reduced in the pursuit of a scheme of political
philosophy. This is of all Disraeli's novels the one which most
resembles a pamphlet on a serious topic. For this reason it has never
been a favourite among his works, and his lighter readers have passed it
over with a glance. _Sybil_, however, is best not read at all if it is
not carefully studied. In the course of _Coningsby_, that young hero had
found his way to Manchester, and had discovered in it a new world,
"poignant with new ideas, and suggestive of new trains of thought and
feeling." His superficial observation had revealed many incongruities in
our methods of manipulating wealth, and Disraeli had sketched the
portrait of Mr. Jawster Sharp with a superfluity of sarcastic wit. But
it was not until somewhat later that the condition of the
working-classes in our northern manufacturing districts began to attract
his most serious attention. The late Duke of Rutland, that illustrious
and venerable friend who alone survived in the twentieth century to bear
witness to the sentiments of Young England, told me that he accompanied
Disraeli on the journey which led to the composition of Sybil, and that
he never, in long years of intimacy, saw him so profoundly moved as he
was at the aspect of the miserable dwellings of the hand-loom workers.

All this is reflected on the surface of _Sybil_, and, notwithstanding
curious faults in execution, the book bears the impress of a deep and
true emotion. Oddly enough, the style of Disraeli is never more stilted
than it is in the conversations of the poor in this story. When Gerard,
the weaver, wishes to prevent the police-inspector from arresting his
daughter, he remarks: "Advance and touch this maiden, and I will fell
you and your minions like oxen at their pasture." Well may the serjeant
answer, "You _are_ a queer chap." Criticism goes further and says, "You
are a chap who never walked in wynd or factory of a Yorkshire town."
This want of nature, which did not extend to Disraeli's conversations
among well-to-do folks, was a real misfortune, and gave _Sybil_ no
chance of holding its own in rivalry with such realistic studies of the
depression of trade in Manchester as Mrs. Gaskell was presently to
produce, nor with the ease of dialogue in Dickens' Christmas Stories,
which were just now (in 1845) running their popular course. A happier
simplicity of style, founded on a closer familiarity, would have given
fresh force to his burning indignation, and have helped the cause of
Devils-dust and Dandy Mick. But the accident of stilted speech must not
blind us to the sincere and glowing emotion that inspired the pictures
of human suffering in _Sybil_.

Then followed _Tancred_, which, as it has always been reported,
continued to the last to be the author's favourite among his literary
offspring. Disraeli had little sympathy with either of the great parties
which in that day governed English political life. As time went on, he
became surer than ever of the degeneracy of modern society, and he began
to despair of discovering any cure for it. In _Tancred_ he laid aside in
great measure his mood of satirical extravagance. The whole of this book
is steeped in the colours of poetry--of poetry, that is to say, as the
florid mind of Disraeli conceived it. It opens--as all his books love to
open--with the chronicle of an ardent and innocent boy's career. This is
commonplace, but when Tancred, who is mainly the author's customary type
of young Englishman born in the purple, arrives in the Holy Land, a
flush of pure romance passes over the whole texture of the narrative.
Real life is forgotten, and we move in a fabulous, but intensely
picturesque, world of ecstasy and dream.

The Prerogation of Judaism, as it had been laid down by Sidonia in
_Coningsby_, is emphasised and developed, and is indeed made the central
theme of the story in _Tancred_. This novel is inspired by an outspoken
and enthusiastic respect for the Hebrew race and a perfect belief in its
future. In the presence of the mighty monuments of Jerusalem, Disraeli
forgets that he is a Christian and an ambitious member of the English
Parliament. His only solicitude is to recover his privileges as a Jew,
and to recollect that he stands in the majestic cradle of his race. He
becomes interpenetrated with solemn mysticism; a wind of faith blows in
his hair. He cries, "God never spoke except to an Arab," and we are
therefore not surprised to find an actual Divine message presently
pronounced in Tancred's ears as he stands on the summit of Mount Sinai.
This is, perhaps, the boldest flight of imagination which occurs in the
writings of Disraeli. Tancred endeavours to counteract the purely
Hebraic influences of Palestine by making a journey of homage to
Astarte, a mysterious and beautiful Pagan queen--an "Aryan," as he loves
to put it--who reigns in the mountains of Syria. But even she does not
encourage him to put his trust in the progress of Western Europe.

_Tancred_ is written in Disraeli's best middle style, full, sonorous,
daring, and rarely swelling into bombast. It would even be too uniformly
grave if the fantastic character of Facredeen did not relieve the
solemnity of the discourse with his amusing tirades. Like that of all
Disraeli's novels, the close of this one is dim and unsatisfactory. If
there is anything that the patient reader wants to know it is how the
Duke and Duchess of Bellemont behaved to the Lady of Bethany when they
arrived at Jerusalem and found their son in the kiosk under her
palm-tree. But this is curiosity of a class which Disraeli is not
unwilling to awaken, but which he never cares to satisfy. He places the
problems in a heap before us, and he leaves us to untie the knots. It is
a highly characteristic trait of his mind as a writer that he is for
ever preoccupied with the beginnings of things, and as little as
possible with their endings.

It is not, however, from _Tancred_ but from _Coningsby_, that we take
our example of Disraeli's second manner:--

     "Even to catch Lord Monmouth's glance was not an easy affair; he
     was much occupied on one side by the great lady, on the other were
     several gentlemen who occasionally joined in the conversation. But
     something must be done.

     "There ran through Coningsby's character, as we have before
     mentioned, a vein of simplicity which was not its least charm. It
     resulted, no doubt, in a great degree from the earnestness of his
     nature. There never was a boy so totally devoid of affectation,
     which was remarkable, for he had a brilliant imagination, a quality
     that, from its fantasies, and the vague and indefinite desires it
     engenders, generally makes those whose characters are not formed,
     affected. The Duchess, who was a fine judge of character, and who
     greatly regarded Coningsby, often mentioned this trait as one
     which, combined with his great abilities and acquirements so
     unusual at his age, rendered him very interesting. In the present
     instance it happened that, while Coningsby was watching his
     grandfather, he observed a gentleman advance, make his bow, say and
     receive a few words and retire. This little incident, however, made
     a momentary diversion in the immediate circle of Lord Monmouth, and
     before they could all resume their former talk and fall into their
     previous positions, an impulse sent forth Coningsby, who walked up
     to Lord Monmouth, and standing before him, said,

     "'How do you do, grandpapa?'

     "Lord Monmouth beheld his grandson. His comprehensive and
     penetrating glance took in every point with a flash. There stood
     before him one of the handsomest youths he had ever seen, with a
     mien as graceful as his countenance was captivating; and his whole
     air breathing that freshness and ingenuousness which none so much
     appreciates as the used man of the world. And this was his child;
     the only one of his blood to whom he had been kind. It would be an
     exaggeration to say that Lord Monmouth's heart was touched; but his
     good-nature effervesced, and his fine taste was deeply gratified.
     He perceived in an instant such a relation might be a valuable
     adherent; an irresistible candidate for future elections: a
     brilliant tool to work out the Dukedom. All these impressions and
     ideas, and many more, passed through the quick brain of Lord
     Monmouth ere the sound of Coningsby's words had seemed to cease,
     and long before the surrounding guests had recovered from the
     surprise which they had occasioned them, and which did not
     diminish, when Lord Monmouth, advancing, placed his arms round
     Coningsby with a dignity of affection that would have become Louis
     XIV., and then, in the high manner of the old Court, kissed him on
     each cheek.

     "'Welcome to your home,' said Lord Monmouth. 'You have grown a
     great deal.'

     "Then Lord Monmouth led the agitated Coningsby to the great lady,
     who was a Princess and an Ambassadress, and then, placing his arm
     gracefully in that of his grandson, he led him across the room, and
     presented him in due form to some royal blood that was his guest,
     in the shape of a Russian Grand Duke. His Imperial Highness
     received our hero as graciously as the grandson of Lord Monmouth
     might expect; but no greeting can be imagined warmer than the one
     he received from the lady with whom the Grand Duke was conversing.
     She was a dame whose beauty was mature, but still radiant. Her
     figure was superb; her dark hair crowned with a tiara of curious
     workmanship. Her rounded arm was covered with costly bracelets, but
     not a jewel on her finely-formed bust, and the least possible rouge
     on her still oval cheek. Madame Colonna retained her charms."


III

Nearly a quarter of a century passed, during which Disraeli slowly rose
to the highest honours in the State. Lord Derby died, and the novelist,
already Leader of the House of Commons, found himself called to be Prime
Minister of England. His first administration, however, was brief, and
in the last days of 1868 he resigned in favour of Mr. Gladstone. The
Liberals were in for five years, and Disraeli, in opposition, found a
sort of tableland stretch in front of him after so much arduous
climbing. It was at this moment, shortly after the resignation of the
Tory Minister, that the publisher of a magazine approached him with the
request that he would write a novel to appear in its pages. He was
offered, it is said, a sum of money far in excess of what any one, at
that time, had ever received for "serial rights." Disraeli refused the
offer, but it may have drawn his thoughts back to literature, and in the
course of 1869, after the disestablishment of the Church of Ireland was
completed, he found time to write what is unquestionably the greatest of
his literary works--the superb ironic romance of _Lothair_.

Eminent as he was and eminently successful, Disraeli was far, in 1870,
from having conquered public opinion in England. The reception of his
new novel was noisy, and enjoyed to the full the clamours of
advertisement, but it was not favourable. The critics laughed it to
scorn, and called it a farce and a failure. The _Quarterly Review_, in
the course of a savage diatribe, declared that it was "as dull as
ditch-water and as flat as a flounder," and in a graver mood reproved it
as a mere "bid for the bigoted voices of Exeter Hall." Some of the
criticisms were not wanting in acumen. It was perceived at once that, as
Theodora Campion is the heroine of the book, it was an error in art to
kill her off in the middle of it. Moreover, it is only fair to admit
that if the stormy Parliamentarian life Disraeli had led so long had
given him immense personal advantages, it had also developed some
defects. It had taught him boundless independence and courage, it had
given him a rare experience of men and manners, and it had lifted his
satire far above petty or narrow personal considerations. But it had
encouraged a looseness of utterance, a mixture of the colloquial and the
bombastic, which was unfortunate. In the best parts of _Coningsby_ and
of _Tancred_ he had shown himself a very careless writer of English. But
_Lothair_, even in its corrected form--and the first edition is a
miracle of laxity--is curiously incorrect. It reads as though it were
taken down from the flowing speech of a fine orator, not as though it
were painfully composed in a study; it contains surprising ellipses,
strange freaks of grammar. There was all this, and more, to encourage
the critics, whom Disraeli had gone out of his way to affront in a
violent epigram, to attack _Lothair_ with contempt and resentment.

The critics took irony for timidity; they thought that the sardonic
novelist was the dupe of the splendours which he invented and gloated
over. But if one thing is more evident than another to-day it is that
this gorgeous story of a noble boy, whose guardians, a Presbyterian earl
and a Roman cardinal, quarrelled for his soul and for his acres, is an
immense satire from first to last. In Disraeli's own words, used in
another sense, the keynote of _Lothair_ is "mockery blended with Ionian
splendour." Never had he mocked so dauntlessly, never had his fancy been
more exuberant, and those who criticise the magnificence must realise
that it was intentional. It was thus that Disraeli loved to see life,
and, most of all, the life he laughed at. He had always been gorgeous,
but he let himself go in _Lothair_; all is like the dream of a Lorenzo
dei Medicis or an Aurungzebe. Nothing is done by halves. Muriel Towers
was set on "the largest natural lake that inland England boasts"--some
lake far larger than Windermere and entirely unsuspected by geographers.
This piece of water is studded with "green islands," which is natural.
But the author cannot stay his hand: this largest of the English lakes
is also alive with "golden gondolas," which are rarer objects. In one of
the odd little flashes of self-criticism which illuminate the book
Lothair says of a certain northern garden, with its fanes and its
fountains, its glittering statues and its Babylonian terraces, that
there are "perhaps too many temples."

There are perhaps too many temples in the landscape of _Lothair_, but
they were put in on purpose. The splendour is part of the satire. When
the hero has ordered an architect to make some plans for a building, the
door opens and servants enter bearing "a large and magnificent portfolio
of morocco, made of prelatial purple with broad bands of gold and
alternate ornaments of a cross and a coronet." It is the sort of
portfolio that Belshazzar might have used, but no English master-builder
since time began ever launched forth into such splendour. This is
characteristic of Disraeli and of his book; it pleased him to wrap all
his fancies in jewelled cloth of gold. He chose that the world should
consist of nothing but Tudor palaces in colossal parks, and that time
should be no other than a perpetual Holy Week of golden ceremonial. He
knew his public, and that it adored these follies. He spoke to them in
the language that they loved, but in a tone of the most seraphical
disdain and irony.

What marks the whole of Disraeli's writings more than any other quality
is the buoyant and radiant temperament of their author. In _Lothair_ he
is like an inspired and enfranchised boy, set free from all the trammels
of reality, and yet bringing to the service of his theme the results of
an extraordinary inherited experience. If the picture is not real, we
may take courage to say that it is far better than reality--more rich,
more entertaining, more intoxicating. We have said that it is carelessly
written, but that is part of the author's superb self-confidence, and
when he is fortunately inspired, he obtains here an ease of style, a
mastery which he had never found before. The sureness of his touch is
seen in the epigrams which strew the pages of _Lothair_, and have become
part of our habitual speech--the phrase about eating "a little fruit on
a green bank with music"; that which describes the hansom cab, "'Tis the
gondola of London." This may lead us on to the consideration that
Disraeli is one of those who have felt most vividly and expressed most
gaily the peculiar physical beauty of London. He saw the Park as the
true Londoner sees it--when "the chestnuts are in silver bloom, and the
pink may has flushed the thorns, and banks of sloping turf are radiant
with plots of gorgeous flowers; when the water glitters in the sun, and
the air is fragrant with that spell which only can be found in
metropolitan mignonette." He describes as no one else has ever done with
equal mastery a stately and successful house-party in a great country
mansion. He had developed, when he composed _Lothair_, a fuller sense of
beauty than he had ever possessed before, but it revelled in forms that
were partly artificial and partly fabulous. An example of these forms
may now be welcome:--

     "Mr. Giles took an early easy opportunity of apprising Lady
     Farringford that she had nearly met Cardinal Grandison at dinner,
     and that his Eminence would certainly pay his respects to Mrs.
     Putney Giles in the evening. As Lady Farringford was at present a
     high ritualist, and had even been talked of as 'going to Rome,'
     this intelligence was stunning, and it was observed that her
     Ladyship was unusually subdued during the whole of the second
     course.

     "On the right of Lothair sate the wife of a Vice-Chancellor, a
     quiet and pleasing lady, to whom Lothair, with natural good
     breeding, paid snatches of happy attention, when he could for a
     moment with propriety withdraw himself from the blaze of
     Apollonia's coruscating conversation. Then there was a rather
     fierce-looking Red Ribbon, medalled as well as be-starred, and the
     Red Ribbon's wife, with a blushing daughter, in spite of her
     parentage not yet accustomed to stand fire. A partner and his
     unusually numerous family had the pleasure also of seeing Lothair
     for the first time, and there were no less than four M.P.'s, one of
     whom was even in office.

     "Apollonia was stating to Lothair, with brilliant perspicuity, the
     reasons which quite induced her to believe that the Gulf Stream had
     changed its course, and the political and social consequences that
     might accrue.

     "'The religious sentiment of the Southern races must be wonderfully
     affected by a more rigorous climate,' said Apollonia. 'I cannot
     doubt,' she continued, 'that a series of severe winters at Rome
     might put an end to Romanism.

     "'But is there any fear that a reciprocal influence might be
     exercised on the Northern nations?' inquired Lothair. 'Would there
     be any apprehension of our Protestantism becoming proportionately
     relaxed?'

     "'Of course not,' said Apollonia. 'Truth cannot be affected by
     climate. Truth is truth alike in Palestine and Scandinavia.'

     "'I wonder what the Cardinal would think of this,' said Lothair,
     'who, you tell me, is coming to you this evening.'

     "'Yes, I am most interested to see him, though he is the most
     puissant of our foes. Of course he would take refuge in sophistry;
     and science, you know, they deny.'

     "'Cardinal Grandison is giving some lectures on science,' said the
     Vice-Chancellor's lady, quietly.

     "'It is remorse,' said Apollonia. 'Their clever men can never
     forget that unfortunate affair of Galileo, and think they can
     divert the indignation of the nineteenth century by mock zeal about
     red sandstone or the origin of species.'

     "'And are you afraid of the Gulf Stream?' inquired Lothair of his
     calmer neighbour.

     "'I think we want more evidence of a change. The Vice-Chancellor
     and I went down to a place we have near town on Saturday, where
     there is a very nice piece of water; indeed, some people call it a
     lake; it was quite frozen, and my boys wanted to skate, but that I
     would not permit.'

     "'You believe in the Gulf Stream to that extent,' said Lothair; 'no
     skating.'

     "The Cardinal came early; the ladies had not long left the
     dining-room. They were agitated when his name was announced; even
     Apollonia's heart beat; but then that might be accounted for by the
     inopportune recollection of an occasional correspondence with
     Caprera.

     "Nothing could exceed the simple suavity with which the Cardinal
     appeared, approached, and greeted them. He thanked Apollonia for
     her permission to pay his respects to her, which he had long
     wished to do; and then they were all presented, and he said exactly
     the right thing to every one."

Disraeli began his career, as I have pointed out in the earlier part of
this essay, as a purveyor of entertainment to the public in a popular
and not very dignified kind. He contended with the crowd of fashionable
novelists whose books consoled the leisure of Mrs. Wititterly as she
reclined on the drawing-room sofa. He found rivals in Bulwer and Mrs.
Gore, and a master in Plumer Ward. His brilliant stories sold, but at
first they won him little advantage. Slowly, by dint of his inherent
force of genius, his books have not merely survived their innumerable
fellows, but they have come to represent to us the form and character of
a whole school; nay, more, they have come to take the place in our
memories of a school which, but for them, would have utterly passed away
and been forgotten. Disraeli, accordingly, is unique, not merely because
his are the only fashionable novels of the pre-Victorian era which any
one ever reads nowadays, but because in his person that ineffable manner
of the "thirties" reaches an isolated sublimity and finds a permanent
place in literature. But if we take a still wider view of the literary
career of Disraeli, we are bound to perceive that the real source of the
interest which his brilliant books continue to possess is the evidence
their pages reveal of the astonishing personal genius of the man. Do
what we will, we find ourselves looking beyond Contarini Fleming and
Sidonia and Vivian Grey to the adventurous Jew who, by dint of infinite
resolution and an energy which never slept, conquered all the prejudices
of convention, and trod English society beneath his foot in the
triumphant irony of success. It is the living Disraeli who is always
more salient than the most fascinating of his printed pages.



THREE EXPERIMENTS IN PORTRAITURE


I

LADY DOROTHY NEVILL

AN OPEN LETTER

     Dear Lady Burghclere,

     When we met for the first time after the death of our friend, you
     desired me to produce what you were kind enough to call "one of my
     portraits." But the art of the portrait-writer is capricious, and
     at that time I felt wholly disinclined for the adventure. I excused
     myself on the ground that the three thick volumes of her
     reminiscences made a further portrait needless, and I reflected,
     though I did not say, that the difficulties of presenting the
     evanescent charm and petulant wit of Lady Dorothy were insuperable.
     I partly think so still, but your command has lingered in my memory
     all these months, and I have determined to attempt to obey you,
     although what I send you can be no "portrait," but a few leaves
     torn out of a painter-writer's sketch-book.

     The existence of the three published volumes does, after all, not
     preclude a more intimate study, because they are confessedly
     exterior. They represent what she saw and heard, not what others
     perceived in her. In the first place, they are very much better
     written than she would have written them herself. I must dwell
     presently on the curious fact that, with all her wit, she
     possessed no power of sustained literary expression. Her Memoirs
     were composed, as you know, by Mr. Ralph Nevill, who is a practised
     writer and not otherwise could they have been given to the public.
     On this point her own evidence is explicit. She wrote to me, in all
     the excitement of the success of the volume of 1906: "The Press has
     been wonderfully good to my little efforts, but to Ralph the better
     part is due, as, out of the tangled remnants of my brain, he
     extracted these old anecdotes of my early years." This is as
     bravely characteristic of her modesty as it is of her candour, but
     I think it shows that there is still room for some record of the
     more intimate features of her charming and elusive character. I
     take up my pencil, but with little hope of success, since no more
     formidable task could be set me. I will at least try to be, as she
     would have scorned me for not being, sincere.

     My friendship with Lady Dorothy Nevill occupied more than a quarter
     of a century. I met her first in the house of Sir Redvers and Lady
     Audrey Buller in the winter of 1887, soon after their return from
     Ireland. She had done me the great honour of desiring that I should
     be invited to meet her. She had known my venerable relative, the
     zoologist, Thomas Bell of Selborne, and she had corresponded in
     years long past, about entomology, with my father. We talked
     together on that first occasion for hours, and it seems to me that
     I was lifted, without preliminaries, into her intimacy. From that
     afternoon, until I drank tea with her for the last time, ten days
     before her death, the precious link was never loosened.

     In 1887, her great social popularity had not begun. She was, I now
     know, already near sixty, but it never occurred to me to consider
     her age. She possessed a curious static quality, a perennial
     youthfulness. Every one must have observed how like Watts' picture
     of her at twenty she still was at eighty-six. This was not
     preserved by any arts or fictile graces. She rather affected,
     prematurely, the dress and appearance of an elderly woman. I
     remember her as always the same, very small and neat, very pretty
     with her chiselled nose, the fair oval of her features, the
     slightly ironic, slightly meditative smile, the fascinating colour
     of the steady eyes, beautifully set in the head, with the eyebrows
     rather lifted as in a perpetual amusement of curiosity. Her head,
     slightly sunken into the shoulders, was often poised a little
     sideways, like a bird's that contemplates a hemp-seed. She had no
     quick movements, no gestures; she held herself very still. It
     always appeared to me that, in face of her indomitable energy and
     love of observation, this was an unconscious economy of force. It
     gave her a very peculiar aspect; I remember once frivolously saying
     to her that she looked as though she were going to "pounce" at me;
     but she never pounced. When she had to move, she rose energetically
     and moved with determination, but she never wasted a movement. Her
     physical strength--and she such a tiny creature--seemed to be
     wonderful. She was seldom unwell, although, like most very healthy
     people, she bewailed herself with exaggerated lamentations whenever
     anything was the matter with her. But even on these occasions she
     defied what she called "coddling." Once I found her suffering from
     a cold, on a very chilly day, without a fire, and I expostulated.
     She replied, with a sort of incongruity very characteristic of her,
     "Oh! none of your hot bottles for me!" In her last hours of
     consciousness she battled with the doctor's insistence that she
     must have a fire in her bedroom, and her children had to conceal
     the flame behind screens because she threatened to get out of bed
     and put it out. Her marvellous physical force has to be insisted
     on, for it was the very basis of her character.

     Her humorous petulance, her little sharp changes of voice, the
     malice of her downcast eyes, the calmness of her demure and easy
     smile--how is any impression to be given of things so fugitive?
     Her life, which had not been without its troubles and anxieties,
     became one of prolonged and intense enjoyment. I think that this
     was the main reason of the delight which her company gave to almost
     every one. She was like a household blaze upon a rainy day, one
     stretched out one's hands to be warmed. She guarded herself against
     the charge of being amiable. "It would be horrid to be amiable,"
     she used to say, and, indeed, there was always a touch of sharpness
     about her. She was amused once because I told her she was like an
     acidulated drop, half sweet and half sour. "Oh! any stupid woman
     can be sweet," she said, "it's often another name for imbecile."

     She had curious little prejudices and antipathies. I never fathomed
     the reason of her fantastic horror of the feasts of the Church,
     particularly of Christmas. She always became curiously agitated as
     the month of December waned. In her notes she inveighed, in quaint
     alarm, against the impending "Christmas pains and penalties." I
     think she disliked the disturbance of social arrangements which
     these festivals entailed. But there was more than that. She was
     certainly a little superstitious, in a mocking, eighteenth-century
     sort of way, as Madame du Deffand might have been. She constantly
     said, and still more frequently wrote, "D.V." after any project,
     even of the most frivolous kind. The idea was that one should be
     polite all round, in case of any contingency. When she was in the
     Riviera, she was much interested to hear that the Prince of Monaco
     had built and endowed a handsome church at Monte Carlo. "Very
     clever of him," she said, "for you never can tell."

     Lady Dorothy's entire absence of affectation was eminently
     attractive. She would be mistress of herself, though China fell.
     Her strange little activities, her needlework, her paperwork, her
     collections, were the wonder of everybody, but she did not require
     approval; she adopted them, in the light of day, for her own
     amusement. She never pushed her peculiarities on the notice of
     visitors, but, at the same time, if discovered in the act of some
     incredible industry, she went on with it calmly. When she was in
     Heidelberg in 1892 and successive years, what interested her was
     the oddity of the students' life; she expatiated to me on their
     beer and their sabre-cuts. Whenever I went abroad of late years, I
     was exhorted to send her picture post-cards from out-of-the-way
     places, and "Remember that I like vulgar ones best," she added
     imperturbably. The story is perhaps known to you of how, in a
     circle of superfine ladies, the conversation turned to food, and
     the company outdid one another in protestations of delicacy. This
     one could only touch a little fruit, and that one was practically
     confined to a cup of tea. Lady Dorothy, who had remained silent and
     detached, was appealed to as to her opinion. In a sort of loud
     cackling--a voice she sometimes surprisingly adopted--she replied,
     "Oh, give me a blow-out of tripe and onions!" to the confusion of
     the _précieuses_. She had a wholesome respect for food, quite
     orthodox and old-fashioned, although I think she ate rather
     markedly little. But she liked that little good. She wrote to me
     once from Cannes, "This is not an intellectual place, but then the
     body rejoices in the cooking, and thanks God for that." She liked
     to experiment in foods, and her guests sometimes underwent strange
     surprises. One day she persuaded old Lord Wharncliffe, who was a
     great friend of hers, to send her a basket of guinea-pig, and she
     entertained a very distinguished company on a fricassee of this
     unusual game. She refused to say what the dish was until every one
     had heartily partaken, and then Mr. George Russell turned suddenly
     pale and fled from the room. "Nothing but fancy," remarked the
     hostess, composedly. When several years ago there was a proposal
     that we should feed upon horse-flesh, and a purveyor of that dainty
     opened a shop in Mayfair, Lady Dorothy was one of the first of his
     customers. She sallied forth in person, followed by a footman with
     a basket, and bought a joint in the presence of a jeering populace.

     She had complete courage and absolute tolerance. Sometimes she
     pretended to be timid or fanatical, but that was only her fun. Her
     toleration and courage would have given her a foremost place among
     philanthropists or social reformers, if her tendencies had been
     humanitarian. She might have been another Elizabeth Fry, another
     Florence Nightingale. But she had no impulse whatever towards
     active benevolence, nor any interest in masses of men and women.
     And, above all, she was not an actor, but a spectator in life, and
     she evaded, often with droll agility, all the efforts which people
     made to drag her into propagandas of various kinds. She listened to
     what they had to say, and she begged for the particulars of
     specially awful examples of the abuses they set out to remedy. She
     was all sympathy and interest, and the propagandist started with
     this glittering ally in tow; but he turned, and where was she? She
     had slipped off, and was in contemplation of some other scheme of
     experience.

     She described her life to me, in 1901, as a "treadmill of
     friendship, perpetually on the go"; and later she wrote: "I am
     hampered by perpetual outbursts of hospitality in every shape."
     Life was a spectacle to her, and society a congeries of little
     _guignols_, at all of which she would fain be seated, in a front
     stall. If she complained that hospitality "hampered" her, it was
     not that it interfered with any occupation or duty, but simply that
     she could not eat luncheon at three different houses at once. I
     remember being greatly amused when I congratulated her on having
     enjoyed some eminent public funeral, by her replying, grudgingly:
     "Yes--but I lost another most interesting ceremony through its
     being at the same hour." She grumbled: "People are tugging me to
     go and see things," not from any shyness of the hermit or
     reluctance to leave her home, but simply because she would gladly
     have yielded to them all. "Such a nuisance one can't be in two
     places at once, like a bird!" she remarked to me.

     In this relation, her attitude to country life was droll. After
     long indulgence in her amazing social energy in London, she would
     suddenly become tired. The phenomenon never ceased to surprise her;
     she could not recollect that she had been tired before, and this
     must be the end of all things. She would fly to the country; to
     Dorsetshire, to Norfolk, to Haslemere, to what she called "the
     soberness of Ascot." Then would come letters describing the bliss
     of rural calm. "Here I am! Just in time to save my life. For the
     future, no clothes and early hours." That lasted a very short
     while. Then a letter signed "Your recluse, D.N.," would show the
     dawn of a return to nature. Then _boutades_ of increasing vehemence
     would mark the rising impatience. Sept 12: "How dreadful it is that
     the country is so full of ladies." Sept. 15: "I am surrounded by
     tall women and short women, all very tiresome." Sept. 20: "So dull
     here, except for one pleasant episode of a drunken housemaid."
     Sept. 23: "Oh! I am so longing for the flesh-pots of dear dirty old
     London"; and then one knew that her return to Charles Street would
     not be long delayed. She was very fond indeed of country life, for
     a short time, and she was interested in gardens, but she really
     preferred streets. "Eridge is such a paradise--especially the
     quadrupeds," she once wrote to me from a house in which she found
     peculiar happiness. But she liked bipeds best.

     However one may postpone the question, sooner or later it is
     necessary to consider the quality of Lady Dorothy Nevill's wit,
     since all things converge in her to that. But her wit is so
     difficult to define that it is not surprising that one avoids, as
     long as possible, coming actually to grips with it. We may lay the
     foundation of a formula, perhaps, by saying that it was a compound
     of solid good sense and an almost reckless whimsicality of speech.
     The curious thing about it was that it was not markedly
     intellectual, and still less literary. It had not the finish of
     such wit as is preserved in anthologies of humour. Every one who
     enjoyed the conversation of Lady Dorothy must have perceived with
     annoyance how little he could take away with him. Her phrases did
     not often recur to please that inward ear, "which is the bliss of
     solitude." What she said seemed at the time to be eminently right
     and sane; it was exhilarating to a high degree; it was lighted up
     by merriment, and piquancy, and salt; but it was the result of a
     kind of magic which needed the wand of the magician; it could not
     be reproduced by an imitator. It is very unfortunate, but the fact
     has to be faced. When we tell our grandchildren that Lady Dorothy
     Nevill was the finest female wit of her age, they will ask us for
     examples of her talent, and we shall have very few to give.

     She liked to discuss people better than books or politics or
     principles, although she never shrank from these. But it was what
     she said about human beings that kept her interlocutors hanging on
     her lips. She made extraordinarily searching strictures on persons,
     without malice, but without nonsense of any kind. Her own
     favourites were treated with reserve in this respect: it was as
     though they were put in a pen by themselves, not to be criticised
     so long as they remained in favour; and she was not capricious,
     was, on the contrary, conspicuously loyal. But they always had the
     impression that it was only by special licence that they escaped
     the criticism that every one else was subjected to. Lady Dorothy
     Nevill was a stringent observer, and no respecter of persons. She
     carried a bow, and shot at folly as it flew. But I particularly
     wish to insist on the fact that her arrows, though they were
     feathered, were not poisoned.

     Light was thrown on the nature of Lady Dorothy's wit by her
     correspondence. She could in no accepted sense be called a good
     letter-writer, although every now and then brilliantly amusing
     phrases occurred in her letters. I doubt whether she ever wrote one
     complete epistle; her correspondence consisted of tumultuous,
     reckless, sometimes extremely confused and incorrect notes, which,
     however, repeated--for those who knew how to interpret her
     language--the characteristics of her talk. She took no pains with
     her letters, and was under no illusion about their epistolary
     value. In fact, she was far too conscious of their lack of form,
     and would sign them, "Your incompetent old friend"; there was
     generally some apology for "this ill-written nonsense," or "what
     stuff this is, not worth your reading!" She once wrote to me: "I
     should like to tell you all about it, but alas! old Horace
     Walpole's talent has not descended on me." Unfortunately, that was
     true; so far as literary expression and the construction of
     sentences went, it had not. Her correspondence could never be given
     to the world, because it would need to be so much revised and
     expanded and smoothed out that it would no longer be hers at all.

     Nevertheless, her reckless notes were always delightful to receive,
     because they gave the person to whom they were addressed a
     reflection of the writer's mood at the moment. They were ardent and
     personal, in their torrent of broken sentences, initials, mis-spelt
     names and nouns that had dropped their verbs. They were not so good
     as her talk, but they were like enough to it to be highly
     stimulating and entertaining; and in the course of them phrases
     would be struck out, like sparks from flint, which were nearly as
     good, and of the very same quality, as the things she used to say.
     She wrote her letters on a fantastic variety of strangely coloured
     paper, pink and blue and snuff-brown, violet and green and grey,
     paper that was stamped with patterns like a napkin, or frilled like
     a lace handkerchief, or embossed with forget-me-nots like a child's
     valentine. She had tricks of time-saving; always put "I" for "one,"
     and "x" for "cross," a word which she, who was never cross, loved
     to use. "I did not care for any of the guests; we seemed to live in
     a storm of x questions and crooked answers," she would write, or "I
     am afraid my last letter was rather x."

