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´╗┐Title: Views and Reviews - Essays in appreciation
Author: Henley, William Ernest, 1849-1903
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Views and Reviews - Essays in appreciation" ***

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Transcribed from the 1892 David Nutt edition by David Price, email





Published by DAVID NUTT
in the Strand

* * * * *


Printing begun 28th October 1889, ended 13th May 1890

1000 _copies_

Finest Japanese--
20 _copies_


Printing begun May 25th, ended June 18, 1892

1000 _copies_

_Edinburgh_:_ T. & A. CONSTABLE_, _Printers to Her Majesty_



_Suggested by one friend and selected and compiled by another_, _this
volume is less a book than a mosaic of scraps and shreds recovered from
the shot rubbish of some fourteen years of journalism_.  _Thus_, _the
notes on Longfellow_, _Balzac_, _Sidney_, _Tourneur_, '_Arabian Nights
Entertainments_,' _Borrow_, _George Eliot_, _and Mr. Frederick Locker are
extracted from originals in_ '_London_'--_a print still remembered with
affection by those concerned in it_; _those on Labiche_, _Champfleury_,
_Richardson_, _Fielding_, _Byron_, _Gay_, _Congreve_, _Boswell_, '_Essays
and Essayists_,' _Jefferies_, _Hood_, _Matthew Arnold_, _Lever_,
_Thackeray_, _Dickens_, _M. Theodore de Banville_, _Mr. Austin Dobson_,
_and Mr. George Meredith from articles contributed to_ '_The Athenaeum_';
_those on Dumas_, _Count Tolstoi's novels_, _and the verse of Dr. Hake
from_ '_The Saturday Review_'; _those on Walton_, _Landor_, _and Heine
from_ '_The Scots Observer_,' '_The Academy_,' _and_ '_Vanity Fair_'
_respectively_; _while the_ '_Disraeli_' _has been pieced together from_
'_London_,' '_Vanity Fair_,' _and_ '_The Athenaeum_'; _the_ '_Berlioz_'
_from_ '_The Scots Observer_' _and_ '_The Saturday Review_'; _the_
'_Tennyson_' _from_ '_The Scots Observer_' _and_ '_The Magazine of Art_';
_the_ '_Homer and Theocritus_' _from_ '_Vanity Fair_' _and the defunct_
'_Teacher_'; _the_ '_Hugo_' _from_ '_The Athenaeum_,' '_The Magazine of
Art_,' _and an unpublished fragment written for_ '_The Scottish Church_.'
_In all cases permission to reprint is hereby gratefully acknowledged_;
_but the reprinted matter has been subjected to such a process of
revision and reconstitution that much of it is practically new_, _while
little or none remains as it was_.  _I venture_, _then_, _to hope that
the result_, _for all its scrappiness_, _will be found to have that unity
which comes of method and an honest regard for letters_.

W. E. H.

_Edinr._ 8_th_ _May_ 1890


A 'Frightful Minus'

Mr. Andrew Lang is delightfully severe on those who 'cannot read
Dickens,' but in truth it is only by accident that he is not himself of
that unhappy persuasion.  For Dickens the humourist he has a most
uncompromising enthusiasm; for Dickens the artist in drama and romance he
has as little sympathy as the most practical.  Of the prose of _David
Copperfield_ and _Our Mutual Friend_, the _Tale of Two Cities_ and _The
Mystery of Edwin Drood_, he disdains to speak.  He is almost fierce (for
him) in his denunciation of Little Nell and Paul Dombey; he protests that
Monks and Ralph Nickleby are 'too steep,' as indeed they are.  But of
Bradley Headstone and Sydney Carton he says not a word; while of _Martin
Chuzzlewit_--but here he shall speak for himself, the italics being a
present to him.  'I have read in that book a score of times,' says he; 'I
never see it but I revel in it--in Pecksniff and Mrs. Gamp and the
Americans.  _But what the plot is all about_, _what Jonas did_, _what
Montague Tigg had to make in the matter_, _what all the pictures with
plenty of shading illustrate_, _I have never been able to comprehend_.'
This is almost as bad as the reflection (in a magazine) that Jonas
Chuzzlewit is 'the most shadowy murderer in fiction.'  Yet it is
impossible to be angry.  In his own way and within his own limits Mr.
Lang is such a thoroughgoing admirer of Dickens that you are moved to
compassion when you think of the much he loses by 'being constitutionally
incapable' of perfect apprehension.  'How poor,' he cries, with generous
enthusiasm, 'the world of fancy would be, "how dispeopled of her dreams,"
if, in some ruin of the social system, the books of Dickens were lost;
and if The Dodger, and Charley Bates, and Mr. Crinkle and Miss Squeers
and Sam Weller, and Mrs. Gamp, and Dick Swiveller were to perish, or to
vanish with Menander's men and women!  We cannot think of our world
without them; and, children of dreams as they are, they seem more
essential than great statesmen, artists, soldiers, who have actually worn
flesh and blood, ribbons and orders, gowns and uniforms.'  Nor is this
all.  He is almost prepared to welcome 'free education,' since 'every
Englishman who can read, unless he be an Ass, is a reader the more' for
Dickens.  Does it not give one pause to reflect that the writer of this
charming eulogy can only read the half of Dickens, and is half the ideal
of his own denunciation.

His Method.

Dickens's imagination was diligent from the outset; with him conception
was not less deliberate and careful than development; and so much he
confesses when he describes himself as 'in the first stage of a new book,
which consists in going round and round the idea, as you see a bird in
his cage go about and about his sugar before he touches it.'  'I have no
means,' he writes to a person wanting advice, 'of knowing whether you are
patient in the pursuit of this art; but I am inclined to think that you
are not, and that you do not discipline yourself enough.  When one is
impelled to write this or that, one has still to consider: "How much of
this will tell for what I mean?  How much of it is my own wild emotion
and superfluous energy--how much remains that is truly belonging to this
ideal character and these ideal circumstances?"  It is in the laborious
struggle to make this distinction, and in the determination to try for
it, that the road to the correction of faults lies.  [Perhaps I may
remark, in support of the sincerity with which I write this, that I am an
impatient and impulsive person myself, but that it has been for many
years the constant effort of my life to practise at my desk what I preach
to you.]'  Such golden words could only have come from one enamoured of
his art, and holding the utmost endeavour in its behalf of which his
heart and mind were capable for a matter of simple duty.  They are a
proof that Dickens--in intention at least, and if in intention then
surely, the fact of his genius being admitted, to some extent in fact as
well--was an artist in the best sense of the term.

His Development.

In the beginning he often wrote exceeding ill, especially when he was
doing his best to write seriously.  He developed into an artist in words
as he developed into an artist in the construction and the evolution of a
story.  But his development was his own work, and it is a fact that
should redound eternally to his honour that he began in newspaper
English, and by the production of an imitation of the _novela
picaresca_--a string of adventures as broken and disconnected as the
adventures of Lazarillo de Tormes or Peregrine Pickle, and went on to
become an exemplar.  A man self-made and self-taught, if he knew anything
at all about the 'art for art' theory--which is doubtful--he may well
have held it cheap enough.  But he practised Millet's dogma--_Dans l'art
il faut sa peau_--as resolutely as Millet himself, and that, too, under
conditions that might have proved utterly demoralising had he been less
robust and less sincere.  He began as a serious novelist with Ralph
Nickleby and Lord Frederick Verisopht; he went on to produce such
masterpieces as Jonas Chuzzlewit and Doubledick, and Eugene Wrayburn and
the immortal Mrs. Gamp, and Fagin and Sikes and Sydney Carton, and many
another.  The advance is one from positive weakness to positive strength,
from ignorance to knowledge, from incapacity to mastery, from the
manufacture of lay figures to the creation of human beings.

His Results.

His faults were many and grave.  He wrote some nonsense; he sinned
repeatedly against taste; he could be both noisy and vulgar; he was apt
to be a caricaturist where he should have been a painter; he was often
mawkish and often extravagant; and he was sometimes more inept than a
great writer has ever been.  But his work, whether bad or good, has in
full measure the quality of sincerity.  He meant what he did: and he
meant it with his whole heart.  He looked upon himself as representative
and national--as indeed he was; he regarded his work as a universal
possession; and he determined to do nothing that for lack of pains should
prove unworthy of his function.  If he sinned it was unadvisedly and
unconsciously; if he failed it was because he knew no better.  You feel
that as you read.  The freshness and fun of _Pickwick_--a comic middle-
class epic, so to speak--seem mainly due to high spirits; and perhaps
that immortal book should be described as a first improvisation by a
young man of genius not yet sure of either expression or ambition and
with only vague and momentary ideas about the duties and necessities of
art.  But from _Pickwick_ onwards to _Edwin Drood_ the effort after
improvement is manifest.  What are _Dombey_ and _Dorrit_ themselves but
the failures of a great and serious artist?  In truth the man's genius
did but ripen with years and labour; he spent his life in developing from
a popular writer into an artist.  He extemporised _Pickwick_, it may be,
but into _Copperfield_ and _Chuzzlewit_ and the _Tale of Two Cities_ and
_Our Mutual Friend_ he put his whole might, working at them with a
passion of determination not exceeded by Balzac himself.  He had
enchanted the public without an effort; he was the best-beloved of modern
writers almost from the outset of his career.  But he had in him at least
as much of the French artist as of the middle-class Englishman; and if
all his life he never ceased from self-education but went unswervingly in
pursuit of culture, it was out of love for his art and because his
conscience as an artist would not let him do otherwise.  We have been
told so often to train ourselves by studying the practice of workmen like
Gautier and Hugo and imitating the virtues of work like _Hernani_ and
_Quatre-Vingt-Treize_ and _l'Education Sentimentale_--we have heard so
much of the aesthetic impeccability of Young France and the section of
Young England that affects its qualities and reproduces its fashions--that
it is hard to refrain from asking if, when all is said, we should not do
well to look for models nearer home? if in place of such moulds of form
as _Mademoiselle de Maupin_ we might not take to considering stuff like
_Rizpah_ and _Our Mutual Friend_?

Ave atque Vale.

Yes, he had many and grave faults.  But so had Sir Walter and the good
Dumas; so, to be candid, had Shakespeare himself--Shakespeare the king of
poets.  To myself he is always the man of his unrivalled and enchanting
letters--is always an incarnation of generous and abounding gaiety, a
type of beneficent earnestness, a great expression of intellectual vigour
and emotional vivacity.  I love to remember that I came into the world
contemporaneously with some of his bravest work, and to reflect that even
as he was the inspiration of my boyhood so is he a delight of my middle
age.  I love to think that while English literature endures he will be
remembered as one that loved his fellow-men, and did more to make them
happy and amiable than any other writer of his time.


His Worshippers.

It is odd to note how opinions differ as to the greatness of Thackeray
and the value of his books.  Some regard him as the greatest novelist of
his age and country and as one of the greatest of any country and any
age.  These hold him to be not less sound a moralist than excellent as a
writer, not less magnificently creative than usefully and delightfully
cynical, not less powerful and complete a painter of manners than
infallible as a social philosopher and incomparable as a lecturer on the
human heart.  They accept Amelia Sedley for a very woman; they believe in
Colonel Newcome--'by _Don Quixote_ out of _Little Nell_'--as in something
venerable and heroic; they regard William Dobbin and 'Stunning'
Warrington as finished and subtle portraitures; they think Becky Sharp an
improvement upon Mme. Marneffe and Wenham better work than Rigby; they
are in love with Laura Bell, and refuse to see either cruelty or
caricature in their poet's presentment of Alcide de Mirobolant.
Thackeray's fun, Thackeray's wisdom, Thackeray's knowledge of men and
women, Thackeray's morality, Thackeray's view of life, 'his wit and
humour, his pathos, and his umbrella,' are all articles of belief with
them.  Of Dickens they will not hear; Balzac they incline to despise; if
they make any comparison between Thackeray and Fielding, or Thackeray and
Richardson, or Thackeray and Sir Walter, or Thackeray and Disraeli, it is
to the disadvantage of Disraeli and Scott and Richardson and Fielding.
All these were well enough in their way and day; but they are not to be
classed with Thackeray.  It is said, no doubt, that Thackeray could
neither make stories nor tell them; but he liked stories for all that,
and by the hour could babble charmingly of _Ivanhoe_ and the
_Mousquetaires_.  It is possible that he was afraid of passion, and had
no manner of interest in crime.  But then, how hard he bore upon snobs,
and how vigorously he lashed the smaller vices and the meaner faults!  It
may be beyond dispute that he was seldom good at romance, and saw most
things--art and nature included--rather prosaically and ill-naturedly, as
he might see them who has been for many years a failure, and is naturally
a little resentful of other men's successes; but then, how brilliant are
his studies of club humanity and club manners! how thoroughly he
understands the feelings of them that go down into the West in broughams!
If he writes by preference for people with a thousand a year, is it not
the duty of everybody with a particle of self-respect to have that
income?  Is it possible that any one who has it not can have either wit
or sentiment, humour or understanding?  Thackeray writes _of_ gentlemen
_for_ gentlemen; therefore he is alone among artists; therefore he is
'the greatest novelist of his age.'  That is the faith of the true
believer: that the state of mind of him that reveres less wisely than
thoroughly, and would rather be damned with Thackeray than saved with any
one else.

His Critics.

The position of them that wear their rue with a difference, and do not
agree that all literature is contained in _The Book of Snobs_ and _Vanity
Fair_, is more easily defended.  They like and admire their Thackeray in
many ways, but they think him rather a writer of genius who was innately
and irredeemably a Philistine than a supreme artist or a great man.  To
them there is something artificial in the man and something insincere in
the artist: something which makes it seem natural that his best work
should smack of the literary _tour de force_, and that he should never
have appeared to such advantage as when, in _Esmond_ and in _Barry
Lyndon_, he was writing up to a standard and upon a model not wholly of
his own contrivance.  They admit his claim to eminence as an adventurer
in 'the discovery of the Ugly'; but they contend that even there he did
his work more shrewishly and more pettily than he might; and in this
connection they go so far as to reflect that a snob is not only 'one who
meanly admires mean things,' as his own definition declares, but one who
meanly detests mean things as well.  They agree with Walter Bagehot that
to be perpetually haunted by the plush behind your chair is hardly a sign
of lofty literary and moral genius; and they consider him narrow and
vulgar in his view of humanity, limited in his outlook upon life,
inclined to be envious, inclined to be tedious and pedantic, prone to
repetitions, and apt in bidding for applause to appeal to the baser
qualities of his readers and to catch their sympathy by making them feel
themselves spitefully superior to their fellow-men.  They look at his
favourite heroines--at Laura and Ethel and Amelia; and they can but think
him stupid who could ever have believed them interesting or admirable or
attractive or true.  They listen while he regrets it is impossible for
him to attempt the picture of a man; and, with Barry Lyndon in their
mind's eye and the knowledge that Casanova and Andrew Bowes suggested no
more than that, they wonder if the impossibility was not a piece of luck
for him.  They hear him heaping contumely upon the murders and
adulteries, the excesses in emotion, that pleased the men of 1830 as they
had pleased the Elizabethans before them; and they see him turning with
terror and loathing from these--which after all are effects of vigorous
passion--to busy himself with the elaborate and careful narrative of how
Barnes Newcome beat his wife, and Mrs. Mackenzie scolded Colonel Newcome
to death, and old Twysden bragged and cringed himself into good society
and an interest in the life and well-being of a little cad like Captain
Woolcomb; and it is not amazing if they think his morality more dubious
in some ways than the morality he is so firmly fixed to ridicule and to
condemn.  They reflect that he sees in Beatrix no more than the makings
of a Bernstein; and they are puzzled, when they come to mark the contrast
between the two portraitures and the difference between the part assigned
to Mrs. Esmond and the part assigned to the Baroness, to decide if he
were short-sighted or ungenerous, if he were inapprehensive or only
cruel.  They weary easily of his dogged and unremitting pursuit of the
merely conventional man and the merely conventional woman; they cannot
always bring themselves to be interested in the cupboard drama, the tea-
cup tragedies and cheque-book and bandbox comedies, which he regards as
the stuff of human action and the web of human life; and from their
theory of existence they positively refuse to eliminate the heroic
qualities of romance and mystery and passion, which are--as they have
only to open their newspapers to see--essentials of human achievement and
integral elements of human character.  They hold that his books contain
some of the finest stuff in fiction: as, for instance, Rawdon Crawley's
discovery of his wife and Lord Steyne, and Henry Esmond's return from the
wars, and those immortal chapters in which the Colonel and Frank
Castlewood pursue and run down their kinswoman and the Prince.  But they
hold, too, that their influence is dubious, and that few have risen from
them one bit the better or one jot the happier.

Which is Right?

Genius apart, Thackeray's morality is that of a highly respectable
British cynic; his intelligence is largely one of trifles; he is wise
over trivial and trumpery things.  He delights in reminding us--with an
air!--that everybody is a humbug; that we are all rank snobs; that to
misuse your aspirates is to be ridiculous and incapable of real merit;
that Miss Blank has just slipped out to post a letter to Captain Jones;
that Miss Dash wears false teeth and a wig; that General Tufto is almost
as tightly laced as the beautiful Miss Hopper; that there's a bum-bailiff
in the kitchen at Number Thirteen; that the dinner we ate t'other day at
Timmins's is still to pay; that all is vanity; that there's a skeleton in
every house; that passion, enthusiasm, excess of any sort, is unwise,
abominable, a little absurd; and so forth.  And side by side with these
assurances are admirable sketches of character and still more admirable
sketches of habit and of manners--are the Pontos and Costigan, Gandish
and Talbot Twysden and the unsurpassable Major, Sir Pitt and Brand
Firmin, the heroic De la Pluche and the engaging Farintosh and the
versatile Honeyman, a crowd of vivid and diverting portraitures besides;
but they are not different--in kind at least--from the reflections
suggested by the story of their several careers and the development of
their several individualities.  Esmond apart, there is scarce a man or a
woman in Thackeray whom it is possible to love unreservedly or thoroughly
respect.  That gives the measure of the man, and determines the quality
of his influence.  He was the average clubman _plus_ genius and a style.
And, if there is any truth in the theory that it is the function of art
not to degrade but to ennoble--not to dishearten but to encourage--not to
deal with things ugly and paltry and mean but with great things and
beautiful and lofty--then, it is argued, his example is one to depreciate
and to condemn.

 His Style.

Thus the two sects: the sect of them that are with Thackeray and the sect
of them that are against him.  Where both agree is in the fact of
Thackeray's pre-eminence as a writer of English and the master of one of
the finest prose styles in literature.  His manner is the perfection of
conversational writing.  Graceful yet vigorous; adorably artificial yet
incomparably sound; touched with modishness yet informed with
distinction; easily and happily rhythmical yet full of colour and quick
with malice and with meaning; instinct with urbanity and instinct with
charm--it is a type of high-bred English, a climax of literary art.  He
may not have been a great man but assuredly he was a great writer; he may
have been a faulty novelist but assuredly he was a rare artist in words.
Setting aside Cardinal Newman's, the style he wrote is certainly less
open to criticism than that of any other modern Englishman.  He was
neither super-eloquent like Mr. Ruskin nor a Germanised Jeremy like
Carlyle; he was not marmoreally emphatic as Landor was, nor was he
slovenly and inexpressive as was the great Sir Walter; he neither dallied
with antithesis like Macaulay nor rioted in verbal vulgarisms with
Dickens; he abstained from technology and what may be called
Lord-Burleighism as carefully as George Eliot indulged in them, and he
avoided conceits as sedulously as Mr. George Meredith goes out of his way
to hunt for them.  He is a better writer than any one of these, in that
he is always a master of speech and of himself, and that he is always
careful yet natural and choice yet seemingly spontaneous.  He wrote as a
very prince among talkers, and he interfused and interpenetrated English
with the elegant and cultured fashion of the men of Queen Anne and with
something of the warmth, the glow, the personal and romantic ambition,
peculiar to the century of Byron and Keats, of Landor and Dickens, of
Ruskin and Tennyson and Carlyle.  Unlike his only rival, he had learnt
his art before he began to practise it.  Of the early work of the greater
artist a good half is that of a man in the throes of education: the
ideas, the thoughts, the passion, the poetry, the humour, are of the
best, but the expression is self-conscious, strained, ignorant.  Thackeray
had no such blemish.  He wrote dispassionately, and he was a born writer.
In him there is no hesitation, no fumbling, no uncertainty.  The style of
_Barry Lyndon_ is better and stronger and more virile than the style of
_Philip_; and unlike the other man's, whose latest writing is his best,
their author's evolution was towards decay.

His Mission.

He is so superior a person that to catch him tripping is a peculiar
pleasure.  It is a satisfaction apart, for instance, to reflect that he
has (it must be owned) a certain gentility of mind.  Like the M.P. in
_Martin Chuzzlewit_, he represents the Gentlemanly Interest.  That is his
mission in literature, and he fulfils it thoroughly.  He appears
sometimes as Mr. Yellowplush, sometimes as Mr. Fitzboodle, sometimes as
Michael Angelo Titmarsh, but always in the Gentlemanly Interest.  In his
youth (as ever) he is found applauding the well-bred Charles de Bernard,
and remarking of Balzac and Dumas that the one is 'not fit for the
_salon_,' and the other 'about as genteel as a courier.'  Balzac and
Dumas are only men of genius and great artists: the real thing is to be
'genteel' and write--as _Gerfeuil_ (_sic_) is written--'in a gentleman-
like style.'  A few pages further on in the same pronouncement (a review
of _Jerome Paturot_), I find him quoting with entire approval Reybaud's
sketch of 'a great character, in whom the _habitue_ of Paris will perhaps
recognise a certain likeness to a certain celebrity of the present day,
by name Monsieur Hector Berlioz, the musician and critic.'  The
description is too long to quote.  It sparkles with all the _fadaises_ of
anti-Berliozian criticism, and the point is that the hero, after
conducting at a private party (which Berlioz never did) his own 'hymn of
the creation that has been lost since the days of the deluge,' 'called
for his cloak and his clogs, and walked home, where he wrote a critique
for the newspapers of the music which he had composed and directed.'  In
the Gentlemanly Interest Mr. Titmarsh translates this sorry little libel
with the utmost innocence of approval.  It is _The Paris Sketch-Book_
over again.  That Monsieur Hector Berlioz may possibly have known
something of his trade and been withal as honest a man and artist as
himself seems never to have occurred to him.  He knows nothing of
Monsieur Hector except that he is a 'hairy romantic,' and that whatever
he wrote it was not _Batti_, _batti_; but that nothing is enough.
'Whether this little picture is a likeness or not,' he is ingenuous
enough to add, 'who shall say?'  But,--and here speaks the bold but
superior Briton--'it is a good caricature of a race in France, where
geniuses _poussent_ as they do nowhere else; where poets are prophets,
where romances have revelations.'  As he goes on to qualify _Jerome
Paturot_ as a 'masterpiece,' and as 'three volumes of satire in which
there is not a particle of bad blood,' it seems fair to conclude that in
the Gentlemanly Interest all is considered fair, and that to accuse a man
of writing criticisms on his own works is to be 'witty and entertaining,'
and likewise 'careless, familiar, and sparkling' to the genteelest
purpose possible in this genteelest of all possible worlds.


His Novels.

To the general his novels must always be a kind of caviare; for they have
no analogue in letters, but are the output of a mind and temper of
singular originality.  To the honest Tory, sworn to admire and unable to
comprehend, they must seem inexplicable as abnormal.  To the professional
Radical they are so many proofs of innate inferiority: for they are full
of pretentiousness and affectation; they teem with examples of all manner
of vices, from false English to an immoral delight in dukes; they prove
their maker a trickster and a charlatan in every page.  To them, however,
whose first care is for rare work, the series of novels that began with
_Vivian Grey_ and ended with _Endymion_ is one of the pleasant facts in
modern letters.  These books abound in wit and daring, in originality and
shrewdness, in knowledge of the world and in knowledge of men; they
contain many vivid and striking studies of character, both portrait and
caricature; they sparkle with speaking phrases and happy epithets; they
are aglow with the passion of youth, the love of love, the worship of
physical beauty, the admiration of whatever is costly and select and
splendid--from a countess to a castle, from a duke to a diamond; they are
radiant with delight in whatever is powerful or personal or
attractive--from a cook to a cardinal, from an agitator to an emperor.
They often remind you of Voltaire, often of Balzac, often of _The Arabian
Nights_.  You pass from an heroic drinking bout to a brilliant criticism
of style; from rhapsodies on bands and ortolans that remind you of Heine
to a gambling scene that for directness and intensity may vie with the
bluntest and strongest work of Prosper Merimee; from the extravagant
impudence of _Popanilla_ to the sentimental rodomontade of _Henrietta
Temple_; from ranting romanticism in _Alroy_ to vivid realism in _Sybil_.
Their author gives you no time to weary of him, for he is worldly and
passionate, fantastic and trenchant, cynical and ambitious, flippant and
sentimental, ornately rhetorical and triumphantly simple in a breath.  He
is imperiously egoistic, but while constantly parading his own
personality he is careful never to tell you anything about it.  And
withal he is imperturbably good-tempered: he brands and gibbets with a
smile, and with a smile he adores and applauds.  Intellectually he is in
sympathy with character of every sort; he writes as becomes an artist who
has recognised that 'the conduct of men depends upon the temperament, not
upon a bunch of musty maxims,' and that 'there is a great deal of vice
that is really sheer inadvertence.'  It is said that the Monmouth of
_Coningsby_ and the Steyne of _Vanity Fair_ are painted from one and the
same original; and you have but to compare the savage realism of
Thackeray's study to the scornful amenity of the other's--as you have but
to contrast the elaborate and extravagant cruelty of Thackeray's Alcide
de Mirobolant with the polite and half-respectful irony of Disraeli's
treatment of the cooks in _Tancred_--to perceive that in certain ways the
advantage is not with 'the greatest novelist of his time,' and that the
Monmouth produces an impression which is more moral because more kindly
and humane than the impression left by the Steyne, while in its way it is
every whit as vivid and as convincing.  Yet another excellence, and a
great one, is his mastery of apt and forcible dialogue.  The talk of Mr.
Henry James's personages is charmingly equable and appropriate, but it is
also trivial and tame; the talk in Anthony Trollope is surprisingly
natural and abundant, but it is also commonplace and immemorable; the
talk of Mr. George Meredith is always eloquent and fanciful, but the
eloquence is too often dark and the fancy too commonly inhuman.  What
Disraeli's people have to say is not always original nor profound, but it
is crisply and happily phrased and uttered, it reads well, its impression
seldom fails of permanency.  His _Wit and Wisdom_ is a kind of _Talker's
Guide_ or _Handbook of Conversation_.  How should it be otherwise, seeing
that it contains the characteristic utterances of a great artist in life
renowned for memorable speech?

A Contrast.

Now, if you ask a worshipper of him that was so long his rival, to repeat
a saying, a maxim, a sentence, of which his idol is the author, it is
odds but he will look like a fool, and visit you with an evasive answer.
What else should he do?  His deity is a man of many words and no sayings.
He is the prince of agitators, but it would be impossible for him to mint
a definition of 'agitation'; he is the world's most eloquent
arithmetician, but it is beyond him to epigrammatise the fact that two
and two make four.  And it seems certain, unless the study of Homer and
religious fiction inspire him to some purpose, that his contributions to
axiomatic literature will be still restricted to the remark that 'There
are three courses open' to something or other: to the House, to the angry
cabman, to what and whomsoever you will.  In sober truth, he is one who
writes for to-day, and takes no thought of either yesterdays or morrows.
For him the Future is next session; the Past does not extend beyond his
last change of mind.  He is a prince of journalists, and his excursions
into monthly literature remain to show how great and copious a master of
the 'leader'--ornate, imposing, absolutely insignificant--his absorption
in politics has cost the English-speaking world.

His Backgrounds.

Disraeli's imagination, at once practical and extravagant, is not of the
kind that delights in plot and counterplot.  His novels abound in action,
but the episodes wear a more or less random look: the impression produced
is pretty much that of a story of adventure.  But if they fail as stories
they are unexceptionable as canvases.  Our author unrolls them with
superb audacity; and rapidly and vigorously he fills them in with places
and people, with faces that are as life and words expressive even as
they.  Nothing is too lofty or too low for him.  He hawks at every sort
of game, and rarely does he make a false cast.  It is but a step from the
wilds of Lancashire to the Arabian Desert, from the cook's first floor to
the Home of the Bellamonts; for he has the Seven-League-Boots of the
legend, and more than the genius of adventure of him that wore them.  His
castles may be of cardboard, his cataracts of tinfoil, the sun of his
adjurations the veriest figment; but he never lets his readers see that
he knows it.  His irony, sudden and reckless and insidious though it be,
yet never extends to his properties.  There may be a sneer beneath that
mask which, with an egotism baffling as imperturbable, he delights in
intruding among his creations; but you cannot see it.  You suspect its
presence, because he is a born mocker.  But you remember that one of his
most obvious idiosyncrasies is an inordinate love of all that is
sumptuous, glittering, radiant, magnificent; and you incline to suspect
that he keeps his sneering for the world of men, and admires his scenes
and decorations too cordially to visit them with anything so merciless.

His Men and Women.

But dashing and brilliant as are his sketches of places and things, they
are after all the merest accessories.  It was as a student of Men and
Women that he loved to excel, and it is as their painter that I praise
him now.  Himself a worshipper of intellect, it was intellectually that
he mastered and developed them.  Like Sidonia he moves among them not to
feel with them but to understand and learn from them.  Such sympathy as
he had was either purely sensuous, as for youth and beauty and all kinds
of comeliness; or purely intellectual, as for intelligence,
artificiality, servility, meanness.  And as his essence was satirical, as
he was naturally irreverent and contemptuous, it follows that he is best
and strongest in the act of punishment not of reward.  His passion for
youth was beautiful, but it did not make him strong.  His scorn for
things contemptible, his hate for things hateful, are at times too bitter
even for those who think with him; but in these lay his force--they
filled his brain with light, and they touched his lips with fire.  The
wretched Rigby is far more vigorous and life-like than the amiable
Coningsby; Tom Cogit--a sketch, but a sketch of genius--is infinitely
more interesting than May Dacre or even the Young Duke; Tancred is a good
fellow, and very real and true in his goodness, but contrast him with
Fakredeen!  And after his knaves, his fools, his tricksters, the most
striking figures in his gallery are those whom he has considered from a
purely intellectual point of view: either kindly, as Sidonia, or coolly,
as Lord Monmouth, but always calmly and with no point of passion in his
regard: the Eskdales, Villebecques, Ormsbys, Bessos, Marneys, Meltons,
and Mirabels, the Bohuns and St. Aldegondes and Grandisons, the Tadpoles
and the Tapers, the dominant and subaltern humanity of the world.  All
these are drawn with peculiar boldness of line, precision of touch, and
clearness of intention.  And as with his men so is it with his women: the
finest are not those he likes best but those who interested him most.
Male and female, his eccentrics surpass his commonplaces.  He had a great
regard for girls, and his attitude towards them, or such of them as he
elected heroines, was mostly one of adoration--magnificent yet a little
awkward and strained.  With women, married women, he had vastly more in
common: he could admire, study, divine, without having to feign a warmer
feeling; and while his girls are poor albeit splendid young persons, his
matrons are usually delightful.  Edith Millbank is not a very striking
figure in _Coningsby_; but her appearance in _Tancred_--well, you have
only to compare it to the resurrection of Laura Bell, as Mrs. Pendennis
to see how good it is.

