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Title: Studies in Literature and History
Author: Lyall, Alfred Comyn, Sir, 1835-1911
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Studies in Literature and History" ***

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by the Late


P.C., G.C.I.E., K.C.B., D.C.L., LL.D.

John Murray, Albemarle Street, W.


In the Second Series of his _Asiatic Studies_ the late Sir Alfred
Lyall republished a number of articles that he had contributed to
various Reviews up to the year 1894. After that date he wrote
frequently, especially for the _Edinburgh Review_, and he left amongst
his papers a note naming a number of articles from which he considered
that a selection might be made for publication.

The present volume contains, with two exceptions, the articles so
mentioned, together with one that was not included by the author.

A large number of Sir Alfred Lyall's contributions[1] to the Reviews
deal, as might be expected, with India--with its political and
administrative problems, or with the careers of its statesmen and
soldiers. He appears, however, to have regarded such articles as not
of sufficient permanent value for republication, and his selection was
confined almost exclusively to writings on literary, historical or
religious subjects. He made an exception in favour of an essay on his
old friend Sir Henry Maine; but as the limitations imposed by the
publisher made it necessary to sacrifice one of the larger articles,
this essay was, with some reluctance, excluded. It dealt chiefly with
Maine's influence on Indian administration and legislation; and would
more appropriately be included in a collection of his writings on
India, should these ever be published.

While Indian official subjects have been excluded, readers of the
earlier 'Studies' will recognise that many of the writings in this
volume follow out lines of thought suggested in the earlier works, or
apply in a larger sphere the results of observations made when the
author was studying Indian myths and Indian religions in Berar, or the
'rare and antique stratification of society' in Rajputana. The two
addresses on religion placed at the end of the volume form the most
obvious example, but there is a close connection between a group of
the other articles and the views developed in _Asiatic Studies_.

In the last edition of that work a chapter on 'History and Fable' was
inserted because of its bearing on the author's general views
'regarding the elementary commixture of fable and fact in ages that
may be called prehistoric.' In this chapter the author made a rapid
survey of the 'kinship between history and fable,' tracing it through
the times of myth and romance to the period of the historic novel. 'At
their birth,' he says, 'history and fable were twin sisters;' and
again, 'There is always a certain quantity of fable in history, and
there is always an element of history in one particular sort of
fable.' The reviews of English and Anglo-Indian fiction, and of
'Heroic Poetry' in the present work, give opportunities of further
illustrations from fiction of his views: which reappear from another
standpoint in the 'Remarks on the Reading of History'--a short
address, which it has been thought worth while to reprint, though it
was not specially indicated by the author for publication.

Several of the other articles contain criticism of a more purely
literary character; the article on 'Frontiers,' which recounts
exciting but little-known episodes in the Russian advance in Asia, has
an important bearing on a branch of Indian policy in which Sir Alfred
Lyall to the end of his career took a deep interest, and of which he
had a profound knowledge; and 'L'Empire Libéral' may, it is thought,
be found to contain much that is of special interest at the present

These articles have not had the benefit of any general revision by
their author, but in a few cases he had indicated in the printed
copies alterations or additions that he desired to be made.

    _The Quarterly._
    _The Anglo-Saxon._
    _The Edinburgh._
    _The Fortnightly._

Except that the two essays on 'Race and Religion' and 'The State in
its Relation to Religion' have been brought together at the end of the
volume, the chronological order of original publication has been
observed. The source from which each article is drawn has in all cases
been indicated, and this opportunity is taken of acknowledging the
permission to republish that has courteously been accorded by the
editors or proprietors of the Reviews concerned.

Permission has also been given to publish the article on 'Sir Spencer
Walpole' written for the British Academy, and the address on the
'Reading of History.'

John O. Miller

_December 1914._



NOVELS OF ADVENTURE AND MANNERS                                   1


THACKERAY                                                        76

THE ANGLO-INDIAN NOVELIST                                       121

HEROIC POETRY                                                   155

THE WORKS OF LORD BYRON                                         177

THE ENGLISH UTILITARIANS                                        210


FRONTIERS ANCIENT AND MODERN                                    291

L'EMPIRE LIBÉRAL                                                328

SIR SPENCER WALPOLE                                             368

REMARKS ON THE READING OF HISTORY                               377

RACE AND RELIGION                                               399


INDEX                                                           454


Mr. Raleigh[3] very rightly goes back to mediæval romance for the
origins of English fiction. In all countries the metrical tale is many
generations older than the prose story; for prose writing is a
refinement of the literary art which flourishes only when reading has
become popular; while verse, being at first a kind of _memoria
technica_ used for the correct transmission of sacred texts and the
heroic tradition, strikes the ear and fixes the recollection of an
audience. The exploits of mighty warriors and the miracles of
saints--love, fighting, and theology--form the subject matter of these
stories in verse. They are, as Mr. Raleigh says, epical in spirit
though not in form: 'they carry their hero through the actions and
adventures of his life ... they display a marked preference for deeds
done, and attempt no character-drawing.... A sense of the instability
of human life, very present to the minds of men familiar with battle
and plague, is everywhere mirrored in these romances.' Then came
Chaucer, who not only wrote prose tales, but also carried far toward
perfection the art of narration in verse; and 'in the fifteenth
century both of the ancestors of the modern novel--that is, the
novella or short pithy story after the manner of the Italians, and
the romance of chivalry--appear in an English prose dress.' But the
genius of English fiction was still loaded with the chains of allegory
and pedantic moralisation; and in the _Gesta Romanorum_, the most
popular collection of English prose stories which had been translated
from the Latin at the end of the fifteenth century, 'human beings are
mere puppets, inhabiting the great fabric of mediæval thought and
mediæval institution.... It was the work of the Renaissance to recover
the literal and obvious sense of human life, as it was the work of the
closely-allied Reformation to recover the literal sense of the Bible.'

The playwright has always been a formidable rival to the novelist,
insomuch that in a period of dramatic activity the novel, as our
author remarks, can hardly maintain itself. But from the middle of the
seventeenth century the stage had fallen low, while the formal and
fantastic romance, the long-winded involved story, was losing its
vogue. So the heroic romances, we are told, 'availed themselves
skilfully of the opportunity to foster a new taste in the reading
public--a delight, namely, born of the fashionable leisure of a
self-conscious society, in minute introspection, and the analysis and
portraiture of emotional states.' We are inclined to suspect that
these words, which would serve well enough to describe the taste for
the analytic novel of our own day, must be taken with considerable
reserve in their application to the writings and the readers of two
centuries ago. But we may agree that certain tendencies of style and
developments of feeling which are now predominant may be traced back
to this time. And when, toward the end of the seventeenth century,
Mrs. Aphra Behn began to enlist incidents of real life into the
service of her fiction, she was making a distinct attempt, as Mr.
Raleigh points out, to bring romance into closer relation with
contemporary life, although a conventional treatment of facts and
character still overlay all her work. Mr. Raleigh holds, however, that
this attempt was abortive; that it failed at the time; and that the
great eighteenth-century school of English novelists, with Richardson
and Fielding at their head, took its rise, quite independently of
predecessors in the seventeenth century, out of the general stock of
miscellaneous literature--plays, books of travel, adventures, satires,
journals, and broadsides--which had been drawn at first hand from
observation and experience of the various forms of surrounding life.

We are quite ready to agree that the eighteenth-century Novel of
Manners belongs to a family distinct from that of the Romantic story,
or is at any rate very distantly connected with it. But when Mr.
Raleigh goes on to say that the heroic romance died in the seventeenth
century and left no issue, although it was revived again in the latter
half of the eighteenth century, to this view we are much inclined to
demur. Such complete interruptions in the transmission of species are
as rare in the intellectual as in the physical world; and we prefer to
maintain that the romance, although it was for a time eclipsed by the
brilliancy of the writers who described the manners and sentiments of
contemporary society, was never extinguished, but became transformed
gradually, by successive modifications of environment, into the modern
novel of adventure. It is true that Defoe entirely rejected the
marvellous, while Horace Walpole, fifty years later, dealt
immoderately in the elements of mystery and wonder; yet,
notwithstanding these violent oscillations of style and method, we
believe that the great historical novels of the early nineteenth
century, and the tales of stirring incident which flourish at the
present day, descend by an unbroken filiation from the fabulous
romance of elder times.

Mr. Raleigh does not carry his brief yet instructive history of the
English novel beyond the time of Walter Scott, with whom, he says,
'the wheel has come full circle,' the Romantic revival was victorious,
prose finally superseded verse as the vehicle of adventurous story,
and realism was wedded to romance. We trust that in some future work
he will carry on up to a later date his survey of the course and
currents of imaginative fiction. In the meantime, it may not be
irrelevant to follow up further and a little more closely the ruling
characteristics and the formative influences that have contributed
toward the production of English light literature as it exists at the
present day.

The novels with which our fortunate generation is so abundantly
supplied may be divided broadly into two classes, overlapping and
interlaced with each other, yet on the whole distinguishable as
separate species--the Novel of Adventure and the Novel of Manners. The
former class has a very long pedigree. The early romance writer drew
his incidents from the field of heroic action and marvellous
enterprise; he revelled in noble sentiments, astonishing feats, and
the exhibition of all the cardinal virtues in tragic situations; his
mission was to preserve and hand down to us magnified figures of
mighty men, or the pictures of great events, as they had impressed
themselves upon the popular imagination. For such material he was
obliged to travel abroad into remote countries, or backward to bygone
ages; but if his images of gallant knights and fair damsels were well
modelled, if the language was superb, and the deeds or sufferings
sufficiently astonishing, no one cared about anachronisms,
incongruities, or improbabilities.

But as the heroic romance dwindled and withered under the dry light of
precise knowledge and extending erudition, the purveyors of fiction,
accommodating themselves to a more exacting taste, applied themselves
seriously to the reproduction of famous scenes and portraits by the
aid and guidance of historic documents and antiquarian research. The
modern romantic school, of whom the master, if not the founder, is
Scott, represented a clear step forward to what is now called Realism,
and a proportionate abandonment of the classic convention, or the
method of drawing from traditional or imaginary models. To Scott may
be ascribed the authoritative introduction of descriptions of
landscape, of storms, sunsets, and picturesque effects; not the
artificial scene-painting of Mrs. Radcliffe, but artistic delineations
of the aspects of earth, sea, and sky which gave depth and atmosphere
to his dramatic situations. From this period, also, may be dated the
practice, so entirely contrary to the spirit of true romance, of
verifying by documentary evidence the details of a story. It was Scott
who, in the first years of this century, set prominently the example
of appending copious notes to his stories in verse or prose, wherein
he displayed his archæologic lore and produced his authorities for any
striking illustration of manners or characteristic incident. This
practice, which was largely adopted by others, was at least an
improvement upon the old unregenerate system of seasoning the
conversation of warriors and peasants with uncouth phrases picked up
at random, or trusting to mere fancy or accepted formula for the
description of battles or of the ways of folk in mediæval castles and
cottages. But the process savoured too much of the workshop. A novel
or poem that required an appendix of notes and glossaries must be of
high excellence to avoid suspicious resemblance to an elaborate
literary counterfeit, since open and avowed borrowing from
dictionaries of antiquities or volumes of travel must damage the
illusion which is the indispensable element of romance. In Moore's
fantastic metrical romance of _Lalla Rookh_ the system was carried to
an extent that now seems ridiculous, for certain passages are loaded
with outlandish phrases or metaphors that are unintelligible except by
reference to the notes. Nevertheless the English public, being then
quite ignorant of the true East, tolerated Moore's sham Orientalism,
even though Byron's fine poems were just then exposing the difference
between working up the subject in a library and wandering in Asiatic
countries. Byron's language seems in the present day turgid, and his
Greeks and Turks may have a theatrical air, but his splendid
descriptive passages were drawn by a master hand straight from nature,
while his colouring, landscape, and costume are usually excellent; so
that his work also is a distinct movement in the direction of realism.
Yet it is to be observed that after Byron and Scott the metrical
romance, that most ancient form of tale-telling, fell rapidly into
disuse. The fact that Byron's latest poem, _Don Juan_, belonged
essentially to the coming realistic school, is a significant
indication of transition; and Scott's abandonment of poetry for prose,
which was a necessary consequence of his advance toward realism, gave
its death-blow to the earlier fashion.

By this time, indeed, the conventional writer of adventures, though he
held his ground up to or even beyond the middle of the century, was in
a state of incurable decadence. He was losing the confidence of the
general reader, who had picked up some precise notions regarding
appropriate scenery, language, and costume in sundry periods and
divers places, from China to Peru; and he was persecuted by that
mortal foe of the old romancer, the well-informed critic, who trampled
even upon a commonplace book well filled with references to standard
authorities, insisting upon careful study of the whole environment,
the dexterous incorporation of details, and delicate blending of local
colours. Severe pedagogic handling of a historic novel, as if it were
a paper done at some competitive examination, was too much for the old
school, which finally subsided into cheap popular editions, making way
for a new class of writers that adapted the Novel of Adventure to the
requirements of latter-day taste, to the widening of knowledge, and
the diversified expansion of our national life. The prevailing
tendency was now to confine the range of scene and action more and
more approximately to the contemporary period, to insist on genuine
materials, and to observe a stricter canon of probabilities, wherein
the discriminating reader fancied himself to be a judge. The use of
notes was discarded as contrary to the high artistic principle that in
fiction everything must resemble reality while nothing must be
demonstrably matter of fact. The appearance of famous personages must
be occasional, after the manner of gods in an epic poem; they must not
be, as formerly, the leading characters and chief actors in the drama.
And great battles, instead of marking the grand climacteric of a
story's development, were now merely traversed, so to speak, on their
outskirts, or were only approached near enough to throw a glowing
sidelight on certain groups and situations. The gradual adoption of
these limitations may be traced back to the naval and military novels
that reflect the traditions of the great French war. No one even then
thought of writing a romance with Nelson or Bonaparte as the hero, or
of finishing off in the full blaze of Trafalgar or in the rout of
Waterloo; although with Marryat and Lever the English reader revelled
in the dashing exploits or bacchanalian revels of sailors and
soldiers. Lever did indeed give glimpses of Wellington or Napoleon;
but his business was with Connaught Rangers and French guardsmen;
while Marryat and Michael Scott gave us daring sea-captains and
reckless sailors with inimitable vigour and animation.

But as the echo of thunderous battles by sea and land died away, this
particular offshoot of modern romance ceased to flourish, and has
never had any considerable revival. The tale-teller of adventure, like
his ancestor the epic poet, requires a certain haziness of atmosphere;
he must have elbow room for his inventive faculty; and he is liable to
be stifled in the flood of lucid narrative and inflexible facts let
loose upon recent events in our day by complete histories, personal
memoirs, public documents, war correspondence, and all-pervading
journalism. This is probably the main reason why the Crimean War and
the Indian Mutiny, which broke for brief intervals the long peace of
England, have furnished no fresh material contribution of importance
to the romance of war, either in prose or poetry, to stamp the memory
of a long weary siege, or of a short and bloody struggle, upon the
popular imagination. Another reason must be, of course, the
non-appearance in England of the _vates sacer_; for Tolstoi has shown
us that within and without Sebastopol there might be found material
for work of the highest order. However this may be, it is a remarkable
fact that just about that time the novel of adventure turned back for
a moment, in Kingsley's hands, to the spacious times of great
Elizabeth, to the Armada and the legends of filibustering on the
Spanish main; and at the present time we may observe that the leading
writer of this school goes back at least a hundred years for the field
of his best stories. The eighteenth century, whose politics,
philosophy, and literature seemed to Carlyle's somewhat bookish
conception to be flat, prosaic, and comparatively uninteresting, was
in truth for Englishmen pre-eminently the age of energetic activity,
which touched the high level of romantic enterprise at two points, the
Scottish rebellions and the exploits of famous buccaneers. Mr.
Stevenson has reopened, with great skill and success, these mines of
literary ore that had been discovered but only partially worked by
Walter Scott. His rare artistic instinct divined the rich veins which
they still contained; while in other stories his intimate acquaintance
with actual life and circumstance on the coasts and islands of the
Pacific Ocean has provided him with those elements of distance and
unfamiliarity which are essential, as we have suggested, to the
composition of the novel of adventure. Other less original writers
have travelled in search of these elements to the Australian bush or
the outlying half-explored regions of South Africa.

This very cursory survey of the main influences and circumstances that
have shaped the course and set the fashion of our modern novel of
adventure may be useful in explaining its actual position at the
present moment. Scepticism and research have effectually retrenched
the very liberal credit formerly assigned to romance writing; the art
now consists in spinning a long narrative out of authentic materials
which must be disguised or kept hidden; while its leading features are
a delight in elaborate accessories and that very modern sentiment, a
horror of anachronism. A few living artists, like Mr. Shorthouse and
Mr. Stevenson, can still excel under these difficult conditions,
which have driven a crowd of second-rate novelists into the extreme of
minute realism. Into this retreat, however, they have been followed by
a host of readers; for in these days of universal instruction and flat
uneventful existence nothing satisfies the average mind like
photographic detail, which is a commodity to be had of every
industrious or studious composer. As the range of accurate information
extends, as the dust heap of old records, private as well as public,
is sifted more narrowly, as the antique habit of taking things readily
for granted disappears, the novel becomes more and more an arrangement
of genuine facts and circumstances, interleaved by such fiction as the
skill and imagination of the author can produce. It may be worth
observing that this demand for exact verification has affected the use
of the early chronicles in two contrary ways; they are relied upon
implicitly or they are arbitrarily discredited, in proportion as the
facts stated appear credible or not credible to critics or professors
who are working upon them. All the particulars of a great battle or of
some famous event that can be gleaned out of some ancient monkish
annalist, who must always have collected his information by hearsay
and often after many years, are treated as authentic so long as they
do not sound improbable; but if they offend against the canon of
probability set up by a library-hunting student, they are liable to be
summarily rejected. We may venture upon the conjecture that the true
result of this process is to assimilate the work of the critical
historian much more nearly than he would for a moment allow to that of
a skilful historic novelist. A romancer of insight and imaginative
power, who studied his period, would be quite as likely to make a
lucky selection of real incidents, motives, and characters, in a story
of the Roman Empire or of England under the Plantagenets, as an
erudite writer of history. Perhaps the best measure available to us of
what we may believe in regard to far-off times is afforded by
observation of what now happens in rough societies or remote places;
and this test the novelist is rather more apt, on the whole, to employ
than the historian.

In the novels, as upon the stage, this demand for minute accuracy of
scenic or historical details has necessarily elicited an abundant
supply; though whether the entire picture is rendered much more
natural and real by an accumulation of correct particulars may be
questioned. 'La recherche exagérée du vrai peut conduire au faux.' It
is most doubtful whether laborious research can reconstruct a
life-like presentation of a vanished society, its modes of life, its
ways of thinking and acting. In vain the novelist or the painter
studies archæology, takes a journey to the Holy Land for his local
colouring, reads up the records of the time, or works in museums. The
result may be ingenious and even instructive; but there are sure to be
great errors and anachronisms, although they may now be
undiscoverable; while the general tone, point of view, and balance of
motives are nearly certain to be obscured or distorted. For the modern
novelist, like the ancient myth-maker, is necessarily the child of his
time; his work takes the bent of his personal temperament, and is
moulded by the environment of ideas and circumstances within which he
lives. The Myth, the Romance, the Historic Novel, each in its
successive period, did at least this service to later generations:
they preserved and handed down to us the popular impressions, the
figures or pictures of great men and striking events, as they were
reflected upon the imagination of subsequent ages. It can never be
discovered, and it does not very much matter, whether these images
have any close resemblance to the lost originals; it may be that some
artists in some periods saw far more clearly than in others. The true
criterion for estimating the true value of romantic fiction, of tales
of action and adventure, must be always its artistic and intellectual
qualities, the question whether it succeeds in filling a broad canvas,
in dealing with masculine sentiment and stirring action, in striking
the deeper chords of human emotion and energy.

But the historic novel of our day strives principally after exact
reproduction, as may be seen even in a book of such incontestable
talent as _Marius the Epicurean_, and very notably in Archdeacon
Farrar's book, _Darkness and Dawn, or Scenes in the Days of Nero_
(1891), which may stand as the type and complete specimen of Erudite
Fiction. In his preface he tells us that

     'those who are familiar with the literature of the first century
     will recognise that even for the minutest allusions and particulars
     I have contemporary authority. Expressions and incidents which to
     some might seem startlingly modern, are in reality suggested by
     passages in the satirists, epigrammatists, and romancers of the
     (Roman) Empire, or by anecdotes preserved in the grave pages of
     Seneca and the elder Pliny.'

Here we have reached, in this conscientious explanation of method, the
extreme point of remoteness from the original spirit of historic
romance. Archdeacon Farrar's figures and descriptions are worked out
upon the pattern of a mosaic, by piecing together the loose
fragmentary bits of our knowledge regarding life and society under
Nero. A glance at these books shows that they belong to the latest
school of nineteenth-century fiction, to a period when careful
scholarly accumulation of accessories and adroit adaptation of history
have taken the place, not only of convention and clumsy invention,
but also of the free untrammelled handling of types and traditions
which gave freshness and originality to the simpler forms of early

We believe, then, that these attempts at exact reproduction, this
method of the multiplication of particulars, involve a fallacy, and
are detrimental to the more enduring forms of art. But the people is
willing to be deceived; the general reader has acquired a taste that
must be gratified; with the result that the elder romancers in prose
and verse, including Scott and Byron, are falling out of fashion with
the middle classes, though Scott holds his own in the sixpenny
edition. The rule of Realism is becoming so despotic that the story of
adventure is reverting more and more to that shape which lends itself
most completely to life-like narrative, the shape of a Memoir. And it
may be pointed out accordingly that in France the Editor of Memoirs
has lately entered into substantial rivalry with the Novelist of

It must have been noticed by those who attend to the course of French
literature, that of late years the publication of Memoirs relating to
the period of the Revolutionary war, and especially of the First
Empire, has rather suddenly increased. The causes are undoubtedly to a
considerable degree political, connected with the reorganisation of
the French army and navy, which has revived the military ardour of the
nation, and has given an edge to the deep-seated spirit of rivalry
with Germany on land and with England at sea. Whatever immediately
interests a nation gives a sharp turn to its literature, and the
immense success of General Marbot's book, containing the extraordinary
personal experiences of one who passed through the most famous scenes
of the heroic era, exactly hit off the public taste at a moment when
various motives combined to revive the Napoleonic legend. The
historians of that era had done their harvesting; the crop had been
reaped, raked, and gleaned; the time was too near and too thoroughly
known for fiction; and yet there never was a finer field for the
production of romance. No one can doubt that if Napoleon Bonaparte had
conquered half Europe, won his tremendous battles, and founded his
empire in an illiterate prehistoric age, he would have taken
everlasting rank with Alexander the Great and Charlemagne as the
central figure of a third world-wide cycle of heroic myths; nor is it
necessary to read Archbishop Whately's _Historic Doubts_ to perceive
how readily Napoleon's real story lends itself to extravagant
myth-making. At a later period he might have been the leading
character in some prolix and pedantic romance, and still more recently
his life and deeds would have been built up into the scaffolding
within which the historic novelist used to construct his love idylls,
his tragic situations, or even his illustrations of some social
theory. All these methods and devices have become obsolete; and though
the spirit of hero-worship that animated those who listened to the
ancient tales still possesses mankind at certain seasons, Romance must
now submit to the hard conditions of modern Realism. In this
predicament it finds a new and satisfactory embodiment in the form of
Memoirs concerning the great Emperor and his companions, which
dispense copious anecdotes of his court and camp, his sayings and
doings, his domestic habits, his private manners and peccadilloes. If
these particulars can be served up as sauce to the description of
mighty events, the contrast renders them all the more savoury. But
there is now a large class of readers who care less about Jena and
Austerlitz than for such books as _Napoléon Intime, Napoléon et les
Femmes_, which have all the attraction always possessed by the
intermixture of love and war, and by the blending of arms with amours
in the conventional style of historic fiction. The lowest depth is
reached when the reminiscences of an Emperor's valet, to whom he is
still a kind of hero, are served up with that succulent dressing of
vivid particularity which is swallowed with relish because it brings
down a great man to the level of the most trivial experience.

How far these Memoirs are genuine in the sense which makes them so
attractive--that is to say, as literally authentic pictures of a great
man's interior life, of his actual words and behaviour as witnessed by
his intimates--must always remain doubtful to the sceptical mind. True
reminiscences are naturally somewhat cloudy in outline, hanging loose
together with gaps and interruptions; whereas these are all coherent,
clear-cut, and written in a style that gives superior polish and
setting to every scene and anecdote. That they are compiled upon a
solid substratum of truth need not be questioned; nevertheless some of
them seem to differ only in degree from the realistic novel of the
very latest type, such as Zola's _Débâcle_, which contains a very
strong and pervading mixture of pure historical fact.

But whatever may be the exact proportion of authenticity which this
class of Memoirs can justly claim, they completely fulfil the prime
conditions of popularity prescribed for the modern novel, which must
work out minute details with the greatest possible resemblance to
actual life and circumstance. Upon this ground, indeed, the ablest
professors of fiction might despair of competing with those who
exhibit a mighty man of valour in undress, who lead us where we may
hear him talk, watch him eat or shave, and study his conjugal
relations. It is to be feared that if the multiplication of such
Reminiscences continues, they will seriously trench upon the province
of the novelist, who will be left no scope for the employment of his
craft in a field that has been thoroughly ransacked, and who must
inevitably retire before writers who have discovered the art of making
truth quite as amusing as fiction, than which it must always be more
interesting. The brilliant success of Marbot's Memoirs, which were
undoubtedly written by himself, seems to have warmed into activity and
circulation various other volumes of similar reminiscences that must
have been hibernating for one or two generations in the family
archives, or have otherwise fallen into temporary oblivion; for in
many cases one is inclined to wonder why authentic documents of such
value and interest were not sooner produced.

The latest example of this class of Memoirs, belonging to the
Revolutionary or Napoleonic cycle, is to be found in the _Adventures_
of A. Moreau de Jonnés, who died in 1870 at the age of ninety-two,
having been for fifty years a member of the Institut and a great
authority on statistics. 'We should never have supposed,' says M. Léon
Say in his preface to this book, 'that Moreau had been the hero of
warlike adventures, or that he might possibly have been placed in a
line with Marbot.' The men of M. Say's generation who knew Marbot were
quite unaware, he adds, that here was a naval and colonial Marbot,
whose fighting life was one of the strangest of stories. M. Say's
preface seems to be intended as a guarantee of this story's
authenticity, though he notices casually the remarkable fact that 'on
every occasion when Moreau is on the brink of destruction, it is his
luck to be saved by a pretty girl'; also that 'a charming
portrait-gallery might be made of the women who, between 1793 and
1805, rescued this hardy rover, who was both sailor and soldier, from
death by sword or sickness in divers parts of the world,' from the
West India Islands to the banks of the Thames. His guarantee must be
accepted; yet if this book had not been the genuine autobiography of a
known personage, there would really be nothing to distinguish it from
the historic novel, in which an imaginary person, such as Thackeray's
Esmond, describes well-known scenes of history as an eye-witness and
actor in them. Moreau was present at the great naval engagement of
June 1, 1794; at the hanging of Parker, the ringleader of the famous
mutiny at the Nore, when he was saved by Parker's widow; he was in
Bantry Bay with the ships of Hoche's unlucky expedition; he landed
with Humbert in Donegal, and saw the Race of Castlebar; he had some
marvellous experiences in the West Indies, and everywhere the devotion
of women facilitated his hairbreadth escapes. There need be no irony
in repeating that avowed fiction can have no chance at all in
competition with literature of this class.

'Times are changed,' observes M. Léon Say in his preface. 'The taste
of the public of our own day grows more and more keen for the romance
of the cloak and rapier, when the heroes relate their own adventures.
The authentic Memoirs of the d'Artagnans of our own century are now
preferred even to the works of Alexandre Dumas, so dear to our youth.'
Undoubtedly they must be preferred, for being more real than the most
realistic novel, and just as full of fascinating adventures, the
Memoir is superior precisely at those points which have given the
modern romance an advantage over its more conventional predecessors.
There may be consolation for the novelist in the reflection that the
fund from which these Memoirs are drawn must soon be running low,
whereas the resources of fiction are comparatively inexhaustible. In
the meantime one result, already perceptible, will be that the novel
will tend more and more to imitate the personal memoir, by reverting
to the autobiographical form which, since Defoe's day, has always been
fiction's most effective disguise, permitting the author to efface
himself completely, while it gives the whole composition an air of
dramatic vigour. It will have been observed that the most vivid
modern English romances, from _Barry Lyndon_ and _Esmond_ to
_John Inglesant_, _Kidnapped_, and _The Master of Ballantrae_,
are all written as the direct narratives of men who have taken a
comparatively secondary or even humble share in great transactions. On
the other hand, the famous characters who stand in the foremost line of
history, and who were the delight and ornament of the elder romances,
must now be struck out of the repertory of the modern story-teller,
since the public now will no longer tolerate ancient or mediæval heroes,
while the great men of recent times have been too often photographed.
The only novelist of our own day who has attempted with some success to
draw thinly-veiled portraits of contemporary celebrities is Disraeli,
and his whole style and treatment show him to be a true-bred
descendant of the old romantic stock.

Our argument is, therefore, that various causes and tendencies, the
change of environment, the limitation of the average reader's
experiences, his taste for accuracy, his rejection of tradition,
convention, anachronism and improbabilities, the extension of exact
knowledge and the critical spirit, have all combined to limit the
sphere of the Novel of Adventure and to check the free sweep of its
inventive genius. To these conditions the first-class artist can
accommodate himself; but for the average writer they serve fatally to
expedite his descent into the regions of everyday life, among all the
emotions known to middle-class folk, from murders, bankruptcies, and
railway accidents down to their religious doubts and the psychology of
their love-making.

       *       *       *       *       *

Against all these adverse circumstances the Novel of Adventure strives
gallantly, and, of late years, with such conspicuous success, that it
is difficult to decide whether the tide of popular inclination has not
turned against the Novel of Manners. This branch of the great
story-telling family has, as we know, a long descent and an
illustrious pedigree, although for our present purpose we need not go
back further than the eighteenth century, to _Gil Blas_ in France and
_Tom Jones_ in England. It will be found that these masterpieces
consist principally of a series of scenes and comical or semi-tragical
situations, rather loosely strung together on the thread of the
experiences undergone by the principal personages. The main object is
not so much ingenuity of plot as the presentation with much humour,
some strokes of caricature, and a touch of pathos, of morals and
manners, of public abuses and private vices, the way of living and
standard of thinking, the distinctive prejudices and ingrained
beliefs, that characterised different classes at a time when their
ideas and habits were often in sharp contrast. The sketches are
admirably done, the conversation is full of wit, the whole work may be
relied upon as a faithful though coarsely drawn picture of
contemporary society. Fielding constantly makes a halt in his
narrative to moralise and discourse ironically with the reader, in a
vein that was reopened a century later by Thackeray, and by him pretty
nearly exhausted, for at any rate it has since been closed.

Mr. Raleigh's book contains a just and discriminating appreciation of
Fielding's place in the line of great novelists, and of the strong
formative influence that his work exercised over the early development
of what is now called Naturalism. This note is struck, as he points
out, in the invocation at the beginning of the thirteenth book of _Tom
Jones_, addressed to Experience, to the inspiration which is derived
from what one has actually seen and known among all sorts and
conditions of men:

     'Others before him had seen and known these things, but in
     Fielding's pages they are for the first time introduced, with no
     loss of reality, to subserve the ends of fiction; common life is
     the material of the story, but it is handled here for the first
     time with the freedom and imagination of a great artist.'[4]

And here, we may add, is the fruitful and vigorous stock out of which
has since radiated that immense growth of realistic novels which now
tends to overshadow and supersede the earlier species of romance

But Fielding's style is unblushingly masculine; his scenes are in the
street, the tavern, the sponging-house, and other places
unmentionable. By the end of his century the Novel of Manners had
fallen into very different hands, and to these it owes mainly the
shaping, both as to tone and subject, that decisively laid down its
course of future development. The electricity of that stormful period
which comprises the last years of the eighteenth and the opening of
the nineteenth century seems to have generated an efflorescence of
high original capacity in the department of imagination as well as of
action. Nevertheless nothing is more remarkable, probably nothing was
less expected, than the sudden accession of women to the first rank
of popular novelists. Miss Burney, Miss Edgeworth, Miss Austen (not to
mention Miss Ferrier), entered upon the same field from different
points and divided it among them. They may be said to have virtually
created the decent story of contemporary life, the light satirical
pictures of familiar folk, the representation of ordinary society in
the form of a delicate comedy, which rose to the pitch of racy humour
when the scenes and characters were Irish. Under the touch of this
feminine genius convention vanishes altogether; the painting is direct
from nature; the plot and incidents are saturated with probability;
the personages might be met at the corner of any street in town or
village; the very voice, gesture, and language are almost ludicrously
familiar. No heroics, not much use of the pathetic; very slight
landscape-painting and background; no psychology; there is no
systematic attempt to introduce, under the story's disguise, the
serious discussion of social, political, or polemical questions.

For an artist who deals so largely with country life, the absence of
landscape-painting in Miss Austen is very noticeable. The fine vein of
satire that pervades all her work, the constant presence of the human
element, leave her no room for expatiating on the aspects of nature;
and indeed she was manifestly impatient with enthusiasts over the
picturesque. She only touched upon such tastes in order to bring out

     '"It is very true," said Marianne, "that admiration of landscape
     scenery is become a mere jargon. Everybody pretends to feel and
     tries to describe with the taste and elegance of him who first
     defined what picturesque beauty was. I detest jargon of every kind;
     and sometimes I have kept my feelings to myself, because I could
     find no language to describe them in but what was worn and
     hackneyed out of all sense and meaning."

     '"I am convinced," said Edward, "that you really feel all the
     delight in a fair prospect which you profess to feel. But, in
     return, your sister must allow me to feel no more than I profess. I
     like a fine prospect, but not on picturesque principles; I do not
     like crooked, twisted, blasted trees. I admire them much more if
     they are tall, straight, and flourishing. I do not like ruined,
     tattered cottages. I am not fond of nettles or thistles or heath
     blossoms. I have more pleasure in a snug farm-house than a
     watch-tower, and a troop of tidy happy villagers please me better
     than the finest banditti in the world."'[5]

There can be no doubt, indeed, that in the novels of this period two
main features of the modern story, the word-painting of scenery and
the analysis of subjective emotions, are conspicuously absent. Yet
among the manifold causes to which may be ascribed the wide recent
expansion of the Novel of Manners, we may well reckon the decisive
impulse that it received from these famous authoresses. They were, in
fact, the founders of the dominion which women bid fair to establish
over this class of fiction, where they are already extending it to a
degree that threatens to evict the men. Various circumstances have
co-operated toward this curious literary revolution. The conventional
romance, though apparently flourishing, was in their time on the brink
of a decline; and as women have never succeeded in the Novel of
Adventure--for the obvious reason that their tastes and experiences
are opposed to success--they had no difficulty in abandoning a
decaying school, and in throwing all their freshness of mind and
subtlety of observation into the department which precisely suited
their idiosyncrasy. The spread of education among female readers and
writers has undoubtedly aided them. And thus the rise of feminine
novelists has operated as a formidable contingent of fresh troops that
has joined the camp of Manners, to which alliance it may be noticed
that, with very few exceptions, the women have faithfully adhered. For
although in the last century Mrs. Radcliffe had revived, as Mr.
Raleigh observes, the Romance proper, and Miss Jane Porter claimed in
the first years of this century the honour of having invented the
historical romance, women have been practically superseded in this
class of literature, so far as it survives, by men, George Eliot's
_Romola_ being the only notable exception. The true representatives of
female novelists are now the leaders of that school which confines
itself to minute observation, whether of outward facts or inward
feeling, and which is above all things devoted to the close
delineation of contemporary society. The analysis of character within
the range of ordinary experience, the play of civilised emotion, the
vicissitudes of grief or joy in the parsonage, the ball-room, and the
village, the troubled course of legitimate love-making, have all
contributed the congenial material whereby the Novel of Manners
treated realistically, as the phrase goes, has been moulded by the
adroit hands of women.

We do not forget that the most remarkable Mannerists that have
appeared in this century were male authors--Thackeray and Dickens. But
we are not now attempting to survey the whole field of modern English
fiction, or to assign to every star its place in that wide firmament.
Our aim is only to indicate the main lines of filiation that have
produced the prevailing novel of the day. The permanent influence of
the two great artists who have been mentioned has not been, we think,
proportionate to the rare and original value of their work. Both of
them had many imitators in their lifetime and for a little time
afterward; but before they died they were both showing symptoms of
loss of power; and one could see that the special fibre or faculty
that distinguished them was becoming overstrained; it was betraying
effort and exaggeration. In their latest productions their peculiar
qualities became mannerisms, of which readers soon began to be weary;
and this may partly account for the speedy subsequent diversion of the
popular taste into other channels. At any rate they did not found an
enduring school, like Jane Austen, of whom it may be said that a great
proportion of those novels of ordinary society which fill annually the
lists of circulating libraries may be referred to her work as their
type and forerunner. The novels of Anthony Trollope, for example,
follow very much the same range of subject, the same level of emotion
and incident; they consist mainly of satirical yet good-humoured
descriptions of middle-class life in the country, the suburbs, and
occasionally in the higher walks of society--they are always decorous
and never dull, but they never rise to the note of romance or
adventure. It may even be added, in further proof of Trollope's
literary ancestry, that the predominant quality of these very clever
but eminently commonplace stories, with their interminable flirtations
and their amusing dialogues which might have been reported by
phonograph, is essentially feminine.

Our view is, therefore, that three famous women authors accomplished
for the Novel of Manners very much what Scott at the same period did
for the Novel of Adventure; they stamped its lasting form and shaped
its subsequent development. And in both classes, in tales of adventure
as of society, we may detect clearly the rising spirit of what has
been since called Realism or Naturalism, the discarding of
convention, the abandonment of mere attitudes for action studied from
the life, the direct appropriation of material from surrounding facts
and perceptible feelings, from the familiar humours and concerns of
everyday existence. In _Le Roman Naturaliste_, by M. Brunetière, one
chapter is allotted to English Naturalism, and the author declares
that the standard of Naturalism was raised in 1859 by the author of
_Adam Bede_, quoting certain passages in which George Eliot, he says,
has distinctly preached the fundamental doctrines of that school.
Undoubtedly George Eliot declared her purpose to be the rendering of a
faithful account of men and things as they mirrored themselves in her
mind. 'I feel as much bound,' she says, 'to tell you as precisely as I
can what that reflection is, as if I were in the witness-box narrating
my evidence on oath'; and she set up as her ideal 'this rare precious
quality of truthfulness, for which I delight in many Dutch paintings.'
But the cardinal virtue of this fine and sombre genius lay in her
power of raising Realism to a high artistic level, of diffusing a
poetic light over humble scenes, of touching the deeper and vital
relations of common things. In Charlotte Brontë, again, we have
Naturalism throwing out a fresh shoot of great vigour and originality;
the old-fashioned masculine hero is supplanted by a heroine who
strives against adverse circumstance upon an ordinary, often an
humble, plane of society, never travelling for a moment beyond the
possibilities of everyday existence. This ominous dismissal of the
male hero from his previous position in the centre of the story's
movement may be taken as a sign that he is not of so much account in
the sphere of domestic fiction as he was erst in the arena of perilous
adventure. It is true that mankind is still glorified by Ouida, a
lady who may yet be occasionally found sitting, almost alone, by the
shores of old Romance; but with Mrs. Gaskell, Mrs. Oliphant, Miss
Broughton, and even Miss Braddon, the majority of their leading
characters may be said to be female. And the most deservedly popular
of our latest novels by women is _Marcella_.

We must not be understood to maintain that the Novel of Manners has
been, or is being, completely monopolised, as a department of light
literature, by women, for of course there are many men who are
achieving success in that field, among whom Henry James holds a high
place for distinction and delicacy of workmanship. And among certain
special branches in which women have not as yet competed at all, we
may mention the Sporting Novel, where provincial manners and the
humour of the coverside have been portrayed by Surtees with wonderful
exactitude and a kind of coarse yet irresistible comicality that
remind one of Fielding. It is true that he never moralises, as
Fielding does; but then the interjection by the author of moral
reflections went out, as we have said, with Thackeray. The description
of landscape drawn from nature occupies large and extending space in
the latter-day novel of manners, where it is used very sparingly as
subservient to character or situation, but commonly as an illustration
or pictorial background. Let us compare the two following extracts.
The first is from Jane Austen's _Mansfield Park_:

     'Now we shall have no more rough road, Miss Crawford; our
     difficulties are over. The rest of the way is such as it ought to
     be. Mr. Rushworth has made it since he succeeded to the
     estate.--Here begins the village. Those cottages are really a
     disgrace. The church spire is reckoned remarkably handsome. I am
     glad the church is not so close to the great House as often happens
     in old places. The annoyance of the bells must be terrible. There
     is the parsonage, a tidy-looking house, and I understand the
     clergyman and his wife are very decent people. Those are
     almshouses, built by some of the family. To the right is the
     steward's house; he is a very respectable man. Now we are coming to
     the lodge gates; but we have nearly a mile through the park still.
     It is not ugly, you see, at this end; there is some fine timber,
     but the situation of the house is dreadful. We go down hill to it
     for half a mile, and it is a pity, for it would not be an
     ill-looking place if it had a better approach.'

The second is from the opening pages of Mrs. Humphry Ward's

     'She looked out upon a broad and level lawn, smoothed by the care
     of centuries, flanked on either side by groups of old trees--some
     Scotch firs, some beeches, a cedar or two--groups where the slow
     selective hand of Time had been at work for generations, developing
     here the delightful roundness of quiet mass and shade, and there
     the bold caprice of bare fir trunks and ragged branches, standing
     back against the sky. Beyond the lawn stretched a green descent
     indefinitely long, carrying the eye indeed almost to the limit of
     the view, and becoming from the lawn onwards a wide irregular
     avenue, bordered by beeches of a splendid maturity, ending at last
     in a far distant gap where a gate--and a gate of some
     importance--clearly should have been, yet was not. The size of the
     trees, the wide uplands of the falling valley to the left of the
     avenue, now rich in the tints of harvest, the autumn sun pouring
     steadily through the vanishing mists, the green breadth of the vast
     lawn, the unbroken peace of wood and cultivated ground, all carried
     with them a confused general impression of well-being and of
     dignity. Marcella drew it in--this impression--with avidity. Yet at
     the same moment she noticed involuntarily the gateless gap at the
     end of the avenue, the choked condition of the garden paths on
     either side of the lawn, and the unsightly tufts of grass spotting
     the broad gravel terrace beneath her window.'

In the former passage, which is brimful of humorous suggestion, the
writer is exclusively intent upon setting out points of human
character in an effective light. The latter is a highly-finished piece
of word-painting, taken direct, as an artist would take a picture,
from a landscape that lay before the writer, and as such it is
excellently done; but, except for the slight indication of a neglected
estate, it stands apart from the plot or the play of character, and
might be bound up with the volume or omitted like a woodcut.
Undoubtedly the art of descriptive writing, which demands poetic
feeling and a delicate hand upon the organ of language, is practised
finely by the best of our modern novelists, and is a valuable element
of their popularity. Yet there are signs that it is already threatened
by the inexorable demands of the lower realism, which takes slight
account of the intimations that can be conveyed or the emotions that
may be roused by using language as an instrument for the
interpretation of nature, and requires to be shown the thing itself,
as it is seen in a photograph. 'The tendency of the times,' we are
told, 'seems to be to read less and less, and to depend more upon
pictorial records of events.' And the author from whom we quote[6]
proceeds to show how a few lines of sketch at once elucidate and
vivify whole pages of word-painting. He goes further, and relates how
'the fallacy of the accepted system of describing landscapes,
buildings, and the like in words,' was proved experimentally by
reading slowly a description of a castle, mountains, and a river
winding to the sea, from one of the Waverley novels, before a number
of students, three of whom proceeded to indicate on a black board the
leading lines of the mental picture produced by the words. The
drawings were all different and all wrong, as might indeed have been
confidently foretold; for the two sister arts of the pen and of the
pencil cannot possibly interpret each other reciprocally after this
fashion, or produce identical effects by their widely differing

Yet it is not impossible that the lower ranks of writers, who
exaggerate the prevailing fashion of exactly reproducing what any one
can see and hear, may find themselves outbid and overpowered on this
ground by illustration in line and colour. In this direction, indeed,
lies the danger of extreme Realism. It wages war against Romance,
which subsists upon idealistic conceptions of noble thought and
action; it pretends to hold up a true mirror to society, because it
reflects faithfully and without discrimination, like a photograph, the
street, the club, or the drawing-room, and arranges dramatically the
commonplace talk of everyday people. All this is fatal to high art, in
writing as in painting; nor can very clever dialogue, ingenious
situations, variety of style and subject, or even a high average
morality, preserve such literature from triviality and gradual

       *       *       *       *       *

It is the saying of a French writer, that the novel of to-day has
abjured both the past and the future, and lives wholly in the present.
We are so far of his opinion in regard to the past, that we doubt, for
reasons already given, whether the reading public can be induced to
travel backward into distant periods and unfamiliar scenes, even
though facts, anecdotes, costume, and other accessories be
scrupulously and historically exact. The future is a domain upon which
the novelist has rarely trespassed; but in close propinquity to it
lies theologic speculation, and we have not long ago witnessed the
fascination that can be exercised over a multitude of readers by a
novel which described the unhappiness brought upon the peaceful home
of an Anglican clergyman who was driven forth from his parsonage by
imbibing some tincture of modern Biblical criticism. The sensation,
for so it must be called, produced by _Robert Elsmere_, illustrated
the degree to which in these days popularity depends on hitting the
intellectual level of the general reader, and on touching the fancy or
the conscience of that very numerous class whose culture is of the
medium sort, neither high nor low. For while it seems certain that to
a great many people the views and arguments which overthrew Elsmere's
orthodoxy and brought him to martyrdom must have seemed profound,
daring, and novel, to others they are but too familiar and by no means
fresh. To some of us, indeed, the overpowering effect produced on
Elsmere's mind by his remarkable discoveries may be not unlike the awe
and gratitude with which an African chief receives the present of an
obsolete cannon. But the main reason why the future is no better field
than the distant past for the modern novelist, is that in both cases
there is a want of actuality, and that the positive temper of the age
requires in either case something more definite and verifiable.

It may be affirmed, moreover, as a general observation, that the
spirit of realism is hostile to the Novel with a Purpose, whether it
be that species which undertakes to argue or instruct under the cloak
of agreeable fiction, or that other species, much cultivated by
Dickens in his later works, which attacks antiquated institutions and
public abuses in a story so contrived as to expose their absurdity and
injustice. There is an air of artificiality about such compositions
which damages the artistic illusion, the photographic rendering of
actual life, upon which the author relies, because it throws over the
stage a shadow of his own personality. For one tendency of excessive
realism is to encourage an approximation between literary and
theatrical effects, since the whole interest becomes concentrated upon
figures acting and moving under a strong light in the foreground of
scenes carefully adjusted, so that anything which betrays the author's
presence interrupts the performance.

Yet although our contemporary novelist is thus subjected, in respect
of his period and his repertory, to limitations from which his
predecessors were free, there has never been a time when English
fiction has exhibited, in competent hands, greater fertility of
invention and resource, or so high an average proficiency in the art
of writing. The vastly increased demand for amusement in modern life
has stimulated the production of light literature, which is now
cultivated far more widely than heretofore, like tea, and the market
is flooded with an article of sound moderate quality. At this moment
we have in very truth a democracy of letters, for while no mighty
masters overtop the rest, the number of writers who stand on an
equality of merit, who can produce one or more excellent stories, is
very large. Their field has widened with the expansion of British
enterprise; they can draw their plots, descriptions, and characters
from the colonies, from Africa, from the South Sea Islands, or from
India; and it will be observed that not only the tale of adventure,
but also the quiet story of domestic interiors and family troubles, is
easily acclimatised, and gains something from a sparing use of variety
of dialect and landscape. As for the Novel of Adventure, it is drawing
copious sustenance from these outlying regions. For although it is
only from first favourites that the home-keeping reader will tolerate
an elaborate romance about Africa or the Pacific, he has taken a very
strong liking to short stories of scenes and actions strictly
contemporaneous, written in a rough, vigorous, and utterly
unconventional style, which convey to his mind impressions as
distinctly as a set of pictorial sketches.

We believe that this style, which retains a strong flavour of its
American origin (it can hardly be dated earlier than Bret Harte), may
be reckoned to be peculiar to the light literature of the English
language. We are not aware that it prevails to any extent in other
countries; for although the short story of love, intrigue, and manners
in general has flourished from mediæval times, and at this moment is
almost exclusively confined to these subjects in France, the class of
works to which we are now referring differs entirely in subject and
style. In England and America the roving life of the colonies, the
backwoods, the Western States, and the Indian frontiers has created an
unique school of realistic fiction in which Mr. Kipling is at this
moment the chief professor. There is moreover a manifest affinity
between these short prose narratives and the strain of racy strenuous
versification upon the quaint unvarnished notions and hardy exploits
of the bush, the prairie, or the frontier, by which Bret Harte,
Lindsay Gordon, and again Kipling have attained celebrity. As these
poems echo the far-off ring of the ancient ballad, so we may venture
to surmise that the short prose story of adventure, which appeals to
modern taste by its vivid reality, its terseness of style, and its
picturesque outline, represents the latest form reached by Romance in
its long evolution. Such a tale will squeeze into fifty or a hundred
pages what Fenimore Cooper or G. P. R. James would have distended into
three volumes of slow-moving narrative, whereby infinite labour is
saved to the hasty and indolent reader of these railroad days.

Here, in short, we perceive the influence of that very characteristic
school of contemporary art, which we know to have always existed, but
to which men have recently given the exceedingly modern title of
Impressionist,--the school of authors who desire to strike the
imagination vividly and with a few sharp strokes, grouping their
figures in a strong light, rounding off their compact story upon a
small canvas, and rejecting every detail that is not strictly
accessory to the main purpose. Already it is beginning to be said in
France that Zola with his laborious particularism has passed his
climacteric of fashion, and that the swift impressionist is sailing in
on a fair wind of spreading popularity. Now in France, though no
longer in England, the critics still do their duty; they are not
merely, to borrow a phrase from Coleridge, the eunuchs who guard the
temple of the Muses; they are often prolific authors who exercise
great influence upon public opinion, so that their forecast of the
course and tendencies of fiction is worth bearing in mind. We
ourselves are ever a restless, bustling, far-wandering folk, great
lovers of fiction and travel, who not only carry forth the English
language into the uttermost parts of the earth, to be moulded in
strange dialects to queer uses, but also bring back fresh ideas and
incidents, and various aspects of a many-sided world-ranging life. If,
as has been often asserted, literature be the collective expression of
the ideas and aspirations, the tastes, feelings, and habits of the
generation which produces it, we may not be altogether wrong in
treating the short highly finished story, whether of adventure or
manners, as the impress and reflection of modern English society. But
no operation is more delicate than the endeavour to trace the subtle
connection between constant modifications of literary form and the
pressure of its ever-changing moral and material environment.


[1] The list of these contributions at page 477 of his _Life_ is not

[2] (1) _The English Novel._ By Walter Raleigh. Being a short Sketch
of its History from the Earliest Times to the Appearance of
'Waverley.' London, 1894. (2) _Aventures de Guerre au temps de la
République et du Consulat._ Par A. Moreau de Jonnés. Préface de M.
Léon Say. Paris, Guillaumin et Cie., 1893.--_Quarterly Review_,
October 1894.

[3] Now Sir Walter Raleigh.

[4] Page 179.

[5] _Sense and Sensibility._

[6] _The Art of Illustration_, by Henry Blackburn, 1894.


The preservation and posthumous publication of private correspondence
has supplied modern society with one of its daintiest literary
luxuries. The art of letter-writing is, of course, no recent
invention; it reached a high level of excellence, like almost every
other branch of refined expression in prose or verse, in the older
world of Rome. Nevertheless, the exceeding rarity of the specimens
that have come down to us from those times is an important element of
their value; while in our own day the letters of eminent persons fill
many book-shelves in every decent library, and their quantity
increases out of all proportion to their quality.

It may be said, generally, of fine letter-writing that it is a
distinctive product of a high civilisation, denoting the existence of
a cultured and leisurely class, implying the conditions of secure
intercourse, confidence, sociability, many common interests, and that
peculiar delight in the stimulating interchange of ideas and feelings
which is one characteristic of modern life. The language of a country
must have thrown off its archaic stiffness, must have acquired
suppleness and variety; the writer's instrument must be a style that
combines familiarity with distinction, correctness of thought with
easy diction. It is from the lack of these conditions that the Asiatic
world has given us no such letters; the material as well as the
intellectual environment has been wanting. For similar reasons the
middle ages of Europe produced us none of the kind with which we are
now dealing; the sixteenth and the seventeenth centuries have left us
very few samples of them; and since in this article we propose to
treat only of English letter-writers, we may affirm that the art did
not flourish in England until the eighteenth century, when according
to certain authorities it rose to something like perfection. It is a
notable observation of Hume's that Swift is the first Englishman who
wrote polite prose; and Swift is one of the earliest, as he is still
one of the pleasantest, writers of private correspondence that has
taken a permanent place in our literature.

We can understand without difficulty why the eighteenth century was a
period favourable to the growth of excellent letter-writing. There
were very few newspapers, and those which appeared were low in tone
and ill-informed--political pamphleteers abounded and the essayists on
morals and manners were numerous--but it was chiefly by private hands
that accurate information and ideas were circulated in a small and
highly cultivated society with an exquisite taste in literature, with
a keen interest in public affairs, and a very strong appetite for
philosophic discussion. Side by side with the intellectual conditions
we may take into account the national circumstances of that age. The
post was expensive, with a slow and intermittent circulation, so that
letters, being infrequent, were worth writing carefully and at
length; while correspondents were nevertheless not separated by
distances of time and space sufficient to weaken or extinguish the
desire of interchanging thoughts and news. For it is within the
experience of most of us that the difficulty of keeping up regular
correspondence increases with distance; that friends who meet seldom
write to each other rarely; and that, although letters are most valued
by those who are far from home and long absent, yet it is precisely in
the case of prolonged separation that the chain of friendly
communication is apt gradually to slacken until it becomes entirely
disconnected. So long, indeed, as men depended for news on private
sources, there was always a kind of obligation to write; but the
telegraph and the newspaper have now monopolised the Intelligence
Department. On the whole, it may be concluded that the art of
letter-writing flourishes best within a limited radius of distance,
among persons living neither very near to each other nor yet far
apart, who meet occasionally yet not often, and who are within the
same range of social, political, and intellectual influences. Its best
period is probably before the advent of copious indefatigable
journalism, before men have taken to publishing letters in the morning
papers, and when they have not yet acquired the economical habit of
reserving all their valuable ideas and information for signed articles
in some monthly review.

It was under these conditions that the letters of eminent men in the
eighteenth century and the early part of the nineteenth century were
generally written. In the former century letter-writing was
undoubtedly a recognised form of high literary workmanship, with close
affinities on one side to the diary or private journal, and on another
to the essay. Long, continuous, and intimate correspondence, as in the
case of Swift and Walpole, gravitated toward the journal;
dissertations on literature, politics, and manners were more akin to
the essay; while in the hands of the novelist the journalistic series
of letters took artificial development into a method of story-telling.
On the other side, the tendency of epistles to become essays reached
its climax in the letters of Burke, some of which are only
distinguishable from brilliant pamphlets by the formal address and

With the nineteenth century begins an era of amusing and animated
letter-writing. The classic and somewhat elaborate style of the
preceding age falls into disuse; the essayist draws gradually back
into a department of his own; the new school reflects, as is natural,
the general tendency of English literature toward a livelier and more
varied movement, with a wider range of subjects and sympathies. In his
letters, as in his poetry, the precursor of the Naturalistic school
was Cowper, who could be simple without being trivial, was never prosy
and often pathetic, and who possessed the rare art of stamping on his
reader's mind an enduring impression of quiet and somewhat commonplace
society in the English midlands. That poets should usually have been
good letter-writers is probably no more than might have been expected,
for imagination and word-power must tell everywhere; yet the list is
so long as to be worth noticing. Swift, Pope, Gray, and Cowper in the
last century, and in the present century Scott, Byron, Shelley,
Coleridge, and Southey, have all left us distinctive and copious
correspondence. Wordsworth may, perhaps, be classed as a notable
exception; for Wordsworth's letters are dull, being at their best more
like essays or literary dissertations than the free outpouring of
intimate thought. They have none of the charm which comes from the
revelation of private doubt or passionate affection that is
ordinarily stifled by convention; they are, on the contrary, eminently
respectable, deliberate, and carefully expressed. 'It has ever been
the habit of my mind,' he writes, 'to trust that expediency will come
out of fidelity to principles, rather than to seek my principles of
action in calculations of expediency.' This is what the Americans call
'high toned'; but the metal is too heavy for the light calibre of a

Whether Tennyson had the gift of letter-writing we shall be able to
judge when his biography appears; though we may anticipate that it
will contain some things worthy of a great master in the art of
language. The publication of letters deriving their sole or principal
interest from the general reputation of the writer is indeed quite
legitimate and intelligible. They are often biographical documents of
considerable value, apart from all questions of style and intellectual
quality; they can be handled and arranged to exhibit a man's
character; they may be used as negative proofs of reserve and
reticence, as showing his mental attitude toward various subjects, his
domestic habits and virtues, or merely as annals of where he went and
what he did. They may be carefully selected and revised for occasional
insertion at different stages of a long biography, where the editor
sees fit to let the dead man speak for himself; they may be employed
as an advocate chooses the papers in his brief, for attack or defence.
Or they may be produced without commentary, sifting, or omissions, as
the unvarnished presentation of a man's private life and particular
features which a candid friend commits to the judgment of posterity.
Or, lastly, they may be mere relics, not much more in some instances
than curiosities, valued for much the same reasons that would set a
high price on the autograph or the inkstand of a celebrated man, on
his furniture, his house, or anything that was his. In proportion as
little or nothing is known of such a man's private life, every scrap
of his writing increases in value; and so a letter of Shakespeare or
of Dante would be priceless. But of Shakespeare no letter has come
down to us; and of Dante not even, we believe, his signature; though
we do know something of what Dante did and thought, for his religion
and his politics are manifested in his poems; whereas Shakespeare's
works have the divine attribute of impersonality. Here is one supreme
poet of whom the world would gladly hear anything; but nothing remains
to feed the modern appetite, which is never so well gratified as when
a rare and sublime genius stands revealed as the writer of ordinary
letters upon petty domesticities.

It is evidently impossible to draw a line that shall accurately divide
the interest that men feel in a celebrated person from the interest
that they take in his posthumous correspondence; so as to determine
how far the letters are good in themselves. When the writer is well
known, he and his writings are inseparable. Yet some attempt must be
made, for the purposes of this article, to distinguish critically
between letters that are readable and will survive by their own
literary quality, as fine specimens of the art, and those which are
preserved and published on the score of the writer's name and fame,
with little aid from their merits. In which category are we to place
the letters of Keats, including those that have been very recently
unearthed by diligent literary excavation? His poetry is so exquisite,
so radiant with imaginative colour, that to see such a man in the
light of common day, among the ordinary cares and circumstances of the
lower world, is necessarily a descent and a disillusion. He was young,
he was poor, he had few acquaintances worthy of him; he roved about
England and Scotland without adventures; his letters were perfectly
familiar and unsophisticated. As Mr. Sidney Colvin has written, in an
excellent preface to an edition of 1891, 'he poured out to those he
loved his whole self indiscriminately, generosity and fretfulness,
ardour and despondency, boyish petulance side by side with manful good
sense, the tattle of suburban parlours with the speculations of a
spirit unsurpassed for native gift and insight.' Every now and then
the level of his easygoing discourse is lit up by a flash of wit, and
occasionally by a jet of brilliant fancies among which some of his
finest poetry may be traced in the process of incubation. His whole
mind is set upon his art; for that only, and for a few intimate
friends, does he care to live and work; his letters often tell us when
and where, under what influences, his best pieces were composed; one
likes to know, for example, that the _Ode to Autumn_ came to him on a
fine September day during a Sunday's walk over the stubbles near
Winchester. His criticisms are always good, and their form
picturesque. He compares human life to a chamber that becomes
gradually darkened, in which one door after another is set open,
showing only dim passages leading out into darkness. This, he says, is
the burden of the mystery which Wordsworth felt and endeavoured to
explore; and he thinks that Wordsworth is deeper than Milton, though
he attributes this, justly, more to 'the general and gregarious
advance of intellect, than individual greatness of mind.' So far as
spontaneity and the free unguarded play of sportive and serious ideas,
taken as they came uppermost, are tests and conditions of excellence
in this kind of writing, Keats's letters must rank high. Nevertheless
there is still room for doubt whether these juvenile productions would
have left any but a most ephemeral mark apart from their connection
with his poetry.

In the case of other poets, who were his contemporaries, the verdict
will be different. They are all to be classed, though not in the same
line, as writers of letters that have great original and intrinsic
value. Scott's letters exhibit his generous and masculine nature; the
buoyancy of his spirits in good or bad fortune; and that romantic
attachment to old things and ideas which hardened latterly into
inveterate Toryism. Southey's prose writings will probably survive his
metrical compositions, which indeed have already fallen into oblivion.
There is life in a poet so long as he is quoted; but no verses or even
lines of Southey have fixed themselves in the popular memory. And
whereas the letters of Keats disclose a mind filled with the sense of
beauty and rich with poetic seedlings that blossomed into beautiful
flowers, in Southey's correspondence we discern only an erudite man of
taste labouring diligently upon epics which he expected to be
immortal. The letters of Byron stand upon broader ground, because
Byron was so much more of a personage than either Keats, or Southey,
or Wordsworth. They supply, in the first place, an invaluable, and
indeed indispensable, interpretation of his poetry, which is to a
great extent the imaginative and romantic presentation of his own
feelings, fortunes, and peculiar experiences. Secondly, they are full
of good sayings and caustic criticism; they touch upon the domain of
politics and society as well as upon literature; they give the
opinions passed upon contemporary events and persons, during a
stirring period of European history, by a man of genius who was also a
man of the world; they float on the current of a strangely troubled
existence. In these letters we have an important contribution to our
acquaintance with literary circles and London society, and with
several notable figures on either stage, during the years immediately
before and after Waterloo. They were published in an introduction to
the works of a famous poet; yet, although they cannot be detached from
his poetry, they possess great independent merits of their own. They
echo the sounds of revelry by night; they strike a note of careless
vivacity, the tone of a man who is at home alike in good and bad
company, whose judgment on books and politics, on writers and
speakers, is always fresh, bold, and original. We may lament that the
spirit of reckless devilry and dissipation should have entered into
Byron; and the lessons to be drawn from the scenes and adventures in
Venice and elsewhere, described for the benefit of Tom Moore, are very
different from the moral examples furnished by the tranquil and
well-ordered correspondence of our own day. Yet the world would have
been poorer for the loss of this memorial of an Unquiet Life, and the
historical gallery of literature would have missed the full-length
portrait of an extraordinary man.

The letters of Coleridge, like their writer, belong to another class,
yet, like Byron's, they have the clear-cut stamp of individuality.
Here again we have the man himself, with his intensity of feeling, his
erratic moods and singular phraseology, the softness of his heart and
the weakness of his will. He belongs to the rapidly diminishing class
of notable men who have freely poured their real sentiments and
thoughts out of their brain into their letters, who have given their
best (without keeping their worst) to their correspondents, so that
the letters abound with pathetic and amusing confessions, and with
ideas that bear the stamp of the author's singular idiosyncrasy. The
_Memorials of Coleorton_ are a collection of letters written to the
Beaumont family by Coleridge, Wordsworth, Southey, and Scott; the
reader may pass from one to another by taking them as they come; the
book is like the _menu_ of a dinner with varied courses. Wordsworth's
letters are the product of cultivated taste, a fine eye for rural
scenery, and lofty moral sentiment. Southey is the high-class
_littérateur_, with a strong dash of Toryism in Church and State; in
both there is a total absence of eccentricity, but in neither case is
the attention forcibly arrested or any striking passage retained. When
Coleridge is served up the flavour of unique expression and a sort of
divine simplicity is unmistakable; he is alternately indignant and
remorseful; he soars to themes transcendent, and sinks anon to the
humble details of his errors and embarrassments. Uncongenial society
plunged him into such dark depression that he is not ashamed to
confess that he found 'bodily relief in weeping.'

     'On Tuesday evening Mr. R----, the author of ----, drank tea and
     spent the evening with us at Grasmere; and this had produced a very
     unpleasant effect upon my spirits.... If to be a poet or man of
     genius entailed on us the necessity of housing such company in our
     bosoms, I would pray the very flesh off my knees to have a head as
     dark and unfurnished as Wordsworth's old Molly's.... If I believed
     it possible that the man liked me, upon my soul I should feel
     exactly as if I were tarred and feathered.'

And so on through the whole letter, with a comical energy of phrase
that scorns reserve or compass in giving vent to the misery caused by
uninteresting conversation. We may contrast this melancholy
tea-drinking with Byron's rollicking account of a dinner with some
friends 'of note and notoriety':

     'Like other parties of the same kind, it was first silent, then
     talking, then argumentative, then disputatious, then
     unintelligible, then altogethery, then articulate, and then drunk.
     When we had reached the last step of this glorious ladder it was
     difficult to get down again without stumbling; and, to crown all,
     Kinnaird and I had to conduct Sheridan down a damned corkscrew
     staircase, which had been certainly constructed before the
     invention of fermented liquors, and to which no legs, however
     crooked, could possibly accommodate themselves. Both he and Coleman
     were, as usual, very good; but I carried away much wine, and the
     wine carried away my memory, so that all was hiccup and happiness
     for the last hour or so, and I am not impregnated with any of the

We are, of course, not reviewing Byron or Coleridge; we are only
giving samples by the way. Here are two great poets, remote from each
other as the two poles in social circumstances and habit of mind, but
at any rate alike in this one quality--that their life is in their
letters, and that in such passages as these the genuine undisguised
temperament of each writer stands forth in a relief that could only be
brought out by his own unintentional master-strokes. For neither of
them was aware that in these scenes he was describing his own
character--though Byron may have intended to display his wit, and
Coleridge may have been to some extent conscious of his own humour. In
the way of literary criticism, again, Coleridge throws out the quaint
and uncommon remark upon Addison's Essays, that they 'have produced a
passion for the unconnected in the minds of Englishmen.' And he
touches delicately upon the negative or barren side of the critical
mind in his observation that the critics are the eunuchs that guard
the temple of the Muses.

Of Shelley's letters, again, we may say that they are unconsciously
autobiographical; they are confessions of character, spontaneous,
unguarded, abounding with brilliancies and extravagances. They betray
his shortcomings, but they attest his generosity and courage; they are
the outpourings of a new spirit, who detests what would now be called
Philistinism in literature and society; who does not stop to pick his
words, or to mix water with the red wine of his enthusiasm. He
abandons himself in his letters to the feelings of the moment; he
ardently pursues his immediate object by sophistical arguments which
convict himself but could never convince a correspondent, and which
astonish and amuse the calm reader of after days. 'A kind of
ineffable, sickening disgust seizes my mind when I think of this most
despotic, most unrequired fetter which prejudice has forged to confine
its energies.... Anti-matrimonialism is as necessarily connected with
scepticism as if religion and marriage began their course together,'
for both are the fruit of odious superstition. He was endeavouring to
persuade Harriet Westbrook to join him in testifying by example
against the obsolete and ignoble ceremony of the marriage service,
which he held to be a degradation that no one could ask 'an amiable
and beloved female' to undergo. In Shelley's case, as in Byron's, the
letters are of inestimable biographical value as witnesses to
character, as reflecting the vicissitudes of a life which was to the
writer more like the 'fierce vexation of a dream' than a well-spent
leisurely existence, and as the sincere unstudied expression of his
emotions. For all these reasons they are essential to a right
appreciation of his magnificent poetry.

William Godwin, pedantic, self-conceited, and impecunious, has come
down to us as a kind of central figure in a literary group which
included such men as Coleridge, Shelley, and Lamb, of whom the
somewhat formal English world at the beginning of this century was not
worthy. By reason of this position, and because Shelley married his
daughter, he became the cause and subject of excellent letter-writing,
though his own correspondence is heavy with philosophic platitudes. It
is of the class which, as we have said, is akin to essays; he
discourses at large upon first principles in religion and politics;
and out of his frigid philosophy came some of Shelley's most ardent
paradoxes. But some of the most amusing letters in the English
language were addressed to him. It was after a supper at Godwin's that
Coleridge wrote remorsefully acknowledging 'a certain tipsiness'--not
that he felt any 'unpleasant titubancy'--whereby he had been seduced
into defending a momentary idea as if it had been an old and firmly
established principle; which (we may add) has been the way of other
talkers since Coleridge. No one, he goes on to say, could have a
greater horror than himself of the principles he thus accidentally
propounded, or a deeper conviction of their irrationality; 'but the
whole thinking of my life will not bear me up against the crowd and
press of my mind, when it is elevated beyond its natural pitch.' The
effect of punch, after wine, was to make a philosopher argue hotly
against his profoundest beliefs; yet it is to Godwin's supper that we
owe this diverting palinodia. And all Englishmen should be grateful to
Godwin for having written the tragedy of _Antonio_; for not only was
it most justly damned, but it also elicited some letters to the
unlucky author that are unmatched in the record of candid criticism.
Mrs. Inchbald writes, briefly:

     'I thank you for the play of Antonio, and I most sincerely wish you
     joy of having produced a work which will protect you from being
     classed with the successful dramatists of the present time, but
     which will hand you down to posterity among the honoured few who,
     during the past century, have totally failed in writing for the

Coleridge goes to work more elaborately:

     'In the tragedy I have frequently used certain marks (which he
     gives). Of these, the first calls your attention to my suspicions
     that your language is false or intolerable English. The second
     marks the passages that struck me as _flat_ or mean. The third is a
     note of reprobation, levelled at those sentences in which you have
     adopted that worst sort of vulgar language, commonplace book
     language. The last mark implies bad metre.'

All this is free speaking beyond the compass of modern literary
consultations. It may be added that Lamb also discussed the play,
before it was performed, in his letters to Godwin; and that his
description of Godwin's deportment, of his own feelings, and of the
behaviour of the audience on the memorable night that witnessed its
utter failure, has bequeathed to us a comedy over which the tragic
Muse herself might well become hysterical.

There is, indeed, in the correspondence of this remarkable group a
tone of frankness and sincerity which, combined with the absence of
malice and a strong element of fun, distinguishes it from the
half-veiled disapproval and prudish reserve of later days. 'When you
next write so eloquently and well against law and lawyers,' says
Coleridge to Godwin, 'be so good as to leave a larger place for your
wafer, as by neglect of this a part of your last was obliterated.'
Again, in a more serious tone, 'Ere I had yet read or seen your works,
I, at Southey's recommendation, wrote a sonnet in praise of the
author. When I had read them, religious bigotry, the but half
understanding of your principles, and the _not_ half understanding of
my own, combined to render me a warm and boisterous anti-Godwinist.'
His moods and circumstances, his joys and pains, are reflected in his
language with remarkable fertility of metaphor; his feelings vary with
his society. Of Lamb he writes that 'his taste acts so as to appear
like the mechanic simplicity of an instinct--in brief, he is worth a
hundred men of more talents: conversation with the latter tribe is
like the use of leaden bells, one warms by exercise, Lamb every now
and then _irradiates_.' In the best letters of this remarkable group
we perceive the exquisite sensitiveness of open and eager minds,
giving free play to their ideas and feelings, their delight and
disgust, so that their life and thoughts are mirrored in their
correspondence as in their conversation. Such writing has become very
rare, if it is not entirely extinct, in these latter days of temperate
living and guarded writing. Lamb's own letters are all in a similar
key; and that which he wrote to Coleridge, who had a bad habit of
borrowing books, is a model of jocose expostulation: 'You never come
but you take away some folio that is part of my existence.... My third
shelf from the top has two devilish gaps, where you have knocked out
its two eye teeth.' And his lament over the desolation of London, as
it appears to a man who has lived there jovially, and revisits it as a
stranger in after years, may even now touch a chord in the hearts of
some of us.

     'In London I passed houses and places, empty caskets now. The
     streets, the shops are left, but all old friends are gone. The
     bodies I cared for are in graves or dispersed. My old clubs that
     lived so long and flourished so steadily are crumbled away. When I
     took leave of our friend at Charing Cross, 'twas heavy unfeeling
     rain, and I had nowhere to go ... not a sympathising house to turn
     to in the great city. Never did the waters of heaven pour down on a
     forlorner head. Yet I tried ten days at a sort of friend's house,
     large and straggling; one of the individuals of my old long knot of
     friends, card-players, and pleasant companions, that have tumbled
     to pieces into dust and other things; and I got home convinced that
     I was better to get to my hole in Enfield and hide like a sick cat
     in my corner.'

We might, indeed, multiply indefinitely our quotations from the
correspondence of this literary period to show its sincerity, its
spontaneity, its uncommonness, the tone of intimate brotherhood and
natural unruly affection that pervades it everywhere. Nothing of the
kind has come down to us from the eighteenth century; and the last
fifty years of this century, so prolific in biographies and posthumous
publications of the papers of eminent men, go to prove that in the
general transformation of letter-writing these peculiar qualities have
almost, though not altogether, disappeared. Probably conversation has
suffered a like change; and we may ascribe it generally to a lowering
of the social temperature, to the habits of reserve, respectability,
and conventional self-restraint that in these days govern so largely
the intercourse of men. Something may be due to cautious expurgation
of passages which tell against the writer, or might offend modern
taste; yet in other respects contemporary editors have been
sufficiently indiscreet. And the growth of these habits, so
discouraging to free and fearless correspondence, may be partly
ascribed to the influence of journalism, which makes every subject
stale and sterile by incessantly threshing and tearing at it, and
which reviews biographies in a manner that acts as a solemn warning to
all men of mark that they take heed what they put into a private
letter. There are other causes, to which we may presently advert; but
it is quite clear that this fine art is undergoing certain
transmutations, and that on the whole it does not flourish quite so
vigorously as heretofore.

In a recent article upon Matthew Arnold's letters it is laid down by a
consummate critic[8] that the first canon of unsophisticated
letter-writing is that a letter is meant for the eye of a friend, and
not for the world. 'Even the lurking thought in anticipation of an
audience destroys the charm; the best letters are always
improvisations; the public breaks the spell.' In this, as we have
already suggested, there is much truth; yet the conditions seem to us
too straitly enjoined; for not every man of genius has the gift of
striking out his best thoughts, in their best form, clear and true
from the hot iron of his mind; and in some of our best writers the
improvising spirit is very faint. If a man writes with leisurely care,
selecting deliberately the word that exactly matches his thought,
aiming directly at the heart of his subject and avoiding prolixity, he
may, like Walpole, Gray, and others, produce a delightful letter,
provided only that he is sincere and open, has good stuff to give, and
does not condescend to varnish his pictures. We want his best
thoughts; we should like to have his best form; we do not always care
so much for negligent undress. And as for the copious outpouring of
his personal feelings, one says many things to a friend or kinsman
that are totally without interest to the public, unless they are
expressed in some distinctive manner or embody some originality of
handling an ordinary event. This a writer may have the knack of doing
artistically, even in a private and confidential letter, without
betraying the touch of art; nor, indeed, can we ever know how many of
the best modern letters are really improvised. Then, again, with
regard to the anticipation of an audience, it is a risk to which
every man of note must feel that he is exposed; the shadow of
eventual publicity is always in the background; his letters have
passed out of his control during his lifetime, and he can only trust
in the uncertain discretion of his literary executor. He does not care
to leave the record of his passing moods, his confessions of weakness,
his personal likings and antipathies, to be discussed by the general
reader; and it is probable that he only lets his pen run freely when
he feels assured that his confidential improvisations will be
judiciously omitted.

It is, we think, impossible to suppose that these considerations have
not weighed materially upon the minds of eminent men in our own day,
when biographies have become so much more numerous, and when they are
so much more closely criticised than formerly. And in comparing the
letters written in the early part of this century--such as those from
which we have given a few characteristic quotations--with those which
have been recently published, we have to take account of these things,
among other changes of the social and literary environment.
Undoubtedly the comparison is to the advantage of the earlier
writings; they seem infinitely more amusing, more genuine, more
biographical, more redolent of the manners and complexion of the time.
There is in them a flavour of heartiness and irresponsibility which
may partly be attributed to the fact that the best writers were poets,
whose genius flowered as early as their manhood, and most of whom died
young; so that their letters are fresh, audacious, and untempered by
the chilly caution of middle or declining age. Their spirits were
high, they were ardent in the pursuit of ideals; they were defying
society, they either had no family or were at feud with it, and they
gave not a thought to the solemn verdict of posterity. For
correspondents who were brimming over with humour, imagination, and
enthusiasm, no situation could be more thoroughly favourable to
sparkling improvisation; and accordingly they have left us letters
which will be a joy for ever.

The correspondence of our own generation has been written under a
different intellectual climate, and various circumstances have
combined to lower the temperature of its vivacity. Posthumous
publicity is now the manifest destiny that overhangs the private life
of all notable persons, especially of popular authors, who can observe
and inwardly digest continual warnings of the treatment which they are
likely to receive from an insatiable and inconsistent criticism. They
may have lived long and altered their opinions; they may have
quarrelled with friends or rivals, and may have become sworn allies
later; they may have publicly praised one whom in private they may
have laughed at; for when you have to think what you say, it does not
follow that you say what you think. All these considerations, enforced
by repeated examples, are apt to damp the natural ardour of
improvisation; the more so because the writer may be sure either that
his genuine utterances will be suppressed by the editor, or that, if
they are produced, the editor will be roundly abused for giving him
away. For in these matters the judgment of the general reader is
wayward, and his attitude undecided, with a leaning toward hypocrisy.
The story of the domestic tribulations and the conjugal bickerings of
a great writer, of the irritability that belongs to highly nervous
temperaments, and which has always made genius, like the finest
animals, hard to domesticate, has lost none of its savour with the
public. But if all letters that record such scenes and sayings are
faithfully reproduced in preparing the votive tablet upon which the
dead man's life is to be delineated, the ungrateful reader answers
with an accusation of imprudence, indiscretion, and betrayal of
confidence; and the surviving friends protest still more vehemently.
Within the last three months these consequences have been forcibly
illustrated by the reception of Cardinal Manning's Life, in which the
letters are of extraordinary value toward the formation of a right
understanding of that remarkable personage. Much of all this
sensitiveness is clearly due to the hasty fashion of publishing
private correspondence within a few years of the writer's decease, but
more to the fitful and somewhat feminine temper of an inquisitive yet
censorious society.

If, on the other hand, expurgation is freely employed, the result is a
kind of emasculation. Nothing is left that can offend or annoy living
people, or that might damage the writer's own reputation with an
audience that enjoys, yet condemns, unmeasured confidences. And so we
get clever, sensible letters of men who have travelled, worked, and
mixed much in society, who have already put into essays or reviews all
that they wanted the public to know, and whose private doubts, or
follies, or frolics, have been neatly removed from their
correspondence. Let us take, for example, two batches of letters very
lately published, and written by two men who have left their mark upon
their generation. Of Dean Stanley it may be affirmed that no
ecclesiastic of his time was better known, or had a higher reputation
for strength of character and undaunted Liberalism. His public life
and his place in the Anglican Church had been already described in a
meritorious biography; and it might have been expected that these
letters would bring the reader closer to the man himself, would
accentuate the points of a striking individuality. There are few of
these letters, we think, by which such expectations have been
fulfilled to any appreciable degree. In one or two of them Stanley
writes with his genuine sincerity and earnestness on the state of his
mind in regard to the new spirit of ecclesiasticism that had arisen in
Oxford nearly sixty years ago; we see that he saw and felt the
magnitude of a coming crisis, and we can observe the formation of the
opinions which he consistently and valiantly upheld throughout his
career. The whole instinct of his intellectual nature--and he never
lost his trust in reason--was against the high Roman or sacerdotal
absolutism in matters of dogma; he ranked Morals far above Faith; and
he had that dislike of authoritative uniformity in church government
which is in Englishmen a reflection of their political habits. Yet he
discerned plainly enough the spring of a movement that was bringing
about a Roman Catholic revival.

     'Not that I am turned or turning Newmanist, but that I do feel that
     the crisis in my opinions is coming on, and that the difficulties I
     find in my present views are greater than I thought them to be, and
     that here I am in the presence of a magnificent and consistent
     system shooting up on every side, whilst all that I see against it
     is weak and grovelling.' (Letter to C. J. Vaughan, 1838.)

'I expect,' he writes a year later, 'that the whole thing will have
the effect of making me either a great Newmanite or a great Radical';
and it did end in making him an advanced Liberal. His practical
genius, and his free converse with general society (from which Manning
deliberately turned away as fatal to ecclesiasticism), very soon
parted him from the theologians.

     'I think it is true,' he writes to Jowett (1849), 'that we have not
     the same mental interest in talking over subjects of theology that
     we had formerly. They have lost their novelty, I suppose; we know
     better where we are, having rolled to the bottom together, and
     being now able only to make a few uphill steps. I acknowledge fully
     my own want of freshness; my mind seems at times quite dried up....
     And at times I have felt an unsatisfied desire after a better and
     higher sort of life, which makes me impatient of the details of

In these, and perhaps one or two other passages, we can trace the
development of character and convictions in the man to whom Jowett
wrote, thirty years afterwards, that he was 'the most distinguished
clergyman in the Church of England, who could do more than any one
towards the great work of placing religion on a rational basis.'[9]

But, on the whole, the quality of these letters is by no means equal
to their quantity; and too many of them belong to a class which,
though it may have some ephemeral interest among friends and kinsfolk,
can retain, we submit, no permanent value at all. It is best described
under a title common in French literature--_impressions de voyage_. A
very large part of the volume consists of letters written by Stanley,
an intelligent and indefatigable tourist, from the countries and
cities which he visited, from Petersburg and Palestine, from Paris and
Athens, from Spain and Scotland. The standpoint from which he surveys
the Holy Land is rather historical and archæological than devotional;
but he had everywhere a clear eye for the picturesque in manners and
scenery. He had excellent opportunities of seeing the places and the
people; his descriptive powers are considerable; and there is a finely
drawn picture of All Souls' Day in the Sistine Chapel, written from
Rome to Hugh Pearson, although a ludicrous incident comes in at the
end like a false note. Such correspondence might be so arranged
separately as to make an interesting narrative of travel, but when
judged by a high literary or intellectual criterion of letter-writing
it is out of court. It is not too much to aver that most, if not all,
of these letters might have been written by any refined and cultivated
Englishman, whose education and social training had given him correct
tastes and a many-sided interest in the world. They belong to the type
of private diary or chronicle, and as such they inevitably include
trivialities, though not many. Some of Stanley's letters are from
Scotland, where he travels about admiring its wildness, and with a
cultured interest in its antiquities. But no country has been better
ransacked in search of the picturesque; it is the original
hunting-ground of the romantic tourist, and what Stanley said about it
to his family is pleasantly but not powerfully written. It is more
than doubtful whether excellence in letter-writing lies that way, or,
indeed, whether mediocrity is avoidable. Charles Lamb's letters are
none the worse because he stayed in London and had no time for the
beauties of Nature.

     'For my part,' he wrote, 'with reference to my friends northwards,
     I must confess that I am not romance-bit about Nature. The earth
     and sea and sky (when all is said) is but a house to dwell in. If
     the inmates be courteous, and good liquors flow like the conduits
     at an old coronation, if they can talk sensibly and feel properly,
     I have no need to stand staring at the gilded looking-glass, nor at
     the five-shilling print over the mantelpiece. Just as important to
     me (in a sense) is all the furniture of my world; eye pampering,
     but satisfies no heart.'

This may be Cockney taste, yet it is better reading than Stanley's
account of Edinburgh or the valley of Glencoe.

The editor assures us, in his preface, that none of these letters
touch upon theological controversies, yet many readers might have been
very willing to part with some of the travelling journal for closer
knowledge of Stanley's inward feelings while he was bearing up the
fight of liberty and toleration against the gathering forces that have
since scattered and well-nigh overwhelmed the once flourishing Broad
Church party. Well might Jowett write to him in 1880, 'You and I, and
our dear friend Hugh Pearson, and William Rogers, and some others, are
rather isolated in the world, and we must hold together as long as we
can.' All those who are here named have passed away, leaving no party
leaders of equal rank and calibre, and if Stanley's letters survive at
all, they will live upon those passages which remind us how
strenuously he contended for the intellectual freedom that he believed
to be the true spiritual heritage of English churchmen.