     Lady Dorothy, as a letter-writer, had no superstitious reverence
     for the parts of speech. Like M. Bergeret, she "se moquait de
     l'orthographie comme une chose méprisable." The spelling in her
     tumultuous notes threw a light upon that of very fine ladies in the
     seventeenth century. She made no effort to be exact, and much of
     her correspondence was made obscure by initials, which she expected
     her friends to interpret by divination. From a withering
     denunciation of the Government she expressly excepts Mr. John Burns
     and "that much-abused Mr. Birhell, whom I like." From about 1899 to
     1903, I think that Lord Wolseley was the friend who occupied most
     of her thoughts. In her letters of those years the references to
     him are incessant, but when he is not "the F.M." and "our C.C.,"
     she rings the changes on all possible forms of his name, from
     "Wollesley" to "Walsey." When she wrote to me of the pleasure she
     had had in meeting "the Abbot Guaschet," it took me a moment to
     recognise the author of _English Monastic Life_. She would laugh
     herself at her spelling, and would rebut any one who teased her
     about it by saying, "Oh! What does it matter? I don't pretend to be
     a bright specimen--like you!" When she made arrangements to come to
     see me at the House of Lords, which she frequently did, she always
     wrote it "the Lord's House," as though it were a conventicle.

     One curious observation which the recipient of hundreds of her
     notes is bound to make, is the remarkable contrast between the
     general tone of them and the real disposition of their writer. Lady
     Dorothy Nevill in person was placid, indulgent, and calm; she never
     raised her voice, or challenged an opinion, or asserted her
     individuality. She played, very consistently, her part of the
     amused and attentive spectator in the theatre of life. But in her
     letters she pretended to be, or supposed herself called upon to
     seem, passionate and distracted. They are all twinkling with
     humorous or petulant exaggeration. She happens to forget an
     engagement, which was of no sort of importance, and this is how she
     apologises:--

     "To think that every hour since you said you would come I have
     repeated to myself--Gosse at 5, Gosse at 5, and then after all to
     go meandering off and leaving you to cuss and swear on the
     doorstep, and you will never come again now, really. No punishment
     here or hereafter will be too much for me. Lead me to the Red Hill
     Asylum, and leave me there."

     This was written nearly twenty years ago, and she was not less
     vivacious until the end. Lord Lansdowne tells me of an anonymous
     letter which he once received, to which she afterwards pleaded
     guilty. A cow used to be kept at the back of Lansdowne House, and
     the animal, no doubt feeling lonely, was in the habit of lowing at
     all sorts of hours. The letter, which was supposed to voice the
     complaint of the neighbours in Charles Street, was couched in the
     broadest Wiltshire dialect, and ended with the postscript: "Dang
     'un, there 'ee goes again!" As a matter of fact, her letters, about
     which she had no species of vanity or self-consciousness, were to
     her merely instruments of friendship. There was an odd mingling of
     affection and stiffness in them. She marshalled her acquaintances
     with them, and almost invariably they were concerned with
     arrangements for meeting or explanations of absence. In my own
     experience, I must add that she made an exception when her friends
     were abroad, when she took considerable pains to tell them the
     gossip, often in surprising terms. I was once regaled with her
     experiences as the neighbour of a famous African magnate, and with
     the remark, "Mrs. ----," a London fine lady of repute, "has been
     here, and has scraped the whole inside out of Mr. ----, and gone
     her way rejoicing." Nor did she spare the correspondent himself:--

     "Old Dr. ---- has been here, and tells me he admires you very much;
     but I believe he has lost his memory, and he never had good taste
     at any time."

     This was not a tribute which self-esteem could hug to its bosom. Of
     a very notorious individual she wrote to me:--

     "I thought I should never be introduced to him, and I had to wait
     100 years, but everything is possible in the best of worlds, and he
     was very satisfactory at last." Satisfactory! No word could be more
     characteristic on the pen of Lady Dorothy. To be "satisfactory,"
     whether you were the President of the French Republic or Lord
     Wolseley or the Human Elephant (a pathetic freak in whom she took a
     great interest), was to perform on the stage of life, in her
     unruffled presence, the part which you had been called upon by
     Providence to fill. Even a criminal might be "satisfactory" if he
     did his job thoroughly. The only entirely unsatisfactory people
     were those who were insipid, conventional, and empty. "The first
     principle of society should be to extinguish the bores," she once
     said. I remember going with her to the Zoo in 1898, and being
     struck with a remark which she made, not because it was important,
     but because it was characteristic. We were looking at the wolves
     which she liked; and then, close by, she noticed some kind of
     Indian cow. "What a bore for the wolves to have to live opposite a
     cow!" and then, as if talking to herself, "I do hate a ruminant!"

     Her relations to literature, art, and science were spectacular
     also. She was a sympathetic and friendly onlooker, always on the
     side of those things against the Philistines, but not affecting
     special knowledge herself. She was something of a virtuoso. She
     once said, "I have a passion for reading, but on subjects which
     nobody else will touch," and this indicated the independence of her
     mind. She read to please herself, and to satisfy her thirst for
     experience. When our friendship began, Zola was in the act of
     producing the tremendous series of his Rougon-Macquart novels. It
     was one of our early themes of conversation. Zola was then an
     object of shuddering horror to the ordinary English reader. Lady
     Dorothy had already read _L'Assommoir_, and had not shrunk from it;
     so I ventured to tell her of _La Terre_, which was just appearing.
     She wrote to me about it: "I have been reading Zola. He takes the
     varnish off rural life, I must say. Oh! these horrid demons of
     Frenchmen know how to write. Even the most disgusting things they
     know how to describe poetically. I wish Zola could describe
     Haslemere with all the shops shut, rain falling, and most of the
     inhabitants in their cups." She told me later--for we followed our
     Zola to _Lourdes_ and _Paris_--that some young Oxford prig saw _La
     Bête Humaine_ lying on the table at Charles Street, and remarked
     that Lady Dorothy could surely not be aware that that was "no book
     for a lady." She said, "I told him it was just the book for me!"

     She read Disraeli's novels over again, from time to time, with a
     renewal of sentiment. "I am dedicating my leisure hours to
     _Endymion_. What a charm after the beef and mutton of ordinary
     novels!" She gradually developed a cult for Swinburne, whom she had
     once scorned; in her repentance after his death, she wrote: "I
     never hear enough about that genius Swinburne! My heart warms when
     I think of him and read his poems." I think she was very much
     annoyed that he had never been a visitor at Charles Street. When
     Verlaine was in England, to deliver a lecture, in 1894, Lady
     Dorothy was insistent that, as I was seeing him frequently, I
     should bring the author of _Parallelement_ to visit her. She
     said--I think under some illusion--"Verlaine is one of my pet
     poets, though," she added, "not of this world." I was obliged to
     tell her that neither Verlaine's clothes, nor his person, nor his
     habits, admitted of his being presented in Mayfair, and that,
     indeed, it was difficult to find a little French eating-house in
     Soho where he could be at home. She then said: "Why can't you take
     me to see him in this eating-house?" I had to explain that of the
     alternatives that was really the least possible. She was not
     pleased.

     Nor am I pleased with this attempt of mine to draw the features of
     our wonderful fairy friend. However I may sharpen the pencil, the
     line it makes is still too heavy. I feel that these anecdotes seem
     to belie her exquisite refinement, the rapidity and delicacy of her
     mental movement. To tell them is like stroking the wings of a moth.
     Above all, it is a matter of despair to attempt to define her
     emotional nature. Lady Dorothy Nevill was possessed neither of
     gravity nor of pathos; she was totally devoid of sentimentality.
     This made it easy for a superficial observer to refuse to believe
     that the author of so many pungent observations and such apparently
     volatile cynicism had a heart. When this was once questioned in
     company, one who knew her well replied: "Ah! yes, she has a heart,
     and it is like a grain of mustard-seed!" But her kindliness was
     shown, with great fidelity, to those whom she really honoured with
     her favour. I do not know whether it would be strictly correct to
     say that she had the genius of friendship, because that supposes a
     certain initiative and action which were foreign to Lady Dorothy's
     habits. But she possessed, to a high degree, the genius of
     comradeship. She held the reins very tightly, and she let no one
     escape whom she wished to retain. She took immense pains to
     preserve her friendships, and indeed became, dear creature, a
     little bit tyrannical at last. Her notes grew to be excessively
     emphatic. She would begin a letter quite cheerfully with "Oh, you
     demon!" or complain of "total and terrible neglect of an old
     friend; I could fill this sheet of paper with an account of your
     misdeeds!" She was ingenious in reproach: "I cannot afford to waste
     penny after penny, and no assets forthcoming," or "I have only two
     correspondents, and one of them is a traitor; I therefore cease to
     write to you for ever!" This might sound formidable, but it was
     only one of the constant surprises of her humour, and would be
     followed next day by the most placable of notelets.

     Her curiosity with regard to life spread to her benevolences, which
     often took somewhat the form of voyages of discovery. Among these
     her weekly excursion to the London Hospital, in all weathers and in
     every kind of cheap conveyance, was prominent. I have to confess
     that I preferred that a visit to her should not be immediately
     prefaced by one of these adventures among the "pore dear things" at
     the hospital, because that was sure to mean the recital of some
     gruesome operation she had heard of, or the details of some almost
     equally gruesome cure. She enjoyed the whole experience in a way
     which is blank to the professional humanitarian, but I suspect the
     "pore dear things" appreciated her listening smile and sympathetic
     worldliness much more than they would have done the admonitions of
     a more conscious philanthropist.

     And, indeed, in retrospect, it is her kindliness that shines forth.
     She followed all that her friends did, everything that happened to
     those who were close to them. She liked always to receive the
     tribute of what she called my "literary efforts," and was
     ruthlessly sharp in observing announcements of them: "Publishing
     again, and of course no copy for poor old me," when not a volume
     had yet left the binders. She took up absurd little phrases with
     delightful _camaraderie_; I have forgotten why at one time she
     took to signing herself "Your Koh-i-Noor," and wrote: "If I can
     hope to be the Koh-i-Noor of Mrs. Gosse's party, I shall be sure to
     come on Monday." One might go on indefinitely reviving these
     memories of her random humour and kindly whimsicality. But I close
     on a word of tenderer gravity, which I am sure will affect you. She
     had been a little tyrannical, as usual, and perhaps thought the
     tone of her persiflage rather excessive; a few hours later came a
     second note, which began: "You have made my life happier for me
     these last years--you, and Lady Airlie, and dearest Winifred." From
     her who never gave way to sentimentality in any form, and who
     prided herself on being as rigid as a nut-cracker, this was worth
     all the protestations of some more ebullient being. And there, dear
     Lady Burghclere, I must leave this poor sketch for such approval as
     you can bring yourself to give it.

                                        Very faithfully yours,
                                              EDMUND GOSSE.
          _January 1914._


II

LORD CROMER AS A MAN OF LETTERS

In the obituary notices which attended the death of Lord Cromer, it was
necessary and proper that almost the whole space at the command of the
writers should be taken up by a sketch of his magnificent work as an
administrator, or, as the cant phrase goes, "an empire-builder." For
thirty years, during which time he advanced to be one of the most
powerful and efficient of proconsuls, he held a place in the political
world which arrested the popular imagination, and must continue to
outweigh all other aspects of his character. Of this side of Lord
Cromer's splendid career I am not competent to say a word. But there
was another facet of it, one more private and individual, which became
prominent after his retirement, I mean his intellectual and literary
activity, which I had the privilege of observing. It would be a pity,
perhaps, to let this be wholly submerged, and I propose to give, from my
own recollection, some features of it. Lord Cromer was the author of six
or seven published volumes, but these are before the public, and it is
needless to speak much about them. What may be found more interesting
are a few impressions of his attitude towards books and towards ideas.

On the first occasion on which I met him, he was characteristic. It was
some fifteen years ago, at the time when the brilliant young politicians
who called themselves (or were rather ineptly called) the Hooligans had
the graceful habit of asking some of their elders to dine with them in a
private room of the House of Commons. At one of these little dinners the
only guests were Lord Cromer and myself. I had never seen him before,
and I regarded him with some awe and apprehension, but no words had
passed between us, when the division-bell rang, and our youthful hosts
darted from the room.

The moment we were left alone, Lord Cromer looked across the deserted
tablecloth and said quietly, as though he were asking me to pass the
salt, "Where is Bipontium?" I was driven by sheer fright into an
exercise of intelligence, and answered at once, "I should think it must
be the Latin for Zweibrücken. Why?" "Oh! I saw this afternoon that my
edition of Diodorus Siculus was printed _ex typographia societatis
Bipontinæ_, and I couldn't imagine for the life of me what 'Bipontium'
was. No doubt you're quite right." Nothing could be more characteristic
of Lord Cromer's habit of mind than this sudden revulsion of ideas. His
active brain needed no preparation to turn from subject to subject, but
seemed to be always ready, at a moment's notice, to take up a fresh
line of thought with ardour. What it could not endure was to be left
stranded with no theme on which to expatiate. In succeeding years, when
it was often my daily enjoyment to listen to Lord Cromer's desultory
conversation, as it leaped from subject to subject, I often thought of
the alarming way in which "Bipontium" had pounced upon me at the
dinner-table in the House of Commons.

Some years passed before I had the privilege of renewing my experience
of that evening. It was not until after his retirement from Egypt in the
autumn of 1907 that I saw him again, and not then for some months. He
returned, it will be remembered, in broken health. He used to say that
when King Edward VII. wrote out to Cairo, strongly pressing him to stay,
he had replied, in the words of Herodotus, "I am too old, oh King, and
too inactive; so bid thou one of the younger men here to do these
things." He very soon, however, recovered elasticity of mind and body
when the load of office was removed from his shoulders, and "inactive"
was the last epithet which could ever be applied to Lord Cromer. He
began to attend the House of Lords, but, like a wise man, he was in no
hurry to speak there till he had grown accustomed to the tone of the
place. His earliest utterance (I may note the date, February 6th, 1908)
we listened to with equal respect and curiosity; this was a new element
from which much enjoyment might be expected.

This maiden speech was not long, but it produced a very happy
impression. The subject was the Anglo-Russian Convention, of which the
orator cordially approved, and I recall that a certain sensation was
caused by Lord Cromer's dwelling on the dangers of the Pan-Islamite
intrigues in Egypt. This is the sort of thing that the House of Lords
enjoys--a man of special knowledge speaking, almost confidentially, of
matters within his professional competency. During that year and the
next Lord Cromer spoke with increasing frequency. There were great
differences of opinion with regard to his efficiency in Parliament. I
may acknowledge that I was not an unmeasured admirer of his oratory.
When he rose from his seat on the Cross-bench, and advanced towards the
table, with a fine gesture of his leonine head, sympathy was always
mingled with respect. His independence and his honesty were patent, and
his slight air of authority satisfactory. His public voice was not
unpleasing, but when he was tired it became a little veiled, and he had
the sad trick of dropping it at the end of his sentences. I confess that
I sometimes found it difficult to follow what he was saying, and I do
not think that he understood how to fill a large space with his voice.
He spoke as a man accustomed to wind up the debates of a council sitting
round a table, rather than as a senator addressing the benches of
Parliament.

He was interested in the art of eloquence, and fond of criticising in
private the methods of other speakers. He had a poor opinion of much
studied oratory, and used to declare that no one had ever convinced him
by merely felicitous diction. Perhaps he did not sufficiently realise
that his own strength of purpose offered rather a granitic surface to
persuasion. But no doubt he was right in saying that, coming as he did
from the florid East, he found English eloquence more plain and
businesslike than he left it. He used to declare that he never spoke
impromptu if he could possibly help doing so, and he made great fun of
the statesmen who say, "Little did I think when I came down to this
House to-day that I should be called upon to speak," and then pour out
by heart a Corinthian discourse. Lord Cromer always openly and frankly
prepared his speeches, and I have seen him entranced in the process. As
he always had a classical reference for everything he did, he was in the
habit of mentioning that Demosthenes also was unwilling to "put his
faculty at the mercy of Fortune."

He became an habitual attendant at the House of Lords, and, while it was
sitting, he usually appeared in the Library about an hour before the
House met. He took a very lively interest in what was going on,
examining new books, and making a thousand suggestions. If the Lords'
Library contains to-day one of the most complete collections of Latin
and Greek literature in the country, this is largely due to the zeal of
Lord Cromer, who was always egging me on to the purchase of fresh
rarities. He was indefatigable in kindness, sending me booksellers'
catalogues in which curious texts were recorded, and scouring even Paris
and Leipzig in our behalf. When I entered into this sport so heartily as
to provide the Greek and Latin Fathers also for their Lordships, Lord
Cromer became unsympathetic. He had no interest whatever in Origen or
Tertullian, and I think it rather annoyed him to recall that several of
these oracles of the early Church had written in Greek. Nothing in
history or philosophy or poetry which the ancient world had handed down
to us came amiss to Lord Cromer, but I think he considered it rather
impertinent of the Fathers to have presumed to use the language of
Attica. He had not an ecclesiastical mind.

Lord Cromer's familiar preoccupation with the classics was a point in
his mental habits which deserves particular attention. I have always
supposed that he inherited it from his mother, the Hon. Mrs. Baring, who
was a Windham. She was a woman of learning; and she is said to have
discomfited Sir William Harcourt at a dinner-table by quoting Lucan in
direct disproof of a statement about the Druids which he had been rash
enough to advance. She sang the odes of Anacreon to her son in his
infancy, and we may conjecture that she sowed in his bosom the seeds of
his love of antiquity. Lord Cromer made no pretension to be what is
called an "exact" scholar, but I think it is a mistake to say, as has
been alleged, that he did not take up the study of Latin and Greek until
middle life. It is true that he enjoyed no species of university
training, but passed from Woolwich straight into the diplomatic service.
In 1861, at the age of twenty, he was appointed A.D.C. to Sir Henry
Storks in the Ionian Islands, and I believe that one of the first things
he did was to look about for an instructor in ancient Greek. He found
one in a certain Levantine in Corfu, whose name was Romano, and their
studies opened with the odes of Anacreon. Whether this was a
coincidence, or a compliment to Mrs. Baring, I do not know. This is a
rather different account from what Lord Cromer gave in the preface to
his _Paraphrases_, but I report it on his own later authority.

If his scholarship was not professorial, it was at least founded upon a
genuine and enduring love of the ancient world. I suppose that for fifty
years, after the episode in Corfu, however busy he was, however immersed
in Imperial policy, he rarely spent a day without some communing with
antiquity. He read Latin, and still more Greek, not in the spirit of a
pedant or a pedagogue, but genuinely for pleasure and refreshment. He
had no vanity about it, and if he had any doubt as to the meaning of a
passage he would "consult the crib," as he used to say. We may
conjecture further that he did not allow his curiosity to be balked by
the barrier of a hopelessly obscure passage, but leaped over it, and
went on. He always came back to Homer, whom he loved more than any other
writer of the world, and particularly to the _Iliad_, which I think he
knew nearly by heart. But he did not, as some pundits consider dignified
and necessary, confine himself to the reading of the principal classics
in order to preserve a pure taste. On the contrary, Lord Cromer,
especially towards the close of his life, pushed up into all the byways
of the Silver Age. As he invariably talked about the books he happened
to be reading, it was easy to trace his footsteps. Eight or nine years
ago he had a sudden passion for Empedocles, whose fragments he had found
collected and translated by Mr. Leonard, an American. Lord Cromer used
to march into the Library, and greet me by calling out, "Do you know?
Empedocles says" something or other, probably some parallelism with a
modern phrase, the detection of which always particularly amused Lord
Cromer.

In 1908 he took a fancy to Theognis, whose works I procured for him at
the House of Lords, since he happened not to possess that writer at 36
Wimpole Street. He would settle himself in an armchair in the
smoking-room, his eyes close to the book, and plunge into those dark
waters of the gnomic elegist. He loved maxims and the expression of
principles, and above all, as I have said, the discovery of identities
of thought between the modern and the ancient world. He was delighted
when he found in Theognis the proverb about having an ox on the tongue.
I suppose this was quite well known to the learned, but the charm of the
matter for Lord Cromer was that he was not deterred by any fear of
academic criticism, and found out these things for himself. He read
Theognis as other people read Rudyard Kipling, for stimulus and
pleasure. He swept merely "scholarly" questions aside. He read his
_Iliad_ like a love-letter, but he was bored to death by discussions
about the authorship of the Homeric epics.

In one matter, the serene good sense which was so prominently
characteristic of Lord Cromer tinged his attitude towards the classics.
He was not at all like Thomas Love Peacock, who entreated his friends to
desist from mentioning anything that had happened in the world for the
last 2,000 years. On the contrary, Lord Cromer was always bent on
binding the old and the new together. It was very noticeable in his
conversation that he was fond of setting classic instances side by side
with modern ones. If books dealt with this parallelism, they exercised a
charm over Lord Cramer's imagination which may sometimes have led him a
little astray about their positive value. I recall a moment when he was
completely under the sway of M. Ferrero's _Greatness and Decline of
Rome_, largely because of the pertinacity with which the Italian
historian compares Roman institutions with modern social arrangements.
It was interesting to the great retired proconsul to discover that
Augustus "considered that in the majority of cases subject peoples had
to be governed through their own national institutions." It is scarcely
necessary to point out that these analogies form the basis of what is,
perhaps, Lord Cromer's most important late essay, his _Ancient and
Modern Imperialism_.

In a practical administration of India and Egypt, those oceans of
unplumbed antiquity, the ordinary British official has neither time nor
taste to do more than skim the surface of momentary experience. But Lord
Cromer had always been acutely aware of the mystery of the East, and
always looked back into the past with deep curiosity. Sometimes the
modern life in Egypt, exciting as it was, almost seemed to him a
phantasmagoria dancing across the real world of Rameses. This tendency
of thought coloured one branch of his reading; he could not bear to miss
a book which threw any light on the social and political manners of
antiquity. Works like Fowler's _Social Life at Rome_ or Marquardt's _Le
Culte chez les Romains_ thrilled him with excitement and animated his
conversation for days. He wanted, above all things, to realise how the
ancients lived and what, feelings actuated their behaviour. On one
occasion, in a fit of gaiety, I ventured to tell him that he reminded me
of Mrs. Blimber (in _Dombey and Son_), who could have died contented had
she visited Cicero in his retirement at beautiful Tusculum. "Well!"
replied Lord Cromer, laughing, "and a very delightful visit that would
be."

In the admirable appreciation contributed to the _Times_ by "C." (our
other proconsular "C."!) it was remarked that the "quality of mental
balance is visible in all that Lord Cromer wrote, whether, in his
official despatches, his published books, or his private
correspondence." It was audible, too, in his delightful conversation,
which was vivid, active, and yet never oppressive. He spoke with the
firm accent of one accustomed to govern, but never dictatorially. His
voice was a very agreeable one, supple and various in its tones, neither
loud nor low. Although he had formed the life-long habit of expressing
his opinions with directness, he never imposed them unfairly, or took
advantage of his authority. On the contrary, there was something
extremely winning in his eagerness to hear the reply of his
interlocutor. "Well, there's a great deal in that," he would graciously
and cordially say, and proceed to give the opposing statement what
benefit he thought it deserved. He could be very trenchant, but I do not
think that any one whom he had advanced to the privilege of his
confidence can remember that he was so to a friend.

The attitude of Lord Cromer to life and letters--I speak, of course,
only of what I saw in the years of his retirement from office--was not
exactly representative of our own or even of the last century. He would
have been at home in the fourth quarter of the eighteenth century,
before the French Revolution. I judge him to have been born with an
inflexible and commanding character, which in the person of many men
exposed to such dangerous successes as he enjoyed might have degenerated
into tyranny. On Lord Cromer, on the other hand, time produced a
humanising and mellowing effect. It may very well prove that he has
stamped his mark on the East of the twentieth century, as Turgot did his
on the West of the nineteenth century; but without straying into the
perilous fields of prophecy we are safe in recording the impression that
Lord Cromer was not altogether a man of to-day; he looked forward and he
looked backward. Probably the nearest counterpart to his manner of mind
and conversation may be found in the circle of whom we read in the
_Diary_ of Fanny Burney. We can conceive Lord Cromer leaning against the
Committee Box in earnest conversation with Mr. Windham and Mr. Burke at
Warren Hastings' trial. We can restore the half-disdainful gesture with
which he would drop an epigram ("from the Greek") into the Bath Easton
Vase. His politeness and precision, his classical quotations, his
humour, his predilections in literature and art, were those of the inner
circle of Whigs nearly a century and a half ago, and I imagine that
their talk was very much like his.

He was fond of repeating Bagehot's description of the Whigs, and it
seems to me to apply so exactly to himself that I will quote part of
it:--

     "Perhaps as long as there has been a political history in this
     country there have been certain men of a cool, moderate, resolute
     firmness, not gifted with high imagination, little prone to
     enthusiastic sentiment, heedless of large theories and
     speculations, careless of dreamy scepticism, with a clear view of
     the next step, and a wise intention to take it; a strong conviction
     that the elements of knowledge are true, and a steady belief that
     the present would, can, and should be quietly improved."

In a full analysis of Lord Cromer's character, I think that every clause
of this description might be expanded with illustrations. In the
intellectual domain, Bagehot's words, "little prone to enthusiastic
sentiment," seem made to fit Lord Cromer's detachment from all the
tendencies of romanticism. His literary tastes were highly developed
and eagerly indulged, but they were all in their essence
pre-Revolutionary. Those who are familiar with a book once famous, the
_Diary of a Lover of Literature_ of Thomas Green, written down to the
very end of the eighteenth century, have in their hands a volume in
which the very accents of Lord Cromer may seem to be heard. Isaac
d'Israeli said that Green had humbled all modern authors in the dust;
Lord Cromer had a short way with many of the writers most fashionable at
this moment. When he was most occupied with the resuscitations of
ancient manners, of which I have already spoken, I found to my surprise
that he had never read _Marius the Epicurean_. I recommended it to him,
and with his usual instant response to suggestion, he got it at once and
began reading it. But I could not persuade him to share my enthusiasm,
and, what was not like him, he did not read _Marius_ to the end. The
richness and complication of Pater's style annoyed him. He liked prose
to be clear and stately; he liked it, in English, to be Addisonian. Even
Gibbon-though he read _The Decline and Fall_ over again, very carefully,
so late as 1913--was not entirely to his taste. He enjoyed the limpidity
and the irony, but the sustained roll of Gibbon's antitheses vexed him a
little. He liked prose to be quite simple.

In many ways, Lord Cromer, during those long and desultory conversations
about literature which will be so perennial a delight to look back upon,
betrayed his constitutional detestation of the Romantic attitude. He
believed himself to be perfectly catholic in his tastes, and resented
the charge of prejudice. But he was, in fact, irritated by the excesses
and obscurities of much that is fashionable to-day in the world of
letters, and he refused his tribute of incense to several popular idols.
He thought that, during the course of the nineteenth century, German
influences had seriously perturbed the balance of taste in Europe. I do
not know that Lord Cromer had pursued these impressions very far, or
that he had formed any conscious theory with regard to them. But he was
very "eighteenth century" in his suspicion of enthusiasm, and I always
found him amusingly impervious to ideas of a visionary or mystical
order. It was impossible that so intelligent and omnivorous a reader as
he should not be drawn to the pathetic figure of Pascal, but he was
puzzled by him. He described him as "manifestly a man full of contrasts,
difficult to understand, and as many-sided as Odysseus." On another
occasion, losing patience with Pascal, he called him "a half-lunatic man
of genius." Fénélon annoyed him still more; the spiritual experiences of
the Archbishop of Cambrai he found "almost incomprehensible." His
surprising, but after all perfectly consistent, comment on both Fénélon
and Pascal was, "How much more easy Buffon is to understand!"

He recommended all young men who intend to take a part in politics
carefully to study pre-Revolutionary history, and one of his objections
to the romantic literature of Rousseau downwards was that it did not
help such study. It was too individualistic in its direction. It tended,
moreover, Lord Cromer thought, to disturb the balance of judgment, that
"level-headedness" which he valued so highly, and had exercised with
such magnificent authority. He disliked the idea that genius involved a
lack of sanity, or, in other words, of self-command. He regretted that
Dryden had given general currency to this idea by his famous lines in
_Absalom and Achitophel_:--

    "Great wits are sure to madness near allied,
    And thin partitions do their bounds divide;"

but Lord Cromer was himself, perhaps, too ready to account by insanity
for every odd or confused expression in literature. He had nothing to
say about Mazzini, whom he swept aside impatiently, except that he "was
a semi-lunatic," and I have heard him declare of Chatterton and
Verlaine--a strange couple--that they were a pair of madmen. He objected
violently to Baudelaire, but I think he knew very little about that
poet's works.

If I mention these things, it is because they seem to be necessary to
give human character to any sketch of the mind of Lord Cromer. He
himself hated mere eulogy, which he said had ruined most of the
biographies of the world. The official lives of Disraeli and Gladstone
did not escape a measure of his blame in this respect, and it will be
recalled that resentment against what he thought a shadowless portrait
led to his own very vivacious paper on Disraeli, which he afterwards
issued as a pamphlet. He was an avid reader of memoirs, and of political
memoirs in particular, but he almost always passed upon them the same
criticism--that they were too _public_. "I don't want Mr. ----," he
would say, "to tell me what I can learn for myself by turning up the
file of the _Morning Post_. I want him to tell me what I can't find out
elsewhere. And he need not be so very much afraid of hinting that his
hero had faults, for if he had not had defects we should never have
heard of his qualities. We are none of us perfect, and we don't want a
priggish biographer to pretend that we are." He was speaking here mainly
of political matters; but Lord Cromer's training and experience had a
strong bearing on his literary tastes. With him politics reacted on
literature, although he liked to fancy that he kept them wholly apart.

No doubt a selection from his correspondence will one day be given to
the world, for he was a vivid, copious, and daring letter-writer. I
suppose that he wrote to each of his friends mainly on the subject which
absorbed that friend most, and as his own range of sympathies and
interests was very wide, it is probable that his letters will prove
excellent general reading. As in so many other of the departments of
life, Lord Cromer did not think letter-writing a matter to be lightly
regarded or approached without responsibility. He said:--

     "There are two habits which I have contracted, and which I have
     endeavoured to pass on to my children, as I have found them useful.
     One is to shut the door after me when I leave the room, and the
     other is always to affix the day of the month and the year to every
     document, however unimportant, that I sign. I have received numbers
     of letters, not only from women, one of whose numerous privileges
     it is to be vague, but also from men in high official positions,
     dated with the day of the week only. When the document is
     important, such a proceeding is a fraud on posterity."

He often, both in conversation and in letters, took up one of his
favourite classic tags, and wove a shrewd modern reflection round it.
For instance, a couple of years before the war, a phrase of Aristotle
recommending a ruthless egotism in the conduct of war, led him to say:--

     "I think that at times almost every modern nation has acted on this
     principle, though they gloss it over with fine words. Its principal
     exponents of late have unquestionably been the Hohenzollerns."

And, in connection with the axiom of Thucydides that war educates
through violence, he wrote, about the same time:--

     "The Germans, who, in spite of their culture, preserve a strain of
     barbarism in their characters, are the modern representatives of
     this view. There is just this amount of truth in it--that at the
     cost of undue and appalling sacrifices, war brings out certain
     fine qualities in individuals, and sometimes in nations."

This may, surely, be taken as a direct prophecy of the magnificent
effort of France. Lord Cromer's reflections, thrown off in the warmth of
personal contact, often had a pregnant directness. For instance, how
good this is:--

     "The prejudice against the Bœotians was probably in a large
     measure due to the fact that, as the late Lord Salisbury might have
     said, they 'put their money on the wrong horse' during the Persian
     war. So also, it may be observed, did the oracle at Delphi."

Lord Cromer's public speeches and published writings scarcely give a
hint of his humour, which was lambent and sometimes almost boyish. He
loved to be amused, and he repaid his entertainer by being amusing. I
suppose that after his return from Cairo he allowed this feature of his
character a much freer run. The legend used to be that he was looked
upon in Egypt as rather grim, and by no means to be trifled with. He was
not the man, we may be sure, to be funny with a Young Turk, or to crack
needless jokes with a recalcitrant Khedive. But retirement softened him,
and the real nature of Lord Cromer, with its elements of geniality and
sportiveness, came into full play.

Eight years ago, I regret to admit, Mr. Lloyd George was not the
universal favourite in the House of Lords that he has since become. Lord
Cromer was one of those who were not entirely reconciled to the
financial projects of the new Chancellor of the Exchequer. He compared
the Chancellor with Pescennius Niger,

     "who aspired to be Emperor after the death of Pertinax, and was
     already Governor of Syria. On being asked by the inhabitants of
     that province to diminish the land tax, he replied that, so far as
     he was concerned, not only would he effect no diminution, but he
     regretted that he could not tax the air which they breathed."