His Style.

Now and then the writing is bad, and the thought is stale.  Disraeli had
many mannerisms, innate and acquired.  His English was frequently loose
and inexpressive; he was apt to trip in his grammar, to stumble over 'and
which,' and to be careless about the connection between his nominatives
and his verbs.  Again, he could scarce ever refrain from the use of
gorgeous commonplaces of sentiment and diction.  His taste was sometimes
ornately and barbarically conventional; he wrote as an orator, and his
phrases often read as if he had used them for the sake of their
associations rather than themselves.  His works are a casket of such
stage jewels of expression as 'Palladian structure,' 'Tusculan repose,'
'Gothic pile,' 'pellucid brow,' 'mossy cell,' and 'dew-bespangled meads.'
He delighted in 'hyacinthine curls' and 'lustrous locks,' in 'smiling
parterres' and 'stately terraces.'  He seldom sat down in print to
anything less than a 'banquet', he was capable of invoking 'the iris
pencil of Hope'; he could not think nor speak of the beauties of woman
except as 'charms.'  Which seems to show that to be 'born in a library,'
and have Voltaire--that impeccable master of the phrase--for your chief
of early heroes and exemplars is not everything.

His Oratory.

It is admitted, I believe, that he had many of the qualities of a great
public speaker: that he had an admirable voice and an excellent method;
that his sequences were logical and natural, his arguments vigorous and
persuasive; that he was an artist in style, and in the course of a single
speech could be eloquent and vivacious, ornate and familiar, passionate
and cynical, deliberately rhetorical and magnificently fantastic in turn;
that he was a master of all oratorical modes--of irony and argument, of
stately declamation and brilliant and unexpected antithesis, of
caricature and statement and rejoinder alike; that he could explain,
denounce, retort, retract, advance, defy, dispute, with equal readiness
and equal skill; that he was unrivalled in attack and unsurpassed in
defence; and that in heated debate and on occasions when he felt himself
justified in putting forth all his powers and in striking in with the
full weight of his imperious and unique personality he was the most
dangerous antagonist of his time.  And yet, in spite of his mysterious
and commanding influence over his followers--in spite, too, of the fact
that he died assuredly the most romantic and perhaps the most popular
figure of his time--it is admitted withal that he was lacking in a
certain quality of temperament, that attribute great orators possess in
common with great actors: the power, that is, of imposing oneself upon an
audience not by argument nor by eloquence, not by the perfect utterance
of beautiful and commanding speech nor by the enunciation of eternal
principles or sympathetic and stirring appeals, but by an effect of
personal magnetism, by the expression through voice and gesture and
presence of an individuality, a temperament, call it what you will, that
may be and is often utterly commonplace but is always inevitably
irresistible.  He could slaughter an opponent, or butcher a measure, or
crumple up a theory with unrivalled adroitness and despatch; but he could
not dominate a crowd to the extent of persuading it to feel with his
heart, think with his brain, and accept his utterances as the expression
not only of their common reason but of their collective sentiment as
well.  He was as incapable of such a feat as Mr. Gladstone's Midlothian
campaign as Mr. Gladstone is of producing the gaming scene in _The Young
Duke_ or the 'exhausted volcanoes' paragraph in the Manchester speech.

His Speeches as Literature.

As a rule--a rule to which there are some magnificent exceptions--orators
have only to cease from speaking to become uninteresting.  What has been
heard with enthusiasm is read with indifference or even with
astonishment.  You miss the noble voice, the persuasive gesture, the
irresistible personality; and with the emotional faculty at rest and the
reason at work you are surprised--and it may be a little indignant--that
you should have been impressed so deeply as you were by such cold, bald
verbosity as seen in black and white the masterpiece of yesterday appears
to be.  To some extent this is the case with these speeches of
Disraeli's.  At the height of debate, amid the clash of personal and
party animosities, with the cheers of the orator's supporters to give
them wings, they sounded greater than they were.  But for all that they
are vigorous and profitable yet.  Their author's unfailing capacity for
saying things worth heeding and remembering is proved in every one of
them.  It is not easy to open either of Mr. Kebbel's volumes without
lighting upon something--a string of epigrams, a polished gibe, a burst
of rhetoric, an effective collocation of words--that proclaims the
artist.  In this connection the perorations are especially instructive,
even if you consider them simply as arrangements of sonorous and
suggestive words: as oratorical impressions carefully prepared, as
effects of what may be called vocalised orchestration touched off as
skilfully and with as fine a sense of sound and of the sentiment to
correspond as so many passages of instrumentation signed 'Berlioz' might

The Great Earl.

Fruits fail, and love dies, and time ranges; and only the whippersnapper
(that fool of Time) endureth for ever.  Moliere knew him well, and he
said that Moliere was a liar and a thief.  And Disraeli knew him too, and
he said that in these respects Disraeli and Moliere were brothers.  That
he said so matters as little now as ever it did; for though the
whippersnapper is immortal in kind, he is nothing if not futile and
ephemeral in effect, and it was seen long since that in life and death
Disraeli, as became his genius and his race, was the Uncommonplace
incarnate, the antithesis of Grocerdom, the Satan of that revolt against
the yielding habit of Jehovah-Bottles the spirit whereof is fast coming
to be our one defence against socialism and the dominion of the Common
Fool.  He was no sentimentalist: as what great artist in government has
ever been?  He loved power for power's sake, and recognising to the full
the law of the survival of the fittest he preferred his England to the
world.  He knew that it is the function of the man of genius to show that
theory is only theory, and that in the House of Morality there are many
mansions.  To that end he lived and died; and it is not until one has
comprehended the complete significance of his life and death that one is
qualified to speak with understanding of such a life and death as his who
passed at Khartoum.


His Components.

The life of Dumas is not only a monument of endeavour and success, it is
a sort of labyrinth as well.  It abounds in pseudonyms and disguises, in
sudden and unexpected appearances and retreats as unexpected and sudden,
in scandals and in rumours, in mysteries and traps and ambuscades of
every kind.  It pleased the great man to consider himself of more
importance than any and all of the crowd of collaborators whose ideas he
developed, whose raw material he wrought up into the achievement we know;
and he was given to take credit to himself not only for the success and
value of a particular work but for the whole thing--the work in its
quiddity, so to speak, and resolved into its original elements.  On the
other hand, it pleased such painful creatures as MM. Querard and 'Eugene
de Mirecourt,' as it has since pleased Messrs. Hitchman and Fitzgerald to
consider the second- and third-rate literary persons whom Dumas
assimilated in such numbers as of greater interest and higher merit than
Dumas.  To them the jackals were far nobler than the lion, and they
worked their hardest in the interest of the pack.  It was their mission
to decompose and disintegrate the magnificent entity which M. Blaze de
Bury very happily nicknames 'Dumas-Legion,' and in the process not to
render his own unto Caesar but to take from him all that was Caesar's,
and divide it among the mannikins he had absorbed.  And their work was in
its way well done; for have we not seen M. Brunetiere exulting in
agreement and talking of Dumas as one less than Eugene Sue and not much
bigger than Gaillardet?  Of course the ultimate issue of the debate is
not doubtful.  Dumas remains to the end a prodigy of force and industry,
a miracle of cleverness and accomplishment and ease, a type of generous
and abundant humanity, a great artist in many varieties of form, a prince
of talkers and story-tellers, one of the kings of the stage, a benefactor
of his epoch and his kind; while of those who assisted him in the
production of his immense achievement the most exist but as fractions of
the larger sum, and the others have utterly disappeared.  'Combien,' says
his son in that excellent page which serves to preface _le Fils
Naturel_--'combien parmi ceux qui devaient rester obscurs se sont
eclaires et chauffes a ta forge, et si l'heure des restitutions sonnait,
quel gain pour toi, rien qu'a reprendre ce que tu as donne et ce qu'on
t'a pris!'  That is the true verdict of posterity, and he does well who
abides by it.


He is one of the heroes of modern art.  Envy and scandal have done their
worst now.  The libeller has said his say; the detectives who make a
specialty of literary forgeries have proved their cases one and all; the
judges of matter have spoken, and so have the critics of style; the
distinguished author of _Nana_ has taken us into his confidence on the
subject; we have heard from the lamented Granier and others as much as
was to be heard on the question of plagiarism in general and the
plagiarisms of Dumas in particular; and Mr. Percy Fitzgerald has done
what he is pleased to designate the 'nightman's work' of analysing
_Antony_ and _Kean_, and of collecting everything that spite has said
about their author's life, their author's habits, their author's manners
and customs and character: of whose vanity, mendacity, immorality, a
score of improper qualities besides, enough has been written to furnish a
good-sized library.  And the result of it all is that Dumas is recognised
for a force in modern art and for one of the greatest inventors and
amusers the century has produced.  Whole crowds of men were named as the
real authors of his books and plays; but they were only readable when he
signed for them.  His ideas were traced to a hundred originals; but they
had all seemed worthless till he took them in hand and developed them
according to their innate capacity.  The French he wrote was popular, and
the style at his command was none of the loftiest, as his critics have
often been at pains to show; but he was for all that an artist at once
original and exemplary, with an incomparable instinct of selection, a
constructive faculty not equalled among the men of this century, an
understanding of what is right and what is wrong in art and a mastery of
his materials which in their way are not to be paralleled in the work of
Sir Walter himself.  Like Napoleon, he was 'a natural force let loose';
and if he had done no more than achieve universal renown as the prince of
_raconteurs_ and a commanding position as a novelist wherever novels are
read he would still have done much.  But he did a vast deal more.  A
natural force, he wrought in the right direction, as natural forces must
and do.  He amused the world for forty years and more; but he also
contributed something to the general sum of the world's artistic
experience and capacity, and his contribution is of permanent worth and
charm.  He has left us stories which are models of the enchanting art of
narrative; and, with a definition good and comprehensive enough to
include all the best work which has been produced for the theatre from
AEschylus down to Augier, from the _Choephorae_ on to _le Gendre de M.
Poirier_, he has given us types of the romantic and the domestic drama,
which, new when he produced them, are even now not old, and which as
regards essentials have yet to be improved upon.  The form and aim of the
modern drama, as we know it, have been often enough ascribed to the
ingenious author of _une Chaine_ and the _Verre d'Eau_; but they might
with much greater truth be ascribed to the author of _Antony_ and _la
Tour de Nesle_.  Scribe invents and eludes where Dumas invents and dares.
The theory of Scribe is one of mere dexterity: his drama is a perpetual
_chasse-croise_ at the edge of a precipice, a dance of puppets among
swords that might but will not cut and eggs that might but will not
break; to him a situation is a kind of tight-rope to be crossed with ever
so much agility and an endless affectation of peril by all his characters
in turn: in fact, as M. Dumas _fils_ has said of him, he is 'le
Shakespeare des ombres chinoises.'  The theory of Dumas is the very
antipodes of this.  'All I want,' he said in a memorable comparison
between himself and Victor Hugo, 'is four trestles, four boards, two
actors, and a passion'; and his good plays are a proof that in this he
spoke no more than the truth.  Drama to him was so much emotion in
action.  If he invented a situation he accepted its issues in their
entirety, and did his utmost to express from it all the passion it
contained.  That he fails to reach the highest peaks of emotional effect
is no fault of his: to do that something more is needed than a perfect
method, something other than a great ambition and an absolute certainty
of touch; and Dumas was neither a Shakespeare nor an AEschylus--he was
not even an Augier.  All the same, he has produced in _la Tour de Nesle_
a romantic play which M. Zola himself pronounces the ideal of the _genre_
and in _Antony_ an achievement in drawing-room tragedy which is out of
all questioning the first, and in the opinion of a critic so competent
and so keen as the master's son is probably the strongest, thing of its
kind in modern literature.  On this latter play it were difficult, I
think, to bestow too much attention.  It is touched, even tainted, with
the manner and the affectation of its epoch.  But it is admirably
imagined and contrived; it is very daring, and it is very new; it deals
with the men and women of 1830, and--with due allowance for differences
of manners, ideal, and personal genius--it is in its essentials a play in
the same sense as _Othello_ and the _Trachiniae_ are plays in theirs.  It
is the beginning, as I believe, not only of _les Lionnes Pauvres_ but of
_Therese Raquin_ and _la Glu_ as well: just as _la Tour de Nesle_ is the
beginning of _Patrie_ and _la Haine_.

At Least.

And if these greater and loftier pretensions be still contested; if the
theory of the gifted creature who wrote that the works of the master
wizard are 'like summer fruits brought forth abundantly in the full blaze
of sunshine, which do not keep'--if this preposterous fantasy be
generally accepted, there will yet be much in Dumas to venerate and love.
If _Antony_ were of no more account than an ephemeral burlesque; if _la
Reine Margot_ and the immortal trilogy of the Musketeers--that 'epic of
friendship'--were dead as morality and as literature alike; if it were
nothing to have re-cast the novel of adventure, formulated the modern
drama, and perfected the drama of incident; if to have sent all France to
the theatre to see in three dimensions those stories of Chicot, Edmond
Dantes, d'Artagnan, which it knew by heart from books were an achievement
within the reach of every scribbler who dabbles in letters; if all this
were true, and Dumas were merely a piece of human journalism, produced to-
day and gone to-morrow, there would still be enough of him to make his a
memorable name.  He was a prodigy--of amiability, cleverness, energy,
daring, charm, industry--if he was nothing else.  Gronow tells that he
has sat at table with Dumas and Brougham, and that Brougham, out-faced
and out-talked, was forced to quit the field.  'J'ai conserve,' says M.
Maxime du Camp, in his admirable _Souvenirs litteraires_, 'd'Alexandre
Dumas un souvenir ineffacable; malgre un certain laisser-aller qui tenait
a l'exuberance de sa nature, c'etait un homme _dont tous les sentiments
etaient eleves_.  On a ete injuste pour lui; comme il avait enormement
d'esprit, on l'a accuse d'etre leger; comme il produisait avec une
facilite incroyable, on l'a accuse de gacher la besogne, et, comme il
etait prodigue, on l'a accuse de manquer de tenue.  Ces reproches m'ont
toujours paru miserables.'  This is much; but it is not nearly all.  He
had, this independent witness goes on to note, 'une generosite naturelle
qui ne comptait jamais; il ressemblait a une corne d'abondance qui se
vide sans cesse dans les mains tendues; _la moitie_, _sinon plus_, _de
l'argent gagne par lui a ete donnee_.'  That is true; and it is also true
that he gave at least as largely of himself--his prodigious temperament,
his generous gaiety, his big, manly heart, his turn for chivalry, his
gallant and delightful genius--as of his money.  He was reputed a violent
and luxurious debauchee; and he mostly lived in an attic--(the worst room
in the house and therefore the only one he could call his own)--with a
camp-bed and the deal table at which he wrote.  He passed for a
loud-mouthed idler; and during many years his daily average of work was
fourteen hours for months on end.  'Ivre de puissance,' says George Sand
of him, but 'foncierement bon.'  They used to hear him laughing as he
wrote, and when he killed Porthos he did no more that day.  It would have
been worth while to figure as one of the crowd of friends and parasites
who lived at rack and manger in his house, for the mere pleasure of
seeing him descend upon them from his toil of moving mountains and
sharing in that pleasing half-hour of talk which was his common
refreshment.  After that he would return to the attic and the deal table,
and move more mountains.  With intervals of travel, sport, adventure, and
what in France is called 'l'amour'--(it is strange, by the way, that he
was never a hero of Carlyle's)--he lived in this way more or less for
forty years or so; and when he left Paris for the last time he had but
two napoleons in his pocket.  'I had only one when I came here first,'
quoth he, 'and yet they call me a spendthrift.'  That was his way; and
while the result is not for Dr. Smiles to chronicle, I for one persist in
regarding the spirit in which it was accepted as not less exemplary than

His Monument.

On M. du Camp's authority there is a charming touch to add to his son's
description of him.  'Il me semble,' said the royal old prodigal in his
last illness, 'que je suis au sommet d'un monument qui tremble comme si
les fondations etaient assises sur le sable.'  'Sois en paix,' replied
the author of the _Demi-Monde_: 'le monument est bien bati, et la base
est solide.'  He was right, as we know.  It is good and fitting that
Dumas should have a monument in the Paris he amazed and delighted and
amused so long.  But he could have done without one.  In what language is
he not read? and where that he is read is he not loved?  '_Exegi
monumentum_,' he might have said: 'and wherever romance is a necessary of
life, there shall you look for it, and not in vain.'


His Qualities.

To read Mr. Meredith's novels with insight is to find them full of the
rarest qualities in fiction.  If their author has a great capacity for
unsatisfactory writing he has capacities not less great for writing that
is satisfactory in the highest degree.  He has the tragic instinct and
endowment, and he has the comic as well; he is an ardent student of
character and life; he has wit of the swiftest, the most comprehensive,
the most luminous, and humour that can be fantastic or ironical or human
at his pleasure; he has passion and he has imagination; he has considered
sex--the great subject, the leaven of imaginative art--with notable
audacity and insight.  He is as capable of handling a vice or an emotion
as he is of managing an affectation.  He can be trivial, or grotesque, or
satirical, or splendid; and whether his _milieu_ be romantic or actual,
whether his personages be heroic or sordid, he goes about his task with
the same assurance and intelligence.  In his best work he takes rank with
the world's novelists.  He is a companion for Balzac and Richardson, an
intimate for Fielding and Cervantes.  His figures fall into their place
beside the greatest of their kind; and when you think of Lucy Feverel and
Mrs. Berry, of Evan Harrington's Countess Saldanha and the Lady Charlotte
of _Emilia in England_, of the two old men in _Harry Richmond_ and the
Sir Everard Romfrey of _Beauchamp's Career_, of Renee and Cecilia, of
Emilia and Rhoda Fleming, of Rose Jocelyn and Lady Blandish and Ripton
Thompson, they have in the mind's eye a value scarce inferior to that of
Clarissa and Lovelace, of Bath and Western and Booth, of Andrew
Fairservice and Elspeth Mucklebacket, of Philippe Bridau and Vautrin and
Balthasar Claes.  In the world of man's creation his people are citizens
to match the noblest; they are of the aristocracy of the imagination, the
peers in their own right of the society of romance.  And for all that,
their state is mostly desolate and lonely and forlorn.

His Defects.

For Mr. Meredith is one of the worst and least attractive of great
writers as well as one of the best and most fascinating.  He is a sun
that has broken out into innumerable spots.  The better half of his
genius is always suffering eclipse from the worse half.  He writes with
the pen of a great artist in his left hand and the razor of a spiritual
suicide in his right.  He is the master and the victim of a monstrous
cleverness which is neither to hold nor to bind, and will not permit him
to do things as an honest, simple person of genius would.  As
Shakespeare, in Johnson's phrase, lost the world for a quibble and was
content to lose it, so does Mr. Meredith discrown himself of the
sovereignty of contemporary romance to put on the cap and bells of the
professional wit.  He is not content to be plain Jupiter: his lightnings
are less to him than his fireworks; and his pages so teem with fine
sayings and magniloquent epigrams and gorgeous images and fantastic
locutions that the mind would welcome dulness as a bright relief.  He is
tediously amusing; he is brilliant to the point of being obscure; his
helpfulness is so extravagant as to worry and confound.  That is the
secret of his unpopularity.  His stories are not often good stories and
are seldom well told; his ingenuity and intelligence are always
misleading him into treating mere episodes as solemnly and elaborately as
main incidents; he is ever ready to discuss, to ramble, to theorise, to
dogmatise, to indulge in a little irony or a little reflection or a
little artistic misdemeanour of some sort.  But other novelists have done
these things before him, and have been none the less popular, and are
actually none the less readable.  None, however, has pushed the foppery
of style and intellect to such a point as Mr. Meredith.  Not infrequently
he writes page after page of English as ripe and sound and unaffected as
heart could wish; and you can but impute to wantonness and recklessness
the splendid impertinences that intrude elsewhere.  To read him at the
rate of two or three chapters a day is to have a sincere and hearty
admiration for him and a devout anxiety to forget his defects and make
much of his merits.  But they are few who can take a novel on such terms
as these, and to read your Meredith straight off is to have an
indigestion of epigram, and to be incapable of distinguishing good from
bad: the author of the parting between Richard and Lucy Feverel--a high-
water mark of novelistic passion and emotion--from the creator of Mr.
Raikes and Dr. Shrapnel, which are two of the most flagrant unrealities
ever perpetrated in the name of fiction by an artist of genius.

Another Way.

On the whole, I think, he does not often say anything not worth hearing.
He is too wise for that; and, besides, he is strenuously in earnest about
his work.  He has a noble sense of the dignity of art and the
responsibilities of the artist; he will set down nothing that is to his
mind unworthy to be recorded; his treatment of his material is
distinguished by the presence of an intellectual passion (as it were)
that makes whatever he does considerable and deserving of attention and
respect.  But unhappily the will is not seldom unequal to the deed: the
achievement is often leagues in rear of the inspiration; the attempt at
completeness is too laboured and too manifest--the feat is done but by a
painful and ungraceful process.  There _is_ genius, but there is _not_
felicity: that, one is inclined to say, is the distinguishing note of Mr.
Meredith's work, in prose and verse alike.  There are magnificent
exceptions, of course, but they prove the rule and, broken though it be,
there is no gainsaying its existence.  To be concentrated in form, to be
suggestive in material, to say nothing that is not of permanent value,
and only to say it in such terms as are charged to the fullest with
significance--this would seem to be the aim and end of Mr. Meredith's
ambition.  Of simplicity in his own person he appears incapable.  The
texture of his expression must be stiff with allusion, or he deems it ill
spun; there must be something of antic in his speech, or he cannot
believe he is addressing himself to the Immortals; he has praised with
perfect understanding the lucidity, the elegance, the ease, of Moliere,
and yet his aim in art (it would appear) is to be Moliere's antipodes,
and to vanquish by congestion, clottedness, an anxious and determined
dandyism of form and style.  There is something _bourgeois_ in his
intolerance of the commonplace, something fanatical in the intemperance
of his regard for artifice.  'Le dandy,' says Baudelaire, 'doit aspirer a
etre sublime sans interruption.  Il doit vivre et dormir devant un
miroir.'  That, you are tempted to believe, is Mr. Meredith's theory of
expression.  'Ce qu'il y a dans le mauvais gout,' is elsewhere the
opinion of the same unamiable artist in paradox, 'c'est le plaisir
aristocratique de deplaire.'  Is that, you ask yourself, the reason why
Mr. Meredith is so contemptuous of the general public?--why he will stoop
to no sort of concession nor permit himself a mite of patience with the
herd whose intellect is content with such poor fodder as Scott and
Dickens and Dumas?  Be it as it may, the effect is the same.  Our author
is bent upon being 'uninterruptedly sublime'; and we must take him as he
wills and as we find him.  He loses of course; and we suffer.  But none
the less do we cherish his society, and none the less are we interested
in his processes, and enchanted (when we are clever enough) by his
results.  He lacks felicity, I have said; but he has charm as well as
power, and, once his rule is accepted, there is no way to shake him off.
The position is that of the antique tyrant in a commonwealth once
republican and free.  You resent the domination, but you enjoy it too,
and with or against your will you admire the author of your slavery.

Rhoda Fleming.

_Rhoda Fleming_ is one of the least known of the novels, and in a sense
it is one of the most disagreeable.  To the general it has always been
caviare, and caviare it is likely to remain; for the general is before
all things respectable, and no such savage and scathing attack upon the
superstitions of respectability as _Rhoda Fleming_ has been written.  And
besides, the emotions developed are too tragic, the personages too
elementary in kind and too powerful in degree, the effects too poignant
and too sorrowful.  In these days people read to be amused.  They care
for no passion that is not decent in itself and whose expression is not
restrained.  It irks them to grapple with problems capable of none save a
tragic solution.  And when Mr. Meredith goes digging in a very bad temper
with things in general into the deeper strata, the primitive deposits, of
human nature, the public is the reverse of profoundly interested in the
outcome of his exploration and the results of his labour.  But for them
whose eye is for real literature and such literary essentials as
character largely seen and largely presented and as passion deeply felt
and poignantly expressed there is such a feast in _Rhoda Fleming_ as no
other English novelist alive has spread.  The book, it is true, is full
of failures.  There is, for instance, the old bank porter Anthony, who is
such a failure as only a great novelist may perpetrate and survive; who
suggests (with some other of Mr. Meredith's creations) a close,
deliberate, and completely unsuccessful imitation of Dickens: a writer
with whom Mr. Meredith is not averse from entering into competition, and
who, so manifest on these occasions is his superiority, may almost be
described as the other's evil genius.  Again, there is Algernon the fool,
of whom his author is so bitterly contemptuous that he is never once
permitted to live and move and have any sort of being whatever and who,
though he bears a principal part in the intrigue, like the Blifil of _Tom
Jones_ is so constantly illuminated by the lightnings of the ironical
mode of presentation as always to seem unreal in himself and seriously to
imperil the reality of the story.  And, lastly, there are the chivalrous
Percy Waring and the inscrutable Mrs. Lovell, two gentle ghosts whose
proper place is the shadow-land of the American novel.  But when all
these are removed (and for the judicious reader their removal is far from
difficult) a treasure of reality remains.  What an intensity of life it
is that hurries and throbs and burns through the veins of the two
sisters--Dahlia the victim, Rhoda the executioner!  Where else in English
fiction is such a 'human oak log' as their father, the Kentish yeoman
William Fleming?  And where in English fiction is such a problem
presented as that in the evolution of which these three--with a following
so well selected and achieved as Robert Armstrong and Jonathan Eccles and
the evil ruffian Sedgett, a type of the bumpkin gone wrong, and Master
Gammon, that type of the bumpkin old and obstinate, a sort of human
saurian--are dashed together, and ground against each other till the
weakest and best of the three is broken to pieces?  Mr. Meredith may and
does fail conspicuously to interest you in Anthony Hackbut and Algernon
Blancove and Percy Waring; but he knows every fibre of the rest, and he
makes your knowledge as intimate and comprehensive as his own.  With
these he is never at fault and never out of touch.  They have the unity
of effect, the vigorous simplicity, of life that belong to great creative
art; and at their highest stress of emotion, the culmination of their
passion, they appeal to and affect you with a force and a directness that
suggest the highest achievement of Webster.  Of course this sounds
excessive.  The expression of human feeling in the coil of a tragic
situation is not a characteristic of modern fiction.  It is thought to be
not consistent with the theory and practice of realism; and the average
novelist is afraid of it, the average reader is only affected by it when
he goes to look for it in poetry.  But the book is there to show that
such praise is deserved; and they who doubt it have only to read the
chapters called respectively 'When the Night is Darkest' and 'Dahlia's
Frenzy' to be convinced and doubt no longer.  It has been objected to the
climax of _Rhoda Fleming_ that it is unnecessarily inhumane, and that
Dahlia dead were better art than Dahlia living and incapable of love and
joy.  But the book, as I have said, is a merciless impeachment of
respectability; and as the spectacle of a ruined and broken life is
infinitely more discomforting than that of a noble death, I take it that
Mr. Meredith was right to prefer his present ending to the alternative,
inasmuch as the painfulness of that impression he wished to produce and
the potency of that moral he chose to draw are immensely heightened and
strengthened thereby.

The Tragic Comedians.

Opinions differ, and there are those, I believe, to whom Alvan and
Clotilde von Rudiger--'acrobats of the affections' they have been
called--are pleasant companions, and the story of those feats in the
gymnastics of sentimentalism in which they lived to shine is the
prettiest reading imaginable.  But others not so fortunate or, to be
plain, more honestly obtuse persist in finding that story tedious, and
the bewildering appearances it deals with not human beings--not of the
stock of Rose Jocelyn and Sir Everard Romfrey, of Dahlia Fleming and Lucy
Feverel and Richmond Roy--but creatures of gossamer and rainbow,
phantasms of spiritual romance, abstractions of remote, dispiriting
points in sexual philosophy.

The Egoist.

Just as Moliere in the figures of Alceste and Tartuffe has summarised and
embodied all that we need to know of indignant honesty and the false
fervour of sanctimonious animalism, so in the person of Sir Willoughby
Patterne has Mr. Meredith succeeded in expressing the qualities of egoism
as the egoist appears in his relations with women and in his conception
and exercise of the passion of love.  Between the means of the two men
there is not, nor can be, any sort of comparison.  Moliere is brief,
exquisite, lucid: classic in his union of ease and strength, of purity
and sufficiency, of austerity and charm.  In _The Egoist_ Mr. Meredith is
even more artificial and affected than his wont: he bristles with
allusions, he teems with hints and side-hits and false alarms, he
glitters with phrases, he riots in intellectual points and philosophical
fancies; and though his style does nowhere else become him so well, his
cleverness is yet so reckless and indomitable as to be almost as
fatiguing here as everywhere.  But in their matter the great Frenchman
and he have not much to envy each other.  Sir Willoughby Patterne is a
'document on humanity' of the highest value; and to him that would know
of egoism and the egoist the study of Sir Willoughby is indispensable.
There is something in him of us all.  He is a compendium of the Personal
in man; and if in him the abstract Egoist have not taken on his final
shape and become classic and typical it is not that Mr. Meredith has
forgotten anything in his composition but rather that there are certain
defects of form, certain structural faults and weaknesses, which prevent
you from accepting as conclusive the aspect of the mass of him.  But the
Moliere of the future (if the future be that fortunate) has but to pick
and choose with discretion here to find the stuff of a companion figure
to Arnolphe and Alceste and Celimene.

In Metre.

His verse has all the faults and only some of the merits of his prose.
Thus he will rhyme you off a ballad, and to break the secret of that
ballad you have to take to yourself a dark lantern and a case of jemmies.
I like him best in _The Nuptials of Attila_.  If he always wrote as here,
and were always as here sustained in inspiration, rapid of march, nervous
of phrase, apt of metaphor, and moving in effect, he would be delightful
to the general, and that without sacrificing on the vile and filthy altar
of popularity.  Here he is successfully himself, and what more is there
to say?  You clap for Harlequin, and you kneel to Apollo.  Mr. Meredith
doubles the parts, and is irresistible in both.  Such fire, such vision,
such energy on the one hand and on the other such agility and athletic
grace are not often found in combination.

The Fashion of Art.

This is the merit and distinction of art: to be more real than reality,
to be not nature but nature's essence.  It is the artist's function not
to copy but to synthesise: to eliminate from that gross confusion of
actuality which is his raw material whatever is accidental, idle,
irrelevant, and select for perpetuation that only which is appropriate
and immortal.  Always artistic, Mr. Meredith's work is often great art.


Byron and the World.