The latest contribution to the department of national literature that
we have been surveying is the volume containing the letters of Matthew
Arnold (1848-88). 'Here and there,' writes their editor, 'I have been
constrained, by deference to living susceptibilities, to make some
slight excisions; but with regard to the bulk of the letters this
process had been performed before the manuscript came into my hands.'
No one has any business to question the exercise of a discretion which
must have been necessary in publishing private correspondence so
recently written, and only those who saw the originals can decide
whether they have been weakened or strengthened by the pruning. On the
other hand, the first canon of unsophistical letter-writing, as laid
down by the eminent critic already cited--that they should be written
for the eye of a friend, never for the public--is amply fulfilled. 'It
will be seen' (we quote again from the preface) 'that the letters are
essentially familiar and domestic, and were evidently written without
a thought that they would ever be read beyond the circle of his
family.' They are, in short, mostly family letters that have been
necessarily subjected to censorship, and it would be unreasonable to
measure a collection of this kind by the high standard that qualifies
for admission to the grade of permanent literature. As these letters
are to supply the lack of a biography (which was expressly prohibited
by his own wish), we are not to look for further glimpses of a
character which his editor rightly terms 'unique and fascinating.' The
general reader may therefore feel some disappointment at finding that
the correspondence takes no wider or more varied range; for Matthew
Arnold's circle of acquaintances must have been very large, and he
must have been in touch with the leading men in the political,
academical, and official society of his day.

The letters are as good as they could be expected to be under these
conditions, which are to our mind heavily disadvantageous. We must set
aside those which fall under the class of _impressions de voyage_, for
the reasons already stated in discussing Stanley's travelling
correspondence. One would not gather from this collection that Arnold
was a considerable poet. And the peculiar method of expression, the
vein of light irony, the flexibility of style, that distinguish his
prose works are here curiously absent; he does not write his letters,
as Carlyle did, in the same character as his books. Yet the turn of
thought, the prevailing note, can be often detected; as, for instance,
in a certain impatience with English defects, coupled with a strong
desire to take the conceit out of his fellow-countrymen:

     'The want of independence of mind, the shutting their eyes and
     professing to believe what they do not, the running blindly
     together in herds for fear of some obscure danger and horror if
     they go alone, is so eminently a vice of the English, I think, of
     the last hundred years, has led them and is leading them into such
     scrapes and bewilderment, that,' etc., etc.

It is certainly hard to recognise in this picture the features of the
rough roving Englishman who in the course of the last hundred years
has conquered India, founded great colonies, and fought the longest
and most obstinate war of modern times: who has been the type of
insularity and an incurable antinomian in religion and politics. Not
many pages afterwards, however, we find Arnold sharing with the herd
of his countrymen the shallow 'conviction as to the French always
beating any number of Germans who come into the field against them.'
He adds that 'they will never be beaten by any other nation but the
English, for to every other nation they are in efficiency and
intelligence decidedly superior'--an opinion which contradicts his
previous judgment of them, and replaces the national superiority on a
lofty though insecure basis; for if he was wrong about the French, he
may be wrong about us whom he puts above them. Arnold admired the
French as much as Carlyle liked the Germans, and both of them enjoyed
ridiculing or rating the English; but each was unconsciously swayed by
his own particular tastes and temperament, and neither of them had the
gift of political prophecy, which is, indeed, very seldom vouchsafed
to the highly imaginative mind. He had a strong belief, rare among
Englishmen, in administrative organisation. 'Depend upon it,' he
writes, 'that the great States of the Continent have two great
elements of cohesion, in their administrative system and in their
army, which we have not.' The general conclusion which Arnold seems to
have drawn from his travels in Europe and America is that England was
far behind France in lucidity of ideas, and inferior to the United
States in straightforward political energy and the faculties of
national success. 'Heaven forbid that the English nation should become
like this (the French) nation; but Heaven forbid that it should remain
as it is. If it does, it will be beaten by America on its own line,
and by the Continental nations on the European line. I see this as
plain as I see the paper before me.' Since this was written in 1865,
England has been perversely holding her own course, nor has she yet
fulfilled Arnold's melancholy foreboding, by which he was 'at times
overwhelmed with depression' that England was sinking into a sort of
greater Holland, 'for want of perceiving how the world is going and
must go, and preparing herself accordingly.'

On the other hand, his imaginative faculty comes out in his
speculation upon the probable changes in the development of the
American people that might follow their separation into different
groups, if the civil war between the Northern and Southern States
(which had just begun) should break up the Union.

     'Climate and mixture of race will then be able fully to tell, and I
     cannot help thinking that the more diversity of nation there is on
     the American continent, the more chance there is of one nation
     developing itself with grandeur and richness. It has been so in
     Europe. What should we all be if we had not one another to check us
     and to be learned from? Imagine an English Europe. How frightfully
     _borné_ and dull! Or a French Europe either, for that matter.'

The suggestion is, perhaps, more fanciful than profound; for history
does not repeat itself; and, in fact, the result of breaking up South
America into a dozen political groups has not yet produced any very
satisfactory development of national character. Much more than
political subdivision goes to the creation of a new Europe;
nevertheless Arnold is probably right in supposing that uniformity of
institutions and a somewhat monotonous level of social conditions over
a vast area, may have depressed and stunted the free and diversified
growth of North American civilisation.

The literary criticism to be found in these letters shows a fastidious
and delicate taste that had been nurtured almost too exclusively upon
the masterpieces of classic antiquity. Homer he ranked far above
Shakespeare, though one might think them too different for comparison;
and he praises 'two articles in _Temple Bar_ (1869), one on Tennyson,
the other on Browning,' which were afterwards republished in a book
that made some stir in its day, and has brought down upon its author
the unquenchable resentment of his brother poets. He thought that both
Macaulay and Carlyle were encouraging the English nation in its
emphatic Philistinism, and thus counteracting his own exertions to
lighten the darkness of earnest but opaque intelligences. As his
interest in religious movements was acute, so his observations
occasionally throw some light upon the exceedingly complicated problem
of ascertaining the general drift of the English mind in regard to
things spiritual. The force which is shaping the future, is it with
the Ritualists or with the undogmatical disciples of a purely moral
creed? With neither, Arnold replies; not with any of the orthodox
religions, nor with the neo-religious developments which are
pretending to supersede them.

     'Both the one and the other give to what they call religion, and to
     religious ideas and discussions, too large and absorbing a place in
     human life. Man feels himself to be a more various and richly
     endowed animal than the old religious theory of human life
     allowed, and he is endeavouring to give satisfaction to the long
     suppressed and imperfectly understood instincts of their varied

No man studied more closely than Arnold the intellectual tendencies of
his generation, so that on the most difficult of contemporary
questions this opinion is worth quoting, although the ritualistic
leanings of the present day hardly operate to support it. But here, as
in his published works, his religious utterances are somewhat
ambiguous and oracular; and one welcomes the marking of a definite
epoch in Church history when he writes emphatically that 'the Broad
Church _among the clergy_ may be said to have almost perished with

But correspondence that was never meant for publication is hardly a
fair subject for literary criticism. Arnold seems to have written
hurriedly, in the intervals of hard work, of journeyings to and fro
upon his rounds of inspection, and of much social bustle; he had not
the natural gift of letter-writing, and he probably did it more as a
duty than a pleasure. He had none of the ever-smouldering irritability
which compelled Carlyle to slash right and left of him at the people
whom he met, at everything that he disliked, and every one whom he
despised. Nor was he born to chronicle the small beer of everyday life
in that spirit of contemplative quietism which is bred out of abundant
leisure and retirement. A few lines from one of Cowper's letters may
serve to indicate the circumstances in which 'our best letter-writer,'
as Southey calls him, lived and wrote a hundred years ago in a muddy
Buckinghamshire village:

     'A long confinement in the winter, and indeed for the most part in
     the autumn too, has hurt us both. A gravel walk, thirty yards
     long, affords but indifferent scope to the locomotive faculty; yet
     it is all that we have had to move in for eight months in the year,
     during thirteen years that I have been a prisoner here.'

If we compare this manner of spending one's days with Arnold's hasty
and harassed existence among the busy haunts of men, we can understand
that in this century a hard-working literary man has neither the taste
nor the time for the graceful record of calm meditations, or for
throwing a charm over commonplace details. And, on the whole, Arnold's
correspondence, though it has some biographical value, must
undoubtedly be relegated to the class of letters that would never have
been published upon their own intrinsic merits.

Carlyle's letters, on the other hand, fall into the opposite category;
they stand on their own feet, they are as significant of style and
character as Arnold's, and even Stanley's, letters were comparatively
insignificant; they are the fearless outspoken expression of the
humours and feelings of the moment, and it is probable that the writer
did not trouble himself to consider whether they would or would not be
published. In these respects they as nearly fulfil the authorised
conditions of good letter-writing as any work of the sort that has
been produced in our own generation, though one may be permitted some
doubt in regard to improvisation; for the work is occasionally so
clean cut and pointed, his strokes are so keen and straight to the
mark, that it is difficult to believe the composition to be altogether
unstudied. Whether any writer ever excelled in this or, indeed, in any
other branch of the art literary without taking much trouble over it,
is, in our judgment, an open question; but surely Carlyle must have
selected and sharpened with some care the barbed epithets upon which
he suspends his grotesque and formidable caricatures.

For example, he writes, in 1831, of Godwin, who still figures, in
advanced age, as a martyr in the cause of good letter-writing--'A
bald, bushy browed, thick, hoary, hale little figure, with a very long
blunt characterless nose--the whole visit the most unutterable
stupidity.' Lord Althorp is 'a thick, large, broad-whiskered,
farmer-looking man.' O'Connell, 'a well-doing country shopkeeper with
a bottle-green frock and brown scratch wig.... I quitted them all (the
House of Commons) with the highest contempt.' Of Thomas Campbell, the
poet, it is written that 'his talk is small, contemptuous, and
shallow; his face has a smirk which would befit a shopman or an
auctioneer.' Wordsworth, 'an old, very loquacious, indeed, quite
prosing man.' Southey 'the shallowest chin, prominent snubbed Roman
nose, small carelined brow, the most vehement pair of faint hazel eyes
I have ever seen.' There is a savage caricature of Roebuck, and so
Carlyle goes on hanging up portraits of the notables whom he met and
conversed with, to the great edification of these latter days. No more
dangerous interviewer has ever practised professionally than this
artist in epithets, on whom the outward visible figure of a man
evidently made deep impressions; whereas the ordinary letter-writer is
usually content to record the small talk. As material for publication
his correspondence had three singular advantages. His earlier letters
were excellent, and we may hazard the generalisation that almost all
first-class letter-writing, like poetry, has been inspired by the
ardour and freshness and audacity of youth. He lived so long that
these letters could be published very soon after his death without
much damage to the susceptibilities of those whom his hard hitting
might concern; and, lastly, his biographer was a man of nerve, who
loved colour and strong lineaments, and would always sacrifice minor
considerations to the production of a striking historical portrait.
Undoubtedly, Carlyle's letters have this virtue--that they largely
contribute to the creation of a true likeness of the writer, for in
sketching other people he was also drawing himself. He could also
paint the interior of a country house, as at Fryston, and his
landscapes are vivid. He was, in short, an impressionist of the first
order, who grouped all his details in subordination to a general
effect, and never gave his correspondent a mere catalogue of trivial

It was originally in a letter to his brother that Carlyle wrote his
celebrated description of an interview with Coleridge. No two men
could be more different in taste or temperament, and yet any one who
reads attentively Coleridge's letters may observe a certain similarity
to Carlyle's writing, not only in the figured style and prophetic
manner, but also in the tendency of their political ideas. In the
matter of linguistic eccentricities, it may be guessed that both of
them had been affected by the study of German literature; and in
politics they had both a horror of disorder, an aversion to the
ordinary Radicalism of their day, and a contempt for mechanic
philosophy and complacent irreligion. Each of them had a strong belief
in the power and duties of the State; but Coleridge held also that
salvation lay in a reconstitution of the Church on a sound
metaphysical basis, whereas for Carlyle all articles and liturgies
were dying or dead. A comparison of these two supreme intellectual
forces may help us to distinguish some of the most favourable
conditions of good letter-writing. They were men of highly nervous
mental constitution of mind, on whom the ideas and impressions that
had been secreted produced an excitability that was discharged upon
correspondents in a torrent of language, sweeping away considerations
of reserve or self-regard, and submerging the commonplace bits of news
and everyday observations which accumulate in the letters of
respectable notabilities. To whomsoever the letters may be addressed,
they are in consequence equally good and characteristic. Carlyle's
epistles to his wife and brother are among the best in the collection;
and Coleridge threw himself with the same ardour into letters to
Charles Lamb and to Lord Liverpool. It is this capacity for pouring
out the soul in correspondence, for draining the bottom of one's heart
to a friend, which, combined with exaltation under the stimulus of
spleen or keen sensibility, raises correspondence to the high-water
mark of English literature.

But in saying that these conditions are eminently favourable to the
production of fine letter-writing, we do not mean to affirm that they
are essential. Against such a theory it would be sufficient to quote
Cowper, though he had the poetic fire, and was subject to the
religious frenzy; and we know that repose and refinement have a
tendency to develop good correspondents. Among these we may number
Edward FitzGerald, whose letters are, perhaps, the most artistic of
any that have recently appeared, and may be placed without hesitation
in the class of letters that have a high intrinsic merit independently
of the writer's extraneous reputation; for FitzGerald was a recluse
with a tinge of misanthropy, nearly unknown to the outer world, except
by one exquisite paraphrase of a Persian poem, and his popularity
rests almost entirely upon his published correspondence. Of these
letters, so excellent of their kind, can it be said that they have the
note of improvisation, that they were written for a friend's eye,
without thought or care for that ordeal of posthumous publication
which has added, as we have been told, a fresh terror to death? The
composition is exactly suited to the tone of easy, pleasant
conversation; the writing has a serene flow, with ripples of wit and
humour; sometimes occupied with East Anglian rusticities and local
colouring, sometimes with pungent literary criticisms; it is never
exuberant, but nowhere dull or commonplace; the language is concise,
with a sedulous nicety of expression. A man of delicate irony, living
apart from the rough, tumbling struggle for existence, he was in most
things the very opposite to Carlyle, whose _French Revolution_ he
admired not much, and who, he thinks, 'ought to be laughed at a
little.' Such a man was not likely to write even the most ordinary
letter without a certain degree of mental preparation, without some
elaboration of thought, or solicitude as to form and finish, for all
which processes he had ample leisure. It may be noticed that he never
condescends to the travelling journal, and that his voyaging
impressions are given in a few fine strokes; but, although he was a
home-keeping Englishman, he was free from household cares, nor did he
keep up that obligatory family correspondence which, when it is
published to exhibit the domestic habits and affections of an eminent
person, becomes ever after a dead-weight upon his biography.

In endeavouring to analyse the charm of these delightful letters, we
may suggest that they gain their special flavour from his talent for
compounding them, like a skilful _chef de cuisine_, out of various
materials or intellectual condiments assorted and dexterously blended.
He is an able and accomplished egoist, one of the few modern
Englishmen who are able to plant themselves contentedly, like a tree,
in one spot, and who prefer books to company, the sedentary to the
stirring life. He was not cut off, like Cowper, a hundred years
earlier, from the outer world in winter and rough weather, yet he had
few visitors and went abroad little; so that he had ample leisure for
perusal and re-perusal of the classic masterpieces, ancient and
modern, and for surveying the field of contemporary literature. His
letters to Fanny Kemble have the advantage of unity in tone that
belongs to a series written to the same person, though the absence of
replies is apt to produce the effect of a monologue. How far good
letter-writing depends upon the course of exchange, upon the stimulus
of pleasant and prompt replies, is a question not easily answered,
since the correspondence on both sides of two good writers is very
rarely put together. Mrs. Kemble had certain fixed rules which must
have been fatal to the free epistolary spirit. 'I never write,' she
said, 'until I am written to; I always write when I am written to, and
I make a point of always returning the same amount of paper that I
receive;' but at any rate it is evident that FitzGerald's letters to
her were regularly answered. He had a light hand on descriptions of
season and scenery; he could give the autumnal atmosphere, the
awakening of leaf and flower in spring, the distant roar of the German
Ocean on the East Anglian coast. As he could record his daily life
without the minute prolixity of a diary, so he could throw off
criticisms on books without falling into the manner of an essayist. In
regard to the 'fuliginous and spasmodic Carlyle,' he asks doubtfully
whether he with all his genius will not subside into the Level that
covers, and consists of, decayed literary vegetation. 'And Dickens,
with all _his_ genius, but whose Men and Women act and talk already
after a more obsolete fashion than Shakespeare's?' None of the
contemporary poets--Tennyson, Browning, or Swinburne--seem to have
entirely satisfied him; he loved the quiet landscapes and rural tales
of Crabbe, who is now read by very few; and he quotes with manifest
enjoyment the lines:

    'In a small cottage on the rising ground,
    West of the waves, and just beyond the sound.'

'The sea,' he writes, 'somehow talks to one of old things,' probably
because it is changeless by comparison with the land; and a man whose
life is still and solitary is affected by the transitory aspect of
natural things, because he can watch them pass. As old friends drop
off he touches in his letters upon the memories of days that are gone,
and he consorts more and more with the personages of his favourite
poets and romancers, living thus, as he says, among shadows.

Here is a man to whom correspondence was a real solace and a vehicle
of thought and feeling, not a mere note-book of travel, nor a conduit
of confidential small talk. A faint odour of the seasons hangs round
some of these letters, of the sunshine and rain, of dark days and
roads blocked with snow, of the first spring crocus and the faded
autumnal garden plots. We can perceive that, as his retirement became
habitual with increasing age, the correspondence became his main
outlet of ideas and sensations, taking more and more the place of
friendly visits and personal discussion as a channel of intercourse
with the external world. The Hindu sages despised action as
destructive of thought; and undoubtedly the cool secluded vale of life
is good for the cultivation of letter-writing, in one who has the
artistic hand, and to whom this method of gathering up the fruits of
reading and meditation, the harvest of a quiet eye, comes easily. In
many respects the letters of FitzGerald, like his life, are in strong
contrast to Carlyle's; and FitzGerald was somewhat startled by the
publication of Carlyle's 'Reminiscences.' He thinks that, on the
whole, 'they had better have been kept unpublished;' though on reading
the 'Biography' he writes: 'I did not know that Carlyle was so good,
grand, and even lovable, till I read the letters which Froude now
edits.' He himself was not likely to give the general reader more than
he wished to be known about his private affairs; and if one or two
remarks with a sting in them appeared when these letters were first
published in a magazine, they have been carefully excerpted from the
book. The mellow music of his tones, the self-restraint and meditative
attitude, are pleasant to the reader after the turbid utterances and
twisted language of Carlyle; we may compare the stirring rebellious
spirit brooding over the folly of mankind with the man who takes
humanity as he finds it, and is content to make the best of a world in
which he sees not much, beyond art and nature and a few old friends,
to interest him. Upon the whole, we may place Carlyle and FitzGerald,
each in his very different manner, at the head of all the
letter-writers of the generation to which they belong, which is not
precisely our own. It is to be recollected that a man must be dead
before he can win reputation in this particular branch of literature,
and that he cannot be fairly judged until time has removed many
obstacles to unreserved publication. But both Carlyle and FitzGerald
had long lives.

Mr. Stevenson, whose letters are the latest important contribution to
this department of the national library, died early, in the full force
of his intellect, at the zenith of his fame as a writer of romance.
His letters have been edited by Mr. Sidney Colvin, with all the
sympathy and insight into character that are inspired by congenial
tastes and close friendship; and his preface gives an excellent
account of the conditions, physical and mental, under which they were
written, and of the limitations observed in the editing of them.

     'Begun,' Mr. Colvin says, 'without a thought of publicity, and
     simply to maintain an intimacy undiminished by separation, they
     assumed in the course of two or three years a bulk so considerable,
     and contained so much of the matter of his daily life and thoughts,
     that it by-and-by occurred to him ... that "some kind of a book"
     might be extracted out of them after his death.... In a
     correspondence so unreserved, the duty of suppression and selection
     must needs be delicate. Belonging to the race of Scott and Dumas,
     of the romantic narrators and creators, Stevenson belonged no less
     to that of Montaigne and the literary egotists.... He was a
     watchful and ever interested observer of the motions of his own

The whole passage, too long to be quoted, suggests an instructive
analysis of the mental qualities and disposition that go to make a
good letter-writer--a dash of egotism, sensitiveness to outward
impressions, literary charm, the habit of keeping a frank and familiar
record of every day's moods, thoughts, and doings, the picturesque
surroundings of a strange land. In these journal letters from Samoa
the canon of improvisation is to a certain extent infringed, for
Stevenson wrote with publicity in distant view; and the depressing
influence of remoteness is in his case overcome, for he lived in
tropical Polynesia, 'far off amid the melancholy main,' and had speech
with his correspondent only at long intervals. But it is the privilege
of genius to disconcert the rules of criticism; the letters have none
of the vices of the diary, the trivialities are never dull, the
incidents are uncommon or uncommonly well told, and the writer is
never caught looking over his shoulder at posterity.

For extracts there is now little space left in this article; but we
may quote, to show Stevenson's style of landscape-painting, a few
lines describing a morning in Samoa after a heavy gale:

     'I woke this morning to find the blow quite ended. The heaven was
     all a mottled grey; even the East quite colourless. The downward
     slope of the island veiled in wafts of vapour, blue like smoke; not
     a leaf stirred on the tallest tree. Only three miles below me on
     the barrier reef I could see the individual breakers curl and fall,
     and hear their conjunct roaring rise, like the roar of a
     thoroughfare close by.'

It is good for the imaginative letter-writer to live within sight and
sound of the sea, to hear the long roll, and to see from his window 'a
nick of the blue Pacific.' It is also good for him to be within range
of savage warfare, and to take long rough rides in a disturbed
country. On one such occasion he writes:

     'Conceive such an outing, remember the pallid brute that lived in
     Skerryvore like a weevil in a biscuit, and receive the intelligence
     that I was rather the better for my journey. Twenty miles ride,
     sixteen fences taken, ten of the miles in a drenching rain, seven
     of them fasting and in the morning chill, and six stricken hours'
     political discussions with an interpreter; to say nothing of
     sleeping in a native house, at which many of our excellent literati
     would look askance of itself.'

The feat might not seem miraculous to a captain of frontier irregulars
in hard training; but for a delicate novelist in weak health it was
pluckily done. These letters would be readable if Stevenson had
written nothing else, though of course their worth is doubled by our
interest in a man of singular talent who died prematurely. They
illustrate the tale of his life and portray his character; and they
form an addition, valuable in itself, and unique as a variety, to the
series of memorable English letter-writers.

Mr. Colvin mentions, in his preface, that Stevenson's talk was
irresistibly sympathetic and inspiring, full of matter and mirth. It
cannot be denied that between correspondence and conversation,
regarded as fine arts, there is a close kinship; and very similar
reasons have been alleged for the common belief that both are on the
decline. Whether such a belief has any solid foundation in the case of
letter-writing, we may be warranted in doubting. Observations of this
sort, which have a false air of acuteness and profundity, are repeated
periodically. The remark so constantly made at this moment, that
nowadays people read nothing but magazines, was made by Coleridge
early in this century; and Southey prophesied the ruin of good letters
from the penny post. It is true that the number of letters written
must have increased enormously; it is also true that many more are
published than heretofore, and that as a great many of these are not
above mediocrity, are valueless as literature, and of little worth
biographically, they produce on the disappointed reader the effect of
a general depreciation of the standard. Nevertheless, this article
will have been written to little purpose, unless it has shown fair
cause for rejecting such a conclusion, and for maintaining that,
although fine letter-writers, like poets, are few and far between, yet
they have not been wanting in our own time, and are not likely to
disappear. There will always be men, like Coleridge or Carlyle, whose
impetuous thoughts and humoristic conceptions cannot perpetually
submit to the forms and limitations and delays of printing and
publishing, but must occasionally demand instant liberation and
prompt delivery by the natural process of private letters. And
although the stir and bustle of the world is increasing, so that quiet
corners in it are not easily kept, yet it is probable that the race of
literary recluses--of those who pass their days in reading books, in
watching the course of affairs, and in corresponding with a select
circle of friends--will also continue. Whether Englishwomen, who write
letters up to a certain point better than Englishmen, will now rise,
as Frenchwomen have done, to the highest line, and why they have not
done so heretofore, are points that we have no space here for taking

But it is the exceptional peculiarity of letters, as a form of
literature, that the writer can never superintend their publication.
During his lifetime he has no control over them, they are not in his
hands; and they do not appear until after his death. He must rely
entirely, therefore, upon the discretion of his editor, who has to
balance the wishes of a family, or the susceptibilities of an
influential party in politics or religion, against his own notions of
duty toward a departed friend, or against his artistic inclination
toward presenting to the world a true and unvarnished picture of some
remarkable personage. He may resolve, as Froude did in the case of
Carlyle, that 'the sharpest scrutiny is the condition of enduring
fame,' and may determine not to conceal the frailties or the
underlying motives which explain conduct and character. He may refuse,
as in the case of Cardinal Manning, to set up a smooth and whitened
monumental effigy, plastered over with colourless panegyric, and may
insist on showing a man's true proportions in the alternate light and
shadow through which every life naturally and inevitably passes. But
such considerations would lead us beyond our special subject into the
larger field of Biography; and we must be content, on the present
occasion, with this endeavour to sketch in bare outline the history
and development of English letter-writing, and to examine very briefly
the elementary conditions that conduce to success in an art that is
universally practised, but in which high excellence is so very rarely


[7] (1) _The Letters of Charles Lamb._ Edited, with Introduction and
Notes, by Alfred Ainger. London, 1888. (2) _Letters of John Keats to
his Family and Friends._ Edited by Sidney Colvin. London, 1891. (3)
_Letters and Verses of Arthur Penrhyn Stanley._ Edited by Rowland E.
Prothero. London, 1895. (4) _Letters of Matthew Arnold_, 1848-88.
Collected and arranged by George Russell. London and New York, 1895.
(5) _Letters of Edward FitzGerald to Fanny Kemble._ Edited by William
Aldis Wright. London, 1895. (6) _Vailima Letters, from Robert Louis
Stevenson to Sidney Colvin_, 1890-94. London, 1895.--_Edinburgh
Review_, April 1896.

[8] Mr. John Morley, _Nineteenth Century_, December 1895.

[9] _Dean Stanley's Letters_, p. 440.


It is remarkable that in a century which is far more profusely
supplied with biographies than any preceding age, and at a time when
chronicles of small beer no less than of fine vintages seem to gratify
the rather indiscriminate taste of the British public, no formal life
has ever been produced of Thackeray. That this omission has been due
to his express wish is well understood, and at any rate it may be
cited as a praiseworthy breach of the latter-day custom of publishing
a man's private affairs and correspondence as soon as possible after
his funeral. Nevertheless the generation of those who knew Thackeray,
for whom and among whom he wrote, is now rapidly vanishing; so that it
would have been a kind of national misfortune if posterity had been
left without some authentic record of his personal history, his
earlier experiences, his characteristic sayings and doings, and the
general environment in which he worked.

For the biographical introductions, therefore, which are appended to
each volume of this new edition,[10] we owe gratitude to his daughter,
Mrs. Richmond Ritchie.[11] No more than seven volumes have been
actually published up to this date, but since these include a large
proportion of Thackeray's most important and characteristic work, we
make no apology for anticipating the completion of the series by an
attempt to make a critical examination of the salient points which
distinguish his genius, and mark his place in general literature. Mrs.
Ritchie tells us in a brief prefatory note that although her father's
wishes have prevented her from writing his complete biography she has
at last determined to publish memories which chiefly concern his
books. Her desire has also been 'to mark down some of the truer chords
to which his life was habitually set'; and accordingly we have in
every volume an instalment, too brief and intermittent for such
interesting matter, of the incidents and vicissitudes belonging to
successive stages of his life and work, with glimpses of his mind and
tastes, of the friendships that he made, and the society in which he
moved. The form in which these reminiscences and _reliquiæ_ appear has
necessarily disconnected them, since they have been evidently chosen
on the plan of connecting each novel with the circumstances or
particular field of observation which may have suggested the plot, the
scenery, or the characters. One can thus see that Thackeray's mind,
like his sketch-book, was constantly taking down vivid impressions of
people and places, and in some of his notes of travel can be easily
traced the sources whence he took hints for elaborate studies. But
under this arrangement the chronology becomes here and there somewhat
entangled. _Pendennis_, for example, was finished in 1850, but as the
hero's life at Oxbridge is described in the novel, its introduction
takes us back to the period when the writer himself was at Cambridge
in 1829. _Vanity Fair_, again, written in 1845, contains a well-known
episode of Dobbin's school life, and the story carries us more than
once to the Continent; so the introduction gives us recollections of
Charterhouse, where Thackeray went in 1822, and of travels about
Germany in the early thirties. The _Contributions to Punch_, which
form the sixth volume of this series, began in 1842, and lasted ten
years. They provide occasion for many diverting anecdotes, and for
references to his colleagues who founded the fortunes of that most
successful of comic papers; but as on this plan the biographical lines
cross and recross each other it is not easy for the reader to obtain a
connected or comprehensive view of Thackeray's career. Nevertheless as
the system fortunately affords room and reason for giving many fresh
details of his daily life, with some of his letters, or extracts from
them, which are fresh and amusing, we may cheerfully pass over these
petty drawbacks. We are heartily thankful for our admission to a
closer acquaintance with an author who has drawn some immortal
pictures of English society, its manners, prejudices, and
characteristic types, in novels that will always hold the first rank
in our lighter literature.

How his boyhood was passed is tolerably well known already. Returning
home in childhood from India he was put first to a preparatory school,
and afterwards, for nigh seven years, to Charterhouse. At eighteen he
went up to Cambridge, where he spoke in the Union, wrote in university
magazines, criticised Shelley's _Revolt of Islam_, 'a beautiful poem,
though the story is absurd,' and composed a parody on Tennyson's prize
poem, _Timbuctoo_. In 1830 he travelled in Germany, and had his
interview at Weimar with Goethe; and from 1831 we find him settled in
a London pleader's office, reading law with temporary assiduity,
frequenting the theatres and Caves of Harmony, making many literary
acquaintances, taking runs into the country to canvass for Charles
Buller, and trying his 'prentice hand at journalism. His vocation for
literature speedily damped his legal ardour, and drew him out of Mr.
Tapsell's chambers, where he left a desk full of sketches and
caricatures. In May 1832 he wrote: 'This lawyer's preparatory
education is certainly one of the most cold-blooded, prejudicial
pieces of invention that ever a man was slave to;' and he longs for
fresh air and fresh butter. By August he had fled to Paris, where he
read French, worked at a painter's _atelier_, and took seriously to
the work of a newspaper correspondent. On the romantic school, which
was just then at its height, he makes the following remark, which
betrays the antipathy to artificial and theatrical tendencies in
literature that always provoked his satire:

     'In the time of Voltaire the heroes of poetry and drama were fine
     gentlemen; in the days of Victor Hugo they bluster about in velvet
     and mustachios and gold chains, but they seem in nowise more
     poetical than their rigid predecessors.'

He had little taste, in fact, for mediævalism in any shape, and 'old
Montaigne' was more to his liking. We are told, also, that he became
absorbed in Cousin's _Philosophy_, noting upon it that 'the excitement
of metaphysics must equal almost that of gambling'; and finding,
perhaps, no great attraction in either. After his marriage in 1836 he
settled down in London, devoting himself thenceforward to literature
as a profession; the _Yellowplush Papers_, published in 1837 by
_Fraser's Magazine_, being his earliest contribution of any length or
significance. In the introductory chapter Mrs. Ritchie says:

     'I hardly know--nor, if I knew, should I care to give here--the
     names and the details of the events which suggested some of the
     _Yellowplush Papers_. The history of Mr. Deuceace was written from
     life during a very early period of my father's career. Nor can one
     wonder that his views were somewhat grim at that particular time,
     and still bore the impress of an experience lately and very dearly
     bought.... As a boy he had lost money at cards to some cardsharpers
     who scraped acquaintance with him. He never blinked at the truth or
     spared himself; but neither did he blind himself to the real
     characters of the people in question, when once he had discovered
     them. His villains became curious studies in human nature; he
     turned them over in his mind, and he caused Deuceace, Barry Lyndon,
     and Ikey Solomons, Esq., to pay back some of their ill-gotten
     spoils, in an involuntary but very legitimate fashion, when he put
     them into print and made them the heroes of those grim early

We may infer from this passage that Thackeray's mind acted not only as
a microscope but as a magnifying glass; he had an eye, as one knows,
for characteristic details, and it appears that he could also enlarge
the small fry of scoundrelism into magnificent rascals. There can be
no doubt that he had the image-making faculty of sensitive genius, and
that much of all he saw and felt went to fill up his canvas and fix
his point of view. Writing to his mother, he once said, 'It is the
fashion to say that people are unfortunate who have lost their money.
Dearest mother, we know better than that;' though 'for years and years
he had to face the great question of daily bread.' But while he could
battle stoutly against losses of this kind, he had no mercy on the
rogues who caused them; and his indignation, accentuated by the strain
of married life on a very narrow income, may account in some degree
for the cynical tone, now sombre, now mocking, which so perceptibly
dominates his earlier writings, and pervades all his books, though in
a lesser and more tolerant way, up to the end. Against this shaded
background, however, we may set many kindly figures, and the contrast
is heightened by the humorous joviality which finds vent in his
talent for caricature. To this we owe the full-length portrait of
Major Gahagan, and a whole gallery of other drawings, usually of
Irishmen, which have been the delight of innumerable readers. The
striking alternation between two extremes of character and conduct,
between tragedy and farce, between ridiculous meanness and pathetic
unselfishness, is to be found in all his novels, though in his later
and finer work it is controlled and tempered to more artistic
proportions. But in the productions of his youth the darker tints so
predominate as to disconcert the judgment of a generation which has
become habituated, at the present day, to a less energetic and
uncompromising style of exposing fools and gibbeting knaves. And after
making due allowance for those indescribable differences of taste
which separate us from our fathers in every region of art--and even
admitting, what is by no means sure, that sixty years ago rascality,
snobbery, and humbug were more rampant in society than nowadays--we
are still disposed to regret that a writer whose best work is
superlatively good should have dwelt so persistently in his earlier
stories upon the dreary and ignoble side of English life. From some
passages in them it might be inferred by foreigners that the better
born Englishmen habitually indulged in rudeness toward their social
inferiors, and that English domestics in good houses broke out into
vulgar insolence whenever they could do so with impunity.

Take, for an example, in the scene from _The Great Hoggarty Diamond_,
the behaviour of Mr. Preston, 'one of her Majesty's Secretaries of
State,' to an underbred but good-tempered little city clerk, whom Lady
Drum takes in her carriage for a drive in Hyde Park, and whom she
hints he might ask to dinner. Mr. Preston acts on the hint, but with
savage sarcasm, and Titmarsh, the clerk, accepts in order to plague
the minister for his astounding rudeness:

     '"I did not," he says, "intend to dine with the man, but only to
     give him a lesson in manners."'

And so, when the carriage drove up to Mr. Preston's door, he says to

     '"When you came up and asked who the devil I was, I thought you
     might have put the question in a more polite manner, but it wasn't
     my business to speak. When, by way of a joke, you invited me to
     dinner, I answered in a joke too, and here I am. But don't be
     frightened, I'm not agoing to dine with you."...

     '"Is that all, sir?" says Mr. Preston, still in a rage. "If you
     have done, will you leave the house, or shall my servants turn you
     out? Turn out this fellow; do you hear me?"'

Assuming that sixty years ago a Secretary of State was much the same
sort of man that he is to-day, what are we to think of this spirited
colloquy? and what kind of impression will it, and others no less
forcible, produce upon the future student of manners who turns to
light literature as the mirror of contemporary society?

With regard, again, to the _Yellowplush Papers_, is it from
unpardonable fastidiousness, the affectation of an over-refined
literary taste, that we are inclined to question whether they have
been wisely preserved in standard editions of so great a novelist? The
use of ludicrously distorted spelling intensifies the impression of
ignorant vulgarity, and there is a moral lesson in the story of Mr.
Deuceace that atones in some degree for the very low company whom we
meet in it. But the labour of deciphering the ugly words, and the
cheerless atmosphere of sordid vice and servility which they are most
appropriately used to describe, are so unfamiliar to contemporary
novel-readers that we think few will master two hundred pages of this
dialect in the present edition. On the whole, after renewing our old
acquaintance with Mr. Jeames, with Captain Rook and Mr. Pigeon, with
Mr. Stubbs of the Fatal Boots, and others of the same kidney, we doubt
whether these immature character sketches, which all belong to the
author's first and most Hogarthian manner, do not range below the
legitimate boundaries of literature as a fine art, and whether they do
not much rather harm than heighten his permanent reputation when they
are placed on a line with his masterpieces by formal reproduction. It
is impossible to take much interest in personages with an unbroken
record of profligacy and baseness; and we are reminded of the
Aristotelian maxim that pure wickedness is no subject for dramatic

Yet we are aware that it may be practically impossible to publish
incomplete editions of a very popular writer; and in the extravagances
of his youth one may discern the promise of much higher things. Very
rapidly, in fact, in the work which comes next, Thackeray rises at
once to a far superior level of artistic performance. We are not
indisposed to endorse the opinion, pronounced more than once by good
judges, that the high-water mark of his peculiar genius was touched by
_Barry Lyndon_, which first exhibits the rare and distinctive
qualities that were completely developed in his later and larger
novels. It may be affirmed, as a general rule, that most of our
eminent writers of fiction have leapt, as Scott did, into the arena
with some work of first-class merit, which has immediately caught
public attention and established their position in literature. Their
fugitive pieces, their crudities and imperfect essays, have been
either judiciously suppressed or consigned to oblivion. They have
followed, one may say, the goodly custom prescribed by the governor
of the Cana marriage feast; they put forth in the beginning their good
wine, and they fall back upon inferior brands only when the public,
having well drunk of the potent vintage, will swallow anything from a
favourite author. We may regret that Thackeray's start as a man of
letters should have furnished an exception to this salutary rule; and
in surveying, after the lapse of many years, his collected works, we
are disposed to observe that no first-class writer has suffered more
from the enduring popularity which has encouraged the republication of
everything that is his, from the finished _chefs-d'oeuvres_ down to
the ephemeral and unripe products of an exuberant youth. He would have
given the world a notable confirmation of the rule that a great author
usually leads off on a high note, if he had opened his munificent
literary entertainment with _Barry Lyndon_. We quote here from Mrs.
Ritchie's introduction:

     'My father once said to me when I was a girl, "You needn't read
     _Barry Lyndon_; you won't like it." Indeed it is scarcely a book to
     _like_, but one to admire and to wonder at for its consummate power
     and mastery.... Barry Lyndon tells his own story, so as to enlist
     every sympathy against himself, and yet all flows so plausibly, so
     glibly, that one can hardly explain how the effect was produced.
     From the very first sentence, almost, one receives the impression
     of a lawless adventurer, brutal, heartless, with low instincts and
     rapid perceptions. Together with his own autobiography, he gives a
     picture of the world in which he lives and brags, a picture so
     vivid ... that as one reads one almost seems to hear the tread of
     remorseless fate sounding through all the din and merriment. Take
     those descriptions of the Prussian army during the Seven Years'
     War, and of that hand of man which weighs so heavily upon man--what
     a haunting page in history!'

These remarks are very justly appreciative, for the book stamps
Thackeray as a fine impressionist, as an artist who skilfully mixes
the colours of reality and imagination into a composition of striking
scenes and the effective portrayal of character. With extraordinary
ability and consistency to the type he works out the gradual evolution
of a wild Irish boy, hot-headed in love and fighting, full of daring
impetuosity and ignorant vanity, into the ruffianly soldier, the
intrepid professional gambler, and finally into the selfish
profligate, who marries a great heiress and sets up as a county
magnate. Instead of the mere unadulterated villainy and meanness which
were impersonated in his previous stories, we have here the complex
strength and weakness of real human nature; we have the whole action
lifted above the platform of city swindlers, insignificant scoundrels,
and needy cardsharpers, up to a stage exhibiting historic personages
and scenes, courts and battlefields; and we breathe freely in the
wider air of immorality on a grand scale. As a sample of spirited
freehand drawing, the sketches of Continental society, 'before that
vulgar Corsican upset the gentry of the world,' are admirable for
their force and originality; and what can be better as a touch of
character than the following defence of his profession by a prince of

     'I speak of the good old days of Europe, before the cowardice of
     the French aristocracy (in the shameful Revolution, which served
     them right) brought ruin on our order.... You call a doctor an
     honourable man--a swindling quack, who does not believe in the
     nostrums which he prescribes, and takes your guinea for whispering
     in your ear that it's a fine morning; and yet, forsooth, a gallant
     man who sits him down before the baize and challenges all comers,
     his money against theirs, his fortune against theirs, is proscribed
     by your modern moral world. It is a conspiracy of the middle
     classes against gentlemen; it is only the shopkeeper cant which is
     to go down nowadays. I say that play was an institution of
     chivalry; it has been wrecked along with other privileges of men of

Here we have the romance of the gaming-table; and in the same chapter
Barry Lyndon recounts the evil chance that befell him at cards with
two young students, who had never played before:

     'As ill luck would have it, they were tipsy, and against tipsiness
     I have often found the best calculations of play fail entirely. A
     few officers joined; they played in the most perfectly insane way,
     and won always.... And in this ignoble way, in a tavern room thick
     with tobacco smoke, across a deal table besmeared with beer and
     liquor, and to a parcel of hungry subalterns and beardless
     students, three of the most skilful and renowned players in Europe
     lost seventeen hundred louis. It was like Charles xii. or Richard
     Coeur de Lion falling before a petty fortress and an unknown

The picture of gamblers in a grimy tavern, the unconscious humour of
Lyndon's heroic lament, the comparison between the cardsharpers'
discomfiture and the fall of mighty warriors, make up a fine example
of Thackeray's eye for graphic detail, and prove the force and temper
of his incisive irony.

Yet, in spite of its great excellence, the book still labours under
the artistic disadvantage of having a rogue for its hero. Thackeray
was too good an artist to be unconscious of this defect, and in a
footnote to page 215 he defends his choice characteristically. After
admitting that Mr. Lyndon maltreated his lady in every possible way,
bullied her, robbed her to spend the money in gambling and taverns,
kept mistresses in her house, and so on, he argues:

     'The world contains scores of such amiable people, and, indeed, it
     is because justice has not been done them that we have edited this
     autobiography. Had it been that of a mere hero of romance--one of
     those heroic youths who figure in the novels of Scott or James,
     there would have been no call to introduce the reader to a
     personage already so often and so charmingly depicted. Mr. Barry is
     not, we repeat, a hero of the common pattern; but let the reader
     look round and ask himself, "Do not as many rogues succeed in life
     as honest men, more fools than men of talent?" And is it not just
     that the lives of this class should be described by the students of
     human nature as well as the actions of those fairy-tale princes,
     those perfectly impossible heroes,' etc., etc.

One would be almost inclined to infer from this passage that the
author had identified himself so completely with his own creation as
to have become slightly infected with Mr. Barry Lyndon's sophistry;
for it is impossible to maintain seriously that rogues and fools are
no less successful in life than men of honesty and talent. But the
truth is that Thackeray found in a daring rogue a much finer subject
for character-drawing than in the blameless hero, while he was deeply
implicated in the formidable revolt which Carlyle was leading against
the respectabilities of that day.

It is worth notice that in Barry Lyndon's military reminiscences, done
with great vigour and fidelity of detail, we have a very early example
of the realistic as contrasted with the romantic treatment of
campaigns, of life in the bivouac and the barrack. This method, which
has latterly had immense vogue, seems to have been first invented in
France, where Thackeray may have taken the hint from Stendhal; but we
are disposed to believe that he was the first who proclaimed it in
England. As it professes to give the true unvarnished aspect of war it
would certainly have accorded with Thackeray's natural contempt, so
often shown in his writings, for the commonplaces of the military
romancer who revelled in the pomp and circumstance of glorious
battles, the charges, the heroic exploits, the honours, rather than
the horrors, of the fighting business. Moreover, it is not only in
style and treatment but also in sentiment and in certain peculiar
prepossessions, that we can trace in this novel the lines which the
writer followed throughout his narratives, and his favourite
delineations of character. For diplomatists he has always a curious
contempt, and he never misses an opportunity of ridiculing them. 'Mon
Dieu,' says Lyndon, 'what fools they are; what dullards, what
fribbles, what addle-headed coxcombs; this is one of the lies of the
world, this diplomacy'--as if it were not also a most important and
difficult branch of the national services. Abject reverence of great
folk he regarded as the besetting disease of middle-class Englishmen;
and so we find Lyndon remarking, by the way, that Mr. Hunt, Lord
Bullingdon's governor, 'being a college tutor and an Englishman, was
ready to go on his knees to any one who resembled a man of fashion.'
And the kindly cynicism which discoloured Thackeray's ideas about
women, notwithstanding his tender admiration and love for the best of
them, comes out pointedly in old Sir Charles Lyndon's advice to Barry
on the subject of matrimony:

     'Get a friend, sir, and that friend a woman, a good household
     drudge, who loves you. _That_ is the most precious sort of
     friendship, for the expense of it is all on the woman's side. The
     man need not contribute anything. If he's a rogue, she'll vow he's
     an angel; if he's a brute, she will like him all the better for his
     ill-treatment of her. They like it, sir, these women; they are born
     to be our greatest comforts and conveniences, our moral boot-jacks,
     as it were.'

Barry Lyndon discloses the promise and potency of Thackeray's genius.
In _Vanity Fair_, his next work, it has attained its climax; the
dramatic figures are more finely conceived, the plot is varied and
more skilfully elaborated, the actors more numerous and life-like; and
whereas in his preceding stories he has mainly used the form of a
fictitious memoir, whereby the hero is made to tell his own tale, in
this 'Novel without a Hero' the author proceeds by narration. The tone
is still governed by irony and pathos, wherein Thackeray chiefly
excels; yet the contrasts between weak and strong natures, the
superiority of honesty and the moral sense over craftiness and
unscrupulous cleverness, are now touched off with a lighter and surer
hand. The unmitigated villain and the coarse-tongued hard-hearted
virago have disappeared with other primitive stage properties; the
human comedy is played by men and women of the upper world, with their
virtues and frailties sufficiently set in relief, yet not exaggerated,
for the purposes of the social drama. The book's very title, _Vanity
Fair_, denotes a transition from the scathing satire of his earlier
manner to more indulgent irony, from Swift to Sterne, two authors whom
Thackeray had evidently studied attentively. In his short preface the
author preludes with the gentler note when he invites people of a
lazy, benevolent, or sarcastic mood to step into the puppet show for a
moment and look at the performance.

The book's success, Mrs. Ritchie tells us, was slow; the sale hung
fire. 'One has heard of the journeys which the manuscript made to
various publishers' houses before it could find any one ready to
undertake the venture, and how long its appearance was delayed by
various doubts and hesitations, until it was at last brought out in
its yellow covers by Messrs. Bradbury and Evans on January 1, 1847.'
But when the last numbers were appearing Thackeray wrote that,
'although it does everything but sell, it appears really to increase
my reputation immensely'--as it assuredly did. That a signal success
in literature is nearly always achieved, not by following the beaten
road, but by a bold departure from it, is a principle that could be
abundantly established by examples, and which seems almost a truism
when it is stated. _Vanity Fair_ was decidedly a work of great
freshness and originality; but publishers are circumspect and rarely
adventurous, they distrust novelties and prefer to follow the
prevailing fashion as far as it will go, wherein we may discern one
reason why the accouchement of the first literary child is usually so

To criticise at length any single novel of Thackeray's would be far
beyond the scope or purpose of this article. Our object is rather to
illustrate the course and development of his distinctive literary
qualities, the slow effacement of prejudices which never entirely
disappeared, and the rapid expansion of his highest artistic
faculties. To begin with the prejudices. In _Vanity Fair_ he still
makes merciless war upon the poor paltry snob, whom one must suppose
to have infested English society of that day in a very rampant form;
though unless we have had great changes for the better in the last
fifty years, one might suspect exaggeration. And another important
reform of manners must have supervened in the same period if we are to
believe that in these novels the English servant is not unfairly
caricatured. As we know him at the present day, in the class that
lives with gentle-folk, he may be touchy and troublesome, with much
self-assertiveness, but also with much self-respect. He has as many
faults as other people, but among them brutal rudeness is practically
unknown; yet when Rebecca Sharp is driven in Mr. Sedley's carriage to
Sir Pitt Crawley's, having given nothing to the domestics on leaving
the Sedleys, the coachman is ludicrously rude to a poor governess.

     '"I shall write to Mr. Sedley, and inform him of your conduct,"
     said Miss Sharp to him.

     '"Don't," replied that functionary; "I hope you've forgot nothink?
     Miss 'Melia's gownds--have you got them--as the lady's maid was to
     have 'ad? I hope they'll fit you. Shut the door, Jim, you'll get no
     good out of _'er_," continued John, pointing with his thumb towards
     Miss Sharp; "a bad lot, I tell you, a bad lot."'

One may conjecture that Thackeray's natural turn for comic burlesque,
which comes out so plainly in his drawings, had become ingrained and
inveterate by early practice, and certainly his immoderate delight in
setting snobs and flunkeys on a pillory became a flaw in the
perfection of his higher composition. It might well produce, among
foreigners at any rate, an unreal impression of the true relations
existing between different classes of English society.

But these are slight blemishes upon the surface of an epoch-making
book, for _Vanity Fair_ inaugurated a new school of novel-writing
in this country, with its combined vigour and subtlety of
character-drawing, and with the marvellous dexterity of its scenes and
dramatic situations. The army and military life in all its phases had
a remarkable attraction for him; in all his larger books one or more
officers are brought prominently upon the foreground of his canvas. He
hits off the strong and weak points of the profession, in war and
peace, with a truth and humour that gave freshness and originality to
the whole subject, and the best of these pictures are in _Vanity
Fair_. There is not one of its leading _militaires_--Dobbin and
Osborne, Crawley and Major O'Dowd--in whom a typical representative of
well-known varieties may not be recognised. His fine picturesque
handiwork, his consistent preference of the real to the romantic, and
his reserve in the use of such tempting materials as the battlefield
affords to the story-teller, are shown in his treatment of the episode
of Waterloo. He is far too good an artist to lay out for us a grand
scene of fierce fighting and carnage; nor does he, like Lever, produce
Wellington and Bonaparte acting or speaking up to the popular
conception of these mighty heroes. He is content to follow his own
personages into that famous field, and to show how perilous
circumstance brings out the force or feebleness of each character,
male and female, whether of the wives left behind at Brussels, or the
soldiers in the fighting line at Waterloo. It is only at the end of
his chapter, after some seriocomic incidents and dialogues exhibiting
the behaviour of the non-combatants--of Jos Sedley, Mrs. O'Dowd, Lady
Bareacres, and the rest--that his narrative rises suddenly to the epic
note in a brief passage full of admirable energy and pathos:

     'All our friends took their share and fought like men in the great
     field. All day long, whilst the women were praying ten miles away,
     the lines of the dauntless English infantry were receiving and
     repelling the furious charges of the French horsemen. Guns which
     were heard at Brussels were ploughing up their ranks, and comrades
     falling, and the resolute survivors closing in. Toward evening the
     attack of the French, repeated and resisted so bravely, slackened
     in its fury ... they were preparing for a final onset. It came at
     last, the columns of the Imperial Guard marched up the hill of St.
     Jean.... Unscared by the thunder of the artillery, which hurled
     death from the English line, the dark rolling column pressed on and
     up the hill. It seemed almost to crest the eminence, when it began
     to wave and falter. Then it stopped, still facing the shot. Then at
     last the English troops rushed from the post from which no enemy
     had been able to dislodge them, and the Guard turned and fled.

     'No more firing was heard at Brussels; the pursuit rolled miles
     away. Darkness came down on the field and city; and Amelia was
     praying for George who was lying on his face, dead, with a bullet
     through his heart.'

The military critic might pick holes in this description, and
Thackeray might as well have thrown the English infantry into squares
instead of into line. Yet the passage is instinct with compressed
emotion; and the sudden transition from the general battle to the
single death is a good touch of tragic art.

In _Pendennis_ (1850) we may discern the slowly softening influences
of years that bring the philosophic mind, of a calmer and easier time,
and perhaps also of a different class of readers. Thackeray has now
discovered that, as he says in his preface, 'to describe a real rascal
you must make him too hideous to show;' and that 'Society will not
tolerate the Natural in our Art.' Even the attempt to describe, in
_Pendennis_, one of 'the gentlemen of our age, no better nor worse
than most educated men,' has startled the prudery of the public for
whom he now finds himself writing. 'Many ladies have remonstrated, and
subscribers left me, because, in the course of the story, I described
a young man resisting and affected by temptation.' Here, again, is
another instance of the changes which rules of taste and convention
may undergo in the course of a generation; for surely not even the
straitest middle-class sect would in our day banish _Pendennis_ on the
score of impropriety. Mrs. Ritchie mentions that the author's
descriptions of literary life were criticised on the ground that he
was trying to win favour with the non-literary classes by decrying his
own profession--an absurd accusation which nettled him into replying.
The truth seems to be that Thackeray, who poked fun at the weak sides
of every class and calling, saw no reason why he should leave out his
own; and the men of letters might have been comforted by observing
that he dealt with them much more tenderly than with their natural
enemy the publisher, who has taken philosophically, for all we have
ever heard, the unmerciful caricatures of Bungay and Bacon in
Paternoster Row. Yet it may have been annoying to find such a writer
confidentially whispering to his readers 'that there is no race of
people who talk about books, or perhaps read books, so little as
literary men.'

_Pendennis_ is in Thackeray's best style, as the novelist of manners.
It opens, like _Vanity Fair_, with a short amusing scene that poses,
as the French say, some leading actor in the play, and encourages the
reader to go on. Next follows, as is usual with our author, a short
retrospective account of the people and places among whom the plot is
laid, with a descriptive pedigree of his hero. In his habit of setting
his portraits in a framework of family history (compare the Crawleys,
the Newcomes, the Esmonds) he resembles, though with less prolixity,
Balzac, and he displays much knowledge and observation of English
provincial life. He is, we imagine, the first high-class writer who
brought the Bohemian, possibly an importation from France, into the
English novel; and the contrast between the seedy strolling adventurer
and strait-laced respectability provides him with material for
inexhaustible irony, with much good-natured sympathy for the waifs and
strays. He has always a soft corner in his heart for reckless
hardihood; and every one must be glad that his 'poor friend Colonel
Altamont,' who had been doomed to execution, was respited at the last
moment, as Thackeray tells us in his preface, on the very technical
plea that the author had not sufficient experience of gaol-birds and
the gallows. Merciful good nature toward a daring scamp, who was free
with his money and kind to women, was probably at the bottom of the
condonation. We know from a paper, reproduced (to our thinking
unnecessarily) in one of these volumes, that in 1840 Thackeray went to
see Courvoisier hanged, and was so much upset by the spectacle that he
prayed for the abolition of capital punishment to wipe out its stain
of national blood-guiltiness. It may be noticed, moreover, that his
stern denunciation of crime and folly has by this time settled down
into a philosophic mood that is almost fatalistic, as when he suggests
that 'circumstance only brings out the latent defect or quality, and
does not create it'; that 'our mental changes are, like our grey hairs
and wrinkles, no more than the fulfilment of the plan of mortal growth
and decay,' so that each man is born with the natural seed of fortune
or failure. The voyage of life

     'has been prosperous, and you are riding into port, the people
     huzzaing and the guns saluting, and the lucky captain bows from the
     ship's side, and there is a care under the star on his breast that
     nobody knows of; or you are wrecked and lashed, hopeless, to a
     solitary spar out at sea; the sinking man and the successful one
     are thinking each about home, very likely, and remembering the time
     when they were children; alone on the hopeless spar, drowning out
     of sight; alone in the midst of the crowd applauding you.'

In such fine passages as these we hear the elegiac strain of the
antique world, wherein remorseless fate held dominion over human
efforts and destiny. Like other great writers who are touched with
humorous melancholy, he falls often into the moralising vein; he stops
his narrative to address his reader with some ironical observation,
after the manner of Fielding, whose leisurely tone of satire is so
audible in the following quotation from _Pendennis_ that he might well
have written it:

     'Even his child, his cruel Emily, he would have taken to his heart
     and forgiven with tears; and what more can one say of the Christian
     charity of a man than that he is actually ready to forgive those
     who have done him every kindness, and with whom he is wrong in a

As we have said that _Vanity Fair_ touches the climax of Thackeray's
peculiar genius, so in our judgment _Esmond_ shows the gathered
strength and maturity of his literary power, and has won for him an
eminent place in the distinguished order of historical novelists. We
may say that the art of historical romance was brought to perfection
in our own century, although French writers trace far back into the
eighteenth century, and even further, the method of weaving authentic
events and famous personages into the tissue of a story which turns
upon fictitious adventures in love and war. The elder novelists dealt
largely in extravagant sentiment, in conventional language, and in
marvellous exploits embroidered upon the sober chronicles which served
as the framework of their drama; they were content to set upon stilts
the traditional hero or heroine of former days, whose ideas and
conversation expressed with little disguise the manners, not of the
period to which they belonged, but of the author's own time and of the
society for whom he was writing. These books are, therefore, full of
glaring anachronisms and improbabilities; the knights and dames are
sometimes (as in the _Grand Cyrus_) thinly veiled portraits of
contemporary notabilities, but they are often mere lay figures
representing the prevailing fashions of thought and feeling. The
virtuous hero abounds in judicious reflections; the heroines are
chaste and beauteous damsels--Joan of Arc herself appears in one
romance as an adorable shepherdess--and love-making is conducted after
the model of a Parisian _précieuse_.

It is the opinion of a recent French critic, who has made careful
study of his subject, that the new school was founded by
Chateaubriand, who first, at the last century's end, laid an axe to
the root of all this rhetorical artifice, these frigid and grotesque
incongruities, and filled his romances with local colour, stamping
them with the impress of reality and conformity to nature, by
picturesque reproduction of the landscape, costumes, usages, and
conditions of existence of the time and country in which he might be
unwinding his tale. But Chateaubriand, like Byron (who was of a
similar temperament), never could put himself, to use a French phrase,
into another man's skin; he is to be detected soliloquising and
dispensing noble sentiments under the costume of a Christian martyr or
an American savage, and thus the fidelity of his scene-painting was
still marred by the artificiality of the discourse. It was the
Waverley novel that lifted the historical romance far beyond
Chateaubriand's level, that established it, in England, France, and
Italy on the true principle of creating vivid representations of a
bygone age by a skilful mixture of fact and fiction, and by a correct
and harmonious combination of characters, manners, and environment.

But during the twenty years that intervene between the dates, taken
roughly, of Scott's worst novel and Thackeray's best, the flood tide
of romanticism had risen to its highest point, and had then ebbed very
low, on both sides of the British Channel. And we can see that the
younger writer was no votary of the older school of high-flying
chivalrous romance, with its tournaments, its crusaders, its valiant
warriors, and distressed maidens. His youthful aversion for shams and
conventionalities, his strong propensity toward burlesque and
persiflage, his early life among cities and commonplace folk, seem to
have obscured in some degree his appreciation of even such splendid
compositions as _Ivanhoe_ or _The Talisman_; or, at any rate, his
sense of the ridiculous overpowered his admiration. The result was
that, as Scott had exalted his mediæval heroes and heroines far above
the level of real life, had revived the legendary age of chivalry and
adventure with all the magnificence of his poetic imagination,
Thackeray had at first set himself, conversely, to strip the trappings
off these fine folk, and to poke his fun at the feudal lords and
ladies by treating them as ordinary middle-class men and women
masquerading in old armour or drapery. He came in as a writer on the
ebb-tide of romanticism, when the reaction showed its popular form in
a curious outburst of the taste for burlesques and parodies on the
stage and in the light reading of the time. Whether the creation of
this taste is to be ascribed to the appearance of two writers with
such genius for wit and fun as Thackeray and Dickens, or whether they
only supplied a natural demand, may be questionable; they undoubtedly
headed the army of Comus, and thereby raised the whole standard of
facetious literature. But the defect of this school was its propensity
to take a hilarious or sardonic view, not only of mediæval romance,
but of quaint old times generally; and one leading embodiment of this
mocking spirit was _Punch_ founded in 1841. A'Beckett's _Comic History
of England_, which ran through many numbers, seems to this generation
a dreary and deleterious specimen of misplaced farce; though
historically it is not quite such bad work as Dickens's _Child's
History of England_, which he meant to be serious. Among Thackeray's
very numerous contributions to _Punch_ are _Miss Tickletoby's Lectures
on English History_, which might well have been consigned to
oblivion, _Rebecca and Rowena_, and _The Prize Novelists_. The
sarcastic and the sentimental temper must always be hostile to each
other; between romance and ridicule the antipathy is fundamental; and
although one regrets that he ever wrote _Rebecca and Rowena_, the
melodramatic novels of Bulwer-Lytton were fair enough game for the
parodist. However, it is certain that in his earlier writings
Thackeray did much to laugh away the novel of mediæval chivalry; and
while we think he often carried his irreverent jocosity much too far,
since after all chivalry is better than cockneyism, we may award him
the very high honour of becoming, latterly, one of the founders of a
new and admirable historical school in England.

The eighteenth century was always Thackeray's favourite period; he
liked the rational, unpretentious tone of its best literature, its
practical politics and tolerance, its common sense, and its habit of
keeping very close, in art as in action, to the realities of the world
as we find it. Swift is the most unromantic of any writer that
possessed great imaginative faculty; Defoe was a master of minute
life-like detail, an inimitable imitator of truth; Hogarth's paintings
are like Wesley's or Whitefield's sermons, they are stern, unvarnished
denunciations of vice and profligacy; Fielding was the easy,
large-hearted moralist, who hated above all sins cant and knavery,
loved to banter the parsons, to bring fops and boobies upon his stage,
and to place in contrast the wide difference that then separated
manners in town and in country. Perhaps Thackeray owes more to
Fielding than to any other single literary ancestor; but all these
influences were most congenial to his temperament, and informed his
best work. His instinctive dislike of unreality, exaggeration, and
fanciful ideals would have always prevented him from laying the
situation of his story in some distant age, of which hardly anything
is known accurately, and supplementing his ignorance by giving free
scope to fantastic invention, as was the usage of the humble followers
who tried in vain to conjure with the wand of Scott. He required a
period which he could study, master, and sympathise with, and he found
it in the eighteenth century; though in _Esmond_ the plot, being
founded on Jacobite intrigues and conspiracies, opens with the
Revolution of 1688. He had taken great trouble, as usual, with the
localities, knowing well that you never understand a battle clearly
until you have seen its field.

     '"I was pleased to find Blenheim," he wrote to his mother, "was
     just exactly the place I had figured to myself, except that the
     village is larger; but I fancied I had actually been there, so like
     the aspect of it was to what I looked for. I saw the brook which
     Harry Esmond crossed, and almost the spot where he fell wounded."'

Mrs. Ritchie quotes this letter as illustrating 'a sort of second
sight as to places which my father used to speak of'; and it certainly
attests his possession of the strong imaginative faculty which puts
together vivid mental pictures.

The first page strikes the note of disenchantment, of escape from the
spell of conventionalism and the shores of romance. Colonel Esmond,
who tells his own tale, wishes the Muse of History to disrobe, to
discard her buskins, and to deliver herself like a woman of the
everyday world.

     'I wonder shall History ever pull off her periwig and cease to be
     court-ridden? Shall we see something of France and England besides
     Versailles and Windsor? I saw Queen Anne tearing down the Park
     slopes after her staghounds, in her one-horse chaise--a hot
     redfaced woman.... She was neither better bred nor wiser than you
     and me, though we knelt to hand her a letter or a washhand basin.
     Why shall History go on kneeling to the end of time? I am for
     having her rise off her knees, and take her natural posture, not to
     be for ever performing cringes and congees like a Court
     chamberlain, and shuffling backward out of doors in the presence of
     the sovereign. In a word, I would have History familiar rather than

No very deep philosophy in this, we might say, for surely historians
up to Esmond's day had not all been pompous and servile, while
something like dignity is desirable. But here we have Thackeray
speaking through Esmond his own thoughts about history, and
proclaiming the rise of naturalism against the romantic high-heeled
school. And in a much later chapter, where Esmond visits Addison, we
have the true realistic method of Tolstoi and other quite modern
novelists, as compared with the old classic style of describing war.
Addison has been writing a poem on the Blenheim campaign:

     '"I admire your art," says Esmond to Addison; "the murder of the
     campaign is done to military music, like a battle at the opera, and
     the virgins shriek in harmony, as our victorious grenadiers march
     into their villages. Do you know what a scene it was? what a
     triumph you are celebrating, what scenes of shame and horror were
     enacted, over which the commander's genius presided as calm as
     though he didn't belong to our sphere? You talk of 'the listening
     soldier fixed in sorrow,' the 'leader's grief swayed by generous
     pity'; to my belief the leader cared no more for bleating flocks
     than he did for infants' cries, and many of our ruffians butchered
     one or the other with equal alacrity. You hew out of your polished
     verses a stately image of smiling victory; I tell you 'tis an
     uncouth, distorted, savage idol, hideous, bloody, and barbarous.
     The rites performed before it are shocking to think of. You great
     poets should show it as it is, ugly and horrible, not beautiful and

When Colonel Esmond has to describe the battles in which he himself
took part, he avoids, as might be supposed, the high romantic style.
But he does not, therefore, fall on the other side, into the mire of
the writers who at the present day conscientiously give us the horrors
of the hospital and all the brutalities of war, which Esmond knows,
but does not choose to set down in his memoir. In his account of the
Blenheim victory there is a skilful touch of the professional soldier,
who records briefly the position of the armies and the tactical
movements; and it lights up with suppressed enthusiasm when he records
the intrepidity of the English regiments in that fierce and famous
struggle. We read of Major-General Wilkes,

     'on foot, at the head of the attacking column, marching with his
     hat off intrepidly in the face of the enemy, who was pouring in a
     tremendous fire from his guns and musketry, to which our people
     were instructed not to reply except with pike and bayonet when they
     reached the French palisades. To these Wilkes walked intrepidly,
     and struck the woodwork with his sword before our people charged
     it. He was shot down on the instant, with his colonel, major, and
     several officers,'

and the assault was repelled with great slaughter.

In this and other similar passages, you have the historic novelist at
his best; the true facts are selected and arranged so as to form
pictures of soul-stirring action; while their connection with his
story is maintained by giving Esmond himself a very modest and natural
share in the glorious victory:

     'And now the conquerors were met by a furious charge of the English
     horse under Esmond's general, Lumley, behind whose squadrons the
     flying foot took refuge and formed again, while Lumley drove back
     the French horse, charging up to the village of Blenheim and the
     palisades where Wilkes, and many hundred more gallant Englishmen,
     lay in slaughtered heaps. Beyond this moment, and of this famous
     victory, Mr. Esmond knows nothing, for a shot brought down his
     horse and our young gentleman on it, who fell crushed and stunned
     under the animal.'

A lesser artist would have made his hero perform some brilliant
exploit; but Thackeray prefers to sketch the scene as Wouvermans might
have done it. We have not here the incomparable fire and spirit which
Scott throws into the skirmishes at Bothwell Brig and Drumclog; we see
the difference of mind and method; but we can have nothing except
admiration for the rare imaginative faculty which enabled a quiet man
of letters to deal so finely and faithfully, with such reserve and
discrimination, with a subject that might easily have been spoiled by
the noisy clatter and coarse colouring of the inferior artist. His
full length portrait of Marlborough has been too often quoted to be
reproduced here--'impassible before victory, before danger, before
defeat; the splendid calm of his face as he rode along the lines to
battle, or galloped up in the nick of time to a battalion reeling
before the enemy's charge or shot.' Of Swift, Esmond says--'I have
always thought of him and of Marlborough as the two greatest men of
that age ... a lonely fallen Prometheus, groaning as the vultures tear
him'; and with a few such strokes he gives etchings of other
celebrities in letters and politics. One may observe with astonishment
that the youthful Thackeray, who delighted in suburban chronicles, in
mean lives and paltry incidents, has risen by middle age to the rank
of an illustrious painter on the broad canvas of history. The annals
of literature contain few, if any, other examples of so remarkable a

It is evident that Thackeray, like Scott, was an industrious collector
of material for his novels from all sources; we may refer, for an
instance, to a scene which will have left a passing impression upon
many readers, where, as the French and English armies are facing each
other on two sides of a little stream in the Low Countries, Prince
Charles Edward rides down to the French bank and exchanges a salute
with Esmond. It falls quite naturally and easily into the narrative,
and reads like a very happy original conception; yet the incident,
which is quite authentic, may be found in the papers obtained in the
last century from the Scottish convent at Paris by Macpherson.

In _The Virginians_, which might have had for its second title _Forty
Years Later_, the chronicle of the Esmond family is continued; with
North America during the French war for the battlefields, Braddock,
Wolfe, and Washington for the military figures, and Esmond's grandsons
as the personages round whom the story's interest centres. It is a
novel of very great merit, skilfully constructed, full of vivacious
writing and delineation of character; and the novelist avails himself
with his usual adroitness of the celebrated incidents of this period
and the salient features of English society in the middle of the last
century. Yet we must reluctantly admit that Thackeray has passed his
climacteric, and that as a work of the historical school this book
cannot claim parity with Esmond. George Warrington was on Braddock's
staff at the fatal rout and massacre on the Ohio; his brother Harry
was with Wolfe on the Plains of Abraham; they witnessed a battle lost
and a battle won, and each saw his commander fall. But George's
recital of his hairbreadth escape lacks the stern simplicity with
which his grandfather told the story of Marlborough's wars; and the
device of his being saved from the Indians by a French officer, who
was his intimate friend, is so ingenious as to be a trifle
commonplace. The author does not sketch in any details or personal
adventures from the great fight under the walls of Quebec; he has
fallen back, at this part of the story, into personal narrative, and
_The Warrington Memoirs_ only describe how the news of Wolfe's victory
and death were acclaimed in London. In the War of Independence, George
Warrington, who takes the British side, records the feelings and
situation of an American Loyalist--a class to whom only Mr. Lecky,
among historians, has done fair justice. There is much acute and
well-informed reflection upon the state of the colonies at this time,
the strong currents of party politics, and the exasperation which
brought about the rebellion; but, on the whole, this part of the
narrative has too much resemblance to real history. It has not enough
of the imaginative and picturesque element to lift it above the
comparatively prosaic level of an interesting memoir, though some good
scenes and situations are obtained by making the two Warrington
brothers take opposite sides. When we learn that, in 1759, the English
Lord Castlewood repaired his shattered fortunes by marrying an
American heiress, we are inclined to suspect that our author has taken
a hint from the fashion of a century later.

In the story of _Esmond_ Thackeray dropped the satirical tone, and
indulged very rarely indeed in the habit of pausing to moralise, as
writer to reader, upon social hypocrisy, servile obsequiousness, and
whited sepulchres generally. In _The Virginians_ he is less attentive
to dramatic propriety; he begins again to turn aside and lecture us,
in the midst of his tale, upon the text of _De te fabula narratur_.
Sir Miles and Lady Warrington are scandalised by their nephew's
extravagance, and refuse all help to the spendthrift.

     'How much of this behaviour goes on daily in respectable society,
     think you? You can fancy Lord and Lady Macbeth concocting a murder,
     and coming together with some little awkwardness, perhaps, when the
     transaction was done and over; but my Lord and Lady Skinflint, when
     they consult in their bedroom about giving their luckless nephew a
     helping hand, and determine to refuse, and go down to family
     prayers and meet their children and domestics, and discourse
     virtuously before them...?'

And so on, for a page or two, in a tone that some may think almost as
sophistical as the reasoning by which the Skinflints might excuse to
themselves their pharisaical behaviour. Such interpolations are
artistically incorrect, and out of harmony with the proper conception
of a well-wrought work of fiction, in which the moral should be
conveyed through the action and the dialogue, and the meditations
should be left to be done by the reader himself.

We must, therefore, place _The Virginians_ below _Esmond_ in the order
of merit. Nevertheless, these two novels, with _Barry Lyndon_, are
most important and valuable contributions to the English historical
series. Nothing like them had been written before, and nothing equal
has been written after them, with the single exception of _John
Inglesant_. They possess one essential quality that ought to
distinguish all fiction founded on the history of bygone times--they
are, so far as posterity can judge at all, faithful and effective
representations of manners. Now, the inferior practitioner in this
particular school, being prevented by indolence or incapacity from
mastering his period and acquiring insight into its ways of thought
and living, is too often content to cover up his deficiencies by
indenting freely on the theatrical wardrobe and armoury. He deals
largely in the costumes of the day; he supplies himself plentifully
with old-fashioned phrases; he is fond of old furniture; he is
strongest, in fact, upon the external and decorative aspect of the
society to which he introduces us. Most of the romances written in
imitation of Scott had this tendency; and this same feebleness
underlies the superfluous minuteness of detail that may be observed in
the decadent realists of the present day. Nothing of this sort can be
alleged against Thackeray, who works from inward outwardly in his
creations of character, and whose personages are truly historical in
the sense that they move and speak naturally according to the ideas
and circumstances of their age, the dialect and dress being merely
added as appropriate colouring. It is, indeed, a peculiarity of
Thackeray's novels, which distinguishes him alike from the romancer
and the modern naturalist that they contain hardly any description,
that he is never professedly picturesque, that he relies entirely on
passing strokes and effective details given by the way. In Scott we
have superb descriptive pieces of scenery, of storms, of the interiors
of a castle or a Gothic cathedral; and some of the best living
novelists are much given to elaborate landscape painting. But we doubt
whether half a page of deliberately picturesque description can be
found in any of Thackeray's first-class works. He will sometimes
sketch off the inside of a house or the look of a town, but with
natural scenery he does not concern himself; he is, for the most part,
entirely occupied with the analysis of character, or with the
emotional side of life; and he seems constantly to bear in mind the
Aristotelian maxim that life consists in action. His principal
instrument for the exhibition of motive, for the evolution of his
story, for bringing out qualities, is dialogue, which he manages with
great dexterity and effect, giving it point and raciness, and
avoiding the snare--into which recent social novelists have been
falling--of insignificance and prolixity. The method of easy,
sparkling, natural dialogue for developing the plot and distinguishing
the personages is said to have been first transferred from the theatre
to the novel by Walter Scott. At any rate, the use of it on a large
scale, which has since been carried to the verge of abuse, began with
the Waverley novels; where we find abundance of that humorous
vernacular talk in which Shakespeare excelled, though for the romance
Cervantes may be registered as its inventor. In Thackeray's hands
dramatic conversation, as of actors on the stage, becomes of very
prominent importance, not only for the illustration of manners in
society, but also for dressing up the subordinate figures of his
company. He is now no longer the caricaturist of earlier days; he
employs the popular dialect and comic touches with effective
moderation. And he avails himself very freely, in _The Virginians_, of
the privilege which belongs to the historical novelist, who is allowed
to make the reader acquainted with the notabilities of the period not
only for the movement of his drama, but also for a passing glance or
casual introduction, as might happen in any place of public resort or
in a crowded _salon_. Franklin, Johnson, and Richardson, George Selwyn
and Lord Chesterfield, cross the stage and disappear, after a few
remarks of their own or the author's. For military officers, who
figure in all his novels, he has ever a kindly word; and also for
sailors, although it is only in his last (unfinished) novel that he
takes up the navy. For English clergymen, especially for bishops, he
has no indulgence at all; and he seems to be possessed by the
commonplace error of believing that the prevailing types of the
Anglican Church in the eighteenth century were the courtier-bishop
and the humble obsequious chaplain. The typical Irishman of fiction,
with his mixture of recklessness and cunning, warm-hearted and
unveracious, is to be found, we think, in every one of Thackeray's
larger novels, except in _The Virginians_; the Scotsman is rare,
having been considerably used up by Walter Scott and his assiduous
imitators. We may notice (parenthetically) that our own day is
witnessing a marvellous revival of Highlanders and Lowlanders in
fiction, from Jacobite adventures to the pawky wit and humble
incidents of the kailyard.

In _The Newcomes_ we return regretfully to the novel of contemporary
society; wherewith disappears all the light haze of enchantment that
hangs over the revival of distant times, even though they lie no
further behind us than the eighteenth century. Such a change of scene
necessitates and completes the transition from the romantic to the
realistic; for how can a picture of our own environment, which any one
can verify, avoid being more or less photographic? In one sense
it is a continuation of the historic novel, which has only to put
off its archaic or literary costume to appear as a presentation of
social history brought up to date; the method of minute description,
the portrayal of manners, are the same, with the drawback that
the celebrities of the day must be kept off the stage. Any
eighteenth-century personage might figure, with effect, in _The
Virginians_, while Macaulay and Palmerston could hardly have been
sketched off, however briefly and good-naturedly, in _The Newcomes_.
In all essential respects the tone and treatment are unaltered in the
two stories; although the ironical spirit, restrained in the
historical novels by a sense of dramatic consistency, is again among
us having great wrath, as Thackeray surveys the aspect of the London
world around him. The character of Colonel Newcome, his distinguished
gallantry, his spotless honour, his simplicity and credulity, is
drawn with truth and tenderness; and some of the lesser folk are
admirable for their kindliness and unselfishness. But what a society
is this in which the Colonel is landed upon his return from India! He
calls, with his son, at his brother's house in Bryanston Square:

     '"It's my father," said Clive to the "menial" who opened the door;
     "my aunt will see Colonel Newcome."

     '"Missis not at home," said the man. "Missis is gone in the
     carriage. Not at this door. Take them things down the area steps,
     young man," bawls out the domestic to a pastry-cook's boy ... and
     John struggles back, closing the door on the astonished Colonel.'

An astonishment that most Londoners of his time would have assuredly
shared; unless, indeed, the West-end doorstep has gained wonderfully
by the scrubbing of sixty years. On the relations between masters and
servants Thackeray was never more severe than in this book; he is
irritated by the marching in of the household brigade to family
prayers, and he declares that we 'know no more of that race which
inhabits the basement floor, than of the men and brethren of
Timbuctoo, to whom some among us send missionaries'--a monstrous
imputation. He constantly resumes the moralising attitude; and his
pungent persiflage is poured out, as if from an apocalyptic vial, upon
worldliness and fashionable insolence. Sir Barnes Newcome's divorce
from the unhappy Lady Clara furnishes a text for sad and solemn
anathema upon the mercenary marriages in Hanover Square, where 'St.
George of England may behold virgin after virgin offered up to the
devouring monster, Mammon, may see virgin after virgin given away,
just as in the Soldan of Babylon's time, but with never a champion to
come to the rescue.' We would by no means withhold from the modern
satirist of manners the privilege of using forcibly figurative
language or of putting a lash to his whip. Yet if his novels are, as
we have suggested, to be regarded as historical, in the sense of
recording impressions drawn from life for the benefit of posterity,
such passages as those just quoted from Thackeray raise the general
question whether documentary evidence of this kind as to the state of
society at a given period is as valuable and trustworthy as it has
usually been reckoned to be. He has himself declared that 'upon the
morals and national manners, works of satire afford a world of light
that one would in vain look for in regular books of history'--that
_Pickwick_, _Roderick Random_, and _Tom Jones_, 'give us a better idea
of the state and ways of the people than one could gather from any
pompous or authentic histories.' Whether Fielding and Smollett's
contemporaries would have endorsed this opinion is the real question;
for on such a point the judgment of Thackeray, who lived a century
after them, cannot be conclusive. It is probable that to an Englishman
of that day the novels of these two authors appeared to be
extraordinary caricatures of actual society, in town or country.

On the other hand, the story is excellently conducted, and each actor
performs with consummate skill his part or hers; for in none of his
works has Thackeray given higher proof of that dramatic power which
brings out situations, leads on to the _dénouement_, and points the
moral of the story, by a skilful manipulation of various incidents and
a remarkably numerous variety of characters. There, is one chapter
(ix. of vol. II.), headed 'Two or Three Acts of a Little Comedy,'
where he carries on the plot entirely by a light and sparkling
dialogue which may be compared to some of A. de Musset's wittiest
_Proverbes_. It is a book that could only have been composed by a
first-class artist in the maturity of his powers; and for that very
reason we must regret that it is steeped in bitterness; while
Thackeray's rooted hostility to mothers-in-law misguides him into the
æsthetic error of admitting a virago to scold frantically almost over
the colonel's death-bed. The unvarying meanness and selfishness of
Mrs. Mackenzie, and of Sir Barnes Newcome, fatigue the reader; for
whereas in the delineation of his amiable and high-principled
characters Thackeray is careful to shade off their bright qualities by
a mixture of natural weakness, these ill-favoured portraits stand out
in the full glare of unredeemed insolence and low cunning.

In his last novel, broken off half-way by his death, Thackeray went
back once more to that eighteenth century, which, as he says in one of
his letters, 'occupied him to the exclusion almost of the nineteenth,'
and to the method of weaving fiction out of historical materials. We
have already remarked upon his practice of opening with a kind of
family history, which explains the antecedent connections,
relationship, and pedigree of the persons who are coming upon the
stage, and marks out the background of his story. In _Denis Duval_ he
carries this preamble through two chapters, and arranges all the
pieces on his board so carefully that an inattentive reader might lose
his way among the preliminary details. One sees with what pleasure he
has studied his favourite period in France and England, and how he
enjoyed constructing, like Defoe, a fictitious autobiography that
reads like a picturesque and genuine memoir of the times. Having thus
laid out his plan, and prepared his _mise en scène_, he begins his
third chapter with an animated entry of his actors, who thenceforward
play their parts in a succession of incidents and adventures, that are
all adjusted and fitted in to the framework of time and place that he
has taken so much pains to design for them. In this manner he touches
upon the great events of contemporary history, like the French War, or
illustrates the state of England by bringing in highwaymen and the
press-gang; while a minute description of localities lends an air of
simplicity to the tale of an old man who has (as he says) an
extraordinarily clear remembrance of his boyhood.

The Notes which appeared in the _Cornhill Magazine_, June 1864, as an
epilogue to the last lines written by Thackeray, when the story
stopped abruptly, throw curious light on the methods of gathering his
material and preparing his work. Just as he visited the Blenheim
battlefield, when he was engaged upon _Esmond_, so he went down to
Romney Marsh, where Denis Duval was born and bred, surveyed Rye and
Winchelsea as if he were drawing plans of those towns, and collected
local traditions of the coast and the country, of the smugglers, the
Huguenot settlements, and the old war time of 1778-82. The _Annual
Register_ and the _Gentleman's Magazine_ furnished him with suggestive
incidents and circumstantial reports which he expanded with admirable
fertility of imagination; so that by combining what he saw with what
he read he could lift the curtain and light up again an obscure corner
of the Kentish coast, and the doings of the queer folk who lived on it
a century before he went there. That he never finished this novel is
much to be lamented, for Denis had just become a midshipman on board
the _Serapis_, and we learn from these 'Notes' that he was to take
part in the great fight which ended in the capture of that ship by
Paul Jones, after the most bloody and desperate duel in the long and
glorious record of the British Navy. Captain Pearson, who commanded
the _Serapis_, reported his defeat to the Admiralty in a letter of
which 'Mr. Thackeray seems to have thought much,' and, indeed, it is
precisely the sort of document--quiet, formal, with a masculine
contempt for adjectives (there is not one in the whole letter)--which
denotes a character after Thackeray's own heart.

     'We dropt alongside of each other, head and stern, when, the fluke
     of our spare anchor hooking his quarter, we became so close, fore
     and aft, that the muzzles of our guns touched each other's sides.'

Here we have the style which Thackeray loved; and 'tis pity that we
have so narrowly missed the picture of a fierce naval battle by an
artist who could describe strenuous action in steady phrase, and who
knew that the hard-fighting commander is usually a cool, resolute,
resourceful man, for whom it is a matter of plain duty to fight his
ship till he is fairly beaten, and to report the result briefly,
whatever it may be, to his superiors. One can observe the mellowing
influence upon Thackeray of the atmosphere of past times and the
afterglow of heroic deeds; for in _Denis Duval_ there is no trace of
the scorching satire which pursues us in _The Newcomes_; nor does he
once pause to moralise, or to enlarge upon the innumerable hypocrisies
of modern society. It is questionable, indeed, whether this fine
fragment binds up well in a volume with the _Roundabout Papers_, which
bring the author back into the light of common day, and to the
trivialities of ordinary society.

