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´╗┐Title: Essays in Little
Author: Lang, Andrew, 1844-1912
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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Transcribed from the 1891 Henry and Co. edition by David Price, email
ccx074@pglaf.org



ESSAYS IN LITTLE.


by
ANDREW LANG.

_WITH PORTRAIT OF THE AUTHOR_.

LONDON:
HENRY AND CO., BOUVERIE STREET, E.C.
1891.

_Printed by Hazell_, _Watson_, _& Vincy_, _Ld._, _London and Aylesbury_.

CONTENTS.

Preface
Alexandre Dumas
Mr. Stevenson's works
Thomas Haynes Bayly
Theodore de Banville
Homer and the Study of Greek
The Last Fashionable Novel
Thackeray
Dickens
Adventures of Buccaneers
The Sagas
Charles Kingsley
Charles Lever: His books, adventures and misfortunes
The poems of Sir Walter Scott
John Bunyan
To a Young Journalist
Mr. Kipling's stories

{Portrait of Andrew Lang: p0.jpg}



PREFACE


Of the following essays, five are new, and were written for this volume.
They are the paper on Mr. R. L. Stevenson, the "Letter to a Young
Journalist," the study of Mr. Kipling, the note on Homer, and "The Last
Fashionable Novel."  The article on the author of "Oh, no! we never
mention Her," appeared in the New York _Sun_, and was suggested by Mr.
Dana, the editor of that journal.  The papers on Thackeray and Dickens
were published in _Good Words_, that on Dumas appeared in _Scribner's
Magazine_, that on M. Theodore de Banville in _The New Quarterly Review_.
The other essays were originally written for a newspaper "Syndicate."
They have been re-cast, augmented, and, to a great extent, re-written.

A. L.



ALEXANDRE DUMAS


Alexandre Dumas is a writer, and his life is a topic, of which his
devotees never weary.  Indeed, one lifetime is not long enough wherein to
tire of them.  The long days and years of Hilpa and Shalum, in
Addison--the antediluvian age, when a picnic lasted for half a century
and a courtship for two hundred years, might have sufficed for an
exhaustive study of Dumas.  No such study have I to offer, in the brief
seasons of our perishable days.  I own that I have not read, and do not,
in the circumstances, expect to read, all of Dumas, nor even the greater
part of his thousand volumes.  We only dip a cup in that sparkling
spring, and drink, and go on,--we cannot hope to exhaust the fountain,
nor to carry away with us the well itself.  It is but a word of gratitude
and delight that we can say to the heroic and indomitable master, only an
_ave_ of friendship that we can call across the bourne to the shade of
the Porthos of fiction.  That his works (his best works) should be even
still more widely circulated than they are; that the young should read
them, and learn frankness, kindness, generosity--should esteem the tender
heart, and the gay, invincible wit; that the old should read them again,
and find forgetfulness of trouble, and taste the anodyne of dreams, that
is what we desire.

Dumas said of himself ("Memoires," v. 13) that when he was young he tried
several times to read forbidden books--books that are sold _sous le
manteau_.  But he never got farther than the tenth page, in the

      "scrofulous French novel
   On gray paper with blunt type;"

he never made his way so far as

   "the woful sixteenth print."

"I had, thank God, a natural sentiment of delicacy; and thus, out of my
six hundred volumes (in 1852) there are not four which the most
scrupulous mother may not give to her daughter."  Much later, in 1864,
when the _Censure_ threatened one of his plays, he wrote to the Emperor:
"Of my twelve hundred volumes there is not one which a girl in our most
modest quarter, the Faubourg Saint-Germain, may not be allowed to read."
The mothers of the Faubourg, and mothers in general, may not take Dumas
exactly at his word.  There is a passage, for example, in the story of
Miladi ("Les Trois Mousquetaires") which a parent or guardian may well
think undesirable reading for youth.  But compare it with the original
passage in the "Memoires" of D'Artagnan!  It has passed through a medium,
as Dumas himself declared, of natural delicacy and good taste.  His
enormous popularity, the widest in the world of letters, owes absolutely
nothing to prurience or curiosity.  The air which he breathes is a
healthy air, is the open air; and that by his own choice, for he had
every temptation to seek another kind of vogue, and every opportunity.

Two anecdotes are told of Dumas' books, one by M. Edmond About, the other
by his own son, which show, in brief space, why this novelist is so
beloved, and why he deserves our affection and esteem.  M. Villaud, a
railway engineer who had lived much in Italy, Russia, and Spain, was the
person whose enthusiasm finally secured a statue for Dumas.  He felt so
much gratitude to the unknown friend of lonely nights in long exiles,
that he could not be happy till his gratitude found a permanent
expression.  On returning to France he went to consult M. Victor Borie,
who told him this tale about George Sand.  M. Borie chanced to visit the
famous novelist just before her death, and found Dumas' novel, "Les
Quarante Cinq" (one of the cycle about the Valois kings) lying on her
table.  He expressed his wonder that she was reading it for the first
time.

"For the first time!--why, this is the fifth or sixth time I have read
'Les Quarante Cinq,' and the others.  When I am ill, anxious, melancholy,
tired, discouraged, nothing helps me against moral or physical troubles
like a book of Dumas."  Again, M. About says that M. Sarcey was in the
same class at school with a little Spanish boy.  The child was homesick;
he could not eat, he could not sleep; he was almost in a decline.

"You want to see your mother?" said young Sarcey.

"No: she is dead."

"Your father, then?"

"No: he used to beat me."

"Your brothers and sisters?"

"I have none."

"Then why are you so eager to be back in Spain?"

"To finish a book I began in the holidays."

"And what was its name?"

"'Los Tres Mosqueteros'!"

He was homesick for "The Three Musketeers," and they cured him easily.

That is what Dumas does.  He gives courage and life to old age, he charms
away the half-conscious _nostalgie_, the _Heimweh_, of childhood.  We are
all homesick, in the dark days and black towns, for the land of blue
skies and brave adventures in forests, and in lonely inns, on the battle-
field, in the prison, on the desert isle.  And then Dumas comes, and,
like Argive Helen, in Homer, he casts a drug into the wine, the drug
nepenthe, "that puts all evil out of mind."  Does any one suppose that
when George Sand was old and tired, and near her death, she would have
found this anodyne, and this stimulant, in the novels of M. Tolstoi, M.
Dostoiefsky, M. Zola, or any of the "scientific" observers whom we are
actually requested to hail as the masters of a new art, the art of the
future?  Would they make her laugh, as Chicot does? make her forget, as
Porthos, Athos, and Aramis do? take her away from the heavy, familiar
time, as the enchanter Dumas takes us?  No; let it be enough for these
new authors to be industrious, keen, accurate, _precieux_, pitiful,
charitable, veracious; but give us high spirits now and then, a light
heart, a sharp sword, a fair wench, a good horse, or even that old Gascon
rouncy of D'Artagnan's.  Like the good Lord James Douglas, we had liefer
hear the lark sing over moor and down, with Chicot, than listen to the
starved-mouse squeak in the _bouge_ of Therese Raquin, with M. Zola.  Not
that there is not a place and an hour for him, and others like him; but
they are not, if you please, to have the whole world to themselves, and
all the time, and all the praise; they are not to turn the world into a
dissecting-room, time into tedium, and the laurels of Scott and Dumas
into crowns of nettles.

There is no complete life of Alexandre Dumas.  The age has not produced
the intellectual athlete who can gird himself up for that labour.  One of
the worst books that ever was written, if it can be said to be written,
is, I think, the English attempt at a biography of Dumas.  Style,
grammar, taste, feeling, are all bad.  The author does not so much write
a life as draw up an indictment.  The spirit of his work is grudging,
sneering, contemptuous, and pitifully peddling.  The great charge is that
Dumas was a humbug, that he was not the author of his own books, that his
books were written by "collaborators"--above all, by M. Maquet.  There is
no doubt that Dumas had a regular system of collaboration, which he never
concealed.  But whereas Dumas could turn out books that _live_, whoever
his assistants were, could any of his assistants write books that live,
without Dumas?  One might as well call any barrister in good practice a
thief and an impostor because he has juniors to "devil" for him, as make
charges of this kind against Dumas.  He once asked his son to help him;
the younger Alexandre declined.  "It is worth a thousand a year, and you
have only to make objections," the sire urged; but the son was not to be
tempted.  Some excellent novelists of to-day would be much better if they
employed a friend to make objections.  But, as a rule, the collaborator
did much more.  Dumas' method, apparently, was first to talk the subject
over with his _aide-de-camp_.  This is an excellent practice, as ideas
are knocked out, like sparks (an elderly illustration!), by the contact
of minds.  Then the young man probably made researches, put a rough
sketch on paper, and supplied Dumas, as it were, with his "brief."  Then
Dumas took the "brief" and wrote the novel.  He gave it life, he gave it
the spark (_l'etincelle_); and the story lived and moved.

It is true that he "took his own where he found it," like Molere and that
he took a good deal.  In the gallery of an old country-house, on a wet
day, I came once on the "Memoires" of D'Artagnan, where they had lain
since the family bought them in Queen Anne's time.  There were our old
friends the Musketeers, and there were many of their adventures, told at
great length and breadth.  But how much more vivacious they are in Dumas!
M. About repeats a story of Dumas and his ways of work.  He met the great
man at Marseilles, where, indeed, Alexandre chanced to be "on with the
new love" before being completely "off with the old."  Dumas picked up M.
About, literally lifted him in his embrace, and carried him off to see a
play which he had written in three days.  The play was a success; the
supper was prolonged till three in the morning; M. About was almost
asleep as he walked home, but Dumas was as fresh as if he had just got
out of bed.  "Go to sleep, old man," he said: "I, who am only fifty-five,
have three _feuilletons_ to write, which must be posted to-morrow.  If I
have time I shall knock up a little piece for Montigny--the idea is
running in my head."  So next morning M. About saw the three
_feuilletons_ made up for the post, and another packet addressed to M.
Montigny: it was the play _L'Invitation a la Valse_, a chef-d'oeuvre!
Well, the material had been prepared for Dumas.  M. About saw one of his
novels at Marseilles in the chrysalis.  It was a stout copy-book full of
paper, composed by a practised hand, on the master's design.  Dumas
copied out each little leaf on a big leaf of paper, _en y semant l'esprit
a pleines mains_.  This was his method.  As a rule, in collaboration, one
man does the work while the other looks on.  Is it likely that Dumas
looked on?  That was not the manner of Dumas.  "Mirecourt and others," M.
About says, "have wept crocodile tears for the collaborators, the victims
of his glory and his talent.  But it is difficult to lament over the
survivors (1884).  The master neither took their money--for they are
rich, nor their fame--for they are celebrated, nor their merit--for they
had and still have plenty.  And they never bewailed their fate: the
reverse!  The proudest congratulate themselves on having been at so good
a school; and M. Auguste Maquet, the chief of them, speaks with real
reverence and affection of his great friend."  And M. About writes "as
one who had taken the master red-handed, and in the act of
collaboration."  Dumas has a curious note on collaboration in his
"Souvenirs Dramatiques."  Of the two men at work together, "one is always
the dupe, and _he_ is the man of talent."

There is no biography of Dumas, but the small change of a biography
exists in abundance.  There are the many volumes of his "Memoires," there
are all the tomes he wrote on his travels and adventures in Africa,
Spain, Italy, Russia; the book he wrote on his beasts; the romance of
_Ange Pitou_, partly autobiographical; and there are plenty of little
studies by people who knew him.  As to his "Memoires," as to all he wrote
about himself, of course his imagination entered into the narrative.  Like
Scott, when he had a good story he liked to dress it up with a cocked hat
and a sword.  Did he perform all those astonishing and innumerable feats
of strength, skill, courage, address, in revolutions, in voyages, in
love, in war, in cookery?  The narrative need not be taken "at the foot
of the letter"; great as was his force and his courage, his fancy was
greater still.  There is no room for a biography of him here.  His
descent was noble on one side, with or without the bend sinister, which
he said he would never have disclaimed, had it been his, but which he did
not happen to inherit.  On the other side he _may_ have descended from
kings; but, as in the case of "The Fair Cuban," he must have added,
"African, unfortunately."  Did his father perform these mythical feats of
strength? did he lift up a horse between his legs while clutching a
rafter with his hands? did he throw his regiment before him over a wall,
as Guy Heavistone threw the mare which refused the leap ("Memoires," i.
122)?  No doubt Dumas believed what he heard about this ancestor--in
whom, perhaps, one may see a hint of the giant Porthos.  In the
Revolution and in the wars his father won the name of Monsieur de
l'Humanite, because he made a bonfire of a guillotine; and of Horatius
Cocles, because he held a pass as bravely as the Roman "in the brave days
of old."

This was a father to be proud of; and pluck, tenderness, generosity,
strength, remained the favourite virtues of Dumas.  These he preached and
practised.  They say he was generous before he was just; it is to be
feared this was true, but he gave even more freely than he received.  A
regiment of seedy people sponged on him always; he could not listen to a
tale of misery but he gave what he had, and sometimes left himself short
of a dinner.  He could not even turn a dog out of doors.  At his
Abbotsford, "Monte Cristo," the gates were open to everybody but
bailiffs.  His dog asked other dogs to come and stay: twelve came, making
thirteen in all.  The old butler wanted to turn them adrift, and Dumas
consented, and repented.

"Michel," he said, "there are some expenses which a man's social position
and the character which he has had the ill-luck to receive from heaven
force upon him.  I don't believe these dogs ruin me.  Let them bide!  But,
in the interests of their own good luck, see they are not thirteen, an
unfortunate number!"

"Monsieur, I'll drive one of them away."

"No, no, Michel; let a fourteenth come.  These dogs cost me some three
pounds a month," said Dumas.  "A dinner to five or six friends would cost
thrice as much, and, when they went home, they would say my wine was
good, but certainly that my books were bad."  In this fashion Dumas fared
royally "to the dogs," and his Abbotsford ruined him as certainly as that
other unhappy palace ruined Sir Walter.  He, too, had his miscellaneous
kennel; he, too, gave while he had anything to give, and, when he had
nothing else, gave the work of his pen.  Dumas tells how his big dog,
Mouton once flew at him and bit one of his hands, while the other held
the throat of the brute.  "Luckily my hand, though small, is powerful;
what it once holds it holds long--money excepted."  He could not "haud a
guid grip o' the gear."  Neither Scott nor Dumas could shut his ears to a
prayer or his pockets to a beggar, or his doors on whoever knocked at
them.

"I might at least have asked him to dinner," Scott was heard murmuring,
when some insufferable bore at last left Abbotsford, after wasting his
time and nearly wearing out his patience.  Neither man _preached_
socialism; both practised it on the Aristotelian principle: the goods of
friends are common, and men are our friends.

* * * * *

The death of Dumas' father, while the son was a child, left Madame Dumas
in great poverty at Villers Cotterets.  Dumas' education was sadly to
seek.  Like most children destined to be bookish, he taught himself to
read very young: in Buffon, the Bible, and books of mythology.  He knew
all about Jupiter--like David Copperfield's Tom Jones, "a child's
Jupiter, an innocent creature"--all about every god, goddess, fawn,
dryad, nymph--and he never forgot this useful information.  Dear
Lempriere, thou art superseded; but how much more delightful thou art
than the fastidious Smith or the learned Preller!  Dumas had one volume
of the "Arabian Nights," with Aladdin's lamp therein, the sacred lamp
which he was to keep burning with a flame so brilliant and so steady.  It
is pleasant to know that, in his boyhood, this great romancer loved
Virgil.  "Little as is my Latin, I have ever adored Virgil: his
tenderness for exiles, his melancholy vision of death, his foreboding of
an unknown God, have always moved me; the melody of his verses charmed me
most, and they lull me still between asleep and awake."  School days did
not last long: Madame Dumas got a little post--a licence to sell
tobacco--and at fifteen Dumas entered a notary's office, like his great
Scotch forerunner.  He was ignorant of his vocation for the stage--Racine
and Corneille fatigued him prodigiously--till he saw _Hamlet_: _Hamlet_
diluted by Ducis.  He had never heard of Shakespeare, but here was
something he could appreciate.  Here was "a profound impression, full of
inexplicable emotion, vague desires, fleeting lights, that, so far, lit
up only a chaos."

Oddly enough, his earliest literary essay was the translation of Burger's
"Lenore."  Here, again, he encounters Scott; but Scott translated the
ballad, and Dumas failed.  _Les mortes vont vite_! the same refrain woke
poetry in both the Frenchman and the Scotchman.

   "Ha! ha! the Dead can ride with speed:
      Dost fear to ride with me?"

So Dumas' literary career began with a defeat, but it was always a
beginning.  He had just failed with "Lenore," when Leuven asked him to
collaborate in a play.  He was utterly ignorant, he says; he had not
succeeded in gallant efforts to read through "Gil Blas" and "Don
Quixote."  "To my shame," he writes, "the man has not been more fortunate
with those masterpieces than the boy."  He had not yet heard of Scott,
Cooper, Goethe; he had heard of Shakespeare only as a barbarian.  Other
plays the boy wrote--failures, of course--and then Dumas poached his way
to Paris, shooting partridges on the road, and paying the hotel expenses
by his success in the chase.  He was introduced to the great Talma: what
a moment for Talma, had he known it!  He saw the theatres.  He went home,
but returned to Paris, drew a small prize in a lottery, and sat next a
gentleman at the play, a gentleman who read the rarest of Elzevirs, "Le
Pastissier Francais," and gave him a little lecture on Elzevirs in
general.  Soon this gentleman began to hiss the piece, and was turned
out.  He was Charles Nodier, and one of the anonymous authors of the play
he was hissing!  I own that this amusing chapter lacks verisimilitude.  It
reads as if Dumas had chanced to "get up" the subject of Elzevirs, and
had fashioned his new knowledge into a little story.  He could make a
story out of anything--he "turned all to favour and to prettiness."  Could
I translate the whole passage, and print it here, it would be longer than
this article; but, ah, how much more entertaining!  For whatever Dumas
did he did with such life, spirit, wit, he told it with such vivacity,
that his whole career is one long romance of the highest quality.
Lassagne told him he must read--must read Goethe, Scott, Cooper,
Froissart, Joinville, Brantome.  He read them to some purpose.  He
entered the service of the Duc d'Orleans as a clerk, for he wrote a clear
hand, and, happily, wrote at astonishing speed.  He is said to have
written a short play in a cottage where he went to rest for an hour or
two after shooting all the morning.  The practice in a notary's office
stood him, as it stood Scott, in good stead.  When a dog bit his hand he
managed to write a volume without using his thumb.  I have tried it, but
forbear--in mercy to the printers.  He performed wild feats of rapid
caligraphy when a clerk under the Duc d'Orleans, and he wrote his plays
in one "hand," his novels in another.  The "hand" used in his dramas he
acquired when, in days of poverty, he used to write in bed.  To this
habit he also attributed the _brutalite_ of his earlier pieces, but there
seems to be no good reason why a man should write like a brute because it
is in bed that he writes.

In those days of small things he fought his first duel, and made a study
of Fear and Courage.  His earliest impulse was to rush at danger; if he
had to wait, he felt his courage oozing out at the tips of his fingers,
like Bob Acres, but in the moment of peril he was himself again.  In
dreams he was a coward, because, as he argues, the natural man _is_ a
poltroon, and conscience, honour, all the spiritual and commanding part
of our nature, goes to sleep in dreams.  The animal terror asserts itself
unchecked.  It is a theory not without exceptions.  In dreams one has
plenty of conscience (at least that is my experience), though it usually
takes the form of remorse.  And in dreams one often affronts dangers
which, in waking hours, one might probably avoid if one could.

* * * * *

Dumas' first play, an unimportant vaudeville, was acted in 1825.  His
first novels were also published then; he took part of the risk, and only
four copies were sold.  He afterward used the ideas in more mature works,
as Mr. Sheridan Le Fanu employed three or four times (with perfect
candour and fairness) the most curious incident in "Uncle Silas."  Like
Mr. Arthur Pendennis, Dumas at this time wrote poetry "up to" pictures
and illustrations.  It is easy, but seldom lucrative work.  He translated
a play of Schiller's into French verse, chiefly to gain command of that
vehicle, for his heart was fixed on dramatic success.  Then came the
visit of Kean and other English actors to Paris.  He saw the true
_Hamlet_, and, for the first time on any stage, "the play of real
passions."  Emulation woke in him: a casual work of art led him to the
story of Christina of Sweden, he wrote his play _Christine_ (afterward
reconstructed); he read it to Baron Taylor, who applauded; the Comedie
Francaise accepted it, but a series of intrigues disappointed him, after
all.  His energy at this moment was extraordinary, for he was very poor,
his mother had a stroke of paralysis, his bureau was always bullying and
interfering with him.  But nothing could snub this "force of nature," and
he immediately produced his _Henri Trois_, the first romantic drama of
France.  This had an instant and noisy success, and the first night of
the play he spent at the theatre, and at the bedside of his unconscious
mother.  The poor lady could not even understand whence the flowers came
that he laid on her couch, the flowers thrown to the young man--yesterday
unknown, and to-day the most famous of contemporary names.  All this tale
of triumph, checkered by enmities and diversified by duels, Dumas tells
with the vigour and wit of his novels.  He is his own hero, and loses
nothing in the process; but the other characters--Taylor, Nodier, the Duc
d'Orleans, the spiteful press-men, the crabbed old officials--all live
like the best of the persons in his tales.  They call Dumas vain: he had
reason to be vain, and no candid or generous reader will be shocked by
his pleasant, frank, and artless enjoyment of himself and of his
adventures.  Oddly enough, they are small-minded and small-hearted people
who are most shocked by what they call "vanity" in the great.  Dumas'
delight in himself and his doings is only the flower of his vigorous
existence, and in his "Memoires," at least, it is as happy and
encouraging as his laugh, or the laugh of Porthos; it is a kind of
radiance, in which others, too, may bask and enjoy themselves.  And yet
it is resented by tiny scribblers, frozen in their own chill
self-conceit.

There is nothing incredible (if modern researches are accurate) in the
stories he tells of his own success in Hypnotism, as it is called now,
Mesmerism or Magnetism as it was called then.  Who was likely to possess
these powers, if not this good-humoured natural force?  "I believe that,
by aid of magnetism, a bad man might do much mischief.  I doubt whether,
by help of magnetism, a good man can do the slightest good," he says,
probably with perfect justice.  His dramatic success fired Victor Hugo,
and very pleasant it is to read Dumas' warm-hearted praise of that great
poet.  Dumas had no jealousy--no more than Scott.  As he believed in no
success without talent, so he disbelieved in genius which wins no
success.  "Je ne crois pas au talent ignore, au genie inconnu, moi."
Genius he saluted wherever he met it, but was incredulous about invisible
and inaudible genius; and I own to sharing his scepticism.  People who
complain of Dumas' vanity may be requested to observe that he seems just
as "vain" of Hugo's successes, or of Scribe's, as of his own, and just as
much delighted by them.

He was now struck, as he walked on the boulevard one day, by the first
idea of _Antony_--an idea which, to be fair, seems rather absurd than
tragic, to some tastes.  "A lover, caught with a married woman, kills her
to save her character, and dies on the scaffold."  Here is indeed a part
to tear a cat in!

* * * * *

The performances of M. Dumas during the Revolution of 1830, are they not
written in the Book of the Chronicles of Alexandre the Great?  But they
were not literary excellences which he then displayed, and we may leave
this king-maker to hover, "like an eagle, above the storms of anarchy."

Even to sketch his later biography is beyond our province.  In 1830 he
had forty years to run, and he filled the cup of the Hours to the brim
with activity and adventure.  His career was one of unparalleled
production, punctuated by revolutions, voyages, exiles, and other
intervals of repose.  The tales he tells of his prowess in 1830, and with
Garibaldi, seem credible to me, and are borne out, so far, by the
narrative of M. Maxime Ducamp, who met him at Naples, in the Garibaldian
camp.  Like Mr. Jingle, in "Pickwick," he "banged the field-piece,
twanged the lyre," and was potting at the foes of the republic with a
double-barrelled gun, when he was not composing plays, romances, memoirs,
criticisms.  He has told the tale of his adventures with the Comedie
Francaise, where the actors laughed at his _Antony_, and where Madame
Mars and he quarrelled and made it up again.  His plays often won an
extravagant success; his novels--his great novels, that is--made all
Europe his friend.  He gained large sums of money, which flowed out of
his fingers, though it is said by some that his Abbotsford, Monte Cristo,
was no more a palace than the villa which a retired tradesman builds to
shelter his old age.  But the money disappeared as fast as if Monte
Cristo had really been palatial, and worthy of the fantasy of a Nero.  He
got into debt, fled to Belgium, returned, founded the _Mousquetaire_, a
literary paper of the strangest and most shiftless kind.  In "Alexandre
Dumas a la Maison d'Or," M. Philibert Audebrand tells the tale of this
Micawber of newspapers.  Everything went into it, good or bad, and the
name of Dumas was expected to make all current coin.  For Dumas,
unluckily, was as prodigal of his name as of his gold, and no reputation
could bear the drafts he made on his celebrity.  His son says, in the
preface to _Le Fils Naturel_: "Tragedy, dramas, history, romance, comedy,
travel, you cast all of them in the furnace and the mould of your brain,
and you peopled the world of fiction with new creations.  The newspaper,
the book, the theatre, burst asunder, too narrow for your puissant
shoulders; you fed France, Europe, America with your works; you made the
wealth of publishers, translators, plagiarists; printers and copyists
toiled after you in vain.  In the fever of production you did not always
try and prove the metal which you employed, and sometimes you tossed into
the furnace whatever came to your hand.  The fire made the selection:
what was your own is bronze, what was not yours vanished in smoke."

The simile is noble and worthy of the Cyclopean craftsman, Dumas.  His
great works endured; the plays which renewed the youth of the French
stage, the novels which Thackeray loved to praise, these remain, and we
trust they may always remain, to the delight of mankind and for the
sorrow of prigs.

* * * * *

So much has been written of Dumas' novels that criticism can hardly hope
to say more that is both new and true about them.  It is acknowledged
that, in such a character as Henri III., Dumas made history live, as
magically as Scott revived the past in his Louis XI., or Balfour of
Burley.  It is admitted that Dumas' good tales are told with a vigour and
life which rejoice the heart; that his narrative is never dull, never
stands still, but moves with a freedom of adventure which perhaps has no
parallel.  He may fall short of the humour, the kindly wisdom, the genial
greatness of Sir Walter at his best, and he has not that supernatural
touch, that tragic grandeur, which Scott inherits from Homer and from
Shakespeare.  In another Homeric quality, [Greek text], as Homer himself
calls it, in the "delight of battle" and the spirit of the fray, Scott
and Dumas are alike masters.  Their fights and the fights in the
Icelandic sagas are the best that have ever been drawn by mortal man.
When swords are aloft, in siege or on the greensward, or in the midnight
chamber where an ambush is laid, Scott and Dumas are indeed themselves.
The steel rings, the bucklers clash, the parry and lunge pass and answer
too swift for the sight.  If Dumas has not, as he certainly has not, the
noble philosophy and kindly knowledge of the heart which are Scott's, he
is far more swift, more witty, more diverting.  He is not prolix, his
style is not involved, his dialogue is as rapid and keen as an assault at
arms.  His favourite virtues and graces, we repeat it, are loyalty,
friendship, gaiety, generosity, courage, beauty, and strength.  He is
himself the friend of the big, stupid, excellent Porthos; of Athos, the
noble and melancholy swordsman of sorrow; of D'Artagnan, the indomitable,
the trusty, the inexhaustible in resource; but his heart is never on the
side of the shifty Aramis, with all his beauty, dexterity, bravery, and
brilliance.  The brave Bussy, and the chivalrous, the doomed La Mole, are
more dear to him; and if he embellishes their characters, giving them
charms and virtues that never were theirs, history loses nothing, and
romance and we are the gainers.  In all he does, at his best, as in the
"Chevalier d'Harmenthal," he has movement, kindness, courage, and gaiety.
His philosophy of life is that old philosophy of the sagas and of Homer.
Let us enjoy the movement of the fray, the faces of fair women, the taste
of good wine; let us welcome life like a mistress, let us welcome death
like a friend, and with a jest--if death comes with honour.

Dumas is no pessimist.  "Heaven has made but one drama for man--the
world," he writes, "and during these three thousand years mankind has
been hissing it."  It is certain that, if a moral censorship could have
prevented it, this great drama of mortal passions would never have been
licensed, at all, never performed.  But Dumas, for one, will not hiss it,
but applauds with all his might--a charmed spectator, a fortunate actor
in the eternal piece, where all the men and women are only players.  You
hear his manly laughter, you hear his mighty hands approving, you see the
tears he sheds when he had "slain Porthos"--great tears like those of
Pantagruel.

* * * * *

His may not be the best, nor the ultimate philosophy, but it _is_ a
philosophy, and one of which we may some day feel the want.  I read the
stilted criticisms, the pedantic carpings of some modern men who cannot
write their own language, and I gather that Dumas is out of date.  There
is a new philosophy of doubts and delicacies, of dallyings and
refinements, of half-hearted lookers-on, desiring and fearing some new
order of the world.  Dumas does not dally nor doubt: he takes his side,
he rushes into the smoke, he strikes his foe; but there is never an
unkind word on his lip, nor a grudging thought in his heart.

It may be said that Dumas is not a master of words and phrases, that he
is not a _raffine_ of expression, nor a jeweller of style.  When I read
the maunderings, the stilted and staggering sentences, the hesitating
phrases, the far-sought and dear-bought and worthless word-juggles; the
sham scientific verbiage, the native pedantries of many modern so-called
"stylists," I rejoice that Dumas was not one of these.  He told a plain
tale, in the language suited to a plain tale, with abundance of wit and
gaiety, as in the reflections of his Chicot, as in all his dialogues.  But
he did not gnaw the end of his pen in search of some word that nobody had
ever used in this or that connection before.  The right word came to him,
the simple straightforward phrase.  Epithet-hunting may be a pretty
sport, and the bag of the epithet-hunter may contain some agreeable
epigrams and rare specimens of style; but a plain tale of adventure, of
love and war, needs none of this industry, and is even spoiled by
inopportune diligence.  Speed, directness, lucidity are the
characteristics of Dumas' style, and they are exactly the characteristics
which his novels required.  Scott often failed, his most loyal admirers
may admit, in these essentials; but it is rarely that Dumas fails, when
he is himself and at his best.

* * * * *

In spite of his heedless education, Dumas had true critical qualities,
and most admired the best things.  We have already seen how he writes
about Shakespeare, Virgil, Goethe, Scott.  But it may be less familiarly
known that this burly man-of-all-work, ignorant as he was of Greek, had a
true and keen appreciation of Homer.  Dumas declares that he only thrice
criticised his contemporaries in an unfavourable sense, and as one
wishful to find fault.  The victims were Casimir Delavigne, Scribe, and
Ponsard.  On each occasion Dumas declares that, after reflecting, he saw
that he was moved by a little personal pique, not by a disinterested love
of art.  He makes his confession with a rare nobility of candour; and yet
his review of Ponsard is worthy of him.  M. Ponsard, who, like Dumas, was
no scholar, wrote a play styled _Ulysse_, and borrowed from the Odyssey.
Dumas follows Ponsard, Odyssey in hand, and while he proves that the
dramatist failed to understand Homer, proves that he himself was, in
essentials, a capable Homeric critic.  Dumas understands that far-off
heroic age.  He lives in its life and sympathises with its temper.  Homer
and he are congenial; across the great gulf of time they exchange smiles
and a salute.

"Oh! ancient Homer, dear and good and noble, I am minded now and again to
leave all and translate thee--I, who have never a word of Greek--so empty
and so dismal are the versions men make of thee, in verse or in prose."

How Dumas came to divine Homer, as it were, through a language he knew
not, who shall say?  He _did_ divine him by a natural sympathy of
excellence, and his chapters on the "Ulysse" of Ponsard are worth a
wilderness of notes by learned and most un-Homeric men.  For, indeed, who
can be less like the heroic minstrel than the academic philologist?

This universality deserves note.  The Homeric student who takes up a
volume of Dumas at random finds that he is not only Homeric naturally,
but that he really knows his Homer.  What did he nor know?  His rapidity
in reading must have been as remarkable as his pace with the pen.  As M.
Blaze de Bury says: "Instinct, experience, memory were all his; he sees
at a glance, he compares in a flash, he understands without conscious
effort, he forgets nothing that he has read."  The past and present are
photographed imperishably on his brain, he knows the manners of all ages
and all countries, the names of all the arms that men have used, all the
garments they have worn, all the dishes they have tasted, all the terms
of all professions, from swordsmanship to coach-building.  Other authors
have to wait, and hunt for facts; nothing stops Dumas: he knows and
remembers everything.  Hence his rapidity, his facility, his positive
delight in labour: hence it came that he might be heard, like Dickens,
laughing while he worked.

* * * * *

This is rather a eulogy than a criticism of Dumas.  His faults are on the
surface, visible to all men.  He was not only rapid, he was hasty, he was
inconsistent; his need of money as well as his love of work made him put
his hand to dozens of perishable things.  A beginner, entering the forest
of Dumas' books, may fail to see the trees for the wood.  He may be
counselled to select first the cycle of d'Artagnan--the "Musketeers,"
"Twenty Years After," and the "Vicomte de Bragelonne."  Mr. Stevenson's
delightful essay on the last may have sent many readers to it; I confess
to preferring the youth of the "Musketeers" to their old age.  Then there
is the cycle of the Valois, whereof the "Dame de Monsereau" is the
best--perhaps the best thing Dumas ever wrote.  The "Tulipe Noire" is a
novel girls may read, as Thackeray said, with confidence.  The "Chevalier
d'Harmenthal" is nearly (not quite) as good as "Quentin Durward."  "Monte
Cristo" has the best beginning--and loses itself in the sands.  The
novels on the Revolution are not among the most alluring: the famed
device "L. P. D." (_lilia pedibus destrue_) has the bad luck to suggest
"London Parcels Delivery."  That is an accident, but the Revolution is in
itself too terrible and pitiful, and too near us (on both sides!) for
fiction.

On Dumas' faults it has been no pleasure to dwell.  In a recent work I
find the Jesuit Le Moyne quoted, saying about Charles V.: "What need that
future ages should be made acquainted so religious an Emperor was not
always chaste!"  The same reticence allures one in regard to so
delightful an author as Dumas.  He who had enriched so many died poor; he
who had told of conquering France, died during the Terrible Year.  But he
could forgive, could appreciate, the valour of an enemy.  Of the Scotch
at Waterloo he writes: "It was not enough to kill them: we had to push
them down."  Dead, they still stood "shoulder to shoulder."  In the same
generous temper an English cavalry officer wrote home, after Waterloo,
that he would gladly have given the rest of his life to have served, on
that day, in our infantry or in the French cavalry.  These are the
spirits that warm the heart, that make us all friends; and to the great,
the brave, the generous Dumas we cry, across the years and across the
tomb, our _Ave atque vale_!



MR. STEVENSON'S WORKS


Perhaps the first quality in Mr. Stevenson's works, now so many and so
various, which strikes a reader, is the buoyancy, the survival of the
child in him.  He has told the world often, in prose and verse, how vivid
are his memories of his own infancy.  This retention of childish
recollections he shares, no doubt, with other people of genius: for
example, with George Sand, whose legend of her own infancy is much more
entertaining, and perhaps will endure longer, than her novels.  Her
youth, like Scott's and like Mr. Stevenson's, was passed all in fantasy:
in playing at being some one else, in the invention of imaginary
characters, who were living to her, in the fabrication of endless
unwritten romances.  Many persons, who do not astonish the world by their
genius, have lived thus in their earliest youth.  But, at a given moment,
the fancy dies out of them: this often befalls imaginative boys in their
first year at school.  "Many are called, few chosen"; but it may be said
with probable truth, that there has never been a man of genius in
letters, whose boyhood was not thus fantastic, "an isle of dreams."  We
know how Scott and De Quincey inhabited airy castles; and Gillies tells
us, though Lockhart does not, that Scott, in manhood, was occasionally so
lost in thought, that he knew not where he was nor what he was doing.