The strained relations between Mr. Lloyd George and the House of Lords
inspired Lord Cromer with a really delightful parallel from Dryden's
_Absalom and Achitophel_ (which, by the way, was one of his favourite
poems):--

    "Thus, worn or weakened, well or ill content,
    Submit they must to DAVID'S government;
    Impoverished and deprived of all command,
    Their taxes doubled as they lost their land;
    And--what was harder yet to flesh and blood,
    Their gods disgraced, and burnt like common wood."

When he pointed this out to me, I entreated him to introduce it into a
speech on the Budget. But he said that he was not sure of his audience,
and then it was most painful to an orator to make a literary reference
which was not taken up. Once at Sheffield, when he was urging the
necessity of a strong Navy upon a large public meeting, he quoted
Swinburne's splendid lines:--

    "All our past comes wailing in the wind,
    And all our future thunders on the sea,"

without producing any effect at all. But the House of Lords is not an
illiterate audience, and I recollect that on one occasion, when Lord
Cromer himself was speaking on preferential treatment for the Colonies,
and quoted Prior:--

    "Euphemia (that is Preference) serves to grace my measure,
    But Chloe (that is Protection) is my real flame,"

the Peers received the couplet with hilarious appreciation.

He was very entertaining about the oddities of his life in the East, and
his stories were numberless. One was of a petition which he once
received from a young Egyptian with a grievance, which opened with these
words:--

     "O Hell! Lordship's face grow red when he hear quite ghastly
     behaviour of Public Works Department towards our humble servant."

He used to repeat these things with an inimitable chuckle of enjoyment.

We have been told that he who blows through bronze may breathe through
silver. The severe preoccupations of Lord Cromer's public life did not
prevent him from sedulously cultivating the art of verse. In 1903,
before his retirement from Egypt, he published a volume of _Paraphrases
and Translations from the Greek_, in the preparation or selection of
which I believe that he enjoyed the advice of Mr. Mackail. It was rather
unlucky that, with a view to propitiate the angry critics, Lord Cromer
prefixed to this little book a preface needlessly modest. He had no
cause to apologise so deeply for exercises which were both elegant and
learned. It is a curious fact that, in this collection of paraphrases,
the translator did not touch the Attic authors whom he knew so well--he
used to copy out pages of Æschylus and Sophocles in his loose Greek
script, with notes of his own--but dealt entirely with lyric and
epigrammatic poets of the Alexandrian age. Perhaps it seemed to him less
daring to touch them than to affront Æschylus. He was not quite sure
about these verses of his; he liked them, and then he was afraid that
they were unworthy of the original. Out in Cairo it was so difficult, he
said, to get a critical opinion.

Among his unpublished translations there is one, from a fragment of
Euripides, which should not be lost, if only because Lord Cromer himself
liked it better than any other of his versions. It runs:--

    "I learn what may be taught;
    I seek what may be sought;
    My other wants I dare
    To ask from Heaven in prayer."

Of his satirical _vers-de-société_, which it amused him to distribute in
private, he never, I believe, gave any to the world, but they deserve
preservation. Some serious reflections on the advantages of the British
occupation of Egypt close with the quotation:--

    "Let them suffice for Britain's need--
      No nobler prize was ever won--
    The blessings of a people freed,
      The consciousness of duty done."

These were, in a high degree, the rewards of Lord Cromer himself.

After his settlement in London, Mr. T.E. Page sent him a book, called
_Between Whiles_, of English verse translated into Latin and Greek. Lord
Cromer was delighted with this, and the desire to write in metre
returned to him. He used to send his friends, in letters, little
triolets and epigrams, generally in English, but sometimes in Greek. But
he was more ambitious than this. So lately as February 1911, during the
course of one of our long conversations upon literature, he asked me to
suggest a task of translation on which he could engage. It was just the
moment when he was particularly busy with Constitutional Free Trade and
Woman Suffrage and other public topics, but that made no difference. It
had always seemed to me that he had been most happy in his versions of
the Bucolic poets, and so I urged him to continue his translations by
attempting the _Europa_ of Moschus. He looked at it, and pronounced it
unattractive. I was therefore not a little surprised to receive a
letter, on March 25th, in which he said:--

     "Not sleeping very well last night, I composed in my head these few
     lines merely as a specimen to begin _Europa_:--

        "When dawn is nigh, at the third watch of night,
          What time, more sweet than honey of the bee,
        Sleep courses through the brain some vision bright,
          To lift the veil which hides futurity,
        Fair Cypris sent a fearful dream to mar
          The slumbers of a maid whose frightened eyes
        Pictured the direful clash of horrid war,
          And she, Europa, was the victor's prize."

     "They are, of course, only a first attempt, and I do not think much
     of them myself. But do you think the sort of style and metre
     suitable?"

He went steadily on till he completed the poem, and on April 27th I
received a packet endorsed "Patched-up Moschus returned herewith." So
far as I know, this version of the _Europa_, conducted with great spirit
in his seventieth year, has never been published. It is the longest and
most ambitious of all his poetical experiments.

Lord Cromer was fond of saying that he considered the main beauty of
Greek poetry to reside in its simplicity. In all his verses he aimed at
limpidity and ease. He praised the Greek poets for not rhapsodising
about the beauties of nature, and this was very characteristic of his
own eighteenth-century habit of mind. His general attitude to poetry,
which he read incessantly and in four languages, was a little difficult
to define. He was ready to give lists of his life-long prime favourites,
and, as was very natural, these differed from time to time. But one list
of the books he had "read more frequently than any other" consisted of
the _Iliad_, the Book of Job, _Tristram Shandy_, and _Pickwick_, to
which he added _Lycidas_ and the Tenth Satire of Juvenal. It would
require a good deal of ingenuity to bring these six masterpieces into
line. He was consistent in declaring that the 28th chapter of Job was
"the finest bit of poetry ever written."

He was violently carried away in 1912 by reading Mr. Livingstone's book
on _The Greek Genius_. It made him a little regret the pains he had
expended on the Hymns of Callimachus and the Bucolics of Theocritus,
and he thought that perhaps he ought to have confined himself to the
severer and earlier classics. But surely he had followed his instinct,
and it would have been a pity if he had narrowed his range. It was the
modernness of the Alexandrian authors, and perhaps their Egyptian
flavour, which had justly attracted him. He did not care very much for
an antiquity which he could not revivify for his own vision. I urged him
to read a book which had fascinated me, _The Religion of Numa_, by a
learned American, the late Mr. Jesse Carter. Lord Cromer read it with
respect, but he admitted that those earliest Roman ages were too remote
and cold for him.

Lord Cromer was very much annoyed with Napoleon for having laid it down
that _après soixante ans, un homme ne vaut rien_. The rash dictum had
certainly no application to himself. It is true that, under the strain
of the long tropical years, his bodily health declined as he approached
the age of sixty. But his mental activity, his marvellous receptivity,
were not merely maintained, but seemed steadily to advance. He continued
to be consumed by that lust for knowledge, _libido sciendi_, which he
admired in the ancient Greeks. When the physicians forbade him, four
years ago, to expend his failing strength any longer on political and
social propaganda, instead of retiring, as most men of his age would
have done, to dream in the recesses of his library, he plunged with
renewed ardour into the one occupation still permitted to him:
literature. The accident of his publishing a criticism which excited
wide popular attention led to his becoming, when past his seventieth
birthday, a "regular reviewer" for the _Spectator_, where the very
frequent papers signed "C." became a prominent feature. Those articles
were, perhaps, most remarkable for the light they threw on the writer's
own temperament, on his insatiable desire for knowledge. Lord Cromer's
curiosity in all intellectual directions was, to the last, like that of
a young man beginning his mental career; and when he adopted the
position, so uncommon in a man of his experience and authority, of a
reviewer of current books, it was because he wished to share with others
the excitement he himself enjoyed in the tapping of fresh sources of
information.


III

THE LAST DAYS OF LORD REDESDALE

The publication of Lord Redesdale's _Memories_--which was one of the
most successful autobiographies of recent times--familiarised thousands
of readers with the principal adventures of a very remarkable man, but,
when all was said and done, left an incomplete impression of his taste
and occupations on the minds of those who were not familiar with his
earlier writings. His literary career had been a very irregular one. He
took up literature rather late, and produced a book that has become a
classic--_Tales of Old Japan_. He did not immediately pursue this
success, but became involved in public activities of many kinds, which
distracted his attention. In his sixtieth year he brought out _The
Bamboo Garden_, and from that time--until, in his eightieth year, he
died in full intellectual energy--he constantly devoted himself to the
art of writing. His zeal, his ambition, were wonderful; but it was
impossible to overlook the disadvantage from which that ambition and
that zeal suffered in the fact that for the first sixty years of his
life the writer had cultivated the art but casually and sporadically. He
retained, in spite of all the labour which he expended, a certain
stiffness, an air of the amateur, of which he himself was always acutely
conscious.

This did not interfere with the direct and sincere appeal made to
general attention by the 1915 _Memories_, a book so full of geniality
and variety, so independent in its judgments and so winning in its
ingenuousness, that its wider popularity could be the object of no
surprise. But, to those who knew Lord Redesdale intimately, it must
always appear that his autobiography fails to explain him from what we
may call the subjective point of view. It tells us of his adventures and
his friendships, of the strange lands he visited and of the unexpected
confidences he received, but it does not reveal very distinctly the
character of the writer. There is far more of his intellectual
constitution, of his personal tastes and mental habits, in the volume of
essays of 1912, called _A Tragedy in Stone_, but even here much is left
unsaid and even unsuggested.

Perhaps the most remarkable fact about Lord Redesdale was the redundant
vitality of his character. His nature swarmed with life, like a drop of
pond-water under a microscope. There cannot be found room in any one
nature for all the qualities, and what he lacked in some degree was
concentration. But very few men who have lived in our complicated age
have done well in so many directions as he, or, aiming widely, have
failed in so few. He shrank from no labour and hesitated before no
difficulty, but pushed on with an extraordinary energy along many
various lines of activity. But the two lines in which he most desired
and most determined to excel, gardening and authorship, are scarcely to
be discerned, except below the surface, in his _Memories_. Next to his
books, what he regarded with most satisfaction was his wonderful garden
at Batsford, and of this there is scarcely a word of record in the
autobiography. He had always intended to celebrate this garden, and when
he was preparing to return to Batsford in 1915 he wrote to me that he
was going to write an _Apologia pro Horto meo_, as long before he had
composed one _pro Banibusis meis_. A book which should combine with the
freest fancies of his intellect a picture of the exotic groves of
Batsford was what was required to round off Lord Redesdale's literary
adventures. It will be seen that he very nearly succeeded in thus
setting the top-stone on his literary edifice.

One reason, perhaps, why Batsford, which was ever present to his
thoughts, is so very slightly and vaguely mentioned in Lord Redesdale's
_Memories_, may be the fact that from 1910 onwards he was not living in
it himself, and that it was irksome to him to magnify in print
horticultural beauties which were for the time being in the possession
of others. The outbreak of the war, in which all his five sons were
instantly engaged, was the earliest of a series of changes which
completely altered the surface of Lord Redesdale's life. Batsford came
once more into his personal occupation, and at the same time it became
convenient to give up his London house in Kensington Court. Many things
combined to transform his life in the early summer of 1915. His eldest
son, Major the Hon. Clement Mitford, after brilliantly distinguishing
himself in battle, was received by the King and decorated, to the
rapturous exultation of his father. Major Mitford returned to the French
front, only to fall on May 13th, 1915.

At this time I was seeing Lord Redesdale very frequently, and I could
not but be struck by the effect of this blow upon his temperament. After
the first shock of sorrow, I observed in him the determination not to
allow himself to be crushed. His dominant vitality asserted itself
almost with violence, and he seemed to clench his tooth in defiance of
the assault on his individuality. It required on the part of so old a
man no little fortitude, for it is easier to bear a great and heroic
bereavement than to resist the wearing vexation of seeing one's system
of daily occupation crumbling away. Lord Redesdale was pleased to be
going again to Batsford, which had supplied him in years past with so
much sumptuous and varied entertainment, but it was a matter of alarm
with him to give up all, or almost all, the various ties with London
which had meant so much to his vividly social nature.

Meanwhile, during the early months of 1915 in London, he had plenty of
employment in finishing and revising his _Memories_, which it had taken
him two years to write. This was an occupation which bridged over the
horrid chasm between his old active life in London, with its thousand
interests, and the uncertain and partly dreaded prospect of exile in the
bamboo-gardens of a remote corner of Gloucestershire, where he foresaw
that deafness must needs exclude him from the old activities of local
life.

He finished revising the manuscript of his _Memories_ in July, and then
went down, while the actual transference of his home was taking place,
to the Royal Yacht Squadron Castle, Cowes, where he had been accustomed
to spend some of the most enjoyable hours of his life. But this scene,
habitually thronged with people, and palpitating with gaiety, in the
midst of which Lord Redesdale found himself so singularly at home, was
now, more than perhaps any other haunt of the English sportsman, in
complete eclipse. The weather was lovely, but there were no yachts, no
old chums, no charming ladies. "It is very dull," he wrote; "the sole
inhabitant of the Club besides myself was Lord Falkland, and now he is
gone." In these conditions Lord Redesdale became suddenly conscious that
the activity of the last two or three years was over, that the aspect of
his world had changed, and that he was in danger of losing that hold
upon life to which he so resolutely clung. In conditions of this kind he
always turned to seek for something mentally "craggy," as Byron said,
and at Cowes he wonderfully found the writings of Nietzsche. The result
is described in a remarkable letter to myself (July 28th, 1915), which
I quote because it marks the earliest stage in the composition of his
last unfinished book:--

     "I have been trying to occupy myself with Nietzsche, on the theory
     that there must be something great about a man who exercised the
     immense influence that he did. But I confess I am no convert to any
     of his various moods. Here and there I find gems of thought, but
     one has to wade through a morass of blue mud to get at them. Here
     is a capital saying of his which may be new to you--in a letter to
     his friend Rohde he writes: 'Eternally we need midwives in order to
     be delivered of our thoughts,' We cannot work in solitude. 'Woe to
     us who lack the sunlight of a friend's presence.'

     "How true that is! When I come down here, I think that with so much
     time on my hands I shall be able to get through a pile of work. Not
     a bit of it! I find it difficult even to write a note. To me it is
     an imperative necessity to have the sympathetic counsel of a
     friend."

The letter continued with an impassioned appeal to his correspondent to
find some definite intellectual work for him to undertake. "You make me
dare, and that is much towards winning a game. You must sharpen my wits,
which are blunt enough just now." In short, it was a cry from the island
of boredom to come over the water and administer first-aid.

Accordingly, I started for Cowes, and was welcomed at the pier with all
my host's habitual and vivacious hospitality. Scarcely were we seated in
our wicker-chairs in face of the Solent, not twinkling as usual with
pleasure-sails, but sinister with strange instruments of warfare, than
he began the attack. "What am I to do with myself?" was the instant
question; "what means can I find of occupying this dreadful void of
leisure?" To which the obvious reply was: "First of all, you must
exhibit to me the famous attractions of Cowes!" "There are none," he
replied in comic despair, but we presently invented some, and my visit,
which extended over several radiant days of a perfect August, was
diversified with walks and excursions by land and water, in which my
companion was as active and as ardent as though he had been nineteen
instead of seventy-nine. In a suit picturesquely marine, with his
beautiful silver hair escaping from a jaunty yachting cap, he was the
last expression of vivacity and gaiety.

The question of his intellectual occupation in the future came, however,
incessantly to the front; and our long talks in the strange and uncanny
solitude of the Royal Yacht Squadron Castle always came to this: What
task was he to take up next? His large autobiography was now coming back
to him from the printers in packets of proof, with which he was closeted
night and morning; and I suggested that while this was going on there
was no need for him to think about future enterprises. To tell the
truth, I had regarded the _Memories_ as likely to be the final labour of
Lord Redesdale's busy life. It seemed to me that at his advanced age he
might now well withdraw into dignified repose. I even hinted so much in
terms as delicate as I could make them, but the suggestion was not well
received. I became conscious that there was nothing he was so little
prepared to welcome as "repose"; that, in fact, the terror which
possessed him was precisely the dread of having to withdraw from the
stage of life. His deafness, which now began to be excessive, closed to
his eager spirit so many of the avenues of experience, that he was more
than ever anxious to keep clear those that remained to him, and of
these, literary expression came to be almost the only one left. In the
absence of a definite task his path in this direction led through
darkness.

But it was not until after several suggestions and many conversations
that light was found. The friend so pressingly appealed to returned to
London, where he was stern in rejecting several projects, hotly flung at
his head and then coldly abandoned. A study of the Empress Maria
Theresa, suggested by a feverish perusal of Pechler, was the latest and
least attractive of these. Lord Redesdale then frankly demanded that a
subject should be found for him. "You have brought this upon yourself,"
he said, "by encouraging me to write." What might prove the scheme of a
very pleasant book then occurred to me, and I suggested to the fiery and
impatient author, who had by this time retired for good to Batsford,
that he should compose a volume of essays dealing with things in
general, but bound together by a constantly repeated reference to his
wild garden of bamboos and the Buddha in his secret grove. The author
was to suppose himself seated with a friend on the terrace at the top of
the garden, and to let the idea of the bamboo run through the whole
tissue of reflections and reminiscences like an emerald thread. Lord
Redesdale was enchanted, and the idea took fire at once. He replied:--

     "You are Orpheus, with his lute moving the rocks and stones! I
     shall work all my conceits into your plan, and am now proceeding to
     my garden shrine to meditate on it. I will try to make a picture of
     the VELUVANA, the bamboo-garden which was the first Vikara or
     monastery of Buddha and his disciples. There I will sit, and,
     looking on the great statue of Buddha in meditation, I shall begin
     to arrange all sorts of wild imaginings which may come into my
     crazy brain."

In this way was started the book, of which, alas! only such fragments
were composed as form the earlier part of the volume published after his
death. It is, however, right to point out that for the too-brief
remainder of his life Lord Redesdale was eagerly set on the scheme of
which a hint has just been given. The _Veluvana_ was to be the crowning
production of his literary life, and it was to sum up the wisdom of the
East and the gaiety of the West. He spoke of it incessantly, in letters
and conversation. "That will do to go into _Veluvana_," was his cry when
he met with anything rare or strange. For instance, on September 15th,
1915, he wrote to me:--

     "To-day, all of a sudden I was struck by the idea that plants,
     having many human qualities, may also in some degree have human
     motives--that they are not altogether mere automata--and as I
     thought, I began to imagine that I could detect something
     resembling purpose in the movements of certain plants. I have
     jotted down a few notes, and you will see when I expand them that
     at any rate the idea calls attention to the movements themselves,
     some of which seem never to have been noticed at all, or certainly
     at best very inadequately. You will see that this brings in the
     bamboo-garden and Buddha, and so keeps to the scheme of
     _Veluvana_."

The monasteries of twelfth-century Japanese Buddhism, which he had
visited long before in the neighbourhood of Kioto, now recurred to his
memory, and he proposed to describe in what a monk of Hiyeisan differed
from an Indian Buddhist monk. This was a theme of extraordinary
interest, and wholly germane to his purpose. It drove him back to his
Japanese books, and to his friend Sir Ernest Satow's famous dictionary.
He wrote to me:--

     "No praise can be too high for the work which Satow did in the
     early days of our intercourse with Japan. He was a valuable asset
     to England, and to Sir Harry Parkes, who, with all his energy and
     force of character, would never have succeeded as he did without
     Satow. Aston was another very strong man."

These reveries were strictly in accordance with the spirit of
_Veluvana_, but unfortunately what Lord Redesdale wrote in this
direction proved to be too slight for publication. He met with some
expressions of extremely modern Japanese opinion which annoyed him, and
to which he was tempted to give more attention than they deserve. It
began to be obvious that the enterprise was one for which great
concentration of effort, and a certain serenity of purpose which was not
to be secured at will, were imperatively needed. In leaving London, he
was not content, and no one could have wished him to be willing, to
break abruptly all the cords of his past life. He was still a Trustee of
the National Gallery, still chairman of the Marlborough Club, still
occupied with the administration of the Wallace Collection, and he did
not abate his interest in these directions. They made it necessary that
he should come up to town every other week. This made up in some measure
for the inevitable disappointment of finding that in Gloucestershire his
deafness now completely cut him off from all the neighbourly duties
which had in earlier years diversified and entertained his country life.
He had been a great figure among the squires and farmers of the
Cotswolds, but all this was now at an end, paralysed by the hopeless
decay of his hearing. It grieved him, too, that he was unable to do any
useful war-work in the county, and he was forced to depend upon his pen
and his flying visits to London for refreshment. He was a remarkably
good letter-writer, and he now demanded almost pathetically to be fed
with the apples of correspondence. He wrote (November 26th, 1915):--

     "Your letters are a consolation for being deprived of taking a part
     any longer in the doings of the great world. The Country
     Mouse--even if the creature were able to scuttle back into the
     cellars of the great--would still be out of all communion with the
     mighty, owing to physical infirmity. And now comes the kind Town
     Mouse and tells him all that he most cares to know."

He had books and his garden to enjoy, and he made the most of both. "I
hate the autumn," he said, "for it means the death of the year, but I
try to make the death of the garden as beautiful as possible." Among his
plants, and up and down the high places of his bamboo-feathered
rockeries, where little cascades fell with a music which he could no
longer hear into small dark pools full of many-coloured water-lilies,
his activity was like that of a boy. He had the appearance, the tastes,
the instincts of vigorous manhood prolonged far beyond the usual limit
of such gifts, and yet all were marred and rendered bankrupt for him by
the one intolerable defect, the deafness which had by this time become
almost impenetrable to sound.

Yet it seemed as though this disability actually quickened his mental
force. With the arrival of his eightieth year, his activity and
curiosity of intellect were certainly rather increased than abated. He
wrote to me from Batsford (December 28th, 1915):--

     "I have been busy for the last two months making a close study of
     Dante. I have read all the _Inferno_ and half of the _Purgatorio_.
     It is hard work, but the 'readings' of my old schoolfellow, W.W.
     Vernon, are an incalculable help, and now within the last week or
     two has appeared Hoare's Italian Dictionary, published by the
     Cambridge University Press. A much-needed book, for the previous
     dictionaries were practically useless except for courier's work.
     How splendid Dante is! But how sickening are the Commentators,
     Benvenuto da Imola, Schartazzini and the rest of them! They won't
     let the poet say that the sun shone or the night was dark without
     seeing some hidden and mystic meaning in it. They always seem to
     _chercher midi à quatorze heures_, and irritate me beyond measure.
     There is invention enough in Dante without all their embroidery.
     But this grubbing and grouting seems to be infectious among Dante
     scholars--they all catch the disease."

He flung himself into these Italian studies with all his accustomed
ardour. He corresponded with the eminent veteran of Dante scholarship,
the Honourable W.W. Vernon, whom he mentions in the passage just quoted,
and Mr. Vernon's letters gave him great delight. He wrote to me again:--

     "This new object in life gives me huge pleasure. Of course, I knew
     the catch quotations in Dante, but I never before attempted to read
     him. The difficulty scared me."

Now, on the contrary, the difficulty was an attraction. He worked away
for hours at a time, braving the monotonies of the _Purgatorio_ without
flagging, but he broke down early in the _Paradiso_. He had no sympathy
whatever with what is mystic and spiritual, and he was extremely bored
by the Beatific Vision and the Rose of the Empyrean. I confess I took
advantage of this to recall his attention to _Veluvana_, for which it
was no longer possible to hope that the author would collect any
material out of Dante.

An invitation from Cambridge to lecture there on Russian history during
the Long Vacation of 1916 was a compliment to the value of the Russian
chapters of his _Memories_, but it was another distraction. It took his
thoughts away from _Veluvana_, although he protested to me that he
could prepare his Cambridge address, and yet continue to marshal his
fancies for the book. Perhaps I doubted it, and dared to disapprove, for
he wrote (March 17th, 1916):--

     "You scold me for writing too much. That is the least of my
     troubles! You must remember that debarred as I am from taking part
     in society, the Three R's alone remain to me, and, indeed, of those
     only two--for owing to my having enjoyed an Eton education in days
     when arithmetic was deemed to be no part of the intellectual
     panoply of a gentleman, I can neither add, subtract, nor divide! I
     am a gluttonous reader, and only write from time to time."

He was really composing more actively than he himself realised. About
this time he wrote:--

     "Just now I am busy trying to whitewash Lord Hertford--not the
     Marquess of Steyne, that would be impossible--but the unhappy
     hypochondriac recluse of the Rue Lafitte, who I believe has been
     most malignantly traduced by the third-rate English Colony in
     Paris--all his faults exaggerated, none of his good qualities even
     hinted at. The good British public has so long been used to look
     upon him as a minotaur that it will perhaps startle and amuse it to
     be told that he had many admirable points."

At the beginning of last year the aspect of Lord Redesdale was very
remarkable. He had settled down into his life at Batsford, diversified
by the frequent dashes to London. His years seemed to sit upon him more
lightly than ever. His azure eyes, his curled white head thrown back,
the almost jaunty carriage of his well-kept figure, were the external
symbols of an inner man perpetually fresh, ready for adventure and
delighted with the pageant of existence. He found no fault at all with
life, save that it must leave him, and he had squared his shoulders not
to give way to weakness. Perhaps the only sign of weakness was just that
visible determination to be strong. But the features of his character
had none of those mental wrinkles, those "rides de l'esprit," which
Montaigne describes as proper to old age. Lord Redesdale was guiltless
of the old man's self-absorption or exclusive interest in the past. His
curiosity and sympathy were vividly exhibited to his friends, and so, in
spite of his amusing violence in denouncing his own forgetfulness, was
his memory of passing events. In the petulance of his optimism he was
like a lad.

There was no change in the early part of last year, although it was
manifest that the incessant journeying between Batsford and London
exhausted him. The garden occupied him more and more, and he was
distracted by the great storm of the end of March, which blew down and
destroyed at the head of the bridge the wonderful group of cypresses,
which he called "the pride of my old age." But, after a gesture of
despair, he set himself energetically to repair the damage. He was in
his usual buoyant health when the very hot spell in May tempted him out
on May 18th, with his agent, Mr. Kennedy, to fish at Swinbrook, a
beautiful village on his Oxfordshire property, of which he was
particularly fond. He was not successful, and in a splenetic mood he
flung himself at full length upon a bank of wet grass. He was not
allowed to remain there long, but the mischief was done, and in a few
hours he was suffering from a bad cold. Even now, the result might not
have been serious had it not been that in a few days' time he was due to
fulfil certain engagements in town. Nothing vexed Lord Redesdale more
than not to keep a pledge. In all such matters he prided himself on
being punctual and trustworthy, and he refused to change his plans by
staying at home.

Accordingly, on May 23rd he came to London to transact some business,
and to take the chair next day at a meeting of the Royal Society of
Literature, of which he was a vice-president. This meeting took place in
the afternoon, and he addressed a crowded assembly, which greeted him
with great warmth. Those who were present, and saw his bright eyes and
heard his ringing voice, could have no suspicion that they would see him
again no more. His intimate friends alone perceived that he was making a
superlative effort. There followed a very bad night, and he went down to
Batsford next day, going straight to his bed, from which he never rose
again. His condition, at first, gave rise to little alarm. The disease,
which proved to be catarrhal jaundice, took its course; but for a long
time his spirit and his unconsciousness of danger sustained him and
filled those around him with hope. There was no disturbance of mind to
the very last. In a shaky hand, with his stylograph, he continued to
correspond with certain friends, about politics, and books, and even
about Veluvana. In the beginning of August there seemed to be symptoms
of improvement, but these were soon followed by a sudden and final
relapse. Even after this, Lord Redesdale's interest and curiosity were
sustained. In his very last letter to myself, painfully scrawled only
one week before his death, he wrote:--

     "Have you seen Ernest Daudet's book just published, _Les auteurs de
     la guerre de_ 1914? Bismarck is the subject of the first volume;
     the second will deal with the Kaiser and the Emperor Joseph; and
     the third with _leurs complices_. I know E.D., he is a brother of
     Alphonse, and is a competent historian. His book is most
     illuminating. Of course there are exaggerations, but he is always
     well _documenté_, and there is much in his work that is new. I
     don't admire his style. The abuse of the historic present is bad
     enough, but what can be said in favour of the historic future with
     which we meet at every step? It sets my teeth on edge."

But he grew physically weaker, and seven days later he passed into an
unconscious state, dying peacefully at noon on August 17th, 1916. He was
saved, as he had wished to be, from all consciousness of decrepitude.



THE LYRICAL POETRY OF THOMAS HARDY


When, about Christmas time in 1898, Mr. Hardy's admirers, who were
expecting from him a new novel, received instead a thick volume of
verse, there was mingled with their sympathy and respect a little
disappointment and a great failure in apprehension. Those who were not
rude enough to suggest that a cobbler should stick to his last, reminded
one another that many novelists had sought relaxation by trifling with
the Muses. Thackeray had published _Ballads_, and George Eliot had
expatiated in a _Legend of Jubal_. No one thought the worse of
_Coningsby_ because its author had produced a _Revolutionary Epic_. It
took some time for even intelligent criticism to see that the new
_Wessex Poems_ did not fall into this accidental category, and still,
after twenty years, there survives a tendency to take the verse of Mr.
Hardy, abundant and solid as it has become, as a mere subsidiary and
ornamental appendage to his novels. It is still necessary to insist on
the complete independence of his career as a poet, and to point out that
if he had never published a page of prose he would deserve to rank high
among the writers of his country on the score of the eight volumes of
his verse. It is as a lyrical poet, and solely as a lyrical poet, that I
propose to speak of him to-day.

It has been thought extraordinary that Cowper was over fifty when he
published his first secular verses, but Mr. Hardy was approaching his
sixtieth year when he sent _Wessex Poems_ to the press. Such
self-restraint--"none hath by more studious ways endeavoured, and with
more unwearied spirit none shall"--has always fascinated the genuine
artist, but few have practised it with so much tenacity. When the work
of Mr. Hardy is completed, nothing, it is probable, will more strike
posterity than its unity, its consistency. He has given proof, as scarce
any other modern writer has done, of tireless constancy of resolve. His
novels formed an unbroken series from the _Desperate Remedies_ of 1871
to _The Well-Beloved_ of 1897. In the fulness of his success, and
unseduced by all temptation, he closed that chapter of his career, and
has kept it closed. Since 1898 he has been, persistently and
periodically, a poet and nothing else. That he determined, for reasons
best left to his own judgment, to defer the exhibition of his verse
until he had completed his work in prose, ought not to prejudice
criticism in its analysis of the lyrics and the colossal dramatic
panorama. Mr. Hardy, exclusively as a poet, demands our undivided
attention.

It is legitimate to speculate on other probable causes of Mr. Hardy's
delay. From such information as lies scattered before us, we gather that
it was from 1865 to 1867 that he originally took poetry to be his
vocation. The dated pieces in the volume of 1898 help us to form an idea
of the original character of his utterance. On the whole it was very
much what it remains in the pieces composed after a lapse of half a
century. Already, as a very young man, Mr. Hardy possessed his
extraordinary insight into the movements of human character, and his
eloquence in translating what he had observed of the tragedy and pain of
rustic lives. No one, for sixty years, had taken so closely to heart the
admonitions of Wordsworth in his famous Preface to the 1800 edition of
_Lyrical Ballads_ to seek for inspiration in that condition where "the
passions of men are incorporated with the beautiful forms of nature."
But it may well be doubted whether Mr. Hardy's poems would have been
received in the mid-Victorian age with favour, or even have been
comprehended. Fifty years ahead of his time, he was asking in 1866 for
novelty of ideas, and he must have been conscious that his questioning
would seem inopportune. He needed a different atmosphere, and he left
the task of revolt to another, and, at first sight, a very unrelated
force, that of the _Poems and Ballads_ of the same year. But Swinburne
succeeded in his revolution, and although he approached the art from an
opposite direction, he prepared the way for an ultimate appreciation of
Mr. Hardy.

We should therefore regard the latter, in spite of his silence of forty
years, as a poet who laboured, like Swinburne, at a revolution against
the optimism and superficial sweetness of his age. Swinburne, it is
true, tended to accentuate the poetic side of poetry, while Mr. Hardy
drew verse, in some verbal respects, nearer to prose. This does not
affect their common attitude, and the sympathy of these great artists
for one another's work has already been revealed, and will be still more
clearly exposed. But they were unknown to each other in 1866, when to
both of them the cheap philosophy of the moment, the glittering
femininity of the "jewelled line," the intense respect for Mrs. Grundy
in her Sunday satin, appeared trumpery, hateful, and to be trampled
upon. We find in Mr. Hardy's earliest verse no echo of the passionate
belief in personal immortality which was professed by Ruskin and
Browning. He opposed the Victorian theory of human "progress"; the
Tennysonian beatific Vision seemed to him ridiculous. He rejected the
idea of the sympathy and goodness of Nature, and was in revolt against
the self-centredness of the Romantics. We may conjecture that he
combined a great reverence for _The Book of Job_ with a considerable
contempt for _In Memoriam_.