It has not been thought necessary, in this biographical edition, to
issue the several volumes in the order of the dates at which they were
written; nor has the attempt been made to preserve some serial
continuity of their style or subject. The arrangement, moreover,
serves to accentuate unnecessarily the undeniable imparity of
Thackeray's different books; for _Punch_ and the _Sketch Books_ are
interposed between _Barry Lyndon_ and _Esmond_; while even the wild
and wicked Lyndon hardly deserved to be handcuffed in the same volume
with Fitzboodle, whom in the body he would have crushed like an
insect. Yet the classification of Thackeray's novels might be easily
made, for _Barry Lyndon_, _Esmond_, _The Virginians_, and _Denis
Duval_ fall together in one homogeneous group, having a strong family
resemblance in tone and treatment, and following generally the
chronological succession of the periods with which they are concerned.
If to Esmond is awarded the precedence that is due to him not by
seniority, but by importance, we have the wars of the eighteenth
century between England and France from Marlborough's campaigns down
to Rodney's great naval victory of 1783, in which Duval was destined
to take part. These works represent Thackeray's very considerable
contribution to the Historic School of English novelists; and we may
count them also a valuable commentary upon English history, for
without doubt every luminous illustration of past times and personages
acts as a powerful stimulant to the national mind, by exciting a
keener interest in the nation's story and a clearer appreciation of
its reality. Chateaubriand has affirmed that Walter Scott's romances
produced a revolution in the art of writing histories, that no greater
master of the art of historical divination has ever lived, and that
his profound insight into the mediæval world, its names, the true
relation between different classes, its political and social aspects,
originated a new and brilliant historical method which superseded the
dim and limited views of scholarly erudition. For Thackeray we make no
such extensive or extravagant claims; but it may be said that the
dramatic conception of history in his novels and lectures was of
great service to his readers and hearers by the vivid impressions
which they conveyed of the life, character, and feelings of their
forefathers, of their failings, virtues, and memorable achievements.
Some material objections may be taken to the system of teaching by
graphic pictures in Thackeray, as in Carlyle's _French Revolution_,
and in both cases the philosophy leaves much to be desired, for the
writer's own idiosyncrasy colours all his work. Yet when we remember
how few are the readers to whom the accurate Dryasdust, with his
careful research and well attested facts, brings any lasting
enlightenment, we may well believe that very many owe their distinct
ideas of the state of England and its people during the last century
to Thackeray's genius for carefully studied autobiographical fiction.

To the four historical novels mentioned above let us add three novels
of nineteenth-century manners--_Vanity Fair_, _Pendennis_, _The
Newcomes_--and we have seven books (one incomplete) upon which
Thackeray's name and fame survive, and will be handed down to
posterity. The list is by no means long if it be compared with the
outturn of Scott and Bulwer-Lytton, or of his foremost contemporary
Dickens; and Stevenson, who resembles him in the subdued realistic
style of narrating a perilous fight or adventure, has left us a larger
bequest. But they are amply sufficient to build up for him a lasting
monument in English literature; and their very paucity may serve as a
warning against the prevailing sin of copious and indiscriminate
productiveness, by which so many second-rate novelists of the present
day exhaust their powers and drown a respectable reputation in a flood
of writing, which sinks in quality in proportion to the rise in

How far the character and personal experiences of an author are
revealed or disguised in his writings is a question which has often
been discussed. Bulwer once endeavoured, in a whimsical essay, to
prove that men of letters are the only people whose characters are
really ascertainable, because you may know them intimately by their
works; but herein he merely touched upon the general truth or truism
that society at large judges every man only by his public
performances, and does not trouble itself at all about anything else.
In the category of those who display in their writings their tastes
and prejudices, their feelings and the special bent of their mind, we
may certainly place Thackeray, who was a moralist and a satirist, very
sensitive to the ills and follies of humanity, and impressionable in
the highest degree. For such a man it was impossible to refrain from
giving his opinions, his praise or his blame, in all that he wrote
upon everything that interested him; and in portraying the society
which surrounded him, he inevitably portrayed himself. He displayed as
much as any writer the general complexion of his intellectual
propensities and sympathies; and we can even trace in him the
existence of some of the minor human frailties which he was most apt
to condemn, an unconscious tendency which is not altogether uncommon.
But he is essentially a high-minded man of letters, acutely sensitive
to absurdities, impatient of meanness, of affectation, and of
ignominious admiration of trivial things; a resolute representative of
the independent literary spirit, with a strong desire to see things as
they are, and with the gift of describing them truthfully. He
repudiated 'the absurd outcry about neglected men of genius'; and in a
letter quoted by Mrs. Ritchie he writes:

     'I have been earning my own bread with my own pen for near twenty
     years now, and sometimes very hardly too; but in the worst time,
     please God, never lost my own respect.'

His delicacy of feeling comes out in a letter from the United States,
where he was lecturing--

     'As for writing about this country, about Goshen, about the
     friends I have found here, and who are helping me to procure
     independence for my children, if I cut jokes upon them, may I
     choke on the instant'--

having probably in remembrance, as he wrote, Charles Dickens and the
_American Notes_.

On the other hand, he was not free from the defects of his qualities,
mental and artistic, from the propensity to set points of character in
violent relief, or from the somewhat unfair generalisation which grows
out of the habit of drawing types and distributing colours for
satirical effect.

In regard to his religion, it appears to have been of the
rationalistic eighteenth-century order in which moral ideas are
entirely dominant, to the exclusion of the deeply spiritual modes of
thought; and we may say of him, as of Carlyle, that his philosophy was
more practical than profound. The subjoined quotation is from a letter
to his daughter:

     'What is right must always be right, before it was practised as
     well as after. And if such and such a commandment delivered by
     Moses was wrong, depend upon it, it was not delivered by God, and
     the whole question of complete inspiration goes at once. And the
     misfortune of dogmatic belief is that, the first principle granted
     that the book called the Bible is written under the direct
     dictation of God--for instance, that the Catholic Church is under
     the direct dictation of God, and solely communicates with Him--that
     Quashimaboo is the directly appointed priest of God, and so
     forth--pain, cruelty, persecution, separation of dear relatives,
     follow as a matter of course.... Smith's truth being established in
     Smith's mind as the Divine one, persecution follows as a matter of
     course--martyrs have roasted over all Europe, over all God's world,
     upon this dogma. To my mind Scripture only means a writing, and
     Bible means a book.... Every one of us in every part, book,
     circumstance of life, sees a different meaning and moral, and so it
     must be about religion. But we can all love each other and say "Our

This is true, stout-hearted, individualistic liberty of believing--an
excellent thing and wholesome, though it by no means covers the whole
ground, or meets all difficulties. The logical consequence is a strong
distaste for theology, and no very high opinion of the priesthood,
wherein we may probably find the root of Thackeray's proclivity,
already mentioned, toward unmerited sarcasm upon the clergy. In the
Introduction to _Pendennis_ is a letter written from Spa, in which he
says, 'They have got a Sunday service here in an extinct
gambling-house, and a clerical professor to perform, whom you have to
pay just like any other showman who comes.' It does not seem to have
occurred to Thackeray that the turning of a gambling-house into a
place of prayer is no bad thing of itself, or that you have no more
right to expect your religious services to be done for you in a
foreign land without payment than your newspapers or novels.

But these are blemishes or eccentricities which are only worth notice
in a character of exceptional interest and a writer of great
originality. Thackeray's work had a distinct influence on the light
literature of his generation, and possibly also on its manners, for it
is quite conceivable that one reason why his descriptions of snobbery
and shams appear to us now overdrawn, may be that his trenchant blows
at social idols did materially discredit the worship of them. His
literary style had the usual following of imitators who caught his
superficial form and missed the substance, as, for example, in the
habit which arose of talking with warm-hearted familiarity of great
eighteenth-century men, and parodying their conversation. It was easy
enough to speak of Johnson as 'Grand Old Samuel,' and to hob-nob with
Swift or Sterne, seeing that, like the lion's part in _Pyramus and
Thisbe_, 'you can do it extempore, for it is nothing but roaring.'

Thackeray will always stand in the front rank of the very remarkable
array of novelists who have illustrated the Victorian era; and this
new edition is a fresh proof that his reputation is undiminished, and
will long endure.


[10] _The Works of William Makepeace Thackeray, with Biographical
Introductions by his daughter_, Anne Ritchie. In 13 volumes. London,
1898.--_Edinburgh Review_, October 1898.

[11] Now Lady Ritchie.


For the last one hundred and fifty years India has been to Englishmen
an ever-widening field of incessant activity, military, commercial,
and administrative. They have been occupied, during a temporary
sojourn in that country, in acquiring and developing a great dominion.
No situation more unfavourable to the development of imaginative
literature could be found than that of a few thousand Europeans
isolated, far from home, among millions of Asiatics entirely different
from them in race, manners, and language. Their hands have been always
full of business, they have been absorbed in the affairs of war and
government, they have been cut off from the culture which is essential
to the growth of art and letters, they have had little time for
studying the antique and alien civilisation of the country. It seldom
happens that the men who play a part in historical events, or who
witness the sombre realities of war and serious politics, where
kingdoms and lives are at stake, have either leisure or inclination
for that picturesque side of things which lies at the source of most
poetry and romance. And thus it has naturally come to pass that while
Englishmen in India have produced histories full of matter, though
often deficient in composition, and have also written much upon
Oriental antiquities, laws, social institutions, and economy, they
have done little in the department of novels.

That a good novel should have been produced in India was, therefore,
until very recent times improbable; that it should have been
successful in England was still less to be expected. For the modern
reader will have nothing to do with a story full of outlandish scenes
and characters; he must be told what he thinks he knows; he must be
able to realise the points and the probabilities of a plot and of its
personages; he wants a tale that falls more or less within his
ordinary experience, or that tallies with his preconceived notions.
Accordingly, any close description of native Indian manners or people
is apt to lose interest in proportion as it is exact; its value as a
painting of life is usually discernible only by those who know the
country. The popular traditional East was long, and indeed still is,
that which has been for generations fixed in the imagination of
Western folk by the _Arabian Nights_, by the legends of Crusaders, and
by pictorial editions of the Old Testament. It is seen in the Oriental
landscape and figures presented by Walter Scott in _The Talisman_,
which every one, at least in youth, has read; whereas _The Surgeon's
Daughter_, where the scene is laid in India, is hardly read at all. Of
course there are other reasons why the former book is much more liked
than the latter; yet it was certainly not bad local colouring or
unreality of detail that damaged _The Surgeon's Daughter_, for Scott
knew quite as much about Mysore and Haidar Ali as he did about Syria
in the thirteenth century and Saladin. But in _The Talisman_ he was on
the well-trodden ground of mediæval English history and legend;
whereas the readers of his Indian tale found themselves wandering in
the fresh but then almost unknown field of India in the eighteenth

These are the serious obstacles which have discouraged Anglo-Indians
from attempting the pure historical romance. They knew the country too
well for concocting stories after the fashion of Thomas Moore's _Lalla
Rookh_, with gallant chieftains and beauteous maidens who have nothing
Oriental about them except a few set Eastern phrases, turbans,
daggers, and jewellery. They could not use the true local colour, the
real temper and talk of the Indian East, without great risk of
becoming neither intelligible nor interesting to the English public at
large. It may be said that before our own day there has been only one
author who has successfully overcome these difficulties--Meadows
Taylor, who wrote a romantic novel, now almost forgotten, founded upon
the history of Western India in the seventeenth century. The period
was skilfully chosen, for it is the time of the Moghul emperor
Aurungzeb's long war against the Mohammedan kingdoms in the Dekhan,
and of the Maratha insurrection under Sivaji, which eventually ruined
the Moghul empire. The daring murder of a Mohammedan governor by
Sivaji, the Maratha hero who freed his countrymen from an alien yoke,
is still kept in patriotic remembrance throughout Western India. Nor
is there anything in such a natural sentiment that need give umbrage
to Englishmen; although the liberality of a recent English governor of
Bombay who headed a list of subscriptions for public commemoration of
the deed, betrayed a somewhat simple-minded unreadiness to appreciate
the significance of historical analogies.

Meadows Taylor has treated this subject with very creditable success.
He had lived long in that part of the country; he knew the localities;
he was unusually conversant with the manners and feelings of the
people, and he had the luck to be among them before the old and rough
state of society, with its lawless and turbulent elements, had
disappeared. He had himself been in the service of a native prince
whose governing methods were no better, in some respects worse, than
those of the seventeenth century; and his possession of good natural
literary faculty made up in him a rare combination of qualifications
for venturing upon an Indian romance. The result has been that _Tara_
has not fallen into complete oblivion, though one may doubt whether it
would now be thought generally readable. Although written so late as
1863, the influence of Walter Scott's mediæval romanticism shows
itself in the chivalrous language of the nobles, and in a somewhat
formal drawing of the leading figures, as if they were taken from a
model. But all the details are truly executed. There are sketches of
scenery, of interiors, of dress, arms, and manners, which are clearly
the outcome of direct observation; and the incidents have a genuine
flavour. The misfortune is that these are just the sterling qualities
which require special knowledge and insight for their appreciation,
and are therefore missed by the great majority of readers. The
following picture of a party of Maratha horsemen returning from a raid
may be taken as an example:

     'There might have been twenty-five to thirty men, from the youth
     unbearded to the grizzled trooper, whose swarthy, sunburnt face,
     large whiskers and moustaches touched with grey, wiry frame, and
     easy lounging seat in saddle, as he balanced his heavy Maratha
     spear across his shoulder, showed the years of service he had done.
     There was no richness of costume among the party; the dresses were
     worn and weather stained, and of motley character. Some wore
     thickly quilted white doublets, strong enough to turn a sword-cut,
     or light shirts of chain-mail, with a piece of the mail or of
     twisted wire folded into their turbans; and a few wore steel
     morions with turbans tied round them, and steel gauntlets inlaid
     with gold and silver in delicate arabesque patterns. All were now
     soiled by the wet and mud of the day. It was clear that this party
     had ridden far; and the horses, from their drooping crests and
     sluggish action, were evidently weary. Four of the men had been
     wounded in some skirmish, for they sat their horses with
     difficulty, and the bandages about them were covered with blood.'

No Indian novel, indeed, has been written which displays greater power
of picturesque description, or better acquaintance with the
distinctive varieties of castes, race, and habits, that make up the
composite population of India. It was for a long time the only Indian
novel in which the _dramatis personæ_ are entirely native.

Although _Tara_ is unique as an Indian romance, there is another story
which renders Indian life and manners with equal fidelity. _Pandurang
Hari_ was written by a member of the Indian Civil Service, and first
published in 1826, though it reappeared in 1874, with a preface by Sir
Bartle Frere. Here again the scene is in Western India, among the
Marathas; but the period belongs to the first quarter of this century.
It purports to be a free translation from a manuscript given to the
author by a Hindu who had in his youth served with the Maratha armies,
and latterly fell in with the Pindaree hordes, from whom he heard
tales of their plundering raids. He eventually joins a band of
robbers, and leads a wandering, adventurous life in the hills and
jungles of the Dekhan, until the general pacification of the country
by the British permits or obliges him to settle down quietly. The
merit of the book consists entirely in its precise and valuable
delineation of the condition of the country when it was harried by the
freebooting Maratha companies, and in certain glimpses which are
given of Anglo-Indian life in those rough days; for the writer, unlike
Meadows Taylor, has no literary power, and can only relate accurately
what he has seen or has carefully gathered from authentic sources.

We have thus only two novels worth mention which have preserved true
pictures of the times before all the wild irregularity of Indian
circumstance and rulership had been flattened down under the
irresistible pressure of English law and order. The historical romance
has shared the general decline and fall of that school in Europe;
while as for the exact reproduction of stories dealing entirely with
native life, very few Anglo-Indians would now attempt it, for such a
book would find very scanty favour in England. Nearly all recent
Indian novels have for their subject, not native, but Anglo-Indian
society; the heroes and heroines, in war or love, in peril or pastime,
are English; the natives take the minor or accessory part in the
drama, and give the prevailing colour, tragical or comical, to the
background. One of the best and earliest novels of this class is
_Oakfield_, written about 1853 by William Arnold, a son of Dr. Arnold
of Rugby, who, after spending some years in one of the East India
Company's sepoy regiments, obtained a civil appointment in India, and
died at Gibraltar on his way homeward. Some pathetic lines in the
short poem by Matthew Arnold called _A Southern Night_ commemorate his
untimely death. The book is remarkable for the autobiographic
description, too austere and censorious, of life in Indian
cantonments, or during an Indian campaign, before the great Mutiny
swept away the old sepoy army of Bengal. It represents the impression
made upon a young Oxonian of high culture and serious religious
feeling by the unmannerly and sometimes vicious dissipation of the
officers' mess in an ill-managed regiment stationed up the country.

Oakfield, a clergyman's son, carefully bred up in Arnold's school of
indifference to dogma and strictness in morals, finds himself
oppressed by the hollow conventionality of religious and social ideas
at home, and sees no prospect of a higher level in the ordinary
English professions. He leaves Oxford abruptly for an Indian
cadetship, and sets out with the hope of finding wider scope for work
and the earnest pursuit of loftier ideals in India. He is intensely
disappointed and disgusted at finding himself, on joining his
regiment, among men who have very slight education and wild manners,
whose talk is coarse, who gamble, fight duels, dislike the country,
and care nothing for the people. The aims and methods of the
Government itself appear to him eminently unsatisfactory, being
chiefly directed towards such grovelling business as revenue
collection, superficial order, and public works, with little or no
concern for the moral elevation of the people. When his friends urge
him to study for the purpose of rising in the service, civil or
military, he asks: 'What then? What if the extra allowances have
really no attraction? I want to know what the life is in which you
think it good to get on. It seems to me that my object in life must be
not so much to get an appointment, or to get on in the world, as to
work, and the only work worth doing in the country is helping to
civilise it.'

We have here the interesting, though not uncommon, case of a youthful
enthusiast transported as if by one leap--for the sea voyage is a
blank interval--from England to the Far East, from a sober and
disciplined home to a loose society, from the centre of ancient peace
and calm study to a semi-barbarous miscellany of races under an
elementary kind of government. Ovid's banishment from Rome to the
shores of the Euxine, to live among rude Roman centurions and subject
Scythians, could have been no greater change, though Ovid and Oakfield
are not comparable otherwise. The sight of a great Hindu fair on the
river bank at Allahabad, as surveyed from the deck of a steamer,
strikes him with that ever-recurrent feeling of a great gulf fixed
between Europeans and natives: 'What an inconceivable separation there
apparently and actually is between us few English, silently making a
servant of the Ganges with our steam engines and paddles, and these
Asiatics, with shouts and screams worshipping the same river!'

He meets a cool and capable civilian, who expounds to him the
practical side of all these questions and administrative problems; and
he makes a few military friends of the higher stamp, who stand by him
in his refusal to fight a duel and in the court-martial which follows.
Then comes the second Sikh war, with a vivid description, evidently by
an eye-witness, of an officer's share in the hard-fought action at
Chillianwalla, and of the other sharp contests in that eventful
campaign. It is an excellent example of the skilful interweaving of
real incident with the texture of fiction, showing the clear-cut lines
and colour of actual experience gained in the fiercest battle ever won
by the English in India:

     'The cavalry and horse-artillery dashed forward, and soon the
     rolling of wheels and clanking of sabres were lost in one continual
     roar from above a hundred pieces of artillery. On every side the
     shot crashed through the jungle; branches of trees were shattered
     and torn from their stems; rolling horses and falling men gave an
     early character to this fearful evening.... The 3rd Division
     advanced, with what fatal results to the gallant 24th Regiment is
     well known.... Either by an injudicious order, or, as stated in the
     official despatch, by mistaking a chance movement of their
     commandant for a signal, the 24th broke into a double at a
     distance from the guns far too great for a charge; they arrived
     breathless and exhausted at the guns, where a terrific and hitherto
     concealed fire of musketry awaited them. The native corps came up
     and well sustained their European comrades; but both were
     repulsed--not until twenty-one English officers, twelve sergeants,
     and 450 rank and file of the 24th had been killed or wounded....
     Oakfield counted the bodies of nine officers lying dead in as many
     square yards; there lay the dead bodies of the two Pennycuicks side
     by side; those of the men almost touched each other.'

The transfer of Oakfield to a civil appointment in no way diminishes
his dissatisfaction at the spectacle of a Government that has no
apparent ethical programme and misconceives its true mission:

     'The Indian Government is perhaps the best, the most perfect, nay,
     perhaps the only specimen of pure professing secularism that the
     civilised world has ever seen since the Christian era, and
     sometimes, when our eyes are open to see things as they are, such a
     secularism does appear a most monstrous phenomenon to be stalking
     through God's world.... When the spirit of philosophy, poetry, and
     godliness shall move across the world, when the philosophical
     reformer shall come here as Governor-General, then the spirit of
     Mammon may tremble for its empire, but not till then.'

Yet, notwithstanding the author's solicitude for India's welfare, the
natives make no figure at all in his story; they are barely mentioned,
except where Oakfield denounces the unblushing perjury committed daily
in our courts; and one can see that he does them the very common
injustice of measuring their conduct by an ideal standard of morality.
Anglo-Indian officials leave their country at an early age, in almost
total ignorance of the darker side of English life, as seen in a
police court or wherever the passions and interests of men come into
sharp conflict. But this is just the side of Indian life that is
brought prominently before them, at first, as junior magistrates and
revenue officers, who sometimes do not care to look into any other
aspects of it; and in consequence they stand aghast at the exhibition
of vice and false-swearing. A London magistrate transferred to Lucknow
or Lahore would find much less reason for astonishment.

The same criticism applies, for similar reasons, to Oakfield's
unmeasured censure of the tone and habits prevalent among officers of
the old Indian army; he probably knew nothing of regimental life in
the English army sixty years ago, and therefore supposed the
delinquencies of his own mess to be monstrous. It must be admitted,
however, that morals and manners were loose and low in a bad sepoy
regiment before the Mutiny. No two men could have differed more widely
in antecedents or character than William Arnold and John Lang, whose
novel, _The Wetherbys; or, A Few Chapters of Indian Experience_, was
written a few years earlier than _Oakfield_. It deals with precisely
the same scenes and society, at the same period, in the form of an
Indian officer's autobiography. The book is clever, amusing with a
touch of vulgarity, yet undoubtedly composed with a complete knowledge
of its subject; for Lang was the editor of a Meerut newspaper, who
took his full share of Anglo-Indian revelry, and who knew the Indian
army thoroughly. Whereas in _Oakfield_ the tone rises often to
righteous indignation, in _The Wetherbys_ it falls to a strain of
caustic humour, and in the modern reader's mouth it might leave an
unpleasant taste; yet the verisimilitude of the narrative would be
questioned by no competent judge. As Oakfield fought at Chillianwalla,
so Wetherby fights in the almost equally desperate battle of
Ferozeshah, where the English narrowly escaped a great disaster; and
here, again, we have a momentary ray of vivid light thrown upon the
battlefield by a writer who had associated with eye-witnesses, though
he was not one of them. It is difficult to give an extract from this
part of the tale, because Lang's power lies not in description, but in
characteristic conversation; so we may be content, for the purpose of
bringing out the contrast between two very diverse styles, with a
specimen of his comic talent, as exhibited in the injunctions laid
upon her husband by the vulgar half-caste wife of a poor henpecked
officer just starting for the campaign:

     'Well, then,' she continued, 'keep out of danger. If your troop
     wishes to charge into a safe place, let 'em. _You_ don't want
     brevet rank, or any of that nonsense, I hope. Make as much bluster
     and row as you like, but for Heaven's sake keep out of harm's
     way.... You need not write to me every day, but every third or
     fourth day, for the postage is serious. If you should happen to
     kill any Sikhs, search them, and pull down their back hair; that's
     where they carry their money and jewels and valuables. A sergeant
     of the 3rd Dragoons, like a good husband, has sent his wife down a
     lot of gold mohurs and some precious stones that he found tied up
     in the hair of a Sikh officer. And, by the by, you may as well
     leave me your watch. You can always learn the time of day from
     somebody; and if anything happened to you, it would be sold by the
     Committee of Adjustment, and would fetch a mere nothing.'

This is unquestionably a grotesque caricature; yet the ladies of mixed
parentage were quaint and singular persons in the India of sixty years
ago. As Arnold could hardly have failed to read _The Wetherbys_ before
he wrote _Oakfield_, the book may have suggested to him the plan of
going over the same ground upon a higher plane of thought and
treatment. The two books stand as records of a state of society that
has now entirely passed away, and from their perusal we may conclude
that, among the many radical changes wrought upon India by the
sweeping cyclone of the great Mutiny, not the least of them has been a
thorough reformation of the native army.

When we turn to the Indian novels written after the Mutiny we are in
the clearer and lighter atmosphere of the contemporary social novel.
We have left behind the theoretic enthusiast, perplexed by the
contrast between the semi-barbarism of the country and the
old-fashioned apathy of its rulers; we have no more descriptions,
serious or sarcastic, of rakish subalterns and disorderly regiments
under ancient, incapable colonels; we are introduced to a reformed
Anglo-India, full of hard-working, efficient officers, civil and
military, and sufficiently decorous, except where hill-stations foster
flirting and the ordinary dissipation of any garrison town. It is,
however, still a characteristic of the post-Mutiny stories that they
find very little room for natives; the secret of successfully
interpreting Indian life and ideas to the English public in this form
still awaits discovery. One of the best and most popular of the new
school was the late Sir George Chesney, whose _Battle of Dorking_ was
a stroke of genius, and who utilised his Indian experiences with very
considerable literary skill, weaving his projects of army reform into
a lively tale of everyday society abroad and at home. The scene of _A
True Reformer_ opens at Simla, under Lord Mayo's vice-royalty, names
and places being very thinly disguised; the hero marries a pretty
girl, and starts homeward on furlough, thereby giving the writer his
opportunity for bringing in a description of a railway journey across
India to Bombay in the scorching heat of May:

     'And now the day goes wearily on, marked only by the change of the
     sun's shadow, the rising of the day-wind and its accompaniment of
     dust, and the ever-increasing heat. The country is everywhere the
     same--a perfectly flat, desert-looking plain of reddish brown hue,
     with here and there a village, its walls of the same colour. It
     looks a desert, because there are no signs of crops, which were
     reaped two months ago, and no hedgerows, but here and there an
     acacia tree. Not a traveller is stirring on the road, not a soul to
     be seen in the fields, but an occasional stunted bullock is
     standing in such shade as their trees afford. At about every ten
     miles a station is reached, each exactly like the previous one and
     the next following.... Gradually the sun went down, the wind and
     dust subsided, and another stifling night succeeded, with uneasy
     slumbers, broken by the ever-recurring hubbub of the stoppages.'

On reaching home Captain West learns, like the elder Wetherby in
Lang's story, that an uncle has died leaving him a good income; so he
enters Parliament, and the remainder of his autobiography is entirely
occupied by an account of his efforts in the cause of army reform,
which eventually succeed when he has overcome the scruples and
hesitation of the prime minister--Mr. Merriman, a transparent
pseudonym. The author's plan of endeavouring to interest his readers
in professional and technical questions is very creditably carried
out, for the book is throughout readable; and it also shows that on
the subject of military organisation Chesney was often in advance of
his time; but the scene changes from India to England so very early in
the narrative that this novel takes a place on our list more by reason
of its Anglo-Indian authorship than of its connection with India.

In _The Dilemma_, on the other hand, Chesney gives us a story with
characters and catastrophes drawn entirely from the sepoy mutiny. The
main interest centres round the defence of a house in some up-country
station that is besieged by the mutineers, and for such a purpose the
writer could supply himself, at discretion, from the abundant
repertory of adventures and the variety of personal conduct--heroic,
humorous, or otherwise astonishing--which had been provided by actual
and recent events. We have here, indeed, a dramatic version of real
history; and, since the original of an intensely tragic situation must
always transcend a literary adaptation of it, the fiction necessarily
suffers by comparison with the fact. Yet the novel contends not
unsuccessfully with this disadvantage, and in the lapse of years, as
the real scenes and piercing emotions stirred up by a bloody struggle
fade into distance, the value of Chesney's work may increase. For it
preserves a true picture, drawn at first hand, of the time, the
circumstances, and the behaviour of an isolated group of English folk
who, while living in a state of profound peace and apparent security,
found themselves suddenly obliged to fight desperately for their lives
against an enemy from whom no quarter, even for women and children,
could be expected in case of defeat.

We may now take up a book of a very different kind, the production,
not of an Anglo-Indian amateur, but of an eminent English novelist who
has lived, though not long, in India--Mr. Marion Crawford. Here we are
back again in the region of romance, for, although the story opens at
Simla in Lord Lytton's reign and during the second Afghan War, Mr.
Isaacs, the hero (whose name gives the book its title) is outwardly a
Persian dealer in precious gems, but esoterically an adept in the
mysteries of what has been called occult Buddhism. This queer science,
as professed by a certain Madame Blavatsky, had much vogue in Northern
India about 1879, particularly at Simla. To sceptics it appeared to be
an adroit mixture of charlatanry and mere juggling tricks, with some
elementary knowledge of the beliefs and practices of the true Indian
Yogi, who seeks to attain supernatural powers by rigid asceticism, and
who has really some insight into secret mental phenomena, being in
this line of discovery the forerunner of the English Psychical

The part played in this story by Mr. Isaacs, who is not in all
respects an imaginary personage, might remind one of Disraeli's
Sidonia. He is an enigmatic character, versed in the philosophy of the
East and the West, who excels on horseback and in tiger shooting, yet
can discourse mystically and can bring the mysterious influences at
his command to bear upon critical situations. The novel has thus two
sides: we have the usual sketch of Anglo-Indian society--the soldiers,
the civilians, the charming young English girl whom Mr. Isaacs
fascinates. But a writer of Mr. Crawford's high repute is bound to put
some depth and originality into his Indian tale, and so we have the
Pandit Ram Lal, who is somehow also a Buddhist, and who is Mr.
Isaacs's colleague whenever occult Buddhism is to give warning or
timely succour. The chief exploit occurs in a wondrous expedition to
rescue and carry away into Tibet the Afghan Amir, Sher Ali, who had
just then actually fled from Kabul before the advance of an English
army; and it must be confessed that so fantastic an adventure sounds
rather startling in connection with a bit of authentic contemporary

On the whole, whether we assume that the object of a novel is to
illustrate history, or to present a faithful reflection of life and
manners, or to render strenuous action dramatically yet not
improbably--by whatever standard we measure Mr. Crawford's book, it
cannot be awarded a high place on the list of Indian fiction. But we
have run over this list so rapidly, touching only upon typical
examples, that we are now among the latest writers of the present
day; and we may take _Helen Treveryan_ (1892) as a very favourable
specimen of their productions. Comparing it with earlier novels, we
may remark, in the first place, that there is no great variety of plot
or treatment, Anglo-Indian society being everywhere, and at most
times, very much the same, except so far as closer intercourse with
Europe softens down its roughness, materially and morally, increases
the feminine element, and assimilates its outer form to the English
model. _Helen Treveryan_, whose author is a very distinguished member
of the Indian Civil Service, is, like all other novels of the kind,
the narrative of the adventures, in love and war, of a young English
military officer in India. The characters are evidently drawn from
life; the main incidents belong to very recent Indian history; the
description of society in an up-country station, with which the
movement of the drama begins, is an exact and humorous photograph. A
tiger hunt is done better, with more knowledge of the business, than a
similar episode in Mr. Crawford's novel; and the passionate love
between Guy Langley and Helen Treveryan is well painted in bright
colours to intensify the gloom and pathos of Langley's death in

As Chesney went to the sepoy mutiny for his scenes of tragedy and
heroism, so Sir Mortimer Durand (we believe that the original
pseudonym has been dropped) takes them from the second Afghan War,
having been at Kabul with General Roberts in the midst of hard
fighting, where he first placed his foot on the ladder which has led
him upward to high places and unusual distinction. In the chapters
describing the march upon Kabul, its occupation, the rising of the
tribes, and their attack upon the British army beleaguered in the
Sherpur entrenchments, we have simply a memoir of actual events,
written with truth, spirit, and with the pictorial skill of an artist
who understands the value and proportion of romantic details. The
English commanders, the Afghan sirdars, and several other well-known
folk are mentioned by name; the skirmishes and perilous situations are
described just as they really occurred. No book could better serve the
purpose of a home-keeping Englishman who might desire to see as in a
moving photograph what was going on in the British camp before Kabul
during the perilous winter of 1879-80, to hear the camp-talk, and to
realise the nature and methods of Afghan fighting.

     'He turned to the westward, and as he did so there was a flicker in
     the darkness, where the rugged top of the Asmai Hill could just be
     made out. For an instant there was perfect silence; then, as the
     flame caught and flared, there rose from the men around him a low,
     involuntary "A--h," such as one may sometimes hear at Lord's when a
     dangerous wicket goes down. Then in the distance two musket shots
     rang out, and after them a few more; but along the cantonment wall
     all was silent; men stood with beating hearts awaiting the
     onslaught. For some minutes the suspense lasted, and then suddenly
     burst from the darkness a wild storm of yells, "Allah, Allah,
     Allah," and fifty thousand Afghans came with a rush at the wall,
     shouting and firing. The cantonment was surrounded by a broad
     continuous ring of rifle-flashes, and over the parapet and over the
     trenches the bullets began to stream.'

But the subjoined extract, which gives Langley's death, is a better
example of the book's general style--cool, circumstantial, abhorrent
of glitter or exaggeration, leaving a clear impression of things
actually witnessed and done, a brief glimpse of one of the incidents
that remain stamped on the brain of those who saw it, but are
otherwise forgotten in war-time, after a day or two's regret for the
lost comrade.[13]

     'They were all weary, and marched carelessly forward in silence.
     The night was closing fast, and a little fine snow was falling....
     There was a sudden flash in the darkness to the right, a shot, and
     then a scattering volley. Guy Langley threw up his arms with a cry,
     and as the startled horse swerved across the road he fell with a
     dull thud on the snow. There was a moment of confusion, but the
     Sikhs, though careless, were good soldiers, and two or three of
     them dashed towards the low wall from which the shots had come.
     They were just in time to see four men running across a bit of
     broken ground towards a deep water-cut, fringed with poplars. The
     horsemen were very quick after them, being light men on hardy
     horses; and one of the four Afghans, a big man in a dirty sheepskin
     coat, lost his head, and ran down under a bit of wall; the other
     three crossed the water-cut. The horsemen saw the position at once,
     and rode after the man on their side of the trench. They were up to
     him in a minute, and Atar Singh made a lunge at him with his lance;
     but the Afghan avoided it, and swinging up his heavy knife cut the
     boy across the hand. Before he could turn to run again a second
     horseman was on him, and with a grim "Hyun--Would you?" drove the
     lance through his chest.'

The dialogue is occasionally used to bring out contending views in
regard to Indian politics, as might be expected from a writer who has
thoroughly studied them. At a Simla dinner-party the conversation
turns upon the question whether, in the event of a collision between
the armed forces of Russia and England on the Indian frontier, the
Anglo-Indian army could hold its own successfully against such a
serious enemy. We have on one side the man of dismal forebodings, so
well known in India, and against him the hopeful, resolute officer,
who lays just stress on England's superior position, with all the
strength and resources of India and the British empire at her back.
One supremely important point in the discussion is, by consent of both
speakers, the probable behaviour in such a crisis of the native Indian
army; and we may here express our agreement with the view that our
best native regiments would prove themselves faithful soldiers and
formidable antagonists to the Russians. As is well said in the course
of the argument, the Sikhs and Goorkhas faced us well when they fought
us, 'and with English officers to lead them, why should they not face
the Russians?... I believe the natives will be true to us if we are
true to ourselves; some few are actively disloyal, but not the mass of
them. If we begin to falter they will go, of course; but if we show
them we mean fighting they will fight too.' This is the true political
creed for Englishmen in India, outside of which there is no salvation,
but the reverse.

It is perhaps to be regretted that so capable a writer upon Indian
subjects has given us nothing of native life and character beyond a
few silhouettes; and after Guy Langley's death, when the scene is
transferred entirely to England, the story's interest decidedly flags.
Yet we may fairly assign a high place in the series of Indian novels
to _Helen Treveryan_, not only for its literary merits, but also for
the historical value of the chapters which preserve the day by day
experience of one who took his share in the culminating dangers and
difficulties of an arduous campaign.

Mrs. Steel's book, _On the Face of the Waters_, has been so widely
read and reviewed since it appeared, so lately as 1897, that another
criticism of it may appear stale and superfluous; yet to omit
mentioning in this article the most popular of recent Indian novels
would be impossible. Here, at any rate, is a book which is not open to
the remark that the Anglo-Indian novelist usually leaves the natives
in the background, or admits them only as supernumeraries. For Mrs.
Steel's canvas is crowded with Indian figures; their talk, their
distinctive peculiarities of character and costume, their parts in the
great tragedy which is taken as the ground-plan of her story, are so
abundantly described as occasionally to bewilder the inexperienced
reader. The scene of action is the Sepoy mutiny at Meerut and the
siege of Delhi, and while the Indian _dramatis personæ_ are mainly
types of different classes and castes--except where, like the King of
Delhi, they are historical--the English army leaders act and speak
under their own names, as in Durand's book, being of course modelled
upon the ample personal knowledge of them still obtainable from their
surviving contemporaries in India.

The book, in fact, attempts, as is frankly stated in its preface, 'to
be at once a story and a history.' And we observe that Mrs. Steel
tells us, as if it were a credit and a recommendation to her work,
that she 'has not allowed fiction to interfere with fact in the
slightest degree.'

     'The reader may rest assured that every incident bearing in the
     remotest degree on the Indian Mutiny, or on the part which real men
     took in it, is scrupulously exact, even to the date, the hour, the
     scene, the weather. Nor have I allowed the actual actors in the
     great tragedy to say a word regarding it which is not to be found
     in the accounts of eye-witnesses, or in their own writings.'

Is such minute matter-of-fact copying a virtue in the novelist? or is
it not rather a defect arising out of a misunderstanding of the
principles of his art? In our opinion the business of the novelist,
even when he chooses an historical subject, is not to reproduce as
many exact details as he can pick out of memoirs, official reports,
and histories, but, on the contrary, to avoid making up his story out
of a string of extracts and personal reminiscences, or at any rate to
use his skill rather for disguising than for disclosing the precise
verbal accuracy of his borrowed material. What would be thought of a
naval romance that adopted, word for word, the authentic account of
Nelson's death, or of a military novel that seasoned a full and
particular account of Waterloo with a few imaginary characters and
incidents? Any one who has observed how two fine writers, Thackeray
and Stendhal, have brought that famous battle into the plot of their
masterpieces (_Vanity Fair_ and _La Chartreuse de Parme_), will have
noticed that they carefully avoid the crude and undisguised employment
of detail, either in words or incidents; they allow fiction to
interfere very constantly with fact in all petty matters of this sort;
their art consists, not in historical accuracy, but in verisimilitude;
they discard authentic phrases and incidents; they do not aim at
precision, but at dramatic probabilities. But Mrs. Steel does not only
draw too copiously, for a novelist, upon history; she also undertakes
to pass authoritative judgments upon disputable questions of fact and
situation, with which fiction, we submit, has no concern. She very
plainly intimates that nothing but culpable inaction and want of
energy prevented instant pursuit by a force from Meerut of the
mutineers who made a forced march upon Delhi on the night of May 10,
and whose arrival produced the insurrection in that city.

     'Delhi lay,' she says, 'but thirty miles distant on a broad white
     road, and there were horses galore and men ready to ride them--men
     like Captain Rosser, of the Carabineers, who pleaded for a
     squadron, a field battery, a troop, or a gun--anything with which
     to dash down the road and cut off that retreat to Delhi.'

To argue the point in this review would be to fall into the very error
on which we desire to lay stress, of attempting to deal with serious
history in a light, literary way. We shall therefore be content with
reminding our readers that Lord Roberts, who is perhaps the very best
living authority on the subject, has come to the conclusion, after a
careful survey of the circumstances, that the refusal of the Meerut
commanders to pursue the mutineers was justifiable.

Yet Mrs. Steel's performance is better than her principles. The
unquestionable success of _On the Face of the Waters_ is in no way due
to her scrupulous exactitude in particulars, for if this had been the
book's chief feature it would have failed. She has a clear and
spirited style; she knows enough of India to be able to give a fine
natural colour to the stirring scenes of the Sepoy mutiny, and to
execute good character-drawing of the natives, as they are to be
studied among the various classes in a great city. And whenever her
good genius takes her off the beaten road of recorded fact her
narrative shows considerable imaginative vigour. The massacres at
Meerut and Delhi, the wild tumult, terror, and agony, are
energetically described; and her picture of the confusion inside Delhi
during the siege is admirably worked up, remembering that she wrote
forty years after the event, at a time when the people and even the
places had very greatly changed. The storming of the breach at the
Kashmir gate by the forlorn hope that led the English columns is
dexterously brought into an animated narrative; and although that
story has been much better told in Lord Roberts's autobiography, we
need not look too austerely on the crowd of readers who find history
more attractive under a thin and embroidered veil of fiction.

A still more recent novel, entitled _Bijli the Dancer_ (1898), should
be mentioned here, not only for its intrinsic merits, but also because
the author has boldly faced the problem of constructing a story out of
the materials available from purely native society, the stock themes
and characters of Anglo-India being entirely discarded. Bijli is a
professional dancing girl, whose grace and accomplishments so
fascinate a great Mohammedan landholder of North India, that he
persuades her to abandon her profession and to abide with him as his
mistress. This arrangement is correctly treated in the book as quite
consistent with the maintenance of due respect and consideration for
the Nawab's lawful wife, who occupies separate apartments, and,
according to Mohammedan ideas in that rank of society, has no
reasonable ground for complaint. Yet Bijli, though she has every
comfort, and is deeply attached to her lord, grows restless in her
luxurious solitude; she pines for the excitement and triumphs of
singing and dancing before an assembly. So, in the Nawab's absence,
she takes professional disguise, and sings with a lute in the harem
before his wife. To those who would like to see a Mohammedan lady of
high rank in full dress, the following description of costume may be

     'She was dressed and adorned with scrupulous care; her eyebrows
     trimmed of every stray hair that might deform the beauty-arch; the
     lids pencilled with lampblack; the palms of her hands and the soles
     of her feet stained with henna; not one stray lock encroached on
     the straight parting of her glossy hair.

     'She wore gold-embroidered trousers of purple satin, loose below
     the knee and full over the ankles, and fastened round her waist by
     a gold cord with jewelled tassels. A black crape bodice adorned
     with spangles and gold edging confined her full bosom, and an open
     vest of grey gauze with long, tight sleeves hung loosely over her
     waistband. Upon the back of her head was thrown a veiling-sheet of
     the fine muslin known as the dew of Dacca. Her feet and hands, arms
     and wrists and neck, were adorned with numerous rings, jewels, and
     chains, and from her nose was hung a ring of gold wire, on which
     was strung a ruby between two grey pearls.'

But Bijli's intrusion into the harem is a grave breach of etiquette;
she is detected, and told to be gone, though the lady bears her no
malice. The incident brings home to her a sense of degradation; she
asks the Nawab to marry her, and her discontent is increased by his
refusal, until at last she escapes secretly from his house. The Nawab
follows, and finds her in a hut on the bank of a flooded river which
has stopped her flight; but after a really pathetic interview she
returns to her free life--and 'thus ended the romance of Bijli the

In this short story, written with much truth and feeling, the style
and handling rises above the commonplace device of dressing up
European sentimentality in the garb and phraseology of Asia; and we
have, so far as can be judged, a fairly real picture of the inner and
the emotional side of native life in India, sufficiently tinged with
romantic colouring. The fascination which professional dancers often
exercise over natives of the highest rank is a well-known feature of
Indian society; and although the dancer is always a courtesan, yet to
invest her with a capacity for tender and honourable affection is by
no means to overstep the limits of probability. We have noticed this
book because it proves that the study of native manners, and
sympathetic insight into their feelings and character, still survive
among Anglo-Indians, albeit officials; and because it stands out in
quiet relief among tales of fierce wars and savage mutiny; it neither
chronicles the heroic deeds of Englishmen, nor does it devote even a
single page to the loves, sorrows, or comic misadventures that break
the monotony of a British cantonment.

_The Chronicles of Dustypore_, by H. S. Cunningham, takes us back
again from the sombre, half-veiled interior of an Indian household,
into the fierce light which beats upon English society at some station
in the sun-dried plains of the Punjab. We have here a sketch, half
satirical, half in earnest, of official work and ways, with one or two
personages that can be easily identified from among the provincial
notabilities of twenty years ago. The book, which had considerable
success in its time, will still provide interest and amusement for
those who enjoy an exceedingly clever delineation of familiar scenes
and characters; and it is in the main as true and lively a picture of
Anglo-Indian life as when it was first written. Here is the summer
landscape of the Sandy Tracts, a region just annexed to British
administration after the usual skirmish with, and discomfiture of, the
native ruler:

     'Vast plains, a dead level but for an occasional clump of palms or
     the dome of some despoiled and crumbling tomb, stretched away on
     every side and ended in a hazy, quivering horizon that spoke of
     infinite heat. Over these ranged herds of cattle and goats,
     browsing on no one could see what; or bewildered buffaloes would
     lie, panting and contented, in some muddy pool, with little but
     horns, eyes, and nostrils exposed above the surface. Little
     ill-begotten stunted plants worked hard to live and grow and to
     weather the roaring fierce winds. The crows sat gasping,
     open-beaked, as if protesting against having been born into so
     sulphurous an existence. Here and there a well, with its huge
     lumbering wheel and patient bullocks, went creaking and groaning
     night and day, as if earth grudged the tiny rivulet coming so
     toilfully from her dry breast, and gave it up with sighs of pain.
     The sky was cloudless, pitiless, brazen. The sun rose into it
     without a single fleck of vapour to mitigate its fierceness ... all
     day it shone and glistened and blazed, until the very earth seemed
     to crack with heat and the mere thought of it was pain.'

Such is the environment in which many English officers live and labour
for years; and this is the side of Anglo-Indian existence that is
unknown to, and consequently unappreciated by, the rapid tourist, who
runs by railway from one town to another during the bright cold winter
months, is delighted with the climate and the country, takes note of
the deficiencies or peculiarities of Anglo-Indians, and has a very
short memory for their hospitality. The narrative carries us, as a
matter of course, to a Himalayan Elysium, with its balls, picnics, and
its flirtations, among which the leading lady of the piece is drawn to
the brink of indiscretion, but steps happily back again into the
secure haven of domestic felicity. A good deal of excellent light
comedy and sparkling dialogue will always maintain for this novel a
creditable place upon the Indian list; and as an indirect illustration
of the social wall that separates ordinary English folk from the
population which surrounds them, it is complete, since we have here a
story plotted out upon the stage of a great Indian province which
contains absolutely no mention of the natives beyond occasional
necessary reference to the servants.

For a strong contrast to _Dustypore_, both in subject and style of
treatment, we may take a story which merits notice, even though it be
hardly long enough to be ranked among Indian novels. _The Bond of
Blood_, by R. E. Forrest (1896), draws, like _Bijli the Dancer_, its
incidents and their environment exclusively from Indian life; and the
book may be placed high in this class of difficult work, which few
have ventured to attempt, and where success has been very rare. It is
a study of peculiarly local manners, that may be also called
contemporary; for though the period belongs to the early years of this
century, yet the sure drawing from life of a skilful hand may still be
verified by those readers who actually know the customs and feelings
at the present day of the Rajpût clans, among whom primitive ideas and
institutions have been less obliterated in the independent States than
in any other region of India. The descriptive and personal sketches
attest the writer's gift of close observation; there is good
workmanship in all the details; his sentences hit the mark and are
never overcharged or superfluous. The tale is of a dissipated Rajpût
chief, to whom a moneylender has lent a large sum upon a bond which
has been endorsed by the sign-manual of the family Bhât, or hereditary
bard, herald, and genealogist--an office of great repute and
importance in every noble Rajpût house. Debauchees and cunning
gamblers empty the chief's purse; the moneylender, an honest man
enough in his way, is obliged to press him for the sum due; until at
last the bewildered chief is persuaded by one of the gamblers to
declare flatly that he will not pay at all, whereupon the creditor
falls back upon the surety. Now the Bhât has pledged upon the bond not
his property but his life, according to an ancient and authentic
custom among Rajpût folk, as formerly throughout India, whereby a man
who has no other means of enforcing a just claim against a powerful
debtor has always the resource of bringing down upon him a fearful
curse by committing suicide before his door. The Rajpût chief pretends
that the bond is illegal and void, being founded upon an obsolete
custom disallowed by the English rulers; but in truth he has brought
himself to believe that the blood penalty will not really be paid, and
he is struck with horror when the Bhât, after formal and public
warning, stabs his own mother in the chief's presence, whereupon the
curse falls and clings to the family. We may add that the substitution
of the Bhât's mother for himself as an expiatory victim is in
accordance with accepted precedents on such occasions, while it makes
room for a pathetic situation, and greatly enhances the dramatic
interest of the closing scene. Here we have the antique Oriental
version of the story in Shakespeare's _Merchant of Venice_, where
Shylock takes the same kind of security from Antonio, upon whose
person he subsequently demands execution of his bond of blood; nor
does the law refuse it to him. But the Hindu custom is so far milder
than the Venetian code that the Rajpût Shylock could not have rejected
a tender of full payment in cash. Mr. Forrest's tale might be turned
into an effective stage-tragedy if the main incident were not too
shockingly improbable for Europeans, although to an Indian audience it
would be credible enough. The final scene of the mother's death is
stamped on the reader's imagination by the writer's power of giving
intense significance not only to the speech but to slight movements of
the actors, so that the mental picture becomes almost objective, while
the strained expectation of the crowd makes itself felt by the force
of the words.

     '"Will you redeem the bond?" asks the herald once more.

     '"Say 'No,'" exclaims Takht Singh.

     '"No," shouts Hurdeo Singh (the chief).

     '"Then blood must be shed at your door, and the life forfeit paid
     at your threshold, so that the curse may alight upon you and your

     'He draws the dagger from its sheath. He had not laid his hand
     upon its handle in the same manner that he would have laid it on
     the hilt of his sword, but the reverse way to that; he puts the
     palm of his hand under it and not over it, so he could best use it
     in the way he intended to use it--so could he best strike the blow
     he meant to strike.

     '"Begone! Begone!" shouts Hurdeo Singh, waving him away with his

     'The people around stand fixed as statues, eyes straining, necks
     craning. The herald stretches his left arm behind his mother, and
     she, throwing open her _chudder_, leans back against it....

     'The money-lender had given a sudden cry, stretched out his hand,
     uttered some words.

     'When Hurdeo Singh had beheld the herald raise his right arm, his
     own had gone up with it, and from his mouth had come the cry,
     "Don't! Don't."

     'But it was too late. The herald had raised his arm, turned round
     his head, and plunged the sharp stiletto into his mother's breast.'

It would be scarcely possible in an article that ranges over the light
literature of Anglo-India to omit mentioning the name of Mr. Rudyard
Kipling, who is the most prominent and by far the most popular of
Anglo-Indian authors. Yet our reference to his writings must be very
brief, since most of them lie beyond the scope of our present subject;
for although Mr. Kipling's short stories are famous, and he is a
consummate artist in black and white, yet in the complete edition of
his volumes up to date there is, in fact, but one full-sized Indian
novel, and for this he is only responsible in part. Nor, assuming that
the Indian chapters of the _Naulakha_[14] may be ascribed to him,
would it be fair criticism to treat them as good samples of his work,
or as illustrating his distinctive genius. The attempt in this story
to bring together West and East, and to strike bold contrasts by
setting down a Yankee fresh from Colorado before the palace gate of a
Maharaja in the sands of western Rajputana, is too daring a venture;
and the plot's development, though here and there are some touches of
true vision and some vigorous passages, labours under the weight of
its extravagant improbability. The American's restless energy, brought
face to face with Oriental immobility, expresses itself in the
following way:

     'It made him tired to see the fixedness, the apathy, and
     lifelessness of this rich and populous world, which should be up
     and stirring by rights--trading, organising, inventing, building
     new towns, making the old ones keep up with the procession, laying
     new railroads, going in for fresh enterprises, and keeping things

     '"They've got resources enough," he said. "It isn't as if they had
     the excuse that the country's poor. It's a good country. Move the
     population of a lively Colorado town to Rhatore, set up a good
     local paper, organise a board of trade, and let the world know what
     is here, and we'd have a boom in six months that would shake the
     empire. But what's the use? They're dead. They're mummies. They're
     wooden images. There isn't enough real, old-fashioned, downright
     rustle and razzle-dazzle and 'git up and git' in Gokral Seetaram to
     run a milk-cart."'

Such indeed might be the sentiments of an eager speculator who found
himself among primitive folk. But the discord of ideas puts the whole
piece so completely out of tune as to produce only a harsh and jarring
sensation; the rough Western man is thoroughly out of his element, and
flounders heavily, like a cockney among mediæval crusaders. This must
be taken in fairness to be the result of collaboration, for in his own
short stories Mr. Kipling never commits solecisms of the kind; on the
contrary, he excels in the shading of strong local colours, and in
the rapid, unerring delineation of characters that stand out in clear
relief, yet blend with and act upon each other when they encounter.
But Mr. Kipling's volumes would require a separate article to
themselves, so that we will merely take this occasion of recording our
wish that he may some day turn his unique faculty of painting real
Indian pictures toward the composition of a novel which shall _not_ be
about Anglo-Indian society (for the thin soil of that field has
already been over-harrowed), but shall give a true and lively
rendering of the thoughts which strike an imaginative Englishman when
he surveys the whole moving landscape of our Indian empire, watches
the course of actual events, and tries to forecast its probable

It has been manifestly impossible in this brief article to do more
than touch upon a few books that may illustrate the prominent
characteristics, and the general place in light literature, of Indian
novels. This must explain why we have omitted several other works, of
which _Transgression_[15] is the latest. In this tale we have a sketch
of life on the North-West Frontier at the present day, with some
well-known incidents of the Afridi War of 1897-98 introduced, and so
coloured from the writer's own point of view as to convey, under a
thin varnish of fiction, some sharp and sarcastic criticism on the
management of affairs, the politics of the Government, and the
personal behaviour of certain officials, who can be at once
identified. Although the book is not without interest as a true
account of hazardous and stirring frontier duties, we are bound to
repeat our warning that this abuse of the novel for controversial
purposes is not only unfair, but profoundly inartistic. No literary
success, but failure and the confusion of styles, lies that way.

What, then, are the conclusions which we may draw from this brief
survey of the more prominent and typical Indian novels? To the
repertory of English fiction, which is perhaps the largest and most
varied that any national literature contains, they have undoubtedly
made a not unworthy contribution; for we may agree that fiction has
some, if not the highest, value when it produces an animated
representation of life and manners, even upon a limited and distant
field. In the present instance the narrow range of plot and character
that may be observed in the pure Anglo-Indian novel reflects the
uniformity of a society which consists almost entirely, outside the
Presidency capitals on the sea-coast, of civil and military
officials--a society that is also upon one level of class and of age,
for among the English in India there are neither old men nor boys and
girls; the men and women are in the prime of life, with a number of
small children. This age-limit lops off from both ends of human
existence a certain proportion of the characters that are available
for filling up the canvas of the social novelist at home. And it is in
truth a peculiar feature, not only of Anglo-Indian society, but of the
Anglo-Indian administration, because the enforced retirement of almost
every officer after the age of fifty-five years greatly diminishes the
influence of weighty and mature experience exercised by the senior men
in the services and government of most countries. In regard to the
equality of class it may be observed that here also the lack of
variety produces a similar dearth of materials; we miss the
picturesque contrasts of rich and poor, of townsfolk and country folk,
of the diverse groups which make up a European population. The 'short
and simple annals of the poor' cannot be woven into the Indian
tapestry which records higher and broader scenes; the peasantry, for
example, whose quaint figures and idioms are so useful in English
novels, do not come into the Anglo-Indian tale. They cannot be blended
in fiction with the foreign element because they are wholly apart in
reality. In short, the whole company that play upon the exclusively
Anglo-Indian stage belong to one grade of society, and the hero is
invariably a military officer.

The most popular of Anglo-Indian novels are probably those which deal
in exact reproduction of ordinary incidents and conversation, related
in a sprightly and humorous style. This accords with the taste of
present-day readers, many of whom take up a book only for the
momentary amusement that it gives them, and are well content with
interminable dialogues that do little more than echo, with a certain
spice of epigram and smart repartee, the commonplaces interchanged
among clever people at a country house or in a London drawing-room.
Nevertheless, we believe that Anglo-Indian fiction is seen at its best
in the novel of action, since war and love-making must still, as
formerly, rule the whole kingdom of romance; since as emotional forces
they are the same in every climate and country. Each successive
campaign in India, from the first Afghan War to the latest expedition
across the Afridi frontier, has furnished the Anglo-Indian writer with
a new series of striking incidents that can be used for his heroic
deeds and dire catastrophes, for new landscapes and figures, all of
them bearing the very form and stamp of impressive reality. If he is
artist enough to avoid abusing these advantages, if he is neither an
extravagant colourist nor a mere copyist or compiler, he has this
fresh field to himself, he can give us a stirring narrative of
frontier adventures, he can sketch in the aspect of a country or the
distinctive qualities of a people that have preserved many of the
features which in Europe have now vanished into the dim realms of
early romance. His danger lies, as we have seen from some examples
already quoted, in the temptation to make too much use of the
attractive materials that are readily found to hand in military
records or in such a real tragedy as the Sepoy mutiny, so that the
novel is liable to become little more than authentic history related
in a glowing, exuberant style of writing and portraiture.

In short, the Indian novel belongs to the objective outdoor class; it
is full of open air and activity, and the introspective psychological
vein is almost entirely wanting. There are, indeed, passages which
indicate that peculiar sense of the correlation, so to speak, of the
environment with the moods and feelings of men, the influence upon the
human mind of nature--a sense which has inspired some of our finest
poetry, and which is so well rendered by the best Russian novelists,
by Tourguéneff and by Tolstoi. One work of Tolstoi's, _Les Cosaques_,
might be especially recommended for study to the Anglo-Indian novelist
of the future, as an example of the true impress that can be made upon
a reader's mind by the literary art, when it succeeds in giving vivid
interest to the picture of a solitary officer's life upon a dull and
distant frontier.


[12] (1) _Tara._ By Meadows Taylor. London, 1898. (2) _Oakfield._ By
William D. Arnold. London, 1853. (3) _The Wetherbys, Father and Son._
By John Lang. London, ?1850. (4) _Mr. Isaacs._ By F. Marion Crawford.
London, 1898. (5) _Helen Treveryan._ By John Roy. London, 1892. (6)
_On the Face of the Waters._ By Mrs. Steel. London, 1896. (7) _Bijli
the Dancer._ By James Blythe Patton. London, 1898. (8) _The Chronicles
of Dustypore._ By H. S. Cunningham. London, 1875. And other
Novels.--_Edinburgh Review_, October 1899.

[13] [Greek]
    'alla chrê ton katathaptein, hos ke thanêsi,
    nêlea thumon echontas, ep hêmati hoakrusants.'

    (_Iliad_, xix. 228, 229.)

[14] _Naulakha_, by Rudyard Kipling and W. Balestier. London, 1892.

[15] _Transgression_, by S. S. Thorburn. London, 1899.


I have taken the words 'Heroic Poetry' to signify the poetry of
strenuous action, the art of describing in vigorous animating verse
those scenes and emergent situations in which the energies of mankind
are strung up to the higher tones, and where the emotions are brought
into full play by the exhibition of valour, endurance, and suffering.
It seems to me remarkable that modern English poetry, with all its
splendid variety, should have produced very little in this particular
form; because no one can deny that the latter-day story of the English
has been full of enterprise and perilous adventure, providing ample
material to the artist who knows how to use it. Nor can it be said
that there is any lack of demand for this sort of poetry, and
consequently little inducement to supply it. On the contrary, any one
can see that hero worship is as strong as ever, that any striking
incident, or example of personal valour, or exploit of war, brings out
the verse-writer, and that his efforts, if only very moderately
successful, are sure to win him great popularity.

But it must be admitted that most of these efforts fail rather
lamentably, insomuch that at the present day we may seem to be losing
one of the finest forms of a noble art. From this point of view there
may be some advantage in looking back to the heroic poetry of earlier
ages, and in endeavouring to mark briefly and imperfectly its
distinctive qualities, to recall the conditions and circumstances in
which it flourished, and possibly to hazard some suggestions as to
the causes of its decline.

I do not know any recent book which throws more light upon this
subject than Professor Ker's book on _Epic and Romance_, published in
1897. It is, to my mind, most valuable as an exposition of the right
nature and methods of heroic narrative, in poetry and in prose. The
author has the rare gift of insight into the ways and feelings of
primitive folk, and the critical faculty of discerning the
characteristics of a style or a period, showing how men, who knew what
to say and the right manner of saying it, have shaped the true form of
heroic poetry. We can see that its elementary principles, the methods
of composition in verse and prose, are essentially the same in all
times and countries, in the _Iliad_, in the Icelandic Sagas, in the
old Teutonic and Anglo-Saxon poems, and to some extent in the French
Chansons de Geste; they might be used to-morrow for a heroic subject
by any one gifted with the requisite skill, imagination, and the eye
for impressive realities.

     'Few nations have attained, at the close of their heroic age, to a
     form of poetical art in which men are represented freely in action
     and conversation. The labour and meditation of all the world has
     not discovered, for the purposes of narrative, any essential
     modification of the procedure of Homer.'

Professor Ker's essays are a brilliant and scholarly contribution to
the external history of poetical forms: and it would be great
presumption in me to attempt a review of his work. But it is so
eminently suggestive, and to my mind so valuable as a study for verse
writers of the present day, that I have ventured to place this book in
the foreground of an attempt to sketch rapidly some clear outline of
the conditions and the essential qualities of heroic poetry, which is
too commonly regarded as an easy off-hand kind of versification,
largely made up of dash, glowing words, and warlike clatter; although
in reality nothing is more rare or difficult than success in it.

We may say, then, that the first heroic poets and tale-tellers were
those who related the deeds and sufferings, the life and death of the
mighty men of earlier times; and that their verse was the embodiment
of the living traditions of men and manners. They were bards and
chroniclers who lived close enough to the age of which they wrote to
understand and keep touch with it--an age when battles and adventures
were ordinary incidents in the annals of a tribe, a city, or a
country--when valour, skill at arms, and a stout heart were supremely
important, being almost the only virtues that led to high distinction
and a great career. Heroic poetry of the higher kind could not exist
in a period of mere barbarism, for among barbarous folk there is no
art of poetic form. It could not have arisen before the people were so
far civilised as to have among them artistic singers or story-tellers
who gave fine and forcible expression to the acts they celebrated or
the scenes they described.

The old heroic poets were neither too near to the time of which they
sung or wrote, nor too far from it; and this gave them another special
advantage, they had a good audience. The song, or the story, must have
often been recited before listeners to whom the whole subject was more
or less familiar, who knew the facts and ways of war, the true aspect
and usages of a rough and perilous existence. They were too well
acquainted, at any rate, with such things to be captivated by vague
imaginative descriptions of fighting and refined chivalrous methods of
dealing with a mortal foe, such as are found in the later Romance.
Among primitive folk there would have been no taste for fantastic,
allegoric, and extravagant though highly poetical accounts of
valorous exploits by noble knights, with their tournaments and their
adventures with giants, dwarfs, or enchanters. The tradition was of a
community encompassed by dangers for men and for women, where life and
goods depended on strength and sagacity. And so the original hero was
strictly a practical soldier, a man who knew his business, who had
very few troublesome scruples; he was a man of war from his youth up,
struggling with arduous circumstance; and he usually came at last, as
in actual life, to a bloody though glorious end. For the experience of
a rough age is that the drama mostly finishes tragically, not happily
as in a modern novel. There was always a strain of Romance in the
heroic tale, and softer feelings were never quite absent: but all this
was subordinate to facts: whereas Romance seems to have prevailed and
grown popular in proportion as the writer stood further away from the
actualities, trusted to imagination rather than to authentic
experience, preferred literary ornament to probability, and indeed
took his readers as far away as possible from scenes or situations
which they could recognise or verify.

It may thus be suggested that the essential quality of Heroic poetry
is this--that it gives a true picture of the time. Not that the poet
was an eye-witness of what he narrated, or even that he lived in the
same generation with the men or the events that he celebrated. On the
contrary, the distance which lends enchantment to the view is needed
to surround heroes with a golden haze of glorification. But the bard
did live on the outer edge, so to speak, of the period which he wrote
about; he was more or less in the same atmosphere; his audience kept
him very near the truth because they could detect any exaggeration,
absurdity, or very unlikely incident; just as we should mark and
reject any particularly foolish story of the war that might appear in
to-morrow's newspaper. They would indeed swallow strange marvels of a
supernatural kind, the doings of gods and goddesses, and of magicians.
But I think it will be agreed that in all ages this has been a
separate matter, because men will believe what is plainly miraculous,
when they will not accept what is merely improbable. So far as the
natural world was concerned, the heroic artist worked upon genuine
material, transmitted orally or by fragmentary records, producing a
right image of remarkable men and the world in which they lived. It
was a world, in most cases, of small communities and petty wars, in
which a good chief or warrior came rapidly to the front, and was
all-important individually.

The word Hero is one of those Greek words which have been adopted into
all European languages, because they signify precisely a universal
idea of the thing. He must be strong and able in battle, for a lost
fight might mean the death or slavery of all his people. If the hero
does his living and dying in a noble fashion, the folk trouble
themselves very moderately about minor questions of religion or
ethics, and are very moderately scandalised by occasional ferocity.
Such a man is not to be hampered by ordinary rules; he is like a
general commanding in the field, who may do anything for the
preservation of his army, and the consequence is that he is seldom
expected to moralise. He acknowledges and pays great honour to the
cardinal virtues of truth-speaking, mutual fidelity, hospitality,
strict observance of pledges. He is in many ways a religious man;
though he is apt to break away from the priests when they interfere
seriously with the business in hand. For the chastity of wives he has
a high esteem, yet although he and his people are constantly brought
into trouble about women, he is tolerant of them, even when their
behaviour is what might be called regrettable; he treats them in some
degree as irresponsible beings, on the ground, perhaps, that they are
the only non-combatants in the world as he knows it, and that this
gives them special privileges. We can measure the importance of such a
personage in ancient days, by the noise which a first-class hero made
in the primitive world. He became literally and figuratively immortal:
he was regarded as a god, or at least godlike--the greatest of them
were actually deified. He was seized upon by fable, myth, miraculous
legend, and poetry--his name was handed down for centuries until the
heroic lineaments were softened down, disfigured, and at last faded
away in the magical haze of later Romance. But in very rare instances
he had the good luck to be taken in hand, before it was too late, by
some man of genius, who knew the temper of heroic times because he
lived within range of them, and who has preserved for us a story, an
incident, or a typical character--not, indeed, an authentic narrative,
for the true story disappears under the tradition which is built over
it; nor would such accurate knowledge be of much use to the poet,
whose business it is only to give us a fine spirited account of what
might have occurred. For the evidence that an ancient battle was
really fought we must go to the historian; the poet will tell us how
it was fought, he stirs the blood and fires the imagination by his
tale of noble deeds and deaths. His strength rests upon the foundation
of reality that underlies his artistic construction: he has never let
go his hold upon sound experience: and the truth is felt in all the
colour and detail of the picture, though the whole is a work of vivid
imagination. We cannot verify, obviously, the facts and motives which
led to the siege of Troy, although Herodotus appears to agree that the
cause of that war was a Spartan woman's abduction, and only examines
the point whether the Asiatic or the European Greeks were first to
blame in the matter. Professor Murray prefers to believe in a myth
growing out of the strife of light and darkness in the sky: but the
rape of beautiful girls by seafaring rovers was evidently common
enough in those times, so why should not the Homeric version be right?
We can always be sure that the old poems represent accurately life,
manners, and character; and from the analogy of those legends whose
origin is known, we may fairly infer that the root of a famous story,
divine or human, is first planted in fact, not in fancy; just as the
Chanson de Roland is founded on a real battle in the pass of

Such, therefore, were the conditions and fortunate coincidences which
produced the finest heroic poetry. You had the popular hero--the noble
warrior who knew his business; and you had also the poet or
story-teller who knew his art, could give you a dramatic picture
founded upon fact, and could always keep close to reality, without
crowding his canvas with unnecessary particulars; he gave you the
ruling motives, actions, and feelings of the age. The excellence of
the work lay in simplicity and directness of treatment, in a sureness
of line drawing, in a power of striking the right note, whether of
praise or sorrow, of glory or grief. There is no staginess or
far-fetched emotion, or artificial scene-painting: the style strikes
the right chords of passion or pity, and stamps upon the mind a vivid
impression of situation and character. Moreover, the heroic poet, as a
composer, had this advantage in early days, that continual recital
before an appreciative public must have had the effect of polishing up
his best verses, and polishing off his bad ones. As the theme was
always some well-known story or personage, it was possible to omit
details and explanations, and to go straight to the points that
repetition had proved to be the most effective, so that the criterion
of excellence must have been immediate popularity with the audience as
in a play. It may be conjectured also that the metre, in length of
line and cadence, formed itself to a great degree on the natural
conditions of oral delivery and listening. For all poetry, I think,
makes its primary appeal to the ear; and the modern habit of reading
it seems to me to have thrown this essential test of quality somewhat
into the background. The arrangement of metre and rhyme may have been
gradually invented to correspond with and satisfy that natural
expectation of the recurrence of certain tones and measures which
always delights primitive men, and of which one may possibly trace
some symptoms even in animals, as when the snake sways slowly to the
simple sounds of a snake-charmer's pipe. The order of all modern
versification (except in blank verse, which is never popular) depends
on the echoing rhyme, which marks time like the stroke of a bell, and
is waited for with keen anticipation by the sensitive listener. It is
strange, to my mind, that such a beautiful creation as the beat of
tonic sounds at a line's terminal should have been comparatively so
recent a discovery in European poetry.

That a master of this art must have been very rare is shown by the
very few pieces of first-class heroic poetry still extant out of the
immense quantity that must have been attempted in different ages and
countries. Yet the materials lie strewn around us, awaiting the
skilful hand; they are to be found wherever a high-spirited warlike
race is fighting its way upward out of barbarism into some less
wretched stage of society that may allow breathing time for working
the precious mines of recent traditions. The state of society
described in some Icelandic Sagas, for example, with its hereditary
blood feuds and perpetual assassinations, with its code of honour
making vengeance a pious duty, its tariff of blood money, and its
council for adjusting civil and criminal wrongs, has a close
resemblance to everyday life among the free Afghan tribes beyond the
North-West Frontier of India. But the Saga writers flourished, I
understand, when this state of things had passed or was passing away;
while the Afghans are still a rude illiterate folk who have only
songs, recited by the professional bards. The best collection of these
popular songs has been made by a Frenchman, the late James
Darmesteter, who remarks that 'English people in India care little for
Indian songs'; though one may reply that he has made use of English
writers and collectors of frontier folklore, and indeed he
acknowledges his debt to Mr. Thorburn's excellent book on _Bannu or
our Afghan Frontier_. However that may be, we have here, in these
unwritten lays, the stuff out of which is developed, first, the
established tradition, and, secondly, not only poetry but also the
beginnings of history, for these lays are the oral records of
contemporary events--'c'est le cri même de l'histoire.' They tell of
the last Afghan War, and of the most famous border forays made by the
English lords on the Afghan marches: they preserve the names and deeds
of English officers and of the leading warriors of the Afghan tribes:
they tell how Cavagnari 'drank the stirrup-cup of the great journey'
when the English mission was slaughtered at Kabul in 1879, and how
General Roberts, his heart shot through with grief, set out in fiery
speed on his avenging march against the Afghan capital. Here then is
for the modern historian a rare opportunity of comparing the
contemporary popular version of events with exact authentic official
record; and the result ought to aid him in deciding, by analogy, what
value is to be placed on similar material that has been handed down
in the ancient songs and stories of other countries. He will be
fortified, I think, in the sound conclusion that all far-sounding
legend has a solid substratum of fact. As poetry, these songs render
forcibly the temper and feelings of the people; they illustrate their
virtues and vices, their worship of courage and devotion to the clan,
their fanaticism and ferocity. The sense of Afghan honour, in the
matter of sheltering a guest, is shown in the ballad which relates how
a son killed his father for violating this law of hospitality. Like
all popular verse, the Afghan songs have their recurrent phrases and
familiar commonplaces; yet, says Darmesteter,

     'in spite of the limited range of ideas and interests, and a rather
     low ideal, all such defects find their excuse in the passion, the
     simplicity, the direct spontaneous outspeaking, that supreme gift
     which has been lost in our intellectual decadence.'

The stirring events of the time have been immediately put into verse;
the scenes and feelings are struck off in the die of actual
circumstance; the heated metal takes a clear-cut impression. It is in
rough songs like these that are to be found the germs of the higher
heroic poetry. The ballad, the short stories, the favourite anecdotes
of remarkable men at their exploits, have the luck to fall, later,
into the hands of a skilful reciter or verse-maker; they are enlarged,
knit together, and fashioned according to the ideas of the day, with
an infusion of rhetoric and literary decoration. The heroic ideal, to
use Professor Ker's words, is thus worked up out of the sayings and
doings of great men of the fore-time, who stand forth as the type and
embodiment of the virtues and vices of their age, as it was conceived
by poets who could handle the popular traditions. And we may guess
that all anecdotes, words of might, and feats of arms that were
current before and after him, if they were appropriate to the type,
would cluster round the hero, and be used for bringing his character
into strong relief. We can even discern this tendency in modern
society, where a notable personage, like the Duke of Wellington or
Talleyrand, is credited with any vigorous or caustic saying that suits
the idea of him, and may be passed on in another generation to the
account of the next popular favourite. The literary habit of providing
impressive 'last words' for great men at death's door might be taken
as another example of the magnetic attraction of types.

Of course the perfect samples of heroic verse, of famous songs and
stories woven into an epic poem, are to be found in Homer.[17]
Nowhere, in the whole range of the world's poetry, can we see such
splendid impersonations of primitive life and character treated
artistically. Yet the plot is simple enough. Agamemnon, the chief
commander of the Greek army, has carried off the daughter of a priest
of Apollo, and flatly refuses to give her back; whereupon the priest
appeals to the god, who brings the chief to reason by spreading a
plague in the Grecian camp; and so the girl goes home with apologies.
But Agamemnon indemnifies himself by seizing a captive damsel
belonging to Achilles, who, being justly infuriated, will go no more
to battle, but sits sulkily in his tent, until the Greek army is very
nearly destroyed, for want of his help, by the Trojans.

Here we have at once a picture of manners not unlike those of the
Afghan tribes, though very differently treated. The poet is at no
pains to put on any moral varnish, or to tone down the roughness
romantically; because he is writing, or reciting, for people of much
the same way of thinking as his heroes, who are fierce chiefs
quarrelling over captured women; and the whole plot is developed by
sheer pressure of circumstance and character. Then on the Trojan side
we have the figure of Hector, the true patriotic hero, who is
naturally displeased with Paris for the abduction of Helen, which has
brought a disastrous war upon Troy; yet what is done cannot be undone,
and his clear duty is to fight for his own people. To Helen herself he
is gentle and kind; and the religious men only irritate him when they
interfere in military matters. But although he is far the noblest
character in the whole poem, he is eventually slain by Achilles, for
the plain reason that Achilles is the most terrible warrior of both
armies. It was Hector's fate, which is the poet's way of saying that
the inexorable logic of facts, as he knows them, must always prevail.

With regard to the position of women in Homeric poetry. They are
mainly irresponsible creatures: how could they be otherwise, when
everything depends on the sword, and a woman cannot wield it? As the
equality of sexes implies a high state of civilisation and security,
so in the old fighting times a woman had to stand aside; yet though
she could not take part in a battle, there were incessant battles
about her: the fatal woman, who is the ruin of her country, is
well-known in all legend and romance, from Helen of Troy to La Cava,
whose seduction by King Roderick brought the Moors into Spain.[18] In
the _Iliad_ King Priam treats Helen with delicate consideration, as is
seen in the beautiful passage that describes her sitting by him on the
walls of Troy, and pointing out to him the leaders of the Greek army
marshalled in the plain before them. Nor is any more perfect female
character to be found in poetry than Andromache, Hector's wife,
high-spirited, virtuous, and passionately affectionate. Yet Helen,
the erring woman, is brought home eventually by Menelaus, and appears
again in the _Odyssey_ as a highly respected matron, who has had an
adventure in early life; while Andromache, having seen her husband
slain and dragged round the walls of Troy behind the chariot of
Achilles, is carried off a childless widow into dolorous servitude.

Here one may feel the tragic power of an artist who draws life from
the sombre verities, not as it is seen through the romantic colouring
of a softer moralising age; he never wastes himself on vain
lamentations, never suggests that virtue will save you from bitter
unmerited calamity: he gives the true situation. There is one short
passage in the _Odyssey_ where the poet, merely by the way, and to
illustrate something else, lets us have a glimpse of an incident that
was probably familiar to him and his audience. He wishes to show what
he means by a burst of grief, and this he does, not by a string of
epithets, but by a picture.[19]

From the historic books of the Old Testament, particularly from the
books of Samuel and the Kings, one might take some fine specimens of
the peculiar quality distinguishing the heroic style, in prose that is
very near poetry. Nothing can be more simple than the narrative, it is
cool and quiet: there are whole chapters without an unnecessary
adjective; and yet it is most impressive, both in the drawing of such
characters as Saul, David, and Joab, who stand out dramatically, like
Homeric heroes, and in the stories of their deeds and death.

Professor Ker's essays contain a masterly and luminous survey of the
vicissitudes undergone by the songs and legends of Western and
Northern nations in the course of transmutation from the primitive
heroic stage into deliberate literary composition. The original
material never attained the grand epical form; the process was
interrupted by the advancement of learning, by ecclesiastical
influences, and by vast social changes.

     'Even before the people had fairly escaped from barbarism, before
     they had made a fair beginning of civilisation and of reflective
     literature on their own account, they were drawn within the Empire,
     within Christendom.'

A similar fate, it may here be noticed, has overtaken, or awaits, the
heroic songs of the Afghans; for Darmesteter tells us that as the oral
tradition becomes written it falls into the net of translation and
paraphrase, it is absorbed into the elegant literature of Persia,
Arabia, and Hindustan, it becomes theological and romanesque. And
another dangerous enemy has now appeared in the shape of the
Anglo-Indian schools which follow and fix the English dominion; for
the primitive folklore has no more chance against systematic education
than the wild fighting men have against drilled and disciplined
soldiers. In Europe the Sagas of Iceland, which lay furthest from the
civilising influences, had the luck of preserving the true elements of
heroic narrative; and the Anglo-Saxon poem of Beowulf, though it falls
far short of the epic, has a certain Homeric flavour. The chief is the
'folces-hyrde,' his people's shepherd; and we have Beowulf, like
Hector,[20] desiring that after his death a mound may be raised at the
headland which juts out into the sea, 'that seafaring men may
afterward call it Beowulf's Mound, they who drive from far their
roaring vessels over the mists of the flood.'[21]

Let us turn now to the romantic poetry of England, which for some
centuries ruled all our imaginative literature, and annexed, so to
speak, almost the whole field of battles, adventures, and energetic
activity generally. The subjects are much the same: the gallantry of
men, the beauty, virtues, and frailties of women: but the writers have
got a loose uncertain grip upon the actualities of life; they wander
away into fanciful stories of noble knights, distressed damsels, and
marvellous feats of chivalry--in short they are _romancing_. They care
little whether the details accord with natural fact--whether, for
instance, the account of a fight is incredible to any one who knows
what a battle really is; the heroes are chivalrous knight-errants,
noble, pious, devoted to their lady loves; but they are not
hard-headed, hard-fisted men like Ulysses, David, or some old
Icelandic sea-rover. The true heroic spirit shoots up occasionally,
nevertheless the prevailing idea of the romance-writer is to tell a
wondrous tale of love and adventure, in which he lets his fancy run
riot, rather enjoying than avoiding magnificent improbabilities.
Undoubtedly the beautiful mystic romance of the Morte d'Arthur does
light up at the end with a true flash of heroic poetry, in the famous
lamentation over Lancelot, when he is found at last dead in the
hermitage: but in this passage the elegiac strain rises far above the
ordinary level of romantic composers. Meanwhile, as the English nation
at home settled down into peaceful habits under the strong organising
pressure of Church and State, and arms gave way to laws, the hero's
occupation disappeared from our everyday society, and the heroic
tradition decayed out of imaginative literature, which was often
picturesque, sublime, and profoundly reflective, but had parted with
the special qualities of energetic simplicity and the vivid impression
of fact. Nevertheless, heroic poetry in this sense has never been
quite extinguished in Great Britain; it survived, naturally, wherever
it could be preserved by a living popular tradition. And so it found a
congenial refuge, though in greatly reduced circumstances, in the
rough outlying regions where personal strength and daring were still
vitally necessary--in the borderland between England and Scotland. An
epic poem gave heroic poetry on a grand scale, it told the incidents
of a great war: the ballad tells of a single skirmish or foray. Yet
the difference is but one of degree, for both epic and ballad were
composed for men and by men, who were in the right atmosphere; and so
we have here very different work from that of the fanciful romancer.
There are not many good examples; yet the antique tone rings out now
and then, as in the ballad of Chevy Chase, which commemorates a fierce
Northumbrian fight at Otterburne that must have stirred the hearts of
the whole countryside. Here you have no knightly tournament, or duel
for rescue of dames, but the sharp clash of bloody conflict between
English and Scots borderers, the best fighting men of our island. Of
course the genuine account, given in Froissart, is very different; but
the ballad-singer knows his art; and whereas from history we only
learn that a Scottish knight, Sir Hugh Montgomery, was slain in the
medley, in the ballad an English archer draws his bow

    'An arrow of a cloth yard long
      To the hard head hayled he.'

And then

    'Against Sir Hugh Montgomery
      So right his shaft he set,
    The swan's feather that his arrow bare
      In his heart's blood was wet.'

In the compressed energy of these four lines, without an epithet or a
superfluous word, we have a picture, drawn by a sure hand, of a man
drawing his long bow, and driving it from steel to feathers through a
knight in armour.

Well, the border fighting disappeared with the union of the two
kingdoms, and as Great Britain became civilised and began to transfer
her wars oversea, the heroic verse decayed under the influence of the
higher culture. For a civilised and literary society to have preserved
its ancient lays and ballads is the rarest of lucky chances; the
enthusiastic collector, like Percy or Walter Scott, is generally born
too late, for indeed all antiquarianism is a very modern task. And
poetry of this sort must decay under what Shakespeare calls 'the
cankers of a calm world': while it also tends to disappear with the
introduction of professional soldiers and great armies, where personal
heroism counts for little. These may be, I suppose, the main reasons
why great wars produce so little heroic verse: it may be questioned
whether even our civil wars of the seventeenth century inspired any
genuine poetry of this sort. And when in the eighteenth century the
clang of arms had completely died away at home, the battle pieces were
done after an artificial literary fashion, by writers who were content
to describe vaguely the charging of hosts, the thunder of cannon, the
groans of the wounded, and other such mechanical generalities.

If any one could have revived the true heroic style, it would have
been done by Walter Scott, with his delight in the border minstrelsy,
and his martial ardour; but the romantic spirit was too strong upon
him. He had laid hold of the right tradition, could give picturesque
scenes and characters of a bygone time, and _Bonnie Dundee_ is a
ringing ballad; yet his style in the longer metrical tales is
distinctly romantic and conventional. If he had not been writing for
readers to whom the rough riders of the Border in the sixteenth
century were totally strange and unreal beings, he could never have
said that they

    'Carved at the meal with gloves of steel,
    And drank the red wine through the helmet barred.'

An unsophisticated audience would have laughed outright at such a
comical performance. And we can see how Scott, as a poet of the
battlefield, had become possessed with the idea that the grand style
must be a lofty strain, something magnificently unusual, by his two
poems upon Waterloo, which are fine failures; though we may admit the
impossibility of making a heroic poem out of a battle that has just
been minutely described in newspapers. On the other hand, his prose
novels afford us a remarkable example of the two styles contrasted.
When he wrote of the middle ages, as in _Ivanhoe_, _The Talisman_, and
others, he was a pure romancer; whereas in his Tales of Scotland in
the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, in the _Legend of Montrose_,
_Old Mortality_, _The Bride of Lammermoor_, there are two or three
rapid sketches of sharp fighting which are true and spirited, full of
vivacity and character. On this ground he trod firmly, knowing the
country, the times, and the people of Scotland: while the petty
skirmishes at Drumclog or Bothwell Brig were easier to manage
artistically than a great battle. Poetry, indeed, like painting, can
do nothing on a vast scale, cannot manage masses of men; and moreover
it fails to deal effectively with a state of war in which mechanical
skill and the tactical movement of large bodies of troops win the day.
There may be as much personal heroism as ever, but it is lost in the
multitude. Nevertheless sea-fighting, where separate ships may
encounter and grapple like two mortal foes, with the deep water
around and beneath them, gives heroism a better chance; and the
mariner is always a poetic figure. So Thomas Campbell did rise very
nearly to the heroic level in his poem on the battle of the Baltic,
written when the true story of Nelson's famous exploit was still
fresh; we have a clear and forcible impression of the British ships
moving silently to the attack; and the closing lines touch the ancient
ever-living feeling of gratitude to Captain Riou and his brave
comrades, 'so tried and yet so true,' who fell in the great victory.