The peculiarity of Mr. Stevenson is not only to have been a fantastic
child, and to retain, in maturity, that fantasy ripened into imagination:
he has also kept up the habit of dramatising everything, of playing, half
consciously, many parts, of making the world "an unsubstantial fairy
place."  This turn of mind it is that causes his work occasionally to
seem somewhat freakish.  Thus, in the fogs and horrors of London, he
plays at being an Arabian tale-teller, and his "New Arabian Nights" are a
new kind of romanticism--Oriental, freakish, like the work of a
changeling.  Indeed, this curious genius, springing from a family of
Scottish engineers, resembles nothing so much as one of the fairy
children, whom the ladies of Queen Proserpina's court used to leave in
the cradles of Border keeps or of peasants' cottages.  Of the Scot he has
little but the power of touching us with a sense of the supernatural, and
a decided habit of moralising; for no Scot of genius has been more
austere with Robert Burns.  On the other hand, one element of Mr.
Stevenson's ethical disquisitions is derived from his dramatic habit.  His
optimism, his gay courage, his habit of accepting the world as very well
worth living in and looking at, persuaded one of his critics that he was
a hard-hearted young athlete of iron frame.  Now, of the athlete he has
nothing but his love of the open air: it is the eternal child that drives
him to seek adventures and to sojourn among beach-combers and savages.
Thus, an admiring but far from optimistic critic may doubt whether Mr.
Stevenson's content with the world is not "only his fun," as Lamb said of
Coleridge's preaching; whether he is but playing at being the happy
warrior in life; whether he is not acting that part, himself to himself.
At least, it is a part fortunately conceived and admirably sustained: a
difficult part too, whereas that of the pessimist is as easy as whining.

Mr. Stevenson's work has been very much written about, as it has engaged
and delighted readers of every age, station, and character.  Boys, of
course, have been specially addressed in the books of adventure, children
in "A Child's Garden of Verse," young men and maidens in "Virginibus
Puerisque,"--all ages in all the curiously varied series of volumes.
"Kidnapped" was one of the last books which the late Lord Iddesleigh
read; and I trust there is no harm in mentioning the pleasure which Mr.
Matthew Arnold took in the same story.  Critics of every sort have been
kind to Mr. Stevenson, in spite of the fact that the few who first became
acquainted with his genius praised it with all the warmth of which they
were masters.  Thus he has become a kind of classic in his own day, for
an undisputed reputation makes a classic while it lasts.  But was ever so
much fame won by writings which might be called scrappy and desultory by
the _advocatus diaboli_?  It is a most miscellaneous literary baggage
that Mr. Stevenson carries.  First, a few magazine articles; then two
little books of sentimental journeyings, which convince the reader that
Mr. Stevenson is as good company to himself as his books are to others.
Then came a volume or two of essays, literary and social, on books and
life.  By this time there could be no doubt that Mr. Stevenson had a
style of his own, modelled to some extent on the essayists of the last
century, but with touches of Thackeray; with original breaks and turns,
with a delicate freakishness, in short, and a determined love of saying
things as the newspapers do not say them.  All this work undoubtedly
smelt a trifle of the lamp, and was therefore dear to some, and an
offence to others.  For my part, I had delighted in the essays, from the
first that appeared in _Macmillan's Magazine_, shortly after the Franco-
German war.  In this little study, "Ordered South," Mr. Stevenson was
employing himself in extracting all the melancholy pleasure which the
Riviera can give to a wearied body and a mind resisting the clouds of
early malady,

   "Alas, the worn and broken board,
      How can it bear the painter's dye!
   The harp of strained and tuneless chord,
      How to the minstrel's skill reply!
   To aching eyes each landscape lowers,
      To feverish pulse each gale blows chill,
   And Araby's or Eden's bowers
      Were barren as this moorland hill,"--

wrote Scott, in an hour of malady and depression.  But this was not the
spirit of "Ordered South": the younger soul rose against the tyranny of
the body; and that familiar glamour which, in illness, robs Tintoretto of
his glow, did not spoil the midland sea to Mr. Stevenson.  His gallant
and cheery stoicism were already with him; and so perfect, if a trifle
overstudied, was his style, that one already foresaw a new and charming
essayist.

But none of those early works, nor the delightful book on Edinburgh,
prophesied of the story teller.  Mr. Stevenson's first published tales,
the "New Arabian Nights," originally appeared in a quaintly edited weekly
paper, which nobody read, or nobody but the writers in its columns.  They
welcomed the strange romances with rejoicings: but perhaps there was only
one of them who foresaw that Mr. Stevenson's _forte_ was to be fiction,
not essay writing; that he was to appeal with success to the large
public, and not to the tiny circle who surround the essayist.  It did not
seem likely that our incalculable public would make themselves at home in
those fantastic purlieus which Mr. Stevenson's fancy discovered near the
Strand.  The impossible Young Man with the Cream Tarts, the ghastly
revels of the Suicide Club, the Oriental caprices of the Hansom Cabs--who
could foresee that the public would taste them!  It is true that Mr.
Stevenson's imagination made the President of the Club, and the cowardly
member, Mr. Malthus, as real as they were terrible.  His romance always
goes hand in hand with reality; and Mr. Malthus is as much an actual man
of skin and bone, as Silas Lapham is a man of flesh and blood.  The world
saw this, and applauded the "Noctes of Prince Floristan," in a fairy
London.

Yet, excellent and unique as these things were, Mr. Stevenson had not yet
"found himself."  It would be more true to say that he had only
discovered outlying skirts of his dominions.  Has he ever hit on the road
to the capital yet? and will he ever enter it laurelled, and in triumph?
That is precisely what one may doubt, not as without hope.  He is always
making discoveries in his realm; it is less certain that he will enter
its chief city in state.  His next work was rather in the nature of
annexation and invasion than a settling of his own realms.  "Prince Otto"
is not, to my mind, a ruler in his proper soil.  The provinces of George
Sand and of Mr. George Meredith have been taken captive.  "Prince Otto"
is fantastic indeed, but neither the fantasy nor the style is quite Mr.
Stevenson's.  There are excellent passages, and the Scotch soldier of
fortune is welcome, and the ladies abound in subtlety and wit.  But the
book, at least to myself, seems an extremely elaborate and skilful
_pastiche_.  I cannot believe in the persons.  I vaguely smell a moral
allegory (as in "Will of the Mill").  I do not clearly understand what it
is all about.  The scene is fairyland; but it is not the fairyland of
Perrault.  The ladies are beautiful and witty; but they are escaped from
a novel of Mr. Meredith's, and have no business here.  The book is no
more Mr. Stevenson's than "The Tale of Two Cities" was Mr. Dickens's.

It was probably by way of mere diversion and child's play that Mr.
Stevenson began "Treasure Island."  He is an amateur of boyish pleasures
of masterpieces at a penny plain and twopence coloured.  Probably he had
looked at the stories of adventure in penny papers which only boys read,
and he determined sportively to compete with their unknown authors.
"Treasure Island" came out in such a periodical, with the emphatic
woodcuts which adorn them.  It is said that the puerile public was not
greatly stirred.  A story is a story, and they rather preferred the
regular purveyors.  The very faint archaism of the style may have
alienated them.  But, when "Treasure Island" appeared as a real book,
then every one who had a smack of youth left was a boy again for some
happy hours.  Mr. Stevenson had entered into another province of his
realm: the king had come to his own again.

They say the seamanship is inaccurate; I care no more than I do for the
year 30.  They say too many people are killed.  They all died in fair
fight, except a victim of John Silver's.  The conclusion is a little too
like part of Poe's most celebrated tale, but nobody has bellowed
"Plagiarist!"  Some people may not look over a fence: Mr. Stevenson, if
he liked, might steal a horse,--the animal in this case is only a
skeleton.  A very sober student might add that the hero is impossibly
clever; but, then, the hero is a boy, and this is a boy's book.  For the
rest, the characters live.  Only genius could have invented John Silver,
that terribly smooth-spoken mariner.  Nothing but genius could have drawn
that simple yokel on the island, with his craving for cheese as a
Christian dainty.  The blustering Billy Bones is a little masterpiece:
the blind Pew, with his tapping stick (there are three such blind tappers
in Mr. Stevenson's books), strikes terror into the boldest.  Then, the
treasure is thoroughly satisfactory in kind, and there is plenty of it.
The landscape, as in the feverish, fog-smothered flat, is gallantly
painted.  And there are no interfering petticoats in the story.

As for the "Black Arrow," I confess to sharing the disabilities of the
"Critic on the Hearth," to whom it is dedicated.  "Kidnapped" is less a
story than a fragment; but it is a noble fragment.  Setting aside the
wicked old uncle, who in his later behaviour is of the house of Ralph
Nickleby, "Kidnapped" is all excellent--perhaps Mr. Stevenson's
masterpiece.  Perhaps, too, only a Scotchman knows how good it is, and
only a Lowland Scot knows how admirable a character is the dour, brave,
conceited David Balfour.  It is like being in Scotland again to come on
"the green drive-road running wide through the heather," where David
"took his last look of Kirk Essendean, the trees about the manse, and the
big rowans in the kirkyard, where his father and mother lay."  Perfectly
Scotch, too, is the mouldering, empty house of the Miser, with the
stamped leather on the walls.  And the Miser is as good as a Scotch
Trapbois, till he becomes homicidal, and then one fails to recognise him
unless he is a little mad, like that other frantic uncle in "The Merry
Men."  The scenes on the ship, with the boy who is murdered, are better--I
think more real--than the scenes of piratical life in "The Master of
Ballantrae."  The fight in the Round House, even if it were exaggerated,
would be redeemed by the "Song of the Sword of Alan."  As to Alan Breck
himself, with his valour and vanity, his good heart, his good conceit of
himself, his fantastic loyalty, he is absolutely worthy of the hand that
drew Callum Bey and the Dougal creature.  It is just possible that we
see, in "Kidnapped," more signs of determined labour, more evidence of
touches and retouches, than in "Rob Roy."  In nothing else which it
attempts is it inferior; in mastery of landscape, as in the scene of the
lonely rock in a dry and thirsty land, it is unsurpassed.  If there are
signs of laboured handling on Alan, there are none in the sketches of
Cluny and of Rob Roy's son, the piper.  What a generous artist is Alan!
"Robin Oig," he said, when it was done, "ye are a great piper.  I am not
fit to blow in the same kingdom with you.  Body of me! ye have mair music
in your sporran than I have in my head."

"Kidnapped," we said, is a fragment.  It ends anywhere, or nowhere, as if
the pen had dropped from a weary hand.  Thus, and for other reasons, one
cannot pretend to set what is not really a whole against such a rounded
whole as "Rob Roy," or against "The Legend of Montrose."  Again,
"Kidnapped" is a novel without a woman in it: not here is Di Vernon, not
here is Helen McGregor.  David Balfour is the pragmatic Lowlander; he
does not bear comparison, excellent as he is, with Baillie Nicol Jarvie,
the humorous Lowlander: he does not live in the memory like the immortal
Baillie.  It is as a series of scenes and sketches that "Kidnapped" is
unmatched among Mr. Stevenson's works.

In "The Master of Ballantrae" Mr. Stevenson makes a gallant effort to
enter what I have ventured to call the capital of his kingdom.  He does
introduce a woman, and confronts the problems of love as well as of
fraternal hatred.  The "Master" is studied, is polished _ad unguem_; it
is a whole in itself, it is a remarkably daring attempt to write the
tragedy, as, in "Waverley," Scott wrote the romance, of Scotland about
the time of the Forty-Five.  With such a predecessor and rival, Mr.
Stevenson wisely leaves the pomps and battles of the Forty-Five, its
chivalry and gallantry, alone.  He shows us the seamy side: the
intrigues, domestic and political; the needy Irish adventurer with the
Prince, a person whom Scott had not studied.  The book, if completely
successful, would be Mr. Stevenson's "Bride of Lammermoor."  To be frank,
I do not think it completely successful--a victory all along the line.
The obvious weak point is Secundra Dass, that Indian of unknown
nationality; for surely his name marks him as no Hindoo.  The Master
could not have brought him, shivering like Jos Sedley's black servant, to
Scotland.  As in America, this alien would have found it "too dam cold."
My power of belief (which verges on credulity) is staggered by the
ghastly attempt to reanimate the buried Master.  Here, at least to my
taste, the freakish changeling has got the better of Mr. Stevenson, and
has brought in an element out of keeping with the steady lurid tragedy of
fraternal hatred.  For all the rest, it were a hard judge that had
anything but praise.  The brilliant blackguardism of the Master; his
touch of sentiment as he leaves Durisdeer for the last time, with a sad
old song on his lips; his fascination; his ruthlessness; his irony;--all
are perfect.  It is not very easy to understand the Chevalier Bourke,
that Barry Lyndon, with no head and with a good heart, that creature of a
bewildered kindly conscience; but it is easy to like him.  How admirable
is his undeflected belief in and affection for the Master!  How excellent
and how Irish he is, when he buffoons himself out of his perils with the
pirates!  The scenes are brilliant and living, as when the Master throws
the guinea through the Hall window, or as in the darkling duel in the
garden.  It needed an austere artistic conscience to make Henry, the
younger brother, so unlovable with all his excellence, and to keep the
lady so true, yet so much in shadow.  This is the best woman among Mr.
Stevenson's few women; but even she is almost always reserved, veiled as
it were.

The old Lord, again, is a portrait as lifelike as Scott could have drawn,
and more delicately touched than Scott would have cared to draw it: a
French companion picture to the Baron Bradwardine.  The whole piece reads
as if Mr. Stevenson had engaged in a struggle with himself as he wrote.
The sky is never blue, the sun never shines: we weary for a "westland
wind."  There is something "thrawn," as the Scotch say, about the story;
there is often a touch of this sinister kind in the author's work.  The
language is extraordinarily artful, as in the mad lord's words, "I have
felt the hilt dirl on his breast-bone."  And yet, one is hardly thrilled
as one expects to be, when, as Mackellar says, "the week-old corpse
looked me for a moment in the face."

Probably none of Mr. Stevenson's many books has made his name so familiar
as "Dr. Jekyll and Mr Hyde."  I read it first in manuscript, alone, at
night; and, when the Butler and Mr. Urmson came to the Doctor's door, I
confess that I threw it down, and went hastily to bed.  It is the most
gruesome of all his writings, and so perfect that one can complain only
of the slightly too obvious moral; and, again, that really Mr. Hyde was
more of a gentleman than the unctuous Dr. Jekyll, with his "bedside
manner."

So here, not to speak of some admirable short stories like "Thrawn
Janet," is a brief catalogue--little more--of Mr. Stevenson's literary
baggage.  It is all good, though variously good; yet the wise world asks
for the masterpiece.  It is said that Mr. Stevenson has not ventured on
the delicate and dangerous ground of the novel, because he has not
written a modern love story.  But who has?  There are love affairs in
Dickens, but do we remember or care for them?  Is it the love affairs
that we remember in Scott?  Thackeray may touch us with Clive's and Jack
Belsize's misfortunes, with Esmond's melancholy passion, and amuse us
with Pen in so many toils, and interest us in the little heroine of the
"Shabby Genteel Story."  But it is not by virtue of those episodes that
Thackeray is so great.  Love stories are best done by women, as in "Mr.
Gilfil's Love Story"; and, perhaps, in an ordinary way, by writers like
Trollope.  One may defy critics to name a great English author in fiction
whose chief and distinguishing merit is in his pictures of the passion of
Love.  Still, they all give Love his due stroke in the battle, and
perhaps Mr. Stevenson will do so some day.  But I confess that, if he
ever excels himself, I do not expect it to be in a love story.

Possibly it may be in a play.  If he again attempt the drama, he has this
in his favour, that he will not deal in supernumeraries.  In his tales
his minor characters are as carefully drawn as his chief personages.
Consider, for example, the minister, Henderland, the man who is so fond
of snuff, in "Kidnapped," and, in the "Master of Ballantrae," Sir William
Johnson, the English Governor.  They are the work of a mind as attentive
to details, as ready to subordinate or obliterate details which are
unessential.  Thus Mr. Stevenson's writings breathe equally of work in
the study and of inspiration from adventure in the open air, and thus he
wins every vote, and pleases every class of reader.



THOMAS HAYNES BAYLY


I cannot sing the old songs, nor indeed any others, but I can read them,
in the neglected works of Thomas Haynes Bayly.  The name of Bayly may be
unfamiliar, but every one almost has heard his ditties chanted--every one
much over forty, at all events.  "I'll hang my Harp on a Willow Tree,"
and "I'd be a Butterfly," and "Oh, no! we never mention Her," are dimly
dear to every friend of Mr. Richard Swiveller.  If to be sung everywhere,
to hear your verses uttered in harmony with all pianos and quoted by the
world at large, be fame, Bayly had it.  He was an unaffected poet.  He
wrote words to airs, and he is almost absolutely forgotten.  To read him
is to be carried back on the wings of music to the bowers of youth; and
to the bowers of youth I have been wafted, and to the old booksellers.
You do not find on every stall the poems of Bayly; but a copy in two
volumes has been discovered, edited by Mr. Bayly's widow (Bentley, 1844).
They saw the light in the same year as the present critic, and perhaps
they ceased to be very popular before he was breeched.  Mr. Bayly,
according to Mrs. Bayly, "ably penetrated the sources of the human
heart," like Shakespeare and Mr. Howells.  He also "gave to minstrelsy
the attributes of intellect and wit," and "reclaimed even festive song
from vulgarity," in which, since the age of Anacreon, festive song has
notoriously wallowed.  The poet who did all this was born at Bath in Oct.
1797.  His father was a genteel solicitor, and his great-grandmother was
sister to Lord Delamere, while he had a remote baronet on the mother's
side.  To trace the ancestral source of his genius was difficult, as in
the case of Gifted Hopkins; but it was believed to flow from his maternal
grandfather, Mr. Freeman, whom his friend, Lord Lavington, regarded as
"one of the finest poets of his age."  Bayly was at school at Winchester,
where he conducted a weekly college newspaper.  His father, like Scott's,
would have made him a lawyer; but "the youth took a great dislike to it,
for his ideas loved to dwell in the regions of fancy," which are closed
to attorneys.  So he thought of being a clergyman, and was sent to St.
Mary's Hall, Oxford.  There "he did not apply himself to the pursuit of
academical honours," but fell in love with a young lady whose brother he
had tended in a fatal illness.  But "they were both too wise to think of
living upon love, and, after mutual tears and sighs, they parted never to
meet again.  The lady, though grieved, was not heartbroken, and soon
became the wife of another."  They usually do.  Mr. Bayly's regret was
more profound, and expressed itself in the touching ditty:

   "Oh, no, we never mention her,
      Her name is never heard,
   My lips are now forbid to speak
      That once familiar word;
   From sport to sport they hurry me
      To banish my regret,
   And when they only worry me--

[I beg Mr. Bayly's pardon]

   "And when they win a smile from me,
      They fancy I forget.

   "They bid me seek in change of scene
      The charms that others see,
   But were I in a foreign land
      They'd find no change in me.
   'Tis true that I behold no more
      The valley where we met;
   I do not see the hawthorn tree,
      But how can I forget?"

   * * * * *

   "They tell me she is happy now,

[And so she was, in fact.]

      The gayest of the gay;
   They hint that she's forgotten me;
      But heed not what they say.
   Like me, perhaps, she struggles with
      Each feeling of regret:
   'Tis true she's married Mr. Smith,
      But, ah, does she forget!"

The temptation to parody is really too strong; the last lines, actually
and in an authentic text, are:

   "But if she loves as I have loved,
      She never can forget."

Bayly had now struck the note, the sweet, sentimental note, of the early,
innocent, Victorian age.  Jeames imitated him:

   "R. Hangeline, R. Lady mine,
   Dost thou remember Jeames!"

We should do the trick quite differently now, more like this:

   "Love spake to me and said:
      'Oh, lips, be mute;
   Let that one name be dead,
   That memory flown and fled,
      Untouched that lute!
   Go forth,' said Love, 'with willow in thy hand,
      And in thy hair
      Dead blossoms wear,
   Blown from the sunless land.

   "'Go forth,' said Love; 'thou never more shalt see
   Her shadow glimmer by the trysting tree;
      But _she_ is glad,
      With roses crowned and clad,
   Who hath forgotten thee!'
      But I made answer: 'Love!
      Tell me no more thereof,
   For she has drunk of that same cup as I.
   Yea, though her eyes be dry,
      She garners there for me
      Tears salter than the sea,
   Even till the day she die.'
   So gave I Love the lie."

I declare I nearly weep over these lines; for, though they are only
Bayly's sentiment hastily recast in a modern manner, there is something
so very affecting, mouldy, and unwholesome about them, that they sound as
if they had been "written up to" a sketch by a disciple of Mr.
Rossetti's.

In a mood much more manly and moral, Mr. Bayly wrote another poem to the
young lady:

   "May thy lot in life be happy, undisturbed by thoughts of me,
   The God who shelters innocence thy guard and guide will be.
   Thy heart will lose the chilling sense of hopeless love at last,
   And the sunshine of the future chase the shadows of the past."

It is as easy as prose to sing in this manner.  For example:

   "In fact, we need not be concerned; 'at last' comes very soon, and our
   Emilia quite forgets the memory of the moon, the moon that shone on
   her and us, the woods that heard our vows, the moaning of the waters,
   and the murmur of the boughs.  She is happy with another, and by her
   we're quite forgot; she never lets a thought of us bring shadow on her
   lot; and if we meet at dinner she's too clever to repine, and mentions
   us to Mr. Smith as 'An old flame of mine.'  And shall I grieve that it
   is thus? and would I have her weep, and lose her healthy appetite and
   break her healthy sleep?  Not so, she's not poetical, though ne'er
   shall I forget the fairy of my fancy whom I once thought I had met.
   The fairy of my fancy!  It was fancy, most things are; her emotions
   were not steadfast as the shining of a star; but, ah, I love her image
   yet, as once it shone on me, and swayed me as the low moon sways the
   surging of the sea."

Among other sports his anxious friends hurried the lovelorn Bayly to
Scotland, where he wrote much verse, and then to Dublin, which completed
his cure.  "He seemed in the midst of the crowd the gayest of all, his
laughter rang merry and loud at banquet and hall."  He thought no more of
studying for the Church, but went back to Bath, met a Miss Hayes, was
fascinated by Miss Hayes, "came, saw, but did _not_ conquer at once,"
says Mrs. Haynes Bayly (_nee_ Hayes) with widow's pride.  Her lovely name
was Helena; and I deeply regret to add that, after an education at
Oxford, Mr. Bayly, in his poems, accentuated the penultimate, which, of
course, is short.

   "Oh, think not, Helena, of leaving us yet,"

he carolled, when it would have been just as easy, and a hundred times
more correct, to sing--

   "Oh, Helena, think not of leaving us yet."

Miss Hayes had lands in Ireland, alas! and Mr. Bayly insinuated that,
like King Easter and King Wester in the ballad, her lovers courted her
for her lands and her fee; but he, like King Honour,

   "For her bonny face
   And for her fair bodie."

In 1825 (after being elected to the Athenaeum) Mr. Bayly "at last found
favour in the eyes of Miss Hayes."  He presented her with a little ruby
heart, which she accepted, and they were married, and at first were well-
to-do, Miss Hayes being the heiress of Benjamin Hayes, Esq., of Marble
Hill, in county Cork.  A friend of Mr. Bayly's described him thus:

   "I never have met on this chilling earth
      So merry, so kind, so frank a youth,
   In moments of pleasure a smile all mirth,
      In moments of sorrow a heart of truth.
   I have heard thee praised, I have seen thee led
      By Fashion along her gay career;
   While beautiful lips have often shed
      Their flattering poison in thine ear."

Yet he says that the poet was unspoiled.  On his honeymoon, at Lord
Ashdown's, Mr. Bayly, flying from some fair sirens, retreated to a bower,
and there wrote his world-famous "I'd be a Butterfly."

   "I'd be a butterfly, living a rover,
   Dying when fair things are fading away."

The place in which the deathless strains welled from the singer's heart
was henceforth known as "Butterfly Bower."  He now wrote a novel, "The
Aylmers," which has gone where the old moons go, and he became rather a
literary lion, and made the acquaintance of Theodore Hook.  The loss of a
son caused him to write some devotional verses, which were not what he
did best; and now he began to try comedies.  One of them, _Sold for a
Song_, succeeded very well.  In the stage-coach between Wycombe Abbey and
London he wrote a successful little _lever de rideau_ called
_Perfection_; and it was lucky that he opened this vein, for his wife's
Irish property got into an Irish bog of dishonesty and difficulty.  Thirty-
five pieces were contributed by him to the British stage.  After a long
illness, he died on April 22nd, 1829.  He did not live, this butterfly
minstrel, into the winter of human age.

Of his poems the inevitable criticism must be that he was a Tom Moore of
much lower accomplishments.  His business was to carol of the most vapid
and obvious sentiment, and to string flowers, fruits, trees, breeze,
sorrow, to-morrow, knights, coal-black steeds, regret, deception, and so
forth, into fervid anapaestics.  Perhaps his success lay in knowing
exactly how little sense in poetry composers will endure and singers will
accept.  Why, "words for music" are almost invariably trash now, though
the words of Elizabethan songs are better than any music, is a gloomy and
difficult question.  Like most poets, I myself detest the sister art, and
don't know anything about it.  But any one can see that words like
Bayly's are and have long been much more popular with musical people than
words like Shelley's, Keats's, Shakespeare's, Fletcher's, Lovelace's, or
Carew's.  The natural explanation is not flattering to musical people: at
all events, the singing world doted on Bayly.

   "She never blamed him--never,
      But received him when he came
   With a welcome sort of shiver,
      And she tried to look the same.

   "But vainly she dissembled,
      For whene'er she tried to smile,
   A tear unbidden trembled
      In her blue eye all the while."

This was pleasant for "him"; but the point is that these are lines to an
Indian air.  Shelley, also, about the same time, wrote Lines to an Indian
air; but we may "swear, and save our oath," that the singers preferred
Bayly's.  Tennyson and Coleridge could never equal the popularity of what
follows.  I shall ask the persevering reader to tell me where Bayly ends,
and where parody begins:

   "When the eye of beauty closes,
      When the weary are at rest,
   When the shade the sunset throws is
      But a vapour in the west;
   When the moonlight tips the billow
      With a wreath of silver foam,
   And the whisper of the willow
      Breaks the slumber of the gnome,--
   Night may come, but sleep will linger,
      When the spirit, all forlorn,
   Shuts its ear against the singer,
      And the rustle of the corn
   Round the sad old mansion sobbing
      Bids the wakeful maid recall
   Who it was that caused the throbbing
      Of her bosom at the ball."

Will this not do to sing just as well as the original? and is it not true
that "almost any man you please could reel it off for days together"?
Anything will do that speaks of forgetting people, and of being forsaken,
and about the sunset, and the ivy, and the rose.

   "Tell me no more that the tide of thine anguish
      Is red as the heart's blood and salt as the sea;
   That the stars in their courses command thee to languish,
      That the hand of enjoyment is loosened from thee!

   "Tell me no more that, forgotten, forsaken,
      Thou roamest the wild wood, thou sigh'st on the shore.
   Nay, rent is the pledge that of old we had taken,
      And the words that have bound me, they bind thee no more!

   "Ere the sun had gone down on thy sorrow, the maidens
      Were wreathing the orange's bud in thy hair,
   And the trumpets were tuning the musical cadence
      That gave thee, a bride, to the baronet's heir.

   "Farewell, may no thought pierce thy breast of thy treason;
      Farewell, and be happy in Hubert's embrace.
   Be the belle of the ball, be the bride of the season,
      With diamonds bedizened and languid in lace."

This is mine, and I say, with modest pride, that it is quite as good as--

   "Go, may'st thou be happy,
      Though sadly we part,
   In life's early summer
      Grief breaks not the heart.

   "The ills that assail us
      As speedily pass
   As shades o'er a mirror,
      Which stain not the glass."

Anybody could do it, we say, in what Edgar Poe calls "the mad pride of
intellectuality," and it certainly looks as if it could be done by
anybody.  For example, take Bayly as a moralist.  His ideas are out of
the centre.  This is about his standard:

   "CRUELTY.

   "'Break not the thread the spider
      Is labouring to weave.'
   I said, nor as I eyed her
      Could dream she would deceive.

   "Her brow was pure and candid,
      Her tender eyes above;
   And I, if ever man did,
      Fell hopelessly in love.

   "For who could deem that cruel
      So fair a face might be?
   That eyes so like a jewel
      Were only paste for me?

   "I wove my thread, aspiring
      Within her heart to climb;
   I wove with zeal untiring
      For ever such a time!

   "But, ah! that thread was broken
      All by her fingers fair,
   The vows and prayers I've spoken
      Are vanished into air!"

Did Bayly write that ditty or did I?  Upon my word, I can hardly tell.  I
am being hypnotised by Bayly.  I lisp in numbers, and the numbers come
like mad.  I can hardly ask for a light without abounding in his artless
vein.  Easy, easy it seems; and yet it was Bayly after all, not you nor
I, who wrote the classic--

   "I'll hang my harp on a willow tree,
      And I'll go to the war again,
   For a peaceful home has no charm for me,
      A battlefield no pain;
   The lady I love will soon be a bride,
      With a diadem on her brow.
   Ah, why did she flatter my boyish pride?
      She is going to leave me now!"

It is like listening, in the sad yellow evening, to the strains of a
barrel organ, faint and sweet, and far away.  A world of memories come
jigging back--foolish fancies, dreams, desires, all beckoning and bobbing
to the old tune:

   "Oh had I but loved with a boyish love,
   It would have been well for me."

How does Bayly manage it?  What is the trick of it, the obvious, simple,
meretricious trick, which somehow, after all, let us mock as we will,
Bayly could do, and we cannot?  He really had a slim, serviceable,
smirking, and sighing little talent of his own; and--well, we have not
even that.  Nobody forgets

   "The lady I love will soon be a bride."

Nobody remembers our cultivated epics and esoteric sonnets, oh brother
minor poet, _mon semblable_, _mon frere_!  Nor can we rival, though we
publish our books on the largest paper, the buried popularity of

   "Gaily the troubadour
      Touched his guitar
   When he was hastening
      Home from the war,
   Singing, "From Palestine
      Hither I come,
   Lady love!  Lady love!
      Welcome me home!"

Of course this is, historically, a very incorrect rendering of a
Languedoc crusader; and the impression is not mediaeval, but of the comic
opera.  Any one of us could get in more local colour for the money, and
give the crusader a cithern or citole instead of a guitar.  This is how
we should do "Gaily the Troubadour" nowadays:--

   "Sir Ralph he is hardy and mickle of might,
      _Ha_, _la belle blanche aubepine_!
   Soldans seven hath he slain in fight,
      _Honneur a la belle Isoline_!

   "Sir Ralph he rideth in riven mail,
      _Ha_, _la belle blanche aubepine_!
   Beneath his nasal is his dark face pale,
      _Honneur a la belle Isoline_!

   "His eyes they blaze as the burning coal,
      _Ha_, _la belle blanche aubepine_!
   He smiteth a stave on his gold citole,
      _Honneur a la belle Isoline_!

   "From her mangonel she looketh forth,
      _Ha_, _la belle blanche aubepine_!
   'Who is he spurreth so late to the north?'
      _Honneur a la belle Isoline_!

   "Hark! for he speaketh a knightly name,
      _Ha_, _la belle blanche aubepine_!
   And her wan cheek glows as a burning flame,
      _Honneur a la belle Isoline_!

   "For Sir Ralph he is hardy and mickle of might,
      _Ha_, _la belle blanche aubepine_!
   And his love shall ungirdle his sword to-night,
      _Honneur a la belle Isoline_!"

Such is the romantic, esoteric, old French way of saying--

   "Hark, 'tis the troubadour
      Breathing her name
   Under the battlement
      Softly he came,
   Singing, "From Palestine
      Hither I come.
   Lady love!  Lady love!
      Welcome me home!"

The moral of all this is that minor poetry has its fashions, and that the
butterfly Bayly could versify very successfully in the fashion of a time
simpler and less pedantic than our own.  On the whole, minor poetry for
minor poetry, this artless singer, piping his native drawing-room notes,
gave a great deal of perfectly harmless, if highly uncultivated,
enjoyment.

It must not be fancied that Mr. Bayly had only one string to his bow--or,
rather, to his lyre.  He wrote a great deal, to be sure, about the
passion of love, which Count Tolstoi thinks we make too much of.  He did
not dream that the affairs of the heart should be regulated by the
State--by the Permanent Secretary of the Marriage Office.  That is what
we are coming to, of course, unless the enthusiasts of "free love" and
"go away as you please" failed with their little programme.  No doubt
there would be poetry if the State regulated or left wholly unregulated
the affections of the future.  Mr. Bayly, living in other times, among
other manners, piped of the hard tyranny of a mother:

   "We met, 'twas in a crowd, and I thought he would shun me.
   He came, I could not breathe, for his eye was upon me.
   He spoke, his words were cold, and his smile was unaltered,
   I knew how much he felt, for his deep-toned voice faltered.
   I wore my bridal robe, and I rivalled its whiteness;
   Bright gems were in my hair,--how I hated their brightness!
   He called me by my name as the bride of another.
   Oh, thou hast been the cause of this anguish, my mother!"

In future, when the reformers of marriage have had their way, we shall
read:

   "The world may think me gay, for I bow to my fate;
   But thou hast been the cause of my anguish, O State!"

For even when true love is regulated by the County Council or the village
community, it will still persist in not running smooth.

Of these passions, then, Mr. Bayly could chant; but let us remember that
he could also dally with old romance, that he wrote:

   "The mistletoe hung in the castle hall,
   The holly branch shone on the old oak wall."

When the bride unluckily got into the ancient chest,

   "It closed with a spring.  And, dreadful doom,
   The bride lay clasped in her living tomb,"

so that her lover "mourned for his fairy bride," and never found out her
premature casket.  This was true romance as understood when Peel was
consul.  Mr. Bayly was rarely political; but he commemorated the heroes
of Waterloo, our last victory worth mentioning:

   "Yet mourn not for them, for in future tradition
      Their fame shall abide as our tutelar star,
   _To instil by example the glorious ambition_
      _Of falling_, _like them_, _in a glorious war_.
   Though tears may be seen in the bright eyes of beauty,
      One consolation must ever remain:
   Undaunted they trod in the pathway of duty,
      Which led them to glory on Waterloo's plain."

Could there be a more simple Tyrtaeus? and who that reads him will not be
ambitious of falling in a glorious war?  Bayly, indeed, is always simple.
He is "simple, sensuous, and passionate," and Milton asked no more from a
poet.

   "A wreath of orange blossoms,
   When next we met, she wore.
   _The expression of her features_
   _Was more thoughtful than before_."

On his own principles Wordsworth should have admired this unaffected
statement; but Wordsworth rarely praised his contemporaries, and said
that "Guy Mannering" was a respectable effort in the style of Mrs.
Radcliffe.  Nor did he even extol, though it is more in his own line,

   "Of what is the old man thinking,
   As he leans on his oaken staff?"

My own favourite among Mr. Bayly's effusions is not a sentimental ode,
but the following gush of true natural feeling:--

   "Oh, give me new faces, new faces, new faces,
      I've seen those around me a fortnight and more.
   Some people grow weary of things or of places,
      But persons to me are a much greater bore.
   I care not for features, I'm sure to discover
      Some exquisite trait in the first that you send.
   My fondness falls off when the novelty's over;
      I want a new face for an intimate friend."

This is perfectly candid: we should all prefer a new face, if pretty,
every fortnight:

   "Come, I pray you, and tell me this,
      All good fellows whose beards are grey,
   Did not the fairest of the fair
   Common grow and wearisome ere
      Ever a month had passed away?"

For once Mr. Bayly uttered in his "New Faces" a sentiment not usually
expressed, but universally felt; and now he suffers, as a poet, because
he is no longer a new face, because we have welcomed his juniors.  To
Bayly we shall not return; but he has one rare merit,--he is always
perfectly plain-spoken and intelligible.

   "Farewell to my Bayly, farewell to the singer
      Whose tender effusions my aunts used to sing;
   Farewell, for the fame of the bard does not linger,
      My favourite minstrel's no longer the thing.
   But though on his temples has faded the laurel,
      Though broken the lute, and though veiled is the crest,
   My Bayly, at worst, is uncommonly moral,
      Which is more than some new poets are, at their best."