This was not a mere rebellious fancy which passed off; it was something
inherent that remained, and gives to-day their peculiar character to Mr.
Hardy's latest lyrics. But before we examine the features of this
personal mode of interpreting poetry to the world, we may collect what
little light we can on the historic development of it. In the pieces
dated between 1865 and 1867 we find the germ of almost everything which
has since characterised the poet. In "Amabel" the ruinous passage of
years, which has continued to be an obsession with Mr. Hardy, is already
crudely dealt with. The habit of taking poetical negatives of small
scenes--"your face, and the God-curst sun, and a tree, and a pond edged
with grayish leaves" ("Neutral Times")--which had not existed in English
verse since the days of Crabbe, reappears. There is marked already a
sense of terror and resentment against the blind motions of chance--In
"Hap" the author would positively welcome a certainty of divine hatred
as a relief from the strain of depending upon "crass casualty." Here and
there in these earliest pieces an extreme difficulty of utterance is
remarkable in the face of the ease which the poet attained afterwards in
the expression of his most strange images and fantastic revelations. We
read in "At a Bridal":--

    "Should I, too, wed as slave to Mode's decree,
      And each thus found apart, of false desire
      A stolid line, whom no high aims will fire
    As had fired ours could ever have mingled we!"

This, although perfectly reducible, takes time to think out, and at a
hasty glance seems muffled up in obscurity beyond the darkness of Donne;
moreover, it is scarcely worthy in form of the virtuoso which Mr. Hardy
was presently to become. Perhaps of the poems certainly attributable to
this earliest period, the little cycle of sonnets called "She to Him"
gives clearest promise of what was coming. The sentiment is that of
Ronsard's famous "Quand vous serez bien vieille, au soir, à la
chandelle," but turned round, as Mr. Hardy loves to do, from the man to
the woman, and embroidered with ingenuities, such as where the latter
says that as her temperament dies down the habit of loving will remain,
and she be

    "Numb as a vane that cankers on its point,
    True to the wind that kissed ere canker came,"

which attest a complexity of mind that Ronsard's society knew nothing
of.

On the whole, we may perhaps be safe in conjecturing that whatever the
cause, the definite dedication to verse was now postponed. Meanwhile,
the writing of novels had become the business of Mr. Hardy's life, and
ten years go by before we trace a poet in that life again. But it is
interesting to find that when the great success of _Far from the Madding
Crowd_ had introduced him to a circle of the best readers, there
followed an effect which again disturbed his ambition for the moment.
Mr. Hardy was once more tempted to change the form of his work. He
wished "to get back to verse," but was dissuaded by Leslie Stephen, who
induced him to start writing _The Return of the Native_ instead. On
March 29th, 1875, Coventry Patmore, then a complete stranger, wrote to
express his regret that "such almost unequalled beauty and power as
appeared in the novels should not have assured themselves the
immortality which would have been conferred upon them by the form of
verse." This was just at the moment when we find Mr. Hardy's
conversations with "long Leslie Stephen in the velveteen coat"
obstinately turning upon "theologies decayed and defunct, the origin of
things, the constitution of matter, and the unreality of time." To this
period belongs also the earliest conception of _The Dynasts_, an old
note-book containing, under the date June 20th, 1875, the suggestion
that the author should attempt "An Iliad of Europe from 1789 to 1815."

To this time also seems to belong the execution of what has proved the
most attractive section of Mr. Hardy's poetry, the narratives, or short
Wessex ballads. The method in which these came into the world is very
curious. Many of these stories were jotted down to the extent of a
stanza or two when the subject first occurred to the author. For
instance, "The Fire at Tranter Sweatley's," first published by Lionel
Johnson in 1894, had been begun as early as 1867, and was finished ten
years later. The long ballad of "Leipzig" and the savage "San
Sebastian," both highly characteristic, were also conceived and a few
lines of each noted down long before their completion. "Valenciennes,"
however, belongs to 1878, and the "Dance at the Phœnix," of which the
stanza beginning "'Twas Christmas" alone had been written years before,
seems to have been finished about the same time. What evidence is before
us goes to prove that in the 'seventies Mr. Hardy became a complete
master of the art of verse, and that his poetic style was by this time
fixed. He still kept poetry out of public sight, but he wrote during the
next twenty years, as though in a backwater off the stream of his
novels, the poems which form the greater part of the volume of 1898. If
no other collection of his lyrical verse existed, we should miss a
multitude of fine things, but our general conception of his genius would
be little modified.

We should judge carelessly, however, if we treated the subsequent
volumes as mere repetitions of the original _Wessex Poems_. They present
interesting differences, which I may rapidly note before I touch on the
features which characterise the whole body of Mr. Hardy's verse. _Poems
of the Past and Present_, which came out in the first days of 1902,
could not but be in a certain measure disappointing, in so far as it
paralleled its three years' product with that of the thirty years of
_Wessex Poems_. Old pieces were published in it, and it was obvious that
in 1898 Mr. Hardy might be expected to have chosen from what used to be
called his "portfolio" those specimens which he thought to be most
attractive. But on further inspection this did not prove to be quite the
case. After pondering for twelve years on the era of Napoleon, his
preoccupation began in 1887 to drive him into song:--

    "Must I pipe a palinody,
      Or be silent thereupon?"

He decides that silence has become impossible:--

    "Nay; I'll sing 'The Bridge of Lodi'--
      That long-loved, romantic thing,
    Though none show by smile or nod, he
      Guesses why and what I sing!"

Here is the germ of _The Dynasts_. But in the meantime the crisis of the
Boer War had cut across the poet's dream of Europe a hundred years ago,
and a group of records of the Dorsetshire elements of the British army
at the close of 1899 showed in Mr. Hardy's poetry what had not been
suspected there--a military talent of a most remarkable kind. Another
set of pieces composed in Rome were not so interesting; Mr. Hardy always
seems a little languid when he leaves the confines of his native Wessex.
Another section of _Poems of the Past and Present_ is severely, almost
didactically, metaphysical, and expands in varied language the daring
thought, so constantly present in Mr. Hardy's reverie, that God Himself
has forgotten the existence of earth, this "tiny sphere," this "tainted
ball," "so poor a thing," and has left all human life to be the
plaything of blind chance. This sad conviction is hardly ruffled by "The
Darkling Thrush," which goes as far towards optimism as Mr. Hardy can
let himself be drawn, or by such reflections as those in "On a Fine
Morning":--

    "Whence comes Solace? Not from seeing
    What is doing, suffering, being;
    Not from noting Life's conditions,
    Not from heeding Time's monitions;
        But in cleaving to the Dream,
        And in gazing on the gleam
        Whereby gray things golden seem."

Eight years more passed, years marked by the stupendous effort of _The
Dynasts_, before Mr. Hardy put forth another collection of lyrical
poems. _Time's Laughingstocks_ confirmed, and more than confirmed, the
high promise of _Wessex Poems_. The author, in one of his modest
prefaces, where he seems to whisper while we bend forward in our anxiety
not to miss one thrifty sentence, expresses the hope that _Time's
Laughingstocks_ will, as a whole, take the "reader forward, even if not
far, rather than backward."

The book, indeed, does not take us "far" forward, simply because the
writer's style and scope were definitely exposed to us already, and yet
it does take us "forward," because the hand of the master is
conspicuously firmer and his touch more daring. The _Laughingstocks_
themselves are fifteen in number, tragical stories of division and
isolation, of failures in passion, of the treason of physical decay. No
landscape of Mr. Hardy's had been more vivid than the night-pictures in
"The Revisitation," where the old soldier in barracks creeps out on to
the gaunt down, and meets (by one of Mr. Hardy's coincidences) his
ancient mistress, and no picture more terrible than the revelation of
each to the other in a blaze of sunrise. What a document for the future
is "Reminiscences of a Dancing Man"? If only Shakespeare could have left
us such a song of the London in 1585! But the power of the poet
culminates in the pathos of "The Tramp Woman"--perhaps the greatest of
all Mr. Hardy's lyrical poems--and in the horror of "A Sunday Morning's
Tragedy."

It is noticeable that _Time's Laughingstocks_ is, in some respects, a
more daring collection than its predecessors. We find the poet here
entirely emancipated from convention, and guided both in religion and
morals exclusively by the inner light of his reflection. His energy now
interacts on his clairvoyance with a completeness which he had never
quite displayed before, and it is here that we find Mr. Hardy's
utterance peculiarly a quintessence of himself. Especially in the
narrative pieces--which are often Wessex novels distilled into a
wine-glass, such as "Rose-Ann," and "The Vampirine Fair"--he allows no
considerations of what the reader may think "nice" or "pleasant" to
shackle his sincerity or his determination; and it is therefore to
_Time's Laughingstocks_ that the reader who wishes to become intimately
acquainted with Mr. Hardy as a moralist most frequently recurs. We
notice here more than elsewhere in his poems Mr. Hardy's sympathy with
the local music of Wessex, and especially with its expression by the
village choir, which he uses as a spiritual symbol. Quite a large
section of _Time's Laughingstocks_ takes us to the old-fashioned gallery
of some church, where the minstrels are bowing "New Sabbath" or "Mount
Ephraim," or to a later scene where the ghosts, in whose melancholy
apparition Mr. Hardy takes such pleasure, chant their goblin melodies
and strum "the viols of the dead" in the moonlit churchyard. The very
essence of Mr. Hardy's reverie at this moment of his career is to be
found, for instance, in "The Dead Quire," where the ancient
phantom-minstrels revenge themselves on their gross grandsons outside
the alehouse.

Almost immediately after the outbreak of the present war Mr. Hardy
presented to a somewhat distraught and inattentive public another
collection of his poems. It cannot be said that _Satires of
Circumstance_ is the most satisfactory of those volumes; it is, perhaps,
that which we could with the least discomposure persuade ourselves to
overlook. Such a statement refers more to the high quality of other
pages than to any positive decay of power or finish here. There is no
less adroitness of touch and penetration of view in this book than
elsewhere, and the poet awakens once more our admiration by his skill in
giving poetic value to minute conditions of life which have escaped less
careful observers. But in _Satires of Circumstance_ the ugliness of
experience is more accentuated than it is elsewhere, and is flung in our
face with less compunction. The pieces which give name to the volume are
only fifteen in number, but the spirit which inspires them is very
frequently repeated in other parts of the collection. That spirit is one
of mocking sarcasm, and it acts in every case by presenting a
beautifully draped figure of illusion, from which the poet, like a
sardonic showman, twitches away the robe that he may display a skeleton
beneath it. We can with little danger assume, as we read the _Satires of
Circumstance_, hard and cruel shafts of searchlight as they seem, that
Mr. Hardy was passing through a mental crisis when he wrote them. This
seems to be the _Troilus and Cressida_ of his life's work, the book in
which he is revealed most distracted by conjecture and most overwhelmed
by the miscarriage of everything. The wells of human hope have been
poisoned for him by some condition of which we know nothing, and even
the picturesque features of Dorsetshire landscape, that have always
before dispersed his melancholy, fail to win his attention:--

        "Bright yellowhammers
        Made mirthful clamours,
    And billed long straws with a bustling air,
        And bearing their load,
        Flew up the road
    That he followed alone, without interest there."

The strongest of the poems of disillusion which are the outcome of this
mood, is "The Newcomer's Wife," with the terrible abruptness of its last
stanza. It is not for criticism to find fault with the theme of a work
of art, but only to comment upon its execution. Of the merit of these
monotonously sinister _Satires of Circumstance_ there can be no
question; whether the poet's indulgence in the mood which gave birth to
them does not tend to lower our moral temperature and to lessen the
rebound of our energy, is another matter. At all events, every one must
welcome a postscript in which a blast on the bugle of war seemed to have
wakened the poet from his dark brooding to the sense of a new chapter in
history.

In the fourth year of the war the veteran poet published _Moments of
Vision_. These show a remarkable recovery of spirit, and an ingenuity
never before excelled. With the passage of years Mr. Hardy, observing
everything in the little world of Wessex, and forgetting nothing, has
become almost preternaturally wise, and, if it may be said so,
"knowing," with a sort of magic, like that of a wizard. He has learned
to track the windings of the human heart with the familiarity of a
gamekeeper who finds plenty of vermin in the woods, and who nails what
he finds, be it stoat or squirrel, to the barn-door of his poetry. But
there is also in these last-fruits of Mr. Hardy's mossed tree much that
is wholly detached from the bitterness of satire, much that simply
records, with an infinite delicacy of pathos, little incidents of the
personal life of long ago, bestowing the immortality of art on these
fugitive fancies in the spirit of the Japanese sculptor when he chisels
the melting of a cloud or the flight of an insect on his sword hilt:--

    "I idly cut a parsley stalk
      And blew therein towards the moon;
    I had not thought what ghosts would walk
      With shivering footsteps to my tune.

    "I went and knelt, and scooped my hand
      As if to drink, into the brook,
    And a faint figure seemed to stand
      Above me, with the bye-gone look.

    "I lipped rough rhymes of chance not choice,
      I thought not what my words might be;
    There came into my ear a voice
      That turned a tenderer verse for me."

We have now in brief historic survey marshalled before us the various
volumes in which Mr. Hardy's lyrical poetry was originally collected.
Before we examine its general character more closely, it may be well to
call attention to its technical quality, which was singularly
misunderstood at first, and which has never, we believe, been boldly
faced. In 1898, and later, when a melodious _falsetto_ was much in
fashion amongst us, the reviewers found great fault with Mr. Hardy's
prosody; they judged him as a versifier to be rude and incorrect. As
regards the single line, it may be confessed that Mr. Hardy, in his
anxiety to present his thought in an undiluted form, is not infrequently
clogged and hard. Such a line as

    "Fused from its separateness by ecstasy"

hisses at us like a snake, and crawls like a wounded one. Mr. Hardy is
apt to clog his lines with consonants, and he seems indifferent to the
stiffness which is the consequence of this neglect. Ben Jonson said that
"Donne, for not keeping of accent, deserved hanging"; perhaps we may go
so far as to say that Mr. Hardy, for his indifference to a mellifluous
run lays himself open to a mild rebuke. He is negligent of that eternal
ornament of English verse, audible intricacy, probably because of
Swinburne's abuse of it. But most of what is called his harshness should
rather be called bareness, and is the result of a revolt, conscious or
unconscious, against Keats' prescription of "loading the rifts with
ore."

In saying this, all has been said that an enemy could in justice say in
blame of his metrical peculiarities. Unquestionably he does
occasionally, like Robert Browning, err in the direction of cacophony.
But when we turn to the broader part of prosody, we must perceive that
Mr. Hardy is not only a very ingenious, but a very correct and admirable
metricist. His stanzaic invention is abundant; no other Victorian poet,
not even Swinburne, has employed so many forms, mostly of his own
invention, and employed them so appropriately, that is to say, in so
close harmony with the subject or story enshrined in them. To take an
example from his pure lyrics of reflection first, from "The
Bullfinches":--

    "Brother Bulleys, let us sing
    From the dawn till evening!
    For we know not that we go not
    When the day's pale visions fold
    Unto those who sang of old,"

in the exquisite fineness and sadness of the stanza we seem to hear the
very voices of the birds warbling faintly in the sunset. Again, the
hurried, timid irresolution of a lover always too late is marvellously
rendered in the form of "Lizbie Browne":--

    "And Lizbie Browne,
    Who else had hair
    Bay-red as yours,
    Or flesh so fair
    Bred out of doors,
    Sweet Lizbie Browne?"

On the other hand, the fierceness of "I said to Love" is interpreted in
a stanza that suits the mood of denunciation, while "Tess's Lament"
wails in a metre which seems to rock like an ageing woman seated alone
before the fire, with an infinite haunting sadness.

It is, however, in the narrative pieces, the little _Wessex Tales_,
that Mr. Hardy's metrical imagination is most triumphant. No two of
these are identical in form, and for each he selects, or more often
invents, a wholly appropriate stanza. He makes many experiments, one of
the strangest being the introduction of rhymeless lines at regular
intervals. Of this, "Cicely" is an example which repays attention:--

    "And still sadly onward I followed,
    That Highway the Icen
    Which trails its pale riband down Wessex
    O'er lynchet and lea.

    "Along through the Stour-bordered Forum,
    Where legions had wayfared,
    And where the slow river up-glasses
    Its green canopy";

and one still more remarkable is the enchanting "Friends Beyond," to
which we shall presently recur. The drawling voice of a weary old
campaigner is wonderfully rendered in the stanza of "Valenciennes":--

    "Well: Heaven wi' its jasper halls
      Is now the on'y town I care to be in..
    Good Lord, if Nick should bomb the walls
      As we did Valencieën!"

whereas for long Napoleonic stories like "Leipzig" and "The Peasant's
Confession," a ballad-measure which contemporaries such as Southey or
Campbell might have used is artfully chosen. In striking contrast we
have the elaborate verse-form of "The Souls of the Slain," in which the
throbbing stanza seems to dilate and withdraw like the very cloud of
moth-like phantoms which it describes. It is difficult to follow out
this theme without more frequent quotation than I have space, for here,
but the reader who pursues it carefully will not repeat the rumour that
Mr. Hardy is a careless or "incorrect" metricist. He is, on the
contrary, a metrical artist of great accomplishment.

The conception of life revealed in his verses by this careful artist is
one which displays very exactly the bent of his temperament. During the
whole of his long career Mr. Hardy has not budged an inch from his
original line of direction. He holds that, abandoned by God, treated
with scorn by Nature, man lies helpless at the mercy of "those purblind
Doomsters," accident, chance, and time, from whom he has had to endure
injury and insult from the cradle to the grave. This is stating the
Hardy doctrine in its extreme form, but it is not stating it too
strongly. This has been called his "pessimism," a phrase to which some
admirers, unwilling to give things their true name, have objected. But,
of course, Mr. Hardy is a pessimist, just as Browning is an optimist,
just as white is not black, and day is not night. Our juggling with
words in paradox is too often apt to disguise a want of decision in
thought. Let us admit that Mr. Hardy's conception of the fatal forces
which beleaguer human life is a "pessimistic" one, or else words have no
meaning.

Yet it is needful to define in what this pessimism consists. It is not
the egotism of Byron or the morbid melancholy of Chateaubriand. It is
directed towards an observation of others, not towards an analysis of
self, and this gives it more philosophical importance, because although
romantic peevishness is very common among modern poets, and although
ennui inspires a multitude of sonnets, a deliberate and imaginative
study of useless suffering in the world around us is rare indeed among
the poets. It is particularly to be noted that Mr. Hardy, although one
of the most profoundly tragic of all modern writers, is neither
effeminate nor sickly. His melancholy could never have dictated the
third stanza of Shelley's "Lines written in Dejection in the Bay of
Naples." His pessimism is involuntary, forced from him by his experience
and his constitution, and no analysis could give a better definition of
what divides him from the petulant despair of a poet like Leopardi than
the lines "To Life":--

        "O life, with the sad scared face,
          I weary of seeing thee,
    And thy draggled cloak, and thy hobbling pace,
          And thy too-forced pleasantry!

        "I know what thou would'st tell
          Of Death, Time, Destiny--
    I have known it long, and know, too, well
          What it all means for me.

        "But canst thou not array
          Thyself in rare disguise,
    And feign like truth, for one mad day,
          That Earth is Paradise?

        "I'll tune me to the mood,
          And mumm with thee till eve,
    And maybe what as interlude
          I feign, I shall believe!"

But the mumming goes no deeper than it does in the exquisite poem of
"The Darkling Thrush," where the carolings of an aged bird, on a frosty
evening, are so ecstatic that they waken a vague hope in the listener's
mind that the thrush may possibly know of "some blessed hope" of which
the poet is "unaware." This is as far as Mr. Hardy ever gets on the
blest Victorian pathway of satisfaction.

There are certain aspects in which it is not unnatural to see a parallel
between Mr. Hardy and George Crabbe. Each is the spokesman of a
district, each has a passion for the study of mankind, each has gained
by long years of observation a profound knowledge of local human
character, and each has plucked on the open moor, and wears in his coat,
the hueless flower of disillusion. But there is a great distinction in
the aim of the two poets. Crabbe, as he describes himself in _The Parish
Register_, was "the true physician" who "walks the foulest ward." He was
utilitarian in his morality; he exposed the pathos of tragedy by
dwelling on the faults which led to it, forgetful of the fatality which
in more consistent moments he acknowledged. Crabbe was realistic with a
moral design, even in the _Tales of the Hall_, where he made a gallant
effort at last to arrive at a detachment of spirit. No such effort is
needed by Mr. Hardy, who has none of the instinct of a preacher, and who
considers moral improvement outside his responsibility. He admits, with
his great French contemporary, that

    "Tout désir est menteur, toute joie éphémère,
    Toute liqueur au fond de la coupe est amère,"

but he is bent on discovering the cause of this devastation, and not
disposed to waste time over its consequences. At the end he produces a
panacea which neither Crabbe nor Byron dreamed of--resignation.

But the poet has not reached the end of his disillusion. He thinks to
secure repose on the breast of Nature, the _alma mater_, to whom Goethe
and Wordsworth and Browning each in his own way turned, and were
rewarded by consolation and refreshment. We should be prepared to find
Mr. Hardy, with his remarkable aptitude for the perception of natural
forms, easily consoled by the influences of landscape and the inanimate
world. His range of vision is wide and extremely exact; he has the gift
of reproducing before us scenes of various character with a vividness
which is sometimes startling. But Mr. Hardy's disdain of sentimentality,
and his vigorous analysis of the facts of life, render him insensible
not indeed to the mystery nor to the beauty, but to the imagined
sympathy, of Nature. He has no more confidence in the visible earth than
in the invisible heavens, and neither here nor there is he able to
persuade himself to discover a counsellor or a friend. In this
connection, we do well to follow the poet's train of thought in the
lyric called "In a Wood," where he enters a copse dreaming that, in that
realm of "sylvan peace," Nature would offer "a soft release from man's
unrest." He immediately observes that the pine and the beech are
struggling for existence, and trying to blight each other with dripping
poison. He sees the ivy eager to strangle the elm, and the hawthorns
choking the hollies. Even the poplars sulk and turn black under the
shadow of a rival. In the end, filled with horror at all these crimes of
Nature, the poet flees from the copse as from an accursed place, and he
determines that life offers him no consolation except the company of
those human beings who are as beleaguered as himself:--

    "Since, then, no grace I find
        Taught me of trees,
    Turn I back to my kind
        Worthy as these.
    There at least smiles abound,
    There discourse trills around,
    There, now and then, are found,
        Life-loyalties."

It is absurd, he decides, to love Nature, which has either no response
to give, or answers in irony. Let us even avoid, as much as we can, deep
concentration of thought upon the mysteries of Nature, lest we become
demoralised by contemplating her negligence, her blindness, her
implacability. We find here a violent reaction against the poetry of
egotistic optimism which had ruled the romantic school in England for
more than a hundred years, and we recognise a branch of Mr. Hardy's
originality. He has lifted the veil of Isis, and he finds beneath it,
not a benevolent mother of men, but the tomb of an illusion. One short
lyric, "Yell'ham-Wood's Story," puts this, again with a sylvan setting,
in its unflinching crudity:--

    "Coomb-Firtrees say that Life is a moan,
        And Clyffe-hill Clump says 'Yea!'
    But Yell'ham says a thing of its own:
            It's not, 'Gray, gray,
            Is Life alway!'
            That Yell'ham says,
    Nor that Life is for ends unknown.

    "It says that Life would signify
        A thwarted purposing:
    That we come to live, and are called to die.
            Yes, that's the thing
            In fall, in spring,
            That Yell'ham says:--
    Life offers--to deny!'"

It is therefore almost exclusively to the obscure history of those who
suffer and stumble around him, victims of the universal disillusion, men
and women "come to live but called to die," that Mr. Hardy dedicates his
poetic function. "Lizbie Browne" appeals to us as a typical instance of
his rustic pathos, his direct and poignant tenderness, and if we compare
it with such poems of Wordsworth's as "Lucy Gray" or "Alice Fell" we see
that he starts by standing much closer to the level of the subject than
his great predecessor does. Wordsworth is the benevolent philosopher
sitting in a post-chaise or crossing the "wide moor" in meditation. Mr.
Hardy is the familiar neighbour, the shy mourner at the grave; his
relation is a more intimate one: he is patient, humble, un-upbraiding.
Sometimes, as in the remarkable colloquy called "The Ruined Maid," his
sympathy is so close as to offer an absolute flout in the face to the
system of Victorian morality. Mr. Hardy, indeed, is not concerned with
sentimental morals, but with the primitive instincts of the soul,
applauding them, or at least recording them with complacency, even when
they outrage ethical tradition, as they do in the lyric narrative called
"A Wife and Another." The stanzas "To an Unborn Pauper Child" sum up
what is sinister and what is genial in Mr. Hardy's attitude to the
unambitious forms of life which he loves to contemplate.

His temperature is not always so low as it is in the class of poems to
which we have just referred, but his ultimate view is never more
sanguine. He is pleased sometimes to act as the fiddler at a dance,
surveying the hot-blooded couples, and urging them on by the lilt of
his instrument, but he is always perfectly aware that they will have "to
pay high for their prancing" at the end of all. No instance of this is
more remarkable than the poem called "Julie-Jane," a perfect example of
Mr. Hardy's metrical ingenuity and skill, which begins thus:--

        "Sing; how 'a would sing!
        How 'a would raise the tune
    When we rode in the waggon from harvesting
            By the light o' the moon!

        "Dance; how 'a would dance!
        If a fiddlestring did but sound
    She would hold out her coats, give a slanting glance,
            And go round and round.

        "Laugh; how 'a would laugh!
        Her peony lips would part
    As if none such a place for a lover to quaff
            At the deeps of a heart,"

and which then turns to the most plaintive and the most irreparable
tragedy, woven, as a black design on to a background of gold, upon this
basis of temperamental joyousness.

Alphonse Daudet once said that the great gift of Edmond de Goncourt was
to, "_rendre l'irrendable_." This is much more true of Mr. Hardy than it
was of Goncourt, and more true than it is of any other English poet
except Donne. There is absolutely no observation too minute, no flutter
of reminiscence too faint, for Mr. Hardy to adopt as the subject of a
metaphysical lyric, and his skill in this direction has grown upon him;
it is nowhere so remarkable as in his latest volume, aptly termed
_Moments of Vision_. Everything in village life is grist to his mill; he
seems to make no selection, and his field is modest to humility and yet
practically boundless. We have a poem on the attitude of two people with
nothing to do and no book to read, waiting in the parlour of an hotel
for the rain to stop, a recollection after more than forty years. That
the poet once dropped a pencil into the cranny of an old church where he
was sketching inspires an elaborate lyric. The disappearance of a rotted
summer-house, the look of a row of silver drops of fog condensed on the
bar of a gate, the effect of candlelight years and years ago on a
woman's neck and hair, the vision of a giant at a fair, led by a dwarf
with a red string--such are amongst the subjects which awaken in Mr.
Hardy thoughts which do often lie too deep for tears, and call for
interpretation in verse. The skeleton of a lady's sunshade, picked up on
Swanage Cliffs, the pages of a fly-blown Testament lying in a railway
waiting-room, a journeying boy in a third-class carriage, with his
ticket stuck in the band of his hat--such are among the themes which
awake in Mr. Hardy's imagination reveries which are always wholly
serious and usually deeply tragic.

Mr. Hardy's notation of human touches hitherto excluded from the realm
of poetry is one of the most notable features of his originality. It
marked his work from the beginning, as in the early ballad of "The
Widow," where the sudden damping of the wooer's amatory ardour in
consequence of his jealousy of the child is rendered with extraordinary
refinement. The difficulty of course is to know when to stop. There is
always a danger that a poet, in his search after the infinitely
ingenious, may lapse into _amphigory_, into sheer absurdity and
triviality, which Cowper, in spite of his elegant lightness, does not
always escape. Wordsworth, more serious in his intent, fell headlong in
parts of _Peter Bell_, and in such ballads as "Betty Foy." Mr. Hardy,
whatever the poverty of his incident, commonly redeems it by the oddity
of his observation; as in "The Pedigree":--

      "I bent in the deep of night
    Over a pedigree the chronicler gave
    As mine; and as I bent there, half-unrobed,
    The uncurtained panes of my window-square
            Let in the watery light
            Of the moon in its old age:
    And green-rheumed clouds were hurrying past
      Where mute and cold it globed
    Like a dying dolphin's eye seen through a lapping wave."

Mr. Hardy's love of strange experiences, and of adventures founded on a
balance of conscience and instinct, is constantly exemplified in those
ballads and verse-anecdotes which form the section of his poetry most
appreciated by the general public. Among these, extraordinarily
representative of the poet's habit of mind, is "My Cicely," a tale of
the eighteenth century, where a man impetuously rides from London
through Wessex to be present at the funeral of the wrong woman; as he
returns, by a coincidence, he meets the right woman, whom he used to
love, and is horrified at "her liquor-fired face, her thick accents." He
determines that by an effort of will the dead woman (whom he never saw)
shall remain, what she seemed during his wild ride, "_my_ Cicely," and
the living woman be expunged from memory. A similar deliberate electing
that the dream shall hold the place of the fact is the motive of "The
Well-Beloved." The ghastly humour of "The Curate's Kindness" is a sort
of reverse action of the same mental subtlety. Misunderstanding takes a
very prominent place in Mr. Hardy's irony of circumstance; as, almost
too painfully, in "The Rash Bride," a hideous tale of suicide following
on the duplicity of a tender and innocent widow.

The grandmother of Mr. Hardy was born in 1772, and survived until 1857.
From her lips he heard many an obscure old legend of the life of Wessex
in the eighteenth century. Was it she who told him the terrible Exmoor
story of "The Sacrilege;" the early tale of "The Two Men," which might
be the skeleton-scenario for a whole elaborate novel; or that
incomparable comedy in verse, "The Fire at Tranter Sweatley's," with its
splendid human touch at the very end? We suspect that it was; and
perhaps at the same source he acquired his dangerous insight into the
female heart, whether exquisitely feeble as in "The Home-coming" with
its delicate and ironic surprise, or treacherous, as in the desolating
ballad of "Rose-Ann." No one, in prose or verse, has expatiated more
poignantly than Mr. Hardy on what our forefathers used to call "cases of
conscience." He seems to have shared the experiences of souls to whom
life was "a wood before your doors, and a labyrinth within the wood, and
locks and bars to every door within that labyrinth," as Jeremy Taylor
describes that of the anxious penitents who came to him to confession.
The probably very early story of "The Casterbridge Captains" is a
delicate study in compunction, and a still more important example is
"The Alarm," where the balance of conscience and instinct gives to what
in coarser hands might seem the most trivial of actions a momentous
character of tragedy.

This is one of Mr. Hardy's studies in military history, where he is
almost always singularly happy. His portraits of the non-commissioned
officer of the old service are as excellent in verse as they are in the
prose of _The Trumpet-Major_ or _The Melancholy Hussar_. The reader of
the novels will not have to be reminded that "Valenciennes" and the
other ballads have their prose-parallel in Simon Burden's reminiscences
of Minden. Mr. Hardy, with a great curiosity about the science of war
and a close acquaintance with the mind of the common soldier, has
pondered on the philosophy of fighting. "The Man he Killed," written in
1902, expresses the wonder of the rifleman who is called upon to shoot
his brother-in-arms, although

        "Had he and I but met,
        By some old ancient inn,
    We should have set us down to wet
        Right many a nipperkin."

In this connection the _Poems of War and Patriotism_, which form an
important part of the volume of 1918, should be carefully examined by
those who meditate on the tremendous problems of the moment.

A poet so profoundly absorbed in the study of life could not fail to
speculate on the probabilities of immortality. Here Mr. Hardy presents
to us his habitual serenity in negation. He sees the beautiful human
body "lined by tool of time," and he asks what becomes of it when its
dissolution is complete. He sees no evidence of a conscious state after
death, of what would have to be, in the case of aged or exhausted
persons, a revival of spiritual force, and on the whole he is
disinclined to cling to the faith in a future life. He holds that the
immortality of a dead man resides in the memory of the living, his
"finer part shining within ever-faithful hearts of those bereft." He
pursues this theme in a large number of his most serious and affecting
lyrics, most gravely perhaps in "The To-be-Forgotten" and in "The
Superseded." This sense of the forlorn condition of the dead, surviving
only in the dwindling memory of the living, inspires what has some
claims to be considered the loveliest of all Mr. Hardy's poems, "Friends
Beyond," which in its tenderness, its humour, and its pathos contains in
a few pages every characteristic of his genius.