Two obvious reasons why Byron has long been a prophet more honoured
abroad than at home are his life and his work.  He is the most romantic
figure in the literature of the century, and his romance is of that
splendid and daring cast which the people of Britain--'an aristocracy
materialised and null, a middle class purblind and hideous, a lower class
crude and brutal'--prefers to regard with suspicion and disfavour.  He is
the type of them that prove in defiance of precept that the safest path
is not always midway, and that the golden rule is sometimes unspeakably
worthless: who set what seems a horrible example, create an apparently
shameful precedent, and yet contrive to approve themselves an honour to
their country and the race.  To be a good Briton a man must trade
profitably, marry respectably, live cleanly, avoid excess, revere the
established order, and wear his heart in his breeches pocket or anywhere
but on his sleeve.  Byron did none of these things, though he was a
public character, and ought for the example's sake to have done them all,
and done them ostentatiously.  He lived hard, and drank hard, and played
hard.  He was flippant in speech and eccentric in attire.  He thought
little of the sanctity of the conjugal tie, and said so; and he married
but to divide from his wife--who was an incarnation of the national
virtue of respectability--under circumstances too mysterious not to be
discreditable.  He was hooted into exile, and so far from reforming he
did even worse than he had done before.  After bewildering Venice with
his wickedness and consorting with atheists like Shelley and conspirators
like young Gamba, he went away on a sort of wild-goose chase to Greece,
and died there with every circumstance of publicity.  Also his work was
every whit as abominable in the eyes of his countrymen as his life.  It
is said that the theory and practice of British art are subject to the
influence of the British school-girl, and that he is unworthy the name of
artist whose achievement is of a kind to call a blush to the cheek of
youth.  Byron was contemptuous of youth, and did not hesitate to write--in
_Beppo_ and in _Cain_, in _Manfred_ and _Don Juan_ and the
_Vision_--exactly as he pleased.  In three words, he made himself
offensively conspicuous, and from being infinitely popular became utterly
contemptible.  Too long had people listened to the scream of this eagle
in wonder and in perturbation, and the moment he disappeared they grew
ashamed of their emotion and angry with its cause, and began to hearken
to other and more melodious voices--to Shelley and Keats, to Wordsworth
and Coleridge and the 'faultless and fervent melodies of Tennyson.'  In
course of time Byron was forgotten, or only remembered with disdain; and
when Thackeray, the representative Briton, the artist Philistine, the foe
of all that is excessive or abnormal or rebellious, took it upon himself
to flout the author of _Don Juan_ openly and to lift up his heavy hand
against the fops and fanatics who had affected the master's humours, he
did so amid general applause.  Meanwhile, however, the genius and the
personality of Byron had come to be vital influences all the world over,
and his voice had been recognised as the most human and the least insular
raised on English ground since Shakespeare's.  In Russia he had created
Pushkin and Lermontoff; in Germany he had awakened Heine, inspired
Schumann, and been saluted as an equal by the poet of _Faust_ himself; in
Spain he had had a share in moulding the noisy and unequal talent of
Espronceda; in Italy he had helped to develop and to shape the melancholy
and daring genius of Leopardi; and in France he had been one of the
presiding forces of a great aesthetic revolution.  To the men of 1830 he
was a special and peculiar hero.  Hugo turned in his wake to Spain and
Italy and the East for inspiration.  Musset, as Mr. Swinburne has
said--too bitterly and strongly said--became in a fashion a Kaled to his
Lara, 'his female page or attendant dwarf.'  He was in some sort the
grandsire of the Buridan and the Antony of Dumas.  Berlioz went to him
for the material for his _Harold en Italie_, his _Corsaire_ overture, and
his _Episode_.  Delacroix painted the _Barque de Don Juan_ from him, with
the _Massacre de Scio_, the _Marino Faliero_, the _Combat du Giaour et du
Pacha_, and many a notable picture more.  Is it at all surprising that M.
Taine should have found heart to say that alone among modern poets Byron
'atteint a la cime'? or that Mazzini should have reproached us with our
unaccountable neglect of him and with our scandalous forgetfulness of the
immense work done by him in giving a 'European _role_ . . . to English
literature' and in awakening all over the Continent so much 'appreciation
and sympathy for England'?

Byron and Wordsworth.

He had his share in the work of making Matthew Arnold possible, but he is
the antipodes of those men of culture and contemplation--those artists
pensive and curious and sedately self-contained--whom Arnold best loved
and of whom the nearest to hand is Wordsworth.  Byron and Wordsworth are
like the Lucifer and the Michael of the _Vision of Judgment_.  Byron's
was the genius of revolt, as Wordsworth's was the genius of dignified and
useful submission; Byron preached the dogma of private revolution,
Wordsworth the dogma of private apotheosis; Byron's theory of life was
one of liberty and self-sacrifice, Wordsworth's one of self-restraint and
self-improvement; Byron's practice was dictated by a vigorous and
voluptuous egoism, Wordsworth's by a benign and lofty selfishness; Byron
was the 'passionate and dauntless soldier of a forlorn hope,' Wordsworth
a kind of inspired clergyman.  Both were influences for good, and both
are likely to be influences for good for some time to come.  Which is the
better and stronger is a question that can hardly be determined now.  It
is certain that Byron's star has waned, and that Wordsworth's has waxed;
but it is also certain that there are moments in life when the _Ode to
Venice_ is almost as refreshing and as precious as the ode on the
_Intimations_, and when the epic mockery of _Don Juan_ is to the full as
beneficial as the chaste philosophy of _The Excursion_ and the _Ode to
Duty_.  Arnold was of course with Michael heart and soul, and was only
interested in our Lucifer.  He approached his subject in a spirit of
undue deprecation.  He thought it necessary to cite Scherer's opinion
that Byron is but a coxcomb and a rhetorician: partly, it would appear,
for the pleasure of seeming to agree with it in a kind of way and partly
to have the satisfaction of distinguishing and of showing it to be a
mistake.  Then, he could not quote Goethe without apologising for the
warmth of that consummate artist's expressions and explaining some of
them away.  Again, he was pitiful or disdainful, or both, of Scott's
estimate; and he did not care to discuss the sentiment which made that
great and good man think _Cain_ and the _Giaour_ fit stuff for family
reading on a Sunday after prayers, though as Mr. Ruskin has pointed out,
in one of the wisest and subtlest bits of criticism I know, the sentiment
is both natural and beautiful, and should assist us not a little in the
task of judging Byron and of knowing him for what he was.  That Arnold
should institute a comparison between Leopardi and Byron was probably
inevitable: Leopardi had culture and the philosophic mind, which Byron
had not; he is incapable of influencing the general heart, as Byron can;
he is a critics' poet, which Byron can never be; he was always an artist,
which Byron was not; and--it were Arnoldian to take the comparison
seriously.  Byron was not interested in words and phrases but in the
greater truths of destiny and emotion.  His empire is over the
imagination and the passions.  His personality was many-sided enough to
make his egoism representative.  And as mankind is wont to feel first and
to think afterwards, a single one of his heart-cries may prove to the
world of greater value as a moral agency than all the intellectual
reflections that Leopardi contrived to utter.  After examining this and
that opinion and doubting over and deprecating them all, Arnold touched
firm ground at last in a dictum of Mr. Swinburne's, the most pertinent
and profound since those of Goethe, to the effect that in Byron there is
a 'splendid and imperishable excellence which covers all his offences and
outweighs all his defects: the excellence of sincerity and strength.'
With this 'noble praise' our critic agreed so vigorously that it became
the key-note of the latter part of his summing up, and in the end you
found him declaring Byron the equal of Wordsworth, and asserting of this
'glorious pair' that 'when the year 1900 is turned, and the nation comes
to recount her poetic glories in the century which has just then ended,
the first names with her will be these.'  The prophecy is as little like
to commend itself to the pious votary of Keats as to the ardent
Shelleyite: there are familiars of the Tennysonian Muse, the Sibyl of
_Rizpah_ and _Vastness_ and _Lucretius_ and _The Voyage_, to whom it must
seem impertinent beyond the prophet's wont; there are--(but _they_ scarce
count)--who grub (as for truffles) for meanings in Browning.  But it was
not uttered to please, and in truth it has enough of plausibility to
infuriate whatever poet-sects there be.  Especially the Wordsworthians.


His Critics.

To many Hugo was of the race of AEschylus and Shakespeare, a world-poet
in the sense that Dante was, an artist supreme alike in genius and in
accomplishment.  To others he was but a great master of words and
cadences, with a gift of lyric utterance and inspiration rarely surpassed
but with a personality so vigorous and excessive as to reduce its
literary expression--in epic, drama, fiction, satire and ode and song--to
the level of work essentially subjective, in sentiment as in form, in
intention as in effect.  The debate is one in which the only possible
arbiter is Time; and to Time the final judgment may be committed.  What
is certain is that there is one point on which both dissidents and
devout--the heretics who deny with Matthew Arnold and the orthodox who
worship with Mr. Swinburne and M. de Banville--are absolutely agreed.
Plainly Hugo was the greatest man of letters of his day.  It has been
given to few or none to live a life so full of effort and achievement, so
rich in honour and success and fame.  Born almost with the century, he
was a writer at fifteen, and at his death he was writing still; so that
the record of his career embraces a period of more than sixty years.
There is hardly a department of art to a foremost place in which he did
not prove his right.  From first to last; from the time of Chateaubriand
to the time of Zola, he was a leader of men; and with his departure from
the scene the undivided sovereignty of literature became a thing of the
past like Alexander's empire.

Some Causes and Effects.

In 1826, in a second set of _Odes et Ballades_, he announced his vocation
in unmistakeable terms.  He was a lyric poet and the captain of a new
emprise.  His genius was too large and energetic to move at ease in the
narrow garment prescribed as the poet's wear by the dullards and the
pedants who had followed Boileau.  He began to repeat the rhythms of
Ronsard and the Pleiad; to deal in the richest rhymes and in words and
verses tricked with new-spangled ore; to be curious in cadences, careless
of stereotyped rules, prodigal of invention and experiment, defiant of
much long recognised as good sense, contemptuous of much till then
applauded as good taste.  In a word, he was the Hugo of the hundred
volumes we know: an artist, that is, endowed with a technical imagination
of the highest quality, the very genius of style, and a sense of the
plastic quality of words unequalled, perhaps, since Milton.  The time was
ripe for him: within France and without it was big with revolution.  In
verse there were the examples of Andre Chenier and Lamartine; in prose
the work of Rousseau and Diderot, of Bernardin de Saint-Pierre and
Chateaubriand; in war and politics the tremendous tradition of Napoleon.
Goethe and Schiller had recreated romance and established the foundations
of a new palace of art; their theory and practice had been popularised in
the novels of Walter Scott; and in the life and work of Byron the race
had such an example of revolt, such an incitement to liberty and change,
such a passionate and persuasive argument against authority and
convention, as had never before been felt in art.  Hugo like all great
artists was essentially a child of his age: 'Rebellion lay in his way,
and he found it.'  In 1827 he published his _Cromwell_, and came forth as
a rebel confessed and unashamed.  It is an unapproachable production,
tedious in the closet, impossible upon the stage; and to compare it to
such work as that which at some and twenty Keats had given to the
world--_Hyperion_, for instance, or the _Eve of St. Agnes_--is to glory
in the name of Briton.  But it had its value then, and as an historical
document it has its value now.  The preface was at once a profession of
faith and a proclamation of war.  It is crude, it is limited, it is
mistaken, in places it is even absurd.  But from the moment of its
appearance the old order was practically closed.  It prepared the way for
_Albertus_ and for _Antony_, for _Rolla_ and the _Tour de Nesle_; and it
was also the '_fiat lux_' in deference to which the world has accepted
with more or less of resignation the partial eclipse of art and morals
effected in _Salammbo_ and _l'Education sentimentale_ and the Egyptian
darkness achieved in work like _la Terre_ and _une Vie_ and _les
Blasphemes_.  In its ringing periods, its plangent antitheses and
aesthetic epigrams, it preluded and vindicated the excesses of whatsoever
manifestations of romanticism mankind and the arts have since been called
upon to consider and endure: from the humours of Petrus Borel to the
experiments of Claude Monet and the 'discoveries' of Richard Wagner.


It is too often forgotten that from the first Hugo was associated with
men of pretensions and capacities not greatly inferior to his own, and
that in no direction was victory the work of his single arm.  In painting
the initiative had been taken years before the publication of the
_Cromwell_ manifesto by Gericault with the famous _Radeau de la Meduse_,
and by Delacroix with the _Dante et Virgile_ (1822) and the _Massacre de
Scio_ (1823).  In music Berlioz, at this time a student in the
Conservatoire, was fighting hard against Cherubini and the bewigged ones
for liberty of expression and leave to admire and imitate the audacities
of Weber and Beethoven, and three years hence, in the year of _Hernani_,
was to set his mark upon the art with the _Symphonie fantastique_.  On
the stage as early as 1824 Frederick and Firmin had realised in the
personages of Macaire and Bertrand the grotesque ideal, the combination
of humour and terror, of which the character of Cromwell was put forward
as the earliest expression, and had realised it so completely that their
work has taken rank with the greater and the more lasting results of the
movement.  In the literature of drama the old order was ruined and the
victory won on all essential points not in 1830 with _Hernani_ but in
1829 with _Henri Trois et sa Cour_, the first of the innumerable
successes of Alexandre Dumas, who determined at a single stroke the
fundamental qualities of structure and form and material, and left his
chief no question to solve save that of diction and style.  Musset's
earlier poems date from 1828, the year of _les Orientales_, Gautier's
from 1830; and these are also the dates of Balzac's _Chouans_ and _la
Peau de Chagrin_.  Moreover, among the intimates of the young leader were
men like Sainte-Beuve, who was two years his junior, and the brothers
Deschamps: whose influence was doubtless exerted more frequently to
encourage than to repress.  Towards the end we lost sight of all this,
and saw in Victor Hugo not so much the most glorious survival of
romanticism as romanticism itself, the movement in flesh and blood, the
revolution in general 'summed up and closed' in a single figure.  This
agreeable view of things was Hugo's own.  From the beginning he took
himself with perfect seriousness, and his followers, however enthusiastic
in admiration, had excellent warrant from above.  'Il _trone_ trop,' says
Berlioz of him somewhere; and M. Maxime du Camp has given an edifying
account of the means he was wont to use to make himself beloved and
honoured by the youth who came to him for counsel and encouragement.  How
perfectly he succeeded in this the political part of his function is
matter of history.  Gautier's first visit to him was that of a devotee to
his divinity; and years afterwards the good poet confessed that not even
in pitch darkness and in a cellar fathoms under ground should he dare to
whisper to himself that a verse of the Master's was bad.  So far as
devotion went there were innumerable Gautiers.  Sainte-Beuve was not long
a pillar of orthodoxy; Dumas was always conscious of his own pre-eminence
in certain qualities, and made light of Hugo's dramas as candidly as he
made much of the style in which they are written; and when some creature
of unwisdom saluted Delacroix as 'the Hugo of painting,' the artist of
the _Marino Faliero_ and the _Barque de Don Juan_ resented the compliment
with bitterness.  But these were exceptions.  The youth of 1830 were
Hugolaters almost to a man.

Equipment and Achievement.

Their enthusiasm was not all irrational.  Hugo's supremacy was not that
he was the greatest artist in essentials, for here Dumas was immeasurably
his superior.  It was not that he knew best the heart of man, or had
apprehended most thoroughly the conditions of life; for Balzac so far
surpassed him in these sciences that comparison was impossible.  It was
not that he sang the truest song or uttered the deepest word, for Musset
is the poet of _Rolla_ and the _Nuits_ in verse and the poet of
_Fantasio_ and _Lorenzaccio_ and _Carmosine_ in prose.  But the epoch
Hugo represented was interested in the manner rather than the substance
of things: the revolution at whose front he had been set and whose most
shining figure he became was largely a revolution of externals.  With an
immense amount of enthusiasm there was, as Sainte-Beuve confessed, an
incredible amount of ignorance--so that _Cromwell_ was supposed to be
historical; and with a passionate delight in form there co-existed a
strangely imperfect understanding of material--so that _Hernani_ was
supposed to be Shakespearean.  To this ignorance and to this imperfect
understanding Hugo owed a certain part of his authority; the other and
greater he got from his unrivalled mastery of style, from his
extraordinary skill as an artist in words.  To the opposing faction his
innovations were horrible: his verse was poison, his example an outrage,
his prosody a violation of all laws, his rhymes and tropes and metaphors
so many offences against Heaven and the Muse.  But to the ardent
youngsters who fought beneath his banner it was his to give a something
priceless and unique--a something glorious to France and never before
exampled in her literature.  For the distichs of Boileau--'strong, heavy,
useful, like pairs of tongs,'--he found them alexandrines with the leap
and sparkle of sea waves and the sound of clashing swords and the colours
of sunset and the dawn.  They were tired of whitewash and cold distemper;
and he gave them hangings of brocade and tapestries of price and tissues
stiff with gold and glowing with new dyes.  He flung them handfuls of
jewels where his rivals scattered handfuls of marbles.  And they paid him
for his gifts with an intemperance of worship, a fury of belief, a
rapture of admiration, such as no other man has known.  The substance was
striking, was peculiar, was novel and full of charm; but the manner was
all this and something besides--was magnificent, was intoxicating, was
irresistible; and Victor Hugo by virtue of it became the foremost man of
literary France.  The great battle of _Hernani_ was merely a battle of
style.  From Dumas the artist of _Henri Trois_ and _Antony_, the language
of Boileau was safe enough; and his triumph, all-important and
significant as it was, seemed neither fatal nor abominable.  It was
another matter with _Hernani_.  Its success meant ruin for the Academy
and destruction for the idiom of Delille and M. de Jouy; and the
classicists mustered in force, and did their utmost to stay the coming
wrath and arrest the impending doom.  They failed of course; for they
fought with a vague yet limited apprehension of the question at issue,
they had nothing to give in place of the thing they hated.  And Victor
Hugo was made captain of the victorious host, while the men who might
have been in a certain sort his rivals took service as lieutenants, and
accepted his ensign for their own.

His Diary.

All his life long he was addicted to attitude; all his life long he was a
_poseur_ of the purest water.  He seems to have considered the
affectation of superiority an essential quality in art; for just as the
cock in Mrs. Poyser's apothegm believed that the sun got up to hear him
crow, so to the poet of the _Legende_ and the _Contemplations_ it must
have seemed as if the human race existed but to consider the use he made
of his 'oracular tongue.'  How tremendous his utterances sometimes
were--informed with what majesty yet with what brilliance--is one of the
things that every schoolboy knows.  One no more needs to insist upon the
merits of his best manner than to emphasise the faults of his worst.  At
his best as at his worst, however, he was always an artist in his way.
His speech was nothing if not artificial--in the good sense of the word
sometimes and sometimes in the bad.  Simplicity (it seemed) was
impossible to him.  In the quest of expression, the cult of antithesis,
the pursuit of effect, he sacrificed directness and plainness with not
less consistency than complacency.  In that tissue of 'apocalyptic
epigram' which to him was style there was no room for truth and
soberness.  His Patmos was a place of mirrors, and before them he draped
himself in his phrases like Frederick in the mantle of Ruy Blas.  That
this grandiosity was unnatural and unreal was proved by the publication
of _Choses Vues_.  When Hugo wrote for himself he wrote almost as simply
and straightforwardly as Dumas.  The effect is disconcerting.  You rub
your eyes in amazement.  It is evidently Hugo.  But Hugo plain, sober,
direct?  Hugo without rhetoric?  Hugo declining antithesis and content to
be no gaudier than his neighbours?  Hugo expressing himself in the
fearless old fashion of pre-romantic ages?  A page of commonplace from
Mr. Meredith, a book for boarding-schools by M. Zola, were not more

For and Against.

Some primary qualities of his genius are pretty evenly balanced by some
primary faults.  Thus, for breadth and brilliance of conception, for
energy and sweep of imagination, for the power of dealing as a master
with the greater forces of nature, he is unsurpassed among modern men.
But the conception is too often found to be empty as well as spacious;
the imagination is too often tainted with insincerity; in his dramas of
the elements there are too many such falsehoods as abound in his dramas
of the emotions.  Again, he is sometimes grand and often grandiose; but
he has a trick of affecting the grandiose and the grand which is constant
and intolerable.  He had the genius of style in such fulness as entitles
him to rank with the great artists in words of all time.  His sense of
verbal colour and verbal music is beyond criticism; his rhythmical
capacity is something prodigious.  He so revived and renewed the language
of France that in his hands it became an instrument not unworthy to
compete with Shakespeare's English and the German of Goethe and Heine;
and in the structure and capacity of all manner of French metrical forms
he effected such a change that he may fairly be said to have received the
orchestra of Rameau from his predecessors and to have bequeathed his
heirs the orchestra of Berlioz.  On the other hand; in much of his later
work his mannerisms in prose and in verse are discomfortably glaring; the
outcome of his unsurpassable literary faculty is often no more than a
parade or triumph of the vocables; there were times when his brain
appears to have become a mere machine for the production of antitheses
and sterile conceits.  What is perhaps more damning than all, his work is
saturate in his own remarkable personality, and is objective only here
and there.  His dramas are but five-act lyrics, his epics the romance of
an egoist, his history is confession, his criticism the opinions of
Victor Hugo.  Even his lyrics, the 'fine flower' of his genius, the
loveliest expression of the language, have not escaped reproach as a
'Psalter of Subjectivity.'  Even his essays in prose romance--a form of
art on which he has stamped his image and superscription in a manner all
his own, the work by which he is best known to humanity at large--are
vitiated by the same defect.  For one that believes in Bishop Myriel as
Bishop Myriel there are a hundred who see in him only a pose of Victor
Hugo; it is the same with Ursel and Javert, with Cimourdain and Lantenac
and Josiane; the very _pieuvre_ of _les Travailleurs_ is a Hugolater at
heart.  It is a proof of his commanding personality, that in spite of
these objections he held in enchantment the hearts and minds of men for
over sixty years.  He is almost a literature in himself; and if it be
true that his work is as wholly lacking in the radiant sanity of
Shakespeare's as it is in the exquisite good sense of Voltaire's, it is
also true that he left the world far richer than he found it.

What Lives of Him.

To select an anthology from his work were surely the pleasantest of
tasks.  One richer in grace and passion and sweetness might he chosen out
of Musset; one wrought more truly of the finer stuff of humanity as well
as more bountifully touched with tact and dignity and temper from the
work of Tennyson.  But the Hugo selection would combine the rarest
technical merits with a set of interests all its own.  It would give, for
instance, the _Stella_ of the _Chatiments_ and the _Pauvres Gens_ of the
_Legende_.  On one page would be found that admirable _Souvenir de la
Nuit du Quatre_, which is at once the impeachment and the condemnation of
the Coup d'Etat; and on another the little epic of _Eviradnus_, with its
immortal serenade, a culmination of youth and romance and love:

   'Si tu veux, faisons un reve.
   Montons sur deux palefrois.
   Tu m'emmenes, je t'enleve.
   L'oiseau chante dans les bois.

   . . . . .

   Allons-nous-en par l'Autriche!
   Nous aurons l'aube a nos fronts.
   Je serai grand et toi riche,
   Puisque nous nous aimerons.

   . . . . .

   Tu seras dame et moi comte.
   Viens, mon oeeur s'epanouit.
   Viens, nous conterons ce conte
   Aux etoiles de la nuit.'

Here, a summary of all the interests of romanticism, would be the
complaint of Gastibelza:

   'Un jour d'ete, ou tout etait lumiere,
      Vie et douceur,
   Elle s'en vint jouer dans la riviere
      Avec sa soeur.
   Je vis le pied de sa jeune compagne
      Et son genou . . .--
   Le vent qui vient a travers la montagne
      Me rendra fou!'--

here the adorable _Vieille Chanson du Jeune Temps_:

   'Rose, droite sur ses hanches,
   Leva son beau bras tremblant
   Pour prendre une mure aux branches:
   Je ne vis pas son bras blanc.

   Une eau courait, fraiche et creuse,
   Sur les mousses de velours;
   Et la nature amoureuse
   Dormait dans les grands bois sourds.'--

and here, not unworthy to be remembered with _Proud Maisie_, that
wonderful harmony of legend and superstition and the facts and dreams of
common life, the death-song of Fantine:

   'Nous acheterons de bien belles choses,
      En nous promenant le long de faubourgs.

   La Vierge-Marie aupres de mon poele
      Est venue hier, en manteau brode,
   Et m'a dit: Voici, cache sous mon voile,
      Le petit qu'un jour tu m'as demande.
   Courez a la ville; ayez de la toile,
      Achetez du fil, achetez un de.

   Les bluets sont bleus, les roses sont roses,
      Les bluets sont bleus, j'aime mes amours.'

And from this masterpiece of simple and direct emotion, which to me has
always seemed the high-water mark of Hugo's lyrical achievement as well
as the most human of his utterances, one might pass on to masterpieces of
another inspiration: to the luxurious and charming graces of _Sara la
Baigneuse_; to the superb crescendo and diminuendo of _les Djinns_; to
'Si vous n'avez rien a me dire,' that daintiest of songlets; to the
ringing rhymes and gallant spirit of the _Pas d'Armes du Roi Jean_:

   'Sus, ma bete,
   De facon
   Que je fete
   Ce grison!
   Je te baille
   Pour ripaille
   Plus de paille,
   Plus de son,

   Qu'un gros frere,
   Gai, friand,
   Ne peut faire,
   Par les places
   Ou tu passes,
   De grimaces
   En priant!'--

to the melodious tenderness of 'Si tu voulais, Madelaine'; to the gay
music of the _Stances a Jeanne_:

   'Je ne me mets pas en peine
   Du clocher ni du beffroi.
   Je ne sais rien de la reine,
   Et je ne sais rien du roi.'--

to the admirable song of the wind of the sea:

   'Quels sont les bruits sourds?
   Ecoutez vers l'onde
   Cette voix profonde
   Qui pleure toujours,
   Et qui toujours gronde,

   Quoiqu'un son plus claire
   Parfois l'interrompe . . .
   Le vent de la mer
   Souffle dans sa trompe.'--

to the _Romance Mauresque_, to the barbaric fury of _les Reitres_, to the
magnificent rodomontade of the _Romancero du Cid_.  'J'en passe, et des
meilleurs,' as Ruy Gomez observes of his ancestors.  Here at any rate are
jewels enough to furnish forth a casket that should be one of the richest
of its kind!  The worst is, they are most of them not necessaries but
luxuries.  It is impossible to conceive of life without Shakespeare and
Burns, without _Paradise Lost_ and the _Intimations_ ode and the immortal
pageant of the _Canterbury Tales_; but (the technical question apart) to
imagine it wanting Hugo's lyrics is easy enough.  The largesse of which
he was so prodigal has but an arbitrary and conventional value.  Like the
magician's money much has changed, almost in the act of distribution,
into withered leaves; and such of it as seems minted of good metal is not
for general circulation.


The Villainy Translation.

Heine had a light hand with the branding-iron, and marked his subjects
not more neatly than indelibly.  And really he alone were capable of
dealing adequate vengeance upon his translators.  His verse has only
violent lovers or violent foes; indifference is impossible.  Once read as
it deserves, it becomes one of the loveliest of our spiritual
acquisitions.  We hate to see it tampered with; we are on thorns as the
translator approaches, and we resent his operations as an individual
hurt, a personal affront.  What business has he to be trampling among our
borders and crushing our flowers with his stupid hobnails?  Why cannot he
carry his zeal for topsy-turvy horticulture elsewhere?  He comes and lays
a brutal hand on our pet growths, snips off their graces, shapes them
anew according to his own ridiculous ideal, paints and varnishes them
with a villainous compound of his contrivance, and then bids us admire
the effect and thank him for its production!  Is any name too hard for
such a creature? and could any vengeance be too deadly?  If he walked
into your garden and amused himself so with your cabbages, you could put
him in prison.  But into your poets he can stump his way at will, and
upon them he can do his pleasure.  And he does it.  How many men have
brutalised the elegance, the grace, the winning urbanity of Horace!  By
how many coarse and stupid fingers has Catullus been smudged and fumbled
and mauled!  To turn _Faust_ into English (in the original metres) is a
fashionable occupation; there are more perversions of the _Commedia_ than
one cares to recall; there is scarce a great or even a good work of the
human mind but has been thus bedevilled and deformed.  _Don Quixote_, _le
Pere Goriot_, _The Frogs_, _The Decameron_--the trail of the translator
is over them all.  Messrs. Payne and Lang and Swinburne have turned poor
Villon into a citizen of Bedford Park, Fitzgerald and Florence Macarthy
have Englished Calderon, Messrs. Pope, Gladstone and others have done
their worst with Homer.  If Rossetti had not succeeded with _la Vita
Nuova_, if Fitzgerald had not ennobled Omar, if Mr. Lang had not bettered
upon Banville and Gerard de Nerval, the word 'translator' would be odious
as the word 'occupy.'  And 'occupy' on the authority of Mrs. Dorothy
Tearsheet is an odious word indeed.

The Proof of It.

The fact is, the translator too often forgets the difference between his
subject and himself; he is too often a common graveyard mason that would
play the sculptor.  And it is not nearly enough for him to be a decent
craftsman.  To give an adequate idea of an artist's work a man must be
himself an artist of equal force and versatility with his original.  The
typical translator makes clever enough verses, but Heine's accomplishment
is remote from him as Heine's genius.  He perverts his author as rhyme
and rhythm will.  No charge of verbal inaccuracy need therefore be made,
for we do not expect a literal fidelity in our workman.  Let him convey
the spirit of his original, and that, so far as meaning goes, is enough.
But we do expect of him a something that shall recall his author's form,
his author's personality, his author's charm of diction and of style; and
here it is that such an interpreter as Sir Theodore Martin (say) fails
with such assurance and ill-fortune.  The movement of Heine's rhythms,
simple as they seem, is not spontaneous; it is an effect of art: the poet
laboured at his cadences as at his meanings.  Artificial he is, but he
has the wonderful quality of never seeming artificial.  His verses dance
and sway like the nixies he loved.  Their every motion seems informed
with the perfect suavity and spontaneity of pure nature.  They tinkle
down the air like sunset bells, they float like clouds, they wave like
flowers, they twitter like skylarks, they have in them something of the
swiftness and the certainty of exquisite physical sensations.  In such a
transcript as Sir Theodore's all this is lost: Heine becomes a mere
prentice-metrist; he sets the teeth on edge as surely as Browning
himself; the verse that recalled a dance of naiads suggests a springless
cart on a Highland road; Terpsichore is made to prance a hobnailed
breakdown.  The poem disappears, and in its place you have an indifferent
copy of verses.  You look at the pages from afar, and your impression is
that they are not unlike Heine; you look into them, and Heine has
vanished.  The man is gone, and only an awkward, angular, clumsily
articulated, entirely preposterous lay-figure remains to show that the
translator has been by.


His Verse.