Farewell to our Bayly, about whose songs we may say, with Mr. Thackeray
in "Vanity Fair," that "they contain numberless good-natured, simple
appeals to the affections."  We are no longer affectionate, good-natured,
simple.  We are cleverer than Bayly's audience; but are we better
fellows?



THEODORE DE BANVILLE


There are literary reputations in France and England which seem, like the
fairies, to be unable to cross running water.  Dean Swift, according to
M. Paul de Saint-Victor, is a great man at Dover, a pigmy at Calais--"Son
talent, qui enthousiasme l'Angleterre, n'inspire ailleurs qu'un morne
etonnement."  M. Paul De Saint-Victor was a fair example of the French
critic, and what he says about Swift was possibly true,--for him.  There
is not much resemblance between the Dean and M. Theodore de Banville,
except that the latter too is a poet who has little honour out of his own
country.  He is a charming singer at Calais; at Dover he inspires _un
morne etonnement_ (a bleak perplexity).  One has never seen an English
attempt to describe or estimate his genius.  His unpopularity in England
is illustrated by the fact that the London Library, that respectable
institution, does not, or did not, possess a single copy of any one of
his books.  He is but feebly represented even in the collection of the
British Museum.  It is not hard to account for our indifference to M. De
Banville.  He is a poet not only intensely French, but intensely
Parisian.  He is careful of form, rather than abundant in manner.  He has
no story to tell, and his sketches in prose, his attempts at criticism,
are not very weighty or instructive.  With all his limitations, however,
he represents, in company with M. Leconte de Lisle, the second of the
three generations of poets over whom Victor Hugo reigned.

M. De Banville has been called, by people who do not like, and who
apparently have not read him, _un saltimbanque litteraire_ (a literary
rope-dancer).  Other critics, who do like him, but who have limited their
study to a certain portion of his books, compare him to a worker in gold,
who carefully chases or embosses dainty processions of fauns and maenads.
He is, in point of fact, something more estimable than a literary rope-
dancer, something more serious than a working jeweller in rhymes.  He
calls himself _un raffine_; but he is not, like many persons who are
proud of that title, _un indifferent_ in matters of human fortune.  His
earlier poems, of course, are much concerned with the matter of most
early poems--with Lydia and Cynthia and their light loves.  The verses of
his second period often deal with the most evanescent subjects, and they
now retain but a slight petulance and sparkle, as of champagne that has
been too long drawn.  In a prefatory plea for M. De Banville's poetry one
may add that he "has loved our people," and that no poet, no critic, has
honoured Shakespeare with brighter words of praise.

Theodore de Banville was born at Moulin, on March 14th 1823, and he is
therefore three years younger than the dictionaries of biography would
make the world believe.  He is the son of a naval officer, and, according
to M. Charles Baudelaire, a descendant of the Crusaders.  He came much
too late into the world to distinguish himself in the noisy exploits of
1830, and the chief event of his youth was the publication of "Les
Cariatides" in 1842.  This first volume contained a selection from the
countless verses which the poet produced between his sixteenth and his
nineteenth year.  Whatever other merits the songs of minors may possess,
they have seldom that of permitting themselves to be read.  "Les
Cariatides" are exceptional here.  They are, above all things, readable.
"On peut les lire a peu de frais," M. De Banville says himself.  He
admits that his lighter works, the poems called (in England) _vers de
societe_, are a sort of intellectual cigarette.  M. Emile de Girardin
said, in the later days of the Empire, that there were too many
cigarettes in the air.  Their stale perfume clings to the literature of
that time, as the odour of pastilles yet hangs about the verse of Dorat,
the designs of Eisen, the work of the Pompadour period.  There is more
than smoke in M. De Banville's ruling inspiration, his lifelong devotion
to letters and to great men of letters--Shakespeare, Moliere, Homer,
Victor Hugo.  These are his gods; the memory of them is his muse.  His
enthusiasm is worthy of one who, though born too late to see and know the
noble wildness of 1830, yet lives on the recollections, and is
strengthened by the example, of that revival of letters.  Whatever one
may say of the _renouveau_, of romanticism, with its affectations, the
young men of 1830 were sincere in their devotion to liberty, to poetry,
to knowledge.  One can hardly find a more brilliant and touching belief
in these great causes than that of Edgar Quinet, as displayed in the
letters of his youth.  De Banville fell on more evil times.

When "Les Cariatides" was published poets had begun to keep an eye on the
Bourse, and artists dabbled in finance.  The new volume of song in the
sordid age was a November primrose, and not unlike the flower of Spring.
There was a singular freshness and hopefulness in the verse, a wonderful
"certitude dans l'expression lyrique," as Sainte-Beuve said.  The mastery
of musical speech and of various forms of song was already to be
recognised as the basis and the note of the talent of De Banville.  He
had style, without which a man may write very nice verses about heaven
and hell and other matters, and may please thousands of excellent people,
but will write poetry--never.  Comparing De Banville's boy's work with
the boy's work of Mr. Tennyson, one observes in each--"Les Cariatides" as
in "The Hesperides"--the _timbre_ of a new voice.  Poetry so fresh seems
to make us aware of some want which we had hardly recognised, but now are
sensible of, at the moment we find it satisfied.

It is hardly necessary to say that this gratifying and welcome
strangeness, this lyric originality, is nearly all that M. De Banville
has in common with the English poet whose two priceless volumes were
published in the same year as "Les Cariatides?"  The melody of Mr.
Tennyson's lines, the cloudy palaces of his imagination, rose

   "As Ilion, like a mist rose into towers,"

when Apollo sang.  The architecture was floating at first, and confused;
while the little theatre of M. De Banville's poetry, where he sat piping
to a dance of nixies, was brilliantly lit and elegant with fresh paint
and gilding.  "The Cariatides" support the pediment and roof of a theatre
or temple in the Graeco-French style.  The poet proposed to himself

   "A cote de Venus et du fils de Latone
   Peindre la fee et la peri."

The longest poem in the book, and the most serious, "La Voie Lactee,"
reminds one of the "Palace of Art," written before the after-thought,
before the "white-eyed corpses" were found lurking in corners.  Beginning
with Homer, "the Ionian father of the rest,"--

   "Ce dieu, pere des dieux qu'adore Ionie,"--

the poet glorifies all the chief names of song.  There is a long
procession of illustrious shadows before Shakespeare comes--Shakespeare,
whose genius includes them all.

   "Toute creation a laquelle on aspire,
   Tout reve, toute chose, emanent de Shakespeare."

His mind has lent colour to the flowers and the sky, to

   "La fleur qui brode un point sur les manteau des plaines,
   Les nenuphars penches, et les pales roseaux
   Qui disent leur chant sombre au murmure des eaux."

One recognises more sincerity in this hymn to all poets, from Orpheus to
Heine, than in "Les Baisers de Pierre"--a clever imitation of De Musset's
stories in verse.  Love of art and of the masters of art, a passion for
the figures of old mythology, which had returned again after their exile
in 1830, gaiety, and a revival of the dexterity of Villon and
Marot,--these things are the characteristics of M. De Banville's genius,
and all these were displayed in "Les Cariatides."  Already, too, his
preoccupation with the lighter and more fantastic sort of theatrical
amusements shows itself in lines like these:

   "De son lit a baldaquin
      Le soleil de son beau globe
   Avait l'air d'un arlequin
      Etalant sa garde-robe;

   "Et sa soeur au front changeant
      Mademoiselle la Lune
   Avec ses grands yeux d'argent
      Regardait la terre brune."

The verse about "the sun in bed," unconsciously Miltonic, is in a vein of
bad taste which has always had seductions for M. De Banville.  He mars a
fine later poem on Roncevaux and Roland by a similar absurdity.  The
angel Michael is made to stride down the steps of heaven four at a time,
and M. De Banville fancies that this sort of thing is like the simplicity
of the ages of faith.

In "Les Cariatides," especially in the poems styled "En Habit Zinzolin,"
M. De Banville revived old measures--the _rondeau_ and the "poor little
triolet."  These are forms of verse which it is easy to write badly, and
hard indeed to write well.  They have knocked at the door of the English
muse's garden--a runaway knock.  In "Les Cariatides" they took a
subordinate place, and played their pranks in the shadow of the grave
figures of mythology, or at the close of the procession of Dionysus and
his Maenads.  De Banville often recalls Keats in his choice of classical
themes.  "Les Exiles," a poem of his maturity, is a French "Hyperion."
"Le Triomphe de Bacchus" reminds one of the song of the Bassarids in
"Endymion"--

   "So many, and so many, and so gay."

There is a pretty touch of the pedant (who exists, says M. De Banville,
in the heart of the poet) in this verse:

   "Il reve a Cama, l'amour aux cinq fleches fleuries,
   Qui, lorsque soupire au milieu des roses prairies
   La douce Vasanta, parmi les bosquets de santal,
   Envoie aux cinq sens les fleches du carquois fatal."

The Bacchus of Titian has none of this Oriental languor, no memories of
perfumed places where "the throne of Indian Cama slowly sails."  One
cannot help admiring the fancy which saw the conquering god still steeped
in Asiatic ease, still unawakened to more vigorous passion by the fresh
wind blowing from Thrace.  Of all the Olympians, Diana has been most
often hymned by M. De Banville: his imagination is haunted by the figure
of the goddess.  Now she is manifest in her Hellenic aspect, as Homer
beheld her, "taking her pastime in the chase of boars and swift deer; and
with her the wild wood-nymphs are sporting the daughters of Zeus; and
Leto is glad at heart, for her child towers over them all, and is easy to
be known where all are fair" (Odyssey, vi.).  Again, Artemis appears more
thoughtful, as in the sculpture of Jean Goujon, touched with the sadness
of moonlight.  Yet again, she is the weary and exiled spirit that haunts
the forest of Fontainebleau, and is a stranger among the woodland folk,
the _fades_ and nixies.  To this goddess, "being triple in her divided
deity," M. De Banville has written his hymn in the characteristic form of
the old French _ballade_.  The translator may borrow Chaucer's apology--

   "And eke to me it is a grete penaunce,
   Syth rhyme in English hath such scarsete
   To folowe, word by word, the curiosite
   Of _Banville_, flower of them that make in France."

   "BALLADE SUR LES HOTES MYSTERIEUX DE LA FORET

   "Still sing the mocking fairies, as of old,
      Beneath the shade of thorn and holly tree;
   The west wind breathes upon them pure and cold,
      And still wolves dread Diana roving free,
         In secret woodland with her company.
   Tis thought the peasants' hovels know her rite
   When now the wolds are bathed in silver light,
      And first the moonrise breaks the dusky grey,
   Then down the dells, with blown soft hair and bright,
      And through the dim wood Dian thrids her way.

   "With water-weeds twined in their locks of gold
      The strange cold forest-fairies dance in glee;
   Sylphs over-timorous and over-bold
      Haunt the dark hollows where the dwarf may be,
         The wild red dwarf, the nixies' enemy;
   Then, 'mid their mirth, and laughter, and affright,
      The sudden goddess enters, tall and white,
         With one long sigh for summers passed away;
   The swift feet tear the ivy nets outright,
      And through the dim wood Dian thrids her way.

   "She gleans her sylvan trophies; down the wold
      She hears the sobbing of the stags that flee,
   Mixed with the music of the hunting rolled,
      But her delight is all in archery,
   And nought of ruth and pity wotteth she
      More than the hounds that follow on the flight;
   The tall nymph draws a golden bow of might,
      And thick she rains the gentle shafts that slay,
   She tosses loose her locks upon the night,
      And Dian through the dim wood thrids her way.

   ENVOI.

   "Prince, let us leave the din, the dust, the spite,
   The gloom and glare of towns, the plague, the blight;
      Amid the forest leaves and fountain spray
   There is the mystic home of our delight,
      And through the dim wood Dian thrids her way."

The piece is characteristic of M. De Banville's genius.  Through his
throng of operatic nixies and sylphs of the ballet the cold Muse
sometimes passes, strange, but not unfriendly.  He, for his part, has
never degraded the beautiful forms of old religion to make the laughing-
stock of fools.  His little play, _Diane au Bois_, has grace, and
gravity, and tenderness like the tenderness of Keats, for the failings of
immortals.  "The gods are jealous exceedingly if any goddess takes a
mortal man to her paramour, as Demeter chose Iasion."  The least that
mortal poets can do is to show the Olympians an example of toleration.

"Les Cariatides" have delayed us too long.  They are wonderfully varied,
vigorous, and rich, and full of promise in many ways.  The promise has
hardly been kept.  There is more seriousness in "Les Stalactites" (1846),
it is true, but then there is less daring.  There is one morsel that must
be quoted,--a fragment fashioned on the air and the simple words that
used to waken the musings of George Sand when she was a child, dancing
with the peasant children:

   "Nous n'irons plus an bois: les lauries sont coupes,
      Les amours des bassins, les naiades en groupe
   Voient reluire au soleil, en cristaux decoupes
      Les flots silencieux qui coulaient de leur coupe,
   Les lauriers sont coupes et le cerf aux abois
      Tressaille au son du cor: nous n'irons plus au bois!
   Ou des enfants joueurs riait la folle troupe
      Parmi les lys d'argent aux pleurs du ciel trempes,
   Voici l'herbe qu'on fauche et les lauriers qu'on coupe;
      Nous n'irons plus au bois; les lauriers sont coupes."

In these days Banville, like Gerard de Nerval in earlier times,
RONSARDISED.  The poem 'A la Font Georges,' full of the memories of
childhood, sweet and rich with the air and the hour of sunset, is written
in a favourite metre of Ronsard's.  Thus Ronsard says in his lyrical
version of five famous lines of Homer--

   "La gresle ni la neige
      N'ont tels lieux pour leur siege
         Ne la foudre oncques la
            Ne devala."

   (The snow, and wind, and hail
      May never there prevail,
         Nor thunderbolt doth fall,
            Nor rain at all.)

De Banville chose this metre, rapid yet melancholy, with its sad emphatic
cadence in the fourth line, as the vehicle of his childish memories:

   "O champs pleins de silence,
   Ou mon heureuse enfance
         Avait des jours encor
         Tout files d'or!"

   O ma vieille Font Georges,
   Vers qui les rouges-gorges
         Et le doux rossignol
         Prenaient leur vol!

So this poem of the fountain of youth begins, "tout file d'or," and
closes when the dusk is washed with silver--

   "A l'heure ou sous leurs voiles
      Les tremblantes etoiles
         Brodent le ciel changeant
            De fleurs d'argent."

The "Stalactites" might detain one long, but we must pass on after
noticing an unnamed poem which is the French counterpart of Keats' "Ode
to a Greek Urn":

   "Qu'autour du vase pur, trop beau pour la Bacchante,
      La verveine, melee a des feuilles d'acanthe,
   Fleurisse, et que plus bas des vierges lentement
      S'avancent deux a deux, d'un pas sur et charmant,
   Les bras pendants le long de leurs tuniques droites
      Et les cheyeux tresses sur leurs tetes etroites."

In the same volume of the definite series of poems come "Les Odelettes,"
charming lyrics, one of which, addressed to Theophile Gautier, was
answered in the well-known verses called "L'Art."  If there had been any
rivalry between the writers, M. De Banville would hardly have cared to
print Gautier's "Odelette" beside his own.  The tone of it is infinitely
more manly: one seems to hear a deep, decisive voice replying to tones
far less sweet and serious.  M. De Banville revenged himself nobly in
later verses addressed to Gautier, verses which criticise the genius of
that workman better, we think, than anything else that has been written
of him in prose or rhyme.

The less serious poems of De Banville are, perhaps, the better known in
this country.  His feats of graceful metrical gymnastics have been
admired by every one who cares for skill pure and simple.  "Les Odes
Funambulesques" and "Les Occidentales" are like ornamental skating.  The
author moves in many circles and cuts a hundred fantastic figures with a
perfect ease and smoothness.  At the same time, naturally, he does not
advance nor carry his readers with him in any direction.  "Les Odes
Funambulesques" were at first unsigned.  They appeared in journals and
magazines, and, as M. de Banville applied the utmost lyrical skill to
light topics of the moment, they were the most popular of "Articles de
Paris."  One must admit that they bore the English reader, and by this
time long _scholia_ are necessary for the enlightenment even of the
Parisian student.  The verses are, perhaps, the "bird-chorus" of French
life, but they have not the permanent truth and delightfulness of the
"bird-chorus" in Aristophanes.  One has easily too much of the Carnival,
the masked ball, the _debardeurs_, and the _pierrots_.  The people at
whom M. De Banville laughed are dead and forgotten.  There was a certain
M. Paul Limayrac of those days, who barked at the heels of Balzac, and
other great men, in the _Revue des Deux Mondes_.  In his honour De
Banville wrote a song which parodied all popular aspirations to be a
flower.  M. Limayrac was supposed to have become a blossom:

   "Sur les coteaux et dans les landes
      Voltigeant comme un oiseleur
   Buloz en ferait des guirlandes
      Si Limayrac devenait fleur!"

There is more of high spirits than of wit in the lyric, which became as
popular as our modern invocation of Jingo, the god of battles.  It
chanced one night that M. Limayrac appeared at a masked ball in the opera-
house.  He was recognised by some one in the crowd.  The turbulent waltz
stood still, the music was silent, and the dancers of every hue howled at
the critic

   "Si Paul Limayrac devenait fleur!"

Fancy a British reviewer, known as such to the British public, and
imagine that public taking a lively interest in the feuds of men of
letters!  Paris, to be sure, was more or less of a university town thirty
years ago, and the students were certain to be largely represented at the
ball.

The "Odes Funambulesques" contain many examples of M. De Banville's skill
in reviving old forms of verse--_triolets_, _rondeaux_, _chants royaux_,
and _ballades_.  Most of these were composed for the special annoyance of
M. Buloz, M. Limayrac, and a M. Jacquot who called himself De Mirecourt.
The _rondeaux_ are full of puns in the refrain: "Houssaye ou c'est; lyre,
l'ire, lire," and so on, not very exhilarating.  The _pantoum_, where
lines recur alternately, was borrowed from the distant Malay; but
primitive _pantoum_, in which the last two lines of each stanza are the
first two of the next, occur in old French folk-song.  The popular trick
of repetition, affording a rest to the memory of the singer, is perhaps
the origin of all refrains.  De Banville's later satires are directed
against permanent objects of human indignation--the little French
debauchee, the hypocritical friend of reaction, the bloodthirsty
_chauviniste_.  Tired of the flashy luxury of the Empire, his memory goes
back to his youth--

   "Lorsque la levre de l'aurore
      Baisait nos yeux souleves,
   Et que nous n'etions pas encore
      La France des petits creves."

The poem "Et Tartufe" prolongs the note of a satire always popular in
France--the satire of Scarron, Moliere, La Bruyere, against the clerical
curse of the nation.  The Roman Question was Tartufe's stronghold at the
moment.  "French interests" demanded that Italy should be headless.

   "Et Tartufe?  Il nous dit entre deux cremus
      Que pour tout bon Francais l'empire est a Rome,
   Et qu'ayant pour aieux Romulus et Remus
      Nous tetterons la louve a jamais--le pauvre homme."

The new Tartufe worships St. Chassepot, who once, it will not be
forgotten, "wrought miracles"; but he has his doubts as to the morality
of explosive bullets.  The nymph of modern warfare is addressed as she
hovers above the Geneva Convention,--

   "Quoi, nymphe du canon raye,
      Tu montres ces pudeurs risibles
   Et ce petit air effraye
      Devant les balles exploisibles?"

De Banville was for long almost alone among poets in his freedom from
_Weltschmerz_, from regret and desire for worlds lost or impossible.  In
the later and stupider corruption of the Empire, sadness and anger began
to vex even his careless muse.  She had piped in her time to much wild
dancing, but could not sing to a waltz of mushroom speculators and
decorated capitalists.  "Le Sang de la Coupe" contains a very powerful
poem, "The Curse of Venus," pronounced on Paris, the city of pleasure,
which has become the city of greed.  This verse is appropriate to our own
commercial enterprise:

   "Vends les bois ou dormaient Viviane et Merlin!
      L'Aigle de mont n'est fait que pour ta gibeciere;
      La neige vierge est la pour fournir ta glaciere;
   Le torrent qui bondit sur le roc sybillin,
      Et vole, diamant, neige, ecume et poussiere,
      N'est plus bon qu'a tourner tes meules de moulin!"

In the burning indignation of this poem, M. De Banville reaches his
highest mark of attainment.  "Les Exiles" is scarcely less impressive.
The outcast gods of Hellas, wandering in a forest of ancient Gaul, remind
one at once of the fallen deities of Heine, the decrepit Olympians of
Bruno, and the large utterance of Keats's "Hyperion."  Among great
exiles, Victor Hugo, "le pere la-bas dans l'ile," is not forgotten:

   "Et toi qui l'accueillis, sol libre et verdoyant,
      Qui prodigues les fleurs sur tes coteaux fertiles,
   Et qui sembles sourire a l'ocean bruyant,
      Sois benie, ile verte, entre toutes les iles."

The hoarsest note of M. De Banville's lyre is that discordant one struck
in the "Idylles Prussiennes."  One would not linger over poetry or prose
composed during the siege, in hours of shame and impotent scorn.  The
poet sings how the sword, the flashing Durendal, is rusted and broken,
how victory is to him--

      " . . . qui se cela
   Dans un trou, sous la terre noire."

He can spare a tender lyric to the memory of a Prussian officer, a lad of
eighteen, shot dead through a volume of Pindar which he carried in his
tunic.

It is impossible to leave the poet of gaiety and good-humour in the mood
of the prisoner in besieged Paris.  His "Trente Six Ballades Joyeuses"
make a far more pleasant subject for a last word.  There is scarcely a
more delightful little volume in the French language than this collection
of verses in the most difficult of forms, which pour forth, with absolute
ease and fluency, notes of mirth, banter, joy in the spring, in letters,
art, and good-fellowship.

   "L'oiselet retourne aux forets;
      Je suis un poete lyrique,"--

he cries, with a note like a bird's song.  Among the thirty-six every one
will have his favourites.  We venture to translate the "Ballad de
Banville":

   "AUX ENFANTS PERDUS

   "I know Cythera long is desolate;
      I know the winds have stripped the garden green.
   Alas, my friends! beneath the fierce sun's weight
      A barren reef lies where Love's flowers have been,
      Nor ever lover on that coast is seen!
   So be it, for we seek a fabled shore,
   To lull our vague desires with mystic lore,
      To wander where Love's labyrinths, beguile;
   There let us land, there dream for evermore:
      'It may be we shall touch the happy isle.'

   "The sea may be our sepulchre.  If Fate,
      If tempests wreak their wrath on us, serene
   We watch the bolt of Heaven, and scorn the hate
      Of angry gods that smite us in their spleen.
      Perchance the jealous mists are but the screen
   That veils the fairy coast we would explore.
   Come, though the sea be vexed, and breakers roar,
      Come, for the breath of this old world is vile,
   Haste we, and toil, and faint not at the oar;
      'It may be we shall touch the happy isle.'

   "Grey serpents trail in temples desecrate
      Where Cypris smiled, the golden maid, the queen,
   And ruined is the palace of our state;
      But happy loves flit round the mast, and keen
      The shrill wind sings the silken cords between.
   Heroes are we, with wearied hearts and sore,
   Whose flower is faded and whose locks are hoar.
      Haste, ye light skiffs, where myrtle thickets smile;
   Love's panthers sleep 'mid roses, as of yore:
      'It may be we shall touch the happy isle.'

   ENVOI.

   "Sad eyes! the blue sea laughs, as heretofore.
   All, singing birds, your happy music pour;
      Ah, poets, leave the sordid earth awhile;
   Flit to these ancient gods we still adore:
      'It may be we shall touch the happy isle.'"

Alas! the mists that veil the shore of our Cythera are not the summer
haze of Watteau, but the smoke and steam of a commercial time.

It is as a lyric poet that we have studied M. De Banville.  "Je ne
m'entends qu'a la meurique," he says in his ballad on himself; but he can
write prose when he pleases.

It is in his drama of _Gringoire_ acted at the Theatre Francais, and
familiar in the version of Messrs. Pollock and Besant, that M. De
Banville's prose shows to the best advantage.  Louis XI. is supping with
his bourgeois friends and with the terrible Olivier le Daim.  Two
beautiful girls are of the company, friends of Pierre Gringoire, the
strolling poet.  Presently Gringoire himself appears.  He is dying of
hunger; he does not recognise the king, and he is promised a good supper
if he will recite the new satirical "Ballade des Pendus," which he has
made at the monarch's expense.  Hunger overcomes his timidity, and,
addressing himself especially to the king, he enters on this goodly
matter:

   "Where wide the forest boughs are spread,
      Where Flora wakes with sylph and fay,
   Are crowns and garlands of men dead,
      All golden in the morning gay;
   Within this ancient garden grey
      Are clusters such as no mail knows,
   Where Moor and Soldan bear the sway:
      _This is King Louis' orchard close_!

   "These wretched folk wave overhead,
      With such strange thoughts as none may say;
   A moment still, then sudden sped,
      They swing in a ring and waste away.
   The morning smites them with her ray;
      They toss with every breeze that blows,
   They dance where fires of dawning play:
      _This is King Louis' orchard close_!

   "All hanged and dead, they've summoned
      (With Hell to aid, that hears them pray)
   New legions of an army dread,
      Now down the blue sky flames the day;
   The dew dies off; the foul array
      Of obscene ravens gathers and goes,
   With wings that flap and beaks that flay:
      _This is King Louis' orchard close_!

   ENVOI.

   "Prince, where leaves murmur of the May,
      A tree of bitter clusters grows;
   The bodies of men dead are they!
      _This is King Louis' orchard close_!

Poor Gringoire has no sooner committed himself, than he is made to
recognise the terrible king.  He pleads that, if he must join the ghastly
army of the dead, he ought, at least, to be allowed to finish his supper.
This the king grants, and in the end, after Gringoire has won the heart
of the heroine, he receives his life and a fair bride with a full dowry.

_Gringoire_ is a play very different from M. De Banville's other dramas,
and it is not included in the pretty volume of "Comedies" which closes
the Lemerre series of his poems.  The poet has often declared, with an
iteration which has been parodied by M. Richepin, that "comedy is the
child of the ode," and that a drama without the "lyric" element is
scarcely a drama at all.  While comedy retains either the choral ode in
its strict form, or its representative in the shape of lyric enthusiasm
(_le lyrisme_), comedy is complete and living.  _Gringoire_, to our mind,
has plenty of lyric enthusiasm; but M. De Banville seems to be of a
different opinion.  His republished "Comedies" are more remote from
experience than _Gringoire_, his characters are ideal creatures, familiar
types of the stage, like Scapin and "le beau Leandre," or ethereal
persons, or figures of old mythology, like Diana in _Diane au Bois_, and
Deidamia in the piece which shows Achilles among women.  M. De Banville's
dramas have scarcely prose enough in them to suit the modern taste.  They
are masques for the delicate diversion of an hour, and it is not in the
nature of things that they should rival the success of blatant
buffooneries.  His earliest pieces--_Le Feuilleton d'Aristophane_ (acted
at the Odeon, Dec. 26th, 1852), and _Le Cousin du Roi_ (Odeon, April 4th,
1857)--were written in collaboration with Philoxene Boyer, a generous but
indiscreet patron of singers.

   "Dans les salons de Philoxene
      Nous etions quatre-vingt rimeurs,"

M. De Banville wrote, parodying the "quatre-vingt ramuers" of Victor
Hugo.  The memory of M. Boyer's enthusiasm for poetry and his amiable
hospitality are not unlikely to survive both his compositions and those
in which M. De Banville aided him.  The latter poet began to walk alone
as a playwright in _Le Beau Leandre_ (Vaudeville, 1856)--a piece with
scarcely more substance than the French scenes in the old Franco-Italian
drama possess.  We are taken into an impossible world of gay
non-morality, where a wicked old bourgeois, Orgon, his daughter
Colombine, a pretty flirt, and her lover Leandre, a light-hearted scamp,
bustle through their little hour.  Leandre, who has no notion of being
married, says, "Le ciel n'est pas plus pur que mes intentions."  And the
artless Colombine replies, "Alors marions-nous!"  To marry Colombine
without a dowry forms, as a modern novelist says, "no part of Leandre's
profligate scheme of pleasure."  There is a sort of treble intrigue.
Orgon wants to give away Colombine dowerless, Leandre to escape from the
whole transaction, and Colombine to secure her _dot_ and her husband.  The
strength of the piece is the brisk action in the scene when Leandre
protests that he can't rob Orgon of his only daughter, and Orgon insists
that he can refuse nothing except his ducats to so charming a son-in-law.
The play is redeemed from sordidness by the costumes.  Leandre is dressed
in the attire of Watteau's "L'Indifferent" in the Louvre, and wears a
diamond-hilted sword.  The lady who plays the part of Colombine may
select (delightful privilege!) the prettiest dress in Watteau's
collection.

This love of the glitter of the stage is very characteristic of De
Banville.  In his _Deidamie_ (Odeon, Nov. 18th, 1876) the players who
took the roles of Thetis, Achilles, Odysseus, Deidamia, and the rest,
were accoutred in semi-barbaric raiment and armour of the period
immediately preceding the Graeco-Phoenician (about the eighth century
B.C.).  Again we notice the touch of pedantry in the poet.  As for the
play, the sombre thread in it is lent by the certainty of Achilles' early
death, the fate which drives him from Deidamie's arms, and from the sea
king's isle to the leagues under the fatal walls of Ilion.  Of comic
effect there is plenty, for the sisters of Deidamie imitate all the acts
by which Achilles is likely to betray himself--grasp the sword among the
insidious presents of Odysseus, when he seizes the spear, and drink each
one of them a huge beaker of wine to the confusion of the Trojans. {70}
On a Parisian audience the imitations of the tone of the Odyssey must
have been thrown away.  For example, here is a passage which is as near
being Homeric as French verse can be.  Deidamie is speaking in a
melancholy mood:

   "Heureux les epoux rois assis dans leur maison,
   Qui voient tranquillement s'enfuir chaque saison--
   L'epoux tenant son sceptre, environne de gloire,
   Et l'epouse filant sa quenouille d'ivoire!
   Mais le jeune heros que, la glaive a son franc!
   Court dans le noir combat, les mains teintes de sang,
   Laisse sa femme en pleurs dans sa haute demeure."

With the accustomed pedantry, M. De Banville, in the scene of the
banquet, makes the cup-bearer go round dealing out a little wine, with
which libation is made, and then the feast goes on in proper Homeric
fashion.  These overwrought details are forgotten in the parting scenes,
where Deidamie takes what she knows to be her last farewell of Achilles,
and girds him with his sword:

   "La lame de l'epee, en sa forme divine
   Est pareille a la feuille austere du laurier!"

Let it be noted that each of M. De Banville's more serious plays ends
with the same scene, with slight differences.  In _Florise_ (never put on
the stage) the wandering actress of Hardy's troupe leaves her lover, the
young noble, and the shelter of his castle, to follow where art and her
genius beckon her.  In _Diane au Bois_ the goddess "that leads the
precise life" turns her back on Eros, who has subdued even her, and
passes from the scene as she waves her hand in sign of a farewell
ineffably mournful.  Nearer tragedy than this M. De Banville does not
care to go; and if there is any deeper tragedy in scenes of blood and in
stages strewn with corpses, from that he abstains.  His _Florise_ is
perhaps too long, perhaps too learned; and certainly we are asked to
believe too much when a kind of etherealised Consuelo is set before us as
the _prima donna_ of old Hardy's troupe:

   "Mais Florise n'est pas une femme.  Je suis
   L'harmonieuse voix que berce vos ennuis;
   Je suis la lyre aux sons divers que le poete
   Fait resonner et qui sans lui serait muette--
   Une comedienne enfin.  Je ne suis pas
   Une femme."

An actress who was not a woman had little to do in the company of
Scarron's Angelique and Mademoiselle de l'Estoile.  Florise, in short, is
somewhat too allegorical and haughty a creature; while Colombine and
Nerine (Vaudeville, June 1864) are rather tricksy imps than women of
flesh and blood.  M. De Banville's stage, on the whole, is one of glitter
and fantasy; yet he is too much a Greek for the age that appreciates "la
belle Helene," too much a lyric dramatist to please the contemporaries of
Sardou; he lends too much sentiment and dainty refinement to characters
as flimsy as those of Offenbach's drama.

Like other French poets, M. De Banville has occasionally deigned to write
_feuilletons_ and criticisms.  Not many of these scattered leaves are
collected, but one volume, "La Mer de Nice" (Poulet-Malassis et De
Broise, Paris, 1861), may be read with pleasure even by jealous admirers
of Gautier's success as a chronicler of the impressions made by southern
scenery.

To De Banville (he does not conceal it) a journey to a place so far from
Paris as the Riviera was no slight labour.  Even from the roses, the
palms, the siren sea, the wells of water under the fronds of maiden-hair
fern, his mind travels back wistfully to the city of his love.

"I am, I have always been, one of those devotees of Paris who visit
Greece only when they gaze on the face, so fair and so terrible, of the
twice-victorious Venus of the Louvre.  One of those obstinate adorers of
my town am I, who will never see Italy, save in the glass that reflects
the tawny hair of Titian's Violante, or in that dread isle of Alcinous
where Lionardo shows you the mountain peaks that waver in the blue behind
the mysterious Monna Lisa.  But the Faculty of Physicians, which has, I
own, the right to be sceptical, does not believe that neuralgia can be
healed by the high sun which Titian and Veronese have fixed on the
canvas.  To me the Faculty prescribes the real sun of nature and of life;
and here am I, condemned to learn in suffering all that passes in the
mind of a poet of Paris exiled from that blessed place where he finds the
Cyclades and the islands blossoming, the vale of Avalon, and all the
heavenly homes of the fairies of experience and desire."

Nice is Tomi to this Ovid, but he makes the best of it, and sends to the
editor of the _Moniteur_ letters much more diverting than the "Tristia."
To tell the truth, he never overcomes his amazement at being out of Paris
streets, and in a glade of the lower Alps he loves to be reminded of his
dear city of pleasure.  Only under the olives of Monaco, those solemn and
ancient trees, he feels what surely all men feel who walk at sunset
through their shadow--the memory of a mysterious twilight of agony in an
olive garden.

"Et ceux-ci, les pales oliviers, n'est-ce pas de ces heures desolees ou,
comme torture supreme, le Sauveur acceptait en son ame l'irreparable
misere du doute, n'est-ce pas alors qu'il ont appris de lui a courber le
front sous le poids imperieux des souvenirs?"

The pages which M. De Banville consecrates to the Villa Sardou, where
Rachel died, may disenchant, perhaps, some readers of Mr. Matthew
Arnold's sonnet.  The scene of Rachel's death has been spoiled by
"improvements" in too theatrical taste.  All these notes, however, were
made many years ago; and visitors of the Riviera, though they will find
the little book charming where it speaks of seas and hills, will learn
that France has greatly changed the city which she has annexed.  As a
practical man and a Parisian, De Banville has printed (pp. 179-81) a
recipe for the concoction of the Marseilles dish, _bouillabaisse_, the
mess that Thackeray's ballad made so famous.  It takes genius, however,
to cook _bouillabaisse_; and, to parody what De Banville says about his
own recipe for making a mechanical "ballade," "en employment ce moyen, on
est sur de faire une mauvaise, irremediablement mauvaise
_bouillabaisse_."  The poet adds the remark that "une bouillabaisse
reussie vaut un sonnet sans defaut."