With this exception, the prolonged conflict between England and
France, which lasted twenty years up to its end at Waterloo, struck
out hardly a spark of heroic poetry. Yet the Peninsular War is full of
splendid military exploits, of fierce battles and the desperate
storming of fortresses: it was a period of great national energy, when
the people were contending with all their heart and strength against a
most dangerous enemy; it was also a time when England was singularly
rich in poets of the highest order. Nevertheless the only verses that
may be assigned to the peculiar class which I have been attempting to
define, were written, not by one of the famous group of poets, but by
an unknown hand; and they relate not to a great battle, but to a
slight incident, not to a victory, but to a hasty retreat. I am
alluding to the well-known stanzas on the _Burial of Sir John Moore_,
who was killed at Corunna in 1809; and my apology for quoting anything
so hackneyed must be that it is trite by reason of its excellence; for
a short poem, like a single happy phrase, wins incessant repetition
and lasting popularity, because the words precisely fit some universal
feeling. Why have these verses made such an effect that they are
familiar to all of us, and fresh as when they were first read? Is it
not because the writer had one clear flash of imaginative light,
which showed him the reality of the scene, so that the description
speaks for itself, without literary epithets, creating, as the French
say, the true image. He struck the right note of soldierly emotion,
brief, stern, and compressed, when there is no time for vain
lamentation--as when in the _Iliad_ Ulysses says to Achilles, who is
inconsolable for the death of his friend, that a soldier must bury his
comrade with a pitiless heart, and that in war a day's mourning is all
that can be spared for slain men.[22]

It may be allowable to suggest, therefore, among the reasons for the
prevailing dearth and scarcity of first-class heroic poetry,
notwithstanding the universal demand for it, the impossibility of thus
handling war on a great scale, and also the serious difficulty of
giving this poetic form to contemporary events, which are not easily
grouped in artistic perspective because they are so accurately
described elsewhere. This suggestion may derive support from the
observation that whenever, in our own day, we have had brief samples
of verse-writing with a strain of the genuine old quality, they have
almost always come from a distant scene, usually from the frontiers of
the British Empire, far away from the centres of academic culture and
the fields of organised war. Two or three of Rudyard Kipling's short
poems about life on the Afghan border and Indian camp life have the
right ring: they are instinct with the colour and sensation of the
environment: they stir the blood with a conviction of reality. If it
be permissible for a moment to compare these rough energetic verses
with the battle pieces of an immeasurably greater artist--with
Tennyson's _Charge of the Light Brigade_, for example--one may see
that in the poetry of action the grand style misses something which
has been caught by the eye that has seen the thing itself; the Charge
is a splendid composition, but the frontier ballad sets you down on
the ground and shows you life.

Undoubtedly, also, the romantic literary style, which prevailed so
long in this country, and which is the natural product of high
culture, has been unfavourable, because it was radically unsuitable,
to the poetry of energetic action. It is true that all the highest
compositions of the heroic poet are set off by a tinge of romance, as
fine drawing is perfected by superb colouring; but the drawbacks of
romance lie in a tendency to vagueness of thought, and to the
preference of archaic words and overstrained sentiments which were
given as poetic mainly because they were far-fetched and did not sound
commonplace. In fact the later poets adopted mechanically the strong
natural language of those who wrote under the inspiration of actual
emotion or events, and therefore they used it awkwardly and
ineffectively; or else in their consciousness of not knowing how
things really happened, they kept within sonorous generalities, which
are the resource of artistic impotence. In our own day we have
witnessed a sharp revolt against romantic verse, and a reversion
toward those forms of art which reflect the actual experience of men,
toward precision and accurate detail: Romance has been abandoned for
what is called Realism. But here we are threatened by a danger from
the opposite direction: for a clumsy Realist is apt to suppose that
his business is merely to describe facts without adding anything out
of his own imaginative faculty, that he may bring his characters on
the stage in their daily garb, in the dirty slovenliness with which
they go about dreaming or acting in their own petty sphere,[23] and so
he overcharges with technicalities or trivial particulars.
Nevertheless one may say that the poetry of action has found better
methods since it shook off the influence of fantastic romance, and is
distinctly improving: though its strength lies in short pieces
repeating some notable incident or dramatic situations bringing out
character, which is just where it began originally, and where indeed
it is likely to remain, for the epic poem, or heroic verse on the
grand scale, may be thought to have disappeared finally.

To conclude a very brief and inadequate dissertation, we may, I think,
lay it down as a principle of the art, that heroic poetry must be true
to circumstances and to character, must have the qualities of
simplicity and sincerity, combined with the magnetic power of stirring
the heart by showing how men and women can behave when really
confronted by danger, death, or irremediable misfortune. Its
background, in skilful hands, is the contrast of calm Nature looking
on at human strife and sorrow, at stern fortitude and energetic effort
in tragic situations. We are reading every day of such situations in
the South African War, where there has been no lack of brave men 'so
tried and yet so true,' who have found themselves back again suddenly
in the rough fighting world of their forefathers, and have felt and
acted like the men of old time. There is abundant proof that the
English folk can display as much heroism as ever men did; but we may
look in vain for the poet who knows how to commemorate their valour
and patriotic self-sacrifice in heroic verse.


[16] _Anglo-Saxon Review_, June 1900.

[17] _Epic and Romance_, p. 15.

    'Ay España
        Perdita por un gusto y por La Cava.'

    _Romance del Rey Rodrigo._

    So doth a woman weep, as her husband in death she embraces,
    Him, who in front of his people and city has fallen in battle,
    Striving in vain to defend his home from the fate of the vanquished.
    She there, seeing him die, and gasping his life out before her,
    Clings to him bitterly moaning. And round her the others, the foemen,
    Beat her, and bid her arise, and stab at her back with the lances,
    Dragging her off as a slave to the bondage of labour and sorrow.

    _Odyssey_, viii. 523-29.

[20] _Iliad_, vi. 86-90.

[21] Arnold's translation.

[22] _Iliad_, xix. 228-29.

[23] Lessing.


'When the year 1900 is turned, and our nation comes to recount her
poetic glories in the century which has then just ended, the first
names will be Wordsworth and Byron.' Thus wrote Matthew Arnold in
1881, and now that the century's last autumn is passing away, a new
edition of Byron's works appears in the fullness of time to quicken
our memories and rekindle our curiosity, by placing before us a
complete record of the life, letters, and poetry of one whom Macaulay
declared in 1830 to be the most celebrated Englishman of the
nineteenth century, and who seventy years later may still be counted
among its most striking and illustrious figures.

As the new edition is issued by instalments, and several volumes are
still to come, to compare its contents, arrangement, and the editorial
accessories with those of preceding editions might be thought
premature. We may say, however, that a large number of Byron's
letters, not before printed, have now been added; and that the text of
this new material has been prepared from originals, whereas it is now
impossible so to collate the text of the greater number of the letters
heretofore published. Moore is supposed to have destroyed many of
those entrusted to him; and moreover he handled the originals very
freely, making large omissions, and transposing passages from one
letter to another, though we presume that he did not re-write and
amplify passages after the fashion in which certain French editors
have dealt with recent memoirs. The letters now for the first time
published by Mr. Murray were for the most part inaccessible to Moore.
But for all these details we may refer our readers to the concise and
valuable prefaces appended to the three volumes of Letters and

We have now, therefore, a substantial acquisition of fresh and quite
authentic material, though it would be rash to assume that all
important documents are included, for the family archives are still
held in reserve. It is admitted by the editor that the literary value
of the letters now printed for the first time is not high, but he
explains that in publishing, with a few exceptions, the whole
available correspondence, he has acted on the principle that they form
an aggregate collection of great biographical interest, and may thus
serve as the best substitute for the lost memoirs. We may agree that
any scrap of a great man's writing, or even any words spoken, may
throw some light upon his character, whether the subject be trivial or
tremendous, a business letter to his solicitor or a defiance of
society; for even though careless readers chance to miss some pearl
strung at random on a string of commonplaces, to the higher criticism
nothing is quite valueless. In this instance, at any rate, no pains
have been spared to place the real Lord Byron, as described more or
less unconsciously by himself, before his fellow-countrymen; and the
result is to confirm his reputation as a first-class letter-writer.
The private and confidential correspondence of eminent literary men
would be usually more decorous than interesting; but Byron, though he
is not always respectable, is never dull. The correspondence and
journals, taken all together, constitute the most interesting and
characteristic collection of its kind in English literature.

In regard to the effect upon his personal reputation, we have long
known what manner of man was Byron; nor is it likely that, after
passing in review the complete array of evidence collected in these
volumes, the general verdict of posterity will be sensibly modified.
Those who judge him should bear in mind that perhaps no famous life
has ever been so thoroughly laid bare, or scrutinised with greater
severity. The tendency of biographers is to soften down errors and
praise where they can; and in an autobiography the writer can tell his
own story. But the assiduous searching out and publication of every
letter and diary that can be gathered or gleaned is a different
ordeal, which might try the reputation of most of us; while in the
case of an impulsive, wayward, high-spirited man, exposed to strong
temptations, with all a poet's traditional irritability, whose rank
and genius concentrated public attention on his writings from his
early youth, this test must be extremely severe. Many of the letters
are of a sort that do not ordinarily appear in a biography. Byron's
letters to his wife at the time of their separation, which are
moderate and even dignified, are supplemented by his wife's letters to
him and to her friends, full of mysterious imputations; and there are
letters to and from the lady with whom his _liaison_ was notorious.
His own reckless letters from Venice to Moore, and those from Shelley
and others describing his dissipated habits, were clearly never
intended for general reading after his death. Of course most of these
are not now produced for the first time, nor do we argue that they
ought never to have appeared, for the biographical interest is
undeniable. Our point is that the publication of such private and
damaging correspondence is so very unusual in biographies that it
places Byron at a special disadvantage, and that when we pass our
judgment upon him we are bound to take into account the unsparing use
that has been made of papers connected with the most intimate
transactions of a lifetime which was no more than a short and stormy
passage from youth to manhood; for he was cut off before the age at
which men abandon the wild ways of their springtide, and are usually
disposed to obliterate the record of them. At least one recent
biography might be mentioned which would have read differently if it
had been compiled with similar candour.

The annotations subjoined to almost every page of the text are so
ample and particular as to furnish in themselves extensive reading.
The notices of every person named would go far to serve as a brief
biographical dictionary of Byron's contemporaries, whether known or
unknown to fame. We get a concise account of Madame de Staël--her
birth, books, and political opinions--very useful to those who had no
previous acquaintance with her. Lady Morgan and Joanna Southcote
obtain quite as much space as would be allotted to them in any
handbook of celebrities. Beau Brummell and Lord Castlereagh are
treated with similar liberality. There is a full account, taken from
the _Examiner_, of the procession with which Louis XVIII. made his
entry into London in 1814. The notes--of about four pages each--upon
Hobhouse and Lord Carlisle may be justified by their close connection
with Byron's affairs; though some of us might have been content with
less. Allusions to such notorious evildoers as Tarquin are explained,
and stock quotations from Shakespeare have been carefully verified.
The result is that a reader might go through this edition of Byron
with the very slightest previous knowledge of general literature or of
contemporary history, and might give himself a very fair middle-class
education in the process, although the consequence might be to imbue
him with what Coleridge has called 'a passion for the disconnected.'
Nevertheless we readily acknowledge the thorough execution of this
part of the editorial work, and the very meritorious labour that has
been spent upon bringing together every kind of document and reference
that can inform or enlighten us upon the main subjects of Byron's life
and writings. In the poems the practice of giving in notes the rough
drafts and rejected versions of passages and lines, so as to show the
poet at work, seems to us not altogether fair to him, and is
occasionally distracting to those readers who enjoy a fine picture
without asking how the colours were mixed, or are not anxious about
the secrets of a good dinner. Yet to students of method, to the
fellow-craftsman, and to the literary virtuoso, these variant
readings, of which there are sometimes four to a single line, may
often be of substantial interest, as throwing light on the tendencies
and predilections of taste which are the formative influences upon
style in prose or poetry.

Probably the most favourable circumstance for a poet is that he should
only be known, like the Divinity of Nature, from his works; or at
least that, like Wordsworth, he should keep the noiseless tenor of his
way down some secluded vale of life, whereby his poems stand out in
clear relief like fine paintings on a plain wall. Is there any modern
English poet of the first class, except Byron, whose entire prose
writings and biography are bound up in standard editions with his
poetry? The question is at any rate worth asking, because certainly
there is no case in which the record of a poet's private life and
personal fortunes has so greatly affected, for good or for ill, his
poetic reputation. Those who detested his character and condemned his
way of living found it difficult to praise his verses; they detected
the serpent under every stone. For those who were fascinated by the
picture of a reckless prodigal, always in love and in debt, with
fierce passions and a haughty contempt for the world, who defied
public opinion and was suspected of unutterable things--such a
personality added enormous zest to his poetry. But now that Byron's
whole career has been once more laid out before his countrymen, with
light poured on to it from every cranny and peephole, those who take
up this final edition of his life and works must feel that their main
object and duty should be to form an unbiased estimate of the true
value, apart from the author's rank and private history, of poems
which must always hold a permanent place in the high imaginative
literature of England.

It may be said that every writer of force and originality traverses
two phases of opinion before his substantive rank in the great order
of merit is definitely fixed: he is either depressed or exalted
unduly. He may be neglected or cheapened by his own generation, and
praised to the sides by posterity; or his fame may undergo the inverse
treatment, until he settles down to his proper level. Byron's
reputation has passed through sharper vicissitudes than have befallen
most of his compeers; for though no poet has ever shot up in a brief
lifetime to a higher pinnacle of fame, or made a wider impression upon
the world around him, after his death he seems to have declined
slowly, in England, to a point far below his real merits. And at this
moment there is no celebrated poet, perhaps no writer, in regard to
whom the final judgment of critics and men of letters is so
imperfectly determined. Here is a man whom Goethe accounted a
character of unique eminence, with supreme creative power, whose
poetry, he admitted, had influenced his own later verse--one of those
who gave strenuous impulse to the romantic movement throughout
England, France, and Germany in the first quarter of this century, who
set the fashion of his day in England, stirred and shaped the popular
imagination, and struck a far resonant note in our poetry. Yet after
his death he suffered a kind of eclipse; his work was much more unduly
depreciated than it had been extolled; while in our own time such
critics as Matthew Arnold and Mr. Swinburne have been in profound
disagreement on the question of his worth and value as a poet. Nor is
it possible for impartial persons to accept the judgment of either of
these two eminent artists in poetry, since Arnold placed Wordsworth
and Byron by anticipation on the same level at this century's end,
whereas Wordsworth stands now far higher. And the bitter disdain which
Sir. Swinburne has poured upon Byron's verse and character, though
tempered by acknowledgment of his strength and cleverness, and by
approbation of his political views, excites some indignation and a
sympathetic reaction in his favour. One can imagine the ghost of Byron
rebuking his critic with the words of the Miltonic Satan, 'Ye knew me
once no mate For you, there sitting where ye durst not soar'; for in
his masculine defiant attitude and daring flights the elder poet
overtops and looks down upon the fine musical artist of our own day.

Some of the causes which have combined to lower Byron's popularity are
not far to seek. The change of times, circumstance, and taste has been
adverse to him. The political school which he so ardently represented
has done its work; the Tory statesmen of the Metternich and
Castlereagh type, who laid heavy hands upon nations striving for light
and liberty, have gone down to their own place; the period of stifling
repression has long ended in Europe. Italy and Greece are free, the
lofty appeals to classic heroism are out of date, and such fiery
high-swelling trumpet notes as

    'Yet, Freedom! yet, thy banner, torn, but flying,
    Streams like a thunderstorm _against_ the wind,'

fall upon cold and fastidious ears. 'The day will come,' said Mazzini
in after-years, 'when the democracy will acknowledge its debt to
Byron;' but the demos is notoriously ungrateful, and the subject races
have now won their independence. The shadow of discouragement and
weariness which passed over sensitive minds at the beginning of this
century, a period of political disillusion, has long been swept away
by the prosperity and sanguine activities of the Victorian era; and
the literary style has changed with the times. Melancholy moods,
attitudes of scornful despair, tales of fierce love and bloody revenge
are strange and improbable to readers who delight in situations and
emotions with which they are familiar, who demand exactitude in detail
and correct versification; while sweet harmonies, perfection of metre,
middle-class pastorals, and a blameless moral tone came in with
Tennyson. In short, many of the qualities which enchanted Byron's own
generation have disenchanted our own, both in his works and his life;
for when Macaulay wrote in 1830 that the time would come when his
'rank and private history will not be regarded in estimating his
poetry,' he took no account of future editions enlarged and annotated,
or of biographies of _The Real Lord Byron_; whereby it has come to
pass, as we suspect, that the present world knows more of Byron's
private history than of his poems. His faults and follies stand out
more prominently than ever; his story is more attractive reading than
most romances; and the stricter morality of the day condemns him more
severely than did the society to which he belonged. Psychological
speculation is now so much more practised in literature than formerly,
there is so much more interest in 'the man behind the book,' that
serious moral delinquencies, authentically recorded and eagerly read,
operate more adversely than ever in affecting the public judgment upon
Byron's poetry, because they provide a damaging commentary upon it.
His contemporaries--Coleridge, Keats, Shelley--lived so much apart
from the great world of their day that important changes in manners
and social opinion have made much less difference in the standard by
which their lives are compared with their work. Their poetry,
moreover, was mainly impersonal. Whereas Byron, by stamping his own
character on so much of his verse, created a dangerous interest in the
man himself; and his _empeiria_ (as Goethe calls it), his too
exclusively worldly experience, identified him with his particular
class in society, rendering him largely the responsible representative
of a libertinism in habits and sentiments that was more pardonable in
his time than in our own. His poetry belongs also in another sense to
the world he lived in: it is incessantly occupied with current events
and circumstance, with Spain, Italy, and Greece as he actually saw
them, with comparisons of their visible condition and past glories,
with Peninsular battlefields, and with Waterloo. Of worldliness in
this objective meaning his contemporaries had some share, yet they
instinctively avoided the waste of their power upon it; and so their
finest poetry is beautiful by its detachment, by a certain magical
faculty of treating myth, romance, and the mystery of man's
sympathetic relations with universal Nature.

A recent French critic of Chateaubriand, who defines the 'romantisme'
of that epoch as no more than a great waking up of the poetic spirit,
says that the movement was moral and psychological generally before it
spread into literature. In criticising Byron's poetry we have to bear
in mind that he came in on the first wave of this flood, which
overflowed the exhausted and arid field of poetry at the end of the
last century, fertilising it with colour and emotion. The comparison
between Byron in England and Chateaubriand in France must have been
often drawn. The similarity in their style, their moody, melancholy
outlook upon common humanity, their aristocratic temper, their
self-consciousness, their influence upon the literature of the two
countries, the enthusiasm that they excited among the ardent spirits
of the generation that reached manhood immediately after them, and the
vain attempts of the elder critics to resist their popularity and deny
their genius--form a remarkable parallel in literary history. As
Jeffrey failed at first to discern the promise of Byron, so Morellet
could only perceive the obviously weak points of Chateaubriand, laying
stress on his affectations, his inflated language, his sentimental
exaggeration, upon all the faults which were common to these two men
of genius, the defects of their qualities, the energetic rebound from
the classic level of orderly taste and measured style. It was the
ancient _régime_ contending against a revolutionary uprising, and in
poetry, as in politics, the leaders of revolution are sure to be
excessive, to force their notes, to frighten their elders, and to
scandalise the conservative mind. Yet just as Chateaubriand, after
passing through his period of depression, is now rising again to his
proper place in French literature, so we may hope that an impartial
survey of Byron's verse will help to determine the rank that he is
likely to hold permanently, although the high tide of Romance in
poetry has at this moment fallen to a low ebb, and the spell which it
laid upon our forefathers may have lost its power in an altered world.

It must be counted to the credit of these Romantic writers that at any
rate they widened and varied the sphere and the resources of their
art, by introducing the Oriental element, so to speak, into the
imaginative literature of modern Europe. They brought the lands of
ancient civilisation again within the sphere of poetry, reviving into
fresh animation the classic glories of Hellas, reopening the gates of
the mysterious East, and showing us the Greek races still striving, as
they were twenty-two centuries earlier, for freedom against the
barbarous strength of an Asiatic empire. Byron was the first of the
poets who headed this literary crusade for the succour of Christianity
against Islam in the unending contest between East and West on the
shores of the Mediterranean, and in this cause he eventually died.
Chateaubriand, Lamartine, and Victor Hugo were also travellers in
Asia, and had drawn inspiration from that source; they all
instinctively obeyed, like Bonaparte, the impulse which sends
adventurous and imaginative spirits toward that region of strong
passions and primitive manners, where human life is of little matter,
and where the tragic situations of drama and fiction may at any time
be witnessed in their simple reality. The effect was to introduce
fresh blood into the veins of old romance; and Byron led the van of an
illustrious line of poets who turned their _impressions de voyage_
into glowing verse, for the others only trod in his footsteps and
wrote on his model, while Lamartine openly imitated him in his
_Dernier Chant de Childe Harold_. For the first time the Eastern tale
was now told by a poet who had actually seen Eastern lands and races,
their scenery and their cities, who drew his figures and landscape
with his eye on the objects, and had not mixed his local colours by
the process of skimming books of travel for myths, legends, costume,
or customs, with such result as may be seen in Moore's _Lalla Rookh_
and in Southey's _Thalaba_, or even in Scott's _Talisman_. The preface
to this novel shows that Scott fully appreciated the risk of competing
with Byron, albeit in prose, in the field of Asiatic romance, yet all
his skill avails little to diminish the sense of conventional
figure-drawing and of uncertainty in important details when they are
not gathered in the field, but only transplanted from the library.

Byron has noticed in one of his letters the errors of this kind into
which a great poet must fall whose accurate observation has been
confined mainly to his own country. 'There is much natural talent,' he
writes, 'spilt over the _Excursion_, yet Wordsworth says of Greece
that it is a land of

    'Rivers, fertile plains, and sounding shores
      Under a cope of variegated sky.

The rivers are dry half the year, the plains are barren, the shores
still and tideless, the sky is anything but variegated, being for
months and months beautifully blue.'

This may be thought trivial criticism, yet it is evidence of the
attention given by Byron to precise description. His accuracy in
Oriental costume was also a novelty at that time, when so little was
known of Oriental lore that even Mr. Murray 'doubted the propriety of
putting the name of Cain into the mouth of a Mohammedan.' With regard
to his characters, we may readily admit that in the _Giaour_ or the
_Bride of Abydos_ the heroes and heroines behave and speak after the
fashion of high-flying Western romance, and that their lofty
sentiments in love or death have nothing specifically Oriental about
them. But this was merely the romantic style used by all Byron's
contemporaries, and generally accepted by the taste of that day as
essential to the metrical rendering of a passionate love-story. It may
be argued, with Scott, that when a writer of fiction takes in hand a
distant age or country, he is obliged to translate ideas and their
expression into forms with which his readers are, to some extent,
familiar. Byron seasoned his Oriental tales with phrases and imagery
borrowed from the East; but whatever scenic or characteristic effects
might have thus been produced are seriously marred by the explanatory
notices and erudite references to authorities that are appended to the
text. This fashion of garnishing with far-fetched outlandish words, in
order to give the requisite flavour of time or place, was peculiar to
the new romantic school of his era; it was the poetical dialect of the
time, and Byron employed it too copiously. Yet, with all his faults,
he remains a splendid colourist, who broke through a limited mannerism
in poetry, and led forth his readers into an unexplored region of
cloudless sky and purple sea, where the serene aspect of nature could
be powerfully contrasted with the shadow of death and desolation cast
over it by the violence of man.

Undoubtedly this contrast, between fair scenery and foul barbarism,
had been presented more than once in poetry; yet no one before Byron
had brought it out with the sure hand of an eye-witness, or with such
ardent sympathy for a nation which had been for centuries trodden
under the feet of aliens in race and religion, yet still clung to its
ancient traditions of freedom. Throughout his descriptive poems, from
_Childe Harold_ to _Don Juan_, it is the true and forcible impression,
taken from sight of the thing itself, that gives vigour and animation
to his pictures, and that has stamped on the memory the splendid
opening of the _Giaour_, the meditations in Venice and Rome, the
glorious scenery of the Greek islands, and even such single lines as

    'By the blue rushing of the arrowy Rhone.'

In the art of painting what may be called historical landscape, where
retrospective associations give intellectual colour to the picture,
Byron has very few rivals. His descriptions of the Lake of Geneva, of
Clarens, of the Trojan plain--

    'High barrows, without marble or a name,
      A vast, untilled, and mountain-skirted plain,
    And Ida in the distance'--

have the quality of faithful drawing illumined by imaginative power.
They have certainly touched the emotions and enhanced the pleasure of
all travellers in the last three generations whose minds are
accessible to poetic suggestion; and if at the present day their style
be thought too elaborate and the allusions commonplace, it cannot be
denied that the fine art of English composition would be poorer
without them. The stanzas in _Childe Harold_ on Waterloo are full of
the energy which takes hold of and poetically elevates the incidents
of war--the distant cannon, the startled dancers, the transition from
the ball-room to the battlefield, from the gaiety of life to the
stillness of death. Nothing very original or profound in all this, it
may be said; yet the great difficulty of dealing adequately with
heroic action in contemporary verse, of writing a poem on a campaign
that has just been reported in the newspapers, is exemplified by the
fact that Walter Scott's two compositions on Waterloo are failures;
nor has any poet since Byron yet succeeded in giving us a good modern

Nevertheless there is much in Byron's longer poems (excepting always
_Don Juan_) that seems tedious to the modern reader; there are
descriptions and declamations too long drawn-out to sustain the
interest; and there are many lines that are superfluous, untidy, and
sometimes ungrammatical. One can only plead, in extenuation of these
defects, that the fashion of his day was for long metrical romance, in
which it is difficult to maintain the high standard of careful
composition exacted by the latest criticism. It is almost impossible
to tell a long story in verse that shall be throughout poetical. And
one main reason why this fashion has nearly passed away may be
surmised to be that the versified narrative cannot adapt itself in
this respect to the present taste, which is impatient of fluent
lengthy heroics, refusing to accept them for the sake of some finely
executed passages. Southey's epics are now quite unreadable, and many
of the blemishes in Byron's poetry are inseparable from the romantic
style; they are to be found in Scott's metrical tales, which have much
redundancy and some weak versification; while his chiefs and warriors
often talk a stilted chivalrous language which would now be discarded
as theatrical. Byron's personages have the high tragic accent and
costume; yet one must admit that they have also a fierce vitality; and
as for the crimes and passions of his Turkish pashas and Greek
patriots, he had actually seen the men and heard of their deeds. The
fact that he also portrayed more unreal characters in dismal
drapery--Lara, Conrad, and Manfred, as the mouthpieces of splenetic
misanthropy--has led to some unjust depreciation of his capacity for
veritable delineation. Macaulay, for example, in his essay on Byron,
observes that 'Johnson, the man whom Don Juan met in the slave-market,
is a striking failure. How differently would Sir Walter Scott have
drawn a bluff, fearless Englishman in such a situation!' and Mr.
Swinburne echoes this criticism. But it is unfair to compare a minor
character, slightly sketched into a poem for the purposes of the plot,
with the full-length portrait that might have been made of him by a
first-class artist in prose. The proper comparison would be between
the figures in the metrical romances of the two poets, whereby it
might be shown that Scott could take as little trouble as Byron did
about an unimportant subsidiary actor. In regard to the leading heroes
and heroines, Scott's poetic creations are hardly more interesting or
dramatic than Byron's; and whenever he makes, even in prose, an
excursion into Asia, his figure-drawing becomes conventional. But he
was usually at the disadvantage, from which Byron was certainly free,
of being hampered by an inartistic propensity to make virtuous heroes
triumph in the long run.

Yet it must be admitted that no poet of the same calibre has turned
out so much loose uneven work as Byron. His lapses into lines that are
lame or dull are the more vexatious to the correct modern ear when, as
sometimes happens, they spoil a fine passage, and in the midst of a
superb flight his muse comes down with a broken wing. In the subjoined
stanza, for example, from the Waterloo episode in _Childe Harold_, the
first five lines are clear, strenuous, and concise, while the next
three are confused and clumsy; so that though he recovers himself in
the final line, the general effect is much damaged:

    'Last noon beheld them full of lusty life,
      Last eve in Beauty's circle proudly gay,
    The midnight brought the signal-sound of strife,
      The morn the marshalling in arms--the day
    Battle's magnificently stern array.
      The thunder-clouds close o'er it, _which when rent,
      The earth is covered thick with other clay,
      Which her own clay shall cover_, heaped and pent,
    Rider and horse--friend, foe--in one red burial blent.'

These blots, and there are many, become less pardonable when we
observe, from the new edition, that Byron by no means neglected
revision of his work. But his impetuous temper, and the circumstance
of his writing far from the printing-press, encouraged hasty
execution; and though the most true remark that 'easy writing is
devilish hard reading' is his own, though he praised excessively the
chiselled verse of Pope, he was always inclined to pose as one who
threw off jets of boiling inspiration, and in one letter he compares
himself to the tiger who makes or misses his point in one spring. He
ranked Pope first among English poets, yet he learnt nothing in that
school; he pretended to undervalue Shakespeare, yet he must have had
the plays by heart, for his letters bristle with quotations from them.
His avowed taste in poetry is hard to reconcile with his own
performances: his verse was rushing, irregular, audacious, yet he
overpraises the smooth composition of Rogers; he dealt in heroic
themes and passionate love-stories, yet Crabbe's humble pastorals had
their full charm for him. Except Crabbe and Rogers, he declared, 'we
are all--Scott, Wordsworth, Moore, Campbell, and I--upon a wrong
revolutionary poetical system, not worth a damn in itself;' but among
these are some leaders of the great nineteenth-century renaissance in
English verse; and Byron was foremost in the revolt against unnatural
insipidity which has brought us through romance to realism, by his
clear apprehension of natural form and colour, and even by the havoc
which he made among conventional respectabilities. He dwelt too
incessantly upon his own sorrows and sufferings; and in the gloomy
soliloquies of his dramatic characters we have an actor constantly
reappearing in his favourite part. Yet this also was a novelty to the
generation brought up on the impersonal poetry of the classic school;
and here, again, he is a forerunner of the self-reflecting analytical
style that is common in our own day; for there is a Byronic echo in
the 'divine despair' of Tennyson. The melancholy brooding spirit,
dissatisfied with society and detesting complacency, had for some time
been in the air; it had affected the literature of France and Germany;
Werther, Obermann, and René are all moulded on the same type with
Childe Harold; yet Sainte-Beuve rightly says that this identity of
type does not mean imitation--it means that the writers were all in
the same atmosphere. There is everywhere the same reaction against
philosophic optimism and the same antipathy to the ways of mankind 'so
vain and melancholy,' They sought refuge from inborn ennui or
irritability among the mountains, on the sea, or in distant voyages,
and they instinctively embodied these moods and feelings in various
personages of fiction, in the solitary wanderer, in the fierce outlaw,
in the man 'with chilling mystery of mien,' who rails against heaven
and humanity. Their literature, in short, however overcoloured it may
have been, did represent a generally prevailing characteristic among
men of excessive sensibility at a time of stir and tumult in the world
around them; it was not a mere unnatural invention, though we must
leave to the psychologist the task of tracing a connection between
this mental attitude and the circumstances that generated it. But the
self-occupied mind has no dramatic power, and so their repertory
contained one single character, a reproduction of their own in
different attitudes and situations. Chateaubriand may be said never to
have dropped his mask; whereas Byron, whose English sense of humour
must have fought against taking himself so very seriously, relieved
his conscience by lapses into epigram, irony, and persiflage. Thus in
the same year (1818), and from the same place (Venice), he produced
the fourth canto of _Childe Harold_, full of deep longing for unbroken

    'There is a pleasure in the pathless woods,
      There is a rapture on the lonely shore,
    There is society, where none intrudes,
      By the deep sea, and Music in its roar;'

and also _Beppo_, a satirical sketch of the loose and easy Venetian
society in which he was actually living. Here, again, his somewhat
ribald letters from Venice do his romantic poetry some wrong; but in
fact he had a diabolic pleasure in betraying himself, and his
_Mémoires d'Outre Tombe_, if they had been preserved, would have been
very different from Chateaubriand's elaborate autobiography.

It was the spectacle of Christians groaning under Turkish oppression,
and of their heroic resistance, that inspired three of Byron's finest
poems, the _Giaour_, the _Bride of Abydos_, the _Siege of Corinth_. On
this subject he was so heartily in earnest that he could even lose
sight of his own woes; and notwithstanding the exuberance of colour
and sentiment, these tales still hold their place in the first rank of
metrical romance. Their construction is imperfect, even fragmentary;
yet while Scott could put together and tell his story much better, not
even Scott could drive it onward and sustain the verse at a high level
with greater energy, or decorate his narrative with finer description
of scenery, or give more intensity to the moments of fierce action.
The splendid apostrophe to Greece in the _Giaour_--

    'Clime of the unforgotten brave!
    Whose land from plain to mountain cave
    Was Freedom's home or Glory's grave'--

has forty lines of unsurpassed beauty and fire, written in the
manuscript, as a note tells us, in a hurried and almost illegible
hand--an authentic example of true improvisation which the elaborate
poets of our own day may match if they can. The tumid phrase and
melodramatic figuring--

    'Dark and unearthly is the scowl
    That glares beneath his dusky cowl'--

are now worn-out theatrical properties; yet those who have seen the
untamed Asiatic might find it hard to overdraw the murderous hate and
sullen ferocity that his face, or his victim's, will occasionally
disclose. The heroes, at any rate, love and die in a masculine way; it
is the old tragic theme of bitter unmerited misfortune, of daring
adventure that ends fatally, without any of the wailing sensuality
that infects the more harmonious poetry of a later day. There are,
perhaps, for modern taste, too many outlandish words and references to
Eastern customs or beliefs, requiring glossaries and marginal
explanations; nor does the profuse annotation of the present edition
lighten a reader's burden in this respect. Byron had no business to
write 'By pale Phingari's trembling light,' leaving us at the mercy of
assiduous editors to expound that 'Phingari' is the Greek [Greek:
phengarion], and stands here for the moon. And if he could have spared
us such Orientalisms as 'Al Sirât's arch,' or 'avenging Monkir's
scythe,' we should have mixed up less desultory reading with the
enjoyment of fine passages. He gives us too much of his local
colouring, he checks the rush of his verse by superfluous metaphors,
he has weak and halting lines. The style is heated and fuming, yet the
dainty art-critic who lays hands on such metal thrown red hot from the
forge may chance to burn his fingers over it. Nor must we forget that
in these poems Byron brought the classic lands of Greece and the
Levant within the sphere of modern romance, and has unquestionably
added some 'deathless pages' to English literature.

Byron has told us why he adopted for the _Corsair_, and afterwards for
_Lara_, 'the good old and now neglected heroic couplet':

     'The stanza of Spenser is, perhaps, too slow and dignified for
     narrative, though I confess it is the measure after my own heart;
     Scott alone, of the present generation, has hitherto triumphed
     completely over the fatal facility of the octosyllabic verse; and
     this is not the least victory of his fertile and mighty genius; in
     blank verse Milton, Thomson, and our dramatists are the beacons
     that shine along the deep, but warn us from the rough and barren
     rocks on which they are kindled.'[25]

We doubt much, from a comparison of the poems, whether the experiment
of changing his metre was successful. The short eight-syllabled line
displayed Byron's capacity for vigorous concision and swift movement;
it is eminently suited for strength and speed; whereas in the slow
processional couplet he becomes diffuse, often tedious; he has room
for more rhetoric and verbosity; he falls more into the error of
describing at length the character and sentiments of his gloomy
heroes, instead of letting them act and speak for themselves. At
moments when inspiration is running low, and a gap has to be filled
up, the shorter line needs less padding, and can be more rapidly run
over when it is weak. Whereas a feeble heroic couplet becomes
ponderous and sinks more quickly into bathos--as in the following
sample from the _Corsair_:

    'Oh! burst the Haram, wrong not on your lives
    One female form--remember--_we_ have wives.'

And the consequence has been that _Lara_ and the _Corsair_ are now,
we believe, the least readable of Byron's metrical romances.

Of Byron's dramas we are obliged to say that, to borrow his own
metaphor, he would have fared better as a poet if he had taken warning
from the beacons, and had given blank verse a wide berth, instead of
setting himself boldly on a course which, as he evidently knew, is
full of peril for fast-sailing, free-going versifiers. He saw that he
could not approach the great masters of this measure, he was resolved
not to imitate them; and so he appears to have chosen the singular
alternative of writing nothing that should in the least resemble them.
His general object as a playwriter is stated, in a letter about
_Sardanapalus_, to have been 'to dramatise striking passages of
history and mythology.'

     'You will find,' he adds most truly, 'all this very unlike
     Shakespeare; and so much the better in one sense, for I look upon
     him to be the worst of models, though the most extraordinary of
     writers. It has been my object to be as simple and severe as
     Alfieri, and I have broken down the poetry as nearly as I could to
     common language.'

And undoubtedly he did break it down so effectually that much of his
blank verse hobbles like a lame horse, being often mere prose printed
in short lines. Here are two specimens, not cut into lengths, which
have no metrical construction at all:

     'Unless you keep company with him, and you seem scarce used to such
     high society, you can't tell how he approaches.'[26]

     'Where thou shalt pass thy days in peace, but on condition that the
     three young princes are given up as hostages,'[27]

Many others of the same quality might be given, in which the
_disjecti membra poetæ_ would be exceedingly hard to find. It is
surprising that a writer of Byron's experience should have fallen into
the error of supposing that simplicity could be attained by the mere
use of common language. For even Wordsworth, who is a master of simple
strength, could never allow his peasants to talk their ordinary
vernacular without a fatal drop into the commonplace; and all verse
that is to be plain and unaffected in style and thought requires the
most studious composition. Byron seems scarcely to have understood
that blank verse has any rules of scansion, and his signal failure in
this metre has become less tolerable and more conspicuous, since Keats
in his day, and Tennyson after him, have carefully studied the
construction of blank verse, and have left us admirable examples of
its capacity for romantic expression. It is indeed strange that Byron
should have fancied that he could use so delicate an instrument with a
rough unpractised hand.

There are some vigorous passages scattered through the plays, and we
have it on record that Dr. Parr could not sleep a wink after reading
_Sardanapalus_. Nevertheless, we fear that the present generation will
find little cause for demurring to Jeffrey's judgment upon the
tragedies, that they are for the most part 'solemn, prolix, and
ostentatious.' They were not composed, as Byron himself explained,
'with the most remote view to the stage,' so that he had not before
his eyes the wholesome fear of a critical audience. In truth it must
be admitted that he lacked the true dramatic instinct; he could only
set up his leading figures to deliver imposing speeches appropriate to
a tragic situation; and one may guess that the consciousness of
awkward handling weighed upon the spirit and style of his blank verse,
for his ear seems to have completely misled him when it had lost the
guidance of recurrent rhyme. Of _Cain: a Mystery_, one must speak
reverently, since Walter Scott, to whom it was dedicated, wrote that
the author had 'matched Milton on his own ground'; yet in Lucifer, who
leads the dialogue, we have little more than a spectral embodiment of
Byron's own rebellious temper; and in this poem, as in _Manfred_, the
discussion of metaphysical problems carries him beyond his depth.
There are, nevertheless, some fine declamatory passages; and we may
quote as a curiosity one soft line, fresh from the Swiss mountains:

                         'Pipes in the liberal air
    _Mixed with the sweet bells of the sauntering herd_,'

which is to be found in _Manfred_ and might have been taken from the

When we turn from the plays to the lyrics, we see at once the
importance, to a poet, of choosing rightly the metrical form that is
the best expression of his peculiar genius. In some of these shorter
poems Byron rises to his highest level, and by these will his
popularity be permanently maintained. They are certainly of very
unequal merit; yet when Byron is condemned for artificiality and
glaring colour, we may point to the poem beginning 'And thou art dead,
as young and fair,' where form and feeling are in harmony throughout
eight long stanzas, without a single line that is feeble or

    'The better days of life were ours;
      The worst can be but mine;
    The sun that cheers, the storm that lowers,
      Shall never more be thine.
    The silence of that dreamless sleep
    I envy now too much to weep;
      Nor need I to repine
    That all those charms have passed away,
    I might have watched through long decay.'

There is no novelty in the ideas, nor does he open the deeper vein of
thoughts that touch the mind with a sense of mortality. Yet the verse
has a masculine brevity that renders effectively the attitude in which
men may well be content firmly to confront an irreparable misfortune.

In his poems of strenuous action, although Byron has not the rare
quality of heroic simplicity, he could at times strike a high
vibrating war note, and could interpret romantically the patriotic
spirit. The two stanzas which we quote from the Hebrew Melodies show
that he could now and then shake off the redundant metaphors and
epithets that overload too much of his impetuous verse, and use his
strength freely:

    'Though thou art fall'n, while we are free
      Thou shalt not taste of death!
    The generous blood that flowed from thee
      Disdained to sink beneath;
    Within our veins its currents be,
      Thy spirit on our breath.

    'Thy name, our charging hosts along,
      Shall be their battle word!
    Thy fall, the theme of choral song
      From virgin voices poured!
    To weep would do thy glory wrong;
      Thou shalt not be deplored.'

And we have another magnificent example of Byron's lyrical power in
the _Isles of Greece_, where the two lines,

    'Ah, no! the voices of the dead
      Sound like a distant torrent's fall,'

drop suddenly into the elegiac strain, into a mournful echo that
dwells upon the ear, followed by the rising note of a call to arms. It
must be remembered that nothing is so rare as a stirring war-song, and
that in our time we have had a good many attempts--almost all
failures; whereas the _Isles of Greece_ will long continue to stir the
masculine imagination of Englishmen.

On the other hand, it must be admitted that Byron's Occasional Pieces
abound with cheap pathos, dubious fervour, and a kind of commonplace
sentimentality that comes out in the form as well as in the feeling of
his inferior work. The rhymes are apt to be hackneyed, the similes are
sometimes tagged on awkwardly instead of being weaved into the
texture, the expression has often lost its strength, and the emotion
lacks sincerity. Byron, like his brother poets, wrote copiously what
was published indiscriminately; but if the first-class work had not
been very good it would never have buoyed up above sheer oblivion so
much that was third-rate and bad. His pieces are much _too_
occasional, for he was prone to indulgence in hasty verse whenever the
fit was upon him, or as a method of enlisting public sympathy with his
own misconduct, so that he was constantly appearing before the world
as a perfidious sentimentalist, with a false air of lamentation over
the misfortunes which he had brought upon himself, as in the Poems of
the Separation. Yet when he shook off his personal grief and took to
politics, no other poet could more vividly express his intense living
interest in the great events of his time, or strike the proper note of
some great catastrophe. It may be affirmed that the _Ode to Napoleon_
is better than anything else that has been written in English upon the
most astonishing career in modern history:

    'The triumph and the vanity,
      The rapture of the strife--
    The earthquake-voice of Victory,
      To thee the breath of life;
    The sword, the sceptre, and that sway
    Which man seemed made but to obey,
      Wherewith renown was rife--
    All quelled; Dark Spirit, what must be
    The madness of thy memory!

    'The Desolator desolate!
      The Victor overthrown!
    The Arbiter of others' fate
      A suppliant for his own!
    Is it some yet imperial hope
    That with such change can calmly cope?
      Or dread of death alone?
    To die a prince--or live a slave--
    Thy choice is most ignobly brave.'

In the first of these two stanzas the seventh line is weak and breaks
the rapid rush of the verse; but the high pressure and impetus of the
poem are sustained throughout twenty stanzas, producing the effect of
an improvisatore who stops rather from want of breath than from any
other lack of inspiration. In this respect the ode is a rare poetical
exploit; for all poems composed under the spur of the moment, upon
some memorable incident that has just startled the world, must be more
or less improvised, and must hit the right pitch of extraordinary
popular emotion. It is the difficulty of turning out good work under
such arduous conditions that has too often shipwrecked or stranded
some unlucky laureate.

There is one province of verse, if not exactly of poetry, in which
Byron reigns undisputedly, though it is far distant from the land of
lyrics. In his latest and longest production, _Don Juan_, he tells us
that his 'sere fancy has fallen into the yellow leaf':

    'And the sad truth which hovers o'er my desk
    Turns what was once romantic to burlesque.'

It was in _Beppo: a Venetian Story_ that he dropped, for the first
time, the weapon of trenchant sarcasm and invective, with no very fine
edge upon it, which he flourished in his youth, and took up the tone
of light humorous satire upon society. He soon acquired mastery over
the metre (which was suggested, as is well known, by Hookham Frere's
_Whistlecraft_); and in _Don Juan_ he produced a long, rambling poem
of a kind never before attempted, and still far beyond any subsequent
imitations, in the English language. Of a certainty there is much that
it is by no means desirable to imitate, for the English literature
does not assimilate the element of cynical libertinism, which indeed
becomes coarse on an English tongue. Yet it is remarkable that the
Whistlecraft metre, although Byron could manage it with point and
spirit, has never produced more than insipid _pastiche_ in later
hands. But while _Beppo_ may be classed as pure burlesque, _Don Juan_
strikes various keys, ironical and voluptuous, grave and gay, rising
sometimes to the level of strenuous realistic narrative in the
episodes of the shipwreck and the siege, falling often into something
like grotesque buffoonery, with much picturesque description, many
animated lines, and occasional touches of effective pathos. As a story
it has the picaresque flavour of _Gil Blas_, presenting a variety of
scenes and adventures strung together without any definite plot; as a
poem its reputation rests upon some passages of indisputable beauty;
while Byron's own experiences, grievances, and animosities, personal
or political, run through the whole performance like an accompaniment,
and break out occasionally into humorous sarcasm or violent
denunciations. That the overheated fervour of a stormy youth should
cool down into disdainful irony, under the chill of disappointment and
exhaustion, was natural enough; and this unfinished poem may be
regarded as typical of Byron's erratic life, full of loose intrigue
and adventure, with its sudden and premature ending.

It is in _Don Juan_ that Byron stands forth as the founder and
precursor of modern realism in poetry. He has now finally exorcised
the hyperbolic fiend that vexed his youth, he has cast off the
illusions of romance, he knows the ground he treads upon, and his
pictures are drawn from life; he is the foremost of those who have
ventured boldly upon the sombre actualities of war and bloodshed:--

    'But let me put an end unto my theme,
      There was an end of Ismail, hapless town,
    Far flashed her burning towers o'er Danube's stream,
      And redly ran his blushing waters down.
    The horrid warwhoop and the shriller scream
      Rose still; but fainter were the thunders grown;
    Of forty thousand that had manned the wall
    Some hundreds breathed, the rest were silent all.'

'A versified paraphrase,' it may be said, 'of sober history,' yet
withal very different from the most animated prose, which must be kept
at a lower temperature of intense expression. If we turn to quieter
scenes--which are called picturesque because the artist, like a
painter, has selected the right subject and point of view, and has
grouped his details with exquisite skill--we may take the stanzas
describing the return of the pirate Lambro to his Greek island--

    'He saw his white walls shining in the sun,
    His garden trees all shadowy and green'--

as a fine example of pure objective writing, which lays out the whole
scene truthfully, with the direct vision of one who has seen it. One
does not find here the suggestive intimations, the wide imaginative
horizon of higher poetry; there are no musical blendings of sound and
sense, as in such lines as Tennyson's

    'By the long wash of Australasian seas.'

Yet in these passages Byron has after his own fashion served Nature
faithfully, and he has preserved to us some masterly sketches of life
and manners that have long since disappeared. The Greek islands have
since fallen under the dominion of European uniformity; the costume of
the people, the form of their government, are shabby imitations of
Western models. But the cloudless sky, the sun slowly sinking behind
Morea's hills, the sea on whose azure brow Time writes no wrinkle, and
the marbled steep of Sunium, are still unchanged; and the peaceful
tourist in these waters will see at once that Byron was a true workman
in line and colour, and will feel the intellectual pleasure that comes
from accurate yet artistic interpretation of natural beauties.

The poem of _Don Juan_ is, therefore, a miscellany, connected on the
picturesque side with _Childe Harold_, and by its mocking spirit with
_Beppo_ and the _Vision of Judgment_, the two pieces that may be
classed as pure burlesque. The irreverent persiflage of the _Vision_
belongs to the now obsolete school of Voltaire, and in biting wit and
daring ridicule the performance is not unworthy of that supreme master
in _diablerie_. Nor can it be asserted that this lashing sarcasm was
undeserved, or that all the profanity was in Byron's parody, for
Southey's conception of the Almighty as a High Tory judge, with an
obsequious jury of angels, holding a trial of George III., browbeating
the witnesses against him and acquitting him with acclamation, so that
he leaves the court without a stain on his character, was false and
abject enough to stir the bile of a less irritable Liberal than Byron.
There exists, moreover, in the mind of every good English Whig a
lurking sympathy with the Miltonic Satan, insomuch that all subsequent
attempts by minor poets to humiliate and misrepresent him have
invariably failed. Southey's _Vision_, and Robert Montgomery's libel
upon Satan, have each undergone the same fate of being utterly
extinguished, knocked clean out of English literature by one single
crushing onslaught of Byron and Macaulay respectively.

Our conclusion must be brief, for in fact it is not easy to propound
to the readers of this Review any general observations, which shall be
new as well as true, upon a man's life and works that have been
subjected to incessant scrutiny and criticism throughout the
nineteenth century. At the beginning of this period Byron found
himself matched, in the poetic arena, against contemporary rivals of
first-class genius and striking originality. And from his death almost
up to the century's close there has been no time when some
considerable poet has not occupied the forefront of English letters,
and stamped his impression on the public mind. Variety in style and
ideas has produced many vicissitudes of taste in poetry; it has been
discovered that narrative can be better done in prose, and so the
novel has largely superseded story-telling in verse. There have also
been great political and social changes, and all these things have
severely tested the staying powers of a writer who is too closely
associated with his own period to be reckoned among those wide-ranging
spirits whom Shelley has called 'the kings of thought.' Nevertheless
the new edition of Byron is appearing at a moment which is, we think,
not inopportune. There is just now, as by a coincidence there was in
the year 1800, a dearth of poetic production; we have fallen among
lean years; we have come to a break in the succession of notable
poets; the Victorian celebrities have one by one passed away; and we
can only hope that the first quarter of the twentieth century may
bring again some such bountiful harvest as was vouchsafed to our
grandfathers at the beginning of the nineteenth. In the meantime the
reading of Byron may operate as a wholesome tonic upon the literary
nerves of the rising generation; for, as Mr. Swinburne has generously
acknowledged, with the emphatic concurrence of Matthew Arnold, his
poems have 'the excellence of sincerity and strength.' Now one
tendency of latter-day verse has been toward that over-delicacy of
fibre which has been termed decadence, toward the preference of
correct metrical harmonies over distinct and incisive expression,
toward vague indications of meaning. In this form the melody prevails
over the matter; the style inclines to become precious and garnished
with verbal artifice. Some recent French poets, indeed, in their
anxiety to correct the troublesome lucidity of their mother-tongue,
have set up the school of symbolism, which deals in half-veiled
metaphor and sufficiently obscure allusion, relying upon subtly
suggestive phrases for evoking associations. For ephemeral infirmities
of this kind the straightforward virility of Byron's best work may
serve as an antidote. On the other hand, we have the well-knit
strenuous verse of extreme realism, wrought out by a poet in his
shirt-sleeves, with rhymes clear-sounding like the tap of hammer on
anvil, who sings of rough folk by sea and land, and can touch national
emotion in regard to the incidents or politics of the moment. He
paints without varnish, in hard outline, avoiding metaphor and
ornamental diction generally; taking his language so freely out of the
mouths of men in actual life that he makes occasional slips into
vulgarity. He is at the opposite pole from the symbolist; but true
poetry demands much more distinction of style and nobility of thought.
And here again Byron's high lyrical notes may help to maintain
elevation of tone and to preserve the romantic tradition. His poetry,
like his character, is full of glaring imperfections; yet he wrote as
one of the great world in which he made for a time such a noise; and
after all that has been said about his moral delinquencies, it is
certain that we could have better spared a better man.

In one of Tennyson's earlier letters is the following passage, with
reference to something written at the time in _Philip van Artevelde_:

     'He does not sufficiently take into consideration the peculiar
     strength evolved by such writers as Byron and Shelley, who, however
     mistaken they may be, did yet give the world another heart, and a
     new pulse, and so we are kept going. Blessed be those who grease
     the wheels of the old world.'

This is the large-hearted, far-seeing judgment of one who could survey
the whole line and evolutionary succession of English verse, being
himself destined to close the long list of nineteenth-century poets,
which was opened by Byron and his contemporaries. The time has surely
now come when we may leave discussing Byron as a social outlaw, and
cease groping after more evidence of his misdeeds. The office of true
criticism is to show that he made so powerful an impression on our
literature as to win for himself permanent rank in its annals, and
that his work, with all its shortcomings, does yet mark and illustrate
an important stage in the connected development of our English poetry.


[24] _The Works of Lord Byron: a New, Revised, and Enlarged
Edition._--'Letters and Journals.' Edited by Rowland E. Prothero, M.
A. 'Poetry.' Edited by Ernest Hartley Coleridge, M. A. London, John
Murray, 1898.--_Edinburgh Review_, October 1900.

[25] Preface to the _Corsair_.

[26] _The Deformed Transformed_ (part I. scene i.).

[27] _Sardanapalus_ (act V. scene i.).


Mr. Leslie Stephen combines the faculty of acute and searching
criticism with a style that is singularly clear, incisive, and exact.
His wide knowledge of English literature, and the close study which he
has given to the history of English opinions and controversies,
speculative, political, and economical, have enabled him to survey an
extensive field, to trace the lines of origin and development, to
disentangle complicated ideas, and to summarise conclusions in a
masterly manner. Nearly twenty-five years have passed since he
published his work on _English Thought in the Eighteenth Century_, and
his present book on the Utilitarians continues, and indeed brings down
to our own time, a similar investigation of the course of certain
views, principles, and doctrines which had taken their shape in
England and France during the period preceding the French Revolution,
and which profoundly influenced political discussion throughout the
first half of the nineteenth century. But on this occasion Mr.
Stephen's inquiry does not range over the whole area thus laid open,
though his subject compels him to make several excursions into the
general region of philosophical and political disputation. His main
purpose is to relate the history of a creed propagated by a group of
remarkable men, who took hold of some prominent theories and doctrines
generated by the rationalism of the preceding century, and endeavoured
to make them the basis and framework of a system for improving the
condition of the English people. Their immediate object was to abolish
intolerable abuses of power by the governing classes, and radically to
reform on scientific principles the haphazard blundering
administration which was assumed to be the source of all evil. Mr.
Stephen describes and explains, in short, the rise, progress, and
decay of Utilitarianism.

Such a system, by its nature and aims, is evidently practical;
it is directed towards a change of laws and an alteration of the
prevailing methods of government. To the philosophic minds of the
eighteenth-century reformers in England and France, it seemed evident,
that any general conclusions upon questions vitally concerning the
interests of mankind should be reached by convincing demonstration,
should start from axioms, and proceed by a connected chain of logical
argument. During the latter half of that century England and France,
so incessantly at war and so different in character and in their
governing institutions, were nevertheless in alliance intellectually.
They were then (with Holland) the only countries in the world where
public opinion had free play, and where discussion of philosophic
problems was actively carried on; and between them there was a
constant interchange of ideas. Now in all speculations, on things
human or divine, there have existed immemorially two schools or
tendencies of thought, two ways of approaching the subject,
corresponding, we may conjecture, to a radical difference of
intellectual predispositions. You may start by the high _a priori_
road, or you may feel your way gradually by induction from verifiable
experiences; and of these two main currents of speculative opinion
whichever is the stronger at any given period will affect every branch
of thought and action. Coleridge appealed to history as proving that
all epoch-making revolutions coincide with the rise or fall of
metaphysical systems, and he attributed the power of abstract theories
over revolutionary movements to the craving of man for higher guidance
than sensations. However this may be, it may be affirmed that the
rationalism of the eighteenth century in England and France found room
by replacing the decaying theologies and substituting reason for the
traditional authority. This was the period that produced in France the
philosophic conception of abstract humanity, everywhere the same
naturally, with a superficial distinction of circumstances, but
differentiated in the main by bad laws, artificial inequalities, and
social injustice. In France the method of deducing conclusions from
abstract principles concerning the rights of man and the social
compact gained predominance, until they were shaped by Rousseau and
others into the formal indictment of a corrupt society. It was the
point and impulse thus given to very real grievances and irritation
against privilege, that precipitated the French Revolution. Among the
English, on the other hand, their public spirit, the connection of
large classes with national affairs, and their habit of compromise,
had predisposed the leading minds towards cautious views in philosophy
and in politics; and at the century's end their inbred distrust of
abstract propositions as a basis for social reconstruction received
startling confirmation from the tremendous explosion in France.

The foregoing remarks give in bare outline the conditions and
circumstances, very carefully examined and skilfully analysed by Mr.
Leslie Stephen, that prepared and cleared the ground for the
Utilitarians. Their object was not to reconstruct, hardly to remodel,
existing forms of government; it was to remove abuses, and to devise
remedies for the evils of an unwieldy and complicated administrative
machine, clogged by stupidity and selfishness. And the plan of Mr.
Stephen's first volume is to describe the state of society at this
period, the condition of agriculture and the industries, the position
of the Church and the Universities, of the Army and Navy, the
intellectual tendencies indicated by the philosophic doctrines, and
generally to sketch the political and social aspects of England rather
more than a hundred years ago. He is writing, as he says, the history
of a sect; and in dealing with the tenets of that sect he lays
prominent stress upon what may be called the environment, upon the
various circumstances which may influence forms of belief, and
particularly upon the idiosyncrasies of the men who held and
propagated them. It is for this latter reason that he has given us
brief and interesting biographies of those whose influence was
greatest in shaping and directing the movement, illustrating his
narrative by portraits of them as they lived and acted. All these
things help us towards understanding how it comes to pass that
conclusions which seem clear as daylight to earnest thinkers in one
generation may be abandoned by succeeding generations as manifestly
erroneous. The inquiry also shows why, and to what extent, some of the
doctrines that were scientifically propounded by the Utilitarians did
initiate and lead up to an important reformation in the methods of
English government.

     'It might be stated as a paradox' (Mr. Stephen observes) 'that,
     whereas in France the most palpable evils arose from the excessive
     power of the central government, and in England the most palpable
     evils arose from the feebleness of the central government, the
     French reformers demanded more government, and the English
     reformers less government.... The solution seems to be easy. In
     France, reformers such as Turgot and the economists were in favour
     of an enlightened despotism, because ... it would suppress the
     exclusive privileges of a class which, doing nothing in return, had
     become a mere burthen, encumbering all social development. But in
     England the privileged class was identical with the governing

The English aristocracy, in fact, were actually doing the country's
business, though they were doing it badly, and paid themselves much
too highly for very indifferent administration. Yet the English nation
acquiesced in the system, because the middle classes were growing rich
and prosperous, and the State interfered very little with their
private affairs. To this general statement of the case we agree; but
we may point out that in terming our aristocracy a privileged class
one material distinction has been passed over. For whereas the French
_noblesse_ constituted a caste partly exempted by birthright from the
general taxation, and vested with certain vexatious rights to which no
duties corresponded, the English aristocracy possessed legally no
privileges at all. It was not an exclusive order, but an upper class
that was constantly recruited, being open to all successful men; and
such a governing body is naturally indifferent to reforms, because it
is very little affected by administrative imperfections or abuses.
Pauperism and ignorance may fester long among the masses before
wealthy and prosperous rulers discover that the interests of their own
class are imperilled; the state of prisons does not concern them
personally; and so long as life and property are fairly secure, they
care little about an efficient police. The Englishman of whom a
Frenchman reported with amazement that he consoled himself for having
been robbed by the reflection that there were no policemen in his
country, must have belonged to this comfortable class. And the
inveterate conservation of abuses in the Church, the Law, and the Army
may be partially explained in a similar way. In France the Church and
the army were really privileged bodies: the vast ecclesiastical
revenues were protected from taxation, and the commissioned ranks of
the army were reserved for the _noblesse_; the French parliaments were
close magisterial corporations. In England these were all open
professions, with no special fiscal rights or social limitations; the
prizes were available for general competition, and as every one had a
chance of winning them by interest or even merit, there was no
formidable outcry against the system.

In politics, therefore, as well as in philosophy, the prevailing habit
of the English mind was more moderate, less thorough-going and
subversive, than in France. Mr. Stephen makes a keen and rapid
analysis of the common-sense psychology, as expounded by Reid and
Dugald Stewart, to show the correspondence at this period between
abstract reasoning and concrete political views, and to illustrate the
limitations which cautious Scotch professors endeavoured to place upon
the inexorable scepticism of Hume. The general spirit of their
teaching was empirical, but the logical consequence of taking
experience as the sole foundation of belief was evidently to cut off
the hidden springs of moral consciousness, and to support the
derivation of ethics from utility. In philosophy, as in politics,
there was a sympathetic recoil from extremes. So common sense was
brought in as capable of certain intuitive or original judgments which
were in themselves necessary, and which luckily coincided with some of
the firmest convictions among intelligent mankind. As Carlyle said
long afterwards, the Scottish philosophers started from the
mechanical premises suggested by Hume. 'They let loose instinct as an
indiscriminatory bandog to guard them against his conclusions; they
tugged lustily against the logical chain by which Hume was so coldly
towing them and the world into bottomless abysses of atheism and
fatalism.' To save themselves from materialism they invented
Intuitions, and thereby incurred the wrath of orthodox Utilitarianism,
which was rigidly empirical. They were, however, accepted in England,
where any haven was welcome, however uncertain might be the holding
ground, which sheltered the vessel from being blown by windy
speculation out into a shoreless sea.

The Scottish philosophy therefore

     'was in philosophy what Whiggism was in politics. Like political
     Whiggism, it included a large element of enlightened and liberal
     rationalism; but, like Whiggism, it covered an aversion to
     thorough-going logic. The English politician was suspicious of
     abstract principle, but would cover his acceptance of tradition and
     rule of thumb by general phrases about liberty and toleration. The
     Whig in philosophy equally accepted the traditional creed,
     sufficiently purified from cruder elements, and sheltered his
     doctrine by speaking of intuitions and laws of thought.'

The foregoing quotation may serve to indicate briefly the situation,
in politics and philosophy, at the time when Bentham, 'the patriarch
of the English Utilitarians,' appeared upon the scene. Mr. Stephen's
sketch of his life and doctrines, which occupies the latter half of
the book's first volume, is eminently instructive and often amusing.
He excels in tracing the continuity of ideas, and in showing how they
converge upon the point of view that is gradually reached by some
writer of superior force and activity, who rejects, alters, or uses
them in the process of working out the doctrines of some new school.
It was the spread of philanthropy, of a conscientious fellow-feeling
for those classes of society who suffered from neglect and misrule,
that fostered the movement towards political and social reform. This
feeling was represented in Bentham's celebrated formula, originally
invented by Hutcheson, about 'the greatest happiness of the greatest
number'; and the criterion of utility was laid down as having the
widest possible application to all sorts and conditions of men.
Self-help, individualism, _laisser-faire_, the economic view that each
should be left free to pursue his own interests, were principles
intended to operate for the removal of abuses and the destruction of
unfair privileges: they were promulgated for the relief of humanity at
large, although the system which was built up on them came afterwards
to be denounced as narrow, selfish, and materialistic. These ideas
were undoubtedly congenial to the habits and character of Englishmen,
who, like free men everywhere, had a traditional distrust of strong
and active government, preferring King Log, on the whole, to King
Stork. Inequalities and incomprehensible laws were to be seen in the
course of Nature no less than in the English Constitution; and in
either case a man might rely upon his wits and energy to deal with
them. It might be that the defects in human government could only be
remedied by employing the forces of government to cure them; but if
you began to set going the administrative engine there was no saying
where it might stop. Bentham held all government to be an evil, though
he differed from the modern anarchist in holding it to be a necessary
evil; yet he needed a strong scientific administration for the purpose
of rooting out inveterate abuses. And this was the dilemma that
confronted him. He worked out his solution of the problem by laying
out a whole system of morals and a science of politics, with Utility
as their base and standard, which has profoundly influenced all
subsequent legislation, and led eventually to much more extensive
theories regarding the sphere and duties of government than he himself
would have advocated or approved.

The principal events of Bentham's life, and the development of his
opinions, are condensed by Mr. Stephen into one chapter with his usual
biographical skill. Bentham started in life as a barrister, and
attended Blackstone's lectures, with the result that he was deeply
impressed by the fallacies of the legal theories there expounded, and
soon afterward vowed eternal war against the Demon of Chicane. He
struggled against narrow means and obscurity until he made the
acquaintance of Lord Shelburne, through whom he became acquainted with
other leading statesmen, and with Miss Caroline Fox, to whom he made a
futile proposal of marriage some years later. At Bowood he also met
Dumont, and thereby formed his connection with the French jurists,
though in his old age he declared that Dumont, his chief interpreter
abroad, 'did not understand a word of his meaning'; the true cause of
his quarrel being that Dumont criticised Bentham's dinners. He
travelled on the Continent, and lived some time in Russia. Soon
afterward the Revolution made a clean sweep of all the old
institutions in France, and thus laid open a bare and level ground
just suited, as Bentham thought, for an architect who had his
portfolio full of new administrative plans. It was long, indeed,
before he could understand why systematic reforms were not immediately
accepted as soon as their utility was logically demonstrated. He lost
no time in providing the French National Assembly with elaborate
schemes for the reconstruction of various departments of government,
and he even offered to go to France to set up his model prison,
proposing himself 'to become gratuitously the gaoler thereof.' The
Assembly requited his zeal by conferring on him the title of a French
citizen; but social reorganisation took the shape of September
massacres and the Reign of Terror, whereat Bentham was disgusted,
though in no way disheartened, as a theorist.

     'Never' (says Mr. Stephen) 'was an adviser more at cross purposes
     with the advised. It would be impossible to draw a more striking
     portrait of the abstract reasoner, whose calculations of human
     motives omit all reference to passion, and who fancied that all
     prejudice can be dispelled by a few bits of logic.'

Here, in fact, we have the key to Bentham's character, to its weakness
and also to its strength. A philosopher who plunges into the practical
affairs of the world without taking human feelings and imagination
into account is sure to find himself stumbling about among blocks and
blockheads, and tripped up by the ill-will of vested interests; but on
the other hand, if he has taken the right direction, his ardent
energies have the impetus of some natural force. Bentham's earlier
notion had been that political reforms could be introduced like
improvements in machinery; you had only to prove the superior utility
of your new invention to obtain its adoption by all who were concerned
in the business. Latterly he made the surprising discovery that in the
public offices, in the Law, and in the Church, the heads of these
professions are usually quite satisfied with their own monopolies, are
opposed to change, and are always ready with a stock of plausible
arguments to show the folly and danger of innovation. If the
Utilitarian appeals to facts, common sense, and experience, so also
does the Conservative; and until public opinion is decidedly for
progress the dead weight prevails. Not for a day did Bentham relax his
strenuous exertions, but he changed his tactics; he turned from his
mechanical workshop to the study of political dynamics, and he found
what he wanted in the rising radicalism--'his principal occupation, in
a word, was to provide political philosophy for radical reformers.'

Of the philosophic creed which Bentham undertook to proclaim from his
hermitage at Ford Abbey, with James Mill as his leading apostle, Mr.
Stephen gives us a very shrewd and incisively critical examination.
The founder of a new faith has usually begun by the earnest and
authoritative declaration of a few simple truths and positive
doctrines, for which his disciples provide, in course of time, the
necessary philosophical basis. Bentham's voice had been crying
ineffectually in the wilderness; and he now set about laying with his
own hands the foundations of his beliefs upon primary scientific
principles, always with unswerving aim and application to concrete
facts. He was a thorough-going iconoclast, wielding, like Mohammed, a
single formula, to the destruction of idols of the market or tribe,
and to the confusion of those who fattened upon antique superstitions.
'All government is one vast evil,' and can only be kept from mischief
by minute regulations and constant vigilance. Whatever is plainly
illogical must be radically wrong--'to make a barrister a judge is as
sensible as it would be to select a procuress for mistress of a girls'
school;' and a parish boy, if he could read properly, might go through
the Church services with the Prayer Book and the Homilies, so that an
established Church is a costly and indefensible luxury. Taking
Utility, founded on observation of actual facts, as his guide and his
measure of existing institutions, he treated them as colossal
iniquities, as frauds upon the people, as dead and ineffectual for the
purposes of moral and political life. Nevertheless, although he
condemned the whole fabric as it stood, Bentham was an absolute
believer in the unlimited power of laws and institutions; nor was he
far from wishing to deal with them on the principles applicable to the
reform of prisons, as undesirable but necessary instruments of
coercion to be despotically administered upon a scientific model,
after the fashion of his favourite Panopticon. He was, in short, as
Mr. Stephen points out, an unconscious follower of Hobbes, with this
difference, that in Bentham's case the omnipotent Leviathan, for
control and direction, was to be enlightened public opinion. And he
was apparently convinced, without misgivings, that a model government,
framed logically upon that common sense which is a public property,
could be introduced and enforced under popular sanction as easily as
new regulations for an ill-managed gaol. He was fully prepared to make
liberal allowance, in framing his constitution, for the different
needs, circumstances, and habits of communities; he was quite aware
that precisely the same legislation would not suit England and India;
but he believed national circumstance and character to be extensively
modifiable by manifestly useful institutions, and he was ready to
begin the operation at once, 'to legislate for Hindostan as well as
for his own parish, and to make codes not only for England, Spain, and
Russia, but also for Morocco.'

Mr. Stephen has no difficulty in exposing the shortcomings and
inadequacy of these doctrines. But he is writing the history of
certain political ideas; so his main object is to show how such ideas
are formed, the course they have followed, and their influence upon
thought and action up to the present day. To trace the links and
continuity of ideas is to analyse their elements, and to show the
impress that they received from external circumstance, permanent or
temporary; it is an important method in the science of politics. Upon
the empiricism of English philosophy in the eighteenth century Bentham
constructed a Theory of Morals that purported to rest exclusively on
facts ascertained and verifiable, with happiness as our being's end
and aim, with pain and pleasure as the ultimate principles of conduct;
and upon this foundation he proceeded to build up his system of
politics and legislation. Any attempt to derive morality from other
sources, or to measure it by other standards, he denounced as
arbitrary and misleading; he threw aside metaphysics, and therefore
theology, as illusory. The exclusive appeal to experience, to plain
reasoning from the evidence of our senses, from actual observation of
human propensities, was sufficient for his purposes, and tallied with
his designs as a practical reformer. In these views he was a disciple
of Hume, whose influence has surreptitiously percolated all modern
thought, and his unintentional allies were the teachers of Natural
religion, with Paley as its principal exponent. Having thus defined
and explained the basis of ethical philosophy, the Utilitarian has to
build up the superstructure of legal ordinance; and he is at once
confronted by the difficult problem of distinguishing the sphere of
ethics from the province of law. Upon this vital question Mr. Stephen,
as an expert in ethics, gives a dissertation that is exceedingly acute
and instructive; and we may commend, in particular, his criticism of
the doctrine that the morality of an act depends upon its
consequences, not upon its motives. As he observes, this may be true,
with certain reserves, in law, where the business of the legislature
is to prohibit and punish acts that directly endanger the order and
security of a community. But 'the exclusion of motive justifiable in
law may take all meaning out of morality'; and yet nothing is more
complicated than the question of demarcating a clear frontier between
the two provinces. Mr. Stephen's examination of this question is the
more important because it involves the problem of regulating private
morals by public enactments; and also because the confusion of motives
with intentions lies at the bottom of much mischievous sophistry, for
some of the worst crimes in history have been suggested by plausible
motives, and have been defended on that ground. He shows that
Bentham's survey of the springs of human action was incomplete, that
he overstrained his formula to make it universally applicable, and
that he nevertheless gave a far-reaching impulse to clearer notions
and an effective advance in the simplification of legal procedure and
the codification of laws. As a moral philosophy, Bentham's system
appeared so arid and materialistic that its unpopularity has obscured
his real services. For he was the engineer who first led a scientific
attack up to the ramparts of legal chicanery, and made a breach
through which all subsequent reform found its entry.

The axiom that utility is the source of justice and equity is of very
ancient date, and indeed the word is sufficiently elastic to
comprehend every conceivable human motive; but no one before Bentham
had employed it so energetically as a lever to overturn ponderous
abuses, or had pointed his theory so directly against notorious facts.
On the other hand, since he despised and rejected historical studies,
he greatly miscalculated the binding strength of long usage and
possession. He forgot, what Hume had been careful to remember, that
whether men's reasoning on these subjects be right or wrong, the
conclusions have not really been reached by logic, but have grown up
out of instincts, and correspond with certain immemorial needs and
aspirations of humanity. Hume had sketched, before Bentham, his Idea
of a Perfect Commonwealth; yet he begins by the warning that

     'It is not with forms of government as with other artificial
     contrivances; where an old engine may be rejected if we can
     discover another more accurate and commodious ... the bulk of
     mankind' (he adds) 'being governed by authority, not by reason, and
     never attributing authority to anything that has not the
     recommendation of antiquity.'

Hume's mission was to undermine settled fallacies, and to scatter
doubt among conventional certitudes; and this loosening of foundations
prepared the way for a bolder political projector, who delivered his
frontal attack in disdain of the philosopher's warnings. Political
projectors, says the cautious Hume, are pernicious if they have power,
and ridiculous if they want it. Bentham was quite confident that if he
could only get the power he could radically change for the better the
circumstances of a people in any part of the world, by legislation on
the principles of Utility; and he was sure that character is
indefinitely modifiable by circumstances. That human nature is
constantly altering with, and adapting itself to, the environment, is
an undeniable truth; but in the moral as in the physical world the
natural changes occupy long periods, and to stir the soil hastily may
produce a catastrophe. The latter result actually followed in France;
while in England the doctrine of the unlimited power of legislation,
to be used for the greatest happiness of the greatest number, and
wielded by a sovereign State according to the dictates of public
opinion, was met by alarm, suspicion, and protracted opposition. It
is the habit of Englishmen to admit no proposition, however clear and
convincing, until they discover what the propounder intends to do with
it. Yet it will be seen that Bentham's plans of reform, if not his
principles, did suggest, and to some extent shape, the main direction
of judicial and administrative changes during the nineteenth century,
though with some consequences that he neither anticipated nor desired.
He thought that the State might be invested with power to modify
society, and yet might be strictly controlled in the exercise of that
power. He might have foreseen, what has actually happened, that the
State, once established on a democratic basis, would exercise the
power and disregard his carefully drawn limitations. A tendency toward
State Socialism he would have detested above all things; and yet that
is the direction inevitably taken by supreme authority when the
responsibility for the greatest happiness of the greatest number is
imposed upon it by popular demand.

Mr. Stephen's second volume describes the later phase of the
Utilitarian creed, when it passed from its founder into the hands of
ardent disciples. The transition necessarily involves some divergence
of views and methods. In religious movements it usually begins after
the founder's death; but as Bentham lived to superintend his apostolic
successors, his relations with them were not invariably harmonious.
The leadership fell upon James Mill, whose early life and general
character, the development of his opinions, and the bearing of his
philosophy upon his politics, are the subjects of one of those
condensed biographical sketches in which Mr. Stephen excels. In the
_History of India_, which brought to James Mill reputation and
pecuniary independence, he could apply his deductive theories to a
remote and little known country without much risk of contradiction
from actual circumstances or of checks from the misapprehension of
facts. In England the Utilitarian doctrines, as propounded in Mill's
writings, raised up opposition and hostile criticism from various
quarters. The general current of ideas and feelings had now set
decidedly toward the suppression of inveterate abuses, and toward
constitutional reform. Radicalism was gaining ground rapidly, and even
Socialism had come to the surface, while Political Economy was in the
ascendant. But the old Tories closed their ranks for a fierce
resistance against theories that menaced, as it seemed to them,
nothing less than destruction to time-honoured institutions; and the
Whigs had no taste for doctrines that pretended to be reasonable, but
appeared to them in effect revolutionary. The different positions of
contending parties were illustrated, as Mr. Stephen shows, by their
respective attitudes towards Church Reform. The Tories defended
ecclesiastical establishment as one of the main bastions of the
citadel; the Whigs would preserve the Church in subjection to the
State; while James Mill, in the _Westminster Review_, declared the
Church of England to be a mere State machine, worked in subservience
to the sinister interest of the governing classes. He desired 'to
abolish all dogmas and ceremonies, and to employ the clergy to give
lectures on ethics, botany, and political economy, with decent dances
and social meals for the celebration of Sunday.' Mr. Stephen, after
observing that this plan exemplifies 'the incapacity of an isolated
clique to understand the real tone of public opinion,' adds that 'it
seems to have some sense, but one would like to know whether Newman
read his article.' Our own notion would be that it is a signal
instance of shortsightedness and of insensibility, on the part of a
psychologist, to the strength and persistence of one of the most
powerful among the emotions that dominate mankind. Mill's article
proclaiming these views appeared in 1835, just at the time when the
Oxford Movement was stirring up a wave of enthusiasm for the dogmas
and ritual which he treated as obsolete and nonsensical; nor is there
anything more remarkable or unexpected in the political changes of the
last sixty years, than the discomfiture of those prophets who have
foretold the decay of all liturgies and the speedy dissolution of
ecclesiastical establishments. This phenomenon is by no means confined
to England, or even to Europe; and at the present day, when the power
of religious idealism is better understood upon wider experience, no
practical politician attempts to disregard sentiments that defy logic
and pass the understanding.

Nevertheless Utilitarianism, as represented by James Mill's 'Essay on
Government,' was attracting increased attention, and was provoking
serious alarm. It was a period of confidence in theories which have
been partly confirmed and partly contradicted by subsequent
experiences of those 'principles of human nature' in which political
speculators so unreservedly trusted. In France, some fifty years
earlier, the destructive theorist had swept all before him; in
England, while he was assaulting with effect the entrenchments of
Conservatism, he was taken in flank by the moderate reformers. Mill
had denounced the Whigs as half-hearted and even treacherous allies,
who dallied with Radicalism to conceal their nefarious design of
obtaining political mastery with the fewest concessions possible. He
relied upon universal education to qualify the masses for the
possession of an extensive franchise, and upon enlightened
self-interest to guarantee their proper use of it. Macaulay rejoined,
in the _Edinburgh Review_, that the masses might possibly conclude
that they would get more pleasure than pain out of universal
spoliation; and that if his opponent's principles were correct and his
scheme adopted, 'literature, science, commerce, and manufactures might
be swept away, and a few half-naked fishermen would divide with the
owls and foxes the ruins of the greatest of European cities.' It was a
notable controversial tournament, at which the intelligent bystander
probably assisted with much satisfaction and no excessive alarm,
having little faith in the absolute theorist, and not much in the
disinterestedness of the Whigs. For the moment it was sufficient that
both parties agreed in supporting the Reform Bill, although, as Mr.
Stephen remarks, the Radical regarded it as a payment on account,
while the Whig hoped that it would be a full and final discharge. We
may observe, to the honour of a great Liberal family, that as the
first Lord Lansdowne discerned Bentham's talents and gave him his
start in life, so the impression made upon the second marquis by
Macaulay's articles induced him to offer the writer his first seat in

Mr. Stephen deals with the duel between Mill and Macaulay from the
standpoint of an impartial umpire, with an expert's appreciation of
their logical fencing and some humorous glances at the heated
combatants. Mill was an austere Puritan, who would fell the Tory like
an ox and would trample upon the cunning self-seeking Whig. The
Edinburgh Reviewers were a set of brilliant young men who represented
intellectual Liberalism; but 'they were men who meant to become
judges, members of Parliament, or even bishops, and nothing in their
social atmosphere had stimulated the deep resentment against social
injustice which makes the fanatic or the enthusiast.' As a sample of
Whiggism Mr. Stephen takes Mackintosh, who, on the subject of the
French Revolution, stood half-way between Burke's holy horror of a
diabolic outburst and the applause of root-and-branch Radicals. For a
type of Conservatism he gives us Robert Southey, whose fortune it was
to be fiercely abused by the Utilitarians and ridiculed by the Whigs.
Southey, like many others, had been frightened out of early Liberalism
into the conviction that Reform would be the inevitable precursor of
revolution; and in 1817 he had written to Lord Liverpool that the only
hope of saving the country lay in gagging the seditious press.
'Concessions,' he said, 'can only serve to hasten the catastrophe. Woe
be to the garrison who hoist a white flag to an enemy that gives no
quarter.' Yet Southey had a deep feeling for the misery of the lower
classes at this period of widespread distress. In his belief in the
power of Government to remedy social evils, he was much nearer the
accepted line of later public opinion than Macaulay, who would have
confined the State's business to the maintenance of order, the defence
of property, and the practice of departmental economy. And when
Southey, following Coleridge and preceding Gladstone, insisted upon
the vital importance of religion as a principle of State policy,
neither he nor Gladstone deserved all the ridicule cast upon them by
Macaulay in his brilliant essays; for at any rate no first-class
Government in Europe has hitherto ventured upon dissolving connection
with the Church.

For his philosophy, Mr. Stephen tells us, Southey was in the habit of
referring to Coleridge, whose hostility to the Utilitarians went on
different and deeper grounds. Coleridge had convinced himself that all
the errors of the time, and their political dangers, arose from a
false and godless empiricism. He declared that revolutionary periods
have always been connected with the popular prevalence of abstract
ideas, and that the speculative principles of men between twenty and
thirty are the great source of political prophecy. He developed this
view in a singular letter upon the state of affairs and opinions which
he also, like Southey, addressed to Lord Liverpool in 1817, and which
somewhat bewildered that veteran statesman. With the moderns, he said,
'nothing grows, all is made'; whereas growth itself is but a disguised
mode of being made by the superinduction of the _jam data_ on the _jam
datum_; and he insisted that 'the flux of individuals at any moment in
existence in a country is there for the value of the State, far more
than the State for them, though both positions are true
proportionately.' In other words, Coleridge pressed the evolutionary
view against the sharp set, shortsighted Utilitarian propositions; and
he would have agreed that antiquated prejudices are absurd only to
those who have not looked back to their origin, when they can be found
to proceed in logical order from natural causes. He had not been
always a resolute opponent of the Utilitarian theory of morals; but,
like other philosophers, he had become alarmed at the consequence of
being shut up within the prison of finite senses, and he grasped at
Kant's discovery of the difference between Understanding and Reason,
in order to retire upon a metaphysical basis of religion and morality,
and to withstand the prudential calculus. We are inclined to suggest
that Mr. Stephen, who does little more than glance at Coleridge's
position, has underestimated his influence upon the intellectual
direction of politics in the first half of this century. Coleridge
certainly provided an antidote to the crudity of eager Radicalism in
Church and State, and his ideas may be recognised not only in the
great High Church movement that was stirred up by the Tractarians, but
also in the larger comprehension of the duties and attributes of the
State that has been slowly gaining ground up to our own day.

It is, indeed, the growth and development of English opinion regarding
these public duties and attributes, as it is traced in Mr. Stephen's
book, that forms, in our opinion, its chief value; and we are
reviewing it mainly as a history of political ideas. This is, we
believe, the practical outcome of the increasing feeling of sympathy
between different classes of the community, of a sense of
responsibility, of what is called altruism, of solidarity among all
the diverse interests that have lately characterised our legislation:

     'The two great rival theories of the functions of the State
     are--the theory which was for so many years dominant in England,
     and which may for convenience be called the Individualist theory;
     and the theory which is stated most fully and powerfully by the
     Greek philosophers, which we may call the Socialist theory. The
     Individualist theory regards the State as a purely utilitarian
     institution, a mere means to an end.... It represents the State as
     existing mainly for the protection of property and personal
     liberty, and as having therefore no concern with the private life
     and character of the citizen, except in so far as these may make
     him dangerous to the material welfare of his neighbour.

     'The Greek theory, on the other hand, though it likewise regards
     the State as a means to certain ends, regards it as something
     more.... According to this theory, no department of life is outside
     the scope of politics; and a healthy State is at once the end at
     which the science aims, and the engine by which its decrees are
     carried out.'[29]

Accepting this passage as a philosophical statement of tendencies, we
may observe that neither theory has ever been definitely adopted in
England. The Utilitarians desired to recast institutions for the
greater happiness of all citizens, but they were averse to investing
the State with autocratic powers of interference. The Tories, on the
other hand, were awakening to the conviction that the Government must
do more for the people; but their fear of change and their own
'sinister interests,' persuaded them that this might be done without
radical reforms. The Whigs faced both ways, and since in England the
truly valuable effect of extreme opinions is always to drive the
majority into a middle course, they rose to power on that compromise
which is represented by the Reform measures of 1832. The Reform Bill
was accepted by the Utilitarians as an instalment of the rightful
authority of the people over the conduct of public affairs, and
therefore a provisional method of promoting their welfare. The first
Tory statesman of that day, on the contrary, was convinced that for
the public welfare the existing Constitution could not be bettered:

     'During one hundred and fifty years the Constitution in its present
     form has been in force; and I would ask any man who hears me to
     declare whether the experience of history has produced any form of
     government so calculated to promote the happiness and secure the
     liberties of a free and enlightened people.'[30]

Both parties, in fact, appealed to experience; but Peel took his stand
upon history, which the Utilitarians disregarded as a mere record of
unscientific errors, or at most as a lighthouse to give warning of
rocks, rather than a lamp to show the road ahead. And the point upon
which they joined issue was as to the consequences of staking the
whole fabric of government upon the basis of public opinion, operating
through almost unlimited popular suffrage. The Tory foretold that
this would end in wrecking the Constitution, with the ship among
breakers, and steering by ballot voting. The Benthamite persuaded
himself that enlightened self-interest, empirical perceptions of
utility, and general education, would prevail with the multitude for
their support of a rational system. But with those who demanded
sovereignty for the people a strict limitation of the sphere of
government was one essential maxim; and the Utilitarians would have
agreed with Guizot when he declared it to be 'a mere commonplace that
as civilisation and reason progress, the sphere of public authority
contracts.' They do not appear to have foreseen that whenever the
masses should have got votes legislation would become democratic, or
even socialistic, in order to capture them. This discovery was
eventually made by the Tories, who availed themselves of it to dish
the Whigs, and to come forward again upon a popular suffrage as the
true friends and guardians of the people.