His speculation perceives the dead as a crowd of slowly vanishing
phantoms, clustering in their ineffectual longing round the footsteps of
those through whom alone they continue to exist. This conception has
inspired Mr. Hardy with several wonderful visions, among which the
spectacle of "The Souls of the Slain" in the Boer War, alighting, like
vast flights of moths, over Portland Bill at night, is the most
remarkable. It has the sublimity and much of the character of some
apocalyptic design by Blake. The volume of 1902 contains a whole group
of phantasmal pieces of this kind, where there is frequent mention of
spectres, who address the poet in the accents of nature, as in the
unrhymed ode called "The Mother Mourns." The obsession of old age, with
its physical decay ("I look into my glass"), the inevitable division
which leads to that isolation which the poet regards as the greatest of
adversities ("The Impercipient"), the tragedies of moral indecision, the
contrast between the tangible earth and the bodyless ghosts, and endless
repetition of the cry, "Why find we us here?" and of the question "Has
some Vast Imbecility framed us in jest, and left us now to
hazardry?"--all start from the overwhelming love of physical life and
acquaintance with its possibilities, which Mr. Hardy possesses to an
inordinate degree.

It would be ridiculous at the close of an essay to attempt any
discussion of the huge dramatic panorama which many believe to be Mr.
Hardy's most weighty contribution to English literature. The spacious
theatre of _The Dynasts_ with its comprehensive and yet concise
realisations of vast passages of human history, is a work which calls
for a commentary as lengthy as itself, and yet needs no commentary at
all. No work of the imagination is more its own interpreter than this
sublime historic peep-show, this rolling vision of the Napoleonic
chronicle drawn on the broadest lines, and yet in detail made up of
intensely concentrated and vivid glimpses of reality. But the subject of
my present study, the lyrical poetry of Mr. Hardy, is not largely
illustrated in _The Dynasts_, except by the choral interludes of the
phantom intelligences, which have great lyrical value, and by three or
four admirable songs.

When we resume the effect which the poetry of Mr. Hardy makes upon the
careful reader, we note, as I have indicated already, a sense of unity
of direction throughout. Mr. Hardy has expressed himself in a thousand
ways, but has never altered his vision. From 1867 to 1917, through half
a century of imaginative creation, he has not modified the large
outlines of his art in the smallest degree. To early readers of his
poems, before the full meaning of them became evident, his voice sounded
inharmonious, because it did not fit in with the exquisite melodies of
the later Victorian age. But Mr. Hardy, with characteristic pertinacity,
did not attempt to alter his utterance in the least, and now we can all
perceive, if we take the trouble to do so, that what seemed harsh in his
poetry was his peculiar and personal mode of interpreting his thoughts
to the world.

As in his novels so in his poems, Mr. Hardy has chosen to remain local,
to be the interpreter for present and future times of one rich and
neglected province of the British realm. From his standpoint there he
contemplates the wide aspect of life, but it seems huge and misty to
him, and he broods over the tiny incidents of Wessex idiosyncracy. His
irony is audacious and even sardonic, and few poets have been less
solicitous to please their weaker brethren. But no poet of modern times
has been more careful to avoid the abstract and to touch upon the real.



SOME SOLDIER POETS


The two years which preceded the outbreak of the war were marked in this
country by a revival of public interest in the art of poetry. To this
movement coherence was given and organisation introduced by Mr. Edward
Marsh's now-famous volume entitled _Georgian Poetry_. The effect of this
collection--for it is hardly correct to call it an anthology--of the
best poems written by the youngest poets since 1911 was two-fold; it
acquainted readers with work few had "the leisure or the zeal to
investigate," and it brought the writers themselves together in a
corporate and selected relation. I do not recollect that this had been
done--except prematurely and partially by _The Germ_ of 1850--since the
_England's Parnassus_ and _England's Helicon_ of 1600. In point of fact
the only real precursor of Mr. Marsh's venture in our whole literature
is the _Songs and Sonnettes_ of 1557, commonly known as _Tottel's
Miscellany_. Tottel brought together, for the first time, the lyrics of
Wyatt, Surrey, Churchyard, Vaux, and Bryan, exactly as Mr. Marsh called
public attention to Rupert Brooke, James Elroy Flecker and the rest of
the Georgians, and he thereby fixed the names of those poets, as Mr.
Marsh has fixed those of our youngest fledglings, on the roll of English
literature.

The general tone of the latest poetry, up to the moment of the outbreak
of hostilities, was pensive, instinct with natural piety, given somewhat
in excess to description of landscape, tender in feeling, essentially
unaggressive except towards the clergy and towards other versifiers of
an earlier generation. There was absolutely not a trace in any one of
the young poets of that arrogance and vociferous defiance which marked
German verse during the same years. These English shepherds might hit at
their elders with their staves, but they had turned their swords into
pruning-hooks and had no scabbards to rattle. This is a point which
might have attracted notice, if we had not all been too drowsy in the
lap of our imperial prosperity to observe the signs of the times in
Berlin. Why did no one call our attention to the beating of the big drum
which was going on so briskly on the Teutonic Parnassus? At all events,
there was no echo of such a noise in the "chambers of imagery" which
contained Mr. Gordon Bottomley, or in Mr. W.H. Davies' wandering "songs
of joy," or on "the great hills and solemn chanting seas" where Mr. John
Drinkwater waited for the advent of beauty. And the guns of August 1914
found Mr. W.W. Gibson encompassed by "one dim, blue infinity of starry
peace." There is a sort of German _Georgian Poetry_ in existence; in
time to come a comparison of its pages with those of Mr. Marsh may throw
a side-light on the question, Who prepared the War?

The youngest poets were more completely taken by surprise in August 1914
than their elders. The earliest expressions of lyric military feeling
came from veteran voices. It was only proper that the earliest of all
should be the Poet Laureate's address to England, ending with the
prophecy:--

    "Much suffering shall cleanse thee!
      But thou through the flood
    Shalt win to Salvation,
      To Beauty through blood."

As sensation, however, followed sensation in those first terrific and
bewildering weeks, much was happening that called forth with the utmost
exuberance the primal emotions of mankind; there was full occasion for

              "exultations, agonies,
    And love, and man's unconquerable mind."

By September a full chorus was vocal, led by our national veteran, Mr.
Thomas Hardy, with his _Song of the Soldiers_:--

    "What of the faith and fire within us,
        Men who march away
        Ere the barn-cocks say
        Night is growing gray,
    To hazards whence no tears can win us;
    What of the faith and fire within us,
        Men who march away?"

Already, before the close of the autumn of 1914, four or five
anthologies of war-poems were in the press, and the desire of the
general public to be fed with patriotic and emotional verse was
manifested in unmistakable ways. We had been accustomed for some time
past to the issue of a multitude of little pamphlets of verse, often
very carefully written, and these the critics had treated with an
indulgence which would have whitened the hair of the stern reviewers of
forty years ago. The youthful poets, almost a trade-union in themselves,
protected one another by their sedulous generosity. It was very unusual
to see anything criticised, much less "slated"; the balms of praise were
poured over every rising head, and immortalities were predicted by the
dozen. Yet, as a rule, the sale of these little poetic pamphlets had
been small, and they had been read only by those who had a definite
object in doing so.

The immediate success of the anthologies, however, proved that the war
had aroused in a new public an ear for contemporary verse, an attention
anxious to be stirred or soothed by the assiduous company of poets who
had been ripening their talents in a little clan. These had now an
eager world ready to listen to them. The result was surprising; we may
even, without exaggeration, call it unparalleled. There had never
before, in the world's history, been an epoch which had tolerated and
even welcomed such a flood of verse as was poured forth over Great
Britain during the first three years of the war. Those years saw the
publication, as I am credibly informed, of more than five hundred
volumes of new and original poetry. It would be the silliest
complaisance to pretend that all of this, or much of it, or any but a
very little of it, has been of permanent value. Much of it was windy and
superficial, striving in wild vague terms to express great agitations
which were obscurely felt by the poet. There was too much of the bathos
of rhetoric, especially at first; too much addressing the German as
"thou fell, bloody brute," and the like, which broke no bones and took
no trenches.

When once it was understood that, as a cancelled line in Tennyson's
_Maud_ has it,

    "The long, long canker of peace was over and done,"

the sentiments of indignation and horror made themselves felt with
considerable vivacity. In this direction, however, none of the youngest
poets approached Sir Owen Seaman in the vigour of their invective. Most
of them seemed to be overpowered by the political situation, and few
could free themselves from their inured pacific habit of speech. Even
when they wrote of Belgium, the Muse seemed rather to weep than to
curse. Looking back to the winter of 1914, it is almost pathetic to
observe how difficult it was for our easy-going British bards to hate
the Germans. There was a good deal of ineffective violence, and
considerable misuse of technical terms, caused, in many cases, by a too
hasty reference to newspaper reports of gallantry under danger, in the
course of which the more or less obscure verbiage of military science
was picturesquely and inaccurately employed. As the slightly censorious
reader looks back upon these poems of the beginning of the War, he
cannot resist a certain impatience. In the first place, there is a
family likeness which makes it impossible to distinguish one writer from
another, and there is a tendency to a smug approval of British
prejudice, and to a horrible confidence in England's power of "muddling
through," which look rather ghastly in the light of subsequent
struggles.

There was, however, a new spirit presently apparent, and a much
healthier one. The bards became soldiers, and in crossing over to France
and Flanders, each had packed his flute in his kit. They began to send
home verses in which they translated into music their actual experiences
and their authentic emotions. We found ourselves listening to young men
who had something new, and what was better, something noble to say to
us, and we returned to the national spirit which inspired the Chansons
de Geste in the eleventh century. To the spirit--but not in the least to
the form, since it is curious that the war-poetry of 1914-17 was, even
in the most skilful hands, poetry on a small scale. The two greatest of
the primal species of verse, the Epic and the Ode, were entirely
neglected, except, as will later be observed, in one notable instance by
Major Maurice Baring. As a rule, the poets constrained themselves to
observe the discipline of a rather confined lyrical analysis in forms of
the simplest character. Although particular examples showed a rare
felicity of touch, and although the sincerity of the reflection in many
cases hit upon very happy forms of expression, it is impossible to
overlook the general monotony. There used to be a story that the
Japanese Government sent a committee of its best art-critics to study
the relative merits of the modern European painters, and that they
returned with the bewildered statement that they could make no report,
because all European pictures were exactly alike. A student from
Patagonia might conceivably argue that he could discover no difference
whatever between our various poets of the war.

This would be unjust, but it is perhaps not unfair to suggest that the
determined resistance to all restraint, which has marked the latest
school, is not really favourable to individuality. There has been a very
general, almost a universal tendency to throw off the shackles of poetic
form. It has been supposed that by abandoning the normal restraints, or
artificialities, of metre and rhyme, a greater directness and fidelity
would be secured. Of course, if an intensified journalistic impression
is all that is desired, "prose cut up into lengths" is the readiest
by-way to effect. But if the poets desire--and they all do desire--to
speak to ages yet unborn, they should not forget that all the experience
of history goes to prove discipline not unfavourable to poetic
sincerity, while, on the other hand, the absence of all restraint is
fatal to it. Inspiration does not willingly attend upon flagging metre
and discordant rhyme, and never in the whole choral progress from Pindar
down to Swinburne has a great master been found who did not exult in the
stubbornness of "dancing words and speaking strings," or who did not
find his joy in reducing them to harmony. The artist who avoids all
difficulties may be pleased with the rapidity of his effect, but he will
have the vexation of finding his success an ephemeral one. The old
advice to the poet, in preparing the rich chariot of the Muse, still
holds good:--

    "Let the postillion, Nature, mount, but let
        The coachman, Art, be set."

Too many of our recent rebellious bards fancy that the coach will drive
itself, if only the post-boy sticks his heels hard into Pegasus.

It is not, however, the object of this essay to review all the poetry
which was written about the war, nor even that part of it which owed its
existence to the strong feeling of non-combatants at home. I propose to
fix our attention on what was written by the young soldiers themselves
in their beautiful gallantry, verse which comes to us hallowed by the
glorious effort of battle, and in too many poignant cases by the
ultimate sacrifice of life itself. The poet achieves his highest meed of
contemporary glory, if

      "some brave young man's untimely fate
    In words worth, dying for he celebrate,"

and when he is himself a young man striving for the same deathless
honour on the same field of blood it is difficult to conceive of
circumstances more poignant than those which surround his effort. On
many of these poets a death of the highest nobility set the seal of
eternal life. They were simple and passionate, radiant and calm, they
fought for their country, and they have entered into glory. This alone
might be enough to say in their praise, but star differeth from star in
brightness, and from the constellation I propose to select half a dozen
of the clearest luminaries. What is said in honest praise of these may
be said, with due modification, of many others who miss merely the
polish of their accomplishment. It is perhaps worth noticing, in
passing, that most of the poets are men of university training, and that
certain literary strains are common to the rank and file of them. The
influence of Tennyson, Browning, Swinburne, and Rossetti is almost
entirely absent. The only one of the great Victorians whom they seem to
have read is Matthew Arnold, but it is impossible to help observing that
the _Shropshire Lad_ of Mr. A.E. Housman was in the tunic-pocket of
every one of them. Among the English poets of the past, it is mainly the
so-called "metaphysical" writers in the seventeenth century whom they
studied; Donne seems to have been a favourite with them all, and Vaughan
and Treherne were not far behind.

The spontaneous instinct of readers has taken the name of Rupert Brooke
to illustrate the poetic spirit of the great war in a superlative
degree. His posthumous volume, brought out in May 1915, a few weeks
after his death, has enjoyed a success which is greater, perhaps, than
that of all the other poems of the war put together. He has become a
sort of symbol, even a sort of fetish, and he is to English sentiment
what Charles Péguy is to France, an oriflamme of the chivalry of his
country. It is curious, in this connection, that neither Péguy nor
Brooke had the opportunity of fighting much in the cause; they fell, as
it seemed for the moment, obscurely. Rupert Brooke was a pawn in the
dark and dolorous flight from Antwerp. He died in the Ægean, between
Egypt and Gallipoli, having never seen a Turkish enemy. So Péguy faded
out of sight on the very opening day of the battle of the Marne, yet
each of these young men was immediately perceived to have embodied the
gallantry of his country. The extraordinary popularity of Rupert Brooke
is due to the excellence of his verse, to the tact with which it was
presented to the public, but also to a vague perception of his
representative nature. He was the finest specimen of a certain type
produced at the universities, and then sacrificed to our national
necessity.

It is needless to describe the verses of Rupert Brooke, which have
attained a circulation which any poet might envy. They are comprised in
two slender volumes, that above mentioned, and one of 1911, published
while he was still at Cambridge. He was born in 1887, and when he died
off Skyros, in circumstances of the most romantic pathos, he had not
completed his twenty-eighth year. He was, unlike the majority of his
contemporaries, a meticulous and reserved writer, little inclined to be
pleased with his work, and cautious to avoid the snare of improvisation.
Hence, though he lived to be older than did Keats or Fergusson, he left
a very slender garland of verse behind him, in which there is scarcely a
petal which is not of some permanent value. For instance, in the volume
of 1911 we found not a few pieces which then seemed crude in taste and
petulant in temper; but even these now illustrate a most interesting
character of which time has rounded the angles, and we would not have
otherwise what illustrates so luminously--and so divertingly--that
precious object, the mind of Rupert Brooke.

Yet there is a danger that this mind and character may be
misinterpreted, even by those who contemplate the poet's memory with
idolatry. There is some evidence of a Rupert Brooke legend in the
process of formation, which deserves to be guarded against not less
jealously than the R.L. Stevenson legend of a few years ago. We know
that for some people gold and lilies are not properly honoured until
they are gilded and painted. Rupert Brooke was far from being either a
plaster saint or a vivid public witness. He was neither a trumpet nor a
torch. He lives in the memory of those who knew him as a smiling and
attentive spectator, eager to watch every flourish of the pageantry of
life. Existence was a wonderful harmony to Rupert Brooke, who was
determined to lose no tone of it by making too much noise himself. In
company he was not a great talker, but loved to listen, with sparkling
deference, to people less gifted than himself if only they had
experience to impart. He lived in a fascinated state, bewitched with
wonder and appreciation. His very fine appearance, which seemed to glow
with dormant vitality, his beautiful manners, the quickness of his
intelligence, his humour, were combined under the spell of a curious
magnetism, difficult to analyse. When he entered a room, he seemed to
bring sunshine with him, although he was usually rather silent, and
pointedly immobile. I do not think it would be easy to recollect any
utterance of his which was very remarkable, but all he said and did
added to the harmonious, ardent, and simple effect.

There is very little of the poetry of Rupert Brooke which can be
definitely identified with the war. The last six months of his life,
spent in conditions for which nothing in his previous existence in
Cambridge or Berlin, in Grantchester or Tahiti, had in the least
prepared him, were devoted--for we must not say wasted--to breaking up
the _cliché_ of civilised habits. But of this harassed time there remain
to us the five immortal Sonnets, which form the crown of Rupert Brooke's
verse, and his principal legacy to English literature. Our record would
be imperfect without the citation of one, perhaps the least hackneyed of
these:--

    "Blow out, you bugles, over the rich Dead!
      There's none of these so lonely and poor of old,
      But, dying, has made us rarer gifts than gold.
    These laid the world away; poured out the red
    Sweet wine of youth; gave up the years to be
      Of work and joy, and that unhoped serene,
      That men call age; and those who would have been,
    Their sons, they gave, their immortality.

    "Blow, bugles, blow! They brought us, for our dearth,
      Holiness, lacked so long, and Love and Pain.
    Honour has come back, as a king, to earth,
      And paid his subjects with a royal wage;
    And Nobleness walks in our ways again;
      And we have come into our heritage."

If the fortune of his country had not disturbed his plans, it is more
than probable that Rupert Brooke would have become an enlightened and
enthusiastic professor. Of the poet who detains us next it may be said
that there was hardly any walk of life, except precisely this, which he
could not have adorned. Julian Grenfell, who was a poet almost by
accident, resembled the most enlightened of the young Italian noblemen
of the Renaissance, who gave themselves with violence to a surfeit of
knowledge and a riot of action. He was a humanist of the type of the
fifteenth century, soldier, scholar, and man of pleasure, such as we
read of in Vespasiano's famous book. Everything he did was done in the
service of St. Epicurus, it was done to _darsi buon tempo_, as the
Tuscans used to say. But this was only the superficial direction taken
by his energy; if he was imperious in his pleasures, he was earnest in
his pursuit of learning; there was a singular harmony in the exercise of
the physical, intellectual, and emotional faculties at his disposal.
Julian Grenfell was a master of the body and of the mind, an unrivalled
boxer, a pertinacious hunter, skilled in swimming and polo, a splendid
shot, a swift runner, and an unwearying student. That an athlete so
accomplished should have had time left for intellectual endowments is
amazing, but his natural pugnacity led him to fight lexicons as he
fought the wild boar, and with as complete success.

The record of the brief and shining life of Julian Grenfell has been
told in an anonymous record of family life which is destined to
reverberate far beyond the discreet circle of friends to which it is
provisionally addressed. It is a document of extraordinary candour,
tact, and fidelity, and it is difficult to say whether humour or courage
is the quality which illuminates it most. It will be referred to by
future historians of our race as the most vivid record which has been
preserved of the red-blooded activity of a spirited patrician family at
the opening of the twentieth century. It is partly through his place at
the centre of this record that, as one of the most gifted of his elder
friends has said, the name of Julian Grenfell will be linked "with all
that is swift and chivalrous, lovely and courageous," but it is also
through his rare and careless verses.

Julian Grenfell, who was born to excel with an enviable ease, was not a
poet by determination. In a family where everything has been preserved,
no verses of his that are not the merest boyish exercises are known to
exist previous to the war. He was born in 1888, and he became a
professional soldier in India in 1911. He was on his way home from South
Africa when hostilities broke out, and he was already fighting in
Flanders in October 1914. After a very brilliant campaign, in the course
of which he won the D.S.O. and was twice mentioned in despatches, he was
shot in the head near Ypres and died of his wounds at Boulogne on May
26th, 1915. During these months in France, by the testimony of all who
saw him and of all to whom he wrote, his character received its final
touch of ripeness. Among his other attainments he abruptly discovered
the gift of noble gnomic verse. On receiving news of the death of Rupert
Brooke, and a month before his own death, Julian Grenfell wrote the
verses called "Into Battle," which contain the unforgettable stanzas:--

    "The fighting man shall from the sun
      Take warmth, and life from the glowing earth;
    Speed with the light-foot winds to run,
      And with the trees to newer birth....

    "The woodland trees that stand together,
      They stand to him each one a friend;
    They gently speak in the windy weather;
      They guide to valley and ridge's end.

    "The kestrel hovering by day,
      And the little owls that call by night,
    Bid him be swift and keen as they,
      As keen of ear, as swift of sight.

    "The blackbird sings to him 'Brother, brother,
      If this be the last song you shall sing,
    Sing well, for you may not sing another,
      Brother, sing.'"

The whole of this poem is memorable, down to its final prophetic
quatrain:--

    "The thundering line of battle stands,
      And in the air Death moans and sings;
    But Day shall clasp him with strong hands,
      And Night shall fold him in soft wings."

"Could any other man in the British Army have knocked out a heavy-weight
champion one week and written that poem the next?" a brother officer
asked. "Into Battle" remains, and will probably continue to remain, the
clearest lyrical expression of the fighting spirit of England in which
the war has found words. It is a poem for soldiers, and it gives noble
form to their most splendid aspirations. Julian Grenfell wrote, as he
boxed and rode, as he fought in the mud of Flanders, as the ideal
sporting Englishman of our old, heroic type.

The ancient mystery of verse is so deeply based on tradition that it is
not surprising that all the strange contrivances of twentieth-century
warfare have been found too crabbed for our poets to use. When great
Marlborough, as Addison puts it, "examin'd all the dreadful scenes of
war" at Blenheim, he was really in closer touch with Marathon than with
the tanks and gas of Ypres. But there is one military implement so
beautiful in itself, and so magical in the nature of its service, that
it is bound to conquer a place in poetry. The air-machine, to quote _The
Campaign_ once more, "rides in the whirlwind and directs the storm." But
the poets are still shy of it. In French it has, as yet, inspired but
one good poem, the "Plus haut toujours!" of Jean Allard-Méeus, a hymn of
real aerial majesty. In English Major Maurice Baring's ode "In Memoriam:
A.H." is equally unique, and, in its complete diversity from
Allard-Méeus' rhapsody, suggests that the aeroplane has a wide field
before it in the realms of imaginative writing. Major Baring's subject
is the death of Auberon Herbert, Lord Lucas, who was killed on November
3rd, 1916. This distinguished young statesman and soldier had just been
promoted, after a career of prolonged gallantry in the air, and would
have flown no more, if he had returned in safety to our front on that
fatal day.

Major Baring has long been known as an excellent composer of sonnets and
other short pieces. But "In Memoriam: A.H." lifts him to a position
among our living poets to which he had hardly a pretension. In a long
irregular threnody or funeral ode, the great technical difficulty is to
support lyrical emotion throughout. No form of verse is more liable to
lapses of dignity, to dull and flagging passages. Even Dryden in _Anne
Killigrew_, even Coleridge in the _Departing Year_, have not been able
to avoid those languors. Many poets attempt to escape them by a use of
swollen and pompous language. I will not say that Major Baring has been
universally successful, where the success of the great masters is only
relative, but he has produced a poem of great beauty and originality,
which interprets an emotion and illustrates an incident the poignancy of
which could scarcely be exaggerated. I have no hesitation in asserting
that "A.H." is one of the few durable contributions to the literature of
the present war.

It is difficult to quote effectively from a poem which is constructed
with great care on a complicated plan, but a fragment of Major Baring's
elegy may lead readers to the original:--

    "God, Who had made you valiant, strong and swift
    And maimed you with a bullet long ago,
    And cleft your riotous ardour with a rift,
    And checked your youth's tumultuous overflow,
    Gave back your youth to you,
    And packed in moments rare and few
    Achievements manifold
    And happiness untold,
    And bade you spring to Death as to a bride,
    In manhood's ripeness, power and pride,
    And on your sandals the strong wings of youth."

There is no rhetoric here, no empty piling up of fine words; it is a
closely followed study in poetical biography.

The water has its marvels like the air, but they also have hardly yet
secured the attention of the poets. In _A Naval Motley_, by Lieut.
N.M.F. Corbett, published in June 1916, we encounter the submarine:--

        "Not yours to know delight
        In the keen hard-fought fight,
    The shock of battle and the battle's thunder;
        But suddenly to feel
        Deep, deep beneath the keel
    The vital blow that rives the ship asunder!"

A section of the new war-poetry which is particularly pathetic is that
which is inspired by the nostalgia of home, by the longing in the midst
of the guns and the dust and the lice for the silent woodlands and cool
waters of England. When this is combined with the sense of extreme
youth, and of a certain brave and beautiful innocence, the poignancy of
it is almost more than can be borne. The judgment is hampered, and one
doubts whether one's critical feeling can be trusted. This particular
species of emotion is awakened by no volume more than by the slender
_Worple Flit_ of E. Wyndham Tennant, who died on the Somme in September
1916. He was only nineteen when he fell, at an age when, on the one
hand, more precocious verse than his has been written, and when yet, on
the other, some of the greatest poets had not achieved a mastery of
words equal to that already possessed by this young Wykehamist. The
voice is faltering, and there is a want of sureness in the touch; the
metrical hammer does not always tap the centre of the nail's head. But
what pathos in the sentiment, what tenderness in the devotion to beauty!
Tennant had, we may suppose, read Flecker before he wrote "How shall I
tell you of the roads that stretch away?"; or was it merely the family
likeness in the generation? But I know not what but his own genius can
have inspired the "Home Thoughts in Laventie," a poem about a little
garden left unravished among the rubble of the wrecked village, a poem
which ends thus:--

    "I saw green banks of daffodil,
      Slim poplars in the breeze,
    Great tan-brown hares in gusty March
      A-courting on the leas.
    And meadows, with their glittering streams--and silver-scurrying dace--
    Home, what a perfect place."

Among these boy-poets, so cruelly and prematurely snatched from the
paternal earth, Tennant suggests to us the possibility that a talent of
very high order was quenched by death, because in few of them do we find
so much evidence of that "perception and awe of Beauty" which Plotinus
held to be the upward path to God.

In June 1917 there was published a slender volume which is in several
ways the most puzzling and the most interesting of all that lie upon my
table to-day. This is the _Ardours and Endurances_ of Lieut. Robert
Nichols. I knew nothing of the author save what I learned from his
writings, that he is very young, that he went out from Oxford early in
the war, that he was fighting in Flanders before the end of 1914, that
he was wounded, perhaps at Loos, in 1915, and that he was long in
hospital. I felt the hope, which later information has confirmed, that
he was still alive and on the road to recovery. Before _Ardours and
Endurances_ reached me, I had met with _Invocation_, a smaller volume
published by Lieut. Nichols in December 1915. There has rarely been a
more radical change in the character of an artist than is displayed by a
comparison of these two collections. _Invocation_, in which the war
takes a small and unconvincing place, is creditable, though rather
uncertain, in workmanship, and displays a tendency towards experiment in
rich fancy and vague ornament. In _Ardours and Endurances_ the same
accents are scarcely to be detected; the pleasant boy has grown into a
warworn man; while the mastery over the material of poetic art has
become so remarkable as to make the epithet "promising" otiose. There is
no "promise" here; there is high performance.

Alone among the poets before me, Lieut. Nichols has set down a reasoned
sequence of war impressions. The opening Third of his book, and by far
its most interesting section, consists of a cycle of pieces in which the
personal experience of fighting is minutely reported, stage by stage. We
have "The Summons," the reluctant but unhesitating answer to the call in
England, the break-up of plans; then the farewell to home, "the place of
comfort." "The Approach," in three successive lyrics, describes the
arrival at the Front. "Battle," in eleven sections, reproduces the
mental and physical phenomena of the attack. "The Dead," in four
instalments, tells the tale of grief. "The Aftermath," with
extraordinary skill, records in eight stages the gradual recovery of
nerve-power after the shattering emotions of the right. The first
section of "Battle," as being shorter than the rest, may be quoted in
full as an example of Lieut. Nichols's method:--

    "It is mid-day: the deep trench glares--
      A buzz and blaze of flies--
    The hot wind puffs the giddy airs,
      The great sun rakes the skies,

    "No sound in all the stagnant trench
      Where forty standing men
    Endure the sweat and grit and stench,
      Like cattle in a pen.

    "Sometimes a sniper's bullet whirs
      Or twangs the whining wire;
    Sometimes a soldier sighs and stirs
      As in hell's forging fire.

    "From out a high cool cloud descends
      An aeroplane's far moan;
    The sun strikes down, the thin cloud rends,
      The black speck travels on.

    "And sweating, dizzied, isolate
      In the hot trench beneath,
    We bide the next shrewd move of fate
      Be it of life or death."

This is painfully vivid, but it is far exceeded in poignancy by what
follows. Indeed it would be difficult to find in all literature, from
the wail of David over Jonathan downward, such an expression of the
hopeless longing for an irrecoverable presence as informs the broken
melodies, the stanzas which are like sobs, of the fifth section of
_Ardours and Endurances_:--

    "In a far field, away from England, lies
      A Boy I friended with a care like love;
    All day the wide earth aches, the cold wind cries,
      The melancholy clouds drive on above.

    "There, separate from him by a little span,
      Two eagle cousins, generous, reckless, free,
    Two Grenfells, lie, and my Boy is made man,
      One with these elder knights of chivalry."

It is difficult to qualify, it seems almost indelicate to intrude upon,
such passionate grief. These poems form a revelation of the agony of a
spirit of superabundant refinement and native sensuousness suddenly
stunned, and as it were momentarily petrified, by horrible spiritual
anguish. If the strain were not relieved by the final numbers of
"Aftermath," where the pain of the soul is abated, and where the poet,
scarred and shattered, but "free at last," snaps the chain of despair,
these poems would be positively intolerable.

In the closeness of his analysis and in the accurate heaping up of exact
and pregnant observations, Lieut. Nichols comes closer than any other of
these English poets to the best of the French paladins, of whom I wrote
in _Three French Moralists_. One peculiarity which he shares with them
is his seriousness: there is no trace in him of the English cheerfulness
and levity. Most of our war-writers are incorrigible Mark Tapleys. But
Lieut. Nichols, even when he uses colloquial phrases--and he introduces
them with great effect--never smiles. He is most unlike the French, on
the other hand, in his general attitude towards the war. He has no
military enthusiasm, no aspiration after _gloire_. Indeed, the most
curious feature of his poetry is that its range is concentrated on the
few yards about the trench in which he stands. He seems to have no
national view of the purpose of the war, no enthusiasm for the cause, no
anger against the enemy. There is but a single mention of the Germans
from beginning to end; the poet does not seem to know of their
existence. His experiences, his agonies, his despair, are what a purely
natural phenomenon, such as the eruption of a volcano or the chaos of an
earthquake, might cause. We might read his poems over and over again
without forming the slightest idea of what all the distress was about,
or who was guilty, or what was being defended. This is a mark of great
artistic sincerity; but it also points to a certain moral narrowness.
Lieut. Robert Nichols' "endurances" are magnificently described, but we
are left in the dark regarding his "ardours." We are sure of one thing,
however, that none of us may guess what such a talent, in one still so
young, may have in store for us; and we may hope for broader views
expressed in no less burning accents.

There could hardly be a more vivid contrast than exists between the
melancholy passion of Lieut. Nichols and the fantastic high spirits of
Captain Robert Graves. He again is evidently a very young man, who was
but yester-year a jolly boy at the Charterhouse. He has always meant to
be a poet; he is not one of those who have been driven into verse by the
strenuous emotion of the war. In some diverting prefatory lines to _Over
the Brazier_ he gives us a picture of the nursery-scene when a bright
green-covered book bewitched him by its "metre twisting like a chain of
daisies, with great big splendid words." He has still a wholesome hunger
for splendid words; he has kept more deliberately than most of his
compeers a poetical vocation steadily before him. He has his moments of
dejection when the first battle faces him:--

    "Here's an end to my art!
      I must die and I know it,
    With battle-murder at my heart--
      Sad death, for a poet!

    "Oh, my songs never sung,
      And my plays to darkness blown!
    I am still so young, so young,
      And life was my own."

But this mood soon passes, and is merged in the humoristic and fantastic
elation characteristic of this buoyant writer, whose whim it is to meet
the tragedy not mournfully but boisterously. Where by most of the
soldier-bards the subjective manner is a little over-done, it is
impossible not to welcome so objective a writer as Captain Graves, from
whose observations of the battle of La Bassée I quote an episode:--

THE DEAD FOX HUNTER

    "We found the little captain at the head;
        His men lay well aligned.
    We touched his hand, stone-cold, and he was dead,
        And they, all dead behind,
      Had never reached their goal, but they died well;
      They charged in line, and in the same line fell.

    "The well-known rosy colours of his face
        Were almost lost in grey.
    We saw that, dying and in hopeless case,
        For others' sake that day
      He'd smothered all rebellious groans: in death
      His fingers were tight clenched between his teeth.