There remains one field of M. De Banville's activity to be shortly
described.  Of his "Emaux Parisiens," short studies of celebrated
writers, we need say no more than that they are written in careful prose.
M. De Banville is not only a poet, but in his "Petit Traite de Poesie
Francaise" (Bibliotheque de l'Echo de la Sorbonne, s.d.) a teacher of the
mechanical part of poetry.  He does not, of course, advance a paradox
like that of Baudelaire, "that poetry can be taught in thirty lessons."
He merely instructs his pupil in the material part--the scansion, metres,
and so on--of French poetry.  In this little work he introduces these
"traditional forms of verse," which once caused some talk in England: the
_rondel_, _rondeau_, _ballade,_ _villanelle_, and _chant royal_.  It may
be worth while to quote his testimony as to the merit of these modes of
expression.  "This cluster of forms is one of our most precious
treasures, for each of them forms a rhythmic whole, complete and perfect,
while at the same time they all possess the fresh and unconscious grace
which marks the productions of primitive times."  Now, there is some
truth in this criticism; for it is a mark of man's early ingenuity, in
many arts, to seek complexity (where you would expect simplicity), and
yet to lend to that complexity an infantine naturalness.  One can see
this phenomenon in early decorative art, and in early law and custom, and
even in the complicated structure of primitive languages.  Now, just as
early, and even savage, races are our masters in the decorative use of
colour and of carving, so the nameless master-singers of ancient France
may be our teachers in decorative poetry, the poetry some call _vers de
societe_.  Whether it is possible to go beyond this, and adapt the old
French forms to serious modern poetry, it is not for any one but time to
decide.  In this matter, as in greater affairs, _securus judicat orbis
terrarum_.  For my own part I scarcely believe that the revival would
serve the nobler ends of English poetry.  Now let us listen again to De
Banville.

"In the _rondel_, as in the _rondeau_ and the _ballade_, all the art is
to bring in the refrain without effort, naturally, gaily, and each time
with novel effect and with fresh light cast on the central idea."  Now,
you can _teach_ no one to do that, and M. De Banville never pretends to
give any recipes for cooking _rondels_ or _ballades_ worth reading.
"Without poetic _vision_ all is mere marquetery and cabinet-maker's work:
that is, so far as poetry is concerned--nothing."  It is because he was a
poet, not a mere craftsman, that Villon was and remains the king, the
absolute master, of ballad-land."  About the _rondeau_, M. De Banville
avers that it possesses "nimble movement, speed, grace, lightness of
touch, and, as it were, an ancient fragrance of the soil, that must charm
all who love our country and our country's poetry, in its every age."  As
for the _villanelle_, M. De Banville declares that it is the fairest
jewel in the casket of the muse Erato; while the _chant royal_ is a kind
of fossil poem, a relic of an age when kings and allegories flourished.
"The kings and the gods are dead," like Pan; or at least we no longer
find them able, by touch royal or divine, to reanimate the magnificent
_chant royal_.

This is M. De Banville's apology in _pro lyra sua_, that light lyre of
many tones, in whose jingle the eternal note of modern sadness is heard
so rarely.  If he has a lesson to teach English versifiers, surely it is
a lesson of gaiety.  They are only too fond of rue and rosemary, and now
and then prefer the cypress to the bay.  M. De Banville's muse is content
to wear roses in her locks, and perhaps may retain, for many years, a
laurel leaf from the ancient laurel tree which once sheltered the poet at
Turbia.



HOMER AND THE STUDY OF GREEK


The Greek language is being ousted from education, here, in France, and
in America.  The speech of the earliest democracies is not democratic
enough for modern anarchy.  There is nothing to be gained, it is said, by
a knowledge of Greek.  We have not to fight the battle of life with
Hellenic waiters; and, even if we had, Romaic, or modern Greek, is much
more easily learned than the old classical tongue.  The reason of this
comparative ease will be plain to any one who, retaining a vague memory
of his Greek grammar, takes up a modern Greek newspaper.  He will find
that the idioms of the modern newspaper are the idioms of all newspapers,
that the grammar is the grammar of modern languages, that the opinions
are expressed in barbarous translations of barbarous French and English
journalistic _cliches_ or commonplaces.  This ugly and undignified
mixture of the ancient Greek characters, and of ancient Greek words with
modern grammar and idioms, and stereotyped phrases, is extremely
distasteful to the scholar.  Modern Greek, as it is at present printed,
is not the natural spoken language of the peasants.  You can read a Greek
leading article, though you can hardly make sense of a Greek rural
ballad.  The peasant speech is a thing of slow development; there is a
basis of ancient Greek in it, with large elements of Slavonic, Turkish,
Italian, and other imposed or imported languages.  Modern literary Greek
is a hybrid of revived classical words, blended with the idioms of the
speeches which have arisen since the fall of the Roman Empire.  Thus,
thanks to the modern and familiar element in it, modern Greek "as she is
writ" is much more easily learned than ancient Greek.  Consequently, if
any one has need for the speech in business or travel, he can acquire as
much of it as most of us have of French, with considerable ease.  People
therefore argue that ancient Greek is particularly superfluous in
schools.  Why waste time on it, they ask, which could be expended on
science, on modern languages, or any other branch of education?  There is
a great deal of justice in this position.  The generation of men who are
now middle-aged bestowed much time and labour on Greek; and in what, it
may be asked, are they better for it?  Very few of them "keep up their
Greek."  Say, for example, that one was in a form with fifty boys who
began the study--it is odds against five of the survivors still reading
Greek books.  The worldly advantages of the study are slight: it may lead
three of the fifty to a good degree, and one to a fellowship; but good
degrees may be taken in other subjects, and fellowships may be abolished,
or "nationalised," with all other forms of property.

Then, why maintain Greek in schools?  Only a very minute percentage of
the boys who are tormented with it really learn it.  Only a still smaller
percentage can read it after they are thirty.  Only one or two gain any
material advantage by it.  In very truth, most minds are not framed by
nature to excel and to delight in literature, and only to such minds and
to schoolmasters is Greek valuable.

This is the case against Greek put as powerfully as one can state it.  On
the other side, we may say, though the remark may seem absurd at first
sight, that to have mastered Greek, even if you forget it, is not to have
wasted time.  It really is an educational and mental discipline.  The
study is so severe that it needs the earnest application of the mind.  The
study is averse to indolent intellectual ways; it will not put up with a
"there or thereabouts," any more than mathematical ideas admit of being
made to seem "extremely plausible."  He who writes, and who may venture
to offer himself as an example, is naturally of a most slovenly and
slatternly mental habit.  It is his constant temptation to "scamp" every
kind of work, and to say "it will do well enough."  He hates taking
trouble and verifying references.  And he can honestly confess that
nothing in his experience has so helped, in a certain degree, to
counteract those tendencies--as the labour of thoroughly learning certain
Greek texts--the dramatists, Thucydides, some of the books of Aristotle.
Experience has satisfied him that Greek is of real educational value,
and, apart from the acknowledged and unsurpassed merit of its literature,
is a severe and logical training of the mind.  The mental constitution is
strengthened and braced by the labour, even if the language is forgotten
in later life.

It is manifest, however, that this part of education is not for
everybody.  The real educational problem is to discover what boys Greek
will be good for, and what boys will only waste time and dawdle over it.
Certainly to men of a literary turn (a very minute percentage), Greek is
of an inestimable value.  Great poets, even, may be ignorant of it, as
Shakespeare probably was, as Keats and Scott certainly were, as Alexandre
Dumas was.  But Dumas regretted his ignorance; Scott regretted it.  We
know not how much Scott's admitted laxity of style and hurried careless
habit might have been modified by a knowledge of Greek; how much of
grace, permanence, and generally of art, his genius might have gained
from the language and literature of Hellas.  The most Homeric of modern
men could not read Homer.  As for Keats, he was born a Greek, it has been
said; but had he been born with a knowledge of Greek, he never, probably,
would have been guilty of his chief literary faults.  This is not
certain, for some modern men of letters deeply read in Greek have all the
qualities of fustian and effusiveness which Longinus most despised.  Greek
will not make a luxuriously Asiatic mind Hellenic, it is certain; but it
may, at least, help to restrain effusive and rhetorical gabble.  Our
Asiatic rhetoricians might perhaps be even more barbarous than they are
if Greek were a sealed book to them.  However this may be, it is, at
least, well to find out in a school what boys are worth instructing in
the Greek language.  Now, of their worthiness, of their chances of
success in the study, Homer seems the best touchstone; and he is
certainly the most attractive guide to the study.

At present boys are introduced to the language of the Muses by
pedantically written grammars, full of the queerest and most arid
metaphysical and philological verbiage.  The very English in which these
deplorable books are composed may be scientific, may be comprehensible by
and useful to philologists, but is utterly heart-breaking to boys.

Philology might be made fascinating; the history of a word, and of the
processes by which its different forms, in different senses, were
developed, might be made as interesting as any other story of events.  But
grammar is not taught thus: boys are introduced to a jargon about matters
meaningless, and they are naturally as much enchanted as if they were
listening to a _chimaera bombinans in vacuo_.  The grammar, to them, is a
mere buzz in a chaos of nonsense.  They have to learn the buzz by rote;
and a pleasant process that is--a seductive initiation into the
mysteries.  When they struggle so far as to be allowed to try to read a
piece of Greek prose, they are only like the Marchioness in her
experience of beer: she once had a sip of it.  Ten lines of Xenophon,
narrating how he marched so many parasangs and took breakfast, do not
amount to more than a very unrefreshing sip of Greek.  Nobody even tells
the boys who Xenophon was, what he did there, and what it was all about.
Nobody gives a brief and interesting sketch of the great march, of its
history and objects.  The boys straggle along with Xenophon, knowing not
whence or whither:

   "They stray through a desolate region,
      And often are faint on the march."

One by one they fall out of the ranks; they mutiny against Xenophon; they
murmur against that commander; they desert his flag.  They determine that
anything is better than Greek, that nothing can be worse than Greek, and
they move the tender hearts of their parents.  They are put to learn
German; which they do not learn, unluckily, but which they find it
comparatively easy to shirk.  In brief, they leave school without having
learned anything whatever.

Up to a certain age my experiences at school were precisely those which I
have described.  Our grammar was not so philological, abstruse and arid
as the instruments of torture employed at present.  But I hated Greek
with a deadly and sickening hatred; I hated it like a bully and a thief
of time.  The verbs in [Greek text] completed my intellectual
discomfiture, and Xenophon routed me with horrible carnage.  I could have
run away to sea, but for a strong impression that a life on the ocean
wave "did not set my genius," as Alan Breck says.  Then we began to read
Homer; and from the very first words, in which the Muse is asked to sing
the wrath of Achilles, Peleus' son, my mind was altered, and I was the
devoted friend of Greek.  Here was something worth reading about; here
one knew where one was; here was the music of words, here were poetry,
pleasure, and life.  We fortunately had a teacher (Dr. Hodson) who was
not wildly enthusiastic about grammar.  He would set us long pieces of
the Iliad or Odyssey to learn, and, when the day's task was done, would
make us read on, adventuring ourselves in "the unseen," and construing as
gallantly as we might, without grammar or dictionary.  On the following
day we surveyed more carefully the ground we had pioneered or skirmished
over, and then advanced again.  Thus, to change the metaphor, we took
Homer in large draughts, not in sips: in sips no epic can be enjoyed.  We
now revelled in Homer like Keats in Spenser, like young horses let loose
in a pasture.  The result was not the making of many accurate scholars,
though a few were made; others got nothing better than enjoyment in their
work, and the firm belief, opposed to that of most schoolboys, that the
ancients did not write nonsense.  To love Homer, as Steele said about
loving a fair lady of quality, "is a liberal education."

Judging from this example, I venture very humbly to think that any one
who, even at the age of Cato, wants to learn Greek, should begin where
Greek literature, where all profane literature begins--with Homer
himself.  It was thus, not with grammars _in vacuo_, that the great
scholars of the Renaissance began.  It was thus that Ascham and Rabelais
began, by jumping into Greek and splashing about till they learned to
swim.  First, of course, a person must learn the Greek characters.  Then
his or her tutor may make him read a dozen lines of Homer, marking the
cadence, the surge and thunder of the hexameters--a music which, like
that of the Sirens, few can hear without being lured to the seas and
isles of song.  Then the tutor might translate a passage of moving
interest, like Priam's appeal to Achilles; first, of course, explaining
the situation.  Then the teacher might go over some lines, minutely
pointing out how the Greek words are etymologically connected with many
words in English.  Next, he might take a substantive and a verb, showing
roughly how their inflections arose and were developed, and how they
retain forms in Homer which do not occur in later Greek.  There is no
reason why even this part of the lesson should be uninteresting.  By this
time a pupil would know, more or less, where he was, what Greek is, and
what the Homeric poems are like.  He might thus believe from the first
that there are good reasons for knowing Greek; that it is the key to many
worlds of life, of action, of beauty, of contemplation, of knowledge.
Then, after a few more exercises in Homer, the grammar being judiciously
worked in along with the literature of the epic, a teacher might discern
whether it was worth while for his pupils to continue in the study of
Greek.  Homer would be their guide into the "realms of gold."

It is clear enough that Homer is the best guide.  His is the oldest
extant Greek, his matter is the most various and delightful, and most
appeals to the young, who are wearied by scraps of Xenophon, and who
cannot be expected to understand the Tragedians.  But Homer is a poet for
all ages, all races, and all moods.  To the Greeks the epics were not
only the best of romances, the richest of poetry; not only their oldest
documents about their own history,--they were also their Bible, their
treasury of religious traditions and moral teaching.  With the Bible and
Shakespeare, the Homeric poems are the best training for life.  There is
no good quality that they lack: manliness, courage, reverence for old age
and for the hospitable hearth; justice, piety, pity, a brave attitude
towards life and death, are all conspicuous in Homer.  He has to write of
battles; and he delights in the joy of battle, and in all the movement of
war.  Yet he delights not less, but more, in peace: in prosperous cities,
hearths secure, in the tender beauty of children, in the love of wedded
wives, in the frank nobility of maidens, in the beauty of earth and sky
and sea, and seaward murmuring river, in sun and snow, frost and mist and
rain, in the whispered talk of boy and girl beneath oak and pine tree.

Living in an age where every man was a warrior, where every city might
know the worst of sack and fire, where the noblest ladies might be led
away for slaves, to light the fire and make the bed of a foreign master,
Homer inevitably regards life as a battle.  To each man on earth comes
"the wicked day of destiny," as Malory unconsciously translates it, and
each man must face it as hardily as he may.

Homer encourages them by all the maxims of chivalry and honour.  His
heart is with the brave of either side--with Glaucus and Sarpedon of
Lycia no less than with Achilles and Patroclus.  "Ah, friend," cries
Sarpedon, "if once escaped from this battle we were for ever to be
ageless and immortal, neither would I myself fight now in the foremost
ranks, nor would I urge thee into the wars that give renown; but now--for
assuredly ten thousand fates of death on every side beset us, and these
may no man shun, nor none avoid--forward now let us go, whether we are to
give glory or to win it!"  And forth they go, to give and take renown and
death, all the shields and helms of Lycia shining behind them, through
the dust of battle, the singing of the arrows, the hurtling of spears,
the rain of stones from the Locrian slings.  And shields are smitten, and
chariot-horses run wild with no man to drive them, and Sarpedon drags
down a portion of the Achaean battlement, and Aias leaps into the trench
with his deadly spear, and the whole battle shifts and shines beneath the
sun.  Yet he who sings of the war, and sees it with his sightless eyes,
sees also the Trojan women working at the loom, cheating their anxious
hearts with broidery work of gold and scarlet, or raising the song to
Athene, or heating the bath for Hector, who never again may pass within
the gates of Troy.  He sees the poor weaving woman, weighing the wool,
that she may not defraud her employers, and yet may win bread for her
children.  He sees the children, the golden head of Astyanax, his
shrinking from the splendour of the hero's helm.  He sees the child
Odysseus, going with his father through the orchard, and choosing out
some apple trees "for his very own."  It is in the mouth of the ruthless
Achilles, the fatal, the fated, the swift-footed hero with the hands of
death, that Homer places the tenderest of his similes.  "Wherefore
weepest thou, Patroclus, like a fond little maid, that runs by her
mother's side, praying her mother to take her up, snatching at her gown,
and hindering her as she walks, and tearfully looking at her till her
mother takes her up?--like her, Patroclus, dost thou softly weep."

This is what Chesterfield calls "the porter-like language of Homer's
heroes."  Such are the moods of Homer, so full of love of life and all
things living, so rich in all human sympathies, so readily moved when the
great hound Argus welcomes his master, whom none knew after twenty years,
but the hound knew him, and died in that welcome.  With all this love of
the real, which makes him dwell so fondly on every detail of armour, of
implement, of art; on the divers-coloured gold-work of the shield, on the
making of tires for chariot-wheels, on the forging of iron, on the rose-
tinted ivory of the Sidonians, on cooking and eating and sacrificing, on
pet dogs, on wasps and their ways, on fishing, on the boar hunt, on
scenes in baths where fair maidens lave water over the heroes, on
undiscovered isles with good harbours and rich land, on ploughing,
mowing, and sowing, on the furniture of houses, on the golden vases
wherein the white dust of the dead is laid,--with all this delight in the
real, Homer is the most romantic of poets.  He walks with the surest foot
in the darkling realm of dread Persephone, beneath the poplars on the
solemn last beach of Ocean.  He has heard the Siren's music, and the song
of Circe, chanting as she walks to and fro, casting the golden shuttle
through the loom of gold.  He enters the cave of the Man Eater; he knows
the unsunned land of the Cimmerians; in the summer of the North he has
looked, from the fiord of the Laestrygons, on the Midnight Sun.  He has
dwelt on the floating isle of AEolus, with its wall of bronze unbroken,
and has sailed on those Phaeacian barks that need no help of helm or oar,
that fear no stress either of wind or tide, that come and go and return
obedient to a thought and silent as a dream.  He has seen the four
maidens of Circe, daughters of wells and woods, and of sacred streams.  He
is the second-sighted man, and beholds the shroud that wraps the living
who are doomed, and the mystic dripping from the walls of blood yet
unshed.  He has walked in the garden closes of Phaeacia, and looked on
the face of gods who fare thither, and watch the weaving of the dance.  He
has eaten the honey-sweet fruit of the lotus, and from the hand of Helen
he brings us that Egyptian nepenthe which puts all sorrow out of mind.
His real world is as real as that in _Henry V._, his enchanted isles are
charmed with the magic of the _Tempest_.  His young wooers are as
insolent as Claudio, as flushed with youth; his beggar-men are brethren
of Edie Ochiltree; his Nausicaa is sister to Rosalind, with a different
charm of stately purity in love.  His enchantresses hold us yet with
their sorceries; his Helen is very Beauty: she has all the sweetness of
ideal womanhood, and her repentance is without remorse.  His Achilles is
youth itself, glorious, cruel, pitiful, splendid, and sad, ardent and
loving, and conscious of its doom.  Homer, in truth, is to be matched
only with Shakespeare, and of Shakespeare he has not the occasional
wilfulness, freakishness, and modish obscurity.  He is a poet all of
gold, universal as humanity, simple as childhood, musical now as the flow
of his own rivers, now as the heavy plunging wave of his own Ocean.

Such, then, as far as weak words can speak of him, is the first and
greatest of poets.  This is he whom English boys are to be ignorant of,
if Greek be ousted from our schools, or are to know only in the
distorting mirror of a versified, or in the pale shadow of a prose
translation.  Translations are good only as teachers to bring men to
Homer.  English verse has no measure which even remotely suggests the
various flow of the hexameter.  Translators who employ verse give us a
feeble Homer, dashed with their own conceits, and moulded to their own
style.  Translators who employ prose "tell the story without the song,"
but, at least, they add no twopenny "beauties" and cheap conceits of
their own.

I venture to offer a few examples of original translation, in which the
mannerisms of poets who have, or have not, translated Homer, are
parodied, and, of course (except in the case of Pope), exaggerated.  The
passage is the speech of the Second-sighted Man, before the slaying of
the wooers in the hall:--

   "Ah! wretched men, what ill is this ye suffer?  In night are swathed
   your heads, your faces, your knees; and the voice of wailing is
   kindled, and cheeks are wet with tears, and with blood drip the walls,
   and the fair main beams of the roof, and the porch is full of shadows,
   and full is the courtyard, of ghosts that hasten hellward below the
   darkness, and the sun has perished out of heaven, and an evil mist
   sweeps up over all."

So much for Homer.  The first attempt at metric translation here given is
meant to be in the manner of Pope:

   "Caitiffs!" he cried, "what heaven-directed blight
   Involves each countenance with clouds of night!
   What pearly drop the ashen cheek bedews!
   Why do the walls with gouts ensanguined ooze?
   The court is thronged with ghosts that 'neath the gloom
   Seek Pluto's realm, and Dis's awful doom;
   In ebon curtains Phoebus hides his head,
   And sable mist creeps upward from the dead."

This appears pretty bad, and nearly as un-Homeric as a translation could
possibly be.  But Pope, aided by Broome and Fenton, managed to be much
less Homeric, much more absurd, and infinitely more "classical" in the
sense in which Pope is classical:

   "O race to death devote! with Stygian shade
   Each destined peer impending fates invade;
   With tears your wan distorted cheeks are drowned;
   With sanguine drops the walls are rubied round:
   Thick swarms the spacious hall with howling ghosts,
   To people Orcus and the burning coasts!
   Nor gives the sun his golden orb to roll,
   But universal night usurps the pole."

Who could have conjectured that even Pope would wander away so far from
his matchless original?  "Wretches!" cries Theoclymenus, the seer; and
that becomes, "O race to death devote!"  "Your heads are swathed in
night," turns into "With Stygian shade each destined peer" (peer is
good!) "impending fates invade," where Homer says nothing about Styx nor
peers.  The Latin Orcus takes the place of Erebus, and "the burning
coasts" are derived from modern popular theology.  The very grammar
detains or defies the reader; is it the sun that does not give his golden
orb to roll, or who, or what?

The only place where the latter-day Broome or Fenton can flatter himself
that he rivals Pope at his own game is--

   "What pearly drop the ashen cheek bedews!"

This is, if possible, _more_ classical than Pope's own--

   "With tears your wan distorted cheeks are drowned."

But Pope nobly revindicates his unparalleled power of translating
funnily, when, in place of "the walls drip with blood," he writes--

   "With sanguine drops the walls are rubied round."

Homer does not appear to have been acquainted with rubies; but what of
that?  And how noble, how eminently worthy of Pope it is to add that the
ghosts "howl"!  I tried to make them gibber, but ghosts _do_ gibber in
Homer (though not in this passage), so Pope, Fenton, Broome, and Co.,
make them howl.

No, Pope is not lightly to be rivalled by a modern translator.  The
following example, a far-off following of a noted contemporary poet, may
be left unsigned--

   "Wretches, the bane hath befallen, the night and the blight of your
   sin
   Sweeps like a shroud o'er the faces and limbs that were gladsome
   therein;
   And the dirge of the dead breaketh forth, and the faces of all men are
   wet,
   And the walls are besprinkled with blood, and the ghosts in the
   gateway are met,
   Ghosts in the court and the gateway are gathered, Hell opens her lips,
   And the sun in his splendour is shrouded, and sickens in spasm of
   eclipse."

The next is longer and slower: the poet has a difficulty in telling his
story:

   "Wretches," he cried, "what doom is this? what night
   Clings like a face-cloth to the face of each,--
   Sweeps like a shroud o'er knees and head? for lo!
   The windy wail of death is up, and tears
   On every cheek are wet; each shining wall
   And beauteous interspace of beam and beam
   Weeps tears of blood, and shadows in the door
   Flicker, and fill the portals and the court--
   Shadows of men that hellwards yearn--and now
   The sun himself hath perished out of heaven,
   And all the land is darkened with a mist."

That could never be mistaken for a version by the Laureate, as perhaps
any contemporary hack's works might have been taken for Pope's.  The
difficulty, perhaps, lies here: any one knows where to have Pope, any one
knows that he will evade the _mot propre_, though the precise evasion he
may select is hard to guess.  But the Laureate would keep close to his
text, and yet would write like himself, very beautifully, but not with an
Homeric swiftness and strength.  Who is to imitate him?  As to Mr.
William Morris, he might be fabled to render [Greek text] "niddering
wights," but beyond that, conjecture is baffled. {91}  Or is _this_ the
kind of thing?--

   "Niddering wights, what a bane do ye bear, for your knees in the
   night,
   And your heads and your faces, are shrouded, and clamour that knows
   not delight
   Rings, and your cheeks are begrutten, and blood is besprent on the
   walls,
   Blood on the tapestry fair woven, and barrow-wights walk in the halls.
   Fetches and wraiths of the chosen of the Norns, and the sun from the
   lift
   Shudders, and over the midgarth and swan's bath the cloud-shadows
   drift."

It may be argued that, though this is perhaps a translation, it is not
English, never was, and never will be.  But it is quite as like Homer as
the performance of Pope.

Such as these, or not so very much better than these as might be wished,
are our efforts to translate Homer.  From Chapman to Avia, or Mr. William
Morris, they are all eminently conscientious, and erroneous, and futile.
Chapman makes Homer a fanciful, euphuistic, obscure, and garrulous
Elizabethan, but Chapman has fire.  Pope makes him a wit, spirited,
occasionally noble, full of points, and epigrams, and queer rococo
conventionalisms.  Cowper makes him slow, lumbering, a Milton without the
music.  Maginn makes him pipe an Irish jig:--

   "Scarcely had she begun to wash
   When she was aware of the grisly gash!"

Lord Derby makes him respectable and ponderous.  Lord Tennyson makes him
not less, but certainly not more, than Tennysonian.  Homer, in the
Laureate's few fragments of experiment, is still a poet, but he is not
Homer.  Mr. Morris, and Avia, make him Icelandic, and archaistic, and
hard to scan, though vigorous in his fetters for all that.  Bohn makes
him a crib; and of other translators in prose it has been said, with a
humour which one of them appreciates, that they render Homer into a
likeness of the Book of Mormon.

Homer is untranslatable.  None of us can bend the bow of Eurytus, and
make the bow-string "ring sweetly at the touch, like the swallow's song."
The adventure is never to be achieved; and, if Greek is to be dismissed
from education, not the least of the sorrows that will ensue is English
ignorance of Homer.



THE LAST FASHIONABLE NOVEL


The editor of a great American newspaper once offered the author of these
lines a commission to explore a lost country, the seat of a fallen and
forgotten civilisation.  It was not in Yucatan, or Central Africa, or
Thibet, or Kafiristan, this desolate region, once so popular, so gaudy,
so much frequented and desired.  It was only the fashionable novels of
the Forties, say from 1835 to 1850, that I was requested to examine and
report upon.  But I shrank from the colossal task.  I am no Mr. Stanley;
and the length, the difficulties, the arduousness of the labour appalled
me.  Besides, I do not know where that land lies, the land of the old
Fashionable Novel, the Kor of which Thackeray's Lady Fanny Flummery is
the Ayesha.  What were the names of the old novels, and who were the
authors, and in the circulating library of what undiscoverable watering-
place are they to be found?  We have heard of Mrs. Gore, we have heard of
_Tremayne_, _and Emilia Wyndham_, and the _Bachelor of the Albany_; and
many of us have read _Pelham_, or know him out of Carlyle's art, and
those great curses which he spoke.  But who was the original, or who were
the originals, that sat for the portrait of the "Fashionable Authoress,"
Lady Fanny Flummery? and of what work is _Lords and Liveries_ a parody?
The author is also credited with _Dukes and Dejeuners_, _Marchionesses
and Milliners_, etc.  Could, any candidate in a literary examination name
the prototypes?  "Let mantua-makers puff her, but not men," says
Thackeray, speaking of Lady Fanny Flummery, "and the Fashionable
Authoress is no more.  Blessed, blessed thought!  No more fiddle-faddle
novels!  When will you arrive, O happy Golden Age!"

Well, it has arrived, though we are none the happier for all that.  The
Fashionable Novel has ceased to exist, and the place of the fashionable
authoress knows her no more.  Thackeray plainly detested Lady Fanny.  He
writes about her, her books, her critics, her successes, with a certain
bitterness.  Can it be possible that a world which rather neglected
_Barry Lyndon_ was devoted to _Marchionesses and Milliners_?  Lady Fanny
is represented as having editors and reviewers at her feet; she sits
among the flowers, like the Sirens, and around her are the bones of
critics corrupt in death.  She is puffed for the sake of her bouquets,
her dinners, her affabilities and condescensions.  She gives a reviewer a
great garnet pin, adorned wherewith he paces the town.  Her adorers
compare her to "him who sleeps by Avon."  In one of Mr. Black's novels
there is a lady of this kind, who captivates the tribe of "Log Rollers,"
as Mr. Black calls them.  This lady appears to myself to be a quite
impossible She.  One has never met her with her wiles, nor come across
her track, even, and seen the bodies and the bones of those who perished
in puffing her.  Some persons of rank and fashion have a taste for the
society of some men of letters, but nothing in the way of literary
puffery seems to come of it.  Of course many critics like to give their
friends and acquaintances an applausive hand, and among their
acquaintances may be ladies of fashion who write novels; but we read
nowhere such extraordinary adulations as Augustus Timson bestowed on Lady
Fanny.  The fashionable authoress is nearly extinct, though some persons
write well albeit they are fashionable.  The fashionable novel is as dead
as a door nail: _Lothair_ was nearly the last of the species.  There are
novelists who write about "Society," to be sure, like Mr. Norris; but
their tone is quite different.  They do not speak as if Dukes and Earls
were some strange superior kind of beings; their manner is that of men
accustomed to and undazzled by Earls, writing for readers who do not care
whether the hero is a lord or a commoner.  They are "at ease," though not
terribly "in Zion."  Thackeray himself introduces plenty of the peerage,
but it cannot be said that he is always at ease in their society.  He
remembers that they are lords, and is on his guard, very often, and
suspicious and sarcastic, except, perhaps when he deals with a gentleman
like Lord Kew.  He examines them like curious wild animals in the Jardin
des Plantes.  He is an accomplished naturalist, and not afraid of the
lion; but he remembers that the animal is royal, and has a title.  Mr.
Norris, for instance, shows nothing of this mood.  Mr. Trollope was not
afraid of his Dukes: he thought none the worse of a man because he was
the high and puissant prince of Omnium.  As for most novelists, they no
longer paint fashionable society with enthusiasm.  Mr. Henry James has
remarked that young British peers favour the word "beastly,"--a point
which does not always impress itself into other people so keenly as into
Mr. Henry James.  In reading him you do not forget that his Tufts are
Tufts.  But then Tufts are really strange animals to the denizens of the
Great Republic.  Perhaps the modern realism has made novelists desert the
world where Dukes and Dowagers abound.  Novelists do not know very much
about it; they are not wont to haunt the gilded saloons, and they prefer
to write about the manners which they know.  A very good novel, in these
strange ruinous times, might be written with a Duke for hero; but nobody
writes it, and, if anybody did write it in the modern manner, it would
not in the least resemble the old fashionable novel.

Here a curious point arises.  We have all studied the ingenious lady who
calls herself Ouida.  Now, is Ouida, or rather was Ouida in her early
state sublime, the last of the old fashionable novelists, or did
Thackeray unconsciously prophesy of her when he wrote his burlesque
_Lords and Liveries_?  Think of the young earl of Bagnigge, "who was
never heard to admire anything except a _coulis de dindonneau a la St.
Menehould_, . . . or the bouquet of a flask of Medoc, of Carbonnell's
best quality, or a _goutte_ of Marasquin, from the cellars of Briggs and
Hobson."  We have met such young patricians in _Under Two Flags_ and
_Idalia_.  But then there is a difference: Ouida never tells us that her
hero was "blest with a mother of excellent principles, who had imbued his
young mind with that morality which is so superior to all the vain pomps
of the world."  But a hero of Ouida's might easily have had a father who
"was struck down by the side of the gallant Collingwood in the Bay of
Fundy."  The heroes themselves may have "looked at the Pyramids without
awe, at the Alps without reverence."  They do say "_Corpo di Bacco_," and
the Duca de Montepulciano does reply, "_E' bellissima certamente_."  And
their creator might conceivably remark "Non cuivis contigit."  But Lady
Fanny Flummery's ladies could not dress as Ouida's ladies do: they could
not quote Petronius Arbiter; they had never heard of Suetonius.  No age
reproduces itself.  There is much of our old fashionable authoress in
Ouida's earlier tales; there is plenty of the Peerage, plenty of queer
French in old novels and Latin yet more queer; but where is the _elan_
which takes archaeology with a rush, which sticks at no adventure,
however nobly incredible? where is the pathos, the simplicity, the purple
splendour of Ouida's manner, or manners?  No, the spirit of the world,
mirroring itself in the minds of individuals, simpered, and that simper
was Lady Fanny Flummery.  But it did many things more portentous than
simpering, when it reflected itself in Ouida.

Is it that we do no longer gape on the aristocracy admiringly, and write
of them curiously, as if they were creatures in a Paradise?  Is it that
Thackeray has converted us?  In part, surely, we are just as snobbish as
ever, though the gods of our adoration totter to their fall, and "a
hideous hum" from the mob outside thrills through the temples.  In
fiction, on the other hand, the world of fashion is "played out."  Nobody
cares to read or write about the dear duchess.  If a peer comes into a
novel he comes in, not as a coroneted curiosity, but as a man, just as if
he were a dentist, or a stockbroker.  His rank is an accident; it used to
be the essence of his luminous apparition.  I scarce remember a lord in
all the many works of Mr. Besant, nor do they people the romances of Mr.
Black.  Mr. Kipling does not deal in them, nor Mr. George Meredith much;
Mr. Haggard hardly gets beyond a baronet, and _he_ wears chain mail in
Central Africa, and tools with an axe.  Mrs. Oliphant has a Scotch peer,
but he is less interesting and prominent than his family ghost.  No, we
have only Ouida left, and Mr. Norris--who writes about people of fashion,
indeed, but who has nothing in him of the old fashionable novelist.

Is it to a Republic, to France, that we must look for our fashionable
novels--to France and to America.  Every third person in M. Guy de
Maupassant's tales has a "de," and is a Marquis or a Vicomte.  As for M.
Paul Bourget, one really can be happy with him in the fearless old
fashion.  With him we meet Lord Henry Bohun, and M. De Casal (a Vicomte),
and all the Marquises and _Marquises_; and all the pale blue boudoirs,
and sentimental Duchesses, whose hearts are only too good, and who get
into the most complicated amorous scrapes.  That young Republican, M.
Bourget, sincerely loves a _blason_, a pedigree, diamonds, lace, silver
dressing cases, silver baths, essences, pomatums, _le grand luxe_.  So
does Gyp: apart from her wit, Gyp is delightful to read, introducing us
to the very best of bad company.  Even M. Fortune du Boisgobey likes a
Vicomte, and is partial to the _noblesse_, while M. Georges Ohnet is
accused of entering the golden world of rank, like a man without a
wedding garment, and of being lost and at sea among his aristocrats.  They
order these things better in France: they still appeal to the fine old
natural taste for rank and luxury, splendour and refinement.  What is Gyp
but a Lady Fanny Flummery _reussie_,--Lady Fanny with the trifling
additional qualities of wit and daring?  Observe her noble scorn of M.
George Ohnet: it is a fashionable arrogance.