In Mr. Stephen's second volume James Mill is the principal figure, as
the apostle of Benthamism, though he also describes briefly, in his
terse and incisive style, the lives and opinions of some notable men,
foes as well as friends to the party, who represented different
expressions of energetic protest against existing institutions. To
each of them is allotted his proper place in the line of attack, and
his due share in the general enterprise of rousing, by argument or
invective, the slow-thinking English people to a sense of their
lamentable condition. Cobbett and Owen were at feud with true
Utilitarians, and in unconscious alliance, against the orthodox
economists, with the Tories, who, as we have said, have eventually
found their advantage in the democratic movement. Cobbett fought for
the cause of the agricultural labourer, trodden under foot by squires
and parsons. Owen believed that the grasping capitalist, with his
steam machinery, would further degrade and impoverish the working
classes. Godwin, who is merely mentioned by Mr. Stephen, was a
peaceful anarchist, who proposed 'to abolish the whole craft and
mystery of government,' to abandon coercion and rely upon just
reasoning, upon the enlightened assent of individuals to the payment
of taxes. They all embodied ideas that are incessantly fermenting in
some ardent minds, and that maintain a perceptible influence on
political controversies at the present day. Godwin agreed with the
Utilitarians that government is a bad thing in itself, but he went
beyond them in concluding that it is, or ought to be, unnecessary to
society. To both Radical and Socialist, Utilitarianism, with its
frigid philanthropy and its reliance on self-help, prudence, and free
competition for converting miserable masses into a healthy and moral
population, was the gospel of selfishness, invented for the salvation
of landlords and capitalists. Malthus was the heartless exponent of
natural laws that kept down multiplication by famine, while the rich
man fared sumptuously every day; and the Ricardians, with their
mechanical balancing of supply and demand, were mocking distress by
solemn formulas. It must be admitted that these sharp assailants hit
some palpable rifts in the Utilitarian armour of proof; and we know
that popular sentiment has since been compelling later economists to
take up much wider ground in defence of their scientific position.

The doctrines of Malthus, of Ricardo and of Ricardo's disciples are
subjected to a searching analysis by Mr. Stephen, who brings out their
limitations very effectively. Yet it is by no means easy, even under
our author's skilful guidance, to follow the Utilitarian track
through the fields of economy, philosophy, and theology, and to show
in what manner or degree it led up to the issues under discussion in
our own time. All these 'streams of tendency' have had their influence
on the main current and direction of contemporary politics, but they
cannot be measured or mapped out upon the scale of a review. And, in
regard to political economy, we may even venture to question whether
the earlier dogmatic theories now retain sufficient interest to
justify the space which, in this volume, has been devoted to a
scrutiny of them; for their methods, as well as their conclusions,
have now become to a certain extent obsolete. A strictly empirical
science must be continually changing with fresh data and a broader
outlook; it is always shifting under stress of new interests, changed
feelings, and unforeseen contingencies; it is very serviceable for the
exposure of errors, but its own demonstrations are in time proved to
be erroneous or inadequate. Moreover, to explain the ills that afflict
a society, and to declare them incurable except by patience and slow
alterative medicines, is often to render them intolerable; nor is it
of much practical importance to lay out, on hard scientific
principles, the methodical operation of causes and effects that have
always been understood in a rough experimental way.

     'The truth that scarcity meant dearness was apparently well known
     to Joseph in Egypt, and applied very skilfully for his purpose.
     Economists have framed a theory of value which explains more
     precisely the way in which this is brought about. A clear statement
     may be valuable to psychologists; but for most purposes of
     political economy Joseph's knowledge is sufficient,'

If Joseph had written a treatise on the agrarian tenures of Egypt he
might not have bought them up so easily at famine prices, and he
might have entangled himself in a discussion upon peasant properties.
The economist who makes an inductive demonstration of unalterable
natural laws and propensities may be likened to the scientific
legislator who undertakes to codify prevailing usages: he turns an
elastic custom, constantly modified in practice by needs and
sentiments, into an unbending statute, when the bare unvarnished
statement of the principle produces an outcry. Natural processes will
not bear calm philosophic explanations that are understood to imply
approval of them as cruel but inevitable; not even in such an
essentially moralistic argument as that of Butler's 'Analogy,' which
some have regarded as a plea of ambiguous advantage to the cause of
natural religion. Malthus, for example, proved undeniably the
pernicious consequences of reckless propagation; but he who forces a
great evil upon public attention is expected to find the practical
remedy; and Malthus had little to prescribe beyond a few palliative
measures and the expediency of self-restraint, while his proposal to
abolish the poor laws in the interest of pauperism was interpreted as
a recommendation that poor folk should be starved into prudential and
self-reliant habits. Malthus held, indeed, that the improvement of the
condition of the labouring classes should be considered as the main
interest of society. But he also thought that

     'to improve their condition, it is essential to impress them with
     the conviction that they can do much more for themselves than
     others can do for them, and that the _only_ source of their
     permanent improvement is the improvement of their moral and
     religious habits. What government can do, therefore, is to maintain
     such institutions as may strengthen the _vis medicatrix_, or desire
     to better our condition, which poor laws had directly tended to

There is much wisdom to be found in these counsels; but good advice
rather excites than allays the ignorant impatience of acute suffering,
and popular opinion soon began to inquire whether the _vis medicatrix_
might not be administered in some more drastic form by the State. The
conception of a rational government superintending, without
interference, the slow evolution of morals, had a kind of
correspondence, in the religious sphere, with the doctrine of
pre-established harmonies so clearly ordained that to suggest any need
of further Divine interposition to readjust them occasionally was a
reflection upon the wisdom and foresight of Providence. But the stress
and exigencies of modern party politics has rendered this attitude
untenable for the temporal ruler.

The pure economists, however, prescribed moral remedies without
investigating the elements of morality. They settled the laws of
production and distribution as eliminated from the observation of
ordinary facts; they corrected errors and registered the mechanical
working of human desires and efforts. It is Mr. Stephen's plan,
throughout this book, to show the bearing of philosophical speculation
on practical conduct; and accordingly, after his chapter on Malthus
and the Ricardians, he turns back again to philosophy and ethics. His
clear and cogent exposition of the views and conclusions put forward
on these subjects by Thomas Brown, with the express approval of James
Mill, is an illustration of Coleridge's dictum regarding the
connection between abstract theories and political movements.
Admitting the connection, we may again observe that there is a certain
danger in stating the theories too scientifically. Neither morals nor
religion are much aided by digging down into their foundations. Yet
the logical constructor of a new system usually finds himself driven
by controversy into a discussion of ultimate ideas, though the
Utilitarians refused to be forced back into metaphysics. No professor
of philosophy, however, can altogether avoid asking himself what
underlies experience and the formation of beliefs; and Brown did his
best for the Utilitarians by defining Intuition as a belief that
passes analysis, a principle independent of human reasoning, which
'does not allow us to pass a single step beyond experience, but merely
authorises us to interpret experience.' It was James Mill's mission to
cut short and to simplify philosophical aberrations for his practical

     'As a publicist, a historian, and a busy official, he had not much
     time to spare for purely philosophic reading. He was not a
     professor in want of a system, but an energetic man of business,
     wishing to strike at the root of superstitions to which his
     political opponents appealed for support. He had heard of Kant, and
     seen "what the poor man would be at".'

His own views are elaborated in his book on the _Analysis of the
Phenomena of the Human Mind_, for a close criticism of which we must
refer readers to Mr. Stephen's second volume. The connection of these
dissertations with the social and political ends of the Utilitarians
lies, it may be said briefly, in the support which a purely
experiential psychology gives to the doctrine that human character
depends on external circumstance, and that such vague terms as the
'moral sense' only disguise the true identity of rules of morality
with the considerations that can be shown to produce general
happiness. Whenever there appears to be a conflict between these rules
and considerations, utility is the only sure criterion. To the extreme
situations in which casuistry revels, as when a man is called upon to
sacrifice his life or his personal honour for his country's good, the
Utilitarian would apply this unfailing test inexorably; in such cases
a man ought to decide upon a calculation of the greatest happiness of
the majority. He does not, in fact, apply this reckoning; he may
possibly not have time, at the urgent moment, to work it out; his
heroism is inspired by the universal praise or blame that reward
self-devotion or punish shrinking from it, and thus render acts moral
or immoral by the habitual association of ideas. The martyr or patriot
does not, indeed, stop to calculate; he does not feel the subtle
egoism that is hidden in the desire for applause; he believes himself
to be acting with the perfect disinterestedness which can only be
accounted for by superficial reasoners on the assumption of some such
abstract notion as religion, moral sense, or duty. Since the behaviour
of mankind at large, therefore, is invariably guided by a remote or
proximate consideration of utility; since conduct depends upon
character, and character is shaped by external conditions and positive
sanctions, it is possible to frame, on utilitarian principles,
scientific rules of behaviour which can be powerfully, though
indirectly, promoted by legislation and a system of enlightened
polity. For morality, it is argued, can be materially assisted by
pointing to, or even providing, the serious consequences that are
inseparable from human misdeeds, by proving that pain or pleasure
follows different kinds of behaviour; while motives are so complex
that they can never be verified with certainty, and must therefore be
left out of account. This anatomy of the springs of action obviously
lays bare some truths, although they fit in much better with the
department of the legislator than of the moralist. As Mr. Stephen
forcibly shows, although the consideration of motive may fall very
seldom within the sphere of legislation, yet no theory which should
exclude its influence on the moral standard could be tolerated, since
the motive is of primary importance in our ethical judgment of
conduct. Nor has motive, as discriminated from intention, ever been
kept entirely outside the criminal law, notwithstanding the danger of
admitting, as an extenuation of some violent crime, that the offender
had convinced himself that some religious or patriotic cause would be
served by it. James Mill's view of morals as theoretically coordinate
with law--because in both departments the intention is the essential
element in measuring actions according to their consequences--operated
in practical contradiction to his principle of restraining State
interference within narrow limits. It is this latter principle which
has since given way. For the general trend of later political opinion
has evidently been towards bringing public morality more and more
under administrative regulation; and this manifestly indicates a
growing expansion of ideas upon the legitimate duties and jurisdiction
of the State.

Upon James Mill's psychology Mr. Stephen's conclusion, with which we
may agree, is that his analysis of virtue into enlightened
self-interest is unsuccessful, and we have seen that his conception of
government, as an all-powerful machine resting upon, yet strictly
limited by, public opinion, has failed on the side of the limitations.
Yet although Mill could not explain virtue, he was, after his fashion,
a virtuous man, whose life was conscientiously devoted to public

     'His main purpose, too, was to lay down a rule of duty, almost
     mathematically ascertainable, and not to be disturbed by any
     sentimentalism, mysticism, or rhetorical foppery. If, in the
     attempt to free his hearers from such elements, he ran the risk of
     reducing morality to a lower level, and made it appear as unamiable
     as sound morality can appear, it must be admitted that in this
     respect, too, his theories reflected his personal character.'

It is also probable that his theories, and his bitter controversies in
defence of them, reacted on his personal character, and that both
influences are to be traced beyond James Mill's own life, in the
mental and social prepossessions which he bequeathed to his son.

Mr. Stephen's third volume is chiefly occupied by the history of the
later Utilitarians, and the expansion of their cardinal principle in
its application to a changing temper of the times, under the
leadership of John Stuart Mill. We have, first, a closely written and
critical description of this remarkable man's early life, his
stringent educational training, the development of his opinions, and
their influence upon the orthodox tenets of the sect. Upon all these
subjects Mill has left us, under his own hand, more intimate and
circumstantial particulars than are to be found, perhaps, in any other
personal memoir. The writer who tells his own story usually passes
hastily over boyhood; the ordinary biographer gives some family
details, or endeavours to amuse us with trivial anecdotes of the child
who became an important man. J. S. Mill hardly alludes to any member
of his family except his father, and his early days are marked by a
total absence of triviality. He was bound over to hard intellectual
labour at home during the years that for most of us pass so lightly
and unprofitably at a public school; he was a voracious and
indefatigable reader and writer from his youth up, with a wolfish
hunger (as Browning calls it) for knowledge; he plunged into all the
current discussions of philosophy and politics; he became a practised
writer and made a good figure at debating clubs; he became so intent
on the solution of complex social problems as to acquire a distaste
for general society; his mental concentration blunted his sensibility
to the physical passions that so powerfully sway mankind.

Nevertheless, Mill's outlook upon the world was much wider than his
father's, and his aim was so to adjust the Utilitarian creed as to
bring it into closer working accord with the advancing ideas and
projects of the political parties to whom he was nearest in sympathy.
He allied himself in the beginning with the Philosophical Radicals, in
the hope of organising them for active service in the cause. But this
group soon broke up, and Mr. Stephen ascribes their failure in part to
their name, observing that the word '"Philosophical" in English is
synonymous with visionary, unpractical, and perhaps simply foolish.'
There would be less satire, and possibly more justice, in saying that
the word gives a chill to the energetic hot-gospeller of active
Radicalism, who pushes past the philosopher as one standing too far
behind the fighting line, although he may be useful in forging
explosives in some quiet laboratory. Mill himself was continually
hampered, as an ardent combatant, by the impedimenta which he brought
into the field in the shape of abstract speculations, which could not
be made to fit in with the immediate demands of thorough-going
partisans. His democratic fervour was tempered by his conviction of
the incapacity of the masses. He was a Socialist 'in the sense that he
looked forward to a complete, though distant, revolution in the whole
structure of society'; he discovered that the Chartists had crude
views upon political economy; his attitude toward factory legislation
was very dubious. Yet in the main purpose of his life and writings,
which was to mend and guide public opinion on social and political
questions by theoretical treatment--that is, by a logically connected
survey of the facts--he was undoubtedly successful, as is shown by
the popularity of his two great works on _Logic_ and _Political
Economy_, which became the text-books of higher study on these
subjects for a whole generation. On the other hand, he exposed himself
to the distrust and hostility that are always aroused by philosophical
arguments which strike at the roots of established beliefs and
prejudices, and are discovered to be really more dangerous to them
than a direct assault.

It was the philosophic strategy of J. S. Mill to prosecute the
Utilitarian war against metaphysics, and finally to exterminate
Intuitions, being convinced, as he said, that the _a priori_ and
spiritualistic thinkers still far exceeded the partisans of
experience, and that a great majority of Englishmen were still
Intuitionists. Is this actually a true account of English thought? Mr.
Stephen thinks not, for he believes that if Mill had not lived much
apart from ordinary folk he would have found Englishmen practically,
though not avowedly, predisposed to empiricism, which has been the
philosophic tradition in this country since Hobbes. We so far agree
with Mr. Stephen that we believe Englishmen, in general, to practise a
great deal more of empiricism than they avow. But Mill proposed to
demonstrate and declare it as a weapon in polemics and an engine of
action, and it was here, probably, that the main body of Englishmen
deserted him. They were not ready to cut themselves off from theology
and from all ideas that transcend experience, and they demurred to the
paramount jurisdiction of logic in temporal affairs. To every section
of Churchmen the relegation of moral sanctions within the domain of
verifiable consequences was a doctrine to be resisted strenuously.
With the high sacerdotalist it amounted to a denial of the Christian
mysteries; to the Broad Churchman it was ethically inadequate and
ignoble; to the scholastic professor of divinity it meant ruinous

That a vigorous thinker should have begun by striking at what seemed
to him the root of obstructive fallacies was natural enough. He
supposed that a logical demonstration would clear the ground for his
plans of reform; whereas, on the contrary, it entangled him in
preliminary disputations, and his inflexible reasoning alarmed people
who followed experience as the guide of life, but instinctively felt
that there must be something beyond phenomenal existence. In political
economy Mill relied upon common sense and practice in affairs to make
the requisite allowance for general laws founded on human propensities
regarded abstractedly. His conviction was, in short, that nothing
should be taken for granted because everything might be explained; and
he desired to tie men down to accepting no belief, or even feeling,
that could not be justified by reason. His _System of Logic_ was, as
he has himself written, a text-book for the doctrine 'which derives
all knowledge from experience, and all moral and intellectual
qualities principally from the direction given to the associations.'
When he proceeded to construct a systematic psychology upon this
basis, he fell into the fundamental perplexities that are concisely
brought out by Mr. Stephen in his scrutiny of Mill's doctrine of
Causation. He followed Hume in severing any necessary connection
between cause and effect, and even invariable sequence became
incapable of proof. But when he resolved Cause into a statement of
existing conditions that can never be completely known until we have
mastered the whole series of physical phenomena, and showed that all
human induction is fallible because necessarily imperfect, it became
clear that Mill had very little to offer in substitution for those
grounds of ordinary belief that he was bent on demolishing. The word
Cause is reduced, for ordinary use, to a signification not unlike that
which is understood in loose popular language by the word Chance,
since Chance means no more than ignorance of how an event came to
pass; and in no case, according to Mill, can we ever calculate with
security what undiscoverable conditions may suddenly bring about an
unexpected event contrary to previous experience. The uniformity of
Nature, as Mr. Stephen remarks, is thus made exceedingly precarious;
and to the practical intelligence, which looks for some basis that
cannot be argued about, there is still something to be said for
Intuition. And when Mill, still in search of some precise formula,
undertook to interpret persistent sequences by his theory of Real
Kinds possessing an indeterminate number of coherent properties--so
that our belief in the invariable blackness of crows is justified as a
collocation of these visible properties--he merely throws the problem
of Causation farther backward. We have to be content with direct
observation of phenomena that can be classified as co-existent; we can
perceive that things accompany each other, but we can never be sure
that they follow each other, as they appear to do.

It may be doubted whether Mill's treatment of these problems has
materially affected subsequent psychological speculation, which has
since taken different and deeper courses. His main objective was
social and political.

'The notion,' he has written, 'that truths external to the mind may be
known by intuition, or consciousness, independently of observation and
experience, is, I am persuaded, in these times the great intellectual
support of false doctrines and bad institutions.' In confounding the
metaphysicians, and eliminating all mysterious assumptions or axioms,
he aimed at clearing the ground for a demonstrable science of
character, and to establish the great principle that character can be
indefinitely modified. The way is thus opened to questions of conduct,
to positive remedies for social and political evils which, as they
have been generated and fostered by external circumstances, can be
removed by a change of those circumstances.

     'The greatest problems of the time were either economical or
     closely connected with economical principles. Mill had followed the
     political struggles with the keenest interest; he saw clearly their
     connection with underlying social movements; and he had thoroughly
     studied the science--or what he took to be the science--which must
     afford guidance for a satisfactory working out of the great
     problems. The Philosophical Radicals were deserting the old cause,
     and becoming insignificant as a party. But Mill had not lost his
     faith in the substantial soundness of their economic doctrines. He
     thought, therefore, that a clear and full exposition of their views
     might be of the highest use in the coming struggle.... The
     _Political Economy_ speedily acquired an authority unapproached by
     any work published since the _Wealth of Nations_.'

We cannot follow Mr. Stephen through his elaborate and effective
review of this celebrated book. Its appearance marked an epoch in the
history of Utilitarianism, for it took a much wider survey of social
and political considerations, and the author undertook to expand the
orthodox economic theories so that they might embrace and be
reconciled with some daring projects of comprehensive reform. But Mill
had to put some strain on the principles to which he adhered, and to
accommodate certain inconsistencies in order to keep pace with moving
ideas. He held on with some effort to the cardinal tenets of the older
Utilitarians, to a dislike of interference by governments, to
reliance on individual effort, to protest against the deadening
influence of paternal administration, to his own trust in the gradual
effect of educational agencies, and in the slow emancipation of the
popular mind from unreasoning prejudices. On the other hand, he
advocated a radical reform of the land laws, peasant proprietorship,
the acquisition by the State of railways and canals, the limitation of
the right of bequest; and he went even so far as to speak with
approval of laws in restraint of improvident marriages. All these
proposals could only be carried out by arbitrary and drastic
legislation. As he put it, the State must interfere for the purpose of
making the people independent of further interference; and he
overlooked or set aside the question whether the eventual result of
thus calling in the State's agency would not be contrary to the
principles and professed intentions of the Utilitarian school, whether
the provisional _régime_ would not become permanent, as, in fact, it
has been rapidly becoming ever since.

We can see, moreover, that while J. S. Mill's sympathy with the
popular cause and with the most ardent reformers was sincere, he was
at issue with them in regard to the means, though not in regard to the
ends; he wished to better the intelligence of the people as the first
step toward bettering their condition. But when he had convinced
himself, as he said, that no great improvements in the lot of mankind
are possible until a great change takes place in the fundamental
constitution of their modes of thought, he had still to persuade men
who were stirring and pressing for immediate action that gradual
methods were the best. Most of them may have preferred to try whether,
if the lot of mankind were improved materially, the moral changes and
mental habits would not follow; for indeed Mill's proposition might
stand examination and hold good either way. It may be argued that an
elevation or widening of intellectual views is the consequence, as
often as it is the cause, of increasing comfort and leisure. He
thought that all reading and writing which does not tend to promote a
renovation of the world's belief is of very little value beyond the
moment, which is, of course, true in a general sense; though
literature can act much more directly than by dealing with first
principles. He welcomes Free Trade as one triumph of Utilitarian
doctrines, yet he sadly observes that the English public are quite as
raw and undiscerning on subjects of political economy since the nation
was converted to Free Trade as before. The nation, in fact, went
straight at the immediate point, got what it wanted at the moment, and
was satisfied.

Mr. Stephen's criticism of Mill's later writings exhibits further his
difficulties in adjusting the essential Utilitarian principles to
closer contact with the urgent questions of the day. Mill still held
to competition, to the full liberty of individuals, to the inevitable
mechanical working of economic laws; he still doubted the expediency
of factory legislation, and condemned any laws in restraint of usury.
He was opposed, broadly, to all authoritative intrusion upon human
existence wherever its necessity could not be proved conclusively to
be in the interest of a self-reliant community. Yet he was forced to
make concessions and exceptions in the face of actual needs and
grievances; and especially he found himself more and more impelled to
tolerate and even advocate interference by the State as the only
effective instrument for demolishing obstacles to the moral and
material betterment of the people. Since unjust social inequalities
could be traced to an origin in force or fraud, the legislature might
be logically called in to remove them; and as this is manifestly the
revolutionary argument (as embodied, for example, in the writings of
Thomas Paine), it enabled him to join hands with Radicalism in
proposing some very thorough-going measures. 'Landed property in
Europe derives its origin from force;' so the legislature is entitled
to interpose for the reclamation of rights unjustly usurped from the
community; while, as economical science shows that the value of land
rises from natural causes, the conclusion is that the State may
confiscate the unearned increment. But it was not so easy to convince
the hungry mechanic, by rather fine-drawn distinctions, that the
capitalist had a better right to monopolise profits than the landlord;
for the rise of value in manufactured commodities has very complex
causes, some of them superficially natural. So here, again, is a
plausible case of social injustice. Again, it may be affirmed that all
powerful associations, private as well as public, operate in
restriction of individual liberty. You may argue that great industrial
companies are voluntary; the question is whether they are innocuous to
the common weal, and we may add that this point is coming seriously to
the front at the present time. The distinction, as Mr. Stephen
remarks, drawn by the old individualism between State institutions and
those created by private combination is losing its significance; and,
what is more, public bodies are now continually encouraged to absorb
private enterprise in all matters that directly concern the people.

In short, we are on the high road to State Socialism, though Mill
helps us to console ourselves with having taken that road on strictly
scientific principles. It is the not unusual result of stating large
benevolent theories for popular application; the principle is accepted
and its limitations are disregarded. Nevertheless Mill contends
gallantly in his later works for intellectual liberty, complete
freedom of discussion, and the utility of tolerating the most
eccentric opinions. Into what practical difficulties and questionable
logical distinctions he was drawn by the necessity of fencing round
his propositions and making his reservations is well known; and Mr.
Stephen hits the weak points with keen critical acumen. We all agree
that persecution has done frightful mischief, at times, by suppressing
the free utterance of unorthodox opinions. But Mill argues that
contradiction, even of truth, is desirable in itself, because a
doctrine, true or false, becomes a dead belief without the
invigorating conflict of opposite reasonings. Resistance to authority
in matters of opinion is a sacred privilege essential to the formation
of belief; wherefore originality, even when it implies stupidity, is
to be carefully protected as a factor of human progress. We need not
follow Mr. Stephen in his victorious analysis of the arguments
wherewith Mill seeks to uphold this uncompromising individualism, and
to guard human perversity against the baneful influence of authority.
It is clear enough that society cannot waste its time in perpetual
wrangling over issues upon which an authoritative verdict has been
delivered; and for most of us a reasonable probability, founded on the
judgment of experts, is sufficient in moral or physical questions as
well as in litigation. The religious arena still remains open, where
experts differ and decisions are always disputable. Yet Mr. Arthur
Balfour devotes a chapter in his _Foundations of Belief_ to the
contention that our convictions on all the deeper subjects of thought
are determined not by reason but by authority; whereby he provides us
with an escape from the scepticism that menaces a philosopher who has
proved all experience to be at bottom illusory. Mill, on the other
hand, would make short work with authority wherever it checks or
discourages the unlimited exercise of free individual inquiry; and in
politics he would entrust the sovereign power to a representation of
the entire aggregate of the community, with the most ample
encouragement of incessant discussion. This is, indeed, the system
actually in force, and in England it has answered very well; but Mill
hardly foresaw that its tendency would be to make the State, as the
embodiment of popular will, not less but more authoritative, with a
tendency to encroach steadily upon the sphere of individual effort and
private enterprise.

It may be said that the abstract Utilitarian doctrine reached its
high-water mark in Mill's book on the Subjection of Women, to which
Mr. Stephen allots one section of a chapter. The book is a particular
enlargement upon Mill's general view that it is a pestilent error to
regard such marked distinctions of human character as sex or race as
innate and in the main indelible. What is called the nature of women
he treats as an artificial thing, an isolated fact which need not at
any rate be recognised by law; the proper test was, he argued, to
leave free competition to determine whether the distinction is radical
or merely the result of external circumstance. But, as Mr. Stephen
answers, such a plain physiological difference is at least not
negligible; and competition between the sexes may favour the despotism
of the stronger, while complete independence on both sides implies
freedom to separate at will; and Mill had only glanced evasively at
the question of divorce. Here, again, is a theory which the pressure
of social conditions, much more than abstract reasoning, is bringing
more and more into prominence with our own generation. On the wider
and more complicated question of race distinctions Mill never worked
out his argument against their indelibility into a regular treatise;
nor could he foresee the increasing influence upon contemporary
politics that is now exercised by racial feelings and their claims to
recognition. In the eighteenth century the French Encyclopédistes, who
were the direct philosophic ancestors of the Utilitarians, regarded
frontiers, classes, and races as so many barriers against the spread
of universal fraternity; and the revolutionary government took up the
idea as a war-cry. The armies of the French Republic proclaimed the
rights of the people in all countries, until Napoleon turned the
democratic doctrine into the form of Imperialism. M. Eugène de Vogüé
has told us recently that this armed propaganda produced a reaction in
Europe toward that strong sentiment of nationality which has been
vigorously manifested during the second half of the nineteenth
century. The assertion of separate nationalities, by the demand for
political autonomy and by the attempt to revive the public teaching of
obscure languages, is the form taken in western and central Europe by
the problem of race. No movement could be more contrary to the views
or anticipations of the Utilitarians, for whom it would have been
merely a recrudescence of one of those inveterate and unreasoning
prejudices which still retard human progress, a fiction accepted by
indolent thinkers to avoid the trouble of investigating the true
causes that modify human character. Yet not only is national
particularism making a fresh stir in Europe, but the spread of
European dominion over Asia has forced upon our attention the immense
practical importance of racial distinctions. We find that they signify
real and profound characteristics; the European discovers that in Asia
he is himself one of a ruling race, and thereby isolated among the
other groups into which the population is subdivided. If he is a
sound Utilitarian he will nevertheless cherish the belief that
economical improvements, public instruction, good laws, and regular
administration will obliterate antipathies, eradicate irrational
prejudices, and reconcile Asiatic folk to the blessings of scientific
civilisation. But he will confess that it is a stubborn element, if
not innate yet very like such a quality; if not ineffaceable yet
certain to outlast his dominion. It is at least remarkable that Mill's
protest against explaining differences of character by race, to which
Buckle 'cordially subscribed,' should have been answered in our time
by a clamorous demand for the recognition of those very differences,
and by an increasing tendency to admit them.

Upon Mill's theological speculations Mr. Stephen has written an
interesting chapter, illustrating Mill's desire to treat religion more
sympathetically, with a deeper sense of its importance in life, than
in the absolute theories of the older Utilitarians. Bentham had
declared that the principle of theology, of referring everything to
God's will, was no more than a covert application of the test of
utility. You must first know whether a thing is right in order to
discover whether it is conformable to God's pleasure; and a religious
motive, he said, is good or bad according as the religious tenets of
the person acting upon it approach more or less to a coincidence with
the dictates of utility. The next step, as Bentham probably knew well,
is to throw aside an abstraction that has become virtually
superfluous, and to march openly under the Utilitarian standard. But
there was in Mill a moral and emotional instinct that deterred him
from resting without uneasiness upon such a bare empirical conclusion.
He rejected all transcendental conceptions; yet he did his best, as
Mr. Stephen shows, to find reasonable proofs of a Deity whose
existence and attributes may be inferred by observation and
experience. He agreed that such an inference is not inconsistent, _a
priori_, with natural laws, and the argument from design was admitted
as providing by analogy, or even inductively, a large balance of
probability in favour of creation by Intelligence. The difficulty is
to attain by these methods the idea of a Deity perfect in power,
wisdom, and goodness; for the order of Nature, apart from human
intervention and contrivances for making the earth habitable,
discloses no tincture of morality. We are thus reduced to the dilemma
propounded by Hume, between an omnipotent Deity who cannot be
benevolent because misery is permitted, and a benevolent Deity with
limited powers; and Mill sums up the discussion, doubtfully, in favour
of a Being with great but limited powers, whose motives cannot be
satisfactorily fathomed by the human intellect.

This halting conclusion indicates a departure from the pure empiricism
of his school, and even the inadequacy of the argument shows the
effort that Mill was making towards some fellow-feeling with spiritual
conceptions. As Mr. Stephen points out, there is a curious
approximation, on some points, between Mill and his arch-enemy
Mansel--between the conditioned and unconditioned philosophies. Both
of them lay stress on the moral perplexities involved in arguing from
the wasteful and relentless course of Nature to an estimate of the
divine attributes. And both agree that the existence of evil is a
serious difficulty; though Mansel's solution, or evasion, of it is by
insisting that the ways of the unconditioned are necessarily for the
most part unknowable, while Mill leans to the possibility that God's
power or intelligence may be incomplete. Upon either hypothesis we
must confess that our knowledge is imperfect and very fallible.
Mr. Stephen has no trouble in exposing the philosophical weakness
of Mill's attitude; but we are mainly concerned to compare it
briefly with the position of his predecessors, for the purpose of
continuing a rapid survey of the course and filiation of Utilitarian
doctrines. When the orthodox Utilitarians definitely rejected all
theology--though until Philip Beauchamp appeared, in 1822, they made
no direct attack upon it--they believed that the fall of theology
would also bring down religion, which they regarded as the source of
motives that were fictitious, misleading, and profoundly unscientific.
Mill agreed that a supernatural origin could not be ascribed to
received maxims of morality without harming them, because to
consecrate rules of conduct was to interdict free examination of them,
and to paralyse their natural development in accordance with changes
of circumstance. Looking back over the interminable controversies, and
the successive variations in form and spirit that every great religion
has undergone, this objection does not seem to us very formidable. But
Mill's evident object was to reconcile the cultivation of religious
feelings with his principle of free thought for individuals. In
accepting Comte's ideal of a religion of humanity, he had entirely
condemned Comte's reproduction of the spiritual authority in the shape
of a philosophical priesthood. And it is remarkable, as indicating a
radical discordance between the French and the English moralist, that
while Comte's adoration, in his later years, of a woman led him to
ordain a formal worship of the feminine representative of the Family,
coupled with the strict seclusion of women from politics, Mill's
lifelong attachment greatly strengthened his ardour for the complete
emancipation of the whole sex.

Our readers will bear in mind that we are endeavouring to measure the
permanent influence of Utilitarian doctrines, to determine how far
they have fixed the direction, and shaped the ends, of contemporary
thought and political action. It cannot be said that these doctrines
are now predominant in either of these two closely interacting
departments. National instincts and prepossessions have lost none of
their force; national character now divides neighbouring peoples more
sharply, perhaps, than a hundred years ago. Militarism is stronger
than ever; cosmopolitan philanthropy is overridden by the growth of
national interests; political economy is overruled by political
necessities; nor have ethical systems displaced the traditional
religions. Empiricism has fallen into discredit as a narrow and
inadequate philosophy; it is superseded in the spiritual world by
transcendental interpretations of dogmas as metaphysical
representations of underlying realities. Mr. Stephen's most
instructive work draws to its close with a dissertation on Liberalism
and Dogmatism, showing how and why Utilitarianism failed in convincing
or converting Englishmen to a practical assent to its principles and
modes of thought. Upon many minds they produced more repulsion than
attraction. Maurice earnestly protested that we were to believe in
God, not in a theory about God, though the distinction, as Mr. Stephen
says, is vague; he appealed to the inner light, to the conscience of
mankind; he went back into the slough of Intuitionism. Carlyle cried
aloud against materialistic views and logical machinery; he denounced
'the great steam-engine, Utilitarianism'; he was for the able despot
and hero-worship against grinding competition and government by
discussion. In theology the mystical spirit rose again with its
immemorial power of enchanting human imagination; the moral law is
discerned to be the vesture of Divinity, in which He arrays Himself
to become apprehensible by the finite intellect; and a Science that
tries to understand everything explains nothing. Authority, instead of
being discarded, is invoked to deliver men out of the great waters of
spiritual and political anarchy. The Tractarians struck in with a
fierce attack on Rationalism, propounding Faith and Revelation as
imperative grounds of belief. You must accept the dogmas, not as
useful, not as moral or reasonable, not even as derived intuitively,
but as the necessary fundamental truths declared by the infallible
Church to be essential to salvation. Those who could not find
infallibility in a State Church went over to Rome, abandoning the Via
Media; others were content with the high sacramental position of
Anglicanism; the moderate Rationalists took shelter with the Broad
Church; a few retreated into the cloudy refuge of transcendental
idealism. The two extreme parties, the Broad Church and the
Sacerdotalists, were at bitter feud with each other; yet they both
denounced the common enemy. Arnold 'agreed with Carlyle that the
Liberals greatly overrate Bentham, and the political economists
generally; the _summum bonum_ of their science is not identical with
human life ... and the economical good is often, from the neglect of
other points, a social evil.' Newman held that to allow the right of
private judgment was to enter upon the path of scepticism; and the
latest infidel device, he says, is to leave theology alone. He set up
the argument, well-worn but always impressive, that science gives no
certainty; and Mr. Stephen contends against it with the weapons of

     'The scientific doctrines must lay down the base to which all other
     truth, so far as it is discoverable, must conform. The essential
     feature of contemporary thought was just this: that science was
     passing from purely physical questions to historical, ethical, and
     social problems. The dogmatist objects to private judgment or free
     thought on the ground that, as it gives no criterion, it cannot
     lead to certainty. His real danger was precisely that it leads
     irresistibly to certainty. The scientific method shows how such
     certainty as is possible must be obtained. The man of science
     advocates free inquiry precisely because it is the way to truth,
     and the only way, though a way which leads through many errors.'

Mr. Stephen is himself a large-minded Utilitarian. He will have
nothing to do with a transcendental basis of morals; and the dogmatist
who dislikes cross-examination is out of his court. Dogmatic
authority, he says, stands only on its own assertions; and if you may
not reason upon them, the inference is that on those points reason is
against them. You may withdraw beyond this range by sublimating
religion into a philosophy, but then it loses touch with terrestrial
affairs, and has a very feeble control over the unruly affections of
sinful men. Newman himself resorted to scientific methods in his
theory of Development, that is, of the growth and evolution of
doctrine. We may agree that these destructive arguments have much
logical force, yet on the other hand such certitude as empiricism can
provide brings little consolation to the multitude, who require some
imperative command; they look for a pillar of cloud or fire to go
before them day and night, and a land of promise in the distance.
Scientific exposition works slowly for the improvement of ethics,
which to the average mind are rather weakened than strengthened by
loosening their foundations; and religious beliefs suffer from a
similar constitutional delicacy. Conduct is not much fortified by
being treated as a function of character and circumstance; for in
religion and morals ordinary humanity demands something impervious to
reasoning, wherein lies the advantage of the intuitionist.

Mr. Stephen, however, is well aware that empirical certitude will not
supply the place of religion. In his concluding pages he states,
fairly and forcibly, the great problems by which men are still
perplexed. Religion, as J. S. Mill felt, is a name for something far
wider than the Utilitarian views embrace.

     'Men will always require some religion, if religion corresponds not
     simply to their knowledge, but to the whole impression made upon
     feeling and thinking beings by the world in which they must live.
     The condition remains that the conception must conform to the
     facts; our imagination and our desires must not be allowed to
     over-ride our experience, or our philosophy to construct the
     universe out of _a priori_ guesses.... To find a religion which
     shall be compatible with all known truth, which shall satisfy the
     imagination and the emotions, and which shall discharge the
     functions hitherto assigned to the churches, is a problem for the

The Utilitarian doctrines, in short, though propagated by leaders of
high intellectual power, and inspired by a pure unselfish morality,
achieved little success in the enterprise of providing new and firmer
guidance and support to mankind in their troubles and perplexities.
But they were not content to look down from serene heights upon the
world, leaving the crowd

    'Errare atque viam palantes quærere vitæ.'

They laboured devotedly to dispel ignorance and to advance knowledge;
they spared no pains to promote the material well-being of society.
They helped to raise the wind that filled the sails of practical
reform; they headed the attack upon legal and administrative abuses;
they stirred up the national conscience against social injustice; they
proclaimed a lofty standard of moral obligation. They laid down
principles that in the long run accord with human progress, yet in
their hopes of rapidly modifying society by the application of those
principles they were disappointed; for their systematic theories were
blocked by facts, feelings, and misunderstandings which had not been
taken into calculation. They were averse to coercion, as an evil in
itself; but though they would have agreed with Mr. Bright's dictum
that 'Force is no remedy,' they were latterly brought to perceive that
in another sense there is no remedy except force, and that the vested
interests and preconceptions of society make a stiff and prolonged
opposition to enlightened persuasion. They were disposed to rely too
confidently upon the spread of intelligence by general education for
preparing the minds of people to accept and act upon doctrines that
were logically demonstrable, and to reject what could not be proved.
Mr. Stephen has somewhere written that to support a religion by force
instead of by argument is to admit that argument condemns it. The
proposition is too absolutely stated even for the domain of spiritual
authority, since it might be replied that no great religion, certainly
no organised Church, has existed by argument alone, and it has usually
been supported by laws. But at any rate the temporal power subsists
and operates by coercion, and the sphere of the State's direct action,
instead of diminishing, as the earlier Utilitarians expected it to do,
with the spread of education and intelligence, is perceptibly
extending itself. The Utilitarians demurred to religion as an ultimate
authority in morals, and substituted the plain unvarnished criterion
of utility. Upon this ground the State steps in, replaces religious
precept by positive law, and public morality is enforced by Acts of
Parliament. They were for entrusting the people with full political
power, to be exercised in vigilant restraint of the interference by
Government with individual rights and conduct; the people have
obtained the power, and are using it more and more to place their
affairs and even their moral interests under the control of organised
authority. We do not here question the expediency of the movement; we
are simply registering the tendency.

There are few literary enterprises more arduous than the task of
following and demarcating from the written record of a period the
general course of political and philosophic movements. The tendencies
are so various, the conditions which determine them are so
complicated, that it is difficult to keep hold of the clue which
guides and connects them. Mr. Leslie Stephen's _History of English
Thought in the Eighteenth Century_ took the broad ground that is
denoted by its title; but, as he now tells us in his preface, he has
found it expedient to reduce his present work within less
comprehensive limits, by confining it to 'an account of the compact
and energetic school of the English Utilitarians.' This reduction of
its scope has not, however, damaged the continuity of the narrative,
since in the great departments of morals, religion, and political
philosophy the Utilitarians were mainly the lineal heirs of the
characteristic English writers in the preceding century. It is true
that Mr. Stephen has not been able to bring within the compass of his
three volumes the subject of general literature, especially of poetry
and novels, which in the nineteenth century have given their vivid
expression to the doubts and the hopes, to the aims and aspirations of
the time. But we can see that such an enlargement of his plan would
have rendered it unmanageable, and that Mr. Stephen may have wisely
considered the example of Buckle's _History of Civilisation in
England_, which was projected on too large a scale, exhausted the
author's strength, and remains unfinished. Mr. Stephen's present work
fulfils its promise and completes its design. The Utilitarians are
very fortunate in having found a historian whose vivacity of style,
consummate literary knowledge, and masculine power of thought will
have revived their declining reputations, and secured to them their
proper place in the literature of the nineteenth century.


[28] _The English Utilitarians._ By Leslie Stephen. 3 vols. London,
Duckworth and Co., 1900.--_Edinburgh Review_, April 1901.

[29] _The Greek Theory of the State_, by Charles John Shebbeare, B.A.,

[30] Sir Robert Peel's speech on Reform, March 1831.


There is probably some foundation for the belief, often held in these
days, that the production of high poetry is becoming more difficult,
partly because the environment of modern civilisation lends itself
less and less to artistic treatment, as mechanism supersedes human
effort, and partly through the operation of other causes. It has been
plausibly argued that most things worth saying have been said already;
that even the words best fitted for poetic expression have been worn
out, have been weakened by familiar usage or soiled by misuse, and
that the resources of language for adequate presentation of ideas and
feelings are running very low. Nevertheless, we all look forward
hopefully to the coming of the original genius who is to strike a
fresh note and inaugurate a new era, as pious Mohammedans expect
another Imam. Yet his coming may not be in our time, and meanwhile the
poetic lamp is burning dimly; it is just kept alight by the assiduous
trimming of the disciples of the great men who have passed or are
passing away, by the minor poets who strike a few musical chords that
catch the ear, but who are not recalled by the audience when they have
played their part and left the stage. The stars that shone in the
bright constellation of Victorian poets have been setting one by one,
until two only remain of those who were the pride of the generation
to which they belong, for whom we may predict that they will hold a
permanent place in English literature. It is now nearly sixty years
since Mr. Meredith's first poems were published. Mr. Swinburne is
about ten years his junior, both in age and in authorship; one may
perhaps assume that the work upon which their reputations will rest is
finished for both of them. Mr. Meredith's poetry has very recently
been the subject of a very complete and sympathetic study by Mr.
George Trevelyan. In this article we shall make an attempt to
delineate, briefly of necessity and therefore inadequately, the
characteristic qualities of form and thought, the technical methods
and intellectual temperament which distinguish the younger poet, who
may be destined to be the last survivor of an illustrious company.

If we accept the theory that art, like nature, follows the principle
of continuous development, that its existing state is closely linked
with its past, it is not easy to affiliate Mr. Swinburne to any direct
literary predecessors. Undoubtedly we may assign to him poetical
kinship with Shelley; he has the same love for classical myths and
allegories, for the embodiment of nature in the beautiful figures of
the antique. Light and shade, a quiet landscape, a tumultuous storm,
stir him with the same sensuous emotion. He has Shelley's passion for
the sea; he is fond of invoking the old divinities who presided over
the fears, hopes, and desires of mankind. He has also Shelley's
rebellious temper, the unflinching revolt against dogmatic authority
and fundamental beliefs which rightly shocked our grandfathers in
'Queen Mab' and a few other poems; he is even less disposed than
Shelley to the hypocrisy which does unwilling homage to virtue. On the
other hand, Mr. Swinburne's pantheism has not Shelley's metaphysical
note; the conception of an indwelling spirit guiding and moulding the
phenomenal world has dropped out; there is no pure idealism of this
sort in Mr. Swinburne's verse.

It may be said, truly, that some of Mr. Swinburne's poetry shows the
influence of the later French Romanticists, of the reaction toward
mediævalism which is represented in England by Scott, and which
culminated in France with Victor Hugo, for whom the English poet's
admiration is unmeasured. That movement, however, had almost ceased on
our side of the Channel at the time when it had reached, or was just
passing, its climax in France. And, indeed, by 1835 the style and
sentiment of English poetry was undergoing a remarkable change. Its
magnificent efflorescence, which the first quarter of the nineteenth
century had seen in full bloom, had faded away. It had sprung up in an
era of great wars and revolution, amid the struggles of nations to
shake off the incubus of despotisms, to free themselves from the yoke
of foreigners. The cause of political liberty inspired the noblest
verse of Shelley, Coleridge, and Byron:

    Yet Freedom, yet, thy banner, torn but flying,
    Streams like a thunderstorm against the wind--'

But in England this ardent spirit had evaporated during the years of
industrial prosperity and mechanical progress which came in with a
long peace after twenty years of fighting; and during the next
generation a milder tone prevailed. For an interval we had only
second-rate artists in verse. The fiery enthusiasts, the despisers of
respectability, were succeeded by poets who were decently emotional,
pensive in thought, tame or affected in style, domestic in theme, with
feeble echoes of the true romantic note in Mrs. Hemans and others.
Next, in the fulness of time, came Tennyson and Browning, to raise
the level of English poetry by their deeper views of life, their
elevation of thought, and their incomparably greater imaginative
power. Tennyson's composition is pellucid and exquisitely refined.
Browning is rugged and often obscure; he cares more for the force than
for the form of expression. The great problems of religion and
politics are seriously and cautiously handled. Browning analyses them
with caustic irony, while Tennyson, after making vain attempts to
solve them, finds consolation in the 'Higher Pantheism.' They are soon
joined by Matthew Arnold and Clough, who represent the melancholy
resignation of sensitive minds that have discarded the creeds, for
whom the miraculous history of Christianity is an illusion that has
faded into the common light of day. Meredith, poet and novelist, falls
back upon communion with Nature; he preaches the doctrine of duty, of
working while the light lasts; he is a high moralist who accepts
stoically the conclusion that nothing beyond terrestrial existence is

Thus Mr. Swinburne's elder contemporaries and precursors in poetry
were all in different modes and fashions optimists; at any rate in
their earlier writings. They stood outside the Churches; dogmatic
beliefs they tacitly put away; they were in sympathy with the
Christian ideal apart from its supernatural element; they professed a
vague trust in an unseen Power, chequered here and there by
intimations of pantheism; they made no frontal assault upon the
central positions of theology. When we turn to their emotional poetry
we find that they were always decorous; there is much discourse of
love, often passionate, never erotic, no tearing aside of drapery, not
a line to scare modesty. In Tennyson's most impassioned lyrics the
principal figure is the broken-hearted lover, jilted by Cousin Amy,
or caught in the garden with Maud--with intentions strictly honourable
in both cases. The treatment of love by Browning and Meredith is
chiefly psychological; they are usually concerned with the tragic
situations that it can involve, though the comic aspect of sexual
infatuation occasionally provokes cynicism. In politics all these
poets are no friends to democracy or seething radicalism; they adore
liberty, yet they are votaries of law and order; they have a hatred of
misrule, and generally a cheerful confidence in the world's evolution
toward better things. On social ethics the poets of the mid-Victorian
period wrote with philosophic sobriety; they maintained a strict moral
standard. In their wildest emotional flights they abstained from
irreverence or indecorum. They undoubtedly represented the prevailing
cast of thought, the taste and tendencies of the society to which they
belonged; the growing scepticism, the influence on established ideas
of advancing science and philosophy. Literature had been showing
distinct signs of sympathy with these novelties, but in the early
'sixties an open revolt was generally discountenanced.

Mr. Swinburne's first publications were two historic plays, of which
something will be said hereafter. In 1864 he turned suddenly from
modern history to ancient legend for his dramatic subject, when he
aroused immediate attention by _Atalanta in Calydon_, which reproduced
the structure and metrical arrangement of a Greek tragedy. The
dialogue has the purity of tone, the clear-cut concision that belong
to its Hellenic model. At the beginning we have a joyous chant full of
sound and colour, gradually changing into the elegiac strain of
foreboding, the dread of pitiless divinities, the lamentation for the
hero's unmerited fate. The exquisite modulations of the verse, the
splendid choral antiphonies captivated all who were susceptible to the
enchantment of poetry. The delicate adaptation of the English language
to quantitative harmonies in high resonant lyrics showed extraordinary
skill in the difficult enterprise of communicating the charm and
cadences of the antique masterpieces. It is a heroic drama, severe in
style and character as the _Antigone_ of Sophocles. Then in 1865 came
_Chastelard_, conceived and partly written, as Mr. Swinburne has told
us, when he was yet at Oxford, a play in which he turns from the Greek
tragedians to rejoin the historical dramatists. The turn is abrupt,
for no character could have been more alien to the Greek notions of
heroism than that of the love-sick knight who joyfully throws away his
life for an hour in his lady's chamber, tears up the warrant
reprieving him from execution, and accepts death to save Queen Mary's
fragile reputation. But although the keynote of Mr. Swinburne's coming
poetry is struck in _Chastelard_--the overpowering enthralment of
Love, a joy to live and die for--

    'The mistress and mother of pleasure,
      The one thing as certain as death'--

yet it gave the British public no fair warning of what followed almost

Into the midst of a well-regulated, self-respecting modern society,
much moved by Tennyson's 'Idylls,' and altogether sympathetic with the
misfortunes of the blameless king--justly appreciative of the domestic
affection so tenderly portrayed by Coventry Patmore's 'Angel in the
House'--Mr. Swinburne charged impetuously with his _Poems and
Ballads_, waving the banner of revolt against conventional reticence,
kicking over screens and rending drapery--a reckless votary of
Astarte, chanting the 'Laus Veneris' and the worship of 'Dolores, Our
Lady of Pain.' From the calm and bright aspect of paganism he is
turning toward its darker side, to the mystic rites and symbolism
which cloaked the fierce primitive impulses of the natural man. The
burden of these first poems is chiefly the bitter sweetness of love,
the sighs and transports of those who writhe in the embrace of the
dread goddess, known by many names in all lands, or the glory of man's
brief springtide, when the veins are hot, soon to be cooled and
covered by frost and fallen leaves. In the clear ringing stanzas of
the 'Triumph of Time,' who sweeps away the brief summer of lovers'
delight, bringing them to autumnal regrets 'for days that are over and
dreams that are done,' and lastly to wintry oblivion, we have almost a
surfeit of voluptuous melancholy. In this, as in other poems, the sea,
changeful in mood, alternately fair and fierce, a bright smiling
surface covering a thousand graves, fascinating and treacherous, is
the mythical Aphrodite, the fatal woman, merciless to men. All this is
set out in lyrics which amaze the reader by their exuberance of
language, profusion of metaphor, and classic allusion; in rhymes that
strike on the ear like the clashing of cymbals. It is as if Atys and
his wild Mænads were flying through the quiet English woodlands. The
long-drawn, undulating lines, in a quieter strain, of the 'Hymn to
Proserpine' and of 'Hesperia,' with their subtle music, lay the reader
under their charm; but too many of these poems are tainted by a
flavour of morbidity, and the average Englishman is not easily thrown
by the most potent spells into a state of amorous delirium.

It is not surprising, therefore, that this first volume of poems,
saturated with intoxicating Hedonism, had, as Mr. Swinburne wrote in
the Dedicatory Preface appended to the full collection of his works,
'as quaint a reception and as singular a fortune as I have ever heard
or read of.' The eruption of neo-paganism was sudden and unexpectedly
violent--the rumblings of scientific and philosophic scepticism had
given no warning of a volcanic explosion in this direction. The
current literature of 1865 was much more prudish and less outspoken
than it is at the present day; the gentlemanly licentiousness of
Byron's time had been completely suppressed; the moral tone of the
middle class was still outwardly Puritanic. English folk were by no
means prepared to rebuild the altars of the primitive deities who
presided over man's unquenchable desire, or to be otherwise than
somewhat aghast at the invocations of Astarte or Ashtaroth, or the cry
to Our Lady of Pain, the 'noble and nude and antique.' The result was
that the first edition of the _Poems and Ballads_ was withdrawn,
though they were reissued in the same year, when Mr. Swinburne
published a reply to his critics. Nevertheless, although the graver
and, we may say, the higher judges of what was admissible to a
nineteenth-century poet were entirely against him, it cannot be denied
that the impulsive youth of that generation felt the enchantment of
Mr. Swinburne's intoxicating love-potions--were sorely tempted to dash
down Tennyson on the drawing-room table, and to join the wild dance
round the shrine of Aphrodite Pandemia.

In the _Poems and Ballads_ Mr. Swinburne keeps on some terms, so to
speak, with theology. In the poem entitled 'A Litany' the Lord God
discourses with Biblical sternness to His people, who tremble before
Him, and threatens them with 'the inevitable Hell,' while the people
implore mercy--a strange excursion into the Semitic desert out of the
flowery field of paganism. And another poem is a pathetic rendering of
the story of St. Dorothy, a Christian martyr. It is true that he
looks back with æsthetic regret to the triumph of Christianity over
the picturesque polytheism, and that perhaps the finest poem in this
volume is the 'Hymn to Proserpine,' where a votary of the ancient
divinities confesses sorrowfully that a new and austere faith has
triumphed, but predicts that its kingdom will not last, will decline
and fall like the empire of the elder gods--

    'All ye as a wind shall go by, as a fire shall ye pass and
      be past;
    Ye are gods, and behold, ye shall die, and the waves be upon you
      at last.
    In the darkness of time, in the deeps of the years, in the changes
      of things,
    Ye shall sleep as a slain man sleeps, and the world shall forget you
      for kings.'

The 'Hymn to Proserpine' is a fine conception of the champion of a
lost cause standing unmoved among the ruins of his Pantheon. But the
quiet dignity of his attitude is marred by the lines in which the
votary of fair forms turns with loathing from the new faith which has
conquered by the blood and agony of saints and martyrs. The violent
invective is like a red streak across the canvas of a picturesque and
highly imaginative composition. Yet if he had been reminded that
Lucretius, standing in the midst of paganism, sternly denounced the
evils and cruelties of religion, Mr. Swinburne would probably have
replied that the Roman poet, could he have been born again fourteen or
fifteen centuries later in his native country, would have found these
evils enormously increased, and that the sacrifice of Iphigenia in
Aulis was as nothing to the hecatombs of the Inquisition.

His intense imagination summons up a bright and luxurious vision of
the pre-Christian civilisation in Greece and Rome, as yet little
affected by the deeper spiritualism of Asia; he is absorbed in
contemplation of the beautiful sensuous aspect of the old
nature-worship, as it is represented by poetry and the plastic arts,
by singers and sculptors who (one may remark) knew better than to deal
with its darker and degrading side, its orgies and unabashed
animalism. And we may add that Mr. Swinburne would have done well to
follow the example, in this respect, of these great masters of his own
art; since his early defects and excesses are mainly due to his having
missed their lesson by disregarding the limitations which they
scrupulously observed.

When he reissued the _Poems and Ballads_, Mr. Swinburne took occasion,
as we have said, to reply, in a pamphlet, to the strictures and strong
protests which they had aroused. He was at some trouble to discover
the passages or phrases 'that had drawn down such sudden thunder from
the serene heavens of public virtue': he was comically puzzled to
comprehend why the reviewers were scandalised. He trampled with
sarcasm and scorn upon canting critics, and retorted that the prurient
prudery of their own minds suggested the impurities which they found
in works of pure art. There is nothing, he insists, lovelier, as there
is nothing more famous in later Hellenic art, than the statue of
Hermaphroditus, yet his translation of a sculptured poem into written
verse has given offence! One might reply that a subject which is
irreproachable, on the score of purity, in cold marble, may take a
very different colour when it is dilated upon in burning verse.

The controversy had its humorous side; but we have no intention of
stirring up again the smoke and fire of battles fought long ago. Mr.
Swinburne held his ground defiantly, and the appearance of _Songs and
Ballads_, published in 1871, showed no signs of contrition, or of
concession to inveterate prejudices. In the course of the intervening
five years the empire of Napoleon III. had fallen with a mighty
crash; Italy had been united under one Italian dynasty; Garibaldi had
become famous, and the Papal States had been absorbed into the Italian
kingdom. This volume, which was dedicated to Joseph Mazzini, shows the
ardent enthusiasm for the triumph of liberty, intellectual and
political, which runs through all Mr. Swinburne's poetry. The 'Song of
the Standard,' the 'Halt before Rome,' the 'Marching Song,' the
'Insurrection of Candia,' are poems that reflect current events; and
the 'Litany of Nations' is the national anthem of peoples striving for
freedom. But his verse rises to its highest pitch of exultation in the
glorification of emancipation of Man. The final line of the 'Hymn to
Man' is

    'Glory to Man in the highest, for Man is the master of things';

and in one stanza of 'Hertha' is condensed all the wild declamation
against deities and despots that pervades his poetry at this stage,
with his joy in the deification of humanity:

                 'A creed is a rod,
                    And a crown is of night;
                  But this thing is God,
                    To be man with thy might,
    To grow straight in the strength of thy spirit, and live out thy life
                    As the light.'

There are no love-lyrics in this volume. He now stands forth as the
uncompromising enemy of established religions, a fierce assailant of
tyrannies, spiritual or temporal, an iconoclast who denounces churches
and tabernacles, priests and kings, the Roman Pope and the Jewish
Jehovah; one for whom the Papacy is, as it was to Hobbes, the Kingdom
of Darkness, its record blotted with tears and stained with blood, the
'grey spouse of Satan,' as he styled her in a later poem, sitting by a
fire that is fed with the bones of her victims. From this time
forward he declares open war upon theology, and even upon Theism; he
is the mortal foe of bigots and tyrants; his praise is for Giordano
Bruno, for Pelagius the British monk, born by the northern sea; for
Voltaire, for all who have fought and suffered in the cause of
intellectual emancipation. The prevailing religious beliefs seem to
him relics of mediæval superstition, sophistry, and metaphysic--he
contrasts them with the bright and free nature worship of the old
world; he is a bitter enemy of the lofty spiritualism, the mighty
world-religion, before which the fair humanities of the _juventus
mundi_ had faded away. His delight is in the virile qualities of the
earlier civilisations, the patriotism, the heroic temper, the ardour
for civic liberties, the Hellenic delight in noble form and in
physical beauty. He is fretted by the restraint which Christian
authority imposes upon the unruly affections of sinful men; he scorns
the terrors of judgment to come, the prostration of the multitude
before the threat of eternal punishment, and the promise of celestial
recompense for terrestrial misery. Death is the 'sleep eternal in an
eternal night'; and the one thing as certain as death is pleasure. He
is the prophet of Hedonism; he is for giving the passions a loose
rein, for drinking the wine of rapture to the lees before we lie

    'Deep in dim death, beneath the grass
    Where no thought stings.'

Nevertheless, as the years go on, the note of regret and despair
quiets down, the restless spirit of the poet is subdued to the calmer
influences of nature; the charm of scenery, the association of places
with memories more frequently bring softer inspirations. In his
earlier poems his imaginative power found full scope in rendering the
impressions of natural beauty, the glory of elemental strife; as in
the 'Songs of the Four Seasons,' where the approach of a storm from
the sea is likened to a descent of the Norse pirates on to the
peaceful coast, and the metaphor produces a spirited picture:

             'As men's cheeks faded
              On shores invaded
              When shorewards waded
                The lords of fight;
              When churl and craven
              Saw hard on haven
              The wide-winged raven
                At mainmast height;
              When monks affrighted
              To windward sighted
              The birds full-flighted
                Of swift sea-kings;
              So earth turns paler
              When Storm the sailor
    Steers in with a roar in the race of his wings.'

But more frequently the outlook on sea and land induces reverie, vague
yearnings, retrospective sadness, and, like all true artists, he
transposes into the landscape his own personal emotions, what he sees,
feels, and remembers. In the poem of 'Hesperia' the view of the sunset
over the sea stirs tender memories; the 'deep-tide wind blowing in
with the water' seems to be wafting his absent love back to him, and
his heart floats out toward her 'as the refluent seaweed moves in the
languid exuberant stream.' In such pieces the fierce amorous obsession
has been shaken off; he is no longer vexed by Shakespeare's[32]
hyperbolic fiend, his mood is comparatively gentle and pathetic, as in
the beautiful verses of 'A Forsaken Garden,' where his consummate
faculty of metrical expression, wherein sense and sound are matched
and inseparable, reaches, perhaps, its highest watermark:

    'Over the meadows that blossom and wither
      Rings but the note of a sea-bird's song;
    Only the sun and the rain come hither
                  All year long.'

In the series of landscape sketches grouped under the title of _A
Midsummer Holiday_, published nearly twenty years after the _Poems and
Ballads_, the treatment of his subject has become more impersonal. The
impression or idea is still coloured by transmission through the
spectator's mind. Mr. Swinburne has himself observed, very truly, that

     'mere descriptive poetry of the prepense and formal kind is
     exceptionally liable to incur and to deserve the charge of dulness:
     it is unnecessary to emphasise or obtrude the personal note, the
     presence or emotion of a spectator, but it is necessary to make it
     felt and keep it perceptible if the poem is to have life in it or
     even a right to live.'[33]

This is the right doctrine, and we may add that it is applicable as a
criticism to some of his earlier descriptive pieces, where the intense
personal feeling is somewhat too intense and disproportionate; so that
a reader gifted with less keenness of sensibility is disconcerted by
insistence on effusive moods with which he cannot be expected to be in
full sympathy. Mr. Swinburne might reply that for such dullards he
does not write; but the finest wines are too heady for a morning's
draught. In his more mature poems he appears to have deliberately held
back what may be termed the subjective emotion; the landscapes are no
longer peopled by figures or memories of the past; the thoughts which
they suggest are such as find response in all minds that are in accord
with the deeper and more subtle relations of human life to its
environment. He himself has indeed told us[34] that to many of his
studies of English land and sea no intimacy of years and no
association with the past has given any colour of emotion, that only
so much of the personal note is retained as is sufficient to bring
these various poems into touch with each other. And we can perceive
that their inspiration is drawn, chiefly if not exclusively, from the
spiritual influence of inanimate nature, the effects of inland or
woodland solitude, of the land silent under the noontide heat, of the
sterile shore, or the raging of the sea. The _Midsummer Holiday_ group
has two pictures of sweet homeliness--'The Mill Garden' and 'On a
Country Road'--the harvest of a quiet eye (in Wordsworth's phrase),
such as a rambling artist might jot down in his travelling sketch
book, of value the more remarkable because they are not in Mr.
Swinburne's usual manner. They give relief to the breadth and grandeur
of the other descriptions of the ocean, the crags, and the storms. For
to Swinburne, as to all the romantic English poets, the ocean stream
which encircles their island is an inexhaustible source of delight and
pride; it is our ever present defence in time of trouble; the fountain
of our country's wealth and honour; it is our traditional battlefield;
the winds and the waves are the breath and the force of our national
being. And through Mr. Swinburne's poetry runs a vein of undiluted
love for his native land. In his poem 'On the South Coast' he looks
out from 'the green, smooth-swelling downs' over the broad blue water,
and his thought is expressed in its final stanza:

    Fair and dear is the land's face here, and fair man's work as a
      man's may be:
    Dear and fair as the sunbright air is here the record that speaks
      him free;
    Free by birth of a sacred earth, and regent ever of all the sea.'

The 'Autumn Vision' is an ode to the south-west wind, which has so
often filled the sails of the English warships:

    'Wind beloved of earth and sky and sea beyond all winds that blow,
    Wind whose might in fight was England's on her mightiest warrior
    South-west wind, whose breath for her was life, and fire to scourge
      her foe,
    Steel to smite and death to drive him down an unreturning way,
    Well-beloved and welcome, sounding all the clarions of the sky,
    Rolling all the marshalled waters toward the charge that storms
      the shore.'

Charles Kingsley, like a hardy Norseman, preferred the north-east
gale. To him the south-west wind is

    'The ladies' breeze,
    Bringing back their lovers
    Out of all the seas,'

while Mr. Swinburne hears in the rushing south-western gale

                   'the sound of wings gigantic,
    Wings whose measure is the measure of the measureless Atlantic,'

and, after the storm,

    'The grim sea swell, grey, sleepless and sad as a soul estranged.'

'A Swimmer's Dream' gives us the poetry of floating on the slow roll
of the waves, some cloudy November morning.

    'Dawn is dim on the dark soft water,
      Soft and passionate, dark and sweet.'

'Loch Torridon' preserves the charm of what might be a landlocked
lake, if it were not that the rippling tide flows in by an almost
invisible inlet from the sea. From his earliest to his latest poems
the magic of nature's changing aspects fascinates him; they inspire
him with a kind of ecstasy that finds utterance in the variety of his
verse, which reflects all the lights and shades of earth, sea, and
atmosphere. One may remark, by the way, that in proportion as his
poetic strength matures, the pagan gods and goddesses, who disported
themselves so freely in his juvenile verse, visit him much more
rarely; his imagery draws much less profusely upon the classic
mythology for symbols and figures of divinities whose diaphanous robes
are ill suited to our northern climate and Puritanic traditions, in
the wolds and forests once sacred to Thor and Woden.

       *       *       *       *       *

It will be admitted by Mr. Swinburne's least indulgent critics that
his poetry displays throughout a marvellous power of execution. He
runs over all the lyrical and elegiac chords with unabated facility;
his metrical variations and musical phrasing bring out and extend the
capacity and fertility of our language as a poetic instrument; he is
master of his materials. No doubt there is some repetition, some
iteration, which becomes slightly wearisome, of his favourite rhymes,
indicating, what has been observed independently of reference to this
particular writer, that the resources of the English language for
terminal assonance, under the stringent conditions required by the
modern rules of versification, are inevitably limited and show signs
of exhaustion.

In a Note on Poetry appended to his latest volume of verses,[35] Mr.
John Davidson has classed rhyme as a kind of disease of poetry. Rhyme,
he says, is probably more than seven hundred years old--in Europe, he
must mean, for it is far older in Asia, whence it originally came--and
since the days of the troubadours and Minnesingers it has corrupted,
in his opinion, the ear of the world. At best it is, he thinks, a
decadent mode, imposing shackles on free poetic expression; and
though in these fetters great poets have done magnificent work, in
their finest rhymed verse he finds a feeling of effort. They have
always been obliged to throw in something that need not have been
said, some words inserted under compulsion, to bring the rhyme about.
Mr. Davidson declares that the true glory of free untrammelled poetry
shines out in the rhythmic periods of blank verse. That there may be
some truth, or at least some convenience, in this theory of the poetic
art, the modern poet may not be concerned to deny; for, as we have
already said, rhymes will not withstand incessant and familiar usage;
they become commonplaces, and the rhymer wanders away from the natural
direction of his thought in search of fresh ones. The most devout
admirers of Browning must admit that his verse is often distorted in
this way--so that a fine stanza sometimes finishes with a jolt and
ends with a tag--and it must be allowed that this necessity of making
both ends meet is bad for the poetic conscience, a temptation to
indefensible laxities. Even Mr. Swinburne, the inventor of exquisite
harmonies, whose work is indisputably sincere, can be occasionally
observed to be diverging from the straight line of his impetuous
flight, hovering and making circuits that lead up skilfully to the
indispensable rhyme. More frequently, perhaps, there is a tendency to
interpose some metaphor, or rather far-fetched allusion, for the sake
of the clear, full, recurrent intonation of echoing words that can
only be marshalled into their places by artistic ingenuity.

We may so far agree with Mr. Davidson that most of the sublime
passages in English poetry are in blank verse, though it may be
noticed that the four lines which he quotes from _Macbeth_,[36] as
containing the 'topmost note in the stupendous agony of the drama,'
are rhymed. The management of rhyme is a difficult and very delicate
art; it is an instrument that requires a first-class performer, like
Mr. Swinburne, to bring out its potency; to this art the English
lyric, the ode and the song, owe their musical perfection. Mr.
Swinburne, in an essay upon Matthew Arnold's _New Poems_ (1867), has
said, truly, that 'rhyme is the native condition of lyric verse in
England'; and that 'to throw away the natural grace of rhyme from a
modern song is a wilful abdication of half the charm and half the
power of verse.' To this general rule he might possibly admit one
exception--Tennyson's short poem beginning with 'Tears, idle tears,'
which is so delicately modulated that the absence of rhyme is not
missed. At any rate it is certain that all popular verse needs this
terminal note; for a ballad in blank verse is inconceivable. On the
other hand, the proper use of rhyme demands a fine ear, which is a
rare gift; for our language has no formal rules of prosody, so that in
maladroit hands rhyme becomes an intolerable jingle. At the present
day, however, there is a tendency to run into excessive elaboration,
largely due to superficial imitation of such masters of the poetic art
as Tennyson, and especially Swinburne, so that we have a copious
outpouring of feeble melodies.

Mr. Swinburne, on the contrary, is never feeble; he combines technical
excellence with the power of vehement, often much too violent,
expression. His character may be defined by the French word 'entier';
he is uncompromising in praise or blame. He insists (to quote his own
words) that 'the worship of beauty, though beauty be itself
transformed and incarnate in shapes diverse without end, must be
simple and absolute'; nor will he tolerate reserve or veiled
intimations of a poet's inmost thought.

     'Nothing,' he has written, 'in verse or out of verse is more
     wearisome than the delivery of reluctant doubt, of half-hearted
     hope and half-incredulous faith. A man who suffers from the strong
     desire either to believe or disbelieve something he cannot, may be
     worthy of sympathy, is certainly worthy of pity, until he begins to
     speak; and if he tries to speak in verse, he misses the implement
     of an artist.'

He is pained by Matthew Arnold's 'occasional habit of harking back and
loitering in mind among the sepulchres.... Nothing which leaves us
depressed is a true work of art.' Yet, it may be answered, the habit
of musing among tombs has inspired good poetry; and when doubt and
dejection, perplexed meditation over insoluble problems, are in the
air, a poet does well to express the dominant feelings of his time;
and a modern Hamlet is no inartistic figure.

In this respect, however, Mr. Swinburne may have found reason to
qualify, latterly, the absoluteness of his poetic principles. He has
been from the first a generous critic of those contemporary poets whom
he recognised as kindred souls. He awards unmeasured praise to Matthew
Arnold, while of his defects and shortcomings he speaks plainly. He
does loyal homage to Browning in a sequence of sonnets, and his
tribute to Tennyson was paid in a lofty 'Threnody,' when that noble
spirit passed away. For Victor Hugo he proclaimed, as all know,
nothing short of unbounded adoration--he is 'the greatest writer whom
the world has seen since Shakespeare'; though it may be doubted
whether in his own country Hugo now stands upon so supreme a pinnacle.
To other eminent men of his time his poetry accords admiration,
chiefly to the champions of free thought and of resistance to
oppression; and, in a poem entitled 'Two Leaders,' he salutes two
antagonists as he might do before crossing swords with them. The
leaders are not named; the first is evidently Newman:

    'O great and wise, clear-souled and high of heart,
      One the last flower of Catholic love, that grows
      Amid bare thorn their only thornless rose,
    From the fierce juggling of the priest's loud mart
    Yet alien, yet unspotted and apart
      From the blind hard foul rout whose shameless shows
      Mock the sweet heaven whose secret no man knows
    With prayers and curses and the soothsayers' art.'

The second is

        'Like a storm-god of the northern foams
    Strong, wrought of rock that breasts and breaks the sea,'

in whom we recognise Carlyle. They are the powers of darkness, doomed
to fall and to vanish before the light; yet their genius commands
respect and even sympathy.

    'With all our hearts we praise you whom ye hate,
      High souls that hate us; for our hopes are higher,

    *       *       *       *       *

    Honour not hate we give you, love not fear,
      Last prophets of past kind, who fill the dome
    Of great dead Gods with wrath and wail, nor hear
      Time's word and man's: "Go honoured hence, go home,
    Night's childless children; here your hour is done;
    Pass with the stars, and leave us with the sun."'

The concise energy of these lines, their slow metrical movement,
invest them with singular weight and dignity. The poet is confronting
two representatives, in principle, of Force and Authority, whose
prototypes in bygone times would undoubtedly have sent him to the
scaffold or to the stake; nor is it improbable that both Carlyle and
Newman, though in all other opinions they differed widely, would have
agreed that a revolutionary firebrand and a pestilent infidel
deserved some such fate. The poet might console himself with the
reflection that they must have abhorred each other's principles quite
as much as they detested his own.

In his later verse Mr. Swinburne still continues to wield his flaming
sword against priests and despots, against intellectual and political
servility. What may be termed the historical plea, the excuse for
ideas and institutions that they are the relics of evil days long
past, is no palliation for them to his mind; he would stamp them out
and utterly destroy them. In this respect his temperament has
unconsciously a strong tincture of the intolerance which he denounces;
he would sweep away Christianity as Christianity swept away
polytheism. Toward its Founder, as the type of human love and purity,
he is uniformly reverential; there is nothing in that supreme figure
that jars with that Religion of Humanity, which 'The Altar of
Righteousness' proclaims with high dithyrambic enthusiasm:

    'Christ the man lives yet, remembered of man as dreams that leave
    Light on eyes that wake and know not if memory bids them grieve.

    *       *       *       *       *

    Far above all wars and gospels, all ebb and flow of time,
    Lives the soul that speaks in silence, and makes mute the earth

But of theology reigning by force and terror he is the implacable
enemy; and his intemperate violence leaves a stain on the bright
radiance of his poetry. It amounts to an artistic fault, undiminished
even in the later years which should have brought the philosophic
mind. Moreover, it has materially lessened the influence which so fine
a poetic genius should have exercised over the present generation,
among whom polemical ardour and bitterness may be thought to have
perceptibly cooled down, and to have become much less aggressive, in
science, philosophy, and literature, than among the preceding
generation. An age of tacit indifference, content with rationalistic
explanations, with the slow working of disillusion, dislikes and
discountenances outrageous scorn poured upon things that are
traditionally sacred; and to the English character extremes are always

Mr. Swinburne's dramatic work, at any rate, takes us out of the strife
and turmoil of theologic war; we are on firm historic ground, dealing
with authentic events and persons. The plays of _Chastelard_,
_Bothwell_, and _Mary Stuart_ form a trilogy in which the most
romantic and eventful period of Scottish history is presented; they
constitute the epic-drama of Scotland, to adopt a definition applied
by Victor Hugo to the tragedy of _Bothwell_. It is impossible, in this
article, to find space for an adequate criticism of these remarkable
productions. Every leading poet of the nineteenth century has made
excursions into the dramatic field. We doubt whether any of them has
come out of the adventure much better than Mr. Swinburne. All of them
have given us, each in his own way, fine poetry, and, if we except
Byron, they have shown that the masters of lyrical music can strike
with power the high chords of blank verse. None of them have produced
plays that took any hold of a theatrical audience; in most cases they
were not intended for the stage.

The play of _Chastelard_ is too deeply saturated with amorous essences
throughout to be forcibly dramatic. The hero is in a high love-fever
from first to last, the passionate strain becomes monotonous, and
though he dies to save the Queen's honour, our minds are not purged
with much pity for him. In the long historical drama of _Bothwell_,
which has twenty-one scenes in its two acts, we have spirited
portraits of the fierce nobles who surrounded Mary Stuart during her
brief and distracted reign. The love passages are pauses in a course
of violent action, the assassination of Rizzio, the murder of Darnley
are not overcoloured melodramatically, and the scenes in and about the
Kirk of Field are darkened with the shadow of Darnley's imminent fate.
But Darnley's dream, presaging his coming doom, inevitably recalls the
dream of Clarence, and cannot but suffer from the reminiscence. We
might have something to say on the metrical construction of
Swinburne's blank verse, for he shares with Tennyson, though in a
minor degree, the distinction of having enlarged its scope and varied
its measure. But the subject would demand careful comparative
examination and analysis of different styles, such as is to be read,
with profit to all students of the art poetic, in Mr. J. B. Mayor's
_Chapters on English Metres_.

It will be understood that this article attempts no more than to
review the salient characteristics of Mr. Swinburne's poetry, to
indicate in some degree their connexion and development. It cannot but
fall far short, obviously, of being a comprehensive survey of his
contributions to English literature. We have made no reference, for
lack of space, to his treatment of chivalrous romance in _Tristram of
Lyonesse_, which Mr. Swinburne has rightly called 'the deathless
legend,' though, since its fascination has made it a subject for three
other contemporary poets, a comparison of their diverse manners of
handling the story would be interesting. It is with regret that we
have been compelled, also, to refrain from any adequate notice of Mr.
Swinburne's prose writings, for in regard to the poetry of his own
period the dissertations and judgments of one who combines high
imaginative faculty with scientific mastery of the metrical art must
have special value. Of the ordinary untrained criticism, the 'chorus
of indolent reviewers,' to use Tennyson's phrase, he is, we think, too
impatient. From a passage in his Dedicatory Epistle we gather that
some of the tribe have ventured so far as to insinuate that poetry
ought not to become a mere musical exercise. Mr. Swinburne's rejoinder
is that

     'except to such ears as should always be closed against poetry,
     there is no music in verse which has not in it sufficient fulness
     and ripeness of meaning, sufficient adequacy of emotion or of
     thought, to abide the analysis of any other than the purblind
     scrutiny of prepossession or the squint-eyed inspection of

Apart from the wrathful form, the substance of what is here said
merits consideration, for undoubtedly the most musical of our poets,
from Shakespeare and Milton to Coleridge and Shelley, are those whose
verse has embodied the richest thought and has been instinct with the
deeper emotions. We must muster up courage to remark, nevertheless,
that while in Mr. Swinburne's finest poems the musical setting
accompanies and illuminates the thought or feeling, in some others the
underlying idea is too unsubstantial; its real presence is only
visible to the eye of implicit faith. Toward his fellow poets, his
equals and contemporaries, Mr. Swinburne's attitude is that of
generous enthusiasm, not excluding outspoken, yet courteous,
indication of defects, as may be seen in the essay[37] on Matthew
Arnold's _New Poems_, which is full of important observations on
poetry in general, beside some well-deserved strictures on Arnold's
shortcomings, in criticism as well as in verse. For Victor Hugo he has
nothing but panegyric. His articles on Byron and Coleridge are
luminous appreciations of the very diverse excellences belonging to
two illustrious predecessors; while in his _Notes on the Text of
Shelley_, high-soaring and incomparable, an unlucky emendation of a
line in 'The Skylark--the insertion of a superfluous word
conjecturally--by an editor whose work he commends on the whole,
provokes him to sheer exasperation:

     'For the conception of this atrocity the editor is not responsible;
     for its adoption he is. A thousand years of purgatorial fire would
     be insufficient expiation for the criminal on whose deaf and
     desperate head must rest the original guilt of defacing the text of
     Shelley with this damnable corruption.'

'Fas est et ab hoste doceri.' Mr. Swinburne has borrowed the style of
sacerdotal anathema from his mortal enemies, and pronounces it no less
inexorably. But these Notes were written nigh forty years ago, so we
may hope that by this time he has cast out, or at least subdued by
diligent exorcism, that same hyperbolic fiend which entered in and
rent him at certain seasons of his youth.

Mr. Swinburne has, indeed, the defects of his qualities. He is an
ardent friend and an unflinching adversary, but we have seen that in
prose no less than in poetry, in polemics as in politics, his style is
liable to become overheated and thunderous. He has no patience with
mediocrity in art; he disdains the _via media_ in thought and action.
In these respects he stands alone among the Victorian poets, most of
whom anticipate with misgivings the evaporation of faith in the
supernatural, while they acknowledge that for themselves such faith
has little meaning, and are inclined to melancholy musing over the
'doubtful doom of human kind' which haunted the imagination of
Tennyson. And his attitude is still further apart from the
intellectual tendencies discernible at the present moment in pure
literature, which is now less concerned, we think, with these
questions than when Mr. Arnold wrote _Literature and Dogma_, and seems
more disposed to leave theology in the hands of the physical
scientists and the professional metaphysicians. However this may be,
it is to be seriously regretted that Mr. Swinburne's peremptory,
unscrupulous manner of dealing with religious forms and beliefs which
the world, perhaps, would not unwillingly let die, though by painless
extinction rather than by violence, has alienated reverent minds from
him, and has tarnished the brilliancy of his strenuous verse. The
sensuous frenzy of his juvenile poems is still remembered against him;
it betrayed a lack of moral dignity, of what the Greek poets, whom he
so much admired, meant by the word [Greek: aidos]. But we very
willingly acknowledge that of these excesses hardly a trace is to be
found in the very numerous pieces that fill the later volumes of his
collected poetry.

From these causes it has resulted that Mr. Swinburne does not, in our
opinion, now hold the position or command the influence which would
otherwise be accorded to one who may be reckoned the chief lyrical
poet of the second half of the nineteenth century; for after the
publication, in 1855, of _Maud_, Tennyson had passed his lyrical
climax, and Mr. Swinburne's superiority, as a lyrist, over all other
writers of that period is incontestable. His neo-paganism, moreover,
jars upon the realistic modernity of a generation for whom primitive
symbolism is obsolete as a form of expression, and whose prevailing
thought is too profoundly rationalistic to be attracted by a pagan
paradise. All this is to be regretted, since Mr. Swinburne undoubtedly
has the pagan virtues. His aspirations are concentrated on ideals that
ennoble the present life, on justice, inflexible courage, patriotism,
the unsophisticated intelligence; he loves liberty and he hates
oppression in all their shapes. He is throughout an optimist, who
believes and predicts that a clearer and brighter prospect is before
humanity. To Mr. Swinburne, in short, may be applied the words with
which Matthew Arnold summed up his essay upon Heine: 'He is not an
adequate interpreter of the modern world; he is a brilliant soldier in
the liberation war of humanity.' And future generations may remember
him as the poet who passed on to them the message of his spiritual
forefather, Shelley:

    'O man, hold thee on in courage of soul
      Through the stormy shades of thy worldly way;
    And the billows of clouds that round thee roll
      Shall sleep in the light of a wondrous day,
    When heaven and hell shall leave thee free
      To the universe of destiny.'


[31] _The Poems of Algernon Charles Swinburne._ In six volumes. With a
dedicatory epistle to Theodore Watts-Dunton. London, Chatto and
Windus, 1904.--_Edinburgh Review_, October 1906.

[32] 'Out, hyperbolic fiend! how vexest thou this man?'--_Twelfth

[33] Dedicatory Preface.

[34] Dedicatory Preface.

[35] _Holiday and Other Poems_, 1906.

[36] Note on Poetry, p. 144.

[37] _Essays and Studies_, 1867.


It may be doubted whether many students of history are aware that the
demarcation of frontiers, of precise lines dividing the possessions of
adjacent sovereignties and distinguishing their respective
jurisdictions, is a practice of modern origin. At the present time it
is the essential outcome of territorial disputes, it is the operation
by which they are formally settled at the end of a war: it registers
conquests and cessions; and occasionally it has been the result of
pacific arbitration. Among compact and civilised nationalities an
exterior frontier, thus carefully defined, remains, like the human
skin, the most sensitive and irritable part of their corporate
constitution. The slightest infringement of it by a neighbouring Power
is instantly resented; to break through it violently is to be
inflicting a wound which may draw blood; and even interference with
any petty State that may lie between the frontiers of two great
governments is regarded as a serious menace.