    "For those who live uprightly and die true
        Heaven has no bars or locks,
    And serves all taste.... Or what's for him to do
        Up there, but hunt the fox?
      Angelic choirs? No, Justice must provide
      For one who rode straight and at hunting died.

    "So if Heaven had no Hunt before he came,
        Why, it must find one now:
    If any shirk and doubt they know the game,
        There's one to teach them how:
      And the whole host of Seraphim complete
      Must jog in scarlet to his opening Meet."

I have a notion that this is a gallant poem which Englishmen will not
allow to be forgotten. The great quality of Captain Graves' verse at
present is its elated vivacity, which neither fire, nor pain, nor grief
can long subdue. Acutely sensitive to all these depressing elements, his
animal spirits lift him like an aeroplane, and he is above us in a
moment, soaring through clouds of nonsense under a sky of unruffled
gaiety. In our old literature, of which he is plainly a student, he has
found a neglected author who is wholly to his taste. This is Skelton,
Henry VIII's Rabelaisian laureate. Captain Graves imitates, with a great
deal of bravado, those breathless absurdities, _The Tunning of Elinore
Rummyng_ and _Colin Clout_. He likes rough metre, bad rhymes and squalid
images: we suspect him of an inclination to be rude to his immediate
predecessors. But his extreme modernness--"Life is a cliché--I would
find a gesture of my own"--is, in the case of so lively a songster, an
evidence of vitality. He promises a new volume, to be called _Fairies
and Fusiliers_, and it will be looked forward to with anticipation.

All these poets seem to be drawn into relation to one another. Robert
Graves and Siegfried Sassoon are both Fusiliers, and they publish a
στιχομυθία "on Nonsense," just as Cowley and Crashaw did "on Hope" two
centuries and a half ago. Lieut. Sassoon's own volume is later than
those which we have hitherto examined, and bears a somewhat different
character. The gallantry of 1915 and the optimism of 1916 have passed
away, and in Lieut. Sassoon's poems their place is taken by a sense of
intolerable weariness and impatience: "How long, O Lord, how long?" The
name-piece of the volume, and perhaps its first in execution, is a
monologue by an ignorant and shrewd old huntsman, who looks back over
his life with philosophy and regret. Like Captain Graves, he is haunted
with the idea that there must be fox-hounds in Heaven. All Lieut.
Sassoon's poems about horses and hunting and country life generally
betray his tastes and habits. This particular poem hardly touches on the
war, but those which follow are absorbed by the ugliness, lassitude, and
horror of fighting. Lieut. Sassoon's verse has not yet secured the
quality of perfection; he is not sufficiently alive to the importance of
always hitting upon the best and only word. He is essentially a
satirist, and sometimes a very bold one, as in "The Hero," where the
death of a soldier is announced home in "gallant lies," so that his
mother brags to her neighbours of the courage of her dead son. At the
close of all this pious make-believe, the Colonel

      "thought how 'Jack,' cold-footed, useless swine,
    Had panicked down the trench that night the mine
    Went up at Wicked Corner; how he'd tried
    To get sent home; and how, at last, he died,
    Blown to small bits";

or, again, as in "Blighters," where the sentimentality of London is
contrasted with the reality in Flanders:

    "The House is crammed: tier beyond tier they grin
      And cackle at the Show, while prancing ranks
    Of harlots shrill the chorus, drunk with din,
      'We're sure the Kaiser loves the dear old Tanks!

    "I'd like to see a Tank come down the stalls,
      Lurching to rag-time tunes, or 'Home, sweet Home!'--
    And there'd be no more jokes in Music-halls
      To mock the riddled corpses round Bapaume."

It is this note of bitter anger, miles away from the serenity of Rupert
Brooke, the lion-heart of Julian Grenfell, the mournful passion of
Robert Nichols, which differentiates Lieut. Sassoon from his fellows.
They accept the war, with gallantry or with resignation; he detests it
with wrathful impatience. He has much to learn as an artist, for his
diction is often hard, and he does not always remember that Horace,
"when he writ on vulgar subjects, yet writ not vulgarly." But he has
force, sincerity, and a line of his own in thought and fancy. A
considerable section of his poetry is occupied with studies of men he
has observed at the Front, a subaltern, a private of the Lancashires,
conscripts, the dross of a battle-field, the one-legged man ("Thank God,
they had to amputate!"), the sniper who goes crazy--savage,
disconcerting silhouettes drawn roughly against a lurid background.

The bitterness of Lieut. Sassoon is not cynical, it is the rage of
disenchantment, the violence of a young man eager to pursue other aims,
who, finding the age out of joint, resents being called upon to help to
mend it. His temper is not altogether to be applauded, for such
sentiments must tend to relax the effort of the struggle, yet they can
hardly be reproved when conducted with so much honesty and courage.
Lieut. Sassoon, who, as we learn, has twice been severely wounded and
has been in the very furnace of the fighting, has reflected, more
perhaps than his fellow-singers, about the causes and conditions of the
war. He may not always have thought correctly, nor have recorded his
impressions with proper circumspection, but his honesty must be
respectfully acknowledged.

I have now called attention to those soldier-writers of verse who, in my
judgment, expressed themselves with most originality during the war.
There is a temptation to continue the inquiry, and to expatiate on
others of only less merit and promise. Much could be said of Charles
Hamilton Sorley, who gave evidence of precocious literary talent, though
less, I think, in verse, since the unmistakable singing faculty is
absent in _Marlborough_ (Cambridge University Press, 1916), than in
prose, a form in which he already excelled. Sorley must have shown
military gifts as well as a fine courage, for when he was killed in
action in October 1915, although he was but twenty years of age, he had
been promoted captain. In the universal sorrow, few figures awaken more
regret, than his. Something, too, had I space, should be said about the
minstrels who have been less concerned with the delicacies of
workmanship than with stirring the pulses of their auditors. In this
kind of lyric "A Leaping Wind from England" will long keep fresh the
name of W.N. Hodgson, who was killed in the battle of the Somme. His
verses were collected in November 1916. The strange rough drum-taps of
Mr. Henry Lawson, published in Sydney at the close of 1915, and those of
Mr. Lawrence Rentoul, testify to Australian enthusiasm. Most of the
soldier-poets were quite youthful; an exception was R.E. Vernède, whose
_War Poems_ (W. Heinemann, 1917) show the vigour of moral experience. He
was killed in the attack on Harrincourt, in April 1917, having nearly
closed his forty-second year. To pursue the list would only be to make
my omissions more invidious.

There can be no healthy criticism where the principle of selection is
neglected, and I regret that patriotism or indulgence has tempted so
many of those who have spoken of the war-poets of the day to plaster
them with indiscriminate praise. I have here mentioned a few, in whose
honour even a little excess of laudation may not be out of place. But
these are the exceptions, in a mass of standardised poetry made to
pattern, loosely versified, respectable in sentiment, uniformly
meditative, and entirely without individual character. The reviewers who
applaud all these ephemeral efforts with a like acclaim, and who say
that there are hundreds of poets now writing who equal if they do not
excel the great masters of the past, talk nonsense; they talk nonsense,
and they know it. They lavish their flatteries in order to widen the
circle of their audience. They are like the prophets of Samaria, who
declared good unto the King of Israel with one mouth; and we need a
Micaiah to clear the scene of all such flatulent Zedekiahs. It is not
true that the poets of the youngest generation are a myriad Shelleys and
Burnses and Bérangers rolled into one. But it is true that they carry on
the great tradition of poetry with enthusiasm, and a few of them with
high accomplishment.

1917.



THE FUTURE OF ENGLISH POETRY[8]

    "J'ai vu le cheval rose ouvrir ses ailes d'or,
    Et, flairant le laurier que je tenais encor,
    Verdoyant à jamais, hier comme aujourd'hui,
    Se cabrer vers le Jour et ruer vers la Nuit."

HENRI DE RÉGNIER.


In venturing this afternoon to address an audience accustomed to listen
to those whose positive authority is universally recognised, and in
taking for my theme a subject not, like theirs, distinct in its
definitions or consecrated by tradition and history, I am aware that I
perform what you may, if you choose, call an act of blameworthy
audacity. My subject is chimerical, vague, and founded on conjectures
which you may well believe yourselves at least as well fitted as I am to
propound. Nevertheless, and in no rash or paradoxical spirit, I invite
you to join with me in some reflections on what is the probable course
of English poetry during, let us say, the next hundred years. If I
happen to be right, I hope some of the youngest persons present will
say, when I am long turned to dust, what an illuminating prophet I was.
If I happen to be wrong, why, no one will remember anything at all about
the matter. In any case we may possibly be rewarded this afternoon by
some agreeable hopes and by the contemplation of some pleasant
analogies.

Our title takes for granted that English poetry will continue, with
whatever fluctuations, to be a living and abiding thing. This I must
suppose that you all accede to, and that you do not look upon poetry as
an art which is finished, or the harvest of classic verse as one which
is fully reaped and garnered. That has been believed at one time and
another, in various parts of the globe. I will mention one instance in
the history of our own time: a quarter of a century ago, the practice of
writing verse was deliberately abandoned in the literatures of the three
Scandinavian countries, but particularly in that of Norway, where no
poetry, in our sense, was written from about 1873 to 1885. It almost
died out here in England in the middle of the fifteenth century; it ran
very low in France at the end of the Middle Ages. But all these
instances, whether ancient or modern, of the attempt to prove prose a
sufficing medium for all expression of human thought have hitherto
failed, and it is now almost certain that they will more and more
languidly be revived, and with less and less conviction.

It was at one of the deadliest moments in the life of the art in England
that George Gascoigne remarked, in his _Epistle to the Reverend Divine_
(1574) that "It seemeth unto me that in all ages Poetry hath been not
only permitted, but also it hath been thought a right good thing."
Poetry has occupied the purest and the fieriest minds in all ages, and
you will remember that Plato, who excluded the poets from his
philosophical Utopia, was nevertheless an exquisite writer of lyrical
verse himself. So, to come down to our own day, Ibsen, who drove poetry
out of the living language of his country, had been one of the most
skilful of prosodical proficients. Such instances may allay our alarm.
There cannot be any lasting force in arguments which remind us of the
pious confessions of a redeemed burglar. It needs more than the zeal of
a turncoat to drive Apollo out of Parnassus.

There will, therefore, we may be sure, continue to be English poetry
written and printed. Can we form any idea of the probable character of
it? There exists, in private hands, a picture by that ingenious
water-colour painter of the late eighteenth century, William Gilpin. It
is very fantastic, and means what you like, but it represents Pegasus,
the horse of the Muses, careering in air on the vast white arc of his
wings, against a sky so dark that it must symbolise the obscure
discourse of those who write in prose. You are left quite doubtful
whether he will strike the rocky terrace in the foreground with his
slender, silver hooves, or will swoop down into the valley below, or
will soar to heaven and out of sight. You are left by the painter in a
pleasant uncertainty, but Hippocrene may break out anywhere, and of the
vivacious courser himself all that we can be sure of is that we are
certain to see him alighting before us when we least expect him.

We may put our trust in the persistence of Pegasus through his
apparently aimless gyrations, and in the elasticity of the poetical
spirit, and yet acknowledge that there are difficulties in the way of
believing that verse will continue to be written in the English language
for a quite indefinite period. Perhaps we may as well face one or two of
these difficulties at once. The principal danger, then, to the future of
poetry seems to me to rest in the necessity of freshness of expression.
Every school of verse is a rising and a breaking wave. It rises, because
its leaders have become capable of new forms of attractive expression;
its crest is some writer, or several writers, of genius, who combine
skill and fire and luck at a moment of extreme opportuneness; and then
the wave breaks, because later writers cannot support the ecstasy, and
merely repeat formulas which have lost their attractiveness. Shirley
would have been a portent, if he had flourished in 1595 and had written
then as he did in 1645. Erasmus Darwin would be one of the miracles of
prosody if _The Loves of the Plants_ could be dated 1689 instead of
1789. There must always be this fluctuation, this rise and fall in
value, and what starts each new wave mounting out of the trough of the
last is the instinctive demand for freshness of expression. _Cantate
Domino_ is the cry of youth, sing a _new_ song unto the Lord.

But with the superabundant circulation of language year after year, week
after week, by a myriad careful scribes, the possibilities of freshness
grow rarer and rarer. The obvious, simple, poignant things seem to have
all been said. It is not merely that the actual poems, like Gray's
_Elegy_, and much of _Hamlet_, and some of Burns's songs, have been
manipulated so often, and put to such pedestrian uses, that they are
like rubbed coins, and begin to lose the very features of Apollo and the
script of the Muses, but that the road seems closed to future bards who
wish to speak with simplicity of similar straightforward things. In
several of the literatures of modern Europe--those which began late, or
struggled long against great disadvantages--it is still possible to
produce pleasure by poems which describe primitive emotions in perfectly
limpid language. But with us in England, I confess that it seems to me
certain that whatever we retain, we can never any more have patience to
listen to a new shepherd piping under the hawthorn-tree. Each generation
is likely to be more acutely preoccupied than the last with the desire
for novelty of expression. Accordingly, the sense of originality, which
is so fervently demanded from every new school of writers, will force
the poets of the future to sweep away all recognised impressions. The
consequence must be, I think--I confess so far as language is concerned
that I see no escape from this--that the natural uses of English and the
obvious forms of our speech will be driven from our national poetry, as
they are even now so generally being driven.

No doubt, in this condition, the originality of those who do contrive to
write strongly and clearly will be more vigorously evident than ever.
The poets will have to gird up their loins and take their sword in their
hands. That wise man of the eighteenth century, to whom we never apply
without some illuminating response, recommends that "Qui saura penser de
lui-même et former de nobles idées, qu'il prenne, s'il pent, la manière
et le tour élevé des maîtres." These are words which should inspire
every new aspirant to the laurel. "S'il peut"; you see that Vauvenargues
puts it so, because he does not wish that we should think that such
victories as these are easy, or that any one else can help us to produce
them. They are not easy, and they will be made more and more hard by the
rubbed-out, conventionalised coinage of our language.

In this matter I think it probable that the little peoples and the
provinces which cultivate a national speech, will long find a great
facility in expressing themselves in verse. I observe that it has
recently been stated that Wales, which has always teemed with vernacular
poets, has never possessed so many as she does at this time. I am
debarred by what Keats called "giant ignorance" from expressing an
opinion on the subject, but I presume that in Welsh the resources of
language are far from being so seriously exhausted as we have seen that
they are in our own complicated sphere, where the cultivation of all the
higher forms of poetic diction through five centuries has made simple
expression extremely difficult. I am therefore ready to believe that in
Welsh, as in Gaelic and in Erse, the poets have still wide fields of
lyric, epic, and dramatic art untilled. We have seen, in the latter half
of the nineteenth century, Provençal poets capable of producing simple
and thrilling numbers which are out of the reach of their sophisticated
brethren who employ the worn locutions of the French language.

In new generations there is likely, we may be sure, to occur less
description of plain material objects, because the aspect of these has
already received every obvious tribute. So also there can hardly fail to
be less precise enumeration of the primitive natural emotions, because
this also has been done already, and repeated to satiety. It will not
any longer satisfy to write

    "The rose is red, the violet blue,
    And both are sweet, and so are you."

Reflections of this order were once felt to be exquisite, and they were
so still as lately as when Blake and Wordsworth were young. But it is
quite impossible that we should ever go back to them. Future poets will
seek to analyse the redness of the rose, and will scout, as a fallacious
observation, the statement that the violet is blue. All schemes of art
become mechanical and insipid, and even their _naïvetés_ lose their
savour. Verse of excellent quality, in this primitive manner, can now be
written to order by any smart little boy in a Grammar-school.

We have agreed, however, to believe that poetry, as an art, in one shape
or another, will escape from the bankruptcy of language, and that
Pegasus, with whatever strange and unexpected gambollings, will continue
to accompany us. But of one thing we may be quite sure, that it will
only be at the cost of much that we at present admire and enjoy that the
continuity of the art of verse will be preserved. If I could suddenly
present to you some characteristic passages of the best English poetry
of 1963, I doubt extremely whether I should be able to persuade you of
their merit. I am not sure that you would understand what the poet
intended to convey, any more than the Earl of Surrey would have
understood the satires of Donne, or Coleridge have enjoyed the odes of
George Meredith. Young minds invariably display their vitality by
attacking the accepted forms of expression, and then they look about
for novelties, which they cultivate with what seems to their elders to
be extravagance. Before we attempt to form an idea, however shadowy, of
what poetry will be in the future, we must disabuse ourselves of the
delusion that it will be a repetition of what is now produced and
accepted. Nor can we hope by any exercise of philosophy to do away with
the embarrassing and painful, but after all perhaps healthful antagonism
between those who look forward and those who live in the past. The
earnestness expended on new work will always render young men incapable
of doing justice to what is a very little older than themselves; and the
piety with which the elderly regard what gave them full satisfaction in
their days of emotional freshness will always make it difficult for them
to be just to what seems built on the ruins of what they loved.

If there is any feature which we can scarcely be wrong in detecting in
our vision of the poetry of the future it is an elaboration which must
follow on the need for novelty of which I have spoken. I expect to find
the modern poet accepting more or less consciously an ever-increasing
symbolic subtlety of expression. If we could read his verses, which are
still unwritten, I feel sure that we should consider them obscure. That
is to say, we should find that in his anxiety not to repeat what had
been said before him, and in his horror of the trite and the
superficial, he will achieve effect and attach interest _obscuris vera
involvens_--wrapping the truth in darkness. The "darkness" will be
relative, as his own contemporaries, being more instructed and
sophisticated than we are, will find those things transparent, or at
least translucent, which remain opaque enough to us. And, of course, as
epithets and adjectives that seem fresh to us will smell of the inkhorn
to him, he will have to exert his ingenuity to find parallel
expressions which would startle us by their oddity if we met with them
now.

A danger, therefore, which the poets of the future will need all their
ingenuity to avoid, will be the cultivation of a patent artificiality, a
forcing of the note until it ceases to rouse an echo in the human heart.
There will be a determination to sweep away all previously recognised
impressions. Affectation, that is to say the obtaining of an effect by
illegitimate means, is an offence against the Muses which they never
fail to avenge by oblivion or by a curtailed and impeded circulation. We
may instructively examine the history of literature with special
attention to this fault, and we find it in all cases to have been fatal.
It was fatal to the poetry of Alexandria, which closed, as you know, in
an obscurity to which the title of Lycophrontic darkness has been given
from the name of its most extravagant exponent. It was fatal to several
highly-gifted writers of the close of the Elizabethan period, who
endeavoured to give freshness to an outworn scheme of poetic ornament; I
need only remind you of the impenetrable cloud or fog, by Cyril
Tourneur, called _The Transform'd Metamorphosis_, and of the cryptic
rhymed dramas of Lord Brooke. It has not been fatal, I hope, but I think
desperately perilous to a beautiful talent of our own age, the amiable
Stéphane Mallarmé. Nothing, I feel, is more dangerous to the health of
poetry than the praise given by a group of irresponsible disciples to
verse which transfers commonplace thought to an exaggerated, violent,
and involved scheme of diction, and I confess that I should regard the
future of poetry in this country with much more apprehension than I do,
if I believed that the purely learned poet, the prosodical pedant, was
destined to become paramount amongst us. That would, indeed, threaten
the permanence of the art; and it is for this reason that I look with a
certain measure of alarm on the excess of verbiage about versification
which attends not merely criticism--for that matters little--but the
actual production and creation. I am confident, however, that the common
sense of readers will always bring about a reaction in favour of sanity
and lucidity.

One great objection to the introduction of a tortured and affected style
into verse-writing is the sacrifice which has to be made of that dignity
and sweetness, that suave elevation, which marks all successful
masterpieces. Perhaps as difficult a quality to attain as any which the
poetry of the future will be called upon to study is stateliness, what
the French call "la vraie hauteur." This elevation of style, this
dignity, is foreign to democracies, and it is hard to sustain it in the
rude air of modern life. It easily degenerates, as Europe saw it
degenerate for a century and a half, into pomposity relieved by
flatness. It is apt to become a mere sonorous rhetoric, a cultivation of
empty fine phrases. If we examine the serious poetry of the end of the
seventeenth and the greater part of the eighteenth century--especially
in the other countries of Europe, for England was never without some dew
on the threshing-floor--if we examine it in France, for instance,
between Racine and André Chenier, we are obliged to recognise that it
was very rarely both genuine and appropriate. The Romantic Revival,
which we are beginning ungratefully to decry, did at least restore to
poetry the sense of a genuine stateliness of expression, which once more
gave it the requisite dignity, and made it a vehicle for the vital and
the noble sentiments of humanity.

Let us now turn, in our conjectural survey, from the form to the
subjects with which the poetry of the future is likely to be engaged.
Here we are confronted with the fact that, if we examine the whole of
history, we see that the domain of verse has been persistently narrowed
by the incursions of a more and more powerful and wide embracing prose.
At the dawn of civilisation poetry had it all its own way. If
instruction was desired upon any sphere of human knowledge or energy,
the bard produced it in a prosodical shape, combining with the dignity
of form the aid which the memory borrowed from a pattern or a song. Thus
you conceive of a Hesiod before you think of a Homer, and the earliest
poetry was probably of a purely didactic kind. As time went on, prose,
with its exact pedestrian method, took over more and more completely the
whole province of information, but it was not until the nineteenth
century that the last strongholds of the poetry of instruction were
stormed. I will, if you please, bring this home to you by an example
which may surprise you.

The subject which I have taken the liberty of discussing with you this
afternoon has not often occupied the serious attention of critics. But
it was attempted, by no less a person than Wordsworth, more than a
hundred years ago. I make no excuse for repeating to you the remarkable
passage in which he expressed his convictions in the famous Preface of
1800:--

     "If the labours of men of science,--Wordsworth said,--should ever
     create any material revolution, direct or indirect, in our
     condition, and in the impressions which we habitually receive, the
     Poet will sleep then no more than at present; he will be ready to
     follow the steps of the Man of Science, not only in those general
     indirect effects, but he will be at his side, carrying sensation
     into the midst of the objects of the science itself. The remotest
     discoveries of the Chemist, the Botanist, or Mineralogist, will be
     as proper objects of the Poet's art as any upon which it can be
     employed, if the time should ever come when these things shall be
     familiar to us, and the relations under which they are contemplated
     by the followers of these respective sciences, thus familiarised
     to men, shall be ready to put on, as it were, a form of flesh and
     blood, the Poet will lend his divine spirit to aid the
     transfiguration, and will welcome the Being thus produced, as a
     dear and genuine inmate of the household of man."

It is plain, then, that, writing in the year 1800, Wordsworth believed
that a kind of modified and sublimated didactic poetry would come into
vogue in the course of the nineteenth century. He stood on the threshold
of a new age, and he cast his vatic gaze across it much in the same
spirit as we are trying to do to-day. But if any warning were needed to
assure us of the vanity of prophesying, it would surely be the error of
one so sublimely gifted and so enriched with the spoils of meditation.
The belief of Wordsworth was that the poetry of the future would deal,
in some vaguely inspired fashion, with the discoveries of science. But
when we look back over the field of 113 years, how much do we find our
national poetry enriched with ore from the mines of mineralogy or botany
or chemistry? It is difficult to see that there has been so much as an
effort made to develop poetry in this or in any similar direction.
Perhaps the nearest approach to what Wordsworth conceived as probable
was attempted by Tennyson, particularly in those parts of _In Memoriam_
where he dragged in analogies to geological discoveries and the
biological theories of his time. Well, these are just those parts of
Tennyson which are now most universally repudiated as lifeless and
jejune.

Wordsworth did not confine himself to predicting a revival of didactic
poetry, the poetry of information, such as, in a very crude form, had
prevailed all over Europe in his own childhood, but he conceived a wide
social activity for writers of verse. He foresaw that the Poet would
"bind together by passion and knowledge the vast empire of human
society, as it is spread over the whole earth, and over all time." I
suppose that in composing those huge works, so full of scattered
beauties, but in their entirety so dry and solid, _The Excursion_ and
_The Prelude_, he was consciously attempting to inaugurate this scheme
of a wide and all-embracing social poetry. Nor do I suppose that efforts
of this kind will ever cease to be made. We have seen a gifted writer in
whom the memory is perhaps even more surprisingly developed than the
imagination, employ the stores of his experience to enrich a social
poetry the elements of which, prima facie, should be deeply attractive
to us all. But I do not know that the experiments of Mr. Rudyard
Kipling, brilliant as they are, are calculated to encourage the poets of
the future to pursue their lyric celebration of machinery and sociology
and the mysteries of natural religion. Already is it not that portion of
his work which we approach with most languor, in spite of its
originality and its outlook upon "the vast empire of human society"? And
lesser poets than he who seek for popularity by such violent means are
not, I think, rewarded by the distinguished loyalty of the best readers.
We are startled by their novelty, and we admire them for the moment; but
when, a few years later, we return to them, we are apt to observe with
distress how

              "their lean and flashy songs
    Grate on their scrannel pipes of wretched straw."

If, therefore, I venture upon a prophecy, where all the greater
prophets, my predecessors, have failed, it is to suggest that the energy
of future poets will not be largely exercised on themes of this intrepid
social character, but that as civilisation more and more tightly lays
hold upon literature, and excludes the purest form of it from one
province after another, poetry will, in its own defence, cultivate more
and more what Hazlitt calls "a mere effusion of natural sensibility."
Hazlitt used the phrase in derision, but we may accept it seriously, and
not shrink from adopting it. In most public remarks about current and
coming literature in the abstract, I marvel at the confidence with which
it is taken for granted that the sphere of interest occupied by writers
of the imagination is sure to grow wider and wider. It is expected to
embrace the world, to take part in a universal scheme of pacification,
to immortalise imperial events, to be as public as possible. But surely
it is more and more clearly proved that prose is the suitable medium for
such grandiose themes as these. Within the last year our minds have been
galvanised into collective sympathy by two great sensations of
catastrophe, each case wearing the most thrilling form that tragedy can
take in the revolt of nature against the feverish advances of mankind. I
suppose we may consider the destruction of the Titanic and the loss of
Captain Scott's expedition as two absolutely typical examples of what is
thought by journalists to be fitting material for poetry. Yet by common
consent, these tragic occurrences did not awaken our numerous poets to
any really remarkable effort, lyrical or elegiac. No ode or threnody
could equal in vibrating passion Captain Scott's last testament. These
are matters in which the fullness of a wholly sincere statement in prose
does not require, does not even admit, the introduction of the symbol.
The impact of the sentiments of horror and pity is too sudden and
forcible.

My own view is that, whether to its advantage or not, the poetry of the
future is likely to be very much occupied with subjects, and with those
alone, which cannot be expressed in the prose of the best-edited
newspaper. In fact, if I were to say what it is which I think coming
poets will have more and more to be on their guard against, I should
define it as a too rigid determination never to examine subjects which
are of collective interest to the race at large. I dread lest the
intense cultivation of the Ego, in minutest analysis and microscopical
observation of one's self, should become the sole preoccupation of the
future poet. I will not tell you that I dread lest this should be one of
his principal preoccupations, for that would be to give way to a cheery
piece of mid-Victorian hypocrisy which would be unworthy of you and of
me alike. The time is past when intelligent persons ought to warn
writers of the imagination not to cultivate self-analysis, since it is
the only safeguard against the follies of an unbridled romanticism. But
although the ivory tower offers a most valuable retreat, and although
the poets may be strongly recommended to prolong their _villeggiatura_
there, it should not be the year-long habitation of any healthy
intelligence.

I do not question that the closing up of the poetic field, the depending
more and more completely for artistic effect upon an "effusion of
natural sensibility," will isolate the poet from his fellows. He will be
tempted, in the pursuit of the symbol which illustrates his emotion, to
draw farther and farther away from contact with the world. He will wrap
his singing-robes not over his limbs only, but over his face, and treat
his readers with exemplary disdain. We must be prepared, or our
successors must, to find frequently revealed the kind of poet who not
merely sees nothing superior to himself, but nothing except himself. I
am not concerned to say that this will be unfortunate or blameworthy;
the moralist of the future must attend to that. But I can believe that
this unyielding and inscrutable attitude may produce some fine artistic
effects. I can believe that both intensity and dignity may be gained by
this sacrifice of the plainer human responsibilities, although I am not
prepared to say at what loss of other qualities. It is clear that such a
writer will not allow the public to dictate to him the nature or form of
his lyric message, and he will have to depend for success entirely on
the positive value of his verse.

The isolation of the poets of the future is likely to lead them to band
themselves more closely together for mutual protection against the
reasonable world. The mystery of verse is like other abstruse and
recondite mysteries--it strikes the ordinary fleshly man as absurd. The
claim of the poet on human sympathy, if we regard it merely from the
world's standpoint, is gratuitous, vague, and silly. In an entirely
sensible and well-conducted social system, what place will there be for
the sorrows of Tasso and Byron, for the rage of Dante, for the
misanthropy of Alfred de Vigny, for the perversity of Verlaine, for the
rowdiness of Marlowe?--the higher the note of the lyre, the more
ridiculous is the attitude of the lyrist, and the coarse public applauds
the violence of Diogenes when he tramples on the pride of the poets with
a greater pride than theirs. I cannot help thinking that this attitude
of the sacred bard, maundering from the summit of his ivory tower, and
hollowed out and made haggard by a kind of sublime moral neuralgia, will
have to be abandoned as a relic of the dead romantic past. So far as it
is preserved by the poets of the future it will be peculiar to those
monasteries of song, those "little clans," of which I am now about to
speak as likely more and more to prevail.

In France, where the interest in poetry has, during the last generation,
been far more keen and more abundant than anywhere else in the world, we
already see a tendency to the formation of such experimental houses of
song. There has been hitherto no great success attending any one of
these bodies, which soon break up, but the effort to form them is
perhaps instructive. I took considerable interest in the Abbaye de
Creteil, which was a collectivist experiment of this kind. It was
founded in October 1906, and it was dissolved in consequence of internal
dissensions in January 1908. It was an attempt to create, in defiance
of the public, in contemptuous disregard of established "literary
opinion," a sort of prosodical chapel or school of poetry. It was to be
the active centre of energy for a new generation, and there were five
founders, each of whom was highly ambitious to distinguish himself in
verse. At Creteil there was a printing-press in a great park, so that
the members should be altogether independent of the outside world. The
poets were to cultivate the garden and keep house with the sale of the
produce. When not at work, there were recitations, discussions,
exhibitions of sketches, for they were mixed up with the latest vagaries
of the Cubists and Post-impressionists.

This particular experiment lasted only fifteen months, and I cannot
conscientiously say that I think it was in any way a success. No one
among the abbatical founders of Creteil had, to be quite frank, any
measure of talent in proportion to his daring. They were involved in
vague and nebulous ideas, mixed up with what I am afraid I must call
charlatans, the refuse and the wreckage of other arts. Yet I consider
that it is interesting to note that the lay monks of Creteil were in a
sense correct when they announced that they were performing "a heroic
act," an act symbolical of the way in which poetry would in the future
disdainfully protect itself against the invasion of common sense, the
dreadful impact of the sensual world. I think you will do well, if you
wish to pursue the subject of our conjectural discourse, to keep your
eye on this tendency to a poetical collectivism. We have not noticed
much evidence of it yet in England, but it is beginning to stir a good
deal in France and Italy. After all, the highest poetry is a mysterious
thing, like the practices of the Society of Rosicrucians, of whom it was
said, "Our House of the Holy Ghost, though a hundred thousand men should
have looked upon it, is yet doomed to remain untouched, imperturbable,
out of sight, and unrevealed to the whole godless world for ever." If I
am sure of anything, it is that the Poets of the Future will look upon
massive schemes of universal technical education, and such democratic
reforms as those which are now occupying the enthusiasm and energy of
Lord Haldane, as peculiarly hateful expositions of the godlessness of a
godless world.

To turn to another branch of our subject, it appears to me possible that
sexual love may cease to be the predominant theme in the lyrical poetry
of the future. Erotic sentiment has perhaps unduly occupied the
imaginative art of the past. In particular, the poets of the late
nineteenth century were interested to excess in love. There was a sort
of obsession of sex among them, as though life presented no other
phenomenon worthy of the attention of the artist. All over Europe, with
the various tincture of differing national habit and custom, this was
the mark of the sophistication of the poets, sometimes delicately and
craftily exhibited, but often, as in foreign examples which will easily
occur to your memory, rankly, as with the tiresome persistence of a
slightly stale perfume, an irritating odour of last night's opopanax or
vervain. And this is the one point, almost I think the only point, in
which the rather absurd and certainly very noisy and hoydenish
manifestoes of the so-called Futurists, led by M. Marinetti and his crew
of iconoclasts, are worthy of our serious attention. It is a plank in
their platform to banish eroticism, of the good kind and of the bad,
from the poetic practice of the future. I do not, to say the truth, find
much help for the inquiry we have taken up to-day, in the manifestoes of
these raucous young gentlemen, who, when they have succeeded in flinging
the ruins of the architecture of Venice into its small stinking canals,
will find themselves hard put to it to build anything beautiful in the
place of them. But in their reaction against "the eternal feminine,"
they may, I think, very possibly be followed by the serious poets of the
future.