To my mind, I confess, the decay of the British fashionable novel seems
one of the most threatening signs of the times.  Even in France
institutions are much more permanent than here.  In France they have
fashionable novels, and very good novels too: no man of sense will deny
that they are far better than our dilettantism of the slums, or our
religious and social tracts in the disguise of romance.  If there is no
new tale of treasure and bandits and fights and lions handy, may I have a
fashionable novel in French to fall back upon!  Even Count Tolstoi does
not disdain the _genre_.  There is some uncommonly high life in _Anna
Karenine_.  He adds a great deal of psychology, to be sure; so does M.
Paul Bourget.  But he takes you among smart people, who have everything
handsome about them--titles, and lands, and rents.  Is it not a hard
thing that an honest British snob, if he wants to move in the highest
circles of fiction, must turn to French novelists, or Russian, or
American?  As to the American novels of the _elite_ and the _beau monde_,
their elegance is obscured to English eyes, because that which makes one
New Yorker better than another, that which creates the Upper Ten Thousand
(dear phrase!) of New York, is so inconspicuous.  For example, the
scientific inquirer may venture himself among the novels of two young
American authors.  Few English students make this voyage of exploration.
But the romances of these ingenious writers are really, or really try to
be, a kind of fashionable novels.  It is a queer domain of fashion, to be
sure, peopled by the strangest aborigines, who talk and are talked about
in a language most interesting to the philologist.  Here poor Lady Fanny
Flummery would have been sadly to seek, for her characters, though noble,
were moral, and her pen was wielded on the side of Church and State.  But
these western fashionables have morals and a lingo of their own, made in
equal parts of the American idioms and of expressions transferred from
the jargon of Decadence and the _Parnassiculet Contemporain_.  As one
peruses these novels one thinks of a new tale to be told--_The Last of
the Fashionables_, who died away, like the buffalo and the grisly bear,
in some canon or forest of the Wild West.  I think this distinguished
being, _Ultimus hominum venustiorum_, will find the last remnants of the
Gentlemanly Party in some Indian tribe, Apaches or Sioux.  I see him
raised to the rank of chief, and leading the red-skinned and painted
cavaliers on the war-path against the Vulgarians of the ultimate
Democracy.  To depict this dandy chief would require the art at once of a
Cooper and a Ouida.  Let me attempt--



THE LAST FIGHT OF FOUR HAIR-BRUSHES


By this time the Sioux were flying in all directions, mowed down by the
fire of Gatling and Maxim guns.  The scrub of Little Big Horn Creek was
strewn with the bodies of writhing braves.  On the livid and volcanic
heights of Mount Buncombe, the painted tents were blazing merrily.  But
on a mound above the creek, an ancient fortress of some long-forgotten
people, a small group of Indian horsemen, might be observed, steady as
rocks in the refluent tide of war.  The fire from their Winchester
repeaters blazed out like the streamers of the Northern Lights.  Again
and again the flower of the United States army had charged up the mound,
only to recoil in flight, or to line the cliff with their corpses.  The
First Irish Cuirassiers had been annihilated: Parnell's own, alas! in the
heat of the combat had turned their fratricidal black-thorns on
M'Carthy's brigade, and these two gallant squadrons were mixed and
broken, falling beneath the blows of brothers estranged.

But at last the fire from the Redmen on the bluff slackened and grew
silent.  The ammunition was exhausted.  There was a movement in the group
of braves.  Crazy Horse and Bald Coyote turned to Four Hair-Brushes, who
sat his steed Atalanta, last winner of the last Grand National, with all
the old careless elegance of the Row.

"Four Hair-Brushes," said Crazy Horse (and a tear rolled down his painted
cheek), "nought is left but flight."

"Then fly," said Four Hair-Brushes, languidly, lighting a cigarette,
which he took from a diamond-studded gold _etui_, the gift of the Kaiser
in old days.

"Nay, not without the White Chief," said Bald Coyote; and he seized the
reins of Four Hair-Brushes, to lead him from that stricken field.

"Vous etes trop vieux jeu, mon ami," murmured Four Hair-Brushes, "je ne
suis ni Edouard II., ni Charles Edouard a Culloden.  Quatre-brosses
meurt, mais il ne se rend pas."

The Indian released his hold, baffled by the erudition and the calm
courage of his captain.

"I make tracks," he said; and, swinging round so that his horse concealed
his body, he galloped down the bluff, and through the American cavalry,
scattering death from the arrows which he loosed under his horse's neck.

Four Hair-Brushes was alone.

Unarmed, as ever, he sat, save for the hunting-whip in his right hand.

"Scalp him!" yelled the Friendly Crows.

"Nay, take him alive: a seemlier knight never backed steed!" cried the
gallant Americans.

From their midst rode a courteous cavalier, Captain John Barry, the
scholar, the hero of sword and pen.

"Yield thee, Sir Knight!" he said, doffing his _kepi_ in martial
courtesy.

Four Hair-Brushes replied to his salute, and was opening his curved and
delicate lips to speak, when a chance bullet struck him full in the
breast.  He threw up his arms, reeled, and fell.  The gallant American,
leaping from saddle to ground, rushed to raise his head.

Through the war-paint he recognised him.

"Great Heaven!" he cried, "it is--"

"Hush!" whispered Four Hair-Brushes, with a weary smile: "let Annesley de
Vere of the Blues die unnamed.  Tell them that I fell in harness."

He did, indeed.  Under his feathered and painted cloak Barry found that
Annesley, ever careful of his figure, ever loyal in love, the last of the
Dandies, yet wore the corset of Madame de Telliere.  It was wet with his
life-blood.

"So dies," said Barry, "the last English gentleman."



THACKERAY


"I thought how some people's towering intellects and splendid cultivated
geniuses rise upon simple, beautiful foundations hidden out of sight."
Thus, in his Letters to Mrs. Brookfield, Mr. Thackeray wrote, after
visiting the crypt of Canterbury Cathedral, with its "charming,
harmonious, powerful combination of arches and shafts, beautiful
whichever way you see them developed, like a fine music."  The simile
applies to his own character and genius, to his own and perhaps to that
of most great authors, whose works are our pleasure and comfort in this
troublesome world.  There are critics who profess a desire to hear
nothing, or as little as may be, of the lives of great artists, whether
their instrument of art was the pen, or the brush, or the chisel, or the
strings and reeds of music.  With those critics perhaps most of us agree,
when we read books that gossip about Shelley, or Coleridge, or Byron.
"Give us their poetry," we say, "and leave their characters alone: we do
not want tattle about Claire and chatter about Harriet; we want to be
happy with 'The Skylark' or 'The Cloud.'"  Possibly this instinct is
correct, where such a poet as Shelley is concerned, whose life, like his
poetry, was as "the life of winds and tides," whose genius, unlike the
skylark's, was more true to the point of heaven than the point of home.
But reflection shows us that on the whole, as Mr. Thackeray says, a man's
genius must be builded on the foundations of his character.  Where that
genius deals with the mingled stuff of human life--sorrow, desire, love,
hatred, kindness, meanness--then the foundation of character is
especially important.  People are sometimes glad that we know so little
of Shakespeare the man; yet who can doubt that a true revelation of his
character would be not less worthy, noble and charming than the general
effect of his poems?  In him, it is certain, we should always find an
example of nobility, of generosity, of charity and kindness and
self-forgetfulness.  Indeed, we find these qualities, as a rule, in the
biographies of the great sympathetic poets and men of genius of the pen--I
do not say in the lives of rebels of genius, "meteoric poets" like Byron.
The same basis, the same foundations of rectitude, of honour, of
goodness, of melancholy, and of mirth, underlie the art of Moliere, of
Scott, of Fielding, and as his correspondence shows, of Thackeray.

It seems probable that a complete biography of Thackeray will never be
written.  It was his wish to live in his works alone: that wish his
descendants respect; and we must probably regard the Letters to Mr. and
Mrs. Brookfield as the last private and authentic record of the man which
will be given, at least to this generation.  In these Letters all
sympathetic readers will find the man they have long known from his
writings--the man with a heart so tender that the world often drove him
back into a bitterness of opposition, into an assumed hardness and
defensive cynicism.  There are readers so unluckily constituted that they
can see nothing in Thackeray but this bitterness, this cruel sense of
meanness and power of analysing shabby emotions, sneaking vanities,
contemptible ambitions.  All of us must often feel with regret that he
allowed himself to be made too unhappy by the spectacle of failings so
common in the world he knew best, that he dwelt on them too long and
lashed them too complacently.  One hopes never to read "Lovel the
Widower" again, and one gladly skips some of the speeches of the Old
Campaigner in "The Newcomes."  They are terrible, but not more terrible
than life.  Yet it is hard to understand how Mr. Ruskin, for example, can
let such scenes and characters hide from his view the kindness,
gentleness, and pity of Thackeray's nature.  The Letters must open all
eyes that are not wilfully closed, and should at last overcome every
prejudice.

In the Letters we see a man literally hungering and thirsting after
affection, after love--a man cut off by a cruel stroke of fate from his
natural solace, from the centre of a home.

   "God took from me a lady dear,"

he says, in the most touching medley of doggerel and poetry, made
"instead of writing my _Punch_ this morning."  Losing "a lady dear," he
takes refuge as he may, he finds comfort as he can, in all the affections
within his reach, in the society of an old college friend and of his
wife, in the love of all children, beginning with his own; in a generous
liking for all good work and for all good fellows.

Did any man of letters except Scott ever write of his rivals as Thackeray
wrote of Dickens?  Artists are a jealous race.  "Potter hates potter, and
poet hates poet," as Hesiod said so long ago.  This jealousy is not mere
envy, it is really a strong sense of how things ought to be done, in any
art, touched with a natural preference for a man's own way of doing them.
Now, what could be more unlike than the "ways" of Dickens and Thackeray?
The subjects chosen by these great authors are not more diverse than
their styles.  Thackeray writes like a scholar, not in the narrow sense,
but rather as a student and a master of all the refinements and resources
of language.  Dickens copies the chaff of the street, or he roams into
melodramatics, "drops into poetry"--blank verse at least--and touches all
with peculiarities, we might say mannerisms, of his own.  I have often
thought, and even tried to act on the thought, that some amusing
imaginary letters might be written, from characters of Dickens about
characters of Thackeray, from characters of Thackeray about characters of
Dickens.  They might be supposed to meet each other in society, and
describe each other.  Can you not fancy Captain Costigan on Dick
Swiveller, Blanche Amory on Agnes, Pen on David Copperfield, and that
"tiger" Steerforth?  What would the family solicitor of "The Newcomes"
have to say of Mr. Tulkinghorn?  How would George Warrington appreciate
Mr. Pickwick?  Yes, the two great novelists were as opposed as two men
could be--in manner, in style, in knowledge of books, and of the world.
And yet how admirably Thackeray writes about Dickens, in his letters as
in his books!  How he delights in him!  How manly is that emulation which
enables an author to see all the points in his rival, and not to carp at
them, but to praise, and be stimulated to keener effort!

Consider this passage.  "Have you read Dickens?  O! it is charming!  Brave
Dickens!  It has some of his very prettiest touches--those inimitable
Dickens touches which make such a great man of him, and the reading of
the book has done another author a great deal of good."

Thackeray is just as generous, and perhaps more critical, in writing of
Kingsley.  "A fine, honest, go-a-head fellow, who charges a subject
heartily, impetuously, with the greatest courage and simplicity; but with
narrow eyes (his are extraordinarily brave, blue and honest), and with
little knowledge of the world, I think.  But he is superior to us
worldlings in many ways, and I wish I had some of his honest pluck."

I have often wished that great authors, when their days of creation were
over, when "their minds grow grey and bald," would condescend to tell us
the history of their books.  Sir Walter Scott did something of this kind
in the prefaces to the last edition of the Waverley Novels published
during his life.  What can be more interesting than his account, in the
introduction to the "Fortunes of Nigel," of how he worked, how he
planned, and found all his plots and plans overridden by the demon at the
end of his pen!  But Sir Walter was failing when he began those literary
confessions; good as they are, he came to them too late.  Yet these are
not confessions which an author can make early.  The pagan Aztecs only
confessed once in a lifetime--in old age, when they had fewer temptations
to fall to their old loves: then they made a clean breast of it once for
all.  So it might be with an author.  While he is in his creative vigour,
we want to hear about his fancied persons, about Pendennis, Beatrix,
Becky, not about himself, and how he invented them.  But when he has
passed his best, then it is he who becomes of interest; it is about
himself that we wish him to speak, as far as he modestly may.  Who would
not give "Lovel the Widower" and "Philip" for some autobiographical and
literary prefaces to the older novels?  They need not have been more
egotistic than the "Roundabout Papers."  They would have had far more
charm.  Some things cannot be confessed.  We do not ask who was the
original Sir Pitt Crawley, or the original Blanche Amory.  But we might
learn in what mood, in what circumstances the author wrote this passage
or that.

The Letters contain a few notes of this kind, a few literary confessions.
We hear that Emmy Sedley was partly suggested by Mrs. Brookfield, partly
by Thackeray's mother, much by his own wife.  There scarce seems room for
so many elements in Emmy's personality.  For some reason ladies love her
not, nor do men adore her.  I have been her faithful knight ever since I
was ten years old and read "Vanity Fair" somewhat stealthily.  Why does
one like her except because she is such a thorough woman?  She is not
clever, she is not very beautiful, she is unhappy, and she can be
jealous.  One pities her, and that is akin to a more tender sentiment;
one pities her while she sits in the corner, and Becky's green eyes
flatter her oaf of a husband; one pities her in the poverty of her
father's house, in the famous battle over Daffy's Elixir, in the
separation from the younger George.  You begin to wish some great joy to
come to her: it does not come unalloyed; you know that Dobbin had bad
quarters of an hour with this lady, and had to disguise a little of his
tenderness for his own daughter.  Yes, Emmy is more complex than she
seems, and perhaps it needed three ladies to contribute the various
elements of her person and her character.  One of them, the jealous one,
lent a touch to Helen Pendennis, to Laura, to Lady Castlewood.  Probably
this may be the reason why some persons dislike Thackeray so.  His very
best women are not angels. {109}  Are the very best women angels?  It is
a pious opinion--that borders on heresy.

When the Letters began to be written, in 1847, Thackeray had his worst
years, in a worldly sense, behind him.  They were past: the times when he
wrote in _Galignani_ for ten francs a day.  Has any literary ghoul
disinterred his old ten-franc articles in _Galignani_?  The time of
"Barry Lyndon," too, was over.  He says nothing of that masterpiece, and
only a word about "The Great Hoggarty Diamond."  "I have been re-reading
it.  Upon my word and honour, if it doesn't make you cry, I shall have a
mean opinion of you.  It was written at a time of great affliction, when
my heart was very soft and humble.  Amen.  Ich habe auch viel geliebt."
Of "Pendennis," as it goes on, he writes that it is "awfully stupid,"
which has not been the verdict of the ages.  He picks up materials as he
passes.  He dines with some officers, and perhaps he stations them at
Chatteris.  He meets Miss G---, and her converse suggests a love passage
between Pen and Blanche.  Why did he dislike fair women so?  It runs all
through his novels.  Becky is fair.  Blanche is fair.  Outside the old
yellow covers of "Pendennis," you see the blonde mermaid, "amusing, and
clever, and depraved," dragging the lover to the sea, and the nut-brown
maid holding him back.  Angelina, of the "Rose and the Ring," is the
Becky of childhood; she is fair, and the good Rosalba is _brune_.  In
writing "Pendennis" he had a singular experience.  He looked over his own
"back numbers," and found "a passage which I had utterly forgotten as if
I had never read or written it."  In Lockhart's "Life of Scott," James
Ballantyne says that "when the 'Bride of Lammermoor' was first put into
his hands in a complete shape, he did not recollect one single incident,
character, or conversation it contained."  That is to say, he remembered
nothing of his own invention, though his memory of the traditional parts
was as clear as ever.  Ballantyne remarks, "The history of the human mind
contains nothing more wonderful."  The experience of Thackeray is a
parallel to that of Scott.  "Pendennis," it must be noted, was
interrupted by a severe illness, and "The Bride of Lammermoor" was
dictated by Sir Walter when in great physical pain.  On one occasion
Thackeray "lit upon a very stupid part of 'Pendennis,' I am sorry to say;
and yet how well written it is!  What a shame the author don't write a
complete good story!  Will he die before doing so? or come back from
America and do it?"

Did he ever write "a complete, good story"?  Did any one ever do such a
thing as write a three-volume, novel, or a novel of equal length, which
was "a complete, good story"?  Probably not; or if any mortal ever
succeeded in the task, it was the great Alexander Dumas.  "The Three
Musketeers," I take leave to think, and "Twenty Years After," are
complete good stories, good from beginning to end, stories from beginning
to end without a break, without needless episode.  Perhaps one may say as
much for "Old Mortality," and for "Quentin Durward."  But Scott and Dumas
were born story-tellers; narrative was the essence of their genius at its
best; the current of romance rolls fleetly on, bearing with it persons
and events, mirroring scenes, but never ceasing to be the main thing--the
central interest.  Perhaps narrative like this is the chief success of
the novelist.  He is triumphant when he carries us on, as Wolf, the
famous critic, was carried on by the tide of the Iliad, "in that pure and
rapid current of action."  Nobody would claim this especial merit for
Thackeray.  He is one of the greatest of novelists; he displays human
nature and human conduct so that we forget ourselves in his persons, but
he does not make us forget ourselves in their fortunes.  Whether Clive
does or does not marry Ethel, or Esmond, Beatrix, does not very greatly
excite our curiosity.  We cannot ring the bells for Clive's second
wedding as the villagers celebrated the bridal of Pamela.  It is the
development of character, it is the author's comments, it is his own
personality and his unmatched and inimitable style, that win our
admiration and affection.  We can take up "Vanity Fair," or "Pendennis,"
or "The Newcomes," just where the book opens by chance, and read them
with delight, as we may read Montaigne.  When one says one can take up a
book anywhere, it generally means that one can also lay it down anywhere.
But it is not so with Thackeray.  Whenever we meet him he holds us with
his charm, his humour, his eloquence, his tenderness.  If he has not, in
the highest degree, the narrative power, he does possess, in a degree
perhaps beyond any other writer of English, that kind of poetic quality
which is not incompatible with prose writing.

A great deal has been said about prose poetry.  As a rule, it is very
poor stuff.  As prose it has a tendency to run into blank verse; as
poetry it is highly rhetorical and self-conscious.  It would be invidious
and might be irritating to select examples from modern masters of prose-
poetry.  They have never been poets.  But the prose of a poet like Milton
may be, and is, poetical in the true sense; and so, upon occasions, was
the prose of Thackeray.  Some examples linger always in the memory, and
dwell with their music in the hearing.  One I have quoted elsewhere; the
passage in "The Newcomes" where Clive, at the lecture on the Poetry of
the Domestic Affections, given by Sir Barnes Newcome, sees Ethel, whom he
has lost.

"And the past, and its dear histories, and youth and its hopes and
passions, and tones and looks, for ever echoing in the heart and present
in the memory--those, no doubt, poor Clive saw and heard as he looked
across the great gulf of time and parting and grief, and beheld the woman
he had loved for many years."  "The great gulf of time, and parting, and
grief,"--some of us are on the farther side of it, and our old selves,
and our old happiness, and our old affections beyond, grow near, grow
clear, now and then, at the sight of a face met by chance in the world,
at the chance sound of a voice.  Such are human fortunes, and human
sorrows; not the worst, not the greatest, for these old loves do not
die--they live in exile, and are the better parts of our souls.  Not the
greatest, nor the worst of sorrows, for shame is worse, and hopeless
hunger, and a life all of barren toil without distractions, without joy,
must be far worse.  But of those myriad tragedies of the life of the
poor, Thackeray does not write.  How far he was aware of them, how deeply
he felt them, we are not informed.  His highest tragedy is that of the
hunger of the heart; his most noble prose sounds in that meeting of Harry
Esmond with Lady Castlewood, in the immortal speech which has the burden,
"bringing your sheaves with you!"  All that scene appears to me no less
unique, no less unsurpassable, no less perfect, than the "Ode to the
Nightingale" of Keats, or the _Lycidas_ of Milton.  It were superfluous
to linger over the humour of Thackeray.  Only Shakespeare and Dickens
have graced the language with so many happy memories of queer, pleasant
people, with so many quaint phrases, each of which has a kind of
freemasonry, and when uttered, or recalled, makes all friends of
Thackeray into family friends of each other.  The sayings of Mr. Harry
Foker, of Captain Costigan, of Gumbo, are all like old dear family
phrases, they live imperishable and always new, like the words of Sir
John, the fat knight, or of Sancho Panza, or of Dick Swiveller, or that
other Sancho, Sam Weller.  They have that Shakespearian gift of being
ever appropriate, and undyingly fresh.

These are among the graces of Thackeray, these and that inimitable style,
which always tempts and always baffles the admiring and despairing
copyist.  Where did he find the trick of it, of the words which are
invariably the best words, and invariably fall exactly in the best
places?  "The best words in the best places," is part of Coleridge's
definition of poetry; it is also the essence of Thackeray's prose.  In
these Letters to Mrs. Brookfield the style is precisely the style of the
novels and essays.  The style, with Thackeray, was the man.  He could not
write otherwise.  But probably, to the last, this perfection was not
mechanical, was not attained without labour and care.  In Dr. John
Brown's works, in his essay on Thackeray, there is an example of a proof-
sheet on which the master has made corrections, and those corrections
bring the passage up to his accustomed level, to the originality of his
rhythm.  Here is the piece:--

   "Another Finis, another slice of life which _Tempus edax_ has
   devoured!  And I may have to write the word once or twice, perhaps,
   and then an end of Ends.  [Finite is ever and Infinite beginning.]  Oh,
   the troubles, the cares, the _ennui_, [the complications,] the
   repetitions, the old conversations over and over again, and here and
   there all the delightful passages, the dear, the brief, the forever-
   remembered!

   "[And then]  A few chapters more, and then the last, and behold Finis
   itself coming to an end, and the Infinite beginning."

   "How like music this," writes Dr. John Brown--"like one trying the
   same air in different ways, as it were, searching out and sounding all
   its depths!"  The words were almost the last that Thackeray wrote,
   perhaps the very last.  They reply, as it were, to other words which
   he had written long before to Mrs. Brookfield.

   "I don't pity anybody who leaves the world; not even a fair young girl
   in her prime; I pity those remaining.  On her journey, if it pleases
   God to send her, depend on it there's no cause for grief, that's but
   an earthly condition.  Out of our stormy life, and brought nearer the
   Divine light and warmth, there must be a serene climate.  Can't you
   fancy sailing into the calm?"

Ah! nowhere else shall we find the Golden Bride, "passionless bride,
divine Tranquillity."

As human nature persistently demands a moral, and, as, to say truth,
Thackeray was constantly meeting the demand, what is the lesson of his
life and his writings?  So people may ask, and yet how futile is the
answer!  Life has a different meaning, a different riddle, a different
reply for each of us.  There is not one sphinx, but many sphinxes--as
many as there are women and men.  We must all answer for ourselves.
Pascal has one answer, "Believe!"  Moliere has another, "Observe!"
Thackeray's answer is, "Be good and enjoy!" but a melancholy enjoyment
was his.  Dr. John Brown says:

"His persistent state, especially for the later half of his life, was
profoundly _morne_, there is no other word for it.  This arose in part
from temperament, from a quick sense of the littleness and wretchedness
of mankind . . . This feeling, acting on a harsh and savage nature, ended
in the _saeva indignatio_ of Swift; acting on the kindly and sensitive
nature of Mr. Thackeray, it led only to compassionate sadness."

A great part of his life, and most of his happiness, lay in love.  "Ich
habe auch viel geliebt," he says, and it is a hazardous kind of happiness
that attends great affection.  Your capital is always at the mercy of
failures, of death, of jealousy, of estrangement.  But he had so much
love to give that he could not but trust those perilous investments.

Other troubles he had that may have been diversions from those.  He did
not always keep that manly common sense in regard to criticism, which he
shows in a letter to Mrs. Brookfield.  "Did you read the _Spectator's_
sarcastic notice of 'Vanity Fair'?  I don't think it is just, but think
Kintoul (Rintoul?) is a very honest man, and rather inclined to deal
severely with his private friends lest he should fall into the other
extreme: to be sure he keeps out of it, I mean the other extreme, very
well."

That is the way to take unfavourable criticisms--not to go declaring that
a man is your enemy because he does not like your book, your ballads,
your idyls, your sermons, what you please.  Why cannot people keep
literature and liking apart?  Am I bound to think Jones a bad citizen, a
bad man, a bad householder, because his poetry leaves me cold?  Need he
regard me as a malevolent green-eyed monster, because I don't want to
read him?  Thackeray was not always true in his later years to these
excellent principles.  He was troubled about trifles of criticisms and
gossip, _bagatelles_ not worth noticing, still less worth remembering and
recording.  Do not let us record them, then.

We cannot expect for Thackeray, we cannot even desire for him, a
popularity like that of Dickens.  If ever any man wrote for the people,
it was Dickens.  Where can we find such a benefactor, and who has
lightened so many lives with such merriment as he?  But Thackeray wrote,
like the mass of authors, for the literary class--for all who have the
sense of style, the delight in the best language.  He will endure while
English literature endures, while English civilisation lasts.  We cannot
expect all the world to share our affection for this humourist whose
mirth springs from his melancholy.  His religion, his education, his life
in this unsatisfying world, are not the life, the education, the religion
of the great majority of human kind.  He cannot reach so many ears and
hearts as Shakespeare or Dickens, and some of those whom he reaches will
always and inevitably misjudge him.  _Mais c'est mon homme_, one may say,
as La Fontaine said of Moliere.  Of modern writers, putting Scott aside,
he is to me the most friendly and sympathetic.  Great genius as he was,
he was also a penman, a journalist; and journalists and penmen will
always look to him as their big brother, the man in their own line of
whom they are proudest.  As devout Catholics did not always worship the
greatest saints, but the friendliest saints, their own, so we scribes
burn our cheap incense to St. William Makepeace.  He could do all that
any of us could do, and he did it infinitely better.  A piece of verse
for _Punch_, a paragraph, a caricature, were not beneath the dignity of
the author of "Esmond."  He had the kindness and helpfulness which I, for
one, have never met a journalist who lacked.  He was a good Englishman;
the boy within him never died; he loved children, and boys, and a little
slang, and a boxing match.  If he had failings, who knew them better than
he?  How often he is at once the boy at the swishing block and Dr. Birch
who does not spare the rod!  Let us believe with that beloved physician,
our old friend Dr. John Brown, that "Mr. Thackeray was much greater, much
nobler than his works, great and noble as they are."  Let us part with
him, remembering his own words:

   "Come wealth or want, come good or ill,
      Let young and old accept their part,
   And bow before the awful Will,
      And bear it with an honest heart."



DICKENS


"I cannot read Dickens!"  How many people make this confession, with a
front of brass, and do not seem to know how poor a figure they cut!
George Eliot says that a difference of taste in jokes is a great cause of
domestic discomfort.  A difference of taste in books, when it is decided
and vigorous, breaks many a possible friendship, and nips many a young
liking in the bud.  I would not willingly seem intolerant.  A man may not
like Sophocles, may speak disrespectfully of Virgil, and even sneer at
Herodotus, and yet may be endured.  But he or she (it is usually she) who
contemns Scott, and "cannot read Dickens," is a person with whom I would
fain have no further converse.  If she be a lady, and if one meets her at
dinner, she must of course be borne with, and "suffered gladly."  But she
has dug a gulf that nothing can bridge; she may be fair, clever and
popular, but she is Anathema.  I feel towards her (or him if he wears a
beard) as Bucklaw did towards the person who should make inquiries about
that bridal night of Lammermoor.

But this admission does not mean that one is sealed of the tribe of
Charles--that one is a Dickensite pure and simple, convinced and
devout--any more than Mr. Matthew Arnold was a Wordsworthian.  Dickens
has many such worshippers, especially (and this is an argument in favour
of the faith) among those who knew him in his life.  He must have had a
wonderful charm; for his friends in life are his literary partisans, his
uncompromising partisans, even to this day.  They will have no
half-hearted admiration, and scout him who tries to speak of Dickens as
of an artist not flawless, no less than they scorn him who cannot read
Dickens at all.  At one time this honourable enthusiasm (as among the
Wordsworthians) took the shape of "endless imitation."  That is over;
only here and there is an imitator of the master left in the land.  All
his own genius was needed to carry his mannerisms; the mannerisms without
the genius were an armour that no devoted David had proved, that none
could wear with success.

Of all great writers since Scott, Dickens is probably the man to whom the
world owes most gratitude.  No other has caused so many sad hearts to be
lifted up in laughter; no other has added so much mirth to the toilsome
and perplexed life of men, of poor and rich, of learned and unlearned.  "A
vast hope has passed across the world," says Alfred de Musset; we may say
that with Dickens a happy smile, a joyous laugh, went round this earth.
To have made us laugh so frequently, so inextinguishably, so kindly--that
is his great good deed.  It will be said, and with a great deal of truth,
that he has purged us with pity and terror as well as with laughter.  But
it is becoming plain that his command of tears is less assured than of
old, and I cannot honestly regret that some of his pathos--not all, by
any means--is losing its charm and its certainty of appeal.  Dickens's
humour was rarely too obvious; it was essentially personal, original,
quaint, unexpected, and his own.  His pathos was not infrequently derived
from sources open to all the world, and capable of being drawn from by
very commonplace writers.  Little Nells and Dombeys, children unhappy,
overthrown early in the _melee_ of the world, and dying among weeping
readers, no longer affect us as they affected another generation.  Mrs.
Beecher Stowe and the author of "Misunderstood," once made some people
weep like anything by these simple means.  Ouida can do it; plenty of
people can do it.  Dickens lives by virtue of what none but he can do: by
virtue of Sairey Gamp, and Sam Weller, and Dick Swiveller, and Mr.
Squeers, with a thousand other old friends, of whom we can never weary.
No more than Cleopatra's can custom stale _their_ infinite variety.

I do not say that Dickens' pathos is always of the too facile sort, which
plays round children's death-beds.  Other pathos he has, more fine and
not less genuine.  It may be morbid and contemptible to feel "a great
inclination to cry" over David Copperfield's boyish infatuation for
Steerforth; but I feel it.  Steerforth was a "tiger,"--as Major Pendennis
would have said, a tiger with his curly hair and his ambrosial whiskers.
But when a little boy loses his heart to a big boy he does not think of
this.  Traddles thought of it.  "Shame, J. Steerforth!" cried Traddles,
when Steerforth bullied the usher.  Traddles had not lost his heart, nor
set up the big boy as a god in the shrine thereof.  But boys do these
things; most of us have had our Steerforths--tall, strong, handsome,
brave, good-humoured.  Far off across the years I see the face of such an
one, and remember that emotion which is described in "David Copperfield,"
chap. xix., towards the end of the chapter.  I don't know any other
novelist who has touched this young and absolutely disinterested belief
of a little boy in a big one--touched it so kindly and seriously, that is
there is a hint of it in "Dr. Birch's School Days."

But Dickens is always excellent in his boys, of whom he has drawn dozens
of types--all capital.  There is Tommy Traddles, for example.  And how
can people say that Dickens could not draw a gentleman?  The boy who
shouted, "Shame, J. Steerforth!" was a gentleman, if one may pretend to
have an opinion about a theme so difficult.  The Dodger and Charley Bates
are delightful boys--especially Bates.  Pip, in the good old days, when
he was the prowling boy, and fought Herbert Pocket, was not less
attractive, and Herbert himself, with his theory and practice of the art
of self-defence--could Nelson have been more brave, or Shelley (as in Mr.
Matthew Arnold's opinion) more "ineffectual"?  Even the boys at Dotheboys
Hall are each of them quite distinct.  Dickens's boys are almost as dear
to me as Thackeray's--as little Rawdon himself.  There is one exception.
I cannot interest myself in Little Dombey.  Little David Copperfield is a
jewel of a boy with a turn for books.  Doubtless he is created out of
Dickens's memories of himself as a child.  That is true pathos again, and
not overwrought, when David is sent to Creakle's, and his poor troubled
mother dare hardly say farewell to him.

And this brings us back to that debatable thing--the pathos of
Dickens--from which one has been withdrawn by the attractions of his
boys.  Little Dombey is a prize example of his pathos.  Little Nell is
another.  Jeffrey, of the _Edinburgh Review_, who criticised "Marmion"
and the "Lady of the Lake" so vindictively, shed tears over Little Nell.
It is a matter of taste, or, as Science might say, of the lachrymal
glands as developed in each individual.  But the lachrymal glands of this
amateur are not developed in that direction.  Little Dombey and Little
Nell leave me with a pair of dry eyes.  I do not "melt visibly" over
Little Dombey, like the weak-eyed young man who took out his books and
trunk to the coach.  The poor little chap was feeble and feverish, and
had dreams of trying to stop a river with his childish hands, or to choke
it with sand.  It may be very good pathology, but I cannot see that it is
at all right pathos.  One does not like copy to be made out of the
sufferings of children or of animals.  One's heart hardens: the object is
too manifest, the trick is too easy.  Conceive a child of Dombey's age
remarking, with his latest breath, "Tell them that the picture on the
stairs at school is not Divine enough!"  That is not the delirium of
infancy, that is art-criticism: it is the _Athenaeum_ on Mr. Holman Hunt.
It is not true to nature; it is not good in art: it is the kind of thing
that appears in Sunday-school books about the virtuous little boy who
died.  There is more true pathos in many a page of "Huckleberry Finn."
Yet this is what Jeffrey gushed over.  "There has been nothing like the
actual dying of that sweet Paul."  So much can age enfeeble the
intellect, that he who had known Scott, and yet nibbled at his fame,
descended to admiring the feeblest of false sentiment.  As for Little
Nell, who also has caused floods of tears to be shed, her case is
sufficiently illustrated by the picture in the first edition ("Master
Humphrey's Clock,", 1840, p. 210):

            "'When I die
   Put near me something that has loved the light,
   And had the sky above it always.'  Those
   Were her words."

   "Dear, gentle, patient, noble Nell was dead!"

The pathos is about as good as the prose, and _that_ is blank verse.  Are
the words in the former quotation in the least like anything that a
little girl would say?  A German sentimentalist might have said them;
Obermann might have murmured them in his weaker moments.  Let us try a
piece of domestic pathos by another hand.  It is the dawn of Waterloo.

"Heart-stained and shame-stricken, he stood at the bed's foot, and looked
at the sleeping girl.  How dared he--who was he--to pray for one so
spotless!  God bless her!  God bless her!  He came to the bedside, and
looked at the hand, the little soft hand, lying asleep, and he bent over
the pillow noiselessly towards the gentle pale face.  Two fair arms
closed tenderly round his neck as he stooped down.  'I am awake, George,'
the poor child said, with a sob."

I know I am making enemies of a large proportion of the readers of this
page.  "Odious, sneering beast!" is the quotation which they will apply,
perhaps unconscious of its origin, to a critic who is humble but would
fain be honest, to a critic who thinks that Dickens has his weak places,
and that his pathos is one of these.  It cannot be helped.  Each of us
has his author who is a favourite, a friend, an idol, whose immaculate
perfection he maintains against all comers.  For example, things are
urged against Scott; I receive them in the attitude of the deaf adder of
St. Augustine, who stops one ear with his tail and presses the other
against the dust.  The same with Moliere: M. Scherer utters complaints
against Moliere!  He would not convince me, even if I were convinced.  So,
with regard to Dickens, the true believer will not listen, he will not be
persuaded.  But if any one feels a little shaken, let him try it another
way.  There is a character in M. Alphonse Daudet's "Froment Jeune et
Rissler Aine"--a character who, people say, is taken bodily from Dickens.
This is Desiree Delobelle, the deformed girl, the daughter of _un rate_,
a pretentious imbecile actor.  She is poor, stunted, laborious, toiling
at a small industry; she is in love, is rejected, she tries to drown
herself, she dies.  The sequence of ideas is in Dickens's vein; but read
the tale, and I think you will see how little the thing is overdone, how
simple and unforced it is, compared with analogous persons and scenes in
the work of the English master.  The idiotic yell of "plagiarism" has
been raised, of course, by critical _cretins_.  M. Daudet, as I
understand what he says in "Trente Ans de Paris," had not read Dickens at
all, when he wrote "Froment Jeune"--certainly had not read "Our Mutual
Friend."  But there is something of Dickens's genius in M. Daudet's, and
that something is kept much better in hand by the Frenchman, is more
subordinated to the principles of taste and of truth.

On the other hand, to be done with this point, look at Delobelle, the
father of Desiree, and compare him with Dickens's splendid strollers,
with Mr. Vincent Crummles, and Mr. Lenville, and the rest.  As in Desiree
so in Delobelle, M. Daudet's picture is much the more truthful.  But it
is truthful with a bitter kind of truth.  Now, there is nothing not
genial and delightful in Crummles and Mrs. Crummles and the Infant
Phenomenon.  Here Dickens has got into a region unlike the region of the
pathetic, into a world that welcomes _charge_ or caricature, the world of
humour.  We do not know, we never meet Crummleses quite so
unsophisticated as Vincent, who is "not a Prussian," who "can't think who
puts these things into the papers."  But we do meet stage people who come
very near to this _naivete_ of self-advertisement, and some of whom are
just as dismal as Crummles is delightful.