The whole continent of Europe has now been laid out upon this system
of strict delimitation. Yet it may be maintained that among the
kingdoms of the ancient world no such exact and recognised
distribution of territory existed; and, further, that up to a very
recent period none of the great empires in Asia had any boundaries
that could be traced on a map. Their landmarks were incessantly
shifting forward or backward as their military strength rose or fell;
and where their territories marched with some rough mountainous tract
inhabited by warlike tribes, they were perpetually plagued by petty
warfare on a zone of debateable land. On both sides some temporary
intrusion upon or occupation of country held by a neighbour, which
would now be the signal for mobilising an army, was treated as a
trespass of small importance, to be resented and rectified at leisure.
It is true that in earlier times the Romans marked off distinct
frontiers, and guarded them by military posts; but their policy was to
acknowledge no frontier power with equal rights, and their actual
political jurisdiction usually extended far beyond their lines of
defence, which were advanced or withdrawn as political or military
considerations might require. In fact, the Roman empire, like the
British empire in Asia, was a great organised State, surrounded, for
the most part, by small and weak principalities, or by warlike tribal
communities, and it grew by a natural process of inevitable expansion.
The emperors were often reluctant to enlarge their possessions; but
the raids and incursions of intractable barbarians, or the revolt of
some protected chiefship, frequently left them no option but to
conquer and annex. They soon found themselves compelled to overstep
the limits of empire prescribed by the policy of Augustus, and to lay
down an advanced frontier in the lands beyond the Rhine and the

In Europe, where, as we have said, all national frontiers are now
fixed and registered, the position of a civilised government entangled
in chronic border warfare has long been unknown; the tradition of such
a state of things is preserved in popular recollection mainly by local
records and old ballads. Yet for Englishmen the subject possesses
peculiar interest, since it is connected with their earlier history;
and moreover our dominion in India invests it with special importance,
for it is there a matter of immediate experience and active concern.
We may recollect, in the first place, that Britain was an outlying
province of the Roman empire, for at this moment we are excavating the
ruins of the wall built by the Romans to protect their northern
frontier from the incursions of the warlike tribes beyond it, by the
first administration that established, for a time, peace and
civilisation in England. Then, in the middle ages, and long
afterwards, the border between the kingdoms of England and Scotland
which ran northward of the old Roman line, was for centuries the scene
of plundering raids, punitive expeditions, and internecine feuds that
often laid waste the countryside with fire and sword. We may observe,
in this instance, how shifting and indeterminate was the exact
frontier line between the two kingdoms, and how the local fighting,
the inroads from one side or the other, did not necessarily involve a
rupture of their formal relations. The wardens on each side executed
rough justice upon marauding clans; they wasted and slaughtered in
reprisal for raids; the great nobles engaged in a kind of private
warfare; but all this might go on without embroiling the two
governments in a national war. On the western English border the Welsh
hillmen kept the neighbouring counties in continual alarm; and their
chiefs played an important part in the civil wars and rebellions of
England. They were at last quieted by Edward I., who succeeded in
subduing Wales though he failed in Scotland. Lastly, though the union
of the two kingdoms brought peace to the Anglo-Scottish border, the
Highland line along the Forth river still kept up, though in a much
less serious degree, the troubles of a regular government in contact
with restless tribes. Nor was it until the middle of the eighteenth
century that these relics of an archaic condition of society, which
had long ago disappeared in other parts of western Europe, were
finally effaced in Great Britain. Long afterwards, in the nineteenth
century, when the conquest of the Punjab carried the north-western
frontier of British India up to the slopes of the Afghan mountains,
the scene of perpetual strife between a strong settled administration
and turbulent borderers which had passed away on the Tweed or the
Forth, and on the Welsh Marches, reappeared in the districts beyond
the Indus.

To Englishmen, therefore, whose experience of this situation is long,
varied, and actual, Mr. Baddeley's book on the Russians in the
Caucasus should be of exceptional interest. It is indeed well worth
studying by those upon whom, whether at home or in India, has been
imposed the arduous duty of superintending our policy in dealing with
the Afghan tribes for the protection of our Indian districts. It is
true that the conditions and circumstances, military and political,
under which Russia prosecuted her long war with the Caucasian
mountaineers, rendered her position in many respects different from
that in which the English found themselves when they first came into
contact with Afghanistan, and which has changed very little in the
course of sixty years. The aims and purposes of the two governments
were by no means the same. Yet in both cases we have a story of the
obstinate resistance opposed by fierce and free clans to the arms of a
powerful empire, of perilous campaigns amid rugged hills and passes,
of the hazards and misfortunes to which disciplined troops are always
liable when they encounter resolute and fanatical defenders of a
difficult country.

Mr. Baddeley's book contains an authentic narrative, founded on
diligent study of official documents and on the accounts of those who
took part in the fighting, of the operations by which the Mohammedan
tribes of the Caucasus were finally subdued, after fierce and
protracted resistance, by Russian armies, and their country was
annexed to the dominions of the Czar. His knowledge of this region is
evidently derived from personal exploration; and in the Introduction
to his book he has spared no pains to explain to his readers its
geographical position, its topography, its physical features, and the
extraordinary diversity of races and languages which it contained. We
learn that the chain of mountains which was originally known by the
name of the Caucasus stretches, with a total length of 650 miles, from
the Caspian to the Black Sea. Toward the north is a tract of dense
forest, intersected by numerous streams flowing down from the
mountains; and beyond lies the high plateau of Daghestan, 'through
which the rivers have cut their way to a depth often of thousands of
feet, the whole backed and ribbed, south and west, by mountain ranges
having many peaks often over 13,000 feet in height.' In the forest
tract, to which the Russians gave the name of Tchetchnia, their armies
were constantly entangled; and their difficulties in reducing the
inhabitants to subjection were quite as great as in conquering the
highland tribes of Daghestan. Throughout the eighteenth century, and
even earlier, the Russians had been pushing southward toward the Black
Sea and the Caspian, and had gradually taken under their authority and
protection the Cossack tribes who were settled on the steppes that
spread along the northern border of the Caucasus. On this border they
had established by the end of the century the Cossack line of forts,
military colonies and plantations of armed cultivators, linked
together to form a barrier against the incursions and marauding raids
of the wild folk in the woods and mountains in front of them, and
gradually strengthened and supported by stations of regular troops in
the background. On the south of the central mountain ranges the
Russians held Georgia, inhabited by Christian races whom the Russians
had liberated from the Turkish or Persian yoke before the close of the
eighteenth century, and who ever afterwards remained loyal subjects of
the Czar. The Georgian road which traversed the whole Caucasian region
from north to south, formed a most important line of communication
which was never seriously interrupted. To the south-east, when the
nineteenth century opened, lay Mohammedan khanates, vassals of Persia;
on the south-west were the semi-independent pachaliks of the Ottoman

We must pass over, reluctantly, Mr. Baddeley's very interesting sketch
of the gradual approach made by Russia toward the Caucasus during the
eighteenth century, which may be said to have begun in earnest with
the expedition of Peter the Great, who led an army to the Caspian
shore and captured Derbend about 1722. This threatening movement upon
the confines of Asia inevitably involved Russia in war with the Turks
and with the Persians, for whom the Caucasian mountains represented a
great fortress, barring the onward march of a powerful Christian
empire toward their dominions. For the Russians, on their side, it
became of vital importance to break through the barrier that separated
them from Georgia, to occupy the country between the two seas, and to
make an end of the perpetual warfare with the tribes, who kept their
frontier on the Cossack line in unceasing agitation and disorder, and
were a standing menace to the Christian population of Georgia. It
should be understood, however, that the Cossacks discharged their
duties of watch and ward after a very rough fashion, raiding and
fighting on their own account, making incursions upon their Mohammedan
neighbours in retaliation for attacks and forays, and laying waste the
enemy's country with the bitter vindictiveness of antagonistic races
and religions.

At the beginning of the nineteenth century Georgia and some other
Christian principalities in Trans-Caucasia--that is, on the southern
border of the mountains--had been absorbed into the Russian empire,
which now held continuous territory on this line from the Black Sea to
the Caspian. Along the Caspian shore the vassal States of Persia had
been reduced to submission, while the Turks had been driven back from
their fortified posts on the Black Sea. The Turkish and Persian
governments naturally took alarm at the approach of a military power
whom they had already good reason to mistrust and dread; the Russian
viceroys and generals on the frontier treated these Oriental kingdoms
with high-handed arrogance, and gave ample provocation for the wars
which speedily broke out with both of them. The annals of the next few
years record many vicissitudes of fortune. The Russian armies achieved
some brilliant victories, and suffered some heavy disasters. By
disease and the strain of forced marches through rugged and almost
pathless country, by the storming of petty fortresses, by incessant
skirmishing and treacherous surprises, the troops were reduced in
number and gradually worn out; they were outnumbered by the Persian
and Turkish soldiery, whose military qualities were at that time by no
means despicable; while at this time the great European wars against
Napoleon made reinforcements hard to obtain. In 1811 the Russians
could barely hold their ground against the combined forces of Turkey
and Persia; but just when the whole situation was at its worst the
Russian Government, under the imminent emergency of Napoleon's march
upon Moscow, patched up a peace (May 1812) with Turkey that reinstated
the Sultan in some important positions on the Black Sea coast, and
made considerable retrocessions of territory. By strenuous exertion
the Persians were defeated and beaten off, and next year there was
comparative peace on the Caucasian border. Yet it was but a calm
interval before storms, for Mr. Baddeley remarks that nearly half a
century of fighting was to elapse before the conquest of the mountains
could be completed.

This era of long and sanguinary contest may be said to have begun, on
a deliberate plan, with the appointment of General Yermoloff, in 1816,
to be commander-in-chief in Georgia, with jurisdiction over the whole
Caucasus. It was carried on with undaunted courage, hardihood, and
obstinate endurance on both sides; and in the matter of merciless
ferocity there was little to choose between the two antagonists.
Yermoloff appears to have belonged to the type of military commander
whom the Russian soldier follows with complete trust and unhesitating
devotion--a leader inured to hardship and perils, treating his men as
comrades but unsparing of their lives, rigid in discipline, reckless
of bloodshed, a relentless conqueror yet capable of occasional
generosity. His stern and implacable temper recognised but one method
of dealing with barbarian enemies--the unflinching use of fire and
sword, the policy of devastation and massacre. 'I desire,' said
Yermoloff, 'that the terror of my name shall guard our frontiers more
potently than chains of fortresses; that my word shall be for the
natives a law more inevitable than death. Condescension in the eyes
of Asiatics is a sign of weakness, and out of pure humanity I am
inexorably severe. One execution saves hundreds of Russians from
destruction, and thousands of Mussulmans from treason.' He demanded
unconditional submission from all the tribes of the Caucasus; and he
substituted for the former system of bribery and subsidies the policy
of treating all resistance as rebellion, and suppressing it with cruel
severity, 'but' (says one writer) 'always combined with justice and
magnanimity.' Upon this Mr. Baddeley remarks that it is difficult to
see where justice came in, 'but in this respect Russia was only doing
what England and all other civilised States have done, and still do,
wherever they come into contact with savage or semi-savage races. By
force or fraud a portion of the country is taken and sooner or later,
on one excuse or another, the rest is sure to follow.' To this it may
be rejoined that on the north-west frontier of India, and nowhere
else, England has come into contact with a race quite as savage and
untamable as the Caucasian mountaineers, but that it would be a great
mistake to suppose that the methods of Yermoloff have ever been
adopted in dealing with the turbulent fanaticism of the Afghan tribes.

On the Cossack line, when Yermoloff assumed charge of operations,
'there was no open warfare, but there was continual unrest. No man's
life was safe outside the forts and stanitzas; robbery and murder were
rife; raiding parties, great and small, harried the fields, the farms
and the weaker settlements.' To this state of things he was resolved
to put an end. He built fortresses, pushed forward his outposts,
formed moving columns of troops, and assiduously trained his soldiers
to the peculiar conditions of warfare on this borderland. The Russian
regiments, like the Roman legions, were often stationed in their
camps or garrisons for twenty-five years; and for the service required
of them their efficiency was admirable. For ten years Yermoloff
carried on this tribal war with inflexible rigour, by expeditions to
punish some marauding village, which was razed to the ground, and most
of the men, women and children burnt or killed after defending the
place with the fury of despair; by night marches to surprise and storm
the hill forts; by exterminating bands of brigands; and more than once
by laying deathtraps for notorious rebels or fanatics. There can be no
doubt that this system of ruthless chastisement, of beating down the
enemy's defences by sharp and rapid strokes, by sudden and daring
inroads into the heart of their country, intimidated the tribes, and
went far toward compelling them to sullen acquiescence in the Russian
overlordship. Of the petty independent chiefships some were seized
forcibly, others submitted and paid tribute. The Russians were
advancing step by step into the interior of the country, piercing it
with roads and riveting their hold on it by throwing forward their
chain of connected forts. By 1820 Yermoloff appears to have convinced
himself that in a few years the whole of the Caucasus--mountain and
forest--would be permanently conquered and pacified; and for some time
after that date there was little or no fighting, though the border was
frequently disquieted by outbreaks that were sternly crushed. With the
Persians and the Turks there was an interval of peace.

But the harsh measures taken by the Russians to bring the forest
tribes under their authority were bitterly resented; and in 1824 two
of their generals were fatally stabbed in Tchetchnia by one of several
villagers whom they were disarming. This murder was avenged by
Yermoloff, as usual, relentlessly, but it was his last campaign in
the Caucasus. In 1826 the Persians, who had been incensed by
Yermoloff's rough ways on their frontier and by his insolent
diplomacy, invaded Russian territory with a strong army. The Russians
were unprepared, and at first could only act on the defensive. The
flames of insurrection at once broke out among the tribes; the whole
country fell back into confusion, and the Emperor Nicholas, holding
Yermoloff responsible for this disastrous state of affairs,
reprimanded and recalled him. He lived in retirement until 1861,
revered by the Russian nation as the type and model of a valiant
soldier and a devoted patriot who won brilliant victories and
conquered large territories for the empire. But on his system and its
consequences Mr. Baddeley pronounces a judgment which in fact points
the moral of his whole narrative, and explains the history of the
events that followed Yermoloff's departure:

     'He gained brilliant victories at slight cost; and brought for a
     time the greater part of Daghestan under Russian dominion.... He
     absorbed the Persian and Tartar khanates, and treated Persia with
     astonishing arrogance. But it was these very measures and successes
     that led, on the one hand, to the Persian War and the revolt of the
     newly-acquired provinces; on the other, to that great outburst of
     religious and racial fanaticism which, under the banner of
     Muridism, welded into one powerful whole so many weak and
     antagonistic elements in Daghestan and Tchetchnia, thereby
     initiating the bloody struggle waged unceasingly for the next forty
     years. Daghestan speedily threw off the Russian yoke, and defied
     the might of the mother empire until 1859. In Tchetchnia mere
     border forays conducted by independent partisan leaders ...
     developed into a war of national independence under a chieftain as
     cruel, capable, and indomitable as Yermoloff himself.'

The Persian War ended in 1828, but in the same year hostilities broke
out with Turkey, involving the Russian troops on the Georgian frontier
in hard and hazardous fighting, which lasted, with a great expenditure
of men and money, until peace was concluded in 1829. From that year
until 1854, when the Crimean War began, Russia had a free hand in the
Caucasus, and applied her strength with inexorable energy to its
subjugation. And it is to the rise and spread of the ferocious
enthusiasm which Mr. Baddeley has called _Muridism_ that he attributes
the striking fact that the complete conquest of the country was only
accomplished in 1864--that the tribes held out against the forces of
the Russian empire for more than thirty years.

Muridism, in which this spirit of heroic and hopeless resistance by
armed peasants against the Russian armies was, so to speak, incarnate,
is a word employed by Mr. Baddeley with a special purpose and meaning,
which he explains at some length. For our present purpose it may be
sufficient to say that _Murshid_ denotes a religious teacher who
expounds the mystic Way of Salvation to his _Murids_, or disciples,
who gather round him, adopt his doctrines, obey his commands, and
cheerfully accept martyrdom in his service. Muridism, therefore, may
be taken to signify the passionate fanaticism of religious devotees,
of warriors who follow a spiritual leader and fight in the sacred
cause of Islam against the infidel. It was this movement that united
the Mohammedan tribes in a holy war against the Russians, who, as our
author observes, had never gauged correctly the latent forces of the
twin passions, religious fanaticism and the love of liberty--two
elements which always form a very dangerous compound, and which became
heated up to the point of explosion as the tribes found the iron
framework of Russian administration steadily closing up around them.
Any attempt to break out of this house of bondage was repulsed with
inflexible severity. In this inflammable atmosphere, charged with
ferocious suspicion, hatred, and superstition, one Kazi Mullah was
elected to the rank of 'Imam'; and on his proclamation of holy war
against the infidel oppressor the whole country rose and rallied to
his standard. He was, if we may borrow Mr. Baddeley's description of
the class, 'one of those strange beings, compounded of fanaticism,
military ardour, and a nature prone to adventure, for whom only the
dreaming, fighting, tumultuous, ignorant East, in its days of trouble
and unrest, can supply a fitting field of action.' He came forward as
a man sent by God to deliver the faithful from their servitude,
holding in his hands the power of life or death, and those who refused
to obey him or denied his authority were denounced and slain without
mercy. Under such leadership the war spread again along the border,
some Russian detachments were cut to pieces, and even when the
insurgents were defeated the troops suffered terribly, for as no
quarter was asked or expected none was given on either side. After
some two years of incessant fighting Kazi Mullah made his last stand
in a mountain stronghold, where he was surrounded by the Russian
troops, who in their first assault were repulsed with heavy loss; but
on a second attempt the place was stormed, and Kazi Mullah with a band
of devoted Murids died sword in hand on the last breastwork.

Of the sixty men who stood by their chief to the end two only escaped;
but one of these was Shamil, who became afterwards the most famous and
formidable champion of the Mohammedan tribes in the Caucasus.

     'His marvellous strength, agility, and swordsmanship served him in
     good stead. With an Alvarado's leap he landed behind the line of
     soldiers about to fire a volley through the raised doorway where
     he stood, and whirling his sword in his left hand he cut down three
     of them, but was bayoneted by the fourth clean through the breast.
     Undismayed, he grasped the weapon in one hand, cut down its owner,
     pulled it out of his own body, and escaped into the forest, though
     in addition to the bayonet wound he had a rib and shoulder broken
     by stones.'

Shamil had been born and bred in the same village with Kazi Mullah,
whose disciple he became, and whose rules of rigid adherence to the
strictest injunctions of Islam he adopted and enforced. He even
attempted to put down, as a practice forbidden by the law of Mahomet,
the inveterate blood feuds that divided and weakened the tribes, with
the politic object of uniting them in the holy war against the
infidels; and when the Kazi had been killed his mantle fell upon
Shamil, who soon proved himself a far more able and terrible leader of
fanatic insurrection. The Russians, who at first believed that the
Kazi's death was a decisive and final blow to the cause of Muridism,
soon found that they were grievously mistaken. Mr. Baddeley's
narrative shows occasionally some disregard of orderly arrangement, so
that the sequence in time and interconnection of incidents is not
always clear. We gather from this part of it, however, that very soon
after Shamil took command the whole country had risen against the
Russians, that their posts were attacked and their detachments cut
off, and that expeditions sent to seize the positions or disperse the
gatherings of the tribes paid dearly for their victories, while they
were more than once repulsed with defeat and disaster. Villages were
burnt; the vineyards and orchards were destroyed; desperate fights,
hand to hand, ended only with the extermination of the defenders by
the exasperated Russian soldiers; and after one campaign, when the
Russian Commander-in-Chief led a considerable force against Shamil's
stronghold, he was content to conclude, in the emperor's name, a
treaty of peace with the tribal chief, being 'compelled to retire by
the total disorganisation of the expeditionary corps, the enormous
loss in _personnel_, and the want of ammunition.' A treaty with the
Russian emperor raised Shamil's reputation high among the tribes;
while the slaughter and devastation inflamed his revengeful temper.
When the Emperor Nicholas came next year to the Caucasus, General
Klugenau met Shamil and tried to persuade him to tender submission in
person, with the result that Klugenau narrowly escaped assassination
at the interview. He was saved by Shamil's intervention. In 1839
almost all the tribes were united under Shamil's command; and the
Russian Government, seriously alarmed, determined that he must be
effectively crushed. In the story of this campaign we have a signal
and striking example of the perils that beset regular troops who
encounter fierce and fearless barbarians on their own ground. The
Russians had a powerful artillery; they were led by experienced
commanders; their officers and soldiers fought with astonishing
courage and endurance. After several bloody actions Shamil was shut up
in the hill fort of Akhlongo, and here the undaunted Murids turned to
bay. It was a stronghold surrounded by ravines and sheer precipices,
accessible only along narrow ridgeways. Mr. Baddeley has related in
full detail the operations and incidents of this eventful siege. The
first assault failed after a prolonged and desperate struggle. 'Only
at nightfall,' writes an eye-witness, 'and at the word of command, did
our troops retire from the bloodstained rock.' The bombardment went on
'until the castle was reduced to a heap of ruins, in which the heroic
defenders seemed literally buried.' After a siege which lasted eighty
days the place was at last taken with a total loss of 3000 Russians,
including 116 officers, killed and wounded. The defenders were
slaughtered almost to the last man; many women and children were
killed; but Shamil again escaped miraculously.

     'Vanquished, wounded, a homeless fugitive, without means, with
     hardly a follower, it might well seem that nothing was left to the
     indomitable chieftain but the life of a hunted outlaw ... yet
     within a year Shamil was again the leader of a people in arms;
     within three he had inflicted a bloody defeat on his present
     victor; yet another, and all northern Daghestan was reconquered,
     every Russian garrison there beleaguered or destroyed, and Muridism
     triumphant in the forest and on the mountain, from the Samour to
     the Terek river, from Vladikavkaz to the Caspian.'

By 1840 the Tchetchnia tribes of the wooded lowlands under the
mountains had broken out into outrageous rebellion, for Shamil had
established himself in the forests, and was harassing the whole
Russian border. 'We have never,' wrote General Golovine, 'had in the
Caucasus an enemy so savage and dangerous as Shamil'; and it was again
decided to send an overwhelming army against him. The two first
expeditions virtually failed. Between 1839 and 1842 the Russians had
lost in killed or wounded 436 officers and 7930 men, and 'had
accomplished little or nothing.' In 1844 the Emperor Nicholas had
despatched large reinforcements to the Caucasus, with stringent orders
to make an end of Shamil's 'terrible despotism' and to subdue the
whole country. On his side Shamil mustered all his forces for an
energetic defence. His mounted bands traversed the borderlands with
amazing rapidity, rushing in suddenly upon the Russian outposts,
waylaying detachments, and bewildering the commanders by the speed and
secrecy of their movements. Count Vorontzoff marched against him with
an army of about 18,000, horse, foot, and artillery. Shamil retreated
gradually before him, drawing on the Russians, and abandoning his
forward positions after a show of defending them. He had laid waste
the country on the line of the Russian advance; so, as supplies were
running very short, Vorontzoff pushed on hastily toward Shamil's
headquarters at Dargo. This place, surrounded by forests,

     'lay along the crest of a steep wooded spur of the Betchel ridge,
     nowhere very broad, narrowed here and there to a few feet, and
     consisting of a series of long descents with shorter intervening
     rises. Abattis of giant trunks with branches cunningly interlaced
     barred the way at short intervals, and the densely-wooded ravines
     on either side swarmed with hidden foes.'

Mr. Baddeley's vivid description of the hurried advance upon Dargo,
and of the Russian retreat after capturing it, has all the tragic
interest of a situation where heroic valour strives vainly against
calamitous misfortune, and brave men, caught in a well-laid snare,
tear their way out of it with the energy of despair. The six barriers
of twisted branches were attacked and carried without serious loss,
though at one point, where the path along the hill-top was narrowest,
the troops fell into confusion, suffered heavily, and were rescued
with some difficulty. Dargo was then occupied without resistance; but
the army had only food for a few days, and Vorontzoff, instead of
retiring immediately, resolved to wait for a convoy that was coming up
from the rear and had reached the edge of the forest. But the force
despatched to protect and bring it into camp had to pass again over
the strait ridgeway, where all the barriers had been reconstructed;
and the Russians again ran the gauntlet of incessant and murderous
fire, losing one of their generals with many officers and men. There
still remained the most arduous task of all, to force a way for the
third time along the ridge with weakened and disheartened troops
encumbered by the provision train that they were escorting to Dargo.

     'The enemy were in greater numbers than before; the barriers had
     once more been renewed, and a heavy rain added greatly to the
     difficulties of the march.... On the narrow neck the advance guard
     found the breastwork of trees faced with the Russian dead of the
     previous day, stripped, mutilated, and piled up; it was enfiladed
     by four smaller breastworks on each side.'

Passek, a daring and fearless commander, was killed in leading the
attack with other officers and many men. The foremost regiments fell
back in disorder. Yet the main body, with their general, who charged
at the head of companies like any captain, struggled along the ridge,
fighting all the way, though the Mohammedans kept up an unceasing
rifle-fire, and from time to time they dashed right into the Russian
line. Nevertheless the predicament of the Russians was becoming
hopeless, when a fresh regiment sent out to their rescue from Dargo
threw itself between the exhausted troops and their assailants, and
thus enabled them to reach the camp. But most of the convoy had been
lost, the total list of casualties was frightful, and for Vorontzoff,
with little to eat, surrounded by victorious hordes, encumbered with
more than a thousand wounded men, the only prospect of saving the rest
of his army lay in cutting his way homeward through many miles of
forest. Mr. Baddeley's description of the retreat is intensely
dramatic. After fighting every step of the road the starving and
demoralised army was brought to a standstill, and was eventually saved
from annihilation by fresh troops that arrived just in time under the
Russian commander on the frontier, who had foreseen the emergency, and
made forced marches to the rescue of his chief.

Thus the attempt to piece the heart of Shamil's country had been
completely foiled; and Vorontzoff now confined himself to
strengthening his fortified posts, linking up more effectively their
connection, and improving his communications. But in this situation
the Russians were acting upon the outer circle of Shamil's central
position in the mountains, whereas their enemy held the interior
lines, and could choose his point of attack. Shamil's strategy was
directed toward keeping the whole Russian frontier in constant alarm,
breaking in upon various and distant parts of the line by incessant
raids and surprises, in order to prevent concentration of the Russian
forces on either flank. He made a daring attempt to seize Kabarda, on
the extreme west of the border, but was hunted out of it by the
activity of Freytag, the general whose foresight and promptitude had
extricated Vorontzoff from destruction. This desultory warfare went on
until in 1847 Vorontzoff, having secured his base, again tried
conclusions with Shamil, being resolved that it was necessary to
reduce the fortified village (or _aoul_) of Ghergebil, which Shamil
was no less determined to defend. On the morning of the assault the
Russians, in their camps below the precipitous rocks, above which
stood the aoul, 'heard the melancholy, long-drawn notes of the
death-chant rising from behind its wall as from an open grave,' the
sure prelude to a stubborn and sanguinary fight.

The forlorn hope rushed forward, but lost its way and suffered
severely; the supports kept the right direction and made for the

     'A withering fire from hundreds of rifles mowed down the troops
     like grass. Their gallant commander, Yeodskeemoff, fell dead,
     pierced by a dozen bullets. The captain of the grenadier company
     strode over his body and gained the top of the breach, to fall in
     turn; the men were exasperated rather than daunted; a Danish
     officer, more fortunate and not less brave than his predecessors,
     led them forward, and the wall was won. In front was the first row
     of low _saklias_ (stone houses) and, climbing their walls, the
     attackers rushed forward, when to their horror the ground gave way
     beneath their feet, and amid shouts of demoniac laughter they fell
     on to the swords and daggers of the Murids below. The flat roofs
     had been taken off the whole row of houses and replaced by layers
     of brushwood thinly covered with earth; every house, in fact, was a

Nevertheless the troops came on, and most of them got inside the
village, but they were entangled in the labyrinth of narrow streets,
and were obliged to retire. Another assault ended with another
repulse, 'and the victorious Murids, driving the broken columns before
them, followed until stopped by the bayonets of the reserve.'

Vorontzoff had now been twice beaten off by Shamil: he had been
repulsed, and had nearly lost his army in the forests; his troops had
been hurled back with slaughter from the mountain fort. Next year he
despatched another large army, furnished with heavy artillery, against
Ghergebil, which drove out the Murid garrison by a tremendous
bombardment, but retired without occupying the place. During the next
few years, though wild work went on as usual along the border, where a
sharp guerilla warfare was kept up, neither Shamil nor Vorontzoff
attempted to strike any decisive blow. But the lowlands were
devastated by perpetual incursions and reprisals, and the forest
tribes, placed between two fires, driven to choose between the Murids
and the Russians, gradually transferred their allegiance to the side
best able to protect them, and migrated northward across the Russian
line. The uninhabited woodlands became a kind of neutral ground which
neither side cared to occupy; and from this time Shamil's sphere of
action was confined to the mountains of Daghestan. Then, in 1854,
began the war in the Crimea, when according to Mr. Baddeley the Allies
might have ruined Russia in the Caucasus by making common cause with
Shamil and supporting him vigorously. But England and France were
absorbed in besieging Sebastopol, and Omar Pasha's Transcaucasian
campaign was undertaken too late for any effective result. Mr.
Baddeley considers that in neglecting their opportunity of backing
Shamil the Allies made a strategic blunder; yet we agree with him that
this is not to be regretted. For the credit of civilisation it is well
that they did not let loose the savage Mohammedan fanatics upon
Christian Georgia and the peaceful Russian settlements beyond the
frontier, to their own dishonour, and to the misery of the people whom
Russia was protecting. Shamil did make one foray into Georgia, when a
party of his men carried off two Georgian princesses, the wife and
sister of the Viceroy, who were kept by Shamil in rigorous captivity
and treated cruelly for eight months while negotiations went on for
their release. His object was to exchange them for his son, who had
been captured by the Russians some fourteen years earlier, had been
brought up from childhood among them, and at this time was a
lieutenant in a Russian lancer regiment. As Shamil demanded not only
his son but a large ransom for the princesses, there was long haggling
over the money, but this point was at last settled, and the exchange
took place on the banks of the river. The princesses and Jamal-ud-deen
crossed from opposite banks to the escorts appointed to deliver and
receive them; the youth was then made to change his Russian uniform
for a native dress and rode up the hill to his father, who welcomed
him with tears and embraces.

The scene must have been strangely picturesque; and the whole story
illustrates the accidents and incongruities of warfare between nations
whose standard of morals and manners is entirely different. The
abduction and brutal treatment of the princesses were altogether
contrary to the rules and ideas of modern belligerents; but what would
have been to the Russians a foul disgrace was to the rude Caucasian
chief no more than a simple and justifiable method of extorting his
son's release. On the other hand the Russians had bred up their
captive at their capital; they had converted him to their own social
habits and ways of life. And the sequel is instructive for those who
have yet to learn how completely European education may incapacitate
an Asiatic from returning to associate with his own people, how
effectually it may obliterate the early influences of race and

     'The fate of Jamal-ud-deen was indeed a sad one. Brought up from
     the age of twelve years in St. Petersburg and entered in the
     Russian army, he was now a stranger to his own father, an alien in
     the land of his birth, and totally unfitted to resume his place
     among a semi-barbarous people. He had looked forward to his return
     with the gloomiest forebodings, which were fully justified by the
     event. As a matter of fact, there could be little real sympathy
     between his fellow-countrymen and himself; they soon began to look
     upon him with suspicion and distrust. Even Shamil was estranged
     when he found his son imbued with Russian ideas, and convinced of
     Russia's right to the extent of counselling surrender.' ... Nothing
     'could reconcile him to the change from civilisation to barbarism;
     he grew melancholy, fell into a decline, and died within three

After the end of the Crimean War the Russian Government could turn its
undivided attention to the enterprise of finishing the conquest of the
Caucasus. The preliminary work of cutting roads through the forests,
throwing bridges over rivers and ravines, destroying the enemy's petty
forts, and throwing forward detachments to occupy important points,
was carried out actively during 1857; and in the next summer three
separate columns, under one supreme command, drove back Shamil's
bands, and took up strong positions in the heart of his country. The
inhabitants, severely harried by the Murids, who maltreated
ferociously all villages that would not join them, took refuge under
Russian protection; and though Shamil made several bold attempts to
break through the circle that was gradually encompassing him, he was
compelled to abandon Vedén, so long his home, which was taken in April
1859. The forest tracts were now entirely under Russian control, and
the highland tribes were rapidly surrendering to the Russian
commanders, whose strategy it was to avoid frontal attacks upon large
bodies prepared to fight behind entrenchments, but to make resistance
impossible by enveloping movements. In the mountains, which had so
long defied the armies of the Czar, the local chiefs and their
clansmen were now falling away from Shamil, who was forced to retreat
hastily with a few hundred followers to his stronghold at Gooneeb,
where he entrenched himself for a final stand, knowing well that
defence was hopeless, yet resolved to die fighting. But his men were
almost exterminated by the overpowering numbers which the Russians
threw upon the fortifications in their assault. When the outworks had
fallen, and the place was practically won, the Russian commander, who
desired to capture Shamil alive, suspended the final rush upon the
spot where he still held out, and sent him a message that his life
would be spared on surrender. He yielded, and rode out to meet the
Russian lines; but a burst of cheering from the Russian soldiers at
sight of him so startled him that he went back. A Russian officer
persuaded him to turn again.

     'Followed by about fifty of his Murids, the sole remnant of his
     once mighty hosts, he rode towards where Bariatinsky, surrounded by
     his staff, sat waiting on a stone. Shamil dismounted and was led to
     the feet of his conqueror, who told him that he answered for his
     personal safety and that of his family; but he had refused terms
     when offered, and all else must now depend on the will of the
     emperor. The stern Imam bowed his head in silence and was led off
     captive. Next day he was sent to Shoura, and thence to Russia,
     where later on his family was allowed to join him.'

In the foregoing pages we have run rapidly over Mr. Baddeley's
narrative of the long and laborious operations by which the Russians
gradually made good their footing in the Caucasus, and at last
consolidated their dominion. We have necessarily omitted many curious
incidents and exploits characteristic of a deadly struggle between
antagonists representing the collision of archaic with modern
societies, the clash of two religions eternally irreconcilable, the
deadly wrestle of assailants and defenders unlike in everything but
their tenacious intrepidity. The story, until Mr. Baddeley wrote it,
has hitherto been little known in England. Yet Englishmen should be
interested in this singular and striking example of the obstinate
resistance that can be opposed by free and warlike tribes to the
organised military forces of a first-class European Government; for
they are not without similar experiences of their own. And moreover
the long contest for possession of the tracts lying between the Black
Sea and the Caspian, on the borderland between Europe and Asia, had
its effect in the wider sphere of Asiatic politics. If the Russians,
in their wars with Turkey and Persia, had not been constantly
distracted by the raids and revolts of the Caucasian highlanders, the
consequences to these two Eastern kingdoms might have been much more
serious. It will be remembered that at this period (1826-8) we were
actively concerned in preserving Persia's independence insomuch that
the Russians had accused us of fomenting hostilities against them. At
a later time also Sir Henry Rawlinson, writing in 1849, when Shamil
was still formidable and undefeated, observes that it would have been
impossible for Russia, with her communications at the mercy of such an
enemy, to carry her arms farther eastward into Asia, or to contemplate
territorial extension in that direction. And in a subsequent Note, of
1873, he points out that not until after Shamil's surrender in 1859
did Russia begin to push her way continuously along the upper course
of the Jaxartes river toward Tashkend and the Asiatic midlands. So
long, indeed, as the mountains between the two seas were unsubdued,
they formed an effectual barrier to the expansion of Russia into
Central Asia; but when that frontier fortress of Islam had been
captured, and when the Circassians had emigrated into Turkish
territory, the onward march of Russia went on securely and speedily.
Tashkend was taken and Kokand annexed in 1866; and soon afterward the
communications between the Russian base in Georgia and the Russian
garrisons in Turkestan were firmly established. Thereafter the flood
of Russian conquest overflowed irresistibly the plains of Central
Asia, until it was arrested by another breakwater, the kingdom of
Afghanistan. It is true that the North-western Afghan borderlands were
comparatively open and easily penetrable by an invading force; but
beyond them lie lofty ranges with passes at high altitudes, guarded by
a hard-fighting and intractable people, and on the farther side of
these mountains stands the rival European Power whose policy it had
been always to retard and obstruct the Russian advance across the
Asiatic Continent. We may conjecture that if Afghanistan had been
left, as the Caucasus was left after the Crimean War, isolated and
obliged to rely on its own resources for defence, the drama of the
Caucasian wars would have been repeated. The Russians would have
besieged and reduced without great difficulty this second mountain
fortress; and after another similar though less protracted struggle
the Afghans would have undergone the same fate as the Daghestanis. The
Czar's rulership, solidly established in the two natural strongholds
that stand on either side of the great central plains, and command,
east and west, the exits and entrances, would have been supreme
throughout Mohammedan Asia.

That the Russian armies were forced to halt on the edge of Afghanistan
is thus a point of cardinal importance, and it marks a turning-point
in the career of her expansion. It also produced a situation that is
the outcome of the different strategy adopted by England and Russia
respectively, in circumstances not otherwise very dissimilar. For
whereas the Russians had been compelled by imperative political and
military exigencies to conquer and occupy the Caucasian highlands, the
policy of the British Government has always been not to subjugate
Afghanistan, but to preserve its independence and to fortify it as an
outwork for the protection of the gates of India. It is due to this
fundamental distinction of aim and object that the history of the
relations of the British with Afghanistan during the nineteenth
century, and of their management of the tribes on the Afghan border,
differs widely from Mr. Baddeley's narrative of events and
transactions in the Caucasus. Nevertheless in both instances the
general situation presented a strong resemblance. The Russians,
pushing their dominion down from the north to the Black Sea and the
Caspian, were checked and baffled for many years by the woods and
precipices that lay across the line of their march into Trans-Caspia.
The British, moving up by long strides north-westward across India,
came to a halt at the foot of the Afghan hills fifty years ago; and to
this day they have scarcely moved farther. Here they were met by races
almost identical in character and circumstances with the tribes of
Daghestan, fanatically attached to the faith of Islam, profoundly
influenced by religious preachers, prizing their liberty above their
lives, and looking down from their rugged uplands upon a great
military power that had swept away many principalities and subdued all
the cities of the plain below. If the British had pressed onward and
endeavoured to take possession of Afghanistan [which had indeed been
occupied by the Moghul empire in its prime] they would certainly have
been involved in a series of sanguinary conflicts, revolts, and costly
expeditions not unlike those which put so severe a strain upon the
Russian armies in the Caucasus. This, as we know, they did not do;
they adopted the alternative of asserting an exclusive protectorate
over the country; they were content to remain outside it so long as no
rival power was allowed to set foot in it. Yet we know that even this
much more prudent policy was carried out at a heavy cost. The British
army suffered at least one grave disaster by the total destruction of
a division in the retreat from Kabul in the winter of 1842-3. And the
Afghan War of 1878-80, with the massacre of the British envoy and his
escort at Kabul in 1879, showed us the perils and difficulties of even
a temporary and partial occupation.

At the present moment, however, the objects of our policy have been
satisfactorily fulfilled. The Russians have settled with us the
frontier line between their dominion and Afghanistan, and have bound
themselves to respect it. With the Afghan Amir we are on friendly
terms, and we have taken up our permanent position on his Eastern
border towards India, reserving to ourselves the control of the tribes
within a broad belt of territory, otherwise independent, between the
Afghan kingdom and British India. This tract is intersected by lofty
ridges running parallel for the most part to our frontier, with
precipitous slopes toward India, with a few practicable passes and
numerous gorges formed by the drainage from the watershed, enclosing
some fertile valleys along the courses of the rivers, inhabited by a
hardy population that is broken up into manifold clans and sects by
the configuration of their country. The Caucasus, as we learn from Mr.
Baddeley, 'is peopled by a greater number of different tribes and
races than any similar extent on the surface of the globe'; and it is
precisely from the same causes, difficulty of intercourse between
villages secluded in the valleys or perched on the heights, scarcity
of sustenance, inbred jealousy of each other, feuds and factions, that
the groups of the Afghan borderland dwell apart, become estranged or
hostile, are at constant war with each other, and cannot unite against
a common enemy. But while in the Caucasus this trituration of the
people has produced a multiplicity of dialects, the Afghan borderers
speak a language that is generally the same.

In Dr. Pennell's book, the title of which stands at the head of this
article, we have a vivid description, drawn from life, of the names,
habits, and peculiarities of these primitive communities, with many
incidental examples of the relations existing between them and the
British officers who are in touch with them on the frontier. Lord
Roberts, in a short introduction that may be taken as a guarantee of
the accuracy and authenticity of the volume's contents, tells us that
it is a valuable record of sixteen years' good work by a medical
missionary in charge of a mission station at Bannu, on the
north-western frontier of India. And Dr. Pennell's experience,
acquired in the prodigious enterprise of taming and converting to
Christianity some of the most murderous ruffians and inveterate
robbers in Asia, has provided him with a rare insight into their
character, and furnished him with numerous anecdotes of their strange
inconsistencies and wayward, impulsive nature. On the Afghan frontier,
indeed, we may survey a situation that has frequently recurred in the
history of organised governments, whenever they have found themselves
in contact, and therefore in collision, with intractable barbarism.
Immediately across the border line may be seen in the Afridi tribes a
complete and living picture of man in his aboriginal condition of
perpetual war, under no government at all, in daily peril of ending by
a violent death a life that in the pithy words of Hobbes is 'poor,
nasty, brutish, and short.' A few steps back into the British district
brings us among men, often of the same breed and tribe, dwelling
without arms in peace and security, pleading before regular law
courts, learning in English schools, occupied in commerce and industry
under the protection of magistrates and police. The contrast in
morals and manners is as abrupt as the transition from the Afghan
hills to the Indian plains. Such is the frontier along which British
officers are charged with duties of watch and ward. Their business is
to guard the Indian districts that march with the wild borderland, to
prevent or punish incursions by the marauding tribes who have
continued from time immemorial to live in practical anarchy. They obey
no laws and acknowledge no ruler, though in emergencies they appeal
alternately to the Afghan Amir for assistance against the British and
to the British Government against any encroachments by the Amir.

The Afghan character, writes Dr. Pennell, is a strange medley of
contradictory qualities, in which courage blends with stealth, the
basest treachery with the most touching fidelity, intense religious
fanaticism with an avarice that will even induce a man to play false
with his faith, and a lavish hospitality with an irresistible
propensity for thieving. It will be remembered how 'Muridism,' the
spirit of religious enthusiasm inflaming political hostility, was
stirred up by the Mullahs of the Caucasus against the Russians, and
embittered the resistance of the tribes. The same elements of fiery
hatred lie close below the surface on the Afghan borderland. Dr.
Pennell tells us that there is no section of the Afghan people which
has a greater influence on their life than the Mullahs, who sometimes
use their power to rouse the tribes to join in warfare against the
English infidels; and that a prelude to one of the little frontier
wars has often been some ardent Mullah going up and down the frontier,
like Peter the Hermit, inciting them to break out. The notorious
Mullah Powindah, who is still a firebrand on the border, is reported
to possess a magical charm that renders his followers invulnerable
before English bullets. Whether he led them in person to battle is
not mentioned; though he could hardly adopt the excuse of Friar John,
who, as Rabelais tells us, made a liberal distribution of mirific
amulets to his soldiers, assuring them that those who had firm faith
in their efficacy would come to no harm. He added, however, that to
himself the charm would be useless, because unfortunately he could not
believe in it. Such an explanation would be coldly received among the

Under the exhortations of these Mullahs their students often became

     'The Ghazi is a man who has taken an oath to kill some
     non-Mohammedan, preferably a European, as representing the ruling
     race, but, failing this, a Hindu or a Sikh is a lawful object of
     his fanaticism.... When the disciple has been worked up to the
     requisite degree of religious excitement, he is usually further
     fortified by copious draughts of intoxicating drugs.... Not a year
     passes on the frontier but some young officer falls a victim to one
     of these Ghazis.'

It is manifest that this sporadic Muridism might become epidemic under
serious and widespreading excitement, but the provocation that leads
to petty frontier wars comes entirely from the tribes, who make
predatory incursions upon the Indian villages and refuse all
reparation. In every tribe, as Dr. Pennell tells us, the outlaws who
live by raiding and robbery, and the Mullahs who detest the infidel
and fear his rule, are the fomenters of crime and outrage.

The vendetta, or blood-feud, our author tells us, has eaten into the
very core of Afghan life. At present some of the best and noblest
families in Afghanistan are on the verge of extermination through this
wretched system. Even the women are not exempt. In a village which
the missionary visited he noticed that the houses communicated
laterally by little doors all down one long street; and on inquiry he
was told that some time before a great faction fight had been carried
on between the two rows of houses. The villagers 'were always in
ambush to fire at each other across the street. The only way to get to
the supply of water was to go from house to house to the bottom, and
in order to do this without exposure the doors had been made, while by
common consent they had agreed not to shoot while getting their
supplies from the stream.' Another anecdote relates how a British
officer visited a petty chief in his tower, and would have opened a
window to look at the country round. 'He was hurriedly and
unceremoniously pulled back by the Afghan, who told him that his
cousin had been watching that window for months in the hope of an
opportunity of shooting him there.' In fact the chief was actually
shot at this window a short time after the visit. From the universal
enmity existing between cousins in Afghanistan the proverb 'as great
an enemy as a cousin' has become a household word. 'The causes of 90
per cent. of these feuds are described by the Afghans as belonging to
one of three heads--women, money, and land; and on such matters
disputes are more likely to arise between cousins than strangers.' We
may compare Mr. Baddeley's account of an almost identical state of
things in Daghestan. It was split up (he says) 'into numerous khanates
and free communities of many different races and languages, for the
most part bitterly hostile one to another. Strife and bloodshed were
chronic between village and village, between house and house ... and
of many contributory causes none had operated so powerfully in
originating and perpetuating this state of things as the elaborate
system of blood-feud and vengeance.' And he gives one instance of a
quarrel that arose from the theft of a hen from a villager, who
retaliated by appropriating a cow. The retort was by taking a horse,
upon which the murders began.

     'The blood-feud was now in full swing, and was kept up for three
     centuries, during which some scores, some say hundreds, were
     sacrificed in the name of honour to this terrible custom; and all
     for a hen.'

But it may be more interesting to remind our readers that these feuds
were 'in full swing' not so very long ago in our own island. A
remarkable description of the state of the Border between England and
Scotland in the sixteenth century and earlier has recently been
published.[39] In a chapter headed 'The Deadly Feud' the author tells
us that blood-feuds set family against family and clan against clan;
and he quotes from a report submitted by Burghley to the English
Government a passage in which the term is defined thus:

     'Deadly Foed, the word of enmytie on the Borders, implacable
     without the blood and whole family destroyed.'

Feuds of the most bitter and hostile character, we are told, were an
everyday occurrence, and were carried on with the most ferocious
animosity on both sides. The feud was inherited along with the rest of
the family property. It was handed down from generation to generation.
The son and grandson maintained it with a bitterness which in some
cases seemed year by year to grow more intense. It affected a man's
whole social relationship, and gave rise to endless animosities and

In fact the whole description in Mr. Borland's book of the feuds
prevalent three centuries ago on our own Border might be applied to
those now actually raging among the Afghans, with the simple
alteration of time, places, and names. The comparison is worth making,
if only to show that similar conditions and circumstances produce
everywhere the same results; and that there is yet hope for the wild
Afghan, if hereafter it should be his destiny to fall under a strong
government that can enforce laws, though this is the fate which he
most dreads. No axiom is more easily refuted by historic experience
than the commonplace saying that men cannot be made moral by statutes;
the truth is that respect for a neighbour's purse or person cannot be
inculcated by any other method.

It was the political division along the Scottish Border that so long
prevented the suppression of lawlessness, and when the two kingdoms
were united it gradually ceased. On the frontier between Afghanistan
and India the British Government keeps the peace within its own
districts, but maintains only a fluctuating and ineffectual control
over the tribal territory. Yet it is manifest that no permanent
pacification can be accomplished until both sides of the line are
brought under the same firm and civilised administration. For such a
purpose it would be necessary, and would be practicable, to establish
strong posts among the turbulent highlanders, to make roads, and
probably to insist on a general disarmament, as the Russians did in
the Caucasus. But the British Government has always been reluctant to
undertake so arduous and so costly a task; though until some measure
of that kind is found possible, the intestine strife and chronic
disorder must continue; and in fact it is the natural and inevitable
solution of the problem.

     'No doubt,' Dr. Pennell observes, 'the Government desires not to
     make any further annexation of this barren, mountainous, and
     uninviting region, but it is not always easy to avoid doing so; and
     it is an universal experience of history that when there are a
     number of disorganised and ill-governed units on the borders of a
     great power, they become inevitably, though it may be gradually and
     piece by piece, absorbed into the latter.'

In short, to manage a country without occupying it is no less
impossible than to steer a boat without taking a seat in it. The
process of subordinating the Afghan tribes to effective control will
probably go forward slowly and at intervals. It may be that when one
part of the country is taken resolutely into hand, the rest will be
overawed and quieted; but we doubt whether any other remedy can be
found for the feuds and forays that from time immemorial have
distracted this borderland, which has preserved the primitive
conditions of life and habits that have long disappeared from the
frontiers of all other civilised nations. Yet the objections to
pushing forward our landmarks into these mountains are great and
manifest, while the disadvantages of the present system are equally
patent. The attempt to protect our subjects by a line of outposts, to
adopt the tactics of stationary defence, varied by occasional sallies
forth from our cantonments to pursue assassins or to punish
depredators by destroying houses and crops, is to assume a somewhat
impotent and undignified attitude, hardly creditable in the case of a
mighty empire worried by mere highland caterans. The Indian
Government, therefore, finds itself placed in a dilemma: to advance or
to stand still is equally difficult; nor is any practicable issue out
of this situation to be foreseen.

We are compelled, unwillingly, to pass over without the notice that it
undoubtedly deserves Dr. Pennell's very impressive accounts of his
intercourse, as medical missionary, with the strange folk whom he was
trying to reclaim from savagery, of the risks which he faced with cool
courage and self-command in his travels among them, and of his quaint
theological disputations with arrogant Mullahs, whose invincible
ignorance easily convinced a congenial audience of their argumentative
superiority. His skill in surgery naturally invested him with a high
reputation among people who were incessantly fighting--he had more
success in healing their wounds than in curing their vices. His
general 'Deductions' in regard to the present state and prospect of
Christian missions in India are well worth attention, and with his
survey of the existing conditions and tendencies of religious
movements in India all who have studied the subject will generally
agree. He lays stress on the delusion that to assault and overthrow
the citadels of Islam and Hinduism, if such an achievement were
possible, would be to lay open a clear field for the success of
Christianity. 'Much more probably we should find an atheistic and
materialistic India, in which Mammon, Wealth, Industrial Success, and
Worldliness had become new gods.' Such attacks upon Eastern religion
'may for the moment win a Pyrrhic victory ... but they are at the same
time undermining the religious spirit, the ardent faith, the
unquestioning devotion which have been the crown and glory of India
for ages.' The wisdom and enlightened morality of these warnings are
incontestable. But at such questions we can only glance, although from
one point of view they may be said to have an important bearing upon
the main subject of this article.

In conclusion, we may observe that the frontiers of European dominion
in Asia are the battleground upon which the forces of archaic and
modern societies meet in arms for decisive conflict. In the ancient
world the contest was only ethnical and political; the rude tribes
were coerced into amalgamation with an expanding State, far superior
in power and usually more humane. 'The nations of the empire[40]
insensibly melted away into the Roman name and people.' But the
antique polytheism had no fanatical element; the deities of the
victorious Romans were often acknowledged and accepted by the
conquered population. Whereas in these latter days the Russians in the
Caucasus and the English on the Afghan border have discovered that in
the passionate religious animosity between Islam and Christendom lies
the mainspring of the stubborn energy and fierce hatred that so long
held their armies in check, and that still prevents the establishment
of even a pacific _modus vivendi_ on the most important frontier of


[38] (1) _The Russian Conquest of the Caucasus._ By John F. Baddeley.
London, Longmans, Green and Co., 1908. (2) _Among the Wild Tribes of
the Afghan Frontier._ By J. L. Pennell, M.D., F.R.C.S. London, Seeley
and Co., 1909.--_Edinburgh Review_, July 1909.

[39] _Border Raids and Reivers_, by Robert Borland, Minister of Yarrow
(1898). This valuable work, founded entirely on the study of original
documents, may be heartily commended to all who are interested in the
political and social life, the customs and traditions, of the old

[40] Gibbon.


The fourteenth volume of _L'Empire Libéral_, issued in 1909, carries
M. Émile Ollivier's very interesting reminiscences of that eventful
period up to the outbreak of the Franco-German War in July 1870. It
contains many curious particulars of the incidents and transactions
culminating in the rupture with Prussia that brought about the
downfall of his ministry and the ruin of the Second Empire.
Autobiographies by men who have taken a prominent part in the
momentous scenes which they describe have often the powerful effect of
a dramatic representation: the actors reappear on the stage; they
plead for themselves; they give vivid impressions of the scenes; they
repeat the very words that were spoken; they revive the intense
emotion of the audience during the contest between those who are
hurrying on toward some fatal catastrophe and those who are striving
to prevent it. M. Ollivier's volume is the story of a great historic
tragedy; the principal _dramatis personæ_ are celebrities of the first
rank; on their speech and action depend the destinies of France, and
the spectators are the nations of Europe. If we make due allowance for
the fact that the author's main object is to explain and defend the
part which he himself played in these important affairs, we may credit
him with an honest desire to set a strange, complicated, and oft-told
story in a clear light before the present generation.

M. Ollivier cites, in the first page of this volume, Machiavelli's
observation that mankind at large judges those who give advice in
affairs of state not by the wisdom of their counsels but by the
results. He agrees that this method is not rational, looking to the
haphazard course of human affairs, but he admits that the multitude
can judge by no other standard; and he appeals to historians for an
impartial revision of the popular verdict, founded on careful
examination of the real facts and circumstances. Yet he fears lest in
his own country the decline of patriotic enthusiasm, the cooling of
military ardour, that he notices in France at the present time, may
have rendered Frenchmen incapable of realising the hot resentment, the
intense susceptibility to affronts, the element of heroism, which were
dominant forty years ago in the national character. And he therefore
has little or no expectation that the falsehood of legends which have
been circulated regarding the events of 1870 will be proved, to his
countrymen, even by the most irrefragable demonstration. All political
parties in France, he says, have combined to hold their own ministry
responsible for that calamitous war; he despairs of obtaining from
them a hearing. He awaits with resignation the time when some
inquisitive student of history may light upon a dusty copy of his book
in the recesses of a library, and may set himself to explain how these
things actually happened to readers of the future.

The story of the decline and fall of the second French empire has
often been told; yet it may be worth while to remind English readers
of the political situation in France just forty years ago. The Emperor
Napoleon III., importuned by reformers and reactionaries, by those who
pressed him to step forward into Liberalism, and by those who insisted
that he must stand still, had at last decided upon making those
changes in the form of his government that inaugurated the Liberal
Empire; and on January 3, 1870, the new ministry took office,
supported by the goodwill of the moderate party in the Chamber of
Deputies and by the general approval of the country. M. Ollivier was
recognised as its leader and spokesman, chosen by the emperor, and
enjoying his particular confidence; though he was not prime minister
in the English constitutional sense, for the power of issuing direct
orders, and of overruling the Cabinet, was still reserved to the
sovereign; nor was he always consulted in important military or
foreign affairs. The complex and enigmatic character of Napoleon III.
is becoming gradually intelligible to the world at large, and public
opinion has lately been veering round to a less unfavourable
conclusion upon it than heretofore. He had long been reviled as a
truculent despot, artful and dangerous, powerful and perfidious; the
genius of Victor Hugo had set on him a brand of infamy. In reality, if
we may trust later French writers, there was much that was good in his
nature, and they are disposed to regard him with compassion. M. de la
Gorce says that throughout his life Napoleon had been a humane prince.
From the entertaining memoirs of General du Barail, whose military
services brought him into frequent relations with the emperor, we
should draw the impression that the emperor was affable, considerate,
and sincerely well-intentioned. Giuseppe Pasolini, the Italian
statesman, found him simple and easy in conversation, naturally
right-minded and kindly,[42] though weak and irresolute. He was
equally capable of forming bold projects or adopting cautious
decisions; but he was apt to hesitate and turn round at the moment for
action; and it was just here that he was so unlike his uncle, Napoleon
I., who would have classed him among the _idéologues_ whom he
despised. He invented the theory of nationalities to justify his
polity of encouraging the unification of Italy, and of permitting the
aggrandisement of Germany; in the former instance he alienated the
Italians by refusing obstinately to allow them to occupy Rome; in the
latter case his neutrality when Prussia attacked Austria in 1866 was
the proximate cause of his ruin. He might have read in Machiavelli's
_Principe_ a warning of the danger of standing aside when the
neighbouring potentates come to blows. The result, it is there said,
is that the winner in such a contest becomes doubly formidable, while
the loser resents your neutral attitude, and will not help you when
the victor turns upon you with all his strength. Machiavelli declares
that this policy has always been _perniciosissimo_; and so it proved
to be in the case of the French Empire. In domestic affairs also the
Liberal Empire took up a kind of half-way position, which was assailed
by the extreme parties on both sides; for thorough-going Imperialists
like Rouher asserted that a Napoleon could only rule by retaining
absolute authority; while uncompromising Liberals demanded full
parliamentary control. Ollivier's ministry took office with the avowed
object of gradually extending constitutional administration; but he
found that, as Tocqueville had said in his _Ancien Régime_, the most
dangerous moment for an absolute government is when it endeavours to
introduce reforms.

General du Barail, in the memoirs already quoted, gives M. Ollivier
full credit for his honesty, ability, and sincere patriotism in
undertaking his difficult task, which was begun in an evil hour, and
failed through adverse circumstance. In May 1870, Ollivier, who was
holding the portfolio of Foreign Affairs, transferred it to the Duc de
Gramont, foreseeing no troubles abroad, and desiring to give his
whole attention to politics at home. The external policy of the
ministry was decidedly pacific; they relied on a quiet moment for
developing the new constitutional system; they had no notion of
changing horses in mid-stream, yet most unluckily they were caught by
a sudden flood. At the end of June it was announced in Madrid that
Leopold of Hohenzollern, son of the Roumanian prince, had accepted the
crown of Spain that had been secretly offered to him by Marshal Prim;
and the news, M. Ollivier says, startled all France like the bursting
of a bomb. It had always, we must remember, been a cardinal maxim of
French statesmanship that the maintenance of a preponderant influence
in Spain was essential to the security of France; while, on the other
hand, a complete subordination of Spanish to French interests has been
held by other governments to be dangerous to the balance of power in
Europe. The collision between these two principles had been the cause
of great wars and diplomatic quarrels. Louis XIV. only succeeded in
securing the Spanish throne for his grandson after a long war. When
Napoleon I. made his nefarious attempt to impose his brother on the
Spaniards as their king, his pretext was that under the Bourbon
dynasty Spain had always been a dependency of France; and it had been
the invariable aim of English policy to prevent a close association of
the two kingdoms. The question had long been regarded on all sides as
one of vital importance; and in 1869, when some information of secret
negotiations between Bismarck and Marshal Prim had leaked out, the
French ambassador at Berlin, Benedetti, had warned Bismarck that
France would oppose the election of a Prussian prince to the vacant
throne of Spain. Bismarck had treated the information as an improbable
rumour, yet he had carefully abstained from a formal assurance that
the king would forbid Prince Leopold to accept any such offer.[43] It
was therefore quite certain that in 1870, when the relations between
France and Prussia were in a very critical state, the announcement
that Prince Leopold had been chosen for Spain would be treated as a
most threatening move on the political chessboard. Italy was under
deep obligation to Prussia for aid in expelling the Austrians from
Venice; the St. Gothard railway had been openly promoted and
subsidised by Germany for direct and secure communication with Italy
in case of need; and now the family connection which was obviously
contemplated would bring Spain into the circle of alliances that
Bismarck was drawing round the French frontier. It was a strategical
manoeuvre that the imperial government was bound to resist. Within
France all factions were for once unanimous in demanding immediate and
resolute protest; and the clerical party, very powerful in that
country, were especially vehement in denouncing the project of placing
the scion of a great Protestant dynasty on the 'throne of Charles V.'
M. Ollivier tells us that when the news first reached him it brought
upon him suddenly and painfully the presentiment of impending war, to
the discomfiture of all his efforts for the preservation of peace
until the Liberal Empire should have been consolidated in France.

The plot--for it was nothing less--had been skilfully concerted
between Berlin and Madrid; and even the parts to be played in
anticipation of French remonstrances had been rehearsed. When
Benedetti went to the Berlin Foreign Office for explanations, he found
that Bismarck was absent at his country house and the king at Ems; and
Von Thiele, the Under-Secretary, cut short his interrogation by
replying at once that the Prussian Government knew nothing of, and had
no concern with, the Hohenzollern candidature, adding that the Spanish
people had a right to choose their own king. At Madrid,
notwithstanding the French ambassador's attempts to check Prim's
jubilant activity, Leopold's acceptance of the crown was proclaimed to
all the foreign courts as a matter for joyful congratulation; and the
Cortes were summoned for July 20 to elect their new monarch. To demand
satisfaction from Spain would have been to fall into Bismarck's net;
for the Hohenzollern prince would have been elected nevertheless, and
if French troops had then marched into Spain the Prussian army would
have crossed the Rhine, whereby the French would have been placed
between two fires. It was necessary to fix the responsibility for
these proceedings upon Prussia, and to act promptly; but the precise
line to be adopted was the subject of anxious deliberation in the
emperor's council--that is, in a meeting of the Cabinet presided over
by him. Finally, Ollivier proposed, as he has told us, to speak out so
plainly that Prussia must understand France to be in earnest, and to
say that the Hohenzollern could not be permitted to reign at Madrid.
Marshal Le Boeuf had assured the council that the army was in the
highest condition of efficiency and readiness; and when M. Ollivier
inquired whether, in the event of war, any help from other governments
could be relied upon, Napoleon produced certain letters from the
Austrian emperor and the King of Italy, which he interpreted as
distinct assurances of armed support in the case of a rupture with
Prussia. The wording of a declaration to be made before the French
Chamber of Deputies was carefully settled--it was delivered next day
(July 6) by the Duc de Gramont, and received with immense enthusiasm.
Some objection was taken, then and afterwards, to its menacing tone;
but we may agree with M. Ollivier that this outspoken warning to
Prussia was at the moment judicious and effective; and we may admit
that up to this point no exception could be taken to the procedure of
the French Government.

M. Ollivier dates from July 6 the first of five phases, or alternating
changes (_péripéties_), which the diplomatic campaign, as he terms it,
traversed in its headlong course. They are successively described and
commented upon in the chapters of his volume; and they may be here set
down in his own language, for the guidance of our readers through the
complicated transactions that ensued:

     'Le premier moment est la déclaration ministérielle du 6 juillet;
     le second, la renonciation du Prince Antoine (11 juillet); le
     troisième, la demande de garanties de la droite (12 juillet); le
     quatrième, le soufflet de Bismarck et la fabrication de la dépêche
     d'Ems; le cinquième, notre réponse au soufflet de Bismarck par
     notre déclaration de guerre du 15 juillet.'

These are, in fact, the five acts of a portentous drama, full of
shifting scenes and striking situations, on the issues of which
depended the fortunes of France and of Germany; it was played out with
ill-omened rapidity in nine days. In regard to the train of causes and
consequences that brought France to the tremendous disaster upon which
the curtain fell, diverse accounts have been given to the world by the
leading actors--by M. de Gramont, by Bismarck, Benedetti, and, the
latest by many years, by M. Ollivier. His narrative does raise
somewhat higher the veil which has hitherto kept in partial obscurity
certain dark corners of the stage upon which these things went on. We
know more now of the precise motives and considerations, the personal
influences and impulses which diverted the Cabinet, after starting on
the right path, into leaving it for rash and perilous adventures. On
some points of interest he is, indeed, still reticent, and on others
his evidence is in conflict with different narratives; but in regard
to facts actually known to him we may accept his testimony, though in
matters of opinion we may sometimes differ from him.

M. Ollivier insists that Gramont's declaration of July 6 was
altogether _irréprochable_; he writes that he has read it again after
so many years with satisfaction. He admits that it contained,
substantially, an intimation to Prussia that she must choose between
withdrawing the Hohenzollern candidate and accepting war with France;
but he argues that this straightforward and peremptory warning was
justified by its effects; that Bismarck was taken aback and
discomfited by the resolute attitude of the French ministry, supported
enthusiastically by the Chamber of Deputies; and that Prince Antoine
was thereby so intimidated as to compel his son Leopold to retract his
acceptance of the Spanish crown. On the other hand, this stern
language alarmed cautious deputies, and though it stirred Paris to a
pitch of wild excitement it was read with uneasiness in the cooler air
of the French provinces, where the prospect of imminent war met with
scanty welcome.[44] The foreign governments were startled. Bismarck,
in his _Reminiscences_, says that it was an 'official international
threat, uttered with the hand on the sword-hilt,' From the Austrian
chancellor, Count Beust, came earnest advice against marching hastily
into Prussia; while the British Cabinet, in particular, doubted the
wisdom of taking up such high ground, from which it might be difficult
to retreat, at the opening of a grave and complicated question. And
our ambassador in Paris, Lord Lyons, whose calm judgment and friendly
counsels M. Ollivier acknowledges unreservedly, exerted himself
throughout this critical time to deprecate precipitate words and

Simultaneously Benedetti, the French ambassador at Berlin, had been
ordered to seek an interview with the Prussian king, and to impress
upon him the necessity of appeasing the just indignation of the French
people by forbidding Leopold to accept the crown of Spain. The king
replied, as is well known, that he had treated the candidature
entirely as a family matter, quite apart from the sphere of
international politics; that he had nevertheless communicated with
Leopold, and could give Benedetti no positive answer until he should
have heard from that prince. If, as has been asserted, the king had
been cognisant of Bismarck's secret negotiations, this reply was more
evasive than ingenuous; and we may note that he immediately directed
his own ambassador, Werther, who was present at Ems, to return at once
to Paris. M. Ollivier scores the king's order to the credit of
Benedetti's diplomacy, since it amounted to an admission that the
question in debate was much more than a mere family concern. And he
adds that he immediately urged Gramont to allow no more equivocation
upon this essential point, but to press Werther for a straightforward
reply upon it. It will be seen that this pressure was carried rather
too far at the French Foreign Office, with an important effect upon
the course of negotiations.

But at this juncture supervened the _coup de théâtre_, as M. Ollivier
styles it, which opens the second act of the drama. Olozaga, the
Spanish ambassador at Paris, had been left in complete ignorance of
the privy correspondence between Prim and Bismarck for procuring the
nomination of a king from the Hohenzollern family, and this sudden
revelation of its result by no means pleased him. He proposed to the
Emperor Napoleon to despatch to Prince Antoine at Sigmaringen (in
Prussian territory) an agent of his own, who should use every effort
to convince the prince that his son must be imperatively commanded to
withdraw his acceptance of Prim's offer. The emperor, whose sincere
wish was for peace, consented willingly, and the mission was entirely
successful. By long and strenuous argument the envoy had finally
persuaded the father that his son, Leopold, would find himself in a
precarious position on the Spanish throne, with France alienated and
openly hostile; and the result was that Prince Antoine not only laid
on his son a positive command to withdraw, but also telegraphed the
decision to the principal German newspapers, to Olozaga at Paris, and
to Madrid. According to M. Ollivier, Bismarck felt the blow keenly; it
shattered his carefully organised plans; he found himself baffled and
humiliated; he has himself said that his first thought was to resign
office.[45] To the king, on the other hand, the news brought welcome
relief; he supposed that he had now only to await Prince Antoine's
letter confirming the public telegram, when the dispute would
naturally drop with the disappearance of its cause. This was,
moreover, the expectation at that moment of the French emperor, who
observed that, if France and England were preparing to fight for the
possession of an island in the Channel, it would be absurd to go to
war after discovering that the island had sunk to the bottom of the

In those days, M. Ollivier explains, any telegram of political
interest that passed over the Paris wires was communicated, by
special arrangement, to the Ministère de l'Intérieur; and accordingly
he received a copy of Prince Antoine's message to Olozaga before it
reached its address. The contents filled him with exultation--he could
feel no doubt that peace had now been triumphantly secured, mainly by
the unflinching tone of the Cabinet's declaration. He carried the
paper with him to the Chamber, where Olozaga rushed up to him in the
lobby, drew him into a corner, read to him with much obvious
excitement the telegram which Ollivier had already in his pocket, and
hurried on to the Foreign Office. Naturally the incident aroused
general curiosity; the deputies surrounded the minister, and eagerly
pressed him for information. M. Ollivier tells us that he hesitated
for some time before divulging his secret; but that on the whole he
found no good reason for withholding news that would certainly appear
within a few hours in the evening papers, so he read out the telegram
to all present. We believe that few men, who had not been trained by
experience to the cautious habits of official life, would have done
otherwise. But M. de la Gorce[46] has pointed out that the chief
minister ought to have kept silence until the renunciation had been
approved and confirmed by the King of Prussia, who was in hourly
expectation of Prince Antoine's letter, and whose acquiescence,
transmitted through Benedetti to the French Government, would have
probably brought the whole affair to an honourable termination. It may
be objected that this is to argue from consequences, since known,
which could hardly be foreseen at the moment; yet one must admit that
reticence would have been preferable, for we have to remember that M.
Ollivier was disclosing a telegram intercepted, so to speak, on its
passage to a foreign embassy, thereby forestalling not only the
Spanish ambassador but also the French Foreign Office.

The news ran round the Palais Législatif, inside and outside, and
spread through Paris with electrical rapidity.

     'En même temps débouchait du Palais Législatif une bande agitée;
     c'était à qui envahirait les fiacres de la place, à qui les
     escaladerait, à qui les prendrait d'assaut. À la Bourse, criaient
     les hommes d'affaires; nous doublons le prix de la course, et au
     triple galop. Parmi les journalistes, même empressement et concert
     de même nature, et on voyait les haridelles de la place sortir
     l'une après l'autre et s'élancer rapides comme des flèches.'

Apparently all this stir and hurry had already affected M. Ollivier
with some misgivings; for when, on going into one of the
committee-rooms, he met Gressier, formerly a minister, he assured him
that he (Ollivier) had no intention of making the renunciation a
stepping-stone toward further demands. 'To take up that ground,'
replied Gressier, 'will be a proof of courage, but it will bring down
your ministry, for the country will never be content with this degree
of satisfaction.' M. Ollivier soon found that he was right; for a
crowd of deputies began to protest against the faint-heartedness of a
government that seemed willing to drop the whole affair, leaving
Prussia to escape scot-free; and M. Ollivier had scarcely entered the
Chamber when Clément Duvernois rose with an interpellation asking what
guarantees the Cabinet proposed to require for the purpose of
restraining Prussia from inventing more complications of this sort.

Olozaga had taken his telegram to M. de Gramont, who by no means
shared M. Ollivier's joy over it. He observed that the effect was
rather to embarrass his negotiations with Prussia, since that
government could now make the renunciation a pretext for disowning
the responsibility which he desired to fix upon the king with regard
to the whole business; and, moreover, he added, public opinion in
France will consider such a conclusion unsatisfactory. He was at that
moment engaged in colloquy with Werther, the Prussian ambassador, who
had presented himself at the Foreign Office, where presently M.
Ollivier joined them, Olozaga having departed. What followed is
treated by some French writers as the most ill-conceived of all the
false moves made by the French players in this hazardous diplomatic
game. Gramont had been urging Werther to advise the Prussian king to
write a letter to the emperor, to the effect that in authorising the
acceptance of the Spanish throne by Leopold he had no idea of giving
umbrage to France; that the king associated himself with the prince's
renunciation, and hoped that all causes of misunderstanding between
the two governments were thereby removed. Gramont sketched out what he
thought the king might say, and actually made over his note to the
Prussian ambassador, by way of _aide-mémoire_; precisely as in 1867
Benedetti had trusted Bismarck with his draft of the secret treaty
proposed for the annexation of Belgium to France, which Bismarck
afterwards published in the _Times_ of July 1870. M. Ollivier, who
agreed with and supported Gramont, now maintains that his arrival
changed the character of the conference, that it ceased to be an
official interview between the Minister of Foreign Affairs and an
ambassador, and thenceforward became merely one of those free
unofficial conversations in which politicians explain their views
without compromising their respective governments. But we are obliged
to remark that in our judgment this plea is inadmissible, for M. de
Gramont has explicitly stated that the interview, so far as he was
concerned, was official,[47] and Werther could not have been expected
to appreciate this subtle yet important distinction--of which nothing
seems to have been said to him--while M. Ollivier should have foreseen
that Bismarck would certainly ignore it. The result was that Werther
did transmit to his king the suggestion of the two French ministers;
that the king was deeply offended at having been required to send what
he called, not unreasonably, a letter of excuses; that Bismarck used
Werther's despatch to kindle national indignation throughout Germany;
and that Werther himself was reprimanded and recalled.

The scene now shifts to St. Cloud, where the poor emperor, who had
supposed that Prince Antoine's telegram signified peace with honour,
found a military party eager for war, and hotly asserting that the
empire would be totally discredited unless satisfaction were demanded
from Prussia for conniving at the Hohenzollern candidature. The
interpellation of Duvernois in the Chamber was cited as a forcible
expression of public opinion. M. Gramont now arrived at the palace
with his report of the interview with Werther, in which the latter had
persistently declared that the king had nothing whatever to do with
Leopold's withdrawal. The emperor's unstable mind began to waver; he
forgot or put aside his arrangement with M. Ollivier--that the
ministers should meet him next morning for consultation over this new
aspect of the affair--and he proceeded then and there to hold a
Cabinet Council.

What passed at this Council has never been exactly known. The reproach
of a ruinous blunder lies heavy on those who took part in it. Gramont
says no more than that the deliberations were conscientious, and that
every one, including the emperor, earnestly desired peace.[48] M.
Ollivier tells us, in the volume now before us, that of all the
Cabinet ministers the Duc de Gramont alone was summoned; whether he
learnt subsequently who were also present, and what share they took in
promoting the decision, he leaves his readers to guess. It is clear
that the proceeding was irregular and totally unconstitutional, and
other French writers hint that Gramont's silence is intended to shield
_une personne auguste_ from responsibility for a decision that was
fatally wrong. When the Council broke up at 7 P. M. (July 12) Gramont
immediately despatched from the Foreign Office his famous telegram to
Benedetti at Ems, instructing him to require from the Prussian king a
positive assurance that he would not authorise the renewal of
Leopold's candidature--a demand, in short, for guarantees. At his
office he met Lord Lyons, to whom he expounded his reasons for
treating the single renunciation as inadequate, to the great surprise
of our ambassador, who objected so strenuously to Gramont's views and
intentions that the minister, somewhat shaken, merely said that the
formal decision would be made public next morning. While the emperor
and two councillors were then taking irrevocable steps toward a
collision, and were unconsciously playing into the hands of their
arch-enemy, the leaders of the warlike faction in the Chamber and the
Parisian press were clamouring with fury and vitriolic sarcasm against
a faint-hearted and contemptible ministry that shrank from seizing the
opportunity of humbling Prussia.

Again the scene changes, this time to the Foreign Office, where M.
Ollivier, in total ignorance of that evening's Council at St. Cloud,
sought and found the Duc de Gramont about midnight. He had come to
ask whether any fresh news had been received from Benedetti at Ems;
and Gramont answered by showing him the telegram just despatched by
the Council's order to Benedetti, with a letter to himself from the
emperor desiring that its language should be stiffened. Naturally M.
Ollivier could hardly control his resentment at discovering that an
extremely grave resolution had been adopted and acted upon without
consulting or even warning him beforehand; that the emperor, in spite
of his promises to govern constitutionally, had reverted to such an
extreme use of autocratic power; and that Gramont had made no attempt
to check it, had even abetted the irregularity. However, the telegram
had gone to Ems--it was too late to remedy that mischief--but the
Cabinet would have to answer before the Chamber for its despatch. He
said to Gramont:

     'On va vous accuser d'avoir prémédité la guerre et de n'avoir vu
     dans l'incident Hohenzollern qu'un prétexte de la provocation.
     N'accentuez pas votre première dépêche comme vous le prescrit
     l'Empereur, atténuez la. Benedetti aura déjà accompli sa mission
     lorsque cette atténuation lui parviendra, mais devant la Chambre
     vous y trouverez un argument pour établir vos intentions

And he at once drafted a telegram instructing Benedetti to require
from the king no more than that he should agree not to permit Leopold
to retract the particular renunciation which his father had obtained
from him; instead of requiring a general assurance against _any
future_ retractation. Gramont telegraphed accordingly, but in
continuation, not in correction, of his earlier message, so that the
latter part of the instructions to Benedetti was inconsistent with the
former part. But this second telegram reached Ems, as M. Ollivier had
foreseen, too late, for Benedetti had already seen the king, and had
been urging him persistently to satisfy the French Government by
conceding the general assurance.

M. Ollivier's description of the distress and perplexity that kept him
without sleep during the rest of that eventful night will be read with
a feeling of sincere commiseration. This, then, he reflected, was the
first fruit of imperial liberalism, that the chief minister was
slighted by his sovereign, ill-served and even betrayed by his
colleagues, and committed, behind his back, to a most hazardous
policy. He had been too soft-hearted to insist on making a clean sweep
of the old official class in forming his Cabinet; he had thought to
replace the decrepit absolutism by a young and liberal empire; and
here was the personal power reappearing at the first crisis. The idea
of having given the signal for war was abhorrent to him; he felt
violently tempted to resign and retire. Yet, on reflection, to tender
his resignation at such a moment would be, he felt, an act of culpable
egoism, it would inevitably bring on the war; for the government would
pass into the hands of a rash and impetuous war-party, manifestly bent
on marching against Prussia if the king persisted in refusing, as on
hearing of Ollivier's resignation he would assuredly refuse, the
guarantees that had been demanded by the Council held at St. Cloud. On
the other hand, by remaining in the ministry he might still command a
majority in the Cabinet; nor did he despair of a majority in the
Chamber to support him in cancelling, at some future stage of the
negotiations, this demand for guarantees if he could recover the
emperor's confidence. He might fail, but then he would fall
honourably, having subordinated personal susceptibilities to
considerations of his country's interest; so he finally determined not
to resign office.

Our sympathies are unquestionably due to a minister who, finding
himself placed, by no act of his own, in a situation of the utmost
perplexity, resolves to take no account of his political reputation
and personal interests, and to choose the course that he believes to
be necessary, in arduous circumstances, for the honour and safety of
his country. To a British prime minister his duty would have been
clear, he would have tendered his resignation immediately; but under
the Liberal Empire the ultimate decision upon questions before the
Cabinet still lay with the sovereign, and thus the responsibilities of
his principal minister remained ambiguous and indefinite.
Nevertheless, though it is easy to be wise after the event, our
opinion must be that M. Ollivier would have done his country better
service by resigning office; for though it is very probable that war
could not have been thereby averted, yet unqualified disapproval of
the demand for guarantees might have rallied to his side all those
who, in the Cabinet, the Chamber, and the country, were undoubtedly
opposed to incurring terrible risks in order to obtain pledges against
future contingencies. Among the late Lord Acton's _Historical Essays_
there is a remarkable paper on 'The Causes of the Franco-Prussian
War,' in which the considerations that may justify Gramont's demand
for guarantees are fairly stated. It is there argued that the Prussian
king, who had first 'sanctioned' Prince Leopold's candidature, and
afterwards its withdrawal, had left the initiative in both cases to
Prince Leopold. He had thus kept himself quite free to sanction a
second acceptance as he had done the first--'he held in his hands a
convenient _casus belli_, to be used or dropped at pleasure';
remembering that the Hohenzollern candidature had been 'a meditated
offence, long and carefully prepared, insolently denied, which
demanded reparation.'[50] But one might reply that the best way of
foiling these deep and deliberate designs, manifestly contrived to
provoke war, was to give the adversary no such plausible pretext for
driving France into hostilities as was furnished to Bismarck by
Gramont's demand. It is evident, however, that in July 1870 all Paris
was in a state of irrepressible agitation, that the Imperialists in
the Chamber were determined to push the Government into a defiant and
warlike policy, and that they were acting in the foolhardy conviction
that the French army could beat the Prussians, and that a victorious
campaign would consolidate the Napoleonic dynasty.

The next day, July 13, is an evil date in the history of France, when
she was hurried into war by a swift succession and very unlucky
conjunction of incidents. The Council met early, and decided by a
majority not to call out the army reserves, although Marshal Le
Boeuf energetically declared that if there were any prospect of war,
not an hour should be lost in preparation. M. de la Gorce relates that
four of the councillors passed grave censure on the irregular
proceedings of the previous evening, and condemned Gramont's telegram.
M. Ollivier says that it was resolved not to insist further if the
guarantees were refused by the king, and for the moment to keep the
demand for them secret, merely informing the Chamber that negotiations
with Prussia were in progress. Ollivier took his _déjeuner_ at the
palace, where the household staff greeted him very coldly, and the
empress, by whom he sat, turned her back on him. In the Chamber
Duvernois asked in a surly tone when the debate on his interpellation
would come on, and July 15 was fixed for it. Everything now depended
on the issue of Benedetti's interview with the king at Ems, which took
place early on the morning of the 13th, when they met as the king was
returning by the public promenade from taking the waters. What
followed is well known. The king was surprised and disappointed at
learning from the ambassador that Prince Leopold's resignation had not
settled everything; Benedetti pressed on him Gramont's new demand for
ulterior guarantees; the king positively refused to give them, and
parted from him coldly though courteously, promising, however, to see
him again after receiving the letter expected from Prince Antoine. But
in the course of that day came Werther's report of his conversation
with the two French ministers, which the king's private secretary
opened and carried, in some trepidation, to his majesty. The king was
grievously offended; he wrote to Queen Augusta that to require him to
stand before the world as a repentant sinner was nothing less than
impertinence, and he sent his aide-de-camp, Prince Radziwill (one of
the highest Prussian nobles), to inform Benedetti that Leopold's
letter of resignation had arrived, and that, as the affair was thus
completely ended, no further audience was necessary. The ambassador
replied that he was particularly instructed to obtain the king's
specific approbation of Leopold's action, and was therefore obliged to
solicit another interview. The king replied by his aide-de-camp that
so far as he had approved Leopold's acceptance of the crown he
approved the retractation; but the request for another interview,
though it was twice repeated during the day, was civilly and firmly

M. Ollivier argues that Werther's report in no way affected the king's
behaviour to Benedetti; he affirms that it made no difference at all,
and that the king's determination to hold no further intercourse with
him was entirely due to Benedetti's indiscreet importunity at the
morning's meeting, which was witnessed, it may be noted, by a crowd
of observant bystanders. We may assume that the king had at no time
the slightest intention of acceding to the demand for guarantees; but
it seems to us impossible to maintain that Werther's report, which was
put into his majesty's hand at such a critical moment, and which
undeniably gave serious offence, did not exacerbate relations which
had already been strained, or induce the king to break off abruptly
the personal negotiations with the French minister. And we may add
that if Benedetti had been cognisant of this report, he might have
understood the king's sudden change of temper, and might have spared
himself some rebuffs. When the matter came afterwards to his
knowledge, he declared that the effect on the king of Werther's report
had been deplorable.

Bismarck had been telegraphing from Berlin to Ems that if the king
accorded to Benedetti any more interviews he must resign office; and
the news of Prince Leopold's renunciation seemed to cut away the
ground upon which he had been manoeuvring for a quarrel with France.
But his spirits revived on receiving by telegraph from the king a
brief summary of the Ems incidents, stating that Benedetti's
importunate requisition for guarantees had been rejected by his
majesty, who had subsequently resolved

     'de ne plus recevoir le comte Benedetti à cause de sa prétention,
     et de lui faire dire simplement par un aide de camp ... que sa
     Majesté avait reçu du prince Léopold confirmation de la nouvelle
     mandée de Paris, et qu'elle n'avait plus rien à dire à

The telegram also authorised Bismarck to communicate this statement to
the foreign courts and to the press, whereupon Bismarck gave it
immediate publication, having made (to use his own phrase) 'some
suppressions'; having, in fact, maliciously tampered with the text and
falsified the tone, according to M. Ollivier and other French writers.
His official organ, the _North German Gazette_, was directed to print
off a supplement and to paste it up all over Berlin, and copies of
this supplement were distributed gratis in the streets. A thrill of
patriotic enthusiasm electrified the nation, who were unanimous in
applauding the king in defying the French, and mocking at their
ambassador's humiliation.

     'Dans toutes les langues, dans tous les pays, courait la
     falsification offensée lancée par Bismarck. L'effet de cette
     publicité effroyable se produisit d'abord en Allemagne avec autant
     d'intensité qu'à Berlin. Les journaux faisaient rage.'

This is what M. Ollivier has called 'Le soufflet de Bismarck'; and
never was the art of changing the tone and import of words without
altering their substance more effectively employed; for it must be
acknowledged that the communication to the press was an accurate
rendering of the facts contained in the king's telegram, which was
stiff but not actually discourteous; whereas Bismarck put the sting
into it by little more than adroit condensation. We are told that when
the king received this revised edition of his message he read it
twice, was much moved, and said, 'This means war'; and that it rang
throughout Europe like an alarm-bell. At the same time, and before
Bismarck's action had been known in Paris, M. Ollivier, as he tells
us, was struggling vigorously against the torrent of reproaches and
imputations of cowardice which threatened to overthrow his Cabinet if
they flinched from the demand for guarantees.