Those who have watched rather closely the recent developments of poetry
in England have been struck with the fact that it tends more and more in
the direction of the dramatic, not necessarily in the form of what is
known as pure drama, particularly adapted for representation to
listening audiences behind the footlights, but in the increased study of
life in its exhibitions of energy. This may seem to be inconsistent with
the tendency, of which I spoke just now, to withdraw from the world
itself, either into an egotistical isolation or into some cloistered
association of more or less independent figures united only in a
rebellious and contemptuous disdain of public opinion. But the
inconsistency may very well be one solely in appearance. It may well
happen that the avoidance of all companionship with the stereotyped
social surfaces of life, the ignorance--really, the happy and hieratic
ignorance--of what "people" in the fussy sense, are supposed to be
saying and doing, may actually help the poet to come more fruitfully and
penetratingly to what lies under the surface, to what is essential and
permanent and notable in the solid earth of human character. Hence, I
think it not improbable that the poetry of the future may become more
and more dramatic, although perhaps by a series of acts of definite
creation, rather than as the result of observation, which will be left
to the ever-increasing adroitness of the brilliant masters of our prose.

As a result of this obsession in creative drama, I suppose that we may
expect to find in the poetry of the future a more steady hope for
mankind than has up to the present time been exhibited. The result of an
excessive observation of the startling facts of life, a work appropriate
to the violent energy of realistic prose, has been a general
exaggeration of the darker tints, an insistence on that prominence of
what was called the "sub-fusc" colours which art-critics of a century
ago judged essential to sublimity in all art. In Continental literature,
and particularly in the very latest Russian drama, this determination to
see blackness and blackness only, to depict the ordinary scene of
existence as a Valley of the Shadow of Despair, has been painfully
frequent. In England we had a poet of considerable power, whose tragic
figure crossed me in my youth, in whose work there is not a single gleam
of hope or dignity for man;--I mean the unfortunate James Thomson,
author of _The City of Dreadful Night_. I cannot but believe that the
poetry of the future, being more deeply instructed, will insist less
emphatically upon human failure and less savagely upon the revolt of
man. I anticipate in the general tone of it an earnestness, a fullness
of tribute to the noble passion of life, an utterance simple and direct.
I believe that it will take as its theme the magnificence of the
spectacle of Man's successful fight with Nature, not the grotesque and
squalid picturesqueness of his occasional defeat.

It has been admirably said, in a charming essay, that "History may be
abstract, science may be frankly inhuman, even art may be purely formal;
but poetry must be full of human life." This consideration, I think, may
make us feel perfectly secure as to the ultimate maintenance of poetic
expression. For humanity will always be with us, whatever changes may be
introduced into our social system, whatever revolutions may occur in
religion, in legality, in public order, or in the stratification of
composite life. I confess the only atmosphere in which it is impossible
for me to conceive of poetry as able to breathe would be one of complete
and humdrum uniformity of existence, such as was dreamed of at one time,
but I think is no longer so rigidly insisted on, by extreme socialistic
reformers. As long as there is such variety of individual action
possible as will give free scope to the energies and passions, the
hopes and fears, of mankind, so long I think the element of plastic
imagination will be found to insist on expression in the mode of formal
art. It is quite possible that, as a result of extended knowledge and of
the democratic instinct, a certain precipitant hardness of design, such
as was presented in the nineteenth century by Tennyson in the blank
verse lyrics in _The Princess_, by Browning in the more brilliant parts
of _One Word More_, by Swinburne in his fulminating _Sapphics_, may be
as little repeated as the analogous hardness of Dryden in _MacFlecknoe_
or the lapidary splendour of Gray in his _Odes_. I should rather look,
at least in the immediate future, for a revival of the liquid ease of
Chaucer or the soft redundancies of _The Faerie Queene_. The remarkable
experiments of the Symbolists of twenty years ago, and their effect upon
the whole body of French verse, leads me to expect a continuous movement
in that direction.

It is difficult indeed to speak of the probable future of poetry without
introducing the word Symbolism, over which there has raged so much windy
warfare in the immediate past. I cannot help believing that the immense
importance of this idea is one of the principal--perhaps the greatest
discovery with regard to poetry which was made in the last generation.
Symbols, among the ancient Greeks, were, if I mistake not, the signs by
which the initiated worshippers of Ceres or Cybele recognised their
mysterious unison of heart. A symbol is an indication of an object, in
opposition to a direct description of the same; it arouses the idea of
it in the awakened soul; rings a bell, for we may almost put it so,
which at once rouses the spirit and reminds it of some special event or
imminent service. The importance of making this the foremost feature of
poetry is not new, although it may be said that we have only lately, and
only partially, become aware of its value. But, really, if you will
consider it, all that the Symbolists have been saying is involved in
Bacon's phrase that "poetry conforms the shows of things to the desires
of the soul, instead of subjecting the soul to external things." There
could never be presented a subject less calculated to be wound up with a
rhetorical flourish or to close in pompous affirmation than that which I
have so temerariously brought before you this afternoon. I hope that you
will not think that your time has been wasted while we have touched,
lightly and erratically, like birds on boughs, upon some of the probable
or possible features of the poetry of the future. Whatever you, or I, or
the wisest of professors, may predict on this theme of the unborn poets,
we may be certain that there will

            "hover in their restless heads
    One thought, one grace, one wonder, at the least,
    Which into words no virtue"

of ours can "digest." I began with the rococo image of a Pegasus, poised
in the air, flashing and curvetting, petulantly refusing to alight on
any expected spot. Let me return to it in closing, that I may suggest
our only sage attitude to be one of always watching for his inevitable
arrival, ready to put grateful lips to the waters of Hippocrene as soon
as ever they bubble from the blow of his hoof.

[Footnote 8: Address delivered before the English Association, May 30,
1913.]



THE AGONY OF THE VICTORIAN AGE


For a considerable time past everybody must have noticed, especially in
private conversation, a growing tendency to disparagement and even
ridicule of all men and things, and aspects of things, which can be
defined as "Victorian." Faded habits of mind are lightly dismissed as
typical of the Victorian Age, and old favourite poets, painters, and
musicians are treated with the same scorn as the glued chairs and glass
bowls of wax flowers of sixty years ago. The new generation are hardly
willing to distinguish what was good from what was bad in the time of
their grandmothers. With increasing audacity they repudiate the
Victorian Age as a _sæclum insipiens et infacetum_, and we meet
everywhere with the exact opposite of Montaigne's "Je les approuve tous
Tun après l'autre, quoi qu'ils disent." Our younger contemporaries are
slipping into the habit of approving of nothing from the moment that
they are told it is Victorian.

This may almost be described as an intellectual and moral revolution.
Every such revolution means some liberation of the intellect from
bondage, and shows itself first of all in a temper of irreverence; the
formulas of the old faith are no longer treated with respect and
presently they are even ridiculed. It is useless to close our eyes to
the fact that a spirit of this kind is at work amongst us, undermining
the dignity and authority of objects and opinions and men that seemed
half a century ago to be more perennial than bronze. Successive orators
and writers have put the public in possession of arguments, and
especially have sparkled in pleasantries, which have sapped the very
foundations of the faith of 1850. The infection has attacked us all, and
there is probably no one who is not surprised, if he seriously reflects,
to realise that he once implicitly took his ideas of art from Ruskin and
of philosophy from Herbert Spencer. These great men are no longer
regarded by anybody with the old credulity; their theories and their
dogmas are mined, as were those of the early eighteenth century in
France by the Encyclopædists, by a select class of destructive critics,
in whose wake the whole public irregularly follows. The ordinary
unthinking man accepts the change with exhilaration, since in this
country the majority have always enjoyed seeing noses knocked off
statues. But if we are to rejoice in liberation from the bondage of the
Victorian Age we ought to know what those bonds were.

The phenomena of the decadence of an age are never similar to those of
its rise. This is a fact which is commonly overlooked by the opponents
of a particular section of social and intellectual history. In the
initial stages of a "period" we look for audacity, fire, freshness,
passion. We look for men of strong character who will hew a channel
along which the torrent of new ideals and subversive sentiments can
rush. But this violence cannot be expected to last, and it would lead to
anarchy if it did. Slowly the impetus of the stream diminishes, the
river widens, and its waters reach a point where there seems to be no
further movement in their expanse. No age contains in itself the
elements of endless progress; it starts in fury, and little by little
the force of it declines. Its decline is patent--but not until long
afterwards--in a deadening of effort, in a hardening of style. Dryden
leads on to Pope, Pope points down to Erasmus Darwin, after whom the
world can but reject the whole classical system. The hungry sheep of a
new generation look up and are not fed, and this is the vision which
seems to face us in the last adventures of the schools of yesterday.

But what is, or was, the Victorian Age? The world speaks glibly of it as
though it were a province of history no less exactly defined than the
career of a human being from birth to death; but in practice no one
seems in a hurry to mark out its frontiers. Indeed, to do so is an
intrepid act. If the attempt is to be made at all, then 1840, the year
of Queen Victoria's marriage with Prince Albert, may be suggested as the
starting-point, and 1890 (between the death-dates of Browning, Newman,
and Tennyson) as the year in which the Victorian Age is seen sinking
into the sands. Nothing could be vaguer, or more open to contention in
detail, than this delineation, but at all events it gives our
deliberations a frame. It excludes _Pickwick_, which is the typical
picture of English life under William IV., and _Sartor Resartus_, which
was the tossing of the bound giant in his sleep; but it includes the
two-volume Tennyson, "chiefly lyrical," the stir of the Corn Law
agitation, the Tractarian Crisis of 1841, and the _History of the French
Revolution and Past and Present_, when the giant opened his eyes and
fought with his chains. Darwin was slowly putting together the notes he
had made on the Beagle, and Hugh Miller was disturbing convention by his
explorations of the Old Red Sandstone. Most of all, the discussion of
permanent and transient elements in Christianity was taking a foremost
place in all strata of society, not merely in the form of the contest
around _Tract 90_, but in the divergent directions of Colenso, the
Simeon Evangelicals, and Maurice.

The Victorian Age began in rancour and turmoil. This is an element which
we must not overlook, although it was in a measure superficial. A series
of storms, rattling and recurrent tempests of thunder and lightning,
swept over public opinion, which had been so calm under George IV. and
so dull under William IV. Nothing could exceed the discord of
vituperation, the Hebraism of Carlyle denouncing the Vaticanism of
Wiseman, "Free Kirk and other rubbish" pitted against "Comtism,
ghastliest of algebraic spectralities." This theological tension marks
the first twenty years and then slowly dies down, after the passion
expended over _Essays and Reviews_. It was in 1840 that we find
Macaulay, anxious to start a scheme of Whig reform and to cut a
respectable figure as Secretary of State for War, unable to get to
business because of the stumbling-block of religious controversy.
Everything in heaven and earth was turned into "a theological treatise,"
and all that people cared about was "the nature of the sacraments, the
operation of holy orders, the visibility of the Church and baptismal
regeneration." The sitting member goes down to Edinburgh to talk to his
constituents about Corn Laws and Sugar Duties and the Eastern Question;
he is met by "a din" of such objections as "Yes, Mr. Macaulay, that is
all very well for a statesman, but what becomes of the headship of our
Lord Jesus Christ?"

If the Victorian Age opened in a tempest of theology, it was only
natural that it should cultivate a withering disdain for those who had
attempted to reform society on a non-theological basis. In sharp
contradistinction to the indulgence of the Georgian period for
philosophic speculation, England's interest in which not even her long
continental wars had been able to quench, we find with the accession of
Victoria the credit of the French thinkers almost abruptly falling.
Voltaire, never very popular in England, becomes "as mischievous a
monkey as any of them"; the enthusiasm for Rousseau, which had reached
extravagant proportions, completely disappears, and he is merely the
slanderous sceptic, who, after soaking other people's waistcoats with
his tears, sent his own babies to the Foundling Hospital. The influence
of the French eighteenth-century literature on the mind of England was
first combated and then baldly denied. The premier journalist of the age
declared, with the satisfaction of a turkey-cock strutting round his
yard, that no trace of the lowest level of what could be called
popularity remained in England to the writers of France, and he felt
himself "entitled to treat as an imbecile conceit the pretence" that a
French school of thought survived in Great Britain. Such was the
Podsnappery of the hour in its vigilance against moral and religious
taint.

Notwithstanding, or perhaps we ought to say inevitably conducted by
these elements of passion and disdain, the infant Victorian Age passed
rapidly into the great political whirlpool of 1846, with its violent
concentration of enthusiasm on the social questions which affected the
welfare of the masses, with, in short, its tremendous upheaval of a
practical radicalism. From that time forth its development baffles
analysis. Whatever its present enemies may allege to its discredit, they
cannot pretend that it was languid or monotonous. No Age hitherto lived
out upon the world's surface has been so multiform or so busy; none
defies the art of the historian to such a bewildering degree. Its latest
critic does not exaggerate when he says that our fathers and our
grandfathers have poured forth and accumulated so vast a quantity of
information concerning it "that the industry of a Ranke would be
submerged by it and the perspicacity of a Gibbon would quail before it."
This is manifestly true, and it is evident that an encyclopædia would be
required to discuss all the divisions of so tremendous a subject. If we
look over too wide a horizon we lose our bearings altogether. We get a
hopelessly confused notion of the course of progress; we see
experiments, criticisms, failures, but who is to assure us what was the
tendency of evolution?

Mr. Lytton Strachey's "Eminent Victorians" has arrived at the very
moment when all readers are prepared to discuss the age he deals with,
and when public opinion is aware of the impatience which has been
"rising in the bosom of a man like smoke" under the pressure of the
insistent praise of famous men. The book has attracted a very remarkable
degree of notice; it has been talked about wherever people have met
together; and has received the compliment of being seriously displayed
before the University of Oxford by one of the most eminent of the
Victorian statesmen whom Oxford has produced. If we look into the causes
of this success, enjoyed by the earliest extended book of a writer
almost unknown, a book, too, which pretends to no novelty of matter or
mystery of investigation, we find them partly in the preparedness of the
public mind for something in the way of this exposure, but partly also
in the skill of the writer. Whatever else may be said of Mr. Lytton
Strachey, no one can deny that he is very adroit, or that he possesses
the art of arresting attention.

It is part of this adroitness that he contrives to modify, and for a
long time even to conceal the fact that his purpose is to damage and
discredit the Victorian Age. He is so ceremonious in his approach, so
careful to avoid all brusqueness and coarseness, that his real aim may
be for awhile unobserved. He even professes to speak "dispassionately,
impartially, and without ulterior intentions." We may admit the want of
passion and perhaps the want of partiality, but we cannot avoid seeing
the ulterior intention, which is to undermine and belittle the
reputation of the great figures of the Victorian Age. When the
prodigious Signor Marinetti proposes to hurl the "leprous palaces" of
his native city into her "fetid canals," and to build in their place
warehouses and railway stations, he does not differ in essential
attitude from Mr. Lytton Strachey, delicately "laying bare the facts of
some cases." The only real difference consists in the finer tact, the
greater knowledge of history--in short, the superior equipment of the
English iconoclast. Each of them--and all the troop of opponents who
grumble and mutter between their extremes--each of them is roused by an
intense desire to throw off the shackles of a dying age, in which they
have taught themselves chiefly to see affectation, pomposity, a
virtuosity more technical than emotional, and an exasperating monotony
of effect.

Mr. Strachey has conducted his attack from the point of view of
biography. He realises the hopelessness of writing a history of the
Victorian Age; it can only be dealt with in detail; it must be nibbled
into here and there; discredited piecemeal; subjected to the ravages of
the white ant. He has seen that the lives of the great Victorians lend
themselves to this insidious kind of examination, because what was worst
in the pretentiousness of their age is to be found enshrined in the
Standard Biographies (in two volumes, post octavo) under which most of
them are buried. Mr. Strachey has some criticism of these monsters which
could hardly be bettered:

     "Those two fat volumes, with which it is our custom to commemorate
     the dead--who does not know them, with their ill-digested masses of
     material, their slipshod style, their tone of tedious panegyric,
     their lamentable lack of selection, of detachment, of design? They
     are as familiar as the cortège of the undertaker, and bear the same
     air of slow, funereal barbarism."

It is impossible not to agree with this pungent criticism. Every candid
reader could point to a dozen Victorian biographies which deserve Mr.
Strachey's condemnation. For instance, instead of taking up any of the
specimens which he has chosen for illustration, we need only refer the
reader's memory to the appendix of "Impressions," by a series of elderly
friends, which closes the official _Life of Tennyson_, published in
1897. He will find there an expression of the purest Victorian optimism.
The great object being to foist on the public a false and superhuman
picture of the deceased, a set of illustrious contemporaries--who
themselves expected to be, when they died, transfigured in like
manner--form a bodyguard around the corpse of the poet and emit their
"tedious panegyric." In this case, more even than in any of the
instances which Mr. Strachey has taken, the contrast between the real
man and the funereal image is positively grotesque.

Without question this contrast is not a little responsible for the
discredit into which the name of Tennyson has fallen. Lord Selborne
found nothing in Tennyson "inconsistent with the finest courtesy and the
gentlest heart." Dr. Jowett had preserved through forty years "an
ever-increasing wonder at the depth of his thought," and emphatically
stated that he "was above such feelings as a desire of praise, or fear
of blame." (Tennyson, who was thirsty for ceaseless laudation, and to
whom a hint of censure was like the bite of a mosquito!) Frederick Myers
ejaculated, "How august, how limitless a thing was Tennyson's own
spirit's upward flight!" The Duke of Argyll, again, during the space of
forty years, had found him "always reverent, hating all levity or
flippancy," and was struck by his possessing "the noblest humility I
have ever known." Lord Macaulay, who "had stood absolutely aloof," once
having been permitted to glance at the proof-sheets of _Guenevere_, was
"absolutely subdued" to "unfeigned and reverent admiration." The duke
was the glad emissary who was "the medium of introduction," and he
recognised in Macaulay's subjugation "a premonition" of Tennyson's
complete "conquest over the living world and over the generations that
are to come."

Thus the priesthood circled round their idol, waving their censers and
shouting their hymns of praise, while their ample draperies effectively
hid from the public eye the object which was really in the centre of
their throng, namely, a gaunt, black, touzled man, rough in speech,
brooding like an old gipsy over his inch of clay pipe stuffed with shag,
and sucking in port wine with gusto--"so long as it is black and sweet
and strong, I care not!" Their fault lay, not in their praise, which was
much of it deserved, but in their deliberate attempt in the interests of
what was Nice and Proper--gods of the Victorian Age--to conceal what any
conventional person might think not quite becoming. There were to be no
shadows in the picture, no stains or rugosities on the smooth bust of
rosy wax.

On the pretext, therefore, of supplying a brief and above all a
complimentary set of portraits, Mr. Strachey takes the biography of an
ecclesiastic, an educational authority, a woman of action, and a man of
adventure, and tells them over again in his own way. The four figures he
chooses are all contemporary, and yet, so implacably does time hurry us
along, all would be very old if they still survived. Three of them could
hardly survive, for Cardinal Manning and Dr. Arnold would be far over a
hundred, and Florence Nightingale in her ninety-ninth year; the fourth,
General Gordon, would be eighty-five. The motto of Mr. Strachey is "Put
not your trust in the intellectual princes of the Victorian Age," or, at
least, in what their biographers have reported of them; they were not
demi-gods in any sense, but eccentric and forceful figures working dimly
towards aims which they only understood in measure, and which very
often were not worth the energy which they expended on them. This
attitude alone would be enough to distinguish Mr. Strachey from the
purveyors of indiscriminate praise, and in adopting it he emphasises his
deliberate break with the age of which they were the envy and the
ornament. Given his 1918 frame of mind, no blame can attach to him for
adopting this gesture. At moments when the tradition of a people has
been violently challenged there have always ensued these abrupt acts of
what to the old school seems injustice. If Mr. Lytton Strachey is
reproached with lack of respect, he might reply: In the midst of a
revolution, who is called on to be respectful to the fallen monarch?
Extreme admiration for this or that particular leader, the principle of
Victorian hero-worship, is the very heresy, he might say, which I have
set out to refute.

When St. John the Divine addressed his Apocalypse to the Angels of the
Seven Churches, he invented a system of criticism which is worthy of all
acceptation. He dwelt first upon the merits of each individual church;
not till he had exhausted them did he present the reverse of the coin.
In the same spirit, critics who, in the apostle's phrase, have
"something against" Mr. Lytton Strachey, will do well to begin by
acknowledging what is in his favour. In the first place, he writes
sensibly, rapidly, and lucidly--without false ornament of any kind. Some
of his pages might, with advantage, be pinned up opposite the
writing-tables of our current authors of detestable pseudo-Meredithian
and decayed Paterese. His narrative style is concise and brisk. His book
may undoubtedly best be compared among English classics with _Whiggism
in its Relations to Literature_, although it is less discursive and does
not possess the personal element of that vivacious piece of polemic. In
this recurrence of Mr. Strachey to a pellucid stream of prose we see an
argument against his own theory of revolt. The procedure of the arts,
the mechanical tricks of the trade, do they really improve or decline
from age to age? Are they not, in fact, much more the result of
individual taste than of fashion? There seems to be no radical change in
the methods of style. The extravagant romanticism of rebellion against
the leaders of the Victorian Age finds at length an exponent, and behold
he writes as soberly as Lord Morley, or as Newman himself!

The longest of these biographies is that of Cardinal Manning, and it is
the one with which Mr. Lytton Strachey has taken most pains. Briefer
than the briefest of the _English Men of Letters_ series of biographies,
it is yet conducted with so artful an economy as to give the impression,
to an uninstructed reader, that nothing essential about the career of
Manning has been omitted. To produce this impression gifts of a very
unusual order were required, since the writer, pressed on all sides by a
plethora of information, instead of being incommoded by it, had to seem
to be moving smoothly in an atmosphere of his own choosing, and to be
completely unembarrassed by his material. He must have the air of
saying, in Froude's famous impertinence, "This is all we know, and more
than all, yet nothing to what the angels know." In the face of a whole
literature of controversy and correspondence, after a storm of Purcell
and Hutton, Ward and Mozley and Liddon tearing at one another's throats,
Mr. Lytton Strachey steps delicately on to the stage and says, in a low
voice, "Come here and I will tell you all about a funny ecclesiastic who
had a Hat, and whose name was Henry Edward Manning. It will not take us
long, and ever afterwards, if you hear that name mentioned, you will
know everything about him which you need to remember." It is audacious,
and to many people will seem shocking, but it is very cleverly done.

The study of Florence Nightingale is an even better example of Mr.
Strachey's method, since she is the one of his four subjects for whom he
betrays some partiality. "The Miss Nightingale of fact was not as facile
fancy painted her," and it has greatly entertained Mr. Strachey to chip
the Victorian varnish off and reveal the iron will beneath. His first
chapter puts it in one of his effective endings:--

     "Her mother was still not quite resigned; surely Florence might at
     least spend the summer in the country. At this, indeed, among her
     intimates, Mrs. Nightingale almost wept. 'We are ducks,' she said
     with tears in her eyes, 'who have hatched a wild swan.' But the
     poor lady was wrong; it was not a swan that they had hatched, it
     was an eagle."

It is therefore as an eagle, black, rapacious, with hooked bill and
crooked talons, that he paints Miss Nightingale; and the Swan of
Scutari, the delicate Lady with the Lamp, fades into a fable. Mr.
Strachey glorifies the demon that possessed this pitiless, rushing
spirit of philanthropy. He gloats over its ravages; its irresistible
violence of purpose. It is an evident pleasure to him to be able to
detach so wild a figure from the tameness of the circumambient scene,
and all his enmity to the period comes out in the closing pages, in
which he describes how the fierce philanthropist lived so long that the
Victorian Age had its revenge upon her, and reduced her, a smiling, fat
old woman, to "compliance and complacency." It is a picture which will
give much offence, but it is certainly extremely striking, and Mr.
Strachey can hardly be accused of having done more than deepen the
shadows which previous biographers had almost entirely omitted.

In this study, if the author is unusually indulgent to his subject, he
is relatively severer than usual to the surrounding figures. To some of
them, notably to Arthur Hugh Clough, he seems to be intolerably unjust.
On the other hand, to most of those public men who resisted the work of
Florence Nightingale it is difficult to show mercy. Mr. Strachey is so
contemptuous, almost so vindictive, in his attitude to Lord Panmure,
that the reader is tempted to take up the cudgels in defence of an
official so rudely flouted. But, on reflection, what is there that can
be said in palliation of Lord Panmure? He was the son of a man of whom
his own biographer has admitted that "he preserved late into the
[nineteenth] century the habits and passions--scandalous and
unconcealed--which had, except in his case, passed away. He was devoted
to his friends so long as they remained complaisant, and violent and
implacable to all who thwarted him.--His uncontrollable temper alienated
him from nearly all his family in his latter years. In private life he
was an immovable despot."

This was the father of Fox Maule, second Baron Panmure, of whom Mr.
Strachey has so much to say. Evidently he was a Regency type, as the son
was a Victorian. Determined not to resemble his father, Fox Maule early
became a settled and industrious M.P., and in 1846 Lord John Russell
made him Secretary of War. He held the same post under Lord Palmerston
from 1855 to 1858. Nothing could dislodge him from office; not even the
famous despatch "Take care of Dawb" could stir him. In 1860 he became
eleventh Earl of Dalhousie. He died two years later, having enjoyed
every distinction, even that of President of the Royal Military Asylum.
He was "unco guid," as pious as his father had been profane, but he had
no social or political or intellectual merit of any kind which can at
this distance of time be discerned. Florence Nightingale called him the
Bison, and his life's energy seems to have been expended in trying,
often with success, to frustrate every single practical reform which
she suggested. To the objection that Mr. Strachey has depicted the
heroine as "an ill-tempered, importunate spinster, who drove a statesman
to his death," he might conceivably reply that if history, grown calm
with the passage of years, does so reveal her, it is rather absurd to go
on idealising her. Why not study the real Eagle in place of the fabulous
Swan? It is difficult to condemn Mr. Strachey along this line of
argument.

The early Victorians liked what was definable and tangible; they were
"ponderous mechanists of style." Even in their suggestions of change
they preserved an impenetrable decorum of demeanour, a studied progress,
a deep consciousness of the guiding restraint of tradition upon
character. Their preoccupation with moral ideas tinged the whole of
their surroundings, their literature, their art, their outlook upon
life. That the works of Mr. Charles Dickens, so excruciatingly funny,
should have been produced and appreciated in the midst of this intense
epoch of exhortation seems a paradox, till we recollect how careful
Dickens is, when his laughter is loudest, never to tamper with "the deep
sense of moral evil." This apprehension of the rising immorality of the
world, against which the only rampart was the education of "a thorough
English gentleman, Christian, manly and enlightened" was dominant in no
spirit more than in that of Mr. Thomas Arnold, of whom Mr. Strachey
gives a somewhat deterrent portrait. It is deterrent, because we have
passed, in three-quarters of a century, completely out of the atmosphere
in which Dr. Arnold moved and breathed. We are not sure that Mr.
Strachey acted very wisely in selecting Dr. Arnold for one of his four
subjects, since the great schoolmaster was hardly a Victorian at all.
When he entered the Church George III. was on the throne; his
accomplishment at Rugby was started under George IV.; he died when the
Victorian Age was just beginning. He was a forerunner, but hardly a
contemporary.

Although in his attitude to the great Rugby schoolmaster Mr. Strachey
shows more approbation than usual, this portrait has not given universal
satisfaction. It has rather surprisingly called forth an indignant
protest from Dr. Arnold's granddaughter. Yet such is the perversity of
the human mind that the mode in which Mrs. Humphry Ward "perstringes"
the biographer brings us round to that biographer's side. For Mrs. Ward
has positively the indiscretion, astounding in a writer of her learning
and experience, to demand the exclusion of irony from the legitimate
weapons of the literary combatant. This is to stoop to sharing one of
the meanest prejudices of the English commonplace mind, which has always
resented the use of that delicate and pointed weapon. Moreover, Mrs.
Ward does not merely adopt the plebeian attitude, but she delivers
herself bound hand and foot to the enemy by declaring the use of irony
to be "unintelligent." In support of this amazing statement she quotes
some wandering phrase of Sainte-Beuve. By the light of recent
revelations, whether Sainte-Beuve was ironical or not, he was certainly
perfidious. But, to waive that matter, does Mrs. Humphry Ward consider
that Swift and Lucian and Machiavelli were, as she puts it, "doomed to
failure" because they used irony as a weapon? Was Heine and is Anatole
France conspicuous for want of intelligence? And, after all, ought not
Mrs. Ward to remember that if she had a very serious grandfather, she
had a still more celebrated uncle, who wrote _Friendship's Garland_?

While no one else will seriously blame Mr. Strachey for employing irony
in his investigation of character, the subject leads on to what may be
regarded as a definite fault in his method. A biographer should be
sympathetic; not blind, not indulgent, but _sympathetic_. He should be
able to enter into the feelings of his subjects, and be anxious to do
so. It is in sympathy, in imaginative insight, that Mr. Strachey fails.
His personages are like puppets observed from a great height by an
amiable but entirely superior intelligence. The peculiar aim of Mr.
Strachey, his desire to lower our general conception of the Victorian
Age, tempts him to exaggerate this tendency, and he succumbs to the
temptation. His description of Lord Acton at Rome in 1870--"he despised
Lord Acton almost as much as he disliked him"--is not ironic, it is
contemptuous. Arthur Hugh Clough presents no aspect to Mr. Strachey but
that of a timid and blundering packer-up of parcels; one might conceive
that the biographer had never contemplated the poet in any other
capacity than, with sealing-wax in his hand and string between his lips,
shuddering under the eye of Miss Nightingale. The occasional references
to Lord Wolseley suggest an unaccountable hurrying figure of pygmy size,
which Mr. Strachey can only just discern. This attitude of hovering
superiority is annoying.

But it reaches a more dangerous importance when it affects spiritual
matters. The author interests himself, from his great height, in the
movements of his Victorian dwarfs, and notices that they are
particularly active, and prone to unusual oddity of movement, when they
are inspired by religious and moral passion. Their motions attract his
attention, and he describes them with gusto and often with wit. His
sketch of Rome before the Œcumenical Council is an admirably studied
page. Miss Nightingale's ferocity when the War Office phalanx closed its
ranks is depicted in the highest of spirits; it is impossible not to be
riveted by the scene round Cardinal Manning's death-bed; but what did
those manifestations mean? To Mr. Strachey it is evident that the fun of
the whole thing is that they meant nothing at all; they were only part
of the Victorian absurdity. It is obvious that religious enthusiasm, as
a personal matter, means nothing to him. He investigates the feelings
of Newman or Keble as a naturalist might the contortions of an insect.
The ceremonies and rites of the Church are objects of subdued hilarity
to him, and in their presence, if he suppresses his laughter, it is
solely to prevent his missing any detail precious to his curiosity. When
the subject of Baptismal Regeneration agitates the whole pious world of
England Mr. Strachey seems to say, looking down with exhilaration on the
anthill beneath him, "The questions at issue are being taken very
seriously by a large number of persons. How Early Victorian of them!"
Mr. Strachey has yet to learn that questions of this kind are "taken
seriously" by serious people, and that their emotion is both genuine and
deep. He sees nothing but alcoholic eccentricity in the mysticism of
Gordon. His cynicism sometimes carries him beyond the confines of good
taste, as in the passage where he refers to the large and dirty ears of
the Roman cardinals. Still worse is the query as to what became of the
soul of Pope Pius IX. after his death.

These are errors in discretion. A fault in art is the want of care which
the author takes in delineating his minor or subordinate figures. He
gives remarkable pains, for example, to his study of General Gordon, but
he is indifferent to accuracy in his sketches of the persons who came
into contact, and often into collision, with Gordon. In this he
resembles those French painters, such as Bastien Lepage, who focus their
eye on one portion of their canvas, and work that up to a high
perfection, while leaving the rest of the picture misty and vague. Even
in that case the subordinate figures, if subdued in fogginess, should
not be falsely drawn, but Mr. Strachey, intent upon the violent portrait
of Gordon, is willing to leave his Baring and Hartington and Wolseley
inexact as well as shadowy. The essay on General Gordon, indeed, is the
least successful of the four monographs. Dexterous as he is, Mr.
Strachey has not had the material to work upon which now exists to
elucidate his other and earlier subjects. But it is difficult to account
for his apparently not having read Mr. Bernard Holland's life of the
Duke of Devonshire, which throws much light, evidently unknown to Mr.
Strachey, on the Gordon relief expedition. He ought to know that Sir
Evelyn Baring urged the expedition, while Chamberlain was one of its
opponents. Mr. Strachey does not seem to have noticed how much the issue
was confused by conflicting opinions as to whether the route to be taken
should be by Suakin or up the Nile.

No part of his book is more vigorous or picturesque than the chapter
dealing with the proclamation of Papal Infallibility. But here again one
is annoyed by the glibness with which Mr. Strachey smoothly asserts what
are only his conjectures.