Here, no doubt, is Dickens's _forte_.  Here his genius is all pure gold,
in his successful studies or inventions of the humorous, of character
parts.  One literally does not know where to begin or end in one's
admiration for this creative power that peopled our fancies with such
troops of dear and impossible friends.  "Pickwick" comes practically
first, and he never surpassed "Pickwick."  He was a poor story-teller,
and in "Pickwick" he had no story to tell; he merely wandered at
adventure in that merrier England which was before railways were.
"Pickwick" is the last of the stories of the road that begin in the
wandering, aimless, adventurous romances of Greece, or in Petronius
Arbiter, and that live with the life of "Gil Blas" and "Don Quixote," of
"Le Roman Comique," of "Tom Jones" and "Joseph Andrews."  These tales are
progresses along highways bristling with adventure, and among inns full
of confusion, Mr. Pickwick's affair with the lady with yellow curl-papers
being a mild example.  Though "Tom Jones" has a plot so excellent, no
plot is needed here, and no consecutive story is required.  Detached
experiences, vagrants of every rank that come and go, as in real life,
are all the material of the artist.  With such materials Dickens was
exactly suited; he was at home on high-road and lane, street and field-
path, in inns and yeomen's warm hospitable houses.  Never a humour
escaped him, and he had such a wealth of fun and high spirits in these
glad days as never any other possessed before.  He was not in the least a
bookish man, not in any degree a scholar; but Nature taught him, and
while he wrote with Nature for his teacher, with men and women for his
matter, with diversion for his aim, he was unsurpassable--nay, he was
unapproachable.

He could not rest here; he was, after all, a child of an age that grew
sad, and earnest, and thoughtful.  He saw abuses round him--injustice,
and oppression, and cruelty.  He had a heart to which those things were
not only abhorrent, but, as it were, maddening.  He knew how great an
influence he wielded, and who can blame him for using it in any cause he
thought good?  Very possibly he might have been a greater artist if he
had been less of a man, if he had been quite disinterested, and had never
written "with a purpose."  That is common, and even rather obsolete
critical talk.  But when we remember that Fielding, too, very often wrote
"with a purpose," and that purpose the protection of the poor and
unfriended; and when we remember what an artist Fielding was, I do not
see how we can blame Dickens.  Occasionally he made his art and his
purpose blend so happily that his work was all the better for his
benevolent intentions.  We owe Mr. Squeers, Mrs. Squeers, Fanny Squeers,
Wackford and all, to Dickens's indignation against the nefarious school
pirates of his time.  If he is less successful in attacking the Court of
Chancery, and very much less successful still with the Red Tape and
Circumlocution Office affairs, that may be merely because he was less in
the humour, and not because he had a purpose in his mind.  Every one of a
man's books cannot be his masterpiece.  There is nothing in literary talk
so annoying as the spiteful joy with which many people declare that an
author is "worked out," because his last book is less happy than some
that went before.  There came a time in Dickens' career when his works,
to my own taste and that of many people, seemed laboured, artificial--in
fact, more or less failures.  These books range from "Dombey and Son,"
through "Little Dorrit," I dare not say to "Our Mutual Friend."  One is
afraid that "Edwin Drood," too, suggests the malady which Sir Walter
already detected in his own "Peveril of the Peak."  The intense strain on
the faculties of Dickens--as author, editor, reader, and man of the
world--could not but tell on him; and years must tell.  "Philip" is not
worthy of the author of "Esmond," nor "Daniel Deronda" of the author of
"Silas Marner."  At that time--the time of the Dorrits and
Dombeys--_Blackwood's Magazine_ published a "Remonstrance with Boz"; nor
was it quite superfluous.  But Dickens had abundance of talent still to
display--above all in "Great Expectations" and "A Tale of Two Cities."
The former is, after "Pickwick," "Copperfield," "Martin Chuzzlewit," and
"Nicholas Nickleby"--after the classics, in fact--the most delightful of
Dickens's books.  The story is embroiled, no doubt.  What are we to think
of Estelle?  Has the minx any purpose?  Is she a kind of Ethel Newcome of
odd life?  It is not easy to say; still, for a story of Dickens's the
plot is comparatively clear and intelligible.  For a study of a child's
life, of the nature Dickens drew best--the river and the marshes--and for
plenty of honest explosive fun, there is no later book of Dickens's like
"Great Expectations."  Miss Havisham, too, in her mouldy bridal
splendour, is really impressive; not like Ralph Nickleby and Monk in
"Oliver Twist"--a book of which the plot remains to me a mystery. {128}
Pip and Pumblechook and Mr. Wopsle and Jo are all immortal, and cause
laughter inextinguishable.  The rarity of this book, by the way, in its
first edition--the usual library three volumes--is rather difficult to
explain.  One very seldom sees it come into the market, and then it is
highly priced.

I have mentioned more than once the obscurity of Dickens's plots.  This
difficulty may be accounted for in a very flattering manner.  Where do we
lose ourselves?  Not in the bare high-road, but among lanes, between
hedges hung with roses, blackberries, morning glories, where all about us
is so full of pleasure that our attention is distracted and we miss our
way.  Now, in Dickens--in "Oliver Twist," in "Martin Chuzzlewit," in
"Nicholas Nickleby"--there is, as in the lanes, so much to divert and
beguile, that we cease to care very much where the road leads--a road so
full of happy marvels.  The dark, plotting villains--like the tramp who
frightened Sir Walter Scott so terribly, as he came from Miss Baillie's
at Hampstead--peer out from behind the hedges now and then.  But we are
too much amused by the light hearts that go all the way, by the Dodger
and Crummles and Mrs. Gamp, to care much for what Ralph, and Monk, and
Jonas Chuzzlewit are plotting.  It may not be that the plot is so
confused, but that we are too much diverted to care for the plot, for the
incredible machinations of Uriah Heap, to choose another example.  Mr.
Micawber cleared these up; but it is Mr. Micawber that hinders us from
heeding them.

This, at least, is a not unfriendly explanation.  Yet I cannot but
believe that, though Dickens took great pains with his plots, he was not
a great plotter.  He was not, any more than Thackeray, a story-teller
first and foremost.  We can hold in our minds every thread of Mr. Wilkie
Collins' web, or of M. Fortune du Boisgobey's, or of M. Gaboriau's--all
great weavers of intrigues.  But Dickens goes about darkening his
intrigue, giving it an extra knot, an extra twist, hinting here,
ominously laughing there, till we get mystified and bored, and give
ourselves up to the fun of the humours, indifferent to the destinies of
villains and victims.  Look at "Edwin Drood."  A constant war about the
plot rages in the magazines.  I believe, for one, that Edwin Drood was
resuscitated; but it gives me no pleasure.  He was too uninteresting.
Dickens's hints, nods, mutterings, forebodings, do not at all impress one
like that deepening and darkening of the awful omens in "The Bride of
Lammermoor."  Here Scott--unconsciously, no doubt--used the very manner
of Homer in the Odyssey, and nowhere was his genius more Homeric.  That
was romance.

The "Tale of Two Cities" is a great test of the faith--that is in
Dickensites.  Of all his works it is the favourite with the wrong sort!
Ladies prefer it.  Many people can read it who cannot otherwise read
Dickens at all.  This in itself proves that it is not a good example of
Dickens, that it is not central, that it is an outlying province which he
conquered.  It is not a favourite of mine.  The humour of the humorous
characters rings false--for example, the fun of the resurrection-man with
the wife who "flops."  But Sidney Carton has drawn many tears down cheeks
not accustomed to what Mr. B. in "Pamela" calls "pearly fugitives."

It sometimes strikes one that certain weaknesses in our great novelists,
in Thackeray as well as Dickens, were caused by their method of
publication.  The green and yellow leaves flourished on the trees for two
whole years.  Who (except Alexandre the Great) could write so much, and
yet all good?  Do we not all feel that "David Copperfield" should have
been compressed?  As to "Pendennis," Mr. Thackeray's bad health when he
wrote it might well cause a certain languor in the later pages.  Moreover,
he frankly did not care for the story, and bluffly says, in the preface,
that he respited Colonel Altamont almost at the foot of the gallows.
Dickens took himself more in earnest, and, having so many pages to fill,
conscientiously made Uriah Heap wind and wriggle through them all.

To try to see blots in the sun, and to pick holes in Dickens, seems
ungrateful, and is indeed an ungrateful task; to no mortal man have more
people owed mirth, pleasure, forgetfulness of care, knowledge of life in
strange places.  There never was such another as Charles Dickens, nor
shall we see his like sooner than the like of Shakespeare.  And he owed
all to native genius and hard work; he owed almost nothing to literature,
and that little we regret.  He was influenced by Carlyle, he adopted his
method of nicknames, and of hammering with wearisome iteration on some
peculiarity--for example, on Carker's teeth, and the patriarch's white
hair.  By the way, how incredible is all the Carker episode in "Dombey"!
Surely Dickens can never have intended Edith, from the first, to behave
as she did!  People may have influenced him, as they influenced Scott
about "St. Ronan's Well."  It has been said that, save for Carlyle,
Dickens was in letters a self-taught artist, that he was no man's pupil,
and borrowed from none.  No doubt this makes him less acceptable to the
literary class than a man of letters, like Thackeray--than a man in whose
treasure chamber of memory all the wealth of the Middle Ages was stored,
like Scott.  But the native naked genius of Dickens,--his heart, his
mirth, his observation, his delightful high spirits, his intrepid
loathing of wrong, his chivalrous desire to right it,--these things will
make him for ever, we hope and believe, the darling of the English
people.



ADVENTURES OF BUCCANEERS


Most of us, as boys, have envied the buccaneers.  The greatest of all
boys, Canon Kingsley, once wrote a pleasing and regretful poem in which
the Last Buccaneer represents himself as a kind of picturesque
philanthropist:--

   "There were forty craft in Aves that were both swift and stout,
   All furnished well with small arms, and cannons round about;
   And a thousand men in Aves made laws so fair and free,
   To choose their valiant captains and obey them loyally.
   Thence we sailed against the Spaniard with his hoards of plate and
   gold,
   Which he wrung with cruel tortures from Indian folk of old;
   Likewise the merchant captains, with hearts as hard as stone,
   Who flog men and keel-haul them, and starve them to the bone."

The buccaneer is "a gallant sailor," according to Kingsley's poem--a
Robin Hood of the waters, who preys only on the wicked rich, or the cruel
and Popish Spaniard, and the extortionate shipowner.  For his own part,
when he is not rescuing poor Indians, the buccaneer lives mainly "for
climate and the affections":--

   "Oh, sweet it was in Aves to hear the landward breeze,
   A swing with good tobacco in a net between the trees,
   With a negro lass to fan you, while you listened to the roar
   Of the breakers on the reef outside that never touched the shore."

This is delightfully idyllic, like the lives of the Tahitian shepherds in
the Anti-Jacobin--the shepherds whose occupation was a sinecure, as there
were no sheep in Tahiti.

Yet the vocation was not really so touchingly chivalrous as the poet
would have us deem.  One Joseph Esquemeling, himself a buccaneer, has
written the history and described the exploits of his companions in plain
prose, warning eager youths that "pieces-of-eight do not grow on every
tree," as many raw recruits have believed.  Mr. Esquemeling's account of
these matters may be purchased, with a great deal else that is
instructive and entertaining, in "The History of the Buccaneers in
America."  My edition (of 1810) is a dumpy little book, in very small
type, and quite a crowd of publishers took part in the venture.  The
older editions are difficult to procure if your pockets are not stuffed
with pieces-of-eight.  You do not often find even this volume, but "when
found make a note of," and you have a reply to Canon Kingsley.

A charitable old Scotch lady, who heard our ghostly foe evil spoken of,
remarked that, "If we were all as diligent and conscientious as the
Devil, it would be better for us."  Now, the buccaneers were certainly
models of diligence and conscientiousness in their own industry, which
was to torture people till they gave up their goods, and then to run them
through the body, and spend the spoils over drink and dice.  Except
Dampier, who was a clever man, but a poor buccaneer (Mr. Clark Russell
has written his life), they were the most hideously ruthless miscreants
that ever disgraced the earth and the sea.  But their courage and
endurance were no less notable than their greed and cruelty, so that a
moral can be squeezed even out of these abandoned miscreants.  The
soldiers and sailors who made their way within gunshot of Khartoum,
overcoming thirst, hunger, heat, the desert, and the gallant children of
the desert, did not fight, march, and suffer more bravely than the
scoundrels who sacked Mairaibo and burned Panama.  Their good qualities
were no less astounding and exemplary than their almost incredible
wickedness.  They did not lie about in hammocks much, listening to the
landward wind among the woods--the true buccaneers.  To tell the truth,
most of them had no particular cause to love the human species.  They
were often Europeans who had been sold into slavery on the West Indian
plantations, where they learned lessons of cruelty by suffering it.  Thus
Mr. Joseph Esquemeling, our historian, was beaten, tortured, and nearly
starved to death in Tortuga, "so I determined, not knowing how to get any
living, to enter into the order of the pirates or robbers of the sea."
The poor Indians of the isles, much pitied by Kingsley's buccaneer, had a
habit of sticking their prisoners all over with thorns, wrapped in oily
cotton, whereto they then set fire.  "These cruelties many Christians
have seen while they lived among these barbarians."  Mr. Esquemeling was
to see, and inflict, plenty of this kind of torment, which was not out of
the way nor unusual.  One planter alone had killed over a hundred of his
servants--"the English did the same with theirs."

A buccaneer voyage began in stealing a ship, collecting desperadoes, and
torturing the local herdsmen till they gave up their masters' flocks,
which were salted as provisions.  Articles of service were then drawn up,
on the principle "no prey, no pay."  The spoils, when taken, were loyally
divided as a rule, though Captain Morgan, of Wales, made no more scruple
about robbing his crew than about barbecuing a Spanish priest.  "They are
very civil and charitable to each other, so that if any one wants what
another has, with great willingness they give it to one another."  In
other matters they did not in the least resemble the early Christians.  A
fellow nick-named The Portuguese may be taken as our first example of
their commendable qualities.

With a small ship of four guns he had taken a great one of twenty guns,
with 70,000 pieces-of-eight . . . He himself, however, was presently
captured by a larger vessel, and imprisoned on board.  Being carelessly
watched, he escaped on two earthen jars (for he could not swim), reached
the woods in Campechy, and walked for a hundred and twenty miles through
the bush.  His only food was a few shell-fish, and by way of a knife he
had a large nail, which he whetted to an edge on a stone.  Having made a
kind of raft, he struck a river, and paddled to Golpho Triste, where he
found congenial pirates.  With twenty of these, and a boat, he returned
to Campechy, where he had been a prisoner, and actually captured the
large ship in which he had lain captive!  Bad luck pursued him, however:
his prize was lost in a storm; he reached Jamaica in a canoe, and never
afterwards was concerned as leader in any affair of distinction.  Not
even Odysseus had more resource, nor was more long-enduring; but Fortune
was The Portuguese's foe.

Braziliano, another buccaneer, served as a pirate before the mast, and
"was beloved and respected by all."  Being raised to command, he took a
plate ship; but this success was of indifferent service to his otherwise
amiable character.  "He would often appear foolish and brutish when in
drink," and has been known to roast Spaniards alive on wooden spits "for
not showing him hog yards where he might steal swine."  One can hardly
suppose that Kingsley would have regretted _this_ buccaneer, even if he
had been the last, which unluckily he was not.  His habit of sitting in
the street beside a barrel of beer, and shooting all passers-by who would
not drink with him, provoked remark, and was an act detestable to all
friends of temperance principles.

Francois L'Olonnois, from southern France, had been kidnapped, and sold
as a slave in the Caribbee Islands.  Recovering his freedom, he plundered
the Spanish, says my buccaneer author, "till his unfortunate death."  With
two canoes he captured a ship which had been sent after him, carrying ten
guns and a hangman for his express benefit.  This hangman, much to the
fellow's chagrin, L'Olonnois put to death like the rest of his prisoners.
His great achievements were in the Gulf of Venezuela or Bay of Maracaibo.
The gulf is a strong place; the mouth, no wider than a gun-shot, is
guarded by two islands.  Far up the inlet is Maracaibo, a town of three
thousand people, fortified and surrounded by woods.  Yet farther up is
the town of Gibraltar.  To attack these was a desperate enterprise; but
L'Olonnois stole past the forts, and frightened the townsfolk into the
woods.  As a rule the Spaniards made the poorest resistance; there were
examples of courage, but none of conduct.  With strong forts, heavy guns,
many men, provisions, and ammunition, they quailed before the desperate
valour of the pirates.  The towns were sacked, the fugitives hunted out
in the woods, and the most abominable tortures were applied to make them
betray their friends and reveal their treasures.  When they were silent,
or had no treasures to declare, they were hacked, twisted, burned, and
starved to death.

Such were the manners of L'Olonnois; and Captain Morgan, of Wales, was
even more ruthless.

Gibraltar was well fortified and strengthened after Maracaibo fell; new
batteries were raised, the way through the woods was barricaded, and no
fewer than eight hundred men were under arms to resist a small pirate
force, exhausted by debauch, and having its retreat cut off by the forts
at the mouth of the great salt-water loch.  But L'Olonnois did not
blench: he told the men that audacity was their one hope, also that he
would pistol the first who gave ground.  The men cheered
enthusiastically, and a party of three hundred and fifty landed.  The
barricaded way they could not force, and in a newly cut path they met a
strong battery which fired grape.  But L'Olonnois was invincible.  He
tried that old trick which rarely fails, a sham retreat, and this lured
the Spaniards from their earthwork on the path.  The pirates then turned,
sword in hand, slew two hundred of the enemy, and captured eight guns.
The town yielded, the people fled to the woods, and then began the wonted
sport of torturing the prisoners.  Maracaibo they ransomed afresh,
obtained a pilot, passed the forts with ease, and returned after sacking
a small province.  On a dividend being declared, they parted 260,000
pieces-of-eight among the band, and spent the pillage in a revel of three
weeks.

L'Olonnois "got great repute" by this conduct, but I rejoice to add that
in a raid on Nicaragua he "miserably perished," and met what Mr.
Esquemeling calls "his unfortunate death."  For L'Olonnois was really an
ungentlemanly character.  He would hack a Spaniard to pieces, tear out
his heart, and "gnaw it with his teeth like a ravenous wolf, saying to
the rest, 'I will serve you all alike if you show me not another way'"
(to a town which he designed attacking).  In Nicaragua he was taken by
the Indians, who, being entirely on the Spanish side, tore him to pieces
and burned him.  Thus we really must not be deluded by the professions of
Mr. Kingsley's sentimental buccaneer, with his pity for "the Indian folk
of old."

Except Denis Scott, a worthy bandit in his day, Captain Henry Morgan is
the first renowned British buccaneer.  He was a young Welshman, who,
after having been sold as a slave in Barbadoes, became a sailor of
fortune.  With about four hundred men he assailed Puerto Bello.  "If our
number is small," he said, "our hearts are great," and so he assailed the
third city and place of arms which Spain then possessed in the West
Indies.  The entrance of the harbour was protected by two strong castles,
judged as "almost impregnable," while Morgan had no artillery of any
avail against fortresses.  Morgan had the luck to capture a Spanish
soldier, whom he compelled to parley with the garrison of the castle.
This he stormed and blew up, massacring all its defenders, while with its
guns he disarmed the sister fortress.  When all but defeated in a new
assault, the sight of the English colours animated him afresh.  He made
the captive monks and nuns carry the scaling ladders; in this unwonted
exploit the poor religious folk lost many of their numbers.  The wall was
mounted, the soldiers were defeated, though the Governor fought like a
Spaniard of the old school, slew many pirates with his own hand, and
pistolled some of his own men for cowardice.  He died at his post,
refusing quarter, and falling like a gentleman of Spain.  Morgan, too,
was not wanting in fortitude: he extorted 100,000 pieces-of-eight from
the Governor of Panama, and sent him a pistol as a sample of the gun
wherewith he took so great a city.  He added that he would return and
take this pistol out of Panama; nor was he less good than his word.  In
Cuba he divided 250,000 pieces-of-eight, and a great booty in other
treasure.  A few weeks saw it all in the hands of the tavern-keepers and
women of the place.

Morgan's next performance was a new sack of Maracaibo, now much stronger
than L'Olonnois had found it.  After the most appalling cruelties, not
fit to be told, he returned, passing the castles at the mouth of the port
by an ingenious stratagem.  Running boatload after boatload of men to the
land side, he brought them back by stealth, leading the garrison to
expect an attack from that quarter.  The guns were massed to landward,
and no sooner was this done than Morgan sailed up through the channel
with but little loss.  Why the Spaniards did not close the passage with a
boom does not appear.  Probably they were glad to be quit of Morgan on
any terms.

A great Spanish fleet he routed by the ingenious employment of a fire-
ship.  In a later expedition a strong place was taken by a curious
accident.  One of the buccaneers was shot through the body with an arrow.
He drew it out, wrapped it in cotton, fired it from his musket, and so
set light to a roof and burned the town.

His raid on Panama was extraordinary for the endurance of his men.  For
days they lived on the leather of bottles and belts.  "Some, who were
never out of their mothers' kitchens, may ask how these pirates could eat
and digest these pieces of leather, so hard and dry?  Whom I answer--that
could they once experience what hunger, or rather famine is, they would
find the way, as the pirates did."  It was at the close of this march
that the Indians drove wild bulls among them; but they cared very little
for these new allies of the Spaniards: beef, in any form, was only too
welcome.

Morgan burned the fair cedar houses of Panama, but lost the plate ship
with all the gold and silver out of the churches.  How he tortured a poor
wretch who chanced to wear a pair of taffety trousers belonging to his
master, with a small silver key hanging out, it is better not to repeat.
The men only got two hundred pieces-of-eight each, after all their toil,
for their Welshman was indeed a thief, and bilked his crews, no less than
he plundered the Spaniards, without remorse.  Finally, he sneaked away
from the fleet with a ship or two; and it is to be feared that Captain
Morgan made rather a good thing by dint of his incredible cruelty and
villainy.

And so we leave Mr. Esquemeling, whom Captain Morgan also deserted; for
who would linger long when there is not even honour among thieves?
Alluring as the pirate's profession is, we must not forget that it had a
seamy side, and was by no means all rum and pieces-of-eight.  And there
is something repulsive to a generous nature in roasting men because they
will not show you where to steal hogs.



THE SAGAS


"The general reader," says a frank critic, "hates the very name of a
Saga."  The general reader, in that case, is to be pitied, and, if
possible, converted.  But, just as Pascal admits that the sceptic can
only become religious by living as if he _were_ religious--by stupefying
himself, as Pascal plainly puts it, with holy water--so it is to be
feared that there is but a single way of winning over the general reader
to the Sagas.  Preaching and example, as in this brief essay, will not
avail with him.  He must take Pascal's advice, and live for an hour or
two as if he were a lover of Sagas.  He must, in brief, give that old
literature a fair chance.  He has now his opportunity: Mr. William Morris
and Mr. Eirikr Magnusson are publishing a series of cheap
translations--cheap only in coin of the realm--a _Saga Library_.  If a
general reader tries the first tale in the first volume, story of "Howard
the Halt,"--if he tries it honestly, and still can make no way with it,
then let him take comfort in the doctrine of Invincible Ignorance.  Let
him go back to his favourite literature of gossiping reminiscence, or of
realistic novels.  We have all, probably, a drop of the Northmen's blood
in us, but in that general reader the blood is dormant.

What is a Saga?  It is neither quite a piece of history nor wholly a
romance.  It is a very old story of things and adventures that really
happened, but happened so long ago, and in times so superstitious, that
marvels and miracles found their way into the legend.  The best Sagas are
those of Iceland, and those, in translations, are the finest reading that
the natural man can desire.  If you want true pictures of life and
character, which are always the same at bottom, or true pictures of
manners, which are always changing, and of strange customs and lost
beliefs, in the Sagas they are to be found.  Or if you like tales of
enterprise, of fighting by land and sea, fighting with men and beasts,
with storms and ghosts and fiends, the Sagas are full of this
entertainment.

The stories of which we are speaking were first told in Iceland, perhaps
from 950 to 1100 B.C.  When Norway and Sweden were still heathen, a
thousand years ago, they were possessed by families of noble birth,
owning no master, and often at war with each other, when the men were not
sailing the seas, to rob and kill in Scotland, England, France, Italy,
and away east as far as Constantinople, or farther.  Though they were
wild sea robbers and warriors, they were sturdy farmers, great
shipbuilders; every man of them, however wealthy, could be his own
carpenter, smith, shipwright, and ploughman.  They forged their own good
short swords, hammered their own armour, ploughed their own fields.  In
short, they lived like Odysseus, the hero of Homer, and were equally
skilled in the arts of war and peace.  They were mighty lawyers, too, and
had a most curious and minute system of laws on all subjects--land,
marriage, murder, trade, and so forth.  These laws were not written,
though the people had a kind of letters called runes.  But they did not
use them much for documents, but merely for carving a name on a sword-
blade, or a tombstone, or on great gold rings such as they wore on their
arms.  Thus the laws existed in the memory and judgment of the oldest and
wisest and most righteous men of the country.  The most important was the
law of murder.  If one man slew another, he was not tried by a jury, but
any relation of the dead killed him "at sight," wherever he found him.
Even in an Earl's hall, Kari struck the head off one of his friend Njal's
Burners, and the head bounded on the board, among the trenchers of meat
and the cups of mead or ale.  But it was possible, if the relations of a
slain man consented, for the slayer to pay his price--every man was
valued at so much--and then revenge was not taken.  But, as a rule, one
revenge called for another.  Say Hrut slew Hrap, then Atli slew Hrut, and
Gisli slew Atli, and Kari slew Gisli, and so on till perhaps two whole
families were extinct and there was peace.  The gods were not offended by
manslaughter openly done, but were angry with treachery, cowardice,
meanness, theft, perjury, and every kind of shabbiness.

This was the state of affairs in Norway when a king arose, Harold Fair-
Hair, who tried to bring all these proud people under him, and to make
them pay taxes and live more regularly and quietly.  They revolted at
this, and when they were too weak to defy the king they set sail and fled
to Iceland.  There in the lonely north, between the snow and fire, the
hot-water springs, the volcano of Hecla, the great rivers full of salmon
that rush down such falls as Golden Foot, there they lived their
old-fashioned life, cruising as pirates and merchants, taking foreign
service at Mickle Garth, or in England or Egypt, filling the world with
the sound of their swords and the sky with the smoke of their burnings.
For they feared neither God nor man nor ghost, and were no less cruel
than brave; the best of soldiers, laughing at death and torture, like the
Zulus, who are a kind of black Vikings of Africa.  On some of them
"Bersark's gang" would fall--that is, they would become in a way mad,
slaying all and sundry, biting their shields, and possessed with a
furious strength beyond that of men, which left them as weak as children
when it passed away.  These Bersarks were outlaws, all men's enemies, and
to kill them was reckoned a great adventure, and a good deed.  The women
were worthy of the men--bold, quarrelsome, revengeful.  Some were loyal,
like Bergthora, who foresaw how all her sons and her husband were to be
burned; but who would not leave them, and perished in the burning without
a cry.  Some were as brave as Howard's wife, who enabled her husband, old
and childless, to overthrow the wealthy bully, the slayer of his only
son.  Some were treacherous, as Halgerda the Fair.  Three husbands she
had, and was the death of every man of them.  Her last lord was Gunnar of
Lithend, the bravest and most peaceful of men.  Once she did a mean
thing, and he slapped her face.  She never forgave him.  At last enemies
besieged him in his house.  The doors were locked--all was quiet within.
One of the enemies climbed up to a window slit, and Gunnar thrust him
through with his lance.  "Is Gunnar at home?" said the besiegers.  "I
know not--but his lance is," said the wounded man, and died with that
last jest on his lips.  For long Gunnar kept them at bay with his arrows,
but at last one of them cut the arrow string.  "Twist me a string with
thy hair," he said to his wife, Halgerda, whose yellow hair was very long
and beautiful.  "Is it a matter of thy life or death?" she asked. "Ay,"
he said.  "Then I remember that blow thou gavest me, and I will see thy
death."  So Gunnar died, overcome by numbers, and they killed Samr, his
hound, but not before Samr had killed a man.

So they lived always with sword or axe in hand--so they lived, and
fought, and died.

Then Christianity was brought to them from Norway by Thangbrand, and if
any man said he did not believe a word of it, Thangbrand had the
schoolboy argument, "Will you fight?"  So they fought a duel on a _holm_
or island, that nobody might interfere--holm-gang they called it--and
Thangbrand usually killed his man.  In Norway, Saint Olaf did the like,
killing and torturing those who held by the old gods--Thor, Odin, and
Freya, and the rest.  So, partly by force and partly because they were
somewhat tired of bloodshed, horsefights, and the rest, they received the
word of the white Christ and were baptised, and lived by written law, and
did not avenge themselves by their own hands.

They were Christians now, but they did not forget the old times, the old
feuds and fightings and Bersarks, and dealings with ghosts, and with dead
bodies that arose and wrought horrible things, haunting houses and
strangling men.  The Icelandic ghosts were able-bodied, well
"materialised," and Grettir and Olaf Howard's son fought them with
strength of arm and edge of steel.  _True_ stories of the ancient days
were told at the fireside in the endless winter nights by story tellers
or Scalds.  It was thought a sin for any one to alter these old stories,
but as generations passed more and more wonderful matters came into the
legend.  It was believed that the dead Gunnar, the famed archer, sang
within his cairn or "Howe," the mound wherein he was buried, and his
famous bill or cutting spear was said to have been made by magic, and to
sing in the night before the wounding of men and the waking of war.
People were thought to be "second-sighted"--that is, to have prophetic
vision.  The night when Njal's house was burned his wife saw all the meat
on the table "one gore of blood," just as in Homer the prophet
Theoclymenus beheld blood falling in gouts from the walls, before the
slaying of the Wooers.  The Valkyries, the Choosers of the slain, and the
Norns who wove the fates of men at a ghastly loom were seen by living
eyes.  In the graves where treasures were hoarded the Barrowwights dwelt,
ghosts that were sentinels over the gold: witchwives changed themselves
into wolves and other monstrous animals, and for many weeks the heroes
Signy and Sinfjotli ran wild in the guise of wolves.

These and many other marvels crept into the Sagas, and made the listeners
feel a shudder of cold beside the great fire that burned in the centre of
the skali or hall where the chief sat, giving meat and drink to all who
came, where the women span and the Saga man told the tales of long ago.
Finally, at the end of the middle ages, these Sagas were written down in
Icelandic, and in Latin occasionally, and many of them have been
translated into English.

Unluckily, these translations have hitherto been expensive to buy, and
were not always to be had easily.  For the wise world, which reads
newspapers all day and half the night, does not care much for books,
still less for good books, least of all for old books.  You can make no
money out of reading Sagas: they have nothing to say about stocks and
shares, nor about Prime Ministers and politics.  Nor will they amuse a
man, if nothing amuses him but accounts of races and murders, or gossip
about Mrs. Nokes's new novel, Mrs. Stokes's new dresses, or Lady Jones's
diamonds.  The Sagas only tell how brave men--of our own blood very
likely--lived, and loved, and fought, and voyaged, and died, before there
was much reading or writing, when they sailed without steam, travelled
without railways, and warred hand-to-hand, not with hidden dynamite and
sunk torpedoes.  But, for stories of gallant life and honest purpose, the
Sagas are among the best in the world.

Of Sagas in English one of the best is the "Volsunga," the story of the
Niflungs and Volsungs.  This book, thanks to Mr. William Morris, can be
bought for a shilling.  It is a strange tale in which gods have their
parts, the tale of that oldest Treasure Hunt, the Hunt for the gold of
the dwarf Andvari.  This was guarded by the serpent, Fafnir, who had once
been a man, and who was killed by the hero Sigurd.  But Andvari had
cursed the gold, because his enemies robbed him of it to the very last
ring, and had no pity.  Then the brave Sigurd was involved in the evil
luck.  He it was who rode through the fire, and woke the fair enchanted
Brynhild, the Shield-maiden.  And she loved him, and he her, with all
their hearts, always to the death.  But by ill fate she was married to
another man, Sigurd's chief friend, and Sigurd to another woman.  And the
women fell to jealousy and quarrelling as women will, and they dragged
the friends into the feud, and one manslaying after another befell, till
that great murder of men in the Hall of Atli, the King.  The curse came
on one and all of them--a curse of blood, and of evil loves, and of
witchwork destroying good and bad, all fearless, and all fallen in one
red ruin.

The "Volsunga Saga" has this unique and unparalleled interest, that it
gives the spectacle of the highest epic genius, struggling out of
savagery into complete and free and conscious humanity.  It is a mark of
the savage intellect not to discriminate abruptly between man and the
lower animals.  In the tales of the lower peoples, the characters are
just as often beasts as men and women.  Now, in the earlier and wilder
parts of the "Volsunga Saga," otters and dragons play human parts.  Signy
and his son, and the mother of their enemy, put on the skins of wolves,
become wolves, and pass through hideous adventures.  The story reeks with
blood, and ravins with lust of blood.  But when Sigurd arrives at full
years of manhood, the barbarism yields place, the Saga becomes human and
conscious.

These legends deal little with love.  But in the "Volsunga Saga" the
permanent interest is the true and deathless love of Sigurd and Brynhild:
their separation by magic arts, the revival of their passion too late,
the man's resigned and heroic acquiescence, the fiercer passion of the
woman, who will neither bear her fate nor accept her bliss at the price
of honour and her plighted word.

The situation, the _nodus_, is neither ancient merely nor modern merely,
but of all time.  Sigurd, having at last discovered the net in which he
was trapped, was content to make the best of marriage and of friendship.
Brynhild was not.  "The hearts of women are the hearts of wolves," says
the ancient Sanskrit commentary on the Rig Veda.  But the she-wolf's
heart broke, like a woman's, when she had caused Sigurd's slaying.  Both
man and woman face life, as they conceive it, with eyes perfectly clear.

The magic and the supernatural wiles are accidental, the human heart is
essential and eternal.  There is no scene like this in the epics of
Greece.  This is a passion that Homer did not dwell upon.  In the Iliad
and Odyssey the repentance of Helen is facile; she takes life easily.
Clytemnestra is not brought on the stage to speak for herself.  In this
respect the epic of the North, without the charm and the delightfulness
of the Southern epic, excels it; in this and in a certain bare veracity,
but in nothing else.  We cannot put the Germanic legend on the level of
the Greek, for variety, for many-sided wisdom, for changing beauty of a
thousand colours.  But in this one passion of love the "Volsunga Saga"
excels the Iliad.

The Greek and the Northern stories are alike in one thing.  Fate is all-
powerful over gods and men.  Odin cannot save Balder; nor Thetis,
Achilles; nor Zeus, Sarpedon.  But in the Sagas fate is more constantly
present to the mind.  Much is thought of being "lucky," or "unlucky."
Howard's "good luck" is to be read in his face by the wise, even when, to
the common gaze, he seems a half-paralytic dotard, dying of grief and
age.

Fate and evil luck dog the heroes of the Sagas.  They seldom "end well,"
as people say,--unless, when a brave man lies down to die on the bed he
has strewn of the bodies of his foes, you call _that_ ending well.  So
died Grettir the Strong.  Even from a boy he was strong and passionate,
short of temper, quick of stroke, but loyal, brave, and always unlucky.
His worst luck began after he slew Glam.  This Glam was a wicked heathen
herdsman, who would not fast on Christmas Eve.  So on the hills his dead
body was found, swollen as great as an ox, and as blue as death.

What killed him they did not know.  But he haunted the farmhouse, riding
the roof, kicking the sides with his heels, killing cattle and destroying
all things.  Then Grettir came that way, and he slept in the hall.  At
night the dead Glam came in, and Grettir arose, and to it they went,
struggling and dashing the furniture to bits.  Glam even dragged Grettir
to the door, that he might slay him under the sky, and for all his force
Grettir yielded ground.  Then on the very threshold he suddenly gave way
when Glam was pulling hardest, and they fell, Glam undermost.  Then
Grettir drew the short sword, "Kari's loom," that he had taken from a
haunted grave, and stabbed the dead thing that had lived again.  But, as
Glam lay a-dying in the second death, the moon fell on his awful eyes,
and Grettir saw the horror of them, and from that hour he could not
endure to be in the dark, and he never dared to go alone.  This was his
death, for he had an evil companion who betrayed him to his enemies; but
when they set on Grettir, though he was tired and sick of a wound, many
died with him.  No man died like Grettir the Strong, nor slew so many in
his death.