In every page of Arnold the poet there is something to return upon and to
admire.  There are faults, and these of a kind this present age is ill-
disposed to condone.  The rhymes are sometimes poor; the movement of the
verse is sometimes uncertain and sometimes slow; the rhythms are
obviously simple always; now and then the intention and effect are cold
even to austerity, are bald to uncomeliness.  But then, how many of the
rarer qualities of art and inspiration are represented here, and here
alone in modern work!  There is little of that delight in material for
material's sake which is held to be essential to the composition of a
great artist; there is none of that rapture of sound and motion and none
of that efflorescence of expression which are deemed inseparable from the
endowment of the true singer.  For any of those excesses in technical
accomplishment, those ecstasies in the use of words, those effects of
sound which are so rich and strange as to impress the hearer with
something of their author's own emotion of creation--for any, indeed, of
the characteristic attributes of modern poetry--you shall turn to him in
vain.  In matters of form this poet is no romantic but a classic to the
marrow.  He adores his Shakespeare, but he will none of his Shakespeare's
fashions.  For him the essentials are dignity of thought and sentiment
and distinction of manner and utterance.  It is no aim of his to talk for
talking's sake, to express what is but half felt and half understood, to
embody vague emotions and nebulous fancies in language no amount of
richness can redeem from the reproach of being nebulous and vague.  In
his scheme of art there is no place for excess, however magnificent and
Shakespearean--for exuberance, however overpowering and Hugoesque.  Human
and interesting in themselves, the ideas apparelled in his verse are
completely apprehended; natural in themselves, the experiences he
pictures are intimately felt and thoroughly perceived.  They have been
resolved into their elements by the operation of an almost Sophoclean
faculty of selection, and the effect of their presentation is akin to
that of a gallery of Greek marbles.

His Failure.

Other poets say anything--say everything that is in them.  Browning lived
to realise the myth of the Inexhaustible Bottle; Mr. William Morris is
nothing: if not fluent and copious; Mr. Swinburne has a facility that
would seem impossible if it were not a living fact; even the Laureate is
sometimes prodigal of unimportant details, of touches insignificant and
superfluous, of words for words' sake, of cadences that have no reason of
being save themselves.  Matthew Arnold alone says only what is worth
saying.  In other words, he selects: from his matter whatever is
impertinent is eliminated and only what is vital is permitted to remain.
Sometimes he goes a little astray, and his application of the principle
on which Sophocles and Homer wrought results in failure.  But in these
instances it will always be found, I think, that the effect is due not to
the principle nor the poet's application of it but to the poet himself,
who has exceeded his commission, and attempted more than is in him to
accomplish.  The case is rare with Arnold, one of whose qualities--and by
no means the least Hellenic of them--was a fine consciousness of his
limitations.  But that he failed, and failed considerably, it were idle
to deny.  There is _Merope_ to bear witness to the fact; and of _Merope_
what is there to say?  Evidently it is an imitation Greek play: an essay,
that is, in a form which ceased long since to have any active life, so
that the attempt to revive it--to create a soul under the ribs of very
musty death--is a blunder alike in sentiment and in art.  As evidently
Arnold is no dramatist.  Empedocles, the Strayed Reveller, even the
Forsaken Merman, all these are expressions of purely personal feeling--are
so many metamorphoses of Arnold.  In _Merope_ there is no such basis of
reality.  The poet was never on a level with his argument.  He knew
little or nothing of his characters--of Merope or AEpytus or Polyphontes,
of Arcas or Laias or even the Messenger; at every step the ground is seen
shifting under his feet; he is comparatively void of matter, and his
application of the famous principle is labour lost.  He is winnowing the
wind; he is washing not gold but water.

His Triumphs.

It is other-guess work with _Empedocles_, the _Dejaneira_ fragment,
_Sohrab and Rustum_, the _Philomela_, his better work in general, above
all with the unique and unapproached _Balder Dead_.  To me this last
stands alone in modern art for simple majesty of conception, sober
directness and potency of expression, sustained dignity of thought and
sentiment and style, the complete presentation of whatever is essential,
the stern avoidance of whatever is merely decorative: indeed for every
Homeric quality save rhythmical vitality and rapidity of movement.  Here,
for example, is something of that choice yet ample suggestiveness--the
only true realism because the only perfect ideal of realisation--for
which the similitudes of the 'Ionian father of his race' are
pre-eminently distinguished:--

   'And as a spray of honeysuckle flowers
   Brushes across a tired traveller's face
   Who shuffles through the deep dew-moistened dust
   On a May evening, in the darken'd lanes,
   And starts him, that he thinks a ghost went by--
   So Hoder brushed by Hermod's side.'

Here is Homer's direct and moving because most human and comprehensive
touch in narrative:--

   'But from the hill of Lidskialf Odin rose,
   The throne, from which his eye surveys the world;
   And mounted Sleipner, and in darkness rode
   To Asgard.  And the stars came out in heaven,
   High over Asgard, to light home the king.
   But fiercely Odin gallop'd, moved in heart;
   And swift to Asgard, to the gate, he came.
   And terribly the hoofs of Sleipner rang
   Along the flinty floor of Asgard streets,
   And the Gods trembled on their golden beds
   Hearing the wrathful Father coming home--
   For dread, for like a whirlwind Odin came.
   And to Valhalla's gate he rode, and left
   Sleipner; and Sleipner went to his own stall;
   And in Valhalla Odin laid him down.'

And here--to have done with evidence of what is known to every one--here
is the Homeric mariner, large and majestic and impersonal, of recording

   'Bethink ye, Gods, is there no other way?--
   Speak, were not this a way, a way for Gods?
   If I, if Odin, clad in radiant arms,
   Mounted on Sleipner, with the warrior Thor
   Drawn in his car beside me, and my sons,
   All the strong brood of Heaven, to swell my train,
   Should make irruption into Hela's realm,
   And set the fields of gloom ablaze with light,
   And bring in triumph Balder back to Heaven?'

One has but to contrast such living work as this with the 'mouldering
realm' of _Merope_ to feel the difference with a sense of pain;

   'For doleful are the ghosts, the troops of dead,
   Whom Hela with austere control presides';

while this in its plain, heroic completeness is touched with a stately
life that is a presage of immortality.  It is evident, indeed, that
Arnold wrote _Balder Dead_ in his most fortunate hour, and that _Merope_
is his one serious mistake in literature.  For a genius thus peculiar and
introspective drama--the presentation of character through action--is
impossible; to a method thus reticent and severe drama--the expression of
emotion in action--is improper.  'Not here, O Apollo!'  It is written
that none shall bind his brows with the twin laurels of epos and drama.
Shakespeare did not, nor could Homer; and how should Matthew Arnold?

His Prose.

He has opinions and the courage of them; he has assurance and he has
charm; he writes with an engaging clearness.  It is very possible to
disagree with him; but it is difficult indeed to resist his many graces
of manner, and decline to be entertained and even interested by the
variety and quality of his matter.  He was described as 'the most
un-English of Britons,' the most cosmopolitan of islanders; and you feel
as you read him that in truth his mind was French.  He took pattern by
Goethe, and was impressed by Leopardi; he was judiciously classic, but
his romanticism was neither hidebound nor inhuman; he apprehended Heine
and Marcus Aurelius, Spinoza and Sainte-Beuve, Joubert and Maurice de
Guerin, Wordsworth and Pascal, Rachel and Sarah Bernhardt, Burke and
Arthur Clough, Eliza Cook and Homer; he was an authority on education,
poetry, civilisation, the _Song of Roland_, the love-letters of Keats,
the Genius of Bottles, the significance of _eutrapelos_ and _eutrapelia_.
In fact, we have every reason to be proud of him.  For the present is a
noisy and affected age; it is given overmuch to clamorous devotion and
extravagant repudiation; there is an element of swagger in all its words
and ways; it has a distressing and immoral turn for publicity.  Matthew
Arnold's function was to protest against its fashions by his own
intellectual practice, and now and then to take it to task and to call it
to order.  He was not particularly original, but he had in an eminent
degree the formative capacity, the genius of shaping and developing,
which is a chief quality of the French mind and which is not so common
among us English as our kindest critics would have us believe.  He would
take a handful of golden sentences--things wisely thought and finely said
by persons having authority--and spin them into an exquisite prelection;
so that his work with all the finish of art retains a something of the
freshness of those elemental truths on which it was his humour to dilate.
He was, that is to say, an artist in ethics as in speech, in culture as
in ambition.  'Il est donne,' says Sainte-Beuve, 'de nos jours, a un bien
petit nombre, meme parmi les plus delicats et ceux qui les apprecient le
mieux, de recueillir, d'ordonner sa vie selon ses admirations et selon
ses gouts, avec suite, avec noblesse.'  That is true enough; but Arnold
was one of the few, and might 'se vanter d'etre reste fidele a soi-meme,
a son premier et a son plus beau passe.'  He was always a man of culture
in the good sense of the word; he had many interests in life and art, and
his interests were sound and liberal; he was a good critic of both morals
and measures, both of society and of literature, because he was commonly
at the pains of understanding his matter before he began to speak about
it.  It is therefore not surprising that the part he played was one of
considerable importance or that his influence was healthy in the main.  He
was neither prophet nor pedagogue but a critic pure and simple.  Too well
read to be violent, too nice in his discernment to be led astray beyond
recovery in any quest after strange gods, he told the age its faults and
suggested such remedies as the study of great men's work had suggested to
him.  If his effect was little that was not his fault.  He returned to
the charge with imperturbable good temper, and repeated his remarks--which
are often exasperating in effect--with a mixture of mischievousness and
charm, of superciliousness and sagacity, and a serene dexterity of
phrase, unique in modern letters.


The Odyssey.

I think that of all recent books the two that have pleased me best and
longest are those delightful renderings into English prose of the Greek
of Homer and Theocritus, which we owe, the one to Messrs. Henry Butcher
and Andrew Lang and the other to Mr. Lang's unaided genius.  To read this
_Odyssey_ of theirs is to have a breath of the clear, serene airs that
blew through the antique Hellas; to catch a glimpse of the large, new
morning light that bathes the seas and highlands of the young heroic
world.  In a space of shining and fragrant clarity you have a vision of
marble columns and stately cities, of men august in single-heartedness
and strength and women comely and simple and superb as goddesses; and
with a music of leaves and winds and waters, of plunging ships and
clanging armours, of girls at song and kindly gods discoursing, the sunny-
eyed heroic age is revealed in all its nobleness, in all its majesty, its
candour, and its charm.  The air is yet plangent with echoes of the
leaguer of Troy, and Odysseus the ready-at-need goes forth upon his
wanderings: into the cave of Polypheme, into the land of giants, into the
very regions of the dead: to hear among the olive trees the voice of
Circe, the sweet witch, singing her magic song as she fares to and fro
before her golden loom; to rest and pine in the islet of Calypso, the
kind sea-goddess; to meet with Nausicaa, loveliest of mortal maids; to
reach his Ithaca, and do battle with the Wooers, and age in peace and
honour by the side of the wise Penelope.  The day is yet afar when, as he
sailed out to the sunset and the mysterious west,

   Sol con un legno, e con quella compagna
   Picciola, dalla qual non fue deserto,

the great wind rushed upon him from the new-discovered land, and so ended
his journeyings for ever; and all with him is energy and tact and valour
and resource, as becomes the captain of an indomitable human soul.  His
society is like old d'Artagnan's: it invigorates, renews, inspires.  I
had rather lack the friendship of the good Alonso Quijada himself than
the brave example of these two.

The Idylls.

With certain differences it is the same with our Theocritus.  From him,
too, the mind is borne back to a 'happier age of gold,' when the world
was younger than now, and men were not so weary nor so jaded nor so
highly civilised as they choose to think themselves.  Shepherds still
piped, and maidens still listened to their piping.  The old gods had not
been discrowned and banished; and to fishers drawing their nets the
coasts yet kept a something of the trace of amorous Polypheme, the rocks
were peopled with memories of his plaint to Galatea.  Inland, among the
dim and thymy woods, bee-haunted and populous with dreams of dryad and
oread, there were rumours of Pan; and dwellers under thatch--the goatherd
mending his sandals, the hind carving his new staff, the girls who busked
them for the vintaging--were conscious, as the wind went by among the
beeches and the pines, and brought with it the sounds of a lonely and
mysterious night, that hard by them in the starry darkness the divine
Huntress was abroad, and about the base of AEtna she and her forest maids
drove the chase with horn and hound.  In the cities ladies sang the psalm
of Adonis brought back from 'the stream eternal of Acheron.'  Under the
mystic moon love-lorn damsels did their magic rites, and knit up spells
of power to bring home the men they loved.  Among the vines and under the
grey olives songs were singing of Daphnis all day long.  There were
junketings and dancings and harvest-homes for ever toward; the youths
went by to the gymnasium, and the girls stood near to watch them as they
went; the cicalas sang, the air was fragrant with apples and musical with
the sound of flutes and running water; while the blue Sicilian sky
laughed over all, and the soft Sicilian sea encircled the land and its
lovers with a ring of sapphire and silver.  To translate Theocritus,
wrote Sainte-Beuve, is as if one sought to carry away in one's hand a
patch of snow that has lain forgotten through the summer in a cranny of
the rocks of AEtna:--'On a fait trois pas a peine, que cette neige deja
est fondue.  On est heureux s'il en reste assez du moins pour donner le
vif sentiment de la fraicheur.'  But Mr. Lang has so rendered into
English the graces of the loveliest of Dorian singers that he has earned
the thanks of every lover of true literature.  Every one should read his
book, for it will bring him face to face with a very prince among poets
and with a very summer among centuries.  That Theocritus was a rare and
beautiful master there is even in this English transcript an abundance of
evidence.  Melancholy apart, he was the Watteau of the old Greek world--an
exquisite artist, a rare poet, a true and kindly soul; and it is very
good to be with him.  We have changed it all of course, and are as
fortunate as we can expect.  But it is good to be with Theocritus, for he
lets you live awhile in the happy age and under the happy heaven that
were his.  He gives you leave and opportunity to listen to the tuneful
strife of Lacon and Comatas; to witness the duel in song between Corydon
and Battus; to talk of Galatea pelting with apples the barking dog of her
love-lorn Polypheme; under the whispering elms, to lie drinking with
Eucritus and Lycidas by the altar of Demeter, 'while she stands smiling
by, with sheaves and poppies in her hand.'

Old Lamps and New.

It is relief unspeakable to turn from the dust and din and chatter of
modern life, with its growing trade in heroes and its poverty of men, its
innumerable regrets and ambitions and desires, to this immense
tranquillity, this candid and shining calm.  They had no Irish Question
then, you can reflect, nor was theology invented.  Men were not afraid of
life nor ashamed of death; and you could be heroic without a dread of
clever editors, and hospitable without fear of rogues, and dutiful for no
hope of illuminated scrolls.  Odysseus disguised as Irus is still
Odysseus and august.  How comes it that Mr. Gladstone in rags and singing
ballads would be only fit for a police-station? that Lord Salisbury
hawking cocoa-nuts would instantly suggest the purlieus of Petticoat
Lane?  Is the fault in ourselves?  Can it be that we have deteriorated so
much as that?  Nerves, nerves, nerves! . . .  These many centuries the
world has had neuralgia; and what has come of it is that Robert Elsmere
is an ideal, and the bleat of the sentimentalist might almost be mistaken
for the voice of living England.


His Essence.

Rabelais is not precisely a book for bachelors and maids--at times,
indeed, is not a book for grown men.  There are passages not to be read
without a blush and a sensation of sickness: the young giant which is the
Renaissance being filthy and gross as Nature herself at her grossest and
her most filthy.  It is argued that this is all deliberate--is an effect
of premeditation: that Rabelais had certain home-truths to deliver to his
generation, and delivered them in such terms as kept him from the fagot
and the rope by bedaubing him with the renown of a common buffoon.  But
the argument is none of the soundest in itself, and may fairly be set
aside as a piece of desperate special pleading, the work of counsel at
their wits' end for matter of defence.  For Rabelais clean is not
Rabelais at all.  His grossness is an essential component in his mental
fabric, an element in whose absence he would be not Rabelais but somebody
else.  It inspires his practice of art to the full as thoroughly as it
informs his theory of language.  He not only employs it wherever it might
be useful: he goes out of his way to find it, he shovels it in on any and
every occasion, he bemerds his readers and himself with a gusto that
assuredly is not a common characteristic of defensive operations.  In
him, indeed, the humour of Old France--the broad, rank, unsavoury _esprit
gaulois_--found its heroic expression; he made use of it because he must;
and we can no more eliminate it from his work than we can remove the
quality of imagination from Shakespeare's or those of art and intellect
from Ben Jonson's.  Other men are as foul or fouler; but in none is
foulness so inbred and so ingrained, from none is it so inseparable.  Few
have had so much genius, and in none else has genius been so curiously

His Secret.

It is significant enough that with all this against him he should have
been from the first a great moral and literary influence and the delight
of the wisest and soundest minds the world has seen.  Shakespeare read
him, and Jonson; Montaigne, a greater than himself, is in some sort his
descendant; Swift, in Coleridge's enlightening phrase, is 'anima
Rabelaesii habitans in sicco'; to Sterne and Balzac and Moliere he was a
constant inspiration; unto this day his work is studied and his meanings
are sought with almost religious devoutness; while his phrases have
passed into the constitution of a dozen languages, and the great figures
he scrawled across the face of the Renaissance have survived the movement
that gave them being, and are ranked with the monuments of literature.
Himself has given us the reasons in the prologue to the first book, where
he tells of the likeness between Socrates and the boxes called Sileni,
and discourses of the manifest resemblance of his own work with Socrates.
'Opening this box,' which is Socrates, says he, 'you would have found
within it a heavenly and inestimable drug, a more than human
understanding, an admirable virtue, matchless learning, invincible
courage, inimitable sobriety, certain contentment of mind, perfect
assurance, and an incredible disregard of all that for which men
cunningly do so much watch, run, sail, fight, travel, toil, and turmoil
themselves.'  In such wise must his book be opened, and the 'high
conceptions' with which it is stuffed will presently be apparent.  Nay,
more: you are to do with it even as a dog with a marrowbone.  'If you
have seen him you might have remarked with what devotion and
circumspection he watches and wards it; with what care he keeps it; how
fervently he holds it; how prudently he gobbets it; with what affection
he breaks it; with what diligence he sucks it.'  And in the same way you
'by a sedulous lecture and frequent meditation' shall break the bone and
suck out the marrow of these books.  Since the advice was proffered,
generation after generation of mighty wits have taken counsel with the
Master, and his wisdom has through them been passed out into the practice
of life, the evolution of society, the development of humanity.  But the
'prince de toute sapience et de toute comedie' has not yet uttered his
last word.  He remains in the front of time as when he lived and wrote.
The Abbey of Thelema and the education of Gargantua are still unrealised
ideals; the Ringing Isle and the Isle of Papimany are in their essentials
pretty much as he left them; Panurge, 'the pollarded man, the man with
every faculty except the reason,' has bettered no whit for the three
centuries of improvement that have passed since he was flashed into
being.  We--even we--have much to learn from Master Alcofribas, and until
we have learned it well enough to put it into practice his work remains
half done and his book still one to study.


A Parallel.

Shakespeare and Rembrandt have in common the faculty of quickening
speculation and compelling the minds of men to combat and discussion.
About the English poet a literature of contention has been in process of
accretion ever since he was discovered to be Shakespeare; and about the
Dutch painter and etcher there has gradually accumulated a literature
precisely analogous in character and for the most part of equal quality.
In such an age as this, when the creative faculty of the world is mainly
occupied with commentary and criticism, the reason should not be far to
seek.  Both were giants; both were original and individual in the highest
sense of the words; both were leagues ahead of their contemporaries, not
merely as regards the matter of their message but also in respect of the
terms of its delivery; each, moreover--and here one comes upon a capital
point of contact and resemblance--each was at times prodigiously inferior
to himself.  Shakespeare often writes so ill that you hesitate to believe
he could ever write supremely well; or, if this way of putting it seem
indecorous and abominable, he very often writes so well that you are loth
to believe he could ever have written thus extremely ill.  There are
passages in his work in which he reaches such heights of literary art as
since his time no mortal has found accessible; and there are passages
which few or none of us can read without a touch of that 'burning sense
of shame' experienced in the presence of Mr. Poynter's _Diadumene_ by the
British Matron of _The Times_ newspaper.  Now, we have got to be so
curious in ideals that we cannot away with the thought of imperfection.
Our worship must have for its object something flawless, something
utterly without spot or blemish.  We can be satisfied with nothing less
than an entire and perfect chrysolite; and we cannot taste our
Shakespeare at his worst without experiencing not merely the burning
sense of shame aforesaid but also a frenzy of longing to father his
faults upon somebody else--Marlowe for instance, or Green, or
Fletcher--and a fury of proving that our divinity was absolutely
incapable of them.  That Shakespeare varied--that the matchless prose and
the not particularly lordly verse of _As You Like It_ are by the same
hand; that the master to whom we owe our Hamlet is also responsible for
Gertrude and King Claudius; that he who gave us the agony of Lear and the
ruin of Othello did likewise perpetrate the scene of Hector's murder, in
manner so poor and in spirit so cynical and vile--is beyond all belief
and patience; and we have argued the point to such an extent that we are
all of us in Gotham, and a mooncalf like the ascription of whatever is
good in Shakespeare to Lord Bacon is no prodigy but a natural birth.


His Expression of Life.

Sidney's prime faults are affectation and conceit.  His verses drip with
fine love-honey; but it has been so clarified in meta-physics that much
of its flavour and sweetness has escaped.  Very often, too, the conceit
embodied is preposterously poor.  You have as it were a casket of finest
gold elaborately wrought and embellished, and the gem within is a mere
spangle of paste, a trumpery spikelet of crystal.  No doubt there is a
man's heart beating underneath; but so thick is the envelope of buckram
and broidery and velvet through which it has to make itself audible that
its pulsations are sometimes hard to count, while to follow it throb by
throb is impossible.  And if this be true of that _Astrophel and Stella_
series in which the poet outpours the melodious heyday of his youth--in
which he strives to embody a passion as rich and full as ever stirred
man's blood--what shall be said of the _Arcadia_?  In that 'cold
pastoral' he is trying to give breath and substance to as thin and frigid
a fashion as has ever afflicted literature; and though he put a great
deal of himself into the result, still every one has not the true
critical insight, and to most of us, I think, those glimpses of the lofty
nature of the writer which make the thing written a thing of worth in the
eyes of the few are merely invisible.

His Fame.

In thinking of Sidney, Ophelia's lament for Hamlet springs to the lips,
and the heart reverts to that closing scene at Zutphen with a blessed
sadness of admiration and regret.  But frankly, is it not a fact that
that fine last speech of his has more availed to secure him immortality
than all his verse?  They call him the English Bayard, and the Frenchman
need not be displeasured by the comparison.  But when you come to read
his poetry you find that our Bayard had in him a strong dash of the
pedant and a powerful leaven of the euphuist.  Subtle, delicate, refined,
with a keen and curious wit, a rare faculty of verse, a singular capacity
of expression, an active but not always a true sense of form, he wrote
for the few, and (it may be) the few will always love him.  But his
intellectual life, intense though it were, was lived among shadows and
abstractions.  He thought deeply, but he neither looked widely nor
listened intently, and when all is said he remains no more than a
brilliant amorist, too super-subtle for complete sincerity, whose fluency
and sweetness have not improved with years.


His Style.

Tourneur was a fierce and bitter spirit.  The words in which he unpacked
his heart are vitalised with passion.  He felt so keenly that oftentimes
his phrase is the offspring of the emotion, so terse and vigorous and
apt, so vivid and so potent and eager, it appears.  As an instance of
this avidity of wrath and scorn finding expression in words the fittest
and most forcible, leaving the well-known scenes embalmed in Elia's
praise, one might take the three or four single words in which Vindici
(_The Revenger's Tragedy_), on as many several occasions, refers to the
caresses of Spurio and the wanton Duchess.  Each is of such amazing
propriety, is so keenly discriminated, is so obviously the product of an
imagination burning with rage and hate, that it strikes you like an
affront: each is an incest taken in the fact and branded there and then.
And this quality of verbal fitness, this power of so charging a phrase
with energy and colour as to make it convey the emotion of the writer at
the instant of inspiration, is perhaps the master quality of Tourneur's

His Matter.

They that would have it are many; they that achieve their desire are few.
For in the minor artist the passionate--the elemental quality--is not
often found: he being of his essence the ape or zany of his betters.
Tourneur is not a great tragic.  _The Atheist's Tragedy_ is but
grotesquely and extravagantly horrible; its personages are caricatures of
passion; its comedy is inexpressibly sordid; its incidents are absurd
when they are not simply abominable.  But it is written in excellent
dramatic verse and in a rich and brilliant diction, and it contains a
number of pregnant epithets and ringing lines and violent phrases.  And
if you halve the blame and double the praise you will do something less
than justice to that _Revenger's Tragedy_ which is Tourneur's
immortality.  After all its companion is but a bastard of the loud,
malignant, antic muse of Marston; the elegies are cold, elaborate, and
very tedious; the _Transformed Metamorphosis_ is better verse but harder
reading than _Sordello_ itself.  But the _Revenger's Tragedy_ has merit
as a piece of art and therewith a rare interest as a window on the
artist's mind.  The effect is as of a volcanic landscape.  An earthquake
has passed, and among grisly shapes and blasted aspects here lurks and
wanders the genius of ruin.


The Compleat Angler.

I am told that it is generally though silently admitted that, while
Charles Cotton came of a school of fishermen renowned for accomplishment
even now, his master and friend was not in the modern or Cottonian sense
a fisherman at all.  There was in him, indeed, a vast deal of the
philosopher and the observer of nature and still more, perhaps, of the
artist in English; but there was also not a little of the cockney
sportsman.  He never rose above the low-lived worm and quill; his prey
was commonly those fish that are the scorn of the true angler, for he
knew naught of trout and grayling, yet was deeply interested in such base
creatures (and such poor eating) as chub and roach and dace; and that
part of his treatise which has still a certain authority--which may be
said, indeed, to have placed the mystery of fly-fishing upon something of
a scientific basis--was not his work but that of 'my most honoured
friend, Charles Cotton, Esq.'  Again, it is a characteristic of your true
as opposed to your cockney sportsman that, unless constrained thereto by
hunger, he does not eat what he has killed; and it is a characteristic of
Walton--who in this particular at least may stand for the authentic type
of the cockney sportsman as opposed to the true one--that he delighted
not much less in dining or supping on his catch than he did in the act of
making it: as witness some of the most charming parts in a book that from
one end to the other is charm and little besides.  Indeed the truth--(with
reverence be it spoken)--appears to be that the _Compleat Angler_ is an
expression in the terms of art of the cit's enjoyment of the country.

Master Piscator.

What Walton saw in angling was not that delight in the consciousness of
accomplishment and intelligence which sends the true fisherman to the
river and keeps him there, rejoicing in his strength, whether he kill or
go empty away.  It was rather the pretext--with a worm and perhaps a good
supper at one end and a contemplative man at the other--of a day in the
fields: where the skylark soared, and the earth smelled sweet, and the
water flashed and tinkled as it ran, while hard by some milk-maid,
courteous yet innocent, sang as she plied her nimble fingers, and not
very far away the casement of the inn-parlour gleamed comfortable
promises of talk and food and rest.  That was the Master Piscator who,
being an excellent man of letters, went out to 'stretch his legs up
Tottenham Hill' in search of fish, and came home with immortal copy; and
that was the Izaak Walton who 'ventured to fill a part' of Cotton's
'margin' with remarks not upon his theory of how to angle for trout or
grayling in a clear stream but 'by way of paraphrase for your reader's
clearer understanding both of the situation of your fishing house, and
the pleasantness of that you dwell in.'  He had the purest and the most
innocent of minds, he was the master of a style as bright, as sweet, as
refreshing and delightful, as fine clean home-spun some time in lavender;
he called himself an angler, and he believed in the description with a
cordial simplicity whose appeal is more persuasive now than ever.  But he
was nothing if not the citizen afield--the cockney aweary of Bow Bells
and rejoicing in 'the sights and sounds of the open landscape.'  After
all it is only your town-bred poet who knows anything of the country, or
is moved to concern himself in anywise for the sensations and experiences
it yields.  Milton was born in Bread Street, and Herrick in Cheapside.
Yet Milton gave us the _Allegro_ and the _Penseroso_ and the scenery in
_Comus_ and the epic; while as for Herrick--the _Night-Piece_, the lovely
and immortal verses _To Meadows_, the fresh yet sumptuous and noble _To
Corinna Going a-Maying_, these and a hundred more are there to answer for
_him_.  Here Walton is with Herrick and Milton and many 'dear sons of
Memory' besides; and that is why he not only loved the country but was
moved to make art of it as well.


His Muse.

In Herrick the air is fragrant with new-mown hay; there is a morning
light upon all things; long shadows streak the grass, and on the
eglantine swinging in the hedge the dew lies white and brilliant.  Out of
the happy distance comes a shrill and silvery sound of whetting scythes;
and from the near brook-side rings the laughter of merry maids in circle
to make cowslipballs and babble of their bachelors.  As you walk you are
conscious of 'the grace that morning meadows wear,' and mayhap you meet
Amaryllis going home to the farm with an apronful of flowers.  Rounded is
she and buxom, cool-cheeked and vigorous and trim, smelling of rosemary
and thyme, with an appetite for curds and cream and a tongue of 'cleanly
wantonness.'  For her singer has an eye in his head, and exquisite as are
his fancies he dwells in no land of shadows.  The more clearly he sees a
thing the better he sings it; and provided that he do see it nothing is
beneath the caress of his muse.  The bays and rosemary that wreath the
hall at Yule, the log itself, the Candlemas box, the hock-cart and the
maypole, nay,

   'See'st thou that cloud as silver clear,
   Plump, soft, and swelling everywhere?
      Tis Julia's bed!'--

And not only does he listen to the 'clecking' of his hen and know what it
means: he knows too that the egg she has laid is long and white; so that
ere he enclose it in his verse, you can see him take it in his hand, and
look at it with a sort of boyish wonder and delight.  This freshness of
spirit, this charming and innocent curiosity, he carries into all he
does.  He can turn a sugared compliment with the best, but when Amaryllis
passes him by he is yet so eager and unsophisticate that he can note that
'winning wave in the tempestuous petticoat' which has rippled to such
good purpose through so many graceful speeches since.  So that though
Julia and Dianeme and Anthea have passed away, though Corinna herself is
merely 'a fable, song, a fleeting shade,' he has saved enough of them
from the ravin of Time for us to love and be grateful for eternally.
Their gracious ghosts abide in a peculiar nook of the Elysium of Poesy.
There 'in their habit as they lived' they dance in round, they fill their
laps with flowers, they frolic and junket sweetly, they go for ever
maying.  Soft winds blow round them, and in their clear young voices they
sing the verse of the rare artist who called them from the multitude and
set them for ever where they are.

His Moral.