In his account of Manning's reception in Rome--and this is of central
importance in his picture of Manning's whole career--he exaggerates the
personal policy of Pio Nono, whom he represents as more independent of
the staff of the Curia than was possible. Rome has never acknowledged
the right of the individual, even though that individual be the Pope, to
an independent authority. Mr. Odo Russell was resident secretary in Rome
from 1858 to 1870, and his period of office was drawing to a close when
Manning arrived; he was shortly afterwards removed to become Assistant
Under Secretary of State at our Foreign Office. The author of _Eminent
Victorians_ is pleased to describe "poor Mr. Russell" as little better
than a fly buzzing in Manning's "spider's web of delicate and clinging
diplomacy." It is not in the memory of those who were behind the scenes
that Odo Russell was such a cipher. Though suave in address, he was by
no means deficient in decision or force of character, as was evidenced
when, some months later, he explained to Mr. Gladstone his reasons for
stating to Bismarck, without instructions from the government, that the
Black Sea question was one on which Great Britain might be compelled to
go to war with or without allies. Lord Morley's _Life of Gladstone_
(vol. ii., p. 354) is explicit on this interesting point. The
information which, by special permission of the Pope, Cardinal Manning
was able to give to him on all that was going on in the Council was, of
course, of great value to Odo Russell, but his views on other aspects of
the question were derived from quite different sources.

In this respect he had the advantage of the Cardinal, both on account of
his diplomatic position and of his long and intimate knowledge both of
Vatican policy and of the forces which the Curia has at its command. On
the strength of those forces, and on the small amount of effective
support which British opposition to the Decree of Infallibility was
likely to receive from the Catholic Powers, he no doubt held strong
opinions. Some years later he did not conceal his conviction that Prince
Bismarck would be worsted in his conflict with Rome on the Education
Laws, and the event proved his forecast to be perfectly correct. This is
an example of the dangers which beset a too glib and superficial
treatment of political events which were conducted in secret, and with
every circumstance of mystery.

Several of the characteristics which diversify Mr. Strachey's remarkable
volume are exemplified in the following quotation. It deals with the
funeral of Cardinal Manning:--

     "The route of the procession was lined by vast crowds of working
     people, whose imaginations, in some instinctive manner, had been
     touched. Many who had hardly seen him declared that in Cardinal
     Manning they had lost their best friend. Was it the magnetic vigour
     of the dead man's spirit that moved them? Or was it his valiant
     disregard of common custom and those conventional reserves and
     poor punctilios, which are wont to hem about the great? Or was it
     something untameable in his glances and in his gestures? Or was it,
     perhaps, the mysterious glamour lingering about him of the antique
     organisation of Rome? For whatever cause, the mind of the people
     had been impressed; and yet, after all, the impression was more
     acute than lasting. The Cardinal's memory is a dim thing to-day.
     And he who descends into the crypt of that Cathedral which Manning
     never lived to see, will observe, in the quiet niche with the
     sepulchral monument, that the dust lies thick on the strange, the
     incongruous, the almost impossible object which, with its
     elaborations of dependent tassels, hangs down from the dim vault
     like some forlorn and forgotten trophy, the Hat."

Longinus tells us that "a just judgment of style is the final fruit of
long experience." In the measured utterances of Mr. Asquith we recognise
the speech of a man to whom all that is old and good is familiar, and in
whom the art of finished expression has become a habit. No more
elegantly balanced, no more delicately perceptive mind than his has
appeared of recent times in our midst, and there is something in the
equipoise of his own genius which points Mr. Asquith out as a judge
peculiarly well fitted to sit in judgment upon rival ages. In his
Romanes lecture there was but one thing to be regretted: the restricted
space which it offered for the full expansion of the theme. Mr. Asquith
excels in swift and rapid flights, but even for him the Victorian Age is
too broad a province to be explored within one hour. He endeavoured to
lighten his task by excluding theology and politics, and indeed but for
such self-denial he could scarcely have moved at all in so dense an air.
He was able, however, having thrown out so much formidable ballast, to
rise above his subject, and gazing at the Victorian Age, as it recedes,
he declared it to have been very good. The young men who despise and
attack that Age receive no support in any particular from Mr. Asquith.

He dwells on the fecundity of the literature of the Victorian Age in its
middle period, and especially on the publications which adorned the
decade from 1850 to 1859. He calls those years, very justly, "marvellous
and almost unexampled" in their rich profusion. I may suggest that the
only rival to them in our history is the period from 1590 to 1600, which
saw the early plays of Shakespeare, the _Faerie Queene_, the _Arcadia_,
the _Ecclesiastical Polity_, _Tamburlaine_, _The Discovery of Guiana_,
and Bacon's _Essays_. If the works catalogued by Mr. Asquith do not
equal these in intensity, they excel them by the breadth of the ground
they cover, extending from Browning to Darwin and from Thackeray to
Ruskin. Moreover, the Oxford list might have included _Lavengro_ and
Newman's _Lectures_, and Herbert Spencer's _Social Statics_. The only
third decade worthy to be named with those of 1590 and 1850 is that
which opens in 1705, and is illuminated by the names of Pope,
Shaftesbury, Swift, Arbuthnot, Defoe, Steele, Addison, and Berkeley. It
is pleasant to compare these three magnificently flowering epochs, but
not profitable if we attempt to weigh one against the other. They are
comparable only in the splendour of their accomplishment.

It is more difficult to fit science into our scheme of the Victorian Age
than to find places there for Art and Literature. Perhaps the reason of
this is that the latter were national in their character, whereas
scientific inquiry, throughout the nineteenth century, was carried on
upon international lines, or, at least, in a spirit unprecedentedly
non-provincial. The vast achievements of science, practical and
theoretical, were produced for the world, not for a race. Mr. Asquith
speaks with justice and eloquence of the appearance of Darwin's _Origin
of Species_ which he distinguishes as being "if not actually the most
important, certainly the most interesting event of the Age," and his
remarks on the fortune of that book are excellent. No one can
over-estimate the value of what we owe to Darwin. But perhaps a
Frenchman might speak in almost the same terms of Claude Bernard, whose
life and work ran parallel with Darwin's. If the _Origin of Species_
made an epoch in 1859, the _Introduction à la médicine expérimental_
made another in 1865. Both these books, as channels by which the
experimental labours of each investigator reached the prepared and
instructed public, exercised at once, and have continued ever since to
exercise, an enormous effect on thought as well as on knowledge. They
transformed the methods by which man approaches scientific
investigation, and while they instructed they stimulated a new ardour
for instruction. In each case the value of the discovery lay in the
value of the idea which led to the discovery, and, as some one has said
in the case of Claude Bernard, they combined for the first time the
operations of science and philosophy. The parallel between these two
contemporaries extends, in a measure, to their disciples and successors,
and seems to suggest that Mr. Asquith in his generous and difficult
estimate may have exaggerated the purely Victorian element in the
science of the age of Darwin. This only accentuates the difficulty, and
he may perhaps retort that there is an extreme danger in suggesting what
does and what does not form a part of so huge a system.

Justifiably Mr. Asquith takes it for granted that the performance of the
central years of the Victorian Age was splendid. With those who deny
merit to the writers and artists of the last half century it is
difficult to reach a common ground for argument. What is to be the
criterion of taste if all the multiform exhibitions of it which passed
muster from 1840 to 1890 are now to be swept away with contumely?
Perhaps indeed it is only among those extravagant romanticists who are
trying to raise entirely new ideals, unrelated to any existing forms of
art and literature, that we find a denial of all merit to the Victorian
masters. Against this caricature of criticism, this Bolshevism, it would
be hopeless to contend. But there is a large and growing class of more
moderate thinkers who hold, in the first place, that the merit of the
leading Victorian writers has been persistently over-estimated, and that
since its culmination the Victorian spirit has not ceased to decay,
arriving at length at the state of timidity and repetition which
encourages what is ugly, narrow, and vulgar, and demands nothing better
than a swift dismissal to the dust-bin.

Every stratum of society, particularly if it is at all sophisticated,
contains a body of barbarians who are usually silent from lack of
occasion to express themselves, but who are always ready to seize an
opportunity to suppress a movement of idealism. We accustom ourselves to
the idea that certain broad principles of taste are universally
accepted, and our respectable newspapers foster this benevolent delusion
by talking habitually "over the heads," as we say, of the majority of
their readers. They make "great music for a little clan," and nothing
can be more praiseworthy than their effort, but, as a matter of fact,
with or without the aid of the newspapers, the people who really care
for literature or art, or for strenuous mental exercise of any kind, are
relatively few. If we could procure a completely confidential statement
of the number of persons to whom the names of Charles Lamb and
Gainsborough have a distinct meaning, and still more of those who can
summon up an impression of the essays of the one and of the pictures of
the other, we should in all probability be painfully startled. Yet since
these names enjoy what we call a universal celebrity, what must be the
popular relation to figures much less prominent?

The result of this tyranny of fame, for so it must appear to all those
who are inconvenienced by the expression of it, is to rouse a sullen
tendency to attack the figures of art and literature whenever there
arrives a chance of doing that successfully. Popular audiences can
always be depended upon to cheer the statement of "a plain man" that he
is not "clever" enough to understand Browning or Meredith. An assurance
that life is too short to be troubled with Henry James wakes the lower
middle class to ecstasy. An opportunity for such protests is provided by
our English lack of critical tradition, by our accepted habit of saying,
"I do hate" or "I must say I rather like" this or that without reference
to any species of authority. This seems to have grown with dangerous
rapidity of late years. It was not tolerated among the Victorians, who
carried admiration to the highest pitch. They marshalled it, they
defined it, they turned it from a virtue into a religion, and called it
Hero Worship. Even their abuse was a kind of admiration turned inside
out, as in Swinburne's diatribes against Carlyle, who himself fought
against the theory of Darwin, not philosophically, but as though it were
a personal insult to himself. Such violence of taste is now gone out of
fashion; every scribbler and dauber likes to believe himself on a level
with the best, and the positive criterion of value which sincere
admiration gave is lost to us. Hence the success of Mr. Lytton Strachey.

But the decline of ardour does not explain the whole position, which we
have to face with firmness. Epochs come to an end, and before they have
their place finally awarded to them in history they are bound to endure
much vicissitude of fortune. No amount of sarcasm or of indignant
protest will avail to conceal the fact that we stand to-day at the
porch, that much more probably we have already penetrated far into the
vestibule, of a new age. What its character will be, or what its
principal products, it is absolutely impossible for us as yet to
conjecture. Meanwhile the Victorian Age recedes, and it loses size and
lustre as we get further and further away from it. When what was called
"Symbolism" began to act in urgent and direct reaction to the aims of
those still in authority, the old order received its notice to quit, but
that was at least five and twenty years ago, and the change is not
complete. Ages so multiform and redundant and full of blood as the
Victorian take a long time to die; they have their surprising recoveries
and their uncovenanted convalescences. But even they give up the ghost
at length, and are buried hastily with scant reverence. The time has
doubtless come when aged mourners must prepare themselves to attend the
obsequies of the Victorian Age with as much decency as they can muster.

1918.



INDEX


Abbaye de Creteil, 303-4
Acton, Lord, 328
Addison, J., relation of, to Romanticists, 70-1; 68, 76, 82
_Agnes de Castro_, by Catharine Trotter, 43-5
Akenside, 74
Allard-Méeus, J., 273
_Alroy_, by B. Disraeli, 161
American criticism, and Edgar Allan Poe, 104, 105
Anne, Queen, 58
_Annabel Lee_, by E.A. Poe, 103, 112
Argyll, Duke of, 320
Ariosto, 84, 85
Arnauld, Angelique, 39
Arnold, M., 3, 68, 71, 133, 267
Arnold, Dr. T., Mr. Strachey's portrait of, 326-7
Asquith, Mr., Romanes lecture of, 332-5

Bacon, 17
Bagehot, W., 96
Balfour, A.J., _re_ standards of taste, 4, 5, 10
Ballenden, Sarah, 40
Baring, M., poems of, 265, 273-5
Barrie, Sir J., 100
Barry, Mrs., 57
Batsford, Lord Redesdale at, 217-8, 222, 224-8, 229
Baudelaire, 106
Bayle, 59
Behn, Aphra, 39
Bell, T., of Selborne, 182
Berkeley, 98
Betterton, 48, 57
Birch, Rev. Dr., 61
Blake, W., 5, 90
Blessington, Lady, 131
Boileau, 70, 77, 82
Booth, 57
Bottomley, G., 262
Bridges, R., War poetry of, 161; 110
de Brillac, Mlle., 44
Brontë, Charlotte, dislike of Dewsbury, 142-3;
  message of, arose from pain and resistance, 144;
  her unhappiness, its causes, 145-6;
  defiance the note of her writings, 146-50
Brontë, Emily, 149
Brontës, The Challenge of the, address delivered on, 141-50;
  their connexion with Dewsbury, 141-2
Brooke, Rupert, poems of, 268-70
Browning, R., 9, 81, 132
Brunetière, 7
Bruxambille, 95
Bryant, 107, 108
Bulwer-Lytton, E., ambiguity of his position in literature, 117;
  R. Lytton's biography, 118, 121;
  Lord Lytton's biography, 117, 118-9, 120, 122, 129, 130, 131, 133, 137;
  autobiography, 119-20;
  story of matrimonial troubles, 121-9;
  character, 129-30;
  acquaintances and friends, 130-2;
  relations with contemporary writers and poets, 132-4;
  stormy life, 134;
  unfavourable attitude of critics towards, 134-5;
  popularity of his writings, 135-6;
  versatility and merits, 136-7; 178
Bulwer-Lytton, Mrs., opposition to Bulwer-Lytton's marriage, 124-7
Burghclere, Lady, open letter to, on Lady D. Nevill, 181-96
Burnet, George, 52, 53, 54, 55, 58, 59, 60
Burnet, Gilbert, Bishop, patron of the Trotters, 41, 52, 53
Burnet, Mrs., 52, 53
Burney, Dr., 33
Burton, 96
Byron, 76, 104, 108, 148, 161-2

Carlyle, 100
Carlyle, Mrs., her opinion of Keats, 9
Catullus, 84
Charles II, 40, 41
Chateaubriand, 74
Chatterton, 87
Cibber, Colley, 44
Classic poetry, Romanticists' revolt against principles of, 70-90
Clough, A.H., 325, 328
Cockburn, Mr., 60, 61
Coleridge, 104, 108, 274
Collier, Jeremy, attack on stage immorality, 47
Collins, 86, 110
Colonisation, England's debt to Walter Raleigh, 24-5
Congreve, Catherine Trotter's relations with, 43, 47, 48, 50; 57, 58
_Coningsby_, by B. Disraeli, 153, 164, 165-6, 169, 170-2, 173
_Contarini Fleming_, by B. Disraeli, 159-61, 162
Corbett, N.M.F., poems of, 275
Cowes in war time, 219-21
Cowley, 82
Cowper, 253
Crabbe, G., Hardy compared with, 248
Cranch, C.P., 105
Cromer, Lord, essay on, 196-216;
  intellectual and literary activity, 197-8;
  as a speaker, 198-200;
  interest in House of Lords Library, 200;
  classical tastes, 200-203;
  conversation, attitude to life and letters, 204-8;
  correspondence and reflections, 208-10;
  humour, 210-12;
  verse, 212-15;
  literary activities, 215-16

Dacier, Mme., 52
_Dacre_, by Countess of Morley, 153, 156
Dante, 225-6
Dartmouth, George, Earl of, 40, 42
D'Aubigné, 78
Daudet, A., 252
Daudet, E., 229-30
Davies, W.H., 262
De Vere, Mrs., 59
Devey, Miss, "Life of Rosina, Lady Lytton," by, 121
Dewsbury, the Brontës' connexion with, 141-2
Dickens, C, 100, 128, 131
Disraeli, B., novels of, address, 153-78;
  not taken seriously as an author, 153-4;
  three periods of writing, 154-5;
  contemporary fiction, 155-6;
  _Vivian Grey_, 156-9;
  _The Young Duke_, 157;
  _Henrietta Temple_, 159;
  _Contarini Fleming_, 159-60;
  Byron's influence on, 161;
  Voltaire's influence on, 162;
  fascinated by Venice, 163;
  _Venetia_, 163;
  Parliamentary experience and literary results, 164;
  _Coningsby_, 165-6;
  _Sybil_, 167-8;
  _Tancred_, 169-72;
  Prime Minister, 172;
  _Lothair_, 173-8; 131, 135
Donne, J., 78, 111, 236, 244, 252
Dorset, Charles, Earl of, 43
Dowden, 34
Doyle, Sir A.C., 103
Dryden, 34, 49, 50, 70, 82, 274
Du Bos, Abbé, 90
Durham, Lord, 131
Dyer, 70

Elizabeth, Queen, sympathy between Raleigh and, 18
_Eloisa to Abelard_, by Pope, its appeal to Romanticists, 83-4
Emerson, 107
_Eminent Victorians_, by Lytton Strachey, review of, 318-32
English Poetry, The Future of, 289-309;
  instances of national lapses in poetic output, 290;
  necessity of novelty of expression and difficulties arising, 291-2;
  advantages of vernacular poetry, 293;
  future poetry bound to dispense with obvious description and
      reflection and to take on greater subtlety of expression, 294-7;
  Wordsworth's speculations concerning nineteenth-century poetry, 298-9;
  prospect of social poetry, 299-301;
  "effusion of natural sensibility" more probable, 302-3;
  French experiments, 303-4;
  as to disappearance of erotic poetry, 305-6;
  dramatic poetry and symbolism, 306-9
_Essay on Criticism_, by Pope, Romanticists' attack upon, 71-4
_Essay on Genius of Pope_, by J. Warton, 80-3

Farquhar, 48
_Fatal Friendship_, by C. Trotter, 47-8
Fawcett, Rev. J., 97
Fenn, Mr., 60
Fletcher, John, songs of, 35
_For Annie_, by E.A. Poe, 112
Ford, songs of, 35
Forster, John, 131-2, 133
France, Anatole, 7

Gaskell, Mrs., 141
Gautier, T., 6, 10
Genoa, Duke of, 133
Georgian poetry, its pre-war characteristics, 261-2
Gibbon, 98
Gibson, W.W., 262
Gilbert, Sir H., 25
Gilpin, 87
Godolphin, Henrietta, 58
Goethe, 161
de Goncourt, E., 252
Gongora, 78
Gordon, General, 15;
  Mr. Strachey's portrait of, 329-30
Gore, Mrs., 178
de Gourmont, Rémy, his opinion of Sully-Prudhomme, 9, 10
de Gournay, Mlle., 39
Granville, 47
Graves, R., poetry of, 280-1
Gray, 89, 108
Greene, 32
Grenfell, J., poems of, 271-3
Guiana, Raleigh's "gold mine" in, 20

Halifax, Lord, 50
Handel, 80
Harcourt, Mrs., 57
Hardy, Thomas, lyrical poetry of, 233-58;
  independence of his career as a poet, 233-4;
  unity and consistence of his poetry, 234;
  sympathy with Swinburne, 235;
  historic development of lyrics, 236;
  novel writing interfering with, 237-8;
  place of poetry in his literary career, 238;
  "Wessex Ballads" and "Poems of Past and Present," 238-40;
  "The Dynasts" and "Times' Laughing Stocks," 240-2;
  "Satires of Circumstance," 242-3;
  "Moments of Vision," 243-4;
  technical quality of his poetry, 244;
  metrical forms, 245-6;
  pessimistic conception of life, 247-8;
  compared with Crabbe, 248;
  consolation found by, 249-51;
  compared with Wordsworth, 251;
  human sympathy, 251;
  range of subjects, 252-5;
  speculations on immortality, 256;
  "The Dynasts," 68, 257;
  unchangeableness of his art, 257-8;
  "Song of the Soldiers," 263
Hawthorne, 107
Hayley, 5
Hazlitt, 301
_Henrietta Temple_, by B. Disraeli, 153, 159
Heywood, songs of, 35
Higgons, Bevil, 43
Hobbes, 98
Hodgson, W.N., 284
Homer, 12
Hooker, 17
Hope, H.T., 164
Housman, A.E., 268
Hugo, V., 6, 12, 111, 134
Hume, 98
Hunt, Leigh, 104

Inglis, Dr., 51, 58
Ireland, Raleigh in, 23

James I, distrust and treatment of Raleigh, 19, 20, 21
James II, 42
Johnson, Dr., his opinion of the Wartons, 86, 98
Jowett, Dr., 320

Keats, Mrs. Carlyle's opinion of, 9; 5, 90, 104, 105
King, Peter, 53, 59
Kipling, R., poetry of, 300

Landon, Letitia, 131
Lansdowne, Lord, 191
Lauderdale, Earl of, 42
Lauderdale, Maitland, Duke of, 40, 41
Lawson, H., poems of, 284
Lee, 50
Leibnitz, 42, 54, 55, 56, 59
Lemaître, J., 7
Lewis, "Monk," 162
Locke, Catharine Trotter's defence of, 53-5;
  death of, 55; 42
Lockhart, 135
Lodge, 32
_Lothair_, by B. Disraeli, 173-8
_Love at a Loss_, by Catharine Trotter, 51
Lowell, 108
Lucas, Lord, 274
Lyly, John, 31
Lytton, Bulwer-, _see_ Bulwer-Lytton.
Lytton, Lord, biography of Bulwer-Lytton, 117, 118-19, 120, 122, 129,
    130, 131, 133, 137
Lytton, R., biography of Bulwer-Lytton, 118, 121

Macaulay, Lord, 320-1
Macpherson, 86
Malebranche, 52
Malherbe, 70, 77
Mallarmé, 77, 106
Malory's _Morte d'Arthur_, 85
Manley, Mrs., 44, 45, 46, 61
Manning, Cardinal, Mr. Strachey's portrait of, 323, 330-2
Manoa, 19
Mant, 73
Marinetti, M., 305, 318
Marini, 78
Marlborough, Sarah, Duchess of, 57
Marlborough, Duke of, Catharine Trotter's poem of welcome to, 58
Marlowe, songs of, 34
Marsh, E., 261
Masham, Lady, 55, 56, 59
Massinger, 35
Melbourne, Lord, 131
_Memories_, by Lord Redesdale, 216, 217, 219, 221
Milton, influence upon eighteenth-century poetry, 79; 82, 110
Mitford, Major Hon. C, 218
Mockel, A., 112
_Moments of Vision_, by T. Hardy, 243-4
Monckton-Milnes, Sir R., 133
Morris, 104
Myers, F., 320

Nevill, Lady Dorothy, Open Letter to Lady Burghclere on, 181-96;
  memoirs of, 181-2;
  writer's friendship with, 152;
  appearance and physical strength, 183-4;
  characteristics, 184-5;
  a spectator of life, 186-7;
  attitude to the country, 187;
  wit, conversation and correspondence, 187-92;
  relation to literature and art, 192-4;
  emotional nature, 194-6
Nevill, Ralph, Memoirs of Lady D. Nevill by, 181-2
Newcastle, Margaret, Duchess of, 39
Nichols, R., poetry of, 276-80
Nietzsche, 219-20
Nightingale, Florence, Mr. Strachey's Life of, 324
Norris, John, 52, 53

Obermann, 76
_Observations on the Faerie Queene_, by T. Warton, 84-6
_Ode on the Approach of Summer_, by T. Warton, 79
_Odes_, by J. Warton, 69, 75, 80
Otway, 50

Panmure, Lord, 325-6
Paris, Gaston, 7, 8
Parnell, 76
Parr, Dr. S., 120
Pater, W., 71
Patmore, C., 237
Peacock, 104
Peele, 32
Péguy, C., 268
_Pelham_, by Sir E. Bulwer-Lytton, the author of, 117-37; 135, 155
Pepys, S., 27
Perth, 4th Earl of, 40, 42
_Philip van Artevelde_, by H. Taylor, 107
Piers, Lady, 50, 51
Piers, Sir G., 50
Pix, Mrs. Mary, 45, 46, 61
Poe, E.A., centenary of, address on, 103-13;
  importance as a poet ignored, 103;
  original want of recognition of, 104-5;
  his reaction to unfriendly criticism, 105-6;
  essential qualities of his genius, 106-7;
  contemporary conception of poetry, 107-8;
  his ideal of poetry, 108;
  influences upon, 108-9;
  early verses, poetic genius in, 109;
  melodiousness of, 110-11;
  symbolism of, 112-13
_Poems and Ballads_, by A.C. Swinburne, Bulwer-Lytton's support of, 133-4
_Poems of Past and Present_, by T. Hardy, 238-40
Pope, Romanticists' revolt against classicism of, 70-90; 68
Prussia, Sophia Charlotte, Queen of, 58

Rabelais, 90
Radcliffe, Mrs., 85, 162
Raleigh, North Carolina, foundation of, 25-6
Raleigh, W., junr., 20
Raleigh, Sir W., address delivered on Tercentenary celebration of, 15-27;
  patriotism and hatred of Spain, 15-17, 21-2;
  character, 18;
  adventurous nature, 18-19;
  James I and, 19-20;
  his El Dorado dreams, 20;
  fall and trial, 21;
  savage aspects of, 23;
  as a naval strategist, 23-4;
  genius as coloniser, 24-5;
  imprisonment and execution, 26-7
Ramsay, Allan, 70
Redesdale, Lord, last days of, 216-30;
  literary career, 216-7;
  vitality: pride in authorship and garden, 217-8;
  death of son, 218;
  "Memories," 219;
  loneliness and problem of occupying his time, 219-22;
  origin of last book, its theme, 222-4;
  last days, 224-30
René, 76
Rentoul, L., poems of, 284
Retté, A., 112
Reynolds, 104
Ritson, Joseph, attack upon T. Warton, 88-9
Roanoke, Virginia, British settlement in, 25
Roche, Lord and Lady, 23
Romanticism, Two Pioneers of, Joseph and Thomas Warton, address on, 65-90
Romantic movement, features of, 71-90
Rossetti, D.G., 104, 136
Rousseau, J.J., English Romanticists' relation to, 68, 68, 75
Ruskin, 100
Russell, Odo, 330

Sainte-Beuve, 6
Sappho, 84
Sassoon, S., poems of, 282-4
_Satires of Circumstance_, by T. Hardy, 242-3
Satow, Sir E., 223
Scott, Sir W., 108, 128, 135
Scudéry, M. de, 39
Seaman, Sir G., war invective of, 264
Selbourne, Lord, 320
Selden, 98
Senancour, 74
_Sentimental Journey_, The, by L. Sterne, 96, 100
Seventeenth century, English women writers of, 39
Shakespeare, the Songs of, 31-5;
  their dramatic value, 31-3;
  lyrical qualities, 33-5;
  comparison with contemporary lyricists, 35; 17, 82
Shelley, 74, 104, 108, 162
Shenstone, 70
_Shepherd of the Ocean, The_, 15-27
Shorter, C., 141
Some Soldier Poets, 261-85;
  outbreak of war poetry, 262-3;
  mildness of British Hymns of Hate, 264-5;
  military influence upon poetic feeling, 265-6;
  tendency to dispense with form, 266;
  common literary influences, 267-8;
  Rupert Brooke, 268-70;
  J. Grenfell, 271-3;
  M. Baring, 273-5;
  N.M.F. Corbett, 275;
  E.W. Tennant, 275;
  R. Nichols, 276-80;
  R. Graves, 280-1;
  S. Sassoon, 282-4;
  C.H. Sorley, W.N. Hodgson, K. Lawson, L. Rentoul, R.E. Vernède, 284
Sorley, C.H., poems of, 284
Southey, 5, 104
Spain, Anglo-Spanish rivalry in days of Walter Raleigh, 16-17, 21-3, 24
Spenser, 17, 82, 84, 111
Stephen, Sir Leslie, 106, 237
Sterne, Laurence, Essay on the Charm of, 93-100;
  birth and childhood, 93-4;
  temperament, 94-5;
  intellectual development, 95-6;
  alternation of feeling about, 97;
  English literature's debt to, 98;
  his "indelicacy," 99;
  irrelevancy, 99;
  Shandean influences upon literature, 100
Sterne, Mrs., 93
Sterne, Roger, 93
Stevenson, R.L., 100
Strachey, Lytton, "Eminent Victorians" by, review of, 318-32
Stukeley, Sir L., 21
Sully-Prudhomme, fluctuations in taste as regards, 5-9
Sumners, Montagu, 39
Swinburne, A. C, Bulwer-Lytton and, 133-4;
  Hardy's sympathy with, 235; 68, 81, 111
Symbolism and poetry, 308-9

_Tales of Old Japan_, by Lord Redesdale, 216
_Tancred_, by B. Disraeli, 153
Taste, fluctuations in, 3-12;
  regarding Wordsworth, 3-4;
  Mr. Balfour's conclusions, 4-5, 10;
  volte-face concerning Sully-Prudhomme, 5-10
_Tea-Table Miscellany_, 70
Temple, Mrs., 45
Tennant, E.W., poetry of, 275
Tennyson, Victorian opinion of, 320-1; 7, 12, 81, 106, 116, 132, 299
Thackeray, 144
_The Bamboo Garden_, by Lord Redesdale, 216
_The Bells_, by E.A. Poe, 111
_The Dynasts_, by T. Hardy, 240, 257
_The Enthusiast_, by Joseph Warton, importance of, 69, 73
_The Female Wits_, by Catharine Trotter, 45-6
_The Raven_, by E.A. Poe, 108, 111
_The Revolution in Sweden_, by Catharine Trotter, 57-8
_The Unhappy Penitent_, by Catharine Trotter, 50-1
_The Young Duke_, by B. Disraeli, 153, 157
Thomson, James, 78, 307
Thomson's _Castle of Indolence_, 68
_Times' Laughing Stocks_, by T. Hardy, 240-2
Tottel's Miscellany, 261
_Tristram Shandy_, by L. Sterne, 94, 96, 98, 99, 100
Trotter, Capt. D., R.N., 40
Trotter, Catharine, 39-62;
  precocity, 39, 42;
  parentage, 40;
  poverty, 41-2;
  early verses, 43;
  correspondence with celebrated people, 43;
  _Agnes de Castro_, 43-5;
  _The Female Wits_, 45-6;
  _Fatal Friendship_, 47-9;
  elegy on Dryden's death, 49-50;
  _The Unhappy Penitent_, 50-1;
  _Love at a Loss_, 51;
  friendship with the Burnets, 52;
  philosophical studies, 42, 52-3;
  enthusiasm for Locke, 53, 55;
  _The Revolution in Sweden_, 54, 57;
  correspondence with Leibnitz, 55;
  indignation at aspersions on feminine intellectuality, 56-7;
  poem of welcome to Marlborough, 58;
  attachment to G. Burnet, 59-60;
  marriage with Mr. Cockburn, 60;
  later life, 60-1
Trotter, Mrs., poverty of, 41
Tupper, 5
Turkey Company, 40

_Ulalume_, by E.A. Poe, 103, 107, 109, 112
Upchear, Henry, 31

_Veluvana_, by Lord Redesdale, theme of, 222-4, 226
_Venetia_, by B. Disraeli, 163
Venice, its fascination for Disraeli, 163
Verbruggen, Mrs., 45
Verlaine, Paul, 7
Vernède, R.E., poems of, 284
de Verville, B., 95, 95, 96
Victorian Age, the Agony of, 313-37
Virgil, 12
_Vivian Grey_, by B. Disraeli, 155, 156, 157-9
Voltaire, 3, 162

Waller, 82
Warburton, Dr., 33, 81, 97
Ward, Mrs. Humphrey, 144, 327
Ward, Plumer, novels of, 155, 156, 178
Warton, Joseph and Thomas; Two Pioneers of Romanticism, address
    on, 65-90;
  parentage and early habits, 66-7;
  heralds of romantic movement, 67;
  literary contemporaries and atmosphere, 68;
  Joseph, the leading spirit, 68-9;
  _The Enthusiast_, its romantic qualities, 69;
  their revolt against principles of classic poetry, 70-4;
  characteristic features of early Romanticism, 74-9;
  Miltonic influence, 79-80;
  _Essay on the Genius of Pope_, 80-4;
  _Observations on the Faerie Queene_, 84-6;
  Johnson's criticism of, 86-7;
  Ritson's attack upon Thomas, 88;
  defects of, 89-90
Webster's _White Devil_, 34
_Wessex Ballads_, by T. Hardy, 238-40
Wheeler, R.D. (Lady Lytton), Miss Devey's Life of, 121;
  story of marriage with Bulwer-Lytton, 121-9
Whitehead, 74
William III, 41
Willis, N.P., 105
Wilson, Harriette, 130-1
Wolseley, Lord, 328
Wooler, Miss, 141, 142, 143
Wordsworth, Hardy compared with, 251;
  speculations concerning future poetry, 298-9; 3, 4, 10, 74, 78, 90,
      104, 107, 108, 110, 253
Wycherley, 44

Yeats, 70
Young, 68, 69, 81

PRINTED IN GREAT BRITAIN BY RICHARD CLAY & SONS, LIMITED
BRUNSWICK ST., STAMFORD ST., S.E. 1, AND BUNGAY, SUFFOLK.





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