Besides those Sagas, there is the best of all, but the longest, "Njala"
(pronounced "Nyoula"), the story of Burnt Njal.  That is too long to
sketch here, but it tells how, through the hard hearts and jealousy of
women, ruin came at last on the gentle Gunnar, and the reckless
Skarphedin of the axe, "The Ogress of War," and how Njal, the wisest, the
most peaceful, the most righteous of men, was burned with all his house,
and how that evil deed was avenged on the Burners of Kari.

The site of Njal's house is yet to be seen, after these nine hundred
years, and the little glen where Kari hid when he leaped through the
smoke and the flame that made his sword-blade blue.  Yes, the very black
sand that Bergthora and her maids threw on the fire lies there yet, and
remnants of the whey they cast on the flames, when water failed them.
They were still there beneath the earth when an English traveller dug up
some of the ground last year, and it is said that an American gentleman
found a gold ring in the house of Njal.  The story of him and of his
brave sons, and of his slaves, and of his kindred, and of Queens and
Kings of Norway, and of the coming of the white Christ, are all in the
"Njala."  That and the other Sagas would bear being shortened for general
readers; once they were all that the people had by way of books, and they
liked them long.  But, shortened or not, they are brave books for men,
for the world is a place of battle still, and life is war.  These old
heroes knew it, and did not shirk it, but fought it out, and left
honourable names and a glory that widens year by year.  For the story of
Njal and Gunnar and Skarphedin was told by Captain Speedy to the guards
of Theodore, King of Abyssinia.  They liked it well; and with queer
altered names and changes of the tale, that Saga will be told in
Abyssinia, and thence carried all through Africa where white men have
never wandered.  So wide, so long-enduring a renown could be given by a
nameless Sagaman.



CHARLES KINGSLEY


When I was very young, a distinguished _Review_ was still younger.  I
remember reading one of the earliest numbers, being then myself a boy of
ten, and coming on a review of a novel.  Never, as it seemed to me, or
seems to my memory, was a poor novel more heavily handled: and yet I felt
that the book must be a book to read on the very earliest opportunity.  It
was "Westward Ho!" the most famous, and perhaps the best novel, of
Charles Kingsley.  Often one has read it since, and it is an example of
those large, rich, well-fed romances, at which you can cut and come
again, as it were, laying it down, and taking it up on occasion, with the
certainty of being excited, amused--and preached at.

Lately I have re-read "Westward Ho!" and some of Kingsley's other books,
"Hypatia," "Hereward the Wake," and the poems, over again.  The old
pleasure in them is not gone indeed, but it is modified.  One must be a
boy to think Kingsley a humourist.  At the age of twelve or ten you take
the comic passages which he conscientiously provides, without being vexed
or offended; you take them merely in the way of business.  Better things
are coming: struggles with the Inquisition, storms at sea, duels, the
Armada, wanderings in the Lotus land of the tropical west; and for the
sake of all this a boy puts up good-naturedly with Kingsley's humour.
Perhaps he even grins over Amyas "burying alternately his face in the
pasty and the pasty in his face," or he tries to feel diverted by the
Elizabethan waggeries of Frank.  But there is no fun in them--they are
mechanical; they are worse than the humours of Scott's Sir Percy Shafto,
which are not fine.

The same sense of everything not being quite so excellent as one
remembered it haunts one in "Hereward the Wake, the Last of the English."
Kingsley calls him "the Last of the English," but he is really the first
of the literary Vikings.  In the essay on the Sagas here I have tried to
show, very imperfectly, what the Norsemen were actually like.  They
caught Kingsley's fancy, and his "Hereward," though born on English soil,
is really Norse--not English.  But Kingsley did not write about the
Vikings, nor about his Elizabethan heroes in "Westward Ho!" in a
perfectly simple, straightforward way.  He was always thinking of our own
times and referring to them.  That is why even the rather ruffianly
Hereward is so great an enemy of saints and monks.  That is why, in
"Hypatia" (which opens so well), we have those prodigiously dull, stupid,
pedantic, and conceited reflections of Raphael Ben Ezra.  That is why, in
all Kingsley's novels, he is perpetually exciting himself in defence of
marriage and the family life, as if any monkish ideas about the
blessedness of bachelorhood were ever likely to drive the great Anglo-
Saxon race into convents and monasteries.  That is the very last thing we
have to be afraid of; but Kingsley was afraid of it, and was eternally
attacking everything Popish and monkish.

Boys and young people, then, can read "Westward Ho!" and "Hypatia," and
"Hereward the Wake," with far more pleasure than their elders.  They
hurry on with the adventures, and do not stop to ask what the moralisings
mean.  They forgive the humour of Kingsley because it is well meant.  They
get, in short, the real good of this really great and noble and manly and
blundering genius.  They take pleasure in his love of strong men, gallant
fights, desperate encounters with human foes, with raging seas, with
pestilence, or in haunted forests.  For in all that is good of his
talent--in his courage, his frank speech, his love of sport, his clear
eyes, his devotion to field and wood, river, moor, sea, and
storms--Kingsley is a boy.  He has the brave, rather hasty, and not over
well-informed enthusiasm of sixteen, for persons and for causes.  He saw
an opponent (it might be Father Newman): his heart lusted for a fight; he
called his opponent names, he threw his cap into the ring, he took his
coat off, he fought, he got a terrible scientific drubbing.  It was like
a sixth-form boy matching himself against the champion.  And then he bore
no malice.  He took his defeat bravely.  Nay, are we not left with a
confused feeling that he was not far in the wrong, though he had so much
the worse of the fight?

Such was Kingsley: a man with a boy's heart; a hater of cruelty and
injustice, and also with a brave, indomitable belief that his own country
and his own cause were generally in the right, whatever the quarrel.  He
loved England like a mistress, and hated her enemies, Spain and the Pope,
though even in them he saw the good.  He is for ever scolding the Spanish
for their cruelties to the Indians, but he defends our doings to the
Irish, which (at that time) were neither more nor less oppressive than
the Spanish performances in America.  "Go it, our side!" you always hear
this good Kingsley crying; and one's heart goes out to him for it, in an
age when everybody often proves his own country to be in the wrong.

Simple, brave, resolute, manly, a little given to "robustiousness,"
Kingsley transfigured all these qualities by possessing the soul and the
heart of a poet.  He was not a very great poet, indeed, but a true
poet--one of the very small band who are cut off, by a gulf that can
never be passed, from mere writers of verse, however clever, educated,
melodious, ingenious, amiable, and refined.  He had the real spark of
fire, the true note; though the spark might seldom break into flame, and
the note was not always clear.  Never let us confuse true poets with
writers of verse, still less with writers of "poetic prose."  Kingsley
wrote a great deal of that-perhaps too much: his descriptions of scenes
are not always as good as in Hereward's ride round the Fens, or when the
tall, Spanish galleon staggers from the revenge of man to the vengeance
of God, to her doom through the mist, to her rest in the sea.  Perhaps
only a poet could have written that prose; it is certain no writer of
"poetic prose" could have written Kingsley's poems.

His songs are his best things; they really are songs, not merely lyric
poems.  They have the merit of being truly popular, whether they are
romantic, like "The Sands o' Dee," which actually reproduces the best
qualities of the old ballad; or whether they are pathetic, like the
"Doll's Song," in "Water Babies"; or whether they attack an abuse, as in
the song of "The Merry Brown Hares"; or whether they soar higher, as in
"Deep, deep Love, within thine own abyss abiding"; or whether they are
mere noble nonsense, as in "Lorraine Loree":--

   "She mastered young Vindictive; oh, the gallant lass was she,
   And kept him straight and won the race, as near as near could be;
   But he killed her at the brook against a pollard willow tree;
   Oh, he killed her at the brook, the brute, for all the world to see,
   And no one but the baby cried for poor Lorraine Loree."

The truth about Charles Kingsley seems to be that he rather made a brave
and cheery noise in this night-battle of modern life, than that he
directed any movement of forces.  He kept cheering, as it were, and
waving his sword with a contagious enthusiasm.  Being a poet, and a man
both of heart and of sentiment, he was equally attached to the best
things of the old world and to the best of the new world, as far as one
can forecast what it is to be.  He loved the stately homes of England,
the ancient graduated order of society, the sports of the past, the
military triumphs, the patriotic glories.  But he was also on the side of
the poor: as "Parson Lot" he attempted to be a Christian Socialist.

Now, the Socialists are the people who want to take everything; the
Christians are the persons who do not want to give more than they find
convenient.  Kingsley himself was ready to give, and did give, his time,
his labour, his health, and probably his money, to the poor.  But he was
by no means minded that they should swallow up the old England with
church and castle, manor-house and tower, wealth, beauty, learning,
refinement.  The man who wrote "Alton Locke," the story of the starved
tailor-poet, was the man who nearly wept when he heard a fox bark, and
reflected that the days of fox-hunting were numbered.  He had a poet's
politics, Colonel Newcome's politics.  He was for England, for the poor,
for the rich, for the storied houses of the chivalrous past, for the
cottage, for the hall; and was dead against the ideas of Manchester, and
of Mr. John Bright.  "My father," he says in a letter, "would have put
his hand to a spade or an axe with any man, and so could I pretty well,
too, when I was in my prime; and my eldest son is now working with his
own hands at farming, previous to emigrating to South America, where he
will do the drudgery of his own cattle-pens and sheepfolds; and if I were
twenty-four and unmarried I would go out there too, and work like an
Englishman, and live by the sweat of my brow."

This was the right side of his love of the Vikings; it was thus _they_
lived, when not at war--thus that every gentleman who has youth and
health should work, winning new worlds for his class, in place of this
miserable, over-crowded, brawling England.  This, I think, was, or should
have been, the real lesson and message of Kingsley for the generations to
come.  Like Scott the scion of an old knightly line, he had that drop of
wild blood which drives men from town into the air and the desert,
wherever there are savage lands to conquer, beasts to hunt, and a hardy
life to be lived.  But he was the son of a clergyman, and a clergyman
himself.  The spirit that should have gone into action went into talking,
preaching, writing--all sources of great pleasure to thousands of people,
and so not wasted.  Yet these were not the natural outlets of Kingsley's
life: he should have been a soldier, or an explorer; at least, we may
believe that he would have preferred such fortune.  He did his best, the
best he knew, and it is all on the side of manliness, courage, kindness.
Perhaps he tried too many things--science, history, fairy tales,
religious and political discussions, romance, poetry.  Poetry was what he
did best, romance next; his science and his history are entertaining, but
without authority.

This, when one reads it again, seems a cold, unfriendly estimate of a man
so ardent and so genuine, a writer so vivacious and courageous as
Kingsley.  Even the elderly reviewer bears to him, and to his brother
Henry, a debt he owes to few of their generation.  The truth is we should
_read_ Kingsley; we must not criticise him.  We must accept him and be
glad of him, as we accept a windy, sunny autumn day--beautiful and
blusterous--to be enjoyed and struggled with.  If once we stop and
reflect, and hesitate, he seems to preach too much, and with a confidence
which his knowledge of the world and of history does not justify.  To be
at one with Kingsley we must be boys again, and that momentary change
cannot but be good for us.  Soon enough--too soon--we shall drop back on
manhood, and on all the difficulties and dragons that Kingsley drove away
by a blast on his chivalrous and cheery horn.



CHARLES LEVER: HIS BOOKS, ADVENTURES AND MISFORTUNES


Surely it is a pleasant thing that there are books, like other
enjoyments, for all ages.  You would not have a boy prefer whist to
fives, nor tobacco to toffee, nor Tolstoi to Charles Lever.  The ancients
reckoned Tyrtaecus a fine poet, not that he was particularly melodious or
reflective, but that he gave men heart to fight for their country.
Charles Lever has done as much.  In his biography, by Mr. Fitzpatrick, it
is told that a widow lady had but one son, and for him she obtained an
appointment at Woolwich.  The boy was timid and nervous, and she fancied
that she must find for him some other profession--perhaps that of
literature.  But he one day chanced on Lever's novels, and they put so
much heart into him that his character quite altered, and he became the
bravest of the brave.

Lever may not do as much for every one, but he does teach contempt of
danger, or rather, delight in it: a gay, spontaneous, boyish kind of
courage--Irish courage at its best.  We may get more good from that than
harm from all his tales of much punch and many drinking bouts.  These are
no longer in fashion and are not very gay reading, perhaps, but his
stories and songs, his duels and battles and hunting scenes are as merry
and as good as ever.  Wild as they seem in the reading, they are not far
from the truth, as may be gathered out of "Barrington's Memoirs," and
their tales of the reckless Irish life some eighty years ago.

There were two men in Charles Lever--a glad man and a sad man.  The
gaiety was for his youth, when he poured out his "Lorrequers" and
"O'Malleys," all the mirth and memories of his boyhood, all the tales of
fighting and feasting he gleaned from battered, seasoned old warriors,
like Major Monsoon.  Even then, Mr. Thackeray, who knew him, and liked
and laughed at him, recognised through his merriment "the fund of sadness
beneath."  "The author's character is _not_ humour, but sentiment . . .
extreme delicacy, sweetness and kindliness of heart.  The spirits are
mostly artificial, the _fond_ is sadness, as appears to me to be that of
most Irish writing and people."   Even in "Charles O'Malley," what a
true, dark picture that is of the duel beside the broad, angry river on
the level waste under the wide grey sky!  Charles has shot his opponent,
Bodkin, and with Considine, his second, is making his escape.  "Considine
cried out suddenly, 'Too infamous, by Jove: we are murdered men!'"

"'What do you mean?' said I.

"'Don't you see that?' said he, pointing to something black which floated
from a pole at the opposite side of the river.

"'Yes; what is it?'

"'It's his coat they've put upon an oar, to show the people he's
killed--that's all.  Every man here's his tenant; and look there! they're
not giving us much doubt as to their intentions.'

"Here a tremendous yell burst forth from the mass of people along the
shore, which, rising to a terrific cry, sank gradually down to a low
wailing, then rose and fell several times, as the Irish death-cry filled
the air, and rose to heaven, as if imploring vengeance on a murderer."

Passages like this, and that which follows--the dangerous voyage through
the storm on the flooded Shannon, and through the reefs--are what Mr.
Thackeray may have had in his mind when he spoke of Lever's underlying
melancholy.  Like other men with very high spirits, he had hours of
gloom, and the sadness and the thoughtfulness that were in him came forth
then and informed his later books.  These are far more carefully written,
far more cunningly constructed, than the old chapters written from month
to month as the fit took him, with no more plan or premeditation than
"Pickwick."  But it is the early stories that we remember, and that he
lives by--the pages thrown off at a heat, when he was a lively doctor
with few patients, and was not over-attentive to them.  These were the
days of Harry Lorrequer and Tom Burke; characters that ran away with him,
and took their own path through a merry world of diversion.  Like the
knights in Sir Thomas Malory, these heroes "ride at adventure," ride
amazing horses that dread no leap, be it an Irish stone wall on a
mountain crest, or be it the bayonets of a French square.

Mr. Lever's biographer has not been wholly successful in pleasing the
critics, and he does not seem to affect very critical airs himself, but
he tells a straightforward tale.  The life of Charles Lever is the
natural commentary on his novels.  He was born at Dublin in 1806, the son
of a builder or architect.  At school he was very much flogged, and the
odds are that he deserved these attentions, for he had high spirits
beyond the patience of dominies.  Handsome, merry and clever, he read
novels in school hours, wore a ring, and set up as a dandy.  Even then he
was in love with the young lady whom he married in the end.  At a fight
with boys of another school, he and a friend placed a mine under the
ground occupied by the enemy, and blew them, more or less, into the air.
Many an eyebrow was singed off on that fatal day, when, for the only
time, this romancer of the wars "smelled powder."  He afterwards pleaded
for his party before the worthy police magistrate, and showed great
promise as a barrister.  At Trinity College, Dublin, he was full of his
fun, made ballads, sang them through the streets in disguise (like
Fergusson, the Scottish poet), and one night collected thirty shillings
in coppers.

The original of Frank Webber, in "Charles O'Malley," was a chum of his,
and he took part in the wonderful practical jokes which he has made
immortal in that novel.

From Trinity College, Dublin, Lever went to Gottingen, where he found fun
and fighting enough among the German students.  From that hour he became
a citizen of the world, or, at least, of Europe, and perhaps, like the
prophets, was most honoured when out of his own country.  He returned to
Dublin and took his degree in medicine, after playing a famous practical
joke.  A certain medical professor was wont to lecture in bed.  One night
he left town unexpectedly.  Lever, by chance, came early to lecture,
found the Professor absent, slipped into his bed, put on his nightcap,
and took the class himself.  On another day he was standing outside the
Foundling Hospital with a friend, a small man.  Now, a kind of stone
cradle for foundlings was built outside the door, and, when a baby was
placed therein, a bell rang.  Lever lifted up his friend, popped him into
the cradle, and had the joy of seeing the promising infant picked out by
the porter.

It seems a queer education for a man of letters; but, like Sir Walter
Scott when revelling in Liddesdale, he "was making himself all the time."
He was collecting myriads of odd experiences and treasures of anecdotes;
he was learning to know men of all sorts; and later, as a country doctor,
he had experiences of mess tables, of hunting, and of all the ways of his
remarkable countrymen.  When cholera visited his district he stuck to his
work like a man of heart and courage.  But the usual tasks of a country
doctor wearied him; he neglected them, he became unpopular with the
authorities, he married his first love and returned to Brussels, where he
practised as a physician.  He had already begun his first notable book,
"Harry Lorrequer," in the _University Magazine_.  It is merely a string
of Irish and other stories, good, bad, and indifferent--a picture gallery
full of portraits of priests, soldiers, peasants and odd characters.  The
plot is of no importance; we are not interested in Harry's love affairs,
but in his scrapes, adventures, duels at home and abroad.  He fights
people by mistake whom he does not know by sight, he appears on parade
with his face blackened, he wins large piles at _trente et quarante_, he
disposes of coopers of claret and bowls of punch, and the sheep on a
thousand hills provide him with devilled kidneys.  The critics and the
authors thought little of the merry medley, but the public enjoyed it,
and defied the reviewers.  One paper preferred the book to a wilderness
of "Pickwicks"; and as this opinion was advertised everywhere by
M'Glashan, the publisher, Mr. Dickens was very much annoyed indeed.
Authors are easily annoyed.  But Lever writes _ut placeat pueris_, and
there was a tremendous fight at Rugby between two boys, the "Slogger
Williams" and "Tom Brown" of the period, for the possession of "Harry
Lorrequer."  When an author has the boys of England on his side, he can
laugh at the critics.  Not that Lever laughed: he, too, was easily vexed,
and much depressed, when the reviews assailed him.  Next he began
"Charles O'Malley"; and if any man reads this essay who has not read the
"Irish Dragoon," let him begin at once.  "O'Malley" is what you can
recommend to a friend.  Here is every species of diversion: duels and
steeplechases, practical jokes at college (good practical jokes, not
booby traps and apple-pie beds); here is fighting in the Peninsula.  If
any student is in doubt, let him try chapter xiv.--the battle on the
Douro.  This is, indeed, excellent military writing, and need not fear
comparison as art with Napier's famous history.  Lever has warmed to his
work; his heart is in it; he had the best information from an
eye-witness; and the brief beginning, on the peace of nature before the
strife of men, is admirably poetical.

To reach the French, under Soult, Wellesley had to cross the deep and
rapid Douro, in face of their fire, and without regular transport.  "He
dared the deed.  What must have been his confidence in the men he
commanded! what must have been his reliance on his own genius!"

You hold your breath as you read, while English and Germans charge, till
at last the field is won, and the dust of the French columns retreating
in the distance blows down the road to Spain.

The Great Duke read this passage, and marvelled how Lever knew certain
things that he tells.  He learned this, and much more, the humours of
war, from the original of Major Monsoon.  Falstaff is alone in the
literature of the world, but if ever there came a later Falstaff, Monsoon
was the man.  And where have you such an Irish Sancho Panza as Micky
Free, that independent minstrel, or such an Irish Di Vernon as Baby
Blake?  The critics may praise Lever's thoughtful and careful later
novels as they will, but "Charles O'Malley" will always be the pattern of
a military romance.  The anecdote of "a virtuous weakness" in
O'Shaughnessy's father's character would alone make the fortune of many a
story.  The truth is, it is not easy to lay down "Charles O'Malley," to
leave off reading it, and get on with the account of Lever.

His excellent and delightful novel scarcely received one favourable
notice from the press.  This may have been because it was so popular; but
Lever became so nervous that he did not like to look at the papers.  When
he went back to Dublin and edited a magazine there, he was more fiercely
assailed than ever.  It is difficult for an Irishman to write about the
Irish, or for a Scot to write about the Scottish, without hurting the
feelings of his countrymen.  While their literary brethren are alive they
are not very dear to the newspaper scribes of these gallant nations; and
thus Jeffrey was more severe to Scott than he need have been, while the
Irish press, it appears, made an onslaught on Lever.  Mr. Thackeray met
Lever in Dublin, and he mentions this unkind behaviour.  "Lorrequer's
military propensities have been objected to strongly by his squeamish
Hibernian brethren . . . But is Lorrequer the only man in Ireland who is
fond of military spectacles?  Why does the _Nation_ publish these
edifying and Christian war songs? . . . And who is it that prates about
the Irish at Waterloo, and the Irish at Fontenoy, and the Irish at
Seringapatam, and the Irish at Timbuctoo?  If Mr. O'Connell, like a wise
rhetorician, chooses, and very properly, to flatter the national military
passion, why not Harry Lorrequer?"

Why not, indeed?  But Mr. Lever was a successful Irishman of letters, and
a good many other Irish gentlemen of letters, honest Doolan and his
friends, were not successful.  That is the humour of it.

Though you, my youthful reader, if I have one, do not detest Jones
because he is in the Eleven, nor Brown because he has "got his cap," nor
Smith because he does Greek Iambics like Sophocles; though you rather
admire and applaud these champions, you may feel very differently when
you come to thirty years or more, and see other men doing what you cannot
do, and gaining prizes beyond your grasp.  And then, if you are a
reviewer, you "will find fault with a book for what it does not give," as
thus, to take Mr. Thackeray's example:--

"Lady Smigsmag's novel is amusing, but lamentably deficient in geological
information."  "Mr. Lever's novels are trashy and worthless, for his
facts are not borne out by any authority, and he gives us no information
about the political state of Ireland.  'Oh! our country, our green and
beloved, our beautiful and oppressed?'" and so forth.

It was not altogether a happy time that Lever passed at home.  Not only
did his native critics belabour him most ungrudgingly for "Tom Burke,"
that vivid and chivalrous romance, but he made enemies of authors.  He
edited a magazine!  Is not that enough?  He wearied of wading through
waggon-loads of that pure unmitigated rubbish which people are permitted
to "shoot" at editorial doors.  How much dust there is in it to how few
pearls!  He did not return MSS. punctually and politely.  The office cat
could edit the volunteered contributions of many a magazine, but Lever
was even more casual and careless than an experienced office cat.  He
grew crabbed, and tried to quarrel with Mr. Thackeray for that delightful
parody "Phil Fogarty," nearly as good as a genuine story by Lever.

Beset by critics, burlesqued by his friend, he changed his style (Mr.
Fitzpatrick tells us) and became more sober--and not so entertaining.  He
actually published a criticism of Beyle, of Stendhal, that psychological
prig, the darling of culture and of M. Paul Bourget.  Harry Lorrequer on
Stendhal!--it beggars belief.  He nearly fought a duel with the gentleman
who is said to have suggested Mr. Pecksniff to Dickens!  Yet they call
his early novels improbable.  Nothing could be less plausible than a
combat between Harry Lorrequer and a gentleman who, even remotely,
resembled the father of Cherry and Merry.

Lever went abroad again, and in Florence or the Baths of Lucca, in
Trieste or Spezia, he passed the rest of his life.  He saw the Italian
revolution of 1848, and it added to his melancholy.  This is plain from
one of his novels with a curious history--"Con Cregan."  He wrote it at
the same time as "The Daltons," and he did not sign it.  The reviewers
praised "Con Cregan" at the expense of the signed work, rejoicing that
Lever, as "The Daltons" proved, was exhausted, and that a new Irish
author, the author of "Con Cregan," was coming to eclipse him.  In short,
he eclipsed himself, and he did not like it.  His right hand was jealous
of what his left hand did.  It seems odd that any human being, however
dull and envious, failed to detect Lever in the rapid and vivacious
adventures of his Irish "Gil Blas," hero of one of the very best among
his books, a piece not unworthy of Dumas.  "Con" was written after
midnight, "The Daltons" in the morning; and there can be no doubt which
set of hours was more favourable to Lever's genius.  Of course he liked
"The Daltons" best; of all people, authors appear to be their own worst
critics.

It is not possible even to catalogue Lever's later books here.  Again he
drove a pair of novels abreast--"The Dodds" and "Sir Jasper Carew"--which
contain some of his most powerful situations.  When almost an old man,
sad, outworn in body, straitened in circumstances, he still produced
excellent tales in this later manner--"Lord Kilgobbin," "That Boy of
Norcott's," "A Day's Ride," and many more.  These are the thoughts of a
tired man of the world, who has done and seen everything that such men
see and do.  He says that he grew fat, and bald, and grave; he wrote for
the grave and the bald, not for the happier world which is young, and
curly, and merry.  He died at last, it is said, in his sleep; and it is
added that he did what Harry Lorrequer would not have done--he left his
affairs in perfect order.

Lever lived in an age so full of great novelists that, perhaps, he is not
prized as he should be.  Dickens, Bulwer, Thackeray, Trollope, George
Eliot, were his contemporaries.  But when we turn back and read him once
more, we see that Lever, too, was a worthy member of that famous
company--a romancer for boys and men.



THE POEMS OF SIR WALTER SCOTT


Yesterday, as the sun was very bright, and there was no wind, I took a
fishing-rod on chance and Scott's poems, and rowed into the middle of St.
Mary's Loch.  Every hill, every tuft of heather was reflected in the
lake, as in a silver mirror.  There was no sound but the lapping of the
water against the boat, the cry of the blackcock from the hill, and the
pleasant plash of a trout rising here and there.  So I read "The Lay of
the Last Minstrel" over again, here, in the middle of the scenes where
the story is laid and where the fights were fought.  For when the Baron
went on pilgrimage,

   "And took with him this elvish page
   To Mary's Chapel of the Lowes,"

it was to the ruined chapel _here_ that he came,

   "For there, beside our Ladye's lake,
   An offering he had sworn to make,
      And he would pay his vows."

But his enemy, the Lady of Branksome, gathered a band,

   "Of the best that would ride at her command,"

and they all came from the country round.  Branksome, where the lady
lived, is twenty miles off, towards the south, across the ranges of
lonely green hills.  Harden, where her ally, Wat of Harden, abode, is
within twelve miles; and Deloraine, where William dwelt, is nearer still;
and John of Thirlestane had his square tower in the heather, "where
victual never grew," on Ettrick Water, within ten miles.  These
gentlemen, and their kinsfolk and retainers, being at feud with the Kers,
tried to slay the Baron, in the Chapel of "Lone St. Mary of the Waves."

   "They were three hundred spears and three.
   Through Douglas burn, up Yarrow stream,
   Their horses prance, their lances gleam.
   They came to St. Mary's Lake ere day;
   But the chapel was void, and the Baron away.
   They burned the chapel for very rage,
   And cursed Lord Cranstoun's goblin-page."

The Scotts were a rough clan enough to burn a holy chapel because they
failed to kill their enemy within the sacred walls.  But, as I read
again, for the twentieth time, Sir Walter's poem, floating on the lonely
breast of the lake, in the heart of the hills where Yarrow flows, among
the little green mounds that cover the ruins of chapel and castle and
lady's bower, I asked myself whether Sir Walter was indeed a great and
delightful poet, or whether he pleases me so much because I was born in
his own country, and have one drop of the blood of his Border robbers in
my own veins?

It is not always pleasant to go back to places, or to meet people, whom
we have loved well, long ago.  If they have changed little, we have
changed much.  The little boy, whose first book of poetry was "The Lady
of the Lake," and who naturally believed that there was no poet like Sir
Walter, is sadly changed into the man who has read most of the world's
poets, and who hears, on many sides, that Scott is outworn and doomed to
deserved oblivion.  Are they right or wrong, the critics who tell us,
occasionally, that Scott's good novels make up for his bad verse, or that
verse and prose, all must go?  _Pro captu lectoris_, by the reader's
taste, they stand or fall; yet even pessimism can scarcely believe that
the Waverley Novels are mortal.  They were once the joy of every class of
minds; they cannot cease to be the joy of those who cling to the
permanently good, and can understand and forgive lapses, carelessnesses,
and the leisurely literary fashion of a former age.  But, as to the
poems, many give them up who cling to the novels.  It does not follow
that the poems are bad.  In the first place, they are of two kinds--lyric
and narrative.  Now, the fashion of narrative in poetry has passed away
for the present.  The true Greek epics are read by a few in Greek; by
perhaps fewer still in translations.  But so determined are we not to
read tales in verse, that prose renderings, even of the epics, nay, even
of the Attic dramas, have come more or less into vogue.  This accounts
for the comparative neglect of Sir Walter's lays.  They are spoken of as
Waverley Novels spoiled.  This must always be the opinion of readers who
will not submit to stories in verse; it by no means follows that the
verse is bad.  If we make an exception, which we must, in favour of
Chaucer, where is there better verse in story telling in the whole of
English literature?  The readers who despise "Marmion," or "The Lady of
the Lake," do so because they dislike stories told in poetry.  From
poetry they expect other things, especially a lingering charm and magic
of style, a reflective turn, "criticism of life."  These things, except
so far as life can be criticised in action, are alien to the Muse of
narrative.  Stories and pictures are all she offers: Scott's pictures,
certainly, are fresh enough, his tales are excellent enough, his manner
is sufficiently direct.  To take examples: every one who wants to read
Scott's poetry should begin with the "Lay."  From opening to close it
never falters:--

   "Nine and twenty knights of fame
   Hung their shields in Branksome Hall;
   Nine and twenty squires of name
   Brought their steeds to bower from stall,
   Nine and twenty yeomen tall
   Waited, duteous, on them all . . .
   Ten of them were sheathed in steel,
   With belted sword, and spur on heel;
   They quitted not their harness bright
   Neither by day nor yet by night:
         They lay down to rest
         With corslet laced,
   Pillowed on buckler cold and hard;
         They carved at the meal
         With gloves of steel,
   And they drank the red wine through the helmet barred."

Now, is not that a brave beginning?  Does not the verse clank and chime
like sword sheath on spur, like the bits of champing horses?  Then, when
William of Deloraine is sent on his lonely midnight ride across the
haunted moors and wolds, does the verse not gallop like the heavy
armoured horse?

   "Unchallenged, thence passed Deloraine,
   To ancient Riddell's fair domain,
   Where Aill, from mountains freed,
   Down from the lakes did raving come;
   Each wave was crested with tawny foam,
   Like the mane of a chestnut steed,
   In vain! no torrent, deep or broad,
   Might bar the bold moss-trooper's road;
   At the first plunge the horse sunk low,
   And the water broke o'er the saddle-bow."

These last two lines have the very movement and note, the deep heavy
plunge, the still swirl of the water.  Well I know the lochs whence Aill
comes red in flood; many a trout have I taken in Aill, long ago.  This,
of course, causes a favourable prejudice, a personal bias towards
admiration.  But I think the poetry itself is good, and stirs the spirit,
even of those who know not Ailmoor, the mother of Aill, that lies dark
among the melancholy hills.

The spirit is stirred throughout by the chivalry and the courage of
Scott's men and of his women.  Thus the Lady of Branksome addresses the
English invaders who have taken her boy prisoner:--

   "For the young heir of Branksome's line,
   God be his aid, and God be mine;
   Through me no friend shall meet his doom;
   Here, while I live, no foe finds room.
   Then if thy Lords their purpose urge,
   Take our defiance loud and high;
   Our slogan is their lyke-wake dirge,
   Our moat, the grave where they shall lie."

Ay, and though the minstrel says he is no love poet, and though, indeed,
he shines more in war than in lady's bower, is not this a noble stanza on
true love, and worthy of what old Malory writes in his "Mort d'Arthur"?
Because here Scott speaks for himself, and of his own unhappy and
immortal affection:--

   "True love's the gift which God has given
   To man alone beneath the Heaven.
   It is not Fantasy's hot fire,
   Whose wishes, soon as granted, fly;
   _It liveth not in fierce desire_,
   _With dead desire it dock not die_:
   It is the secret sympathy,
   The silver link, the silken tie,
   Which heart to heart and mind to mind,
   In body and in soul can bind."

Truth and faith, courage and chivalry, a free life in the hills and by
the streams, a shrewd brain, an open heart, a kind word for friend or
foeman, these are what you learn from the "Lay," if you want to learn
lessons from poetry.  It is a rude legend, perhaps, as the critics said
at once, when critics were disdainful of wizard priests and ladies
magical.  But it is a deathless legend, I hope; it appeals to every young
heart that is not early spoiled by low cunning, and cynicism, and love of
gain.  The minstrel's own prophecy is true, and still, and always,

   "Yarrow, as he rolls along,
   Bears burden to the minstrel's song."

After the "Lay" came "Marmion, a Tale of Flodden Field."  It is far more
ambitious and complicated than the "Lay," and is not much worse written.
Sir Walter was ever a rapid and careless poet, and as he took more pains
with his plot, he took less with his verse.  His friends reproved him,
but he answered to one of them--

   "Since oft thy judgment could refine
   My flattened thought and cumbrous line,
   Still kind, as is thy wont, attend,
   And in the minstrel spare the friend:
   _Though wild as cloud_, _as stream_, _as gale_,
   _Flow forth_, _flow unrestrained_, _my tale_!"

Any one who knows Scott's country knows how cloud and stream and gale all
sweep at once down the valley of Ettrick or of Tweed.  West wind, wild
cloud, red river, they pour forth as by one impulse--forth from the far-
off hills.  He let his verse sweep out in the same stormy sort, and many
a "cumbrous line," many a "flattened thought," you may note, if you will,
in "Marmion."  For example--

   "And think what he must next have felt,
   At buckling of the falchion belt."

The "Lay" is a tale that only verse could tell; much of "Marmion" might
have been told in prose, and most of "Rokeby."  But prose could never
give the picture of Edinburgh, nor tell the tale of Flodden Fight in
"Marmion," which I verily believe is the best battle-piece in all the
poetry of all time, better even than the stand of Aias by the ships in
the Iliad, better than the slaying of the Wooers in the Odyssey.  Nor
could prose give us the hunting of the deer and the long gallop over
hillside and down valley, with which the "Lady of the Lake" begins,
opening thereby the enchanted gates of the Highlands to the world.  "The
Lady of the Lake," except in the battle-piece, is told in a less rapid
metre than that of the "Lay," less varied than that of "Marmion."
"Rokeby" lives only by its songs; the "Lord of the Isles" by Bannockburn,
the "Field of Waterloo" by the repulse of the Cuirassiers.  But all the
poems are interspersed with songs and ballads, as the beautiful ballad of
"Alice Brand"; and Scott's fame rests on _these_ far more than on his
later versified romances.  Coming immediately after the very tamest poets
who ever lived, like Hayley, Scott wrote songs and ballads as wild and
free, as melancholy or gay, as ever shepherd sang, or gipsy carolled, or
witch-wife moaned, or old forgotten minstrel left to the world, music
with no maker's name.  For example, take the Outlaw's rhyme--

   "With burnished brand and musketoon,
      So gallantly you come,
   I read you for a bold dragoon
      That lists the tuck of drum.
   I list no more the tuck of drum,
      No more the trumpet hear;
   But when the beetle sounds his hum,
      My comrades take the spear.
   And, oh, though Brignal banks be fair,
      And Greta woods be gay,
   Yet mickle must the maiden dare,
      Would reign my Queen of May!"

How musical, again, is this!--

   "This morn is merry June, I trow,
      The rose is budding fain;
   But she shall bloom in winter snow,
      Ere we two meet again.
   He turned his charger as he spake,
      Upon the river shore,
   He gave his bridle-reins a shake,
      Said, 'Adieu for evermore,
               My love!
      Adieu for evermore!'"