Late on July 13 came a telegram from Benedetti that the king had
consented to approve unreservedly Prince Leopold's renunciation, but
distinctly refused any further concession. This, cried the war-party
at St. Cloud, is totally insufficient; the emperor was irresolute, and
merely summoned his Council for next day. Ollivier was determined, for
his part, to accept the king's assurance as conclusively satisfactory;
and he relates how, on the morning of the 14th, he was engaged in
drafting, for approval by the Council, a ministerial declaration to
that effect, when the Duc de Gramont entered his room with a copy of
Bismarck's circular telegram, and said:

     '"Mon cher, vous voyez un homme qui vient de recevoir une gifle."
     Il me tend alors une petite feuille de papier jaune que je verrai
     éternellement devant mes yeux.... On n'échoua jamais plus près du
     port. Je restai quelques instants silencieux et atterré.'

At the Council, which was immediately summoned, Gramont threw his
portfolio on the table, saying that after what had happened a Foreign
Minister who should not vote for war would be unworthy to hold office;
and Marshal Le Boeuf informed his colleagues that they had not a
moment to lose, for Prussia was already arming. Nevertheless the
Council set themselves to a deliberate investigation of the actual
facts. Their conclusion, after six hours of discussion, was that,
according to diplomatic rule and international custom, no exception
could have been taken to the king's refusal, courteously worded, of
the interview which Benedetti had, it seemed to them, rather
pertinaciously desired; but that a reasonable refusal had been
converted into one that was offensive by its publication in terms that
were intentionally curt and stinging. Nevertheless Ollivier, clinging
to any slight chance of avoiding war, persuaded the emperor and the
Council to agree that Leopold's resignation, as approved by the
Prussian king, should be accepted by France, and that, on the further
question, whether members of a reigning family in one country could be
permitted to become kings in another, an appeal for some authoritative
ruling should be made to a general congress. But in the course of that
day the ministers received from various quarters more evidence that
Bismarck's inflammatory telegram had been sent officially to the
Prussian diplomatists at all the foreign courts; and they heard that
Paris was literally foaming with exasperation at their dilatory
indecision, while the temper of the Chamber convinced them that the
proposal for a congress would be rejected with fiery scorn. Berlin and
Paris vied with each other in turbulent patriotism and warlike fury,
and Marshal Le Boeuf, being again and for the last time questioned
by the Council, replied positively that the French army was quite
ready, and that no better opportunity of settling accounts with
Prussia could be expected. The Council rescinded its former decision,
and voted unanimously for war. The empress alone (Ollivier notes
particularly) expressed no opinion and gave no vote.

On July 15 Ollivier pronounced in the Chamber the declaration that had
been drawn up by himself and the Duc de Gramont. It was to the effect
that the Cabinet had throughout made every possible exertion to
preserve peace, but that their patience was exhausted when they found
that the King of Prussia had sent an aide-de-camp to the French
ambassador informing him that no more interviews could be granted, and
that the Prussian Government, by way of giving point and unequivocal
significance to this message, had circulated it to all other foreign
governments in Europe. Having spared no pains to avoid war, the
ministers would now accept the challenge, and prepare for the

M. Ollivier has given a vivid description of the scene that ensued.
His final words were barely audible in the storm of applause that
swept through the assembly, and the vote of urgency for the motion to
provide the necessary war-funds was demanded with enthusiastic
outcries, varied by angry vituperation of the few deputies who stood
up to oppose it. But Thiers immediately arose and, in spite of many
disorderly interruptions, made a passionate appeal to the assembly to
reflect before precipitating the country into war. His speech, with
the violent cries of dissent interjected by the war-party, is
reproduced by M. Ollivier in order, as he says, that his readers may
judge for themselves how far it merited the unstinted eulogy that has
since been bestowed upon it; for M. Ollivier evidently considers that
those who have credited Thiers with heroic patriotism in making this
strenuous effort to avert the catastrophe have over-praised him. Yet
with this view we believe that few of those who read the pages in this
volume which contain the speech will agree. They will admire, rather,
the courage and fervid eloquence of a veteran statesman who vainly
strove to persuade a frantic assembly that it was fatally misled, that
it was plunging the nation into war on a mere point of form, grasping
at a shadow after the substantial and reasonable demand for
satisfaction had been obtained by Leopold's renunciation; who reminded
the deputies that the official papers authenticating the supposed
insult had never been laid before them, and implored them not to risk
the issues of a terrible contest upon a doubtful question of national
susceptibility. M. Ollivier goes so far as to affirm that no one could
be more justly accused of having brought on the war of 1870 than
Thiers himself, because it was his vehement condemnation of the policy
which allowed Prussia to beat down Austria in 1866, and to set up a
formidable military power on the frontier of France, that inspired the
whole French people with the suspicion, jealous animosities, and alarm
which rendered a war on the Rhine between the two nations eventually
unavoidable. But Thiers in his speech emphatically repeated his
conviction that sooner or later France must fight Prussia to redress
the balance of military power between the rival countries; and the
whole point of his speech lay in one sentence: 'Je trouve l'occasion
détestablement choisie' ('Your _casus belli_ is ill chosen and utterly
indefensible'). It cannot be denied that in 1870 the public opinion of
Europe was on his side: for England and Austria, whose goodwill toward
France was unquestionable, were foremost in their efforts to deter the
French ministers from war and in deploring their infatuation when it
had been proclaimed. At St. Petersburg the Russian emperor told the
French ambassador plainly that the demand for guarantees was
unreasonable. Nor is it likely that the general judgment of the
time--that Thiers did his best to save the empire from a disastrous
blunder--will have been revoked by posterity, or affected by anything
that has since been pleaded in extenuation.

'If (said Thiers) the Hohenzollern candidature had not been withdrawn,
all France would have rallied to the support of your declaration, and
all Europe would have held you to be in the right; but it _has_ been
withdrawn with the approbation of the Prussian king, and you had
absolutely no pretext for making any further demand. What will Europe
say when you shed torrents of blood on a point of form?' M. Thiers
concluded his speech by urging the ministers to lay before the Chamber
the actual documents which, as they asserted, rendered war inevitable.

M. Ollivier, in his reply, declined to communicate certain documents
which, he said, were confidential and could not be produced without
infringement of diplomatic rules; and he laid stress on the
impossibility of tolerating the affront which had been intentionally
put upon France by Bismarck's circular telegram. And it was at the end
of this speech that he made use of the phrase which has become
historical as the typical expression of the levity and rashness with
which his ministry threw their nation into a tremendous war, insomuch
that it has become one main cause why he is so commonly charged, very
unfairly, with the whole responsibility for the blind haste that led
to the defeat and dismemberment of his country. 'Oui, de ce jour
commence pour les ministres mes collègues et pour moi, une grande
responsabilité. Nous l'acceptons le coeur léger.' The words were at
once taken up sharply and severely; and M. Ollivier went on to explain
that he meant a heart not weighted by remorse, since he and his
colleagues had done everything that was consistent with humanity and
with honour to avert a dire necessity; and since the armies of France
would be upholding a cause that was just. He now comments bitterly on
the malignity which has fastened this stigma on his name, merely
because in the heat and flurry of debate, which left him not a moment
to pick his words or arrange his sentences, he said something that he
is sure no honest man who listened to his explanation could
misconstrue into unfeeling frivolity. And in his criticism of the
speech in which M. Thiers so vehemently condemned the conduct of the
ministers he repeats emphatically that the war was not brought on by
the demand for guarantees, but by Bismarck's false and insulting
publication of the king's refusal to consider that demand. This
affront, he maintains, was insufferable. Yet we learn from his
narrative that before entering the Chamber on this eventful day M.
Ollivier had found at the Foreign Office Benedetti, just arrived from
Ems, who had already seen Bismarck's telegram in a newspaper, and
could have assured the ministers that it was a perfidious
misrepresentation, since the king had not treated him with actual
discourtesy. Nevertheless M. Ollivier quotes and entirely adopts the
'proud and manly' utterances of the Duc de Gramont who stood up and
addressed the assembly towards the close of the debate.

'After what you have just heard,' he said, 'one fact is enough. The
Prussian Government has informed all the Cabinets of Europe of the
refusal to receive our ambassador or to continue the discussion with
him. That is an affront to the emperor and to France, and if (_par
impossible_) a Chamber could be found in my country to bear or suffer
it, I would not remain Minister of Foreign Affairs for five minutes.'

These haughty words (we are told) electrified the Chamber, and a
committee to examine the papers on which the ministers relied to prove
their case was immediately appointed. These were brought by Gramont,
who, however, said that he would not lay before the committee the
precise words of Bismarck's insulting telegram, because his knowledge
of it came only from a very confidential communication made to him by
the French representatives at certain foreign courts who had been
permitted to see the original, so that the authentic text was not in
his possession. This excuse was accepted, somewhat imprudently, by the
committee; and their chairman proceeded to question Gramont closely on
one point--whether, after Leopold's retirement had become known, the
King of Prussia had been required at one and the same time to approve
it formally and to promise that the candidature should never be
revived. During the debate it had been objected by those who opposed
the war-party that after obtaining the king's approval, and not till
then, the Foreign Secretary demanded this promise, and that on this
new demand the king took offence and briefly declined any further
interview with Benedetti. Gramont answered the chairman with a direct
affirmative; he stated that the two concessions had been required
simultaneously, and M. Ollivier undertakes to prove that this
statement was correct. He argues, if we understand him rightly, that
before Leopold had withdrawn his candidature, the king had been
pressed to advise or order him to do so, and that this requisition
included by implication the demand for a guarantee against its
renewal. When Leopold had retired without the king's intervention, the
royal order became unnecessary; but the implied demand still remained
in force, and was merely repeated in subsequent telegrams.[51] On this
we must remark that both Benedetti and the Prussian king entirely
missed the alleged implication; that the question of guarantees was
never raised by the telegrams interchanged between Gramont and
Benedetti before Leopold's retirement had become public, when both the
king and the ambassador treated it as entirely new; and that at any
rate such an important and highly contentious demand should obviously
have been stated with unequivocal distinctness, since any other course
was quite certain to produce misunderstandings and recriminations. And
it is no matter for surprise that various French writers have since
accused the Duc de Gramont of misstating the facts upon which the
committee reported to the Chamber that the papers laid before them
amply sustained the ministerial request for the grant of an urgent
war-subsidy, which was thereupon voted by an immense majority. In the
Senate, where the money was granted with even more promptitude and
with zealous unanimity, the proceedings were expedited by a report
from Marshal Le Boeuf that the enemy had already crossed the French
frontier, and M. Rouher, a thorough Imperialist, headed a deputation
of senators to congratulate the emperor, in the name of the Senate, on
having drawn the sword when the Prussian king rejected the demand for
guarantees. M. Ollivier reasonably complains that this unauthorised
demonstration was awkward and mischievous; for while the Senate was
thus made to attribute the rupture to the king's refusal, the ministry
was declaring war on account of the 'soufflet de Bismarck'--the insult
embodied in the Prussian telegram. Yet M. Ollivier, looking back in
the calm evening of life on these stormy days, might have brought
himself by reflection to admit that between these two pretexts there
was little to choose--that neither of them justified a government in
staking the fortunes of the nation and the empire on the hazard of a
great war. When Rouher had read his address, the sovereigns conversed
with the senators, and it was remarked that while the empress was
lively and confident of success, the emperor spoke sadly of the long
and difficult task, requiring a most violent effort, that lay before

Having brought his narrative up to the moment when the Chamber by
voting the subsidy had practically determined upon war, M. Ollivier
stops to comment upon and explain the strenuous opposition made to the
vote by M. Thiers and by the small section of deputies who represented
the Radical Left. He is convinced that this latter party were mainly
actuated in their ardent protests by a desire to embarrass and, if
possible, to overthrow his Government, of which they had been
consistent adversaries. They had calculated, he explains, on the
probability that the ministry would flinch from the rupture with
Prussia, would adopt some pacific compromise that would be rejected
with indignation by the Chamber, and would be contemptuously expelled
from office. When this calculation had been foiled by the resolutely
courageous attitude of the Cabinet, they foresaw (he believes) that a
triumphant campaign would greatly strengthen the Government and would
utterly discredit the Opposition, so they changed their tactics and
fought against the ministerial proposals with accusations of criminal
recklessness and prophecies of disaster. It is hardly possible, after
so long an interval of time, to form any opinion upon these somewhat
invidious suggestions. The action of those who opposed the war,
whatever may have been their motives, was outwardly consistent enough,
and the construction placed upon it by M. Ollivier may seem rather
subtle and far-fetched. At the present day, however, this question
does not particularly concern any one, though we may agree that at
that moment no one in France contemplated the possibility of defeat in
the field. The French army was assumed by all parties to be
invincible, and the minority in opposition did undoubtedly believe and
fear that the empire would be consolidated by victories. M. Thiers in
his speech only touched generally upon the chances and perils of war,
and even Gambetta voted with the Government upon the conviction that
success was beyond doubt; while not only in Paris, but in all the
great towns, the determination to fight was acclaimed because a
triumphant campaign was supposed to be certain. It was to be
anticipated, indeed, that a brave and high-spirited nation, very
sensitive on the point of honour, and confident in its military
superiority, would respond enthusiastically to the signal of war
against a rival whose ill-will was notorious, who was accused of
plotting the injury of their country and of deliberately insulting
their Government.

A public declaration of hostilities was sent to Berlin, though M.
Ollivier tells us that his ministry regarded it as a superfluous
formality which they would have preferred leaving to Prussia.

     'La déclaration fut libellée d'une manière assez maladroite par les
     commis des Affaires étrangères, et elle ne fut pas même lue au
     Conseil. Elle fut communiquée uniquement par la forme et sans
     discussion aux Assemblées, et envoyée à la Prusse le 19 juillet.'

This perfunctory method of composition is characteristic of the
prevailing official atmosphere.

The document was delivered by the French chargé d'affaires to
Bismarck, and in the dialogue that followed between the two
diplomatists, which M. Ollivier relates in full, we have an excellent
sample of the Prussian Chancellor's sardonic and incisive manner.
Bismarck asserted that if he had been present at the interviews with
Benedetti he might have prevented the war, whereas the king's
conciliatory tone at Ems had misled the French ministers into the
blunder of using threats and making intolerable demands, until at last
they found themselves confronted by a strong Government, backed by the
Prussian nation in the firm resolution to defend itself. In reporting
this conversation to the Foreign Office the chargé d'affaires said
that Bismarck appeared to be sincerely afflicted with regret for the
rupture between the two countries, that he evidently saw, too late,
his error in having secretly encouraged the Hohenzollern candidature,
and that the result of all these unhappy complications had left the
well-meaning chancellor inconsolable. Such a candid confession of
remorse and regret moved the Frenchman's compassion to a degree that
profoundly irritates M. Ollivier:

     'Un tel excès de crédulité finit par exaspérer. Et la plupart des
     diplomates de ce temps-là étaient de cette force. Bien piètre
     serait l'histoire qui se modélerait sur leurs appréciations.'

We may agree that the sympathy of the chargé d'affaires with
Bismarck's ingenuous contrition was ill-bestowed. But the tendency to
fix upon French diplomacy a responsibility for national calamities
that is much more justly chargeable to the account of the Imperial
Government, is somewhat unduly prominent in certain parts of M.
Ollivier's otherwise fair and conscientious narrative of the
transactions that culminated in the war.

When Bismarck announced to the Prussian Reichstag that war had been
declared, he was interrupted by an outburst of long and enthusiastic
cheering. He said, briefly, that he had no papers to lay before them,
because the single official document received from the French
Government was the declaration of war; and the only motive for
hostilities he understood to be his own circular _télégramme de
journal_ addressed to Prussian envoys abroad and to other friendly
Powers for the purpose of explaining what had occurred. This, he
observed, was not at all an official document. He added that a demand
for a letter of excuses had been made through Werther to the king; and
the real origin of the war he alleged to be the hatred and jealousy
with which the independence and prosperity of Germany were regarded in
France. Upon this adroit but incomplete exposition of causes and
circumstances M. Ollivier comments with intelligible severity, laying
stress on the fact that afterwards Bismarck threw off his disguise,
and openly took to himself the credit of having deliberately contrived
to bring on the war at his own time. In fact, the later German
historians have confirmed this statement by their critical examination
of the records and other evidence; though instead of concluding that
his conduct was immoral they unite, according to M. Ollivier, in
applauding his political genius. Almost the whole story of the
connected machinations by which France was led step by step into war
have since been disclosed, and the only part which is still unrevealed
relates to the original devices by which Bismarck and Marshal Prim
concerted the preliminaries to the offer of the Spanish throne to

It is cheerfully admitted by the German historians who are cited in
this volume that the train of incidents which produced so well-timed
an explosion was scientifically laid by the Prussian chancellor. But
they maintain that he was only countermining the underground
combinations of the French, who were known to be organising a triple
alliance with Italy and Austria for a combined assault upon Prussia;
and that the journey of the Austrian Archduke Albert to Paris in
March 1870 convinced Bismarck that he had no time to lose, because war
must be provoked before these alliances were consummated. And they
cite the example of Frederick the Great, who disconcerted the secret
preparations of his enemies by the sudden dash upon Dresden which
opened the Seven Years' War. This defence of his own very skilful and
not less astute manoeuvres was endorsed by Bismarck in a speech
before the Chamber in 1876; nor does it appear to us so untenable as
M. Ollivier holds it to be. He argues that the fear of being attacked
by France, if it had really influenced Bismarck's conduct in 1870,
must have been a wild hallucination, for the chancellor must have been
well aware that the emperor's policy at that time was decidedly
pacific, and that his own (Ollivier's) views were still more so. He
assures us that the project of a triple alliance was intended to be
exclusively defensive, that it never passed beyond the 'academic'
stage, or reached any practical form. The confidential negotiations of
1869 with Austria and Italy had been left, he says, in the stage of
unfinished outline, nor was it even suspected either by the French or
by the Italian ministry that they had been carried further. On the
other hand, it cannot be denied that in 1869 these negotiations had
been carried quite far enough to inspire the Prussian chancellor with
serious disquietude, if, as is very probable, he had good information
of them. We know, from M. Ollivier's very interesting account of what
passed at the first meeting of the Cabinet on July 6, when the
ministers resolved to announce to the Chamber their determination to
resent and resist the Hohenzollern candidature, that the emperor and
M. de Gramont regarded the understanding with Italy and Austria as
being much more than academic. It is there stated that when Ollivier
hesitated to accept Gramont's assurance that the assistance of these
two Powers, in the event of hostilities with Prussia, had been
virtually secured, the Emperor Napoleon took from a drawer in his
bureau certain letters written in 1869 by the Austrian emperor and the
King of Italy, and, after reading them aloud, told the ministers that
these writings undoubtedly amounted to promises of help in the
circumstances that were then actually under discussion. The Cabinet
accepted these proofs that the alliances might be reckoned upon as
substantial, so that it is not unreasonable to suppose that Bismarck
had drawn the same conclusion from the intimations that had reached
him, and had set himself to provoke a war before the secret
combinations against him should be ready for action. It must be borne
in mind that from 1866 he had been deliberately preparing for it,
being convinced, as he said later, that until France had been defeated
in the field, his grand design of founding a German empire, with its
capital at Berlin, could not be realised.

We may therefore be permitted to suggest that the discussion with
which M. Ollivier closes this volume is to some extent superfluous,
for it is incontestable that Bismarck had reasons for desiring the
war, and that France was inveigled into declaring it. In the final
section he returns to the question whether France or Prussia were
responsible for the rupture; and after summing up the evidence he
pronounces judgment against Prussia. It was Prussia that invented the
Hohenzollern candidature, against which France was bound to protest
forcibly; and even if it be admitted, he says, that the French Cabinet
was wrong in taking mortal offence at the insolent official version of
the king's refusal to receive the French ambassador, there can be no
doubt that this public affront infuriated the French nation, and drove
it to the extremity of war. That the explosion was instantaneous he
regards as a proof that it had not been expected nor premeditated by
France. All these things are, indeed, neither denied nor deniable, for
Bismarck's own arrogant revelations leave no doubt that the war had
been desired and premeditated by that astute and far-seeing
politician; and though upon the methods by which the Hohenzollern
candidature was originally started Bismarck is judiciously silent, we
may be morally certain that the instigation came from Berlin. The
maxim _Fecit cui prodest_ affords fair ground for this inference,
particularly when we remember the obvious improbability that the
Spanish ministry would have gratuitously set up a candidature which
must infallibly have brought their country into collision with its
formidable neighbour.

How the French Government fell into a net that had been spread for
them is to most of us sufficiently clear. Whether the emperor and his
ministers ought to have detected and avoided it, is the real question,
and it is practically the only question that concerns M. Ollivier. In
the final pages of his book, which touch in dignified and pathetic
words upon the injustice of the reproaches that have been heaped upon
him and the rancorous calumnies by which he has been pursued, his
readers are told that, having done his best to defend the cause of his
nation, he will terminate his work without taking up his personal
justification, though on one point he desires not to be misunderstood.
It has been pleaded on his behalf, he says, that he was in fact
opposed to the declaration of war, but agreed to it under the violent
pressure of public opinion, or else from reluctance to betray internal
dissensions that would have broken up the ministry, or for other
reasons. M. Ollivier insists, on the contrary, that after Bismarck's
'soufflet' he was convinced that peace could be maintained only at
the price of his country's abject humiliation; and that he chose the
alternative of war as infinitely preferable, without the least regard
to his personal reputation or interests. We may willingly agree that
M. Ollivier acted throughout from motives of high-minded patriotism,
and although we cannot acquit him on the charge of grave imprudence we
may freely admit that he was entangled in a situation of extraordinary
difficulty. To Englishmen, who are familiar with the regular and
recognised working of constitutional government, it will be plain that
he was the victim of a system that had placed him before the public as
the nominal head of a Cabinet that he was supposed to have formed, and
of a party in the Chamber that he was expected to lead. Whereas in
fact he had no proper control over the policy of the Cabinet, and no
solid support in the Chamber. The emperor presided at the meetings of
the Cabinet; and it is clear that the ultimate decision in the
supremely important departments of the army and of foreign affairs was
still reserved to the sovereign, on whom the Foreign Secretary (as we
should call him) could urge his views separately, and from whom he
could take orders independently of the first minister. In this
radically false position M. Ollivier found himself committed to
measures on which he had not been consulted, and hurried into
dangerous courses of action for which he had no recognised official
responsibility, since they were sanctioned by the emperor's
unquestionable authority. We have to remember, also, that in July
1870, liberal institutions had been no more than six months under
trial after eighteen years of autocratic rule, that the advocates of
the old _régime_ were numerous and openly hostile to the reforms, and
that all the ministers of the new _régime_ lacked experience in the
art and practice of constitutional administration. It is among those
conditions and circumstances that we must find some explanation of
their imprudence, and of their inability to make a stand against the
emperor's weakness, the clamour of hot-headed deputies, and the
war-cries of journalists; some excuse, in short, for the heedlessness
with which a well-meaning ministry stepped into the snare that had
been laid for them.

When, in 1871, the ex-emperor was told of M. Ollivier's earnest
protest against the cruel injustice of holding him alone answerable
for the national disasters, Napoleon is reported to have replied that
this responsibility must be shared by the ministry, the Chamber, and

     'Si je n'avais pas voulu la guerre, j'aurais renvoyé mes ministres;
     si l'opposition était venue d'eux, ils auraient donné leur
     démission; enfin, si la Chambre avait été contraire à l'entreprise,
     elle eût voté contre.'[53]

In a broad and general sense this conclusion may be accepted, for all
parties concerned were heavily to blame; and manifestly the disasters
were the outcome of a situation in which weakness and rashness were
matched against unscrupulous statecraft and the deep-laid combinations
of a consummate strategist.


[41] _L'Empire Libéral: Études, Récits, Souvenirs._ Par Émile
Ollivier. Vol. xiv.: La Guerre. 1909.--_Edinburgh Review_, January

[42] 'Animo retto e buono' (_Memorie_, p. 407).

[43] Benedetti, _Ma Mission en Prusse_.

[44] _Papiers Secrets: Les Préfets._

[45] _Reflections and Reminiscences of Prince Bismarck._

[46] _Histoire du Second Empire_, vi. 258.

[47] 'Rien n'était plus officiel que l'entretien qui se poursuivait en
ce moment entre le ministre des affaires étrangères et l'ambassadeur
de Prusse.'--Gramont, _La France et la Prusse_, p. 168.

[48] _La France et la Prusse_ (1872), pp. 131-2.

[49] _L'Empire Libéral_, p. 270.

[50] _Historical Essays_, p. 222.

[51] 'Au début nous avions demandé au Roi de conseiller ou d'ordonner
à son parent de renoncer, ce qui entraînait implicitement une garantie
que la candidature ne se reproduirait plus. Le Roi ayant refusé
d'intervenir, et la candidature ayant disparu à son insu, nous avions
réclamé sous une forme explicite, notre première demande.'--_L'Empire
Libéral_, p. 453.

[52] Some light is thrown on these obscure intrigues by Lord Acton in
the essay already cited. He writes that in 1869 Bismarck learned from
Florence that Napoleon was preparing a triple alliance against him,
and sent a Prussian officer, Bernhardi, to Madrid. 'What he did in
Spain has been committed to oblivion. Seven volumes of his diary have
been published; the family assures me (Acton) that the Spanish portion
will never appear.... The Austrian First Secretary said that he
betrayed his secret one day at dinner. Somebody spoke indiscreetly on
the subject, and Bernhardi aimed a kick at him under the table, which
caught the shin of the Austrian instead. He was considered to have
mismanaged the thing, and it was whispered that he had gone too far--I
infer that he offered a heavy bribe to secure a majority in the
Cortes. Fifty thousand pounds of Prussian bonds were sent to Spain at
midsummer 1870.... I know the bankers through whose hands they
passed.'--_Historical Essays_, p. 214.

[53] _L'Empire Libéral_, p. 475, footnote. Prince Napoleon told M.
Ollivier that the emperor repeated this to him several times.



Sir Spencer Walpole's death in 1907 left a gap in the front rank of
contemporary English Historians. To a volume of his collected essays,
published in the following year, his daughter, Mrs. F. Holland,
prefixed an admirable memoir of his private life and character, with
affectionate reminiscences of her father's 'strenuous work, his
universal kindliness, and his simplicity of soul.' On this personal
subject, therefore, little or nothing remains to be said. I will only
add that during several years of intimacy with him I had every reason
to feel honoured by his friendship, to set high value on his literary
judgments, and to appreciate his scrupulous intellectual integrity.

From that memoir I take the main incidents that belong to Sir Spencer
Walpole's personal biography. After leaving Eton he entered the Civil
Service at an early age, and worked for some time in the War Office,
until he was transferred to a position of larger independence. He was
subsequently appointed to the Governorship of the Isle of Man, where
he remained for about twelve years; and afterwards he became Secretary
to the Post Office until his retirement in 1899. In the discharge of
the duties of these offices he was indefatigable; his services were
fully approved by all with whom he came into public relations; yet
throughout these years he found time for hard and unceasing literary
work. In his earlier days he was a regular contributor to the
periodical press, mainly on questions of finance; he wrote the lives
of two Prime Ministers--his grandfather Spencer Perceval and Lord John
Russell--while from 1876 up to the year of his death he was engaged
upon his _History of England_. Five volumes were published, at
intervals, on the period between 1815 and 1857; and four subsequent
volumes, under the title of the _History of Twenty-five Years_,
brought the whole narrative up to 1880. But the proofs of the two
final volumes had not been revised by his hand, when he was struck
down by a sudden and fatal malady of the brain. Other recent
publications were a small book on the Isle of Man, entitled the _Land
of Home Rule; Studies in Biography_; and the collection of essays to
which I have already referred.

It is upon this History of England from 1815 to 1880 that Sir Spencer
Walpole's lasting reputation, as a man of letters, will rest. To have
combined the writing of such a book with the duties of a very diligent
official is no slight achievement; though one may observe that direct
contact with administration, with political affairs, and with
parliamentary leaders, is for the historian a distinct advantage. It
is worth remarking that his family connections, which brought Walpole
into the Civil Service, in no way biased his judgment on public
questions. The grandson of a high Tory Prime Minister, the son of a
Conservative Secretary of State, he was throughout his life an
advanced Liberal, with an unswerving trust in popular government as
essential to the welfare of his country and to the just and proper
management of its affairs at home and abroad. His literary bent was
evidently taken from hereditary association with politics, and from
his own official training. As an historian he enters with intense
interest into the strife of parties, the parliamentary vicissitudes,
into the swing backward and forward of reform and reaction, into the
exact causes and incidents that affected the rise and the fall of
ministries. In describing the state of manners at certain periods, and
the changes wrought in the national life by the efforts of philosophic
writers and philanthropists, his facts and figures are always ample
and accurate; he pays close attention to financial and economical
movements. As a politician he distrusted the spirited policy that
involved England in the warlike adventures and hazards of an eventful
and stirring time. The Afghan war of 1838-43 was, he said, the most
ruinous and unnecessary war which the English had ever waged. The
Crimean war he evidently regarded as a useless expenditure of blood
and money, which might well have been avoided. On Lord Beaconsfield's
Imperialism he passes severe censure: and the interference of that
statesman in 1877 to protect the Turkish Sultan against Russia is very
sharply condemned. He has even some doubt whether the purchase of the
Suez Canal Shares was a wise stroke of policy. This book, in short, is
a corroboration of the well-known remark that the history of our
country has been mainly written by Whigs and Liberals, with the
exception of a few authors who, like Hume and Alison, have hardly
preserved an historic reputation. Nevertheless, whether we agree or
not with the prudent and pacific views towards which Walpole
manifestly leaned, his narrative, his statements of disputable cases,
his distribution of the arguments for and against his conclusions, are
invariably accurate, fair, and dispassionate. His anxiety to give full
authority for facts and opinions is shown in an almost too copious
supply of foot-notes. Lord Acton, who found the late Bishop Creighton
too economical of these citations, compares his practice to Mr.
Walpole's if several hundred references to Hansard and the Annual
Register had been struck out from the History of England.

In his preface to the first volume the author explains briefly the
method that he has adopted. History, he says, may be written in two
ways--you may relate each event in chronological order, or you may
deal with each subject in a separate episode--and he tells us that he
has chosen the latter way. This method enabled him to introduce
sketches of the state of English society at different periods, by way
of illustrating his narrative, which are certainly attractive and
impressive. They are composed to a large degree upon the model set by
Macaulay, by grouping together a number of characteristic particulars
to bring out into strong relief the morals and manners of the time.
Walpole's picture of the Eton boy in the early nineteenth century, who
could write admirable Greek and Latin verse but knew not a word of any
modern language--'who regarded the Gracchi as patriots but had only an
obscure notion that Adam Smith was a dangerous character'--is almost a
parody of Macaulay's style. Nevertheless these sketches are on the
whole truthful and instructive, if we allow for some exuberance of
colouring that may have been thought necessary for artistic effect.

But Walpole studied literature, as the measure of intellectual
evolution, with the same interest that he devoted to economical and
administrative developments. His aim was to show how all kinds of
mental and material activity acted and reacted upon each other, how
the feelings and aspirations of the nation were reflected in
philosophy and in poetry, and how literary genius could stir the
imagination of the people. He observes that while English literature
had declined towards the close of the eighteenth century, it rose
again rapidly with the opening of the nineteenth century. For a short
time, indeed, the furious outbreak of the French Revolution had scared
men of letters into recoil from the optimistic speculations of the
preceding age--they abandoned the worship of Liberty. But the storm
blew over; and a general revival of literary animation signalised the
end of the long war-time, with a magnificent efflorescence of poetry.
Walpole records, as notable signs of this intellectual expansion, the
appearance of women in the field of literature, the immediate success
of the two famous reviews, the _Edinburgh_ and the _Quarterly_, and
the rapid growth of journalism. The whole subject of mental progress
has, indeed, a peculiar charm for him. He insists that 'the history of
human thought is the most comprehensive and the most difficult subject
which can occupy the student's attention, far more interesting and
important than the progress of society.' He would probably have agreed
with Coleridge that knowledge of current speculative opinions is the
surest ground for political prophecy; and he delights in tracing back
to distant sources the religious movements of the nineteenth century.
He declares that the heroic measures introduced by legislation within
our own recollections are the links of a continuous chain extending
from a prehistoric past to an invisible future. We have here a writer
who in one chapter handles complicated statistics and economical
calculations with obvious relish, and turns from them with equal
pleasure to abstruse disquisitions on the filiation of ideas and the
march of mind.

There are at least two chapters in the History that exemplify the
attention given by Walpole to ecclesiastical controversies, and to the
significance of the antagonism between the New Learning and dogmatic
orthodoxy. In his fourth volume the story of the Oxford Tractarians is
related at some length, and he remarks on the singular coincidence,
that almost simultaneously with the secession of the English High
Churchmen the Free Church was established by disrupture from the
Established Church in Scotland. He affirms that both these schisms, so
different in motive and direction, had their origin in events dating
from the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. The disintegrating
forces of geology, astronomy, and scientific research generally upon
the received tradition are examined; the beginning of modern Church
reform is noted; and in a chapter of the final volume of the _History
of Twenty-five Years_ it is maintained that the great question before
the religious world in the middle of the nineteenth century was the
possibility of resisting the inroads of science. He describes the
vigour with which the polemical campaign was conducted on both sides;
how the orthodox position was assailed by writers of the _Essays and
Reviews_, by the criticism of Bishop Colenso, by Broad Churchmen and
the champions of free thought; how it was defended by prosecutions in
the ecclesiastical courts and in appeals to the Privy Council from
both parties. It was certainly a remarkable epoch in the history of
opinions, when the country was agitated by the ardent zeal of
disputants over questions of ritual and dogma that now seem to have
fallen into cool neglect; and Walpole gives, as usual, a careful array
of the particular cases, with the points in debate, and the
characteristics of the prominent leaders in each party. To estimate
the position of the clergy as a body, and to show, as Walpole
undertakes to do, that in the middle of the nineteenth century they
were losing caste as a class, and that between the middle and end of
that century they had fallen in social status, was a much more
difficult and delicate problem. All generalisations upon the condition
of society in times that have passed away, however recently, are of
doubtful value, because the evidence of documents must always be
incomplete, and even personal recollections are partial and become
indistinct; they are all seen in a fading and uncertain light.
Moreover the chronicler of disputations over ritual and articles, and
of matters concerning churches and the clergy, may be said to move
over the surface of the spiritual waters; and Walpole draws nearer to
the deeper undercurrents when he appeals to the higher literature for
signs of alternating tendencies of religious thought in that
generation; though the famous stanzas from Tennyson's 'In Memoriam,'
which he quotes at the end of his chapter, represent rather the poetic
than the philosophic conclusions of thinkers in the nineteenth

But Walpole was quite aware of the difficulties that beset any writer
who endeavours to relate the history of a very recent period,
especially of that part to which his own lifetime belongs, and to pass
judgments on the conduct or opinions of statesmen and writers who may
be still living, or have only lately departed. Yet, as Lord Acton has
said, the secrets of our own time cannot be learnt from books, but
from men; and Walpole's social relations, his personal popularity, his
familiarity with official business, and his literary culture, provided
him with valuable opportunities for composing his last four volumes
from direct impressions of his subject, for preserving the right
atmosphere. His studies in biography show an aptitude for personal
delineation; and in one of his earlier volumes there is a full-length
portrait of Sir Robert Peel, executed with much skill and
comprehension. Therein lay the artistic quality of his work; he aimed
at the presentation of individual character and action; he laid stress
on the influence of remarkable men on their country's fortunes; for
true historical art is concerned with bringing prominent figures into
formal relief, and with arranging a mass of disorderly facts under
some scheme that produces a definite impression. Otherwise Walpole's
style was clear, level, and straightforward; with no pretence to be
ornamental. Perhaps the best example of his talent for well-ordered
and compact narrative is found in two chapters of the fifth volume of
the History, which contain an excellent summary of the rise and
expansion of British dominion in India during the eighteenth and
nineteenth centuries, with a very correct appreciation of the causes
and circumstances to which that memorable episode in the annals of the
British Empire is due.

Walpole lived just long enough to bring his historical work, which
occupied him for about thirty years, to the end which he had assigned
to it. In traversing such an extensive and varied field of arduous
labour some errors and shortcomings were inevitable, for the history
of England in the nineteenth century is the history of the British
Empire at its climacteric, of moral and material changes and
developments more numerous and perhaps more important than in any
former century. Nor did he limit his survey to the particular period
that he had chosen; for his theory, as he has stated it, of the
function of history, was that it shall not merely catalogue events but
shall go back to an analysis of their causes, and of the general
progress of the human family. He believed, with Lord Acton, that the
recent past contained the key to the present time. It has been said
that Walpole undertook to do for the nineteenth century what Lecky did
for the eighteenth century: and we may agree that both historians have
filled up, with distinguished merit and ability, large vacant spaces
in the history of our country. Perhaps Lecky had more of the
philosophic mind, while the distance of time that lay between that
writer and his period enabled him to see men and things in their true
proportion, and to judge of events by their outcome. Walpole, on the
other hand, wrote under the disadvantages as well as the advantages of
close proximity to the scenes which he described; and the conclusion
of his history marks the fall of the curtain on a drama of which the
final acts are still to be played out.


[54] _Proceedings of the British Academy_, vol. iii.


Since I have accepted, at the request of your Warden, the honour of
delivering an inaugural address on this occasion, it has appeared to
me appropriate to choose, for such an audience, some literary subject.
And I propose, with some diffidence, to offer a few observations on
the reading of history, because in these latter days, when education
has come in upon us like a flood, rising higher and spreading wider
every year among our people, no part of literature is more sedulously
studied than the field of history. On the other hand, this field is
being very rapidly enlarged. It has been said that the output of
histories during the nineteenth century has exceeded in bulk and
volume the production of all previous centuries. And in all the
countries now standing in the forefront of civilisation, the chief
product of their serious literature is at this time historical and
biographical--for I take authentic biography to be a kind of handmaid
of history. It has been reported that during the ten years ending 1907
there were published in England 5498 books under the head of history,
and 1059 biographies. Moreover, of those who are not actually writing
history, an important number are occupied in criticising the

Now the first observation that I submit to you is that the production
of all history has been almost entirely the work of Europeans, among
whom I reckon the American writers, as belonging by language and
culture to Europe. So far as the African continent has any trustworthy
history, it is in some European language. In Asia there have been
annalists, chroniclers, and genealogists, mostly Mohammedan, who
narrate the wars and exploits of great conquerors, the succession of
kings, and the rise and fall of dynasties. And I believe that in China
official record of public events and transactions has been kept up
from very early ages. But if we measure these Asiatic narratives by
the standard of literary merit and the demand for authentication of
facts, I fear that they will be found wanting; though they may be
relied upon to give the general course of important events, and an
outline of the result of battles and the upsetting of thrones.

When these Asiatic chroniclers wrote of the times in and near which
they were living, they were fairly trustworthy. But whenever they
attempted to write of times long past and of countries unknown to them
personally, their narratives became for the most part fabulous and
romantic, confused and improbable, with some grains of truth here and
there. Our best information regarding the earlier ages of Asia is
derived, I think, from Greek and Latin literature, and latterly from
the researches of quite modern scholars and archæologists. So that it
may be affirmed that authentic history began in Europe, and that to
Europe it has ever since been practically confined. At this day the
history of all parts of the world is being written by Europeans. The
result has been that for the last 2500 years historical material,
collected from and relating to all parts of the world, has been
accumulating in Europe.

Such masses of records and monuments necessarily require methodical
treatment by men of trained intelligence and of untiring industry,
learned, and accurate. Their systematic labours, their acute and
intelligent criticism, have created what is now usually termed the
Science of History, which abstracts general conclusions from the mass
of particulars. And so, I think, we may agree with Renan, who has
declared that to the nineteenth century may be accorded the title of
the Age of Historians, and that this has been the special distinction
of that century's literature.

Now I believe that the question, whether history is an art or a
science, is not yet universally settled. But whatever may be the case
in these modern days, I submit that in earlier times, and certainly
when history began to be written, it was mainly an art. Indeed, it
could hardly have been otherwise. In all ages and countries, from the
time when men first attained to some stage of elementary culture, they
have been curious about the past, they have enjoyed hearing of the
deeds and fame of their ancestors, of far-off things and battles long
ago. But the primitive chronicler had very slight material for his
stories of bygone times--he had few, if any, documents--he was himself
creating the documentary evidence for those who came after him; he
could only compile his narratives from tradition, legends, anecdotes
of heroic ancestors, from information picked up by travel to famous
places, and so on. Yet from sources of this kind he composed tales of
inestimable value as representing the ideas, habits, and social
condition of preceding generations that were very like his own.
Herodotus, who is our best example of the class, reconstructs,
revives, and relates conversations that neither he nor his informants
could have actually heard; but he does this in order to give a
dramatic version of great events. In the opening sentence of his first
book he says that he has written in order that the actions of men may
not be effaced by time, nor great and wondrous deeds be deprived of
renown. And one may notice the same style and method in the
historical books of the Old Testament. In both these ancient histories
the narratives represent life, action, speech, situations.

It is futile, I may suggest, to subject work of this sort to critical
analysis by attempting to sift out what is probably true from what is
certainly false. You only break up the picture, you destroy the
artistic effect, which is at least a true reflection of real life.
Moreover, it is dangerous for learned men sitting in libraries to
regard as incredible facts stated by these old writers. The legend of
Romulus and Remus having been suckled by a wolf has been dismissed as
a childish fable. Yet it is certain that this very thing has happened
more than once in the forests of India within the memory of living
men. You cannot be particular about details, you must take the story
as a whole.

From this standpoint we may agree, I think, that in illiterate times,
and, indeed, throughout the middle ages of Europe, history-writing was
practised as an art. The unlearned chronicler wrote in no fear of
critics or sceptics; he drew striking scenes and portraits; he
described warlike exploits; he related characteristic sayings and
dialogues which completely satisfied his audience or his readers. The
society in which he lived was not far different, in morals and
manners, from that which he portrayed, so that he can have committed
very few anachronisms or incongruities; and in sentiments and
character-drawing he could not go far astray. He produced, at any
rate, vivid impressions of reality, just as Shakespeare's historical
plays have stamped upon the English mind the figures of Hotspur or
Richard III., which have been thus set up in permanent type for all
subsequent ages. At any rate portraits of this kind have not been
modernised to suit the taste of a later age, as has been done with
King Arthur in Tennyson's 'Idylls of the King.' And when work of this
sort has been finely executed, the question whether the details are
untrustworthy or even fictitious is immaterial, particularly in cases
where the precise facts can never be recovered. We do not know exactly
how the battle of Marathon, or, indeed, the battle of Hastings, was
fought, but we have in the chronicles something of great value--a true
outline of the general situation, and some stirring narratives of the
clash and wrestling of armed men, compiled either at first hand from
the recollections of those who were actually on the field, or else
taken at second hand from others who made notes of what had been told
them by those present at the battles. This, then, is what I meant when
I said that in early times history was an art. Its method was

Now my next observation is that, although the science of history has
since been invented, we have, among quite modern English writers, men
of singular genius, who have to some extent followed the example,
adopted the manner, of the ancient annalist. Like him, they are
artists, their aim has been to depict famous men, to reproduce
striking incidents and scenes dramatically. Their technical methods,
so to speak, are entirely different from those of the old chronicler,
who sketched with a free hand, and trusted largely to his
inspirations, to his own experience of what was likely to have been
said or done, or to popular tradition, which is always animated and
distinct. The modern historian, of what I may call the school of
impressionists, has no such experience, he knows nothing personally of
violent scenes or fierce deeds; he composes his picture of things that
happened long ago from a mass of papers, books, memoirs, that have
come down to us. Yet although style and substance are quite different,
the chief aim, the design, of the ancient and modern artist in
history is the same. They both strive to set before their reader a
vision of certain scenes and figures at moments of energetic
action--not only to tell him a story, but to make him see it. Let me
give an example. Every one here may remember the story in the Old
Testament (2nd Book of Kings) of Jehu driving furiously into Jezreel,
how on his way he smote Ahaziah, king of Judah, with an arrow, and how
Jezebel, the Phoenician Queen, was hurled down out of her palace
window to be devoured by dogs in the street. And some of you may have
read in Froude's _History of the Reign of Queen Elizabeth_ his
description of the murder of David Rizzio by the fierce Scotch nobles,
how he was killed clinging to Queen Mary's knees in her chamber in
Holyrood Palace. Now the manner, the artistic presentation of
ferocious action, are in both cases alike; we have the words spoken
and the deeds done; we can look on at the bloody tragedy; we have a
dramatic version of the story. The ancient writer of the Old Testament
probably did his work naturally, instinctively; he tells the story as
he received it by word of mouth, briefly--laying stress only on the
things that cut into the imagination of an eye-witness, and remain in
the memory of those to whom they were related. He troubles us with no
moral reflections, but goes on quietly to the next chapter of
incidents. The modern historian has composed his picture from details
collected by study of documents; he puts in adjectives as a painter
lays on colour; yet the effect, the impression, is of the same
quality: it is artistic.

Now the principal English historians of the modern school, who revived
what one may call the dramatic presentation of history, I take to be
Macaulay, Froude, and Carlyle. They all worked upon genuine material,
upon authentic records of the period which they were writing about.
Lord Acton mentions that Froude spoke of having consulted 100,000
papers in manuscript, at home and abroad, for one of his histories.
Macaulay was industrious and indefatigable. Yet Ranke, the great
German historian, said of Macaulay that he could hardly be called a
historian at all, judged by the strict tests of German criticism. And
Freeman, the English historian, brought violent charges against Froude
of deliberately twisting his facts and misquoting his authorities;
though I believe that Freeman's bitter jealousies led him into grave
exaggerations. Then take Carlyle. His Cromwell is a fine portrait by
an eminent literary artist. But is it a genuine delineation of the man
himself, of his motives, of the working of his mind in speech and
action? Later investigation, minute scrutiny of old and new material,
suggest doubts, different interpretations of conduct and character.
Take, again, his description of the battle of Dunbar, Cromwell's great
victory. Carlyle explains to us the nature of the ground, the
movements of the troops, the tactics, the points of attack, with
admirable force and clearness--it is a marvellous specimen of literary
execution. Yet recent and very careful examination of the locality,
and a comparison of the evidence of eye-witnesses, have proved beyond
doubt that Carlyle had not studied the ground, had made some important
errors. He was, in fact, giving a dramatic representation of the
battle, which, if it had come down to us from some mediæval annalist,
would have been universally accepted as genuine. In short, these three
artists have all suffered damage under scientific treatment.

Now I am not here to disparage Macaulay, Froude, or Carlyle. They were
all, in my opinion, authors of rare genius, whose places in the
forefront of the literature of the nineteenth century are permanently
secure. Yet I fear that the tendency of the twentieth century is
unfavourable to the artistic historian. It seems to me probable, much
to my personal regret, that the scientific writing of history, based
upon exhaustive research, accumulation and minute sifting of all
available details, relentless verification of every statement, will
gradually discourage and supersede the art of picturesque composition.
In the first place the spirit of doubt and distrust is abroad, every
statement is scrutinised and tested. The imaginative historian cannot
lay on his colours, or fill up his canvas, by effective and lively
touches without finding his work placed under the microscope of
erudite analysts, some of whom, like Iago, are nothing if not
critical, are not only exact but very exacting. In these days a writer
who endeavours to illuminate some scene of ages past, to show us, as
by a magic lantern, the moving figures brought out in relief against
the surrounding darkness, is liable to be set down as an illusionist,
possibly even as a charlatan or conjurer. Yet one feels the charm of
the splendid vision, though it may fade into the light of common day
when it falls under relentless scrutiny, and one is haunted by the
doubt whether the scientific historian, with all his conscientious
accuracy, is after all much nearer the reality than the literary
artist. For it is seriously questionable whether the precise truth
about bygone events and men long dead can ever actually be discovered,
whether, by piecing together what has come down to us in documents, we
can resuscitate from the dust-heap of records the state of society
many centuries ago. And in regard to historical portrait painting Lord
Acton has warned intending historians to seek no unity of
character--to remember that allowance must always be made for human
inconsistencies; that a man is never all of one piece. But cautious
conclusions, nice weighing of evidence, do not satisfy the ordinary
reader. The vivid impressions that are stamped on his mind by the
power of style are what he mostly requires and retains; and these we
are all reluctant to lose. We must concede to the writer, as to the
painter, some indulgence of his imaginative faculty. Otherwise we must
leave the battle scenes and the national portrait gallery to the poets
and romancers of genius--to Shakespeare and Walter Scott, whose art
had nothing to gain from accuracy, who have only to give us the types,
the right colouring and strong outline of life and character in days

However, I think we shall be compelled to accept the change from the
artistic to the scientific school of historians, though we may regret
it as unavoidable. It is the vast enlargement of the field of
historical study, the strong critical searchlight that is turned on
all the dark corners and outlying tracts of this field, that is
irresistibly affecting the work of writers, enforcing the need of
caution, of scrutinising every point, of weighing evidence in the
finest scales, of assaying its precise value. The contemporary writer
has to deal with the huge accumulation of material to which I have
already referred; he must ransack archives, hunt through records piled
up, public and private, must decipher ancient manuscript, must follow
the labours of the wandering collector of inscriptions and the
excavator of old tombs. He has to make extracts from correspondence,
diaries, and notes of travel which are coming for the first time to
the light; he must keep abreast of foreign literature and criticism.
The mass and multiplicity of documentary evidence now at his disposal,
most of which may not have been available to his predecessors, is
enormous. Some twelve years ago Lord Acton wrote: 'The honest student
has to hew his way through multitudinous transactions, periodicals
and official publications, where it is difficult to sweep the horizon
or to keep abreast. The result has been that the classics of
historical literature are found inadequate, are being re-written, and
the student has to be warned that they have been superseded by later

What has been the effect of this altered situation upon the writer of
history at the present time? On such an extensive field of operations,
which has to be cultivated so intensely, he finds himself compelled to
contract the scope of his operations; he can only take up very narrow
ground. So in many instances he limits himself to a period, or even to
a single reign, to a particular class of historical personage, or to
some special department of human activity. He looks about for a plot
that he can work thoroughly; he concentrates his attention upon some
line or aspect of a subject in which he may hope that he has not been
anticipated by others. Lord Acton has laid down that 'every student
ought to know that mastery is acquired by acknowledged limitation'--he
must peg out his small holding and keep within its bounds. Histories
are now written by many and various hands--as in the case of the
Cambridge Modern History, which already counts numerous volumes--and
so the general area is divided and subdivided among experts, each of
whom dips deeply into his particular allotment, and takes heavy crops
off his ground. Yet the productiveness of the field at large seems
still inexhaustible, for there is always some new theory to be
established, some fresh vein of facts to be opened, some corrections
or additions to be made. Moreover, the experts, while they toil at
their own special work, while they attack a difficult problem from
different sides, must nevertheless co-operate with each other. Sir
William Ramsay, a noted archæologist, tells us that for a new study
of history there is needed a group of scholars working in unison; that
the solitary historian is doomed to failure. He adds that the history
of the Roman empire has still to be re-written. The late Lord Acton,
when as Professor of Modern History at Cambridge he drew out his plan
for a modern history that would satisfy the scientific demand for
completeness and exactitude, proposed to distribute the work among
more than a hundred writers. He observed that the entire bulk of new
matter which the last forty years have supplied amounts to many
thousand volumes. When history becomes the product of many hands and
various minds the artistic element is likely to disappear.

One obvious result of this state of things is that we hear no more of
the old-fashioned histories embracing vast subjects, the work of a
single author--of histories of the world, or a history of Europe like
Alison's in thirty volumes. Indeed it is not long since Buckle found
his _History of European Civilisation_ unmanageable; he died before he
could finish it. At the present time historical subjects are divided
and subdivided by classes, periods, or even single events. Art,
literature, philosophy, war, diplomacy, receive separate treatment. We
have colonial histories in numerous thick volumes; though no English
colony has a long past. We have histories of the queens who have
reigned in their own right, like Queen Elizabeth, and of Queens
Consort: we have even a book on the bachelor kings of England, written
by a lady who proves undeniably that these unlucky bachelors--there
were only three of them--all came to a bad or sad end. As to military
historians, Kinglake's _History of the Crimean War_ takes up, I think,
some eight volumes. The whole course of the recent Boer War has been
related in five substantial volumes. Neither of these wars lasted
more than two years, yet both histories are many times larger than
Schiller's History of the Thirty Years' War in Germany. The only
edition of Schiller's work that I have found in the library of this
University is in four small volumes.

Now, the drawback to the composition of histories on this ample and
elaborate scale is obviously this--that the ordinary man or woman can
hardly be expected to read them, or at most to read more than two or
three of them. So there has sprung up a natural demand for something
lighter and shorter; the amplification has produced a supply of
abbreviation. The massive volumes, the heaps of material, are taken in
hand by very capable writers with a clear eye for the main points, for
striking incidents and personalities. The big books are sliced up into
convenient portions, and served up in attractive form and manageable
quantities. The work is often done with admirable skill and judgment.
You thus obtain a bird's-eye view of the past; you have the loftier
prominences and bold outlines of the historic landscape.

In these serials, which are deservedly popular, you can read short
biographies, for example, of English Men of Letters, of English Men of
Action, of famous Scotsmen, Rulers of India, Heroes of the Nation. You
have also a story of all the nations in series, and thus you can limit
your mental survey to separate periods, events, countries, and
figures. You are carried swiftly and adroitly over the dry interspaces
which lie between startling incidents or between supremely interesting

Now I have no doubt that these series, which contain much sound
information very skilfully condensed, have been of real service in the
propagation of historical knowledge. On the other hand, we have to
consider that this kind of reading is disconnected in style and
subject. The reader can make a long jump from one period to another,
or from the statesman of one century to another who flourished in a
very different country and age. And the handling of these diverse
subjects is not uniform; the points of view or lines of thought are
various, and may be contradictory. It may be expedient to warn those
who use these excellent summaries against the habit of neglecting the
great English classics for short biographies or compendious sketches
of periods and personages, as if one could learn enough of Edmund
Burke, or Milton, or Oliver Cromwell, or master the events of some
important period, from a well-written serial in some two hundred

The demand for these historical handbooks has evidently been created
by the spread of general education, which stimulates the laudable
desire to learn something about subjects of which it is hardly
respectable, in these days, to be ignorant. Such knowledge is very
useful to those who have no leisure for more; and it is far superior
to mere desultory reading, to the habit of picking out amusing bits
here and there. Yet I hope it is unnecessary to impress on earnest
students of history that they must go further; must push up as near as
possible to the fountain heads of the rivers of knowledge; must make
acquaintance with the masterpieces of literature--that their reading
must be continuous and consecutive.

Now those among you who are studying for University honours have no
need for any advice from me; they are well aware that the wide
expansion, in these days, of the field of history has raised the
standard of examinations, and that they must be prepared for questions
testing a candidate's critical acumen, the breadth and depth of his
reading, much more closely than was required formerly. But there must
also be many here present who have no examinations in front of them,
who have no ardent inclination or even leisure for abstruse labours.
And I presume that all of you read history for a clear understanding
of past ages, of the acts and thoughts of the great men who illustrate
those times. You all desire to comprehend the sequence and
significance of events. You feel the intellectual pleasure of
appreciating rightly the character and motive of the men and women who
stand in the foreground of our country's annals, and also of those who
are famous in other countries, to know how and why they rose or fell,
whether they deserved the success that they won, or won it without
deserving it. Moreover, for us English folk, who live at the centre of
an empire containing races and communities in various stages of
political development, the lessons of history have a special value.
They teach us to judge leniently of acts and opinions that appear to
us irrational and even iniquitous as we see them in other backward
countries at the present day. We learn that manners and morals may not
be unchangeable in a nation; that fallacies and prejudices are not
ineradicable; that even cruelty, tyranny, reckless bloodshed, are not
incurable vices. For history tells us that some of the nations now
foremost in the ranks of civilisation have passed through the stages
of society in which such things are possible. And thus we can study
the circumstances and conditions of political existence which have
retarded the upward progress of certain nations and accelerated the
advance of others. Such inquiries belong to the philosophy of history.
When we read, for example, the history of England in the fifteenth or
sixteenth century, we find that our ancestors, born and bred in this
same island, kindly men in private life and sincerely religious,
intellectually not our inferiors, yet, when they took sides in
politics or Church questions, did things which appear to us utterly
cruel, against reason, justice, and humanity. To remember this helps
us to realise the difficulty of passing fair judgment not only on the
conduct of our forefathers, but upon the actions and character of
other peoples and governments that are doing very similar things at
the present time in other parts of the world. We shall find it an
arduous task to assign motives, to weigh considerations, to acquit or
condemn. So that, to the politician of to-day, history ought to be an
invaluable guide and monitor for taking an impartial measure of the
difficulties of government in troubled or perilous circumstances. Yet
one sometimes wishes that the record of the fierce and bitter
struggles of former days had been forgotten, for it still breeds
rancour and resentment among the descendants of the people that fought
for lost causes, and suffered the penalty of defeat. The remembrance
keeps alive grievances, and the ancient tale of wrongs that have long
been remedied survives to perpetuate national antipathies. Moreover,
in some of the most celebrated cases known to our own annals, we are
never sure that we have the whole case before us, for the historians
give doubtful help, since the best authorities often take opposite
views, as, for instance, on the question whether Mary Queen of Scots
was her husband's murderess, or a much injured and calumniated lady.
The admitted facts are valued differently, interpreted variously, and
made to support contradictory conclusions. The latest historian of
Rome, Signor Ferrero, sums up a long and elaborate dissertation on the
acts and character of Julius Cæsar by a judgment which differs
emphatically from the views of all preceding historians. On some of
these disputed questions we may make up our minds after studying the
evidence; but many historical problems are in truth insoluble; the
evidence is imperfect and untrustworthy.

These, then, are some of the warnings we may take from history. We
must not be hasty about condemning misdeeds of past generations,
whether of the rulers or their people. The times were hard, so were
the men; they were encompassed by dangers, while we who criticise them
live in ease and safety. And when we hear at the present day of
misrule and strife and bloodshed among other races--in Asia, for
example--we may remember our own story, and we may trust that they
also will work their way upward to peace and concord.

But the truth is that, as our knowledge of the past is very imperfect,
so also our predictions of the future are very fallible. The best
observers can see only a very short way ahead. History shows us how
frequently the course of affairs has taken quite unexpected turns, for
good or for ill, forward or backward. On the whole, we may believe
that the main direction is certainly toward the gradual betterment of
the world at large, though the theory of progress is quite modern, for
the ancients looked behind them for the Golden Age. Nowadays we
trumpet the glory of our British empire; yet at intervals our
confidence in its fortunes is shaken by some sharp panic; the decline
and fall of England is predicted. It is, indeed, perilous to be
overconfident, to live in a fool's paradise, for some of us have seen
in our lifetime the sudden catastrophes that have overtaken great
empires. But history may comfort us when we read how often the
downfall of England has been predicted, how we have been on the brink
of shooting down Niagara, as Carlyle declared, or threatened with
imminent invasion, with total loss of commerce and colonies, with
defeat abroad and bankruptcy at home. And yet our country is still
fairly prosperous and free, and as for invasions, we may still trust
that, as Coleridge has written:

    'Ocean 'mid the uproar wild
    Speaks safety to his island child.'

But on the whole history gives political prophets little
encouragement--we cannot foretell the future from the past.
Nevertheless, there is some truth in the saying that history is like
an old almanac, if we may take this to mean that, although the same
events never happen again in the same way, yet in the great movements
of the tide of the world's affairs a sort of periodical recurrence, an
ebb and flow, may be noticed. For example, we know that from the
fifteenth until near the end of the seventeenth century the Asiatic
armies of the Turkish Sultans were invading and conquering
South-Eastern Europe--they reached the gates of Vienna. Then followed
a swing backward of the pendulum, and from the eighteenth to the end
of the nineteenth century the European Powers, Russia and England,
were each extending a great dominion over Asia. Again, up to a few
years ago, the Turkish empire was a barbarous despotism, and we all
believed that it must break up and be extinguished. Yet it has now
revived in a new form, which may possibly restore its power and
prosperity. To search for and distinguish the operating causes, the
powers that underlie these incalculable changes, is a task for the
student of history.

There must be many of you for whom these high problems have a strong
attraction, who enjoy rapid flights over the broad surface of history,
wide outlooks over the past and future. Now, I admit that bold
generalisations are hazardous, unless founded upon very solid
knowledge; but in historical as well as in physical science they are
needed to sum up results, to bring facts into focus. They enable us,
so the late Lord Acton has said, to fasten on abiding issues, to
distinguish the temporary from the transient.

The late Lord Acton, who, as you may remember, was Professor of Modern
History at Cambridge, is reckoned by general consent to have surpassed
all his contemporaries, at least in England, by his encyclopædic,
accurate, and profound knowledge of history. His reading was vast, his
learning prodigious, his industry never slackened. Yet the literary
production of his life is contained in three volumes of essays,
lectures, and articles; he has left us no complete book. Indeed, his
writing is so disproportionate to his reading that one is tempted to
liken his luminous intellect to a fire on which too much fuel had been
heaped; the ardent mind glowed and shot up its streaks of radiance
through the weight of erudition that overlaid it. Among Lord Acton's
published papers is a 'Note of Advice to Persons about to Write
History,' of which the first word is _Don't_. But he then proceeds to
jot down some hints and maxims, brief and caustic, for the benefit of
those who nevertheless persist in writing; and to some of these I
commend the attention of readers, since upon readers as well as upon
writers lies the duty of forming careful opinions, of judging
impartially, in working out their conclusions upon the events and
personages of past times. For Lord Acton was an indefatigable
researcher after truth; his standard of public morality was austere,
lofty, and uncompromising. I myself venture to think that he was too
rigid; he admitted no excuse for breaches of the moral law on the
pretext, however urgent, of political necessity; he refused to allow
extenuation of violence or bloodshed even in times of great emergency.
'The inflexible integrity of the moral code,' he said, 'is to me the
secret of the authority, the dignity, the utility of history.' Now
this is hard doctrine for most of us to follow when we set ourselves,
as students, to condemn or acquit, to blame or to praise the prominent
actors in the drama of our national history. On that stage, as we all
know, the real tragedies that stand on record were sanguinary enough,
and the parts occasionally played in them by our ancestors were of a
sort that now appear most unnatural and indefensible to their
descendants. Yet most of us are disposed to regard with some leniency
even the crimes of a violent and lawless age.

But however this may be, some of Lord Acton's counsels are undoubtedly
valuable as warnings or for guidance, either as lamps to show the
right road, or as lighthouses to keep us from going wrong. His
inaugural lecture at Cambridge on the Study of History is full of
precepts, maxims, warnings, injunctions, all of which may be pondered
by students with advantage. We are enjoined, for example, to beware of
permitting our historic judgment to be warped by influences, whether
of Country, Class, Church, College, or Party; and it is said, by way
of driving home the warning, that the most respectable of these
influences is the most dangerous. But very few writers, and, I
suspect, not many readers, can hold their mental balance quite
steadily, can weigh testimony on either side of a question quite
dispassionately, when our Church, or our Country, perhaps even our
University, is concerned. Nor is it easy for students to find
historians who are entirely unmoved by bias of these kinds, who have
neither a theory to prove, nor a cause to support, nor a hero to be
exalted, nor a sinner to be whitewashed. Indeed, the wicked men of
history have always found some ingenious advocate to defend them by
attempting to justify bad acts on the ground of excellent motives and
intentions, of the exigencies of the situation, or other excuses and
explanations. It is certain that some of the worst crimes on record,
assassinations and savage persecutions, have been defended on pretexts
of this kind, by allegations of patriotism or devotion to a faith. Not
many weeks have passed since a dastardly murder was perpetrated in
London, close to this spot, by a crazy wretch who declared himself a

So we may profitably lay to mind Lord Acton's stern denunciation, not
only of criminals in high places, but of all, high or low, who pretend
that foul deeds may be justified by asserting pure motives. Let me
quote again from Lord Acton. He has said: 'Of killing, from private
motives or from public, _eadem est ratio_, there is no difference.
Morally, the worst is the last; the fanatic assassin, the cruel
inquisitor, are the worst of all; they are more, not less, infamous,
because they use religion or political expediency as a cloak for their
crimes.' He affirms elsewhere that crimes by constitutional
authorities--by Popes and Kings--are more indefensible than those
committed by private malefactors. And he holds that the theorist is
more guilty than the actual assassin; that the worst use of theory is
to make men insensible to fact, to the real complexion and true
quality of conduct. He would probably have insisted that journalists
and others who instigate political crimes are at least quite as bad as
the actual criminal. Herein, at any rate, we may thoroughly agree with
him, though the question whether the intercourse of nations and their
Governments can be strictly regulated by the same moral standard which
rules among individuals, does raise difficult points for the
conscientious student of history. We have to remember that no power
exists to enforce international laws or police, so that every
Government has to rely upon its own strength for the defence of its
people and the preservation of its rights.

On the whole, I do not know any recent works that may be more
profitable for advice and guidance in reading history than these three
volumes of Lord Acton's. They contain the essence of his unceasing
labours in collecting, comparing, and testing an immense quantity of
historic material. They are particularly valuable for the flashes of
insight into the deeper relations of events, for brief, sententious
observations in which he sums up his judgments upon men and their
doings. They are not to be taken lightly; they demand all your
attention, for the style is compressed and packed with meaning; and
the author seems to expect his readers to be prepared with more
knowledge than, I think, most of us possess. His allusions take for
granted so much learning that they occasionally puzzle the average
man. For example, in one of his essays he makes a passing reference to
'those who in the year 1348 shared the worst crimes that Christian
nations have committed.' What these crimes were he does not say; and
how many of us could answer the question off-hand? Certainly I could
not. But the lectures and essays abound in far-ranging ideas, and show
profound penetration into historic causes and consequences. Some of
the essays, written in comparative youth, betray here and there a
natural leaning towards the Church of Rome, in which he was born, and
against Protestantism; yet his hatred of intolerance and despotism,
spiritual or temporal, was sincere and intense. In politics he was a
Liberal, yet he saw that Liberal institutions, representative
government, are by no means a sure and speedy remedy for misrule in
all times and countries, as in our day simple folk are apt to suppose.
In writing of the condition of Europe during the earlier middle ages
he observes: 'To bring order out of chaotic mire, to rear a new
civilisation and blend hostile and unequal races into a nation, the
thing wanted was not Liberty, but Force.'

Here is a bold and clear-sighted deduction from the lessons of
history, which revolutionary politicians in Asia, where no
nationalities have yet been formed, may well take to heart.
Parliamentary institutions, as Lord Acton has well said, presuppose
unity of a people.

Scattered through these volumes may be found, indeed, certain brief
paragraphs which, as they contain the essence of much learning and
deep thought, may well set us all thinking. In a remarkable essay on
the historical relations of Church and State Lord Acton observes: 'The
State is so closely linked with religion, that no nation that has
changed its religion has ever survived in its old political form.'
Here again is a striking generalisation which a student might set
himself to verify by careful examination of the facts.

And now I will make an end of my address by quoting one more remark of
Lord Acton, in which he gives his definition of history taken as a
whole. 'By universal history,' he says, 'I understand that which is
distinct from the combined history of all countries, which is not a
rope of sand, but a continuous development, and is not a burden on the
memory, but an illumination of the soul. It moves in a succession to
which the nations are subsidiary. Their story will be told, not for
their own sake, but in subordination to a higher series, according to
the time and the degree in which they contribute to the common
fortunes of mankind.'


[55] Inaugural Address to the Students of King's College for Women,
University of London, October 8, 1909.


I propose to offer for consideration some very general views upon the
effects and interaction of the ideas of Race and Religion upon the
political grouping of the population in various countries of Eastern
Europe and of Asia, with the object of showing how they unite and
divide mankind over a great portion of the earth. It will be
understood, I hope, that it is impossible in a brief discussion to go
far or thoroughly over such a wide field. I can only try to indicate
some salient points that may be worth attention.

If we look back upon the ancient world, as it was known to Greece and
to Rome, and as it can be dimly surveyed through the records of
classic antiquity, we find that before the Christian era the
populations were divided and subdivided into races or tribes, with
names signifying a common origin or descent; at any rate some kind of
tribal association. The designation of their country was usually
derived from the name of some dominant race, as Gallia from the Gauls
or Judea from the Jews; indeed I might say, as France from the Franks
or England from the Angles. Religious denominations of any large
community were, I venture to suggest, unknown, at any rate in ancient
Europe. The polytheism of these ages was too local and miscellaneous
to weld together any considerable groups on the basis of a common
worship or belief; for although three great religions then existed,
Buddhism, Hinduism, and the faith of Zoroaster (still represented by
the Parsees), these were confined to Central and Eastern Asia. And,
moreover, these religions had not the missionary spirit; I mean that
they made no vigorous open attempts to spread and gain proselytes,
still less did they use force to convert great multitudes. But after
the Christian era a change came over the face of the Western world.
The Roman empire--that greatest monument of human power, as Dean
Church has called it--began the fusion of races into one vast
political society; its dominion extended continuously from Britain on
the west to Asia Minor and the countries bordering on the Caspian Sea;
it settled the law and language of Southern Europe. The establishment
of the Roman empire is a cardinal epoch of the world's political
history. Then followed two events of immense political importance that
changed the whole aspect and condition of the religious world--the
rise and spread of two powerful missionary and militant religions.
First came Christianity to overspread the lands which the empire had
levelled politically. Islam followed in the seventh century, and the
conflict between these two rival faiths, each claiming universal
spiritual dominion, altered not only the spiritual but also the
temporal order of things in Europe and Western Asia. In Asia the
victorious creed of Mohammed imposed upon immense multitudes a
religious denomination; they became Mussulmans. In Western Europe the
dominion of the Roman empire had by this time fallen to pieces; it was
torn asunder by barbarian invaders; but upon the ruins of that empire
was built up the great Catholic Church of Rome, which gathered
together all races of the West under the common denomination of
Christianity. Beneath the canopies of these two great religions the
primitive grouping of the people survived; throughout Europe there
were no settled kingdoms or nations, but a jumble of races and tribes
contending for land and power. Now we know that in Western Europe this
strife and confusion of the Middle Ages at last ended in the
formation, on a large scale, of separate nationalities, and perhaps we
may take, roughly, the end of the fifteenth century as the period when
the great territorial kingdoms were definitely marked out, and when
the rulers were rounding off their possessions under designations that
may be called national. In these countries the subdivisions according
to race had now lost almost all political significance; but in the
sixteenth century another great disturbing element reappeared. The
great wars of religion again made a fresh division of the people into
two camps of Roman Catholics and Protestants. This ferment has
gradually subsided, and at the present time all minor groups of the
population in Western Europe have been absorbed under large national
designations; the nations are marked off within clearly cut frontiers,
and separated by the paramount distinction of languages. In Western
Europe you do not now define a man by his original race or by his
religion, you ask whose natural-born subject he is, in whose territory
he lives, and you class him accordingly as French, English, Spanish or

Now it has been, I think, one result of this consolidation of the West
into States and Nationalities, with religion mostly corresponding to
the region, that the persistence in other parts of the world of the
earlier ideas of race and religion, the primordial grouping of
mankind, has been far too commonly overlooked and undervalued. My
present object is to lay stress on the importance of realising and
understanding them. And I may begin by throwing out the suggestion
that this oversight, this neglect of ideas and facts that still have
great strength and vitality, may be connected with the influence, in
France and England, of a certain school of political philosophy that
arose in the eighteenth century, in France. The Encyclopédistes, as
they were called, because their leaders wrote the celebrated French
Encyclopædia, treated in theory all notions of separate races,
religions, and frontiers as so many barriers against the spread of a
common civilisation, which was to unite all peoples on general
principles of reason, scientific knowledge, and emancipation from
local or national prejudices. As a theory this might not have had much
practical effect; but at the end of the eighteenth century came the
French Revolution, when these philosophical notions took a very
seriously practical shape; for the French Republican armies invaded
the kingdoms of Western Europe with the war-cry of universal
fraternity and equality. Revolutionary France ignored both race and
religion. It proclaimed, De Tocqueville says, above and instead of all
peculiar nationalities, an intellectual citizenship that was intended
to include the people of every country to which it extended,
superseding all distinctions of language, tradition, and national
character. Under Napoleon this fierce impulse of democratic levelling
was transformed into Imperialism: he aimed at restoring an Empire in
the West. But this aroused equally fierce resistance, and when
Napoleon had been beaten down, the national feeling emerged stronger
than ever. The doctrines of the French Encyclopédistes were inherited
by the English school of Utilitarians, led by Bentham and the two
Mills; and John Stuart Mill in particular, declared that one of the
chief obstacles to human improvement was the tendency to regard
difference of race as indelible. In fact, all this school, which had
considerable influence some forty years ago, treated religious and
social distinctions as inconvenient and decaying barriers against
rational progress, or as fictions invented by indolent thinkers to
save themselves the trouble of investigating the true causes that
modify human character.

There is undoubtedly a certain degree of truth underlying this view.
In the settled nationalities of the West these distinctions of race
and religion have a tendency to become unimportant and obsolete for
political purposes, although a glance across the water to Ireland will
remind us that they have by no means disappeared. What I wish to lay
stress upon is the very serious importance of race and religion,
politically, in other parts of the world, and particularly in some
Asiatic countries with which England is closely connected and
concerned. For, in the first place, there has been a notable revival
of the sentiment of race in Eastern Europe. And, secondly, the spread
of European dominion over Asia may be regarded as one of the most
prominent and powerful movements in the politics of the latter half of
the nineteenth century; one which may become the dominant feature of
politics in the twentieth century. It is this movement that is forcing
upon our serious attention the immense practical importance of race
and religion.

The plan which I shall attempt to follow in making a brief survey of
my subject, is to begin with a glance at the political condition of
Central Europe, and to travel rapidly Eastward. In the West, as I have
said, we have compact and permanently established States with national
governments. But as soon as we pass to Central Europe we find the
Austro-Hungarian empire distracted and threatened by internal feuds,
arising out of the contention for ascendency of two races, Germans and
Slavonians, and also out of the demands of the various provinces and
dependencies for political recognition of their separate identities,
founded on claims to represent internal sections or subdivisions of
the two chief races. The Slavonic populations in the north-west of the
empire are parted asunder from those in the south-east by the
Hungarians, who came in from the east, and are of a different stock,
and who have succeeded in establishing the federated kingdom of
Hungary. I will not trouble you with statistical or geographical
details. For my present purpose it is enough to mention that the
subjects of Austria, apart from Hungary, are classed in eight separate
sections, differentiated by separate languages, and that Poles,
Bohemians, Germans, and Italians, are all and each claiming a kind of
home rule within the empire, and show an increasing tendency to group
themselves by distinctions of race. In Bohemia the population is
nearly equally divided between Germans and Slavs, who speak different
languages, have separate schools, and contend violently for political
preponderance. In Moravia and Silesia, where the Slav element is
stronger, the same conflict goes on. In Galicia the contest is between
Poles and Ruthenians, between the Roman Catholic and the Greek
churches. In Hungary proper the Magyars have political predominance,
but the population of German descent and language is more numerous
than the Magyars: in Transylvania, further eastward, the Magyars are
politically overriding the Slav races; in Croatia to the southward a
similar struggle is going on. Throughout every province of the
Austro-Hungarian empire we see the same intermixture of races,
religions, and languages--the more numerous and better united sections
are striving for political ascendency: the weaker sections contend
against them by demanding autonomy. And, as all these various
antipathies and jealousies are represented in the Parliament of the
empire, the peaceful consolidation of the empire into a large national
State is interrupted by resistance under the watchword of separate
nationalities. Religious differences between Roman Catholicism,
Calvinism, and the Greek Church in the Eastern provinces, accentuate
the incoherence. Each separate group takes for its symbol, the
standard round which people rally, a language--German, Polish,
Tcheque, Ruthenian, and so on. They are all being energetically
maintained and jealously preserved in speech and writing in the
schools and the assemblies. Moreover, three different churches, at
least, are rallying their adherents and driving in the wedge of
religious dissension. All these groups go back to the early traditions
and history of the races, they sharpen up old grievances, and oppose
each other vigorously in the Imperial Chamber of Representatives. They
are, in fact, endeavouring to construct an earlier formation of civil
society, and to reverse the order of political amalgamation of small
States into large ones which has been operating for centuries in
Western Europe. In Western Europe the principle of nationalities has
been a method not of disintegration, but of concentration. It has led
within the last fifty years to the establishment of two States of
first-class magnitude, Germany and Italy; and Louis Napoleon, who had
proclaimed the idea of national unification, was ruined by his own
policy, for the Germans destroyed his dynasty, and Italy gave him no
help. But in Austro-Hungary, on the contrary, the movement is not
toward centralisation--it is centrifugal and separatist; and if it
continues to increase in force it may threaten with dissolution an
ancient and powerful empire.

You will observe that since we entered, in our survey, the Austrian
territories, we have found ourselves within the jurisdiction of an
empire in the true sense of that word, which I take to mean the
dominion of one superior sovereignty over many subordinate races,
tribes, or petty States that obey its authority. I may be permitted to
regard the German emperor as the military head of a constitutional
federation, which is a different thing. Now I think it may be said
that from Austria eastward across South-Eastern Europe and Asia, from
Vienna to Pekin, the general form of government is not national but
imperial. Every government is holding together a number of different
groups, all jealous of each other, all of whom would fall apart and
probably fight among themselves, if they were not kept under by one
ruler over them. It may be affirmed, broadly, that the structure of
modern Europe, as represented by the massing of the populations into
great homogeneous nations within fixed limits, has now been completely
left behind in the West, and that from the shores of the Adriatic Sea
right across Asia to the Pacific Ocean, the real subdivisions of the
people, the bonds that unite and separate them into different groups,
are denoted by Race and Religion, sometimes by one, sometimes by the
other, occasionally by both.

Our first step over the boundaries of the Austro-Hungarian empire,
proceeding south-east beyond the Danube and the Carpathian mountains,
brings us into the various principalities and provinces that were once
under the dominion of the Ottoman empire, though almost all of them
are now independent of it. Nearly all of them lie in the region south
of the Danube, which is usually known as the Balkan Peninsula. Here
the complexities of race and religion are abundantly manifest, and
these archaic divisions of political society surround us everywhere.
This region has indeed been parcelled out, within our own time, into
territories of diverse States, but this is quite a modern formation,
and the idea of such political citizenship has been very recently

If, now, it is asked why, in this corner of South-Eastern Europe, this
medley of internal distinctions, which was the prevailing
characteristic of the ancient world, has been so long preserved, the
answer is that all this country, the Balkan Peninsula, was under the
direct government of the Ottoman empire up to about seventy years ago,
and that most of the provinces were only liberated from the Turkish
yoke in the latter part of the nineteenth century. The effect of the
long dominion of the Turks over this country had been to perpetuate
the state of things which existed when they first conquered it. Their
policy, the policy of all Asiatic empires, was not to consolidate, or
to obliterate differences produced by race and religion, but to
maintain them in order to rule more securely. And here I may quote
from a book recently published under the title of _Turkey in Europe_,
which is unique of its kind, for in no other work can we find so
complete and particular a history of the Balkan lands, or so accurate
a description of the grouping of the people, taken from personal
knowledge and local investigation. The author, who calls himself
Odysseus, reminds us that the Ottoman Sultans acquired these
territories when they were in the confusion and dismemberment which
followed the decay and fall of the Byzantine empire; and he explains
that the Turks, who have been always inferior in number to the
aggregate of their Christian subjects, could hardly have kept up their
dominion if at any time the Christians had united against them. As the
Christians were not converted, religious unification, which in Asia
was the basis of Mohammedan power, was here impossible, so the Turks
divided that they might rule. 'The Turks have thoroughly learned,' he
says, 'and daily put into practice with admirable skill, the lesson
of _divide et impera_, and hence they have always done, and still do,
all in their power to prevent the obliteration of racial, linguistic,
and religious differences.' They have perpetuated and preserved, as if
in a museum, the strange medley that was existing when these lands
were first conquered by Turkish Sultans nearly five hundred years ago.
Their idea of government has always been simply to take tribute and
secure their paramount supremacy. The result has been that the
confusion, intermixture, and rivalry of race and religion is far more
intricate than even in the Austro-Hungarian empire, where the central
government has tried to reconcile and amalgamate. In Turkey, Odysseus
tells us, 'not only is there a medley of races, but the races inhabit,
not different districts, but the same district. Of three villages
within ten miles of one another, one will be Turkish, one Greek, one
Bulgarian--or perhaps one Albanian, one Bulgarian, and one Servian,
each with their own language, dress, and religion, and eight races and
languages may be found in one large town.'

What has been the upshot and consequence of this Turkish system? It
has been to make the Balkan Peninsula a battlefield, during the last
four centuries, of two great militant creeds, Christianity and Islam,
collecting the population into two religious camps; while inside these
two main religious divisions there are manifold subdivisions of race.
Men of the same creed are in different groups of race; nor are the
race-groups always of the same creed, for one section may have become
fanatic Mohammedans, while the rest have adhered to Christianity. The
intermixture is the more complicated because one cannot attempt to
distinguish a race by physical characteristics, by their personal
appearance or features as marking descent from one stock. The
practices of polygamy, slavery, of the purchase of women, and their
capture in the interminable wars, have produced incessant crossing of
breeds. It is not often understood or remembered that in former times
a tribe or band of foreign invaders, when they had to cross the sea or
to make long expeditions, very rarely brought women with them. So when
they settled on the conquered lands they must have intermarried,
forcibly or otherwise, with the subject race. If they massacred the
men, the women were part of their booty. Neither is the test of
language a sure one, though it is the best we have, and is becoming
more and more the criterion of race; for a kind of struggle for
existence goes on among the languages, they spread or contract under
various influences, mainly political. The folk may change their
language as they may change their creed; and, what is more remarkable,
they may even change their race. According to the book I have just
quoted, the Ottoman Government classes all its subject population into
religious communities. Whatever be a man's race or language, if he
professes Islam, he is called a Mohammedan; if he is of the orthodox
Greek Church at Constantinople, he is Greek or Rûmi, for Stambul was
the capital of the Roman empire; or else he is Katholik, Armenian, or
Jew, according to his creed, not according to his birthplace or his
blood. So the official designations are religious, while the popular
usage is various, sometimes following race, sometimes creed, and it is
still constantly shifting, as I shall presently try to explain.

And here it may be interesting to mention a peculiarity of the growth
and constitution of the Eastern or Greek Church, in contrast with the
Western Church of Rome. The Roman Church has always claimed
universality--it has ignored and attempted to trample down all
political and national divisions; it demands of all Roman Catholics,
whoever they may be, submission to the supreme spiritual dictation of
the Roman pontiff, and those who accept any other authority are
outside the pale. From the beginning the Roman Catholic Church has
made incessant war upon every kind of heresy or dissent, transforming
the old rites and worships where they could not be exterminated. It
proclaims independence of the State, it has no local centres or
national branches. The Pope at Rome claims spiritual authority over
all Roman Catholics everywhere. But the historical fact that the
Eastern or Greek Church was always under the control of the Byzantine
empire at Constantinople, has kept this Church much more closely
allied to the temporal power; and the result has been that throughout
its development it has remained closely connected with the State. So
that wherever a fresh State has been formed, the Greek Church has
become national, and the spiritual authority, adapting itself to
political changes, has become a separate institution. The most signal
example of this is to be seen in Russia, where the Greek Church, being
cut off from Constantinople, had its own independent Patriarch up to
the time of Peter the Great; and very lately, when Bulgaria became a
State, it set up its own head of the Church, or Exarch. When Bosnia
and Herzegovina were ruled by the Turkish Sultan, the chief of the
Greek Church in that country was the Patriarch at Constantinople. Now
that these provinces have passed under the administration of Austria,
the ecclesiastical authority has also been transferred from the
Patriarch to local Metropolitans. Each new State shows a tendency to
establish what I may call spiritual Home Rule. We know that in Western
Europe the establishment of National Churches came in by one great
religious upheaval that is called the Reformation. In Eastern Europe
the movement has proceeded gradually, keeping pace with the rise and
recognition of separate governments, and the result has been the
multiplication of internal ecclesiastical divisions.

I have said that the Ottoman empire recognises only religious
denominations in the classification of the people. Apparently this was
the general usage in former times. A Greek meant a member of the
orthodox Greek Church, who might or might not be an inhabitant of
Greece, nor would he necessarily have spoken the Greek tongue. If a
Christian changed his religion, as a matter of course he changed his
name and his designation; he was placed in another group. But the
pressure of political independence has been latterly bringing into
prominence the idea of Race. Odysseus, from whose book I quote again,
gives us the very curious fact that even race is not immutable, it
changes like religion, with the political movement; it has become a
question of political expediency. When a separate State has been
organised, as in Bulgaria, or when a league for shaking off the
Turkish yoke is being organised, as in Macedonia, the plan of the
leaders is to induce the people to drop minor distinctions of origin
and to unite for the purposes of political combination, under some
larger national name, to call themselves Hellenes in Greece,
Bulgarians in Bulgaria, and Macedonians in the Turkish province of
Macedonia. Moreover, when a new State has been thus formed, like
Greece, Servia, Bulgaria, on the principle of Race, the patriotic
party begins to discover that many Greeks or Bulgarians are outside
the territory, and they set up a claim to enlarge their boundaries in
order to bring these people inside. So that the questions of races and
churches are used to keep up continual intrigues, dissensions, and a
lively agitation throughout these countries. For since religion is
always a powerful uniting force, there is a constant effort to bring
the people to congregate under the Established Church of their new
State, to renounce their obedience to any spiritual head outside its
limits. We have, therefore, the curious spectacle of a frequent
shifting of denominations of Race and Creed for the purpose of
political consolidation. In fact we are witnessing in the Balkan
Peninsula a struggle among the petty States to strengthen themselves
by capturing each other's population.