And Amaryllis herself will not, mayhap, be found so fair as those
younglings of the year she bears with her in 'wicker ark' or 'lawny
continent.'  Herrick is pre-eminently the poet of flowers.  He alone were
capable of bringing back

         'Le bouquet d'Ophelie
   De la rive inconnue ou les flots l'ont laisse.

He knows and loves the dear blossoms all.  He considers them with tender
and shining eyes, he culls them his sweetest fancies and his fondest
metaphors.  Their idea is inseparable from that of his girls themselves,
and it is by the means of the one set of mistresses that he is able so
well to understand the other.  The flowers are maids to him, and the
maids are flowers.  In an ecstasy of tender contemplation he turns from
those to these, exampling Julia from the rose and pitying the hapless
violets as though they were indeed not blooms insensitive but actually
'poor girls neglected.'  His pages breathe their clean and innocent
perfumes, and are beautiful with the chaste beauty of their colour, just
as they carry with them something of the sweetness and simplicity of
maidenhood itself.  And from both he extracts the same pathetic little
moral: both are lovely and both must die.  And so, between his virgins
that are for love indeed and those that sit silent and delicious in the
'flowery nunnery,' the old singer finds life so good a thing that he
dreads to lose it, and not all his piety can remove the passionate regret
with which he sees things hastening to their end.

His Piety.

That piety is equally removed from the erotic mysticism of Richard
Crashaw and from the adoration, chastened and awful and pure, of Cowper.
To find an analogue, you have to cross the borders of English into Spain.
In his _Noble Numbers_ Herrick shows himself to be a near kinsman of such
men as Valdivielso, Ocana, Lope de Ubeda; and there are versicles of his
that in their homely mixture of the sacred and the profane, in their
reverent familiarity with things divine, their pious and simple
gallantry, may well be likened to the graceful and charming romances and
villancicos of these strangers.  Their spirit is less Protestant than
Catholic, and is hardly English at all, so that it is scarce to be
wondered at if they have remained unpopular.  But their sincerity and
earnestness are as far beyond doubt as their grace of line and inimitable
daintiness of surface.


His Qualities.

Mr. Locker's verse has charmed so wisely and so long that it has
travelled the full circle of compliment and exhausted one part of the
lexicon of eulogy.  As you turn his pages you feel as freshly as ever the
sweet, old-world elegance, the courtly amiability, the mannerly
restraint, the measured and accomplished ease.  True, they are
colourless, and in these days we are deboshed with colour; but then they
are so luminously limpid and serene, they are so sprightly and graceful
and gay!  In the gallantry they affect there is a something at once
exquisite and paternal.  If they pun, 'tis with an air: even thus might
Chesterfield have stooped to folly.  And then, how clean the English, how
light yet vigorous the touch, the manner how elegant and how staid!  There
is wit in them, and that so genial and unassuming that as like as not it
gets leave to beam on unperceived.  There is humour too, but humour so
polite as to look half-unconscious, so dandified that it leaves you in
doubt as to whether you should laugh or only smile.  And withal there is
a vein of well-bred wisdom never breathed but to the delight no less than
to the profit of the student.  And for those of them that are touched
with passion, as in _The Unrealized Ideal_ and that lovely odelet to
Mabel's pearls, why, these are, I think, the best and the least
approachable of all.

His Effect.

For as English as she is, indeed, his muse is not to be touched off save
in French.  To think of her is to reflect that she is _delicate_,
_spirituelle_, _semillante_--_une fine mouche_, _allez_!  The _salon_ has
disappeared,--'Iran, indeed, is gone, and all his rose'; but she was born
with the trick of it.  You make your bow to her in her Sheraton chair, a
buckle shoe engagingly discovered; and she rallies you with an
incomparable ease, a delicate malice, in a dialect itself a distinction;
and when she smiles it is behind or above a fan that points while it
dissembles, that assists effect as delightfully as it veils intention.  At
times she is sensitive and tender, but her graver mood has no more of
violence or mawkishness than has her gallant roguery (or enchanting
archness) of viciousness or spite.  Best of all, she is her poet's very
own.  You may woo her and pursue her as you will; but the end is
invariable.  'I follow, follow still, but I shall never see her face.'
Even as in her master's finest song.


His Nature.

The Muse of M. de Banville was born not naked but in the most elaborate
and sumptuous evening wear that ever muse put on.  To him, indeed, there
is no nature so natural as that depicted on the boards, no humanity half
so human as the actor puts on with his paint.  For him the flowers grow
plucked and bound into nosegays; passion has no existence outside the
Porte-Saint-Martin; the universe is a place of rhymes and rhythms, the
human heart a supplement to the dictionary.  He delights in babbling of
green fields, and Homer, and Shakespeare, and the Eumenides, and the
'_rire enorme_' of the _Frogs_ and the _Lysistrata_.  But it is suspected
that he loves these things rather as words than as facts, and that in his
heart of hearts he is better pleased with Cassandra and Columbine than
with Rosalind and Othello, with the studio Hellas of Gautier than with
the living Greece of Sophocles.  Heroic objects are all very well in
their way of course: they suggest superb effects in verse, they are of
incomparable merit considered as colours and jewels for well-turned
sentences in prose.  But their function is purely verbal; they are the
raw material of the outward form of poesy, and they come into being to
glorify a climax, to adorn a refrain, to sparkle and sound in odelets and
rondels and triolets, to twinkle and tinkle and chime all over the eight-
and-twenty members of a fair ballade.

His Art.

It is natural enough that to a theory of art and life that can be thus
whimsically described we should be indebted for some of the best writing
of modern years.  Our poet has very little sympathy with fact, whether
heroic or the reverse, whether essential or accidental; but he is a rare
artist in words and cadences.  He writes of 'Pierrot, l'homme subtil,'
and Columbine, and 'le beau Leandre,' and all the marionettes of that
pleasant puppet-show which he mistakes for the world, with the rhetorical
elegance and distinction, the verbal force and glow, the rhythmic beauty
and propriety, of a rare poet; he models a group of flowers in wax as
passionately and cunningly, and with as perfect an interest in the
process and as lofty and august a faith in the result, as if he were
carving the Venus of Milo, or scoring Beethoven's 'Fifth,' or producing
_King Lear_ or the _Ronde de Nuit_.  He is profoundly artificial, but he
is simple and even innocent in his artifice; so that he is often
interesting and even affecting.  He knows so well what should be done and
so well how to do it that he not seldom succeeds in doing something that
is actually and veritably art: something, that is, in which there is
substance as well as form, in which the matter is equal with the manner,
in which the imagination is human as well as aesthetic and the invention
not merely verbal but emotional and romantic also.  The dramatic and
poetic value of such achievements in style as _Florise_ and _Diane au
Bois_ is open to question; but there can be no doubt that _Gringoire_ is
a play.  There is an abundance of 'epical ennui' in _le Sang de la Coupe_
and _les Stalactites_; but the 'Nous n'irons plus au bois' and the
charming epigram in which the poet paints a processional frieze of
Hellenic virgins are high-water marks of verse.  But, indeed, if Pierrot
and Columbine were all the race, and the footlights might only change
places with the sun, then were M. de Banville by way of being a


Method and Effect.

His style has distinction, elegance, urbanity, precision, an exquisite
clarity.  Of its kind it is as nearly as possible perfect.  You think of
Horace as you read; and you think of those among our own eighteenth
century poets to whom Horace was an inspiration and an example.  The
epithet is usually so just that it seems to have come into being with the
noun it qualifies; the metaphor is mostly so appropriate that it leaves
you in doubt as to whether it suggested the poem or the poem suggested
it; the verb is never in excess of the idea it would convey; the effect
of it all is that 'something has here got itself uttered,' and for good.
Could anything, for instance, be better, or less laboriously said, than
this poet's remonstrance _To an Intrusive Butterfly_?  The thing is
instinct with delicate observation, so aptly and closely expressed as to
seem natural and living as the facts observed:

   'I watch you through the garden walks,
      I watch you _float_ between
   The _avenues_ of dahlia stalks,
      And _flicker_ on the green;
   You _hover_ round the garden seat,
      You _mount_, you _waver_. . .

   * * * * *

   Across the room _in loops of flight_
      I watch you wayward go;
   * * * * *
   Before the bust you flaunt and flit--
   * * * * *
   You _pause_, you _poise_, you _circle up_
      Among my old Japan.'

And all the rest of it.  The theme is but the vagaries of a wandering
insect; but how just and true is the literary instinct, how perfect the
literary _savoir-faire_!  The words I have italicised are the only words
(it seems) in the language that are proper to the occasion; and yet how
quietly they are produced, with what apparent unconsciousness they are
set to do their work, how just and how sufficient is their effect!  In
writing of this sort there is a certain artistic good-breeding whose like
is not common in these days.  We have lost the secret of it: we are too
eager to make the most of our little souls in art and too ignorant to do
the best by them; too egoistic and 'individual,' too clever and skilful
and well informed, to be content with the completeness of simplicity.
Even the Laureate was once addicted to glitter for glitter's sake; and
with him to keep them in countenance there is a thousand minor poets
whose 'little life' is merely a giving way to the necessities of what is
after all a condition of intellectual impotence but poorly redeemed by a
habit of artistic swagger.  The singer of Dorothy and Beau Brocade is of
another race.  He is 'the co-mate and brother in exile' of Matthew Arnold
and the poet of _The Unknown Eros_.  Alone among modern English bards
they stand upon that ancient way which is the best: attentive to the
pleadings of the Classic Muse, heedful always to give such thoughts as
they may breed no more than their due expression.


The Critic.

One of the very few great musicians who have been able to write their own
language with vigour and perspicuity, Berlioz was for many years among
the kings of the feuilleton, among the most accomplished journalists of
the best epoch of the Parisian press.  He had an abundance of wit and
humour; his energy and spirit were inexhaustible; within certain limits
he was a master of expression and style; in criticism as in music he was
an artist to his finger-ends; and if he found writing hard work what he
wrote is still uncommonly easy reading.  He is one of the few--the very
few--journalists the worth of whose achievement has been justified by
collection and republication.  Louis Veuillot has been weighed in this
balance, and found wanting; and so has Janin prince of critics.  With
Berlioz it is otherwise.  If you are no musician he appeals to you as a
student of life; if you are interested in life and music both he is
irresistible.  The _Memoires_ is one of the two or three essays in
artistic biography which may claim equal honours with Benvenuto's story
of himself and his own doings; the two volumes of correspondence rank
with the most interesting epistolary matter of these times; in the
_Grotesques_, the _A Travers Chants_, the _Soirees de l'Orchestre_ there
is enough of fun and earnest, of fine criticism and diabolical humour, of
wit and fancy and invention, to furnish forth a dozen ordinary critics,
and leave a rich remainder when all's done.  These books have been
popular for years; they are popular still; and the reason is not far to
seek.  Berlioz was not only a great musician and a brilliant writer; he
was also a very interesting and original human being.  His writings are
one expression of an abnormal yet very natural individuality; and when he
speaks you are sure of something worth hearing and remembering.

A Prototype.

Apart from Cellini's ruffianism there are several points of contact
between the two men.  Berlioz made the roaring goldsmith the hero of an
opera, and it is not doubtful that he was in complete sympathy with his
subject.  In the Frenchman there is a full measure of the waywardness of
temper, the impatience of authority, the resolute and daring humour, the
passion of worship for what is great in art and of contempt for what is
little and bad, which entered so largely into the composition of the
Florentine.  There is not much to choose between the Berlioz of the
_Debats_, the author of the _Grotesques de la Musique_ and the _A Travers
Chants_, and the Benvenuto who, as Il Lasca writes of him,

   'Senza alcun ritegno o barbazzale
   Delle cose malfatte dicea male.'

Benvenuto enlarges upon the joys of drawing from the life and expatiates
upon the greatness of Michelangelo in much the same spirit and with much
the same fury of admiration with which Berlioz descants upon the rapture
of conducting an orchestra and dilates upon the beauty of _Divinites du
Styx_ or the adagio of the so-called _Moonlight Sonata_.  It is written
of Benvenuto, in connection with Vasari's attack upon that cupola of
Santa Maria del Fiore which himself was wont to call 'the marvel of
beautiful things,' that if he had lived to see the result,

   'Certo non capirebbe nelle pelle;
   _E saltando_, _e correndo_, _e fulminando_,
   S' andrebbe querelando,
   E per tutto gridando ad alta voce
   _Giorgin d'Arezzo meterebbe in croce_,
   Oggi universalmente
   Odiato della gente
   _Quasi publico ladro e assassino_';

and you are reminded irresistibly of Berlioz betrampling Lachnith and the
ingenious Castil-Blaze and defending Beethoven against the destructive
pedantry of Fetis.  And, just as the _Vita_ is invaluable as a personal
record of artist-life in the Italy of the Renaissance, so are the
_Memoires_ invaluable as a personal record of the works and ways of
musicians in the Paris of the Romantic revival.  Berlioz is revealed in
them for one of the race of the giants.  He is the musician of 1830, as
Delacroix is the painter; and his work is as typical and as significant
as the _Sardanapale_ and the _Faust_ lithographs.

His Theory of Autobiography.

To read the _Memoires_ is to feel that in writing them the great musician
deliberately set himself to win the heart of posterity.  He believed in
himself, and he believed in his music: he divined that one day or another
he would be legendary as well as immortal; and he took an infinite deal
of pains to make certain that the ideal which was presently to represent
him in men's minds should be an ideal of which he could thoroughly
approve.  It is fair to note that in this care for the good will and the
good word of the future he was not by any means alone.  The
_romantiques_, indeed, were keen--from Napoleon downwards--to make the
very best of themselves.  The poet of the _Legende des Siecles_, for
example, went early to work to arrange the story of his life and
character at least as carefully as he composed the audiences of his
_premieres_; and he did it with so light a hand, and with such a sense of
the importance of secrecy, that it is even now by no means so well and
widely known as it should be that _Victor Hugo raconte par un Temoin de
sa Vie_ is the work of the hero's wife, and was not only inspired but may
also have been revised and prepared for publication by the hero himself.
Again, the dramatist of _Antony_ and the novelist of _Bragelonne_ was
never so happy as when he was engaged upon the creation of what he hoped
would be the historical Dumas; he made volume after volume of delightful
reading out of his own impressions and adventures; he turned himself into
copy with a frankness, a grace, a gusto, a persistency of egoism, which
are merely enchanting.  Berlioz, therefore, had good warrant for his
work.  It is more to the point, perhaps, that he would have taken it if
he had not had it.  And I hold that he would have done well; for (in any
case) a great man's notion of himself is, _ipso facto_, better and more
agreeable and convincing, especially as he presents it, than the idea of
his inferiors and admirers, especially as presented by them.  Berlioz, it
is true, was prodigal in these _Memoires_ of his of wit and fun and
devilry, of fine humanity and noble art, of good things said and great
things dreamed and done and suffered; but he was prodigal of invention
and suppression as well, and the result, while considerably less
veracious, is all the more fascinating, therefor.  One feels that for one
thing he was too complete an artist to be merely literal and exact; that
for another he saw and felt things for himself, as Milton did before
him--Milton in the mind's eye of Milton the noblest of created things and
to Mr. Saintsbury almost as unpleasing a spectacle as the gifted but
abject Racine; and for a third that from his own point of view he was
right, and there is an end of it.


The Ideal.

It was thought that with George Eliot the Novel-with-a-Purpose had really
come to be an adequate instrument for the regeneration of humanity.  It
was understood that Passion only survived to point a moral or provide the
materials of an awful tale, while Duty, Kinship, Faith, were so far
paramount as to govern Destiny and mould the world.  A vague, decided
flavour of Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity was felt to pervade the
moral universe, a chill but seemly halo of Golden Age was seen to play
soberly about things in general.  And it was with confidence anticipated
that those perfect days were on the march when men and women would
propose--(from the austerest motives)--by the aid of scientific

The Real.

To the Sceptic--(an apostate, and an undoubted male)--another view was
preferable.  He held that George Eliot had carried what he called the
'Death's-Head Style' of art a trifle too far.  He read her books in much
the same spirit and to much the same purpose that he went to the
gymnasium and diverted himself with parallel bars.  He detested her
technology; her sententiousness revolted while it amused him; and when
she put away her puppets and talked of them learnedly and with
understanding--instead of letting them explain themselves, as several
great novelists have been content to do--he recalled how Wisdom crieth
out in the street and no man regardeth her, and perceived that in this
case the fault was Wisdom's own.  He accepted with the humility of
ignorance, and something of the learner's gratitude, her woman generally,
from Romola down to Mrs. Pullet.  But his sense of sex was strong enough
to make him deny the possibility in any stage of being of nearly all the
governesses in revolt it pleased her to put forward as men; for with very
few exceptions he knew they were heroes of the divided skirt.  To him
Deronda was an incarnation of woman's rights; Tito an 'improper female in
breeches'; Silas Marner a good, perplexed old maid, of the kind of whom
it is said that they have 'had a disappointment.'  And Lydgate alone had
aught of the true male principle about him.


Epigrams are at best half-truths that look like whole ones.  Here is a
handful about George Eliot.  It has been said of her books--('on several
occasions')--that 'it is doubtful whether they are novels disguised as
treatises, or treatises disguised as novels'; that, 'while less romantic
than Euclid's Elements, they are on the whole a great deal less improving
reading'; and that 'they seem to have been dictated to a plain woman of
genius by the ghost of David Hume.'  Herself, too, has been variously
described: as 'An Apotheosis of Pupil-Teachery'; as 'George Sand _plus_
Science and _minus_ Sex'; as 'Pallas with prejudices and a corset'; as
'the fruit of a caprice of Apollo for the Differential Calculus.'  The
comparison of her admirable talent to 'not the imperial violin but the
grand ducal violoncello' seems suggestive and is not unkind.


His Vocation.

Three hundred years since Borrow would have been a gentleman adventurer:
he would have dropped quietly down the river, and steered for the Spanish
Main, bent upon making carbonadoes of your Don.  But he came too late for
that, and falling upon no sword and buckler age but one that was
interested in Randal and Spring, he accepted that he found, and did his
best to turn its conditions, into literature.  As he had that admirable
instinct of making the best of things which marks the true adventurer, he
was on the whole exceeding happy.  There was no more use in sailing for
Javan and Gadire; but at home there were highways in abundance, and what
is your genuine tramp but a dry-land sailor?  The Red Man is exhausted of
everything but sordidness; but under that round-shouldered little tent at
the bend of the road, beside that fire artistically built beneath that
kettle of the comfortable odours, among those horses and colts at graze
hard by, are men and women more mysterious and more alluring to the
romantic mind than any Mingo or Comanch that ever traded a scalp.  While
as for your tricks of fence--your immortal _passado_, your _punto
reverso_--if that be no longer the right use for a gentleman, have not
Spring and Langan fought their great battle on Worcester racecourse? and
has not Cribb of Gloucestershire--that renowned, heroic, irresistible
Thomas--beaten Molyneux the negro artist in the presence of twenty
thousand roaring Britons? and shall the practice of an art which has
rejoiced in such a master as the illustrious Game Chicken, Hannibal of
the Ring, be held degrading by an Englishman of sufficient inches who,
albeit a Tory and a High Churchman, is at bottom as thoroughgoing a
Republican as ever took the word of command from Colonel Cromwell?  And
if all this fail, if he get nobody to put on the gloves with him, if the
tents of the Romany prove barren of interest, if the king's highway be
vacant of adventure as Mayfair, he has still philology to fall back upon,
he can still console himself with the study of strange tongues, he can
still exult in a peculiar superiority by quoting the great Ab Gwylim
where the baser sort of persons is content with Shakespeare.  So that
what with these and some kindred diversions--a little horse-whispering
and ale-drinking, the damnation of Popery, the study of the Bible--he can
manage not merely to live but to live so fully and richly as to be the
envy of some and the amazement of all.  That, as life goes and as the
world wags, is given to few.  Add to it the credit of having written as
good a book about Spain as ever was written in any language, the
happiness of having dreamed and partly lived that book ere it was
written, the perfect joy of being roundly abused by everybody, and the
consciousness of being different from everybody and of giving at least as
good as ever you got at several things the world is silly enough to hold
in worship--as the Toryism of Sir Walter, or the niceness of Popery, or
the pleasures of Society: and is it not plain that Borrow was a man
uncommon fortunate, and that he enjoyed life as greatly as most men not
savages who have possessed the fruition of this terrestrial sphere?

Ideals and Achievements.

He prepared his effects as studiously and almost as dexterously as Dumas
himself.  His instinct of the picturesque was rarely indeed at fault; he
marshalled his personages and arranged his scene with something of that
passion for effect which entered so largely into the theory of M. le
Comte de Monte-Cristo.  However closely disguised, himself is always the
heroic figure, and he is ever busy in arranging discovery and triumph.  To
his chance-mates he is but an eccentric person, an amateur tinker, a
slack-baked gipsy, an unlettered hack; to his audience he is his own,
strong, indifferent self: presently the rest will recognise him and he
will be disdainfully content.  And recognise him they do.  He throws off
his disguise; there is a gape, a stare, a general conviction that
Lavengro is the greatest man in the world; and then--as the manner of
Lesage commands--the adventure ends, the stars resume their wonted
courses, and the self-conscious Tinker-Quixote takes the road once more
and passes on to other achievements: a mad preacher to succour, a priest
to baffle, some tramp to pound into a jelly of humility, an applewoman to
mystify, a horse-chaunter to swindle, a pugilist to study and help and
portray.  But whatever it be, Lavengro emerges from the ordeal modestly,
unobtrusively, quietly, most consciously magnificent.  Circumstantial as
Defoe, rich in combinations as Lesage, and with such an instinct of the
picturesque, both personal and local, as none of these possessed, this
strange wild man holds on his strange wild way, and leads you captive to
the end.  His dialogue is copious and appropriate: you feel that like Ben
Jonson he is dictating rather than reporting, that he is less faithful
and exact than imaginative and determined; but you are none the less
pleased with it, and suspicious though you be that the voice is
Lavengro's and the hands are the hands of some one else, you are glad to
surrender to the illusion, and you regret when it is dispelled.  Moreover,
that all of it should be set down in racy, nervous, idiomatic English,
with a kind of eloquence at once primitive and scholarly, precious but
homely--the speech of an artist in sods and turfs--if at first it
surprise and charm yet ends by seeming so natural and just that you go on
to forget all about it and accept the whole thing as the genuine outcome
of a man's experience which it purports to be.  Add that it is all
entirely unsexual; that there is none with so poor an intelligence of the
heart as woman moves it; that the book does not exist in which the
relations between boy and girl are more miserably misrepresented than in
_Lavengro_ and _The Romany Rye_; that that picaresque ideal of romance
which, finding utterance in Hurtado de Mendoza, was presently to appeal
to such artists as Cervantes, Quevedo, Lesage, Smollett, the Dickens of
_Pickwick_, finds such expression in _Lavengro_ and _The Romany Rye_ as
nowhere else; and the tale of Borrow is complete enough.


Despite or because of a habit of mystification which obliged him to
jumble together the homely Real and a not less homely Ideal, Lavengro
will always, I think, be found worthy of companionship, if only as the
one exemplary artist-tramp the race has yet achieved.  The artist-tramp,
the tinker who can write, the horse-coper with a twang of Hamlet and a
habit of Monte-Cristo--that is George Borrow.  For them that love these
differences there is none in whom they are so cunningly and quaintly
blended as George Borrow; and they that love them not may keep the other
side of the road and fare in peace elsewhither.


Under which King?

To Goethe it seemed that every one of Balzac's novels had been dug out of
a suffering woman's heart: but Goethe spoke not always wisely, and in
this exacting world there be some that not only have found fault with
Balzac's method and results but have dared to declare his theory of
society the dream of a mind diseased.  To these critics Balzac was less
observer than creator: his views were false, his vision was distorted,
and though he had 'incomparable power' he had not power enough to make
them accept his work.  This theory is English, and in France they find
Balzac possible enough.  There is something of him in Pierre Dupont; he
made room for the work of Flaubert, Feydeau, the younger Dumas, Augier
and Zola and the brothers Goncourt; and to him Charles Baudelaire is as
some fat strange fungus to the wine-cask in whose leakings it springs.
Sainte-Beuve refused to accept him, but his 'Pigault-Lebrun des
duchesses' is only malicious: he resented the man's exuberant and
inordinate personality, and made haste to apply to it some drops of that
sugared vitriol of which he had the secret.  Taine is a fitter critic of
the _Comedie humaine_ than Sainte-Beuve; and Taine has come to other
conclusions.  Acute, coarse, methodical, exhaustive, he has recognised
the greatness of one still more exhaustive, methodical, coarse, and acute
than himself.  English critics fall foul of Balzac's women; but Taine
falls foul of English critics, and with the authority of a Parisian by
profession declares that the _Parisiennes_ of the _Comedie_ are
everything they ought to be--the true daughters of their 'bon gros
libertin de pere.'  And while Taine, exulting in his Marneffe and his
Coralie, does solemnly and brilliantly show that he is right and
everybody else is wrong, a later writer--English of course--can find no
better parallel of Balzac than Browning, and knows nothing in art so like
the Pauline of _la Peau de Chagrin_ as the Sistine Madonna.  It is
curious, this clash of opinions; and it is plain that one or other party
must be wrong.  Which is it?  'Qui trompe-t-on ici?'  Is Taine a better
judge than Mr. Leslie Stephen or Mr. Henry James?  Or are Messrs. James
and Stephen better qualified to speak with authority than Taine?  It may
be that none but a Frenchman can thoroughly and intimately apprehend in
its inmost a thing so essentially French as the _Comedie_; it is a fact
that Frenchmen of all sorts and sizes have accepted the _Comedie_ in its
totality; and that is reason good enough for any commonplace Englishman
who is lacking in the vanity of originality to accept it also.

The Fact.

Balzac's ambition was to be omnipotent.  He would be Michelangelesque,
and that by sheer force of minuteness.  He exaggerated scientifically,
and made things gigantic by a microscopic fulness of detail.  His Hulot
was to remain the Antony of modern romance, losing the world for the love
of woman, and content to lose it; his Marneffe, in whom is incarnated the
instinct and the science of sexual corruption, is Hulot's Cleopatra, and
only dies because 'elle va faire le bon Dieu'--as who should say 'to mash
the Old Man'; Frenhoeffer, Philippe Bridau, Vautrin, Marsay, Rastignac,
Grandet, Balthazar Claes, Beatrix, Sarrazine, Lousteau, Esther, Lucien
Chardon--the list is, I believe, some thousands strong!  Also the
argument is proved in advance: there is the _Comedie_ itself--'the new
edition fifty volumes long.'  Bad or good, foul or fair, impossible or
actual, a monstrous debauch of mind or a triumph of realisation, there is
the _Comedie_.  It is forty years since Balzac squared and laid the last
stones of it; and it exists--if a little the worse for wear: the bulk is
enormous--if the materials be in some sort worm-eaten and crumbling.
Truly, he had 'incomparable power.'  He was the least capable and the
most self-conscious of artists; his observation was that of an inspired
and very careful auctioneer; he was a visionary and a fanatic; he was
gross, ignorant, morbid of mind, cruel in heart, vexed with a strain of
Sadism that makes him on the whole corrupting and ignoble in effect.  But
he divined and invented prodigiously if he observed and recorded
tediously, and his achievement remains a phantasmagoria of desperate
suggestions and strange, affecting situations and potent and inordinate
effects.  He may be impossible; but there is French literature and French
society to show that he passed that way, and had 'incomparable power.'
The phrase is Mr. Henry James's, and it is hard to talk of Balzac and
refrain from it.


Teniers or Daumier?

To the maker of Poirier and Fabrice, of Seraphine and Giboyer, of Olympe
and the Marquis d'Auberive, there were analogies between the genius of
Labiche and the genius of Teniers.  'C'est au premier abord,' says he,
'le meme aspect de caricature; c'est, en y regardant de plus pres, la
meme finesse de tons, la meme justesse d'expression, la meme vivacite de
mouvement.'  For myself, I like to think of Labiche as in some sort akin
to Honore Daumier.  Earnestness and accomplishment apart, he has much in
common with that king of caricaturists.  The lusty frankness, the jovial
ingenuity, the keen sense of the ridiculous, the insatiable instinct of
observation, of the draughtsman are a great part of the equipment of the
playwright.  Augier notes that truth is everywhere in Labiche's work, and
Augier is right.  He is before everything a dramatist: an artist, that
is, whose function is to tell a story in action and by the mouths of its
personages; and whimsical and absurd as he loves to be, he is never
either the one or the other at the expense of nature.  He is often
careless and futile: he will squander--(as in _Vingt-neuf Degres a
l'Ombre_ and _l'Avare en Gants_ _Jaunes_)--an idea that rightly belongs
to the domain of pure comedy on the presentation of a most uproarious
farce.  But he is never any falser to his vocation than this.  Now and
then, as in _Moi_ and _le Voyage de M. Perrichon_, he is an excellent
comic poet, dealing with comedy seriously as comedy should be dealt with,
and incarnating a vice or an affectation in a certain character with
impeccable justness and assurance.  Now and then, as in _les Petits
Oiseaux_ and _les Vivacites du Capitaine Tic_, he is content to tell a
charming story as pleasantly as possible.  Sometimes, as in _Celimare le
Bien-Aime_ (held by M. Sarcey to be the high-water mark of the modern
_vaudeville_), _le Plus Heureux des Trois_, and _le Prix Martin_, he
fights again from a humouristic point of view that triangular duel
between the wife, the husband, and the lover which fills so large a place
in the literature of France; and then he shows the reverse of the medal
of adultery--with the husband at his ease, the seducer haunted by the
ghosts of old sins, the erring wife the slave of her unsuspecting lord.
Or again, he takes to turning the world upside down, and--as in the
_Cagnotte_, the _Chapeau de Paille_, and the _Trente Millions_--to
producing a scheme of morals and society that seems to have been dictated
from an Olympus demoralised by champagne and lobster.  But at his wildest
he never forgets that men and women are themselves.  His dialogue is
always right and appropriate, however extravagant it be.  His vivid and
varied knowledge of life and character supplies him with touches enough
of nature and truth to make the fortune of a dozen ordinary dramatists;
and withal you feel as you read that he is writing, as Augier says of
him, to amuse himself merely, and that he could an if he would be solemn
and didactic with all the impressiveness that a perfect acquaintance with
men and things and an admirable dramatic aptitude can bestow.  The fact
that he is always in a good temper has done him some wrong in that it has
led him to be to all appearances amusing only, where he might well have
posed as a severe and serious artist.  But he is none the less true for
having elected to be funny, and there is certainly more genuine human
nature and human feeling in such drolleries as the _Chapeau de Paille_
and _le Plus Heureux des Trois_ than in all the serious dramas of Ponsard
(say) and Hugo put together.