Turning from the legends in verse, let it not be forgotten that Scott was
a great lyrical poet.  Mr. Palgrave is not too lenient a judge, and his
"Golden Treasury" is a touchstone, as well as a treasure, of poetic gold.
In this volume Wordsworth contributes more lyrics than any other poet:
Shelley and Shakespeare come next; then Sir Walter.  For my part I would
gladly sacrifice a few of Wordsworth's for a few more of Scott's.  But
this may be prejudice.  Mr. Palgrave is not prejudiced, and we see how
high is his value for Sir Walter.

There are scores of songs in his works, touching and sad, or gay as a
hunter's waking, that tell of lovely things lost by tradition, and found
by him on the moors: all these--not prized by Sir Walter himself--are in
his gift, and in that of no other man.  For example, his "Eve of St.
John" is simply a masterpiece, a ballad among ballads.  Nothing but an
old song moves us like--

   "Are these the links o' Forth, she said,
   Are these the bends o' Dee!"

He might have done more of the best, had he very greatly cared.  Alone
among poets, he had neither vanity nor jealousy; he thought little of his
own verse and his own fame: would that he had thought more! would that he
had been more careful of what was so precious!  But he turned to prose;
bade poetry farewell.

   "Yet, once again, farewell, thou Minstrel Harp,
   Yet, once again, forgive my feeble sway.
   _And little reck I of the censure sharp_
   _May idly cavil at an idle lay_."

People still cavil idly, complaining that Scott did not finish, or did
not polish his pieces; that he was not Keats, or was not Wordsworth.  He
was himself; he was the Last Minstrel, the latest, the greatest, the
noblest of natural poets concerned with natural things.  He sang of free,
fierce, and warlike life, of streams yet rich in salmon, and moors not
yet occupied by brewers; of lonely places haunted in the long grey
twilights of the North; of crumbling towers where once dwelt the Lady of
Branksome or the Flower of Yarrow.  Nature summed up in him many a past
age a world of ancient faiths; and before the great time of Britain
wholly died, to Britain, as to Greece, she gave her Homer.  When he was
old, and tired, and near his death--so worn with trouble and labour that
he actually signed his own name wrong--he wrote his latest verse, for a
lady.  It ends--

   "My country, be thou glorious still!"

and so he died, within the sound of the whisper of Tweed, foreseeing the
years when his country would no more be glorious, thinking of his country
only, forgetting quite the private sorrow of his own later days.

People will tell you that Scott was not a great poet; that his bolt is
shot, his fame perishing.  Little he cared for his fame!  But for my part
I think and hope that Scott can never die, till men grow up into manhood
without ever having been boys--till they forget that

   "One glorious hour of crowded life
   Is worth an age without a name!"

Thus, the charges against Sir Walter's poetry are, on the whole, little
more than the old critical fallacy of blaming a thing for not being
something else.  "It takes all sorts to make a world," in poetry as in
life.  Sir Walter's sort is a very good sort, and in English literature
its place was empty, and waiting for him.  Think of what he did.  English
poetry had long been very tame and commonplace, written in couplets like
Pope's, very artificial and smart, or sensible and slow.  He came with
poems of which the music seemed to gallop, like thundering hoofs and
ringing bridles of a rushing border troop.  Here were goblin, ghost, and
fairy, fight and foray, fair ladies and true lovers, gallant knights and
hard blows, blazing beacons on every hill crest and on the bartisan of
every tower.  Here was a world made alive again that had been dead for
three hundred years--a world of men and women.

They say that the archaeology is not good.  Archaeology is a science; in
its application to poetry, Scott was its discoverer.  Others can name the
plates of a coat of armour more learnedly than he, but he made men wear
them.  They call his Gothic art false, his armour pasteboard; but he put
living men under his castled roofs, living men into his breastplates and
taslets.  Science advances, old knowledge becomes ignorance; it is poetry
that does not die, and that will not die, while--

   "The triple pride
   Of Eildon looks over Strathclyde."



JOHN BUNYAN


Dr. Johnson once took Bishop Percy's little daughter on his knee, and
asked her what she thought of the "Pilgrim's Progress."  The child
answered that she had not read it.  "No?" replied the Doctor; "then I
would not give one farthing for you," and he set her down and took no
further notice of her.

This story, if true, proves that the Doctor was rather intolerant.  We
must not excommunicate people because they have not our taste in books.
The majority of people do not care for books at all.

There is a descendant of John Bunyan's alive now, or there was lately,
who never read the "Pilgrim's Progress."  Books are not in his line.  Nay,
Bunyan himself, who wrote sixty works, was no great reader.  An Oxford
scholar who visited him in his study found no books at all, except some
of Bunyan's own and Foxe's "Book of Martyrs."

Yet, little as the world in general cares for reading, it has read Bunyan
more than most.  One hundred thousand copies of the "Pilgrim" are
believed to have been sold in his own day, and the story has been done
into the most savage languages, as well as into those of the civilised
world.

Dr. Johnson, who did not like Dissenters, praises the "invention,
imagination, and conduct of the story," and knew no other book he wished
longer except "Robinson Crusoe" and "Don Quixote."  Well, Dr. Johnson
would not have given a farthing for _me_, as I am quite contented with
the present length of these masterpieces.  What books do _you_ wish
longer?  I wish Homer had written a continuation of the Odyssey, and told
us what Odysseus did among the far-off men who never tasted salt nor
heard of the sea.  A land epic after the sea epic, how good it would have
been--from Homer!  But it would have taxed the imagination of Dante to
continue the adventures of Christian and his wife after they had once
crossed the river and reached the city.

John Bunyan has been more fortunate than most authors in one of his
biographies.

His life has been written by the Rev. Dr. Brown, who is now minister of
his old congregation at Bedford; and an excellent life it is.  Dr. Brown
is neither Roundhead nor Cavalier; for though he is, of course, on
Bunyan's side, he does not throw stones at the beautiful Church of
England.

Probably most of us are on Bunyan's side now.  It might be a good thing
that we should all dwell together in religious unity, but history shows
that people cannot be bribed into brotherhood.  They tried to bully
Bunyan; they arrested and imprisoned him--unfairly even in law, according
to Dr. Brown, not unfairly, Mr. Froude thinks--and he would not be
bullied.

What was much more extraordinary, he would not be embittered.  In spite
of all, he still called Charles II. "a gracious Prince."  When a subject
is in conscience at variance with the law, Bunyan said, he has but one
course--to accept peaceably the punishment which the law awards.  He was
never soured, never angered by twelve years of durance, not exactly in a
loathsome dungeon, but in very uncomfortable quarters.  When there came a
brief interval of toleration, he did not occupy himself in brawling, but
in preaching, and looking after the manners and morals of the little
"church," including one woman who brought disagreeable charges against
"Brother Honeylove."  The church decided that there was nothing in the
charges, but somehow the name of Brother Honeylove does not inspire
confidence.

Almost everybody knows the main facts of Bunyan's life.  They may not
know that he was of Norman descent (as Dr. Brown seems to succeed in
proving), nor that the Bunyans came over with the Conqueror, nor that he
was a gipsy, as others hold.  On Dr. Brown's showing, Bunyan's ancestors
lost their lands in process of time and change, and Bunyan's father was a
tinker.  He preferred to call himself a brazier--his was the rather
unexpected trade to which Mr. Dick proposed apprenticing David
Copperfield.

Bunyan himself, "the wondrous babe," as Dr. Brown enthusiastically styles
him, was christened on November 30th, 1628.  He was born in a cottage,
long fallen, and hard by was a marshy place, "a veritable slough of
despond."  Bunyan may have had it in mind when he wrote of the slough
where Christian had so much trouble.  He was not a travelled man: all his
knowledge of people and places he found at his doors.  He had some
schooling, "according to the rate of other poor men's children," and
assuredly it was enough.

The great civil war broke out, and Bunyan was a soldier; he tells us not
on which side.  Dr. Brown and Mr. Lewis Morris think he was on that of
the Parliament, but his old father, the tinker, stood for the King.  Mr.
Froude is rather more inclined to hold that he was among the "gay
gallants who struck for the crown."  He does not seem to have been much
under fire, but he got that knowledge of the appearance of war which he
used in his siege of the City of Mansoul.  One can hardly think that
Bunyan liked war--certainly not from cowardice, but from goodness of
heart.

In 1646 the army was disbanded, and Bunyan went back to Elstow village
and his tinkering, his bell-ringing, his dancing with the girls, his
playing at "cat" on a Sunday after service.

He married very young and poor.  He married a pious wife, and read all
her library--"The Plain Man's Pathway to Heaven," and "The Practice of
Piety."  He became very devout in the spirit of the Church of England,
and he gave up his amusements.  Then he fell into the Slough of Despond,
then he went through the Valley of the Shadow, and battled with Apollyon.

People have wondered _why_ he fancied himself such a sinner?  He
confesses to having been a liar and a blasphemer.  If I may guess, I
fancy that this was merely the literary genius of Bunyan seeking for
expression.  His lies, I would go bail, were tremendous romances, wild
fictions told for fun, never lies of cowardice or for gain.  As to his
blasphemies, he had an extraordinary power of language, and that was how
he gave it play.  "Fancy swearing" was his only literary safety-valve, in
those early days, when he played cat on Elstow Green.

Then he heard a voice dart from heaven into his soul, which said, "Wilt
thou leave thy sins and go to heaven, or have thy sins and go to hell?"
So he fell on repentance, and passed those awful years of mental torture,
when all nature seemed to tempt him to the Unknown Sin.

What did all this mean?  It meant that Bunyan was within an ace of
madness.

It happens to a certain proportion of men, religiously brought up, to
suffer like Bunyan.  They hear voices, they are afraid of that awful
unknown iniquity, and of eternal death, as Bunyan and Cowper were afraid.

Was it not De Quincey who was at school with a bully who believed he had
been guilty of the unpardonable offence?  Bullying is an offence much
less pardonable than most men are guilty of.  Their best plan (in
Bunyan's misery) is to tell Apollyon that the Devil is an ass, to do
their work and speak the truth.

Bunyan got quit of his terror at last, briefly by believing in the
goodness of God.  He did not say, like Mr. Carlyle, "Well, if all my
fears are true, what then?"  His was a Christian, not a stoical
deliverance.

The "church" in which Bunyan found shelter had for minister a converted
major in a Royalist regiment.  It was a quaint little community, the
members living like the early disciples, correcting each other's faults,
and keeping a severe eye on each other's lives.  Bunyan became a minister
in it; but, Puritan as he was, he lets his Pilgrims dance on joyful
occasions, and even Mr. Ready-to-Halt waltzes with a young lady of the
Pilgrim company.

As a minister and teacher Bunyan began to write books of controversy with
Quakers and clergymen.  The points debated are no longer important to us;
the main thing was that he got a pen into his hand, and found a proper
outlet for his genius, a better way than fancy swearing.

If he had not been cast into Bedford jail for preaching in a cottage, he
might never have dreamed his immortal dream, nor become all that he was.
The leisures of gaol were long.  In that "den" the Muse came to him, the
fair kind Muse of the Home Beautiful.  He saw all that company of his, so
like and so unlike Chaucer's: Faithful, and Hopeful, and Christian, the
fellowship of fiends, the truculent Cavaliers of Vanity Fair, and Giant
Despair, with his grievous crabtree cudgel; and other people he saw who
are with us always,--the handsome Madam Bubble, and the young woman whose
name was Dull, and Mr. Worldly Wiseman, and Mr. Facing Bothways, and
Byends, all the persons of the comedy of human life.

He hears the angelic songs of the City beyond the river; he hears them,
but repeat them to us he cannot, "for I'm no poet," as he says himself.
He beheld the country of Beulah, and the Delectable Mountains, that
earthly Paradise of nature where we might be happy yet, and wander no
farther, if the world would let us--fair mountains in whose streams Izaak
Walton was then even casting angle.

It is pleasant to fancy how Walton and Bunyan might have met and talked,
under a plane tree by the Ouse, while the May showers were falling.
Surely Bunyan would not have likened the good old man to Formalist; and
certainly Walton would have enjoyed travelling with Christian, though the
book was by none of his dear bishops, but by a Non-conformist.  They were
made to like but not to convert each other; in matters ecclesiastical
they saw the opposite sides of the shield.  Each wrote a masterpiece.  It
is too late to praise "The Complete Angler" or the "Pilgrim's Progress."
You may put ingenuity on the rack, but she can say nothing new that is
true about the best romance that ever was wedded to allegory, nor about
the best idyl of old English life.

The people are living now--all the people: the noisy bullying judges, as
of the French Revolutionary Courts, or the Hanging Courts after
Monmouth's war; the demure, grave Puritan girls; and Matthew, who had the
gripes; and lazy, feckless Ignorance, who came to so ill an end, poor
fellow; and sturdy Old Honest, and timid Mr. Fearing; not single persons,
but dozens, arise on the memory.

They come, as fresh, as vivid, as if they were out of Scott or Moliere;
the Tinker is as great a master of character and fiction as the greatest,
almost; his style is pure, and plain, and sound, full of old idioms, and
even of something like old slang.  But even his slang is classical.

Bunyan is everybody's author.  The very Catholics have their own edition
of the Pilgrim: they have cut out Giant Pope, but have been too
good-natured to insert Giant Protestant in his place.  Unheralded,
unannounced, though not uncriticised (they accused the Tinker of being a
plagiarist, of course), Bunyan outshone the Court wits, the learned, the
poets of the Restoration, and even the great theologians.

His other books, except "Grace Abounding" (an autobiography), "The Holy
War," and "Mr. Badman," are only known to students, nor much read by
them.  The fashion of his theology, as of all theology, passed away; it
is by virtue of his imagination, of his romance, that he lives.

The allegory, of course, is full of flaws.  It would not have been manly
of Christian to run off and save his own soul, leaving his wife and
family.  But Bunyan shrank from showing us how difficult, if not
impossible, it is for a married man to be a saint.  Christiana was really
with him all through that pilgrimage; and how he must have been hampered
by that woman of the world!  But had the allegory clung more closely to
the skirts of truth, it would have changed from a romance to a satire,
from "The Pilgrim's Progress" to "Vanity Fair."  There was too much love
in Bunyan for a satirist of that kind; he had just enough for a
humourist.

Born in another class, he might have been, he would have been, a writer
more refined in his strength, more uniformly excellent, but never so
universal nor so popular in the best sense of the term.

In the change of times and belief it is not impossible that Bunyan will
live among the class whom he least thought of addressing--scholars,
lovers of worldly literature--for devotion and poverty are parting
company, while art endures till civilisation perishes.

Are we better or worse for no longer believing as Bunyan believed, no
longer seeing that Abyss of Pascal's open beside our armchairs?  The
question is only a form of that wide riddle, Does any theological or
philosophical opinion make us better or worse?  The vast majority of men
and women are little affected by schemes and theories of this life and
the next.  They who even ask for a reply to the riddle are the few: most
of us take the easy-going morality of our world for a guide, as we take
Bradshaw for a railway journey.  It is the few who must find out an
answer: on that answer their lives depend, and the lives of others are
insensibly raised towards their level.  Bunyan would not have been a
worse man if he had shared the faith of Izaak Walton.  Izaak had his
reply to all questions in the Church Catechism and the Articles.  Bunyan
found his in the theology of his sect, appealing more strongly than
orthodoxy to a nature more bellicose than Izaak's.  Men like him, with
his indomitable courage, will never lack a solution of the puzzle of the
earth.  At worst they will live by law, whether they dare to speak of it
as God's law, or dare not.  They will always be our leaders, our Captain
Greathearts, in the pilgrimage to the city where, led or unled, we must
all at last arrive.  They will not fail us, while loyalty and valour are
human qualities.  The day may conceivably come when we have no Christian
to march before us, but we shall never lack the company of Greatheart.



TO A YOUNG JOURNALIST


Dear Smith,--

You inform me that you desire to be a journalist, and you are kind enough
to ask my advice.  Well, be a journalist, by all means, in any honest and
honourable branch of the profession.  But do not be an eavesdropper and a
spy.  You may fly into a passion when you receive this very plainly
worded advice.  I hope you will; but, for several reasons, which I now go
on to state, I fear that you won't.  I fear that, either by natural gift
or by acquired habit, you already possess the imperturbable temper which
will be so useful to you if you do join the army of spies and
eavesdroppers.  If I am right, you have made up your mind to refuse to
take offence, as long as by not taking offence you can wriggle yourself
forward in the band of journalistic reptiles.  You will be revenged on
me, in that case, some day; you will lie in wait for me with a dirty
bludgeon, and steal on me out of a sewer.  If you do, permit me to assure
you that I don't care.  But if you are already in a rage, if you are
about tearing up this epistle, and are starting to assault me personally,
or at least to answer me furiously, then there is every hope for you and
for your future.  I therefore venture to state my reasons for supposing
that you are inclined to begin a course which your father, if he were
alive, would deplore, as all honourable men in their hearts must deplore
it.  When you were at the University (let me congratulate you on your
degree) you edited, or helped to edit, _The Bull-dog_.  It was not a very
brilliant nor a very witty, but it was an extremely "racy" periodical.  It
spoke of all men and dons by their nicknames.  It was full of second-hand
slang.  It contained many personal anecdotes, to the detriment of many
people.  It printed garbled and spiteful versions of private
conversations on private affairs.  It did not even spare to make comments
on ladies, and on the details of domestic life in the town and in the
University.  The copies which you sent me I glanced at with extreme
disgust.

In my time, more than a score of years ago, a similar periodical, but a
much more clever periodical, was put forth by members of the University.
It contained a novel which, even now, would be worth several ill-gotten
guineas to the makers of the _chronique scandaleuse_.  But nobody bought
it, and it died an early death.  Times have altered, I am a fogey; but
the ideas of honour and decency which fogies hold now were held by young
men in the sixties of our century.  I know very well that these ideas are
obsolete.  I am not preaching to the world, nor hoping to convert
society, but to _you_, and purely in your own private, spiritual
interest.  If you enter on this path of tattle, mendacity, and malice,
and if, with your cleverness and light hand, you are successful, society
will not turn its back on you.  You will be feared in many quarters, and
welcomed in others.  Of your paragraphs people will say that "it is a
shame, of course, but it is very amusing."  There are so many shames in
the world, shames not at all amusing, that you may see no harm in adding
to the number.  "If I don't do it," you may argue, "some one else will."
Undoubtedly; but _why should you do it_?

You are not a starving scribbler; if you determine to write, you can
write well, though not so easily, on many topics.  You have not that last
sad excuse of hunger, which drives poor women to the streets, and makes
unhappy men act as public blabs and spies.  If _you_ take to this
_metier_, it must be because you like it, which means that you enjoy
being a listener to and reporter of talk that was never meant for any
ears except those in which it was uttered.  It means that the hospitable
board is not sacred for _you_; it means that, with you, friendship,
honour, all that makes human life better than a low smoking-room, are
only valuable for what their betrayal will bring.  It means that not even
the welfare of your country will prevent you from running to the Press
with any secret which you may have been entrusted with, or which you may
have surprised.  It means, this peculiar kind of profession, that all
things open and excellent, and conspicuous to all men, are with you of no
account.  Art, literature, politics, are to cease to interest you.  You
are to scheme to surprise gossip about the private lives, dress, and talk
of artists, men of letters, politicians.  Your professional work will
sink below the level of servants' gossip in a public-house parlour.  If
you happen to meet a man of known name, you will watch him, will listen
to him, will try to sneak into his confidence, and you will blab, for
money, about him, and your blab will inevitably be mendacious.  In short,
like the most pitiable outcasts of womankind, and, without their excuse,
you will live by selling your honour.  You will not suffer much, nor
suffer long.  Your conscience will very speedily be seared with a red-hot
iron.  You will be on the road which leads from mere dishonour to crime;
and you may find yourself actually practising _chantage_, and extorting
money as the price of your silence.  This is the lowest deep: the vast
majority, even of social _mouchards_, do not sink so low as this.

The profession of the critic, even in honourable and open criticism, is
beset with dangers.  It is often hard to avoid saying an unkind thing, a
cruel thing, which is smart, and which may even be deserved.  Who can say
that he has escaped this temptation, and what man of heart can think of
his own fall without a sense of shame?  There are, I admit, authors so
antipathetic to me, that I cannot trust myself to review them.  Would
that I had never reviewed them!  They cannot be so bad as they seem to
me: they must have qualities which escape my observation.  Then there is
the temptation to hit back.  Some one writes, unjustly or unkindly as you
think, of you or of your friends.  You wait till your enemy has written a
book, and then you have your innings.  It is not in nature that your
review should be fair: you must inevitably be more on the look-out for
faults than merits.  The _ereintage_, the "smashing" of a literary foe is
very delightful at the moment, but it does not look well in the light of
reflection.  But these deeds are mere peccadilloes compared with the
confirmed habit of regarding all men and women as fair game for personal
tattle and the sating of private spite.  Nobody, perhaps, begins with
this intention.  Most men and women can find ready sophistries.  If a
report about any one reaches their ears, they say that they are doing him
a service by publishing it and enabling him to contradict it.  As if any
mortal ever listened to a contradiction!  And there are charges--that of
plagiarism, for example--which can never be disproved, even if
contradictions were listened to by the public.  The accusation goes
everywhere, is copied into every printed rag; the contradiction dies with
the daily death of a single newspaper.  You may reply that a man of sense
will be indifferent to false accusations.  He may, or may not be,--that
is not the question for you; the question for you is whether you will
circulate news that is false, probably, and spiteful, certainly.

In short, the whole affair regards yourself more than it regards the
world.  Plenty of poison is sold: is it well for you to be one of the
merchants?  Is it the business of an educated gentleman to live by the
trade of an eavesdropper and a blab?  In the Memoirs of M. Blowitz he
tells you how he began his illustrious career by procuring the
publication of remarks which M. Thiers had made to him.  He then "went to
see M. Thiers, not without some apprehension."  Is that the kind of
emotion which you wish to be habitual in your experience?  Do you think
it agreeable to become shame-faced when you meet people who have
conversed with you frankly?  Do you enjoy being a sneak, and feeling like
a sneak?  Do you find blushing pleasant?  Of course you will soon lose
the power of blushing; but is that an agreeable prospect?  Depend on it,
there are discomforts in the progress to the brazen, in the journey to
the shameless.  You may, if your tattle is political, become serviceable
to men engaged in great affairs.  They may even ask you to their houses,
if that is your ambition.  You may urge that they condone your deeds, and
are even art and part in them.  But you must also be aware that they call
you, and think you, a reptile.  You are not one of those who will do the
devil's work without the devil's wages; but do you seriously think that
the wages are worth the degradation?

Many men think so, and are not in other respects bad men.  They may even
be kindly and genial.  Gentlemen they cannot be, nor men of delicacy, nor
men of honour.  They have sold themselves and their self-respect, some
with ease (they are the least blamable), some with a struggle.  They have
seen better things, and perhaps vainly long to return to them.  These are
"St. Satan's Penitents," and their remorse is vain:

   _Virtutem videant_, _intabescantque relicta_.

If you don't wish to be of this dismal company, there is only one course
open to you.  Never write for publication one line of personal tattle.
Let all men's persons and private lives be as sacred to you as your
father's,--though there are tattlers who would sell paragraphs about
their own mothers if there were a market for the ware.  There is no half-
way house on this road.  Once begin to print private conversation, and
you are lost--lost, that is, to delicacy and gradually, to many other
things excellent and of good report.  The whole question for you is, Do
you mind incurring this damnation?  If there is nothing in it which
appals and revolts you, if your conscience is satisfied with a few ready
sophisms, or if you don't care a pin for your conscience, fall to!

_Vous irez loin_!  You will prattle in print about men's private lives
their hidden motives, their waistcoats, their wives, their boots, their
businesses, their incomes.  Most of your prattle will inevitably be lies.
But go on! nobody will kick you, I deeply regret to say.  You will earn
money.  You will be welcomed in society.  You will live and die content,
and without remorse.  I do not suppose that any particular _inferno_ will
await you in the future life.  Whoever watches this world "with larger
other eyes than ours" will doubtless make allowance for you, as for us
all.  I am not pretending to be a whit better than you; probably I am
worse in many ways, but not in your way.  Putting it merely as a matter
of taste, I don't like the way.  It makes me sick--that is all.  It is a
sin which I can comfortably damn, as I am not inclined to it.  You may
put it in that light; and I have no way of converting you, nor, if I have
not dissuaded you, of dissuading you, from continuing, on a larger scale,
your practices in _The Bull-dog_.



MR. KIPLING'S STORIES


The wind bloweth where it listeth.  But the wind of literary inspiration
has rarely shaken the bungalows of India, as, in the tales of the old
Jesuit missionaries, the magical air shook the frail "medicine tents,"
where Huron conjurors practised their mysteries.  With a world of romance
and of character at their doors, Englishmen in India have seen as if they
saw it not.  They have been busy in governing, in making war, making
peace, building bridges, laying down roads, and writing official reports.
Our literature from that continent of our conquest has been sparse
indeed, except in the way of biographies, of histories, and of rather
local and unintelligible _facetiae_.  Except the novels by the author of
"Tara," and Sir Henry Cunningham's brilliant sketches, such as
"Dustypore," and Sir Alfred Lyall's poems, we might almost say that India
has contributed nothing to our finer literature.  That old haunt of
history, the wealth of character brought out in that confusion of races,
of religions, and the old and new, has been wealth untouched, a treasure-
house sealed: those pagoda trees have never been shaken.  At last there
comes an Englishman with eyes, with a pen extraordinarily deft, an
observation marvellously rapid and keen; and, by good luck, this
Englishman has no official duties: he is neither a soldier, nor a judge;
he is merely a man of letters.  He has leisure to look around him, he has
the power of making us see what he sees; and, when we have lost India,
when some new power is ruling where we ruled, when our empire has
followed that of the Moguls, future generations will learn from Mr.
Kipling's works what India was under English sway.

It is one of the surprises of literature that these tiny masterpieces in
prose and verse were poured, "as rich men give that care not for their
gifts," into the columns of Anglo-Indian journals.  There they were
thought clever and ephemeral--part of the chatter of the week.  The
subjects, no doubt, seemed so familiar, that the strength of the
handling, the brilliance of the colour, were scarcely recognised.  But
Mr. Kipling's volumes no sooner reached England than the people into
whose hands they fell were certain that here were the beginnings of a new
literary force.  The books had the strangeness, the colour, the variety,
the perfume of the East.  Thus it is no wonder that Mr. Kipling's repute
grew up as rapidly as the mysterious mango tree of the conjurors.  There
were critics, of course, ready to say that the thing was merely a trick,
and had nothing of the supernatural.  That opinion is not likely to hold
its ground.  Perhaps the most severe of the critics has been a young
Scotch gentleman, writing French, and writing it wonderfully well, in a
Parisian review.  He chose to regard Mr. Kipling as little but an
imitator of Bret Harte, deriving his popularity mainly from the novel and
exotic character of his subjects.  No doubt, if Mr. Kipling has a
literary progenitor, it is Mr. Bret Harte.  Among his earlier verses a
few are what an imitator of the American might have written in India.  But
it is a wild judgment which traces Mr. Kipling's success to his use, for
example, of Anglo-Indian phrases and scraps of native dialects.  The
presence of these elements is among the causes which have made Englishmen
think Anglo-Indian literature tediously provincial, and India a bore.  Mr.
Kipling, on the other hand, makes us regard the continent which was a
bore an enchanted land, full of marvels and magic which are real.  There
has, indeed, arisen a taste for exotic literature: people have become
alive to the strangeness and fascination of the world beyond the bounds
of Europe and the United States.  But that is only because men of
imagination and literary skill have been the new conquerors--the Corteses
and Balboas of India, Africa, Australia, Japan, and the isles of the
southern seas.  All such conquerors, whether they write with the polish
of M. Pierre Loti, or with the carelessness of Mr. Boldrewood, have, at
least, seen new worlds for themselves; have gone out of the streets of
the over-populated lands into the open air; have sailed and ridden,
walked and hunted; have escaped from the fog and smoke of towns.  New
strength has come from fresher air into their brains and blood; hence the
novelty and buoyancy of the stories which they tell.  Hence, too, they
are rather to be counted among romanticists than realists, however real
is the essential truth of their books.  They have found so much to see
and to record, that they are not tempted to use the microscope, and pore
for ever on the minute in character.  A great deal of realism, especially
in France, attracts because it is novel, because M. Zola and others have
also found new worlds to conquer.  But certain provinces in those worlds
were not unknown to, but were voluntarily neglected by, earlier
explorers.  They were the "Bad Lands" of life and character: surely it is
wiser to seek quite new realms than to build mud huts and dunghills on
the "Bad Lands."

Mr. Kipling's work, like all good work, is both real and romantic.  It is
real because he sees and feels very swiftly and keenly; it is romantic,
again, because he has a sharp eye for the reality of romance, for the
attraction and possibility of adventure, and because he is young.  If a
reader wants to see petty characters displayed in all their meannesses,
if this be realism, surely certain of Mr. Kipling's painted and frisky
matrons are realistic enough.  The seamy side of Anglo-Indian life: the
intrigues, amorous or semi-political--the slang of people who describe
dining as "mangling garbage" the "games of tennis with the seventh
commandment"--he has not neglected any of these.  Probably the sketches
are true enough, and pity 'tis true: for example, the sketches in "Under
the Deodars" and in "The Gadsbys."  That worthy pair, with their friends,
are to myself as unsympathetic, almost, as the characters in "La Conquete
de Plassans."  But Mr. Kipling is too much a true realist to make their
selfishness and pettiness unbroken, unceasing.  We know that "Gaddy" is a
brave, modest, and hard-working soldier; and, when his little silly bride
(who prefers being kissed by a man with waxed moustaches) lies near to
death, certainly I am nearer to tears than when I am obliged to attend
the bed of Little Dombey or of Little Nell.  Probably there is a great
deal of slangy and unrefined Anglo-Indian society; and, no doubt, to
sketch it in its true colours is not beyond the province of art.  At
worst it is redeemed, in part, by its constancy in the presence of
various perils--from disease, and from "the bullet flying down the pass."
Mr. Kipling may not be, and very probably is not, a reader of "Gyp"; but
"The Gadsbys," especially, reads like the work of an Anglo-Indian
disciple, trammelled by certain English conventions.  The more Pharisaic
realists--those of the strictest sect--would probably welcome Mr. Kipling
as a younger brother, so far as "Under the Deodars" and "The Gadsbys" are
concerned, if he were not occasionally witty and even flippant, as well
as realistic.  But, very fortunately, he has not confined his observation
to the leisures and pleasures of Simla; he has looked out also on war and
on sport, on the life of all native tribes and castes; and has even
glanced across the borders of "The Undiscovered Country."

Among Mr. Kipling's discoveries of new kinds of characters, probably the
most popular is his invention of the British soldier in India.  He avers
that he "loves that very strong man, Thomas Atkins"; but his affection
has not blinded him to the faults of the beloved.  Mr. Atkins drinks too
much, is too careless a gallant in love, has been educated either too
much or too little, and has other faults, partly due, apparently, to
recent military organisation, partly to the feverish and unsettled state
of the civilised world.  But he is still brave, when he is well led;
still loyal, above all, to his "trusty chum."  Every Englishman must hope
that, if Terence Mulvaney did not take the city of Lungtung Pen as
described, yet he is ready, and willing so to take it.  Mr. Mulvaney is
as humorous as Micky Free, but more melancholy and more truculent.  He
has, perhaps, "won his way to the mythical" already, and is not so much a
soldier, as an incarnation, not of Krishna, but of many soldierly
qualities.  On the other hand, Private Ortheris, especially in his
frenzy, seems to shew all the truth, and much more than the life of, a
photograph.  Such, we presume, is the soldier, and such are his
experiences and temptations and repentance.  But nobody ever dreamed of
telling us all this, till Mr. Kipling came.  As for the soldier in
action, the "Taking of Lungtung Pen," and the "Drums of the Fore and
Aft," and that other tale of the battle with the Pathans in the gorge,
are among the good fights of fiction.  They stir the spirit, and they
should be distributed (in addition, of course, to the "Soldier's Pocket
Book") in the ranks of the British army.  Mr. Kipling is as well informed
about the soldier's women-kind as about the soldier: about Dinah Shadd as
about Terence Mulvaney.  Lever never instructed us on these matters:
Micky Free, if he loves, rides away; but Terence Mulvaney is true to his
old woman.  Gallant, loyal, reckless, vain, swaggering, and
tender-hearted, Terence Mulvaney, if there were enough of him, "would
take St. Petersburg in his drawers."  Can we be too grateful to an author
who has extended, as Mr. Kipling in his military sketches has extended,
the frontiers of our knowledge and sympathy?

It is a mere question of individual taste; but, for my own part, had I to
make a small selection from Mr. Kipling's tales, I would include more of
his studies in Black than in White, and many of his excursions beyond the
probable and natural.  It is difficult to have one special favourite in
this kind; but perhaps the story of the two English adventurers among the
freemasons of unknown Kafiristan (in the "Phantom Rickshaw") would take a
very high place.  The gas-heated air of the Indian newspaper office is so
real, and into it comes a wanderer who has seen new faces of death, and
who carries with him a head that has worn a royal crown.  The contrasts
are of brutal force; the legend is among the best of such strange
fancies.  Then there is, in the same volume, "The Strange Ride of
Morrowbie Jukes," the most dreadful nightmare of the most awful Bunker in
the realms of fancy.  This is a very early work; if nothing else of Mr.
Kipling's existed, his memory might live by it, as does the memory of the
American Irishman by the "Diamond Lens."  The sham magic of "In the House
of Suddhu" is as terrible as true necromancy could be, and I have a
_faiblesse_ for the "Bisara of Pooree."  "The Gate of the Hundred
Sorrows" is a realistic version of "The English Opium Eater," and more
powerful by dint of less rhetoric.  As for the sketches of native
life--for example, "On the City Wall"--to English readers they are no
less than revelations.  They testify, more even than the military
stories, to the author's swift and certain vision, his certainty in his
effects.  In brief, Mr. Kipling has conquered worlds, of which, as it
were, we knew not the existence.

His faults are so conspicuous, so much on the surface, that they hardly
need to be named.  They are curiously visible to some readers who are
blind to his merits.  There is a false air of hardness (quite in
contradiction to the sentiment in his tales of childish life); there is a
knowing air; there are mannerisms, such as "But that is another story";
there is a display of slang; there is the too obtrusive knocking of the
nail on the head.  Everybody can mark these errors; a few cannot overcome
their antipathy, and so lose a great deal of pleasure.

It is impossible to guess how Mr. Kipling will fare if he ventures on one
of the usual novels, of the orthodox length.  Few men have succeeded both
in the _conte_ and the novel.  Mr. Bret Harte is limited to the _conte_;
M. Guy de Maupassant is probably at his best in it.  Scott wrote but
three or four short tales, and only one of these is a masterpiece.  Poe
never attempted a novel.  Hawthorne is almost alone in his command of
both kinds.  We can live only in the hope that Mr. Kipling, so skilled in
so many species of the _conte_, so vigorous in so many kinds of verse,
will also be triumphant in the novel: though it seems unlikely that its
scene can be in England, and though it is certain that a writer who so
cuts to the quick will not be happy with the novel's almost inevitable
"padding."  Mr. Kipling's longest effort, "The Light which Failed," can,
perhaps, hardly be considered a test or touchstone of his powers as a
novelist.  The central interest is not powerful enough; the characters
are not so sympathetic, as are the interest and the characters of his
short pieces.  Many of these persons we have met so often that they are
not mere passing acquaintances, but already find in us the loyalty due to
old friends.



FOOTNOTES:


{70}  The subject has been much more gravely treated in Mr. Robert
Bridges's "Achilles in Scyros."

{91}  Conjecture may cease, as Mr. Morris has translated the Odyssey.

{109}  For Helen Pendennis, see the "Letters," p. 97.

{128}  Mr. Henley has lately, as a loyal Dickensite, been defending the
plots of Dickens, and his tragedy.  _Pro captu lectoris_; if the reader
likes them, then they are good for the reader: "good absolute, not for me
though," perhaps.  The plot of "Martin Chuzzlewit" may be good, but the
conduct of old Martin would strike me as improbable if I met it in the
"Arabian Nights."  That the creator of Pecksniff should have taken his
misdeeds seriously, as if Mr. Pecksniff had been a Tartuffe, not a
delight, seems curious.





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