I think I may have said enough to prove, briefly and superficially,
the importance, in Central and South-Eastern Europe, of the ideas of
Race and Religion, the necessity of understanding their strength and
operation. So soon as we cross into Asia we find these ideas
universally paramount. It will perhaps be remembered that Henry Maine
pointed out long ago, in his book on Ancient Law, that during a large
part of what we call modern history no such conception was entertained
as that of territorial sovereignty, as indicated by such a title as
the King of France. 'Sovereignty,' he said, 'was not associated with
dominion over a portion or subdivision of the earth.' Now I do not
believe that a territorial title is assumed at this moment by any of
the great Asiatic sovereigns in Asia. Here in Europe we talk of the
Sultan of Turkey, the Shah of Persia, or the Emperor of China; but
these are not the styles or designations which are actually used by
these potentates; they are each known, on their coins, and in their
public proclamations, by a string of lofty titles, generally
religious, like our 'Defender of the Faith,' which make no reference
to their territories. Such were the titles of the Moghul emperors of
India, and I may here observe that the term Emperor of India, now
borne by the English king, is entirely of British manufacture. The
truth is that Asiatic kingdoms have no settled territorial
boundaries, they are always changing, just as our Indian frontiers are
constantly moving forward; and wherever in Asia there exists a
demarcated line of frontier, it has been fixed by the intervention of
European governments interested in maintaining order. In Mohammedan
lands the basis of a ruler's authority, in theory at least, is
religious, and all through Western Asia there is the closest
connection between the State and the dominant creed of Islam; for a
Mohammedan sovereign's authority is ecclesiastical, so to speak, as
well as civil; he is bound, in the words of our Litany, not only to
'execute justice,' but to 'maintain truth'; and the theory of two
separate jurisdictions, spiritual and temporal, is practically
unknown, though of course in dealing with religious questions the
ruler must be supported by the chief expounders of the law of Islam.
To borrow a phrase from Hobbes, 'the religion of the Mohammedans is a
part of their policy,' as it is also the fundamental bond of their
whole society.

We have seen that in South-Eastern Europe there is an intricate
intermixture of the distinctions of race and religion, with a tendency
of race to win the mastery. This is because the people of those
countries were conquered by Islam, but only partially converted, and
the Turkish Sultans, as I have already said, encouraged discord among
their Christian subjects. But in Western Asia the faith of Islam not
only conquered but converted much more completely; it almost
extirpated other faiths in Asia Minor and Persia, leaving in Asia
Minor only a few obscure sects, like the Nestorians, in a region that
had been wholly Christian, and leaving in Persia only some scattered
relics of the great Zoroastrian religion, still represented in two or
three towns by those whom we call Parsees. In these lands, therefore,
religion has generally mastered race, for the laws that regulate the
whole personal condition and property of the people are determined by
their religion, with a certain variety of local customs. Nevertheless,
beneath the overspreading religious denomination there are a large
number of tribal groups, all of whom are known by tribal names. Most
of these tribes are fanatic Islamites, but in the midst of them is one
group which is distinct by religion and probably by race--I mean the
Armenians. They do not form a majority of the population in Armenia,
they are scattered about Western Asia, and are divided into two
Christian sects, which under the Turkish empire are regarded as two
religious communities. Their recent terrible misfortunes afford a
signal and melancholy warning of the danger of interfering in Oriental
affairs without a full understanding of the complications arising out
of these very differences and antagonisms of race and religion that I
have been endeavouring to explain. And the whole story is a striking
example of the tremendous power of religion in Asiatic politics. In
1895 the European Powers interposed in the name of justice and
humanity to press upon the Turkish Government the reforms that had
been promised by treaty, and thus to better the condition of the
Armenians, by securing to them a certain share in the local and
municipal government. But the Armenians are a scattered and subject
people, different in race and religion and language from the ruling
Turks, and the demand for giving them some kind of independence
alarmed the Turkish Government and inflamed the fanaticism of the
Mohammedans. The only result of European intervention was a frightful
massacre of the Armenians, which the European Powers witnessed without
any serious attempt to stop. Such are the consequences of
misunderstanding the real political situation and the forces at work.
Probably many people in England had a very hazy notion of what the
Armenians were, or what their name signified. We have always to
remember that throughout Asia, and indeed over the greater part of the
non-Christian world, the various sections of the population very
rarely use for themselves, or indeed for the country that they dwell
in, the name that is used for them by Europeans. As our own system has
become territorial, as we call any natural-born inhabitant of France a
Frenchman, and so on, we are led by a false analogy to talk of Turkey
and the Turks, Persia and the Persians, India and the Indians, China
and the Chinese. But these broad designations denoting modern
nationalities are not used in Asia by the people themselves, to whom
such a conception is foreign. I know of no terms in the languages of
these countries that correspond to our words, Turkey, India, China, as
geographical expressions, and I think that the names used by Europeans
for outlying countries or peoples often come from some accident or
chance, or mistake, or by taking the name of a part of a country for
the name of the whole. In Asia the people still class themselves, in
their ordinary talk, by names designating religion or race. A curious
example of a religious designation still survives, by the way, among
Europeans in South Africa. When the first Portuguese explorers of the
African coast asked the Arab traders about the indigenous tribes,
they, being Mohammedans, said that the natives were all Kafirs, which
means Infidels. This was supposed to be the general name of a people,
and it has been handed down to us so that we still call the South
African natives Kaffirs. I doubt whether the tribes concerned have
ever used or recognised among themselves this unsavoury name. I may
note, by the way, that one of the most ancient tribal names in Asia is
that by which the Greeks, outside the Turkish empire, are often
known--Yunâni, or Ionian--which must have been in use from the days
when the Greek colonies settled on the coast of Asia Minor, many
centuries before the Christian era.

We are pushing our survey eastward across Asia. The kingdom known to
Europe by the name of Persia is styled by its inhabitants _Irân_,
though I doubt whether a Persian subject belonging to a particular
tribe or sect would call himself _Irâni_. The next independent
kingdom, beyond Persia, is Afghanistan; and here we have an example of
a designation originally implying race, gradually merging into one
that is territorial and political. Afghanistan originally meant, I
believe, the great central mass of mountains occupied by a tribe
called Afghans; it is now becoming a name that includes the whole
territory ruled by the Afghan Amir at Kabul. The causes that are
producing this change in the signification of the word are, first,
that the Amir of Kabul has subdued, more or less, all the tribes
inhabiting the country; and secondly, that the pressure of England and
Russia on two sides of that country has necessitated an accurate
demarcation of frontiers all round it, in order that the Amir's
territories, which are under our protection, may be precisely known.
The kingdom is thus acquiring a territorial designation. But this
kingdom of Afghanistan is really composed of a number of chiefships
and provinces very loosely knit together under the sway of the Amir,
which might fall asunder again if the rulership at Kabul became weak.
And the population is all parcelled out into various races and tribes,
usually dwelling in separate tracts under local chiefs; they are
always known among themselves by names, denoting race or tribe;
sometimes patriarchal, like the Children of Israel, or the clans of
our own Highlands; sometimes local, and in one case historical, for
the dominant tribe to which the Amir belongs has called itself Durâni
or royal.

It is therefore the distinction of race or tribe, not of religion,
that governs the whole interior population throughout this vast region
of high mountains and valleys in the centre, with comparatively open
country on the north and south; the whole area has been peopled by a
conflux of tribes. Yet Afghanistan has some of the symptoms of
national growth--I mean that if it could hold together as one kingdom
it might grow into a nationality. In religion the Afghans are almost
all fanatical Mohammedans, for Afghanistan is the great bulwark and
citadel on the eastern frontier of Islam, and beyond it, in Eastern
Asia, there are no independent Mohammedan principalities. The kingdom
has a strictly defined territory, and a dynasty which has risen from
the chiefship of a powerful tribe to the heritable possession of that
territory. This dynasty, moreover, is identical in race and religion
with a large majority of its subjects, which is another peculiar
source of strength; for almost all the other first-class kingdoms of
Asia are ruled by dynasties of alien race, who sometimes profess a
religion different from that of many of their subjects. We are
frequently reminded of the important fact that in India the English
rulers are aliens in race and religion from the people; but we may
also remember that after all this is only a difference of degree, a
wider separation between the governors and the governed than elsewhere
in Asia. The principal kingdoms of Asia are ruled by foreign families
or dynasties that have come in by conquest. The Moghul dynasty that
preceded our own government in India was foreign; and it was a
Mohammedan rulership over an enormous Hindu population. The Ottoman
Turk was a foreign invader from Central Asia, who still governs a
variety of races and religions. In Persia the Shah's family is of a
Turkish tribe. And the Emperor of China is a Mandchoo Tartar, of a
race quite apart from that of the immense majority of the Chinese. Of
course the Russians are as much aliens in Central Asia as the English
in India; they govern from St. Petersburg as we do from London. I
doubt, therefore, whether there is any other kingdom in Asia that has
more of the element of national unity than Afghanistan, though
unfortunately its political condition is precarious, because there is
still much tribal disunion inside it.

Eastward again beyond Afghanistan we enter the Indian empire, a vast
dominion stretching south-eastward from the slopes of the outer Afghan
hills and the Persian border to the western frontiers of the Chinese
empire and of Siam, and controlling the whole seaboard of Southern
Asia, from Aden to Singapore. It is the possession of this wide
territory that has given to the English a direct and most important
interest in the problems of race and religion. For, in the first
place, in this empire we have to deal with three out of the four great
faiths of the world--Islam, Hinduism and Buddhism--and we have to
uphold for ourselves the fourth, Christianity. Secondly, we have also
within the borders of our empire a multiplicity of races and tribes;
and we have the peculiar Indian institution of Caste, which marks off
all Hindu society into innumerable groups, distinguished one from
another by the rules that forbid intermarriage and (in most cases) the
sharing of food. Now the word Hindu requires a special explanation,
because there is nothing exactly like it elsewhere in the world; it is
not exclusively a religious denomination; it denotes also a country
and a race. When we speak of a Christian, a Mohammedan, or a Buddhist,
we mean a particular religious community without distinction of race
or country. When we talk of Persians or Chinese, we indicate country
or parentage without any necessary distinction of creed. But when a
man tells me he is a Hindu, I know that he means all three things
together--religion, race and country. I can be almost sure that he is
an inhabitant of India, quite sure that he is of Indian parentage; and
as to religion, the word Hindu undoubtedly locates him within one of
the manifold groups who follow the ordinances and worship the gods of
Hinduism. Next in importance to the Hindus, as a religious community,
come the Mohammedans, who number over sixty millions in India. The two
faiths, Hinduism and Islam--polytheism and monotheism--are in strong
opposition to each other; yet they are not quite clean cut apart, for
some Hindu tribes that have been converted to Islam retain in part
their primitive customs of worship and caste. And in Burmah, as in
Ceylon, the population is almost wholly Buddhist.

In a very able article that has recently appeared in an Indian
magazine, the writer, a Hindu, observes: 'The Hindus offer a curious
instance of a people without any feeling of nationality.' He finds an
explanation in 'the intensity of religiousness, which led to
sectarianism, and allying itself with caste, tended to preserve all
local and tribal differences.' Other causes, historical, political,
and geographical, might be mentioned, but I agree that the chief
separating influence has been religious. And, however this may be, it
may be affirmed that within our Indian empire at the present moment
the primary superior designation of a man is according to his
religion--he is either a Hindu, a Mohammedan, or a Buddhist. But
inside these general religious denominations are very many
distinctions of caste, race, or tribe. The Sikhs are a sect of Hindus
who belong exclusively to the Punjab. The Marathas and Rajpûts are
races who profess Hinduism and who always call themselves by their
racial names: and there are many aboriginal tribes, like the Bheels
and Gonds, who are being gradually absorbed into Hinduism. Race and
religion are, in fact, more profoundly intermixed in India than
perhaps in any other country of the world; and into such an intricate
subject I cannot now enter. My present point is that in India we are
governing an empire of the antique pattern, quite different from the
western nationalities, a country where complexities of race and creed
meet us at every turn in the course of our administration; an empire
which, as Mr. Bryce has pointed out in a recent essay that is full of
light and knowledge, has many striking resemblances with the dominion
of Imperial Rome.[57] There is the same miscellany of tribes and races
in diverse stages of civilisation, warlike and half-tamed on the
frontiers, softened and reconciled by peace, prosperity, and culture
in the older provinces of the empire, wild and barbarous in remote
interior tracts. There is just visible in India a similar though much
slighter tendency of the language of the ruling race to prevail among
the educated classes, because the English language, like the Latin,
has greater literary power, and conveys to the Indians the latest
ideas and scientific discoveries of the foremost nations of the world.
There is also a certain diffusion of European manners and even dress,
resembling in some degree what took place even in such a remote
province of the Roman empire as Britain, where, as we know from
Tacitus, it was made a reproach against the Romanising Britons that
they were abandoning their own costume for the Roman toga and adopting
the manners of their conquerors. All these tendencies are slightly
affecting distinctions of race and religion; though in India these
distinctions are far deeper than they were under the Roman empire, and
so far as one can judge they are ineffaceable.

In regard to religious differences, so long as the people were almost
universally polytheistic the Romans had little trouble on this score,
since every deity and every ritual was tolerated indifferently by
their government, provided that public order and decency were
observed; and this is the practice of our Government in India. But we
have one difficulty in governing India that did not trouble the Romans
at the time when they first founded their empire by conquest. I think
that religion had then very little influence on politics. It was the
advent of two great militant and propagating faiths, first
Christianity, next Islam, that first made religion a vital element in
politics, and afterwards made a common creed the bond of union for
great masses of mankind. It has now become in Asia a powerful
instrument of political association. Therefore when we proclaim for
our government in India the principle of religious neutrality we do
indeed avoid collision with other faiths, but we are without the
advantage that is possessed by a State which represents and is
supported by the religious enthusiasm of a great number of its
subjects. I take the separation of the State from religion to be a
principle that is quite modern in Europe; and outside our Indian
empire it is unknown in Asia. Everywhere else the ruler is the head of
some dominant church or creed. On the other hand our neutral attitude
enables us to arbitrate and keep the peace between the two formidable
rivals, Islam and Hinduism, which in a large measure balance and
restrain each other. And it is easier to govern a great empire full of
diverse castes and creeds when you only demand from them obedience to
the civil law, than when the Government takes one side on religious
questions. Nevertheless, though in India we proclaim and practise
religious neutrality, we must always remember that India is, of all
great countries in the world, that in which religious beliefs and
antagonisms affect the administration most profoundly, and subdivide
the population with the greatest complexity. For the empire contains a
wonderful variety of races and tribes, especially on its frontiers; it
has the fierce Afghan tribes under our protectorate on the north-west,
a cluster of utterly barbarous tribes in the north-east, and in the
Far East beyond Burmah we have undertaken the control of a border
tract, full of petty rival chiefships, where the language, manners and
origins are related to the neighbouring population of China.

In China we have the true type of Asiatic empire, by far the oldest in
the world, a sovereignty that, with various changes of dynasty, has
governed the Far East of Asia from time almost immemorial; an immense
conglomeration of different races under the rulership of a dynasty
that is foreign to the great majority of its subjects. Here again I
must remark on the absence of territorial or national designations.
The word China, as designating this empire, is not used by the people
themselves; the official name means, I believe, the Great Pure
Kingdom; and the emperor himself is known by various titles signifying
august, lofty, or sacred. I suppose that almost the whole population
belongs to the great Mongolian or Tartar family of mankind; but the
subdivisions of different tribes, races, and languages must be
numerous, as might be expected in such a vastly extended empire, and
the tribesmen are all known by their tribal names. In regard to
Religion the situation is peculiar, it is without parallel elsewhere
in Asia; for three great systems exist in China separately and
independently, each of them working in peace side by side with the
others: the religion founded by Confucius, which is a great system of
morals; Buddhism, which is a Church with a splendid ritual,
priesthood, and monastic orders; and Taoism, which is a kind of
naturalistic religion, the worship of stars, natural forces, spirits,
deified heroes and local gods. It is said to be a common thing for one
person to belong to all three religions, and the State superintends
them all impartially. One very remarkable and peculiar fact, which I
give on excellent authority, is that in China religious denominations
are never used to denote sections of the people, except by the
Mohammedans, who are not numerous and form a class apart. But any
attempt to describe the religion of China would lead me far beyond the
scope of this address. My present point is only to lay stress on the
enormous political importance, in China as elsewhere in Asia, of the
religious idea. For whereas powerful religious movements, affecting
the destinies of kingdoms and causing great wars, have ceased in
Western and Central Europe, in Asia all governments have constantly to
apprehend some fresh outburst of religious enthusiasm, the appearance
of some prophet or new spiritual teacher, who gathers a following,
like the Mahdi in the Soudan, and attacks the ruling power. The
Taeping rebellion, which devastated China some forty years ago, is a
case in point; it was begun by a fanatic leader who denounced the
established religions, and it soon became a dangerous revolt against
the Imperial dynasty. And the outbreak against the foreigners in China
last year is understood to have originated in religious fanaticism.
These events go to illustrate the enormous influence on politics which
Religion, whether you call it enthusiasm or superstition, exercises
everywhere in Asia.

But of all empires in Asia, the Russian empire is the greatest and the
most powerful. I have only space to say here that it is of the same
type with the others; it is a vast dominion over an infinite variety
of races, tribes, and creeds; it is a government which has come in by
foreign conquest; a Christian Power which has among its subjects a
great number of Mohammedans. It differs from our Indian empire in this
respect, that the Russian conquests were made gradually by land,
across Central Asia, or by slow immigration and extension, as in
Siberia, whereas the English reached India by a long sea-journey. So
that in the Asiatic empire of Russia the separation of race between
the rulers and their subjects is not so sharply defined as between
England and India. Nevertheless the problems that confront Russia in
Asia are similar in kind to those which face us in India; she has to
reconcile to her permanent dominion a miscellany of alien peoples,
whom it is almost impossible to fuse and consolidate into anything
like a nationality.

I have now endeavoured, very imperfectly, to show how Race and
Religion still powerfully affect society, and trouble politics,
throughout a great part of the world. How far they influence and
interact upon each other is a difficult problem; but one may say that
some religions seem to accord with the peculiar temperament and
intellectual disposition of certain races; that, for instance, the
active propagating spirit of Islam flourishes in Western Asia, while
in Eastern Asia a quiet and contemplative faith, with little
missionary impulse, no strong desire to make converts, has always
prevailed. But in the East everywhere Race and Religion still unite
and isolate the populations in groups--they are the great dividing and
disturbing forces that prevent or delay the consolidation of settled
nationalities; and so far as our experience goes, a fixed nationality
of the Western type is the most solid and permanent form of political
government and social aggregation. An empire is a different and looser
mode of binding people together, yet at certain stages of civilisation
and the world's progress it is a necessity; and an empire well
administered is the best available instrument for promoting
civilisation and good order among backward races. So managed it may
last long; and its dominion may be practically permanent, for commerce
and industry, literature and science, rapid and easy communication by
land and sea, spread far more quickly, and connect distant countries
far more closely, in modern times than in the ancient world. Yet there
is always an element of unrest and insecurity underlying the position
of imperial rulership over different and often discordant groups of
subjects; and this has been one main cause of the immemorial weakness
of Asiatic empires, and of the indifference of the people to a change
of masters, because no single dynasty represented the whole people. It
is just this weakness of the native rulers that has enabled the
European to make his conquests in Asia; and we have carefully to
remember that although our governments are superior in skill and
strength, we have inherited the old difficulties. For it is my belief
that in many parts of the world, particularly in Asia, the strength of
the racial and religious sentiments is rather increasing than
diminishing. This is indeed the view--the fact, if I am right--that I
especially desire to press home, because it is of the highest
importance at the present time, when all the European nations, and
England among the foremost, are extending their dominion over peoples
of races and creeds different from their own. Our governments are now
no longer confined to the continent which we inhabit; we are acquiring
immense possessions in Asia and Africa; we can survey the whole earth
with its confusion of tongues; its multitude of beliefs and customs,
its infinitely miscellaneous populations. We must recognise the
variety of the human species; we must acknowledge that we cannot
impose a uniform type of civilisation, just as we admit that a uniform
faith is beyond mere human efforts to impose, and that to attempt it
would be politically disastrous. This is the conclusion upon which I
venture to lay stress, because some such warning seems to me neither
untimely nor unimportant.

For there is still a dangerous tendency among the enterprising
commercial nations of the West to assume that the importation into
Asia of economical improvements, public instruction, regular
administration, and religious neutrality will conquer antipathies,
overcome irrational prejudices, and reconcile old-world folk to an
alien civilisation. Undoubtedly a foreign government that rules
wisely, justly, and very cautiously, acquires a strong hold on its
subjects, and may stand, like the Roman empire, for centuries. But
this can only be achieved by recognising, instead of ignoring, certain
ineffaceable characteristics in the origins and history of the people,
for whom the tradition and sentiment of race is often their bond of
union and the base of their society, as their religion is the
embodiment of their spiritual instincts and imaginations.


[56] Address delivered as President of the Social and Political
Education League, May 5, 1902.--_Fortnightly Review_, December 1902.

[57] _Studies in History and Jurisprudence_, vol. I., chap. i.


In considering the subject of my address,[58] I have been confronted
by this difficulty--that in the sections which regulate the order of
our proceedings, we have a list of papers that range over all the
principal religions, ancient and modern, that have existed and still
exist in the world. They are to be treated and discussed by experts
whose scholarship, particular studies, and close research entitle them
all to address you authoritatively. I have no such special
qualifications; and in any case it would be most presumptuous in me to
trespass upon their ground. All that I can venture to do, therefore,
in the remarks which I propose to address to you to-day, is to attempt
a brief general survey of the history of religions from a standpoint
which may possibly not fall within the scope of these separate papers.

The four great religions now prevailing in the world, which are
historical in the sense that they have been long known to history, I
take to be--Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, and Hinduism. Having regard
to their origin and derivation, to their history and character, I may
be permitted, for my present purpose only, to class the two former as
the Religions of the West, and the two latter as the Religions of the
East. These are the faiths which still maintain a mighty influence
over the minds of mankind. And my object is to compare the political
relations, the attitude, maintained toward them, from time to time, by
the States and rulers of the people over which these religions have
established their spiritual dominion. The religion of the Jews is not
included, though its influence has been incalculable, because it has
been caught up, so to speak, into Christianity and Islam, and cannot
therefore be counted among those which have made a partition of the
religious world. For this reason, perhaps, it has retained to this day
its ancient denomination, derived from the tribe or country of its
origin; whereas the others are named from a Faith or a Founder. The
word Nazarene, denoting the birthplace of Christianity, which is said
to be still used in that region, was, as we know, very speedily
superseded by its wider title, as the Creed broke out of local limits
and was proclaimed universal.

There has evidently been a fore-time, though it is prehistorical,
when, so far as we know, mankind was universally polytheistic; when
innumerable rites and worships prevailed without restraint, springing
up and contending with each other like the trees in a primeval forest,
reflecting a primitive and precarious condition of human society. I
take polytheism to have been, in this earliest stage, the wild growth
of superstitious imagination, varied indefinitely by the pressure of
circumstance, by accident, by popular caprice, or by the good or evil
fortunes of the community. In this stage it can now be seen among
barbarous tribes--as, for instance, in Central Africa. And some traces
of it still survive, under different pretexts and disguises, in the
lowest strata of civilised nations, where it may be said to represent
the natural reluctance of the vagrant human fancy to be satisfied with
higher forms and purer conceptions that are always imperfectly
assimilated by the multitude.

Among primitive societies the spheres of human and divine affairs
were intermixed and identical; they could not be disentangled. But
with the growth of political institutions came gradual separation, or
at any rate the subordination of religion to the practical necessities
of orderly government and public morals. That polytheism can exist and
flourish in the midst of a highly intellectual and civilised society,
we know from the history of Greece and Rome. But in ancient Greece its
direct influence upon political affairs seems to have been slight;
though it touched at some points upon morality. The function of the
State, according to Greek ideas, was to legislate for all the
departments of human life and to uphold the moral standard. The law
prohibited sacrilege and profanity; it punished open impiety that
might bring down divine wrath upon the people at large. The
philosophers taught rational ethics; they regarded the popular
superstitions with indulgent contempt; but they inculcated the duty of
honouring the gods, and the observance of public ceremonial. Beyond
these limits the practice of local and customary worship was, I think,
free and unrestrained; though I need hardly add that toleration, as
understood by the States of antiquity, was a very different thing from
the modern principle of religious neutrality. Under the Roman
government the connection between the State and religion was much
closer, as the dominion of Rome expanded and its power became
centralised. The Roman State maintained a strict control and
superintendence over the official rituals and worships, which were
regulated as a department of the administration, to bind the people
together by established rites and worships, in order to cement
political and social unity. It is true that the usages of the tribes
and principalities that were conquered and annexed were left
undisturbed; for the Roman policy, like that of the English in India,
was to avoid giving offence to religion; and undoubtedly this policy,
in both instances, materially facilitated the rapid building up of a
wide dominion. Nevertheless, there was a tendency to draw in the
worship toward a common centre. The deities of the conquered provinces
were respected and conciliated; the Roman generals even appealed to
them for protection and favour, yet they became absorbed and
assimilated under Roman names; they were often identified with the
gods of the Roman pantheon, and were frequently superseded by the
victorious divinities of the new rulers--the strange deities, in fact,
were Romanised as well as the foreign tribes and cities. After this
manner the Roman empire combined the tolerance of great religious
diversity with the supremacy of a centralised government. Political
amalgamation brought about a fusion of divine attributes; and latterly
the emperor was adored as the symbol of manifest power, ruler and
pontiff; he was the visible image of supreme authority.

This _régime_ was easily accepted by the simple unsophisticated
paganism of Europe. The Romans, with all their statecraft, had as yet
no experience of a high religious temperature, of enthusiastic
devotion and divine mysteries. But as their conquest and commerce
spread eastward, the invasion of Asia let in upon Europe a flood of
Oriental divinities, and thus Rome came into contact with much
stronger and deeper spiritual forces. The European polytheism might be
utilised and administered, the Asiatic deities could not be
domesticated and subjected to regulation; the Oriental orgies and
strange rites broke in upon the organised State worship; the new ideas
and practices came backed by a profound and fervid spiritualism.
Nevertheless the Roman policy of bringing religion under
authoritative control was more or less successful even in the Asiatic
provinces of the empire; the privileges of the temples were
restricted; the priesthoods were placed under the general
superintendence of the proconsular officials; and Roman divinities
gradually found their way into the Asiatic pantheon.

But we all know that the religion of the Roman empire was falling into
multitudinous confusion when Christianity arose--an austere exclusive
faith, with its army of saints, ascetics, and unflinching martyrs,
proclaiming worship to be due to one God only, and sternly refusing to
acknowledge the divinity of the emperor. Against such a faith an
incoherent disorderly polytheism could make no better stand than
tribal levies against a disciplined army. The new religion struck
directly at the sacrifices that symbolised imperial unity; the passive
resistance of Christians was necessarily treated as rebellion, the
State made implacable war upon them. Yet the spiritual and moral
forces won the victory, and Christianity established itself throughout
the empire. Universal religion, following upon universal civil
dominion, completed the levelling of local and national distinctions.
The Churches rapidly grew into authority superior to the State within
their own jurisdiction; they called in the temporal government to
enforce theological decisions and to put down heresies; they founded a
powerful hierarchy. The earlier Roman constitution had made religion
an instrument of administration. When one religion became universal,
the churches enlisted the civil ruler into the service of orthodoxy;
they converted the State into an instrument for enforcing religion.
The pagan empire had issued edicts against Christianity and had
suppressed Christian assemblies as tainted with disaffection; the
Christian emperors enacted laws against the rites and worships of
paganism, and closed temples. It was by the supreme authority of
Constantine that, for the first time in the religious history of the
world, uniformity of belief was defined by a creed, and sanctioned by
the ruler's assent.

Then came, in Western Europe, the time when the empire at Rome was
rent asunder by the inrush of barbarians; but upon its ruins was
erected the great Catholic Church of the Papacy, which preserved in
the ecclesiastical domain the autocratic imperial tradition. The
primacy of the Roman Church, according to Harnack, is essentially the
transference to her of Rome's central position in the religions of the
heathen world; the Church united the western races, disunited
politically, under the common denomination of Christianity. Yet
Christianity had not long established itself throughout all the lands,
in Europe and Asia, which had once been under the Roman sovereignty,
when the violent irruptions of Islam upset not only the temporal but
also the spiritual dominion throughout Western Asia, and along the
southern shores of the Mediterranean. The Eastern empire at
Constantinople had been weakened by bitter theological dissensions and
heresies among the Christians; the votaries of the new, simple,
unswerving faith of Mohammed were ardent and unanimous. In Egypt and
Syria the Mohammedans were speedily victorious; the Latin Church and
even the Latin language were swept out of North Africa. In Persia the
Sassanian dynasty was overthrown, and although there was no immediate
and total conversion of the people, Mohammedanism gradually superseded
the ancient Zoroastrian cultus as the religion of the Persian State.
It was not long before the armies of Islam had triumphed from the
Atlantic coast to the Jaxartes river in Central Asia; and conversion
followed, speedily or slowly, as the direct result of conquest.
Moreover, the Mohammedans invaded Europe. In the south-west they
subdued almost all Spain; and in the south-east they destroyed, some
centuries later, the Greek empire, though not the Greek Church, and
consolidated a mighty rulership at Constantinople.

With this prolonged conflict between Islam and Christianity along the
borderlands of Europe and Asia began the era of those religious wars
that have darkened the history of the Western nations, and have
perpetuated the inveterate antipathy between Asiatic and European
races, which the spread of Christianity into both continents had
softened and might have healed. In the end Christianity has fixed
itself permanently in Europe, while Islam is strongly established
throughout half Asia. But the sharp collision between the two faiths,
the clash of armies bearing the cross and the crescent, generated
fierce fanaticism on both sides. The Crusades kindled a fiery militant
and missionary spirit previously unknown to religions, whereby
religious propagation became the mainspring and declared object of
conquest and colonisation. Finally, in the sixteenth and seventeenth
centuries the great secession from the Roman Church divided the
nations of Western Europe into hostile camps, and throughout the long
wars of that period political jealousies and ambitions were inflamed
by religious animosities. In Eastern Europe the Greek Church fell
under almost complete subordination to the State.

The history of Europe and Western Asia records, therefore, a close
connection and community of interests between the States and the
orthodox faiths; a combination which has had a very potent influence,
during many centuries, upon the course of civil affairs, upon the
fortunes, or misfortunes, of nations. Up to the sixteenth century, at
least, it was universally held, by Christianity and by Islam, that
the State was bound to enforce orthodoxy; conversion and the
suppression or expulsion of heretics were public duties. Unity of
creed was thought necessary for national unity--a government could not
undertake to maintain authority, or preserve the allegiance of its
subjects, in a realm divided and distracted by sectarian
controversies. On these principles Christianity and Islam were
consolidated, in union with the States or in close alliance with them;
and the geographical boundaries of these two faiths, and of their
internal divisions respectively, have not materially changed up to the
present day.

       *       *       *       *       *

Let me now turn to the history of religion in those countries of
further Asia, which were never reached by Greek or Roman conquest or
civilisation, where the ancient forms of worship and conceptions of
divinity, which existed before Christianity and Islam, still flourish.
And here I shall only deal with the relations of the State to religion
in India and China and their dependencies, because these vast and
populous empires contain the two great religions, Hinduism and
Buddhism, of purely Asiatic origin and character, which have
assimilated to a large extent, and in a certain degree elevated, the
indigenous polytheism, and which still exercise a mighty influence
over the spiritual and moral condition of many millions.

We know what a tremendous power religion has been in the wars and
politics of the West. I submit that in Eastern Asia, beyond the pale
of Islam, the history of religion has been very different. Religious
wars--I mean wars caused by the conflict of militant faiths contending
for superiority--were, I believe, unknown on any great scale to the
ancient civilisations. It seems to me that until Islam invaded India
the great religious movements and changes in that region had seldom or
never been the consequence of, nor had been materially affected by,
wars, conquests, or political revolutions.

Throughout Europe and Mohammedan Asia the indigenous deities and their
temples have disappeared centuries ago; they have been swept away by
the forces of Church and State combined to exterminate them; they have
all yielded to the lofty overruling ideal of monotheism. But the tide
of Mohammedanism reached its limit in India; the people, though
conquered, were but partly converted, and eastward of India there have
been no important Mohammedan rulerships. On this side of Asia,
therefore, two great religions, Buddhism and Brahmanism, have held
their ground from times far anterior to Christianity; they have
retained the elastic comprehensive character of polytheism, purified
and elevated by higher conceptions, developed by the persistent
competition of diverse ideas and forms among the people, unrestrained
by attempts of superior organised faiths to obliterate the lower and
weaker species. In that region political despotism has prevailed
immemorially; religious despotism, in the sense of the legal
establishment of one faith or worship to the exclusion of all others,
of uniformity imposed by coercion, of proselytism by persecution, is
unknown to history: the governments have been absolute and personal;
the religions have been popular and democratic. They have never been
identified so closely with the ruling power as to share its fortunes,
or to be used for the consolidation of successful conquest. Nor, on
the other hand, has a ruler ever found it necessary, for the security
of his throne, to conform to the religion of his subjects, and to
abjure all others. The political maxim, that the sovereign and his
subjects should be of one and the same religion,[59] has never
prevailed in this part of the world. And although in India, the land
of their common origin, Buddhism widely displaced and overlaid
Brahmanism, while it was in its turn, after several centuries,
overcome and ejected by a Brahmanic revival, yet I believe that
history records no violent contests or collisions between them; nor do
we know that the armed force of the State played any decisive part in
these spiritual revolutions.

I do not maintain that Buddhism has owed nothing to State influence.
It represents certain doctrines of the ancient Indian theosophy,
incarnate, as one might say, in the figure of a spiritual Master, the
Indian prince, Sakya Gautama, who was the type and example of ascetic
quietism; it embodies the idea of salvation, or emancipation
attainable by man's own efforts, without aid from priests or
divinities. Buddhism is the earliest, by many centuries, of the faiths
that claim descent from a personal founder. It emerges into authentic
history with the empire of Asoka, who ruled over the greater part of
India some 250 years before Christ, and its propagation over his realm
and the countries adjacent is undoubtedly due to the influence,
example, and authority of that devout monarch. According to Mr.
Vincent Smith, from whose valuable work on the Early History of India
I take the description of Asoka's religious policy, the king,
renouncing after one necessary war all further military conquest, made
it the business of his life to employ his autocratic power in
directing the preaching and teaching of the Law of Piety, which he had
learnt from his Buddhist priesthood. All his high officers were
commanded to instruct the people in the way of salvation; he sent
missions to foreign countries; he issued edicts promulgating ethical
doctrines, and the rules of a devout life; he made pilgrimages to the
sacred places; and finally he assumed the yellow robe of a Buddhist
monk. Asoka elevated, so Mr. Smith has said, a sect of Hinduism to the
rank of a world-religion. Nevertheless, I think it may be affirmed
that the emperor consistently refrained from the forcible conversion
of his subjects, and indeed the use of compulsion would have
apparently been a breach of his own edicts, which insist on the
principle of toleration, and declare the propagation of the Law of
Piety to be his sole object. Asoka made no attempt to persecute
Brahmanism; and it seems clear that the extraordinary success of
Buddhism in India cannot be attributed to war or to conquest. To
imperial influence and example much must be ascribed, yet I think
Buddhism owed much more to its spiritual potency, to its superior
faculty of transmuting and assimilating, instead of abolishing, the
elementary instincts and worships, endowing them with a higher
significance, attracting and stimulating devotion by impressive rites
and ceremonies, impressing upon the people the dogma of the soul's
transmigration and its escape from the miseries of sentient existence
by the operation of merits. And of all great religions it is the least
political, for the practice of asceticism and quietism, of monastic
seclusion from the working world, is necessarily adverse to any active
connection with mundane affairs.

I do not know that the mysterious disappearance of Buddhism from India
can be accounted for by any great political revolution, like that
which brought Islam into India. It seems to have vanished before the
Mohammedans had gained any footing in the country. Meanwhile Buddhism
is said to have penetrated into the Chinese empire by the first
century of the Christian era. Before that time the doctrines of
Confucius and Laotze were the dominant philosophies; rather moral than
religious, though ancestral worship and the propitiation of spirits
were not disallowed, and were to a certain extent enjoined. Laotze,
the apostle of Taoism, appears to have preached a kind of
Stoicism--the observance of the order of Nature in searching for the
right way of salvation, the abhorrence of vicious sensuality--and the
cultivation of humility, self-sacrifice, and simplicity of life. He
condemned altogether the use of force in the sphere of religion or
morality; though he admitted that it might be necessary for the
purposes of civil government. The system of Confucius inculcated
justice, benevolence, self-control, obedience and loyalty to the
sovereign--all the civic virtues; it was a moral code without a
metaphysical background; the popular worships were tolerated,
reverence for ancestors conduced to edification; the gods were to be
honoured, though it was well to keep aloof from them; he disliked
religious fervour, and of things beyond experience he had nothing to

Buddhism, with its contempt for temporal affairs, treating life as a
mere burden, and the soul's liberation from existence as the end and
object of meditative devotion, must have imported a new and disturbing
element into the utilitarian philosophies of ancient China. For many
centuries Buddhism, Taoism, and Confucianism are said to have
contended for the patronage and recognition of the Chinese emperors.
Buddhism was alternately persecuted and protected, expelled and
restored by imperial decree. Priesthoods and monastic orders are
institutions of which governments are naturally jealous; the
monasteries were destroyed or rebuilt, sacerdotal orders and celibacy
suppressed or encouraged by imperial decrees, according to the views
and prepossessions of successive dynasties or emperors. Nevertheless
the general policy of Chinese rulers and ministers seems not to have
varied essentially. Their administrative principle was that religion
must be prevented from interfering with affairs of State, that abuses
and superstitious extravagances are not so much offences against
orthodoxy as matters for the police, and as such must be put down by
the secular arm.

Upon this policy successive dynasties appear to have acted
continuously up to the present day in China, where the relations of
the State to religions are, I think, without parallel elsewhere in the
modern world. One may find some resemblance to the attitude of the
Roman emperors towards rites and worships among the population, in the
Chinese emperor's reverent observance and regulation of the rites and
ceremonies performed by him as the religious chief and representative
before Heaven of the great national interests. The deification of
deceased emperors is a solemn rite ordained by proclamation. As the
_Ius sacrum_, the body of rights and duties in the matter of religion,
was regarded in Rome as a department of the _Ius publicum_, belonging
to the fundamental constitution of the State, so in China the ritual
code was incorporated into the statute books, and promulgated with
imperial sanction. Now we know that in Rome the established ritual was
legally prescribed, though otherwise strange deities and their
worships were admitted indiscriminately. But the Chinese Government
goes much further. It appears to regard all novel superstitions, and
especially foreign worships, as the hotbed of sedition and disloyalty.
Unlicensed deities and sects are put down by the police; magicians and
sorcerers are arrested; and the peculiar Chinese practice of
canonising deceased officials and paying sacrificial honours to local
celebrities after death is strictly reserved by the Board of
Ceremonies for imperial consideration and approval. The Censor, to
whom any proposal of this kind must be entrusted, is admonished that
he must satisfy himself by inquiry of its validity. An official who
performs sacred rites in honour of a spirit or holy personage not
recognised by the Ritual Code, was liable, under laws that may be
still in force, to corporal punishment; and the adoration by private
families of spirits whose worship is reserved for public ceremonial
was a heinous offence. No such rigorous control over the
multiplication of rites and deities has been instituted elsewhere. On
the other hand, while in other countries the State has recognised no
more than one established religion, the Chinese Government formally
recognises three denominations. Buddhism has been sanctioned by
various edicts and endowments, yet the State divinities belong to the
Taoist pantheon, and their worship is regulated by public ordinances;
while Confucianism represents official orthodoxy, and its precepts
embody the latitudinarian spirit of the intellectual classes. We know
that the Chinese people make use, so to speak, of all three religions
indiscriminately, according to their individual whims, needs, or
experience of results. So also a politic administration countenances
these divisions and probably finds some interest in maintaining them.
The morality of the people requires some religious sanction; and it is
this element with which the State professes its chief concern. We are
told on good authority that one of the functions of high officials is
to deliver public lectures freely criticising and discouraging
indolent monasticism and idolatry from the standpoint of rational
ethics, as follies that are reluctantly tolerated. Yet the Government
has never been able to keep down the fanatics, mystics, and heretical
sects that are incessantly springing up in China, as elsewhere in
Asia; though they are treated as pestilent rebels and law-breakers,
to be exterminated by massacre and cruel punishments; and bloody
repression of this kind has been the cause of serious insurrections.
It is to be observed that all religious persecution is by the direct
action of the State, _not_ instigated or insisted upon by a powerful
orthodox priesthood. But a despotic administration which undertakes to
control and circumscribe all forms and manifestations of superstition
in a vast polytheistic multitude of its subjects, is inevitably driven
to repressive measures of the utmost severity. Neither Christianity
nor Islam attempted to regulate polytheism, their mission was to
exterminate it, and they succeeded mainly because in those countries
the State was acting with the support and under the uncompromising
pressure of a dominant church or faith.

Some writers have noticed a certain degree of resemblance between the
policy of the Roman empire and that of the Chinese empire toward
religion. We may read in Gibbon that the Roman magistrates regarded
the various modes of worship as equally useful, that sages and heroes
were exalted to immortality and entitled to reverence and adoration,
and that philosophic officials, viewing with indulgence the
superstitions of the multitude, diligently practised the ceremonies of
their fathers. So far, indeed, his description of the attitude of the
State toward polytheism may be applicable to China; but although the
Roman and Chinese emperors both assumed the rank of divinity, and were
supreme in the department of worships, the Roman administration never
attempted to regulate and restrain polytheism at large on the Chinese

The religion of the Gentiles, said Hobbes, is a part of their policy;
and it may be said that this is still the policy of Oriental
monarchies, who admit no separation between the secular and the
ecclesiastic jurisdiction. They would agree with Hobbes that temporal
and spiritual government are but two words brought into the world to
make men see double and mistake their lawful sovereign. But while in
Mohammedan Asia the State upholds orthodox uniformity, in China and
Japan the mainspring of all such administrative action is political
expediency. It may be suggested that in the mind of these far-Eastern
people religion has never been conceived as something quite apart from
human experience and the affairs of the visible world; for Buddhism,
with its metaphysical doctrines, is a foreign importation, corrupted
and materialised in China and Japan. And we may observe that from
among the Mongolian races, which have produced mighty conquerors and
founded famous dynasties from Constantinople to Pekin, no mighty
prophet, no profound spiritual teacher, has arisen. Yet in China, as
throughout all the countries of the Asiatic mainland, an enthusiast
may still gather together ardent proselytes, and fresh revelations may
create among the people unrest that may ferment and become heated up
to the degree of fanaticism, and explode against attempts made to
suppress it. The Taeping insurrection, which devastated cities and
provinces in China, and nearly overthrew the Manchu dynasty, is a
striking example of the volcanic fires that underlie the surface of
Asiatic societies. It was quenched in torrents of blood after lasting
some ten years. And very recently there has been a determined revolt
of the Lamas in Eastern Tibet, where the provincial administration is,
as we know, sacerdotal. The imperial troops are said to be crushing it
with unrelenting severity. These are the perilous experiences of a
philosophic Government that assumes charge and control over the
religions of some three hundred millions of Asiatics.

I can only make a hasty reference to Japan. In that country the
relations of the State to religions appear to have followed the
Chinese model. Buddhism, Confucianism, Shintoism, are impartially
recognised. The emperor presides over official worship as high priest
of his people; the liturgical ordinances are issued by imperial
rescripts not differing in form from other public edicts. The dominant
article of faith is the divinity of Japan and its emperor; and Shinto,
the worship of the gods of nature, is understood to be patronised
chiefly with the motive of preserving the national traditions. But in
Japan the advance of modern science and enlightened scepticism may
have diminished the importance of the religious department. Shinto,
says a recent writer, still embodies the religion of the people; yet
in 1877 a decree was issued declaring it to be no more than a
convenient system of State ceremonial.[60] And in 1889 an article of
the constitution granted freedom of belief and worship to all Japanese
subjects, without prejudice to peace, order, and loyalty.

       *       *       *       *       *

In India the religious situation is quite different. I think it is
without parallel elsewhere in the world. Here we are at the
fountain-head of metaphysical theology, of ideas that have flowed
eastward and westward across Asia. And here, also, we find every
species of primitive polytheism, unlimited and multitudinous; we can
survey a confused medley of divinities, of rites and worships
incessantly varied by popular whim and fancy, by accidents, and by the
pressure of changing circumstances. Hinduism permits any doctrine to
be taught, any sort of theory to be held regarding the divine
attributes and manifestations, the forces of nature, or the
mysterious functions of mind or body. Its tenets have never been
circumscribed by a creed; its free play has never been checked or
regulated by State authority.

Now, at first sight, this is not unlike the popular polytheism of the
ancient world, before the triumph of Christianity. There are passages
in St. Augustine's _Civitas Dei_, describing the worship of the
unconverted pagans among whom he lived, that might have been written
yesterday by a Christian bishop in India. And we might ask why all
this polytheism was not swept out from among such a highly
intellectual people as the Indians, with their restless pursuit of
divine knowledge, by some superior faith, by some central idea.
Undoubtedly the material and moral conditions, and the course of
events which combine to stamp a particular form of religion upon any
great people, are complex and manifold; but into this inquiry I cannot
go. I can only point out that the institution of caste has riveted
down Hindu society into innumerable divisions upon a general religious
basis, and that the sacred books separated the Hindu theologians into
different schools, preventing uniformity of worship or of creed. And
it is to be observed that these books are not historical; they give no
account of the rise and spread of a faith. The Hindu theologian would
say, in the words of an early Christian father, that the objects of
divine knowledge are not historical, that they can only be apprehended
intellectually, that within experience there is no reality. And the
fact that Brahmanism has no authentic inspired narrative, that it is
the only great religion not concentrated round the life and teachings
of a person, may be one reason why it has remained diffuse and
incoherent. All ways of salvation are still open to the Hindus; the
canon of their scripture has never been authoritatively closed. New
doctrines, new sects, fresh theological controversies, are
incessantly modifying and superseding the old scholastic
interpretations of the mysteries, for Hindus, like Asiatics
everywhere, are still in that condition of mind when a fresh spiritual
message is eagerly received. Vishnu and Siva are the realistic
abstractions of the understanding from objects of sense, from
observation of the destructive and reproductive operations of nature;
they represent among educated men separate systems of worship which,
again, are parted into different schools or theories regarding the
proper ways and methods of attaining to spiritual emancipation. Yet
the higher philosophy and the lower polytheism are not mutually
antagonistic; on the contrary, they support each other; for Brahmanism
accepts and allies itself with the popular forms of idolatry, treating
them as outward visible signs of an inner truth, as indications of
all-pervading pantheism. The peasant and the philosopher reverence the
same deity, perform the same rite; they do not mean the same thing,
but they do not quarrel on this account. Nevertheless, it is certainly
remarkable that this inorganic medley of ideas and worships should
have resisted for so many ages the invasion and influence of the
coherent faiths that have won ascendancy, complete or dominant, on
either side of India, the west and the east; it has thrown off
Buddhism, it has withstood the triumphant advance of Islam, it has as
yet been little affected by Christianity. Probably the political
history of India may account in some degree for its religious
disorganisation. I may propound the theory that no religion has
obtained supremacy, or at any rate definite establishment, in any
great country except with the active co-operation, by force or favour,
of the rulers, whether by conquest, as in Western Asia, or by
patronage and protection, as in China. The direct influence and
recognition of the State has been an indispensable instrument of
religious consolidation. But until the nineteenth century the whole of
India, from the mountains to the sea, had never been united under one
stable government; the country was for ages parcelled out into
separate principalities, incessantly contending for territory. And
even the Moghul empire, which was always at war upon its frontiers,
never acquired universal dominion. The Moghul emperors, except
Aurungzeb, were by no means bigoted Mohammedans; and their obvious
interest was to abstain from meddling with Hinduism. Yet the irruption
of Islam into India seems rather to have stimulated religious activity
among the Hindus, for during the Mohammedan period various spiritual
teachers arose, new sects were formed, and theological controversies
divided the intellectual classes. To these movements the Mohammedan
governments must have been for a long time indifferent; and among the
new sects the principle of mutual toleration was universal. Towards
the close of the Moghul empire, however, Hinduism, provoked by the
bigotry of the Emperor Aurungzeb, became a serious element of
political disturbance. Attempts to suppress forcibly the followers of
Nanak Guru, and the execution of one spiritual leader of the Sikhs,
turned the Sikhs from inoffensive quietists into fanatical warriors;
and by the eighteenth century they were in open revolt against the
empire. They were, I think, the most formidable embodiment of militant
Hinduism known to Indian history. By that time, also, the Marathas in
South-West India were declaring themselves the champions of the Hindu
religion against the Mohammedan oppression; and to the Sikhs and
Marathas the dislocation of the Moghul empire may be very largely
attributed. We have here a notable example of the dynamic power upon
politics of revolts that are generated by religious fermentation, and
a proof of the strength that can be exerted by a pacific inorganic
polytheism in self-defence, when ambitious rebels proclaim themselves
defenders of a faith. The Marathas and the Sikhs founded the only
rulerships whose armies could give the English serious trouble in the
field during the nineteenth century.

On the whole, however, when we survey the history of India, and
compare it with that of Western Asia, we may say that although the
Hindus are perhaps the most intensely religious people in the world,
Hinduism has never been, like Christianity, Islam, and to some extent
Buddhism, a religion established by the State. Nor has it suffered
much from the State's power. It seems strange, indeed, that
Mohammedanism, a compact proselytising faith, closely united with the
civil rulership, should have so slightly modified, during seven
centuries of dominion, this infinitely divided polytheism. Of course,
Mohammedanism made many converts, and annexed a considerable number of
the population--yet the effect was rather to stiffen than to loosen
the bonds that held the mass of the people to their traditional
divinities, and to the institution of castes. Moreover the antagonism
of the two religions, the popular and the dynastic, was a perpetual
element of weakness in a Mohammedan empire. In India polytheism could
not be crushed, as in Western Asia, by Islam; neither could it be
controlled and administered, as in Eastern Asia; yet the Moghul
emperors managed to keep on good terms with it, so long as they
adhered to a policy of toleration.

To the Mohammedan empire has succeeded another foreign dominion, which
practises not merely tolerance but complete religious neutrality.
Looking back over the period of a hundred years, from 1757 to 1857,
during which the British dominion was gradually extended over India,
we find that the British empire, like the Roman, met with little or no
opposition from religion. Hindus and Mohammedans, divided against each
other, were equally willing to form alliances with, and to fight on
the side of, the foreigner who kept religion entirely outside
politics. And the British Government, when established, has so
carefully avoided offence to caste or creed that on one great occasion
only, the Sepoy Mutiny of 1857, have the smouldering fires of
credulous fanaticism broken out against our rule.

I believe the British-Indian position of complete religious neutrality
to be unique among Asiatic governments, and almost unknown in Europe.
The Anglo-Indian sovereignty does not identify itself with the
interests of a single faith, as in Mohammedan kingdoms, nor does it
recognise a definite ecclesiastical jurisdiction in things spiritual,
as in Catholic Europe. Still less has our Government adopted the
Chinese system of placing the State at the head of different rituals
for the purpose of controlling them all, and proclaiming an ethical
code to be binding on all denominations. The British ruler, while
avowedly Christian, ignores all religions administratively,
interfering only to suppress barbarous or indecent practices when the
advance of civilisation has rendered them obsolete. Public
instruction, so far as the State is concerned, is entirely secular;
the universal law is the only authorised guardian of morals; to
expound moral duties officially, as things apart from religion, has
been found possible in China, but not in India. But the Chinese
Government can issue edicts enjoining public morality and rationalism
because the State takes part in the authorised worship of the people,
and the emperor assumes pontifical office. The British Government in
India, on the other hand, disowns official connection with any
religion. It places all its measures on the sole ground of reasonable
expediency, of efficient administration; it seeks to promote industry
and commerce, and material civilisation generally; it carefully avoids
giving any religious colour whatever to its public acts; and the
result is that our Government, notwithstanding its sincere professions
of absolute neutrality, is sometimes suspected of regarding all
religion with cynical indifference, possibly even with hostility.

Moreover, religious neutrality, though it is right, just, and the only
policy which the English in India could possibly adopt, has certain
political disadvantages. The two most potent influences which still
unite and divide the Asiatic peoples, are race and religion; a
Government which represents both these forces, as, for instance, in
Afghanistan, has deep roots in a country. A dynasty that can rely on
the support of an organised religion, and stands forth as the champion
of a dominant faith, has a powerful political power at its command.
The Turkish empire, weak, ill-governed, repeatedly threatened with
dismemberment, embarrassed internally by the conflict of races, has
been preserved for the last hundred years by its incorporation with
the faith of Islam, by the Sultan's claim to the Caliphate. To attack
it is to assault a religious citadel; it is the bulwark on the west of
Mohammedan Asia, as Afghanistan is the frontier fortress of Islam on
the east. A leading Turkish politician has very recently said: 'It is
in Islam pure and simple that lies the strength of Turkey as an
independent State; and if the Sultan's position as religious chief
were encroached upon by constitutional reforms, the whole Ottoman
empire would be in danger.' We have to remember that for ages
religious enthusiasm has been, and still is in some parts of Asia, one
of the strongest incentives to military ardour and fidelity to a
standard on the battlefield. Identity of creed has often proved more
effective, in war, than territorial patriotism; it has surmounted
racial and tribal antipathies; while religious antagonism is still in
many countries a standing impediment to political consolidation.

When, therefore, we survey the history of religions, though this
sketch is necessarily very imperfect and inadequate, we find
Mohammedanism still identified with the fortunes of Mohammedan rulers;
and we know that for many centuries the relations of Christianity to
European States have been very close. In Europe the ardent
perseverance and intellectual superiority of great theologians, of
ecclesiastical statesmen supported by autocratic rulers, have hardened
and beat out into form doctrines and liturgies that it was at one time
criminal to disregard or deny, dogmatic articles of faith that were
enforced by law. By these processes orthodoxy emerged compact, sharply
defined, irresistible, out of the strife and confusion of heresies;
the early record of the churches has pages spotted with tears and
stained with blood. But at the present time European States seem
inclined to dissolve their alliance with the churches, and to arrange
a kind of judicial separation between the altar and the throne, though
in very few cases has a divorce been made absolute. No State, in
civilised countries, now assists in the propagation of doctrine; and
ecclesiastical influence is of very little service to a Government.
The civil law, indeed, makes continual encroachments on the
ecclesiastical domain, questions its authority, and usurps its
jurisdiction. Modern erudition criticises the historical authenticity
of the scriptures, philosophy tries to undermine the foundations of
belief; the governments find small interest in propping up edifices
that are shaken by internal controversies. In Mohammedan Asia, on the
other hand, the connection between the orthodox faith and the States
is firmly maintained, for the solidarity is so close that disruptions
would be dangerous, and a Mohammedan rulership over a majority of
unbelievers would still be perilously unstable.

I have thus endeavoured to show that the historical relations of
Buddhism and Hinduism to the State have been in the past, and are
still in the present time, very different from the situation in the
West. There has always existed, I submit, one essential distinction of
principle. Religious propagation, forcible conversion, aided and
abetted by the executive power of the State, and by laws against
heresy or dissent, have been defended in the West by the doctors of
Islam, and formerly by Christian theologians, by the axiom that all
means are justifiable for extirpating false teachers who draw souls to
perdition. The right and duty of the civil magistrate to maintain
truth, in regard to which Bossuet declared all Christians to be
unanimous, and which is still affirmed in the Litany of our Church, is
a principle from which no Government, three centuries ago, dissented
in theory, though in practice it needed cautious handling. I do not
think that this principle ever found its way into Hinduism or
Buddhism; I doubt, that is to say, whether the civil government was at
any time called in to undertake or assist propagation of those
religions as part of its duty. Nor do I know that the States of
Eastern Asia, beyond the pale of Islam, claim or exercise the right of
insisting on conformance to particular doctrines, because they are
true. The erratic manifestations of the religious spirit throughout
Asia, constantly breaking out in various forms and figures, in
thaumaturgy, mystical inspiration, in orgies and secret societies,
have always disquieted these Asiatic States, yet, so far as I can
ascertain, the employment of force to repress them has always been
justified on administrative or political grounds, as distinguishable
from theological motives pure and simple. Sceptics and agnostics have
been often marked out for persecution in the West, but I do not think
that they have been molested in India, China, or Japan, where they
abound, because they seldom meddle with politics.[61] It may perhaps
be admitted, however, that a Government which undertakes to regulate
impartially all rites and worship among its subjects is at a
disadvantage by comparison with a Government that acts as the
representative of a great church or an exclusive faith. It bears the
sole undivided responsibility for measures of repression; it cannot
allege divine command or even the obligation of punishing impiety for
the public good.

To conclude. In Asiatic States the superintendence of religious
affairs is an integral attribute of the sovereignty, which no
Government, except the English in India, has yet ventured to
relinquish; and even in India this is not done without some risk, for
religion and politics are still intermingled throughout the world;
they act and react upon each other everywhere. They are still far from
being disentangled in our own country, where the theory that a
Government in its collective character must profess and even propagate
some religion has not been very long obsolete. It was maintained
seventy years ago by a great statesman who was already rising into
prominence, by Mr. Gladstone. The text of Mr. Gladstone's argument, in
his book on the relations of the State with the Church, was Hooker's
saying, that the religious duty of kings is the weightiest part of
their sovereignty; while Macaulay, in criticising this position,
insisted that the main, if not the only, duty of a Government, to
which all other objects must be subordinate, was the protection of
persons and property. These two eminent politicians were, in fact, the
champions of the ancient and the modern ideas of sovereignty; for the
theory that a State is bound to propagate the religion that it
professes was for many centuries the accepted theory of all Christian
rulerships, though I think it now survives only in Mohammedan

As the influence of religion in the sphere of politics declines, the
State becomes naturally less concerned with the superintendence of
religion; and the tendency of constitutional Governments seems to be
towards abandoning it. The States that have completely dissolved
connection with ecclesiastical institutions are the two great
republics, the United States of America and France. We can discern at
this moment a movement towards constitutional reforms in Mohammedan
Asia, in Turkey, and Persia, and if they succeed it will be most
interesting to observe the effect which liberal reforms will produce
upon the relation of Mohammedan Governments with the dominant faith,
and on which side the religious teachers will be arrayed. It is
certain, at any rate, that for a long time to come religion will
continue to be a potent factor in Asiatic politics; and I may add that
the reconciliation of civil with religious liberty is one of the most
arduous of the many problems to be solved by the promoters of national


[58] Delivered as President of the Congress for the History of
Religions, September 1908.--_Fortnightly Review_, November 1908.

[59] 'Cujus regio ejus religio.'

[60] _The Development of Religion in Japan_, G. W. Knox, 1907.

[61] 'Atheism did never disturb States' (Bacon).


Acton, Lord:
  On causes of Franco-German War, 346.
  Quoted, 362 (footnote), 386, 396, 398.
  Advice to writers of history, 384, 394.
  Also 370, 374, 375, 387.

Addison's _Blenheim_ criticised in _Esmond_, 101.

Adventure, see Novels of.

Adventures of Moreau de Jonnés, 16.
  Popularity of, in short stories, 31.

  Blood feuds, border forays, etc., 163, 164.
  War, 163, 318.
  Songs, 168.
  Frontier and frontier policy, 319, 324.
  Character, 320.

  Barrier to Russian advance in Asia, 316.
  British policy towards, compared with Russian policy in Caucasus, 317.
  Is acquiring a territorial connotation, 416.
  Eastern bulwark of Islam, 417, 449.

Akhlongo, siege of, 305.

Althorp, Lord, 64.

Armenians, their position and misfortunes, 414.

Arnold, Matthew:
  Lord Morley's article on his letters, 50.
  His letters reviewed, 57.
  Quoted, 58, 59, 60, 61,177, 257.
  Praised and criticised by Swinburne, 282, 287.
  Also 126, 183, 207, 266, 281.

Asia and foreign dynasties, 417.

Asoka, 436.

Austen, Jane, as novelist of manners, 21, 24.

Austria-Hungary, intermixture of races and religions in, 403.

Balfour, Arthur James, _Foundations of Belief_, 250.

Balkans, policy of the Turks in the, 407.

Balzac, 94.

Bariatinsky, 314.

Beauchamp and the Utilitarian rejection of theology, 255.

Behn, Mrs. Aphra, 2.

Benedetti, 332, etc.

Bentham, see 'Utilitarians.'

Beowulf, 168.

Bismarck, see 'L'Empire Libéral,' _passim_.

Blavatsky, Madame, 134.

Blood feuds in Afghanistan, 321.
  On the Scotch borders, 323.

Bonaparte, 92, 187.

Bossuet, 451.

Braddock, General, 104.

Braddon, Miss, 26.

Bret Harte, 32.

Bright, John: 'Force no remedy,' 260.

Broad Church, 62, 257.

Brontë, Charlotte, 25.

Broughton, Miss, 26.

Brown: definition of 'Intuition,' 238.

Browning, Robert, 69, 266, 267.
  Swinburne's homage to, 282.

Buckle, 253, 261.

Buddhism, 400, 423, and see 'The State in Relation to Religion.'

Bulwer-Lytton, Sir E., 99, 116.

_Burial of Sir John Moore_, 173.

Burke's letters, 37.

Burney, Miss, 21.

Butler's _Analogy_, 236.

=Byron, Works of Lord=, 177-209.
  Additions to his published letters, 178.
  Their bearing on his reputation, 179.
  Causes affecting his popularity, 183.
  Comparison with Chateaubriand, 186, 194.
  His success in oriental romance, 187;
    and in heroic verse, 190.
  Defects, tendency to declamation, etc., 191.
  Carelessness, contrast between his theory and practice, 193.
  Comparison with Scott, _The Giaour_, 195.
  Metre of his romantic poems, 197.
  His dramas, failure in blank verse, 198.
  His lyrical power, examples, 200.
  _Beppo_ and _Don Juan_, 203.
  Founder of modern realism in poetry, 204.
  _Vision of Judgment_, 206.
  Conclusions: value of his influence, 207.

Byron, Lord, as realist, 6.
  Also 13 and 97, and see under 'Letter-writing.'

Campbell, Thomas:
  Carlyle's description, 64.
  As heroic poet, 173.

Carlyle, Thomas, see 'Letter-writing.'
  Denounces Utilitarianism, 256.
  Swinburne's tribute, 283.
  His descriptive method, 383.
  See also 9, 58, 116, 215.

Castlereagh, Lord, 180, 183.

Caucasus, see 'Frontiers,' 291, etc.

Cavagnari, in Afghan ballads, 163.

Cervantes, 108.

Chanson de Roland, 161.

Charles Edward, Prince, authentic incident in _Esmond_, 104.

Chateaubriand, 97, 115, 185-187, 194.

Chaucer, 1.

_Chevy Chase_, 170.

Chillianwalla in fiction, 128.

China, religious systems, 423.
  Religious polity, 438.

Christian missions in India, 326.

Christianity and Islam, as militant religions, 400, 408, 421.
  Compared with Buddhism, etc., 427.
  Form alliances with the State, 434, 441.

Church and State:
  Lord Acton on, 398.
  Separation a modern idea, 421.
  Importance to the Church of recognition, 445.
  Diminishing closeness of the connection, 450.
  Gladstone and Macaulay on, 452.

Clough, 266.

Coleridge, S. T., see 'Letter-writing.'
  Connection of speculative ideas and political movements,
    211, 229, 237, 372.
  Quoted, 33, 181, 393.
  Also mentioned, 37, 185, 265, 287.

Colvin, Sidney, quoted, 40, 71.

Comte and J. S. Mill, 255.

Cooper, Fenimore, 32.

Cowper, as letter-writer, 37, 66.
  Quoted, 62.

Crabbe, 193.
  Quoted, 69.

Crimean War, 311, 313.

_Cujus regio ejus religio_, 436.

Dante, 39.

Dargo, in the Caucasus, attack on, 307-308.

Darmesteter, Afghan ballads, 163, 168.

Davidson on rhyme in poetry, 279, 280.

Defoe, 3, 99.

De la Gorce:
  On Napoleon III., 330.
  On the French ministry, 339, 347.

De Musset, Alfred, 111.

De Staël, Madame, 180.

De Tocqueville, 331, 402.

De Vogüé, 252.

Dickens, Charles, 23, 30, 68, 98.

Direct narration in fiction, 18.

Disraeli, Benjamin, as novelist, 18.

Drama, rival of the novel, 2.

Du Barail, General:
  On Napoleon III., 330.
  On Ollivier, 331.

Due de Gramont, 331, etc.

Duvernois' interpellation in French Chamber, 342, 347.

Edgeworth, Miss, 21.

Eliot, George:
  _Romola_, 23.
  _Adam Bede_, 25.

Empire, defined, 406.

Ems, Benedetti and King of Prussia at, 343-350, 356.

Encyclopédistes, ancestors of the Utilitarians, 252, 402.

European dominion in Asia, importance of, 403.

Farrar, Archdeacon, quoted, 12.

Ferozeshah, 130.

Ferrero on Julius Cæsar, 391.

Fiction and fact in the novel and in history, 10, 385.

Fiction, doubt as to its value as evidence of manners, 111.
  See also 91 and 110.

Fielding, Henry, 3, 26, 95, 111.
  _Tom Jones_, 19.
  Influence on Thackeray, 99.

Fitzgerald, Edward, see 'Letter-writing,' 66-70.

Franco-German War, see 'L'Empire Libéral.'

French Revolution, 212, 218.

=Frontiers, Ancient and Modern=, 291-327.
  Demarcation of frontiers a modern development, 291.
  Interest of the subject to England, 293.
  Mr. Baddeley's work on the Caucasus, 294.
  Description of the Caucasus, 295.
  The Russian advance, 296.
  Yermoloff and his policy, 298.
  Its failure for the time, and his recall, 301.
  Rise of Muridism, 302.
  Shamil succeeds Kazi Mullah, 303.
  Capture of Akhlongo, 306.
  Repulse of Vorontzoff at Dargo; 307.
   and at Ghergebil, 310.
  Shamil ransoms his son, 312.
  Surrenders at Gooneeb (1857), 313.
  Effect on Asiatic politics, 315.
  Russian policy compared with British in Afghanistan, 316.
  Dr. Pennell on the Afghans, 319.
  Ghazis, blood feuds, 321.
  Dr. Pennell on missions, 326.

Frontiers, not strictly demarcated in the East, 413.

Froude, J. A., quoted, 74.
  His methods as a historian, 382.

Gambetta votes for war with Prussia, 359.

Garibaldi, 273.

Gaskell, Mrs., 26.

_Gesta Romanorum_, 2.

_Gil Blas_, 19, 204.

Gladstone, W. E., 229.

Godwin, William:
  As recipient of good letters, 46.
  His tragedy, _Antonio_, 46.
  Carlyle's description, 64.
  A peaceful anarchist, 234.

Goethe, 78, 182.

Gordon, Lindsay, 32.

_Grand Cyrus_, 96.

Gray, Thomas, 37, 50.

Greek Church, 433.
  Comparison with Rome, 409.

Hemans, Mrs., 265.

Herodotus, 160, 379.

=Heroic Poetry=, 155-176.
  Definition, 155.
  Professor Ker's _Epic and Romance_, 156.
  Early bards and chroniclers, 157.
  Their work based on fact, 158, 164.
  The hero and the heroic poet, 159.
  Icelandic Sagas, and Afghan songs, 163.
  Homer, 165.
  Position of women in Homeric poetry, 166.
  The heroic style in the Old Testament, 167.
  Romantic poetry of England, _Morte d Arthur_ and ballads, 169.
  Sir Walter Scott, 171.
  Limitations of heroic poetry, 172.
  Its decline, unfavourable influences of both the romantic and the
    realistic spirit, 174.

Hindu, meaning of, 419.

Hinduism, not a missionary religion, 400.
  Never established by the State, 447.

Historical romance brought to perfection in nineteenth century, 96.

=History, Remarks on the Reading of=, 377-398.
  Almost all real history written in some European language, 377.
  History, formerly an art, becoming a science, 379.
  Macaulay, Froude, and Carlyle as historical artists, 382.
  The scientific method, possible drawbacks, 384.
  Limitation and subdivision necessary, 386.
  Short abstracts, their use and abuse, 388.
  Motives for studying history, 390.
  Our knowledge imperfect, and our predictions fallible, 392.
  Lord Acton's advice and principles, 394.

Hobbes, Thomas, 243, 273.
  Followed by Bentham, 221.
  Quoted, 319, 413, 441.

Hogarth, William, 99.

Hookham Frere, 204.

Hugo, Victor, 187, 300.
  Swinburne's admiration, 265, 282, 287.

Hume, 215, 216.
  Influence on Bentham, 222;
    on Mill, 244, 254.
  Quoted, 224.

Humphry Ward, Mrs., example of her descriptive method, 27.

Hutcheson, 217.

Iliad, 174.

Impressionist school in fiction, 33.

Inchbald, Mrs., quoted, 46.

India, Mill's history of, 225.

Importance of frontier questions, 293.

Indian Empire:
  Resemblance to Roman, 420.
  Comparison with Russian, 424.
  See also 'Race and Religion,' and 'The State in Relation to Religion.'

Irish characters, Thackeray's partiality for, 109.

  Its militant policy, 400, 413.
  Spread of, 432.
  In India, 446.
  Importance to Turkey of Sultan's position in, 449.

James, G. P. R., 32.

Jeffrey, Thomas, 186, 199.

Jehu's story, 382.

_John Inglesant_, 18, 106.

Johnson, Samuel, 120.

Jones, Paul, 113.

Jowett, Benjamin, quoted, 55, 57.

Kaffir, origin of the name, 415.

Keats, John, 185, 199.
  See also 'Letter-writing.'

Kemble, Fanny, FitzGerald's letters to, 68.

Ker's _Epic and Romance_, 156, 164, 168.

_Kidnapped_, direct narration in, 18.

Kingsley, Charles, 8.
  Quoted, 278.

Kipling, Rudyard, 32, 149, 174.

Klugenau, Russian General, 305.

Lamartine, 187.

Lamb, Charles, 47.
  Quoted, 48, 56.

Lansdowne, Lord, 228.

Laotze, 438.

Le Boeuf, Marshal, 334, 347, 351, 358.

Lecky, W. E. H., on American Loyalists, 105.
  Comparison with Walpole, 376.

=L'Empire Libéral=, 328-367.
  Constitutional reforms and character of Napoleon III., 330.
  Ollivier's difficult position as chief minister, 331.
  Crown of Spain accepted by Leopold, 332.
  Effect in France, warning to Prussia, 333-336.
  Benedetti's interview at Ems, 337.
  Leopold's compulsory renunciation, 338.
  Incautious action of Ollivier, 339;
    and of Gramont, 341.
  Assurances demanded from Prussia, 344.
  Ollivier meditates resignation, 345.
  Benedetti at Ems, 348.
  'Le Soufflet de Bismarck,' 350.
  Declaration of war, 352.
  Thiers' opposition, Ollivier's defence, 353, 354.
  French enthusiasm, 358.
  Reception of declaration by Bismarck; 360;
  and by the Reichstag, 361.
  Bismarck's real responsibility, 362.
  Ollivier's acts and motives examined, 365.

=Letter-writing (English) in the Nineteenth Century=, 34-75.
  Conditions of fine letter-writing, 34.
  Affinities with the diary and the essay, 36.
  Poets as good letter-writers, 37.
  Value of letters for biographical and other purposes, 38.
  Earlier writers--Keats, Scott, Southey, Byron, Coleridge, Wordsworth,
    Shelley, Lamb, 39-47.
  Lord Morley's canon, 50.
  Later writers and their difficulties, 52.
  Dean Stanley's letters, 53.
  Matthew Arnold's, 57.
  Thomas Carlyle's, 63.
  Edward Fitzgerald's, 66.
  R. L. Stevenson's, 70.

Lever, Charles, 8, 92.

Liverpool, Lord, 66, 229, 230.

Lucretius, 271.

Macaulay, T. B., 61, 206.
  On Byron, 184, 191.
  His rejoinder to James Mill, 227.
  Influence on Walpole, 371.
  Ranke's criticism, 383.

  On judging by results, 329.
  On standing neutral in war, 331.

Mackintosh, as typical Whig, 228.

Maine, Sir H., on 'Sovereignty,' 412.

Malthus, T., 234, 236.

Manning, Cardinal, 53, 74.

Marbot, success of his Memoirs, 13, 16.

_Marcella_, quoted, 27.

Marlborough, Thackeray's description of, 103.

Marryat, Captain, 8.

_Master of Ballantrae_, direct narration in, 18.

Maurice, 256.

Mayor's _English Metres_, 286.

Mazzini, 273.
  Quoted, 184.

Memoirs and fiction, 13.

_Memorials of Coleorton_, 42.

Meredith, George, 264.

Mill, see 'Utilitarians.'

Milton, 200, 287.
  Quoted, 183.

Mongolians have not produced spiritual teachers, 442.

Moore, Thomas, 42, 179, 193.
  His sham Orientalism, 6, 123, 188.
  His dealings with Byron's letters, 177.

_Morte d'Arthur_, 169.

Mullahs, 320.

Muridism, see 'Frontiers,' 320.

Murray, John, 178.
  Quoted, 188.

Murray, Professor, and solar myths, 161.

Myths, historical value of, 11.

  His story adapted to myth-making, 14.
  Transformer of democracy into Imperialism, 252, 402.

_Napoléon Intime_, 15.

Napoleon III; and see 'L'Empire Libéral.'

Nationalities, formation of, in Europe, 401.

Naturalism or realism defined, 25.

Newman, Cardinal, 257, 258.
  Swinburne's tribute to, 283.

=Novels of Adventure and Manners=, 1-33.
  Mr. Raleigh on origins of fiction, 1.
  Metrical tales, heroic romance, the eighteenth-century school of
    novelists, 2, 3.
  Novel of adventure derived from the fabulous romance, 4.
  Scott's influence, 5.
  Later tendencies, 6.
  Approximation of the historian and novelist, 10.
  The novelist rivalled by the writer of Memoirs, 13.
  Adventures of de Jonnés reviewed, 16.
  Causes limiting the sphere of the Novel of Adventure, 18.
  Novel of Manners, its pedigree: Fielding, 19.
  Influence of women writers: Miss Austen, etc., 21.
  Growth of Realism, 25.
  Description of nature, its uses, 26.
  Danger of excessive Realism, 29.
  Short stories: the Impressionist School, 32.

=Novelist, The Anglo-Indian=, 121-154.
  Causes affecting output of good fiction in India, 121.
  _Tara_, a successful historical novel, 123.
  _Pandurang Hari_, valuable as picture of pre-English times, 125.
  _Oakfield_, good battle pictures, absence of native characters
     noted, 126.
  _The Wetherbys_, 131.
  _A True Reformer_, and _The Dilemma_, 132.
  _Mr. Isaacs_, 134.
  _Helen Treveryan_, assigned a high place as a historical novel, 136.
  _On the Face of the Waters_, Indian characters freely introduced,
     minute adherence to fact, 139.
  _Bijli the Dancer_, a purely native story, 143.
  _Chronicles of Dustypore_, a picture of Anglo-Indian life, 145.
  _The Bond of Blood_, a dramatic presentation of incidents of Indian
     life, 146.
  _The Naulakha_, 149.
  _Transgression_, 151.
  Conclusions: uniformity of Anglo-Indian society, 152.
  Conditions favour the novel of action, 153.
  Absence of the psychological vein, 154.

O'Connell, Daniel, described by Carlyle, 64.

_Odyssey_ quoted, 167.

Old Testament and heroic narration, 167.

Oliphant, Mrs., 26.

Ollivier, see 'L'Empire Libéral.'

Olozaga, 337.

Ottoman Empire, its complexities of Race and Religion, 406.

Ouida, 25.

Paley, 222.

Parr, Dr., 199.

Patmore, Coventry, 268.

Pearson, Hugh, 55, 57.

Peel, Sir Robert, quoted, 232.

Peninsular War and heroic poetry, 173.

Peter the Great's Caspian expedition, 296.

Phingari, 196.

Polytheism, formerly universal, 428;
  gives way to Christianity, 431.

Pope, 37.
  Byron's praise, 193.

Porter, Jane, and historical romance, 23.

Rabelais, 321.

=Race and Religion=, 399-426.
  Ancient groupings of peoples, 399.
  Effect of (1) the Roman Empire, (2) Christianity and Islam, 400.
  Consolidation of States in the West, 401.
  Importance of 'Race' overlooked by Utilitarians, 402.
  Gravity of the question in Austria, 403.
  Its complexity in Turkey, 406.
  Maintenance of racial and religious differences by Asiatic Empires, 407.
  Close alliance of Greek Church with the State, 410.
  Classification of the people by religion in Ottoman Empire, 411.
  Importance of 'Race and Religion' in Asia, 412.
  Religious distinctions predominant in Western Asia, 413.
  Causes of the Armenian massacres, 414.
  Racial distinctions predominant in Afghanistan, 417.
  India, connotation of 'Hindu,' 418.
  Complexities of race and creed, 420.
  Policy of religious neutrality, 421.
  Peculiarity of religious situation in China, 422.
  Russian Empire, conclusions, 424.

Race distinctions, increasing influence of, 252.

Radcliffe, Mrs., the novelist, 5.

Raleigh, Sir Walter, on _The English Novel_, 1.

Ramsay, Sir William, on writing of history, 386.

Rawlinson on the effect of troubles in the Caucasus on Russian policy, 315.

Realism defined, 25.
  Its dangers, 28, 30, 31, (cf. 12, 140).

Reform Bill, 232.

=Religions, The State in its Relation to Eastern and Western=, 427-453.
  Eastern religions, Buddhism and Hinduism; Western, Christianity and
    Islam, 427.
  Growth of State domination under Roman Empire, 429.
  Domination of the Church when Christianity established, 431.
  Conflict with Islam, its effects, 432.
  Close alliance of both faiths with the State, 434.
  Absence of religious wars and of persecution in ancient India, 434.
  The situation in China, 437;
    and in Japan, 443.
  India, political independence of Hinduism, 443.
  Toleration by Mohammedan rulers, 446.
  Hinduism never an established religion, 447.
  British policy of neutrality, 447.
  Some political disadvantages, 449.
  Conclusions: difference in relations of Eastern and Western religions
    to the State, 451.

Renan, 379.

Ricardo, 234.

Richardson, the novelist, 3.

Ritchie, Lady Richmond, 76.
  Quoted, 79.

_Robert Elsmere_, its popularity, 30.

Roberts, Lord, 136, 142, 163, 319.

Rodney, Admiral, 115.

Roman Catholic Church, its polity compared with the Greek, 410.
  Inheritor of Imperial tradition, 432.

Roman Empire, its frontier policy, 292; also 400, 420, 430, 441.

_Roman Naturaliste_, by Brunetière, 25.

Rousseau, J. J., 212.

Sagas, 163, 168.

Sainte-Beuve, 194.

Say, Léon, 16.

Scotch common sense philosophy, 215.

Scotsman, the, in fiction, 109.

Scott, Michael, 8.

Scott, Sir Walter:
  Head of modern romantic school of fiction, 5.
  Abandoned poetry for prose, 6.
  Transferred dialogue from the drama to the novel, 108.
  His historical insight, 115.
  His descriptions of fighting, 103, 172, 190, 385.
  Quoted, 200.

Shakespeare, 39, 108, 198, 287, 380, 385.
  Quoted, 171, 275.

Shamil, see 'Frontiers,' 303, etc.

Shelley, 179, 185, 287.
  His letters, 44.
  Quoted, 207, 290.
  Comparison with Swinburne, 264.
  Swinburne's admiration, 288.

Shintoism, 443.

Shorthouse, J. H., 9.

Smollett, 111.

South African War, 176.

Southey, Robert, 41, 43, 62, 73, 206.
  Carlyle's description, 64.
  Type of Conservatism, 229.

Sovereignty, Territorial, a modern idea, 412.

Spenserian stanza, Byron's admiration for, 197.

Stanley, Dean, see 'Letter-writing.'

Stendhal, 87, 141.

Sterne, Laurence, 89.

Stevenson, R. L., see 'Letter-writing,' also 9, 116.

Surtees and the Sporting Novel, 26.

Swift, 89, 99.
  Thackeray's description, 103.

Swinburne, A. C., 69.
  On Byron, 183, 191, 207.

=Swinburne, Characteristics of his Poetry=, 263-290.
  Swinburne's predecessors and contemporaries, 263.
  Earlier poems, _Atalanta in Calydon_, _Chastelard_, 267.
  _Poems and Ballads_, published and withdrawn, 268;
    reissued with reply to critics, 272.
  _Songs and Ballads_, war upon theology, 273.
  _Songs of the Four Seasons_, 275.
  _A Midsummer Holiday_, 276.
  Love of the sea and of his country, 277.
  His power of musical phrasing, 279.
  His attitude to eminent contemporaries, 282.
  His dramas, 285.
  Concluding remarks: his high aspirations and his defects, 288.

Taeping rebellion, 423.

Taoism, 423, 438, 440.

Tchetchnia, in the Caucasus, 295, etc.

Tennyson, 38, 69, 174, 184, 194, 199, 266, 268, 286, 289, 374.
  Quoted, 205, 209, 287, 288.
  Absence of rhyme in 'Tears, idle tears,' 281.
  Swinburne's tribute, 282.

Thackeray, W. M., 23, 26, 141.

=Thackeray, William Makepeace=, 76-120.
  Lady Ritchie's biographical contributions, 76.
  Brief sketch of his life, 78.
  Early works, _Yellowplush Papers_, etc., 79.
  His rare qualities first shown in _Barry Lyndon_, 83.
  His defence of taking a rogue for hero, 86.
  _Vanity Fair_, his irony and pathos, 89.
  His merciless war on snobbery, 90.
  His pictures from military life, 91.
  _Pendennis_, a novel of manners, 93.
  Tendency to moralise, 95, 106, 110.
  _Esmond_, 96.
  Thackeray as historical novelist contrasted with Scott, 97, 103.
  _The Virginians_, 104.
  _The Newcomes_, a return to the novel of society, 109.
  Tendency to caricature, 111.
  _Denis Duval_, 112.
  Classification of his works as historical novels and novels of
    manners, 115.
  His character, religion and influence, 117.

Thiers, opposed to war of 1870, 353, etc.

Thorburn's _Bannu_, 163.

Tolstoi, 8, 101, 154.

Tractarians, 257.
  Walpole's account of, 372.

Trollope, Anthony, 24.

Turgot, 214.

=Utilitarians, The English=, 210-262.
  Objects of Mr. Stephen's history, 210.
  A system with a practical aim, 211.
  Its influence on government, 213.
  Philosophy of Reid and Stewart, 215.
  Bentham's doctrines, 216.
  Brief account of his life, 218.
  Mr. Stephen's criticisms, 221.
  Bentham's neglect of history, 223.
  James Mill, 225.
  Attitude to the Church, 226.
  His 'Essay on Government,' Macaulay's attack, 227.
  Position of Southey and Coleridge, 229.
  English and Greek theories of the State, 231.
  Criticism of Malthus and Ricardo, 234;
    and of James Mill, 238.
  John Stuart Mill, his life and training, 241.
  His doctrines and policy, 243.
  His _Political Economy_, 246.
  His later writings criticised, 248.
  _The Subjection of Women_, 251.
  Mill's theology, 253.
  Opposition to Utilitarianism, 256.
  Mr. Stephen's position, 259.

Voltaire, 206, 274.

Vorontzoff, Russian General, 307, 310.

Walpole, Horace, 3, 37, 50.

=Walpole, Sir Spencer=, 368-376.
  His literary bent as an historian, 369.
  His method described by himself, 371.
  His treatment of ecclesiastical controversies, 372.
  Comparison with Lecky, 375.

Waterloo in Scott and Byron's verse, 172, 190.

'Waverley' Novel, 28, 97. See 'Scott.'

Wellington, Duke of, 92, 165.

Werther, Prussian minister at Paris, 348.

Whately, _Historic Doubts_, 14.

Wolfe, General, 104.

Wordsworth, William:
  His letters, 37, 43.
  Described by Carlyle, 64.
  Criticised by Byron, 188.
  Also 49, 177, 181, 199, 277.

Yermoloff, General, 298.

Zola, 15, 33.

Zoroaster, 400, 413.

       *       *       *       *       *

Printed by T. and A. Constable, Printers to His Majesty at the
Edinburgh University Press

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