Perhaps the most characteristic and individual part of his work is that
in which he has given his invention full swing, and allowed his humour to
play its maddest pranks at will.  _Moi_ is an admirable comedy, and De la
Porcheraie is almost hideously egoistic; the _Voyage de M. Perrichon_ is
delightful reading, and Perrichon is as pompous an ass as I know; but the
_Chapeau de Paille_, the _Cagnotte_, the _Trente Millions_, the
_Sensitive_, the _Deux Merles Blancs_, the _Doit-On le Dire_, and their
compeers--with them it is other-guess work altogether.  In these
whimsical phantasmagorias men and women move and speak as at the bidding
of destinies drunk with laughing-gas.  Time and chance have gone
demented, fate has turned comic poet, society has become its own parody,
everybody is the irrepressible caricature of himself.  You are in a topsy-
turvy world, enveloped in an atmosphere instinct with gaiety and folly,
where burlesque is natural and only the extravagant is normal; where your
Chimaera has grown frolic, your Nightmare is first Cousin to the Cheshire
Cat, and your Sphinxes are all upon the spree; and where you have as
little concern for what is real as you have in that hemisphere of the
great globe of Moliere--that has Scapin and Sganarelle for its
breed-bates, and Pourceaugnac for its butt, and Pancrace and Marphurius
for its scientific men, and Lelie and Agnes for its incarnations of love
and beauty.  That the creator of such a world as this should have aspired
to the Academy's spare arm-chair--that one above all others but just
vacated by the respectable M. de Sacy--was a fact that roused the _Revue
des Deux Mondes_ even to satire.  But if the arm-chair brought honour
with it, then no man better deserved the privilege than Eugene Labiche,
for he had amused and kept awake the public for nearly forty years--for
almost as long, that is, as the _Revue_ had been sending it to sleep.
There are times and seasons when a good laugh makes more for edification
than whole folios of good counsel.  'I regarded him not,' quoth Sir John
of one that would have moved him to sapience, 'and yet he talked wisely.'
Now Sir John, whatever his opinion of the _Revue_, would never have said
all that--the second part of it he might--of anything signed 'Eugene
Labiche,' nor--so I love to believe--would his august creator either.  For
is not his work so full of quick, fiery, and delectable shapes as to be
perpetual sherris?  And when time and season fit, what more can the heart
of man desire?


The Man.

Champfleury--novelist, dramatist, archaeologist, humourist, and literary
historian--belonged to a later generation than that of Petrus Borel and
Philothee O'Neddy; but he could remember the production of _les
Burgraves_, and was able of his own personal knowledge to laugh at the
melancholy speech of poor Celestin Nanteuil--the famous 'Il n'y a plus de
jeunesse' of a man grown old and incredulous and apathetic before his
time: the lament over a yesterday already a hundred years behind.  He had
lived in the Latin quarter; he had dined with Flicoteaux, and listened to
the orchestras of Habeneck and Musard; he had heard the chimes at
midnight with Baudelaire and Murger, hissed the tragedies of Ponsard,
applauded Deburau and Rouviere, and seen the rise and fall of Courbet and
Dupont.  If he was not of the giants he was of their immediate
successors, and he had seen them actually at work.  He had hacked for
Balzac, and read romantic prose at Victor Hugo's; he had lived so near
the red waistcoat of Theophile Gautier as to dare to go up and down in
Paris (under the inspiration of the artist of _la Femme qui taille la
Soupe_) in 'un habit en bouracan vert avec col a la Marat, un gilet de
couleur bachique, et une culotte en drap d'un jaune assez malseant,'
together with 'une triomphante cravate de soie jaune'--a vice of
Baudelaire's inventing--and 'un feutre ras dans le gout de la coiffure de
Camille Desmoulins.'  And having seen for himself, he could judge for
himself as well.  From first to last he showed himself to be out of
sympathy with the ambitions and effects of romanticism.  He was born a
humourist and an observer, and he became a 'realist' as soon as he began
to write.

The Writer.

His work is an antipodes not only of _Hernani_ and _Notre-Dame_ but of
_Sarrazine_ and _la Cousine Bette_ and _Beatrix_ as well.  For the
commonplace types and incidents, the everyday passions and fortunes, of
the _Aventures de Mariette_ and the _Mascarade de la Vie Parisienne_
represent a reaction not alone against the sublimities and the
extravagance of Hugo but against the heroic aggrandisement of things
trivial of Balzac as well.  True, they deal with kindred subjects, and
they purport to be a record of life as it is and not of life as it ought
to be.  But the pupil's point of view is poles apart from the master's;
his intention, his ambition, his inspiration, belong to another order of
ideas.  He contents himself with observing and noting and reflecting;
with making prose prosaic and adding sobriety and plainness to a plain
and sober story; with being merely curious and intelligent; with using
experience not as an intoxicant but as a staple of diet; with considering
fact not as the raw material of inspiration but as inspiration itself.
Between an artist of this sort--pedestrian, good-tempered, touched with
malice, a little cynical--and the noble desperadoes of 1830 there could
be little sympathy; and there seems no reason why the one should be the
others' historian, and none why, if their historian he should be, his
history should be other than partial and narrow--than at best an
achievement in special pleading.  But Champfleury's was a personality
apart.  His master quality was curiosity; he was interested in
everything, and he was above all things interested in men and women; he
had a liberal mind and no prejudices; he had the scientific spirit and
the scientific intelligence, if he sometimes spoke with the voice of the
humourist and in the terms of the artist in words; and his studies in
romanticism are far better literature than his experiments in fiction.


Sea Poets.

The ocean as confidant, a Laertes that can neither avoid his Hamlets nor
bid them hold their peace, is a modern invention.  Byron and Shelley
discovered it; Heine took it into his confidence, and told it the story
of his loves; Wordsworth made it a moral influence; Browning loved it in
his way, but his way was not often the poet's; to Matthew Arnold it was
the voice of destiny, and its message was a message of despair; Hugo
conferred with it as with an humble friend, and uttered such lofty things
over it as are rarely heard upon the lips of man.  And so with living
lyrists each after his kind.  Lord Tennyson listens and looks until it
strikes him out an undying note of passion, or yearning, or regret--

      'Sunset and evening star,
   And one clear call for me';

Mr. Swinburne maddens with the wind and the sounds and the scents of it,
until there passes into his verse a something of its vastness and its
vehemency, the rapture of its inspiration, the palpitating,
many-twinkling miracle of its light; Mr. William Morris has been taken
with the manner of its melancholy; while to Whitman it has been 'the
great Camerado' indeed, for it gave him that song of the brown bird
bereft of his mate in whose absence the half of him had not been told to


But to Longfellow alone was it given to see that stately galley which
Count Arnaldos saw; his only to hear the steersman singing that wild and
wondrous song which none that hears it can resist, and none that has
heard it may forget.  Then did he learn the old monster's secret--the
word of his charm, the core of his mystery, the human note in his music,
the quality of his influence upon the heart and the mind of man; and then
did he win himself a place apart among sea poets.  With the most of them
it is a case of _Ego et rex meus_: It is I and the sea, and my egoism is
as valiant and as vocal as the other's.  But Longfellow is the spokesman
of a confraternity; what thrills him to utterance is the spirit of that
strange and beautiful freemasonry established as long ago as when the
first sailor steered the first keel out into the unknown, irresistible
water-world, and so established the foundations of the eternal
brotherhood of man with ocean.  To him the sea is a place of mariners and
ships.  In his verse the rigging creaks, the white sail fills and
crackles, there are blown smells of pine and hemp and tar; you catch the
home wind on your cheeks; and old shipmen, their eyeballs white in their
bronzed faces, with silver rings and gaudy handkerchiefs, come in and
tell you moving stories of the immemorial, incommunicable deep.  He
abides in a port; he goes down to the docks, and loiters among the
galiots and brigantines, he hears the melancholy song of the chanty-men;
he sees the chips flying under the shipwright's adze; he smells the pitch
that smokes and bubbles in the caldron.  And straightway he falls to
singing his variations on the ballad of Count Arnaldos; and the world
listens, for its heart beats in his song.


St. Agnes' Eve.

In Keats's _St. Agnes' Eve_ nothing is white but the heroine.  It is
winter, and 'bitter chill'; the hare 'limps trembling through the frozen
grass; the owl is a-cold for all his feathers; the beadsman's fingers are
numb, his breath is frosted; and at an instant of special and peculiar

         'The frost-wind blows
   Like Love's alarum, pattering the sharp sleet
   Against the window-panes.'

But there is no snow.  The picture is pure colour: it blushes with blood
of queens and kings; it glows with 'splendid dyes,' like the
'tiger-moth's deep-damasked wings'--with 'rose bloom,' and warm gules,'
and 'soft amethyst'; it is loud with music and luxurious with 'spiced
dainties,' with lucent syrops tinct with cinnamon,' with 'manna and
dates,' the fruitage of Fez and 'cedared Lebanon' and 'silken Samarcand.'
Now, the Laureate's _St. Agnes' Eve_ is an ecstasy of colourless
perfection.  The snows sparkle on the convent roof; the 'first snowdrop'
vies with St. Agnes' virgin bosom; the moon shines an 'argent round' in
the 'frosty skies'; and in a transport of purity the lady prays:

   'Break up thy heavens, O Lord! and far,
      Through all the starlight keen,
   Draw me thy bride, a glittering star,
      In raiment white and clean.'

It is all coldly, miraculously stainless: as somebody has said, 'la vraie
_Symphonie en Blanc Majeur_.'

Indian Summer.

And at four-score the poet of _St. Agnes' Eve_ is still our greatest
since the Wordsworth of certain sonnets and the two immortal odes: is
still the one Englishman of whom it can be stated and believed that
Elisha is not less than Elijah.  His verse is far less smooth and less
lustrous than in the well-filed times of _In Memoriam_ and the Arthurian
idylls.  But it is also far more plangent and affecting; it shows a
larger and more liberal mastery of form and therewith a finer, stronger,
saner sentiment of material; in its display of breadth and freedom in
union with particularity, of suggestiveness with precision, of swiftness
of handling with completeness of effect, it reminds you of the later
magic of Rembrandt and the looser and richer, the less artful-seeming but
more ample and sumptuous, of the styles of Shakespeare.  And the matter
is worthy of the manner.  Everywhere are greatness and a high imagination
moving at ease in the gold armour of an heroic style.  There are passages
in _Demeter and Persephone_ that will vie with the best in _Lucretius_;
_Miriam_ is worth a wilderness of _Aylmer's Fields_; _Owd Roa_ is one of
the best of the studies in dialect; in _Happy_ there are stanzas that
recall the passion of _Rizpah_; nothing in modern English so thrills and
vibrates with the prophetic inspiration, the fury of the seer, as
_Vastness_; the verses _To Mary Boyle_--(in the same stanza as Musset's
_le Mie Prigioni_)--are marked by such a natural grace of form and such a
winning 'affectionateness,' to coin a word, of intention and
accomplishment as Lord Tennyson has never surpassed nor very often
equalled.  In _Vastness_ the insight into essentials, the command of
primordial matter, the capacity of vital suggestion, are gloriously in
evidence from the first line to the last.  Here is no touch of ingenuity,
no trace of 'originality,' no single sign of cleverness; the rhymes are
merely inevitable--there is no visible transformation of metaphor in
deference to their suggestions; nothing is antic, peculiar, superfluous;
but here in epic unity and completeness, here is a sublimation of
experience expressed by means of a sublimation of style.  It is unique in
English, and for all that one can see it is like to remain unique this
good while yet.  The impression you take is one of singular loftiness of
purpose and a rare nobility of mind.  Looking upon life and time and the
spirit of man from the heights of his eighty years, it has been given to
the Master Poet to behold much that is hid to them in the plain or on the
slopes beneath him, and beholding it to frame and utter a message so
lofty in style and in significance so potent that it sounds as of this
world indeed but from the confines of experience, the farthest kingdoms
of mortality.

His Mastership.

It is to note, too, that the Laureate of to-day deals with language in a
way that to the Tennyson of the beginning was--unhappily--impossible.  In
those early years he neither would nor could have been responsible for
the magnificent and convincing rhythms of _Vastness_, the austere yet
passionate shapeliness of _Happy_, the effects of vigour and variety
realised in _Parnassus_.  For in those early years he was rather
Benvenuto than Michelangelo, he was more of a jeweller than a sculptor,
the phrase was too much to him, the inspiration of the incorrect too
little.  All that is changed, and for the best.  Most interesting is it
to the artist to remark how impatient--(as the Milton of the _Agonistes_
was)--of rhyme and how confident in rhythm is the whilome poet of
_Oriana_ and _The Lotus-Eaters_ and _The Vision of Sin_; and how this
impatience and this confidence are revealed not merely in a piece of
mysticism naked yet unashamed as _The Gleam_--(whose movement with its
constancy in double endings and avoidance of triplets is perhaps a little
tame)--but also in what should have been a popular piece: the ode, to
wit, _On the Jubilee of Queen Victoria_.  In eld, indeed, the craftsman
inclines to play with his material: he is conscious of mastery; he is in
the full enjoyment of his own; he indulges in experiments which to him
are as a crown of glory and to them that come after him--to the noodles
that would walk in his ways without first preparing themselves by prayer
and study and a life of abnegation--are only the devil in disguise.  The
Rembrandt of _The Syndics_, the Shakespeare of _The Tempest_ and
_Lear_--what are these but pits for the feet of the Young Ass? and what
else will be the Tennyson of _Vastness_ and _The Gleam_?  'Lord,' quoth
Dickens years ago in respect of the _Idylls_ or of _Maud_, 'what a
pleasure it is to come across a man that can _write_!'  He also was an
artist in words; and what he said then he would say now with greater
emphasis and more assurance.  From the first Lord Tennyson has been an
exemplar; and now in these new utterances, his supremacy is completely
revealed.  There is no fear now that 'All will grow the flower, For all
have got the seed'; for then it was a mannerism that people took and
imitated, and now--!  Now it is art; it is the greater Shakespeare, the
consummate Rembrandt, the unique Velasquez; and they may rise to it that


Aim and Equipment.

Dr. Hake is one of the most earnest and original of poets.  He has taken
nothing from his contemporaries, but has imagined a message for himself,
and has chosen to deliver it in terms that are wholly his own.  For him
the accidents and trivialities of individualism, the transitory and
changing facts that make up the external aspect of an age or a character,
can hardly be said to exist.  He only concerns himself with absolutes--the
eternal elements of human life and the immutable tides of human destiny.
It is of these that the stuff of his message is compacted; it is from
these that its essence is distilled.  His talk is not of Arthur and
Guinevere, nor Chastelard and Atalanta, nor Paracelsus and Luria and Abt
Vogler; of 'the drawing-room and the deanery' he has nothing to say;
nothing of the tendencies of Strauss and Renan, nothing of the New
Renaissance, nothing of Botticelli, nor the ballet, nor the text of
Shakespeare, nor the joys of the book-hunter, nor the quaintness of Queen
Anne, nor the morals of Helen of Troy.  To these he prefers the mystery
of death, the significance of life, the quality of human and divine love;
the hopes and fears and the joys and sorrows that are the perdurable
stuff of existence, the inexhaustible and unchanging principles of
activity in man.  Now it is only to the few that reduced to their
simplest expression the 'eternal verities' are engaging and impressive.
To touch the many they must be conveyed in human terms; they must be
presented not as impersonal abstractions, not as matter for the higher
intelligence and the higher emotions, but as living, breathing,
individual facts, vivid with the circumstance of terrene life, quick with
the thoughts and ambitions of the hour, full charged with familiar and
neighbourly associations.  All this with Dr. Hake is by no means
inevitable.  He loves to symbolise; he does not always care that the
symbol shall be appropriate and plain.  He prefers to work in allegory
and emblem; but he does not always see that, however representative to
himself, his emblems and his allegories may not be altogether
representative to the world.  His imagination is at once quaint and far-
reaching--at once peculiar and ambitious; and it is often guilty of what
is recondite and remote.  In his best work--in _Old Souls_, for instance,
and _Old Morality_--the quaintness is merely decorative: the essentials
are sound and human enough to be of lasting interest and to have a
capacity of common application.  Elsewhere his imagery is apt to become
strange and unaffecting, his fancy to work in curious and desolate ways,
his message to sound abstruse and strange; and these effects too are
deepened by the qualities and the merits of his style.  It is peculiarly
his own, but it is not always felicitous.  There are times when it has
the true epic touch--or at least as much of it as is possible in an age
of detail and elaboration; there are times when it has a touch of the
pathetic--when in homeliness of phrase and triviality of rhythm it is
hardly to be surpassed; and there are times, as in _The Snake Charmer_
when, as in certain pages in the work of Richard Wagner, it is so
studiously laboured and so heavily charged with ornament and colour as to
be almost pedantic in infelicity, almost repellent by sheer force of
superfluous and elaborate suggestiveness.  Last of all, in an epoch
trained upon the passionate and subtle cadences of the Laureate and the
large-moulded, ample, irresistible melodies of Mr. Swinburne, Dr. Hake
chooses to deal in rhythms of the utmost naivete and in metrical forms
that are simplicity itself.



To the many, Landor has always been more or less unapproachable, and has
always seemed more or less shadowy and unreal.  To begin with, he wrote
for himself and a few others, and principally for himself.  Then, he
wrote waywardly and unequally as well as selfishly; he published pretty
much at random; the bulk of his work is large; and the majority has
passed him by for writers more accessible and work less freakish and more
comprehensible.  It is probable too that even among those who, inspired
by natural temerity or the intemperate curiosity of the general reader,
have essayed his conquest and set out upon what has been described as
'the Adventure of the Seven Volumes which are Seven Valleys of Dry
Bones,' but few have returned victorious.  Of course the Seven Volumes
are a world.  But (it is objected) the world is peculiar in pattern,
abounding in antres vast and desarts idle, in gaps and precipices and
'manifest solutions of continuity,' and enveloped in an atmosphere which
ordinary lungs find now too rare and now too dense and too anodyne.
Moreover, it is peopled chiefly with abstractions: bearing noble and
suggestive names but all surprisingly alike in stature and feature, all
more or less incapable of sustained emotion and even of logical argument,
all inordinately addicted to superb generalities and a kind of monumental
skittishness, all expressing themselves in a style whose principal
characteristic is a magnificent monotony, and all apparently the outcome
of a theory that to be wayward is to be creative, that human interest is
a matter of apophthegms and oracular sentences, and that axiomatic and
dramatic are identical qualities and convertible terms.  This is the
opinion of those adventurers in whom defeat has generated a sense of
injury and an instinct of antagonism.  Others less fortunate still have
found Landor a continent of dulness and futility--have come to consider
the Seven Volumes as so many aggregations of tedium.  Such experiences
are one-sided and partial no doubt; and considered from a certain point
of view they seem worthless enough.  But they exist, and they are in some
sort justified.  Landor, when all is said, remains a writers' writer; and
for my part I find it impossible not to feel a certain sympathy with them
that hesitate to accept him for anything else.

His Drama.

Again, to some of us Lander's imagination is not only inferior in kind
but poverty-stricken in degree; his creative faculty is limited by the
reflection that its one achievement is Landor; his claim to consideration
as a dramatic writer is negatived by the fact that, poignant as are the
situations with which he loved to deal, he was apparently incapable of
perceiving their capacities: inasmuch as he has failed completely and
logically to develop a single one of them; inasmuch, too, as he has never
once succeeded in conceiving, much less in picturing, such a train of
conflicting emotions as any one of the complications from which he starts
might be supposed to generate.  To many there is nothing Greek about his
dramatic work except the absence of stage directions; and to these that
quality of 'Landorian abruptness' which seems to Mr. Sidney Colvin to
excuse so many of its shortcomings is identical with a certain sort of
what in men of lesser mould is called stupidity.


How Much of Him?

Hood wrote much for bread, and he wrote much under pressure of all manner
of difficulties--want of health and want of money, the hardship of exile
and the bitterness of comparative failure; and not a little of what he
produced is the merest journalism, here to-day and gone to-morrow.  At
his highest he is very high, but it was not given to him to enjoy the
conditions under which great work is produced: he had neither peace of
body nor health of mind, his life from first to last was a struggle with
sickness and misfortune.  How is it possible to maintain an interest in
all he wrote, when two-thirds of it was produced with duns at the door
and a nurse in the other room and the printer's-devil waiting in the
hall?  Of his admirable courage, his fine temper, his unfailing goodness
of heart, his incorruptible honesty, it were hard to speak too highly;
for one has but to read the story of his life to wonder that he should
have written anything at all.  At his happiest he had the gift of
laughter; at his deepest and truest the more precious gift of tears.  But
for him there were innumerable hours when the best he could affect was
the hireling's motley; when his fun and his pathos alike ran strained and
thin; when the unique poet and wit became a mere comic rhymester.  Is it
just to his memory that it should be burdened with such a mass of what is
already antiquated?  But one answer is possible.  The immortal part of
Hood might be expressed into a single tiny volume.

Death's Jest-Book.

Thackeray preferred Hood's passion to his fun; and Thackeray knew.  Hood
had an abundance of a certain sort of wit, the wit of odd analogies, of
remote yet familiar resemblances, of quaint conceits and humourous and
unexpected quirks.  He made not epigrams but jokes, sometimes purely
intellectual but nearly always with the verbal quality as well.  The
wonderful jingle called _Miss Kilmansegg_--hard and cold and glittering
as the gold that gleams in it--abounds in capital types of both.  But for
an example of both here is a stanza taken at random from the _Ode to the
Great Unknown_:--

   'Thou _Scottish Barmecide_, feeding the hunger
      Of curiosity with airy gammon;
         Thou mystery-monger,
      _Dealing it out like middle cut of salmon_
   _That people buy and can't make head or tail of it_,'

and so forth, and so forth: the first a specimen of oddness of
analogy--the joke intellectual; the second a jest in which the
intellectual quality is complicated with the verbal.  Of rarer merit are
that conceit of the door which was shut with such a slam 'it sounded like
a wooden d---n,' and that mad description of the demented mariner,--

   'His head was _turned_, and so he _chewed_
   _His pigtail_ till he died,'--

which is a pun as unexpected and imaginative as any that exists, not
excepting even Lamb's renowned achievement, the immortal 'I say, Porter,
is that your own Hare or a Wig?'  But as a punster Hood is merely
unsurpassable.  The simplest and the most complex, the wildest and the
most obvious, the straightest and the most perverse, all puns came alike
to him.  The form was his natural method of expression.  His prose
extravaganzas--even to the delightful _Friend in Need_--are pretty well
forgotten; his one novel is very hard to read; there is far less in _Up
the Rhine_ than in _Humphry Clinker_ after all; we have been spoiled for
_Lycus the Centaur_ and _The Plea of the Midsummer Fairies_ by the rich
and passionate verse of the Laureate, the distinction, and the measure of
Arnold, the sumptuous diction and the varied and enchanting music of
_Atalanta_ and _Hesperia_ and _Erechtheus_.  We care little for the old-
fashioned whimsicality of the _Odes_, and little for such an inimitable
farrago of vulgarisms, such a _reductio ad absurdum_ of sentiment and
style, as _The Lost Child_.  But the best of Hood's puns are amusing
after forty years.  They are the classics of verbal extravagance, and
they are a thousand times better known than _The Last Man_, though that
is a work of genius, and almost as popular as the _Song of the Shirt_,
the _Bridge of Sighs_, the _Dream of Eugene Aram_ themselves.  By an odd
chance, too, the rhymes in which they are set have all a tragic theme.
'Tout ce qui touche a la mort,' says Champfleury, 'est d'une gaiete
folle.'  Hood found out that much for himself before Champfleury had
begun to write.  His most riotous ballads are ballads of death and the
grave.  Tim Turpin does murder and is hanged

   'On Horsham drop, and none can say
      He took a drop too much';

Ben Battle entwines a rope about his melancholy neck, and for the second
time in life _enlists him in the line_; Young Ben expires of grief for
the falsehood of Sally Brown: Lieutenant Luff drinks himself into his
grave; John Day the amorous coachman,

   'With back too broad to be conceived
      By any narrow mind,'

pines to nothingness, and is found heels uppermost in his cruel
mistress's water-butt.  To Hood, with his grim imagination and his
strange fantastic humour, death was meat and drink.  It is as though he
saw so much of the 'execrable Shape' that at last the pair grew friends,
and grinned whenever they foregathered even in thought.

His Immortal Part.

Was Thackeray right, then, in resenting the waste of Hood's genius upon
mere comicalities?  I think he was; but only to a certain point.  Hood
was a true poet: but it was not until after years of proof and endeavour
that he discovered the use to which his powers could best be put and the
material on which they could best be employed.  He worked hard and with
but partial success at poetry all his life long.  He passed his life in
punning and making comic assaults on the Queen's English; but he was
author all the while of _The Plea of the Midsummer Fairies_, the _Ode to
Melancholy_, _Hero and Leander_, _Lycus the Centaur_, and a score and
more of lovable and moving ballads; and he had won himself a name with
two such capital examples of melodrama as _The Last Man_ (1826) and _The
Dream of Eugene Aram_ (1829).  But as a poet he profited little.  The
public preferred him as a buffoon; and not until his last years (and then
anonymously) was he able to utter his highest word.  All was made ready
against his coming--the age, the subject, the public mind, the public
capacity of emotion; and in _The Song of the Shirt_ he approved himself a
great singer.  In the days of _Lycus the Centaur_ and the _Midsummer
Fairies_ he could no more have written it than the public could have
heeded had he written.  But times were changed--Dickens had come, and the
humanitarian epoch--and the great song went like fire.  So, a year or two
after, did _The Bridge of Sighs_.  That, says Thackeray, 'was his
Corunna, his Heights of Abraham--sickly, weak, wounded, he fell in the
full blaze and fame of that great victory.'  Could he have repeated it
had he lived?  Who knows?  In both these irresistible appeals to the
heart of man the material is of equal value and importance with the form;
and in poetry such material is rare.  A brace of such songs is possible
to a poet; ten couples are not.  It is Hood's immortality that he sang
these two.  Almost in the uttering they went the round of the world; and
it is not too much to say of them that they will only pass with the


How He Lived.

The story of Lever's life and adventures only wants telling to be as
irresistibly attractive as Lorrequer's or O'Malley's own.  Born in
Dublin, of an English father and an Irish mother, he lived to be
essentially cosmopolitan and a _viveur_ of the first magnitude.  At eight
he was master of his schoolmaster--a gentleman given to flogging but not
learned in Greek, and therefore a proper subject for a certain sort of
blackmailing.  He was not an industrious boy; but he was apt and ready
with his tongue, he was an expert in fencing and the dance, he was good
at improvising and telling stories, it is on record that he pleaded and
won the cause of himself and certain of his schoolmates accused before a
magistrate of riot and outrage.  At college he found work for his high
spirits in wild fun and the perpetration of practical jokes.  He and his
chum Ottiwell, the original of Frank Webber, behaved to their governors,
teachers, and companions very much as Charles O'Malley and the
redoubtable Frank behave to theirs.  Lever was excellent at a
street-ballad, and made and sang them in the rags of Rhoudlim, just as
Frank Webber does; and he personated Cusack the surgeon to Cusack's
class, just as Frank Webber personates the dean to _his_ class.  On the
whole, indeed, he must have been as gamesome and volatile a nuisance as
even Dublin has endured.  On leaving college he took charge of an
emigrant ship bound for Quebec.  Arrived in Canada, he plunged into the
backwoods, was affiliated to a tribe of Indians, and had to escape like
Bagenal Daly at the risk of his life.  Then he went to Germany, became a
student at Gottingen under Blumenbach, was heart and soul a Bursch, and
had the honour of seeing Goethe at Weimar.  His diploma gained, he went
to Clare to do battle with the cholera and gather materials for _Harry
Lorrequer_.  After this he was for some time dispensary doctor at
Portstewart, where he met Prebendary Maxwell, the wild parson who wrote
_Captain Blake_: so that here and now it is natural to find him leaping
turf-carts and running away from his creditors.  At Brussels, where he
physicked the British Embassy and the British tourist, he knew all sorts
of people--among them Commissioner Meade, the original of Major Monsoon,
and Cardinal Pecci, the original of Leo XIII.--and saw all sorts of life,
and ran into all sorts of extravagance: until of a sudden, he is back
again in the capital, editing the _Dublin University Magazine_.  Of
course he was the maddest editor ever seen.  For him cards, horses, and
high living were not luxuries but necessaries of life; yet all the while
he believed devoutly in medicine, and with his family indulged with
freedom in the use of calomel and such agents.  Presently he abandoned
Ireland for the Continent.  He took his horses with him, and astonished
Europe with a four-in-hand of his own.  Carlsruhe knew him well, as
Belgium and the Rhine had known him.  He only left the Reider Schloss at
Bregenz to conquer Italy; and at Florence, Spezzia, and finally Trieste,
he shone like himself.

What He Was.

He was a born _poseur_.  His vanity made him one of the worst--the most
excessive--of talkers; go where he would and do what he might, he was
unhappy if the first place were another's.  In all he did he was greedy
to excel, and to excel incontestably.  Like his own Bagenal Daly he would
have taken the big jump with the reins in his mouth and his hands tied,
'just to show the English Lord-Lieutenant how an Irish gentleman rides.'
He was all his life long confounding an English Lord-Lieutenant of some
sort; for without display he would have pined away and died.  At
Templeogue he lived at the rate of 3,000 pounds a year on an income of
1,200 pounds; at Brussels he kept open house on little or nothing for all
the wandering grandees of Europe; at Florence they used to liken the
cavalcade from his house to a procession from Franconi's; he found living
in a castle and spending 10 pounds a day on his horses the finest fun in
the world.  He existed but to bewilder and dazzle, and had he not been a
brilliant and distinguished novelist he would have been a brilliant and
distinguished something else.  As he kept open house everywhere, as he
was fond of every sort of luxury, as he loved not less to lend money to
his intimates than to lose it to them at cards, and as he got but poor
prices for his novels and was not well paid for his consular services, it
is not easy to see how he managed to make ends meet.

How He Wrote.

Nor is it easy to see how he contrived to produce his novels.  He was too
passionately addicted to society and the enjoyment of life to spare an
instant from them if he could help it; and the wonder is not that he
should have written so well but that he should have written at all.
Fortunately or the other thing, his books cost him no effort.  He wrote
or dictated at a gallop and, his copy once produced, had finished his
work.  He abhorred revision, and while keenly sensitive to blame and
greedy of praise he ceased to care for his books as soon as they had left
his desk.  That he was not in scarce any sense an artist is but too
clear.  He never worked on a definite plan nor was at any pains to
contrive a plot; he depended on the morning's impressions for the
evening's task, and wrote _Con Cregan_ under the immediate influence of a
travelled Austrian, who used to talk to him every night ere he sat down
to his story.  But he was a wonderful improvisatore.  He had
imagination--(even romantic imagination: as the episode of Menelaus Crick
in _Con Cregan_ will show)--a keen, sure eye for character, incomparable
facility in composition, an inexhaustible fund of shrewdness,
whimsicality, high spirits, an admirable knack of dialogue; and as consul
at Spezzia and at Trieste, as a fashionable practitioner at Brussels, as
dispensary doctor on the wild Ulster coast, he was excellently placed for
the kind of literature it was in him to produce.  Writing at random and
always under the spur of necessity, he managed to inform his work with
extraordinary vitality and charm.  His books were only made to sell, but
it is like enough that they will also live, for they are yet well nigh as
readable as at first, and Nina and Kate O'Donoghue--(for instance)--seem
destined to go down to posterity as typical and representative.  Had
their author taken art seriously, and devoted all his energy to its
practice, he could scarce have done more than this.  Perhaps, indeed, he
would not have done so much.  It could never have been Lorrequer's to
'build the lofty rhyme.'  It was an honest as well as a brilliant
creature; and I believe we should all have suffered if some avenging
chance had borne it in upon him that to be really lofty your rhyme must
of necessity be not blown upwards like a bubble but built in air like a
cathedral.  He would, I take it, have experimentalised in repentance to
the extent of elaborating his creations and chastising his style; and, it
may be, he would have contrived but to beggar his work of interest and
correct himself of charm.  A respectable ambition, no doubt; but how much
better to be the rough-and-ready artist of Darby the Beast and Micky
Free, the humane and charming rattlepate to whom we owe Paul Goslett and
the excellent and pleasing Potts!


His Virtue.

I love to think of Jefferies as a kind of literary Leatherstocking.  His
style, his mental qualities, the field he worked in, the chase he
followed, were peculiar to himself, and as he was without a rival, so was
he without a second.  Reduced to its simplest expression, his was a mind
compact of observation and of memory.  He writes as one who watches
always, who sees everything, who forgets nothing.  As his lot was cast in
country places, among wood and pasturage and corn, by coverts teeming
with game and quick with insect life, and as withal he had the hunter's
patience and quick-sightedness, his faculty of looking and listening and
of noting and remembering, his readiness of deduction and insistence of
pursuit--there entered gradually into his mind a greater quantity of
natural England, her leaves and flowers, her winds and skies, her wild
things and tame, her beauties and humours and discomforts, than was ever,
perhaps, the possession of writing Briton.  This property he conveyed to
his countrymen in a series of books of singular freshness and interest.
The style is too formal and sober, the English seldom other than homely
and sufficient; there is overmuch of the reporter and nothing like enough
of the artist, the note of imagination, the right creative faculty.  But
they are remarkable books.  It is not safe to try and be beforehand with
posterity, but in the case of such works as the _Gamekeeper_ and _Wild
Life_ and with such a precedent as that established by the _Natural
History of Selborne_ such anticipation seems more tempting and less
hazardous than usual.  One has only to think of some mediaeval Jefferies
attached to the staff of Robin Hood, and writing about Needwood and
Charnwood as his descendant wrote about the South Downs, to imagine an
historical document of priceless value and inexhaustible interest.  And
in years to be, when the whole island is one vast congeries of streets,
and the fox has gone down to the bustard and the dodo, and outside
museums of comparative anatomy the weasel is not and the badger has
ceased from the face of the earth, it is not doubtful that the
_Gamekeeper_ and _Wild Life_ and the _Poacher_--epitomising, as they
will, the rural England of certain centuries before--will be serving as
material and authority for historical descriptions, historical novels,
historical epics, historical pictures, and will be honoured as the most
useful stuff of their kind in being.

His Limitation.

In those first books of his Jefferies compels attention by sheer
freshness of matter; he is brimful of new facts and original and
pertinent observation, and that every one is vaguely familiar with and
interested in the objects he is handling and explaining serves but to
heighten his attractiveness.  There are so many who but know of hares
disguised as soup, of ants as a people on whose houses it is not good to
sit down, of partridges as a motive of bread sauce!  And Jefferies,
retailing in plain, useful English the thousand and one curious facts
that make up life for these creatures and their kind--Jefferies walking
the wood, or tracking the brook, or mapping out the big tree--is some one
to be heeded with gratitude.  He is the Scandalous Chronicler of the
warren and the rookery, the newsmonger and intelligencer of creeping
things, and things that fly, and things that run; and his confidences,
unique in quality and type, have the novelty and force of personal
revelations.  In dealing with men and women, he surrendered most of his
advantage and lost the best part of his charm.  The theme is old, the
matter well worn, the subject common to us all; and most of us care
nothing for a few facts more or less unless they be romantically
conveyed.  Reality is but the beginning, the raw material, of art; and it
is by the artist's aid and countenance that we are used to make
acquaintance with our fellows, be they generals in cocked hats or
mechanics in fustian.  Now Jefferies was not an artist, and so beside his
stoats and hares, his pike, his rabbits, and his moles, his men and women
are of little moment.  You seem to have heard of them and to far better
purpose from others; you have had their author's facts presented
elsewhere, and that in picturesque conjunction with the great eternal
interests of passion and emotion.  To be aware of such a difference is to
resent it; and accordingly to read is to know that Jefferies would have
done well to leave Hodge and Hodge's masters alone and keep to his beasts
and birds and fishes.

The General.

Is it not plain as the nose on your face that his admirers admire him
injudiciously?  It is true, for instance, that he is in a sense, 'too
full' (the phrase is Mr. Besant's) for the generality of readers.  But it
is also true that he is not nearly full enough: that they look for
conclusions while he is bent upon giving them only details: that they
clamour for a breath of inspiration while he is bent upon emptying his
note-book in decent English; that they persist in demanding a motive, a
leading idea, a justification, while he with knowledge crammed is fixed
in his resolve to tell them no more than that there are milestones on the
Dover Road, or that there are so many nails of so many shapes and so many
colours in the pig-sty at the back of Coate Farm.  They prefer 'their
geraniums in the conservatory.'  They refuse, in any case, to call a
'picture' that which is only a long-drawn sequence of statements.  They
are naturally inartistic, but they have the tradition of a long and
speaking series of artistic results, and instinctively they decline to
recognise as art the work of one who was plainly the reverse of an
artist.  The artist is he who knows how to select and to inspire the
results of his selection.  Jefferies could do neither.  He was a reporter
of genius; and he never got beyond reporting.  To the average reader he
is wanting in the great essentials of excitement: he is prodigal of
facts, and he contrives to set none down so as to make one believe in it
for longer than the instant of perusal.  From his work the passionate
human quality is not less absent than the capacity of selection and the
gift of inspiration, and all the enthusiasm of all the enthusiasts of an
enthusiastic age will not make him and his work acceptable to the
aforesaid average reader.  In letters he is as the ideal British water-
colourist in paint: the care of both is not art but facts, and again
facts, and facts ever.  You consider their work; you cannot see the wood
for the trees; and you are fain to conclude that themselves were so much
interested in the trees they did not even know the wood was there.

Last Words.

To come to an end with the man:--his range was very limited, and within
that range his activity was excessive; yet the consequences of his
enormous effort were--and are--a trifle disappointing.  He thought, poor
fellow! that he had the world in his hand and the public at his feet;
whereas, the truth to tell, he had only the empire of a kind of back
garden and the lordship of (as Mr. Besant has told us) some forty
thousand out of a hundred millions of readers.  You know that he suffered
greatly; you know too that to the last he worked and battled on as became
an honest, much-enduring, self-admiring man: as you know that in death he
snatched a kind of victory, and departed this life with dignity as one
'good at many things,' who had at last 'attained to be at rest.'  You
know, in a word, that he took his part in the general struggle for
existence, and manfully did his best; and it is with something like a
pang that you find his biographer insisting on the merits of the feat,
and quoting approvingly the sentimentalists who gathered about his death-
bed.  To make eloquence about heroism is not the way to breed heroes; and
it may be that Jefferies, had his last environment been less fluent and
sonorous, would now seem something more heroic than he does.


The Fabulist.

Gay the fabulist is only interesting in a certain sense and to a small
extent.  The morality of the _Fables_ is commonplace; their workmanship
is only facile and agreeable; as literature--as achievements in a certain
order of art--they have a poor enough kind of existence.  In comparison
to the work of La Fontaine they are the merest journalism.  The
simplicity, the wit, the wisdom, the humanity, the dramatic imagination,
the capacity of dramatic expression, the exquisite union of sense and
manner, the faultless balance of matter and style, are qualities for
which in the Englishman you look in vain.  You read, and you read not
only without enthusiasm but without interest.  The verse is merely brisk
and fluent; the invention is common; the wit is not very witty; the
humour is artificial; the wisdom, the morality, the knowledge of life,
the science of character--if they exist at all it is but as anatomical
preparations or plants in a _hortus siccus_.  Worse than anything, the
_Fables_ are monotonous.  The manner is consistently uniform; the
invention has the level sameness of a Lincolnshire landscape; the
narrative moves with the equal pace of boats on a Dutch canal.  The
effect is that of a host of flower-pots, the columns in a ledger, a
tragedy by the Rev. Mr. Home; and it is heightened by the matchless
triteness of the fabulist's reflections and the uncommon tameness of his
drama.  It is hard to believe that this is indeed the Gay of _Polly_ and
_The Beggars' Opera_.  True, the dialects of his Peachum and his Lockit
are in some sort one; his gentlemen of the road and his ladies of the
kennel rejoice in a common flippancy of expression; there is little to
choose between the speech of Polly and the speech of Lucy.  But in
respect of the essentials of drama the dialogue of the _Beggars' Opera_
is on the whole sufficient.  The personages are puppets; but they are
individual, and they are fairly consistent in their individuality.  Miss
Lockit does not think and feel like Miss Diver; Macheath is
distinguishable from Peachum; none is exactly alive, but of stage life
ail have their share.  The reverse of this is the case with the
personages of the _Fables_.  They think the thoughts and speak the speech
of Mr. Gay.  The elephant has the voice of the sparrow; the monkey is one
with the organ on which he sits; there is but a difference of name
between the eagle and the hog; the talk of Death has exactly the manner
and weight and cadence of the Woodman's; a change of label would enable
the lion to change places with the spaniel, would suffice to cage the
wolf as a bird and set free the parrot as a beast of prey.  All are
equally pert, brisk, and dapper in expression; all are equally
sententious and smart in aim; all are absolutely identical in function
and effect.  The whole gathering is stuffed with the same straw, prepared
with the same dressing, ticketed in the same handwriting, and painted
with the same colours.  Any one who remembers the infinite variety of La
Fontaine will feel that Gay the fabulist is a writer whose work the world
has let die very willingly indeed.

The Moralist.

And Gay is not a whit less inefficient as a moralist.  He is a kindly
soul, and in his easygoing way he has learnt something of the tricks of
the world and something of the hearts of men.  He writes as an
unsuccessful courtier; and in that capacity he has remarks to offer which
are not always valueless, and in which there is sometimes a certain
shrewdness.  But the unsuccessful courtier is on the whole a creature of
the past.  Such interest as he has is rather historical than actual; and
neither in the nursery nor in the schoolroom is he likely to create any
excitement or be received with any enthusiasm.  To the world he can only
recommend himself as one anxious to make it known on the smallest
provocation and on any occasion or none that Queen Anne is dead.  Open
him where you will, and you find him full of this important news and
determined on imparting it.  Thus, in _The Scold and the Parrot_:

   'One slander must ten thousand get,
   The world with int'rest pays the debt';

that is to say, Queen Anne is dead.  Thus, too, in _The Persian_, _the
Sun_, _and the Cloud_:

   'The gale arose; the vapour tost
   (The sport of winds) in air was lost;
   The glorious orb the day refines.
   Thus envy breaks, thus merit shines';

in _The Goat without a Beard_:

   'Coxcombs distinguished from the rest
   To all but coxcombs are a jest';

in _The Shepherd's Dog and the Wolf_:

   'An open foe may prove a curse,
   But a pretended friend is worse';

and so to the end of the chapter.  The theme is not absorbing, and the
variations are proper to the theme.

After All.

How long is it that the wise and good have ceased to say (striking their
pensive bosoms), '_Here_ lies Gay'?  It is--how long?  But for all that
Gay is yet a figure in English letters.  As a song-writer he has still a
claim on us, and is still able to touch the heart and charm the ear.  The
lyrics in _Acis and Galatea_ are not unworthy their association with
Handel's immortal melodies, the songs in _The Beggars' Opera_ have a part
in the life and fame of the sweet old tunes from which they can never be
divided.  I like to believe that in the operas and the _Trivia_ and _The
Shepherd's Week_ is buried the material of a pleasant little book.


The Good of Them.

It is our misfortune that of good essayists there should be but few.  Men
there have been who have done the essayist's part so well as to have
earned an immortality in the doing; but we have had not many of them, and
they make but a poor figure on our shelves.  It is a pity that things
should be thus with us, for a good essayist is the pleasantest companion
imaginable.  There are folk in plenty who have never read Montaigne at
all; but there are few indeed who have read but a page of him, and that
page but once.  And the same may be said of Addison and Fielding, of Lamb
and Hazlitt, of Sterne and Bacon and Ben Jonson, and all the members of
their goodly fellowship.  To sit down with any one of them is to sit down
in the company of one of the 'mighty wits, our elders and our betters,'
who have done much to make literature a good thing, having written books
that are eternally readable.  If of all them that have tried to write
essays and succeeded after a fashion a twentieth part so much could be
said the world would have a conversational literature of inexhaustible
interest.  But indeed there is nothing of the sort.  Beside the 'rare and
radiant' masters of the art there are the apprentices, and these are many
and dull.


Essayists, like poets, are born and not made, and for one worth
remembering the world is confronted with a hundred not worth reading.
Your true essayist is in a literary sense the friend of everybody.  As
one of the brotherhood has phrased it, it is his function 'to speak with
ease and opportunity to all men.'  He must be personal, or his hearers
can feel no manner of interest in him.  He must be candid and sincere, or
his readers presently see through him.  He must have learned to think for
himself and to consider his surroundings with an eye that is both kindly
and observant, or they straightway find his company unprofitable.  He
should have fancy, or his starveling propositions will perish for lack of
metaphor and the tropes and figures needed to vitalise a truism.  He does
well to have humour, for humour makes men brothers, and is perhaps more
influential in an essay than in most places else.  He will find a little
wit both serviceable to himself and comfortable to his readers.  For
wisdom, it is not absolutely necessary that he have it, but in its way it
is as good a property as any: used with judgment, indeed, it does more to
keep an essay sweet and fresh than almost any other quality.  And in
default of wisdom--which, to be sure, it is not given to every man, much
less to every essayist, to entertain--he need have no scruples about
using whatever common sense is his; for common sense is a highly
respectable commodity, and never fails of a wide and eager circle of
buyers.  A knowledge of men and of books is also to be desired; for it is
a writer's best reason of being, and without it he does well to hold his
tongue.  Blessed with these attributes he is an essayist to some purpose.
Give him leisure and occasion, and his discourse may well become as
popular as Montaigne's own.

In Particular.

For the British essayists, they are more talked about than known.  It is
to be suspected that from the first their reputation has greatly exceeded
their popularity; and of late years, in spite of the declamation of
Macaulay and the very literary enthusiasm of the artist of _Esmond_ and
_The Virginians_, they have fallen further into the background, and are
less than ever studied with regard.  In theory the age of Anne is still
the Augustan age to us; but in theory only, and only to a certain extent.
What attracts us is its outside.  We are in love with its houses and its
china and its costumes.  We are not enamoured of it as it was but as it
seems to Mr. Caldecott and Mr. Dobson and Miss Kate Greenaway.  We care
little for its comedy and nothing at all for its tragedy.  Its verse is
all that our own is not, and the same may be said of its prose and
ours--of the prose of Mr. Swinburne and Mr. George Meredith and the prose
of Addison and Swift.  Mr. Gladstone is not a bit like Bolingbroke, and
between _The Times_ and _The Tatler_, between _The Spectator_ (Mr.
Addison's), and _The Fortnightly Review_, there is a difference of close
upon two centuries and of a dozen revolutions--political, social,
scientific, and aesthetic.  We may babble as we please about the
'sweetness' of Steele and the 'humour' of Sir Roger de Coverley, but in
our hearts we care for them a great deal less than we ought, and in fact
Mr. Mudie's subscribers do not hesitate to prefer the 'sweetness' of Mr.
Black and the 'humour' of Mr. James Payn.  Our love is not for the
essentials of the time but only its accidents and oddities; and we
express it in pictures and poems and fantasies in architecture, and the
canonisation (in figures) of Chippendale and Sheraton.  But it is
questionable if we might not with advantage increase our interest, and
carry imitation a little deeper.  The Essayists, for instance, are often
dull, but they write like scholars and gentlemen.  They refrain from
personalities; they let scandal alone, nor ever condescend to
eavesdropping; they never go out of their way in search of affectation or
prurience or melancholy, but are content to be merely wise and cheerful
and humane.  Above all, they do their work as well as they can.  They
seem to write not for bread nor for a place in society but for the
pleasure of writing, and of writing well.  In these hysterical times life
is so full, so much is asked and so much has to be given, that tranquil
writing and careful workmanship are impossible.  A certain poet has
bewailed the change in a charming rondeau:--

   'More swiftly now the hours take flight!
   What's read at morn is dead at night;
   Scant space have we for art's delays,
   Whose breathless thought so briefly stays,
   We may not work--ah! would we might,
         With slower pen!'

It must be owned that his melancholy is anything but groundless.  The
trick of amenity and good breeding is lost; the graces of an excellence
that is unobtrusive are graces no more.  We write as men paint for the
exhibitions: with the consciousness that we must pass without notice if
we do not exceed in colour and subject and tone.  The need exists, and
the world bows to it.  Mr. Austin Dobson's little sheaf of _Eighteenth
Century Essays_ might be regarded as a protest against the necessity and
the submission.  It proves that 'tis possible to be eloquent without
adjectives and elegant without affectation; that to be brilliant you need
not necessarily be extravagant and conceited; that without being maudlin
and sentimental it is not beyond mortal capacity to be pathetic; and that
once upon a time a writer could prove himself a humourist without feeling
it incumbent upon him to be also a jack-pudding.


His Destiny.

It has been Boswell's fate to be universally read and almost as
universally despised.  What he suffered at the hands of Croker and
Macaulay is typical of his fortune.  In character, in politics, in
attainments, in capacity, the two were poles apart; but they were agreed
in this: that Boswell must be castigated and contemned, and that they
were the men to do it.  Croker's achievement, consider it how you will,
remains the most preposterous in literary history.  He could see nothing
in the _Life_ but a highly entertaining compilation greatly in need of
annotation and correction.  Accordingly he took up Boswell's text and
interlarded it with scraps of his own and other people's; he pegged into
it a sophisticated version of the _Tour_; and he overwhelmed his amazing
compound with notes and commentaries in which he took occasion to snub,
scold, 'improve,' and insult his author at every turn.  What came of it
one knows.  Macaulay, in the combined interests of Whiggism and good
literature, made Boswell's quarrel his own, and the expiation was as
bitter as the offence was wanton and scandalous.

His Critic.

But Macaulay, if he did Jeddart justice on Croker, took care not to
forget that Johnson was a Tory hero, and that Boswell was Johnson's
biographer.  He was too fond of good reading not to esteem the _Life_ for
one of the best of books.  But he was also a master of the art of
brilliant and picturesque misrepresentation; and he did not neglect to
prove that the _Life_ is only admirable because Boswell was contemptible.
It was, he argued, only by virtue of being at once daft and drunken,
selfish and silly, an eavesdropper and a talebearer, a kind of inspired
Faddle, a combination of butt and lackey and snob, that Boswell contrived
to achieve his wretched immortality.  And in the same way Boswell's hero
was after all but a sort of Grub Street Cyclops, respectable enough by
his intelligence--(but even so ridiculous in comparison to gifted
Whigs)--yet more or less despicable in his manners, his English, and his
politics.  Now, Macaulay was the genius of special pleading.  Admirable
man of letters as he was, he was politician first and man of letters
afterwards: his judgments are no more final than his antitheses are dull,
and his method for all its brilliance is the reverse of sound.  When you
begin to inquire how much he really knew about Boswell, and how far you
may accept his own estimate of his own pretentions, he becomes amusing in
spite of himself: much as, according to him, Boswell was an artist.  In
his review of Croker he is keen enough about dates and facts and
solecisms; on questions of this sort he bestows his fiercest energies;
for such lapses he visits his Tory opposite with his most savage and
splendid insolence, his heartiest contempt, his most scathing rhetoric.
But on the great question of all--the corruption of Boswell's text--he is
not nearly so implacable, and concerning the foisting on the _Life_ of
the whole bulk of the _Tour_ he is not more than lukewarm.  'We greatly
doubt,' he says, 'whether _even_ the _Tour to the Hebrides_ should have
been inserted in the midst of the _Life_.  There is one marked
distinction between the two works.  Most of the _Tour_ was seen by
Johnson in manuscript.  It does not appear that he ever saw any part of
the _Life_.'  This is to say that Croker's action is reprehensible not
because it is an offence against art but because Johnson on private and
personal grounds might not have been disposed to accept the _Life_ as
representative and just, and might have refused to sanction its
appearance on an equal footing with the _Tour_, which on private and
personal grounds he _had_ accepted.  In the face of such an argument who
can help suspecting Macaulay's artistic faculty?  'The _Life of
Johnson_,' he says, 'is assuredly a great, a very great, book.  Homer is
not more decidedly the first of heroic poets, Shakespeare is not more
decidedly the first of dramatists, Demosthenes is not more decidedly the
first of orators, than Boswell is the first of biographers . . . Eclipse
is first, and the rest nowhere.'  That is hearty and exact enough.  But,
as I have hinted, Macaulay, furious with Croker's carelessness, is almost
tolerant of Croker's impudence.  For Croker as a scholar and an historian
he is merely pitiless; to Croker ruining the _Life_ by the insertion of
the _Tour_--a feat which would scarce be surpassed by the interpolation
of the Falstaff scenes of the _Merry Wives_ in one or other of the parts
of _Henry IV._--he is lenient enough, and lenient on grounds which are
not artistic but purely moral.  Did he recognise to the full the fact of
Boswell's pre-eminence as an artist?  Was he really conscious that the
_Life_ is an admirable work of art as well as the most readable and
companionable of books?  As, not content with committing himself thus
far, he goes on to prove that Boswell was great because he was little,
that he wrote a great book because he was an ass, and that if he had not
been an ass his book would probably have been at least a small one,
incredulity on these points becomes respectable.


Boswell knew better.  A true Scotsman and a true artist, he could play
the fool on occasion, and he could profit by his folly.  In his
dedication to the first and greatest President the Royal Academy has had
he anticipates a good many of Macaulay's objections to his character and
deportment, and proves conclusively that if he chose to seem ridiculous
he did so not unwittingly but with a complete apprehension of the effect
he designed and the means he adopted.  In the _Tour_, says he, from his
'eagerness to display the wonderful fertility and readiness of Johnson's
wit,' he 'freely showed to the world its dexterity, even when I was
myself the object of it.'  He was under the impression that he would be
'liberally understood,' as 'knowing very well what I was about.'  But, he
adds, 'it seems I judged too well of the world'; and he points his moral
with a story of 'the great Dr. Clarke,' who, 'unbending himself with a
few friends in the most playful and frolicsome manner,' saw Beau Nash in
the distance, and was instantly sobered.  'My boys,' quoth he, 'let us be
grave--here comes a fool.'  Macaulay was not exactly Beau Nash, nor was
Boswell 'the great Dr. Clarke'; but, as Macaulay, working on Wolcot's
lines, was presently to show, Boswell did right to describe the world as
'a great fool,' and to regret in respect of his own silliness that in the
_Tour_ he had been 'arrogant enough to suppose that the tenour of the
rest of the book would sufficiently guard against such a strange
imputation.'  In the same way he showed himself fully alive to the
enduring merits of his achievement.  'I will venture to say,' he writes,
'that he (Johnson) will be seen in this work more completely than any man
who has ever lived.'  He had his own idea of biography; he had
demonstrated its value triumphantly in the _Tour_ which, though
organically complete, is plainly not a record of travel but a
biographical essay.  In the _Tour_, that is, he had approved himself an
original master of selection, composition, and design; of the art of
working a large number of essential details into a uniform and living
whole; and of that most difficult and telling of accomplishments, the
reproduction of talk.  In the _Life_ he repeated the proof on a larger
scale and with a finer mastery of construction and effect; and in what
his best editor describes as 'the task of correcting, amending, and
adding to his darling work' he spent his few remaining years.  That he
drifted into greatness, produced his two masterpieces unconsciously, and
developed a genius for biography as one develops a disease, is 'a
ridiculous conception,' as Mr. Napier rightly says.  In proof of it we
have Boswell's own words, and we have the books themselves.  Such
testimony is not to be overborne by any number of paradoxes, however
ingenious, nor by any superflux of rhetoric, however plausible and
persuasive.  That Boswell was a gossip, a busybody, and something of a
sot, and that many did and still do call him fool, is certain; but that
is no reason why he should not have been an artist, and none why he
should be credited with the fame of having devoted the best part of his
life to the production of a couple of masterpieces--as M. Jourdain talked
prose--without knowing what he was doing.  Turner chose to go
a-masquerading as 'Puggy Booth'; but as yet nobody has put forward the
assertion that Turner was unconscious of the romance and splendour of his
_Ulysses and Polyphemus_, or that he painted his _Rain_, _Speed_, _and
Steam_ in absolute ignorance of the impression it would produce and the
idea it should convey.  Goldsmith reminded Miss Reynolds of 'a low
mechanic, particularly . . . a journey-man tailor'; but that he was
unconsciously the most elegant and natural writer of his age is a
position which has not yet been advanced.  And surely it is high time
that Boswell should take that place in art which is his by right of
conquest, and that Macaulay's paradox--which is only the opinion
brilliantly put of an ignorant and unthinking world--('Il avait mieux que
personne l'esprit de tout le monde')--should go the way of all its kind.


His Biographers and Critics.

An American literary journal once assured its readers that Congreve has a
'niche in the Valhalla of Ben Jonson.'  The remark is injudicious, of
course, even for a literary American, and there is no apparent reason why
it should ever have got itself uttered.  It is probably the unluckiest
thing that ever was said of Congreve, who--with some unimportant
exceptions--has been singularly fortunate in his critics and biographers.
Dryden wrote of him with enthusiasm, and in doing so he may be said to
have set a fashion of admiration which is vigorous and captivating even
yet.  Swift, Voltaire, Lamb, Hunt, Hazlitt, Thackeray, Macaulay, to name
but these, have dealt with him in their several ways; of late he has been
praised by such masters of the art of writing as Mr. Swinburne and Mr.
George Meredith; while Mr. Gosse, the last on the list, surpasses most of
his predecessors in admiration and nearly all, I think, in knowledge.

The Real Congreve.

It is no fault of Mr. Gosse's that with all his diligence he should fail
to give a complete and striking portrait of his man, or to make more of
what he describes as his 'smiling, faultless rotundity.'  As he puts it:
'There were no salient points about Congreve's character,' so that 'no
vagaries, no escapades place him in a ludicrous or in a human light,' and
'he passes through the literary life of his time as if in felt slippers,
noiseless, unupbraiding, without personal adventures.'  That, I take it,
is absolutely true.  It is known that Congreve was cheerful, serviceable,
and witty; that he was a man of many friends; that Pope dedicated his
_Iliad_ to him; that Dryden loved and admired him; that Collier attacked
his work, and that his rejoinder was equally spiritless and ill-bred;
that he was attached to Mrs. Bracegirdle, and left all his money to the
Duchess of Marlborough; that he was a creditable Government official; and
that at thirty, having written a certain number of plays, he suddenly
lost his interest in life and art, and wrote no more.  But that is about
all.  Thackeray's picture of him may be, and probably is, as unveracious
as his Fielding or his Dick Steele; but there is little or nothing to
show how far we can depend upon it.  The character of the man escapes us,
and we have either to refrain from trying to see him or to content
ourselves with mere hypothesis.  So abnormal is the mystery in which he
is enshrouded that what in the case of others would be notorious remains
in his case dubious and obscure: so that we cannot tell whether he was
Bracegirdle's lover or only her friend, and the secret of his relations
with the Duchess of Marlborough has yet to be discovered.  Mr. Gosse
succeeded no better than they that went before in plucking out the heart
of Congreve's mystery.  He was, and he remains, impersonal.  At his most
substantial he is (as some one said of him) no more than 'vagueness
personified': at his most luminous only an appearance like the
_Scin-Laeca_, the shining shadow adapted in a moment of peculiar
inspiration by the late Lord Lytton.

The Dramatist.

But we have the plays, and who runs may read and admire.  I say advisedly
who runs may read, and not who will may see.  Congreve's plays are, one
can imagine, as dull in action as they are entertaining in print.  They
have dropped out of the _repertoire_, and the truth is they merit no
better fate.  They are only plays to the critic of style; to the actor
and the average spectator they are merely so much spoken weariness.  To
begin with, they are marked by such a deliberate and immitigable baseness
of morality as makes them impossible to man.  Wycherley has done more
vilely; Vanbrugh soars to loftier altitudes of filthiness.  But neither
Wycherley nor Vanbrugh has any strain of the admirable intellectual
quality of Congreve.  Villainy comes natural to the one, and beastliness
drops from the other as easily as honey from the comb; but in neither is
there evident that admirable effort of the intelligence which is a
distinguishing characteristic of Congreve, and with neither is the result
at once so consummate and so tame.  For both Wycherley and Vanbrugh are
playwrights, and Congreve is not.  Congreve is only an artist in style
writing for himself and half a dozen in the pit, while Wycherley and
Vanbrugh--and for that matter Etherege and Farquhar--are playwrights
producing for the whole theatre.  In fact Congreve's plays were only
successful in proportion as they were less literary and 'Congrevean.'  His
first comedy was the talk of the town; his last, _The Way of the World_,
that monument of characterisation (of a kind) and fine English, was only
a 'success of esteem.'  The reason is not far to seek.  Congreve's plays
were too sordid in conception and too unamusing in effect for even the
audiences to which they were produced; they were excellent literature,
but they were bad drama, and they were innately detestable to boot.
Audiences are the same in all strata of time; and it is easy to see that
Wycherley's Horner and Vanbrugh's Sir John and Lady Brute were amusing,
when Lady Wishfort and Sir Sampson Legend and the illustrious and
impossible Maskwell were found 'old, cold, withered, and of intolerable
entrails.'  An audience, whatever its epoch, wants action; and still
action, and again and for the last time action; also it wants a point of
departure that shall be something tinctured with humanity, a touch of the
human in the term of everything, and at least a 'sort of a kind of a
strain' of humanity in the progress of events from the one point to the
other.  This it gets in Wycherley, brute as he is; with a far larger and
more vigorous comic sense it gets the same in Vanbrugh; it gets it with a
difference in the light-hearted indecencies of Farquhar.  From the
magnificent prose of Congreve it is absent.  His it was to sublimate all
that was most artificial in an artificial state of society: he was the
consummate artist of a phase that was merely transient, the laureate of a
generation that was only alive for half-an-hour in the course of all the
twenty-four.  He is saved from oblivion by sheer strength of style.  It
is a bad dramatic style, as we know; it leaves the Witwoulds and the
Plyants as admirable as the Mirabels and Millamants and Angelicas; it
makes no distinction between the Mrs. Foresights and the Sir Sampson
Legends; it presents an exemplar in Lady Wishfort and an exemplar in
Petulant; it is uneasy, self-conscious, intrusive, even offensive, the
very reverse of dramatic; and in Congreve's hands it is irresistible,
for, thanks to Congreve, it has been forced from the stage, and lives as
literature alone.

The Writer.

Congreve was essentially a man of letters; his style is that of a pupil
not of Moliere but of the full, the rich, the excessive, the pedantic
Jonson; his Legends, his Wishforts, his Foresights are the lawful
heirs--refined and sublimated but still of direct descent--of the Tuccas
and the Bobadils and the Epicure Mammons of the great Elizabethan; they
are (that is) more literary than theatrical--they are excellent reading,
but they have long since fled the stage and vanished into the night of
mere scholarship.  To compare an author of this type and descent to
Shakespeare is a trifle unfair; to compare him to Moliere is to
misapprehend the differences between pure literature and literature that
is also drama.  Congreve, as I have said, has disappeared from the
boards, and is only tolerable or even intelligible to the true reader;
while Shakespeare worked on so imperfect a convention that, though he
keeps the stage and is known indeed for the poet of the most popular play
ever written--(for that, I take it, _Hamlet_ is)--he is yet the prey of
every twopenny actor, or actor-manager, or actor-manager-editor, who is
driven to deal with him.  Now, Moliere wrote as one that was first of all
a great actor; who dealt not so much with what is transient in human life
as with what is eternal in human nature; who addressed himself much more
to an audience--(Fenelon who found fault with his style is witness to the
fact)--than to a circle of readers.  And the result is that Moliere not
only remains better reading than Congreve, but is played at this time in
the Rue de Richelieu line for line and word for word as he was played at
the Palais-Bourbon over two hundred years ago.


Its Romance.

He that has the book of the _Thousand Nights and a Night_ has Hachisch-
made-words for life.  Gallant, subtle, refined, intense, humourous,
obscene, here is the Arab intelligence drunk with conception.  It is a
vast extravaganza of passion in action and picarooning farce and material
splendour run mad.  The amorous instinct and the instinct of enjoyment,
not tempered but heightened greatly by the strict ordinances of dogma,
have leave to riot uncontrolled.  It is the old immortal story of Youth
and Beauty and their coming together, but it is coloured with the hard
and brilliant hues of an imagination as sensuous in type and as gorgeous
in ambition as humanity has known.  The lovers must suffer, for suffering
intensifies the joy of fruition; so they are subjected to all such modes
of travail and estrangement as a fancy careless of pain and indifferent
to life can devise.  But it is known that happy they are to be; and if by
the annihilation of time and space then are space and time annihilated.
Adventures are to the adventurous all the world over; but they are so
with a difference in the East.  It is only Sinbad that confesses himself
devoured with the lust of travel.  The grip of a humourous and fantastic
fate is tight on all the other heroes of this epic-in-bits.  They do not
go questing for accidents: their hour comes, and the finger of God urges
them forth, and thrusts them on in the way of destiny.  The air is
horrible with the gross and passionate figments of Islamite mythology.
Afrits watch over or molest them; they are made captive of malignant
Ghouls; the Jinns take bodily form and woo them to their embraces.  The
sea-horse ramps at them from the ocean floor; the great roc darkens earth
about them with the shadow of his wings; wise and goodly apes come forth
and minister unto them; enchanted camels bear them over evil deserts with
the swiftness of the wind, or the magic horse outspreads his sail-broad
vannes, and soars with them; or they are borne aloft by some servant of
the Spell till the earth is as a bowl beneath them, and they hear the
angels quiring at the foot of the Throne.  So they fare to strange and
dismal places: through cities of brass whose millions have perished by
divine decree; cities guilty of the cult of the Fire and the Light
wherein all life has been striken to stone; or on to the magnetic
mountain by whose horrible attraction the bolts are drawn from the ship,
and they alone survive the inevitable wreck.  And the end comes.  Comes
the Castle of Burnished Copper, and its gates fly open before them: the
forty damsels, each one fairer than the rest, troop out at their
approach; they are bathed in odours, clothed in glittering apparel, fed
with enchanted meats, plunged fathoms deep in the delights of the flesh.
There is contrived for them a private paradise of luxury and splendour, a
practical Infinite of gold and silver stuffs and jewels and all things
gorgeous and rare and costly; and therein do they abide for evermore.  You
would say of their poets that they contract immensity to the limits of
desire; they exhaust the inexhaustible in their enormous effort; they
stoop the universe to the slavery of a talisman, and bind the visible and
invisible worlds within the compass of a ring.

Its Comedy.

But there is another side to their imaginings.  When the Magian has done
beating his copper drum--(how its mysterious murmur still haunts the
echoes of memory!)--when Queen Lab has finished her tremendous
conjurations, wonder gives place to laughter, the apotheosis of the flesh
to the spirit of comedy.  The enchanter turns harlequin; and what the
lovers ask is not the annihilation of time and space but only that the
father be at his prayers, or the husband gone on a fool's errand, while
they have leave to kiss each other's mouths, 'as a pigeon feedeth her
young,' to touch the lute, strip language naked, and 'repeat the
following verses' to a ring of laughing girls and amid all such comfits
and delicates as a hungry audience may rejoice to hear enumerated.  And
the intrigue begins, and therewith the presentment of character, the
portraiture of manners.  Merry ladies make love to their gallants with
flowers, or scorn them with the huckle-bones of shame; the Mother Coles
of Araby pursue the unwary stranger for their mistress' pleasure; damsels
resembling the full moon carouse with genial merchants or inquiring
calenders.  The beast of burden, even the porter, has his hour: he goes
the round at the heels of a veiled but beautiful lady, and lays her in
the materials of as liberal and sumptuous a carouse as is recorded in
history.  Happy lady, and O thrice-fortunate porter! enviable even to the
term of time!  It is a voluptuous farce, a masque and anti-masque of
wantonness and stratagem, of wine-cups and jewels and fine raiment, of
gaudy nights and amorous days, of careless husbands and adventurous
wives, of innocent fathers and rebel daughters and lovers happy or
befooled.  And high over all, his heart contracted with the spleen of the
East, the tedium of supremacy, towers the great Caliph Haroun, the buxom
and bloody tyrant, a Muslim Lord of Misrule.  With Giafar, the finest
gentleman and goodliest gallant of Eastern story, and Mesrour, the well-
beloved, the immortal Eunuch, he goes forth upon his round in the
enchanted streets of Bagdad, like Francois Premier in the maze of old-
time Paris.  The night is musical with happy laughter and the sound of
lutes and voices; it is seductive with the clink of goblets and the odour
of perfumes: not a shadow but has its secret, or jovial or amorous or
terrible: here falls a head, and there you may note the contrapuntal
effect of the bastinado.  But the blood is quickly hidden with flowers,
the bruises are tired over with cloth-of-gold, and the jolly pageant
sweeps on.  Truly the comic essence is imperishable.  What was fun to
them in Baghdad is fun to us in London after a thousand years.

Sacer Vates.

The prose of Mr. Payne's translation is always readable and often
elegant; Sir Richard Burton's notes and 'terminal essays' are a mine of
curious and diverting information; but for me the real author of _The
Arabian Nights_ is called not Burton nor Payne but Antoine Galland.  He
it was, in truth, who gave the world as much exactly as it needed of his
preposterous original: who eliminated its tediousness, purged it of its
barbarous and sickening immorality, wiped it clean of cruelty and
unnaturalness, selected its essentials of comedy and romance, and set
them clear and sharp against a light that western eyes can bear and in an
atmosphere that western lungs can breathe.  Of course the new
translations are interesting--especially to ethnologists and the critic
with a theory that translated verse is inevitably abominable.  But they
are not for the general nor the artist.  They include too many pages
revolting by reason of unutterable brutality of incident and point of
view--as also for the vileness of those lewd and dreadful puritans whose
excesses against humanity and whose devotion to Islam they record--to be
acceptable as literature or tolerable as reading.  Now, in Galland I get
the best of them.  He gave me whatever is worth remembering of Bedreddin
and Camaralzaman and that enchanting Fairy Peri-Banou; he is the true
poet alike of Abou Hassan and the Young King of the Black Islands, of Ali
Baba and the Barber of the Brothers; to him I owe that memory--of Zobeide
alone in the accursed city whose monstrous silence is broken by the voice
of the one man spared by the wrath of God as he repeats his solitary
prayer--which ranks with Crusoe's discovery of the footprint in the
thrilling moments of my life; it was he who, by refraining from the use
of pepper in his cream tarts, contrived to kitchen those confections with
the very essence of romance; it was he that clove asunder the Sultan's
kitchen-wall for me, and took me to the pan, and bade me ask a certain
question of the fish that fried therein, and made them answer me in terms
mysterious and tremendous yet.  Nay, that animating and delectable
feeling I cherish ever for such enchanted commodities as gold-dust and
sandal-wood and sesame and cloth of gold and black slaves with
scimitars--to whom do I owe it but this rare and delightful artist?  'O
mes chers _Mille et une Nuits_!' says Fantasio, and he speaks in the name
of all them that have lived the life that Galland alone made possible.
The damsels of the new style may 'laugh till they fall backwards,' etc.,
through forty volumes instead of ten, and I shall still go back to my
Galland.  I shall go back to him because his masterpiece is--not a book
of reference, nor a curiosity of literature, nor an achievement in
pedantry, nor even a demonstration of the absolute failure of Islamism as
an influence that makes for righteousness, but--an excellent piece of


His Fortune.

It is many years since Richardson fell into desuetude; it is many years
since he became the novelist not of the world at large but of that
inconsiderable section of the world which is interested in literature.
His methods are those of a bygone epoch; his ideals, with one or two
exceptions, are old-fashioned enough to seem fantastic; his sentiment
belongs to ancient history; to a generation bred upon Ouida's romances
and the plays of Mr. W. S. Gilbert his morality appears not merely
questionable but coarse and improper and repulsive.  While he lived he
was adored: he moved and spoke and dwelt in an eternal mist of 'good,
thick, strong, stupefying incense smoke'; he was the idol of female
England, a master of virtue, a king of art, the wisest and best of
mankind.  Johnson revered him--Johnson and Colley Gibber; Diderot ranked
him with Moses and Homer; to Balzac and Musset and George Sand he was the
greatest novelist of all time; Rousseau imitated him; Macaulay wrote and
talked of him with an enthusiasm that would have sat becomingly on Lady
Bradshaigh herself.  But all that is over.  Not even the emasculation to
which the late Mr. Dallas was pleased to subject his _Clarissa_ could
make that _Clarissa_ at all popular; not all the allusions of all the
leader-writers of a leader-writing age have been able to persuade the
public to renew its interest in the works and ways of Grandison the
august and the lovely and high-souled Harriet Byron.  Richardson has to
be not skimmed but studied; not sucked like an orange, nor swallowed like
a lollipop, but attacked _secundum artem_ like a dinner of many courses
and wines.  Once inside the vast and solid labyrinth of his intrigue, you
must hold fast to the clue which you have caught up on entering, or the
adventure proves impossible, and you emerge from his precincts defeated
and disgraced.  And by us children of Mudie, to whom a novel must be
either a solemn brandy-and-soda or as it were a garrulous and vapid
afternoon tea, adventures of that moment are not often attempted.


Again, when all is said in Richardson's favour it has to be admitted
against him that in _Pamela_ he produced an essay in vulgarity--of
sentiment and morality alike--which has never been surpassed.  In these
days it is hardly less difficult to understand the popularity of this
masterpiece of specious immodesty than to speak or think of it with
patience.  That it was once thought moral is as wonderful as that it was
once found readable.  What is more easily apprehended is the contempt of
Henry Fielding--is the justice of that ridicule he was moved to visit it
withal.  To him, a scholar and a gentleman and a man of the world,
_Pamela_ was a new-fangled blend of sentimental priggishness and prurient
unreality.  To him the pretensions to virtue and consideration of the
vulgar little hussy whom Richardson selected for his heroine were
certainly not less preposterous than the titles to life and actuality of
the wooden libertine whom Richardson put forth as his hero.  He was
artist enough to know that the book was ignoble as literature and
absolutely false as fact; he was moralist enough to see that its
teachings were the reverse of elevating and improving; and he uttered his
conclusions _more suo_ in one of the best and healthiest books in English
literature.  This, indeed, is the only merit of which the history of Miss
Andrews can well be accused: that it set Fielding thinking and provoked
him to the composition of the first of his three great novels.  Pamela is
only remembered nowadays as Joseph's sister: the egregious Mr. B--- has
hardly any existence save as Lady Booby's brother.  'Tis an ill wind that
blows good to nobody.  There are few more tedious or more unpleasant
experiences than _Pamela_; _or_, _Virtue Rewarded_.  But you have but to
remember that without it the race might never have heard of Fanny and
Joseph, of the fair Slipslop and the ingenuous Didapper, of Parson
Trulliber and immortal Abraham Adams, to be reconciled to its existence
and the fact of its old-world fame.  Nay, more, to remember its ingenious
author with something of gratitude and esteem.


Nor is this the only charge that can be made and sustained against our
poet.  It is also to be noted in his disparagement that he is the author
of _Sir Charles Grandison_, and that _Sir Charles Grandison_, epic of the
polite virtues, is deadly dull.  'My dear,' says somebody in one of Mr.
Thackeray's books, 'your eternal blue velvet quite tires me.'  That is
the worst of _Sir Charles Grandison_: his eternal blue velvet--his
virtue, that is, his honour, his propriety, his good fortune, his absurd
command over the affections of the other sex, his swordsmanship, his
manliness, his patriotic sentiment, his noble piety--quite tires you.  He
is an ideal, but so very, very tame that it is hard to justify his
existence.  He is too perfect to be of the slightest moral use to
anybody.  He has everything he wants, so that he has no temptation to be
wicked; he is incapable of immorality, so that he is easily quit of all
inducements to be vicious; he has no passions, so that he is superior to
every sort of spiritual contest; he is monstrous clever, so that he has
made up his mind about everything knowable and unknowable; he is
excessively virtuous so that he has made it up in the right direction.  He
is, as Mr. Leslie Stephen remarks, a tedious commentary on the truth of
Mrs. Rawdon Crawley's acute reflection upon the moral effect of five
thousand a year.  He is only a pattern creature, because he has neither
need nor opportunity, neither longing nor capacity, to be anything else.
In real life such faultless monsters are impossible: one does not like to
think what would happen if they were not.  In fiction they are possible
enough, and--what is more to the purpose--they are of necessity
extravagantly dull.  This is what is the matter with Sir Charles.  He is
dull, and he effuses dulness.  By dint of being uninteresting himself he
makes his surroundings uninteresting.  In the record of his adventures
and experiences there is enough of wit and character and invention to
make the fortune of a score or more of such novels as the public of these
degenerate days would hail with enthusiasm.  But his function is to
vitiate them all.  He is a bore of the first magnitude, and of his
eminence in that capacity his history is at once the monument and the


But if _Grandison_ be dull and _Pamela_ contemptible _Clarissa_ remains;
and _Clarissa_ is what Musset called it, 'le premier roman du monde.'  Of
course _Clarissa_ has its faults.  Miss Harlowe, for instance, is not
always herself--is not always the complete creation she affects to be:
there are touches of moral pedantry--anticipations of George Eliot--in
her; the scenes in which she is brought to shame are scarcely real,
living, moving, all the rest of it.  But on the other hand is there
anything better than Lovelace in the whole range of fiction?  Take
Lovelace in all or any of his moods--suppliant, intriguing, repentant,
triumphant, above all triumphant--and find his parallel if you can.
Where, you ask, did the little printer of Salisbury Court--who suggests
to Mr. Stephen 'a plump white mouse in a wig'--where did Richardson
discover so much gallantry and humanity, so much romance and so much
fact, such an abundance of the heroic qualities and the baser veracities
of mortal nature?  Lovelace is, if you except Don Quixote, the completest
hero in fiction.  He has wit, humour, grace, brilliance, charm; he is a
scoundrel and a ruffian, and he is a gentleman and a man; of his kind and
in his degree he has the right Shakespearean quality.  Almost as perfect
in her way is the enchanting Miss Howe--an incarnation of womanliness and
wit and fun, after Lovelace the most brilliant of Richardson's creations.
Or take the Harlowe family: the severe and stupid father, the angry and
selfish uncles, the cub James, the vixen Arabella, a very fiend of envy
and hatred and malice--what a gallery of portraits is here!  And Solmes
and Tomlinson, Belford and Brand and Hickman; and the infinite complexity
of the intrigue; the wit, the pathos, the invention; the knowledge of
human nature; the faculty of dialogue--where save in _Clarissa_ shall we
find all these?  As for Miss Harlowe herself, all incomplete as she is
she remains the Eve of fiction, the prototype of the modern heroine, the
common mother of all the self-contained, self-suffering, self-satisfied
young persons whose delicacies and repugnances, whose independence of
mind and body, whose airs and ideas and imaginings, are the stuff of the
modern novel.  With her begins a new ideal of womanhood; from her
proceeds a type unknown in fact and fiction until she came.  When after
outrage she declines to marry her destroyer, and prefers death to the
condonation of her dishonour, she strikes a note and assumes a position
till then not merely unrecognised but absolutely undiscovered.  It has
been said of her half in jest and half in earnest that she is 'the
aboriginal Woman's Rights person'; and it is a fact that she and Helena
and Desdemona and Ophelia are practically a thousand years apart.  And
this is perhaps her finest virtue as it is certainly her greatest charm:
that, until she set the example, woman in literature as a self-suffering
individuality, as an existence endowed with equal rights to
independence--of choice, volition, action--with man, had not begun to be.
That of itself would suffice to make _Clarissa_ memorable; and that is
the least of its merits.  Consider it from which point you will, the book
remains a masterpiece, unique of its kind.  It has been imitated but it
has never been equalled.  It is Richardson's only title to fame; but it
is enough.  Not the Great Pyramid itself is more solidly built nor more
incapable of ruin.


The Man and the Artist.

There are two men in Tolstoi.  He is a mystic and he is also a realist.
He is addicted to the practice of a pietism that for all its sincerity is
nothing if not vague and sentimental; and he is the most acute and
dispassionate of observers, the most profound and earnest student of
character and emotion.  These antitheses are both represented in his
novels.  He has thought out the scheme of things for himself; his
interpretation, while deeply tinctured with religion, is also largely and
liberally human; he is one to the just and the unjust alike, and he is no
more angry with the wicked than he is partial to the good.  He asks but
one thing of his men and women--that they shall be natural; yet he
handles his humbugs and impostors with as cold a kindness and a
magnanimity as equable as he displays in his treatment of their
opposites.  Indeed his interest in humanity is inexhaustible, and his
understanding of it is well nigh formidable in its union of breadth with
delicacy.  Himself an aristocrat and an official, he is able to
sympathise with the Russian peasant as completely and to express his
sentiments as perfectly as he is able to present the characters and give
utterance to the ambitions and the idiosyncrasies of the class to which
he belongs and might be assumed to have studied best.  It is to be noted,
moreover, that he looks for his material at one or other pole of society.
He is equally at home with officers and privates, with diplomats and
carpenters, with princes and ploughmen; but with the intermediary strata
he is out of touch, and he is careful to leave the task of presenting
them to others.  It is arguable that only in the highest and lowest
expressions of society is unsophisticated nature to be found; and that
Tolstoi, interested less in manners than in men and studious above all of
the elemental qualities of character, has done right to avoid the middle-
class and attach himself to the consideration and the representation of
the highest and the lowest.  Certain it is that here have been his
successes.  The Prince Andrew of _War and Peace_--cultured, intelligent,
earnest, true lover and true gentleman--is as noble a hero as modern
fiction has achieved; but he is no more interesting as a human being and
no more successful as art than the Marianna of _les Cosaques_, who is a
savage pure and simple, or the Efim of _les Deux Vieillards_, who would
seem to the haughty Radical no better than a common idiot.  It is to be
noted of all three--the prince, the savage, and the peasant--that none in
himself is sophisticate nor vile but that each is rich in the common,
simple, elemental qualities of humanity.  It is to these and the
manifestations of these that Tolstoi turns for inspiration first of all.
If he chose he could be as keen a satirist and as indefatigable a student
of the meannesses and the minor miseries of existence, the toothaches and
the pimples of experience, as Thackeray.  But he does not choose.  The
epic note sounds in his work.  The eternal issues of life, the
fundamental interests of character and conduct and emotion, are his
material.  Love, valour, self-sacrifice, charity, the responsibilities of
being, these and their like are the only vital facts to him; they
constitute the really important part of the scheme of things as he sees
and comprehends it.  In their analysis the artist and the mystic meet and
take hands; sometimes to each other's profit, more often, to each other's
hurt.  It is not without significance that no other novelist has looked
so closely and penetrated so far into the secret of death: that none has
divined so much of it, nor presented his results with so complete and
intimate a mastery and so persuasive and inspiring a belief.  Plainly
Tolstoi has learned 'la vraie signification de la vie'; his faith in its
capacities is immense, his acceptance of its consequences is
unhesitating.  He is the great optimist, and his work is wholesome and
encouraging in direct ratio to the vastness of his talent and the
perfection of his method.

 Ivan Iliitch.

Who does not know that extraordinary _Death of Ivan Iliitch_?  It is an
achievement in realism: not the realism of externals and trivial
details--though of this there is enough for art if not for the common
Zolaphyte--but the higher and better sort, the realism which deals with
mental and spiritual conditions, the realism of _Othello_ and _Hamlet_.
There are many deaths in literature, but there is none, I think, in which
the gradual processes of dissolution are analysed and presented with such
knowledge, such force, such terrible directness, as here.  The result is
appalling, but the final impression is one of encouragement and
consolation.  Here, as everywhere, Tolstoi appeals to the primitive
nature of man, and the issue is what he wishes it to be.  Not for him is
the barren pessimism of the latter-day French rhapsodist in fiction, and
the last word of his study, inexorable till then, is a word of hope and

War and Peace.

Incomparably his greatest book, however, is _War and Peace_.  It is the
true Russian epic; alike in the vastness of its scope and in the
completeness of its execution.  It tells the story of the great conflict
between Koutouzoff and Russia and Napoleon and France, it begins some
years before Austerlitz, and it ends when Borodino and Moscow are already
ancient history.  The canvas is immense: the crowd of figures and the
world of incidents almost bewildering.  It is not a complete success.  In
many places the mystic has got the better of the artist: he is
responsible for theories of the art of war which, advanced with the
greatest confidence, are disproved by the simple narrative of events; and
he has made a study of Napoleon in which, for the first and only time in
all his work, he appears as an intemperate advocate.  But when all is
said in blame so much remains to praise that one scarce knows where to
begin.  Tolstoi's theory of war is mystical and untenable, no doubt; but
his pictures of warfare are incomparably good.  None has felt and
reproduced as he has done what may be called the intimacy of battle--the
feeling of the individual soldier, the passion and excitement, the terror
and the fury, that taken collectively make up the influence which
represents the advance or the retreat of an army in combat.  But also, in
a far greater degree, none has dealt so wonderfully with the vaster
incidents, the more tremendous issues.  His Austerlitz is magnificent;
his Borodino is (there is no other word for it) epic; his studies of the
Retreat are almost worthy of what has gone before.  For the first time
what has been called 'the peering modern touch' is here applied to great
events, with the result that here is a book unique in literature.  Of the
characters--Natasha, Peter, Mary, Dennissoff, the Rostoffs, Helen,
Dologhoff, Bagration, Bolkonsky, and the others; above all, Koutouzoff
and Prince Andrew--Prince Andrew the heroic gentleman, Koutouzoff the
genius of Russia and the war--to meet them once is to take on a set of
friends and enemies for life.



Fielding is one of the most striking figures in our literary history, and
he is one of the most popular as well.  But it is questionable if many
people know very much about him after all, or if the Fielding of
legend--the potwalloper of genius at whom we have smiled so often--has
many things in common with the Fielding of fact, the indefatigable
student, the vigorous magistrate, the great and serious artist.  You hear
but little of him from himself; for with that mixture of intellectual
egoism and moral unselfishness which is a characteristic of his large and
liberal nature he was as careless of Henry Fielding's sayings and doings
and as indifferent to the fact of Henry Fielding's life and personality
as he was garrulous in respect of the good qualities of Henry Fielding's
friends and truculently talkative about the vices of Henry Fielding's
enemies.  And what is exactly known people have somehow or other
contrived to misapprehend and misapply.  They have preferred the evidence
of Horace Walpole to that of their own senses.  They have suffered the
brilliant antitheses of Lady Mary to obscure and blur the man as they
might have found him in his work.  Booth and Jones have been taken for
definite and complete reflections of the author of their being: the parts
for the whole, that is--a light-minded captain of foot and a hot-headed
and soft-hearted young man about town for adequate presentments of the
artist of a new departure and the writer of three or four books of
singular solidity and finish.  Whichever way you turn, you are confronted
with appearances each more distorted and more dubious than the other.
Some have chosen to believe the foolish fancies of Murphy, and have
pictured themselves a Fielding begrimed with snuff, heady with champagne,
and smoking so ferociously that out of the wrappings of his tobacco he
could keep himself in paper for the manuscripts of his plays.  For others
the rancour of Smollett calls up a Fielding who divides his time and
energy between blowing a trumpet on a Smithfield show and playing Captain
Bilkum to a flesh-and-blood Stormandra at the establishment of a living,
breathing, working Mother Punchbowl.  With Dr. Rimbault and Professor
Henry Morley others yet evolve from their inner consciousness a Fielding
with a booth in Smithfield, buffooning for the coppers of a Bartlemy Fair
audience.  The accomplished lawyer has had as little place in men's
thoughts as the tender father, the admirable artist as little as the
devoted husband and the steadfast friend.  Fielding has been so often
painted a hard drinker that few have thought of him as a hard reader; he
has been suspected of conjugal infidelity, so it has seemed impossible
that he should be other than a violent Bohemian.  In certain chapters of
_Jonathan Wild the Great_ there is enough of sustained intellectual
effort to furnish forth a hundred modern novels; but you only think of
Fielding reeling home from the Rose, and refuse to consider him except as
sitting down with his head in a wet towel to scribble immodest and
ruffianly trash for the players!  A consequence of all these exercises in
sentiment and imagination has been that, while many have been ready to
deal with Fielding as the text for a sermon or the subject of an essay,
as the point of a moral or the adornment of a tale, few have cared to
think of him as worthy to dispute the palm with Cervantes and Sir Walter
as the heroic man of letters.


He is before all things else a writer to be studied.  He wrote for the
world at large and to the end that he might be read eternally.  His
matter, his manner, the terms of his philosophy, the quality of his
ideals, the nature of his achievement, proclaim him universal.  Like
Scott, like Cervantes, like Shakespeare, he claims not merely our
acquaintance but an intimate and abiding familiarity.  He has no special
public, and to be only on nodding terms with him is to be practically
dead to his attraction and unworthy his society.  He worked not for the
boys and girls of an age but for the men and women of all time; and both
as artist and as thinker he commands unending attention and lifelong
friendship.  He is a great inventor, an unrivalled craftsman, a perfect
master of his material.  His achievement is the result of a life-time of
varied experience, of searching and sustained observation, of unwearying
intellectual endeavour.  The sound and lusty types he created have an
intellectual flavour peculiar to themselves.  His novels teem with ripe
wisdom and generous conclusions and beneficent examples.  As Mr. Stephen
tells you, 'he has the undeniable merit of representing certain aspects
of contemporary society with a force and accuracy not even rivalled by
any other writer'; and it is a fact that not to have studied him 'is to
be without a knowledge of the most important documents of contemporary
history.'  More: to contrast those fair, large parchments in which he has
stated his results with those tattered and filthy papers which the latter-
day literary rag-picker exists but to grope out from kennel and sewer is
to know the difference between the artist in health and the artist
possessed by an idiosyncrasy as by a devil.

The Worst of It.

But the present is an age of sentiment: its ideals and ambitions are
mainly emotional; what it chiefly loves is romance or the affectation of
romance, passion, self-conscious solemnity, and a certain straining after
picturesque effects.  In Fielding's time there was doubtless a good deal
of sentimentalism, for his generation delighted not only in Western and
Trunnion and Mrs. Slipslop but in Pamela and Clarissa and the pathetic Le
Fevre.  But for all that it was--at all events in so far as it was
interesting to Fielding and in so far as Fielding has pictured it--a
generation that knew nothing of romance but was keenly interested in
common sense, and took a vast deal of honest pleasure in humour and wit
and a rather truculent and full-blooded type of satire.  It is plain that
such possibilities of sympathy and understanding as exist between a past
of this sort and such a present as our own must of necessity be few and
small.  Their importance, too, is greatly diminished when you reflect on
the nature and tendency of certain essential elements in Fielding's art
and mind.  The most vigorous and the most individual of these is probably
his irony; the next is that abundant vein of purely intellectual comedy
by whose presence his work is exalted to a place not greatly inferior to
that of the _Misantrope_ and the _Ecole des Femmes_.  These rare and
shining qualities are distinguishing features in the best and soundest
part of Fielding.  Of irony he is probably the greatest English master;
of pure comedy--the intellectual manipulation and transmutation into art
of what is spiritually ridiculous in manners and society--he is both in
narrative and in dialogue the greatest between Shakespeare and Mr. George
Meredith.  And with both our sympathy is imperfect.  We have learned to
be sentimental and self-sufficient with Rousseau, to be romantic and
chivalrous with Scott, to be emotional with Dickens, to take ourselves
seriously with Balzac and George Eliot; there are touches of feeling in
our laughter, even though the feeling be but spite; we have acquired a
habit of politeness--a tradition of universal consideration and respect;
and our theory of satire is rounded by the pleasing generalities of Mr.
Du Maurier on the one hand and the malevolent respectability of Mr. W. S.
Gilbert on the other.  It is an age of easy writing and still easier
reading: our authors produce for us much in the manner of the
silkworm--only their term of life is longer; we accept their results in
something of the spirit of them that are interested, and not
commercially, in the processes of silkworms.  And M. Guy de Maupassant
can write but hath a devil, and we take him not because of his writing
but because of his devil; and Blank and Dash and So-and-So and the rest
could no more than so many sheep develop a single symptom of possession
among them, and we take them because a devil and they are incompatibles.
And art is short and time is long; and we care nothing for art and almost
as much for time; and there is little if any to choose between Mudie's
latest 'catch' and last year's 'sensation' at Burlington House.  And to
one of us it is 'poor Fielding'; and to another Fielding is merely gross,
immoral, and dull; and to most the story of that last journey to Lisbon
is unknown, and Thackeray's dream of Fielding--a novelist's presentment
of a purely fictitious character--is the Fielding who designed and built
and finished for eternity.  Which is to be pitied?  The artist of
_Amelia_ and _Jonathan Wild_, the creator of the Westerns and Parson
Adams and Colonel Bath? or we the whippersnappers of sentiment--the
critics who can neither read nor understand?


Printed by T. and A. CONSTABLE, Printers to Her Majesty,
at the Edinburgh University Press.

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